Those titles were among the thousands of cookbooks that readers donated in boxes and bags over the month of January. With the help of reader Rita Rochlen, a retired librarian, I sorted the books into categories (healthy, beginner, advanced, dessert, community cookbooks, etc.) and then invited nonprofits from around Austin, including the Sustainable Food Center, Central Texas Food Bank, Fresh Chefs Society and Brighter Bites, to come browse.
Representatives from each organization picked the books they thought would best serve their clients, but there were still plenty left over, especially in the community cookbook category.
We received about 25 copies of “Lone Star Legacy,” one of the best-selling community cookbooks in Texas. But it was the lesser-known community cookbooks that were of interest to Amie Oliver and Brian Simmons, curators at Baylor’s Texas Collection, home to a 6,100-volume community cookbook library.
They pored through more than 100 community cookbooks from Texas (we received similar books from as far away as the Bahamas and South Dakota) that were compiled by electric co-ops, elementary school teachers, bridge clubs and cheerleading squads. On laptops set up in the room where I’ve been storing these books for the past few months, they looked up each title to see if they already had it in the collection. If not, the book went into a “keep” box.
After about an hour, they’d picked out 40 cookbooks, ranging from a Hays County Livestock Show and Home Skills booklet made with a school printer and white comb binding to a bright pink book promoting Elsie’s Tours out of Seguin. Those are now headed to permanent, climate-controlled storage in Baylor’s library. They even took an index-card-size book that is held together with two metal rings from one of the Children’s Centers in Austin. No community cookbook is too inconsequential for their collection.
Any remaining books are headed to Recycled Reads, but not until after one more donation effort. This fall, we’re going to set up a pop-up bookstore at the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s Culinary Arts Career Conference, where high school students and teachers in attendance can pick out as many books as they want.
If you have any books you’re eager to get rid of or have a group (or a personal cookbook collection) that would benefit from some of these books, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-912-2504.
If you cut the meat into small cubes, like Austinite Heather Hunsaker did in a post she shared through Austin360Cooks over the weekend, you can cook them all the way through while the vegetables cook alongside, but if you’re cooking big chunks like Gov. Walker, you’ll overcook the vegetables by the time the chicken finishes.
I don’t make my own brisket, but Jess Pryles sure does. She’s the Austin-based recipe developer who is the brisket queen, as far as I’m concerned. She’s written a great tutorial if you want to try making it at home, and shared recipes for brisket-related recipes, including brisket popcorn, brisket Tater Tots, burnt ends, brisket gravy.
If you do enjoy brisket this weekend, you’ll probably have some leftovers, which pack a ton of flavor into all kinds of dishes. You can always make brisket banh mi, but Heather Hunsaker’s brisket nachos are another good choice. We ran this recipe a few months ago from Hunsaker, who writes kitchen-concoctions.com.
Barbecue Brisket Nachos
For the barbecue cheese sauce:
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp. barbecue rub
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
For the nachos:
1 (18-oz.) bag tortilla chips
2 cups leftover chopped or shredded brisket
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 (15-oz.) can baked beans or ranch style beans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup pickled jalapeño slices
To make cheese sauce, melt butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, whisking constantly until a thick, golden roux is formed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, whisk in milk. Whisk in barbecue sauce, rub, salt and black pepper.
Reduce heat to low and whisk in both cheeses. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened. If sauce thickens too much, stir in additional milk, as needed.
To assemble nachos, heat brisket with barbecue sauce in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through. In a separate small saucepan, heat beans over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through.
Arrange tortilla chips on a large serving platter or plate. Using a slotted spoon, scoop desired amount of beans over tortilla chips. Spoon desired amount of brisket over beans and chips. Drizzle desired amount of cheese sauce over brisket and top cheese with red onions and jalapeno slices. Serve immediately.
But if you’re looking for a nitrate-free smoked hot dog made with pork and beef raised in Texas, you can get it from Augustus Ranch, a fourth-generation ranch in Yoakum that sells meat online (via Farmhouse Delivery or augustusranch.com) and at the Lakeline Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, as well as at Dai Due and Salt & Time.
Soon, you can find their meats at Mueller Farmers’ Market on Sundays, too. A four-pack of hot dogs at the market costs $10, and you can order larger quantities online.
Austin’s options for fresh pasta have been somewhat limited until recently.
