Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sheep and Bread

Historically, the New World, or North America, was explored and “conquered”, for lack of a better word, by the countries of Europe.  While the English primarily settled within the 13 original colonies, French and Spanish explorers traveled the fringes of both the United States and Canada.  Moving inland became justified with the finding of precious minerals (gold, silver, copper); fur trapping for animal pelts to keep human bodies warm in winter and, of course, land grabbing.

With the influx of these foreigners came food items and recipes.  American cuisine essentially began as a mixture of English, French, Spanish; increasing as more countries forth wars in North America.  The Hessians were approximately 30,000 German troops, hired by the British, to help fight during the American Revolution. They were principally from the German state of Hesse-Cassel, and with them came their cultural background.  It is known that the Spanish came through San Juan County, part of the development of the Old Spanish Trail from Mexico to California.

In the 1900s, Basque immigrants traveled to the mountain regions of California, Idaho, Montana and Utah.  Descended from the first Romans who invaded the areas of Spain and France, they have their own culture, language and distinct genetic background.  The Basque are extremely family oriented, so while sheepherding was a major component of life, it was a lonely existence.  The herders spent more time with their flock, than with family.  Living in small shelters and cooking for themselves was a basic necessity for their way of life. 

“Tending their flocks in the remote Western rangelands, Basque sheepmen had to cook for themselves, and they had to make do with a minimum of portable cooking equipment.   A Dutch oven became essential for cooking hearty soups and stews — and even for baking bread. They buried the pot in a pit full of hot embers.  During the winter months, herders would live in sheep wagons, which contained a stove and an oven. They baked their own bread in a Dutch oven, buried in the coals from sagebrush or aspen wood fires, with a tight-fitting lid and a bale handle. Today the tradition continues in homes across the world recreating this wonderful bread in modern ovens. ” ~~Sunset Magazine, June 1976~~

Now, in the history of bread baking, comes that age old question, “Which came first…?”  The Native American culture and traditions have their own bread creation styles.  Pueblo bread (San Juan Record, April 5, 2016), bread products made by ancestral Native Americans used corn flour.  The introduction of wheat flour, and eventually more processed flours, came from the exploring Europeans.  So, when it came to baking techniques, recipes and what the finished bread loaves looked like; who influenced who?  I asked a few Navajo ladies about the difference between Pueblo and Sheepherder breads, and the answer was simple…sugar.  The recipes are essentially the same, except Sheepherder bread contains sugar which gives a sweeter flavor, and browner coloring.

Sheepherder Bread baked Pueblo Bread style.
Not owning a cast iron Dutch oven (bowing head in shame), one recipe I came upon stated that a modern day, stainless steel/aluminum Dutch oven would do the trick.  Oh yes it did, I was totally tricked and fooled.  My first attempt with the recipe was a disaster of sorts.  Oh, it rose up beautifully as it baked, a lovely golden brown and yeasty aroma.  Tapping on the crispy crust though, something did not sound correct; it should have had a more hollow tone.  Cutting into the huge, round loaf and to my dismay, the dough inside was mostly gooey and raw.  I put it into the oven for 20 minutes longer, but the only accomplishment was a dark brown coloring and harder crust.

First Attempt
2nd Rising in Stainless Steel Dutch Oven

After Baking

Sheepherder Bread - Dutch Oven style

Failed First Attempt, still raw dough inside.
I am telling you of my failed first attempt to prove a point, do not quit.  The secret of life is to learn something new on a daily basis.  I learned that a baking technique, hundreds of years old, cannot be simply cheated on.  Then it hit me, wait, the Puebloans did not have cast iron Dutch ovens, how did they do it!?!  I went back to the basic recipe for Pueblo Bread (remember, it is almost exactly like Sheepherder Bread), added the sugar, but divided the first rise of dough into fourths.  Giving a second rise in round, oiled cake pans, I baked them according to temperature and time instructions. 

Second Attempt
Mound of Dough

First Rising in Greased Bowl

Knead, Divide into 4 Pans

2nd Rising, Cut X into top.

Sheepherder Bread, baked Pueblo Bread style....Perfect!

What was the result?  Four beautifully browned, round loaves of Sheepherder Bread; crispy crust, light and tender inside, mild sweetness that did not interfere with any ingredients placed upon the bread.  We indulged in grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast; or simply warmed slices smeared with butter and/or jam.  Not quitting, putting thought and experience to the test, success!

French Toast

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

With the recipe for Sheepherder Bread, there will be two sets of baking instructions.  The first set will be the traditional baking technique using a cast iron Dutch oven.  The second set will be as if making Pueblo style bread.  If you have a cast iron Dutch oven, I suggest making the bread both ways, and see which is preferred.

