Pane Bianco Bakealong Challenge #1

Recently, King Arthur Flour (KAF) announced their first Bakealong challenge beginning in the month of August. I have never  participated in challenges, contests or such but this one I felt could be fun, at least for a month anyways! Click on the following link if you are interested in participating Even if you don’t want to join the challenge, please make this bread as you will not be disappointed.

This Italian bread is an inside-out stuffed bread filled with  a cheese blend, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil.  The bread is so uniquely shaped making for an impressive presentation. I get a little intimidated with some of the breads I’ve seen, fancy lame cuts and different shapes but not with this bread as it’s so easy to achieve this shape.


By the way it is delicious and we liked it plain or dipped in extra virgin olive oil. If you want a seasoned dipping oil go here:  Two Dipping Oils for Ciabatta or Focaccia

This recipe originally came from Dianna Wara and KAF simplified the recipe a bit but kept its prize winning qualities.

Pane Bianco Bakealong Challenge #1


  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour (or all-purpose and cut the water back to 1/4 cup) divided, save 1/2 cup to mix in when you are kneading the bread
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

There are 3 ways you can mix and knead your bread. Combine the ingredients in the bucket of your bread machine and set it on the dough cycle.  You can also use your stand mixer with the dough hook until you get a smooth, very soft dough. My bread machine is small so I chose to mix it in a bowl and knead it by hand on a board as I prefer to feel the dough with my hands anyways.

I kneaded it for about 3-4 minutes, let it rest briefly, kneaded another 3-4 minutes and then kneaded an additional 2 minutes. The dough is soft and beautiful to work with. Once it is very  smooth place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm area for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size.

I put the bread in my oven with the light on, boiled a pan of water, placed it under the dough and closed the oven door. If you have an 8-cup measure this works perfectly so you can see when it has doubled. Don’t let it rise too much or the bread could lose its shape. My home is air-conditioned and even though it is at a comfortable 75°F I felt the dough could use a little boost.


  • 3/4 cup shredded Italian blend cheese (I used 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup Mozarella and 1/4 cup Asiago)
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried Roma tomatoes, thoroughly drained, dab with a scott towel too, and chopped using your kitchen shears
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, minced (I always go for the higher amount as I love garlic)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped using your kitchen shears

Gently deflate the dough, let rest for 10 minutes or so, roll and pat it into a 22″ x 8-1/2″ rectangle. A silicone rolling mat with marked measurements is a big help here and I just happened to have one!

Spread first with the cheese, then the chopped tomatoes, followed by minced garlic and chopped basil.  They say it’s best to use Roma tomatoes as there are not so many seeds and you get more “meat”. You could make your own sun-dried tomatoes but I did not grow enough to do that. The filling may seem sparse but too much can lead to a misshapen loaf.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way and pinch the seam and edges to seal. Turn  the log seam side down on your working area, in my case my mat. The log is too long to put on the baking sheet now.

Using your kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep (but not all the way through)  to within 1/2″ of the other end.

Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape and carefully place on the prepared baking sheet. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8,” pinch the ends together to seal. I cut through a little bit more and opened it up so more goodies were evident.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.   Here again I put a pan of hot water under the baking sheet holding the dough to aid in rising. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning. Sprinkle with some fresh basil if desired.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju


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I will be linking this yummy bread to Fiesta Friday #133.

Lavender or Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and Lavender Honey Creamsicles

Lavender is by far my most prized herb/flower in my garden as it has everything I could wish for in an herb. The variety I grow is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ – perfect for my zone 5 garden.  There are other varieties and colors, just be sure you get the one that is suited for your growing area.

This cultivar produces the deepest violet-purple calyces, grows about 18-24 inches tall and blooms in early summer. It is drought tolerant and really does not like wet feet. It needs full sun and well-drained soil and does well during our Michigan winters. I cut it back after blooming in July and sometimes I get another bloom in mid to late September. I have four areas where I grow it, two were planned and the third and fourth are  volunteers (see below).

Lavender, why do I love thee? Let me count the ways… First the color, second the smell, third – it attracts my favorite pollinator, bees; fourth – a great herb for savory and especially sweet recipes. See the list of recipes below for the ones I have published so far. It is an ingredient in Herbes de Province and Lavender Tea. It can be used in potpourri and for medicinal uses.  It’s a great landscaping plant as you can see in the pictures – what a pretty border it makes. The flowers are fragrant fresh or dried, it makes a beautiful cut flower and I just happen to love it🙂

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The five stages of lavender; 1) cut back in April and just starting to show some green; 2) lavender in full bloom in late June; 3) flowers have lost their color in late July; 4) cut way back hoping for another bloom before the season is over in mid to late September; 5) you can see the new growth in just a few weeks and we are having a drought!






