In the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts in vivid detail butchering time at the little house, including several pages dedicated to breaking down the family hog into various delectable pork products — hams, shoulders, side meat, spare-ribs, belly, the head for headcheese, "and the dishpan full of bits to be made into sausage."
First, though, Pa has to kill the hog. And while Laura is bothered a bit by the pig's demise — she covers her ears to block out the squealing, even after Pa reassures her that "it doesn't hurt him ... we do it so quickly" — this doesn't stop her from using his bladder as a plaything after the dirty work is done. (An illustration in the book charmingly depicts Laura and her sister Mary swatting the air-filled, balloon-like bladder back and forth in the yard.)
I remember reading this passage as a child and thinking, "Wow. That's so cool. I want a pig's bladder."
Anyway, the only thing that seems to give Laura more pleasure than the bladder-cum-beachball is roasting the pig's tail over hot coals, nibbling on the crispy meat, then sharing the bony scraps with her faithful bulldog, Jack.
Clearly, this was the best of times, but why am I telling you about this now? On a blog that worships at the altar of baked goods? Well, I have no good reason, actually, other than to share my passion for all things pig and to remind you to support food producers who respect and use all parts of my pig friends.
And to make the point that I have no problem thinking you're cute and wanting to eat you.
Instructor Michelle Kupiec demonstrates how to make pizza margherita during Blog & Bake 2011 at King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center in Norwich, VT. (By the way, Michelle didn't laugh at me when I somehow managed to drop my pizza on the floor before making it to the wood-fired oven. Michelle told me to make another one. Michelle's nice like that.)
Over the course of the last two days, I have accumulated 297 new photos, developed dozens of girl crushes, added 5 pounds to my derriere (I'm sure, but I didn't really check and I don't really care), received baking instruction from The Source of all sources, garnered a reputation as a pizza dropper (more on this calamitous act later), cultivated fresh friendships over dinner (thank you, Sara Moulton, for showing us how to make it and for being so generous of spirit) at an historic Vermont inn (if you haven't been, get thee to the Norwich Inn post haste), produced pages of chicken scratch that I like to call "notes," and been given an inside look at operations at the world's best flour company — I'm sure you've figured this out by now — King Arthur Flour.
Bread, fresh from the oven at King Arthur Flour. Need I say more?
Gratuitous Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart shot. (I'll tell you more about this little round of heaven later.)
You see, The King invited a handful of food bloggers and writers from across the country to Blog & Bake 2011, and I was lucky enough to be among them.
B&B ended late yesterday afternoon (sniff), and I told myself I wouldn't shower this morning until I told you about the fabulous goings-on. And so here I sit with frizzy hair, caffeine coursing through my veins, wearing the most forgiving of my elastic-waist pants, trying to figure out how to tell you everything without driving you (and me) crazy.
With that in mind, I've decided on a three-part series — King Arthur Flour: The People, The Place, The Pie (and bread, and scones, and pizza, and ... ). Anyway, I'll try not to deviate from this plan for sanity's sake. Here goes:
I fully embrace the risk of sounding like a schmaltzy brown-noser when I say the folks at King Arthur Flour are smart, warm, generous, funny and spunky. The same goes for my fellow bloggers/writers. The same goes for chef Sara Moulton. I learned from all of them, and I hope to share some of that with you here at Love & Scraps.
And so we begin:
Our fearless leader, King Arthur Flour's Allison Furbish, guides us on a tour behind the scenes at KAF. (Allison made Blog & Bake happen. Allison invited me. I heart Allison.)
Smiling Jean Kerr from Northeast Flavor magazine was on my pizza-dough-making team (Go, Team Brilliance!). If you haven't checked out the mag, do it. It's beautiful.
Corin Hirsch, a friend and food writer at Vermont's Seven Days, has her way with a mini-muffin. (Back story: KAF baking instructor Susan Reid encouraged us to "take as many nibbles as we can stand" from several batches of mini-muffins — each made with a different type of flour — to compare/contrast properties. ... Susan said nothing about pushing muffins into our eye sockets.)
King Arthur Flour's MaryJane and Northeast Flavor's Bonnie listen intently to ... um, something ... during a visit to the KAF test kitchen. MaryJane kicks booty on both the decorating and dinner conversation fronts. Bonnie kicks booty, too.