The good news is that more restaurants than ever make pasta by hand right now, but most grocery stores still only carry a limited selection of national brand fresh pasta in the refrigerated case. For more than 30 years, Pasta & Co. has been selling fresh pastas from its Kerbey Lane kitchen, but if you don’t live nearby, it can be hard to get to.
Austinites, particularly those who live south of the river or anywhere west of Mo-Pac, can now stop by La Dolda, a pasta shop at 4238 Bee Cave Road, to buy fresh and dried pastas made, for the most part, just like they are made in Italy.
Owners Matteo and Alessandra Gallizio are from Italy and recently relocated to Central Texas to open a fresh pasta store, like like Matteo’s mom envisioned having many years ago. She never got around to opening the shop, but earlier this week, the Gallizios brought her dream to life with La Dolda, named for his mom’s childhood home.
The store features more than a dozen kinds of fresh pastas, which rotate daily in a case in the front. In the back kitchen, you’ll also find a racks of pasta that are drying for a shelf-stable product that is also available to buy.
The pastas in the deli case and on the shelf come in all kinds of shapes, from the recognizable pappardelle, wagon wheels and shells to rarer shapes, such as trottole, which look like spinning tops. They sell short and long pastas, as well as ravioli. You can also buy some high-end olive oils and truffle-based sauces by the counter.
La Dolda is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and although the primary part of the business is selling pastas to go for you to cook at home, you can order pasta at the counter and have them cook it, with an option to add sauces. They have a tomato sauce, pesto (from Matteo Gallizio’s native Genoa), a hearty bolognese and noci, a buttery sauce made with pecans instead of the traditional walnut.
Editor’s note: We’ve hosted a number of reader recipe contests over the years. For 20 years, longtime Statesman food writer Kitty Crider ran a Christmas cooking competition, and I’ve coordinated a few cookie contests. In 2009, features writer Patrick Beach, who is no longer at the paper, led the effort to have a burger contest. Readers submitted lots and lots of their best burgers, and Beach and I picked the finalists. We teamed up with then-restaurant critic Mike Sutter, who is now at the San Antonio Express-News for a backyard burger-off. Beach spun this great story out of it, including the five top recipes, which might be the fanciest burger recipes we’ve ever published in print. Happy grilling, National Burger Day, Memorial Day and a beyond.
So as not to bury the lead: J.M. Smith, take a bow — you’re the American-Statesman’s Best Backyard Burger Chef.
When we started soliciting readers’ recipes for their best grilled burger back when it started getting really hot out — which if memory serves was around 1980- – we weren’t sure what we could expect. We knew Central Texas home cooks were pretty imaginative, but burgers are like pizza: orthodoxy topped, if you’re lucky, with adventurousness.
If anything, we underestimated the adventurousness. Of the roughly 60 recipes we received throughout this eternal summer of ours, you spatula’d up an array of ideas: burgers with salsa, fruit (pineapple, cherries, apples, pears), fontina cheese, Canadian bacon, carrots (in a relish) and, one of my favorite secret weapons, the Thai hot sauce sriracha.
A handful of recipes seemed frozen in time – one even called for pre-formed, frozen burgers – but for the most part you impressed us, which was the goal.
A few weeks ago, so we’d have a winner in time for Labor Day, American-Statesman food writer Addie Broyles, restaurant critic Mike Sutter and I (my qualifications: I had beer and a grill) sat down to choose five finalists that we would grill, taste and judge the following Saturday. We were looking for diversity – if it were up to me, all of them would have had blue cheese and/or bacon – and creativity.
We liked the summery simplicity of Martha Barrack Martinez’s Caprese Burger — basically a Caprese salad with the addition of grilled onions, mushrooms and of course a hamburger patty. J.M. Smith’s Eternity Burger sounded like an unholy mess of wonderful things, including white Cheddar, avocado, Hatch chiles, crushed Fritos and (!) cream cheese. Keri Holder’s Ancho Mama’s Bohemian Black Lager Burger wowed us with alliteration and Southwestern flavors, including a slaw with chipotle adobo, lime and cumin. Cori Schneider’s Sweet and Spicy Burger had lots of “Whaaa?” factor with the addition of finely chopped pear and green apple.
And in terms of sheer ambition and originality, Mollie Hejl’s Hickory Cherry Cheddar Pecan Gourmet Burger With Cherry-Butter-Wine Sauce — with cherry-wood chips in the grill’s smoker box — sounded less like a recipe than a weekend project. Printed, the ingredients list took up most of a page, the procedure another.
