Bread Me Baby

ok. Let's talk about bread. Your post inspired me.

I have been making bread, and I love making bread. But about every 7th loaf seems to work. Lately my dough has been shrinking, yes I said shrinking, in the oven. Which results in me, well, very pissed off.

Any suggestions?

Cabbage Salad


Here's where we can converse, share, prompt, stimulate, encourage, initiate and challenge.

First topic: find me a cabbage salad that's delicious. And any tips for cutting cabbage so that it's thin enough would be welcomed as well.


Thought Hash # 2

I have moved several times to Montreal. The first was to begin university in 2004 (but I only lasted one year) and my second was to live with a boyfriend last January. It was a tricky situation, me living in his room with nothing to do in Montreal except work at a cupcake store 12 hours a week, while he started his masters (this takes up a surprisingly large amount of time). To keep myself occupied I decided I would master the art of bread making. But I went about it wrong. I obsessed over the end result and it never turned out like I wanted. It was always too crumbly, too dry, too dense, and I didn't have the right sized pans. Then the oven started to spray sparks and my loaves came out burned and undercooked. I pulled at my hair in frustration in the kitchen: "But I'm following and doing everything I'm supposed to! Why isn't it working!" Soon the oven broke. The relationship didn't last much longer.

At the beginning of this year, I arrived in Montreal for a third time. It was definitely less stressful than time one and two, but still a transition that involved a lot of anxiety about the future and of course, expectation. I found myself again, although less so, in need of ways to occupy my time as I began my new life. One afternoon, to take a break from job hunting, I tried making bread in my new kitchen. It turned out like chalk: a heavy pasty crumbly loaf that my roommates tried to convince me was delicious. I was mortified.

Now it's almost the 1st of April and I'm beginning to feel more settled. I'm hopeful about spring and excited about my job at an outdoors clothing store. The loaves you see above, are those I made this morning. And although I have had other successful bread-themed undertakings, for the first time in my life, I have made perfect sandwich bread, perfect toast bread, perfect perfect bread, that isn't too crumbly, that slices well, that is moist, that has enough salt and is hearty. Am I cured of anxiety and expectation surrounding life transitions, my ultimate performance and bread making? No, not in the least, but I think things might be looking up and it has a lot to do with having faith in what I know, and letting go.

- Chef Murph

Pumpkin Millet Muffins

For the people who know me, they understand the art of making and eating muffins is no light affair. I'm not sure when the obsession started, my dad could give you more information, as he is the one who introduced me to "good" muffins and how to make them.

I was blessed with a homemade breakfast almost every day of my childhood. At the time, I don't remember thinking much of it, I even remember complaining, or acting extremely unenthusiastic. Little did I know that while I was eating steaming whole-wheat pancakes with home-made honey rhubarb sauce or buttery popovers that I broke open and filled with raspberry jam or blueberry cornmeal muffins fresh out of the oven, most other children were happily crunching away on the same old cereal.

When I moved away from home for the first time to go to school in Montreal, I realized how blessed I had been to receive such gourmet treatment every day and quickly fell into deep despair over the pasty oatmeal, the soggy, sharp tasting salads and over-cooked gooey pasta served at the cafeteria. There were no muffins. I did make some by myself in the 4x4 foot kitchen in residence, but they rarely turned out and were made impatiently, with the wrong flour, coming out of the oven like little pucks, filled with holes.

Now I have acquired more patience and demand less from the world, or so I like to think, and have mastered the art of muffin making. The latest inspiration came from a bakery in Victoria called Cascadia Bakery, a small bright café, bustling with people getting morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches, or retired folk eating grilled panninis and soup with their grandchildren. It's affiliated with the infamous Rebar restaurant whose establishment was a revolutionary turning point for vegetarian cuisine on Vancouver Island. (Their book: Rebar Modern Food Cookbook can be purchased in many bookstores in North America and of course on-line.)

