Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread & A Few Ideas for Mother’s Day

brunch, Provisions quilted placemats

A few weeks ago while searching for recipes online by Bea Ojakangas, the Scandinavian chef to whom Nigella Lawson credits the processor Danish pastry dough recipe, I stumbled upon a most delectable looking cinnamon pull-apart bread. Its creators, Lindsay and Bjork, had taken a class with Bea and learned how to make this “pulla,” which they described as “everything you love about cinnamon rolls in a pull-apart bread form.”

With that in mind, last Saturday, I made a batch of my favorite cinnamon roll dough, shaped it into a log as described on Pinch of Yum, and baked it for a few friends passing through town en route to an Easter gathering. The loaf of pulla stretched from corner to corner of the sheetpan, oozed with cinnamon and sugar upon baking, and required my largest cutting board for serving.

When our friends arrived, we tucked in immediately, each pulling at the nearest coil, spreading cream cheese icing over each bite, eating and talking and sipping coffee until not a crumb remained — it couldn’t have been more fun.

Have a wonderful weekend, Everyone.

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A Simple, Most Delicious Sandwich

Jamon Iberico Sandwich

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My mother recently described a sandwich an old man prepared for her at a bed and breakfast in Barcelona: toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, moistened with a squeezed tomato and topped with jamón Iberico. In the mornings, the man tops this concoction with an egg fried in olive oil. Holy cow.

These pigs, the man told my mother, feast on acorns, which impart a nutty flavor into the meat while also making the fat composition of the meat high in monounsaturated fat, the good kind that, like olive oil, helps lower bad cholesterol. I believe it. When Ben and I visited Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin told us roughly the same thing. He described his pork as “olive oil pork” because his pigs’ diet consisted of acorns and other nuts from his forest.

I wasn’t able to find jamón Iberico at any shop near me, and depending where you live, you might have difficulty, too. Jamón Iberico made its first appearance in this country in December 2007, when the U.S. finally approved a producer in Spain to export the delicacy. LaTienda.com gives a more extensive history about jamón Iberico and jamón Iberico de Bellota, which is the acorn-fed variety. According to La Tienda, the black-hoofed Iberian hog is a prized animal whose lineage stretches back to Christopher Columbus who is said to have had a few of these hogs aboard the Santa María when he set out to discover the New World.

Oh how I long to get my hands on some of this ham. Prosciutto di Parma is a fine substitute but jamón Iberico sounds so exotic and divine. To my sandwich, I added a few slices of Mahón, a cow’s milk cheese produced in Menorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain. Manchego would be nice in this sandwich as well.

Also, I just saw in my Gourmet magazine email newsletter, that Ruth Reichl’s “secret weapon” for a no-cook summer meal is the American version of serrano ham produced by the Edwards family of Virginia. Made from humanely raised Six-Spotted Berkshire pigs smoked slowly over hickory, this ham, according to Ruth, pairs nicely with melon or simply with some really good bread. (While this is by no means local to me, this might be a nice alternative for those east coasters looking to eat more locally.)

Also, if you live in the area, check out some of the food Chef Nolan is cooking up at Cafe Mimosa.

sandwichingredients

Pigs at Polyface Farm:
such happy pigs

sandwich

ingredients

The Most Delicious Sandwich on the Face of the Earth, Presently
Serves 1

two slices of bread, bakery-style bread (French, Italian)
1 clove garlic, gently smashed and sliced in half
1 tomato
extra-virgin olive oil, use a good one (Temecula Olive Oil Company Citrus Reserve)
nice salt
a few thin slices of jamón Iberico or prosciutto di Parma or Serrano ham
a few thin slices of cheese, such as Mahon or Manchego or Zamorano

1. Toast or grill the bread. I grilled it, but that was mostly to get the pretty grill marks for the picture. Toasting would be simpler and just as effective.

2. Rub each slice of bread with the cut garlic.

3. Cut the tomato in half (or cut off one-third of it). Squeeze the tomato over each slice making them nice and juicy. Drizzle each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

4. Top with a few slices of the ham. Lay each piece down one at a time, allowing the meat to sort of form ripples so air pockets form between the layers. Top with the cheese. Close the sandwich and eat.

sandwich

Two Things Everyone Should Know

passport

1. You can get a new passport within 24 hours.

Last Friday, I hopped on a plane to Cabo. The Monday before I departed, I discovered my passport had expired in March. After sending a few freakout emails to friends, I began some constructive research on the Internet. For an average price of $200, I discovered, mail-in services will issue new passports within 24 hours. The legitimacy more than the price concerned me.

I searched further and learned that an alternative exists, though this option is more convenient for some than others: If you need a new passport within 14 days of travel, you must make an appointment at one of the 15 Regional Passport Agencies located across the country. One, lucky for me, happens to be in L.A. (From a wise source, I heard that Minnesotans, in a pinch, will fly to Chicago to take care of passport issues.)

