Another Weekend of Art Class

This last weekend I took another three-day class at The Winslow Art Center on Bainbridge Island.  Martha Jordan brings in wonderful artists from all over the country to teach workshops.  This last weekend, Stanley Bielen came in from the East Coast to teach beautifully simplified small paintings to a group of fifteen from all over the country.

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We all had individual vignettes set up around the room.  It was so fun to see what people selected and then what they painted.  I learned a lot from the teacher and from watching the approach of other artists in the class.  I started to say “students”, but for the most part, the class was full of very accomplished artists.

I stopped to talk to a friend downstairs and by the time I returned after the morning demo, the only spot left was the one where Stanley had painted the demo, so I decided I would give it a try.

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These are small paintings at about 6″ x 8″, so this is even a little larger than the actual painting.  Being pleased with this I moved on the next day to a set-up of my own.

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This is not quite as loose as what Stanley was sharing, but it was fun and I felt good about it, which is not always the case.

In the afternoon, I looked at the choices available and found this beautiful little teapot, and thought it would be fun.  Laughing a little, I placed a quince bough in the spout and had fun painting this. Stanley made a couple of painting strokes, that really made a difference in the painting.

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Keep in mind that I am not a “flower” painter.  Ever since I was in Art School in the ’70s, and the teacher in one of my first-semester art classes said, after I produced a three foot by three foot abstract, that he was surprised, as he always thought I would just be a flower painter, I have kind of steered clear of flowers.  If you look back in your life, I think most of us would be amazed by the power that a small quick comment may have had on our lives. Teachers have more power than we often think.

Feeling good about my little teapot (short and stout) I returned to the “table of treasures”, as I called it with lots and lots of flowers, some fruit, and vegetables and tried to figure out how I could avoid painting flowers.

Ah, the Bok Choy.  One other artist painted it laying on its side, but I thought: “Let the Bok Choy stand tall”. Not sure it came out as tall, but at least it does look like a Bok Choy.

 

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That was the end of the second day and I have to admit I was a little tired. My sweet husband suggested we just go out to dinner.  I thought that was a great idea and had a few glasses of champagne with dinner, came home and had a couple glasses of wine.  I awoke with a not so happy headache but took some ibuprofen and was off to class.  Arriving at class, I realized I was tired and not really “on”.  I discovered that day that how you feel makes a difference to your creativity.  I did two more small paintings, but walked away, not liking either one of them.

One of the women in the class brought in a vase of amazing Camillias, so I thought: ” Humm, they are big, maybe I can paint one.”

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Stanley liked it, but it does not “sing” to me.  I might try more flowers just to see if I can do it more successfully.  The last painting of class should be your best effort, but I find I am usually more tired at the end of the class, so don’t think it is my best.

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I realized as I finished this, that the flower was way to close to the upper left corner.  The nice thing about working on panels is that you can cut them.  So I cropped it in Photoshop and will have my husband cut it down.

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So I will have him chop off the bottom, and I will repaint the bottom and then I think I may actually like it.

It was a very wonderful workshop and I feel lucky I was able to take it with old friends and now some new ones.

 

Another Weekend of Art Class

Old in Art School

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When I saw the title of this book, I was immediately attracted to it. This is the year I turn seventy. At sixty-two I completed my Ph. D. in Business Marketing, not in art, although I did finish my BA in Art in 1971 and my MA in Art (although with an emphasis in interior design) in 1985. I understand going back to school when a little older is all about attitude. I laughed at the beginning of the book, as the author described the other students, the attire, the classrooms and the fear of failure, but as I listened on to the audio-book I liked it less and less.  One of the reviews of the book described how I innately felt perfectly:

“I was excited to dive into this book, hopeful for little nuggets of wisdom for my similar journey and perhaps a laugh or two in self-reflection. Instead, the reader encounters a self-indulgent, needy author who repetitively presents an inventory of her resume ad nauseam. She used this book to disparage other students all while trying to impress the reader by spewing supercilious comments and including very little about the process or art school. This book had so much potential but was so disappointing.” 

