Monday, August 25, 2014


 He found the billfold in our brother's belongings, a gorgeous billfold in chocolate brown crocodile the color of Hershey's Kisses. Slick, shiny leather with those recognizable markings of beast. A billfold tucked away in a drawer and stuffed with a thick fold of bills, curious and incomprehensible considering he was too ill to go out and spend it. The dollars were taken and spent on a glorious meal for us, his closest family, the night of his funeral, a dinner in his honor.

 And the beautiful, exotic chocolate brown crocodile billfold was given to my son as a keepsake.

 Fold, turn, roll. Fold, turn, roll. How many times had I watched the chef pound butter into a thick square, fold it in dough, flour and water, and go through the process of roll, fold, turn, roll and fold again? Before I dared do it myself? Puff pastry.

 "Like a book," he would say, pointing to his perfect folds, his perfectly aligned edges, his perfectly squared corners. "One fold, the right third in towards the center, the second fold over top that one until you have the dough folded into thirds, three layers turned so the top layer opens in front of you like a book."

 I longed to make puff pastry, longed to smooth my hands over the soft, supple dough. I dreamed of rolling it out into a perfect rectangle the length of the table in front of me. I yearned to mentally divide that rectangle into thirds and fold and fold again, turning the square one quarter turn until it opened like a book, edges perfectly aligned, corners perfectly square like a military bed.

 When I finally gathered my courage years later (and don't things you have put off for years for fear of failing because they seem so impossible turn out to be so simple?), what pleasure whacking those blocks of butter into a square, folding them into the pliable packet of dough like arms folded around a lover, rolling back and forth, back and forth into a rectangle albeit rather imperfect, brushing the flour off of the cool, smooth surface poof poof and folding. One fold, two folds, adjust, realign, tug the odd corner in an attempt to recreate what my chef had done all those years before and turn… until lifting the top fold is like opening the leaves of a book.

 Many swear by their stand mixer for everything from whipping egg whites into meringue, blending flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, milk into cake batter, kneading dough into bread. But don't I just prefer doing it by hand. Control freak? Maybe just a little. But it isn't only. My kitchen utensil of choice is a silicone spatula with the gently curved head like a softly cupped hand. I find great joy in using this spatula to fold sugar and almond meal into whipped whites, fold turn fold turn lift and scoop and fold, into a thick concoction to be piped out into macaron shells, or swirls of meringue bites. I love the sensual pleasure of folding chopped nuts into creamy brownie batter, flour into thick, fluid eggs and sugar, cocoa powder into almost anything it all, watching as the dark streaks blend, turning white into chocolate. Folding delicately, lifting, folding and a swoosh of the spatula through a batter, a liquid, a mixture and watch it change color, texture, consistency, the magic of folding resulting in something light and ethereal.

 Kneading dough by hand, while much more difficult and time consuming than using the machine, kneading dough by hand, while using much more muscle power and elbow grease than I often think I own, is a wonderful, earthy exercise connecting me to generations upon generations of bakers. Press one's fingers into the mass, lift and fold and fold again and press, knuckles pushing out air and height, fingers turning it into something smooth and velvety. Fold and tuck the edges under and shape into a loaf.

 Fold dough around filling.

 Sheets folded back, a single chocolate placed atop a plumped up pillow; a perfectly folded handkerchief tucked into a pocket or handbag; a stack of freshly laundered, precisely folded towels, thick, soft and smelling like lavender; the small luxuries of life.

 Dinner napkins carefully folded like origami swans or flowers, a gift wrapped in folds of paper, spiced and seasoned meat folded into tortillas, cheese and mushrooms folded into an omelet, tomato sauce, mozzarella, anything you like folded into dough, calzone. Soft, sweet dough folded round and round a filling of butter, nuts, cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chips, cinnamon buns, rugelach, strudel. Long fine strips of dough folded upon itself makes mighty fine pretzels. 

