The Four Hour Baguette

This loaf did not last through the next ten minutes

This loaf did not last through the next ten minutes

In the time it takes you to suffer through the Hobbit movie, you could have made delicious, crusty, homemade French baguettes.  It is ridiculously easy – if you can stir together ingredients and knead them together, you can make these baguettes. No need for an overpriced $150 baguette making class with gentle classical music playing in the background, no special pans, just you and the dough.

After my ricotta making extravaganza, I was delighted to have an overabundance of leftover whey. I had read that whey, when replacing water in bread, adds a buttery and subtly sweet undertone to the baguette. This was not a lie, and I think this might have been the best baguette I’ve had in some time. Perfectly crusty and chewy, but soft and light.

Of course, if you have chosen to reject the call of the cheese maker, it is perfectly acceptable to use water in place of whey. I wouldn’t want anyone to be deterred from how easy this recipe is by requiring the step of cheese making. After all, this is such a great bread recipe whenever you think “Yes, tonight is the night when I will have a loaf of bread or two for dinner.”

This loaf is super low maintenance. You mix the dough, then proof it every 45 minutes or so before shaping it into loaves, using parchment paper to maintain their shapes. Once they’ve risen, you slide them delicately and bravely into the oven, following with ice cubes in a cast iron skillet to create steam that will lock in the moisture of the bread and create an amazing crust.

After you remove your loaves from the oven, remind yourself that bread does improve as it cools, which is why you allow two to cool while you throw caution to the wind and tear into the first loaf.

Two loaves, cooling


The Four Hour Baguette 

(Adapted from Dan Leader’s 4-hour baguette recipe at Food 52.)

My Notes: 

  • I heated the whey in the microwave at 10 second intervals, testing the temp as I went.
  • If you do not have a cast iron skillet, I would use an oven safe vessel that would not be prone to cracking when adding ice cubes to it in a hot oven. I would avoid using glass, opting instead for a metal cake pan  or rimmed cookie sheet.
  • I struggle with getting bread to rise in a timely fashion, however a bread baking class and trial and error have led me to the technique below, where you turn the oven onto low, turn it off, then let it cool off before placing the dough in the oven to rise.


  • 1 and 1/2 cups of whey, heated to 115 degrees (Water can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 and 1/4 cups of bread flour (All purpose flour can be used, I prefer bread flour for bread making purposes – I’ve found it produces a fluffier loaf)
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
  • 1/2 cup of ice cubes


1) Whisk together the whey and yeast in a large bowl. Leave it for ten minutes as the yeast activates. If your mixture is not foamy, fear not, all is well.

2) Add the flour to the mixture, stirring until the flour is absorbed. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes. This will allow the flour to hydrate and the gluten to form a network. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 150 degrees. Once the oven hits 150 degrees, turn it off.

3) Add the salt. Now it is time to knead the dough. You can use the dough hook on your stand mixer or your hands, if you lack a stand mixer or enjoy the therapy of kneading. (If you have never kneaded bread before, you can find a nice kneading tutorial from King Arthur Flour here). Knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough inside, swiping the ball of dough against the greased sides of the bowl before settling it inside. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap, followed by a clean kitchen towel.

4) Place the bowl in the oven, which should be slightly warm from the previous preheating but not hot. Leave the dough until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

5) Scrape the dough to a floured work surface. The dough is fairly sticky, so flour your hands. Shape the dough into an approximate 8″ x 6″ rectangle. Fold the longer sides to the middle, then the shorter sides. Place the dough back in the bowl, with the seams down. Cover the dough as before and place it back in the oven. Let it rest another hour.

6) Remove the dough from the oven. Arrange the two oven racks – one in the bottom portion of the oven, and one in the upper middle portion. Place the cast iron skillet on the bottom rack, and a baking stone, rimless sheet pan, or upside down sheet pan on the upper rack. Heat the oven to 475° F.

7) Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal portions and shape them into a 14-inch log. Using a rimless baking sheet or an upside down backing sheet, measure a sheet of parchment paper the size of the baking sheet and flour it. Place the dough logs on the parchment, spacing them evenly. To form the loaves as they rise, pinch the paper between each log to form a pleat. Support the end edges of the baguettes with rolled kitchen towels. Drape the plastic wrap over the loaves, let them sit until doubled in size; about 50 minutes.

Baguette forming contraptions

8) Remove the towels and plastic wrap, and pull on the paper to remove the pleats and space out the loaves. Now, we add the charming slashes in the baguette. You can use a knife or scissors to slash four, four-inch slashes in the baguette.

9) Be strong and brave. Measure half a cup of ice cubes and place it near the oven, at the ready. Pull out the upper oven rack with the baking sheet, and carefully slide the parchment paper containing the loaves off of the cool baking sheet and onto the hot one. Working quickly, dump the ice cubes into the skillet below and shut the oven door. Do not open the door! The steam produced by the ice cubes will help the loaves rise before forming that glorious crust.

