Saturday, January 21, 2012


Snow in Seattle means muted footfalls and tire-swishing in the early morning. Buses sloosh cautiously along the streets: late, indifferent, and half full. The city stays home, eats soup, and plays board games.

We remember what it’s like to feel winter closing in around the walls.

I know. It’s a little silly. But to be fair, Seattle doesn’t have the equipment or preparations in place to function properly in snow the way other cities do. Last year, I had a job that wouldn’t let me be snowed in, even for a day. I had to push my way out, bundled and grumpy as an interrupted bear. This year I’m privileged.

So I allowed the snow to shut my door and my kitchen kept me warm.

There’s something luxurious and expansive about baking yeasted bread when there’s snow outside. I’m in no hurry and a slow hour of rising is pleasant as that fresh malty scent searches out every corner of the apartment. And with my good buttery olive oil? I swear I smelled the olive trees baking in their foreign heat.

Makes 1 9x12-inch pan, about 8 slices

2 eggs
1 egg white
40g (1/3 cup) tapioca starch
20g (3 Tbls) potato starch
20g (3 Tbls) potato flour
50g (1/2 cup) sweet rice flour
60g (1/2 cup) sorghum or brown rice flour
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
2 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbls golden flaxseeds, ground
2 Tbls good olive oil, additional for pan
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup warm water (no warmer than 120F)

Warm oven slightly, then turn it off to provide a warm place for the bread to rise. Alternatively, prepare a warm space in your kitchen where it can rise undisturbed. Pour 1-2 Tbls olive oil into 9x12-inch pan and rub it all around, letting excess pool on the bottom. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), combine eggs and egg white. Start on a low setting for about 1 minute, then move it to medium, then run on high speed for 4-5 minutes, until eggs are airy and have doubled in volume.

While the eggs beat, combine flours, yeast, salt, herbs, and brown sugar in a separate bowl. In a small dish, stir together ground flaxseeds, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar.

When eggs are ready, turn mixer down to low and pour in olive oil mixture. While it runs, spoon in flour mixture and pour in some of the warm water. Depending on the moisture in your kitchen, you may use barely 1/2 cup water or a full 3/4 cup. You want the dough to be very wet and sticky, but not runny.

Scrape dough into oiled pan and gently nudge it out to the edges. It’s okay if it doesn’t quite make it to all the edges; as it rises, it’ll fill out. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel that can be secured so it doesn’t touch the top of the dough. Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or a little more.

When dough is ready, turn oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the focaccia, then sprinkle with a dusting of sea salt and/or more herbs. You can also set halved olives into the dough at this stage. When oven has heated, bake focaccia 20-30 minutes, until golden on top and browned on the edges. Serve warm or keep in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days.

This makes a spectacular grilled cheese sandwich.

*Adapted from Avec Baking’s Focaccia Bread

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pepparkakor, Portal 2 Style

You should know I like to play games. All types of video or board games. Portal 2 is one of my very favorites because it’s full of what I love: puzzles, lasers, a deranged robotic enemy, and
cooperative play. Games are more fun when you share them with other people.

Baking is a game. It has rules to follow (or break), puzzles to solve, sweet rewards, and it’s more fun when you share.

My good friend, Matt, gave me Portal 2 cookie cutters for Christmas. (I mean, seriously, how cool is that?) It doesn’t matter that the holidays have passed. There’s always room for one more batch of Pepparkakor when I have Portal 2 cookie cutters to use. Pepparkakor is the best cookie to make with these because the black pepper bites back—not unlike GLaDOS. Spicy and not too sweet, they’re a perfect post-holiday combination to pass around.

Makes 2-3 dozen

1/3 cup butter, real or vegan
120g brown sugar
75g white sugar (vanilla, if you have it)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 small egg
1/4 cup (100g) molasses
120g sorghum flour
100g sweet rice flour
60g tapioca flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Day 1
Cream together butter, sugars, and lemon zest. Beat in egg until smooth. Stir in molasses. Add all the dry ingredients and mix well into a uniform dough. It will be soft and sticky. Scoop out onto waxed paper, roll into a log, and refrigerate to roll out the next day. You may also freeze it; try to use the dough within about a month of making it.

Day 2
If your dough is frozen, let it rest at room temperature at least 1 hour before working with it. You may use it immediately from the fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dust a smooth surface with sweet rice flour. Cut off about 1/4 – 1/3 of the dough to work with at a time. Form into a disk, dust with more sweet rice flour, and roll out very thin, about 1/8-inch. Cut into shapes and arrange on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. You may reform and roll out the scraps one time, but after that it’ll be too stiff with flour to bake a good cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes, until cookies are just beginning to brown at the edges. Cool completely before decorating with colored frosting or glaze.

Basic Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tsp lemon juice, Grand Marnier, or coconut milk (more as needed, depending on desired consistency)
Food coloring (optional)

Mix together powdered sugar and some liquid, stirring and adding liquid until all powdered sugar is incorporated and glaze is desired thickness. Drizzle from a fork or scoop into a plastic bag and snip off the tip to give a more controlled line.