Bake Like A Cook

relax! It's just baking…

We’re not here to cause no trouble, we just came to make some Superbowl Stuffles™!!

Superbowl Stuffles™!!

Superbowl Stuffles™!!

Are you ready for some football?!?!?!?!?!?  I’m not sure if anyone knows this, but beyond the talk of Ray Lewis, deer antler spray, and brothers coaching against one another…there’s a football game this Sunday!!  In fact, its the LAST football weekend of the season.  There is a whole mix of emotions since it is the biggest game of the year as well as the end of an exciting season.  Sadly, my Redskins were knocked out in the playoffs but props to them for an amazing season and we look forward to RGIII and his bionic leg to hoist the trophy next year……

Now–Superbowl parties are a plenty this weekend regardless of whether you are legitimately rooting for one of the teams, watching the million-dollar-a-second commercials,  or just looking for an excuse to be drunk one last Sunday evening.  Beyond the staples of chips, dips, and beers…why not make these DELICIOUS stuffed football shaped pretzels aptly called  Superbowl Stuffles™.  What does this name mean?  you might ask…Well, for those of you who are not familiar with the ’85 Chicago bears–they made a video you can see here.  I know, I know…its truly one of the more amazing musical works of the era!  The lyrics, the musical score, the high tech video.  Well this supremely tasty snack is named in honor of this supremely genius song.  They really are easy and they don’t even have to be filled if you just want to make awesome football shaped pretzels and serve them with mustard (which I then call Pigskin Pretzels™).  Better yet–you can make the dough tonight, chill it overnight and finish them tomorrow.  Easy.  Delicious.  Go make now!  : )


Superbowl Stuffles™

1 package dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water (about 110 F)

1T sugar

2 3/4 cup (plus extra if needed)  all purpose flour

1 1/2 t salt

4T soft butter

Coarse salt for sprinkling

Fillings of your choice!!  I used bacon and cheddar and these little chicken sausages called Chicken Littles and provolone but use what ever you want!

For the wash: 4% solution Sodium Hydroxide (or 1t baking soda per cup of water) and latex gloves **more on this below**

In a bowl of a standing mixer, combine the yeast and warm water.  Whisk to blend.  Add sugar, then flour, salt and butter.  Using the dough hook attachment, mix dough on medium speed until a smooth, soft dough form, about 4-5 minutes.  Adjust with additional flour if needed.  Dough will be slightly soft and moist, but not sticky.

**Alternately, dough can be mixed by hand.  Bring together in a bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula and then knead on lightly floured surface until smooth

Place dough in a greased bowl and allow to rise until double, about 45 minutes- 1 hour.

**Alternately you may rise the dough overnight in the refrigerator at this point

The Dough!  Waiting to be formed....

The Dough! Waiting to be formed….

Divide the dough into 8 even pieces (for regular sized footballs) or 16 even pieces for mini 2 bite footballs. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray well with nonstick cooking spray (or brush with oil)

One step closer...

One step closer…


Pat dough out into a rectangle–try to leave the center slightly thicker than the edge so when you slash the tops the cheese will not bubble out.  Place filling in center and fold dough over top, sealing the seam on the bottom and tapering the ends to mimic the shape of a football.  Place seam side down on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.



Filling with bacon and cheese

Filling with bacon and cheese



The formed Stuffle™

The formed Stuffle™








Once all the footballs are formed, lightly spray the top of the dough, lay plastic wrap on the surface (no need to wrap tightly) and chill for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.  Its ok if a skin starts to form on the surface of the dough.

After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 F (I have a convection so use 400F if you have a still oven).  If you have access to food grade Sodium Hydroxide, I highly recommend it.  It gives pretzels that beautiful shiny brown crust.  However, please use caution when using it and read the directions carefully. I mix 20g sodium hydroxide with 500g room temperature water.  Mix well until dissolved in a bowl large enough to hold the footballs.  Remove the footballs from the refrigerator.  Have another baking sheet ready lined with parchment paper.  Spray well with nonstick spray.  Using the latex gloves, dip them into the solution for about 20 seconds, turning over to be sure the entire surface is coated.  Remove footballs from solution, letting the excess drip back into the bowl.

ready to dip!

ready to dip!

Place onto prepared pan, evenly spaced apart.  Using a sharp blade, slash the tops of the dough like the football laces and two slashes at either end.  Sprinkle the tops with coarse salt.  Bake the Stuffles™ right away for about 15-18 minutes, turning halfway through baking.

