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Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise

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This recipe for Instant Pot clams has been a bit mobile. During COVID isolation, my blogging efforts have been in a state of transition. This recipe made the journey from my travel blog in an effort to better focus its content. Searching for a home for recipes, I started to create a food blog. But I realized that, while I like to post recipes or write from time to time, I don’t enjoy cooking and food photography enough to keep up a full-time food blog. So my recipes are finally resting here. Hopefully, this will their final home.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

On my travel blog, I had listed this as a “travel-inspired” recipe. What did inspire Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise?

I first started making wine steamed clams after falling in love with mixed shellfish steamed in wine at a French restaurant named Le Gavroche in Vancouver. That restaurant is now, unfortunately, no more. Then, I found a recipe for Clams Bordelaise in The Frugal Gourmet Cookbook by Jeff Smith and started playing around with it. So, in a way, this recipe is inspired by both the Pacific Northwest and French cuisine.

It’s easy to steam clams in wine; it’s even quicker and easier using an Instant Pot. Clams, mussels, or other shellfish work equally well in this recipe. Serve it up with some crusty bread (see my recipe here), a good salad, and, of course, some wine!

On to the Recipe for Instant Pot Clams (or Instant Pot Mussels):

Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise (and Mussels, too!)

CherylCheryl
Cooking shellfish is easy anyway, but even quicker and easier in the Instant Pot. The recipe here is easily adaptable depending on your tastes — my version has a lot of garlic and some red pepper — if that's not to your taste you can decrease these or omit them entirely.
The recipe is sized for two people who like to eat lots of shellfish! The cost varies — if you can dig your own clams, it's very low cost — if you buy them at your boutique grocery, it can be pricey.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Pacific Northwest
Servings 2 people
Calories 605 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs clams …or mussels, or mixture of clams and mussels (my preference)
  • 5 cloves garlic minced. Can be reduced or omitted, to taste
  • 2 shallots medium to large
  • .25 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 cup dry white wine Chardonnay is my fave. Drink the rest!
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste, can be omitted
  • 3 tbsp butter also can be omitted — I like to add this for a more buttery texture

How to Make It
 

Before You Cook

  • If you are using mussels, they must be debearded. To to this, pull that gross stuff firmly toward the pointy end of the mussel.
  • If you are using clams, you can clean them and get them to spit out any sandy stuff they're holding on to by putting them in a bowl with heavily salted water.
  • Mince your garlic, chop your shallots, take a sip of wine, and get ready to cook!

Cooking

  • Turn the Instant Pot on to saute. Heat up the olive oil and butter, then add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently to cook evenly, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If you want to add red pepper, add some toward the end of the cooking.
  • Add the white wine and keep sauteing until the wine is reduced by half or so.
  • Add the shellfish, put the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to cook on High for one minute.
  • When the Instant Pot is finished, do a quick release, then open the pot. All of the shellfish should be open. If not, put the lid on, set it to saute and let it steam a bit longer.
  • Serve up the shellfish, spoon over the liquid and serve with some crusty bread, salad, and wine.

If You Don't Have an Instant Pot:

  • Well…get one! Just kidding. This is easy enough to make in a large lidded pot on the stove. Saute all of your ingredients as above, then add your shellfish, reduce the heat, and let it steam on the stovetop for about 10 minutes or so, until all of the shellfish have opened.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise (and Mussels, too!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 605 Calories from Fat 405
% Daily Value*
Fat 45g69%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Cholesterol 76mg25%
Sodium 778mg34%
Potassium 246mg7%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 905IU18%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 78mg8%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword clams, mussels, seafood, shellfish
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Clotted Cream

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Summary: Here’s a homemade clotted cream recipe so you can serve your tea and scones English-style.

