December 31, 2012
Guess where I am?
December 18, 2012
Meet the new guy I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of weeks.
He’s a sourdough starter and I raised him myself! Back in the old days, before you could get those packets of yeast at the supermarket, bakers would have to catch and raise their own yeast if they wanted leavened bread. The cool thing is that when you catch wild yeast, some beneficial bacteria get caught too; these are the bacteria that give sourdough that tangy flavor. And the combinations of yeast and bacteria are different in every region, which is part of the reason why a French pain au levain tastes different from San Francisco sourdough.
Raising a starter is as simple as mixing together some flour and water, then letting it sit in a warm spot for a few days. The yeast and bacteria in the air work their way into the flour and water slurry and start eating the carbohydrates in it. Then you “train” the little guy by discarding a bit, then feeding the rest with more flour and water. Eventually the culture grows, eats, and burps little carbon dioxide bubbles in a predictable manner, and that’s when it’s ready to use for baking. It really is very much like having a pet: daily feedings, a little warm corner for him to sleep in, and he has the potential to give you many years of joy.
His name is Jean-Bapyeast. I wanted a really French name, a friend suggested Jean-Baptiste, and Edna punned it into Jean-Bapyeast. Excellent, non?
There are a lot of things you can do with a natural sourdough starter, including, of course, making bread. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of loaves but haven’t quite nailed down my perfect recipe yet. The loaf above was my first, and unfortunately it deflated a bit while I was transferring it to the baking vessel, resulting in a denser loaf than I prefer. We’ll get there, and until then, try raising a sourdough starter for yourself. There’s really nothing cooler than making tasty bread out of nothing but flour, water, salt, and some microorganisms you gathered from the air.
December 17, 2012
This week I learned… something… about restraint… or knowing your limits… or something like that. It’s all kind of a blur really.
So what happened is that my French class partners, Tríona and Oisin, invited me to something called “12 Pubs of Christmas.” Basically, the goal was to hit up twelve different pubs in twelve hours, drinking a beer at each one. We started with a lovely brunch at Tríona and Oisin’s place, where we all looked bright-eyed and chipper in our Christmas jumpers.
Each pub had a rule, such as: you must wear a Christmas jumper, or drink with your non-dominant hand, or not call anyone by their real name. Penalties for rule-breakers included drinking shots and doing Irish dances. Keep this sober, late-morning photo in mind. We degenerated quickly.
I think part of the thing I learned was something about not starting out too strong. There were two options you could choose from to fully participate: drink one pint at each pub (A-team), or one half-pint (B-team). Note that, in Paris, what they call a pint is really 500cl, so the A-teamers would be drinking a total of six liters total. I decided to start out on the A-team, then kick down to the B-team eventually. That decision was my downfall.
dining out, life, paris, Uncategorized |
Tags: #12pubs, 12 pubs of christmas, bar, bar à vin, beer, christmas jumpers, drinking, frenchie, frenchie bar a vins, friends, irish pubs, paris, paris restaurants, paris wine bars, pubs, restaurants, travel, ventreche, where's me jumper, wine |
December 13, 2012
This is one of the most versatile dinners I know. Basically, it follows the concept of “slather it in béchamel sauce and/or top it with pie crust and it’ll probably be delicious.”
Originally, I was going to call this “leftover pot pie,” because I took these photos around Thanksgiving when leftovers were all everyone was talking about. And honestly, the way I usually make it is with a mess of leftovers, but leftovers pot pie doesn’t sound that appetizing.
My point is that you can make this pie with pretty much any kind of vegetables or protein in the filling. Got some leftover chicken from that one you roasted earlier this week? It’ll work perfectly. A few herby carrot sticks that you didn’t finish from today’s afternoon snack? Chop ‘em up and chuck ‘em in. Some garlicky greens hanging out in your fridge? Naturally. You can also make this in almost any oven-safe vessel: a deep dish pie pan is traditional, but feel free to mess with individual mini-pies (like I did), 8-inch square baking pans, or cast-iron skillets.
December 11, 2012
These bright green pancakes happened while I was in Nice, and hadn’t figured out how to turn on the oven yet. Of course, being far from home and lonely, I also had a huge sugar craving. What’s a sweet-toothed girl to do when there’s no way to make gooey cinnamon rolls or chewy cookies?
These hot cakes were a perfect answer. With a base of my usual hot-cakes-for-one recipe, with the intriguing addition of matcha (finely milled, high quality Japanese green tea) powder, they had a hint of floral bitterness that was the perfect foil for creamy butter and a big drizzle of syrup.
December 10, 2012
So! I took an unintentional blog break last week. Birthday shenanigans plus a sudden influx of work meant lots of late nights and subsequent late mornings. You know how it is. Wine, and beer, and food, and friends, possibly some dancing, and suddenly it feels like the internet can do without you for one more night.
I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate my birthday than at Verjus. So we went twice… once for drinks with friends in the bar, and once for the tasting menu in the restaurant.
I treated myself to some Grüner Veltliner for my birthday. Grüner is one of my favorite wine varietals, and it’s so hard to find in France! I’ve been asking Laura about this one for ages and finally bought the bottle.
December 5, 2012
You know how I can tell I’m an adult? I wanted carrot cake for my birthday.
Not just any carrot cake. That Carrot Cake. I received the recipe for That Carrot Cake from a friend during college. He’d gotten it from his mom, who’d gotten it from a neighbor, who’d gotten it from her aunt, etc. etc. etc. I ended up passing it on to HR Director at work a year or so ago, and now I’m passing it on to you.
It’s That Carrot Cake because I’ve been fiddling with the ratios in this recipe for years and years, and I’ve got the balance of moisture level and cinnamon batter flavor and carrot/walnut/coconut bits just right; that is, exactly how I like it. The original recipe came from a friend, but now it’s mine.
That Carrot Cake is so moist that it’s hard to ice; little moist chunks and crumbs keep wanting to fall off, and I used to need to ice it with an inordinate amount of cream cheese frosting that never actually got eaten. Now I don’t even try to ice the whole thing — just a slip of frosting between each layer will do.
That Carrot Cake has so much walnut in it that it might as well be called a walnut cake. The carrots aren’t shredded or puréed, but shaved with a vegetable peeler then diced, so that some smaller pieces melt into the batter while other, larger pieces hang around like flakes of carrot confetti. A good amount of coconut provides more chewy texture. Oh, and there’s pineapple in there. You don’t taste it, and I have no idea how it works, but that pineapple might be the secret ingredient that brings it all together, with just enough batter to hold everything in one piece.