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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Working with OSHA

First things first.......

I should mention this before I forget. I met this cat who is Dutch and his name is Freerk Bos.

The guy has mad love for baking, and he has started a Facebook site called Breadlab.

I found it not only useful, but his point of view totally has swag.

If I were you, when I was done reading my musings.....I'd flop over to his site.

Or better yet, go now, I wouldn't blame you. It's hard for a Pollack to keep up with the Dutch.

All kidding aside. I think that Holland may be one of the most underrated baking countries in the world.

Anyways.....on with tonight's program.

Recently I was talking to a couple of other guys who hold positions similar to mine in several different bakeries across the state.

One of these colleagues mentioned that OSHA hadn't been around in awhile, and all of a sudden we all became silent.

I am not going to lie. Nobody enjoys ushering an OSHA inspector through their working space.

If you don't work in a bakery, just think back to the day that you took that test to get your drivers license.

Remember the man with the clipboard. The guy with the short sleeve shirt and plastic pocket protector.

Remember that moment he buckled his seat belt, and he breathed those heavy breaths, your anxiety level escalated a few notches huh?

And before the guy uttered a single word, you wondered if anybody ever let him know that he had shrubs of hair festering inside his ears.

Well my friend....... times that by 10, and that's what it's like when OSHA pays a call.

A lot of business owners don't like working with them, because they run their inspections different than the FDA or Department of AG.

When most government agencies write you up with a citation, often times the business has several months to fix the infraction before a fine gets levied.

That isn't always the case with OSHA.

When they tag you, you're tagged. There are avenues of recourse, but more often than not, a reasonable size business is going to have to put some money in their coffers.

Urban legend amongst bake staff is that OSHA used to be funded by the government, but since Uncle Sam's contributions have diminished, they've had to create revenue by "sticking it to the little guy."

I don't by that for a second.

OSHA has a proud history and has put it's reputation on the line defending the "Little Man" when corporate America thumped away at hillbilly and ethnic work forces that built this great country.

Talk to those famous coal minors at Matewan, and they'll bow down for any government agency that will enforce little liberties like...oh stuff like....breathing fresh air, or having tunnel regulations that will decrease cave in's.

But as unions have been broken across America, many people seem to think there isn't the need for regulating.

Sweet Polish Christ is that short sighted.

Just take a stroll over planet earth and look at all the funky goo that festers in regions where businesses are left to determine it's communities welfare.

You will be disgusted.

I remember 4 years ago when OSHA sweeped across Minnesota, they were popping bakeries for "Lock Out - Tag Out" as well as lack of signage which declared that no persons should be allowed in an oven.

Already I can hear you laughing, you're most certainly thinking "why would any dumb a** ever crawl into an oven?"

There are more reasons than you might think of.

Often times parchment papers will flutter to the oven floor and sometimes remnants of them will clog the pilot light of the flame rod.

When that happens, usually the littlest guy in the shop would crawl in and dislodge the paper clot.

Or sometimes on Ferris wheel ovens, the weight of too many bread pans can knock a shelf off its tracking and the broken shelf will catch against the oven floor, thus seizing motion.

Once again, entering from stage left...the smallest baker or oven man will crawl in and place the shelf back on it's tracking.

Time is money right????????

People die doing things like this.

Sometimes people get maimed and pain will stay with them till they lay down upon their death bed.

I think OSHA picks singular things to focus on so bakeries will network and actually mend their errant ways.

Also by focusing on a singular initiative, this allows the OSHA inspectors to receive uniformed training and support one another out in the field.

Will Klecko jump for joy the next time an OSHA inspector shows up unannounced,

Nadda-Nadda....Big Papi will be sweating bullets, you can count on it.

But none the less.....for those of you living the American dream, thank God you have an agency like this that works so hard to protect your interests!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Speculaas Recipe & Saturday Night Live

We've gone over this before right?

I hate to be alone.

As a kid, when nobody was around, I'd pretend I was famous.

I was alone a lot, so for years I was kinda in this perpetual trance, and while being in this altered state of mind......I'd often interview myself.

As I got older, I became a baker.

I would mix doughs, or run ovens while you slept (or before you were born), and while this took place.........

I'd pretend I was famous and I would conduct M.P.R. interviews with "Klecko - Lord of the Sourdoughs."

Today I had to drop my kid back off at college. I drove about 20 billion mile to Iowa.

I passed horses -
I passed cows -
I saw a dead deer pushed off to the side of the highway -
I passed Amish peeps -

Most of the way there, my son slept, and you know what?

I felt time.

I didn't feel alone.

I was good.

But then I finally get to his dorm, stop the bread truck 20 yards from his entrance and mutter......

"Ya know, you're practically home, but I'm not even 1/2 way to my doorstep!"

Tydus rolls his eyes and drops inappropriate language.

In past posts, I've shared my strategy for music, but if you've heard this part....bare with me, let's let the new L.A.B. Rats catch up.

I have a c.d. in my truck, I've had it for 2 1/2 years.

It only has 3 songs, but they play in a continuous loop.

Song #1 is Oasis / Wonder Wall

Song #2 is Oasis / Champagne Super Nova

Song #3 is U2 / Windows in the Sky

After dropping my son "The Hustler" off, I turned tail and headed homeward.

Within 10 minutes I began to feel alone.

I don't like that, so lately the thing I do is pretend (get this) that I am a famous musician on Saturday Night Live.

I am towards the end of my career, kinda like where Bob Dylan is today.

But e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y loves me, and oh yeah....I've already played my first song.

So I cue up my C.D. to U2's "Window in the Sky" song, and just before it starts......

Steve Martin walks on to the stage and announce..........

"Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome......MEOW."

And then the music chimes in.

But what is unique about the second song is that my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter comes out to do the second song with me, but she's around 13 in my minds eye.

I sing from a sitting position, on an inverted 5 gallon honey pale, while leaning into a sawed off microphone stand.

Madison Rose (my Granddaughter) is wearing a Nebraska Cornhusker cheer leading uniform, and on the last stanza of the song, I let her take over...she crushes, becomes famous, and I die happy.

My thoughts may seem odd, but I contend that they pass the time quicker, and in a more pleasurable manner than counting hay bails along the highway.

Now an hour and a 1/2 or 2 have passed.

I'm in Cannon Falls, and I have to pee.

I hate pulling off the highway, but I have no other choice, so I pop into a McDonald's.

I am not hungry.

I am not thirst. but I have to pee.

So I do, and maybe this is just me, but I feel guilty using a facilities rest room and then not patronizing the establishment.

To me, it just seems tacky.

So I ordered a Diet Coke and a simple cheeseburger.

While I'm waiting for my feast....I pull out my droid to check for missed calls, e-mails and Facebook updates.......

O-M-G.....when I got to Facebook, I noticed that Kim Ode's "Baking 101" page had around a billion hits on a thread where people were discussing Speculaas recipes.

If you don't know that word, it's basically referring to...well, have you ever seen those hand carved wooden molds that you push cookie dough into?

Those are Speculaas.

The Germans and the Dutch go ape over them.

Often time the Dutch version will make little brown windmills.

Anyways, somebody on Facebook was freaked out because they said they tried a Molasses recipe, but the cookies popped out and they didn't hold their form.

So Klecko.....the Master Baker chimes in and says something like......

"Dear whats your head, I am sorry to report that Speculaas are really more for show. They are kinda like fondant cakes...they look nice, but don't taste as good as butter cream.

With the Speculaas, you don't use B-Soda or B-Powder, any energy will pop your cookie out of the mold.

Sure....kids used to eat the contents from these molds, but that was in what???? 1492 Munich?

Seriously, I know how bad a** those wooden forms look, but seriously....just set them against the splash guard on your sink to intimidate your Mother in Law when she comes other.

That might not recoup your investment, but it sure is fun."

I gotta tell ya, you'd have thought I shot the Pope...LOL.

People defied Uncle Klecko's wisdom.

People stated stories steeped in romance where they had sampled this culinary antique....and in their memory.....the speculaas was divine.

Oh well, if you get a chance, Google some of the speculaas molds, they are gorgeous.

And just for the fun of it.....if you were on Saturday Night Live.....

What would your band's name be, and who would introduce you?

Here you go, this recipe comes from "All Recipes" online. I Googled others, but so many of them used B-Powder or B-Soda....Liar-Liar Pant's on Fire.

They simply won't-won't-won't work if you p[lace your cookie dough in a specialty mold.

Trust me.

Speculaas Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
* 1 egg
* 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour with spices, baking powder and salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and mix well.

3. Stir in by hand half the flour mixture, then add the remaining flour and almonds. Mix with a wooden spoon or knead with hands.

4. Divide dough into four parts, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for several hours. (If you are using a mold, chill it as well.)

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and grease two cookie sheets.

6. Remove one quarter of the dough from the refrigerator and flatten it with your hands. Oil your mold and lightly flour it. Using your fingers, press dough firmly into the mold. Trim any excess dough from the mold with a knife.

7. Transfer the cookies onto greased cookie sheets with a spatula, spacing about one inch apart.

8. Refrigerate dough trimming to be rerolled later. Lightly flour but do not re-oil cookie mold.

9. Repeat process with remaining dough. When cookie sheets are full, bake cookies for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Store in a covered tin.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Charles Dickens Christmas Recipes

I have always been a fan of "A Christmas Carol".

To be honest, I don't care if it's the George C. Scott version, or Bill Murray's.

I just love the message.

I guess it's like this.......I have been married for what.... 126 years? But every time I go to a wedding and I hear the couple exchange vows, that's good for me. It reminds me what I promised Sue McGleno and God such a long time ago.

I need reminders.

In "A Christmas Carl" (and to this day I still wonder how or why they selected that title) the premise is that any day can be a special day for us. All we have to do is show a little resolve.

