Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sticks & Squares

Our food traditions play a role in defining our culture.
The value of a food moment is determined by the level of joy it creates!
The ceramic basket holding the breadsticks in the above picture is a gift from my husband Pete's Aunt M.  She carried it in her suitcase all the way from Pennsylvania, McKeesport, Pennsylvania to be exact, to Seattle, Washington to see her sister, my mother-in-law, and then 360 miles to our home in Coulee Dam.  When Aunt M presented the gift, made by her hands in a pottery class, she exclaimed with prideful defiance that if she hadn't wrapped the basket in her flannel pjs, that because of the way the airports handle luggage, it surely would have been smashed to bits. Oh! and sweethearts my pjs are clean! AND we laughed, and we laughed. Then began our splendid world wind 48 hour visit with Aunt M!
Jeremiah, Oh! Jeremiah! such a fine chap is he. Our eldest son and Jeremiah had a childhood friendship that brought out the absolute best in both of them.  Jeremiah is an only child.  His parents said of him, " he has some of the best of both of us in him, and so far we haven't found anything wrong with him!" AND we laughed and laughed.
Jeremiah was an intelligent, humorous, well spoken young man.  His humor and charisma surpassed anyone of his young age.  I do believe Jeremiah has a very old soul.
I used Aunt M's basket at all our dinner parties, birthday parties, and party parties, and filled it with fresh homemade breadsticks.  It was a perfect thing to do in every way!
Our son and Jeremiah's friendship spanned five years from ages 5 through 10 years of age, until Jeremiah's father accepted a job position that required they move.  The two children attended each other's birthday parties faithfully. 
On our son's 8th birthday party Jeremiah shared with me his favorite part of our parties.  "Mrs. B., I just enjoy your parties so much; the food, the fun, and what makes your parties extra special is the basket of breadsticks.  It's about the sticks!  Look at everyone moving about, talking, laughing, and holding a breadstick!  Pure genius Mrs. B!"
Here is the recipe for the famous sticks.  It is a 35+ year old recipe that I have converted so that my bread machine can make the dough for me.
Breadstick Recipe
For the dough:
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. of warm water
2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 c. bread flour
Butter sauce for brushing on the sticks:
4 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1. For the dough, I place all ingredients in the inner canister of the bread machine, starting from the bottom of the ingredient list, making the warm water the last to go in.
2. Set the machine on dough setting.
3. After 5 minutes of rest, press start.
4. 90 minutes later dough should be ready.
5. Spill dough onto lightly floured surface.
6. Using hands pat dough out in rectangle.

7. Cut dough in individual size sticks in the thickness that you want your breadsticks to be.  Roll sticks on your floured surface until they are the size you want them to be.
8. Place sticks on parchment lined cooking sheets.
9. Cover with clean towel, let sit in draft-free area for 30 minutes.
10. Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 12 minutes or until golden.
Brush with butter mixture, if eating soon.  Leave plain until serving.  I leave half sticks plain and half with butter sauce brushed on.
I turned my kitchen into a chemistry lab until my next recipe tasted "just right". Adjust sugar and lemon juice according to your taste preference.  I love the sweet and tart exactly in the middle.  I decided to do this conversion to create smaller portions that still looked pretty after being cut.  Lemon Meringue is best understood as little is more is wise.  These Lemon Meringue Squares slice beautifully into 12 perfect squares.

Lemon Meringue Squares:

14 cookies [your choice]
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
Zest of two lemons
3 Tbsp. melted butter

2 1/2 c. sugar
8 egg yolks
2/3 c. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. water


8 egg whites [keep whites cold until ready to make meringue]
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. Line 9x11 inch pan with foil
2. Spray foil with non-stick spray.
3. Place cookies in food processor, process until fine crumbs, add sugar, lemon zest, and melted butter until just mixed.

4. Press cookie mix into bottom of 9x11 pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until set.
5.  Place 2 1/2 c. sugar and 2/3 c. lemon juice in saucepan.  Bring to gentle boil on medium high heat.
6. Temper egg yolks until warm with sugar/juice mixture.  Pour tempered egg yolk mixture into sugar/juice mixture in saucepan.  Continue on medium high heat until mixture begins to thicken.
7. Stir 4 Tbsp. cornstarch and cup of water until well blended.  Add to saucepan.  Continue cooking until lemon custard is thick. Take off heat. Stir in 4 Tbsp. butter.
8. Let custard cool to room temperature and then pour on cookie crust.  Place in fridge, while working on meringue.
9.  Place egg white in mixer bowl with 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, beat on medium low speed until frothy.  Mix sugar and cornstarch together.  Turn mixer up to medium high and gradually add sugar/cornstarch mixture.  Continue to beat to stiff peaks.
10. Spread meringue on lemon custard layer.
11. Brown meringue in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done to your likeness.

12. Chill the squares for at least 6 hours.. When chilled completely lift out using foil and support bottom with wide, long spatula to place on cutting board. Lifting one end of squares slightly to fold back foil all the way to the opposite end from underneath.  After bottom of crust is sitting on cutting board cut into twelve equal squares.  Place on serving platter. Continue to chill in fridge up to serving time.

Rooney's value is best described as the level of joy she brings to us.  It turns out she likes soft jazz instrumental music.  Wow!  So do we!  It turns out she loves long walks in the country.  Wow! So do we!  It turns out she loves children. Wow! Again! So do we! The joy Rooney brings is exponentially greater than anything we could have imagined.  We have loved all of our pets; each and every one of them.  In retirement Rooney has brought a redefinition to our full and satisfying lives.  She reminds us all at once what is the best to laugh about, and the best to love; her zoomies when she is off leash, sun rises, sunsets, walks, and squeaky toys.  Rooney reminds us to pause and enjoy awe moments.  She in all her graceful beauty and sweetness manages to stretch time for us.  Rooney is blissful and brave.  She chose to love us. Anything that hurts us, is healed by her love.  Anything that blesses us with goodness is doubled by her love.  Rooney is priceless....

Enjoy value and joy in your food traditions,

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