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Into the Woods

We’re one day away from the Oscars and one film away from the final film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature here.  Into the Woods, adapted from the Tony-winning musical of the same name, crosses several of the plots of the characters from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) are seeking to reverse a curse placed on the Baker’s father by the Witch (Meryl Streep).  They must venture into the woods to obtain a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.  Along the way, they encounter Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her Prince (Chris Pine), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracy Ullman), Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) and her Prince (Billy Magnussen), and ultimately the Giant’s Wife (Frances de la Tour).  Into the Woods is nominated for three Oscars this year: Best Supporting Actress (Streep), Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

Early in the film, Little Red Riding Hood visits the bakery and packs up breads and sweets “to bring to grandma.”  Of course she eats most of the contents of her basket before she encounters the Wolf (Johnny Depp).  As she is packing the things up at the bakery, she is clutching the most beautiful challah bread; making one to tie in with this movie was a no-brainer.  Challah bread is eggy and very slightly sweet (and absolutely the most perfect bread for French toast).  Braiding it can seem intimidating but you really only have to make the braid as fancy as you want.  For this version I made the dough into six even ropes and braided them together but this doesn’t taste any less amazing if you work with a three-strand braid.

challah bread

Challah Bread


  • 2 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
  • 1 C. lukewarm water
  • 4 to 4 1/2 C. (20-22 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
  • 1/4 C. neutral flavored vegetable oil (or melted butter if you don’t need this to be kosher)


Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl and add a large pinch of sugar.

Stir to dissolve the yeast and let the mixture stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, mix together 4 cups of the flour, the sugar, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs, egg yolk, and oil (or melted butter).

Whisk the egg mixture to form a slurry, pulling in some of the flour from the sides of the bowl.

Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry and mix the yeast mixture, egg mixture, and flour mixture together with a long-handled spoon until a dough forms that is shaggy and difficult to mix.

Using a dough hook attachment on low speed, knead the dough for 6-8 minutes.  If you’re not using a stand mixer, instead turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes.  If the dough is very sticky, add more flour 1 teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky.

Knead the dough until it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball shape.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place the dough in a warm, draft-free location to rise until it has doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Depending on the type of braid you’d like to make, divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces (the photo above uses 6 pieces).

Roll each piece of dough into a rope that is about 1 inch thick and 16 inches long.  Make the ropes as even as possible.  If the dough shrinks back as you try to roll it into ropes, let the dough sit for 5 minutes and then try again.

Gather the ropes and pinch them together at the top.

For a 3 stranded braid, braid the dough the same way you would braid hair or yarn, crossing the left strand over the center strand, then the right strand over the center strand and so on until the entire length of the dough has been braided.

For a 6 stranded braid, lift the right-most rope and carry it across the two ropes next to it, slip it under the next rope, and then over the last two ropes (over two, under one, over two).  What started as the right-most rope is now all the way to the left.  Pick up what is now the right-most rope and repeat the process.

Continue that pattern until all of the dough is braided, making the braid as tight as you possibly can.  The dough will kind of curve to the left as you go so you’ll need to periodically lift the loaf and re-center it as you go.

For either braid, once all of the dough has been braided, then pinch the ends together and tuck them under the loaf.

To plump up the loaf a little, put one hand at either end of the braided dough and very slowly and gently push your hands toward each other (like plumping a pillow but slowly).

Slip your fingers under either end of the loaf and gently lift the dough while cupping downward (not a required step but it does make for a prettier loaf).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaf on the lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle a little flour over the loaf and then drape a clean dish cloth over it.

Place the loaf to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.

20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

When ready to bake, whisk together the egg white and a tablespoon of water.

Brush the egg white mixture over the challah, being sure to get in the cracks and down the sides.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking time.

The challah is done when it is deep brown and the inside registers 190 degrees when a thermometer is inserted in the middle.

Place the bread on a wire rack to cool until it is just barely warm before slicing and eating.

Makes 1 loaf (about 20 slices).

