As we rambled through the Christmas Market on a tour of Budapest with Viking River Cruises, we smelled delicious aromas and one of the items was Chimney Cakes, a kind of twisted Cinnamon Roll or curled donut, with various flavors added. The Hungarian name is Kurtoskalacs. They are made from a sweet, yeast dough of which a strip is spun around a truncated coned-shaped baking spit.
The dough is rolled in sugar and roasted over a charcoal fire as illustrated in the photo. They are basted with melted butter while the spit is turned and cooked until the cakes turn a golden brown. During the cooking or roasting process the sugar turns to caramel and forms a shiny crust. The glaze is then topped with additional toppings like ground walnuts and cinnamon.
Chimney Cakes Budapest
The origin of the name Chimney Cake refers to a stovepipe, since the fresh, steaming cake in the shape of a truncated cone, resembles a hot chimney. The first recorded mention was in about 1450 and is found in a manuscript by Heidelberg. It was described as a strip wound in a helix shape around a baking spit and brushed with egg yolk before baking. In the 16th century there were three varieties of this pastry with minimal variances in components and shape.
The Hungarian and Czech pastry were approximately the same and were described in the original cake above. The second type is a pastry made from batter belonging to the Lithuanian, Polish, French German, Austrian and Swedish populations.The third and final style was a continuous dough strip placed on a spit. In 1876 Aunt Rezi’s Cookbook was the first recipe that applies sprinkling sugar on kürtőskalács before baking to achieve a caramelized sugar glaze.
The present day baked item emerged in the first half of the 20th century. This included the use of ground, chopped or candied walnuts applied as an additional topping. As far as we know Pal Kovi’s cookbook Erdélyi lakoma (Transylvanian Feast), came out in 1980 and appears to be the first mention of applying this type of topping. At the end of the century a far reaching range of flavoring, cinnamon, coconut, cocoa, vanilla, etc. were toppings applied in addition to the nuts. The cakes have remained fairly stable since this. I can tell you, it is critical you buy one if given the chance. They are delicious and worth every penny!
***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.
As I stumbled down to the coffee shop in the lobby of The Oro Verde Hotel, I told myself the trip to Ecuador was just beginning and I needed to just have coffee and something healthy, in a manner of speaking. I had no idea I would encounter such a plethora of sweet items that challenged my desire to remain healthy. After all I was on a 5-week trial run to see what the real cost of living in Cuenca was for a month. I knew my fiend Efrain of Mio Tours would be there soon and I had to make a decision.
Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day
I decided I would eat healthy when I got to Cuenca and settled into my condo. To heck with being healthy, when all this was staring me in the face. Not only was I pondering the quantity and assortment of sweets to ingest, I actually had serious debates with myself about the assorted sandwiches and salads displayed in this case below. Decisions should never be made when you are hungry! I knew this and also was very familiar with the process of having Mio Tours (You Tube Link) drive me to Cuenca. I knew full well that we would stop at a restaurant my friend Efrain favored in Puerto Inca. The lunches with juice and soup run around $3.50 per person and are very tasty.
Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items
Then of course another challenge is the magnificent bread they prepare all over Ecuador and since it is so inexpensive you want to buy every type of loaf available and see what is in line with your tastes and what isn’t. Down deep I knew I couldn’t buy more than one type of bread at a time and would have to wait until I got to Cuenca and shop at Maria’s Alemania Bakery. This bakery has the absolute best breads in the world, bar none!
Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan
Oh how I wanted to box up one of these whole cakes and take it with me to the Condo. I could then bury my face in all that sweet goodness and eat like a pig! No one would see me and no one would know. So why not you ask? Because rather simply put, I have to live with myself and couldn’t do this without totally stressing out! Oh well maybe next time. I absolutely love all the Panaderias in Ecuador and they make very delicious goods. Most are so inexpensive it is almost embarrassing. This shop was nothing really out of the normal and is fairly representative of the bakeries in Ecuador. One of life’s small pleasures and I can’t wait to get back to Ecuador and eat my fill of sweets! Waistline? What waistline? I can always walk it off in Cuenca! After all it is situated at around 8500 feet above seal level and that takes more than a little effort when you are my age.
