It has been so long since I posted that I feel I should apologize to my loyal Breadheads! I'm not sure what has kept me from blogging, but I suspect that at least part of the reason is that I haven't done much of anything new lately. I've bake a lot of potato rolls and made a few waffles, baked cookies once or twice. But no new recipes, nothing exciting---until this past weekend, when I finally had the chance to make pizza in an authentic wood-fired oven. To a pizza lover like me, that's like getting free play-off tickets!
I often am assigned to hear confessions and celebrate Mass at a parish about 45 minutes from the abbey, Immaculate Conception Church in Morris IL. Every year they have an Oktoberfest auction (a fundraiser for their grade school) and for a few years now I have offered "Baking Lessons with the Bread Monk" as an item up for bid. (I have no idea how much money it generates.) I had done a pizza fundraiser at the parish on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, so my dough tossing skills were well known. As a result a couple of years ago I was asked by the auction winners to have a pizza night in their home. I brought all my stones, pans and peels, along with a Mason jar of my own sauce, homemade sweet hot Italian sausage, and a double batch of pizza dough. We had a big crowd of family and friends enjoying some excellent pizza. In fact the the evening was such a success that the family had a wood fired pizza oven installed on their patio!
I got an invitation to bless the oven and bake in it, and let me tell you I was excited! I've been reading about wood-fired ovens for years and have high hopes to put one in at the abbey eventually. When I arrived with my supplies, Greg had had a fire going for several hours, so the interior temperature of the oven was just under 800 degrees, perfect for making thin crust, Italian-style pizza. I used a very simple dough recipe---flour, water, yeast and salt---kept the toppings to a minimum as well. One appetizer pizza was simply mornay sauce, sun dried tomatoes, and sliced almonds, the other a bruschetta topping with diced tomatoes, onion, kalamata olives and some grated cheese. Later on we enjoyed a meat lovers' (lots of teenage boys around!), a Four Cheese Tomato Top (a perennial favorite), and a supreme pizza that developed some lovely light char around the edges of a thicker crust.
I knew in theory that pizzas in a wood-fired oven bake more quickly and need to be rotated more often, but in practice there was a bit of a learning curve! But I'm feeling a bit more confident and the next time I think I can avoid a burnt crust like this one on the bruschetta pizza. A little hint: in the winter when tomatoes are from the hothouse rather than the garden, a splash of balsamic vinegar can brighten up the flavor.
Started on your New Year's resolutions yet? "Make more pizzas in a wood fired oven" is definitely at the top of my list for 2018!
Yesterday I attended the Marshall Putnam County Fair (Henry, Illinois) with my sister Angela, who, like me, enjoys eating from the "fatal food group." Enjoying lemonade shake-ups and cheesy fries with her reminded me of my family's love of summer fairs and festivals while we were growing up. Between that and National Corn Fritter Day July 16, I decided to share the following excerpt from my new book Baking Secrets from the Bread Monk" Tips, Techniques, and Bread Lore (Reedy Press) which is available on the abbey's Monks' Market website.
From the chapter titled "Food Holiday Mash-ups"
July is designated National Culinary Arts Month, with a grateful nod to culinary professionals, from TV celebrity chefs to the under-appreciated line cook who makes the best hash browns at the local diner. Culinary training runs the gamut from small classes at cooking stores to junior college degree programs to the Cordon Bleu. But the term “Culinary Arts” always reminds me of the sign above the doorway to a barn-like structure at the Peoria Heart of Illinois Fair where my mother entered her bread every year (her raisin bread took first place nearly every time she entered it).
I love fair food in general and fried foods in particular: corndogs, haystack onion rings and funnel cakes are my personal faves. But there was one year at the Heart of Illinois Fair when a local church set up a tiny trailer out of which they sold fresh corn fritters. These fried delights were dredged in powdered sugar, and served piping hot in a brown lunch paper bag. I devoured several bags’ worth over the course of the week of the fair, and eagerly anticipated their return the following year. But alas, I was disappointed in my expectation---the little trailer with the hand printed cardboard sign never returned. You’ll have to settle for the homemade version yourself, and hope they are as good as my memories.
Oil for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 12 oz. can of corn, drained (3/4 cup, fresh)
Powdered sugar for coating
Heat at least 2” of oil to 375 degrees F., either in an electric fryer or in a heavy pan over medium heat. You may use an electric deep fryer as well. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine ingredients thoroughly. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk and oil together, then stir in the corn kernels. Pour wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides---they may need some help turning over. It takes only two or three minutes for them to cook, so don’t crowd the pan or the oil will cool and the fritters will be soggy with grease. Remove the fritters to drain on paper towel, then roll them while warm in the powdered sugar to coat (some people prefer granulated sugar). Serve immediately.
