Wednesday, May 30, 2012

jeff hertzberg & zoe francois' whole wheat sandwich bread

Homemade bread is one of those things I still marvel at. Especially whole wheat bread. When I was a kid, we ate plenty of whole wheat bread but it was always slices of pliable, airy bread from the supermarket. By the time I was in high school, my parents would buy baguettes and sourdough batards from the bakery down the street from our house, but whole wheat bread was always Milton's or Orowheat.

So perhaps that explains homemade wheat bread's enduring mystique, at least in my eyes. I've made French boules and baguettes and I have my heart set on making this sometime in the not-too-distant future, but recently I've been thinking about whole wheat bread. Something a bit denser, a bit more wholesome than the white breads I've made before. I poked around through my copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and found a recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich bread and decided that it would mark my foray into wheat breads.

The way this bread smelled while it was baking- hot and sweet and milky- won me over from the start. It didn't expand in the oven as much as I expected- it remained a tapered loaf rather than a rectangular one- and it was denser than I had anticipated. But we ate slices warm from the oven, slathered with sweet butter, and it was difficult to imagine how it could be much better.

It's exciting to discover something you've eaten your whole life in a new form. I'll continue experimenting- I'm very curious about this buttermilk oatmeal bread, for example- but I'm fairly sure this recipe is one I'll be making again.

Adapted from 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois' Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes three 1 1/2-lb loaves (I made a half recipe)

1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
5-tbsp neutral-flavored oil plus more to grease loaf pan (I used grape seed)
6 2/3 whole wheat flour

Mis the yeast, salt, honey and oil with the milk and water in a large bowl. Mix in the whole wheat flour using a wooden spoon.

Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, approximately 2-3 hours. You can either use the dough immediately or refrigerate in a closed container and use over the next 5 days.

When ready to bake, lightly grease a 9x5x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Scoop out a 1 1/2lb handful of dough and shape into a ball. Drop the ball into the prepared loaf pan.

Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flour the top of the loaf and slash the top using a serrated knife.

20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350F with an empty broiler sheet on a shelf that won't interfere with the great. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven and pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray. Bake loaf for 50-60 minutes, or until brown and firm.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

david lebovitz's french tomato tart

Having a full three days off to spend in the city was wonderful. In addition to the barbecue and fireworks, other weekend highlights included a decadent brunch at Nopa, some new shoes purchased on Maiden Lane, some outdoor beer-sipping at Zeitgeist, a trip to Four Barrel Coffee and window shopping along Valencia, and an impromptu picnic in Dolores Park with sandwiches and cupcakes from Bi-Rite. There was lots of walking and enjoying the sunny (if windy) weather. I also did a bit of cooking, most notably strawberry shortcakes (consumed too quickly to be photographed) and this tomato tart.

David Lebovitz's French tomato tart is, to my mind, the perfect summer dinner. If you have pate brisee on hand (I usually make a double batch and keep some in my freezer), it comes together in under 10 minutes. You simply roll out the dough and place it in your tart pan, brush the bottom with some good mustard, then spread out a layer of thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes over the mustard. You sprinkle chopped herbs over the tomatoes, followed by the addition of a few rounds of goat cheese, and finally another sprinkling of herbs. And then you bake. 

The tomatoes turn soft and fragrant and the goat cheese browns around the edges. The resulting tart is bright and delicious, getting just the right amount of acidity from the tomatoes and the smoothness from the goat cheese. I added some fresh basil before serving and would recommend that you do the same. It is pure summer.

You can find the recipe here; the only change I made was to use Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe rather than the tart dough recipe provided by Mr. Lebovitz and it turned out swell. Either way, I don't think you can go wrong.

Monday, May 28, 2012

celebrating the 75th

If you don't live in the Bay Area, you might not know that yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge. There were all kinds of festivities planned over the weekend and on Sunday, there was a firework show. We decided to make an evening of it and went over to our friends Morgan & Joanna's house for a barbecue. 

We hung out in the backyard and watched the chickens run around scratching for bugs and taking dust baths.  You don't need a television if you own chickens. 

Joanna made homemade hamburger buns, yam fries and salad. Morgan grilled hamburgers.

It's tough to beat a really excellent hamburger. 

Afterwards, we bundled into warm clothes and climbed up onto the roof to watch the fireworks. The bridge was beautifully illuminated and the fireworks were breathtaking. It was one of those special sights that send shivers down your spine. We are so lucky to live in San Francisco.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

making jam

Last Tuesday, my friend Joanna and I drove out to Oakland to take a class at the Institute of Urban Homesteading on how to can jam. I've been curious about canning for a while but was loath to try it out on my own without some previous instruction by a seasoned professional for fear of poisoning myself or needlessly spoiling a large quantity of fruit.