Clotted does not sound like an appealing word. But if you’re like me and you’re an adult who like the occasional tea party high tea, clotted cream will add some authenticity. I used to go to an “English Style” tea house, but it wasn’t until I actually went to English that I realized they were missing something. Every tea place I encountered there served this stuff.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

Alone, it’s not that tasty. It’s not like ice cream, though the picture looks a bit like it. Sugar is not added, and it’s not frozen. But serve it up with some scones and lemon curd or jam and…yum!

Clotted cream is also called Devon cream or Cornish cream and is typically made by heating the heavy cream in a steam or hot water bath and letting it slowly cool.

But we’re not going to do that here. We’re going to use our home oven to make this fatty taste of heaven. Be aware that, though homemade clotted cream is easy to make and does not take much time “hands-on,” it DOES take a significant amount of time from start to finish. It’s not something you can just whip up before your high tea.

Questions about making homemade clotted cream:

Can’t I just buy clotted cream? Why make it?

I live in the Pacific Northwest United States and I’ve never seen fresh clotted cream sold on shelves here. I have seen crème fraîche but, while that’s delicious, it’s a little different in flavor and texture than clotted cream. You can buy clotted cream in jars. While I haven’t found them on the shelves at my higher-end grocery (that does happen to sell lemon curd,) I’ve found them in a local English specialty shop and on Amazon.

Are these jars of clotted cream OK? Sure, if you don’t want to take the time to make the stuff fresh, they’ll do — but, in my opinion, the homemade fresh stuff better matches the clotted cream I experienced at some of the better tea places I visited in England.

How long does homemade clotted cream last?

About five days or so in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze homemade clotted cream?

Hey, I’m experimenting with that question right now and will have an answer very soon!

So, let’s go…

Here’s the recipe:

Clotted Cream

CherylCheryl
The word "clotted" is not appealing, but clotted cream is SO appealing! If you want to serve up a high tea like you would get in England, you need this fattening but heavenly stuff on the menu (along with some scones, lemon curd and tea sandwiches.)
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 12 hrs
Time in Refrigerator 8 hrs
Total Time 20 hrs 15 mins
Course Dessert, Tea
Cuisine English
Servings 8
Calories 411 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Wide baking pan (I use a 13" x 9" Pyrex pan for this)
  • Blender (recommended)
  • Rubber Spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups heavy cream NOT ultra-pasteurized

How to Make It
 

  • Pour the heavy cream into the pan. Having a wide flat pan is important here as you want the cream spread out over a large surface area. For this, I use my old standby 13" x 9" (or so) Pyrex pan.
  • Set your oven to a low temperature. The lowest my oven goes is 170 degrees F, so that's where I set it.
  • Leave your cream in the oven for about 12 hours. Yes…12 hours. I either start this late at night and take it out the next day or start it early in the morning.
  • After 12 hours, take it out of the oven. Your cream will look something like the photo shown here. I worried about this the first time I made it — wasn't it supposed to look thick and creamy and not like crème brûlée? Don't worry about this…I'll get to what I did to fix it later.
  • Put your pan in the refrigerator and chill it until it's cold.
  • Remove it from the refrigerator. You'll find that your cream has lots of liquid under the top "crust." Drain this off by pulling back one end with your spatula and draining the liquid into a container (you might use the liquid later.) The photo here shows how mine looks (and note that if you pull this much back you might have more trouble draining it without chunks falling out into the liquid.)
  • So, what to do with this stuff that looks nothing like the clotted cream I had in England? I put it in the blender. This stuff is thick so it helps to have a heavy-duty blender like a Vitamix. Start it on low speed, and move up to higher speed and add a little bit of the reserve liquid if it's too thick. Voilà! Clotted cream.
  • Put your clotted cream in a container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for about five days. Serve it up with some scones and jam or lemon curd (another delicious thing with a name that sounds a bit off.) Enjoy!