This past December I went to Cascadia Bakery twice with my sister Katherine. I had previously gone with my dear friend Rosanne, but since she does not hold muffins in the same esteem that I do, I knew I needed to take Kath, an (almost) equally enthusiastic muffin connoisseur. Both times it was rainning, and swinging our feet back and forth from the stools, at the window looking out on Government street, we sipped our lattés and spread raspberry jam onto the best muffins I've found in Victoria. They are perfect: with crunchy tops, a fine crumb, moist and not too sweet or buttery. My favourite is the apricot oat and more recently, pumpkin millet.

This brings me to the point of these celebratory ramblings: how to make pumpkin millet muffins. I've adapted the recipe slightly and therefore will give you my version.

First, some guidelines.

Most people don't bake. It scares them; recipes intimidate or they have no desire to follow one. But rule number one is: follow the recipe. However, in order to follow the recipe, you must have some knowledge of things to look out for: flours are different (I recommend a high quality organic flour that is locally milled so you know it hasn't been sitting on the shelf for months and months on end); do not over mix (because this will leave your muffins with gaping tunnels and the stirring activates the gluten in the flour, making them tough); and ovens vary in temperature (so you might have to play with the temperature, or know your oven well). This is why, if one is a beginner muffin maker, you must be patient. Try making them a couple of times. Even though I tell you to follow the recipe, as you try to learn what works for you, you can play with the quantities as long as you know the basics.

Pumpkin Millet Muffins

(makes 12 normal sized muffins)

2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C melted butter
1 C buttermilk
3/4 C honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C pumpkin purée

2 C spelt flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C millet + extra for tops
1/4 C pumpkin seeds + extra for tops

*(You can use 1 C white + 1 C whole wheat, or substitute 1/4 C oats for 1/4 C flour. I used spelt because it is finer and gives a nicer crumb.)

1 - Preheat oven to 350 F
2 - Toast pumpkin seeds and millet in a skillet (watch them carefully, stirring occasionally because they can burn fast)
3 - Grease your muffin tins
4 - Combine eggs, butter, buttermilk, honey, vanilla and pumpkin in a bowl.
5 - Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add pumpkin and millet. Add dry to wet. With a few very fast strokes, mix together the wet and dry. The batter should be thick, but still soupy. However, as I mentioned above, this will take a while to recognize. If the batter sticks on the spoon when you hold it upside down, it's too dry; if it slides off, it's too thin. Somewhere in between is where you want to be.
6 - Fill tins and sprinkle the tops with extra pumpkin seeds and millet.
7 - Bake for around 25 minutes. Check after 20 and insert a tooth-pick. If it comes out clean then they're done. Browned tops are also a good indication that they're ready to take out.

Okay! Now, let them rest for a bit in the tins,then gently pop them out with a knife, and go for it. Highly recommended with some good jam and scrambled eggs. Coffee! or tea of course, if that's your chosen beverage.

Until next time,

Chef Murph

Thought Hash #1

Currently I live with a dear friend (Libby is her name), and when I arrived two months ago her kitchen was pretty well equipped. Soon, Libby's leaving and I have to move. This means I will need to better equip myself, but for very little money. Here are my 2:39 am thoughts:

Little mason jars for spices. A wooden spoon. A cast iron dutch oven. Two sizes of cast iron pans, maybe two big ones. (I already have birther sharp knives.) A large ceramic bowl. Beaters. Food processor. Seive (big one). Spatula. 9x12 and 9x9 pyrex baking dishes. pie pan. loaf pan. muffin tins. The adorable efficient espresso pot that they have at this delightful european grocery store near my house (I think I like the coffee making things more than coffee, or the idea of it, no the idea of the taste going with things, breakfast things, cinnamon buns). And then some really big jars for nuts, raisins, dried beans etc. So they can be out on the counter and not in sticky plastic wrappers.

How do you feel about sulphites in prunes and apricots? Raisins? Should we eat organic nuts?

Crumbs #1

A few notes from Eeyore:

Yesterday I made 8 servings of lentil soup and 2 servings of rice noodles with peanut sauce in an hour and a half, all in an effort to procrastinate a paper about the gendering of mathematics. Soon to come, recipes for said dishes. They are staples in our house and in procrastination.

Today, I bought corn muffins in the student union to accompany my lentil soup lunch and dinner. They were too sweet. My bets are on high fructose corn syrup or sweetened condensed milk. Either way, unsatisfying.

