Little Sesame Whole Wheat Soda Breads and Frilly Butterflies

An article in an old Gourmet magazine caught my eye–it was all about making small-sized quick breads for holiday giving, and their recipe for Sesame Whole-Wheat Soda Bread looked especially good. The loaves, which are about four to five inches across, sounded perfect for wintertime dinners–golden brown and nubby with oats and sesame seeds, and quick to make. And they are so cute! Each chubby little loaf is perfect for two to three diners, and they can be frozen. Oh, and they taste delicious! And slices can be toasted. Here is the recipe.

Sesame Whole Wheat Soda Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into bits
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1-2/3 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Add the butter and mix and smear it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in the oats and sesame seeds, and add the buttermilk. Stir until the mixture forms a rough ball.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead lightly for about a minute until smooth. Form into a rectangle (see photo) and cut into fourths. Form each quarter into a smooth ball, and flatten slightly. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, brush the tops with additional buttermilk, and sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Cut an 1/8-inch deep X into each loaf and bake the breads for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Baking notes: I made a number of changes to the original recipe, mainly reducing the amount of sugar (the one tablespoon rounds out the flavor of the bread), added a bit more buttermilk and baked the breads longer. The mixed dough should be fairly light textured and wet–only slightly sticky.

Photos: The butter before and after being mixed into the flour, the type of oats to use, the mixed dough, the dough cut into fourths and the breads ready for the oven.


Fresh from the oven.

Is it done? Check out the bottom–it should be golden brown.

After baking, I set aside a loaf for dinner, and then allowed the rest to cool. Then I placed them in a plastic bag–twisted it tightly, and placed the bag in the freezer. I have a loaf out on the kitchen table right now, defrosting. We will have it with homemade chicken soup and a fruit salad for desert.

Frilly Butterflies

More pages have fallen out of the inexhaustible Paper Butterfly Scrapbook that I found a few weeks ago, and I particularly liked this frilly butterfly, which can be used as a bookmark.

Frilly butterfly

Again, I determined to make my own. Fortunately, I have a Fiskars Corner Punch, and plenty of origami paper. This corner punch may be available at craft stores, and is also available on Etsy and eBay.

The paper corner is inserted into the punch, and then the punch is pressed down.
After punching.
Prepare the paper by cutting off a 2″ strip.

The directions for folding the butterfly can be found here, or in the book Minigami by Gay Merrill Gross. The book is available on Amazon for $3 + shipping, and is a good buy–lots of fun projects.

Before folding, punch each corner, as shown.
This is what it should look like, halfway finished.
Back of finished butterfly, showing pocket.
In use.
Another example, in brown.

I found more pages of frilly butterflies, perhaps a subspecies, that I also sought to replicate. It’s only function is to be pretty. Here is one cavorting in a field of watercolor flowers.

The directions for this butterfly, which apparently comes from Australia, can be found here. This calls for a square of paper, again, with the corners punched.

The paper for this butterfly is called “Kraft” and is from Yasutomo. It’s available at Joann’s craft store.
Another frilly butterfly.

One thing I learned while doing this project–the type of corner punch makes a difference. The Fiskars punch shown here makes a nice frilly edge. If you have a different corner punch, try it on a piece of scrap paper to see if you like it. Peace to you. Fran






Making Your Own Watercolor Origami Butterflies

While leafing through the dusty old Paper Butterfly Scrapbook (featured in last week’s post), sheaves of photos fell out, all showing that rarest of species: watercolor butterflies. Their translucent wings glowed with color, and I became determined to create my own.

After much experimentation, I came up with the following instructions for creating our own watercolor butterflies. But be forewarned! As you can see above, as soon as they are created, they fly away.


Watercolor Origami Butterfly Instructions

The butterflies are made with Oriental Rice Paper, which can be obtained at your local craft store: look in the calligraphy department.


This paper is soft, and is difficult to cut if your paper cutter is not razor sharp. I used a T-square, pencil and scissors to cut my squares into 6″ and 7″ squares.