10) Bake the baguettes until they are brown, with a crisp crust, 15-25 minutes. Remove and let two of the baguettes cool on a wire rack while you eat the third with butter.





There is a Cheese Maker in Your Soul

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Have you ever found yourself filled with an unspoken longing to quit everything, run away to the country, and spend your days frolicking in the fields and making cheese?

If you say no, you are a dirty liar. Everyone with a soul wants to spend their days creating joy from curds and whey.

Although I have long had such a dream, I thought it was beyond my reach unless I were to become independently wealthy and pursue cheese making with abandon.  However, as I was reading the latest issue of Bon Appétit, the heavens opened and a voice spoke to me from the pages of their article “Cook Like a Pro.”

“WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING RICOTTA YET?!” the article asked me.

“That is a VERY GOOD QUESTION!” I said, out loud.

I knew it was possible to make one’s own ricotta, but I had so far failed to try it. My mom made probably four pounds of it this year at Christmas for lasagna and she said it was super easy. My friend Kaitlyn had made it and said it was super easy. I had no excuse.

I decided to follow the recipe in Bon Appétit after being quickly overwhelmed by the many ways the internet tells you to make ricotta. I appreciated that they used a cup of heavy cream to two cups of milk instead of a measly two tablespoons, obviously taking milk fat very seriously.

I deemed this recipe a huge success and promptly made a second batch. Christopher, leery of me shoving spoons near his mouth going “try this!” after an unfortunate banana pancake incident, accepted a bite with utter skepticism.

“I don’t like ricotta,” he told me. I waved my ricotta laden spoon. He sighed and took a bite. “Hm,” he said. He took another bite, looked at me, then clutched the container to himself possessively. “Apparently” he said, “I love ricotta.”

Come with me on this cheese making journey, my friends. We can hold hands.

Fresh Ricotta – Recipe from Bon Appétit, April 2014. Instructions are from Allison.

  1. We are about to be cheese makers. Take a moment and prepare yourself for this joyous event.
  2. Take two cups of whole milk, a cup of heavy cream, and 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt. Add them to a medium sauce pan. I used a 3-quart, I’m sure 2-quart would work just fine.
  3. Heat until the milk just comes to a boil, about 200 degrees. I used my candy thermometer for precision. I heated it on a lowish heat for the majority of the time, then increased to a medium heat after the mixture hit about 160 degrees. As the milk heats, if you may notice skin forming on the top of the milk. If you gently continue to stir the milk throughout, you mixture will be skin free.
  4. After the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and promptly add the acid, which can be either two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. This will cause the milk to curdle, forming, well, curds. I used vinegar after Kaitlyn told me using lemons gave her ricotta a lemony taste. Give it a good stir then let it sit for five minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, arrange a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Line it with two layers of cheesecloth. (Cheesecloth is quite easy to find, I’ve had luck with almost every local grocery store except Target, the betrayer. It’s in the aisle with the overpriced kitchen gadgets). Carefully pour the mixture into the cheesecloth. Watch with delight as the whey begins to drain off, leaving incredible cheesy joy.
  6. You can let it drain for as long as you like, depending upon how thick you like ricotta. I found mine was perfect after an hour.
  7. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WHEY. DO NOT. STOP! We are going to make bread with it. It freezes very nicely.
  8. You have made cheese. You are magnificent, like a cheetah or a soaring eagle.



Roast Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco – Bon Appétit, April 2014



This dish will give you so many things:

  • Introduction to the alleged trendy Romesco
  • A super speedy weeknight dinner
  • The feeling that you are SO FANCY when you plate it

I am not the artistic one in my family, not by a long shot. Our house is decorated with lovely paintings from my grandma. My sister sketches to relieves stress. My husband has taught art classes. I sort of just plop things together and hope for the best, and Christopher will surreptitiously rearrange it.

This dish, however, made me feel SO FANCY. My first inclination was to serve the pork tenderloin in slices, with the Romesco just on the side. But all by itself, the Romesco was not visually appealing. So after asking myself What Would Martha Do? (WWMD, not sure why this isn’t a bracelet yet), I plated the sliced pork tenderloin on top of the Romesco and arranged the salad on top. It probably wouldn’t win me first place on MasterChef, but hey, baby steps.

This is a really simple dish. The pork tenderloin is browned on the stovetop then roasted in the oven, with a dash of salt and pepper. The watercress and roasted carrots are tossed with a little red wine vinegar to make a speedy salad.

