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Posts Tagged ‘French bread’

Holiday Breads to Make All Year Long

Written on January 11th, 2011 by no shouts

Mort Rabkin is a very talented artisan baker who moved to Boquete a few years ago, and he’s sparked a whole new “bread culture” in our little mountain town. Before Mort’s arrival, there were very few artisan bakers in our entire Chiriqui Province, if any.

It wasn’t long before Mort built a real clay oven on his back patio and the availability of fresh, home-baked bread began.

As most of us know, it’s not easy to produce good, wholesome artisan breads without adding lots of love and care. Those skills are evident when biting into a slice of Mort’s special bread, available at the Tuesday Morning Market in Boquete.

Because many of Mort’s customers began asking him how he is able to produce such fine-quality breads, he decided to offer classes on the subject. These classes are very informative and lots of fun, as you can see from these photos.

Former students have made French breads, rustic breads, challah and other holiday yeast breads. They have filled rosta and wreath breads with lavish amounts of fruits and nuts and drizzled them with white, sparkling frosting.

The photo at the top includes some very talented bread-makers at work mixing and braiding breads for holiday giving. Mort’s wife Barbara demonstrated braiding techniques taught at the latest hands-on class, including one with 4 braids. The gorgeous loaf of challah shown above is ready for the oven.

Why can’t any of these wonderful, rich breads be baked anytime during the year? Why not?

On Thursday, January 27, Mort will present an advanced class on making and using sourdough and other natural starters. Folks with basic bread-making skills or those who have taken a prior bread class are eligible to join this very special class.

Participants will be able to pick up a sourdough starter a week prior to the class, “feed” it until time to use it to make and bake their own loaf of sourdough bread in Mort’s oven. As part of the class, a second type of starter will be mixed to be used in future bread-making. A gourmet lunch with wine will be served during the class, as well.

For more information about this class, stop by Mort’s table at the Tuesday Market, or email me at and I’ll send you more details.

We hope you come and enjoy the fun of baking in Mort’s clay oven, it’s a very special treat!

Making Artisan Breads in Boquete

Written on August 21st, 2010 by 16 shouts

Boquete is high in the mountains of Panama, not a likely place to find real, artisan breads baked in a clay oven. But, Mort’s oven was all fired up for his bread-making class of students eager to discover how Mort makes such a fine, rustic delicacy in Boquete.

Mort’s recipes are tried and true, baked many times in the high mountain air. The results can’t be beaten, anywhere in the world fine breads are baked.

Some bakers are famous for their baking, such as Rose Levy Beranbaum. She has written several books on bread and cake baking, and Mort studies her techniques and adapts them to our high, mountain location, making his breads just perfect.

The class assembled to find out just what makes Mort’s breads so special, was it the yeast, the flour, or his oven?

Throughout the afternoon, students measured, mixed, kneaded, stretched and shaped dough, making it exactly the right consistency for a perfect loaf of artisan bread. Each loaf must be a work of art, feeling just right, formed just right and having just the right aroma of a fine, hand-crafted loaf of rustic, one-of-a-kind artisan bread.

The smells of the wood fire baking hand-made rustic bread, floated through Mort’s home. Aromas to remember! It was difficult to imagine being a part of making authentic breads like ancient tribes throughout the world made thousands of years ago.

Each student marked, seeded and set their loaf into Mort’s clay oven. The oven had reached 650F degrees, just right for baking “hearth” bread. In only a few minutes, the beautifully baked, golden loaves were finished and set to cool.

The final experience was learning the fine points of bread-making. Mort taught students how to measure by weight, to blend the dough smoothly and to knead it until silky smooth. Each time an additional ingredient was added, the scales were set to zero and weighed again. The ingredients were blended with a wooden spoon, rolled into a ball and kneaded until the dough was exactly right. Only after long practice, was the ball made into a perfect dough.

Learning how to create rustic breads in your own kitchen is an art, and it takes a little know-how and practice.

To learn these techniques, a second bread was made during class, an authentic French bread recipe. This bread is made using the baker’s own feel as the ultimate indicator of texture and tenderness.

The bakers will take this dough home to rest, ferment, rise and bake tomorrow.

The first loaf of warm hearth bread is to enjoy now, as soon as we can gather our family and friends to share this tasty, memorable “staff of life”.

The results will be amazing, an experience to remember!

Thanks, Mort, and happy baking!

For Kitchenware, Try the New Conway

Written on May 11th, 2010 by one shout

It was a huge surprise to open this month’s Bajareque Times and see a photo and article about the 4 displays in the housewares department at the new Conway store in David. Thanks to the Bajareque Tiimes for including a visit to the Conway store in their quest for interesting and unique events to cover for the newspaper. The exhibits were part of the “Gourmet Tour of David”, that happened last month.