I also bought a $1.00 bag of cheez-its. I ate all 2.5 servings hoping they would cut my congestion with their salty love. They didn't.

And it's only Tuesday. There is ice cream in the freezer and bread to be made tomorrow, so I suppose things are looking up.

How To Live In The Garden.

This excerpt is from Canadian writer George Elliott Clarke's Whylah Falls. The book is written almost like an epic poem, but each poem is a separate entity that can stand on it's own. The narrative follows the story of a black community living in Nova Scotia or Acadia, which is the name for the french speaking roots and culture of our Atlantic coast. It is a book of passion, colour, murder and strife, rich with language. Here is an excerpt from the section "The Trial of Saul."

How To Live In The Garden.

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

GEN. 2:15

Cora brings a rural nobility to making food, a solid love, staring into her huge, copper pot like a gardener staring into a pot of lush earth, bright soil, glistening with newness, or tending a bonsai tree, the trunk of steam rooted in the pottage, the branches of steam wafting into nothingness. She salts her stored miniature sea, churns it with a walnut spoon, then lifts goodness, a kiss, to her lips while spicy, flamboyant smells green her kitchen into Eden.
Cooking is faith. Cora opens her antique cookbook, a private bible, enumerating Imperial meausres, English orders, - pinches, pecks, cups, teaspoons, of this or that - and intones, "I create not food but love. The table is a community. Plates are round rooves; glasses, iced trees; cutlery, silvery streams."
Her Jarvis County cuisine, gumboing the salty recipes of Fundy Acadians, the starchy diets of South Shore Loyalists, and the fishy tastes of Coloured Refugees includes rappie pie, sweet potato pie, pollen pancakes, steamed fiddleheads, baked cabbage, fried clams, dandelion beer, mackerel boiled in vinegar, and basic black-and-blue berries. For breakfast, Cora offers fried eggs, sausages, orange marmalade, and toast washed down with rich coffee. Her tastes are eccentric, exotic, eclectic. Her carrot cake consists of whole carrots whose green, leafy tops sprout from brown, earthen icing and whose orange roots taper to the cake's floor. She bakes apple tree leaves, blossoms, seeds, and bark into her apple pies. Cora is the concrete poet of food.
This afternoon, she thawed a pound of cod filets, white flesh raw but succulent on the plate, and diced it into one-inch squares. Then she sautéed a half cup of sliced onions in rich, yellow butter and poured the sizzling aroma into a broth made from celery soup, a cup of water, and a cup of milk. Next, she stirred the mix and added the fish, Jarvis scallops, and Church Point clams, nursing the chowder to a boil. Cora simmered it for seven minutes, then sprinkled the smiling sea with chopped parsley. Voila! Perfection under gravity . . .
Cora's dandelion wine is a great agony of sunflowers. No, dandelions. It must be drunk to be believed. (One believes it when drunk.) It tastes like Russian literature, sunlight shining through birch leaves. It curls into a glass, snarls along the sides and bottom, doubling, tripling, quadrupling upon itself. (Watch the white curl of cream churn into clear, brown tea, touch bottom, then billow along the sides and up, muddying the water.)

- George Elliott Clarke, Whylah Falls, pg. 35-36

Terrific Bread Pudding

I make this the night before and put it in the fridge, when I get up, into the oven she goes while I make some tea and grin about the day.

Bread pudding is a great way to use up old bread (regular, banana, corn, carrot cake, gingerbread). If you choose to use sweeter bread, adjust the honey accordingly.

Beat well together :

- 3 C milk
- 3 eggs
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 TBS honey
- 2 TBS sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- juice from ½ lemon

Mix together in a 9x13 baking pan

- 4 C crumbled bread
- 1 ½ C grated apple or ½ C chopped dried fruit
- ½ C nuts (optional)

Pour first mixture into the pan over the bread and push everything around so it’s good and combined

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (but this will vary according to your oven – you want the bread to have absorbed the liquid, so it should be set like a custard, and Brown on top.

