Kool-Aid Pickles

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

If you have ever stopped at a roadside market along a Southern highway, these pickles are no stranger to you. Pickles floating in jars of a brightly colored brine are normally lined up at the cash register. These Kool-Aid pickles may seem odd at first, but once you bite into one you’ll appreciate the sweet and sour flavors. Let me just warn you, because no one warned me, your fingers may just turn the color of the pickle you’re eating!

Red Kool-Aid Pickles
yields 1 (90-ounce) jar

What you need:
1 (90-ounce) jar of whole dill pickles
4 packets Kool-Aid (I prefer cherry—it’s just how I roll)
2 cups sugar

What to do:
Drain the juice from the pickle jar and discard, leaving the pickles inside.

In a medium pitcher, combine the Kool-Aid, sugar, and 4 cups water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour enough of the Kool-Aid mixture over the pickles in the jar to completely cover them. Put the lid on the jar and refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks before eating.
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Chewy Chocolate Bread

Words and recipe by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Model: Anne Chaddock Donegan
Supergirl costume by Jessica Duthu

I live in a neighborhood of seventeen houses and twenty- two children (the odds are against me). I’ve tested this recipe on many of my adult neighbors and they love it, but it was the children who seemed extra-excited and intrigued by the large, round chocolate loaf. One curly- yellow-haired girl in particular would punch through the crust with her #ngers when she thought no one was looking and scoop out a chunk of the soft chocolate center to eat. The young girl’s name is Anne Chaddock, and she is a supergirl who runs the neighborhood fueled by my Chewy Chocolate Bread! 

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Chewy Chocolate Bread

(loads of chocolate but barely sweet)
yields 1 loaf 

1⁄2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1⁄3 cup sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
1⁄2 cup good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling


In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, mixing with your finger until the yeast is dissolved. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 1⁄4 cups room-temperature water, the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix just until the dough is blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at warm room temperature for 8 hours (I like to do this overnight).

Line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel that has been dusted with cornmeal. Set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a liberally floured work surface and pour the chocolate chunks over the top. Sprinkle with more flour before folding the dough over itself a few times to evenly distribute the chocolate. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Dust the top of the dough ball with cornmeal, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a heavy cast-iron (or ceramic) 6- to 8-quart pot with a lid in the oven to heat until the oven comes to temperature.

Carefully remove the heated pot from the oven and place the dough in it (seam side up or down—it doesn’t matter). Don’t worry if it looks like a hot mess; it will bake up beautifully. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Cover the pot and return it to the oven to bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the loaf is a gorgeous dark brown and gives a dull sound when thumped. Let the bread cool before eating.


French Model Barbie Loves Baguettes

by Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Barbie dreamed of being a high fashion model in Paris. When Sears called and asked her to pose with a bike and french baguettes for their Spring/Summer catalog she remarked that “dreams really do come true”.
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Learn how to make a baguette HERE!

Napoleon Bread (a shorter baguette)

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I put my baguettes in the refrigerator overnight to do a cold fermentation. It’s less messy and I think the dough holds its shape better . . . and those are the only reasons why. The taste is the same. The only thing to be cautious about is not to use too much pressure when you do the final shaping of the refrigerated dough—like a short Frenchman, you don’t want to squeeze out all the hot air/gas.

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Napoleon Bread
(a shorter baguette)

What you need:
2 cups warm water (about 95° F)
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
5 1⁄2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
Vegetable oil, for the bowl

What to do:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the water and yeast and stir until just combined. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed just until the dough forms an ugly ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not too sticky (see Note). You can adjust the flour or water here as needed. (If the dough is too dry, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too wet, add more bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes.

Oil the inside of a large mixing bowl with the oil and set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 1 minute. Transfer the dough to the oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Punch the dough down with your fist if it starts creeping over the top of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you want to bake the loaves. Being careful not to deflate the dough too much, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and divide into four equal portions.

Line a baking sheet with a large kitchen towel that has been lightly dusted with flour. Set aside.