The real star of this dish is the Romesco, a Spanish answer to pesto. Bon Appétit declared it was currently trendy, and I see no reason to disagree with them. Traditional Romesco is a red-pepper based sauce  pureed with nuts and garlic. Bon Appétit subs in roasted carrots for the red peppers to make a slightly sweet, nutty spread with a kick from the raw garlic and red pepper flakes.

If you decide to be SO FANCY and make this, do not be alarmed when you are not blown away with joy by the Romesco on its own, or you nibble a bit of watercress and think “this tastes like the Fresh Rain scent if you put it in a leaf and I’m not sure how I feel about it.” Once everything is on the plate and you take a bite of the juicy, salted pork with the sweet, nutty bite of the Romesco with just a hint of fresh spice from the watercress,  you will realize it has all come together beautifully. And you will feel SO fancy.

Bon Appétit, April 2014


Roast Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco

(Bon Appétit , April 2014) 

Serves 4 (ALLISON’S NOTE – I know it says four, but this really serves 2.5. If you had crusty bread on the side it would probably serve 3ish).

My Notes: 

  • Pine nuts can be pricey. I had a few in my freezer, but greatly overestimated how many I had (a tablespoon) and had to sub in walnuts. I’ve done walnuts in pesto before without an issue, and it turned out just fine.
  • The Romesco gets better the longer it sits, and tasted delicious the next day on a wasa cracker with avocado. Although I got a REALLY weird look from a coworker who thought I had just spread peanut butter on a cracker and topped it with avocado and lemon.
  • My food processor didn’t handle the small amounts of ingredients well, merely sending the pine nuts on a merry circular journey without chopping them, so I used my immersion blender to make a smoother puree.


  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1½ pound small carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if larger
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large pork tenderloin (about 1½ lb.)
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated (Allison’s note: I DID NOT DO THIS. I just tossed it in the food processor whole).
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 cups spicy greens (such as watercress or baby mustard)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool.
  2. Increase temperature to 450°. Toss carrots with 1 Tbsp. oil on another rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until softened and browned, 15–20 minutes; let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and black pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, 8–10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  4. Pulse pine nuts, garlic, and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a food processor to a coarse paste. Add Aleppo pepper, one-fourth of carrots, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. water. Process, adding more water as needed, to a coarse purée; season romesco with salt, black pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.
  5. Toss greens with remaining carrots and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl; season with salt and black pepper. Serve pork with romesco and salad.

Cider-Brined Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Apples – Food and Wine, April 2014

Seconds before demolition.

Seconds before demolition.

Did I mention Food and Wine really knocked it out of the park with this April issue? I haven’t been able to pull myself away from their recipes from this issue just yet to explore anything else – most of my other food magazines had a lot of Easter lamb things that just don’t really work for a weeknight dinner.

This cider brined pork tenderloin, despite having a daunting hour and a half prep time plus overnight brining, is actually an incredibly simple weeknight recipe. I made the brine in about 10 minutes at 11 pm the night before (having almost completely forgotten about it), then simply cooked and roasted the pork and apples and carrots for dinner the next day.

Although similar to a marinade, brines differ by the addition of salt as opposed to acid. The salt changes the cellular structure and allows it to hold in more moisture. If you are extremely curious about the science behind brining, Cooking for Engineers has a great write up here.

I was excited by this recipe, since my experiences brining turkey with apple cider and bourbon transformed a dry bird into a tasty and anticipated treat. This brine was extremely similar to that magical turkey brine, and I had all the brine ingredients on hand.

If you enjoy pork tenderloin in the least, you must make this recipe. The brine penetrates the pork with the flavor of apples and spices and tenderizes it even more, a feat for this already tender cut. The roasted apples are incredible. I was a little skeptical of pairing them with carrots, but that was ridiculous – it was delicious. The sauce that goes on top has a slight acidity that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of pork and apples.

I would like be eating this again, right now, and I slightly resent the fact that I am not.

Photo by Christina Holmes for Food and Wine

Cider-Brined Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Apples 

(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Hugh Acheson

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • My biggest regret with this recipe is that I poo-pooed the necessity of two pork tenderloins for two people and just made one. That was a terrible mistake. We ate it all and then stood in the kitchen staring sadly at the pan.
  • Double the apples and carrots. I did not and also regretted it.
  • Target sells an adorable tiny maple syrup that contains about five tablespoons for $2.50. I never use maple syrup and didn’t feel like dropping $7 on a large container, so this was perfect.
  • In a fit of spice rage some time back I ground all my coriander. This did not seem to affect the recipe in any way.
  • I used my cast iron skillet to take the pork from the stove to the oven instead of dirtying a second baking sheet.
  • This is somewhat shameful and I have included it last, but I did not use real apple cider. I used a powdered apple cider mix. It was fine. Be freed from the tyranny of fresh pressed cider!


