Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bend It Like Bacon

No, we weren't beamed up to the Mother Ship. Partner in Grime had a birthday, turning the big Three Two, and we decided to stay close to home.
But what for a special Birthday breakfast?  Bacon.  It's timeless.

Bacon Breakfast Burritos.  I started with some fried bacon.  Then a couple of those formed and frozen cheap hash brown patties (bachelor food found in the freezer) were fried until golden and crisp in the bacon fat (this is SO not "part of this nutritious breakfast!")
That was topped with scrambled eggs  to which was added a pinch of chili powder, the bacon and a little sprinkle of white cheese.
Then, the secret ingredient.  Jalapeno corn salsa.

A couple of cups of frozen corn, thawed
A handful of Cilantro, chopped
2 small jalapeno's chopped (I left some of the seeds in to make it hot)
1/3 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
a few dashes of salt
juice of a couple limes (approx. 2-3 teaspoons)

Let sit for a bit to let the flavors blend and served with slotted spoon.
This  was really easy and will be good on the garlic roasted pork tenderloin I cooked and put in the fridge for him as I drive back to Indy  in a couple of hours to go on duty tonight.
Serve as is in a rolled up warm flour tortilla or, if you're like me, add some sour cream and crushed red pepper before bundling it up.

It's brunch, so that sort of counts as lunch which means we also get dessert.
Key Lime Cream  Cheese Pie (Recipe in the comments) No, it's NOT traditional key lime pie and is not trying to be.  But if you like citrus and cheesecake, this is a super easy dessert made with things many of you will have on hand and requires no baking. 
It was a HUGE hit. I would be willing to bet it will be gone by Monday night.
Fueled up,  it was time for some more weekend fun.

No, we didn't eat too much.  Why do you ask?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Fashion- Shooty Style

Hey - there's no room for my "spring collection". 
 I think we need a bigger gun safe.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese

Sweet dreams are made of cheese,
who am I to diss a Brie
I cheddar the world and the feta cheese
everybody's looking for Stilton
 - unknown

Six Cheese Sausage Pie.  I know quiche isn't exactly gourmet (and some would say boring) but it was a big hit at home, Partner wanting to polish it off as leftovers the next two nights rather than my freezing what was left for my lunch the next couple of days.)

Start with your favorite pie crust, enough to fill a deep dish pie plate.

Chop up one onion and saute in a little olive oil until caramelized, remove and set aside.

Fry up about half a pound of sausage to which you've  mixed 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage, drain.

In large bowl mix:
2 cups shredded four cheese Italian blend (the popular bagged kind works)
1 carton (15 ounces) Ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
4 beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons milk or cream
4 cups lightly cooked and chopped broccoli (or your favorite chopped veggies)
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch or two of sea salt  (I don't use much salt at all, you can add more)

Add the sausage mixture.

Spoon mixture into prepared unbaked pie crust and bake at 350 degrees F foe 50-55 minutes (center should be set)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blast From the Past - Bersa 380

It's a weapon that's been out for a while, and there it was again, for sale at the gun store, at a price I was really surprised at. I picked it up, liked how it felt in my hand and REALLY liked the price. Certainly there are a lot of small weapons for sale and cheap, but not all are made with good craftsmanship and quality materials. Holding them up, they may look good, but the metals may be poor, zinc or some sort of mystery metal that may be too heavy or too soft, certainly not guns I'd stack up against someone attempting to attack me on a isolated street. I was looking for something for concealed that wasn't just cheap and light, but was made well. Not for a trip to downtown at night, but something small and light that I could carry running errands or in environmental conditions that result in less bulky clothing or as a back up gun.
When I first spotted one, store owner was quick to point out that this .380 is similar to the Walther PPK/S, including a seven round magazine with a plastic floor plate extension. But I'd just bought a Mark III days prior and passed on the purchase. But after that first fondle, I had a little crush on the Bersa 380. Sure I love my .38 Special, my 1911 and my Sigs, but this one drew me and I added it to my Christmas wish list. Last year my big brother got me a huge stocking completely full of ammo and dark chocolate, so you never know.