About two weeks ago I entered an online contest from Edible Austin. The winner would receive two tickets to the second annual Texas Olive Fest. It was being held at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company located about half way between Bee Caves (SW Austin) and Dripping Springs off of Fitzhugh Road. As we drove up it looked like a large vineyard with Tuscan architecture. I had no idea the Hill Country Olive Company was this large. The parking lot must have held over 300 cars and I was blown away that so many people had come to the Festival. It was an overcast day and I thought people wouldn’t have traveled. Boy was I wrong!
Bluebonnets at the Gate
As we walked in the gate I noticed a field of Bluebonnets to our right and it was majestic to say the least. There is nothing finer in my humble opinion than a field of these beautiful flowers blooming in all their splendor. This is one of the finer aspects of living in Texas. From Mid March to late April they can be seen across the state thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. We obtained our wristbands from the media desk and proceeded to enter the Texas Olive Fest.
Cooking Classes Setting
It so happened that the first cooking class was starting in about two minutes so Kim and I grabbed a seat and waited for the class. I was lucky enough to capture the first three or so minutes of the class and it should give you a flavor for the presentation (pun intended)! Faraday’s Kitchen Store was hosting the cooking classes and Tony Curtis-Wellings, a direct descendant of the scientist Michael Faraday hosted the classes.
This is the complete recipe and cooking instructions for the Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes with Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas Toast. Our sample was so darn good, I wanted to get back in line for seconds, but I am positive that would have embarrassed Kim to no end. So I settled for the lingering taste left from my sample.
Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes With Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas toast
Serves four to six guests
2 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbls shallots, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
kosher salt & salad grind black pepper
4 ounces Hill Country goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf crusty peasant bread
2 clove garlic
salad oil (do not use olive oil)
1. Preheat oven broiler.
2. Mix the first eight ingredients together and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3. Spoon tomato mixture into ramekins and top evenly with goat cheese.
4. Place under broiler and heat until the tomato mixture becomes a little warm and the cheese starts to bubble and brown lightly.
5. Smash garlic cloves with the back of a spoon on a small saucer and top with a little salad oil.
6. Slice bread thickly and brush with garlic oil.
7. Grill or broil on one side until toasted and serve alongside tomato confit.
Cotton Gin Restaurant & Lodging, Fredericksburg, Texas
Executive Chef Ross Burtwell
Kim and I have gotten into local spice shops and oil and vinegar stores and usually shop about once every two weeks and add to our collection. Being at this Fest was like a home run in my eyes as the various oils and vinegar’s left me questioning which one to sample and purchase. The photo below is only one side and half of the options. What to do with so many options?
Texas Hill Country Olive Company
They conducted three educational seminars during the Texas Olive Fest. Jeff Transeau, the principal investor and manager of Charta Olive Farms, is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas and holds a degree in Biology.
Seminar 1 – Texas Olive Industry & More, Seminar 2 – Olive Oil 101, Seminar 3 – Processing Your Own Olives
Inside the Texas Hill Country Olive Company was additional booths like below, a restaurant with all kinds of great looking fare, very clean and up to date restrooms and the tasting counter with various olive oils and vinegar’s for sampling and for sale. I would recommend a visit any time of the year; not just at the Olive Fest event.
Texas Brew Salsa
Austin Honey Company
After the cooking class we decided to try our hand at walking the booths. We were given five tickets for wine samples and I don’t drink anymore. Hmmm! What a dilemma. I could still eat though. We looked down the booths and decided to do an organized linear approach and walk by every booth.
Texas Olive Fest Booths
Right out of the box we hit a great looking food trailer that had Crab Cakes for sell. I was a little surprised to say the least. I have placed a few of the food booths below and am very dispappointed I did not take a photo of my favorite booth “Smoke’n Hops“. They are a BBQ and Brewpub that is located in Dripping Springs. They were handing out BBQ Pork sliders and oh my goodness were they ever good. I behaved and only ate one.
Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes
I had to pass on the crab cakes as most have bell peppers in them and I am allergic to bell peppers. Sigh!!!
Aurelia’s Chorizo Paella
Aurelia’s Chorizo booth was by far the busiest food booth and a majority of the people eating at the tables in the center of the booths had this Paella. I wanted to taste it so bad, but the line was extensive and so long that I declined. It evidently was delicious as I asked several people eating it and they all answered affirmatively. They barely could nod their heads and wouldn’t stop eating long enough to answer. Must have been fantastic.
Crepe Crazy Menu
I passed on the crepes also, as again there was a significant line. Crepe Crazy can be followed on their facebook page to stay abreast of their events. Their cooking demonstration was enlightening, as I couldn’t believe how thin the crepes were spread as they cooked. It looked like paper and I was surprised the held together. It takes talent to cook crepes!
In addition to the food booths there were several booths with specialty vendors. This one caught my eye as they were using high heels and a cut out cowboy boot to hold the wine bottles. Very unique I would say.
L’ Adventure Dolce
Not only did this booth have a great name “Two Winey Women”, but it had various items that were oriented to wine and I laughed many times at the quotes on a few of their items.
Two Winey Women
So what do you do with old wine barrels you ask? Barrel Designs makes furniture in all sizes and shapes. Kim was attracted to the two booths they had and kept looking at theit wares. She thought it was a very different approach. The good news is I didn’t have to break out my credit card.
At the end of the booths was a sound stage with bands playing for about two hours each. I hope I got the name correct. Given the time this photo was taken the band on stage should have been “Gumbo ce Soir”. If I am incorrect then my apologies to go out to the “Jimmie Lee Band”.
Gumbo ce Soir Band
Of course I saved the best for last. When we entered the gate we were given a bag with several things. A map of the booths, cooking class times and five tickets each for wine samples. Oh my that is a good amount of wine for Kim to taste. I don’t drink anymore. Don’t worry she only tasted about three.
Pillar Bluff Vineyards
Good to know that this vineyard is right up the road from us. They are located at 300 County Road 111, Lampasas, TX 76550 and their phone number is (512) 556-4078. Business Hours: Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM.
Stone House Vineyard
Stone House vineyard is located in at 24350 Haynie Flat Rd, Spicewood, TX 78669. Their phone number is (512) 264-3630. Their tasting room and winery is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 and by appointment.
Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery
Flat Creek Winery is located at 24912 Singleton Bend E, Marble Falls, TX 78654 and their phone number is (512) 267-6310. Tasting Room Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.
Fall Creek Vineyard
Fall Creek is one of our favorite vineyards and is the oldest Hill Country Vineyard, established in 1975. Kim and I have frequented this wonderful vineyard and have bought their wine for decades. You can’t go wrong with a Fall Creek wine. They are located at 1820 CR 222, Tow, TX 78672 on scenic Lake Buchanan. Their phone number is (325) 379-5361. The tasting room is open Mon-Fri 11-4 Sat 11-5 Sun 12-4.
Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red).
Please don’t look at the man dressed in red. Focus on the couple behind him to the left and the Fiesta Winery sign. We stopped by this booth and Kim talked with the couple. They are really great people and answered every question thrown at them with ease. They told Kim she had to taste their Texas Well Water wine and she did.
She absolutely loved it and of course we bought a couple of bottles. Fiesta Winery is located at 18727 FM 580, Lometa, TX 76853 five miles east of Bend Texas and their phone number is (325) 628-3433. Their tasting room near Bend is open Mon-Thur: 10:00 to 5:00, Fri-Sat: 10:00 to 6:00 and Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00.
Messina Hof Vineyard
Messina Hof is located at 4545 Old Reliance Rd, Bryan, TX 77808 and their phone number is (979) 778-9463. The Bryan operating hours are Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.