The display the Bajareque Times chose to feature in their article was the Asian-themed Sukiyaki exhibit. Complimentary recipe cards were displayed, along with items from the 3rd floor departments, including linens, bath, silver and glassware, furniture, accessories and home decor. The plan to arrange these displays was presented to the floor manager, Mr. Taylor, and it was approved immediately. Language was no barrier to his decision, we both practiced our “Spanlish” and the details were easily worked out.

The day of set-up came a couple weeks later and I was given free access to any items on the floor from which to make the displays. An assistant, Roberto, helped find many of the display items and the 4 tableaux were soon constructed.

In addition to the Asian, Sukiyaki display with a white stone mat and bonsai tree, there was the Italian Chef’s exhibit showcasing Eggplant Parmesan. The place-setting featured Venetian blue and gold hand-blown, glass dinnerware and a huge mirror-studded wine goblet. This display was especially fun to do as it had 3 shelves and lots of room for unique Italian pieces to come together, including a painting from the Vatican!

The French table was the one closest to the entrance of the housewares department and the largest of the displays. A huge table was cleared of white dinnerware, covered with a lush moss-green cloth and set for an afternoon “French bread, wine and cheese” get-together.

The French kitchen rooster was the center of attention, never missed in any French kitchen. The take-home recipe was for French bread, and if the baker needs just the right baking pan for making bread, Conway has it. Notice the bread board and beautiful bread knife, just awaiting a piping loaf of fresh bread. The cutlery selection at Conway is excellent, the quality is high, and the prices are reasonable.

Finally, I knew immediately how I wanted to create the Spanish table, it had to be centered around my legendary hero, Don Quixote. The model of Don is gorgeous and I couldn’t resist making him the center of attention, along with his side-kick Sancho Panza. The duo brought attention to the Paella recipe and just the perfect pan needed to make this famous Spanish dish. The red Spanish motif on the striking dinnerware reminds me of the bright, festive atmosphere that often surrounds a really good Paella.

Shortly after the displays were completed, a large group of folks from Boquete visited Conway as part of Boquete’s “Gourmet Tour of David”. The participants gathered the recipe cards as mementos of their visit. On the back of each card, they found suggestions of wines that would make excellent pairings to each dish.

I’m hoping that many customers enjoyed the exhibits, collected the recipes and savored the dishes with a favorite glass of wine. If anyone needs kitchen equipment, serving dishes or table linens, they will be sure to find them in the new Conway housewares department, just down the road from Boquete about 45 minutes.
Happy cooking!

Musicial Duo “Mickey & Squirt” Cook and Entertain

Written on April 21st, 2010 by no shouts

Since I’ve been hosting chefs from around Panama and other parts in the world, the response to my “Host Chef Program” has been overwhelming. The chefs love to cook in my kitchen, the views are spectacular. Everything is provided for them, so they can relax and have fun doing what they like to do best.

Residents and visitors to Boquete want to take cooking classes while they’re here. They not only learn new ideas and techniques from the chefs, but enjoy a full dinner with drinks, get a book of the recipes presented, meet new friends, and other nice “take-home” surprises, depending on the subject of the class.

In my quest to find the most talented and fun-loving chefs to host, I “discovered” Mickey & Squirt at their own dinner party on Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful party, fine friends and delicious dishes, including Squirt’s home-made lemon meringue pie. If Nashville stars can cook as well as they can sing, my “Host Chef Program” made a whole new discovery, “Musical Fun in the Kitchen”, with Mickey & Squirt!

Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 egg yolks
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell or crumb crust
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream or tartar
1/4 cup sugar

In a medium bowl, combine milk, lemon juice, and zest. Stir in egg yolks and pour into cooled crust. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff. Spread over filling, being sure to seal to edge of crust. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

Boquete was lucky when Mickey & Squirt moved here several years ago. Since then, they have written and produced two very successful musical theater productions, “Postcards From Paradise” and ‘Fat Katz and Ex-Patz”. This is the perfect clipart to show Mickey serenading and singing with Squirt. They really look like this. Can you imagine these country-music stars floating down the Chiriqui River in the Highlands of Panama?

Squirt has developed her own special techniques to cook “under pressure”, using a modern, stainless steel pressure cooker. Once you learn how to use this cooker, you’ll want to get one for yourself. Her menu will also include several accompanying dishes, French Bread from scratch, a rich chocolate dessert, a sip of Tennessee Jack Daniels Whiskey to remind Mickey of Nashville, and a few delightful songs by the duo, live and in the kitchen.

This is a not-to-miss cooking class, dinner and musical evening at $25.00. Save the date, Friday, May 21, beginning at 5:00pm and make your reservations now, at or by commenting on this blog. Squirt is a featured writer in the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, coming out next month.
Don’t miss it!

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