I did a little homework. On-line reviewers tend to rate them as reliable, well-built, and strong enough for the average "social situation". There are people that want a gun, but aren't into owning more than one or two, or paying a lot of money. The Bersa might be one of several good gun options in that case. The others, I'm sure my readers can suggest as well.
So I was delighted when my best friend came through and bought me a new one for Christmas, giving it to me early so I could enjoy while my favorite outdoor range is still open. Oh boy! Gun gifts! Out of the box I could see quality. The finish was very well done, in a matte blue with accents of satin nickle. The finish on the steel slide didn't vary from the tones and finish of the matte black alloy frame and the black composite grips. I could add fancier grips to them, but they really didn't need it.

The barrel length is 3 and a half inches, and it weighed in at 20 ounces (much lighter than the oft compared 9x18 Makarov). It's only 1.34 inches wide, which was a draw for me. With the right holster, this fits so snug into my body that I can wear something other than the giant arctic weight Carhart (which they only seem to make in overly large "abominable snowman" sizes) I wore to the outdoor range.

These are the things one must consider if buying a gun strictly for the purpose of CCW - weight, bulkiness, recoil, grip, hand fit and always the caliber. Small and light you WILL have less stopping power, but it is easier to conceal. Better small and light than a choice of NO concealed protection because of what you are wearing or the temperature. A .380 in the pocket is better than a .45 in your nightstand when you are facing someone with a knife as you get into your car in an isolated parking lot.

It also has some quite a few features for the price - manual safety and decocker lever, an internal locking system (not my choice feature but some people need one), a Rowel type hammer, seven shot magazine with extended finger rest, and white-dot windage-adjustable sights. This Bersa has a hammer drop thumb safety that blocks the firing pin and also a magazine safety to prevent accidental firing with the magazine removed from the gun (if you are someone that looks for that). My Thunder 380 also featured an extended slide release and a thumb operated magazine release button, that even with my fairly large size hand (for a girl) was easy to use without awkward reach.

The trigger was really nice, with a hooked and grooved trigger guard, for those who prefer to place a finger in that position. The DA pull is long, but relatively smooth and light. All in all, a very smooth double action trigger as nice as I've seen on guns costing three times as much. The single-action pull would not match that of a finely tuned 1911, but it broke clean and better than I expected. Slide to frame fit was very good. The thumb safety (as seen in the second photo) was easy to use, and works as a dropping lever as well. Down is safe and up being fire (with a small red dot that's exposed when the gun is "hot" as an additional visual clue, albeit a small one). This safety type is just like the Walter PP-series and some other guns like the Beretta 92.

Now of course, there will be people stating that the .380 ACP is just too underpowered. Certainly the .380 isn't my first choice for conceal, but it's a decent choice in some situations. Certainly Fall and Winter, where I can wear a vest or bulky sweater, my .45's are easier to hide. There are times when I'm not traveling somewhere where I need a need a .45 (running out to my shop for something) and there are times with temperature, clothing and environment, the .45 just isn't practical.

The Bersa is easy to conceal with it's relative flat profile. I also like the fact that I can carry it in my Galco holster, snug to my body, hammer down, and one in the chamber, ready to use. The thumb safety/hammer drop left or right handed safety gives that little extra measure of protection if you need or want it. Wearing this close and tight to my body, I'm really not comfy with a single action hammerless pistol with one in the chamber and if I need it, I do NOT want to have to jack the slide to be safe.

Inexpensive, light and good quality. Bersa has got that covered. But we need to talk about what is REALLY important. Reliability -

Simply put, I don't care how pretty it is, or how well it fits under my black silk shirt, I want a gun that goes "BANG" when I tell it to, and will cycle properly for the next shot. As they say, in a gun fight there IS no second place. This is the area where, compared to my little snubby, I had some concerns. Auto pistols are much more finicky, especially small ones like the .380s. The problems are not private -feed ramps that resist some bullets sliding up them into the chamber; extraction and ejection issues, (i.e. the "stovepipe” jam), and underpowered or "dud" rounds that fail to cycle the action. 