It is interesting to think that no matter how successful you were in what you did before, no one in your art classes knows that or cares about that. I had a little of that this weekend when I took a tonal painting class of street scenes.  I love the work of the man that taught the class and I learned quite a bit in the class. Mostly I learned I don’t like doing a tonal painting.  I love painting with color! Color kept creeping into my paintings in the class and I kept getting in “trouble” for adding too much color.    Sometimes in life, it is just as important to know what we don’t like, as much as what we love.

When I sat down to write my blog, I thought I would look at the artwork of the author of the book before I wrote a lot about it. Viewing her artwork, the first thought that crossed my mind was that she wrote this book, not about her real art school experience, but to promote herself and her art. Her background is in writing and history, so she knows how to write about history, but in this book, she makes being older a roadblock, not an advantage. She has gotten quite a bit of attention over the book, and thus her art. What is totally missing in this book, are all the other wonderful artists that started their art life later in life. She is certainly not alone!

Maybe I should write about starting and stopping art in your life. You start as a child and my case went on to study it in college. Then you start a career, get married, have children (oops no time for art), and in my case was widowed at a young age and raised my sons on my own and don’t have much time for art till your children are grown and have lives of their own.

When she started talking about how you have to dress to be a successful artist, I started losing interest.  Moving forward to discuss the philosophical side of the history or artists (in her opinion) I began wondering if I wanted to bother to listen to the rest of the book.

The book made me think about my own tonal experience. You can enjoy viewing art that you do not enjoy attempting. You can be award-winning in other fields and not art, and still enjoy painting. I have had many art shows, but never entered a contest with my art.

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The class was a learning experience. We worked on these small the first afternoon after watching a demo in the morning. The one on the top right was the first one with the second below and the third in ochre tones.

We moved forward painting in a slightly larger format the second day after another morning demo. My green trees are too green for tonal painting, but as I said I like “color”.

Street scene from Terry Miura Class.jpg The last and/or third day we had options of what we could paint.  I chose to paint a facade of a building, as I used to do a lot of rendering in interior design school, and as an interior design college professor.  I am still working on the facade and realized when I stood back and looked at it, I had added a shadow to the awning, and now I had shadows coming from two directions.  I will try to make the correction and add it to the post. The building and the cafe next door need names too!

I heard once, and again in this class: “If the painting is not selling, add a dog.” I think this painting may need a dog-walker with several dogs. I think it is better to laugh at oneself, that try to be pompous about what you cannot do.

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As always, I walked away having learned something new, met new people that love art and enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with new and old friends.

I will continue to listen to the rest of the book and hope it gets better, but reading several reviews I don’t think that will be the case. It makes me want to write a funnier book on a similar topic. One of the other reviewers wrote: “More of a self-congratulate memoir of past achievements than a book of more recent achievements. Disappointing … could have been much more.” 

It could have been written in a much more positive manner and encourage those of us over twenty to try different things.

Old in Art School

Taking Art Classes

After a little hiatus from painting impressionistic work, I am back taking some classes and really enjoying the art of the little painting.  A couple of months ago I took a class at the Winslow Art Center by David Marty for six weeks and really enjoyed learning new ideas and techniques.  The class is and was fun (new section now) as we paint one photograph in class (can finish at home) and do another one for “homework”.  It has gotten me back doing one of the things in life I love the most (cooking being the second).Painting Class 1.jpg

This was the first painting I did in class and really enjoyed the process and continued to use some of what I learned in painting number two which was our homework assignment.

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Back in class, we critiqued what we had done at home and worked on a new photo.  Everyone seemed to like my homework and it is still the favorite of my husband.

