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Graves Into Gardens

At first glance, Good Friday seems like a strange name to refer to a day that designates pain and death. If Jesus suffered and died on this day, why is it called Good Friday?

The sins of the whole world were poured out on Christ when he hung on the cross. If you had spoken with his friends and family on the day he died, they would not have said it was a good day. All hope seemed lost, evil and death seemed to have triumphed. So, when only looking at a single day, it really was a horrible Friday.

However, on that Friday, Jesus willingly suffered and died as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Three days later, the forces of evil were defeated and death was destroyed. From that day, we all have a way to be free of sin and death. So, when viewed in the context of events that happen just three days later, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, it was indeed a Good Friday!

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Extraordinary Bread – Fougasse

Fougasse is a type flatbread baked in Provence and likely to have additions like olives, cheese, or garlic. Traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven, Fougasse was made daily. The time it would take to bake gives an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded (hence the French phrase ‘il ne faut pas brûler la fougasse’: ‘do not burn the fougasse’).

One of the shows I like to watch is The Great British Baking Show. I enjoy the creativity of the bakers and the variety of baked goods that the show highlights. So, when the Extraordinary Breads collection included Fougassa, one of the technical challenges from season 1 of the show, I knew I had to try this recipe.

The King Arthur Baking Company Recipe calls for chopped onions and olives in the dough. Since, I absolutely hate olives, I decided to add some seeds instead (sunflower, poppy and sesame). I also made two flatbreads instead of one really large one.

One of the flatbreads was cut with the traditional slits. For the other flatbread, I cut it to look like a palm leaf. While this idea worked well, when I make this for Palm Sunday, I will cut the tips so that they are pointed rather than blunted.

After baking the flatbread tasted great, especially when pieces were dipped into garlic-herb infused olive oil.

I have now baked each of the twelve Extraordinary Breads. I think I need to try some low carb baking for a while.

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Extraordinary Bread – Potika

I am nearing the end of my recent attempt to try all of the recipes in the King Arthur Baking Company, Extraordinary Breads collection. Today’s recipe is another nut filled recipe, Potika. I am very thankful I purchased a large bag of ground walnuts when I was at Fleet Farm a few weeks ago. I was saved the hassle of having to grind the nuts myself!

Each loaf had over 2 cups of ground walnuts in the filling!
I am thankful that my youngest son likes nut bread. He actually ate most of the loaf.
This loaf of bread was really pretty when cut into and it tasted great!

I may try making this again using ground pecans.

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Extraordinary Bread – Cinnamon Star Bread

The King Arthur Baking Company recipe for Cinnamon Star Bread is one I have made several times. It’s actually a rather easy recipe to make and tastes great.

So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and to try something different, I decided to make a savory version of this recipe and try to make shamrocks instead of a star. The changes that I made are not really Irish, but rather Greek in flavor. The color, however, is most definitely an Irish green.

One drop of green food dye gel was added to the dough when mixing.
For the filling, I put 4 ounces of cooked spinach leaves and 1/2 cup feta cheese in my mini food processor and pulsed until a creamy paste resulted.
The dough was flattened into discs. Instead of making one large loaf, I opted to make two smaller loaves.
The filling was spread over six of the discs.
Three discs with filling were stacked one on top of the other with a filling free disk placed on top. Then slits were made through all layer
Two adjacent sections were twisted together to create the three leaves of the shamrock.
After a 45 minute rise time, the dough was sprinkled with sea salt and baked.

These were very tasty and a very green for St. Patrick’s Day. But, I think next time, I’m not sure I like the green colored bread. Next time I make this I will leave the food dye out of the dough.

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Let The Adventure Begin!

Today was my last day of work. I am now officially retired!

When thinking about today, one of the things I had planned to do was to have my own playlist of songs to listen to at work. I figured that it was my last day – so, if there were complaints about my music choices, it really wouldn’t matter since I would not be returning to work at the office again. Well, unfortunately, I forgot that my new phone does not have an audio port. And, our office audio system did not have a lightning plug. So, unfortunately, I was unable to play my selected songs.

On my way home, I did start listening to the songs on my list. One of those songs was “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me.

When hearing this song today, it prompted me to think about what advice I wish I had been given when I were younger. These thoughts fell into several categories, one being professional advice I would have appreciated hearing when I was younger. After thinking about it a while, I decided to write my thoughts down and post them on a forum for other Pediatric Dentists. Here is what I wrote:

After five years of planning for my retirement, and then a five month delay due to Covid, my last day of work is finally over. Leaving work today, I felt the joy I would have when heading into a week of vacation. It probably won’t really sink in for another week or two that this is more than a vacation. To my long term friends and colleagues in academia and in private practice, thanks for the many good times and I hope there are many more to come. To my colleagues in the middle of their careers, don’t let crabby over demanding parents get you down. Don’t fret over treatment outcomes that are dependent upon things out of our control. Don’t let hypocritical colleagues and/or partners make you feel any less of yourself. For my colleagues who are at the start of your careers, don’t let your finances dictate your happiness. The adage “money doesn’t buy happiness” is very true. Treasure the small victories in your day and leave your frustration behind. Do yourself a favor, find a hobby or two (or more) to give yourself a mental break and creative diversion from work. To all of you, make each day great, look for the good in every experience and in everyone you meet. And, most importantly, thank God for the many blessings he has given you.