It may not be a big deal if a small auto balks occasionally when the target is tin cans or some harmless clown. When it’s an armed criminal, OBT (Occasional Bullet Disfunction) can’t be tolerated. Both the small .38 and the .380 are normally selected for close-range defense in the gravest extreme. These guns aren't usually purchased for sporting but for self defense.
So how did it do? Outdoor range. It was cold, I could see my breath after each shot, and yes my hands were cold. I had gloves but decided to shoot without to see how I did. One shouldn't always practice when it's warm, dry and sunny out. Usually on those days, the bad guys are sunning themselves on their rocks anyway. No, you will likely use your weapon when the lighting is poor, and it's nasty and cold. So an occasional shoot, if you're not fighting a cold or sinus thing, on a cold snowy day is ideal.
My first magazine, I shot off quick and from low ready. Succession was fast - bang bang bang bang bang bang bang (and I could have added one more bang had I put one round in the chamber to add to the 7 in the magazine, but I didn't). I like a pistol where I can see the sights quickly with speed. This is a gun that may mis-fire if you "limp wrist" it so a firm grip is important.
First shots, out of the box at 20 yards. Any of those shots should have stopped him, certainly, and for a first shoot I was pleased. For a three and half inch barrel, the accuracy in the "hot zone", at a 20-30 foot distance, was great and was quite controllable with quick firing.

Felt recoil is subjective. I thought this more a "mid size" than a tiny pocket pistol and the recoil was minimal to the point I didn't even notice; in part
due to the textured surface and shape of the grip panels as well as grooved forward and aft surfaces of the frame. The recoil of the slide causes a push back thrust to the hand, which results in almost no muzzle jump. It was also more comfortable than the Walter PP .380 as it didn't try and bite me with both the hammer and slide.
I got my first mis-feed at 15o rounds. I was trying various bullets. First, some Winchester, then some Silvertips, which it ate up like biscuits and gravy. The feed angle is almost straight in, which enables the weapon to feed the best hollow point you want to get for it.   However it did NOT like the truncated cone bullets (hand loads, Hornady XTP bullets). It did not feed them well, and I had a mis-feed on about 4 of the 40 I fired. NOT acceptable for a concealed piece, but again, I don't normally  do NOT use handloads for anything other than practice.  But I believe that was a handload ammo issue, NOT a gun or bullet brand issue, as all other ammo feed and ejected smoothly and I fired almost 200 rounds of several varieties. So I'll make sure there's some good Silvertips on hand when I carry, or some Cor-Bon 90 grain jacked hollow point.      This is a caliber that if carrying for anything other than plinking, you need to choose your ammunition VERY wisely.

All in all, I think I'd fire another 150 rounds of good ammo through it before I'd give it a complete thumbs up for small auto reliability, but it was very good overall, feeding, firing and ejecting anything other than the those truncated rounds. Any gun can fail on rare occasions. A grain of unburned powder stuck under the extractor star can prevent fully closing the cylinder, and a cartridge case can get stuck under the extended extractor. Things happen, but I want the odds definitely stacked in my favor and won't carry something CCW that hasn't had about 300 rounds through it and been cleaned and lubed a few times. This was cleaned and lubed before first fire, but I found it was going a bit dry at the end and made sure it got a good servicing when I was done. As they say, "how much lube do guns need?". . . and the answer is "more".

Cleaning it was a snap. Just to remind you, unlike my carry Sig which is a locked breach, the Bersa is a "blow back" operated pistol. These typically get dirtier on firing because the action often opens before pressure is completely dropped in the barrel.
There is no other mechanical locking system as on more powerful weapons such as the 9mm, .38 Super, or .45 ACP. This makes it possible to produce and sell 380-caliber pistols a bit cheaper than for an equivalent quality 9mm. However it also means some unspent powder and fouling can accumulate in the action. So cleaning it after each shoot is vital.