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Back in class we worked more on reflection and tree shapes and were sent home with homework of painting the garden.  I did not love the “garden”, so reversed it and added a little girl in the garden.  It looks a little “old world” to me and is not one of my favorites.

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From there we went to working on a road scene, which I thought was fun and liked the result.  It is fun to see your style change and grow in a rather short amount of time.

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Painting homework for that week, seemed a bit overwhelming to me when I started working on it, as it seemed to be mostly “just trees”, and to try to make that look interesting was somewhat challenging.

 

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I think it turned out better than I would have predicted and it did not take a lot of time, or I should say I did not spend a lot of time on it.

One of the other things I was doing while taking the class was working on a three foot by five-foot commission for a design client, so it was interesting going from working on an 8″ x 10″ or 9″ x 12″ to working on the larger scale.

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Back in class, we worked on painting rocks on this cliffside painting with rocks and trees.  For once I did not finish in class and worked on the rocks when I got home.  I have started collecting art books, which are always good for getting ideas of how to do something differently.

 

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Homework came as another road scene with a barn off to the side.  I really enjoyed working on this one and liked the result, although I did tweak it a bit after the class.

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Coming back to class we had the opportunity to work on a Night Scene, and this is what I came up with for the project.

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This one came out more abstracted than any of the others I had done. The teacher of the class seemed to like it.  And homework was of a barn, as requested by someone in the class.  I have painted a lot of barns, but usually 18″ x 24″ or bigger, so this was fun.

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Working on skies with lots of clouds came next.  Have you ever noticed that the lowest clouds are always parallel to the horizon?  The more I paint the more I notice these things. We painted this in class and difference in how people see the same thing is amazing to me.

We were sent home with more homework after our first six classes, as everyone in the class asked if the same teacher could come back to teach another four-week session.

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We came back to class and the first day we painted waves.  Now, this may look easy, but to make them look real (and interesting) I found quite challenging.

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Following the beach scene we were sent home the following assignment, which I did twice, as I did not like the first one very much.

Number 1

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Number 2:

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Tell me if you can see the differences.  I liked the second one much better.  This is becoming a trend now with me and seems the second one is always better.

Since we were all snowed in for more than a week, the perfect exercise for the class must have been working on snow paintings.  We did a series of two and I painted them both twice.

Number 1:

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Number 2:

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There is quite a difference between these two.  I painted the second one in class.

On to the second snow scene, which both are homework. I didn’t love the first one, so I painted it again.

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Number 2:

 

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I do not know what adventure we will paint tomorrow, but I know it will be fun.

Port Gamble Diana.jpg‘So we all worked on a photo taken at Port Gamble in the mist.  Here is my rendition.  This week we have two homework assignments (Oh my) and to bring in a piece we are working on.  I don’t have anything in process, so will start a new Airstream and take it to class.

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So here is what I took to class.  We did two more homework assignments. I made a couple of changes to both and here they are.  It was a great class and I think everyone learned a lot.  It is always good to see something from someone else’s perspective.

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The photo of these Madronas are probably not something I would have ever chosen to paint, but it makes for a rather eerie effect.

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The photo of the stream literally had no color, so I enhanced it in Photoshop and even though it is a bit “green”, I rather like the result. Can’t wait till the next time I take a class.  Oh wait, it is not that long I take one this weekend.

Taking Art Classes

2019 Challenge

Last year I challenged myself to read 75 books in the year and made it, finishing the last two in December. This year I am attempting, and I do say attempting a different type of challenge.  I bought the book by Kevin McPhearson called “Reflection of a Pond”

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For a little over a year, he painted the pond in his back yard. I thought it might be a great idea to work on my brushwork and color skills in my artwork.  I live on a beach with a beautiful view.  Depending on the day, I see the mountains, amazing sunrises, boats, people, the marina and love the view every day. I am going (to try) to paint my view at some angle every day this coming year.