Notes

You need the heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurizedTrust me, I’ve tried it and it didn’t work out well (it didn’t thick up enough.) Below is the photo of a couple of types I’ve found in my local grocer that worked:
VAT pasteurized cream for clotted cream
These are local brands; you’ll have your own in your own area. But note that one clearly says VAT Pasteurized. This is OK. If you look at the cream on your grocery shelves, you’ll see some clearly state that they are “ultra pasteurized.” These are the ones you want to avoid.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Clotted Cream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 411 Calories from Fat 396
% Daily Value*
Fat 44g68%
Saturated Fat 27g169%
Cholesterol 163mg54%
Sodium 45mg2%
Potassium 89mg3%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 1749IU35%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 77mg8%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Clotted Cream, Dessert, England, English, High Tea, One Ingredient, Tea, UK, Whipping Cream
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Raspberry Chevre Green Salad With Toasted Pine Nuts

To me, this raspberry chevre pine nut salad is candy. I first had it when a friend brought it to a 4th of July gathering, and I’ve been making it ever since. It’s a great salad in many ways: like most salads, it’s easy to make. It fits the bill of being colorful and photogenic, and the combination of chevre, toasted pine nuts, and sweet raspberries is amazing, especially when you use Annie’s Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing.

You don’t have to use that dressing, of course –any balsamic vinaigrette will do — but I prefer it on this salad.

Here’s the Raspberry Chevre and Pine Nut Salad Recipe:

Raspberry Chevre Pine Nut Salad Recipe

Easy Raspberry Chevre Salad

CherylCheryl
The combination of toasted pine nuts, raspberries, and chevre in this salad is delicious — its a bit like candy rather than an actual salad to me.
The amounts here are approximate, you can make it to taste. I end up using slightly different ingredient portions each time I make it.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Toasting the pine nuts. 5 mins
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 121 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • .25 cup Annie's Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing You can, of course, use other types of vinaigrette dressing, but this one pairs wonderfully with this salad!
  • 5 cups Salad Mix A spring greens salad blend works fine, but there's a herb salad blend at my local grocer that works great here.
  • .25 cup Pine Nuts Toasted
  • .25 cup Chevre goat cheese Crumbled
  • .5 cup Raspberries

How to Make It
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • When the oven has heated up, put the pine nuts in and toast them until they're a nice, toasty color. This will take about 5 minutes…but it may be more or less – keep a close watch on these guys to avoid burning them!
  • Let the pine nuts cool of a bit while you make the rest of the salad.
  • Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and toss together.
  • Add the pine nuts in after they've cooled as well.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Of course, you might want to leave off the dressing and let guests put it on themselves before serving — especially if you want to transport. If you’re bringing this salad to a party, consider bringing the ingredients separately and assembling it there just prior to serving.
Raspberries, chevre, and toasted pine nuts make a delicious combination for an easy Summer salad! Click to Tweet

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Raspberry Chevre Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 121 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 7mg2%
Sodium 79mg3%
Potassium 159mg5%
Carbohydrates 6g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 715IU14%
Vitamin C 16mg19%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword chevre, goat cheese, greens, pine nuts, raspberries, salad
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Raspberry Chevre Pine Nut Salad Recipe

Mangopeño Smoothie

Mango and jalapeño might seem like a weird combination for a smoothie. But its surprisingly refreshing and packs just a bit of heat from the pepper.

mango jalapeno smoothie

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

Smoothies are almost the ultimate in non-foodie concoctions. They don’t take a long time to make or to clean up afterward. Plus, they’re healthy (unless you replace the yogurt with ice cream…not that I ever do that.)

I add some protein powder for an extra boost as well as some yogurt and banana for texture, but if you’re vegan, you can subsitute hemp protein powder for the whey protein listed in this recipe and leave out the yogurt. It will be a little more green than it already is, but that just makes it more…interesting.

I frequently keep bag of frozen mango at hand and if I find bananas sitting out too long I stick ’em in the freezer. Having your ingredients frozen first gives your smoothie some extra thickness.