In addition they now have a new winery located in Fredericksburg and its operating hours are Monday – Wednesday: 11:00am – 6:00pm, Thursday – Friday: 11:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.
Wedding Oak Winery
Wedding Oak Winery is located at 316 East Wallace Street, San Saba, 76877. Its phone number is (325) 372-4050. Operating hours are Mon – Thurs 11:00am to 6:00pm, Fri – Sat 10:00am to 7:00pm and Sun 11:00am to 6:00pm.
It was time to attend another Cooking class put on by Pastry Chef Lyndi Modica of The Art Institute of Austin and she is known as the “Chocolatier”! I was able to capture a portion of her cooking class and learned a few things about butter browning and how to prepare reductions. It was very interesting.
Her recipes are as follows:
Brown Butter and Basil Cake
Yield: ½ sheet tray
8 oz Butter, browned
½ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Brown Sugar
½ t. Vanilla
2.5 ea Eggs
1 C Al purpose Flour
2/3 C Almond Flour
1 t Baking Powder
½ t Salt
1 ½ T Sour Cream
½ C Micro Basil, cleaned
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare half sheet tray
3. Cream brown butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs in two additions making sure each are fully incorporated. Scrape sides and add dry ingredients, until just combined. Finish with sour cream and micro basil.
4. Bake in a convection oven with a low fan until light brown. Allow to cool and cut out desired serving size and shape.
Olive Oil Ice Cream
Yield: 5- 2 oz Portions
1 1/3 C Whole milk
6 ea Egg Yolks
½ C Sugar
1 C Heavy cream
½ C Terra Verde Estate Blend EVOO
1. Prepare an anglaise with the milk, yolks, sugar, and salt.
2. Strain over the heavy cream over an ice bath. Emulsify in olive oil and churn.
Yield: 4 servings
¼ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar
1. Bring to a boil and reduce to syrup consistency
Trust me, this was a grand ending to our experience at the Texas Olive Fest. We both loved this dessert and wanted more, but it wasn’t in the cards. I will have to test the recipe and see if I can manage not to butcher her process. I am very grateful for the tickets and look for the “Third Annual Texas Olive Fest” next year, by following their Facebook page .
***Thanks to Edible Austin for our tickets.All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.
The original pretense of Kim and my visit to Palestine Texas for the weekend, was to share in the culinary attributes, of this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods. Of course my first thought was chicken fried steak or maybe a huge helping of fried catfish. I was, to be totally honest, a little suspicious that there would be anything of a positive nature offered on our visit. So Saturday night was the first experience, in a higher quality and more palatable cuisine at the Red Fire Grille.
Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification
We entered the Redlands Hotel and the restaurant is off to the side on the ground floor. Thank goodness I wore a nice dress shirt and slacks, as any type of casual apparel would have been totally out of place. It turns out this really is a nice place and I couldn’t wait to get started. After the long day I was famished. We were joined at dinner by a marvelous local personality, Martelle Moronko. Marty kept me in stitches all night long and I loved her outgoing personality and sense of humor.
Red Fire Grille
The Red Fire Grille is owned and run by Dawn and Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. Chef Christian has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, a 386-page coffee table book. I have included a link illustrating his experience and how he came to be categorized as such a prestigious chef. Dawn was a very gracious hostess and ensured our service was impeccable all night long.
Dawn and Chef Christian
It appeared that this was the real deal and I couldn’t wait to sample his cooking. I looked over the menu and was delighted to find several favorites that I knew I had to order. We ordered both pan fried Calamari and Flatbread for appetizers and I have admit that both were of a superior quality and taste. The Calamari was very flavorful and had a wonderful breading. The Flatbread was even better than anticipated and I ate more than my share of this appetizer! I particularly loved the thin crisp crust. I highly recommend either when you dine at the Red Fire Grille.
Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread
I love Bleu Cheese Dressing when it is made correctly and has an ample supply of actual cheese in it. If it is served with a wedge of lettuce, there is no finer salad option in my book. I am not a Caesar’s salad man. So obviously you know what I started with. There was a huge supply of genuine Bleu cheese in the dressing and its flavor was supreme. My apologies to Chef Christian, but I do love my pepper. Kim had the Caesar’s salad.
Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing
I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb and I must confess it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaser courses, but they could not compare with this dish. I almost could cut the lamb with my fork. The rack was served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and spinach. The potatoes had an extravagant flavor, which really made my mouth water. I have had many a dish of lamb, over the course of my life and some have been significantly more succulent than others. This was by far, the best Rack of Lamb I have ever had! Imagine it is being served in Palestine Texas. I would have never guessed the quality this restaurant serves.
Colorado Rack of Lamb
Kim chose and I knew when I looked at the menu, this would be her choice, the Mahi Mahi. We constantly debate which fish is more tasty and I assume it depends on one’s palate. She always loves Mahi Mahi and this was no exception. It was cooked to her liking, which is tough to do. I like my fish a little under cooked and flaky. Kim likes her a little more robust and solid. The portion was extremely sufficient and I believe for the first time I can remember, Kim could not finish her entree of Mahi Mahi. Marty also opted for the Mahi Mahi.
Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi
Breezy ordered the Butternut Lasagna and couldn’t finish it either. Portions are more than ample at the Red Fire Grille and one does not walk away hungry. This is what her dish looked like. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?
Butternut Squash Lasagna
So anyone have room for dessert? I wavered for at least a second or two and decided on the Creme Brulee. I am sure anyone that knows me, will tell you that would be my option. Marty had the same. I have to say that it was my least favorite course. Maybe I was full, or the other courses jaded my taste buds, but it lacked something. Kim had a taste and really liked the subtle hint of Lavender, in the bite of Creme Brulee she had.
Lavender Creme Brulee
Kim had the Mini Coconut Creme dessert and had issues with the pineapple ring. She could not cut it. The other products in the concoction were very good and had wonderful blend of flavors. Kim especially loved the Margarita ice cream in her dessert.
Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp
Breezy had the Chocolate dessert and if memory serves me correctly finished it off. I was going to try it, but the opted instead for the Creme Brulee.
Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup
After dinner Chef Christian came out of the kitchen and we shook hands. It was nice to put a face with the food. It is very easy to see why he has been identified as such a reputable chef and I can understand his accolades and high honor. His food is worthy of a side or day trip and the restaurant had immaculate service. I highly recommend if you are within 100 miles of Palestine, that you venture to the Redlands Hotel and undertake an award winning dinner at the Red Fire Grille. You will not be sorry!
Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan
*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.
As we walked toward the Oxbow Pies & Antiques entrance I had flashbacks of the Jersey Lilly at Six Flags amusement park in Arlington Texas, when I was younger. I just knew Judge Roy Bean was going to be inside sitting at the bench. I was curious about the theme as I have never seen an operation combine a restaurant and pie shop for a retail outlet. I am a “Pie” man from way back and have loved pies over cakes for my entire 63+ years. I was almost drooling as I entered, awaiting my impending pie tastings. Yes I said “plural”, as I couldn’t leave this place without trying at least a couple of different pies.
Oxbow Pies & Antiques
I opened the door and was faced with a myriad of antiques and worn wooden tables for eating your meals and pies. David Wolfe and his Mother Becky the proprietors, stepped forward as we entered and introduced themselves. As expected, they were both genuine down-home people, that make you feel comfortable immediately. I apologized, as we were very late for a scheduled lunch. As you approach the counter you see this display of pies, which immediately make your mouth start watering.
Fresh Pies Display Case
We sat down and they started us off with a half of a chicken salad sandwich. It had grapes in it just like my Mother used to make. It was delicious with just enough Mayo. Thank God they didn’t serve us a complete sandwich. A great appetizer!