So we found ourselves in Oakland at the home of K. Ruby Blume (all classes are taught at the homes of the various instructors) with a group of five other women listening to a lecture on the science of food preservation and stirring pots of boiling fruit.

I was interested to learn that you basically can't get botulism if you're canning fruit; the natural acidity of most fruit is too high for botulism to survive. Ms. Bloom explained two methods of canning- water bath canning and inversion canning. Water bath canning is the USDA approved version in which you put the jam mixture in the jars, close them, and then boil them. With inversion canning, you boil the jars, quickly add the jam mixture, close the jars, and then turn them upside down to seal and cool. 

We made a strawberry jam and an apricot pineapple compote and once you got into the rhythm of scooping hot fruit and handling the hot jars with tongs, it wasn't so difficult at all. And it was tremendously satisfying to look at the rows of jam jars lined up on the table, filled with jewel colored fruit. 

I had some of the strawberry jam on toast for breakfast this morning. 

For the first batch I make on my own, I'll probably add a bit more sugar- in addition to sweetening the jam, sugar gives it a pretty, glassy sheen. That's what's so wonderful about learning how to do this sort of thing yourself- I now know what to do in order to turn out the type of jam that precisely suits my personal preferences. With summer is on its way in, I can't wait to start experimenting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

le croissant du jour

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself-
 I am large, I contain multitudes.
                                                                                                                                                    -Walt Whitman

Monday, May 21, 2012

city of roses

Portland in the sunshine may be the ideal city. My mother and I arrived early Thursday afternoon and checked into the Ace Hotel. Since both of us were starving, we dumped our bags in our room and went downstairs to Clyde Common.  The hotel is perfectly situated. With Clyde Common and Stumptown off of the lobby, there's delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner on all sides. And it's an easy walk to anywhere in the downtown area. Since the weather was so good, we decided to go out wandering. 

We first stopped at Powell's books to browse for a while.  Afterwards we walked up to First Presbyterian Church. Sixty-six years ago, my grandparents were married there. 

We poked around  Canoe and Alder & Co. and then stopped in for a cocktail at Kask before walking to Chinatown for dinner at Ping. After, we stopped at Park Kitchen for a drink and some dessert.

On Friday, we woke up early (fire alarm at 6am! everyone out on the street in their bathrobes!), had coffee at Stumptown and then went on a on a bike tour through Pedal Bike Tours. I hadn't been on a bike in probably two years and it was so much fun. We lunched at Little Bird and then went back to the hotel to take naps. In the evening, we walked around the Pearl district and had dinner at Riffle based on the recommendation of one of the bartenders at Kask. It was the first weekend the restaurant was open and it was buzzing with energy and good spirits. The food was also terrific.

On Saturday, we borrowed bicycles from the hotel and pedaled up to the farmer's market on the PSU campus. 

It's a wonderful farmer's market, full of flowers and produce as well as stands selling prepared foods. Finding ourselves hungry, we stopped at the Pine State Biscuits stand and shared a fried chicken sandwich with hot sauce. After our tour of the market, we dropped our bicycles at the hotel and took MAX to Washington Park and then bussed to the International Test Rose Garden. 

The roses were just starting to bloom so the garden wasn't quite the profusion of color it'll be in a few weeks' time, but it was still completely beautiful. 

We also visited the Japanese gardens just across the way from the rose gardens. My mom was swooning over the beautiful trees, most of which don't grow well in San Diego.

We headed over to the Hosford-Abernathy neighborhood on the east side of the river because we had spa appointments at Loyly. After getting thoroughly turned around- it's more difficult to navigate the east side without a car- we found ourselves at Loyly where we spent a few hours relaxing before heading over to East Burnside for an early dinner at Farm Cafe. We had drinks at the bar at Clyde Common and then walked across the street to the Living Room Theater to see Pina. It turned out the movie had been cancelled, but we stayed on to listen to live jazz and eat salty buttered popcorn in the bar. 

On Sunday, we woke up to our first day of gray weather. We walked over to Voodoo Donuts hoping to try the famed maple bacon donut, but when we saw the line, we quickly headed back to the hotel and had breakfast at Kenny & Zuke's instead. Fortified, we decided to go check out the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which was incredibly lovely, particularly in the rain. 

And then it was time to leave. I don't think it could have been possible to enjoy the weekend more.