Good thing it's so easy to do. The take down lever is located and easy to get to on the lower front of the frame. It's spring-loaded and must be held down while retracting the slide in order to move it for cleaning. I found that if I used my right index finger on the lever and my left hand to work the slide back and up to release it took no real physical strength to get it apart. After cleaning, I checked the frame and slide for undue wear or scratches. The slide-to-frame fit remained very good and no undue wear was noted, still smooth and tight, just a couple small spots where in the future I might give a tiny "fluff and buff" with some very
(800 grit) sandpaper and just gingerly smooth those spots out. I DO NOT recommend you do this without experience however and most guns will not need it.

To sum up -this would not be my first choice for concealed.  Ff I could only buy one and money wasn't an object, the Sig Sauer 232 in 380 would be my first choice.  But it you are economy minded, or just want another addition to your collection, this is an excellent choice for an inexpensive, smaller caliber gun, one that conceals well and handles so that even a novice shooter can get the hang of it quickly.  This of course, is not the "perfect" small gun, but it's something that hides well, shoots well and accuratey and is inexpensive enough that your spouse won't go "you bought another what?" It's a gun that can take the day in and day out beating of constant carry in warm weather.
In the end though, this is more than being about size or economics or being the envy of the neighborhood. It is, as J.R.R. Tolkien said - "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. (The Two Towers)

My Bersa may be small, but it's mighty.  Joined with the right ammo, it's a light, compact, lethal weapon that I can conceal so easily that it can always be with me, ready to defend.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Update - Group Therapy

It was a good weekend with friends, one I needed.  It's best said in pictures, and a few short words, but healing is better when surrounded by those that can make you laugh, and make you cry, but in the best kind of ways.
Sunday morning . Getting up when it's light out is such a treat.

The kitchen is just a bare slate, waiting for something to be made.
That calls for pancakes.  Corn pancakes (replace 1/4 cup of the flour in the World's Fluffiest Pancakes recipe with cornmeal and add a Tablespoon of sour cream).
You can have the hungry man's stack with some maple syrup.

Or perhaps just a short stack with some fresh Marionberry Preserves from Dad's.
Then, after thanks for many blessings this week,  it was down to the bat shop to conduct  some late morning secret experiments while Partner made a Menards run for some wood to rebuild a tabletop on a "dumped on the curb unwanted mission table that was solid hardwood, but for a badly scratched top".

There are a lot of interesting tools around this place since households merged. 
 Bloodhound of the Law.  Sniffing out crime one step at a time.

Before you know it, he was back, it was time for a drive for a late lunch of Mexican food with  Midwest Chick (Mr. B was unable to make it), and Mr. and Mrs. Og and the Oglet.

I really hadn't seen anyone since Barkley died a month ago, either working or just huddling with family. But, with schedules and winter colds, I hadn't seen Midwest Chick since before Christmas, so the first thing she said was, "you got your hair cut, it's really cute!"  "Cut"  was sort of an understatement.  I had recently gone in for a trim and asked the stylist to chop off a couple inches.  She said,  "are you sure, that would be a lot?"  I'm thinking "two inches, that's nothing". In wet, curly hair that shortens up as it dries, two inches is like four inches in normal hair.  I should have listened to her. It's not short, but it's above my shoulders and my shoulders feels naked.  The thing is,  it's an awesome haircut, letting my natural waves do something other then stick straight up. Everyone loved it, even the guys of my team, when I dropped in after returning from Dad's, complimenting me, saying I looked "Sassy".

Sassy?  Isn't that a name of a Collie?

I wanted to thank Midwest Chick for the compliment, but what I think came out of my mouth was "Timmy's stuck in the well!"  Fortunately, my hair grows fast, but it's always good to get a cut that actually worked with my hair, not an easy thing for a stylist.