Chicken Salad Sandwich
Then came a good old Frito Pie. For those not raised in Texas, we fill a heaping bowl of Frito’s with chili. I inhaled this magnificent concoction and I could not believe the taste of the chili. It was just like the chili that covered my enchilada’s, when I would go out with my parents as a child and eat Mexican food. It set my taste buds in action and I was in heaven. I hadn’t savored that flavor in years, but it brought back childhood memories immediately. Of course the cheese and onions enhanced an already fabulous dish. The Wolfe’s have been in the restaurant business for decades and their products reflect the experience. I absolutely loved this course. It may not be the healthiest, but Kim and I both scraped our bowls clean and there was nothing left.
Becky asked if we had enough room for pie left and I just laughed. I really didn’t care if I was full or not. The primary reason I came to this place was to sample their infamous pies. So I ordered a slice of Chocolate Pecan Pie and a slice of Pineapple Meringue Pie, as I have never heard or seen this pie. I have eaten chocolate and coconut Meringue pie, but never Pineapple Meringue Pie. I dove into the Chocolate Pecan and offered Kim a taste. She prefers the regular Pecan Pie but decided against ordering pie (I know exactly why she did this, as she always “samples’ my food–Just ask anybody in our or her family). It was very tasty.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
I saved the Pineapple Meringue for last and tried to guess what it would taste like. Would it be like an upside down cake or what? I was mad with curiosity. I shoveled the first bite in my mouth and almost fell off the chair I was sitting in. I paused for a moment and let the bite lay on my tongue. I just gloated to myself over the gorgeous flavor and sat back to enjoy the rest of the slice. It was an outstanding piece of pie and one I will never forget. Each bite rolled around my mouth and caused my senses to explode with glee. It is now, simply stated, my favorite kind of pie. Good-Bye Cherry Pie!
Pineapple Meringue Pie
Before I move on I want you to look at the height of the Meringue on this pie. It was at least 3″ high, maybe more. I don’t believe I have ever seen one that high. I asked Becky how she does it and she said a lot of egg whites and a lot of whipping. David makes the crusts (which are unbelievably good) and Becky makes the fillings. They both are early risers and are in the shop before sun up. If you are ever near Palestine you have to stop and sample a slice. I suggest you take home a whole pie and of course, my recommendation is the Pineapple Meringue Pie.
A room Full of Antiques
The shop has tables with benches and tables with chairs scattered all throughout the store. When you walk in you do not realize how large the shop really is or how many quality antiques are housed in the shop. Many of the antiques are for sale. I was a little taken back as Kim and I could have probably spent 3 to 4 hours looking at their treasures. One of my favorites was this old Root Beer and Coca-Cola soda barrel.
The restaurant and pie shop has been written up in Texas Farm and Home magazine and has a four page layout. I fell in love with this place and next time I visit the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques shop I am buying a whole Pineapple Meringue Pie and not sharing with Kim! The owners were lovely and we were chatting to them for a while. They told us they were looking at buying some industrial mixers (you can learn more here) to allow them to make more pies which seems like a sensible idea. It’s a successful business but they could make so much money if they upscaled production. We also spoke about the ingredients they use in their pies, which was interesting to learn about too.
Texas Farm and Home Magazine
Eventually Kim did have her Pecan Pie and inhaled it just like me. Surprisingly I did get a taste. Here is a handwritten menu advertising the pies available that day. Hope it motivates you to try my new favorite pie shop in all of the country (I am talking the entire USA-It’s that good)!
Today’s Pies Menu
*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.
Okay I have to admit I really didn’t have this idea originally, but the end recipe was all mine. While most of my BBQ Chicken Pizza is made with Monterrey Jack Cheese, I read in a recent magazine, about a well known chef using some Gorgonzola cheese mixed with cheddar. I decided I would do a sprinkling of Monterrey Jack with the majority Gorgonzola cheese on my half. Kim wanted my traditional pie.
All my pizza’s are made with flat bread. I bake it for about 45 minutes and use a very ample supply of chicken boiled in cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and black pepper. I use a heavy amount of red onions, along with jalapenos. The bread is basted with a large dose of BBQ sauce and when its finished, it is usually eaten within a day, if not that meal! Try it!