You can use watercolors or inks for this project. You will also need a paint brush.
Have ready a thick sheaf of newspaper on your work surface. (If you use ink, you might want to first cover your work surface with a piece of plastic, as ink can stain.) Then, totally wet your paper square. Just hold it under running water in your kitchen sink. Shake the wet paper out, and lay it on the pad of newspaper.

Note: The paper must be moist for this process to work. Handle the moist paper gently, as it could tear. The newspaper will absorb extra moisture.

I am making morning glory paper here. Just dab circles of blue dots, and then dab in a yellow center.
The finished morning glory origami paper.
You can also carefully fold your moist paper and dip the edges into ink for a tie-dyed effect.

Or, your can simply drop blobs of ink or watercolor onto the moist paper and see what happens. Here are some things I came up with.

Let the paper dry, and then iron it to make it smooth for folding.

Here are some butterflies I folded with these papers. The large butterfly is made with the morning glory design.

Last week I made another group of these butterflies. (Most of these butterflies are folded from a pattern created by Akira Yoshizawa. You can round off the wings with scissors, if you wish.)

A squadron of butterflies.

A closer look.

One last page fell from the scrapbook. It told of a butterfly who had flown so many miles that her wings had became torn and tattered. But she is still beautiful!

Peace to you. Fran


A Paper Butterfly Scrapbook

Found in a dusty attic, a scrapbook of paper butterflies. Where did it come from? Who was its author? I don’t know. There was no date or name given, though I continue my research. As I leafed through its photos and its tableau vivant of natural history displays and ephemera, I thought I would share just a fraction of its pages here, along with a few of its scribbled comments. The scrapbook was so fragile that the cover came off in my hands . . .

On the first page: A great blue-winged butterfly, alighting after its travels.
. . . butterflies from far flung climes . . .
They may have come from the Galapagos Islands, as a tiny map of those islands was found clutched in the wing of one of these intrepid flyers. (This may be the first incontrovertible proof that butterflies use maps when they migrate. Who knows?)
A rare “lacey wing” butterfly–so few of these still survive!
Another rarity–the Mariposa butterfly, his wings adorned with birds.
Supposedly rare, these waxed paper butterflies are everywhere–but you can only see them out of the corner of your eye.
The sky is always blue when this happy-go-lucky butterfly is aloft.


A wonderful collection of watercolored butterflies–something to emulate in our spare time?.
Butterfly No. 298. That’s all we know about him.
A singular beauty suspended in glass. It may be that rarity, the cherry blossom butterfly.
Three crisp little butterflies, thought to be from Australia.
An Australian butterfly, posing upon its favorite book.
A page from the book, as though come to life.
Here we may have the first evidence of interplanetary butterflies.

At this point, I am sneezing from the clouds of dust that arise every time I turn a page, and will leave off for dinner. I will post more discoveries soon . . . Peace to you. Fran

If you are interested in making your own rare butterflies, please check out the butterfly page of the Origami Resource Center.


Caramel Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Last week I made some Chocolate Chip Biscotti for our church’s Third Tuesday Supper. The theme for the dinner was Italian, and biscotti seemed the thing to do. I was struck by the delicious, caramel flavor of the cookies, which are made with brown sugar, and decided to make them again this morning with a caramel glaze.

So I stirred up a little pan of caramel glaze, drizzled it over the pan of cookies, and, yes, they are so good. For a moment, I almost threw caution to the winds and thought of sprinkling them with some chocolate toffee bits I had on hand, but sometimes, enough really is enough. These are crunchy without being hard, with the caramel, butter and chocolate chips singing together as a melodious trio.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the softened butter and the sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture, and then stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be firm, and you may want to knead it a bit with your impeccably clean hands to bring it together.

Shape into two 10 x 2″ logs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Slice logs into 1/2 inch slices and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, take out of oven, flip over, and bake for a further 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Make glaze: Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, and stir over heat until bubbling. Take off heat, and add 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1/3 cup milk. Beat until smooth. (If the powdered sugar is really lumpy, pass the glaze through a sieve into a small bowl to smooth it.)

