Pagnotta Country Bread

Yield: 4 – 6″ rounds or 2 – 12″ rounds

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water 105 degrees

7 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt

2 3/4 cups  cool water
1-2 tablespoons of Olive Oil, good green tasty kind.

3/4 cup biga; see recipe below

Mix yeast with warm water and let sit till creamy, about 15 minutes.
Measure flour into bowl, stir in salt, then add yeast mix, cool water, and biga. 

Mix until thoroughly combined like below, it will be wet and sticky.

Now the kneading begins. This will take 15 to 20 minutes, with 1 minute breaks every 5 minutes. On a well floured sturdy surface, start to knead the ball of dough. Pushing the heal of your hand in the center of the dough and turning it into itself. Keep your hands floured and add more flour to prevent sticking to the kneading surface. You’re looking for stretchy, smooth non sticky dough when finished. These pictures show the process and how the dough should appear and feel.

Shape into a ball, place in bowl with olive oil and cover with a towel, and let rise till doubled, about
1 1/2 hours. 

Punch down, fold edges into the middle to make a ball again, cover then let rise again till doubled (about an hour).
Divide the dough into 2 or 4, tucking it under into the middle form each into a round or oval shape, place on well floured cutting board.

 Preheat the oven to 425, with baking stones inside if you have them. These are uncoated quarry tiles we got at a tile store for about $1 each. Way cheaper than the fancy bread stones at Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table. This way you can buy what you need to fit your oven, to create a big flat baking surface for lots of  bread.

Let dough rise 45 minutes or so, till the dough springs back slowly when indented with a finger. Mist the oven with a spray bottle containing water. Cornmeal the peel. Put the bread in, flipping the loaf over onto the peel. Then mist again. 

After 5 minutes mist one more time, and reduce the oven to 400 degrees. Bake another 30 minutes or so, till done. The bottom should have good hollow sound to it and a dark crust. Let cool a bit, then go at it !! There is pretty much nothing better than warm bread right out of the oven. Here’s a goofy picture of me and my bread, it was yummy.

It’s not hard to make bread, it is time consuming with all the rising. This bread freezes well and you can shape it however you like, rolls, baguettes or rounds.

This recipe came from the Il Fornaio Baking Book, it’s a great bread book, get it if you want go further with bread. The Olive Bread is delish !


  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water 105 degrees
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water

  • Directions

Place the warm water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let stand until yeast has dissolved and is foamy, about 15 minutes. Measureflour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in the yeast mixture and cold water. Use a sturdy spoon to mix it together until sticky and difficult to stir, but nevertheless thoroughly combined. Cover and allow to ferment for 24 hours in the refrigerator before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To use, rinse a measuring cup in cool water, scoop out the amount of starter needed, and bring to room temperature.

I will mix the Biga and let it ferment for a week, then I portion it out and freeze it.

Zinfandel Braised Pot Roast


So while we were camping in Mexico my friend Jenny was watching our Lily and our home, she’s rocks like that.
When we arrived home after the desert off road, high wind, earthquake journey, we found in our fridge a tupperware filled with Zinfandel Braised Pot Roast. It was amazing, delicious, yummy and so welcoming. I asked Jenny to guest blog the recipe so you all could enjoy the nectar that is her Zinfandel Pot Roast. Take the time to cook it and love it, you will not regret it. Thanks to Jenny for sharing

Zinfandel Braised Pot Roast

The world of braising is new to me…as I just started reading “All About Braising” by Molly Stevens. While Sarah and James went camping in Mexico and I watched out for Miss Lily and chilled at their sweet home. Braising my first recipe also marked me making my first pot roast. I also made sure we had a few bites for them to try–the night they came home from the dust and wind of Guadalupe Canyon, MX. 

And here is the second round of braised pot roast. You will need a large dutch oven for this size roast, we used a 7-quart.
Pot Roast Ingredients:
1-5 1/2 to 6 pound boneless beef chuck roast
(preferably top blade roast)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. chopped bacon or 3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coursely chopped
2-3 medium carrots, coursely chopped
2 celery stalks, coursely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 cups Zinfandel wine
1 cup beef, veal, or chicken stock
3-sage sprigs, large 3-4 inches
2-3 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, 6-8 inches 
8-10 black peppercorns
Parchment paper
Glazed Carrots Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3-pound medium carrots
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Start by tempering the pot roast meat-let it sit out of the frig for an hour or so.
Tie meat using kitchen string then season with salt and pepper.
Miss Sarah just tied that roast up so fast–the technique still escapes me 
but the author Molly says there is a method, I just haven’t quite figured it out.
The goal is to prevent the roast from falling apart while it is cooking–as it braises for 3 hours.
I recommend 3-4 ties around the widest part of the meat and 2 ties wrapped around the length of the brisket.
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Cook bacon in dutch oven-then remove from pot, set aside.
Brown meat in bacon grease over medium heat, making sure all sides are browned.
Meanwhile-chop celery, carrot, and yellow onion for the aromatics. Peel and smash the garlic–
(Sarah and I always use more garlic than the recipe says–we like it! Above amount is doubled already ;*)
Remove the brisket and set aside on a large plate that will collect any juices the meat releases.
If there are any charred bits of meat remove them with a damp paper towel.
The crusty good nuggets of drippings are the beginning of a delicious braising liquid, so leave those be.

