Breaking Bread


Bread is elemental. Flour, water, salt, yeast: that’s it.

And yet.

Some of my best memories are wrapped around these four ingredients. The details are, as always, blurry-edged and cloudy, but the fragrance of baking bread is sharp and distinct in my mind. Something inside me unclenches every time  I gather bread-making ingredients and tools.

Funny thing about memory, though. Bread may have only four ingredients, but the success is in the practice/process. Time. Temperature. Precision (or not). In my memories of bread, as in all my memories, there is very little true understanding, in this case of what exactly it takes to make a perfect loaf of whatever I am making. I remember flat bread that shouldn’t have been and gummy, underbaked insides when the knocking technique just doesn’t quite work.

I come to bake bread when my brain won’t settle. When there is too much of something troubling, or happy-making, or any other too much of something floating around, making all other thinking impossible. When I need to get my hands into something that feels grounding and real and practical and not up-in-the-clouds where I usually reside.

Flour, water, salt, yeast. Hands in dough. Meditation. Kneading. Resting. Baking.

But as I am usually distracted and elsewhere in the brain when I settle into the practice of bread, my bread always seems to not…quite…work. Close. But not quite.

This seems to be the rule when it comes to distraction for me (maybe you, too). A temporary relief from whatever needs to be put away for a time, good or bad, but then whenever that distraction – bread, shopping, TV, whateverthefuck – is done, the thing you avoid comes roaring back.

“[People] can starve from a lack of self-realization as they can from lack of bread.” ~Richard Wright~

So the solution seems to be to focus as much on the bread as The Thing, not just as a distraction from The Other Thing. Not as an escape. #WhereeverYouGoThereYouAre

This morning I woke with Paris and chocolate and cafe au lait and love and baguettes on my mind. I give in, Universe. I give in to allofthethings, and I have made you bread.


NOTE: These are, as ever, gluten-free. Gluten-filled recipes for bread abound on the interwebs, and because it’s bread it is highly unlikely that merely swapping out regular AP or bread flours will work. 


250 grams (about 2 cups) gluten-free all purpose flour (or another one, but note that the recipe may not quite work. Avoid bean flours, as usual)

25 grams (about 1/4 cup) almond meal

3 T. powdered milk

1 T. xanthan gum

1 t. salt

2 room-temperature egg whites

2 T. olive oil

1/2 t. apple cider vinegar

3/4 c. warm (80 – 100 degrees) water

2 1/4 t. rapid-rise yeast (one packet)

egg wash (use the leftover egg yolks with a little water, an egg white with water, or skip this step)

spray bottle with water


Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, powdered milk, xanthan gum, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment (or in a big bowl), combine egg whites, olive oil, vinegar, and water. Add flour mixture in and mix to combine, then add yeast and mix for two more minutes.

If you are not using a stand mixer, beat the crap out of the dough for as long as you possibly can. It will be stiff and sticky. #ThatsWhatSheSaid

At this point, you can prepare one of two types of pans:

  1. Fancypants baguette pan lined with parchment, which is really how it ought to be done except most people don’t have those and don’t want to get those because they are really only good for one thing (baguettes) and ain’t nobody got time for that.
  2. Plain old cookie sheet lined with lightly greased parchment paper. Errbody got time for that.

“Shaping” this dough is less like shaping and more like piping. There is no kneading because there is no gluten to develop, and the dough will be like very thick cake batter. Pour a splash of olive oil into a large freezer bag, then scoop the dough into the bag. Seal, then cut off one corner of the bag and pipe the baguettes into the pan you have prepared. This makes one big baguette or two thinner, smaller baguettes. Obvi, the size of the hole you cut out will determine the width of your baguettes and the cooking time. #KeepThatInMind

Brush the top of the loaves with egg wash if using, then use a very sharp knife to cut two or three diagonal slashes on the top of the bread. Place the loaves in the preheated-turned off oven for 30 minutes to rise.