Baking notes: The original recipe called for a whole 12-ounce bag of chips, but half a bag seemed plenty to me. But you could go for it, and add the whole bag.

Pictured below: The dough, measuring the logs of dough, and pressing the logs so they are two inches across.


Fresh from the oven.
Sliced into 1/2″ slices.
Ready to be baked again.
Cut off a tip of a plastic sandwich bag. Scoop glaze into bag, twist up the top, and use to drizzle glaze over cookies.

You could also dip each cookie into the glaze, though I think drizzling is more fun.

If there a trick to drizzling, it’s to cut a small hole in the bag, and, drizzle over the cookies quickly. If you go slow, blobs could be created.

These are nice with fresh strawberries.

Somehow, the strawberries make me think of cardinals, and I offer a few pictures of this magnificent bird. Peace to you. Fran


A Bread Flower

I love this bread for being so pretty and, also, for tasting so good! The original recipe came from Paneterria by Gennaro Contado. (This is a wonderful book. I’ve made the first recipe for Basic Bread three times, and am slavering over the other recipes for pizzas and focaccias.) I took his recipe for Basic Bread and combined the shaping and tying method from his recipe for pumpkin bread (pane alla zucca). The pumpkin bread, which isn’t sweet, looks interesting, but I am suffering from pumpkin fatigue, and will bake it when I recover.

So the fun thing about this is that it isn’t hard to tie up the dough at all, and when you take the loaf from the oven you will be thrilled: It billows up into a beautiful loaf with a crispy crust. By the way, “flour,” used to be spelled “flower,” in medieval times, as it was thought too be the flower of the wheat plant.

A Bread Flower

packet of yeast (1/4-ounce)
1-3/4 cup warm water
pinch of sugar
4 cups bread flour
1-1/4 teaspoons salt

a five-feet long piece of string

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar, and stir. When the yeast has foamed up, add the flour and salt, and stir until the dough is a shaggy mass. Flour your counter, dump the dough onto it, and knead for 10 minutes. Add one or two more tablespoons of flour if the dough seems too sticky. (It’s better, though, to have slightly sticky dough, than dough that is too firm and floury.) It’s helpful to use a dough scraper, if you have one.

Cover your bowl and dough with a clean plastic bag. Twist the bag into a knot underneath the bowl, and set in a warm place. Allow to rise for about one hour. Dump the risen dough onto the floured counter. Knead lightly and form into a circle.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour some water in a pan (I used a 13 x9″ metal pan.) and place on the bottom shelf of the oven. This will create a moist atmosphere for the baking bread. Form dough into a loaf (directions to follow), allow to puff up for 30 minutes, and bake in preheated oven also for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

Baking notes: The water for the yeast should be very warm, about 100 to 110 degrees, and if you have an instant read thermometer, it could be helpful here. Tepid or lukewarm water isn’t warm enough. The pinch of sugar wasn’t called for in the original recipe, but I find it helps get the yeast growing. Be sure to use bread flour. Also, I used a bit more water than the original recipe called for.
Photos below: Yeast mixed in very warm water, yeast foaming, mixed dough ready for kneading, kneaded dough, dough rising in bag, a dough scraper, and risen dough. Tip: Do not proceed unless you see your yeast foam up. Your water might be too cool (it should be very warm, not tepid). Place the yeast in a warm spot, and give it more time. Also, be sure to use bread flour.

Place the string under the dough, evenly centered. Have the smooth side of the dough facing up.
Bring up the string and cross, and then bring the string down around the loaf at an angle.
Turn loaf over, and again cross the string at an angle.
Turn the dough over, and tie the string into a bow.
Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
The bottom will also be brown when the bread is done.
The high oven heat will cause beautiful browning.

To remove the string, untie the bow. Take one of the ends, and yank it–it will slice right through the loaf, and you can pull off the rest of the string in a similar way.