Then we shopped, chopped, prepped and on a Saturday morning convened to grill 15 burgers from five recipes. Addie, Mike and I were the only voting judges, although we were aided by Mike’s daughter and my two sons, who served as helpers. We quartered the burgers as they came off the grill so we wouldn’t fill up and accidentally favor the earlier samples. And we took notes, which we hereby offer in the order in which we ate:
Caprese: With a basil mayo made with herbs out of my garden, really terrific fresh mozzarella and a good — although store-bought — tomato, this was really redolent of the season. The addition of chopped basil in the mayo really spread out the flavor. This was pretty much the simplest recipe of the bunch and each ingredient shined. Addie pronounced it “messy but delicious.” But remember, a) sauteed onions and mushrooms and b) we were quartering them.
Hickory Cherry Cheddar etc., etc., etc.: To this recipe’s elaborate instructions I would add, “Get someone else like Addie to pit and chop two pounds of fresh bing cherries,” and that’s what I did on grilling day. Some of the cherries went in the burgers, while the rest went into a sauce with butter, brown sugar, garlic, dry mustard and zinfandel. The extra sharp New York white Cheddar was also finely diced and mixed into the burgers, as were green onion tops, peppercorns, pecan chips and more. The cheese melted nicely into the meat once grilled, at least the portion that didn’t melt out on the grates. As for the wood chips, cherry or otherwise, let me be blunt: I challenge anyone to take a blind taste test using wood or no wood and see if you can discern a difference. For something like a burger, which is going to be on the grill just a few minutes, there is none, I’m telling you. We liked the al dente crunch of the pecans and the bright tang of the cherries, but between that and the zin in both the burgers and the sauce, we were borderline-overwhelmed by fruit. Hejl, who tells us she built this recipe for another contest, wins our consolation prize: Most Imaginative Burger.
Ancho Mama’s: We were really excited to try this one — bacon, avocado, an ancho chile rehydrated in beer, then processed and mixed into the meat, a crunchy slaw topping and a mayo blended with lime juice, lime zest and honey. What wasn’t to love? If you like chili, you’ll love this one, but our collective opinion was that it tasted a little too much like chili, what with the ancho, paprika and cumin — the latter spice showing up both in the burgers and the slaw. Mike suggested serving the slaw as a side, which would break up the cumin presence a bit.
Sweet and spicy: Jalapeños and burgers are a hallowed Southwestern tradition, and I tried and enjoyed a Bobby Flay burger recipe that had a green apple slice as a topping. But pear? Even a firm one, when chopped in a food processor, is going to turn a mushy and mealy consistency, which is exactly what happened. The mix of sweet and heat was pleasant enough, the mouth feel not so much.
Eternity: We chose this as our winner because it fulfilled on the plate the potential it offered on the page: white Cheddar, avocado, Hatch chiles, crushed corn chips, cream cheese, red onion, a little horseradish for extra heat and celery salt for an accent. This one really had it all, and it was our unanimous pick for top burger.
For his troubles, Smith takes home lifetime bragging rights, a gift card and a modest collection of grilling and barbecue cookbooks. “My first thought is I don’t even deserve it, ” said Smith, who lives in rural Hays County and describes himself as semi-retired from the real estate business. “I didn’t do it for notoriety, I just wanted to share a recipe. It says ‘Texas’ to me.”
Smith said he’s played with the recipe over the past few years, making it 12-15 times to front-to-back positive reviews. Smith also tells us he hasn’t made them much this summer on account of it being 200 degrees and all.
But, uh, next time? Can we come over?
Cori Schneider’s Sweet and Spicy Burger
1 lb. ground beef
1 green pear, cored and chopped
1/2 green apple, cored and chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped and seeded
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Sliced baby Swiss cheese
Whole wheat buns
In food processor, finely chop pear, green apple, jalapeño and red onion. Remove from food processor and dry some of the moisture out on paper towels.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, mixture from food processor, egg, bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until ingredients are fully combined. Grill burgers about 6-8 minutes on each side or to your liking. Add cheese slices atop each patty until melted. Serve on whole wheat buns with light mayo. (Note: The recipe didn’t spell out how many burgers this makes. We made 3.)
Martha Barrack Martinez’s Caprese Burgers
1/2 medium white onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-long pieces
6 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. lean hamburger
1/2 tsp. smoked salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. mayonnaise
6-8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
4 leaves of Boston lettuce
4 large toasted sesame hamburger buns
To make the onion-mushroom topping, cook onions and mushrooms about 15 minutes in olive oil until onions are caramelized. Set aside.