An adequate substitute is baking soda.  If using baking soda, mix 6 cups water with 2T baking soda.  Bring this mixture to a simmer.  Poach the footballs in this solution in batches for about 15-20 seconds.  Follow instructions above just the same for finishing and baking.


Enjoy warm with a cold beer and large TV!!!!

Enjoy warm with a cold beer and large TV!!!!

Tips from A Cook:  

Don’t forget you can make the dough and rise it over night!  You can also form them and let them rest overnight in the refrigerator as well.

Don’t spend a lot on a “lame” or a the tool used to slash bread.  Buy the double sided razor blades at the store and thread them on a coffee stirrer

Looking for a small amount of Sodium Hydroxide?  Look here!  Kalustyan’s is an endless source of ingredients.  I’m sure you can find a lot of other items you never knew you needed!!


Laces Out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laces Out!!!!!



Sometimes you feel like a nut….

Chocolate Covered Honey Roasted Peanuts

Chocolate Covered Honey Roasted Peanuts with Smoked Salt

See the Deliciousness??

See the Deliciousness??

Whenever I am working with melted chocolate, there is always some leftover.  And, for some unknown reason, I hate to have any leftover chocolate!  I want to use every last drop.  Now the proper thing to do would be to pour it out onto a parchment lined tray to allow it to set up and chop it up for the next time I use it.  Personally, if I have just a small amount left, its time to make a snack!!  Usually I find whatever is laying around the house and make clusters of some sort.  Today, as I was making molded chocolates, the whole leftover thing happened again.  Luckily, I had some honey roasted peanuts and smoked sea salt.  SO are you ready for today’s recipe??

1) leftover melted chocolate (I am using a 61% dark chocolate)

2) honey roasted peanuts

3) salt to sprinkle on top.  I used a a smoked sea salt but a flaky salt like Maldon or a nice fleur de sel will do as well

Now, there are MANY other options here.  I have used almonds (smokehouse are delicious!!), Rice Krispies (where can you go wrong there?), cornflakes (again, where is the wrong??), crushed cookies, potato chips, bacon bits and toffee (yea–I said it!)…the list is virtually endless!!  Once you toss the crunch maker of your liking into the chocolate, stir it until coated.  Not enough?  Add more.  But don’t go too crazy!  Unless you want to melt some more chocolate…

Spoon the clusters into small mounds onto a parchment lined/silpat lined sheet pan.  Once the chocolate is starting to just set–finish them with the salt of your choice or whatever you want to sprinkle on top (sesame seeds are delicious too!).  If you sprinkle when the chocolate is still too wet, it can become absorbed into the cluster.  So if you want  to see the finishing salt on top, wait a minute to sprinkle.  They make a terrific gift as well–if you can resist the urge to eat them all!!!

In the name of chocolate and “Peanuts”… Charles Schulz said : “All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”  I love that man….

Chocolate Molds

Chocolate Molds

Happy (Re)new Year!!

IMG_0037January 1st of each year gives birth to a whole slew of good intentions.  Its a great time of year–a time when we decide how we are going to make our lives better.  Perhaps we are committed to reading more, learning a foreign language, and, of course, the ever present “shed a few pounds” resolution.  We buy books, get language programs and join a gym,  but sadly most of us then let our busy lives get in the way of sticking to the promises we make to ourselves.

Now I, too, make these promises every year.  Sometimes I even stick with it!!  (Somebody is already on Day 7 of Insanity workout…I’m just saying…).  But today I want to share something with you that I feel always makes me feel good on the inside.  Now I’m not an overly spiritual person, nor do I believe in pushing my beliefs onto anyone–nothing religious or political here.  But when I find something that I think can really add to someone’s life, I like to share it with as many people as possible.  I have given copies of this to all of my family, many friends and even some of my employees.  This is a piece that came to me in college where my amazing ecomomics professor, Dr. Mike Ellerbrock, read this to the class.  It is an English professor’s reflection on his fruitful teaching career upon his retirement.  Did this have anything to do with supply and demand?  Maybe so– on our own personal level for sure.  But no matter what, it has stuck with me for the (ahem) few years I have been out of school, and I continue to share it today.  I encourage you to share it too.  Today we take a rest from baking, and resolve in this new year to also take care of what’s on the inside.  Cookies are good for the inside too, by the way.