 Welcomed into the fold.


My love returned a thousand fold.

 I fold my hands in prayer. Or like a good little girl. And I always think of "here is the church… here is the steeple" fingers folded and intertwined.

 "Knowledge is two-fold," someone once claimed, "the affirmation of truth and the negation of what is false." But isn't everything two-fold? Positive-negative. Real-imagined. Love-hate.

 Like little sheep herded into the fold.

 I love making turnovers and triangles, phyllo dough or puff pastry folded around a savory filling and baked until the filling is hot and the dough is puffed and crispy. They are the perfect party or picnic food, appetizer or meal (we love this kind of food served with a big salad and a glass of wine followed by fruit) and are easy and fun to eat. They are also great prepare-ahead foods, just baking or reheating several minutes before serving. A friend of mine, a former chef, brought these to my house for a birthday meal many years ago and I fell in love with the combination of smoked chicken, sweet roasted red peppers and tangy goat cheese. Here is my version: these can be made with roasted chicken but smoked adds a wonderful flavor that cannot be beat. Goat cheese is best but replace with feta if you can't find the goat. I really prefer these made with buttered phyllo dough, but husband loves the filling folded into puff pastry.


2 precooked smoked chicken breasts, about 10 ½ oz or 300 g, diced finely
2 roasted peppers, about 1 cup, peeled and diced finely
A mild goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled, about 1 cup
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary or chopped fresh chives
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt and pepper
About 20 sheets phyllo dough + melted butter to brush – or – 1 ½ lbs (about 690 g) puff pastry + 1 egg white to brush
Coarsely ground cumin & coriander seeds

 Have a couple of baking sheets lined with parchment paper set aside.

 Combine the diced chicken, diced roasted red pepper, crumbled feta, rosemary or chives and garlic, salt and pepper and blend well. Set aside.

 If using phyllo dough, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Layer 4 sheets of the phyllo, brushing every other sheet with butter. Cut the sheets of buttered, stacked phyllo lengthwise into 4 strips. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling on the end of each strip and fold up until you create a triangle packet. Tuck in the end and place on the lined baking sheet, seem side down. Continue until you have used all of the phyllo and filling. Brush each triangle with butter, dust with the coarsely ground cumin and coriander and bake for 20 minutes or until the triangles are golden brown and crispy.

 If using puff pastry, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut the pastry (rolled very thinly) into any size round you like, I used a 4 ½ inch metal ring (this made about 20 turnovers). Place a heaping teaspoon (maybe a scant ¼ cup) filling in the center of each dough round, brush around the edges with egg white, fold over, press the edges with your fingers to seal then press with the floured tines of a fork. Line up on the baking sheets and continue until you have used all the puff pastry and the filling. Brush the tops of the turnovers with egg white, dust with the coarsely ground cumin and coriander and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the triangles are golden brown and crispy.

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  1. Such a lovely post, it helps me think of precious memories from my life that centre around sharing food,
    thank you.

  2. I had never thought through folding either in terms of text or photography--a truly new exploration. Lovely work--thank you both!

  3. You two!! Beautifully rendered, as always!

    The ribbons of cucumbers in particular look wonderfully appetizing - and that's saying a lot for me; I'm really not wild about cucumbers. Yet, I have an urge to race to the vegetable store to get cucumbers to make into ribbons.

    I know what you mean about mixing by hand, Jamie. I love the sound, or rather, the lack of motor sound, when folding, stirring or kneading by hand. It's especially satisfying in the stillness of the early morning when the sun is still low on the horizon and the birds are singing.

    (Please, may I have one of those turn-overs now? go with the cucumber ribbons.)

  4. Beautiful post! Love the words and photos, and I am going to try that recipe!

  5. You two are a beautiful fold of photos and words!

  6. The photography and words always flow together so beautifully! I've never made puff pastry. I've always used the store bought kind. I think you've talked me into trying it.