  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups ice
  • Two 1- to 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloins
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons sorghum syrup or pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound medium carrots, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the cider, cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, crushed red pepper, garlic and 3 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat, add the ice and let cool completely. Pour the brine into a bowl and add the pork tenderloins, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar with the shallot, thyme and sorghum syrup and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes; discard the thyme sprigs. Whisk in the butter and season lightly with salt; keep warm.
  3. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with the apples, orange juice and olive oil; season with salt. Roast in the lower third of the oven, stirring once, until tender and browned in spots, about 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, drain the pork tenderloins and cut them in half crosswise; discard the brine. Pat the pork dry and season lightly with salt. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil until shimmering. Add half the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil and pork. Roast the pork in the upper third of the oven for about 12 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 140°. Transfer the pork to a work surface and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Slice the pork and transfer to plates. Drizzle the sauce on top and serve with the roasted carrots and apples.

Skirt Steak with Pinto Beans and Pasilla Chile Vinaigrette – Food and Wine, April 2014

"Aren't you impressed by my grill lines?" "Um. Sure?"

“Aren’t you impressed by my grill lines?” “Um. Sure?”

One of the many, many things I miss about California is the Mexican ingredients. We never bought our spices in the fancy little glass jars for $8, no, we bought the $0.99 packet with the label in Spanish. The quality was better, and the price magnificent. I haven’t been able to find anything quite like it here in the suburbs of NoVa. This recipe calls for two ingredients I was concerned about finding:  dried Pasilla chiles and achiote seeds. I was only partly successful.

A note on dried chiles. Dried chiles often go by a completely different name then their fresh form. No “sun dried tomatoes” here. A jalapeno, smoked and dried, becomes a chipotle. A chilaca pepper becomes a pasilla. The dried poblano pepper becomes an ancho.

This recipe calls for pasilla chiles. The pasilla is a long, narrow and black dried chilaca pepper. It looks like this:


Pasilla Chile – Source:

Tragically, many grocers in the United States, for reasons I cannot determine, mislabel the dried poblano, or ancho, as a pasilla.  They look nothing alike. Anchos are chubby and reddish, and are sweeter than pasillas.

Ancho - Source

Ancho – Source

However, in a pinch, you can use the ancho as a substitute for the pasilla, which was good for me because there were no pasillas to be found.

If you want to make this dish, I highly recommend checking out Wal-Mart for the chile ingredients. They had both the achiote seed ($0.89!) and bags upon bags of dried peppers, which I didn’t find in any of the three other grocery stores I visited. With no pasilla peppers to be seen, I settled for the ancho chiles.

Anchos everywhere

Anchos everywhere

As you can see, this is about 20 more anchos than I needed for this recipe. If anyone has any recipes for ancho chiles, send them my way.

I probably spent as much time shopping for this meal as I did making it. As for the recipe itself, it was solid. I wasn’t impressed with the vinaigrette on its own, but I loved what it did to the pinto beans and onions. I think you could make the beans and onions portion of this dish as a standalone side dish and it would be quite impressive.

I did think the vinaigrette fell short of a steak-sauce alternative, which was the goal of the recipe. Perhaps if it had been a true pasilla chile I would have felt differently? It had a slight bitterness and didn’t have the spicy kick I was hoping for. I did like this recipe and will probably make it again. Next time I think I’ll try adding some chipotles in adobo sauce to the vinaigrette for a smokey and sweet undertone.

If anyone manages to find and make it with true pasilla chiles, let me know your results!

Photo by Christina Holmes, Food and Wine

Skirt Steak with Pinto Beans and Pasilla Chile Vinaigrette

(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Hugh Acheson

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I used sirloin instead of skirt steak, since the sirloin was $7.99 a pound and the skirt steak was $15.99 and I had gone a little crazy in the cheese puff section at Trader Joes.
  • I don’t have a true grill pan, so I used the grid side of this cast iron griddle. The grid functions well as a grill, but I always manage to set off the smoke alarm when I use it, even if nothing is burning. It does create nice grill marks.
  • Grilling scallions is LIFE CHANGING. They’re smokey and soft and mild with a bite.


  • 1 pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
  • Boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon achiote seeds, finely ground (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 5-inch lengths
  • 8 large scallions


  1. Heat a grill pan. Add the pasilla and toast over high heat, pressing down with a spatula and turning once, until pliable and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasilla to a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the pasilla to a blender along with 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Add the vinegar, lime juice, honey and mustard and puree until smooth. With the blender on, gradually add the 1/4 cup of olive oil until incorporated. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and achiote and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the beans are hot and glazed, about 3 minutes. Stir in half of the vinaigrette and the chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
  4. Heat the grill pan. Brush the steak with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, brush the scallions with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning, until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and serve with the beans and scallions, passing the remaining vinaigrette at the table.