Greetings made, we settled in with baskets of chips and fresh salsa  as we had lots to catch up on, funny dog and cat stories and photos of some interesting outdoor machines that beaverize wood ("this one is one of only two made, the other's in an evidence locker" ) and stories from IT hell (which every profession knows something about). I got a little quiet, sometimes, as we shared dog stories, but everyone understood.
I got a wonderful surprise in that the Oglet presented me a medal.  Her medal, one she won in fencing, (and not just those little rapier things, but the big "pull it out of a stone to be the rightwise King born of England", type of weapon).  I though it was just mine to admire, but it was mine to keep.  She said she wanted to thank me for the support from someone just other than loving parents, as she tackled something that traditionally, young ladies don't do.  I saw a lot of myself in her, and tried to be there for her, as a friend of her Mom and Dad's and a friend to her, giving her some encouragement, and a fan, cheering her on. She earned those medals, even if not placing first in this one. For this is a young lady that finished a match with males and females alike, after completely tearing a fingernail off the nail bed, staunching the bleeding and continuing to compete.  That is a force to be reckoned with, one that will do well in the world as she graduates and goes out on her own.

It got dusty in there all of a sudden as I held it,  but I was proud to accept it. 

Soon, it was time to go.  Midwest Chick had made some awesome cookies for everyone (brownie dough layered with orange/cardamon infused shortcake) and I had a container with Monkey Bars and some Dark Chocolate Espresso shortbread cookies I made for her and Mr. B.  Cookie exchange was made as we left the restaurant with the appropriate secret codewords. . .

"What's the Frequency Kenneth"

"I believe Louisiana is the Pelican State".

and then she had to head home.

The Og family came back to the Range for a bit of a visit on their drive home.  Og had presented an old book to me at the restaurant, but I knew, from the bright orange inside, it was more than a book.

 The orange ribbon, looks just like the collar Barkley wore.
It's a bookmark, with the last photo I took of Barkley, etched in laser, like scrimshaw, on an antique ivory piano key, then hand sewn onto the "collar" book mark.  Og made it.  He wasn't just a good pal of Barkley, but the piano key has some meaning, as he is one of the few people I know outside of immediate family, that I've played piano publicly in front of .
click to enlarge.

We visited until the sun started to wane and then I waved goodbye as they drove home. I know that later, I will laugh, and I will cry,  as I carefully tuck  that memory into my book each night.
As I put things away, things both serious and silly, things that make me laugh, make me proud, Partner  looked at me and said-
"You have really good friends."

You know, I truly do, and for that, I thank the Lord every day, not just on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recipes From the Road - The Swine Sandwich

My French language skills aren't the best (though I know "colorful" words of various languages to use as necessary). I once had the back of a transport plane filled up and a few of the passengers were French Canadian.  So I thought I'd show off my "I took a whole year of college French" skills, making the pre takeoff announcement in both English and French. "We're no. 1 for takeoff, please check your seatbelts are fastened." As soon as I was done, laughter erupted. Never a good sign.

After the flight I spotted one of them and asked "OK, WHAT did I say?". Apparently it was "We're becoming unglued, guard your nose for a quick abruptness!" (Well, actually given the airstrip, that was probably close).

But even if my French skills bite, I can make a number of tasty bites from various French menus that would be a hit with the menfolk, as we Yanks say.  One of my favorites, a simple but hearty sandwich, the croque-monsieur. Basically, it's a grilled hot ham and cheese (typically Emmental or Gruyère, noted for their melting properties). Yet it's so much more than that, like most French cooking, rich in flavor, even when simple in construction. Golden Brown, crisp toast with almost lip blistering creamy melted cheese that lurks in the background of the slightly salty ham.

C'est Magnifique as Mr. Cole Porter would say.

It originated in France as a quick meal served in cafés and bars. Versions exist with béchamel sauce broiled on top or ones topped with a fried egg (which are called Croque Madame, supposedly due to the egg resembling a 1900's ladies hat). Seasoning is normally just salt and pepper, and only ham is used.

It's so popular that it's even on certain French McDonalds Menus as the "Croque McDo", though I would seriously recommend that you Croque McDon't.

The HOTR version has an additional kick of cayenne and nutmeg and two cheeses in the béchamel. The sauce is drizzled on the addition of  Applewood smoked bacon inside, rather than broiled on top. That keeps the bread, pan grilled in Clarified Butter rather than oven toasted, buttery and crunchy outside, the perfect pair to the fried egg placed on top.