Thanks again to my lovely mother for making the trip with me- love love love!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

off to portland

My mother and I are taking a little trip to Portland. It was decided on a whim a few months back and now suddenly it's time to pack and print boarding passes and make the last final touches to our itinerary (yes, I am the type of person who makes detailed travel spreadsheets.)

I've been to Portland before, back in 2007 when I was still in college. I flew to Seattle to meet friends for the Sasquatch music festival at the Gorge and afterwards we spent a few days road tripping back to Berkeley, stopping in Portland and Medford and a few other small towns. We were only in Portland for a day and my memory of it is hazy. Mostly I remember that it seemed a cozy place and that the whole city felt tinted in shades of green and gray.

So now I'm visiting again, and this time with my mother- who was actually born in Portland but didn't grow up there and thus has no memory of the city whatsoever. I'm looking forward to exploring it together, just the two of us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Morchella, otherwise known as morels, are right at the tippy-top of the list of my favorite things to eat. Something about the flavor- delicate yet earthy- and the curious texture. Also, they remind me of France.

Anyway, I saw morels at the market the other day for the first time. After doing a double-take when I saw the price ($48 a pound) I did a little math in my head and decided it would be acceptable to buy a few, just a small handful, to sauté in butter and eat in an omelet for dinner.

Which I did. I melted a generous nob of butter in my largest sauté pan and gently fried the morels. I then scrambled two eggs with a splash of cream, pouring the mixture into the pan and folding the morels in with a pinch of salt. 

The result was simple, but not plain. I ate my omelet with a shaved fennel salad and a small kir. 

It was a profoundly satisfying meal. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

deborah madison's poppy seed cake

When I got home from work yesterday, the first thing I did was bake this cake.

Actually, that's not entirely true. First I tidied up the apartment, showered, roasted romanesco for dinner, and had Daniel fix me a Campari and soda. And then I baked this cake.

I read about Deborah Madison's poppy seed cake on Luisa Weiss's blog The Wednesday Chef and for some reason, I instantly fixated on it. Odd, because up until yesterday I don't think I'd ever even had poppy seed cake and poppy seed muffins (usually lemon flavored and cloyingly sweet) always left me cold. But for whatever reason, this cake spoke to me. Not a lemon poppy seed cake, but a vanilla poppy seed cake, with a full cup of tiny black seeds that made the batter look almost blue.

We ate big wedges of the cake for dessert and then again this morning for breakfast in bed, with big cups of tea. It was equally good in both circumstances.

Deborah Madison's Poppy Seed Cake, via The Wednesday Chef
Makes one 9-inch round cake
1 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup  unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the poppy seeds and the hot milk. Set aside until needed. Heat the oven to 375ᵒF. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high until firm but moist peaks form. Transfer the egg whites to a small mixing bowl. Using the same bowl as for the egg whites, but now using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, then beat in the egg yolks, adding one at a time and beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, as needed.
4. Drain the milk from the poppy seeds, discarding the milk. Add the buttermilk and the drained poppy seeds to the batter. Beat until well combined, then again scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture to the batter, in thirds. Again scrape the bowl with the rubber spatula, making sure it’s all well mixed. Fold in about a quarter of the beaten egg whites with the spatula, then fold in the rest, mixing gently until just combined.
5. Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Bake until golden and firm, with the sides just beginning to pull away from the pan, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Carefully run a sharp, thin knife along the sides of the cake, just against the pan, then gently remove the rim and allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the armed vegetable

There has been some particularly lovely spring produce at my local grocery store of late...ramps, spring onions, green garlic, fava beans, english peas, asparagus, and wee little artichokes that fit right in the palm of your hand.

As long as I can remember, I have loved artichokes. Growing up, my parents would steam large globe artichokes; we would eat the leaves dipped in salted butter and fight over the hearts. The heart always felt like the delicious reward for struggling with the tough, spine-tipped leaves and the downy interior fibers. But we never made baby artichokes, so when I espied them at the store- so small! - I knew I wanted to try them.

I opted to keep preparation simple and roasted the artichokes with some lemon and olive oil. We sprinkled them with Maldon sea salt and ate them hot with our fingers before dinner.

And, as the poem goes,

Thus ends
in peace
this career
of the armed vegetable
which is called an artichoke

They were wonderful.

Roasted baby artichokes
2lbs baby artichokes, wash, trimmed, stems peeled, and with tough outer leaves removed (rub with lemon to keep from turning brown)
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place artichokes in a bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of flaky sea salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes on a baking sheet, flipping them once or twice. Sprinkle with additional salt and a squeeze of lemon. Eat while hot.

 Serves 2
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