Serve hot, warm, or cold with heavy cream, ice cream, fruit, yogurt, applesauce etc

PS : this cuts in half beautifully. Or the way I did it was to make it in my cast iron skillet. I just cut it down by a third. You’ll have some left overs, but hell, it’s awesome

Tried and True Brownies

My fella has taught me two important lessons on brownies:
1) They should always be undercooked
2) They are best with more chocolate than socially acceptable.

Thus, after muddling around with various recipes, box mixes, and chocolate bars, we have arrived at an absolutely stunning result. Be warned - these are not for the faint of heart. They will keep you up at night.

12 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 crushed, dark chocolate bar (flavors are good, and go fair trade people)

Melt the butter over the stove. Remove from stove and stir in all cocoa powder until smooth. Add brown and white sugar, stir until smooth. Add flour, mixing in with as few strokes as possible (the more you stir the tougher your brownies will be). Finally, incorporate each egg thoroughly and separately. Batter should be shiny and sticky. If you think it is too dense you can add a little bit of hot water. Stir in the chocolate bar pieces.

Line a glass 9x9 pan with tin foil, and grease as you see fit. Pour in brownie mixture and shake pan back and forth to flatten. Place in a preheated 325 degree oven. Cook until a fork inserted into the center comes out with a bit of brownie goo still attached (not covered in brownie goo, but there should still be some clinging to the fork). Cool on counter. Slice, enjoy.

We absolutely splurge on these if we add the chocolate bar - but they are just as decadent without. The real question is whether one can afford the two eggs and butter (especially when these disappear so quick!) But hey, in tough times, sometimes you just gotta treat yourself.


How To Live In The Garden
Thought Hash #1
Thought Hash #2
Gluten-Free Girl
Crumbs 2
I've Found A New Role Model
I like to eat like a Peasant.
Crumbs 3
When the Spirit Says Sleep, You Sleep
I've Fallen. Hard. (on Pyrex)
An Unnecessarily Toruted Graduate Student's Guide to Eating on a Stipend




Tried and True Brownies
Terrific Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Millet Muffins
Buttermilk Pancakes
Sloppy JoesCornbread
Fish with Brown Butter Sauce
Morning Muffins
Rhubarb Crisp
grilled cheese
Suito Pasta Carbonara
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Matt's Sunday Morning Biscuits
Chickpea and carrot salad
Warm Potato Salad
Warm Potato Salad #2
black bean brownies
Pad Thai
Lobster Sandwiches
Strawberry Pie
Strawberry Balsamic Reduction Butter Sauce
Banana bread with chocolate and cinnamon sugar
Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls
Breaded Rock Fish with Chanterelle Cream Sauce
Fast Cole Slaw Everyone Likes
Pickled Beets
Molly's Scones
Judy's Wheat-free Happy Belly Scones
Blackberry Crisp
Date Squares

Chicken Marbella
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 Day Bean Soup
Chinese Chicken Salad
Broccoli Salad
Grilled Eggplant
Butternut Squash Soup with caramelized onions, rosemary, goat cheese and bacon
Chocolate Mousse
Spaghetti Sauce
Date-filled Windows
Cardamom Rolls
Cinnamon Rolls
Judy's Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips
Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Silver Palate Banana Bread
Apple Pie

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits
Miso Soup

Tomato Soup
Tarte Tatin
Chocolate Sauce

Salmon en croute pour deux
French-Style Yogurt Cake
Pork Tonkatsu
Mediterranean Appetizers
Sliced Spring Salad with Endive, Cilantro, Radishes, and Feta
Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Blender Pesto
Jamie Oliver's Lemon Sherbet
Billy Goats
Galettes à l'orange
Thai Curry
Birthday Coffee Cake


Schwartz's, Montreal Canada
The Wagon Wheel, Mankato MN, USA
The Monument Cafe, Georgetown TX, USA
Yu's Chinese Cuisine, Mankato MN, USA

The Splendid Table



About Mak

Alias: Makifish
Weaknesses: pie, avacado, green tea, scones
Know-How: doctored Raman, Finn dishes, vinaigrettes, mac and cheese, bacon

Writing, cooking, and dining are perhaps my most passionate pursuits. They also happen to be the things I challenged my father on persistently as a child, refusing to help him in the kitchen and throwing tantrums at his essay edits. But now that I am (moderately) grown up, I recognize that the art of food and the art of words are perhaps some of the most lovely, and the mostly easily shared.