Clean up your kitchen, surf the interwebs, navel gaze, meditate, write a letter to someone and mail it, call your mom, take a shower…whatever. There is nothing that really needs to be done while the bread is rising.

Remove bread and preheat oven to 375 degrees (regular oven) or 350 degrees (convection oven). Put bread back in the oven, spraying it with water as you close the door.

Baking times? Meh. They vary. 

I bake mine for ten minutes, spray, bake for ten minutes, spray, bake for ten minutes, spray, then let it go until it is beautifully brown. I have also been known to stick a toothpick in this bread, or use my beautiful new instant-read thermometer to make sure it is cooked in the middle (an issue for all bread but especially for gluten-free varieties).

Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

Serve warm with tons of butter or Brie. Consider bringing this and a cup of hot chocolate to your darling child who is STILL SLEEPING, or maybe your lover if you are A) lucky enough to have one who will appreciate it, and B) they are within arm’s reach.

“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” ~Omar Khayyam~

What is elemental for you? 

Hangover Sex: A Menu


Coming hard on the heels of the last post about a particular vegetarian, one might be tempted to interpret this post.

Do as you like.


It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, that most commercial of Hallmark holidays, and I prefer mine a little grubby.

A little gritty.

Don’t get me wrong: hearts and flowers and romance are all exquisite. Expressions of love in any form are always welcome and definitely needed in the world, at the mico- and macroscosmic levels.


But there is something…raw, vulnerable, visceral…about waking up feeling the previous night’s whiskey and then…feeling the previous night’s date next to you, warm. If you are lucky enough to be unencumbered by children or dogs or any type of responsibility for the day, the possibilities of how to spend that sharply fuzzy morning time together are…endless.

But you’re going to need some food.

When I am feeling the effects of overindulgence, my breakfast usually consists of an anti-nausea pill and some coffee, followed by a long nap and some Gatorade. This has been my MO of late also because I have not had a sleepover in, well, FUCKING FOREVER.

In theory, though, slumber party friend or no, when dinnertime rolls around, it’s on. I need fat, I need carbs, I need strong flavors and lots of them.

Lucky folks in Hampden might convince their sleepytime partner to trot up the The Corner for some kimchi fries to go. If I am being honest, which I always try to be, that place is hipster as fuck, annoyingly so, but I could take a bath in their kimchi fries. They are the perfect combination of salty, spicy, and not too greasy (but still), and one order is never enough.

If I can’t have fries, and I have very little food in the house (which is usually what happens), pasta is the business. But not just any pasta: cacio e pepe. Pasta with pepper and cheese.

Simple. Lusty. Roman peasant food.

The sauce, if you can call it that, is simple:  pecorino Romano,  freshly cracked black pepper, a little pasta water, and pasta.

In a recipe this basic, ingredients are important. The pasta is important.

Sure, you could go for dried pasta. This is a respectable option, especially when you may possibly be just a little bit drunk still. Fresh pasta from the refrigerated section of the grocery store is another way to go.



That. Yes, there. THAT. 

Fresh pasta manages to somehow be an everyday staple food but still sexy as hell. It is simple to make, delicious, not time-consuming once you can figure out how to work the pasta machine (or eliminate that altogether by rolling out your pasta and hand cutting it), and infinitely satisfying in a recipe with such a simple sauce.

Infinitely satisfying, as in how all things should be the morning after the night before, yes?



Fresh Pasta


10 ounces (about two cups) all-purpose gluten-free flour (regular works fine, too)

1 T xanthan gum

1/2 t. salt

4 eggs

2 T olive oil


Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse to combine. Add eggs and olive oil and mix until dough forms. You can also use a big bowl, a fork, and some muscle. Or have your lover do this while you watch.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it feels a bit smooth (you aren’t developing gluten, so don’t overdo it. Just really incorporating all ingredients). Shape into a six-inch roll, then cut into six pieces.

Work with each piece individually to either hand cut, or use your pasta machine.

Pro tip #1: Dust pasta with flour before sending it through the pasta machine.

Pro tip #2: Send it through two times on each setting, starting with the widest and stopping when you can see your hand through the pasta.