Each of us has room for improvement, and if we just take a moment to look to the past, dwell in the present, and ponder the future.....how can we not want to make radical changes.

I swear to Caesar if you tell anybody this, I'll deny it (and crush your skull) but every time that sick little Tiny Tim says the deal about Merry Christmas to all and whatever-whatever.........

I kinda tear up.

I need reminders.

Keeping in theme with Dickens, I wanted to blurt out some thought on Victorian baking.

Klecko is far from a historian, but this topic and era have always fascinated him.

In less than 2 weeks my Saint Paul Bread Club will be having an event entitled......

"A Charles Dickens Baking Party"

One of the main reasons I chose to do this was that I thought it would be fun for the club members to do some research and then try to replicate some of these recipes that have been lost to time.

People-People-People......we just don't know how good we have it these days.

I've sat in on numerous seminars where you had to bake items that were standard fare during WW2, what an imposition that was (from an ingredient stand point).

But London Town - Dickensville was 600 years prior to "The Big One".......

What a challenge this will be.

I know we are a baking Blog here, but check out this recipe in case you have to stuff your goose.......

Chestnut Stuffing:

1/2 pound bacon (after frying)cut into fine pieces
1 large white onion diced
2 cups sliced celery
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 pound of chestnuts (broken)
4 cups cooked wild rice
1 teaspoon dry sage
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon pepper

OK, it will work for turkey or ducks as well. But this is a derivative of something I pulled off a website a couple years back, the version online also had apples....but that kinda freaked me out.

Then there is always...........

Goose Liver Toast:

½ cup chopped goose fat
1 goose liver
1 truffle, minced
salt and pepper
10 to 12 Christmas "Trees"
shape cut from thinly
sliced, toasted white bread
Finely chopped Italian
parsley sprigs

I pulled this recipe out of a Victorian cookbook, they served these bread pieces on the same platter that the goose rested on. They were to be ornamental and functional...either way, it made me glad that I was living in the 2000's.

Currant Cream Scones:

The Brass Sisters have an interesting web site that breaks down the entire Victorian menu, you should Google them if you get the chance. They mention that the following recipe was only enjoyed by the upper middle class and wealthy folks in the Dickens era.

They also said that even if you had the money to purchase the supplies.....scones were hard to make.

Back in the day, all the peeps from London Town had to buy big masses of sugar that came wrapped in blue paper. I think they were cone shaped.

Well, you'd start off by chiseling off an appropriate size chunk, and then you'd have to pulverize that unit until you got your recipes sugar at the precise consistency.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants, plumped in ¼ cup orange juice*
¼ cup sugar

This recipe looks good, but if we are going to be authentic, Klecko will have to cry "Fraud!"

First off, B-Powder wasn't employed by 14th century England or anyplace else in the world for that matter. If anything, they probably used some sort of ash/content that had properties more similar To B-Soda

Secondly, the Brits never-ever-ever plumped, and even if they did...they shouldn't of. The acid in the orange juice would certainly break down the currant by the time the scone was finished being mixed.

Are there oranges in the U.K?

It's so far from Florida...LOL.

Anyways forget plumping anytime you use raisins or currants

You'll lose all your texture.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn't try Tiny Tim's favorite treat.....

Figgy Pudding:

1 cup suet
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum
1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 pound dried figs, ground or finely chopped
Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten

Grease a two-quart mold.
Cream together butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.
Pour into two-quart buttered bowl or mold and place into large shallow pan and steam for four hours.

Custard Sauce

2 cups milk
1 large egg
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.

Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.
Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream.

This recipe was pulled off another Dickens internet site as well.

When I look at these recipes from centuries past, I am amazed at how different things were.

I guess my first inclination is to be grateful for the convenience that I have in my kitchen today, but on the other hand....you don't see any processed ingredients in here huh?

For those of you in the Twin Cities, our Dicken's Baking Party will take place the second Saturday in December. If you are interested in coming.....shout at me for details.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cooking With Thugs / Update

Dateline / Hubert Humphrey - Airport Terminal #1

Typically our bakery delivers baked goods to the airport before most of you have sat down in your work cubicles, but today is Black Friday and the entire country has gone vampire.

The You-Tube videos on my Droid alert me to the fact that people in my city are pepper spraying one another in lines that have formed in retail parking lots.

People scare me.

I chose to make the airport run so the usual guys who rotate it could spend extended weekends with their loved ones.

The only problem is, I haven't made a run in awhile, and airport protocol gives you absolutely no window of error.

Even that wouldn't be a deal breaker, I was pretty sure I had a handle on the system.

Things change fast at the airport though. Memo's, directives and e-mails are constantly sent out divulging new tweeks to the system.

Klecko wasn't privy though.........

To get to the loading docks is a feat in itself.

Delivery trucks have to navigate a maze of service roads that in many ways are more complex than completing a Rubik's Cube.

Eventually...as the sun creeped over the horizon (like Klecko on a New Years day floor) I found the entry security kiosk.

I was so proud that I remembered my special admittance security badge. Oh yeah...they are really cool cuz they have your photo, an official crest and a photo of a plane on it.

Back when I worked in Russia, I would always pull this badge from my wallet and place it on a table while giving the impression I was looking for something else.

Truth be told....I just wanted hot Russian chicks to see it and think I was a pilot.

If my interpreter was with, and they asked if I worked in the aviation field, Klecko's pat response was........

"I can neither confirm or deny." and then I would change the topic.

But I digress, I'm at the security kiosk now, badge is pulled out. First thing you have to do is swipe it over a magnetic pad......

Ding-Ding, Klecko has accomplished the first level.

Step #2 is a little trickier though, press your special security code into the keypad.........

Oh yeah, you need to know that huh?

And now trucks the size of Humpback Whales are pulling up behind me....time is money.

"@%&*$%^!@" is the thought that is now circulating through the Last American Bakers mind.

"HONKKKKKKKK - HONKKKKKKKKK" reverberates through the industrial complex.

Little Danny peers through some cracks in the concrete and sees a pile of Delta jets and wishes that one would take him away from this experience.

I hate not knowing systems, and I'm sure if I forgot my code, I could have worked something out....but maybe not. They have to be hard a** at the airport, just think of the security involved.

Polish Christ was good to me though, maybe an angel was sent, or who knows? Maybe a sip of espresso shook the rust from my brain.

Either way, I eventually remembered my digits and proceeded onward.

When I got to the loading docks, the place was buzzing.

Blue collars unloaded trucks while swearing, complaining and making comments about women that most ladies wouldn't perceive as amorous.

While I waited to get checked in, I took a moment to think how unique I am.

Danny Klecko was raised as a thug.

Danny Klecko in many ways more than a thug, he's actually at a higher level of thuggery, if that makes sense.

He is a card holding member of the Blue Collar Club, The Food Service Worker Club, and he currently sits on the board on "The Big Man's Club."

Unless you are over 6 feet and weigh over 250#'s you haven't heard of it, why?

You can't buy your way into it.

In the Big Man's Club you have to be Tall-Big and have a demeanor that speaks volumes (even if your mouth is shut).

Shaved heads, tattooed bodies and Red Wing boots are also badges of honors amongst this society.

Being a "Big Man" is universal, requirements transcend borders.

For instance.....if I were to go to Peru today, and I walked into a cafe and sat down by myself, and across the restaurant some big Peruvian dude saw me......

He'd walk over and make small talk like "You from around here?" or "Where did you find those boots? I have to order mine online."

You see.....Big Men don't actually listen to the dialogue that they share, it's inconsequential, what does matter is that everybody in the room sees that the Twin Towers are united.

Big Men rarely sell one another out.

I'm not even 1/2 kidding you guys on this. I swear it to John Paul Deuce.

It is one of the most elite clubs on the planet.

People always watch the big man when they enter the room, some for self preservation, and others out of awe.

I swear I'm not trying to toot my own horn, I'm just enlightening you guys into a special "Fraction World" that I know real well.

If 26 raccoons were eating out of a KFC dumpster, and a Gorilla and an Elephant marched up....what would their reaction be?

Exactly.....Welcome to Klecko's world.

So now I am standing amongst these blue collar souls, and it occurs to me, how much my life has changed in the last 5 years, and how much of my thug mentality has vanished.

Klecko has had to upgrade to a minor level of clever LOL, but as I stood there, I wondered if any of these other "Johnny Lunch Bucket's" could quote Carl Sandburg, recite the winners of Project Runway series 1-9, or tell you how to transplant a David Austin rose.....

The whole world is buying plasma TV's for Christmas....and Klecko is befuddled by his demeanor.

That's what happens when you let poetry enter your life....it takes the DNA that used to smash beer bottles on pavement and turns it into expressions of love.

Klecko.....where's this post going?

Well.......every year different school systems come to Klecko and ask him to preach the gospel of Vocational Training. Teenagers seem to enjoy me because I have experienced moderate success in this world, at yet I tend to maintain a low level of maturity......we have a lot in common.

I have been blessed-blessed-blessed by working with high school kids.

I've had opportunities to work with foreign students, gang bangers, alternative schools, bully's and victims.

School has changed 100% since I attended. In fact, the systems don't seem related.

Budgets, staff and opportunity have vanished.

Bottom Line......if you want the future to be bright, you will have to pitch in.

Each of us has a separate gift that we can contribute to this pending generation if we want.

Two days ago I got a phone call from a women who I will call Katie Garden, she works at an unorthodox school in Saint Paul. A school that places so much time just trying to keep these kids afloat.

She mentioned that her facility has a fully operational kitchen, and wondered if I could teach the kids how to cook, but as we continued talking....she mentioned that her "guys" might be too rowdy, or maybe even think the course was wussy, but then she mentioned that the girls might like it.

Sigh.....people just don't get it.

You know, last Fall I volunteered at a school in the Western suburbs of Mpls and the only way you could take Home Ec there was if you worked in a fast food restaurant.