For the burger, mix spices and olive oil into meat. Form into 4 patties. Cook hamburgers to preferred wellness (I like medium-rare) on an outside barbecue (my preference), an indoor griddle or on top of the stove.
While burgers are cooking, get a bowl and mix mayo and chopped fresh basil together. Set aside.
Making the masterpiece one at a time: Take toasted sesame bun, put generous amount of basil/mayo on each side. Stack the burger: one slice fresh mozzarella cheese, one large slice tomato, mushroom-onion mixture and lettuce.
Makes 4 burgers.
Keri Holder’s Ancho Mama’s Bohemian Black Lager Burgers with Adobo Lime Slaw
1 1/2 lbs. freshly ground chuck
1 lb. freshly ground sirloin
1/2 cup Shiner Bohemian Black Lager beer
1/2 ancho chile
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
Adobo lime slaw
1/4 small head of red cabbage
1/4 small head of green cabbage
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. adobo (drained from canned chipotles in adobo)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
Juice from one lime
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. honey
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
6 slices bacon, cut into halves
2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
1 large, ripe avocado, cored, peeled and sliced into 18 thin slices
3 oz. or 6 slices Manchego cheese
6 highest-quality hamburger buns, split
3/4 cup canned french-fried onions
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
To make the patties: Pour beer in a small bowl and soak the ancho in the beer for 30 minutes to soften. After the ancho has soaked, place the pepper in a blender with 2 Tbsp. of the beer from the bowl. Add the butter, cumin, black pepper, coriander, paprika and sugar to the blender. Blend well. Place the ground chuck, ground sirloin and salt in a large bowl. Add the mixture from the blender to the meat and combine the ingredients, handling the meat as little as possible. Shape into six patties to fit the buns. Cover with plastic and set aside.
To make the adobo lime slaw: Cut the red and green cabbage thinly enough for cole slaw. Place in medium bowl and add chopped cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together adobo, red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, cumin and lime. Add to slaw and toss. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.
To make honey lime mayonnaise: Whisk together mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice and honey. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Place the bacon in a 10-inch fireproof skillet on the grill and cook, turning as needed until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels.
When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium.
Place 3 avocado slices and 1/2 oz. of Manchego cheese on each patty during the last 3 minutes of grilling. Place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
To assemble, spread a generous amount of the honey-lime mayonnaise over the cut side of the buns. On each bun bottom, place a grilled patty, then two halved bacon slices, equal portions of the adobo lime slaw and the french-fried onions. Add the top bun and serve.
2 cups cherry smoking chips
6 artisan (scratch-made) wheat or multigrain kaiser rolls – sesame-seeded, ‘everything’ or plain (if others unavailable) – 5 inches in diameter, split
2 lbs. certified Angus beef, 91 percent lean (preferred) or chopped sirloin
2 cups fresh dark bing cherries, pitted and finely chopped. (Note: A total of 2 lbs. of cherries are required for entire recipe.)
1 package (10 oz.) New York extra sharp white Cheddar cheese, finely diced
1 cup green onion tops, finely chopped
2 packages (2 1/4 oz.) pecan pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh ground peppercorn medley (black, pink, white and green peppercorns in grinder or pre-ground)
2 Tbsp. Lea & Perrins Thick Classic Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. liquid smoke flavoring, hickory
1/4 cup zinfandel wine
1/4 cup zinfandel wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. prepared crushed garlic
1 tsp. prepared spicy brown mustard
1 container (5 oz.) seasonal salad greens, organic preferred
Fresh herbs, mixed baby greens or spring mix
1 cup fresh cherries, very finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tsp. dry ground mustard
1/2 cup zinfandel wine
Preheat gas grill to medium-high heat (400 degrees) and coat rack with grilling spray. Soak cherry chips in water for 15 minutes. Drain, cover chips in foil, leaving small opening, then place packet at end of grill rack, remaining there for at least 15 minutes while preparing ingredients. Close grill cover.
For the patties: Crumble ground beef into large mixing bowl. Use very sharp knife and stain-resistant cutting board to finely chop cherries, removing pits and stems. Finely dice cheese by first slicing, then cutting 1/4-inch small cubes from the slices. Thinly slice green onion tops. Add cherries, cheese and green onions to beef, along with pecan chips, freshly ground pepper, Lea & Perrins, liquid smoke and wine. Combine all ingredients thoroughly before shaping into 6 patties (5 inches across to fit kaiser rolls) and place onto large cookie sheet.