The paintings will be small at 5″ x 7″ and I am not going to only focus on part of the view, because as I see it there are three sections to my view.  To the right and mostly south, I see a park and a small falling apart dock.  In the middle, I see the break-water and a few boats and off to the left is the marina where the ferries come in and out.

I started this six days ago on January 16th, and in all honesty am a little overwhelmed by the idea.  I decided I was not going to set up my easel in my living room, but take photos and paint them from my Ipad in my studio.  I am a messy painter and I think my house would be safer without the possibility of my cat wandering through the paint and spreading it throughout the interior.

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DAY ONE

Sunrise, where I live, is sensational. This time of year it is usually a little after seven, so I have gotten in the habit of waking up and checking to see if it is beautiful or if it is gray.  If it is gray with no sun, then I know I have to wait till later or for a later day.  Keep in mind that these are small and quick studies.

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DAY TWO

I am starting to relax a little with my second painting, knowing that most likely they will never sell, but they might make a fun show or a fun book, but I am savoring the differences in the colors of the morning.

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DAY THREE

Some days are peaceful and don’t seem to sing to me, but this morning on day three, the sky was amazing and constantly changing.  The interesting thing about sunrises here is that they can be totally amazing one minute and literally gone the next.  You have to try to capture the essence of what is happening quickly.

 

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DAY FOUR

I am starting to experiment a little more with texture and using a palette knife a little more.  I am hoping during the year to gain control of the palette knife using it for the dock and sometimes for everything.  The boat to the right of the dock, looks more like a rock than a boat, but it is a learning experience.

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DAY FIVE

On this morning it was misty and you could barely see the boats through the fog.  I moved to the marina area to focus on the painting and love the almost eeriness of the painting.  It could be a city or a marina or another country, but I had fun just playing with the color, which is the opposite of Day 6.

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DAY SIX

So often, as most of you know, we awaken to gray, grey and grayer, so I decided to attempt a tonal painting using only Payne’s Gray, Titanium White, and French Ultramarine Blue.  I tried my new camera lens which is a 150 -800 mm to see what I could do with a close-up shot.  I had fun with just the three colors and the closer view.

Going forward I will try to paint daily with different colors or different views and see what happens.  I will post every few days with my newest painting.

I will continue to post food posts, as I love to cook.  Today I made Peanut Butter cookies and Chocolate Chip cookies to take to our local Senior Center for their Bingo Game tomorrow.  I know they love sweets and not too many of them cook.

 

2019 Challenge

Studio Update

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Every art studio could use a cozy corner for reading art books.  This last week my husband built these two-inch shelves with a lip for setting finished small pieces and works in progress. Now I need to get busy and paint some more small works.

Next weekend he is going to add more shelves for bigger pieces.  It is wonderful, as they are all straight on the bottom for once.

Every challenge yourself to something and feel either great about accomplishing it or bad that you failed (the first time).  This year I challenged myself to read 75 books on the Goodreads challenge and can very proudly say I accomplished that goal. The year before I attempted to bake every bread in Paul Hollywood’s Bread Book.  I made it about 2/3’s of the way and gained a couple of pounds, but did not finish the book. I still love to bake and may just try to finish it. I take my baked goods to my local fire department, so they are enjoyed and not wasted.  My wonderful local fire department surprised me with a gift certificate the last two years.  That made me cry the first year, as I was amazed they recognized the gift. This year I felt a little guilty as I felt I did not take as much, but will up the ante as the year goes on.

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Now with 2019 coming up, I decided I would follow the example of Kevin McPhearson, the author and artist of “Reflections on a Pond”, and paint the view of the water in front of my house every day of the year. If I don’t have time to paint on a particular day, I will take a photo and paint it later. I find it an interesting thought and am hoping it will improve my painting skills.

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Studio Update

7 Design Tips For a Chef-Worthy Kitchen

This a great article from Dwell Magazine.

If you have serious culinary chops and take pride in preparing meals that wow your family and friends, keep these tips in mind when designing or renovating your kitchen.