I have sampled pizza at many places over the years on my trips to Cuenca and some have been great and others well, not so great! This trip I started eating pizza at a new place. The name of the restaurant is La Fornace and they had an extensive menu that might surprise you. Its filled with massive amounts of true Italian food. I tried a pizza “La Fornace” and made a few changes. No pimiento (green peppers) or Salchicha (Hot Dogs). I added more chicken.
The La Fornace Amended
It was spectacular and I have eaten three of these when I needed a quick meal in Cuenca. Their oven must have a very high temperature as it only takes around 5 minutes once you place your order. They absolutely know what they are doing.
Vladamir (cook) and Santiago (Chef)
Immediately when you enter they are at your table and ask for your drink order and if you are ready take you food order. I had a wonderful young man last night that treated me like a king. He kept me in business!
Pablo My Server with the Cashier
They serve desserts, but most people opt for their ice cream cone, as an end to the meal. They positioned the dip station up front, so that people passing by can purchase a cone and keep going. Apparently they have quite an ice cream business, as this young lady prepped cones with napkins the entire time I was eating. She must have done 150 cones or more.
Lady Busy Prepping Cones
If you find yourself in Cuenca and have a yen for a pizza I promise you cannot go wrong at La Fornace! Just remember you don’t eat the pizza with your hands like we do in the US. That is considered very ill mannered. You must use your fork and knife! FYI! Saludos mi amigos.
One never finds a shortage of desserts in Cuenca and it amazes me that more of the Ecuadorians are not obese, like we find in the US. I guess its a result of all the walking. Every day when I go out and roam the streets of Old Town, I run into (sometimes literally) so many people, its staggering.
I have no idea where they are going and in most cases they are walking at a rather fast gait. I guess this helps shed the sugar and the bread calories. Heladeria’s, Panesa’s and eating establishments abound. Its very tempting and you can eat until you can’t breathe, but you also can always walk it off the next day. I love it!
I needed a couple of pounds of sausage and all I had was maple flavored. What the heck. I tried it any way and it turned out delicious. I improvised and used parts of a recipe I found on line for quiche. Used more sausage (2 pounds not 1.5 pounds), cut up a whole onion to cook with the meat. None was called for. I like the flavor!
While the meat was browning I greased two 9″ pie pans and placed corn tortillas in the bottom to work as the crust (4 per pan with one in the middle). I poured the meat into the pans and added a can of green chilies (1/2 can each pan). Then spread liberal amounts of Colby Jack cheese on both pans. Next I mixed 12 eggs, 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 cup of Ricotta cheese, heavy helpings of black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder and then mixed the concoction together by hand.
I poured the egg mixture over the ingredients in both pans equally and baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. After it was baked I added fresh Cilantro on top. The result.
I couldn’t wait to dive in and set the table and made my presentation to Kim. She was not a fan of the quantity of Cilantro I placed on top and removed it. Otherwise she really like it and we have plenty left over (again). I cook way too much at a time! I love leftovers!!! Post any questions under the comment section or on my Facebook page! Eat well and have Safe Travels !!!
Who in the world doesn’t really love fresh baked bread. The aromas and salivating initial tastes, are among the best flavors in the cooking cosmos. Today I am writing my first blog and sharing a Christmas present, my wife gave me, from “Make it Sweet”, in Austin Texas.
It was a Bread Baking class for three hours, tutored by a very sweet and knowledgeable lady, Heidi Swiderski. I must add that Heidi was both entertaining, instructional and displayed an obvious flair for making her students comprehend and retain her proficiency. Heidi learned all her baking skills from her Grandmother and started baking at 9 years old.
Somehow during the first segment, the conversation turned to using Black Cocoa (used in darkening Oreo’s) in baking and decorating pastries, cookies, etc. Heidi asked the student “Did you blow your nose after using the Black Cocoa”? I had no idea what she was referencing. Apparently chefs that use this ingredient inhale a certain amount of the powder and shed a “Black Ooze”, to put it nicely! I thought to myself that this was going to be an interesting class!