Form the four dough portions into baguettes by first shaping the dough into a thick rectangle about 14 by 6 inches. Fold the bottom half of the longer side of the rectangle to the center
of the dough and press with your fingers to hold it in place. Next fold the top half to the center and press it with your fingertips to seal the seam you have created. Roll the bottom
of the dough over the top, creating a new seam on the underside. Gently rock the dough back and forth while moving your hands out toward both ends. This lengthens the baguette. Apply a little more pressure at the ends to taper the dough slightly. Repeat the rocking motion as many times as necessary until the baguette is about 16 inches long by 21⁄2 inches wide.
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Transfer the baguette to the floured cloth and repeat the shaping process with the remaining pieces of dough. Tuck folds of the floured cloth around the sides of the loaves to help support the dough as it rises and to help separate the baguettes. Oil the underside of a piece of plastic wrap and loosely cover the loaves with it. Let sit at room temperature for 90 minutes, until the loaves have not quite doubled in size. The dough will increase 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 times in size. (As with many things in
life, here size does matter.)

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven as high as it will go. Place a baking stone or an overturned heavy-duty baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and place a cast-iron skillet on the lowest shelf or on the floor of the oven.

Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Using a sharp razor or serrated knife at a 30-degree angle to the loaf, make 4 or 5 equidistant slashes, 4 inches long and 1⁄2 inch deep, in the top of each baguette. Transfer each baguette to the hot baking stone or baking sheet (don’t worry if they collapse a bit, they will spring back while baking). Spritz the baguettes lightly with water and place 1 cup ice cubes in the cast-iron skillet.

Lower the oven temperature to 450° F. Bake the baguettes for 30 minutes, or until the crust is a dark golden brown and the loaves sound hollow if you give them a thump. Let cool for
at least 30 minutes before serving.

Pretzel Bread

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I think it was in fifth grade that I studied states and capitals. Each student’s final grade depended on an oral presentation about an “adopted” state. Our teacher wrote all the states on colorful pieces of paper and placed them in a goldfish bowl for us to choose. I picked Montana. It could have been worse; my friend Randy picked Idaho. I don’t remember much about the presentations aside from the Missouri one given by my classmate Paul, who had a talent for the theatrical. Paul donned a coonskin cap as he talked about Daniel Boone, then deftly removed the cap and taped on a white felt mustache as he read a poem by Mark Twain. The best part of Paul’s state performance was the German pretzel bread he passed around as he talked about Germans immigrating to St. Louis in the mid-1800s. The bread was the best thing I had ever eaten inside the walls of our school. Still warm from Paul’s book bag, it tasted like a thick slice of pretzel. I’ve been obsessed with it—and Paul—ever since. I hope Paul earned an A on his presentation. He deserved it for the bread alone. I’ll ask him the next time we talk. All these years later, Paul and I are still the best of friends.

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Pretzel Bread
(a sliceable hot pretzel)

yields 2 loaves, or twelve 4-inch rolls

What you need:
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (115° F)
1⁄2 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup baking soda

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, put the water, milk, butter, yeast, and brown sugar. Mix until combined, then let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, or until it begins to foam. Mix in the salt.

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With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour
and mix for 1 minute. Continue to add the remaining flour as needed until the dough forms a firm ball that is tacky, not sticky (think about a Post-it note—it’s tacky, not sticky to the touch). Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the dough ball with the oil and turn it over in the bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Knead the dough at medium-low speed for 10 minutes, until the dough has a satiny shine and is elastic. Cover the dough and let rise for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
At this point, if you would like to make Pretzel Brats see the variation on page 110.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece between the palms of your hand in a circular motion to form two smooth balls. (If making rolls, divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and form into balls, then continue with the following steps.)

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Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Slowly add the baking soda without stirring.

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Working with one dough ball at a time, use a large spider or slotted spoon to slowly lower the dough ball into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds, turning once to make sure the complete surface of the dough has been covered with water. Remove with the slotted spoon to drain and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second ball of dough.

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Make a cross in the top of each loaf using a sharp knife or razor. Don’t worry if the dough looks rather ugly at this point; it will pop up and become beautiful during baking.

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Sprinkle the loaves with salt (kosher, pretzel, or Maldon salt). I like a salty pretzel bread and salt-free pretzel rolls.

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Bake for 25 minutes (15 minutes for rolls), until the loaves are a dark golden brown, turning the baking sheet around once in the middle of the bake time. Let the loaves cool slightly before serving.
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