Anyways I told Katie Garden that I would consider it, but for starters, I will only accept men students, and the course title m-u-s-t be COOKING WITH THUGS.

I figure that if I can get the guys to lock in...the girls will follow, it kinda seems to be the natural course.

Klecko is putting heavy thought into this program.

I haven't signed off on it yet....but if you are a person of faith....keep this in your prayers.

I hope all you L.A.B. Rat's had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

But that was yesterday....so.....IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS.

Be well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Modern Mincemeat Recipe (2012)

Alright........

Some things change, and somethings don't.

"CHANGE" -

Today I stopped off at the coffee shop to get a double shot of espresso. Blind-Bill was sitting over in the corner of the shop with his family.

After announcing I was me, Blind-Bill laughed.......

"I would have never guessed......so many other people CLOMP around this place!"

I detected a small amount of sarcasm.

"Billy" I said......"You look like you are a little worn out, are you trying to mentally prepare for dinner with the fam?"

Dramatic pause........

"No I'm just tired of the world."

He has a grin on his face when he says this, and then he proceeds to laugh.

Bill is a musician by trade, and now he begins lamenting how his industry is changing rapidly.

"I have to go do a wedding tomorrow. I hate weddings. I actually haven't done one in almost a year, but the money was there, I couldn't turn it down, but let me tell you something....throughout my career, the bride and groom would hire you, you'd play, and then you got a paycheck.

It isn't that easy anymore. Now day's the bride and groom will hire you, and then demand to see your set list. They look it over with a fine tooth comb and deconstruct your list.....

Take this song out, this one, this one...oh and do you know Billy Joel's piano man?

God, I don't ever want to do that again. We sang that at Saint John's and everybody in the room dropped their pants.

I never figured out what that was all about."

Well Blind-Bill....Happy Thanksgiving, I love you....and I'll see you tomorrow.

Now into the present......

Now that my turkey meal was just finished (and cudo's to Sue McGleno and Tydus for providing a Christ like spread)its time for me to focus on holiday baking.

One thing in holiday baking that has changed dramatically over the years is "Mince Meat".

To not have mince meat during the holidays, to not make it....well, it's almost sacrilegious.

Years ago the Brits kinda got this ball rolling, and in their recipe, they used meat and eggs.

As years have past, and FDA inspectors deduced, it was decided that this original recipe was not necessarily the healthiest option, especially if the mince meat was left out for a prolonged period of time.

People actually died.

Next move was to replace the meat and egg with a beef suet. This held up much longer than the original recipe, but it too had a drawback.

It made the final product heavy and greasy.

I guess if you were kicking it on the streets of London Town in 1392, it might not have been so bad.

But time marched on and peeps on the dairy farms started to replace the beef suet with butter.......

And the rest is history.

So....Brothers and Sisters, I proclaim unto thee that you live in the present. It is my hope, and the hope of the Polish Christ that you will not wait for the future.

Don't tell yourself that you'll indulge next year........

For tomorrow is promised to nobody LOL!

I urge you to get into your kitchen right now....this very moment and make some mince meat.

First off.....if you are going to make the modern version, it breaks into 2 camps.

#1 The Gift Version -

In the gift version, you should use dried fruits. They will hold up longer, and the alcohol won't break down the fruit

#2 The Holiday Meal Version -

If I am baking items like Mince Meat Cheese Crowns, or Savory Mince Meat Coffee Cake (shrouded in puff pastry and topped with Parmesan cheese. I use fresh fruit.
Basically I let this version soak for 24 to 48 hours. The first version can soak for weeks.

In the past I have discussed booze options........

The 2 brightest pastry chefs I have ever worked with respectfully disagree in opinion.

Gilson won't even make minced meat if she can't use dark rum, and H-E-N-N-E-S-S-Y swears by bourbon.

But Danny Klecko........This year he's going with Whiskey, and Irish Whiskey at that....Jameson.

The coolest part about mince meat is that everybody makes it a little different.

For me, it's NOT a competition.

If yours is better, I'll be the first to admit it, but mine is p-r-e-t-t-y good.

OK, the version I am going to toss at you here is one that incorporates some fresh fruit. Often times when people chop certain fruits that brown fast, they rinse them in lemon juice to retard said browning process.

However....when you use booze, it isn't really quite so necessary......

KLECKO'S MINCE MEAT RECIPE -


Homemade Mincemeat:

2 large apples, I core them and dice them into pieces the size of a nickel.
Many people peel theirs, I don't, I feel like the peel helps hold the fruit together as the booze and sugar break it down. Try to find big/hard apples if possible.

2-3 pears, dice them into nickel sized pieces.

1 cup black raisins

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup craisins

1 cup citron or candied peel.

1/2 cup brown sugar, Many people like dark...I usually use the regular. Often times I will add this in last after the liquids are all in. This 1/2 cup measurement can vary quite a bit, but in the end...I want that brown sugar to form a loose paste, a paste that binds...if that makes sense.

1 cup Jameson Whiskey (or dark rum, or bourbon....or even cognac)

1/2 cup salted butter, I know-I know....soccer moms and hippies will yell at me, but the salt helps preserve are mincemeat eco system and extends our shelf life in a somewhat natural manner.

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder

Orange Zest, either use a micro-planer or use some orange peel that you get from a spice store. whatever route you pursue....this will determine your levels. And...if you don't use the orange....then take out the clove as well. Mincemeat and Christmas Spice Geeks demand that you can't use clove w/o orange

1 teaspoon salt, this really is essential, Klecko demands that you you don't cheat yourself by leaving this out....the salt is going to make the fruits "POP". Gilson once told me that only savages refuse to utilize this Godsend.........

Then for my last Item, just before adding the mince meat into it's mold or form, I add 1 cup of walnut pieces. I don't like them to soak for a couple days. Squishy nuts ='s ishy texture.

OK L.A.B. Rats......I sincerely hope you try this recipe or one like it.

If you are an alcoholic, or giving this mince meat to somebody in a 12 step progra,....swap out the booze levels with apple juice.

Alrighty then......Turkey day is over so.....Hark the Herald - Angels Sing,

If you have ANY questions....shout at me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Understanding Christmas Spices

You know we must be embarking on the holiday season........

Yesterday Klecko had an epiphany.

My vision didn't revolve around God, World Peace...or even a medical cure.

It was culinary.

I was sitting and my desk preparing to go out across town to secure specialty spices for holiday baking.

Each year when I prepare for this, I usually get a notepad out and fumble through my thought process.....

Then it became clear to me.

I don't know why it took me so many years but.......

And then I talked with H-E-N-N-E-S-S-Y and asked, and then I called Kim Ode and asked.....

"Isn't there a definitive Christmas spice resource out there?"

I'm guessing their may be, but even after Googling the topic....I pretty much just got crap answers....soooooooooo

If Klecko wants something done, I guess he'll have to do it himself LOL.

But, if after reading this, if you find a better source (and I'm sure there a dozens of them that have eluded me) post the info in this blog for all of us please.

CHRISTMAS SPICES -

ALLSPICE -

Christopher Columbus stumbled onto the fruit berry (that kinda looks like a pepper corn) on his second journey to the west. For centuries this spice has been primarily used by islanders in meat dishes.

It's pretty much the Americans and Brits that have utilized this spice for desserts.

In Palestine they use this fruit spice in stews which are as common as soup in Minnesota during the winter.

But for Klecko, it is the staple of all Christmas spices, why?

Because allspice is the staple ingredient in gingerbread, molasses and all dark Christmas cookies. The Brit's mix it into the honey cookies and the Germans covet this spice when making lebkuchen.

ANISE -

When creating a flavor profile with sweet goods, anise is always found. Like a red-headed step child....it get overlooked, or maybe even slapped around a bit.

This is a crime against man and God. Anise is a wonderful-wonderful spice.

Think about jelly bean bowls. How weak would the flavors be if you didn't have the black licorice version to balance it with.

Ask any child who grew up with an alcoholic.....boozer physically crave anise.

So if you are throwing a party (where alcohol is consumed in moderation) it is imperative to add this spice onto your cookie plate.

The best recipes utilizing anise tend to be Greek from Klecko's observation.

CARDAMOM -

Speaking of "Drunks"....I always feel a little sloshed trying to say Cardamom-mum-mum-mum.

The plant comes from India, but come Christmas time......the Nordic people kidnap this spice.

The Finnish peeps use it in their Pulla.....and the Scandinavian crew make it a cornerstone spice in their Yulekaga.

I think that's the biggest dif between yulekaga and stollen. They have the same ingredients...but the Germans are not partial (or maybe just not exposed) to cardamom like the Norse.

Klecko loves-loves-loves to make a Cardamom-Plumb bread during the holidays.

It fly's off the shelf....quicker than most Christmas treats.

CINNAMON -

The default ingredient in Christmas baking for sure, in fact....I'll bet during the summer, Cinnamon vacations with Vanilla lol.

The question isn't what holidays recipes incorporate this spice, it should be "Which one don't?"

Picking your fave is a lot like handing a Victoria Secrets catalog to a group of high school boys and asking them which girl is the cutest.....

Trust me....you will get 50 different answers.

Cinnamon has made advancements by leaps and bounds since Klecko's granny used it.

But in Klecko's humble opinion.....he loves the Vietnamese.

Just a preference.

CLOVES -

When does one use cloves in Christmas baking? Not often, it usually gets tossed into The family's Christmas ham and Gingerbread, but other than that.......

Shhhhhh, want to impress?

Mix clove with orange zest and Holy Mother of the Polish Christ.

The angels will sing through the night.

CORIANDER -

If Coriander were a rock band from the 60's-80's, it would be "The Who".

The Who was nobody's favorite band, yet most kids and adults had at least 3-4 of their albums in their collection.