Some of my lavender/edible flower books on the left. I also have a number of herb books which include lavender in the picture on the right.

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The buds are pictured below:


I treasure my lavender volunteers: the lavender on the left took over Iberis sempervirens or “Candytuft“. You can see what’s left of it around the lavender plant and in the middle of it.  The picture on the right shows a lavender plant growing in my Geranium sanguineum ‘Striatum’ or Striped Bloodred Geranium. When a lavender plant pops up anywhere in my gardens I leave it as it brings some lovely blue/purple color and of course the smell. I did not plant these … Mother Nature at her best!

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My lavender recipes I have published so far:

  1. Lavender-Infused Mom Collins
  2. Chicken with Lavender, Lemon and Thyme – thank you Chef Julianna
  3. Lavender and Rosemary Scented Walnuts
  4. Sparkling Lavender Lemonade
  5. Cantaloupe with Lavender Syrup
  6. Chocolate Lavender Brownies
  7. Oranges and Raspberries with Lavender Honey over Frozen Yogurt
  8. Lavender Lemon Spritzer
  9. Lemonade Scented with Lavender
  10. Lavender Whipped Cream
  11. Edible Flowers

Lavender is also an ingredient in Herbes de Provence which was introduced back in the 1970’s and Earl Grey Lavender Tea. I have had that grinder forever – just for this herb mix. Don’t you love it? I have tea bags and loose leaf and the aroma is so pleasing let alone the taste.

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I wanted to include a new recipe using lavender and decided on a popsicle recipe. I purchased this Onyx mold after seeing it in a Food 52 email and viewing Suzanne’s recipes Check out her site for some more yummy versions.

This recipe is adapted from Broma Bakery.

Lavender Honey Creamsicles

  • 3/4 cup whole milk (if you use skim milk each creamsicle would only be 67 calories)
  • 5 tbsp. mild honey (I did use orange blossom)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. calyx or bud, before the flower opens  (the original recipe called for 2 tbsp. and that gave the creamsicles too strong of a lavender taste)
  • 1-1/2 cups plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • a dot of red and blue food coloring (optional)

Combine the milk, honey and lavender buds in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the milk just begins to scald. You will see small bubbles form. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 2 hours.

Strain the milk mixture through a sieve and press down gently with the back of a spoon to get all of the milk through.  Throw out the flower buds. You can add color with a drop of red and blue food coloring if desired.

Pour into your molds and leave a little headspace for the mixture to expand. Place the tray and popsicle sticks in each creamsicle; it’s best to freeze overnight. To remove place under hot tap water for a few seconds until the creamsicles release from the mold. You can remove the trays but I chose to leave them in to catch any drips.

These are so creamy, delicious and just melt in your mouth.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I’m linking my lavender post and yummy lavender honey creamsicles to Fiesta Friday #132. The co-hosts this week are Angie, Sandhya and Nancy. Come join the fun🙂

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White Lily Southern Style Biscuits

Many Southerners swear by White Lily Flour for making the highest-rising, light and fluffy biscuits. I might add another descriptive word and that is flaky. The biscuits crumble when you cut into them, not exactly the texture I prefer, but still good when you smother them with butter, gravy or even maple syrup.

A few years ago this flour, which is milled from 100% soft winter wheat,  was  finally available to us Northerners. The company has been around since 1883 and that sure says something for its flour. For every cup of all-purpose flour used in a recipe you need to substitute 1 cup and 2 tbsp. of White Lily All-Purpose Flour.

Nancy, a fellow blogger recently posted a biscuit recipe but she used yeast and self-rising flour. Here are two examples of different versions of biscuits using a Southern flour.  Not bad for two Northerners🙂 Please check out her recipe

White Lily Southern Style Biscuits

  • 2 cups soft wheat flour such as White Lily
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
  • 2 tbsp. Crisco, cut into cubes and chilled
  • 1 tbsp. lard, cut into cubes and chilled
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. I like to use a fork but you can use a pastry blender or two knifes and cut the butter, Crisco and lard into the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk and stir only until combined.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead about 10 times. Pat into a 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick circle. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter (or bigger if desired) dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as you can. Combine the scraps, pat into a circle again and make more rounds until the dough is used up. I ended up with 12 biscuits.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or so. It took 17 minutes in my oven. Remove and brush with melted butter if desired.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju  