My dear mother passed away on October 29 at about 1:00 in the afternoon. You can find her obituary HERE.
If you've read any of my cookbooks or seen my shows on PBS, you know that she had a huge influence on me and my baking. In the next few months I'll be posting bread blogs with plenty of memories---accompanied by recipes, of course! For right now, I thought I'd share my homily from her funeral, which was November 3. The readings were:
Funeral Mass Homily
Mary A. Garramone
St. Bernard's Church, Peoria, IL
November 3, 2016
Mom wanted things arranged in advance for her funeral, and she must have thought about it every now and then, because she sent me many versions over the years: a couple of songs, three or four responsorial psalms, several sets of readings. So I was surprised when, in our most recent conversation about the funeral, she left the choice of the first two readings and the psalm to us.
It should not difficult to imagine why we chose the first reading from Proverbs: it is an apt description of her as it was for Mary Otten, her dear friend of happy memory.
She gets up while it is still night
All those nursing shifts working 11 to 7, and getting up give us kids meds and cool iced tea when we were sick.
She sets about her work vigorously , her arms are strong for her tasks.
We called her “Toughie McNutt”
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
Like her mother, Grandma Tootsie, she was always worried about the hungry poor.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are doubly clothed. My mother was into the “layered look” long before it was fashionably, especially if we were going sledding.
She makes coverings for her bed, working with eager hands. She took great delight in being a quilter, and loved spending time with “The Mary Quilters” and other sewing groups.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. My mother may not have ever eaten the bread of idleness, but she baked every OTHER kind of bread, and was a legendary cookie baker.
But it should be equally obvious why we chose the second reading: she did not allow anything to separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus: no grief, no loneliness, no suffering, frustration or anxiety was ever powerful enough to make her lose her faith. Lose her temper, yes. Lose her customary cheerfulness and courtesy—perhaps, but only in extremis. Even to lose her courage, once or twice, towards the end. But never her faith.
My mother was devoted to the Blessed Mother and prayed the rosary often. She liked to hold the beads in the fingers but have the crucifix in her hand. When Mama was in her last hours she was not responding or even moving much, not even opening her eyes. My sister Eileen noticed her rubbing her fingers together. She put the beads between Mama’s fingers, and my mother flipped her hand and expertly caught the cross in her palm, a gesture she’d done thousands of times.
Later in the night, my sister played hymns on her phone and sang to comfort my mother, including “Here I Am, Lord” one of my mom’s favorites. When they got to the refrain, my mother, hours from death, paralyzed on one side and hardly responding otherwise, raised her arm straight up in the air, as if to say, “Here I am, Lord.” An obedient and beloved daughter of God to the end.
As far as the gospel is concerned, I think we really should have had three, so I want to comment on two other familiar passages in addition to the one we heard. Many years ago she made out a pair of typed pages with readings, response and gospel chosen---the paper is yellowed now, but the gospel is still fresh: Jesus saying “Let the children come to me.”
Let the children come to me in the kitchen—my favorite classroom, and I’ll teach them to count cups of flour, and to tell time until the bread is done, to learn patience and cooperation and gratitude and to take turns on who gets to lick the beaters. Let them come with me to the library, my mother would say, and to the “New New Park” with the roundy-roundy slide, and to Dairy Queen for a fling because it’s payday. Let the children come to me, said Mama, and I’ll take them to the Heart of Illinois Fair and the Spring Bay Watermelon Festival and the Tremont Turkey Festival and anywhere they serve haystack onion rings, and then it’s off to the Glen Oak band concert on the fourth of July and I’ll lead a parade of children marching around the blanket, all of us waving sparklers and flags. That was my mother.
But another gospel verse comes to mind as well: John 15:13 in which Jesus says: “Greater love has no-one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And she did give her life, a continuous stream of sacrifices for her children, her family, for her patients and her nurses, for anyone in need. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy were daily activities for her---she did not need a Year of Mercy to remind her. But we sometime forget the verse that follows and we ought not forget, in my mother’s case: “Greater love has no-one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do as I command you.” No matter what, she couldn’t turn off the button that says “Mind your Mama”---it was always dialed up to ten. I was in the monastery for two whole years, going to church five times a day, before she stopped calling to remind me that December 8th is a holy day of obligation and I’d better go to mass. That was my mother.
