My Kouign Amann challenge (Fail!)

Kouign Amann is a kind of pastry/cake item from Britanny, land of salted butter. It is made with salted butter! The idea seems to be to have plenty of flaky layers, plus some nice caramelization from adding plenty of sugar.

A Kouign Amann (I say "Queen a-MON," no idea if that's correct) is not that hard to make, but it does take time and involves carefully following directions. I was using David Lebovitz's recipe, and there are a lot of particular steps to follow. Here I picture and annotate some of those steps:

After dissolving yeast in warm water, I made a sticky dough.

The dough is kneaded until smooth and still a bit sticky. Then set in a warm place for ONE HOUR to rise. (I use caps because I want to emphasize that this recipe takes over THREE HOURS in proofing/rising/chilling time. No big deal, unless you haven't read the recipe carefully first.)


Directions say to roll the dough into a 12" by 18" rectangle. I was being serious so I used a tape measure.

Chilled butter pieces are placed in the center, followed by the first sprinkling of sugar.

The two sides are folded in over the butter.

The second sprinkling of sugar. Then, it is folded into thirds again.

Set on plastic and ready to chill for ONE HOUR. Everything went well up to this point. Beyond this point... things got screwy.

The chilled dough is rolled into another rectangle. Two complaints--the sugar started to melt during the chilling process, making my hunk of dough a little drippy. I don't know enough about baking chem to know why--is my fridge humid perhaps? Also, the directions didn't say to cover the dough (with plastic?) so I put it in the fridge "nude." This caused it to develop a skin on top. When rolled out, it caused the patchy dry bits you can see above. (And I forgot to put the sugar on before I rolled it out... I added it right after.)

Rolled into thirds again. Back into the fridge for ONE HOUR.

I hauled my still-drippy dough out of the fridge for the last bit of work before baking. The giant squashed pieces of butter were starting to make things fall apart; I decided that must be a good thing. Rolled into a round to place in a buttered pie plate.

Last sprinkling of sugar, a spiral of melted butter, and into the oven.

Hmmm. I prefer to call the edges "overcaramelized" and not "burned." As my main taster pointed out, I was SO CLOSE. I think I left this in the oven just 10 minutes too long. ("Just"! I guess that's a long time.) I admit I was making dinner for 4 at the same time, so I just set the timer on 45 minutes and never looked in on it again. Probably a terrible baking faux pas.

But you know what? It tastes pretty good.

Conclusions: I'll probably try this again. I am not a great baker (clearly). But the recipe was helpful and the ingredients simple. Despite my complaints, I don't think the dripping and whatever else are a huge deal. Do you? Let me know if you have any critiques besides the obvious one of checking on it while it's baking. I do want to taste this when it's done JUST RIGHT.

Garden plans

Vermont just got more snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, and I'm thinking about my garden. So I am not a green thumb. I have given up on starting things from seed, except maybe for radishes. My current garden (like my current house) is the perfect size because it is small and easy to clean up in about 20 minutes. At the same time, being the crazy skinflint I am, I want to pack in as much edible stuff as I can handle in an attempt to save a bit of money. Here's what I'm thinking:

Decorative plants for the front of the house:

Licorice plant
Nasturtiums (my favorite!)

For the sunny side garden, our prime Veggie Spot:

more tomatoes
summer squash

Annuals for the herb garden:

basil (LOTS)

What are you planning? Also, ever tried one of those upside-down tomato planters?

DIY yogurt cups

Here is a frugal, healthy snack. Instead of buying individual servings of yogurt, make your own!

All you need is a nice kind of jam and a large container of yogurt.

Combine in a handy portable container. That is all.

  1. A 6 ounce container of yogurt at the local food co-op costs between .99 and 1.09. (That's around 17 cents an ounce). BUT a large 32 ounce yogurt costs about 3.00 (9 cents an ounce) and this month they're on sale for 2.49 (around 7 cents an ounce). OMG the savings!
  2. Yogurt is good for you. It has nice probiotic creatures living in it, plus calcium and protein and stuff. Though all I really ask from a snack is that it's healthier than a brownie or a scone or a Danish, which are my common crazy-from-hunger-need-a-snack mistakes. Yogurt definitely qualifies.
  3. The jam part often reminds me of a favorite scene from Hope & Glory where the father brings home a large tin of jam that washed up on the beach during WWII rationing. The family is very suspicious of the jam... perhaps it has been altered by Germans who know that the English love jam? The father loses his temper and shouts "It's. JUST. JAM." Then he sets about eating it straight from the can while glaring at his family in a challenging manner. Perhaps you already love this movie, I think it's one of the best!

Still Winter Radio Roundup

Hope that you can tune in to Beef Jerky Time tonight. I've got some tasty new tracks to share including Yeasayer remixes and new Massive Attack. I promise I won't play the new Lo-Fi-Fnk again though it is tempting. If you're in Brattleboro turn to 107.7 on the FM dial, otherwise you can stream live at (7pm Eastern, Wednesdays).

Below are another month's-worth of playlists for the record. A few highlights:

It may be clear that I love Scandinavian pop, and I've found many great examples from Sweden, Norway and even Denmark. Now I've also found a Finnish band to love, Burning Hearts. Go to their myspace page and listen to "Night Animal"!