Source: The Kitchn

challah bread pan

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Dude Looks Like a Lady

Today is day five of 12 Days of Oscar, and the second film in this year’s series that’s an Oscar winner.  The 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, the only category in which it was nominated.  Following a divorce, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) works to find a way to spend more time with his children and Miranda Hillard (Sally Field) finds that she needs someone to watch the children after school.  Daniel, disguised as English nanny Mrs. Doubtfire, applies for and wins the job and hilarity ensues as he tries to not get caught.

There are so many great food moments in this film.  The run-by fruiting, the cake Mrs. Doubtfire dunks her face into, and the gumbo at dinner are just a few. My favorite though, is when Mrs. Doubtfire tries to make a fancy dinner her first day on the job and it ends disastrously.  “This hollandaise smells like burnt rubber,” she says before realizing her rubber chest is on fire. “First day on the job and I’m already having hot flashes, ” she says using pot lids to put out the flames.  Yes, hollandaise can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter and traditional methods call for a lot of whisking.  This method uses an immersion blender and is by far the easiest, most fool-proof way to make hollandaise sauce I have ever encountered.  This was fantastic for eggs Benedict. Oh, and while we’re being non-traditional and improving efficiency I also used a muffin pan to poach the eggs.

eggs benedict

Quick and Easy Hollandaise Sauce (and Muffin Tin Poached Eggs for Eggs Benedict)


for the hollandaise sauce:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter

for eggs Benedict:

  • 1 English muffin per serving
  • 2 eggs per serving
  • 2 slices Canadian bacon per serving


To make the hollandaise sauce, combine the egg yolk, water, lemon juice, and pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of your immersion blender.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling the pan constantly, until the foaming stops.

Transfer the butter to a liquid measuring cup.

Place the head of the immersion blender into the bottom of the cup and turn it on.

Slowly pour the hot butter into the cup while the immersion blender running.  The butter should emulsify with the egg yolk forming a sauce.

Continue pouring the butter until all of the butter has been added.  The sauce should be thick and creamy.

Season to taste with salt if needed and add a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.

**If you are going to make eggs Benedict, I suggest making the sauce last**  If you need to keep the hollandaise sauce warm, put it into a lidded pot and keep it in a warm place (such as an oven on the “warm” setting) until ready to serve.  It will only hold for about an hour and can not be cooled and reheated.

To make eggs Benedict start by poaching the eggs.  To poach them in a muffin pan, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put 1 Tbsp. of water in each muffin pan cavity (one cavity per egg, depending on how many eggs you are making).

Crack one egg into each cavity that has water in it.

Bake the eggs for 8-10 minutes.

Gently remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate.

Heat the Canadian bacon in a skillet until heated through.

Toast the English muffins.

To assemble, place one slice of Canadian bacon onto each English muffin half and top each half with a poached egg.  Top with hollandaise sauce.

Makes 1 1/2 C. of hollandaise sauce

Source: hollandaise from Serious Eats; muffin pan poached eggs from Life Hacker

eggs benedict hollandaise

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The Games That We Deserved

On the final day of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Canadian men’s ice hockey team defeated Sweden 3-0 to win gold.  Host country Russia topped the medal standings at these games, with 33 total medals- 13 of them gold.  The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Today’s recipe is more Georgian than Russian per se, but it did top many lists of must-try foods for visitors to Sochi.  Like many of the recipes in this series, there are plenty of variations.  This one is essentially a loaf of bread baked with a cheese center, while others are a kind of bread boat filled with cheese and topped with an egg.  While a cheese boat seemed pretty interesting, this recipe appealed to me because of its inclusion of coriander and paprika.  I wasn’t disappointed.




for the dough:

  • 1 C. milk, scalded
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 C. unbleached flour

for the filling:

  • 2 C. Muenster cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
  • 1 C. ricotta, cottage cheese, or goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, if needed
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika


Heat the butter and milk together in a small saucepan until the butter has melts.

Combine the sugar, coriander, and salt in a medium-sized bowl then pour the hot milk over the mixture.