But what of the reading she herself chose? An odd choice, perhaps, to use the gospel more suited for the Christmas mass at dawn. But the angels and the shepherds and the manger are not really the point. The point was the last verse: “And Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
My mother did not merely remember her experiences, good and bad---she treasured them, prayed about them, thought about them deeply, tried to understand their meaning. She pieced them together like a quilt as she pondered, found the pattern and the purpose, God’s will hidden in everyday things. And as she pondered, mere knowledge was transformed into holy wisdom, speculation turned into spiritual insight, and in a kind of personal transubstantiation, living her own faith was turned into a powerful witness to the gospel. As a Eucharistic minister, my mother had the greatest love for the Blessed Sacrament, cherished it in the tabernacle, offered it with reverence, received it with deep devotion. The Word became flesh, and the flesh became bread, and my mother received the bread of life, and the Word became flesh in her, so she became a sign of the Love of God at work in the world.
So may we all.
Last week I gave a reflection on the multiplication of the loaves at a Methodist parish in Aledo, IL, where my college buddy Mark Harris is pastor. We refer to each other as "brothers from another mother" since we look so much alike! We became fast friends as freshman theatre majors at Illinois Wesleyan and we're closer than ever now that we can talk shop about theatre, music AND ministry--plus he's a Cardinals fan! I gave my talk "What kind of bread shall we be?" which seems to have been a big hit. They began the evening with a free chicken dinner, which included the best bread pudding I've ever eaten, and I mean that without any exaggeration. I'll see if I can get a recipe from the man who made it, but I'm not even sure I want one. I'd rather have an excuse to visit my friend again.
I'm bringing this up because I want my readers to know that although I do a lot of bread demos and lectures at Catholic parishes around Illinois, I'm just as comfortable speaking to Methodist and Lutheran parishes, civic groups and women's clubs. I know of several Lutheran parishes that have used my book Bake and Be Blessed for a sermon series or for staff formation. One of the first fan letters I ever received for my PBS show Breaking Bread was from the leader of a charismatic prayer group who said that they were "lifting you up to the Lord" at their weekly meeting. Bread has a universal appeal.
It all boils down to this: I want to multiply the loaves. I want the number of people who bake for their families to increase every day, to multiply the confidence and creativity of as many people as I can, in books and demos and posts online, through Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter and Craftsy and whatever the next big thing is. And whether I feed someone's hunger for cinnamon rolls or for companionship, for recipes or for reasons to bake, I'd like to believe that I'm doing the work of my Master.
The final installment of my adventures at Craftsy in Denver CO,
taping a six part online class in baking:
"Bake Your Best: Sweet Yeast Breads, Challah and More."
The final lesson of my Craftsy class is for Holiday Challah, which includes a variation on the Challah recipe featured in my most recent book The Breadhead Bible. The only change was that I used honey instead of sugar, and light olive oil instead of canola. These ingredients are more traditional and seemed appropriate for breads that are often served for Jewish holidays like Purim and Rosh Hashanah. Read a blog I wrote about it in 2012 and find a recipe HERE.
A crown braid makes an impressive addition to the holiday table, and when I teach comparative religions I make it when we study the feast of Purim, which commemorates the courage of Queen Esther. It's also traditional for Rosh Hashanah. I don't have a photo tutorial yet, but you can see from the finished product that it's a culinary tour de force.
My last recipe for the class is for Halfpipe Twist Babka. Again, I don't have a series of photos to show you, and I haven't found anything online with enough details to be helpful. I promise you, I'm not just being coy so you'll subscribe to my class! Once I get a decent set of photos, I'll share them. Here's what the finished product looks like.
After we wrapped taping the lessons, we had to make some LTV's ("Little Tiny Videos") to be used for the title cards for each lesson, and then shoot all the still photography. The kitchen crew had been saving product all week, and had made some of their own based on my instruction, and we had a sizable collection of goodies.
There was a Saint Bede Academy alumni gathering that evening at the Craftsy headquarters, so I went straight there from the studio. After shooting pictures of the stained glass in the Denver cathedral and then lunch at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs on Saturday with my cousin (there's a non-sequiter if ever I saw one), I flew back to Illinois.
Best. Week. Ever.
You'll be seeing more about my class and the Craftsy platform in future blogs, but for right now . . .
The ongoing account of my days of shooting a six part online class for Craftsy.com August 2- 5 . . .
The class is titled "Bake You Best: Sweet Yeast Breads, Challah and More" and will launch by early September. Stay tuned to this blog for a chance to be enrolled in the class for FREE and for other special discounts.