Coriander doesn't hold up well on it's own. It is best paired in recipes that contain honey or ginger.

FRANKINCENSE and MYRRH -

These of coarse were the spices that were brought to the Baby Jesus as Gifts.

I have never baked with them....but they do sell them online.

At the time that the Wise Men collected these spices Myrrh was much-much more expensive than Frankincense.

GINGER -

As most of you know, it comes in powder or crystallized forms.

Almost always ginger pretty much is isolated to cookies during the holidays but......

Klecko loves to throw large amounts of the crystallized into mince meat or fruit cake recipes.

LAVENDER -

Often time "Dear Old Ladies" from church will use Lavender to scent the presents that they give to the people that they love most.

As a kid, I thought they did this because they were old and simply had nothing better to do.

Shame on your ignorance Klecko.....

They did / do it because the Virgin Mary was reported to wash the swaddling cloth of Christ in Lavender.

Old ladies are cool.

MACE -

What is mace? It comes of the same pod as nutmeg. I think it's the outer shell right? But either way.....it is a "softer" version of nutmeg.

Almost always used in plumb pies and fruit cakes instead of it's more obnoxious cousin nutmeg.

NUTMEG -

As a Pollack, I may be tainted, but nutmeg mean only one thing to me....Tom & Jerry's laced with whiskey...Polish Jesus we give thanks unto thee. One of my most favorite recipes to make during the holidays is an Egg Nog / Poppy quick bread and it has high-high-high measures of Nutmeg in it.

From my own personal experiences, of all the Christmas Baking ingredients, this one is not only my fave, but the majority of my clients as well.

You simply can't go wrong with nutmeg.

RUE -

It is called "The Herb of Grace" and to be honest...I almost didn't want to include this. It is bitter is used in abundance, and to some people....it really messes up their stomach. So if you are going to use it....Have a bottle of Pepto handy.

If it gets on your skin during hot weather...and you don't wash it off. You get boils like a leper.

But with all that said.......

The French love it (go figure)lol, and they put small doses of it in their cookies.

Let's face it, nobody on God's planet makes better cookies than the French.

That a fact.

SAGE -

I have never used this spice in Christmas baking, but not that savory is in......

Sage is the most blessed of all spice because when King Herod sent guards out to kill babies during the Massacre of the Innocence.....

Mary and Baby Jesus were reported to hide in a large sage shrub.

SAFFRON -

The most expensive of all spices holiday or not. When you buy it in commercial volumes....it comes in a collectors tin and all the bakers fight over who will take it home when its gone.

This is once again a Nordic driven spice.

I simply don't like it.

I will go to the grave declaring that it is overrated and puts a tin like sensation on my palate.

However, if you are hell bent on using it....might the Master offer a hint.

Use it mixed in with cream cheese, use your Kitchen Aid paddle and blend the two. You will give a radiant yellow paste.

This process stretches out your saffron.

And if you are serving something with saffron....swear to Caesar, put an actual tag next to it like "Polish Saffron - Cream Cheese Kolaches".

Most people get all Pavlov when they simply see the word saffron.

In closing........

Remember to throw out last years Christmas spices....they are old and they suck.

Klecko only uses Penzey's during the holiday, but do as you will.

If you have any additions....leave here for Big Papi.

I'm outta here, I'm off to cross Amish territory to pick up my son for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pimping Mixers for Williams and Sonoma

Dateline - Saturday / Rosedale Mall

You know that you are on the home stretch of marriage and life when you start taking your spouse with you to buy their own Christmas presents.

Two of the items that Sue McGleno wants this year is perfume and pajamas.

I knew she wanted Chanel but I wasn't sure if she wanted #5 or a newer scent.

And in terms of PJ's, she likes Victoria Secret flannel, but I always feel creepy walking past 20 some year old's that are holding up exotic lingerie with fringe hanging off it, or clever erotic slogans prints on their panties.....

Hello Bombshell............

So, oh yeah, if you spend 50 bucks on flannels at V.S. their throwing in a complimentary pair of booty socks.

But before any of this was to take place, we parked the bread mobile into an over crowded parking lot, and made our way into the mall.

Every time we do this, several traditions need to take place.

First off Sue McGleno will mention that she needs to use the restroom, then she'll decide she doesn't, and then after that..... she makes a B-line to the W.C. right next to the Foot Locker.

So Klecko will go into the shoe store and browse and the dude in the Zebra suit will come up and start his hard sell on me.

Klecko loves this because he always walks over to the Adidas and asks for a pair of the "Howards" in size 15.

"Sorry sir, we don't carry any shoes in that size" the guy will say, and I simply browse through my catalog of emotional facial range, only to produce a mask that indacates how disappointed I am.

"Oh, that's too bad, I was thinking about getting a couple of pairs" I'll say as I turn my back and continue waiting for my date to finish her pit stop.

After Sue McGleno resurfaces, we will walk right past an Orange Julius and she will ask me for the 1000th time, as if it were the first time.....

"Hey did you bring any money?"

And then I'll pay like 9 bucks for a strawberry something-something drink.

So now that the rituals, or her rituals were complete, I decided to complete the one thing I like to do.....go into Williams Sonoma to look at the baking equipment.

Recently on Kim Ode's "Baking 101" Facebook site somebody posted photos of these Star Wars cookies that were totally bad a**. They had a Storm Trooper helmet, a Darth Vadar mask, and yes.....Yoda cookie cutters were in the mix as well.

The first pan I noticed was the brownie pan, where you made brownie cups, but then filled them with chocolate chip cookie centers.

Ewwwwwwwww, I was just about to barf, but then I saw Sue McGleno completely fixated on the form.

Then there was a huge pan. A pan shaped like an Oreo cookie. You baked the black cookie part (about 9 or 10 inches, and then they gave you the recipe for the secret filling.

This intrigued me a bit, but then I considered the reality of me eating the entire thing at 3 in the morning while slamming a gallon of milk.

Then there was Marvel Comic Hero's individual sized cake-let pans. You got 6 in the set........

Hulk
Captain America
Iron Man
Spider Man
Wolverine
Thor

Wow...I can't believe I actually remembered them all.

Then they had a all kinds of Bundt Pans.

I have always-always wanted a Bundt Pan...I swear it to Polish Christ.

But when I look at the selection, I get indecisive and lose my nerve.

I've gone through this for years.

I think I'll have to simply let somebody make the decision for me.

I think I would like to make Bundt's and just give them to girls.

So now it is apparent that we are not going to buy anything. So as we turn to walk out. I see a 55ish year old woman standing next to a 18-20ish year old employee.

The kid is squinting at a row of Kitchen Aid mixers that the woman is looking at, and I can tell she's praying for a colleague to walk by and help her with the inquiry.

She is so out of her league here.

So Klecko thinks about lending some advice, but then he wonders if it would be wanted, or if he wants to be "that guy"...so he prayed about it for a couple seconds before doing what you already knew he was going to do before he did......

"Excuse me ladies, I hate to intrude, but I overheard that you had some questions about the Kitchen Aid line....if I might be of assistance"..........

And then the 55ish woman squints harder than the kid and asked me who I was, and wondered what my credentials to chime into this conversation were.

After relaying a brief verbal resume.....the 55ish year old woman laughs and asks whimsically if this is some kind of a set up.

Was Klecko some kind of plant on the Williams Sonoma payroll?

I laughed and handed her my business card.

The 55ish lady himmed and hawwed a bit. She said she liked the smaller Kitchen Aid to the right. It took up less room on her counter.

I told her it was a nice little mixer, pretty much a generic version that you might also find at Super Target or Walmart.

"What are you going to use the mixer for"? I asked, and as I asked this. a different sales person, a more experienced sale woman entered the conversation.

The 55ish year old woman said that she primarily wanted to bake bread.

"Oh-Oh" said Klecko........"That baby mixer you like is good for cookies and whipped cream, but if you are going to tackle bread....you are going to have to upgrade to a larger model."

The 55ish year old woman grew a look of despair before sharing.......

"Yeah, I knew you were going to say that. My sister had the smaller version, and she said she blew the motor mixing bread dough."

Klecko smiled, paused for drama, and then continued preaching the gospel of Kitchen Aid mixers.........

"I am not doubting your sister, but more often than blowing your motor....it's the shaft that ends up snapping. There is a huge difference in bread densities. with a ciabatta you c........."

The 55ish year old woman interrupted....

"Ciabatta, you spell that C-I-A-B-A-T-T-A right"?

How we got into a spelling bee I'll never know. After answering her query, I continued.

"These small mixers cost around 1/2 the price of the 7 quart, but this 7 quart actually has the strength to mix a sourdough or small batches of brick starters. However....even at this size, you might just want to mix it 3/4's of the way and finish the mix by hand. You'll relieve a huge amount of torque on that shaft this way. But yeah......I think there's only one choice for you my friend."

The 55ish year old woman shrugged her shoulder, laughed kinda nervously and instructed the employees to pack up the big one.

The 2 sales women were elated as you can imagine, that was a $600 sale.

But I could tell that this 55ish year old woman was still j-u-s-t a bit uncertain.

So Klecko wrote down his magic cell phone number and left the woman with.......

You made a big purchase today kid, here's my number. We have mixers like this at the bakery. I'm gonna suggest that if you want some assistance, give me a call and maybe the 2 of us can bake together sometime.

The 55ish woman got a big-dumb grin, turned to Sue McGleno, and Sue McGleno just rolled her eyes and said..........

"Don't worry, he's safe......but trust me, there's always some kinda price to pay from hanging out with this Pollack."

The woman hugged me, and I left to buy perfume.

F.Y.I., it is lucky Sue McGleno did come with.....I would have picked Chanel #5, but she like their new Mademoiselle line better.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cherry Cookies + 3 Men and a Baby

Last night Sue McGleno didn't feel good.

Her body was sick, and her mind was filled with sadness.