The bread dough is made by mixing flour, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl. The salt is added at the last moment, as it stops the yeast from activating (see Heidi I was paying attention). You then add olive oil and warm water (between 95 and 115 degrees). You are ready to mix.
We divided into three groups of four to create the dough for Focaccia bread. I was very fortunate to team up with three great ladies. Earlier, as we were introducing ourselves, Jan Graedner stated she was from Wichita Kansas and had driven all the way for this class. Needless to say I was impressed.
I then found out her two daughters were in the class also. Katie Rohe from Houston and Jinny McCall from Austin. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I would not have made it through the class without their support and encouragement.
After we were sure the dough was smooth, we added a little last minute flour to smooth out the dough. We placed Virgin Olive Oil in the bottoms of the pie plates. We took the dough off the mixer and filled four pie plates with 24oz dough each. Thanks Jan and Katie for completing most of this task.
We poked holes in the dough, drizzled additional olive oil on top and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and Sea salt. We let it rise for about 15 minutes. The dough was baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Tasting commenced immediately after pulling the bread from the oven.
Heidi then told us that you know the dough is just right after you give it the “BT” (Booger Test). I was caught completely off guard and almost choked with laughter.
Heidi instructed the class on the properties of yeast and taught facts instrumental in the handling of this popular fungi. She emphasised how important it was to check the yeast before you put it into your dough which was a great tip! There are three kinds of yeast (Fresh, Quick Rise & Dry Active). Fresh is hard to find unless you buy it in bulk and are a baker. Fresh also dissolves faster and is used at about half the weight (Bakers use mostly weight measurements as opposed to fluid measurements) of the other two types. The other two are basically interchangeable and just vary in rise time. Yeast is best mixed with warm water between 95 and 115 degrees. If the temperature reaches 120 degrees the yeast begins to perish. If it reaches 140 degrees it dies! We learned that salt kills yeast and sugar feeds yeast.
In the second half of the class the work tripled and I discovered how inept I really was. We watched Heidi make the dough for the soft “Dinner Roll Knots”. It was a very tedious process and the dough has to rise three separate times. You need at least about three hours. Heidi prepared each student’s dough ahead, given the lengthy prep time in the interest of time. After receiving our dough each of us were to roll it out and have approximately 7 or 8 rolls. It looked easy.
Heidi demonstrated additional forms the rolls could take including clover leaf, a single knot and a pretzel shape. There was a discussion about the fact that all the rolls do not have to look perfect. One student named Maria stated that her husband always said, when she made imperfect rolls “They don’t have to look perfect. I am not going to dance with them. I am going to eat them”! I thought this was apropos!
You have to roll each dinner roll out by cupping your hand in a “C” and pushing hard in a circular motion. Jan and Katie had no problem, but Jinny and I did not fare as well. I think I did 2 out of 8 successfully. Heidi came to my rescue and helped. (Jinny and I decided that we would stay with Cheese Garlic biscuits we discussed separately, as they take about 25 minutes to make and bake). After rolling the dough into the circular mounds you roll them out into 8″ to 10″ or longer lengths.
After you roll these out you double the roll, twist and tie a knot. Not as easy as it sounds for an new baker, like me! The rolls are then baked at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes and are soft dinner rolls when they are finished.
It was an amazing experience and I recommend you take Heidi’s classes if you are ever in Austin. You will not be disappointed and to top it off you get to sample fresh baked bread. There is nothing better.
I have to tell you that my wife Kim instructed me not to come home with flour paws (hand prints) on my rear. As soon as I walked in the door at home she told me I had flour on my rear. I promise I don’t remember!
For complete instructions and recipes it will benefit you to take the class. Contact info follows: Heidi Swiderski at www.envypastries.com or www.makeitsweet.com and sign up for the classes. It will be well worth your time!
As this is my first attempt at this blog, I would appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism. I can only improve with your evaluations. Thanks and Safe Travels !!!
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