Mango and jalapeño make a good smoothie. Strange...but good! Click to Tweet

Here’s the mango jalapeño smoothie recipe:

Mangopeño Smoothie

CherylCheryl
A healthy fruit smoothie with a bite!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Breakfast, Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 person
Calories 377 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 mango or about 3/4 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (juice of one lime)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup whey protein powder unflavored, but you can substitue your own. I like Whey Factors.
  • 1/2 tsp stevia sweetener optional
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/5 cups water mixed with ice cubes

How to Make It
 

  • Cut up the mango and banana.
  • Remove seeds from the jalapeño and slice (if you want to.)
  • Put that, along with everything else, in the blender and blend it.

Notes

  • I like to use Whey Factors protein powder. I found that my picky eater was less likely to notice this protein powder if I put it in a smoothie for her.
  • For a vegan alternative, use hemp protein powder — just a tablespoon vs  1/4 c, depending on your taste, and omit the yogurt. You might need to add 1/4 c more water.
  • For smoothies (unless I plan to take a photo of the fruit) I like to sometimes use frozen bananas or mango chunks. For the mangos, I sometimes have a Costco-sized bag of frozen fruit for smoothies in my freezer. You can also make single-size frozen “smoothie mix”bags so on days when you REALLY don’t feel like prepping anything, you can just throw it all in the blender.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Mangopeño Smoothie
Amount Per Serving
Calories 377 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Cholesterol 48mg16%
Sodium 65mg3%
Potassium 922mg26%
Carbohydrates 66g22%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 47g52%
Protein 31g62%
Vitamin A 2454IU49%
Vitamin C 105mg127%
Calcium 166mg17%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Beverages, Fruit, Healthy, Jalapeno, Mango, Smoothie, Vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
mango jalapeno smoothie

Banana Pecan Irish Oatmeal Muffins

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I love Irish Oatmeal. I love to cook it slowly in my rice cooker until it has a nice, creamy texture. And I frequently end up with overripe bananas in our kitchen — so I decided to combine the two and try making a Banana Pecan Irish Oatmeal Muffin recipe.

This one is timed for using a jumbo muffin pan — as it says in the recipe, you’ll need to make adjustments if you’re using smaller muffin tins. But the fact that BOTH my picky daughter and husband liked this one is reassuring — though they did point out that it has not a “fluffy muffin texture” but is denser, like banana bread. That being the case, I think it would ALSO be great as a banana bread. I’d just set the oven to 350 degrees F and bake it quite a bit longer.

Banana Pecan Irish Oatmeal Muffins Recipe Image

Banana Pecan Oatmeal Muffins

CherylCheryl
These are muffins — but the texture is more like banana bread, and you can bake them as such. The recipe makes 8 jumbo muffins (or one loaf, or many more smaller muffins)
This recipe presupposes that you are cooking the Irish oatmeal in advance. Cook it according to the package instructions if you want, but my favorite way is to prep it in the rice cooker on the "porridge" setting until it's a nice thick texture.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Baking, Breakfast, Muffins
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Jumbo Muffins
Calories 313 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Jumbo Muffin Pan
  • Mixer (recommended)

Ingredients
  

  • 3 bananas overripe, mashed
  • 2 tbsp butter melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup oatmeal cooked Irish oatmeal, but regular oatmeal would likely work just as well
  • .5 cup pecans chopped
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • .75 cup brown sugar packed
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

How to Make It
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • This depends on your muffin pans! Mine can be a bit sticky, and I like to coat them with a bit of cooking spray for easy release.
  • Mix together all of your moist ingredients, including the cooked oatmeal and mashed bananas.
  • Add the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughy combined.
  • Stir in the chopped pecans.
  • Fill your muffin pans about 2/3 full.
  • Bake the muffins for about 25 minutes — remove when they're a golden brown, and a toothpick you stick in the center comes out clean. I'd start checking your muffins after about 20 minutes as each oven is a bit different. Note that I am using a JUMBO muffin pan here. With a standard muffin pan, you'll need less time — I'd start checking them after 15 minutes.