If boiling eggs is not your forte, and you’d much rather eat out than experiment with new recipes, then a basic kitchen may be all you need. But if you’re serious about cooking and love nothing more than spending hours trying out new dishes that’ll impress guests at your next dinner party, then here are some elements to incorporate for a professional-grade kitchen.

1. The Magic Triangle

When planning the layout for your kitchen, refer to the “kitchen work triangle” with the cooking area, sink, and refrigerator at its three points. Though modern kitchens have evolved, and it is sometimes geometrically impossible to abide by this configuration (for example, in a single wall kitchen), the triangle is a good concept to keep in mind when designing to maximize functionality and ease of movement.

What they did not talk about is the new triangle, where the refrigerator is off to the side and a little out of the way.  There needs to be space across from it or beside it to put food when cooking, but it does not absolutely need to be part of the triangle anymore.  I love the cooktop part of my triangle, as I am working there, more than in the refrigerator. (unless I am really hungry)

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2. Two Sinks

Install two sinks so that you can clean fruits and vegetables in one while washing or stacking used pots and pans in the other. Ensure that the sink is deep and the faucets are high, so you don’t have to worry about water splashing onto the countertop as you strain your pasta or wash your dishes.

I have a little different take on this.  My utility room is adjacent to my kitchen, so I added a large stainless sink in there if I need a place for pots and pans.  If I am entertaining, I do not want my guests to see dirty pans in my kitchen, so this works great! 

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3. Plenty of Durable Work Counters

As a home chef, you’ll be engaged in many food preparation tasks, so think about how to maximize counter space. Surface counters made of quartz, laminates, and solid surfaces are good choices for their durability, and antibacterial and anti-staining properties. Such surfaces are ideal for areas where you’ll do the most peeling, chopping, and blending.

Quartz is the new popular countertop and it is great, but if you select a plain one, be prepared to constantly be cleaning it, as it shows every spot.  I love a good granite that hides a little.  

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4. Built-In Appliances

Integrated appliances are your best bet for freeing up space, hiding unsightly electrical cords, and getting a clean, streamlined look. Wherever possible, choose built-in ovens, dishwashers, coffee machines, microwaves, and pullout fridges. This will help free up more counter space and make your kitchen look much more inviting.

I love making my dishwasher and refrigerator look like cabinets.  Now there are drawer refrigerators and freezers.  I hide my microwave and toaster oven in my pantry.  Clean is the new look!  

5. Good Lighting

A bright kitchen is not only healthier for your eyes, it makes preparing food safer and will probably put you in a cheerier mood. Locate your kitchen close to windows or incorporate skylights to increase the amount of natural light it receives. When choosing light fixtures, consider ambient lights, task lights, and accent lights. Use down lights to prevent glare and shadows, strip lighting under cabinets, and wide-rimmed pendant lights above the bar or island counter.

In my last home I had windows under the cabinets that looked out to the garden.  It had a wonderful effect.  We added another window when we remodeled last summer to take full advantage of our water view. 

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6. Ample and Intelligent Storage

Easy and intuitive access to a large pantry, spice racks, pots and pans, utensils, dinnerware, and cutlery can make all the difference when you’re preparing a feast for a large group. Consider storage systems which hold all your kitchen basics neatly and beautifully like a secret armoire.

I personally think that although this is “cool”, there are a lot better use of space, than hanging your utensils and knives.  One knife block on the counter is quite practical. 

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7. Wine Storage Facilities

Good food isn’t complete without great wine, so consider including wine storage facilities.  We love ours and use it every day.  

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7 Design Tips For a Chef-Worthy Kitchen

The Minions Arrived Today

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Okay, so I admit it, I love the Minions!  Last year, my husband tired of the assorted lighted trees we had and tons of lights suggested we do inflatables.  They store easily in a couple boxes.  Overall I have always thought they were extremely tacky.  So I thought if you are going to be extremely tacky, then be funny and tacky.  That is when I found inflatable Minions.