King Arthur Flour's Robyn Sargent teaches us basic bread-baking skills during Day 1 of B&B. Robyn is an awesome teacher. Too bad I didn't have Robyn for calculus in high school; it may have gone better ...
Blogger Amber Bracegirdle portions out pizza dough. Amber is a Texan, married to a Brit, and now lives in Jersey. Amber gave us each a present of cookies on Day 1. Amber's a sweetheart.
I've long been a fan of chef Sara Moulton. My fanaticism has only grown since Blog & Bake: she joined us for class (during which she kindly pointed out after surveying my braided bread that hers, too, was bulbous on one end — gotta love her); demonstrated how to make a scrumptious dinner; and feasted with us at the Norwich Inn, where the chefs did her menu proud.
Fellow New England bloggers Aimee and Fiona light up the room during Day 1 of Blog & Bake. (Some peeps knew each other before B&B; most didn't. ... Let no man put asunder what King Arthur Flour joined together.)
Meet Donna from Colorado. Donna and I sat together for much of B&B. Lovely though she is, Donna scared me at first with her breezy, seemingly effortless bread-baking skills. (I'm more slow and methodical.) Donna kicks serious booty.
King Arthur Flour's Susan Reid gives us the lowdown on flour — the types, the properties —while throwing in a few colorful stories. Susan knows how to have a good time while engaging her students. I mentioned "spunky" in the intro to this post. That's Susan.
"Busy at Home" blogger Glenda chills out during coffee & pastries to kick off Day 1 of Blog & Bake. Glenda traveled from Nebraska for B&B.
King Arthur Flour instructor Susan Miller pulls together pastry dough for KAF's luscious Tomato Pie (more about this later). ... Warm and funny, Susan also instructed us in making "poolish" for our pizza dough (more about that later) and pastry for our Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart (you guessed it, more later). ... Oh, and last but not least, there's Savor the Thyme's Jennifer in the background, studiously checking out Susan's method.
PJ doesn't seem to mind when we interrupt as she puts the finishing touches on some lime cookies in the King Arthur Flour test kitchen on Day 2 of Blog & Bake. You probably know smiling PJ from KAF's online community and blog. I nominate PJ for Best Smile at Blog & Bake 2011.
Writer/blogger Casey, KAF's MaryJane and Northeast Flavor's Bonnie hang in the test kitchen. My peeps!
If you need a volunteer for something, anything, may I suggest the services of Casey Barber? She likes to get a job done. She speaks up when the rest of the room goes quiet. She has awesome facial expressions — and isn't afraid to use them.
I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into the people who brightened the last two days of my baking life. More posts (with lots more photos) are in the works, but now it's time to wash my crusty-the-clown self. Until later, then.
What do you do when you have a bunch of fresh rhubarb and you're not altogether sure, um, what to do with it? And those with whom you share close quarters tell you they don't like rhubarb? Even strawberry-rhubarb pie? And you, upon gnawing on a stalk, wonder if you, too, don't hate rhubarb?
You make quick bread, of course.
Diced and folded into a batter of brown sugar, fat, flour and homey spices, those celery-like stalks shine. They are still themselves (tart) but eaten within the trappings of quick bread, it was decided: We all love rhubarb.
Fresh rhubarb, thanks to a dear friend's garden
Try this recipe if you're unsure about rhubarb. Hell, try it even if you've never been more sure about anything in your life. This moist quick bread is soul-satisfying on its own, or over-the-top delicious lightly toasted and smeared with quick bread's best friend forever: cream cheese.
Rhubarb Quick Bread
(adapted from a recipe I found in a little booklet titled "Old-Fashioned Bread Recipes," published by Bear Wallow Books)
(recipe yields 2 standard-size loaves)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 /1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped Topping
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two standard-size bread loaf pans.
In small bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt and baking soda). Set aside.
In large bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, vanilla and beaten egg. Add buttermilk and mix until fully incorporated.
Fold dry ingredients into wet.
Gently fold in diced rhubarb and chopped pecans.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Mix together melted butter and sugar for topping.
Drizzle topping over batter. (This step gives the top a nice crunch.)
Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 45-55 minutes. Breads are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out gunge-free.
Leave in pans for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.