Technically, cacio e pepe is for spaghetti, but I like linguine, so I use the linguine cutter on my pasta machine.

After you cut your pasta, you can freeze it in little bundles and drop into salted, boiling water for two or three minutes wheneverthefuck you want some fresh pasta, or you can let the little bundles sit around until you’re damn good and ready (about two hours before you need to make a decision about those little bundles).

Damn good and ready?

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. While you are waiting, grate about two cups of pecorino Romano. Boil your pasta for two minutes, reserving about a cup of pasta water. After you drain the pasta, add it to the cheese, and gradually add pasta water, a little at a time. If your sauce is too wet, add cheese. Too dry? Add water.

Salt to taste (even though the cheese is salty you will need more) and grate a TON of black pepper into the bowl. You can finish with a drizzle of best-quality olive oil if you like, then eat it off your fingers (or each other) when you head back to bed.

Buon appetito!

What’s your favorite hangover menu?




Cream Cheese Tarts With Lemon Marmalade

It’s winter. Not the depths of winter, technically, but we are supposed to get a foot of snow in three short days, so here in Baltimore, we are IN IT.

I love winter. It’s annoyingly true. While others grumble about snow days and kids staying home, I like nothing better than to have The Teenager all to myself for the day. Last year at the height of the storm during the Blizzard That Shut Down Baltimore we hiked down to Golden West for the Lisa Marie (a pancake with a strip of bacon fried in it, topped with peanut butter butter – not a typo, a real thing -and served with maple syrup), plus hashbrowns for good measure. We let the dogs run up and down the alley, off leash, until they found a kitty and chased it, then we made snow angels in the middle of the road.

So snow days are my thing.

Especially when you have this just lying around in your cabinet:


This is a jar of epic, three-day organic lemon marmalade that I made last week. It is tart and sweet and faintly bitter from the pith that gives it the pectin to set up all by itself.

I have five of these. That’s a lot for two people to eat, one of whom doesn’t actually like lemon marmalade. Logical choice, for me, is a lemon cream cheese tart. Individual tarts because a whole tart is too much but maybe individual ones will be more manageable.

An easy, gluten-free pie crust, a luscious, creamy, whipped cream and cream cheese filling, and a thin layer of juicy lemon marmalade. Drizzling it with chocolate may be overkill, but I am going there.

Come with me.

Cream Cheese Tarts With Lemon Marmalade

Crust Ingredients

5 tablespoons butter (softened)

1/4 cup sugar

1 room temperature egg

1 cup AP flour (I used gluten-free)

1/2 teaspoon salt


Cream butter and sugar with a hand mixer until smooth. Add egg and incorporate thoroughly. Combine flour and salt in a small bowl and then add into the wet mixture a little at a time until it is just mixed. Shape dough into a ball, then wrap in plastic and flatten. Pop in the ‘fridge and chill for an hour.

When it’s chilled, remove from ‘fridge and flour your work surface. Turn out dough and roll until it is between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick (I use a wine bottle to roll, but I suppose a regular old rolling pin would work as well). For individual tarts, you could rush out and spend lots of cash on individual tart pans, or you could grab some wide-mouthed Mason jar lids and flip the lid so the metal faces up in the center of the ring (instead the white underside).


Place your tart dough in the lid, pressing lightly into and up the sides of the ring. Make sure you make your dough circles just a bit wider than the ring so that there is enough dough to go all the way up to the top of the metal ring.


This recipe made eight of the wide-mouthed lids and three of the regular lids. Perfect if you have small children who need an even smaller tart. Chill in the freezer for half an hour (wrap lightly in plastic wrap).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake mini crusts until lightly browned and dry, about 15 minutes (about 30 minutes for a full-sized tart). Keep an eye on them. If they start to bubble up, you can prick them lightly with a fork, or you can line each crust with aluminum foil and use pie weights to prevent bubbling (or just use rice. I use the same rice over and over. I let the rice cool after each use then store it in a jar for the next time. This lasts indefinitely, or until you move and decide to throw it out.). Your crust should be a lovely golden brown color. If you are using pie weights or rice, remove them in the last few minutes so the whole crust can brown.

