I love baking breads. There is a unique pleasure in stirring the yeast, watching it foam, and then kneading the tough flour in and out of your hands and across the cutting board. There is a certain magic to leaving the room and, returning an hour later, discovering that the small ball of dough has doubled in size, the yeast breathing life into the round.
One of the additional pleasures of baking bread is in the anticipation, as the smell of baking break slowly fills the kitchen, before settling over the entire apartment, building a sense of eagerness in the room’s occupants.
For better or worse, there is Continue reading
A few weeks ago, my boss came into my office with questions about a case that I was working on. After I gave him the run-down, he got up to leave, at which point, I asked him to take a seat and to close the door. I was leaving the job, I said, having accepted a new position.
The news did not come as a surprise, and he offered his sincere congratulations. He also encouraged me to make the most of my time-off. There are few instances, he noted, where you are truly off the clock. In this line of work, weekends get truncated and vacations get interrupted. There is always another case to read and another motion to file. There are few moments of true respite.
That time between jobs, however, was one of those truly serene periods, where there are no unanswered emails and waiting voicemails. There are no blinking red light while you are between jobs.
During my time-off, Continue reading
Over the last few days, I’ve watched my bananas go from a bright yellow, worthy of wearing the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France, to a soft brown, like a tattered and mud-splashed elementary school bus.
Banana bread and banana muffins are always easy options for an overripe bunch. But banana bread is – let’s be honest – closer to cake than either bread or a trip to the bottom of the food pyramid. For that reason, I took my overripe bananas and turned them into real banana bread – not the quick kind. Indeed, if you know me, you know that I often enjoy taking the long and meandering route, passing through several culinary steps and preparation detours over what might have otherwise been a one-step, ten-minute trip, down the intercity highway (see curried couscous).
While this banana bread requires kneading and resting, rather than mixing and pouring, it is Continue reading
Of all the foods characteristic of New Orleans – from pralines to muffalettas – my all-time favorite remains the King Cake (la galette des Rois).
I can remember gathering around the large loaf in grade school, eagerly holding out my plate, and wondering if my piece would be the lucky piece. If the teacher was feeling generous that day, she might indulge our personal choices, and allow us to select that prized piece ourselves. There were those that favored the edge pieces. Others favored a particular color of icing – be it green, yellow, or purple – certain that good luck lay beneath it. And others still allowed simple chance to play its part.
I don’t remember what my particular stratagem may have been, but given the importance of the situation, I certainly had one. You see, hidden in the dough was a small plastic baby. And whoever pulled the baby from his or piece was king or queen for the day.
In grade school, this was no mere sinecure. Continue reading
Growing up, we used to devour this stuff. I can remember my younger brother popping two slices into the toaster, waiting for that mechanical “pop,” and then throwing a slab of butter between the warm slices as he placed them on his plate. After which, he put two more slices into the toaster.
This past Thanksgiving, I showed my youngest brother how to make scrambled eggs. Saturday night we went to the Kroger, picked up a pan, a whisk, a dozen eggs, and a DVD from the Red Box. After a quick tutorial, we settled down on his dorm couch to scrambled eggs, raisin bread, and The Girl Who Played with Fire.
My mind must have wandered to that night. That, combined with my love of bread-baking, inspired me Continue reading
There’s a certain moment in the bread-baking process where you remember exactly why you spent all that time kneading, crafting, and waiting.
It’s not the moment you take the bread out of the oven, or the moment you finally bite into a slice. It’s several minutes before that time. It’s the moment when you perk up, and notice that your entire apartment smells of freshly baking bread. It’s that moment, above any other, that reminds me why I enjoy the bread-baking process.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt Continue reading
After our adventures in Tuscany, we headed to Rome. And as the saying goes: When in Rome, eat like a Roman.
On our third night in Rome, we decided to skip the hotel concierge and consult a higher authority: Google. Google sent us to Pizzeria Baffetto in the Campo Marzio neighborhood.
The cab driver dropped us off as close as he could, and we set out on the cobblestone streets to find the pizzeria. After a minute of walking, we saw a line extending several feet out of the door. If this was the line at 9:00 at night, it had to be good pizza.
After forty minutes passed, we took our seat Continue reading
It’s funny what we find intimidating.
For the longest time, the idea of making bread scared me. It just seemed so complicated. You had to make sure the yeast reacted. You had to make sure the water was at the precise temperature. You had to coax the dough into rising. You had to knead the bread – whatever that meant.
But then, I decided to just go for it. I opened up my cupboard, Continue reading