Edwin L. Peterson

Professor Edwin L. Peterson, one of the best known and most celebrated teachers of creative writing in the country, has retired after forty fruitful and rewarding years of service on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh.

The editors of Pitt, quarterly alumni publication of the University, felt that this event should not go unremarked in the pages of their journal. For here was a man who has created his own best testimonies through both the writers and writing he has turned out.

So, instead of doing the usual thing-a recounting of his many accomplishments and contributions-the editors of Pitt asked Peterson to “roll a blank sheet of paper in his typewriter and put down whatever random thoughts came to him, reflecting on almost a half century of helping young men and women express their thoughts.”

The result is a series of notions that contain something of the essence of a great teacher. Since a large segment of our readers includes both teachers and students at the university level, the staff of Review is privileged to share some of Professor Peterson’s “notions.” We suspect that even bench scientists—far removed from the classroom—may well glean something to help them “see Orion.”

Notion No. 1

Often I am shocked to realize that many of my students never see the heavens. They live in cities or in heavily populated suburbs, and the streetlights blind them to the stars. Mention Orion to most students, and they look at you in bewilderment. They have read about the Great Dipper, some of them, but they have never lain on the top of a hill and watched the constellation move about the North Star. Strange world that wants to put a man on the moon but that cannot look at the stars!

Notion No. 2

Even after 40 years I am still puzzled by the advice given to entering freshmen who have good high school records in writing. At almost every university the advice is the same: “According to your grades, Mr. Freshman, you must write very well. You don’t need any more work in composition. We’ll put you in a literature class instead.” But if the student has a good record in physics, the advisor says: “According to your grades, Mr. Freshman, you’re very talented in physics. You should go further in this field. You should probably major in it.” So the advice would go if the student were talented in chemistry or French or mathematics. But in English composition, the advice is, “You’re good at writing, so quit it.” I wonder why. I have been wondering why a long time.

All high school students could write better, even the best. All college English teachers could write better, including this one. Some college English teachers, I must admit, write very poorly indeed. Perhaps they, too, got the wrong advice when they were freshmen. It is even possible that some of them should be taking English 1 and 2 for the first time instead of teaching it.

Gladys Schmitt, one of our great American novelists, took English 1 and 2 and would be the first to say that the courses had value. A few years ago, Peter Beagle took English 1 and 2 and did not complain and yet he was good enough to write almost all of his fine first novels before he finished at Pitt. Why, when students are good at writing, are they told to take no more writing?

Notion No. 3

In measuring the student as a whole, grades seem less important than educators say they are. I am always a little suspicious of the straight A student. I am also a little suspicious of the straight A student in English or fine arts who cannot catch a baseball and who is contemptuous of the boy whohas muscle and courage enough to be on the wrestling team. A Phi Beta Kappa who says, “Who’s he?” when someone mentions Roberto Clemente is not, I suspect, a whole man. Grades do not measure integrity, endurance, manual dexterity, graciousness, truthfulness, or a profound attitude towards man’s duty in a confusing world. Some C students have these human and honorable virtues in greater abundance than the honor student. And some honor students admit that they got that way by frequent glances at a neighboring student’s paper.

There is much to be said for the C student. In many instances he is vastly underrated as a human being. And the B student is often a better bet to give something important to humanity than the A student. At Harvard, F.D.R. was not a Phi Beta Kappa, and Ernest Hemingway never was graduated from college. For that matter, neither was Tennyson nor Rosetti nor Browning nor Swinburne-though college students study their writing. It was Oscar Wilde who was graduated with honors.

Notion No. 4

Why do college literature teachers so seldom write literature? The good chemistry professor, I am told, tries creatively to add something to chemistry, the physics teacher to physics. Could it be that the science teacher tries harder to be creative than the English teacher? I hope not, but after 40 years I find that strange thoughts tumble around in my mind. That could also be a sign of senility. I’ll drop the subject.

Notion No. 5

Every college in America should have a course called Quietness 1 and Quietness 2. It would meet for one hour on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. The classroom would be a tiny cubicle, large enough for only one student, and either dimly lighted or completely dark. The student would not be permitted to take books or paper or pencil with him. For the full period he would sit there and do a little thinking. There would be nothing to distract him. He would be alone with himself and the things he had learned and might come to realize the relation of each to the other. It would not be so good a class as the one Issak Walton described when he wrote, “We sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in quietness,” but if the student came even close to possessing himself in quietness, the class could be the most important one offered by the university. Come to think of it, Quietness 1 and 2 should be an eight semester course.

