Austin blogger @mjandhungryman, the registered dietitian who blogs about healthy cooking at mjandhungryman.com, knows that part of eating a nutritious diet is allowing yourself some cozy comfort food, even if it’s in small doses.
You know the old saying: “I like to cook with wine, and sometimes I even put it in the food”?
Well, the California-based winery Estancia has launched a new product this holiday season: wine-infused bakery bars that incorporate their chardonnay and pinot noir wines.
You can buy these (alcohol-free) bars, which cost $28 for a dozen, online at silverlandbakery.com/bakery/gifts/estancia, and this week, baker extraordinaire and head honcho of Austin360.com Melissa Martinez and I put them to the test in this week’s Austin360 Taste Test.
“Austin had a big enough Swedish community once that we always have people calling looking for this bread that their mother or grandmother made, and of course, they call us because they think we are a Swedish bakery,” Murphy says. “Oh, how (founders) Tom Neuhaus and Patricia (Bauer-Slate) loved puns.”
The bakers at Sweetish Hill use a light rye flour, good bitter molasses, fresh orange zest and ground anise to make their bread, which they sell seasonally. Now is the time to buy it either at the retail store or at the Cedar Park Farmers Market. Customers can also order it by special request by calling the store at 512-472-1347. The bakery is also selling other winter breads, including stollen, pannetone and fruitcake. Murphy was kind enough to share the recipe with us, but it’s written in a way that will make sense for established bakers but not those without a whole lot of experience. Another reader sent in a Swedish rye bread recipe from an old cookbook, which is a little easier to follow. I’ll publish both here and let you decide which path to take.
Sweetish Hill’s Limpa Bread
1 lb. light rye flour
3 lb. unbleached bread flour
1 1/3 oz. salt
1 1/3 oz. instant yeast
5 oz. brown sugar
5 oz. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. grated orange rind
6 oz. molasses
1/2 oz. ground anise
Mix the dough to a nice self development and then add the butter and orange rind. After the butter is incorporated it usually needs to be kneaded at least for another 4 or 5 minutes on medium speed on a bread mixer.
– Jim Murphy, owner of Sweetish Hill Bakery Swedish Rye Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tbsp. shortening
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. ground anise seeds
1 1/4 cup hot water
5 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups rye flour
Soften the yeast in the warm water and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine brown sugar, molasses, shortening, salt, caraway seeds and anise seeds. Pour hot water over the ingredients and set aside to soften. When that mixture has become lukewarm, blend in 1 cup of the sifted all-purpose flour, beating until smooth. Add the yeast and mix well. Add the rye flour and beat until smooth, then add the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. Allow dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Knead. Form the dough into a large ball and put into a greased, deep bowl. Turn to bring greased surface to the top. Cover with waxed paper and a towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down with fist, pull edges in to center and turn dough completely over in bowl. Cover and let rise again until dough has doubled. Punch down and turn out on a lightly floured surface.
Grease the baking sheet. Divide dough into two portions and shape into balls. Cover and allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until dough is doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on cooling racks.
Love it or hate it, the highly millennial concept of “take a pic or it didn’t happen” applies to nearly 400-year-old traditions like Thanksgiving, too.
I always love scrolling social media sites on Thanksgiving to see what all my friends and far-flung family are stuffing themselves with, and this year, we’re encouraging readers to add the #Austin360Cooks hashtag to their Thanksgiving food photos so we can show them off in a holiday gallery on Austin360.com.
Like back-to-school photos, it’s fun to share this once-a-year moment to see both the similarities and differences in how we celebrate this day of gratitude. It’s not the same as sharing a meal with all of you, but not a bad runner-up.
Here’s our Storify gallery with all the #Austin360Cooks pics, which already includes plenty of Thanksgiving preparations:
Not just any cookies. “Look up ‘Land O’ Lakes Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies’,” she said when I was visiting her in her snow-covered Boise home last week.
She said the words as if she were typing the words into Google herself. Two clicks later, I found her beloved recipe, which says the prep time should take 30 minutes.
Not for Chelsea.
She flies through the instructions, carefully but swiftly measuring flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. She decides the butter, though having sat on the counter in her Idaho kitchen for six hours, had not come to sufficient room temperature, so she softened the sticks in 5-second bursts in the microwave.
It’s a large batch of dough, and my sister says it freezes well if you want to save half for later. But in her house, “it never makes it to the freezer.”
Like professional chocolate chip tasters, she and her husband, Kenny, taste and rate a new kind of bittersweet dark chocolate chips she found on sale at WinCo, her favorite grocery store, a mix of Costco, Sprouts and Aldi, unlike anything we have here in Austin. (A little too bitter for him, but they agreed the larger morsels were a plus.)