Let crusts cool completely while you make the filling.

Filling Ingredients

1 8-ounce bar of cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup of sugar

1 cup of whipping cream, whipped until it forms peaks

optional: 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and one tablespoon of sugar to add to whipping cream


Cream the cream cheese and the sugar together until fully mixed. Whip the whipping cream (and optional sugar and vanilla extract) in a separate bowl until the cream forms stiff peaks. Beat the cream cheese and the whipped cream together. Spoon into cooled crusts and chill for at least an hour.

Tarts in waiting

Top with your topping of choice and chill for another 30 minutes. I am using lemon marmalade, about a tablespoon per tart, but guess what? Jam of any sort would be delicious, or slather the tops with hot fudge sauce. If you do that, be sure and finish with a bit of fleur de sels.


To serve, unmold from the Mason jar rings. You should be able to slide the tart off the lid, but if not, serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, a smile, and a strong cup of black coffee.

Spring is just around the corner.

Vegetarians: What Are They Good For?

He is in here somewhere...
He is in here somewhere…

I have met a boy.

A man, really. A boy would be pretty squicky.

But it feels like a high school crush. Not the high school I went to or the way I went to high school, though. Studied indifference + avoiding all responsibilities = no fluttery, butterfly feelings for a boy in my high school. Too busy trying to alternately melt into the background and get the fuck out.

I am talking high school with the montages of far-off stares and private smiles. Notes left in lockers and walks in the woods, holding hands. Cozy dates with fluffy blankets (these montages always have the best throws/blankets and sweaters/coats). Sideways glances and actually giving a crap what you look like when you walk out the door.

Mixed tapes.


Except I have felt too old for courtship and was pretty sure that I had already had my last first kiss. My last first anything. (nudge, wink, cheeky reference which isn’t even veiled and everyone knows means sex, so what the hell?)

Which is tough to swallow, yes, when that whole thing goes to shit. The idea of any new firsts of any kind has been horrific, not because of grief or any of that but because OH MY GOD. Do I really have to go through all of that shit again?

Because life isn’t like the high school with the montages. It’s uncomfortable and messy and complicated and there are things to be navigated and disclosed that I haven’t told anyone in 16 years. There are the adolescent things that I haven’t thought about in 16 years, plus adult things like money, kids, blah, blah, blah.

And thinking about those things is no fun, really.

Which is why, mostly, I’m not. Truly.

I find this boy, the same one I shared my Pappy with (and no, that’s not a reference to anything, but I guess it could be if you wanted to try really hard), interesting. And not in a euphemistic way either. Like, keep-me-up-at-night-I-wonder-what-he-thinks-about-this interesting.

The kind of interesting that is intriguing to me. The kind that hasn’t been around in a very, very long time.

The best part about this boy is that he is so interesting to me that if things don’t progress to anything else for any reason, I would enjoy him anyway. He is awfully pretty to me, though, so there’s that, but I like what he does, and who he is, thus far.

Though he has one flaw that I have discovered, right away.

He is a vegetarian.

Now I am all about an alternative diet. I am annoyingly (to some) gluten-free without a celiac diagnosis (fuck off, haters. I just feel better, okay?). I grew up with vegetarians (when dinner was mostly dirt and grass). The Teenager has a vegan friend. My cousin Jennifer (and other relatives I know) are allergic to shellfish.

I understand no meat, spiritually, morally, and physically.

But no homemade chicken stock? No crab? No fish? What the hell?

He’s not even overly fond of cheese or eggs, both of which can be quite astonishing by themselves when cooked perfectly.

No, this one requires something special, and I am at a loss just now.

Possibly because I have been awake since 1:30 a.m., lying in bed, twirling my hair, and wondering if I should even be writing this post in the first place.


Here it is, this post, with a request for suggestions. What should I try first?