“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
(From The Walrus and The Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll)
A long time ago, I promised you an oyster recipe from my Uncle Lance that would change your life. Sometime in the next weeks, I’ll share that one with you. It’s been a quiet October here in this space: this is one of those months for us that slams into the calendar like a freight train going full steam. I don’t want to get all navel-gazy writer’s-process long-winded about it, but I’ve been cooking a lot, and writing too, and to re-energize the blog as I emerge from the October madness I’ve decided to do what Jess did last year: because yes, as of tomorrow, it’s NaBloPoMo! That’s right: one post, every weekday, for the entire month of November. By my count, that means 20 posts, give or take a post around Thanksgiving. A deep dive on butt-in-chairing it for the old blog, if you will. And I do hope you will, join me that is, because it actually sounds pretty fun, as long as you’re all in.
As for today – today is Halloween! We have a return of last year’s astronaut (now calling himself a Space Scientist) and a newly minted firefighter. They carved pumpkins in their boots last night, will be trick-or-treating the full length of our tiny street tonight, and then have big plans to help pass out candy until bedtime. The
astronaut Space Scientist is enthusiastic, the firefighter is worried. (Every time we walk the blocks to school, which have grown spookier by the day over these last weeks, he holds tight to my hand and murmurs “Mommy, I so worried. I so worried about the scary decorations. I want you carry me up.”)
But last night, we lit up their Jack-O-Lanterns, and both boys sang and danced their way through a musical revue of all things squash-related.
Then we sat on the couch in the dark and watched the faces flicker, while we told stories about magical pumpkins and the little boys who grew them.
After they were asleep, I roasted the seeds from their pumpkins, saving aside ten fresh seeds to be planted, as per the scientist. They will be watered and watched over, though even with a firefighter on the case I confess I don’t harbor high hopes for their survival. Then again, you never know – stranger things, certainly, have happened.
The veil between the worlds is thin these days, friends: for tonight, we will have marigolds on the mantel, pan de muerto in the oven, and those pumpkin seeds, snapping between our teeth. Happy Halloween, everybody. See you back here tomorrow.
Pan de Muerto
Adapted from The New York Times Dining Section and Guadalupana Bakery
4 cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1/2 cup (100 grams) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 ounce, or 29 grams, fresh cake yeast (or ~ 5 teaspoons active dry yeast)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons softened butter (original recipe uses lard)
1 cup whole milk
Melted butter for brushing
Cinnamon sugar for dusting
(If using active dry yeast, proof it before you begin in a little bit of the milk and a teaspoon of the sugar.)
Mound the flour in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the 1/2 cup sugar and the salt. Add the yeast and mix everything gently.
(Before the next step, get a bowl of flour ready for dipping your sticky fingers into as you mix the dough.)
Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add the eggs and 1/2 cup butter. Using your hands, pull flour into the eggs and butter, mixing with your fingers. This is messy and sticky dough, but stick with it. Gradually add the milk: it will be even messier and stickier.
Flour a work surface well, then turn the dough onto the surface and begin to knead. Sprinkle liberally with flour to get the dough workable, and knead “aggressively” – it took about ten minutes of good hard kneading for the dough to become soft, smooth, and supple. Once it is, divide it into four equal pieces (I used my baking scale for accuracy) and form them into smooth rounds. (If you have a bench knife, this is a great time to use it for helping build tension into the rounds.)
Let the dough rest in a warm spot for 20 minutes, and butter two baking sheets or line them with parchment.
Flatten three of the four pieces into six inch rounds, patting the edges so that they are domed in the center (just slightly). Place them on the baking sheets (allow space between – don’t crowd them onto one sheet).
To the fourth piece of dough, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and a big pinch of cinnamon. Knead until it is all well incorporated. This dough is for decorating the tops: it should feel supple still, but stiffer than the three flattened rounds.
Divide the decorating dough into three pieces, and then roll it into “snakes” – use these snakes to decorate the tops of the three flattened loaves. (My kids made “snakes” but here are directions for a skull and crossbones are included with the original recipe.)
Let the breads rise for one hour. Heat the oven to 350 F.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until you get a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the bread. Once it is out of the oven, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and serve warm.