David Byrne has another awesome strange project, who'd have guessed!? This time it is a double-album inspired by the life of Imelda Marcos, which he has put together with Fatboy Slim and a load of featured voices. Visit the Here Lies Love site for the track list--and sign up to download the Santigold-fronted single "Please Don't."

New Vampire Weekend--hurray! Many have sniffed that this album is "just the same" as the last one. I loved the last one, so good. I already have a happy memory of dancing around the house with our smallest family member, gesturing with Valentines to super-catchy Afro-beats.

A free Dirty Projectors song, "Emblem of the World," has had a creeper effect with me. First I wasn't sure about it, then I listened again and liked it more, now I think it's great. You can sign up to download it at

I'm fascinated by Xiu Xiu, who are they and what is up with their morose noisy sound? They remind me of being at my friend's house back in the 80s listening to what her brother liked, which was stuff like Fear, Foetus, Front 242, Shriekback and Coil. They are like Of Montreal on a worse-than-usual trip, man. Like.

Two more words: new Yeasayer. I think there has already been enough praise (hipsters love it, cool!) and complaining (hipsters love it, ew!) about this release. I love it. Am I a hipster now?

  • Funn: Gunchback Boogie Band
  • Four Dreams: Jesca Hoop
  • Night Animal: Burning Hearts
  • Do It Rock Steady: Spyce
  • Staying in Love: Raphael Saadiq
  • Swim Swam Swum: Sleepover
  • Horchata: Vampire Weekend
  • White Sky: Vampire Weekend
  • Cousins: Vampire Weekend
  • Graceland: Paul Simon
  • Seaweed Song: Passion Pit
  • Bearbones: Total Babe
  • Swisha: Ratatat

  • Friends: Band of Skulls
  • I Think I Like You: Donora
  • Junior Boys: Hazel
  • Kavola: Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila
  • Hard to Live in the City: Albert Hammond, Jr
  • Screen Test: The Envy Corps
  • When My Time Comes: Dawes
  • Puerto Rican Jukebox: Panther
  • Humble Me: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
  • Maria Ninguen (mari a l'amour): Brigitte Bardot
  • Dig a Pony: The Beatles
  • The Kick Inside: Kate Bush



  • Washington DC: Magnetic Fields
  • Crush on You: The Jets & Ready for the World
  • D.A.N.C.E.: Justice
  • Marhin' In: Lo-Fi-Fnk
  • Paris Is Burning: Ladyhawke
  • Pervert Pop Song: Plastilina Mosh
  • Sleepyhead: Passion Pit
  • Art of Kissing: Ball Boy
  • Swim Until You Can't See Land: Frightened Rabbit
  • The One Thing I Know: Kate Miller-Heidke
  • When I Grow Up: Fever Ray
  • Sweet Dynamite: Claudja Barry
  • All for You: Aceyalone

Frikadellen: German meat

I got it into my head that we must eat sauerkraut for dinner one night this week. I put "pork chops or sausages" on the grocery list as items to go with. But instead of buying sausages at 5.99 a pound or pork chops at 4.99 a pound, I decided to get ground pork at 3.99 a pound. I figured there must be some German thingy I can make out of ground pork and sauerkraut.

This is how I discovered frikadellen, which are basically giant flat German meatballs that go perfectly with sauerkraut and potatoes. I combined ingredients and tips from two sources: Angie's recipes and America's Little Germany.

The frikadellen were tasty but mild flavored. If I make them again, I might use more spices. I might also try the 50:50::pork:beef idea.

Frikadellen also make a nice breakfast sliced crossways, fried and served with warm sauerkraut.

PS A bag of sauerkraut (no frills, non-organic, but lovely crunchy taste) costs 99 cents!

Superbowl food: 7 layer dip

I don't know from football, but the recipes I've been seeing for Superbowl Sunday food looked mouthwatering. So I tried one. I went with New York magazine's Seven-Layer Dip, with a few adjustments.

The first 3 layers: refried black beans, a Spanish-style rice, and seasoned ground beef.

Layer 4 is salsa.

Layer 5 is cheese.

Layer 5.5--a sprinkling of chopped jalapeƱos. Note to self: add at least twice as many jalapeƱos as you think you need.
At this point I departed from the recipe and threw everything in the oven for about 30 minutes. I wanted this stuff WARM!

Because we were having dip for dinner, I served it out into portions. Then we each added the last 2 layers, guacamole and sour cream.

Served with unsalted corn chips. Oh my goodness SO MUCH FOOD!


As mentioned, this is not supposed to be heated, but since it was dinner instead of an appetizer, I wanted it hot. It was SO filling, basically like eating the inside of an excellent and gigantic burrito.

As someone who has eaten brown rice for years for health purposes, I must say that the taste of white rice is like crack--WOW AMAZING GIVE ME MORE MORE NOW NOW NOW. Brown rice is a bit of a chore to eat. White rice is so satisfying and RICE-y. Fantastic. Great, another thing I gotta remember to stay away from.

I used sharp cheddar cheese, not a good cheese for getting all melty and stringy (though it tastes great). Next time I might use something gooier, like a pepper jack.

I forgot that our smallest diner does not much like things to be all mixed together, so all she would eat was corn chips dipped in sour cream. If I had been thinking I would have saved out a little rice, a little beans, and a little beef and served them to her on a kiddie plate with separate sections. Well, next time.