Stir to combine and to dissolve the sugar, then set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flour to the milk mixture and stir until a rough dough forms.

Set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough until it’s smooth, about 6-8 minutes by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, turn the dough to coat, and then cover the bowl.

Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it increases in size by at least 1/3.

To make the filling, cube the Muenster and place it into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and process until well-combined but some chunks remain.

Add the eggs, flour, salt (if needed- taste to check as cheese can be salty enough already), pepper and paprika then pulse to mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and cut a roughly 1 oz. piece of dough from each half.

Shape all 4 pieces into round balls and let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Roll out each of the large pieces into a 10-12 inch circle.

Place one circle into a lightly greased pie tin or 8-9 inch round cake pan.

Put half of the cheese mixture into the middle of the circle.

Pull the dough up around the cheese mixture, pleating and pinching into a topknot.

Leave a hole in the center of the topknot and place the small round ball of dough into this hole.

Repeat the process using the other two pieces of dough.

Cover and let rise for 45 minutes- they will be puffy but won’t double in size.

If the pleats open, pinch them shut.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes.  If you find that the bread is browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the bread into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Fun and Fame

U.S. skier Maddie Bowman took gold yesterday in the women’s ski halfpipe event.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team lost to the gold medal winning Canadian team in overtime, and won silver.  Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova won gold, making her the first Russian woman figure skater ever to win gold.

As the Winter Olympics wind down, so is our Winter Olympics feature and today brings us to the 2006 Turin Winter Games.  Mass start biathalon, snowboard cross, and team pursuit speed skating all made their debut at this Olympics.  These were the second Winter Olympics held in Italy.

Grissini are a specific type of breadstick.  These long, thin, and often crispy breadsticks are rumored to have originated in Turin.  M and O had a good time with these, and requested them for four days straight.  Grissini can be wrapped in prosciutto for a quick lunch or a great snack.  The only thing limiting you here is how big your baking sheets and your oven are.  Do also consider the size of your storage containers when making these, as well as the high potential that they could be used as play swords :)




  • 1/2 C. of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 C. warm water
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 package (scant Tbsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • oil for the bowl
  • optional topping suggestions: sea salt, flavored salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rosemary


In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the whole wheat flour, water, honey and yeast.

Stir with a wooden spoon and let it rest for 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

Add the all-purpose flour, olive oil, and salt to the mixture.

Mix on low speed using the dough hook attachment until combined, then mix on medium speed with the dough hook attachment for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny.

Put the dough in a small bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the dough and then turn the dough so it is coated in oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

If you want to make several varieties of grissini from one batch of dough (ex. salt grissini and poppy seed grissini), punch down the dough and divide it into as many portions as you’ll have varieties.

If you want to add flavorings to the dough, such as rosemary, knead a small amount evenly into the dough.

For plain grissini, shape the dough into a flat rectangle.  You shouldn’t need any flour on to roll the dough out, but if it is sticky for some reason go ahead and sprinkle some flour on your work surface.

Slice a piece down the long side of the rectangle about as wide as a finger using a sharp knife or bench scraper.

Roll it into a long, irregularly shaped snake and place it onto the baking sheet.

If you are adding toppings such as poppy seeds, sprinkle the poppy seeds into a thin line as long as your pieces of dough but wider and place the strip of dough onto the toppings, pressing lightly to make sure they stick, then twist the dough and place it onto the baking sheet.

Continue with the remaining dough, placing them about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Let the grissini rest for about 15 minutes and puff up before baking.

Place them into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the pans after 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, keep an eye on the progress- they are thin and can burn easily.  Remove them from the oven when they are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and carefully place on a cooling rack.

Once they are cool, they can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

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Two Run-Throughs

For those of you playing along at home, today is day two of the 12 Days of Oscar.  The second movie in the series this year was also nominated for but did not win an Oscar.  The 1999 film The Green Mile, based on the Stephen King novel, is a story told in a flashback format.  It follows the story of corrections officer Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) through the summer of 1935 when he witnessed a series of supernatural events after the arrival of inmate John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan, nominated for Best Supporting Actor).