I was extremely surprised to see the response my words had. Many younger colleagues commented that they appreciated my words of encouragement and advise. I’m glad someone will benefit from my thoughts!

I now look ahead to what the future will bring. This is truly the first time in my life that I do not have things planned out. Yes, I have lots of things to keep me busy. Yes, I will still keep doing my various hobbies. But, it’s kind of strange to look at my calendar not have my career dictating my schedule. I appreciate everyone who has made an impact on my life and my career. And, I do look forward to figuring out this next phase of my life.

Pam’s Retirement Playlist
Ain’t Got Far To Go – Jordan Smith
At Last – Etta James
Dear Younger Me – MercyMe
Deep Enough To Dream – Chris Rice
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Done – The Band Perry
Even If – MercyMe
God of Wonders – Third Day
Goodbye Ordinary – MercyMe
I Dreamed A Dream – Susan Boyle
I Won’t Give Up – Trisha Yearwood
If I Knew Then – Lady A
If Tomorrow Never Comes – Kent Blazy and Garth Brooks
My Way – Frank Sinatra
Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
New Lease on Life – MercyMe
Oceans(Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United
Postcards from Far Away – Coldplay
Teach Your Children Well – Jeff Healey
The Very Next Thing – Casting Crowns
Unchained Melody – Susan Boyle
When We Were Young – Adele

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Extraordinary Breads – Stuffed Bagel Buns

Several years ago, I made a recipe called “Bagel Bombs“. They turned out great and tasted amazing. But, unfortunately, life got busy and I had too many other recipes to try. So, I never made them again.

When the list of Extraordinary Breads from King Arthur Baking was recently release, I saw that a similar recipe was included in their collection and decided it was time to make these tasty treats again.

For my filling, I did not have any cheese powder and really did not want to have to purchase any new baking supplies. I also did not have a malt powder. But, luckily my sister-in-law did have some malt powder. For my flavors, I used what I already had available in my refrigerator. I had a small amount of garden vegetable cream cheese – enough for four bagel buns. I also had some honey butter cream cheese – I decided to make four of these as well. For the remaining buns, I used the 2 ounces of plain cream cheese that I had and mixed it with 1/2 T of lemon paste and 2 T of crushed freeze dried raspberries. This made enough for six buns. Each of these cream cheese flavors were shaped into balls and frozen.

The dough was kneaded and allowed to rise while we were at church this morning. After returning from church, it was time to make the bagel buns. The dough was divided into small portions.

Each ball was then flattened and molded around one of the frozen cheese balls.

The stuffed dough was then boiled quickly in malt-water, similar to how bagels are made. The garden vegetable buns were sprinkled with coarse sea salt prior to baking in the oven. The honey butter and raspberry buns were sprinkled with pearl sugar.

These each taste great, but my favorite (by far!!!) is the raspberry filled buns.

Besides learning a bit more about baking breads, I think the other very useful thing I have learned from my recent baking endeavors it that freeze dried fruits add a tremendous amount of flavor to baked goods. The next time I get groceries, I will probably be adding a few more fruits to my purchases.

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Extraordinary Bread – Dios Beigli (Hungarian Walnut Roll)

Beigli is often referred to in English as “walnut roll” or “poppy seed roll” and it is considered to be a typical Hungarian pastry at Christmas. Its traces can be found in folk traditions as well, where both fillings had their different symbolic meaning: walnut provided protection against hexes, while poppy seeds — which were imported from Eurasia through the Ottomans — meant prosperity. The most popular theory is that beigli is based on a type of a cake from Silesia, while other sources claim that it originates from Armenia. It reached Hungary in the second half of the 19th century. It was first made only by families for celebrations. (Read more at Daily News Hungary)

The recipe I used is one included in the King Arthur Baking Company Extraordinary Breads collection (see recipe here). This is basically a roll of enriched bread dough filled with a lot of walnuts.

The dough is then rolled tight and the edges sealed. The dough is brushed with beaten egg yolk prior to allowing to rest for 40 minutes. This allows the egg glaze to adsorb slightly. After the rest, the surface is brushed with beaten egg whites and chilled for 30 minutes prior to baking. The two egg glazes help to create the beigli’s final crackled appearance.

When preparing the filling, I left out the raisins (due to my allergies). I did a taste test and found the filling tastes very much like Baklava. This should not be too surprising since the recipes originate from the same geographical region of the world.

While I did like this bread, I would have preferred less nuts in each slice or a creamier nut mixture.