After fork-whisking the dry ingredients, she added all the wet ingredients, including the sugars, into a large bowl and used a hand blender to bring together. No one egg at a time-and-cream business for her.
Sure enough, the preheat timer went off, just as she was about to add the chocolate chips, which she mixed in by hand with a wooden spoon. Before pulling out the ice cream scoop, she pinched off a piece of dough. “See how dry it is?” she said. “You should be able to drop it without it sticking to your fingers.” The super moist dough that sticks all over your fingers she does not understand.
With the dough meeting her moisture standards, she uses an ice cream scoop with a thumb release lever to make three rows and four columns of dough, 12 shaggy spheres that will soon become cookies. She doesn’t have a fancy (or rimless) baking sheet, and she doesn’t need one.
She shoves them in the just-heated oven and sets the timer.
Thirteen minutes later, the oven beeps. Out come the cookies, and they cool directly on the pan. Within minutes, Chelsea and Kenny each get a little plate with a few cookies, plus a little glass of milk, and do the same for me.
You can tell the cookies are evenly cooked because of their color, but it isn’t until you bite into them that you realize it’s exactly the toothsome texture you’ve always loved in fresh baked cookies but that you only get when someone has Tiff’s Treats delivered to the office.
Hers don’t have quite as much sugar or butter, it seems, but they evoke that same comforting, nostalgic feeling.
It’s hard not to eat the whole batch. But then you remember: that kind of saccharine endorphin rush is best in small doses. The less you have, the sweeter it is.
I took a bag of her cookies with me on the plane and shared them with my kids the next day. They’d crumbled into a million pieces over the long journey, but none of us cared.
Chelsea’s Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies
I might not be able to bake cookies with my sister, Chelsea, as often as I’d like, but now I know, always and forever, what my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe will be.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the butter is softened. If it’s even the least bit chilly, microwave in 5 second increments, turning the sticks or plate to slowly heat the butter evenly.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in bowl, and set aside.
Add butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla to another bowl. Beat with a handheld mixer at medium speed until well mixed. Slowly add flour mixture, beating at low speed until combined. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the chocolate chips.
Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Using an ice cream scoop, drop golf ball-sized mounds of dough two inches apart on the sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool five minutes and serve with milk.
I stumbled upon this recipe on Kalyn Denny’s hugely popular blog, Kalyn’s Kitchen. I met Denny years ago at my first South by Southwest, where we were on a panel about food blogging, and in the years since, I’ve watched her site grow into one of the Web’s more rewarding destinations for health-conscious but supremely satisfying recipes.
Yes, this salsa recipe calls for added sugar to help balance out the sweetness of the cranberries, but just think about it as slightly spicy, cilantro-flecked (and therefore Texas-friendly) alternative to cranberry sauce that would make a killer spread on your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.
Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro, Lime, and Jalapeño
1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup Splenda, Stevia In the Raw Granulated or sugar
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 to 2 fresh jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped (use more if you like it spicy)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Put the cranberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until they are partly chopped. Add sweetener of your choice and pulse a few times more to combine. Add green onions, cilantro, jalapeños (1 or 2, depending on your tolerance for heat), olive oil and lime juice and pulse until all ingredients are chopped and the mixture is well combined.
Put mixture into a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and chill for several hours or overnight. Makes about 2 cups salsa.
I always enjoy chatting with (the very witty) Tolly Moseley and Omar Gallaga on their podcast, Statesman Shots, and they invited me back this week to talk about all things Thanksgiving.
We cover the highs and the lows of the holiday, from our very favorite dishes to the family-related stress that often accompanies the dinner. In one of their Short Shot sections, we discussed the Austin360 Taste Test series, and by extension, foods that go too far. The cappuccino chips and hot peanut butter drinks of the world might not appeal to my palate, but as you’ll see in the video, one person’s “yuck” is another’s “yum.”
Thanksgiving, at least the Thanksgiving we celebrate now, has its roots in Plymouth Rock, but both Texas and Florida have made their cases, to varying degrees of intensity, you’ll read below, that the first Thanksgiving feast was actually held in their respective states.
I wrote this column four years ago, and the subject of Texas hosting the first Thanksgiving recently came up in a taping of this week’s Statesman Shots podcast, which is all about Thanksgiving and will publish sometime tomorrow.
Ahead of that podcast, here’s the original story that ran on Nov. 21, 2011:
Was the first Thanksgiving feast really held in Texas?
There’s little debate that Thanksgiving as we know it stems from a dinner in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrating the newcomers’ first successful harvest, but historians have plenty of proof that this wasn’t the first feast of thanksgiving shared between Europeans who’d come to settle the New World and American Indians who were already living here.