It's a knife and fork sandwich and not one for either the meek or the dieting. But it's worth a try and makes a great brunch meal. (click on photo to enlarge).

Béchamel sauce: (makes enough for about 4 sandwiches, leftovers good in egg dishes, or you can cut recipe in half)

2 Tbsp butter (don't even think of using margarine)
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
A pinch each of salt, white pepper, black pepper and a generous pinch of cayenne and nutmeg
3 Tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Gruyère

For Each Sandwich:

2 thick slices of Italian, Brioche or bakery quality white bread
1/2 cup grated or one thick slice Gruyère or Emmental cheese
1 nice thick slice or 2-3 thinner slices ham (3-4 ounces per sandwich)
2-3 slices applewood smoked thick cut bacon, cooked until done but not toocrunchy.
1 to 3 teaspoons mayo
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon

Make the béchamel sauce:

Melt butter (on medium heat) until it starts bubbling. Then, add the flour. Stir. Let the mixture cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute, (or until it smells nutty and looks to be a light blond color). Whisk the milk in, then bring it to a bubble, whisking constantly. Lower the heat (to low). Add the Parmesan and 1/3 cup Gruyère, salt, and peppers, nutmeg and cayenne (still whisking). Cook the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don't be tempted to speed up the process by turning up the heat, you'll just burn it. Remove from heat, stirring occasionally.
Sandwich Assembly:

Assemble sandwich, each sandwich having one slice of bread spread with Dijon, the other with Mayo (amount to taste but remember you're adding some sauce to the sandwich). Top bottom piece of bread with ham, cheese, and bacon and then drizzle with 2 generous Tablespoons of the béchamel sauce, just enough to lightly drizzle the contents, and place the other slice of bread on top.

For 1-2 sandwiches, put 1 Tablespoon of clarified butter per sandwich in a medium or large sized heavy bottom, oven proof pan over med/high heat. Heat JUST until the butter is very hot but NOT browning, swirling so it covers the pan. Lower heat to medium and lay the sandwich(s) carefully in the pan, pressing down (or using a bacon press, just lay it on the top). The sandwich(s) will brown fairly slowly on the bottom so let it heat about two minutes. Add another Tablespoon of the clarified butter per sandwich to the pan and carefully flip the sandwich(s) to brown the other side, also pressing down a couple of times or using the bacon press until light golden brown on both sides.

Here's a photo of the one Partner got me for Christmas, but any small heavy pan will work.

Place the pan in an oven preheated to 300 F, and bake for about 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted. While that is in the oven fry one egg per sandwich with just a tiny dab of butter.

Serve with fries, or if you are feeling particular guilty, salad. (Note: this makes an excellent breakfast when you don't have to dépasser un puma later.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Heroic Deeds, Indeed.

"To date there has been no Homer, Herman Melville, or Charles Dana to record their deeds so that Americans recognize that they have always had maritime heroes living among them. Until that time, if you wish to see ordinary men and women who perform heroic deeds, visit a US Coast Guard small boat rescue station." - Dennis L. Noble, Ph.D, USCG (Ret.), in Rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard: Great Acts of Heroism since 1878

Friday, March 14, 2014

On Love - A Barkley Photo and Quote

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.
- Lynda Barry

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

IN MEMORY - Neptunus Lex

It is only a simple gravestone, saying so little, yet bearing so much.  Captain LeFon, it was an honor to know you.

1960 2012 
And shouldn't I have,
knowing that this might be the last,
raced my craft around the sky once more,
just to feel the stick clasp my hand back,
joined in the thrall,
dancing with the wind
waltzing with the blue
knowing that never after should I feel so free,
so sure in risk, so sure in this, my calling
taming this sky with the pride of experience.
my future just a glint in the horizons
I hurl myself up to meet my fate---


Mom! Phineas and Ferb Stole the Internet!