Last year they lined our driveway.  My six year old granddaughter was coming to spend the “Holidaze” and I thought she might like them.  To my surprise, a lot of people driving by our house liked our Minions. This year they are in their classic herd, with one trailing behind. They light up at night and I smile every time I see them.

Last year we had Minions Galore on our tree and I plan to do the same this year if my granddaughter is able to come to Christmas.  I told my son, due to the expense of flying I did not really care “when” Christmas day happened.  I am no longer young enough to care what day it happens as far as a morning and opening gift.

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This year we added two more Minions and a taller Minion and a Minion Home between our house and our garage.  I only they help people smile in a sometimes stressful time of year.

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So here that are, standing strong and herding traffic and waving at those who pass up by.

Hope you will drive by and honk an hello to the guys.

Think I better buy a couple more Minions.  HO HO HO

The Minions Arrived Today

Beached Surprise

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You just never know what might land on your waterfront.  This last week we had a decoration arrive.

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It just floated up and adorns our waterfront. I have seen a lot of things in the last fifteen years, but this is the closest and admittedly the “biggest”.  One year there were two huge diesel engines on an adjacent property, but they were small by comparison to this beauty.

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So when I posted photos on Facebook, friends suggested that I collect it and use as a coffee table.  What they did not grasp is that it would have to be a coffee table in the Land of Giants, as this puppy would not fit in my house.  So here is a photo to give you an idea of it’s immense size!

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Got to love living on the beach!  Should I call the Coast Guard??

Beached Surprise

Almost No-knead Bread with Creamy Mushroom Soup

No Knead Bread

Found this very easy, but not so fast bread from America’s Test Kitchen and have made it a couple of times.  I find if I start it by about 8:00 AM it is good enough for dinner.  Always a hit when warm with a little good sweet butter.  I served it with a Creamy Mushroom Soup from another one of their cookbooks.  If you scroll down, you can see their rendition and mine of the soup.  I think it needs a little punch, as it was pretty, but a little bland.

Almost No-Knead Bread

A no-fuss recipe that is revolutionizing home baking trades flavor and reliability for ease. Could we improve the bread’s bland taste and make it rise high every time?

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

To avoid lengthy and tiresome kneading, we let our bread dough sit for 8 to 18 hours, during which a process called autolysis develops gluten—the protein that gives baked breads their bubbly, chewy crumb structure. After that, just 15 seconds of kneading does the trick. To give our bread more flavor than standard no-knead recipes, we add vinegar for acidic tang and lager beer for extra yeastiness. We bake the bread in a preheated covered pot to create steam, producing a springy interior, and then finish baking it uncovered for a beautifully browned crust.

INSTRUCTIONS

Makes 1 large round loaf
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature
6 tablespoons mild-flavored lager
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Vegetable oil spray

Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild nonalcoholic lager also works). In step 3, start the 30-minute timer as soon as you put the bread in the cold oven. Do not wait until the oven has preheated to start your timer or the bread will burn. The bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but it can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to two days.

 

1. Whisk flour, salt, and yeast together in large bowl. Add water, lager, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 18 hours.

2. Lay 18 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on counter and spray with oil spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam side down, to center of parchment and spray surface of dough with oil spray. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Remove plastic from pot. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Cover pot and place in oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake bread for 30 minutes.

4. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours.

TEN STEPS TO EASY RUSTIC BREAD

1. HAND-MIX INGREDIENTS: Combine flour, yeast, and salt; then stir in water, beer, and vinegar and fold it all together. No mixer required.

WHY? This bread will form gluten as it sits, so there’s no need for a lot of mixing at the start.

2. LET REST: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for at least 8 hours or up to 18 hours.

WHY? Much like kneading, letting the dough sit develops gluten through a process called autolysis.