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Have you ever wondered about all of the different versions of biscuits? First, there is the flour that is used. Many recipes use all-purpose and many use self-rising. I am a King Arthur Flour (KAF) follower and this is the brand of flour I always buy. They make quite a few varieties and some are available at stores and the rest can be bought online at their store. Have you heard of Bisquick? This packaged mix makes great biscuits and are the ones my siblings and I grew up on🙂

This recipe used a different flour, White Lily Flour,  the biscuits seemed a little too flaky.  They rose beautifully and tasted good, just kind of wanted to fall apart when you cut into them. Maybe it was me and I should try to make them again…

Second, there are numerous “wet” ingredients to choose from such as sour cream, buttermilk, milk, whipping cream and even mayonnaise. I wish I could make one of each and do a taste test – then I might know which biscuit I prefer.

I have posted a few different recipes for biscuits and one I love for strawberry shortcake that is a family favorite. The addition of orange zest makes these special🙂

  1. Caramelized Onion Sourdough Biscuits
  2. Breakfast Biscuits
  3. Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
  4. Two Biscuits
  5. Strawberry Shortcakes


Farmhouse Stir-Fried Pork with Peppers (nong jia chao rou)

I love stir-fries, especially spicy ones. Recently I became interested in the cuisine of the Hunan province in China thanks to a niece. She had been in China teaching and commented on how good the food is. She wanted to send me an English version of a cookbook from the region but no luck in finding one. So, I went online and came up with: Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop.


My niece was visiting a few weeks ago along with her mother and we decided to try and make one of the delicious meals they both had the pleasure of eating. One in particular my sister enjoyed while visiting China was this stir-fry with peppers.

So off we went to the Japanese/Korean store and found out they do not carry many “Chinese” products. So, another trip down the road to the Asian market which carried nothing but Chinese. I am finding out there  is a difference between the cuisines of these countries even though I think of them all as “Asian”.

Anyways, with a little help from a young man from Taiwan we were able to find a few items we needed. Have you ever been in a Chinese grocery store? What a trip – rows of sauces, vinegars, oils, chilis, beans and so on. So many of the products are in Chinese, however, I did learn the symbols for “Hunan”.

Do you know the difference between light and dark soy sauce? I never did until reading this cookbook. In Chinese cooking dark soy sauce is aged for a longer period of time and with molasses or caramel and some cornstarch added. It is thicker and darker in color than light soy sauce. It is also less salty and has a more full-bodied flavor. Even though soy sauce has a lot of salt  it has been found that dark soy sauce may contain up to 10 times the anti-oxidants found in red wine. You can substitute tamari (which is very easy to find) in place of the light soy sauce.

Low-sodium is another category and it is made with extra chemicals. I read recently it is better to dilute regular soy sauce if you want less sodium. I frequent an online site called  “Healthy Heart” which has tons of products with low sodium. I buy a few products from them including soy sauce. There are 600 more mg in 1 tbsp. regular soy sauce versus my lower version. That’s an awful lot and we all should be concerned about salt as one day it might catch up with you.

A wok is not essential, but really nice to cook with. I use to have a more traditional wok that I placed on top of my stove but then a few years ago I purchased a Breville electric wok. Instead of my old wok being “seasoned” it became kind of scummy!

This is a beautiful kitchen appliance – a true work horse, very heavy and stable. Something you really want when you’re cooking with oil. It has a very durable non-stick surface, 6 quart capacity and 15 heat settings. However, it does take up a lot of space and so far I have been storing it in my basement. See Kitchen Gadgets – Breville Hot Wok for more information.

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Farmhouse Stir-Fried Pork with Peppers, Adapted

  • 1-1/4 oz. thickly sliced bacon or pork belly
  • 9 oz. Italian frying peppers (mildly hot) or use red and green bell peppers, cut into chunks (actually use any peppers you prefer – kick the recipe up a little with some hot peppers)
  • 7 oz. lean boneless pork (we used petite beef sirloin steaks), cut into thin slices
  • 1 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tsp. black fermented beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. potato flour mixed with 2 tbsp. stock or water (optional for a professional gloss)
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil for cooking

Marinate the pork or beef in the Shaoxing wine or dry sherry and two soy sauces; set aside. Cut the bacon into thin slices/pieces; set aside. Cut the peppers into chunks and place in a bowl.

Add a little oil to the wok and heat to medium; stir-fry the peppers for about 5 minutes until they are slightly tender; remove and set aside.