Way back in 1565, more than 50 years before the Pilgrims left England on the Mayflower, Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the Timucua Indians shared a meal of thanks – and oysters, clams and garbanzo bean soup – in St. Augustine, Fla.
Texas’ first Thanksgiving claim doesn’t go back quite that far, but close.
In spring of 1598, Juan de Oñate led more than 400 men, women and children almost 400 miles across the Chihuahuan Desert to claim the northern Rio Grande Valley for Spain. On the final days of the trip, the travelers ran out of food and water, so when they finally reached the Rio Grande, there was cause for much celebration.
After spending 10 days in the shade of the cottonwood trees along the river recuperating, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving that featured a mass, a reading of La Toma, which declared the land a possession of King Philip II of Spain, and a great meal, with duck and geese that the Spaniards had hunted and fish from the native population.
“We built a great bonfire and roasted the meat and fish, and then all sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before,” a member of the expedition wrote. “We were happy that our trials were over; as happy as were the passengers in the Ark when they saw the dove returning with the olive branch in his beak, bringing tidings that the deluge had subsided.”
Every year, on the fourth Saturday in April, people in San Elizario, the small town outside ElPaso where Oñate’s meal took place, mark the occasion with a re-enactment and speakers talking about the importance of the event, says Eloisa Levario, who runs the Los Portales museum in San Elizario that features an exhibit on the first Texas Thanksgiving.
Few in San Elizario go so far as to re-create the meal itself, but Levario says it’s important to keep the Oñate story alive. “We celebrate the regular pilgrims’ Thanksgiving, ” she says. But the first Thanksgiving event “brings in a lot of folks and it takes them back to the era of what it would have been like if they had been there.”
Gov. Ann Richards thrust the Texas Thanksgiving into the national spotlight 20 years ago when she signed a proclamation declaring Texas as the home of the first true Thanksgiving, which triggered an lively but mostly good-natured back-and-forth between promoters of both the Massachusetts Thanksgiving and the Texas one.
Dressed as conquistadors, members of the ElPaso Mission Trail Association traveled to Plymouth, Mass., in November 1992 to debate a group of people dressed as Pilgrims over who held the first Thanksgiving. According to news reports of the exchanges, the Plymouth County sheriff “arrested” the Texans on charges of “blasphemy and spreading false rumors” and held a mock trial.
The next year, a group of Massachusetts residents dressed as Pilgrims and traveled to ElPaso and San Elizario, where they were (fake) arrested, charged with spying, thrown in jail and threatened with hanging.
Elizabeth Engelhardt, professor of American history at the University of Texas, says it’s no surprise that there’s an emotional backlash against long-held cultural traditions. “People just really want to figure out what was the first, ” she says. “But for me, it’s not so much about which one of those stories is true, but what are you telling me about yourself when you care about those stories.”
Thanksgiving is such an intimate holiday, she says, that telling and retelling stories, especially of where our Thanksgiving traditions come from, are as important as the meal. “Memory is so much a part of it, ” she says, and history – the whole spectrum of historical record, both what actually happened and the history that the winners chose to record – is nothing if not a collection of memories. (It’s also worth noting that what we chose to forget says much about us, too. We like to remember the spirit of sharing and common good celebrated at these meals between conquerors and the soon-to-be-conquered, but it’s less comfortable to acknowledge the hundreds of years of violent strife throughout the country that followed.)
“There was always a certain amount of tongue and cheek involved, ” says food writer (and former Austinite) Robb Walsh, who wrote about Texas’ first Thanksgiving in his 2004 book, “The Tex-Mex Cookbook, ” of Richards’ proclamation and the subsequent exchanges between Texans and Bay Staters.
Most of the rest of the country learns the New England version of American history, which greatly overlooks the colonization that happened in the South and Southwest before the American Revolution, but “Texans look at their history from a Texas point of view, ” he says. “To say that American history started with the Pilgrim, what sense does that make?”
Even the most vocal advocates of Texas’ first Thanksgiving acknowledge that Thanksgiving as we know it is an extension of the Pilgrim tradition, but too often, we let cultural traditions like turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce alter how we think of American history. “Just so we don’t get too full of the idea that the Pilgrims started America, ” Walsh says. “It’s good to remember that other people were giving thanks before them.”
So how does he celebrate the Texas Thanksgiving? By stuffing his Pilgrim Thanksgiving turkey with tamales.
Yesterday was the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s annual fall fundraiser event, Wine & Swine, which this year took place at the Star Hill Ranch on Hamilton Pool Road.
The new venue, featuring older, sometimes historic buildings arranged to look like a quaint Hill Country town, shined under some of the nicest weather we’ve had this fall, a drastic change from the Saturday night downpour that many of the chefs who stayed overnight to cook their pigs had to endure.
In no particular order, here are my top five bites from the afternoon.