Use a serrated bread knife to slice, or an electric knife also works well.

Sometimes the simplest things are best–some flowers, some butter, and some toast.

The shape of this bread kept ringing a bell in the back of my mind, and after a search, found the following picture of an ancient loaf of bread from Pompeii. The more things change . . .

Photo from the Naples National Archeological Museum
Photo of an ancient Roman feast, by Carole Raddato. The green food is a bean puree with herbs. Sounds like something we could do!

A chickadee was flitting from branch to branch in our pear tree, and I got a few pictures. He was performing some acrobatics! Peace to you. Fran



Dacha Salad

It is snowing. No surprise there. It’s cold. Also, no surprise. So this morning I retreated into a Russian cookbook called “Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking,” where all feels warm, bright, and cozy. A salad called “Dacha Salad,” caught my eye, because it looked good and called for cherry  tomatoes, which even in the middle of winter here in the Midwest can be pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Also, I feel like I should be eating more salads and less cookies, and after Jim and I went out for breakfast (first things first), we stopped at the grocery store for salad ingredients.

A dacha. Photo: NVO

It was fun to come home with a grocery bag full of green-smelling things, and I set to work, pickling onions, making a sour cream dressing, and chopping veggies. By the way, a “dacha,” is a little cottage that Russians retreat to for gardening, and for enjoying warm summer days. This is the type of salad they might make after picking the ingredients fresh from the garden.

To make this salad, I advise pickling the onions first, making the salad dressing, and then chopping the vegetables, and adding them to your bowl, one by one. At the end, toss everything together. SO, вот так! (Here we go!)

Dacha Salad 

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 an English cucumber, quartered and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (1-1/2 cups)
1 bunch radishes, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces (1 cup–about eight radishes)
1/2 cup pickled onions, drained and minced (see recipe)
1/2 cup scallions, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed dill, chopped
black pepper
kosher salt

Dressing: Mix together the following.

1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 TBS minced parsley
1 TBS minced dill
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pickled onions: Cut a half onion into thin half moons and place in a heat-proof bowl. In a small pan, mix 1/2 cup red wine, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons sugar. Bring to a simmer and heat briefly until sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the onions, stir, and let sit while you make the salad. (Pickling smooths out the bite of raw onion. If you don’t want to pickle the onions, try Vidalia onions, instead.)

Note: The dressing will be pretty salty and tart, but it will be fine when combined with all the salad ingredients.

Then wash and cut up the vegetables, adding them to a bowl as you finish with each. Add the dressing, and toss thoroughly.

These were good, but grape tomatoes would work, too.
Cutting the onion into thin half moons.
Pickled onions. I think you could use red wine vinegar if you didn’t want to use red wine.
The original recipe called for a Russian sour cream called “smetana,” but this worked well.
I mixed the dressing in a measuring cup.
Chopping the dill. Remove fronds from thick stems before chopping.
Finished dressing.
As I chopped, it continued to snow.
Cut each little tomato in half.
Use the long, thin-skinned type of cucumber.
Radishes are so beautiful!
We’re almost there!
I used two of these green onions–they were pretty large.

Just a side note: Be sure to use kosher salt, not sea salt. Sea salt, on the left, is coarser.
Ready to assemble all ingredients!
Almost forgot the chopped pickled onions!
Toss your ingredients together thoroughly.


Yes, this salad involves a lot of chopping and tossing, but I served it along with some sliced ham, baked on Saturday (got the ham at Aldi–it was $8.40 and there was a $5 off coupon. The whole ham cost $3.40. Doesn’t get any better.), along with a Swedish Rye crisp bread and some butter.

I enjoyed making this salad–it was delicious, with the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, the crispness of the cucumber, and the sour cream dressing pulling it all together. I slowed down and especially enjoyed smelling the fresh dill. And, “Kachka,” is a wonderful cookbook, with lots of inspirational recipes. I definitely recommend it. A nice way to spend a snowy morning!

