A few photos from my most recent pizza party, with a couple older photos mixed in---didn't always have time to take a picture! Had great help from an alum and his wife, both with kitchen and waitstaff experience. The dessert course was a big hit: double chocolate biscotti and maple pecan biscotti served with pistachio almond ice cream. The chocolate biscotti recipe you can find all he over Internet, but the maple pecan recipe came from HERE.
Yesterday I was interviewed on Michael Feldman's "Whad'Ya Know?", for a live broadcast from Five Points in Washington IL. It was a fundraiser for Peoria Public radio (WCBU 89.9). What a great event! They had a good crowd, and the musical guest was David Hoffman, who played with the Ray Charles Orchestra for many years---that alone was worth the price of admission! The show's producer Adam had been in contact with me for several weeks prior to the event, and he said that after looking over my recipes, Michael said he wanted me to bring Monkey Bread and Deer Poop! I pointed out to him that neither of those recipes actually require me to mix dough, which is, as they say, "my thing"! He said to use my best judgement, so I brought along some Magic Bread as well, which led to one of the bigger laughs on the program. Here's the whole program---I'm in the first segment, after the monologue, at about 11 minutes in.
Today is Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" or "my feast day", as I sometimes call it) so I spent much of last night making treats to celebrate the last day of bread-based indulgence. I'll still be baking during Lent, but there will be a lot more Multigrain Breads and very few caramel pecan cinnamon rolls.
I started out by mixing a batch of spudnut dough (donut dough with mashed potatoes added, and if you haven't tried it, put it on your "What I'll make After Lent" Pinterest board). While it was rising I made skillet cornbread, with whole corn kernels mixed in. We had corn for the vegetable at supper and there was a bit left over to use up. Besides, Abbot Philip prefers his cornbread that way, and anyone who has to bear the burden of being my religious superior deserves a little spoiling now and then. I have to say that it turned out perfectly---golden brown, darker and slightly crisp on the edges, tender in the middle.
I still had some time before donuts would be ready, so I made a batch of "Sunday Waffles" from an old Farm Journal bread book. They are perfect for Mardi Gras: only two cups of flour, but a whole cup of butter and four eggs! Pancakes and waffles were (and are) often served on Shrove Tuesday in order to use up butter and eggs before Lent, as in some countries and during certain periods, they were forbidden during the penitential season. I was mysterfied that they didn't get quite as poofy as usual, until I checked the package for the baking powder and discovered it had expired last year! Go check your baking powder, baking soda, and yeast packages right now, so you won't have any unpleasant surprises for your Easter baking. Yes, now---I'll wait.
Before I began baking I ran over to the gym to rehearsal for the spring musical---one of my carpenter dads was bringing a window unit he made for us. There were some girls from my junior religion class, and I told them that I had all the ingredients for Fruit Poop (like Deer Poop Candy , but with white almond bark and Froot Loops) except the cereal, and that if they picked some up after rehearsal, I'd make some for their class to enjoy for Mardi Gras. After the cornbread and the waffles were finished, I started on the donuts, and they arrived with cerreal in hand just as the first test donut emerged from the fryer!
My enthusiastic students helped me make a couple dozen donuts with chocolate hazelnut frosting on some and French vanilla glaze on the rest, with cinnamon sugar on the donut holes. They washed dishes, cleaned counters, put away ingredients. We laughed, talked about Lent, religion class, the musical, etc. They left a little after 10 p.m. (kinda late for a school night---ooops!) and I made the Fruit Poop and went to bed.
So why no photos? The "No Image Available" icon at the top of the page is not a mistake. Several times throughout the night I thought: I should go get my camera--this would look great on Facebook, or the school website. The breads, the happy kids, chocolate smeared on smiling faces. But I made a conscious choice just to experience and remember the moment, not merely to record it. I take pictures of my baking all the time---last night I chose simply to enjoy the company of my theatre kids.
We seem to have an obsession with keeping a record of memorable moments, to the point that we're so busy getting "The Shot" that we're missing the event. How many parents haven't watched a soccer game or recital except through the viewfinder of a camcorder or cell phone? This is not a new idea, and journalists, commentators and bloggers have made the same point, more eloquently than I can. But I have to say I never expected that problem to invade the monastery.
Fear not, Breadheads--I shall continue to document my culinary adventures, I'll still be posting pictures of my latest recipe testing or an especially fine example of an old favorite. I enjoy seeing posts and likes on Facebook and comments on the blog. But it's good for us all to remember to unplug from the social media machine every once in awhile, turn off the CoolPix or the iPhone, and just enjoy baking a memory.
Since it's the month of Saint Patrick's Day. I'm sharing my recipe for Elegant Soda Bread again. The added sugar and coriander make it a little different than the usual fare, and you can serve it pretty much at any meal. I like it best as an accompaniment to fish.
When I was in my first year of priestly studies at St. Meinrad School of Theology, I used to visit Louisville, KY, about 70 miles away. In my first trip there with my friend John, we found a guide of the top 60 restaurants in the city. We decided that we would attempt to eat our way through the guide over the next four years, (leaving out anyplace that required dressing up too much!) Of course, we never got past the first 20, because we found a few we really liked and stuck with them. One of these favorites was a classy but unpretentious place called Jack Fry’s on Bardstown Road. They served a coriander soda bread with every entrée, and I used to eat baskets of it. The addition of coriander gives the bread an undercurrent of citrus that is subtle and exquisite.
Elegant Soda Bread
If you omit the coriander, reduce the sugar to 2 tsp., and add a 15 oz. package of raisins, you’d have my mother’s favorite Irish soda bread recipe. She got it from Mrs. Jones, the mother of a priest who taught my mom in high school in Denver. Mom used to make this for the bake sale at St. Francis Hospital, which was always held the week before St. Patrick’s Day. She’d tie a green ribbon through the cross, to make it more attractive for the sale table. But she needn’t have bothered---the people working behind the counter often bought it right out of her hand!
Fr. Dominic Garramone AKA