Thankfully, a friend like Murph allows you to do both, and for many years we have done just that. Judy and I have been pen pals for most of our lives. Back when one corresponded on paper (something that has fallen out of fashion, but I still believe it valuable and comforting), we wrote each other about the ins and outs of elementary and middle school. We would send pictures, poems, and notes about our thoughts and pubescence. Our parents dutifully procured international stamps so that these labors of love could travel across the border of Washington and Canada. I loved writing Judy, and I loved receiving her letters. Although we are different, we are equally passionate people, and these notes were an outlet for that passion and a conduit for our friendship.

Our notes continued in spurts in high school and college, but mostly through email. While I studied abroad in Finland, Judy saved my 21st birthday by providing a pecan pie recipe that used maple syrup rather than the ubiquitous corn syrup (unavailable in the land of Finn). I truly explored food in college, along with several other food inspired friends. I learned how to roast meats, I learned how to handle pastry, and mostly, I learned that if you cook it -- they will come. Food is a the great unifier; especially in college. My dearest friends from college are the ones I cooked with.

Now on my own, with the exception of a charming Texas fella who lives and breathes by the mantra that everything is better with bacon, I am learning to cook for two on a tight budget. Matt and try to spend less than $200 on groceries a month. This means bringing things into my diet that I have at times abhorred: Raman, boxed macaroni & cheese, and canned vegetables. But, it is a valuable learning experience. First, I am understanding how income is tied to food inequity and nutrition in the US. Second, I am learning on a daily basis that if I make it myself, if I follow the illustrious words of Michael Pollan, and eat like my grandmother, that I not only get a better meal but that I save moola in the process. Thus I am on the journey of perfecting homemade sandwich bread, biscuits, and soups.

Along on this journey, is of course, Murph. Her words have long been a part of my life and through this new medium they continue.

So this is the collective record of our eats and our lives. It pays homage to our fathers and our families, the places we've lived and the things we love, and of course to our friendship of eating and writing together.

About Murph

Dear reader,

Up until this point I haven't expressed much enthusiasm about unveiling my entire life story over the internet. However, spreading the word about the greatness of food (and myself) is an opportunity that I couldn't pass up, especially one that involved such a dear life-long friend who shares an equal appreciation for the grub that fuels us.

That being said, I'll first share a bit about Kelsey and I. Our parents met in Chicago before they had kids, got serious jobs, picket fences and two door garages. Eric and John, our dads, shared an extreme love for good food from day one, working together as caterers and in various fish stores. They have passed the long-standing tradition on to us. Although I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia and she in Seattle, Washington, Kelsey and I have seen each other once a year since day one (missing of course a few here and there), and each time involved some sort of massive family celebration focused on the brilliant meal we were creating together. Time has passed and the passion for good food continues. So here we find ourselves reunited on the internet, but she in Mankato, Minnesota and I in Montréal, Québec.

As for me personally, I am in pursuit of various activities that will hopefully lead to excellence. I am passionate about languages and spend a good deal of my time going to school and perfecting my French so I'll be able to translate. (Though I don't speak it currently, a year long trip to Latin America is in the cards to learn Spanish.) Then, we have my long-standing passion for music. I'm taking singing lessons and practice, or try to, every day. I accompany myself on the guitar and various original songs have been recorded, but for the moment I am focusing on getting more resonance and volume of sound for less effort. This is surprisingly difficult. Of course I have to eat every day, so I spend all my free time thinking about what I'll cook next and where I'll buy my ingredients. Even when I get extremely stressed out, which is a common occurence due to the intensity with which I lead my life, I at least try to eat things that are simple and bring a great amount of joy, like peanut butter on toast with a cup of coffee, or baked beans mopped up with cornbread. Those who know me are up to date on the fact that without exercise I'd be a bunch of pulp. Currently, it's an on-off schedule of running and yoga: a brilliant combination. But soon spring will be here and it'll be tennis in the park every day.

It's great to be doing business with you Kelse.

Here's to food! Here's to me and you! Here's to life! Let's eat!

- Chef Murph