Notion No. 6

I should not want a son or daughter of mine to rush through 4 years of college study in 3 years. Part of education, a vital part, involves reflection. A student must have time to think things over. It is easy to read Faulkner’s, “I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.” One can do that in a second. But mere reading is not enough. The serious student wants time to think about Faulkner’s statement, to weigh it, to evaluate it, to turn it over and over again in his mind until, if he accepts the statement as sound, it will become part of his life and character. To do so many take hours of reflection and aloneness. It may take weeks. It may take a whole summer of deep, if intermittent, contemplation. If the student, instead, merely rushes from one class to another and from one school session to another, he is not likely to be affected by Faulkner’s idea. It is easy to read, “I am a part of all that I have met.” It is less easy to absorb the idea and to become part of it. Anyone can understand the superficial meaning of “And never lifted up a single stone,” or “Cover her face, mine eyes dazzle, she died young,” or “Sings hymns at heaven’s gate.” But to enter into their fullness and richness may take many solitary hours on a hilltop or many lonely walks on empty streets. College years are years for absorbing more than facts. They are the years for growing into wisdom, years when at least a few months every summer are spent not in study as such but in becoming part of all that they have met in college and out of college.

Notion No. 7

Once in a long while I have helped a student. Maybe I have taught him to write a better sentence or to recognize the difference between effect and affect or to look with greater accuracy at the ginkgo trees on the campus or to realize that his mother and father have problems just as he has or to refrain from making generalizations unless he can support them with evidence. Sometimes the student says thank you at the end of the semester or a couple of years later in a letter or a Christmas card. Once in a while he brings his girl to the office to show her off with pride. On rare occasions he visits his teacher long after graduation-as Bill and Helen and Mary do even now. These are big rewards. They help to make life worth living. They help to restore whatever faith the teacher may have lost in people. Teaching is a good job.

Notion No. 8

In my day as a student we “took” teachers, not courses. Today, I think, the student takes courses regardless of the teacher. The student may be right in doing so. Perhaps the content of the course is more important than the teacher’s attitude towards it and towards other things. And yet I wonder. It seems to me that I remember very little information that my courses gave me. Today I should find it difficult to translate a Latin paragraph, a Greek poem or even, I fear, a passage from Beowulf. I could not prove a geometrical theorem, nor could I quote accurately the second law of thermo-dynamics. Yet I remember clearly my extra curricular teacher of Greek, the world weariness of my Old English teacher, the geometry teacher who stared out of the window one morning and said, “Geometry is so right it’s a little like God,” and the chastening fear that entered my mind when my physics teacher explained the philosophical implications of the second law of thermo-dynamics, implications that altered many of my traditional religious concepts. Few teachers would have dared to interpret the fact or theorem as he did, and I am eternally grateful to him for doing so. Most of my courses and their content I have almost forgotten, but the few great personalities I knew as teachers I shall know always. I have a feeling that today students, especially undergraduates, take courses rather than teachers. I hope I am wrong.

Notion No. 9

The information presented in a course has little value unless it is so taught that it stirs up something in the student himself. “Music,” said Walt Whitman, “is that which arises in me when I am reminded by the instruments.” Great education and great teachers furnish many reminders.

Notion No. 10

In an institution as large as the university there are many complainers. There should be. I have done my own share of complaining, as department heads, deans, vice-chancellors, and even chancellors could attest. Usually the university has listened courteously and has done nothing about my profound recommendations. Probably the inaction was sensible. Certainly it inched me a little towards a much needed humility. Just the same, the university has been good to me. It has been friendly and kind. It has given me freedom. It has permitted me to earn a reasonably good living. It has helped me, more important, to lead a satisfying life. I only hope that somewhere along the line I have helped some of its students to find a few of the things that make life worth living, the good things that made Faulkner believe that man will not merely endure but will prevail.

