Wednesday, February 17, 2010

_____ Ash Wednesday

What kind of Ash Wednesday ought we to have? I've been pondering this question since midmorning. As I was leaving the tea shop after elevenses, a woman responded to the smudgy cross on my forehead with, "Happy Ash Wednesday!" and a smile. I mumbled, "Thank you" and kept walking, but the moment has stuck with me all day. The image of that woman is as fresh in my mind as that of the monk who had imposed my ashes during Terce.

Ash Wednesday isn't meant to be a day of joyful celebration. Some celebrate mass, many impose ashes, a few observe a fast. So, what should we say to each other on this day that marks the beginning of Lent? What is it that we wish for one another on this holy day that mainstream America has forgotten?

I wish you a Meaningful Ash Wednesday and a Meditative Lent that leads you to a Fruitful Easter Season and a Transformative Pentecost.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Favorite Sonnet

I have lots of favorite sonnets.
Here is one by e e cummings. More may be forthcoming.

The Aeronaut to his Lady.


Slow ! '

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This is the product of my very first attempt at making cheese. I started with a quart of raw goat's milk from the dairy up the road, added heat, cider vinegar, and time. Voila! Queso blanco.

A whole new world of culinary exploration awaits! (Just as soon as I procure the necessary ingredients and gadgets, of course.)

So, you want to bake some challah?

This post is in response to Thirty Things to Make While I'm Thirty by my friend at Apple a Day.

Challah is not the easiest yeasted bread to make, so try this only after you've had French bread or wheat bread turn out well a couple of times.*

Hallah (abbreviated recipe)**

2c. lukewarm water

3 pkg yeast

8 c. flour

1 ½ c. sugar

1 ½ t salt

½ lb butter or margarine

5 eggs (1 will be reserved for glaze)

Mix water and yeast in super-huge bowl. Add 3 c. flour and 1 c. sugar. Let rise for ½ hour. Meanwhile, mix salt and remaining flour and sugar. Cut in margarine until texture of coarse meal.

Add 4 beaten eggs to yeast in the super-huge bowl and stir well. Add flour-margarine mixture to yeast mixture. If sticky, add up to 2 c. flour. Knead on floured board 'til smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in an oiled bowl 'til doubled (2 hours). Punch down. Knead lightly and divide.

4 small-medium loaves 30 min

3 medium loaves 30-45 min

2 large loaves 45-50 min

1 super-huge loaf 50 min +

Divide each loaf into three long snakes and braid. Place in oiled loaf pans and let rise as long as possible (3-5 hours). Brush top with beaten egg and bake at 350°, time per size of loaf.

Some notes:

-In the Phoenix area, you may find that you need less flour for kneading, etc. because the air is so dry. Don't feel like you need to use all that the recipe calls for.

-Fresh, free range eggs with bright orange yolks will make a more dramatically yellow bread. You can also add saffron to the lukewarm water at the beginning if you want to amp up the color.

-You are welcome in my kitchen for bread baking any time you want!

* If you're looking for a good place to start with yeasted bread in general, check out The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. It is published by Shambhala Press, but should be available through your favorite book store. I like this bread book above all others because of his artistic approach to baking. He tells you how the dough should feel and behave rather than giving only times and amounts. There is also a nice section on different ingredients and how they change the bread. (In the muffin section, check out the recipe for Something Missing Muffins.)

** I don't have the un-abbreviated recipe. This is the way I got it from my bread guru, otherwise known as Uncle Jill.