For the topping: In a large stainless steel bowl, add wine, olive oil, garlic and spicy brown mustard. Combine all ingredients, placing salad greens on top. Set aside until patties are cooked. Don’t toss greens until later.
For the sauce: Use food processor to very finely chop cherries. Melt the butter in 2-quart (fireproof) saucepan, placed on outer edge of grill rack. Remove pan from rack and add brown sugar, garlic, dry mustard, and chopped cherries. Reposition pan on rack so that heat allows mixture to boil. When sauce reaches boiling, continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, then add wine. Continue stirring, for about 5 more minutes or until sauce cooks down and thickens. Keep sauce warm, covering with foil if necessary. (Sauce may be prepared while burgers cook if all three cups of cherries for this recipe are processed together, with remaining cup of cherries ready for sauce.)
Grill the beef patties about 5-7 minutes per side, closing lid while cooking to enhance cherry-smoke flavor. Cook patties until medium-well but still juicy and keep warm. Toast rolls cut side down for 1 minute on grill until golden brown. Transfer cooked patties to toasted bottoms of rolls. Toss greens, placing 1/2 cup on top of patties. Distribute 2 Tbsp. cherry butter wine sauce over toasted top portions of rolls. Close rolls or serve open-face.
Makes 6 burgers.
J.M. Smith’s Eternity Burgers
8 oz. ground Angus beef
2 oz. white Cheddar cheese, grated
1 small avocado, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 Hatch green chiles from a can (we simply heaped a good 2 Tbsp. of canned, chopped green chiles on each burger)
2 Tbsp. crushed-up Fritos
2 Tbsp. cream cheese
1 slice of red onion
1 whole grain wheat bun
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. celery salt
In mixing bowl, combine beef with Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, horseradish, chili powder, black pepper and sea salt. Mix well and form one good patty for the grill.
Grill over high heat and turn only one time. After flipping beef over, place cheese on top of patty to melt. Cover burger to help the melting. Prepare meat to desired doneness. Open bun up and place on hot grill to toast.
Mix mustard, butter and celery salt in a small bowl. Place avocado slices directly on bottom bun and sprinkle crushed Fritos on top. Use a knife to “spread” the Fritos into the soft avocado.
Place red onion slice on top of avocado-Fritos mixture and then spread mustard sauce on top of it. Place burger with melted cheese on top of the mustard sauce. Cover with green chiles.
Spread cream cheese on top bun, then place on top of chiles. Note: This makes one Texas-sized half-pound burger. We doubled the quantities and made three one-third pounders.
I love it when readers share their thoughts on how they cook at home. In today’s food section, I wrote about a new no-knead bread I like, and before breakfast, I had an email from a reader named Wolf who wanted to share some of his own bread-making tips.
If you have your own tips and tricks on baking bread, leave a comment or email me at email@example.com:
Thanks for your piece about bread making. Since I’m the breadmaker in our house, I want to suggest a few additions to the process. I’m a big fan of grinding wheat berries, spelt, or other grains so I can use really fresh flour. I have a grain mill attachment for my Champion motor. The benefits of taste and texture make freshly ground flour far superior to anything else. I usually combine some white flour with what I grind.
When it come to baking devices I use, as you do, Pyrex or a dutch oven. When I use the Purex, I pre-heat it and place another one on top to minimize moisture loss during baking. Same thing with the dutch oven…..I let the bread rise in a similar shaped container while the cast iron is heating in the oven. However I no longer grease any container as I have found it much easier, and less hassle, to use parchment paper. The dough is easier to transfer and there is no need to clean the baking dish afterwards.
I set the temperature at 450, bake for 25 minutes, remove the lid and bake another three to add to crust crispiness. I always use a drying rack as placing a hot loaf on any surface will result in too much condensation.
One of the best things I like about making dough is to make more than I need and store the unused dough in the fridge. Later it can be used for pizza, fresh rolls, cinnamon rolls, bread sticks, fry bread, etc.
Few people realize how easy it is to make bread……there is no substitute for the taste, smell and overall versatility of home made dough!
This new technique comes from Alexandra Stafford’s new book, “Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loaves & Meals to Savor Every Slice” (Clarkson Potter, $30), which I got a few months ago and have been baking with ever since. I’ve made her regular loaf, a quinoa flax loaf, one with olives and another with cinnamon and raisins, and each I would make again, if I haven’t already.