Sheepherder Bread


3 cups very hot water
1/2 cup shortening
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 and 1⁄2 tsp. salt
4 and 1⁄2 tsp. dry yeast
9 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
Vegetable or olive oil

For Cast Iron Dutch Oven

In a bowl, combine water, shortening, sugar and salt.  Stir until shortening melts and cool to 110 to 115 degrees. Stir in yeast, cover and set in warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Add 5 cups flour and beat to form thick batter. Stir in enough of remaining flour (about 3 and 1/2 cups) to form stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Turn dough into greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Punch down and knead to form smooth ball, about 3-4 turns.

Grease inside of Dutch oven and inside of lid with oil. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover with lid to let rise for the third time. Let rise in warm place until dough pushes up lid about 1/2 inch (watch closely).

Bake covered with lid in 375 degree oven for 12 minutes, carefully remove lid and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and turn out on rack to cool.

Makes 1 loaf.

For Individual Round Pans

Same steps as Dutch oven method, except after first rising and kneading, cut dough into 4 sections.  Shape into round balls and place inside round cake pans that have been greased with oil.  Cover and let rise for 1 and ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 400F, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven and place loaves on rack to cool.

Makes 4 loaves.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Spanish Valley’s Hidden Cuisine.

Hidden Cuisine

2740 South Highway 191 (1/4 mile from Spanish Trail Road)
Moab, Utah, 84532 (Spanish Valley area)

Phone: (435) 259-7711

Hours of Operation:
Monday: 7am – 2pm
Thursday through Sunday: 7am – 2pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Tuesday and Wednesday: Closed

Spanish Valley stretches along Highway 191 and encompasses two counties, Grand and San Juan.  Only 2.5 miles from the borderline, resting upon a small hilltop, is a hidden gem of a restaurant.  Serving American, Southwestern, and a cuisine that most Americans only wonder about, South African; Hidden Cuisine is a must experience restaurant.  Opened two years ago by owner and chef, Zinzi M. Chamanifard, Hidden Cuisine has received rave reviews.

Zinzi arrived, from Cape Town, South Africa, in America on a student visa, and now holds a culinary degree in hospitality; and she is an acclaimed chef as well.  Her training began in the kitchens of Desert Bistro and Sweet Cravings (both located in Moab).  She excelled rapidly and decided to prove her merits by opening her own catering business.  Opportunity came knocking upon her door with the advertisement of a restaurant location up for sale; Zinzi opened that door gladly.

At first, the restaurant was only open for breakfast (available at all open hours) and lunch, but recently dinner specialties are being offered Thursday through Sunday.  For breakfast, items such as “Biscuits and Gravy”, “Southwest Country Fried Steak” and “Eggs Benedict” are elevated from ordinary to extraordinary.  The pepper gravy used for the biscuits and country fried steak is smooth, creamy with the correct amount of cracked black pepper to enhance, not overpower.  Zinzi’s hollandaise sauce for the eggs benedict is so rich, creamy and packed with flavor.  Do not be surprised to find yourself licking the place for every drop!  The biscuits are fluffy; steak is encased within a crispy coating, yet fork tender, sporting pepper gravy attire.  Poached eggs are perfect globes holding a golden orb of yolk, sitting upon grilled slices of ham and draped in a silky hollandaise sauce.  Both selections came with red-skinned potatoes grilled, yet tender.  As you can tell, we decided to try out breakfast first; it was at lunch time and so, so satisfying.

Eggs Benedict

Inside the Poached Eggs - glorious sunshine!

Southwest Country Fried Steak

The lunch menu features a southwestern version of Philly cheesesteak, wraps and salads.
  Dinner though, a new edition to Hidden Cuisine’s menus, has offerings that showcase Asian, American, Southwestern, Italian and South African specialties.  As with breakfast and lunch, Zinzi shows off her talents, and quest for quality.  Sourcing for foods is based upon quality, so local, as well as outside of Utah, companies are used.  There is only one chef in the kitchen, and that is Zinzi.  Her mission and vision for Hidden Cuisine is to provide quality to the customer; quality atmosphere, service, and most especially, in the food items. 

Speaking of quality service, Shauna, our waitress, is very friendly, knows the menu items, and speaks very highly of Zinzi, her cooking skills and the food.  Our visit to Hidden Cuisine was definitely enhanced by her welcoming attitude, and quality service.  There is that key word again, Quality!

Hidden Cuisine is that type of restaurant where, no matter what speed your gear is in; stop in, sit, eat and simply enjoy.  Being curious about new cuisines, we are looking forward to another visit; this time for dinner and the adventure of South African flavors.