For future reference, call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) to schedule an appointment. And the official Web site for passport matters is: www.travel.state.gov. The expedited services costs $135, but count on spending at least another $50 for food and entertainment while you wait for it to be issued.

2. Digital cameras costing only $9.99 can be purchased at drugstores. And, these cameras come with a little carrying case, a cd and a USB cord. You can judge the quality of the pictures for yourself:

Why would anyone purchase such a camera? Well, last Wednesday, I suddenly found myself in L.A. with five hours to kill. (After I waited in line, filled out the paperwork and turned in all of my documents, I was told to return at 3:00 p.m. to retrieve my little blue book.) The passport agency, I soon discovered, is located just blocks away from the heart of Westwood and UCLA. And before I knew it, I had stumbled into a Pinkberry.

I have heard so much about Pinkberry. I remember reading a NYTimes article about lines of devoted customers extending around the block of the West Hollywood shop. The green-tea flavor sounded exotic, and all of the fruit toppings, fresh and healthy*.

Upon seeing the shop, I became overwhelmed with emotions: excitement, because I had wanted to sample the “swirly goodness” for years; sadness, because I had left my camera at home and would have no way of documenting the moment.

It was 10:00 a.m. when I spotted the shop. I needed to work up a little bit of an appetite, so I walked around UCLA — which is beautiful! — and then up and down the streets of Westwood. I made several phone calls, one to my mother, who suggested I check out a drugstore for a disposable digital camera. She’s so smart! CVS had just the device I needed. And, it’s not even disposable, though I still haven’t figured out how to erase the 20 pictures I have taken.

As you can see, I’m still learning how to center the subject of the photos:

*Recent reports have disclosed that Pinkberry yogurt is not the all-natural wonder once believed, which might explain the absence of any sort of a line when I arrived at the shop. And, though I had a blast tasting it, I’m not sure it deserves all the attention it has received.

I’m So Green …

mybagcares

… and fashionable! I feel so fortunate to have friends who look out for me not only on the green-food front, but also on the green-fashion front. Gone are the days when people ask me if I’ve lost my suitcase, which, sadly, happened once during college. From a very reliable source residing in NYC, I learned that this bag is all the rage in the style world. A quick look at all of the celebrities sporting this eco-friendly tote verified her claim. Thanks lis!

What’s more? For every bag purchased, a tree is planted. You can even become a fan of mybagcares on Facebook.

Check out MyBagCares.com for more info.

My Cheese Book Arrived, And I Made Cheese!

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I can hardly contain my excitement about my new book. Soon after it arrived on Friday, I drove to Henry’s Market in Laguna Niguel to buy a gallon of raw milk (Aunt Vicki, don’t be mad … and don’t tell Jerry) and some other basic supplies: cheesecloth, a colander and a thermometer. I returned home and set to work. Within two and a half hours, I had made a small batch of lemon cheese. It was amazing!

I’m referring to the process, that is. The cheese, taste- and texture-wise, needed serious doctoring — salt and herbs, as recommended in the book, and also a few tablespoons of milk (a spontaneous decision) to help bind it together. The addition of milk gave the cheese a creamier texture, sort of like goat cheese but without the chalkiness and that distinct goat-milk flavor. I’m not sure it was the right move, however. My dad said the cheese tasted “milky,” and then devoted his attention to the wedge of gouda we had picked up earlier in the day at the Del Mar farmers’ market. View all the photos from my experiment here.

While my first cheesemaking attempt may have flopped, I’m still determined to try several other recipes in this book. And I’m going to try them despite having lost all hope that cheesemaking, as the title promises, can be made easy. Let me explain. The authors, Ricki and Robert Carroll, begin by wondering why “the art of breadmaking fled the factories and resettled in our homes so far ahead of the art of cheesemaking.” Then, they list all the tools the home cook needs to make cheese including a dairy thermometer, a curd knife, cheesecloth, butter muslin, molds, and a cheese press. A cheese press! (Pictured at the right is a Wheeler press, an English model. These can cost between $200 and $300. They don’t look like they fit easily into cupboads either). Then, the Carrolls describe the preparation process — sterilizing equipment, pasteurizing milk (they recommend not using raw milk) and making starter cultures. All of this before the cheesemaking process even begins!

I’m totally game to do all this, and I’m sure the process becomes easier/faster after several attempts, but I’m still unsure as to why the Carrolls don’t understand why home cooks picked up breadmaking before cheesemaking. Breadmaking requires yeast, flour and water only. No special equipment; no sterilization; no pasteurization. Alas, maybe one day I’ll understand.

As I mentioned Friday, I’m slowly figuring out my employment situation. I’m now writing a weekly column for The Bulletin, the newspaper I worked for this past year in Philadelphia. It’s about life in the military, or I guess I should say, it’s about life for a couple new to the military. (In other words, it’s about Ben and me.) I’ll post a link each Friday to the article. Here is the first in the series: Focus Points.

Also, as the link I posted on Friday for the rapini article failed to produce the recipe, it can be found here: Rapini To Relish.