Notes

Variations:

Banana Bread

My husband and daughter liked these (which says a lot) but pointed out they had a heavier banana-bread texture and weren’t “fluffy like a muffin.” So I think they’d make perfect banana bread. For that, I’d lower the temperature to 350 degrees F, I think and bake them for a bit longer — again when you can stick it in the middle and whatever you stick it with doesn’t come out with batter goo on it.

Mo’ Muffins

I made this recipe with a jumbo muffin pan. If you’re using standard-size muffins, you may need to adjust your timing a bit.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Banana Pecan Oatmeal Muffins
Amount Per Serving
Calories 313 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 41mg14%
Sodium 455mg20%
Potassium 285mg8%
Carbohydrates 59g20%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 26g29%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 97IU2%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 42mg4%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword artisan bread, baking, bananas, muffin, oatmeal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Hey, I have a banana in my Irish oatmeal!
Banana Pecan Irish Oatmeal Muffin Recipe Click to Tweet

Making Mexican Sugar Skulls for Dia De Los Muertos

I relocated this Mexican sugar skull recipe and instructions from my other blogs one was not a food blog and I realized that, though I wanted to post recipes from time to time, I didn’t want to write a full-time food blog. So here it is!

Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, even if you’re not from Mexico. It’s healthy to have a day to remember and celebrate the departed — our current celebration of Halloween is an offshoot of older traditions that honored the dead at this time of year.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

An aspect that seems to have captured the public imagination outside of Mexico are the colorful sugar skulls that are often part of the festivities. So much so that the Nutcase “Spirit in the Sky” bicycle helmet features sugar skulls — I almost bought it!

Mexican sugar skulls are not too difficult to make. It took some experimentation and initial failure for me to discover what worked and what didn’t. However, it does take some time as you need to let the skulls rest and then rest some more before you can decorate; it’s more of a two-day than a one-day project.

If you want to get traditional, you can set your completed sugar skulls upon an altar with photos of your departed loved ones, marigolds, and calaveras (skeletons).

Mexican Sugar Skull Recipe

Mexican Sugar Skull Molds

While you might be able to find the molds if you have a specialty shop near you, the molds you find on Amazon.com are perfect for the task. But be sure that you’re getting ones that have both front and back if you want a nice 3-D skull — some of them have just the front and lay flat.

See the end of recipe for some recommendations for sugar skull molds.

Do I Need Meringue Powder?

My answer to this question is, “yes, you do.” I tried recipes that used eggs instead of meringue powder, but I ended up with skulls that fell apart more easily. Meringue powder is not hard to find. You can order it on Amazon, or you can find it in the baking section with the cake decorating supplies at stores like Walmart or in craft stores that have Wilton products.

So let’s get on with how to make sugar skulls, including a Mexican sugar skull recipe video (for those of you who are video-centric).

Mexican sugar skulls featured image

Mexican Sugar Skulls

CherylCheryl
In Mexico Dia de Los Muertos is a day to honor the ancestors; colorful sugar skulls are a common part of the festivities. Here's how to make them!
Note: While these are made of edible materials, they are not really a food item. They're for looking at, not eating!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 3 hrs
Resting Time 14 hrs
Total Time 18 hrs
Course Crafts, Garnishes, and Decor
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 5 Large Skulls

Special Equipment

  • Mexican Sugar Skull Molds
  • Mixer
  • Large bowl
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Decorating Bags (Disposable Recommended)
  • Decorating Tips
  • Cardboard
  • Toothpicks
  • Bling