3. PREPARE PARCHMENT: Spray an 18 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper lightly with vegetable oil spray.

WHY? You’ll use the parchment to move the dough from the counter to the Dutch oven for its second rise, and to remove the bread from the pot after baking.

4. KNEAD DOUGH: Transfer the dough to a floured counter and knead it just 10 to 15 times.

WHY? During the long rest, the proteins in the dough break down, making it easier to manipulate, and with less than a minute of kneading, the gluten has been sufficiently developed.

5. SHAPE AND LET RISE: Form the dough into a ball, place it on the parchment, and transfer it to a Dutch oven. Then cover it and let it rise for 2 hours.

WHY? Once shaped, the dough undergoes its final rise, during which the yeast produces carbon dioxide to make the dough puff.

6. SLASH DOUGH: Use a sharp knife or razor to cut one 6-inch- long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along the top of the dough.

WHY? Slashing the dough allows steam to escape so the loaf bakes evenly, preventing splits and cracks.

7. COVER UP: Place the cover on the pot.

WHY? The covered pot produces a steamy environment that gives the loaf an open crumb structure.

8. START IT COLD: Place the covered pot in a cold oven. Heat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the bread for 30 minutes.

WHY? Starting the bread in a cold oven ensures against burning the bottom, and the bread rises just as much as in a preheated oven.

9. REMOVE COVER: Uncover the pot and continue to bake the bread until it is deep brown and its center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes more.

WHY? After the steamy environment has created the ideal interior texture, uncovering the pot allows the crust to brown and crisp.

10. LET COOL AND SERVE: Remove the bread from the pot and place it on a rack to cool for about 2 hours before slicing.

WHY? There’s still a lot of moisture trapped inside the hot bread. As the bread sits, the steam escapes giving the cooled loaf just the right texture.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Published March 2001

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

For a substantial mushroom soup recipe with distinctive, deep mushroom flavor and rich texture, neither too thick or thin, we cooked readily available button mushrooms long and slow, with butter and shallots and then pureed them in a blender, finishing the soup with a splash of Madeira, cream, and lemon juice. A garnish of sautéed wild mushrooms added a hit of earthiness and flavor to our mushroom soup recipe.

This is a photo of their soup.
Mushroom Soup 1
Here are two photos of the soup I made from the recipe.  I added a little Mexican Crema to the top of mine and noticed my color is a little darker, which I think looks richer.
Mushroom Soup

INGREDIENTS

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6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large shallots, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
2 pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 ½ cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups hot water
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well
cup dry sherry or Madeira
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
Salt and ground black pepper

Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms or chanterelle, oyster, or cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and discarded, mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS

MAKES 8 CUPS, SERVING 6 TO 8

To make sure that the soup has a fine, velvety texture, puree it hot off the stove, but do not fill the blender jar more than halfway, as the hot liquid may cause the lid to pop off the jar.

1. Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat; when foaming subsides, add shallots and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and nutmeg; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Increase heat to medium; add sliced mushrooms and stir to coat with butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release liquid, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and mushrooms have released all liquid, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, and porcini mushrooms; cover and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer until mushrooms are fully tender, about 20 minutes longer.

2. Pour soup into a large bowl. Rinse and dry Dutch oven. Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth, filling blender jar only halfway for each batch. Return soup to Dutch oven; stir in Madeira and cream and bring to simmer over low heat. Add lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with sauteed mushroom garnish, if desired. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated up to 4 days.) If making ahead, add cream at serving time.

3. For the Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional):

Heat butter in medium skillet over low heat; when foam subsides, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 10 minutes for shiitakes and chanterelles, about 5 minutes for oysters, and about 9 minutes for cremini. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 2 minutes for shiitakes, about 3 minutes for chanterelles, and about 2 minutes for oysters and cremini. Sprinkle a portion of mushrooms over individual bowls of soup and serve.

Almost No-knead Bread with Creamy Mushroom Soup