Mary Cokenour



Beer and Wine

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Paca Pantry is Alpaca and More.

Paca Pantry

133 East Center Street (Hwy. 491)
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 419-0750

Website for Ordering and Shipping of Items:, or find Wild Mountain Meats at

Free Wifi is available.

Five years ago, Dorothy Pipkin-Padilla, owner of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, had a wild idea.  Doing research, finding resources that suited her needs, Wild Mountain Meats was born.  This new business features Alpaca meat in the forms of burgers, ground summer sausage, chops, and roasts.  Experimenting with dehydration techniques, a line of jerky will be added to the lineup. 

It was no wonder that a shop would open one year later, featuring, what else, Alpaca products.   Made from the fleece (fiber), Paca Pantry features scarves, hats, shawls, sweaters, gloves, head bandanas and yarn.  The bestselling item though are the socks which have dedicated repeat buyers from locals and tourists yearly.  “What is so wonderful about alpaca fleece?” you might be asking.  Each shearing produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. This fleece, often compared to cashmere, can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to tapestries and blankets.

There are two different types of alpaca fleece.  Huacaya fiber grows and looks similar to sheep wool, causing the alpaca to look fluffy. The second type is Suri and makes up less than 10% of the South American alpaca population.  Suri fiber is similar to natural silk and hangs off the body in locks that have a dreadlock appearance.  At Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, Huacaya is what you can see; simply ask Dorothy for tour information.  I have visited the ranch, while some of the alpaca can be a bit standoffish; several will gladly come forth to be petted, or simply “vogue” for the camera.  The Ranch and Paca Pantry are associated with | Vacation Rentals & More (‎‎) which helps to promote both businesses to those planning on visiting Monticello and the surrounding areas.

The alpaca fiber products at Paca Pantry come from the herd at the ranch; the fleece is sheared, carted, woven into skeins, and knitted into wearable and comfortable art.  Looking for something unique to hang over a fireplace?  A lovely, soft, full body alpaca hide can be purchased.

Now every business owner needs a right hand person; Sue Morrell, former award winning “31 Bags” demonstrator, is Dorothy’s.  Besides doing sales and making sure the shop maintains its eye tempting look, Sue helps to promote.  Currently there is a 50% off sale on all remaining “31 Bags” from Sue’s personal stock.  I LOVE the thermal insulated bags that keep items frozen or cold for approximately five hours!  Quilters and other crafters will adore the many pocketed bags made just for this purpose.

That’s right, Paca Pantry is not about alpaca only; expansion of stock is key to keeping a business interesting to the public.  85-90% of items offered for sale are sourced locally; either through consignment, or purchased outright.  The other 10-15% are Utah products; Dorothy and Sue believe in “Shop Local, Shop Utah”.

So, what else can be found to delight any shopper?  Beautifully handcrafted pottery pieces by Tony Wojcik, Otis Wright and Cedar Mesa Pottery.  Unpainted ceramic pieces are a best seller for the at-home crafter.  Essential Oils, postcards, photographs, jewelry, furniture, and I could go on and go, but I will not.  What I will do is ask you to stop in and see for yourself. 

Paca Pantry has a vision, “To provide items that will satisfy locals and tourists alike”.  Dorothy and Sue are community conscious by donating to, and attending, events such as the Parks and Beautification Gala, Rotary Club, San Juan Hospital “First Baby of the New Year”, Holiday Gingerbread House Tour, and the Pioneer Day Treasure Hunt.  Book signings, like local author Eric Niven, are an enjoyable event at the Pantry itself; along with classes on essential oils and alpaca education.  In future, cooking demonstrations will be offered on alpaca meat, so expect to get some nifty recipes for home use.  Also included will be the foods of local cultures such as Native American, Mexican and the Pioneers.

Speaking of food, in the summer, stop in for a childhood favorite, well of mine at least, a rootbeer float; or a cup of gelato which is sourced directly from the Moab Brewery.  If you have not tried their gelato yet, you will be in for a real treat!

Pet owners, do not feel left out, items geared for your furbabies will be offered in the future as well!  Before I forget, book readers; drop off used books for store credit, or come in and see what titles are a “must” purchase.

Winter hours allow for a little time off, Paca Pantry will be open Tuesday and Friday, from 11am-4pm, and Saturday, 10am to 2pm.  With the holidays looming ahead though, there will be extended hours Thanksgiving week, and the week before and during Christmas.  There will be a huge sale period beginning November 15th; 10% off ALL items in the shop, except for historically based pieces.  Looking for a special gift has now been made easier.

Whether a local or simply passing through Monticello; make a stop at Paca Pantry and shop!

Mary Cokenour