Diane, A Broad
  • December 31, 2012
  • December 18, 2012

    Meet the new guy I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of weeks.

    DSC05822

    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?

    DSC05850

    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.

    Continue Reading

    Posted in: back to basics, cooking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 COMMENTS
  • 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.

    12pubsgroup01

    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.

    12pubs01

    12pubs02

    12pubs03

    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.

    Continue Reading

    Posted in: dining out, life, paris, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 COMMENTS
  • 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.”

    DSC_5112

    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.

    DSC_5105

    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.

    Continue Reading

    Posted in: cooking, mains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 COMMENTS