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Month: January 2010

Rise and Loaf in the New Year

There is an old Scottish superstition/tradition to bring in the New Year called First Footer. It is believed that the first person to set foot in your household on New Year’s Day determines the fortune of the family for the next year. To this end, my maternal grandfather, Melville St.Claire Halliday, made sure we left a loaf of bread on the doorstep on New Year’s Eve so the first person entering the house wouldn’t enter empty-handed and we were assured abundance for the coming months.

Bread has long been a symbol of life. Wheat from which bread is born has a unique attribute in the plant world. During its life cycle the grain of wheat dies and is reborn as a spike which provides human sustenance. Wheat is then made into bread which is a living growing entity. A fact to which anyone who has ever let bread over proof (sit) in a warm kitchen can attest.

Bread may be one of the simplest food items to make. After all, you need just yeast, flour, water, sugar and salt. Each ingredient has a function. Making bread requires a delicate balancing of the ingredients to yield the desired result. Flour provides gluten which is the protein and structure of bread. Yeast is the micro-organism that symbiotically feeds on the sugar producing alcohol and CO2 giving life to the bread. Salt, although used in minute amounts in bread making, should not be eliminated because it serves these critical functions. Just as in regular cooking, salt adds flavor. It also enhances texture. Brioche without salt would be dense and tough. Salt also slows the growth of yeast, helping keep those wild and crazy yeast cells from growing too fast. Without the proper amount of salt, bread will develop large gas bubbles and leave gaping holes in the bread.

Bread baking does take time, but that is part of the joy of it. Nurturing and developing the loaf then baking it. The aroma of fresh baking breads is one of the greatest olfactory sensations known to man.

If you have a mixer with a dough hook attachment your foray into bread making will be easier. It will do the work of kneading, but you will still have to guide your loaf along. Bread machines became all the rage 10-15 years ago with their cake mix approach, just add water and stand back, it made adequate bread that always came out the same – good but lacking in character. Even with a mixer you will still need to put some elbow grease in punching and rounding and stretching the dough.

Key components in bread making, besides the ingredients, are time and temperature. The water temperature is key – If too hot, you will murder the yeast and your bread will be flat and lifeless. If too cold, your yeast will never get moving. The water temperature will vary depending on the type of bread you are making. The idea is to keep the temperature of the dough (roughly 90 degrees), even through the process. The friction of the mixer will also add heat to the dough.

Don’t close the website and run to the store for a loaf of bread. The joy you will get when your house is filled with the warm smell of fresh bread, and you pull the loaf you nurtured from a bag of flour and envelope of yeast and tap water will be worth it. Before you venture into the kitchen, knead these thoughts on bread and you will have the proof that it is all worth the effort and not a half-baked idea.

“Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.” Carmen McRae

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi

“How can a nation be great, if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Julia Child

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” M.F.K Fisher

This month try these recipes for Basic Baguette and Brioche. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Basic Baguette

(A workout but worth the effort)

  • 1 package ¼ oz active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1¼ cups water heated to 108 degrees
  • 4 cups plus unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp salt

Place warm water in bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and yeast. Let stand five minutes until foamy. Stir in half the flour and salt. Mix until dough forms. Add in remaining flour. Mix until stiff dough forms. Lightly flour work surface. Knead dough eight minutes or until smooth and elastic. It should stretch between fingertips and give a window pane effect. Turn dough onto lightly oiled bowl. Cover in plastic wrap. Let proof (sit) 1½ hours until double in size.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Punch down dough. Stretch to 21 inches long, 3 inches wide. Fold and shape. Pinch end. Place dough diagonally on greased cookie sheet. Let rise 30 minutes. Slash 3-4 times diagonally with razor. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. For better crust, preheat oven 1 hour with Dutch oven filled with water. Humidity will give better crust and texture.

Brioche

  • ⅔ cup milk heated to 105 degrees
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 sticks butter
  • 1 egg plus1 tbsp butter for glaze

In electric mixer, using dough hook,  add milk and yeast. Add in flour and salt. Mix until incorporated, scraping bowl. Add eggs one at a time, scraping and incorporating each time. Add sugar. Beat on medium for three minutes. Reduce to low speed. Add butter one piece at a time. Increase to medium speed. Beat 7 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and proof (sit) one hour. Uncover. Deflate. Refrigerate.
Deflate dough every half hour for 2 hours. Cover and chill overnight.