There haven’t been many birds out lately–there has been a hawk (Mr. Fluffy) patrolling the neighborhood, and it’s been very cold. But for a few minutes yesterday, some house finches appeared, and they stopped at the feeder, and had a bit of a kerfuffle. It was fun to see them. Peace to you. Fran


Jalapeño-Cheddar Corn Muffins

I’m deep in a muffin mode, and having really enjoyed last week’s Fresh Strawberry Muffins from Muffins A to Z by Marie Simmons, decided to try her Jalapeño- Cheddar Corn Muffins.

So on Saturday morning I started some Green Split Pea Soup in the crockpot, baked the muffins in the afternoon, and it was such a good meal for a cold day in January, along with a glass of merlot, and some fresh strawberries and a square of milk chocolate for dessert.

Don’t be afraid of the hotness of jalapeños. Compared to some hot peppers, they are only moderately hot, and you can control the heat by removing the seeds and pith. The one tablespoon of chopped pepper called for in this recipe yields a pretty mild muffin, in my opinion.

At any rate, when these muffins are baking the smell of toasted cheese fills the air along with the green note of the jalapeño, banishing the chill of winter.  And as you can see, they rise high, light, and golden. Yum.

Jalapeño-Cheddar Corn Muffiins

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon seeded, finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper
1-3/4  cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned creamed corn (8.5 oz. can)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
dash of Tabasco
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and place cupcake liners in a 12-mold cupcake pan. Melt the butter in a small pan; turn off the heat, and stir in the chopped jalapeños to soften.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the corn, buttermilk, egg, Tabasco and the butter/pepper mixture until blended. Add to the dry ingredients, along with one cup of the shredded cheese. (The remaining cheese will go on top.) Stir just until moistened.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, and sprinkle each with the remaining cheese. Bake until the tops are golden, about 20 to 22 minutes.

Baking notes: The original recipe called for cooking a half cup of chopped onion in the butter. Somehow this didn’t appeal to me, and I left it out, but feel free to try. Also, after chopping the jalapeños, wash your hands very thoroughly in hot water and soap. I used a quarter cup ice cream scoop to apportion the batter–I think this helped the muffins have a nice rounded top.

This is a handy recipe–you can set some cooled muffins aside for a meal, and then put the rest of them in a plastic bag. Twist the bag firmly closed, and place in the freezer. Then when you need a few muffins for another meal, microwave each for about 30 seconds. (Remove the liner if it’s metallic.) They will be good as new!

Pictured below: ingredients, chopping the jalapeño, the dough showing some flecks of flour, the filled muffin cups and the baked muffins.



Don’t be afraid to load up each cup with batter–it will rise high, not slop over.


Picture from The Persian Fusion

On another note, sometimes I run across a recipe that sounds interesting, but I’m not sure about it and I bake it to see what’s what. So last week I baked some saffron biscotti that looked golden and plump in the photo, but turned out pale and flavorless. I realized that I didn’t know much about saffron, and when I searched the web for info, ran across a wonderful food blog called The Persian Fusion, by Maryam Sinalee, all about Persian (Iranian) food. The food is beautiful, the photography great, the recipes sound delicious, and you might want to stop to stop by for a look. Meanwhile, I will keep working on the saffron biscotti!

A School of Origami Fish

I’m always conflicted about origami, because as much as I enjoy it, I have a practical streak and like to make things that are useful. These little fish, as well as being pretty, could conceivably be used on a keychain, or as bookmarks, or as a money holder. But their main appeal is that they fun to fold! I used 4 x 4″ chiyogami paper, which can be found on line–just google “chiyogami paper.” It’s heavily decorated, often with gold. I used instructions from Minigami by Gay Merrill Gross. You can also use the following instructions, using a 4 x 5″ piece of paper.

True confession: I use a quarter every week at Aldi, for a shopping cart. I keep a quarter in a folded fish in my wallet–helps make life a little more fun, and it’s my lucky coin!

Peace to you. Fran