Thursday, December 29, 2011

zoe francois & jeff hertzberg's basic french boule

When I was visiting my parents last week, my mother and I got into a conversation about bread. More specifically, about the lack of good bread available to my mother in La Jolla. It sounds kind of like a dubious problem to have- like, how important can bread really be?

But if you love bread, you know the the chasm that separates good bread from bad. Good bread is deeply satisfying; bad bread is just depressing.

I can get pretty good bread in San Francisco. I say "pretty good" because even though there are great bakeries here (Acme, Tartine, etc.) none of them are within close walking distance of my apartment, and as a result, I rarely visit them. Acme bread is now sold widely in grocery stores, but you aren't getting it fresh out of the oven the way you do at bakeries in Paris. There are few things more enjoyable than walking into a bakery, buying a baguette hot from the oven, and then immediately tearing off the end to eat. I miss that about Paris all the time. With that thought in mind, I decided that it was time to take action.

Armed with Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois's Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I set out to make a basic French boule. After fretting over the whether or not the dough was rising enough and worrying about  the general wetness of the dough (too wet? too dry??), I eventually stuck the damn thing in the oven and crossed my fingers. And...


Pretty, no? It was a bit dense (I'll use a bit more water next time, since I used bread flour, which is higher in protein than the all-purpose flour the recipe recommended) but over all, not bad. Not bad at all. I can't wait to continue experimenting. The recipe is great in that it has you make enough dough for four loaves (or two, because I halved it) and then store the dough for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Bread on demand! It almost feels like Paris.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

days of celebration

I've been away a while, mainly due to my aforementioned computer issues. But thanks to my dad, I am now the owner of a breathtakingly sleek new computer, upon which I am typing at this very moment. A Christmas wish come true! I'm back! 

Computer aside, it was a lovely Christmas. The weather was positively hot and I got to spend all kinds of time with my family, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, reading aloud from P.G. Woodhouse's "Jeeves and the Yuletide Spirit", etc. 

{nutcracker collection}

{Christmas morning}

{Christmas dinner: duck confit with beets & beet greens}

I got back to San Francisco on the 26th and then Daniel and I had our own Christmas on the 27th (I may have left some Christmas shopping until after Christmas...) I have to say our tree looked very pretty and it was nice to have our own little celebration in the apartment.

{Christmas #2}

So many days of celebration.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

excuses, excuses.

I'm afraid I've been very bad this Christmas season when it comes to posting here. Apart from being insanely busy, my trusty old laptop has been slowly grinding to a halt, making it very difficult for me to upload photos- and really, what fun is a blog without photos?

Excuses, excuses.

Over the weekend, I attended a Hanukkhah party, two Christmas parties, and a matinee showing of the Nutcracker (glorious, just glorious). It was all both delightful and tiring (all those cocktails! all that food!) and I find myself looking forward very much to a few days back in La Jolla with my family.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season to the fullest. I hope to be back soon, and more often, with pictures of Christmas revelry to share. Happy holidays, y'all!

Friday, December 16, 2011

one year ago

One year ago today, I moved from Paris to San Francisco. I've been thinking about Paris a lot recently, mostly because it's Christmas time and Paris is so lovely at Christmas. I'm not sure I can think of another city that really compares. I miss it all the time, but I'm also very happy to be back in California. It's been a wonderful year and I'm grateful for every minute of it.

Image: Oh Happy Day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

have a piece of cheese

Have you ever seen the movie Gigi? There's a scene in the movie where Maurice Chevalier offers up a cheese plate to his friend who is outraged over some ridiculous personal issue. My family has appropriated this phrase and now uses it whenever one of us is Stressed Out. Right now, the Stressed Out Family Member is me and my father is the one proffering figurative cheeses.

But tonight, I took him literally. When I got home from work feeling jittery and irritable, I pulled out some Delice d'Argental and made myself a little cheese plate. 

It wasn't half bad.

Friday, December 9, 2011

party season

Christmas party season is upon us. In preparation, I'm getting a (much needed) haircut after work tonight and hunting for a festive party dress this weekend. I'm hoping we can make a little trip down to Union Square at some point on either Saturday or Sunday morning before throngs of shoppers descend on the downtown area. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, here are some links for your amusement:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

o christmas tree

We had friends over for lamb stew and Christmas cookie decorating this evening. We got our Christmas tree on Tuesday (something of an ordeal) and I've been making batches of cookie dough for almost a week. I made the stew last night after dinner. All in all, it made for a very easy evening of entertaining.


{camel tree ornament from Christmas 2009)

{raspberry beer}

{zebra cookies}

{figgy pudding cookies}

My favorite cookies were the figgy pudding cookies I found on Food52. The brandy sugar frosting was seriously amazing. We listened to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack on repeat and drank cider with apple brandy. This time of year truly is miraculous.

Monday, December 5, 2011

out of the city

Had a nice quiet weekend out of the city. The weather was beautiful and we spent Saturday morning walking around Yountville with Will. If you want to make friends, take a Weimaraner on a walk. Five people must have come up to us at different points to gush over the dog.


{French Laundry winter garden}

{Washington Street}

{Oakville Grocery}

{Poinsettias in Yountville}

Downtown Yountville was decorated for Christmas and really quite lovely. Always a treat to spend some time up there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

december is here

This evening after work, Daniel and I are driving up to Napa to housesit for his parents while they're out of town. I love housesitting! It's like a free vacation. Plus, his parents have a dog and although I don't trust him in the kitchen (this dog once ate a bag of raw, unpeeled carrots that were left in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter) I like taking him for walks very much. Their house also has a wood burning stove in the living room, which makes for exceptionally cozy reading and tea drinking. Aside from that, we have a reservation at Ad Hoc and tentative plans to go wine tasting. And we're definitely getting a Christmas tree. December is here, and it's glorious.

Anyway, here few links to begin the weekend. Hope everyone has some lovely plans!
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