Baking bread isn’t one of those skills you have to have to feed yourself, but I have found that baking bread gives me the confidence to try other kitchen tasks I might have thought were out of my leave. Plus, it’s cheap to experiment with, and unlike my previous no-knead favorite, this recipe doesn’t take much time to complete.
The Peasant Bread Master Recipe
Here it is: The no-knead bread recipe my mother has been making for 40 years, the one she taught me to make 20 years ago, the recipe I published on my blog in 2012, the recipe that inspired the creation of every recipe that follows in this book. This formula is simple — 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons each salt and sugar, and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast — and can be adapted in countless ways. Make it once as described below, then tailor it to your liking.
— Alexandra Stafford
4 cups (512 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
Softened unsalted butter, for greasing
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Add the water. Using a rubber spatula, mix until the water is absorbed and the ingredients form a sticky dough ball.
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 425 degrees. Grease two 1-quart oven-safe bowls with the softened butter — be generous. Using two forks, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl quarter-turns as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough ball.
Using your two forks and, working from the center out, separate the dough into two equal pieces. Use the forks to lift each half of the dough into a prepared bowl. If the dough is too wet to transfer with forks, lightly grease your hands with butter or oil, then transfer each half to a bowl. Do not cover the bowls. Let the dough rise on the countertop near the oven (or another warm, draft-free spot) for 10 to 20 minutes, until the top of the dough just crowns the rims of the bowls.
Transfer the bowls to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 17 to 20 minutes more, until evenly golden all around. Remove the bowls from the oven and turn the loaves out onto cooling racks. If the loaves look pale, return them to their bowls and bake for 5 minutes longer. Let the loaves cool for 15 minutes before cutting. Makes two 14-ounce loaves.
Earlier this year, legislators in New Mexico passed an anti lunch-shaming bill, but lawmakers in Texas haven’t had as much luck.
Even though most school districts have reasonable policies that allow students to get an alternative meal even if they can’t pay their school lunch account, state Rep. Helen Giddings has led the effort to pass House Bill 2159, which would add some statewide regulations to ban school districts from publicly identifying students without enough money in their school lunch accounts and allow families a grace period to resolve insufficient balances.
This bill has been killed several times by the House Freedom Caucus, so — as this year’s legislative session winds to an end — Giddings has teamed up with Feeding Texas, a statewide association of food banks, to launch a donation page to help pay off student lunch debt around Texas. (The Senate recently revived some parts of the bill, but more on that in a second.)
As of today, you can donate to the Feeding Texas campaign, and the funds raised will be distributed at the end of the school year to reimburse schools that feed students whose lunch accounts are empty. Donors can’t see the overall total of money donated, though, and they haven’t set an official goal.
AISD topped its $20,000 goal last month, but they’ve increased it to $25,000 to try to capture a few more donations before school is out.
Schools are, by law, required to offer food that meets the federal nutritional guidelines, but this can be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they don’t get reimbursed from the government for serving it.
Though Giddings’ original bill was knocked off the calendar, a version of it was revived Saturday and passed by the House as an amendment to a similar bill — Senate Bill 725. The amendment…was based on Giddings’ bill and would allow districts to give meals to students without money in their school lunch accounts — and also give students a grace period to resolve insufficient balances. But it wouldn’t require it, as Giddings’ original bill did. SB 725, which would let school districts offer uneaten or donated food to a nonprofit to give to hungry students, passed 133-0 and now heads back to the Senate, where the upper chamber will decide whether to accept the amendment.
From 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, women from across Central Texas will gather at Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road, for an event featuring notable Austinites talking about their struggles with mental health. Speakers include Austin city council member Sheryl Cole, Kendall Antonelli, co-owner of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop; Megan Alvarado, Founder of NAMI on Campus at UT Austin; and Vanessa Marty, a local business owner. There will be live music from Daphne Willis, heavy appetizers, dessert and a cash bar. A parking voucher is included with admission.
One of the highlights of the event will be a Depressed Cake Shop pop-up bakery featuring baked goods from Sugar Fashionista that promote self-care through the power of creativity. It might sound silly or shallow, but participants at events around the world have found that these Depressed Cake Shops create a space where it’s OK to share what’s going on in your life, your own struggles and successes with mental health and, yes, have a cloud-shaped cookie that might bring a smile to your face.