Reheat the wok then add 2 tbsp. peanut oil and swirl around. Cook the bacon until slightly crisp. Add the garlic slices and rinsed black beans; stir-fry until fragrant. Add the pork or beef and stir-fry until the meat has almost changed color; add the peppers and stir-fry for a minute or two.

Add the potato/water mixture if using and stir briefly.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

Cauliflower in a spicy bean sauce, stir-fried peppers, my sister cooking, the potatoes, cauliflower, stir-fried beef with peppers and rice of course, my sister and niece ready to eat!

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We made a few other recipes but I need to work on those a little more before posting; cauliflower in a spicy black bean sauce and some potatoes soaked in vinegar. Of course everything was served over rice and our dinner was complete. Very flavorful and spicy but a little too salty – my sister has a heavy hand when it comes to salt!

I am linking this recipe from Hunan province in China with Angie, Su and Laura – our co-hosts for Fiesta Friday #131.

Kitchen Gadgets – Breville Hot Wok

I purchased this electric wok after many years using a traditional one that I used on top of a burner on my gas range. The old one was getting kind of scummy – I know people say it was seasoned but it really wasn’t. Different from a cast iron pan!  I love this new gadget for many reasons:

  1. cook’n look lid with tempered glass and an adjustable steam vent
  2. quantanium non-stick surface treated for scratch resistance, durability and easy clean-up
  3. the bowl has a 6 quart capacity and is 14″ in diameter which is ideal for stir-fries steaming and deep frying
  4. the base is very sturdy  and the bowl removes easily for cleaning
  5. 1500w heating element
  6. the temperature control probe has 15 heat settings up to 425°

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This gadget is very well made, sturdy, heavy-duty and stable and can withstand any amount of stir-frying or deep frying. Possibly, the only disadvantage is storage as it is big. No space in my kitchen but I’m sure there’s room in one of my first floor closets🙂

Sourdough Rye Bread in my Mini Zo Bread Machine

Yikes – this rye bread was good. One of the best I’ve made in my Mini Zo. The crust and the bread itself had a good texture and a slice was delicious lathered up with butter. Hmmm – reuben sandwich next! Last week I posted a Sourdough Bread I made in my Mini Zo and I was very happy with the sourdough “tang”. But this version is even better – more flavorful ingredients such as molasses, rye, caraway seeds and even honey.

For those of you who are “fearful” of baking bread, get yourself a bread machine and a good cookbook such as “Bread Machine Baking” by Lora Brody. It has been my bread machine bible for 20 years. I make all kinds of bread and not only in a bread machine; I use slow cookers, artisan pots, baguette bakers, free-hand – you name it. My “About” page says I like to cook/bake everything and have no specialty and that is the truth!

Sourdough Rye Bread in my Mini Zo Bread Machine

Be sure all of the ingredients are room temperature. I fed “Rosebud”, my starter, 5 days before I used her. Be sure you feed your starter at least 3 days before you make this bread.

  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup Sourdough Starter (room temp. at least 2 hours but not more than 24)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1 tbsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. active yeast

Place all ingredients in the order given above. I pressed Basic Bread – Regular and Regular Crust. It took 3 hours and 40 minutes from start to finish.

Once the bread is cooled I like to cut it in half and then slice it.

Once you’ve removed some sourdough starter replace it with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Let sit out overnight and then refrigerate until you are ready to bake bread again.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

All of the different ingredients:


The ingredients are added and ready to bake…


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I’m sharing my summer bread baking recipe with Angie, Su and Laura. Please come join the party at Fiesta Friday #131.

Kitchen Gadgets – Kitchen Scales

I am the proud owner of three different kitchen scales. Okay, why do I need three? The Salter scale is an “antique” and I have had this one a long time. It is so attractive that it sits out on my counter and I use it when I don’t need precise weights.


The Soehnle Scale is easy to store (flat), easy to use and easy to clean. It can weigh up to 33 pounds, is accurate, good for large bowls and has a long shut-off time. It also measures in grams or ounces and accurately within 1 ounce. It is made of glass and plastic. I use this one a lot when weight is important in a recipe such as bread making.


EatSmart Precision Elite Kitchen Scale  is used for obvious reasons. I don’t use this professional scale too much any more as I have a pretty good idea of how much things weigh. After all I am a Lifetime Member of Weight Watcher’s even though I have added some pounds back to that milestone I once reached. It comes with a great EatSmart Calorie Factor Guide and does have a tare feature. It also has a large lighted display with a stainless steel platform.