Thursday's shoot began with a blossom and ended with a braid. Apricot Blossom Coffeecake is a monastery favorite which has not yet made it into a cookbook but has been featured in this blog before (clock HERE for the photo tutorial). There was one error that could have been disastrous if we had been baking for something other than a taped class and the accompanying photos. Brian, one of my kitchen angels, had never used nor seen coriander before, and it was one of the ingredients in the apricot filling. Evidently the jar lids had been switched, and he used garam masala instead, which has coriander in it but a LOT of other spices as well, including a healthy amount of black pepper! The bread was unexpectedly spicy, but if he had used about half the amount, it would have been one of those sweet/hot flavor profiles that would pair well with a creamy cheese. A happy accident might yield a new recipe . . .
Next we started on the challah portion of the class. My orginal class proposal had been just for breakfast breads, but the green light committee had decided they wanted challah added, first as a single lesson and then they expanded it to three lessons. I must admit, the class is much more interesting and educational thanks to their input.
Challah is a part of Jewish baking tradition and is often served for the Sabbath and for holidays. It's a bread rich with eggs, slightly sweet and utterly delicious. I made my first loaf for a cast party for Fiddler on the Roof when I was a senior in high school and have been baking it regularly ever since. A braided loaf is the traditional shape, but until I started researching for this class, I had no idea just how many kinds of braids are out there. Challah is often served as pull-apart rolls as well, which is the first shape we featured in the class.
The recipe I used was one a developed specifically for the class (I promise I'll share it eventually) to be made in a KitchenAid or other stand mixer. Challah dough often comes in huge proportions, since people are baking for larger groups for the holidays---recipes using 5 lbs. of flour are not uncommon. This one can be made in the very smallest model of KitchenAid, the one you buy first and use until you realize you want to make biggest batches of challah! I showed how to make braided sandwich rolls, another common shape for challah.
Lastly for this lesson I showed a slab braid, which I've featured on this blog several times. HERE is the YouTube video that I made a few years ago. A slab braid is a lot easier to shape than one that requires you to roll out ropes or strands to exactly the right size and shape. But that is exactly what we did in the next lesson, showing a three and a six strand braid using the traditional method.
Shooting on Thursday went a little overtime, and when I got back to the hotel my cousin was already waiting for me with two large pizzas from Amici's in Wheat Ridge (a family favorite) and we went to my uncle and aunt's house for a little family reunion. Lots of love and laughs and red wine, and way more food than we needed---which is to say, just as it always is in our Italian family!
Next up: Crown braid and chocolate babka!
The ongoing account of taping my Craftsy class August 2 - 5. . .
Makeup call for the shoot was always at 8 a.m.--the stylist Lillian was a pleasure to work with and a good conversationalist. The biggest struggle of course was keeping the shine off my bald pate, and frequent blotting and powdering was required throughout the day. It wasn't as bad as when I shot Breaking Bread in St. Louis, which is the humidity sinkhole of the Midwest---all of the humidity of the Great Plains drains into center field of Busch Stadium. The air is so dry in Denver that I walked the 16th Street Mall in 90 degree heat and it felt like 75 degrees in Illinois.
Day One included the Basic Sweet Dough recipe (an adaptation of Best Ever Crescent Roll Dough) and rose rolls, but not made for dinner, but as cinnamon rolls with bright red frosting (see previous post). I've made the rose rolls for nearly every monastery holiday meal, but only as cinnamon rolls a couple of times, once on the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, and another time for my mom's birthday.
We continued shooting the lessons in order, Lesson 2 being for jellyroll variations. The class is meant for advanced beginner or intermediate bakers, so I figured expanding on the jellyroll technique used for cinnamon rolls would be the next step. The first recipe was for Breakfast Butterflies, an old fashioned roll you don't see much these days. I like them with brown sugar cinnamon or almond filling, but we decided to use blueberry. You can find the recipe for the blueberry filling HERE, but I find that Solo Blueberry pastry filling also works well. The recipe for the rolls came from my book The Breadhead Bible.
The segment for Sweetheart Coffeecake followed, which I featured in an earlier blog--find the photo tutorial HERE. Craftsy is the perfect platform for this kind of teaching, because a well-shot video is always better than my amateur photographs! The other feature on the Craftsy platform that Breadheads will appreciate is that at the bottom of the window where the lesson plays, there is a "30 second replay" button--click it and the last 30 seconds of the video plays on a loop for as long as you want. People learning to knit, crochet and quilt on Craftsy really like this feature!
