Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Something to Share for a Holiday Meal - Pesto Bread

I love bread. If Thanksgiving were just a loaf of bread, butter, and a cup of hot coffee or tea, that would be enough. This Thanksgiving, I am sharing my recipe for Pesto bread. It gets called into service for the holidays and other special occasions. It makes two 16-inch loaves. You will need a French Bread pan, but I suppose it is possible to shape the loaves and do without the pans. However, I recommend the pans because they give a nice, professional shape to the loaves.

You will need:
French bread pan for two loaves - grease the pan with olive oil and sprinkle with corn meal
Mixer with bread hooks (or you can do it the old-fashioned way - knead by hand)
Pastry sheet for rolling out the dough

The Dough
3 cups of lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages dry yeast (.5 oz)
7 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
olive oil

The Pesto
3 cups of basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Egg Wash
1 egg white, beaten
1 tablespoon water

  1. Mix water, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Give the mixture 5 minutes to dissolve and get slightly frothy.
  2. Start the mixer and gradually add the 7 cups of flour.
  3. Knead until the dough forms a large elastic ball. If you are doing this by hand, it will take about 15 minutes. It will only take about 5-7 minutes if you are using bread hooks. The dough should not be too sticky. If you are kneading by hand, turn the dough out on a floured surface and add a little extra flour when it starts to stick to your fingers.
  4. Grease a large bowl with olive oil and also coat the ball of dough with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with saran wrap.
  5. Set the bowl in a warm place and let it rise until double (about an hour, less if you are using fast rising yeast).
  6. While the dough is rising, put all the pesto ingredients, except the Parmesan, into a blender and process until smooth.
  7. Place the pesto in a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan.
  8. Punch the dough down, remove from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead it a few times and then shape the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 14" x 10". You can roll the dough out or simply pat it into shape
  9. Cut the rectangle in half and spread pesto on both halves. Don't spread the pesto all the way to the edges.
  10. Tightly roll up each half into a loaf and pinch together the bottom seam and ends of the loaf.
  11. Place the loaves, seam side down in the bread pan.
  12. Take a utility scissor or very sharp knife and make diagonal slashes across the loaves.
  13. Cover the loaves with a light linen towel and let them rise for about an hour in a warm place or until the loaves are double in size.
  14. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees just before the loaves are almost completely risen.
  15. Using a pastry brush, carefully brush the loaves with the egg wash and put them in the oven.
  16. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, remove from the oven, brush them again with the egg wash and return the loaves to the oven for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
This is crazy good bread, especially if you like pesto. By the way, when your summer garden has more basil than you know what to do with, whip up a batch of pesto (without the Parmesan cheese) and freeze it in small containers. Whenever you need pesto, just thaw it out and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

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