Perhaps the next time I will combine a couple recipes. I thought the dough from the lemon braid was amazing. For the filling, honey mixed with the cheese filling and then topped with a walnut paste instead of the fruit filling. This might give an even better Baklava flavored bread. Something to try when I am finished making each of the Extraordinary Breads.

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Extraordinary Bread – Garden Focaccia

For dinner last evening, I made spaghetti with roasted vegetables. The King Arthur Baking Company Focaccia recipe was a nice complement to the meal.

Before baking, I read the blog post by Kay Ameden on the King Arthur Baking Company website and looked at the numerous creative entries into the Extraordinary Bread contest. I wanted to come up with some creative approach to the embellishments of my Focaccia. Since the theme of flowers was well represented in the many photos, I thought about what other items were in my garden that I could use as inspiration.

Having made several fused glass pieces of garden art (mushrooms, turtles, ants, and others), I considered replicating one of these in the focaccia design. While looking through photos of these previous projects for inspiration, I was reminded of the glass stepping stones that I had made. Several years ago, when our front yard needed a major update, I created a path with custom stepping stones. One of these was involved a playful and colorful set of swirls around a center daisy.

This idea did, however have one problems. While I was able to think about what vegetables and seeds to use for most of the colors in the swirls, I was unsure what to use for the blue swirl. Blueberries would have provided the color I wanted, but berries in a savory focaccia didn’t seem to be the best combination.

A perusal of the vegetables, herbs and seeds at the local grocery store was also not successful. So, I decided to do a little experimenting to see if I could use food dye to change the color of another vegetable. Since blue is a primary color, I knew I would need to use something that was white or light cream in color. I first tried sesame seeds. The seeds, however, were not porous enough for the color to penetrate. This limitation would make other seeds likely not be be successful. After scanning through of my baking/cooking supplies, I decided to try to dye dried onion flakes. If successful, the onion would blend nicely with the other herbs and vegetables I was planning to use. I used one drop of gel dye mixed with 1 teaspoon of water and 2 tablespoons of onion flakes. The onion picked up the color of food dye very well. After letting these dry on some parchment paper for two hours, they were ready to be used.

Each of the vegetables I was planning to used were chopped finely.

White Onion
Yellow Pepper
Orange Carrot
Red Pepper
Asparagus
Blue Dyes Onion Flakes
Purple Onion

For the black daisy in the middle of the design, I cut a template out of parchment paper. The surface of the focaccia was lightly coated with olive oil and the template was pressed onto the oil. Poppy seeds were then sprinkled onto the template. After making sure there were no loose seeds, the template was removed and discarded.

The chopped vegetables were then added and a cherry tomato was used for the center of the daisy.

After baking, the focaccia resembled my stepping stone and was very tasty!

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Extraordinary Bread – Braided Lemon Bread

This bread tastes amazing!!

I woke up early today to make this bread before leaving for work. When I thought about making this bread, I had read that the recipe made two very large loaves. To avoid having too much bread, I had originally planned to make a half recipe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking clearly at 6am this morning and completely forgot that I was going to cut the recipe in half until I got to adding the flour into the mix. So, I just went ahead and made the full recipe.

With so much dough, and not wanting really large loaves, I split the dough into three portions instead of two. My homemade curd and jams came in handy this morning.

Loaf #1 – 1/2 cup lemon curd

Loaf #2 – 1/2 cup Triple Berry Jam with freeze dried raspberries

Loaf #3: 1/2 cup orange marmalade

I brought the lemon loaf to work today and it disappeared in about three hours. This is a recipe that I will definitely make again!

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Extraordinary Bread: Nan-e Barbari (and Creamy Vegetable Soup)

In Persian, Nan-e Barbari translates to “bread of the Barbars,” a group of people, now referred to as Hazaras, who traditionally lived near Iran’s eastern borders. One of the unique features of this flatbread is that its surface is spread with roomal, a flour and water paste, before baking, which puts a layer of moisture directly on the bread. Over the years, steam ovens have replaced the use of the ancient bread-baking technique. This recipe lets you create a bread with a crisp crust without the need to make steam in the oven.

The recipe can be found at King Arthur Baking Company.

For dinner tonight, this flatbread was paired with homemade Creamy Vegetable Soup. While many vegetable soups include cubed potatoes, when I make soup I opt to leave the cubes out and to use a different form of potatoes. For thickening my soup, I added potato flakes instead of heavy cream. This decreases the fat in the soup while still including the taste of potatoes to the mix.

Creamy Vegetable Soup (serves 4)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen green beans
2 carrots, sliced (today I used some shredded carrots left over from making a carrot cake)
1/4 cup potato flakes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon of each of these spices: dill seed, oregano, parsley, thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
Over medium heat, cook the celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned. Add water and bouillon and bring to a slow simmer. Add the vegetables, potato flakes, milk and spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!