Butter and flour 3 loaf pans. Divide dough into 3 pieces. Divide each piece into four and shape into log and line loaf pan. Cover pans and proof (sit) until double about two hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Glaze loaves with egg wash. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Unmold. Let cool one hour before use.

persnicketychefJon Davies is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University of Culinary Arts. His work as a chef has taken him to Aspen, Colorado; Cape May, NJ; and the odd private jet for culinary gigs for the rich and famous.


The Christmas Rose – As far from a rose as one can get

Many folks want to plant plants when they see them in bloom. Sometimes this just doesn’t work with the Hellebore, more commonly known as the Christmas or Lenten rose. Usually nurseries are not set up with plants when these are in bloom. Often the ground is frozen or there is snow everywhere. This charming plant blooms for a long time, often beginning the end of December and going well into spring. I remember being in Italy one January and seeing large fields and hillsides of Hellebore. I once saw a yard in Vineland where most of the lawn in one section under trees was all Hellebores. It was awesome!

This really early flowering plant is a perennial usually called Hellebores. There are several different kinds, but the first to bloom is the Helleborus niger or Christmas Rose. The one that blooms a month or so later is Helleborus orientalis, often called the Lenten Rose. For variety, try the green Foetidus or some of the colorful hybrids. Often times the plants will cross-pollinate in your garden and the offspring will be a new and unusual variety. Many times several different shades might be found on one plant.

This plant is as far from a rose as one can get.

It is a low growing evergreen perennial that likes a shady, somewhat woodsy environment. Not an outrageously showy plant, this dependable evergreen is a delightful winter blooming plant for a shady, perennial border. It is a good companion for all the spring bulbs and the early perennials, Virginia Bluebells and wild flowers. Later on Hosta, and Astilbe, which are much later to come up and bloom, look handsome near the Hellebores. Thus, all account for color at very different times. These do well in my garden and look really good most of the year. Each year I try to add a few more to shady areas. I don’t think there are any perennials that bloom for such a long time.

The dark green, shiny evergreen leaves of Hellebores give the garden a finished look all winter, since the others stop blooming from frost until the first Bluebells join the bulb flowers in late April and May. The dark green leather-like foliage is a dependable foliage that keeps on going long after the Bluebells have disappeared, adding some depth to the early tips of Hosta and the fringy look of the Astilbes that bloom so prettily in shade during mid summer.

Hellebore spreads moderately once established. Since dividing them usually sets them back for more than a year, it is best to allow them to reseed and then dig the small plants once they are at least two years old. Always move them early in the spring as they are best transplanted before they are in active growth. They grow better in the ground than in pots, so we try to wait until the plants look sturdy and healthy, but aren’t too established before we dig any of them up to pot. A two-year-old plant will usually bloom the next year after being transplanted. A time-released fertilizer, applied early in the spring, will insure a nice healthy plant. Since they don’t like a real damp soil, avoid heavy mulch if the soil is already on the wet side. Light mulch however is good to keep a sandy loam cool and woodsy. Compost and composted leaves work wonders for these plants. Too much sun will cause the leaves to brown, so choose a spot with morning sun or mostly shade. At the shore, they do well on the north side of the house with some Sweet Woodruff, Lady’s Mantle and spring bulbs planted nearby. Pulmonaria, which likes dry shade, is another good companion plant.

Visit botanical gardens like Longwood Gardens during off seasons to see plants like these and the others that bloom when they have the solo spot in the bare winter garden. Remember that Witch Hazels, Red Twig Dogwood, Nandina, Chokecherry, Holly and Edgeworthia all add winter bloom to the garden. Plant them this spring so you will be able to enjoy them in the garden next winter. Take photos or jot down names of plants that you would like in your garden and set out to add them to your garden design now.

lorraine-kieferLorraine Kiefer has gardened all of her life. She is a garden writer, floral designer and professional horticulturist. Lorraine teaches many classes at Triple Oaks nursery and Herb Garden in Franklinville, NJ. Email Lorraine@tripleoaks.com for garden help or leave your questions below! www.tripleoaks.com


2009 In Pictures


April 12 Easter Stroll – Cape May Mayor Edward Mahaney brought the Easter Stroll back to the Washington Street Mall this year. The resu7lt was a wonderful turnout, despite heavy winds.

