Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

Andrew’s Mom started the tradition of baking cookies for Andrew and his brother every Valentine’s Day for as long as he can remember, and last year Andrew decided to make this a tradition for our little family as well. He found two little red metal mailboxes into which he puts the cookies for the kids to find on Valentine’s Day morning. He’s been tinkering with his cookie recipe for awhile now, but this year’s cookies were, really, really good. Maybe even his best yet. So I thought this would be a great post to kick off our new series called The Kitchen Tinkerer, but more about that later in the post. First, these cookies!  (more…)

We’ve been busy! Andrew is pretty much done with his brick pizza oven. Just need to slap a coat of paint on the dome and we will be completely finished. Just in the nick of time. However this one detail hasn’t stopped us from enjoying some homemade pizza. More to come…


Soft Pretzels

Every week the New York Times Magazine has a little food section with a recipe included. Half of them I have no desire to make and the other half I think to myself, “Hmmm, I should try that.” But, alas, I never do. This week was the exception, however. I made the featured soft pretzel recipe.

I had never made soft pretzels before and I’m counting my first attempt as a success. As a rule, the first time I make something from a recipe I follow it to the letter, then adjust if necessary. I think my only word of warning with these would be: Beware of salt. Next time I’ll probably top them with sesame or poppy seeds, there’s just no need for that much salt. Crystal’s the one who’s pregnant but I feel like I have the swollen ankles. Too much sodium intake. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad.

Soft pretzels require a quick boil before you bake them, much like bagels. And a few years back I tried endlessly to make a good bagel but never really got there. This was a good experience so maybe it’s time to give the old bagels a go again.


Bread is the staff of life. You can filter that through a religious lens if you want, but if you don’t it’s just as true. Virtually every civilization dating back to when the Fertile Crescent was still fertile had some form of flour, water and leavening agent that they mixed together. It’s the food of foods. It’s so simple yet so complex. It’s an art form and while I’m not quite at this point, there are a lot of people out there who can get pretty metaphysical about it.

Crystal is always telling me to post about my bread baking but for one reason or another I never have, until now. It’s exciting, I know.

Many years back I had an epiphany that I could actually make this stuff so I bought yeast for the first time and I’ve been at it ever since. My failures far outnumber my successes but that makes it all the more intriguing. I’m on a mission to make bakery-quality breads in a home oven. It’s quite amazing how much there is to learn, both through reading and good old fashioned trying.

Picture below is my first attempt at Pain à l’Ancienne. I need to work on shaping this kind of dough but overall it turned out really good. (And, as Crys will tell you, I almost never say things turn out “really good.” There’s always room for improvement.)

I’m not just saying this as a cute way to wrap things up but I seriously have some dough proofing that I need to start shaping so I’ll stop here. I’ll continue to share what I’ve learned. I could go on for hours. I love bread.