Ingredients
  

Ingredients

How to Make It
 

Making the Skulls

  • Place skull ingredients into a large bowl: 1/4 cup of the meringue powder, and 10 tsp of water.
  • Mix the ingredients together with your hands until the mix feels like wet sand and holds together when you squeeze it. If it's too dry and not holding together yet, you can add more water a very small amount at a time until it holds together (but note, it will still be crumbly).
  • Pack the sugar mixture firmly into the front of the skull mold. Use something with a flat edge to scrape off excess. Then turn the skull carefully onto a piece of cardboard. Repeat for the back. If you make a mistake you can throw it back in the bowl.
  • Let the skulls dry for six hours. I put mine in a warm room with the heater on as I made them on a rainy day.
  • When the outsides of the skulls are firm, after approximately six hours, scoop out the insides. I left about 1/2 – 3/4" around the skull edges (i.e. scoop out more than is shown in the photo). This isn't necessary with the small skull molds.
  • After scooping out the large skull halves, put them back on their cardboards and let dry for many more hours (overnight is good) until they are hard.

Preparing the Icing

  • Place the powdered sugar, 2/3 cup water, and the remaining 1/2 cup of the meringue powder in a mixing bowl together. Mix on slow speed to wet ingredients, and then on high speed for about 9 minutes.
  • The icing is done when it is stiff and you can make peaks in it. If you want it stiffer, you can add more powdered sugar.

Decorating

  • Use the white icing to "glue" the skulls together. Let them sit for a few minutes while you color the icing.
  • Separate icing into different (either washable or disposable) cups and add food coloring to make desire colors.
  • Put the colored icing into the decorating tubes with tips inserted and start decorating the skulls to your heart's content! You might want to try to make them look like deceased relatives to get into the spirit of Dia de Los Muertos. You can use foil, sequins, beads, feathers, or any bling you might have on hand to decorate.
  • Have fun arranging your Mexican sugar skulls! Marigolds are a traditional accompaniment, but you can use whatever you have on hand to make an arrangement: photos of deceased loved ones, candles. I happened to have some Mexican caliveras (skeleton) figures on hand, so I brought them out of hiding.

Video

Notes

Which Molds Should I Use?

  • This large mold was excellent; its the one I used in the video.
  • This mold is virtually identical, it just comes with cuter packaging so it’s more expensive. The recipe that comes with that one is without the meringue powder. I tried it and it did not hold together as well. The traditional way of making them — with the meringue powder — is recommended.
  • The small skulls in the video are the medium altar skulls.
  • I also have the medium skull mold — but note that I didn’t use it in this tutorial. This mold is one-sided and makes flat skull faces with no occiput (back of skull)!
  • Various types of molds seem to switch out around the year if you watch them on Amazon.com.

Meringue Powder?

I’ve seen (and tried) recipes that substitute eggs for the meringue powder. They did not hold up nearly as well. I’d recommend avoiding those recipes and go right for the meringue powder. You can buy it on Amazon or you can find it in the cake decorating section at Walmart or craft supply stores like Michaels that sell cake decorating supplies.

On Drying the Skulls

The recipe that comes with some of the sugar skull molds suggests that the skulls will not turn out if you make them on a rainy day. Perhaps not an option where I live in the Pacific Northwest! But you might have a problem on a very humid day.
I’ve made these on a rainy October PNW day with good results — I just put them in a warm room with the heater on and the electric fireplace going and had good results.
I’ve seen some recipes that suggest drying them in the oven on 175-200 degree for 30-40 minutes. I’ve tried that — it did not work as well for me as simply letting them sit out. The center of my oven-dried skulls were firmer and harder to scoop out.
Keyword Autumn, Cavalveras, Crafts, Day of the Dead, Decorative, Dia de Los Muertos, halloween, Mexican, Mexican sugar skulls, Mexico, sugar skulls
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Easy Crusty Rustic Artisan Bread

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This recipe is another one that made the rounds — I justified having it on a travel blog by saying it was for “baguettes.” And this recipe for easy crusty rustic artisan bread does make tasty long loaves — but it also makes fantastic round loaves, oval loaves, pizza dough, loaves braided and filled with roasted red peppers…the list goes on so much that it almost makes me sound like a foodie! For rounded loaves, I sometimes like to use proofing baskets I got years ago — round baskets to raise the bread that gives at least a semi-professional shape and texture to the finished loaves.