So on my way home from the gym, I stopped off at Walgreen's a made a couple of purchases.

#1 was pink / bunny rabbit slippers. They were identical to the ones that - that one kid was forced to wear in that Christmas movie. The one that they play on TBS every year for 24 consecutive hours.

What's it called? The movie where the kid shoots his eye out with the "Red Rider" B.B. gun.

Slippers like that.

Then I bought light up lawn ornaments.

Sue McGleno is a sucker for tacky light up stuff, in another life I'm sure she was a raccoon and I'll bet she pilfered silver jewelry and gum wrappers.

The only problem was we never had an outdoor outlet.

But that didn't stop Sue McGleno.

Our mailbox is basically a hole in the wall of our house, and the postal carrier just dumps our bills through said hole.

Well Sue McGleno strung 10 000 feet of extension chords through this hole, causing arctic winds to swirl through my living room.

Merry Christmas Danny Klecko.......

She didn't care, as long as Joesph and Mary were illuminated.

Finally I called "Tat Bro". He used to work with me in the bakery for years as a dough mixer. Tat was the king, but eventually the Feds caught him moving crank and fire arms.

Tat Bro got sent away to the joint were he took up electrical.

After serving 5 hard years, he got out, came home, and the first thing I did was have him put an outlet on the outside of my house for Sue McGleno.

BTW....in case you are wondering, this years ornament is a family of Cardinals.

Papa, Mama and baby lined up in a neat row.

When I brought these gifts home.....The angels of Christ must have entered our home, because Sue McGleno was healed LOL.

My job is always to be the token "Dick" at our house. Klecko has 1000 rules, and they are committed to memory.

Every chance the "fam" has to reunite, when I'm not there, they mock my controlling nature.

That's OK, cuz deep down I know, they know....that the rules I believe in were put in place to protect my family. To create a sense of safety.

Many fathers understand my plight.

But after Sue McGleno shuffled away with her gifts, I sat in a chair. I sat in silence (which never happens) and thought backwards.

I went 20 years back in time on a winter day when my daughter KiKi was really sick. She had the flu.

I was always the guy who would burn vacation days for trips to the hospital, or illness that kept my kids out indefinably.

By doing this, I never had days acrewed to go anywhere.

Sue McGleno despised me....but safety and health first.

So KiKi was lying on the floor watching boring TV. We were to poor to have cable back then. I noticed she was using an extra blanket, a blanket that didn't belong to anybodys bed.

It was brown, thin, worn and had a couple of cigarette holes in it.

Sue McGleno was at college and KiKi and I were by ourselves.

The day sucked.

I remember I looked in my wallet and I had like 50 dollars. That money was my one week allotment for lunch, cigarette's and merriment.

I looked at KiKi and told her to buck up and be tough, Papi had some errands to run and would be back in around 90 minutes.

With a sick look on her little face, KiKi gave me that "whatever" look and I took off.

In less than an hour, I returned.

I spent almost every single penny I had. I gave it all to K-Mart, and in return they sent me home with..........

A big-fluffy-bright Minnie Mouse comforter. If you wrapped yourself in this, you'd stay warm in an igloo.

In a million years, KiKi never had smiled bigger than at that moment.

I was thrilled that I could get her to have even momentary happiness during her illness.

As she beamed and said........

"Thank you-thank you-thank you"........Big Papi interrupted.

"Shut up kid, that's not even close to the end of your "I am sick" treats"........

Then I produced a plastic New Kids on the Block jumbo mug filled with cherry Slurpee, a VHS tape of Tail Spins and of course.....3 Men and a Baby.

Dude.....the kid was stoked.

Of all flavors in the world, nothing says "I love you kid, get well soon" more than cherry. It might not be a fact, but it should be.

Cherry is soothing, I'll bet that's why NyQuil uses it as their flagship flavor.

I think we watched 3 Men and a Baby like 4 times that day.

This was before internet was wide spread, and I remember KiKi getting all excited and informing me that urban legend stated that their was a scene where the ghost of a dead kid appears momentarily in a brief shot.

I said no way....but sure enough, KiKi found it and it was kind of creepy.

I reverted to logic, and was about to explain stuff about things I know nothing about, like reflections, lenses and lighting, but then when I saw little KiKi wrapped up in her Minnie Mouse blanket, and her pasty white face was finally smiling, I caught myself and shut up.

Funny, at the time it seemed like a non eventful day, but as I think back, having time alone with my daughter....time where she liked me, and the 2 of us just got to share patience until she finally got better.

I'm not kidding you......it was one of the top 10 days in my entire life.

I'd like to take credit for healing the kid, but truth be told........

NOTHING MENDS THE BODY-MIND & SOUL LIKE A CHERRY SLURPEE.

Cherry Fruit Facts:

* The Cherry fruit is known to grow in many areas of the United States. It is noticed that sweet cherries prove to be difficult to grow. Sour cherries are grown towards the east coast.

* Cherries are very easily perishable and they rarely ripen after harvest. Therefore, you need to refrigerate them soon after their purchase. These can remain fresh in the fridge for at least 2 days.


* The German word Kirsch-the cherry liqueur comes from the word karshu. This is the name given to the cherries that were first cultivated in Mesopotamia in 8 BC.


* Cherries are very versatile fruits and can be a part of any meal or dessert. From breakfast to soups and salads, these find their way into any food item easily! Being delicious, these can be frozen and devoured whenever you wish!


* Studies have shown the cherry fruit has plenty of health benefits. They are known to provide pain relief for people who suffer from arthritis. It is said that eating 20 tart cherries in a day can prove to fight inflammation effectively.


* Red cherries are also very high in melatonin. These are known to destroy the toxins that cause diseases. The cherry fruit is also high in antioxidants that help to fight cancer and heart disease.


* The cherry fruits are low in cholesterol, fat and sodium. They are also a very good source of fiber and Vitamin C.


* Since the cherry fruit bruises easily, you need to handle them with care. When buying cherries, look for a bright color and those with a supple exterior. Cherries, which are plump and firm, are very good to taste. If you are looking for good quality cherries, try to go in for cherries with their green stems attached.


* Tart cherries and tart cherry juice are known to reduce the urate levels in the body. These are also known to reduce muscle pain and back pain. The benefits of tart cherries are also found even if they are frozen, in the form of juice or canned. Sweet cherries as well as tart cherries have very high levels of anthocyanins. This is the red pigment in the cherries, which helps to reduce the inflammation.


* Sweet as well as sour cherries can be used for jams. Sour cherries are used more often as an ingredient in pies and are suitable for making souffles, cooked fruit compotes etc.


* Cherries are also known to have a very short fruiting season. It is during the Christmas time, one sees these plants at their peak, especially in Australia. Areas of Northern America see these cherries as the first ones to ripen amongst other trees; therefore the term 'in cherry condition' has been derived which means something new.


* Michigan has around 35,000 acres of tart cherry trees. This place grows almost 75% of the tart cherries, which are produced in the United States. The Traverse City is therefore called the Cherry Capital of the World. The sweet cherries are grown in large numbers in Washington.


* The cherry fruit extract contains antioxidant flavonoids and are used in many tablets and capsules. These capsules are used to support the pH levels of the body.


Klecko's Cherry Cookie Winks

Ingredients

* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/4 cup shortening
* 1 cup white sugar
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons milk
* 1 teaspoon almond extract
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon B - powder
* 1/2 teaspoon B - soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup chopped pecans
* 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
* 1/3 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
* 2 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
* 10 maraschino cherries, quartered

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

2. Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar. Blend in the eggs, milk and almond.

3. Sift together the flour, B - powder, B - soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the chopped pecans, chopped dates and 1/3 cup maraschino cherries.

4. Shape teaspoonful sized chunks of dough into balls. Roll each ball in the crushed corn flakes. Place balls on the prepared baking sheets and top each cookie with 1/4 maraschino cherry.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12ish minutes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Next Years Cupcake Is........

Hark the Herald, angels sing.........

I gotta tell ya, running a bread empire has gotten easier since social media has evolved.

During the first 20 years of my career, when a baker had 4-6 minutes down time, they'd all run outside to pound down a heater.

Now that nobody smokes anymore, or at least none of our 16 bakers, that brief stretch is spent with my boys checking their I-Phones and Droids.

Earliar today I had to cross town on a sales call. I had to leave during rush hour, and remembering how Batman use to exclaim.....

"Its better to be 10 minutes early instead of 1 second late."

I planned ahead, and arrived at my destination ahead of schedule.

For 15 minutes I read texts, e-mails and Facebook messages.

Todays "Gold Star" of entertainment goes out to Kim Ode. Give me a second here, and I will repost her question.........

"Hey K, you can't believe how many baking concepts I've gotten pitched this week as being the Next Big Thing. So many sweets! I'm still thinking there's a lot of mileage to be drawn from savory, though. So let me toss this out to you: Could a savory cookie be next year's cupcake?"

First off Kim......great-great question. I will be curious to know if you just supposed this or drew it from a covert source.

But before I address that, I'll start off by saying that "Bacon" is not going to be an Ingredient Messiah again this year.

No ingredient can blaze that bright for a 3rd (or 4th? year in a row.

Savory Cookies huh?

In the world of baking, very seldom does any baker create all their own recipes. More often than not, they "Quote Product".

That means that the bakers and R&D departments travel the globe, go to conventions and surf the web to find new ideas........

H-E-N-N-E-S-S-Y and I already have a file tucked away with some flavor combo's for savory cookies, but we can't launch them until after the holidays.

Savory won't comepete with classics during Christmas. This is the one and only time of the year that the masses don't like to experiment.

So I think you'll see your prediction surface just after New Years 2012, but remember........

Savory cookies won't be a morning cookie, or a dessert cookie.

I see them being consumed in office cubicles at 2 or 3 p.m.