Now it is time to create the braising liquid. 
Turn the heat up a bit to medium-high. Add garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to the pot and season lightly with salt and pepper. 
Let the vegetables cook until lightly browned and add the wine.
With a wooden spoon scrape the goodies of carmelized beef off the bottom of the pot. Bring this liquid to a boil then let it reduce by half, about 6 minutes.
Add beef stock, return to a boil and let it reduce about one third-approx. 5 minutes more.
Let the braising begin— 
Return the meat to the pot with the bacon, sage, parsley, and peppercorns. 
Cover with a piece of parchment paper, pressing down so that is almost touches the meat. The edges of the paper should hang over the edge about an inch. 
Set the lid in place.
Transfer the pot to the lower third of the oven-let braise for 10-15 minutes–check the braise liquid at this point.
Make sure the liquid isn’t simmering too vigorously. If it is lower the oven heat by 10-15 degrees.
Halfway through the braise turn the pot roast.
Now you have plenty of time on your hands; pop in a good movie and pour a glass of that lovely zinfandel you are braising with. We like to play this dice game called 10,000–
Prep your carrots while the pot roast cooks. I like the idea of nice long pieces but you can cut coins or chop pieces too. Chop the sage and parsley at this time.
At the 3 hour mark, check the pot roast for tenderness. It should literally be falling apart. Remove the roast and set aside on a platter, cover loosely.
Strain the cooking liquid–pressing down to extract as much juices as possible. 
Discard the aromatics and pour into a medium saucepan.
Once the liquid settles, skim off any fat that pools. 
Measure out a half cup for the carrots and set aside.
Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add carrots when the pan is nice and hot.
Season with salt and pepper–shaking and stirring to brown the carrots. 
Once carrots start to brown a bit, add the braising liquid. Cover partially and reduce heat to medium. 
Cook for 6-8 minutes. Uncover–bring it back to a boil. Add vinegar, sage, sugar, and parsley. 
Cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Taste for salt and pepper.
Heat the braising liquid over a medium-high heat. Boil for 1-2 minutes to concentrate the flavor. 
Taste and if needed add a dash of salt and pepper. This is a luscious sauce–it has been simmering for 3 hours. The concentration of flavors is intense and layers of love have formed.
Cut the strings off the pot roast and cut in slices. Serve on a large platter. Carrots are our side dish. This time we paired it w/ Sarah’s yummy Butter-Parsley Tators–but you could serve mashed tators or tators au gratin.

So ya’ll–This was a pretty neat experience…I have so much respect for Sarah for doing this blogging thang way more than I–she rocks the food party for sure and we love that..thanks for checking out the blog–try braising it is complex with steps but so rewarding.

Camp Food

Every year we go camping at Guadalupe Canyon in Mexico. An oasis in the desert with natural hot springs. This year the desert was full of wild flowers and it was beautiful to see.

Food is a big part of our trip, the menu planning starts weeks prior to our departure. This years menu was a winner, 1st night -James and I did Baby Back Ribs, Corn on the Cob, Salad w/ Hippie Ranch Dressing and Corn Muffins.  The kids love the Ribs as you can see.

2nd night – Luis and Aida out did themselves with their annual Carne Asada feast. Luis made a new grill that worked great. Aida did her share as well prepping all the fixin’s while Luis grilled away.

They made these cheese filled Anaheim chiles, that were totally amazing. Luis grilled the chiles first. See the foil on the grill ? That is filled with Tomatoes and Jalapenos, he made a salsa with these, I’ll get to that in a minute.

He then cleared them of their seeds added cheese and put them back on the grill.

They were soft and gooey filled with Oaxaca Cheese. I want more just looking at these pics.
Now for the salsa, this picture is awesome, Luis smashing and stirring the grilled tomatoes and peppers with a rock.

Here’s a shot of the meat grilling, all I can say is YUM. He made quesadillas for the kids right on the grill.

This is Chef Luis, many many thanks for the amazing food, you ROCK ! I bow down.

The Johnson’s spoiled us with a breakfast fit for hikers, Bacon, Eggs and Pancakes and later in the day Blackberry Margaritas, super yummy and they went down real nice.

Joe Joe the baker got his bake on and brought us Crumb Cake Muffins, perfect with coffee in the morning. He also went big on the brownies, Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies and regular Ooey Gooey Chocolate Brownies and he made Gingerbread that we served with fresh whip cream.
We are totally rad foodies when we’re camping, it’s the Best Ever crew every time. Thanks for a great trip !!

Tea Cookies

Cookies Cookie Cookies !!

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies…….yummy.

Super easy and so good with coffee or tea.
I got this recipe from Claire Robinson, the 5 ingredient babe on the Food Network. Tasty little morsels of yum.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves, or the tea of your choice.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature


In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. 

Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. 

Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. 

Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 

2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.