Reprinted from AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Vol. 5 No. 4, Fourth Quarter 1967. Published quarterly by Cooperative State Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Tool Time

If you have ever been in a bakery or professional kitchen, you may find a a few extra tools of the trade. But let me tell you that you don’t need much to make a great loaf of artisan bread or a fresh batch of cookies.  But here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite things:

The Kitchen Aid Mixer: the Grand Poobah of the kitchen.  It mixes, kneads, beats and whips.  With a rap sheet like that it sounds like it should be locked away forever!  But it can do all plus you can buy a sundry of attachments for it to make fresh pasta, grind meats, etc.  One thing I may recommend is having an extra bowl. It makes it easy to make multiple recipes in a row

The Scale: ok here’s the deal-go to any professional kitchen and you will likely only find a good scale to weigh all the dry (and sometimes wet) ingredients. There are very good scales out there that don’t cost a lot of money. The benefit of the scale is that you can then know you are adding the right amount of ingredients and you will have great success with consistent results.  It’s good to have one that can measure in both grams and ounces.   A personal favorite is an Escali brand scale, available at Sur la Table for about $30.  It’s small, plastic, can weigh ingredients up to 11 pounds and has been a trooper despite the numerous times I have dropped it!

Bowl Scraper: truly one of my favorite tools in the kitchen.  I can’t really be without one.  These are plastic handleless spatulas essentially that have so many uses.  They can obviously scrape bowls, portion dough for shaping (as in “Nice Buns“), clean off the counter, scooping, hand mixing, smoothing the sides of cakes, and yes, even for spackling  and scraping gum off your shoe.  Trust me. I have done all of the above.  Best tool ever.  Period.

Bench Scraper: the close cousin of the bowl scraper, but made of metal. This durable tool can do a lot of tasks as well. It is especially good for portioning dough, cutting dough, scraping the counter and smoothing cakes.  I know it sounds a lot like the bowl scraper, but it is more rigid

Measuring Spoons:  great for those times when you should be sure to not put too much baking soda or baking power in the cake batter

Measuring Cups:  if you are not using a scale, then these are the next best thing.  Although truth be told–if you are making a large recipe the last thing you want to do is scoop out 10 cups of anything!! They typically come in sets. A standard set is plenty but if you have the room, they are available in odd sizes cups as well (2/3, 3/4, etc). Unnecessary, but nice to have

Ring cutters:  it’s always a good idea to have a good set of nesting or concentric circle cutters.  Sets can range from few to many and the price follows from low to high.  A huge set is not necessary since anyone who works in a kitchen will tell you–there are a few that you will favor for all your projects…and those will inevitably be the ones that go missing.  Keep a close eye out for your set and return them to their home right after you use them

The offset spatula:  they come in a variety of sizes but one large and one small can cover a variety of jobs and great for frosting cakes

Pastry brush: great for brushing on melted butter, dusting flour off doughs and brushing on egg wash.  Truth be told, my favorite brushes are the ones I buy at the art stores.  They are cheaper, softer and last longer!!

Ice cream scoops: EXCELLENT for portioning out cookies, muffins or anything you need to be portioned out evenly.

Rolling pins:  great for rolling out cut out cookie doughs, pie/tart doughs or laminated doughs. There are many sizes and shapes but a straight pin (sometimes called a French pin) is good for most jobs.

The Microplane Zester:  Once a woodworking tool, now one of the the most popular tools in the kitchen for both savory and sweet applications.  Use it to zest citrus, finely grate chocolate and even cheese.  And fyi–the hardware store is a great place to shop for tools and gadgets that can multitask in the kitchen.

So these things are not an absolute must but they make my life a bit easier, especially the bowl scraper!  I must admit, there are a lot of tools and gadgets out there. Don’t be seduced!!  It’s easy to get carried away.  But it is also easy to make it happen with something else (for example, use a wine bottle for a rolling pin).  Make sure the tools you buy are ones you will really use.  And if it can spackle holes in your walls….bonus!!

Happy baking!!!!…see inspiration below!!  : )


Happiness is….

…laying in 100 pounds of chocolate chip cookie dough!!!


Delicious AND Nutritious!!

Where in the World Have I Been??


From September thru February, my sundays, monday nights and an occasional Thursday night have become somewhat ritualistic. Of course I am talking about Football–I dare to say its America’s favorite non-official past time.  In fact, I feel a sort of depression come over me in February after the Superbowl (even though my team will not […]

Apple Crate

I know, I know.  Bad joke.  But I just couldn’t resist!  For those of you not laughing, the number referred to in the title is “Pi”–a constant for finding the area and circumference of a circle.  But enough of that!  Back to baking! As we enter into the holiday season, it seems to bring out […]

Cookies May I have your attention, please?!  Ladies and Gentlemen.  It has been years in the making, and the day has now come (almost).  I know you have been waiting a long time for this (trust me, I’ve been waiting longer!!!!!).  And now without further delay–well, maybe a week or two still!!– it is my […]