May 16 opening of World War  II Lookout Tower. Fire Control Tower No. 23 was part of the immense Harbor Defense of the Delaware system known as Fort Miles.  Built in 1942, the tower was one of fifteen concrete lookout towers that helped aim batteries of coastal artillery.  With the Tower restored, visitors can climb to the sixth floor observation platform at the top and see equipment used to determine firing coordinates for massive guns on both sides of the Delaware Bay.

May 12 West Cape May Installation of Officers. Election winners and family members are ( l-r)  Mayor Pam Kaithern’s  daughters Kaleigh and Emaleigh, husband Chip  and Mayor Kaithern at center.  Incumbent Commissioner Peter and newly elected Commissioner Ramsey Geyer at right.

June 9 Strawberry Festival

Cape May’s 4th of July Parade

August 5 Queen Maysea crowning. Queen Maysea LXXVII is Bridget Elizabeth Martin (at top). The coronation was presided over by Mary Stewart, director of Outreach for the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.  Mayor Ed Mahaney presented the crown and assorted tiaras. Pictured below Queen Maysea are Madison Shiffbauer, Elise Heim.

August 27 400th Play. In honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of Cape May, the East Lynne Theater Company mounted a one-night only production written and starring the Right Honorable Judge Sir Frank Visser, aka, “The Driving Judge.” The Netherlands’ version of Judge Judy came to Cape May to perform in his play the People of Cape May v. Johan Van Buren under the direction of ELTC Artistic Director Gayle Stahlhuth.

August 28: Italian Birders Win 400th Car “Contest.” These birding visitors from a town outside of Venice must have thought they were being arrested when the Cape May police pulled them over as they crossed the bridge at Schellenger’s Landing. But no,  according to the boy scouts who kept count at 7 a.m. August 28, they were driving the 400th car to cross into Cape May and in honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of Cape May as his sail boat, the Half Moon, got stuck in a sand barge.

October 10 Lima Bean Fest

October 26 Halloween Parade

October 31 Cape May Lighthouse celebrates 150th anniversary.Visitors, veterans and dignitaries gathered at the base of the 150-foot Cape May Lighthouse to celebrate its 150th anniversary and its third known configuration. The first known Cape May lighthouse was commissioned in 1822. Twenty-four years later, however, erosion threatened its very existence and a new lighthouse to be built on higher ground was commissioned in 1847. However, its construction and inferior equipment necessitated a new one be built in 1857.

November 7 naming of the Cape May Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. Veterans, dignitaries and members of the U.S. Coast Guard assembled under the Lower Township Bridge to rededicate the bridge. Forty nine years ago on November 5, 1960 this bridge in Lower Township over the Cape May Canal at the end of the Garden State Parkway was dedicated without a name. Members of the 400th Committee (formed to coordinate events celebrating the 1609 discovery by Henry Hudson of what came to be known as Cape May) were behind the effort to name the bridge – a victim of political in-fighting 49 years ago.

Mid-November Nor’Easter. A powerful Nor’easter sent heavy winds and rain to Cape May and much of the East Coast.

November 15: West Cape May  celebrates its 125th anniversary. Longtime residents and friends gathered at the West Cape May Fire Hall to celebrate the borough’s 125 year anniversary.

44th Annual West Cape May Christmas Parade


Pick Your Favorite Picture of the Day for 2009

Well it’s time of the year again. We want you to pick your favorite CapeMay.com Picture of the Day for 2009. Look back over the Picture of the Day for each month in 2009 and tell us which one you liked the best. Then pick your favorite Photo of the Year. We’ll tally up the votes and show you all the winners next month. And don’t forget, all the winning photographs are available for sale.

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

Voting is open now through January 25th. One vote per person, please. Please jot down either the date the photo appeared OR the title of the picture.