H-E-N-N-E-S-S-Y says that people will pair these creations with wine, lot's and lot's of wine!

So, listed below are just a few of the savory themes that will be represented independantly, or sold in mixed tins.

I know you're and award winning "Snoop", but none the less......

I am seriously impressed.

P.S. When I say Savory Cookies....I mean cookies. Crackers and biscotties...all that stuff won't count, all these concepts will/should be delivered in their traditional shapes.

Savory Cookie Concepts of 2012

Pesto
Red Onion / Parmesan
Pink Grapefruit / Poppy
Molasses / Brie
Molasses Cayenne (Zombie Cookies)
Seaweed / Molasses / Miso Paste
Ginger / Black Sesame
Bacon / Kraut / Rye
Bacon / Blue Cheese
Blue Cheese / Pecan
Pine Nut / Rosemary / Shortbread
Chocolate / Caramel / Coarse Salt
Caramelized Pear and Ginger
Pepper Cumin
Ham & Gryyere Thumbprints
Pepperjack Thumbprints

And even Ice Box cookies will go savory. You'll see everything from Rosemary & Cheese to Lemon Grass / Kalamatta

So Kimmy......if you have any additions, shout at me.

L.A.B. Rats....same goes for you...Holla.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipe

Dear Granddaughter -

It's been too long since my last letter, and I am always nervous that if I die before you get to the age where you will remember me, you won't know how much I love you.

Let me tell you real quick what the greatest things my eyes have witnessed in the world.

#5 - Mount Rushmore, I know that seems lame because its image is always on Kodak commercials, and stuff like that. But when I saw it in the flesh....I was amazed.

And furthermore, I was like 18 years old, you'll find out that from 16-20 you are typically too cool to let stuff impress you, but I just stood there and stared.

Some people marvel at God's creation, but lets face it....God is God, and if you are God and can't create cool stuff....well, what's the point?

But to think that some stupid bonehead guys spent years hanging from ropes and carving Presidential nostrils....ha ha...pretty awesome huh.

I hope you get to see it one day.

#4 The 1987 Minnesota World Series parade. You gotta understand, in 1987 I was only 24 years old. But I love baseball, always have and always will. Sometimes when I go to a ballpark and sit their quietly, I kinda feel the same way I do when I go into a huge cathedral.

I am pretty certain God loves baseball as much as little old ladies that light candles for the oppressed, well maybe not.

But in 1987 the Twin Cities had been to a World Series in the past, 1965 in fact, but they lost to the Dodgers in 7 games.

Our hometown Vikings had not only lost 4 Super Bowls, but they pretty much got pimp slapped in each one of them.

Our NHL team had been to a couple Stanley Cups and....yeah, you guessed it. We lost.

Sports are powerful, I'm not gonna lie, people won't fess up to it, but if you grew up in Minnesota, in 1987....it was like you kinda felt like a loser (to a certain degree)...always the bridesmaid huh?

But on the day we won our first championship, everything exploded. It reminded me of the time my Uncle was fighting me and my cousins in Rush lake when we were kids.

Uncle Jerry was just horsing around, but he had - had like 26 high balls.

So while he kept cousins Mike and Jack back with an oustreched left arm, he used his right leg to kick back Shelly and Steve.

While all of this was taking place, he held my puny frame between his right arm and his flabby waistline.

As the fight went into the deeper water, eventually my head was submerged.

I kicked and flailed and underwater screamed........

To no avail.

Uncle Jerry's focus could only concentrate on the larger cousins which seemed like a more immediate threat.

I actually got to the point where my oxygen had become depleted and I stopped fighting.

My body went limp.

Then, whether it was guardian angels or chance....I'll never know.

Somehow I was pulled above the water and BLAST-BANG-BOOM my lungs were on fire. I gasped so loud people 10 docks down could hear me.

I think that was the exact same thing that happened to my community when they realized that for just once, one single moment we were the best at something.

It seemed to be enough, like it validated everything that happened in our city.

Every-every-every person with a set of functional legs walked out to that victory parade caravan, and as our home town hero's drove through Mpls and St Paul in open convertables, there were cheers that civilization hadn't heard since the toppling of Rome.

Five years later.....we won the World Series again. It wasn't nearly as big of a deal.

Why?

Once a winner...always a winner kid.

#3 -

When I was a young man and working in a bakery. I had a hernia. So back in those days, they slit you open, did whatever doctors do, and pushed me out with a sewn up hernia scar.

I was laying on the couch heavily medicated and your Grandma Sue McGleno kept pumping me up with meds. I think she likes it better when Grandpa is stoned and leaves her alone.

But I remember being all drugged up and President Bush was on TV. Not George W but his old man, the first Bush Prez.

Earliar that day his wife Barbara (who was a sweet woman, but she kinda looked like she was old enough to be the Presidents mother) was sliding at some resort with her family.

She was on a long toboggan that crashed into a tree trunk.

The first lady broke her leg.

I remember my mind was floating when I watched this story being reported, but while this event seemed like just another story of the day to the press corps....I remember looking at the Presidents face.

I can't even remember what he said, but I remember this look of concern on his face. You could so tell that he didn't want to be there. He wanted to be by his wifes side.

Eventually he wrapped up and took off.

I just sat laid there all loopy, and for the next 5 minutes.....I just stared at Sue McGleno. she was in her own world and didn't even feel my eyes following her every move.

But I remember for that specific 5 minutes......how glad I was that her leg was not broken.

And then I wondered if I would one day be President...or old.

Well I am old today, and I gotta tell you, Your Grandma was pretty stunning that day.

#2 -

Whales in Hawii


#1 -

The single greatest thing I ever in a lifetime saw was the times when you were whatever it is when you are no longer a baby, but whatever it is that comes after a baby.

I would drive to Omaha, and your sluggard parents and Grandma would sleep-and sleep, and sleep some more.

So I would sneak into your little pink bedroom and hover over your bed.

It's cool watching (whatever 6 months older than a baby is...is that infant? I don't know...anyways...)little kids breath while they sleep.

The way they do it is so cool, like maybe because they are so young, they haven't learned to take something like the miracle of breath for granted.

But you would lay in your crib (and eventually your mini bed) and I would stand there for the longest time.

I was always tempted to wake you up because the coolest thing ever was the expression you'd make when you opened your eyes.

Smiles one mile long.

Never was there a kid who was happier to be alive than you.

So I woke you up....every chance I could.

Now some might say.....

"Really Klecko....you enjoyed that more than watching your own kids?"

Yeah...w/o a doubt, when I was a dad, 95% of my focus was on keeping the Monster called Earth and Humans off my kids back! LOL, I didn't invest in being my kids "friends....." as much as being their father.

But you got somebody doing that already, so now....I call dibs on being your bestest friend.

Oh yeah.....after you'd wake up, I'd have to get Grandma....and she would be mad because I woke you up, and I'd ask enthusiastically for her to change your diapers.

The modern world might say "Klecko....are you serious, couldn't you change your own granddaughters diapers?"

C'mon, lets not be creepy huh?

I love you M-Rose as much as my chihuahua !!!!!

Listed below I have for you one of my very favorite Christmas Cookies. it actually was developed by Laura Bush (George W's wife).

I could care less what your political affiliation is kid, just grow up and bake this cookie recipe it's the bomb.

Love Grandpa K

LAURA BUSH'S COWBOY CHRISTMAS COOKIES

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl. In 8-quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 minute. Gradually beat in sugars; beat to combine, 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

P.S., when I've made these.....I like to add some orange zest as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Last American Bakery!!!!!!!!!!

OK, its no time to be modest.

Yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of the Last American Baker.

To be honest.....I thought about doing something special for my little L.A.B. Rats....but Guns & Roses came to the Twin Towns and I spent a large part of yesterday making merry.

One year though huh?

213 posts huh?

Man....we've gone through a lot in that time.

To be honest, I wasn't sure as to what I should expect from you guys, but I know the one thing I wanted to do.... and I accomplished it .

My main objective was to give people from all walks of life, a little taste as to what it's like to actually live in the Hospitality Industry.

Your responses have been the main reason I continue tossing my thoughts into cyber space.

So looking back, what were some of the Blog's most memorable moments during the last year?

For me, there have been a few that stuck out............

#1 - Post #82 was entitled "The Sex Drive of Priests and Sous Chefs". If you didn't read that one, it discusses humans genetic make up and the after effects of sex being uses irresponsibly.

Somebody took offense and voiced a negative opinion to the powers that be.

For 3 days our L.A.B. lost its links to all the major social media outlets.

After a little networking of my own, I was able to get things up and running again.

Some people asked me if I was pissed at whoever did it, and I responded......

"No, I am just sad that their perception has made them so angry."

I lied.....I actually prayed for their death LOL....j-u-s-t K-i-d-d-i-n-g.

#2 - Episode #100 (the post is actually called Episode 100). That may have been the single most beautiful piece I have ever written. It was one of the few-few times in Klecko's life where he actually felt that maybe some kind of divine intervention placed him in the path of an experience that he was meant to witness.

It is the only Blog post that I have copied and sent to my Granddaughter. It means a lot to me that she not only learns how to look at others, but I want her to know that her Grandfather spent a great deal of time prioritizing this.

#3 - This message was left for me, and it truly changed my life........

I just wanted to say hallo from Berlin Germany, because i always read your blog and i cannot say how much i enjoy it although we both are rather different ... : )
I am a leftish German atheist who despises Reagan and although I lived in the US on and off i cannot say that I really understand your fascinating country, but I nonetheless came to love it. Anyway, I love your honesty, passion and compassion, your humor and you reminded me that although we humans have different opinions and our fights and arguments about those we still have so much more in common than things that keep us apart.

we all love, suffer and eat bread : )

Love from bread-country Germany

Birgit

Can you imagine how I felt lining up with my monitor early one morning and seeing that? Birgit, if you are still with me...."We all love, suffer and eat bread" may be a new Klecko tattoo.