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I’ve been using this method for several years now. The method makes delicious bread with a crackly-crunchy crust without a wood fire oven.

The method comes from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I highly recommend this book; they also have an amazing recipe for brioche dough. I’ve been using this method for years now in various shapes. My foodie spouse even likes it!

I like to serve it with either a nice cheese or — for a recipe on this site — with steamed shellfish.

Equipment You’ll Need:

You’ll need a few special items to make this bread successfully. The baking stone and a pan at the bottom of the oven are what gives this bread its signature crust. The oven thermometer ensures that the oven is the correct temperature. Not all ovens have thermostats that are spot-on accurate.

Baking stone in oven for artisan bread recipe

In the photo above, you can see a few of the things you’ll need:

  • A Baking Stone: Mine’s a bit embarrassing; you can see that it’s well-loved. Get a good-quality one and take care of it, so it lasts.
  • An Oven Thermometer: Not every oven is created equal. For best results, check your oven with a basic thermometer before the first time you bake. Find the temperature setting that results in your oven truly reaching 450F. You don’t have to check it every time you bake. If you switch ovens, it’s good to do it again.
  • A pan: Yep, just a basic metal pan in the bottom of the oven. I have a steam bake setting on my oven but, for this bread, doing it this way actually seemed to work better.

You also will need:

  • A big plastic bowl with a lid; it serves for both mixing, rising, and storing the dough. Just make sure there’s enough room for the dough to at least double when it rises. And make sure the lid isn’t air-tight.
  • A wooden spoon. This is a no-knead recipe, but I still get my hands into it. But initially, I like to mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until they’re incorporated, then finish the job with my hands.
  • A pizza peel. This helps to get your loaf into the oven. Put some cornmeal on it and let the loaf rise here. Then you can just gently shake the loaf off onto the baking stone once the oven’s hot. For bread in proofing baskets, I still end up turning the dough (after it rises) onto the corn mealed stone. The cornmeal adds a rustic quality to the finished loaf, aside from helping it come off the peel.

On to the Recipe for Easy Crusty Rustic Artisan Bread:

Pizza peel with cornmeal for artisan bread recipe.

Easy Crusty Rustic Bread

CherylCheryl
You don't have to have a wood fire oven or spend a lot of time to make unbelievably good bread in your own oven. I started making this bread years ago after reading the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg. The key to making this right is using a good baking stone, a simple oven thermometer, a pizza peel, a large bowl with cover (but not airtight), and a metal pan to put into the bottom of your oven.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Rising Time plus Time in Refrigerator 4 hrs 40 mins
Total Time 5 hrs 40 mins
Course Baking, Bread
Cuisine American, French
Servings 16
Calories 185 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Baking Stone
  • Metal Pan
  • Oven Thermometer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Large Plastic Bowl with Lid
  • Pizza Peel

Ingredients
 
 

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1.5 tbsp salt
  • 6.5 cups flour Unbleached white flour is preferable, but I've had good results with regular all-purpose flour when that's all I had and bread flour as well.
  • cornmeal for covering pizza peel
  • 1 cup water hot — for steaming the bread

How to Make It
 

Making the Dough

  • Measure the water into the large bowl. The water should be 100 degrees or so (lukewarm — be careful not to get it too hot as there is a danger of killing the yeast. If it’s cooler than that, it’s OK — it just means you’ll probably have to let the dough raise longer).
    Add the yeast and dissolve. Add the salt.
  • Measure your flour and then dump the whole thing into your plastic bowl with the yeast mixture. Mix it up with a wooden spoon and/or you can dig in and use your hands to incorporate everything — but no kneading!
  • You’ll end up with a sticky, messy wet dough. Time to let it rise. Put the lid on (loosely, never air tight), let it sit out at room temperature (unless your room temperature is very cold; then put it in a warm room), and let it sit there until it doubles, which should be about 2 hours — but it may take more than this.
    Really — let it grow. If you truly want to irritate your children you can sing a few refrains to the tune of “Let it go” while you wait. Letting it sit for up to 5 hours or so wont hurt it but you want to make sure it at least doubles in size here.

