How to Bake a Perfect Life

Lovely, Lovely book. I’ve read every single one of Barb’s books, as they were published. I’ve enjoyed all of them. But How to Bake Perfect Life is the best yet.

This goes beyond a “genre” book, this is one that will satisfy every reader. Relationships feel like real relationships, all the people feel like real people. It’s a story with heart and soul. She even gets the dog and cat right.

As for the recipes: they are well written and clear. Easy to follow, one can bake a great loaf from each one of them.

Knowing the locales in which the book is set, I can even follow the directions to the various places: she gets that just right, too. Accurate ambiance

I feel like I know these people and certainly want to hear more about them. Is this the beginning of a duet or trilogy? There are some mysterious clues indicating that may be so (who is Liam, anyway?). I certainly hope so. This is a world worth exploring, and Barb is a great guide.

A Worthy Read

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A little biscuit music, please

Making a Mexican dinner, no tortillas in sight. No corn meal for cornbread. Masa, but no time to make my own tortillas.

But lo and behold I have some Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour. So I looked at several biscuit recipes, tried to remember everything that Harold McGee wrote about balancing acid and base and off I went.

They turned out really really well.

Corn Flour Biscuits

1 cup corn flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 1/2 tsps baking powder

2 tbs melted butter

1/4 c yogurt

3/4 c milk

2 tbs. lime juice

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix together all dry ingredients.

In separate bowl, whisk together all the went ingredients.

Add the wet to the dry and stir gently but thoroughly until thoroughly combined. May need to add a bit more milk, if it seems to dry.

Use ice cream scoop or 1/2 c measure to place 8 scoops onto baking pan. If not using Silpat, grease pan first.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve hot!

Don’t forget to enjoy.

And if you make it, please let me know how it comes out!

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No more wedge-shaped slices Cook’s Tip

Position the knife at 90 degrees to the cutting surface. Watch the knife as you cut, not the “cuttee” — this also means that you will be able to position your fingers correctly. Really, it’s just that simple.

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Freezer Cookie Delight

These little yummies, the very first cookie I’ve ever created from scratch, make up quickly and go right into the freezer. They are cut while frozen (they never get too hard to cut), can be made any size, and bake in only 15 mins. Hot cookies whenever you want! No stale next day cookies! No extra cookies hanging around begging to be eaten Right Now! The only downside is that they dough is really really good all by itself.

Freezer Shortbreads

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese or Neuchatel
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon oil (or 1 TBS. lemon zest)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup peanut flour (Trader Joe’s has it)

In food processor, cream butter then add sugar. Mixture will seem quite thin. Add extracts. Processor briefly. Add salt and flours, 1 cup at a time, processing just to mix after each addition. Dough will be very soft. On wax paper or foil, form into logs about 12″ long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter (or wider, or narrower — depends on what size cookie you want to end up with.) There will be at least 2 and more likely 3 logs. Wrap securely and place in freezer for at least a couple of hours.

When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350. Either grease baking sheet or use a  Silpat. Make 1/4″ to 1/3″ slices from the logs while still frozen and arrange about 1/2″ apart (further also works — these do not rise or spread much.) Bake for 15 minutes until just starting to brown around edges. Cool on rack. If you don’t wait about 1 minute before tasting you’re very likely to burn your tongue. You’ll make about 5 dozen altogether.

Tons of variations possible! Use a different flavored oil or extract. Top with chocolate (or any other flavor) chip as soon as baked. Turn off the oven and return cookies. Let sit for a few minutes until chocolate is melty and spread to make a frosting.

Make it vegan by using Earth Balance. The dough may need additional flour, however.

Make it gluten-free by using a gluten-free baking flour mix.

I know it’s terribly old-fashioned of me, but it’s great to have these tucked away in the freezer so I can always serve a little something sweet to guests — or to Tony! or me!

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Connections

Never would I have thought that there was anything to connect Orson Scott Card (one of the finest science fiction writers EVER) to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (arguably one of the best mystery writers EVER).

After seeing the thoroughly delightful Sherlock on PBS, I decided to reread the Sherlock Holmes series. The first show, titled “A Study in Pink” was loosely (very, very loosely) based on Doyle’s first, “A Study in Scarlet.”

So I downloaded it to my iTouch eReader (free, from manybooks.net) and dug in. It’s just the sort of book to read in bed which is when I most like to use the Touch for reading.

Soon we run across the first mention of the “Baker Street Irregulars” headed by none other than Wiggins. I came to a full stop. Wiggins is the last name of the main character in the multi-award winning book Ender’s Game by none other than Orson Scott Card.

I thought that was a way cool coincidence or perhaps a nod to another master of a genre. I kept on reading.

Low and behold: about 1/3 of Study in Scarlet is a story within a story of the early history of Mormons in Utah. And the essential plot points revolve around this history. I was astonished! Doyle knew the history of the Mormons back in the 1880’s! Who would have guessed!

The picture painted of the Mormons was more negative than positive, but based on some recent readings of my own, it was not too far from accurate.

And Orson Scott Card is a Mormon. His choice to name his main character could not possibly have been a coincidence. He must have meant it to be that choice, representing … what? I have no idea. Perhaps I’ll send him an email and ask.

 

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All Grown Up

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg was lent to me by my friend Andie. Since I trust her judgement, I read it.

I fell in love with Molly after 1 paragraph. Was totally besotted after the first chapter. I thought: “This is who I want to be when I grow up!” Then, wait, I am grown up … so how about “If I had a cooking daughter, this is what I would hope she would be.” Yeah, that’s more like it.

It was uncanny in many ways how very similar we are in our approaches to cooking: Tweaking rule follower in cooking — and in living!

And I love her stories. She does a good job telling them and her recipes and instructions are terrific. I no of no other book where I’ve said to myself “I want to make that after Every Single Recipe!” Really.

Checked out her blog: Orangette.blogspot.com. Fun and interesting, worth checking in on.

Now I have to get someone to give me the book for one  these upcoming holiday events …

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Satisfying Weekend

Reading and eating = relaxing. First rate dinner with friends on Saturday; the company was fun and interesting, the food was superb (and I didn’t have to do anything!) — even the water was extra special! And I was lent a book on food that I have fallen in love with after reading just 1 paragraph. An in depth look at that when I’ve finished it.

Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games is one of the most enjoyable science fiction books I’ve run across in a long time. Ostensibly for teenagers, there’s no writing down to at all — it’s just plain well written. With a different view of a post apocalyptic America, the story focuses on hope and survival and the real nitty gritty of the latter. I can hardly wait to finish the trilogy.

And it was a real treat to bring myself up date with with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. As the years have passed his writing has become increasingly spare. The stsory moves effortlessly through space, much like Reacher himself.

 

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