I can't thank you enough.

#4 -In the Blog post...."Singing with Bono and Sue McGleno" I received praise from a L.A.B. follower,

"this might be the best paragraph i have ever read"

Sure there would be some obligatory protest on her part where she tells me to keep it and assuring me she'll be fine, but at the end, she would be dry, and whoever stood behind the baker at the U2 show would go home and tell people the following morning how some big Shrek looking dude in front of them blocked their sight, and all they could see was a huge monkey tattoo that was bleeding through a soggy T-shirt.

July 25, 2011 11:05 AM / Laurie Hertzel

Everybody in the Minnesota who isn't a complete savage not only knows who Hertzel is, but they covet her work.

However, if living in Guam or Latvia has taken you from our Twin Cities literary loop....Laurie is the "Book" writer for the StarTribune newspaper.

If its written, new, classic or relevant.....it goes through her before any single person on the Liter-arty scene.

She is well read, loves dogs and baseball.

I don't say this very often, but she is one of the few people I would rather hear talk instead of myself.

Her opinions tend to be fact, and just knowing that she even remotely sniffed my rants mean a tremendous amount to me.

#5 "In Case You Missed the Greatest Night of my Life".......

Even though this didn't happen all that long ago, it certainly was an epic moment.

This was the evening where I had a chance to recite at the University Club. I read my original work and for the closing.....my writing mentor...Saint Paul's own rebel poet Mike Finley came up and we presented Michael Jackson's "Thriller">

O-M-G.......and all the bow tie wearing peeps, they dug it.

Ya kinda had to be there, but I would, and will remain remiss if I ever review my accomplishments or legacy w/o mentioning Mike Finley.

It has taken him over a decade to help me create a "dented style" that has become presentable.....but it sure didn't take him long to impress upon me how it is cooler to "Be a poet...than write poems"

#6

Over the year, I have shared things with the world that I don't normally even share with people at the bar or in church pews.

I've introduced you to my best friends, and I have also admitted how my love for them has made me vulnerable.

I know that sounds totally "self help" but we have broke bread together...you and I for 213 installments.

Kim Ode,Alison Aten, Gilson, Lee Svitak Dean, Mike Finley and all the peeps at MHS and Lucky Park, they know that without them, without letting me observe their lives....I've got nothing to talk about.

But the one thing, the main thing that I need to say "THANK YOU" for as we celebrate our little anniversary together is......

I simply will never be able to repay you all for how kind and receptive you have been with my "Sue McGleno" character.........I've got a few short straws in life, but that little Russian Jew has kept my karma wheel even.

You all have been more than gracious in your comments and requests concerning her.

In closing.........

We had over 25 000 hits this year.

L.A.B. was read in 96 different countries.

And L.A.B. will continue to stand pat and never use photos in the blog.

Any good story teller should be able to convince you, that your mind serves as a better palate for my rants that some shoddy image captured on a "smart" phone.

Thanks again you knuckle heads.....I love most of you.

Get Baking.........................................

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to make Fruit Cake like a Champion

Fruit Cake.....either you love it or hate it right?

Well We are entering the 2nd week of November, so if you want to have a Charles Dickens Christmas.....you better get cracking.

The recipe I am going to post is one I pulled off of the All Recipes website. So all credit and props to them. This recipe is tested and if you did this recipe step by step....your clan would have the merriest of Christmas's.

However, being Klecko....I am going to put on my baking scuba suit and submerge this concept to deeper levels.

If your feel as if your head is pressurized......feel free to join me.

ALL RECIPE FRUITCAKE

Ingredients

1/8 cup chopped dried cherries
1/8 cup chopped dried mango
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped candied citron
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dark rum, divided

Directions
1.Soak cherries, mango, cranberries, currants, and citron in 1/4 cup rum for at least 24 hours. Cover tightly, and store at room temperature.

2.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Butter a 6x3 inch round pan, and line with parchment paper.

3.In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; mix into butter and sugar in three batches, alternating with molasses and milk. Stir in soaked fruit and chopped nuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

4.Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons rum.

5.Cut out one piece parchment paper and one piece cheesecloth, each large enough to wrap around the cake. Moisten cheesecloth with 1 tablespoon rum. Arrange cheesecloth on top of parchment paper, and unmold cake onto it. Sprinkle top and sides of cake with remaining rum. Wrap the cheesecloth closely to the surface of the cake, then wrap with paper. Place in an airtight tin, and age for at least 10 weeks. If storing longer, douse with additional rum for every 10 weeks of storage.

KLECKO FRUITCAKE TIPS -

OK....first off we should talk about the booze we put into our fruit cake (as well as paint it with). The traditional recipe calls for rum. This recipe found it largest audience in Britain, therefore rum would seem to be a natural choice.

However, living in America, I had always grown up with my fruit cake being painted with bourbon.

Last year Gilson and I had a knock down drag out over this, she wanted rum and told me if we used bourbon that we would simply be hillbilly's.

As usual, I let her have her way.

I should add, fruit cake is no different than other recipes that call for rum. If it is needed....make sure your rum is "dark rum".

So she made hers, and I made mine. We both used the same ingredients, but we just painted them with our individual booze preference.

Hers were better.

There...... I confess.

So this year, H-E-N-N-E-S-S-Y comes aboard and says only savages use rum.

With that said, I went to Facebook and posed the following question on Kim Ode's "Baking 101" site.........

Fruit Cake - Bourbon or Rum?

In less than 3 minutes I received 19 responses.

17 voted for bourbon

1 voted for rum

And then there always has to be that one "individual" who plays by their own rules....so we actually got a vote for Amaretto, but truth be told....it's not a bad idea.

I have often thought about using Southern Comfort as my fruit cake alcohol. Not only does it have a high percentage of booze, but it is really sweet. It would pair well with the existing flavors...don't you think?

But like I said "When in Rome" so we opted for bourbon this year.

Remember, when fruit cake was invented, the Brit's didn't have the options that they do today. I'll bet if this Christmas treat was invented today, and you were strolling through London town....well you'd most certainly see new ideas within this medium.

The other thing I find interesting about this recipe is how it calls for both citron and dried fruits.

Usually fruit cake recipes will call for just one of the two, but not both.

Or sometimes the recipe will call for Citron and zest, or dried fruit and zest.

But zest is never used on its own.....it is there to accompany the Citron or dried fruit flavors.

I have found that most Americans don't like Citron anymore.....in the back rooms of V.I.P. baking circles we call Citron.....NUCLEAR FRUIT.

But once again....if the Brits had the dried fruit options that we have today, back when this holiday bread was invented....Klecko wonders if they would have used Citron.

The dried Mango in this recipe somewhat puzzled me. I have always liked dried mango, but I'm noticing that dried apricots were omitted. I would most certainly swap apricots for the mango.....it just seems more reverent I guess.

The only way I'd use the mango would be if I spent Christmas in that hut, next to the palm tree on the Corona Christmas commercial.

How about currants?

Do you like that option, once again - once again.....this is such a Brit ingredient, and often times this fruit is utilized in America by chefs and bakers alike.

But from my experience, flavor has little to do with it, most food technicians like the size of the currant, basically it is a baby raisin.

Being smaller, this offers a different texture, and that affects "mouth feel".

Klecko has got nothing against the currant, but he's a Pollack, and that means the currant has to get swapped out for the golden raisin, it was ordained by the Polish Christ.

But on a serious note....golden raisins are great because they are so meaty and their sweetness squirts out as if you were chomping on a June bug.

When you read that the molasses in the recipe was unsulfered, did you stop to ask yourself why?

Almost every fruit cake recipe you will find will call for this.

Black strap molasses is more of an American ingredient.

Many American bakers will swap out the B-Strap for the unsulfered and use a little bit less since the B-Strap is so much stronger....but Klecko swaps them out bit for bit.

So these are just a few observations.

OK...with that said...........

Why don't you L.A.B. RATS get out their and collect your ingredients and get cracking. If you have questions on this topic....I'd love to hear you shout....oh yeah.....let me be the first to say it.......

MERRY CHRISTMAS CHARLIE BROWN.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teaching God how to Bake Biscotti (Recipe Included)

Its Friday afternoon....early evening, just about the time rabbits surface from their hole.

Klecko figures that maybe now that it's becoming autumn, maybe he should make "Ronald Reagan's" chili recipe.

Other than bacon drippings, another interesting ingredient in our 40th Presidents culinary masterpiece is red wine.

Ever since the dumb a** Food Network has surfaced, it seems like anytime I mention cooking with wine.....some twit will almost certainly inform me.......

"Don't forget what the Italians say Klecko, if you are going to cook with a wine, it should be a wine you are willing to drink!"

Really?

You mean I shouldn't use Yellow Tail, lighter fluid or monkey urine?

Sheeesh - I know Klecko isn't the brightest guy...but.

So anytime I decide to cook or bake with a red wine, here are the prerequisites in determining it's selection.

#1 -

It has to cost at least $15.

Well Klecko, what if the bottle was a $20 bottle and now is on sale for $10?

Remember rule #1.......

It has to cost at least $15.

As I get older, and have less money, I'm guessing this rule will change, but sometimes a guy doesn't want to skimp on something sacred.

After all, what if Christ was coming over for breakfast tomorrow morning. Would you buy him a cheaper "value" bacon to save a couple shekels?

I try to always remember that anybody-anybody-anybody that eats from my soup kettle is somehow related to the Polish Christ, and what kind of steward would I be if.....

I digress, sorry.

So I'm making the chili, and my Droid Bionic informs me that I just received either an e-mail or a text.

It was the latter.

The text was from my son Tydus, and the caption was "New Sh**".

