I never know when it hits, but when it does - it's like a brick. Growing up my brother and I would spend two months every summer with my father who, at the time, lived in San Diego. After retiring from the Navy, he fulfilled his dream of opening a bakery - in fact, I learned most of my scratch baking from him. But before the bakery, my grandmother Helen, his mother, would watch us during those warm, salty summer days. My grandmother, who passed away when I was living in Italy, baked and cooked constantly. Otherwise she was watching Perry Mason or Wheel of Fortune, or reading a book while sipping on a Gin and Tonic.
She was a force. A tiny little Irish pixie full of moxie. My dad once told me that when she was 19 she was dying of scarlet fever and received her last rites. Before falling ill she had a head full of glorious black tresses. After recovering from the fever, her hair grew back red and curly. It was one of my favorite stories - I always imagined that the fever scorched not only her body, but her soul and she rose again as a fiery spirit you just didn't mess with. And I miss her terribly. When I miss her, I bake something that reminds me of the meals she created those summers. One of my favorites was her corned beef bake - or baked Rueben - I don't think she ever actually named it. She did however, make it at least a couple times for us over the summer. One of our favorite ways to eat it was the next day, sliced and eaten cold late in the evenings as my girlfriend (who is now my sister-in-law!) and I snuck beers out of the refrigerator and watched Headbanger's Ball. It was also something my Dad always wrapped in tinfoil and threw in the cooler on our days at the beach or hiking in the canyons.
GRANDMA'S RUEBEN BAKE
- 1 pizza crust (recipe below - or if you're in a hurry a store bought crust will do)
- 8-10 oz. corned beef (thinly sliced)
- 3 T. 1,000 Island Dressing
- 1/2 c. sauerkraut (drained)
- 4 oz. Swiss cheese (shredded or thinly sliced)
This recipe is from Baking With Julia by Dorrie Greenspan - it's a wonderfully diverse recipe and what I love most is that you can make it and freeze it for later use just after the second rise.
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. tepid water (about 80F)
2 T. olive oil
2 1 /4 c. flour
In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast and water together and let sit for about 5 minutes, allowing the yeast to activate. Add olive oil and flour and mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. Cover and allow to rise (should double in bulk) in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
Deflate the sponge a bit with a spatula and add 2 to 2 1/4 additional cups of flour and 2 t. of salt. Mix with a dough hook until completely incorporated. Knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.
Lightly oil a large bowl and turn the dough out into it. Turn the dough gently to oil the entire surface of the dough and cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Prepare a large baking sheet with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. Transfer your dough to this baking sheet and roll or flatten the dough with your hands into a long oval shape.
Working down the middle of the dough, first spread out the 1,000 Island dressing. Ensure that you are leaving about 1 1/2 inches at each end of the dough. Layer your corned beef on top of the dressing, then add the sauerkraut and top with the Swiss cheese.
Take a paring knife and make diagonal cuts in the dough - to create strips - down each side of the dough. Careful not to start your cuts too close to the filling. Then working from one side to the next, fold the strips of dough on top of each other to enclose the filling inside the dough (you can pull them a bit as needed as the dough is fairly elastic). Brush very lightly with olive oil (so lightly, I use my fingers) and sprinkle the top with caraway seeds.
Bake for 20 minutes (or until top begins to turn light gold and you can see the cheese bubbling through the holes in the dough). Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing.
White Rabbit : Slapshot
With The Quickness : Bad Brains
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida : Iron Butterfly
We Care A Lot : Faith No More
The Sweetest Drop : Peter Murphy
Fire Woman : The Cult
Looking Down A Barrel Of A Gun : Beastie Boys
Promises : Fugazi
Soul On Fire : Danzig
Pigs In Zen : Jane's Addiction
Passing Me By : The Pharcyde
I'm The Man : Anthrax
John The Fisherman : Primus
I Awake : Soundergarden
p.s. My Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Quiche was feautured on The Cooking Channel's Blog today - thank you so much for that CC!
p.p.s. I'm giving away an advanced copy of my upcoming title, Instant Love: How To Make Magic and Memories With Polaroids over at Nectar & Light - enter to win!