Refrigerate the Dough

  • Put it in the refrigerator. You can bake it now if you want but it’s easier to handle and shape after two hours in the refrigerator.
    You’ll be keeping the extra dough in the fridge, anyway, and pulling off a pound or so at a time when you want a loaf (or pizza crust).
    The dough will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Prepping the Oven

  • OK, it’s baking time! But first we’re going to get the oven ready. Put your baking stone in the oven and put your pan at the bottom of the oven. The photo here is not quite right — I had better luck when I put the pan for water actually at the bottom of the oven and not on a rack. You want it in a place where you can put the water in in a hurry and then shut the oven.
    The thermometer is pictured here because oven temperature is important. I learned the hard way when I switched ovens that not all are the same. The first time you make this bread, or before, find out how you need to set your oven for an ACTUAL temperature of 450 degrees F.
    A word about “special” ovens like mine with a steam bake setting: I was excited about this feature. However,  I found, after experimenting, I got the best results if I set my oven to steam bake, but did not use the provided steam bake tray and threw the water in the pan at the bottom of the oven at the same time I put the bread in.
    We’ll preheat the oven about 20 minutes after we’ve let the bread start resting, setting it to a temperature of 450 degrees F.

Shaping the Loaf

  • Sprinkle cornmeal liberally on your pizza peel. Drawing a heart shape is purely optional and will have no effect whatsoever on your bread.
  • Pull a chunk of dough off your large blob of dough. For a round loaf it would be approximately one pound of dough, but you can adjust for the size of loaf you want. For my baguettes (rather, I end up making demi-baguettes due to the size of my pizza peel and baking stone) I take around one pound of dough and divide it in two.
    Then I roll the dough out  between my hands to long, thin (remember they are going to rise) loaves and taper them at the ends.
    Set the loave(s) on the pizza peel and let rest for about 40 minutes.
    20 minutes into that resting time, you can start your oven, set to 450 degrees.
  • After letting the dough rest for 40 minutes it might not look like it’s raised as much as you might expect if you are used to making bread the usual way. That’s OK, if you’ve let it rest 40 minutes and have let it raise enough earlier it will spring up more in the oven.
    Before baking, take a sharp knife and score the top. 

Baking Time

  • After it’s rested for 40 minutes, if you started your oven 20 minutes into the resting time, you can now put your bread in even if the oven isn’t yet fully heated to 450.
    Have one cup of hot water at the ready.
    Gently, shake the bread off the peel and onto the heated baking stone.
    Quickly pour the hot water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and shut the door.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes for baguettes, you can bake a little longer if you like a darker crust. If you are using the recipe to make a round or oval loaf, you’ll need to adjust the time up to about 30 minutes.
    Avoid the temptation to open the oven during this time. You want to keep that steam in there.
  • Once the bread is done baking, I use potholders to remove the loaf to a baking rack to cool down a bit.
    If you’re very quiet, you may hear your crust quietly crackling.
    Enjoy. Enjoy even more with some wine and cheese. Imagine you’re sitting on top of Montparnasse tower, overlooking Paris with this wine and bread. Unless you actually are, in which case why are you reading this recipe?

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Crusty Rustic Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 185 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 658mg29%
Potassium 54mg2%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 5g10%
Calcium 9mg1%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword artisan bread, baguettes, bakery, bread, French bread, rustic bread
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Here’s the featured image on the original post before I moved it. But I felt like it kind of had the appearance of a wall-mounted fish like a big mouth billy bass! Not the look I wanted to go for. Next time I make the bread, I may change up the photos or add a video to the recipe.