Producer Jon Clark had scheduled one more segment for the day, so we went on to Lemon Fantans, another old-fashioned roll but usually made with butter between the layers and served at dinner. To make it into a sweet treat, I added granulated sugar mixed with lemon zest to the layers, and drizzled on a thin icing made with lemon juice. The cameraman Marshall declared this roll his favorite and would have consumed more of them if we hadn't had to keep some idea for product shots! My photo tutorial from last summer is HERE, and the results from the shoot are below.
The shoot ended about 6 p.m., after which I took off my apron and my habit, threw on a Rockies jersey and walked the four blocks to Coors Field---yep, that's how close the studio is to the ballpark! The Rockies pounded the Dodgers 12 - 2, a typical Mile High home run fest. DJ LaMahieu hit one that just barely cleared the wall, and Dodger center fielder Joc Pederson jump for it, missed, and lost his glove over the wall in the shrubbery around the fountains! As he stood there waiting for an usher to throw his glove back over, you could tell from his stance that he was NOT happy with himself. I celebrated by going back to the concession stands. Bread in the studio, bratwurst in the ballpark---not sure it gets much better.
Day one of my Craftsy class taping was spent consulting with the Jon Clark, the producer. Given the number of their teachers who have little or no television experience, Jon is the ideal Craftsy producer: utterly unflappable, endlessly patient and unfailingly kind. I was also to discover that logistical skills rival those of the Allied invasion, and as a person who has produced and directed videos myself, I know how valuable that skill is.
Samantha Sherman, the kitchen production manager, was just as well-organized, and only once did she and her crew produce a dough that was a little stiff—their first time making challah in the mixer. Otherwise, everything that came on set was the perfect consistency and timed to be sufficiently risen for use. Some dough we had to slow down in the fridge and once we had to wait while something proofed. But every time we got off schedule, we adjusted, did something else in the meanwhile, and still ended pretty much on time.
After our prep and practice day, I went back to the hotel, changed into more casual clothes, and headed off to the ballpark with my cousin Chris. My parents were from Denver originally before moving to Peoria when my dad got a job with Caterpillar, so I still have family out there. The Rockies played the Dodgers. We sat above the scoreboard in right field, and the right fielder for the Dodgers, Riddick, had just been traded from the A’s, a National League team, and so he hadn’t played against much against the American Leaguers. Periodically he would take off his hat, and from our vantage point we could see that he had a cheat sheet hidden in his cap! He’d steal a glance as a hitter came up to bat and then adjust his position. As with many cheat sheets, it didn’t help much: Rockies won 7 to 3.
On our way to our seats I saw a touching sight. There was a large bearded man escorting his family to their seats. His eldest daughter appeared to be about 12 years old and seemed to be especially unnerved by the crowds. He held her hand, the rest of the family trailing behind, without a sign of annoyance or impatience on his face, matching his pace to hers.
There was a bit of a rain delay early in the game, which mean that I got back to the hotel a little later than I would have liked. But after a successful prep session, I went to sleep without anxiety about the first day of shooting. I woke up the next morning with a kind of pleasurable nervous anticipation, like actors have before opening night of a revival of a successful show: familiar but new, confident but not complacent.
Next blog: First day of shooting!
I'm embarrassed that it's been so long since I posted---mea culpa!
Tomorrow is our Academy's annual dinner auction, for which I usually have a few bread related items: pizzas delivered to your child's lunch table (which went for $120 last year!), gourmet pizza party for 12 (usually goes for about $1800) and new this year, a catered baseball-themed party. Here's the description:
“Batter Up!” Baseball Bash
We'll see how much it goes for. I'll be sure to post all the recipes once I get them all tested. In the meantime, here's a recipe page from an demo I gave in Denver in June of 2014; Ball Park Breads recipe page.
Some images from my baking adventures in Denver.
I've been having a great time with my cousin and his family, and we've been through 10+ pounds of flour in four days. The beer bread in the top row of photos is part of an experiment with yeasted beer bread--more on that in a post later this week. The caramel pecan rolls were a treat for the family, and the funnel cakes part of a demo I did for Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, the results of which are pictured in the last photo.
The title of my presentation was "Ballpark Breads and The Lessons of Baseball: recipes and reflections of Rockies fans." (I'm hoping some parish in St. Louis will invite to present it for Cardinals fans!) The recipes I presented were breads inspired by the ballpark which I developed for an episode of Breaking Bread with Father Dominic (which never got shot). It was called "Batter Up!" and included funnel cakes, beer bread, and Inside Out Nacho Bread, which features all the toppings for nachos supreme inside a sour-cream based cornbread. Click HERE to get the handout for the recipes.
The Denver baking adventures continue---check out the Events page for my schedule for tomorrow at Bethany Lutheran in Cherry Hills.
Fr. Dominic Garramone AKA