Soon after John Coffey arrives at the prison, he cures officer Edgecomb’s urinary tract infection.  He later also heals the warden’s terminally ill wife.  When he is asked how he performs these feats, Coffey replies that he has “taken them back.”  For his assistance with the urinary tract infection, Edgecomb’s wife bakes cornbread and sends it in with Edgecomb as a gift for Coffey.

Cornbread doesn’t get much tastier than cornbread made in a skillet.  A good, well-seasoned cast iron skillet makes this quick to prepare and a breeze to remove from the pan.  It’s delicious slathered in butter or honey.  It’s the perfect side for a bowl of chili.  It is sooooooo much better than anything you’re going to make from a boxed mix.  I cooked this with bacon grease, but if you don’t keep bacon grease around you can use shortening in the skillet instead.

skillet corn bread

Skillet Cornbread


  • 1 C. yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 C. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. bacon grease or shortening


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.

Combine the buttermilk and milk together in a liquid measuring cup and add the egg.

Stir the egg and milks together with a fork, then add the baking soda and stir to combine.

Pour the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir with a fork until combined.

In a small bowl, melt the 1/4 C. of butter and slowly add it to the batter, stirring until combined.

Melt the bacon grease or remaining 2 Tbsp. of shortening over medium heat.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet and spread to even out the surface- the batter should sizzle when you pour it in.

Cook the cornbread on the stovetop for 1 minute, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown with crispy edges.

Source: slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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Fire in Your Heart

In Olympics news yesterday, Steven Holcomb and Steven Langston won the U.S. its first two-man bobsleigh medal since 1952, a bronze.  Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice dancing.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team beat Sweden 6-1 and will face Canada for the gold medal.

Day twelve of the Sochi Olympics brings us to the thirteenth installment of our Winter Olympics feature.  Today we look at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.  These Winter Games were the first to not be held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first to be held just two years after the previous Winter Olympics.  U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal in the ladies single skate, just seven weeks after an incident in which she was clubbed in the knee by an associate of her rival Tonya Harding (who finished eighth in the event).

Today, to celebrate Norway, we have skoleboller.  Skoleboller are a bun, filled with vanilla custard, then frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  Apparently, you can find skoleboller (or “school buns”) at school cafeterias, coffee hours, grocery stores, and birthday parties all over Norway.  You can also find them at Disney’s Epcot park and they’re a popular treat there.  After making them, it’s not hard to see why.  These are as fun to eat as it is to say “school-ah-bowl-air.”




for the buns:

  • 2 C. milk (preferably whole), lukewarm
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 6-7 C. all-purpose flour

for the custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

to finish:

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 C. shredded coconut for topping


In a large bowl, or the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.

Add the melted cooled butter, sugar, cardamom, and 5 C. of the flour to the milk and mix well.

Slowly add more of the flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until a smooth soft dough is formed.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, make the custard.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the vanilla.

While the custard mixture is at a simmer, add the cornstarch a little at a time, whisking briskly as you add it.

Allow the cornstarch to dissolve and for the custard to thicken, stirring constantly.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture into a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice water bath to cool completely.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 12-14 evenly sized balls of dough.

Form each dough ball into an evenly round and flat bun.

Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 1 inch of space between them.

Cover the buns with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise again for 20 minutes.

While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the final rise, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each bun.  A soup spoon is a good size, and press down almost all the way to the bottom of the bun but do not press all the way through.

Place a generous spoonful of the custard into the center of each indentation.

Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly brown on the top and the egg custard is just starting to set.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack.  The custard will set as the buns cool.

Once the buns are cool, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and water together.  The glaze should be white and should drizzle on but not be runny.  Add more sugar or water as needed to reach the correct consistency.

Spoon glaze around the bun, avoiding the custard center.

Sprinkle on or dip the bun into the coconut, being careful not to ruin the custard center.

Source:  The Transplanted Baker

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