Everyone – I’m not where I have reliable internet or the ability to post much, but all is well. There are a couple of saved and scheduled posts which will come up starting tonight, so wander on back. I should be back in range in a few days. Love - Brigid

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Paws for Patriots

Paws for Patriots seeks to use those special canine abilities to help veterans, both physically and emotionally. Paws provides several types of dogs ranging from guide dogs, to therapy dogs for those with PTSD, and facility dogs that visit those in the hospital.

Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathon My retired LEO friend, Blogger Six (Warrior Class) has a son in law currently raising money for a Walk-a-Thon  (click on the words for the link) that supports Southeastern Guide Dogs, an organization that depends solely on donations to raise and train dogs for Paws.  His  family  truly felt that this community here would know of the amazing ability for dogs to help heal broken hearts, and so if you feel called to, they would love to invite you to donate and I wanted to spread the word so some vets who need the love and support of a good dog can get it.

I made a donation in memory of Barkley.  I hope some of you can do the same. If you don't have the financial means, as times are hard, simply spread the word or put up a link on your own blog.   Thank you again for the outpouring of love and support these last two weeks.

It helped more than you can imagine

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pastry and Pups

This was the post I wrote before we lost Barkley, with some photos I'd recently taken.   I hesitated to post, but thought you might enjoy the recipes and the photo of him with the "But Mom, he's eating the last one!", expression.  But with a bat phone that went off in the wee hours, I thought it might be a good morning for this.   I may be on the road a while, but have posts saved to come up here and there so please stop in and say hello.  It does help.
 Best - B.

From my laptop on the dining room table, the sudden sound of Parisian music and a heavily accented male voice:

"It's a BIG sausage, very rustic."

Partner in Grime walks in the room, grinning and says "what ARE you watching?"

It was a video and recipe from Jean-Marie Blanchot, a pâtissier from Brittany, prepares the classic kouign-amann, a flaky, buttery cake to die for.

You can find them up in Canada, but no place anywhere near Hoosierville. So I was going to have to make my own

Kouign-amann also known as a Breton cake, is a round crusty cake made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in (sort of ike puff pastry but less layers).  It's baked slowy until the butter puffs up the doubh and the sugar and sugar/butter coating  caramelizes and becomes crunchy and sweet, while the thin layers of cake inside absorb the buttery sweetness, making the interior soft and tender.  The name derives from the Breton words for cake ("kouign") and butter ("amann"), the recipe being around from about 1860.  Some are large, the size of a round cake pan, others, like mine, are made with individual squares of the dough, corners foldered up for perfect hand sized treats.
With a lot of bitingly cold days and a couple weekends that I didn't go home as Barkley had vet visits and the cold was bothering him, I used the big island in the crash pad kitchen and made a bunch, freezing it, to rise and bake later.  Croissants I make every few month as Partner loves them with coffee in the morning  The Breton cake was a new adventure.  It requires fairly advanced pastry skills, but thanks to the internet there are some recipes with detailed instructions to take some of the mystery out of it  There is no EASY method.  But there is really something satisfying about pulling a perfectly caramelized mélange of butter and sugar and salt out of the oven and tearing into the flaky layers while it's still so hot it almost burns your mouth (it does make up for those weekday breakfasts of low fat cereal and an apple)

Here's the underside of it - mmmmm caramelization!

My version was a blend of two recipes, and I'm not going to try and recreate it here without providing two disclaimers, several medieval curses and a weapon but if you have a hankering to make wonderful pastry, if only once, check out  Patisserie by Christophe Felder, and David Lebovitz's Kouign Amann recipe (the top of which, before baking, I dusted with just aextra  bit of vanilla sugar mixed with cinnamon).

If you want a pastry that' slightly easier, (you know, like the Bond Snake Slayer has slightly less recoil than Smith and Wesson 500) there are  some others which were also thawed and baked.

  • Croissants

  • OR

  • Croissants Pain au Chocolate

  • Mom!  Dad! - Veuillez donner le chien certains Pâtisserie française. Avec un femme caniche!

    (And yes, he got to eat some of the plain croissants bits.)