I kinda assumed that he was going to show me some new Nike's, or Lebron 9's that he ordered.....but to my utter shock.....it was a photo.

The photo was small and within the frames was a picture of his legs, from knee caps down to his feet.

On his left leg was tattooed the word "Madison" and on the right leg "Rose"

For those of you new to this Blog, or my life......that's my granddaughters name.

I stood there totally stunned....totally.

There were so many things racing through my mind, things like..........

#1 - Wow, what made a 20 year old man choose to brand himself with the name of his niece.

#2 - Is that even a legit tattoo? His college is in the midst of an Iowa cornfield, did the Amish open a tat parlor?

#3 - Dang......look at those hairy legs, dude's like a bear, he sure didn't get that trait from us Pollacks (I'll bet it came from his Russian - Jew mother".

So I called Tydus for confirmation ,he answered, when I asked about the artworks authenticity, he said that there was a shop in downtown Decorah.

Tattoo's aren't free, so the next thing I asked was how much it cost.

Tydus played it down a bit and mentioned that it only ran him 80 bucks, but for a kid that delivers pizzas to people who are standing next to dilapidated barns when he pulls up....

Then there's a noise in the background, my son says he has to dash, and he'll call me later, so then I reminded him about Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle", this made him laugh...but he still hung up.

I hung up the phone too, turned off the burner on the stove and sat down at the kitchen table.

For a moment, I just slumped in my chair and waited for my sense of logic to catch up with my emotion.

My kid branded himself for life.........with the name of his sister daughter.

During season #3 of The Last American Baker, we have discussed many topics that have revolved around their Fathers and Daughters.

When you speak or write a phrase like "Father and Daughters"....to me, it almost seems like it sounds like a formula, like all dads who bring a baby girl in this world can simply turn to an instruction manual and tend to the girls needs.

It doesn't work that way though.

Each man gets a different set of "tools" in their "toolbox" when preparing to embark on navigating his daughters life course.

Sometimes I wish I was a better mechanic, or even 1/2 way smart so I could tend to my KiKi's needs, but instead......she kinda got stuck with a Pollack lout who mostly kicked in doors, carved pumpkins and forced her to march like the African singers on Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints" album while presenting spelling bee words to me.

But the one priceless tool that I created,was something not all girls get....a brother.

So I kinda wanted to get back to cooking, but it was as if I wanted to find some kind of emotional punctuation before I stood back up and moved forward.

And then it occurred to me, that now.......at this very moment, both my children had crossed the finish line and choose to remain connected.

Nobody was forcing these to....they simply made the choice and choose each other.

WOW.....as thrilled as I was, it suddenly occurred to me that the next chapter in our families history, I won't even be around for LOL.

Cuz this selfless gesture on my sons part now confirms that my kids have love, and that gives them a platform of concrete.

Dude, you know what comes next right???????

My 2 kids, with Sue McGleno and more grandchildren, some of which who might enter the world after I leave it.

If I were KiKi or Tydus, I'd just make up lies about me.......

Their kids wouldn't believe the truth.

MY SON BRANDED HIMSELF WITH THE NAME OF HIS SISTER'S DAUGHTER.

My work is done.

Anyway.....back to Ronald Reagan's chili, the problem with the recipe is I usually only need 2 cups, so therefore I have 1/2 a bottle of Chianti left over....

Now I know some of you will say......

"Where's the problem Klecko, why not sit back and drink the remnants and consider yourself fortunate?"

The honest answer.....

Klecko Rule #811 - Booze isn't for taste, but a vehicle to numb the mind.

Seriously, I never have drank a drop of booze for taste....I want to get HIGH!

Wine chugs along and leaves a trail of snail sludge on my mind the next day.

If I want to go to the moon, why would I take a bus, when a thing called humanity has already offered me a rocket ship?

The best thing you can do with red wine isn't drinking it.... just make Biscotti.

RED WINE - BLACK PEPPER BISCOTTI

All Purpose Flour 2 pound 8 ounces
Sugar 12 ounces
Salt 1/3 ounce
B-Powder 1/2 ounce
Pepper 1/2 ounce

Dark Red Wine 8 ounces
Olive Oil 6 ounces
Eggs 6 ounces

Golden Raisin (optional) 6 ounces

Tricks for baking Biscotti......

If you asked Klecko off camera what his thoughts on Biscotti were....he'd secretly divulge that "They Are Great" (for feeding savages - Klecko whispers underneath his breath), unless-unless they are used for dunking into coffee.

But that's Klecko dream, not yours. I know a lot of you peeps love these brittle cookie/biscuit treats some lets establish a few things.

Is Biscotti a great vehicle for flavor?

Compared to other cookies, not really.

The one thing that Biscotti has that people really love is texture.

But "baking texture" is a lot like hand guns and Jesus, I am glad both exist, but I don't want my neighbors pointing them in my face.

So many bakers really mess up Biscotti in at least several of the complicated steps that take place.....let's review those steps...........

#1 - Mixing

I like to have all my ingredients prescaled and my oven set to 400 degrees "F". Then I place all my dry ingredients into a bowl, and loosely mix them with my hand. Next I throw all my wet ingredients into a second bowl, loosely mix those with my hand, and then I s-l-o-w-l-e-y pour the wet into the dry.

I want the final consistency to be firm but pliable.

You don't want the dough to be dry, if it is...just another splash of wine.

However, remember that you are using B-Powder (not Soda) so the second it gets wet, and entwined with the other ingredients....the energy is activated.

If you doddle too long, your energy will disperse and you'll get crappy oven spring.

#2 - Shaping

If you make this particular recipe, cut the final dough roughly in 1/2 and then roll it out (on a slightly floured counter) into log shapes.

Place those logs onto sheet pans covered with parchment papers, and try to square off the edges. Many people will advise you to press the logs down....but Klecko thinks killing energy is stupid....so don't.

#3 - First Bake

So when do the finished logs get placed into the oven? I have heard everything from immediately to giving the logs a 1 hour resting time.

Once again.....Klecko says "Killing energy is stupid....so don't!"

Place them in the oven pronto. We are at 400 degrees, and we will keep it there for 10 firm minutes, then we won't even bother opening the oven to look, we want the heat to stay in so just bake 400 for 10 minutes, and then drop your temp to 350 degrees (F).

I know - I know, that old woman from the boot of Italy told you to set your oven to 300-325 and bake the Biscotti for what...3 days LOL.

Reduced temps suck. It causes an unevenness between the crumb wall and interior. with a Biscotti, the 1st bake is actually the most important. you want the dough logs bake to be uniformed.

How long you bake your logs has a tremendous amount a variables. Log Size and ingredient selection alter Biscotti bake times more than any other baking item I can think of.

Usually, on a log.....its 10 minutes @400 and 25-40 @350

#3 - Cutting

How long do you wait before cutting your Biscotti?

Once again, I have heard about a billion interpretations, but the hands that God glued to my Polish carcass have found that it is best to wait for room temp, but not too long after that. You don't want staling to occur.

So once they have cooled....I like to cut with a serrated bread knife. Many high brow chefs will tell you to cut on the bias, but once again Klecko will beg to differ due to logic.

It is much-much harder cutting on a bias, or to do so with uniformity I should say, and also, the smaller you cut your pieces...the easy it will be to assess the bake.

Larger pieces can get or remain gooey in the middle, and lets sampled a smaller piece that by chance has less raisins in it....well it will be done while the others wouldn't even be close.

Oh yeah....maybe the most important part....do go Bohemian on me and cut slices thicker than 1/2 inch....anything thicker gets too hard to monitor the interior on the second bake.

And one last thing on CUTTING, I use my serrated knife like a saw. I lumber jack the blade out-in-out until it sinks about 1/2 way into the cookie. when It gets there, I firmly apply pressure on the top of the blade.

The pressure obviously needs to be equal. This step expedites cutting time, but ALAS Pilgrim....if you try this move before the blade sinks 1/2 way, you'll fracture the log.

#4 - Second Bake

On the second bake, you have to lay the cut pieces flat. It shouldn't look like a coin standing on edge. Lay them down, and the pieces at least a fingers width of space between one another.

Sometimes you need an extra pan to accomplish this (that means if you bakes 2 logs on one pan, you might need 2 pans to fit all the cut pieces onto.

I have heard bakers squabble as to whether of not you should flip the cookies during the second bake, the theory being that both sides of the cookie will get direct heat.

I agree. Do you throw a hamburger on a grill and eventually toss it onto the bun before flipping it on the grill?

The exact same principal applies here.

Oh yeah.....the entire second bake is @350 (F) so bake for 20 ish minutes, then pull out of the oven (close the door quickly to retain the heat) and then flip them onto a second sheet pan if you have one. If not.....flip them like pizzas or pancakes and then get them back in the oven.

Usually you are looking for another 20-30 minutes.

So the second bake is.......

2o minutes - flip

Then 20 to 30 more minutes.

But the bottom line is that you want the cookie to be firm, quite firm....but not sand paper. This can be tricky and even Klecko himself struggles with this.

#5 - Cooling

If you have a wire cooling rack, that is ACES, but whatever you do....don't place the cooling Biscotti into a jet stream of any sort. Avoid direct contact with fans or breezes by open windows.

Often times if hot & cold collide......condensation takes place, then it rests on the crumb wall and eventually sinks into the interior.

Many a batch has been ruined this way.

#6 - Packing

When totally cool (I would let them rest 4-5-6 hours) I don't think you can beat Tupperware. Place it in the receptacle and secure the lid tight.

#7 - Shelf Life

I could care less what pirates and coffee shop owners tell you.....your Biscotti has a max shelf life of 4 days. Are they edible after that?

Yeah, I guess....if you a stranded on an island.

Seriously though....so much of the Biscotti that is out there has all sort of preservatives. If we are going to go through all the trouble it takes to make this.....let's eat it with dignity.

See, its a lot to know huh?