Archive | July, 2011

Back to bread

30 Jul

A month of truly awful July weather in Paris became a prime opportunity to kick the bread baking into high gear.  Since the parks were waterlogged, the temperatures downright chilly, and the sun completely obstructed from view, Amy and I spent most of the month indoors, working and baking to our heart’s content.  I experimented with a few different flours, ingredients, and techniques to produce varying types of bread.  Although some trials were unsuccessful, the majority were very much edible.  Here are a few photos.

Whole-wheat sesame batard

Simple baguette

Lastly, during my time here in Paris, I’ve become enamored with pain au levain, or naturally leavened bread, simply made of flour, water, and salt.  I’ve been cultivating wild yeast for two months now in a little container that sits on our kitchen table.  To some it may smell a bit funky, but I’ve grown to enjoy it, a bit like French cheese.  In reality, it smells like overripe fruit.  Anyway, leaven is a fermented mixture of water, flour, and microscope yeasts that, when mixed with more flour and water, incorporates gas bubbles in bread dough and makes it rise naturally.  Leaven is also used to make sourdough, but my goal was a mild tasting bread, not the commonly known acidic San Francisco sourdough we Americans are used to.  Using leaven instead of commercial yeast imparts a more complex flavor and allows your bread to last 3-4 days, a sharp contrast to the twelve hour baguettes often found in Paris.  After too many failed attempts, I was ready to pack it in, but I finally realized the perfect loaf.  Truly outstanding!

Sesame seed Pain au Levain

and the crumb shot, irregular and moist

 

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Bastille Day

17 Jul

…was this Thursday and Chris and I had a great time celebrating the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. We took in the military parade on les Champs Elysees, even getting to see President Sarkozy himself.  Jets, new and old, flew overhead to signify the start of the parade.

Armed forces from various divisions followed the airshow marching down les Champs Elysees. 

Even though thousands of people attended the parade, Chris and I both remarked how quiet it was.  The French always seem to keep conversations at a low volume and it’s very noticeable in certain situations.  On our way home, we finally found what independence days are really all about…a vendor selling irresistible street food!

We ended the evening with fireworks near the Eiffel Tower.  Luckily, we arrived early and found a little spot for a picnic.  By the time the fireworks started, the place was mobbed.

 

After much too much wine, Chris decided to do the Dougie on the walk home.  It wasn’t very successful, but this photo is good for a laugh!


Improvements

12 Jul

Pretty happy with these improvements here on Rue Gustave Zede! 

Croissant baked February 15, 2011

and on April 11, 2011

Yesterday!

Mmmm

Done and done

11 Jul

We wrapped up our Paris bakery tour yesterday, saving our own 16th arrondissement for last. After a nice early morning walk to Trocadero with Mr. Roscoe, we turned onto Avenue Kleber to visit Boulangerie Patisserie Coudrier Geffroy. As usual we stuck to the basics: one baguette, one croissant, one pain au chocolat, and we indulged in an escargot au chocolat. The bread was still warm leading all of us (even Roscoe) to have a few bites on the walk home. Coudrier Geffroy is well known for his viennoiserie and the croissant and pain au chocolat were delicious! There really is nothing like a hand-made, flaky, buttery morning pastry…in fact, we are putting our viennoiserie skills to test today and making our own. We’ll post on that later this week to see how we stack up against the best of Paris!

It took us 6 months, but we are happy to have accomplished this adventure in visiting at least one bakery in each of Paris’ 20 districts. Not only did we get to see a variety of different bakeries and taste a lot of different breads and pastries, we also got to see a lot of Paris. We most definitely traveled to areas in Paris that we probably never would have visited without this tour; and finding cool neighborhoods off the beaten touristy path is always fun. We have also been inspired on several occasions to try baking something new at home after seeing a new pastry item for the first time on our tour. For future bakery lovers visiting Paris, we have three favorite bakeries you should not miss, and I’m sure we’ll be visiting these three many times in the next few remaining months we have in Paris: Du Pain et Des Idees, Boulangerie Bruno Solques, and Arnoud Delmontel. We promise, you won’t be disappointed by these artisan bakers!

36 hours in Amsterdam

3 Jul

bridges and bikes everywhere

a nap in Vondelpark

Incredible beers

this place is just straight awesome

where's amy?

the summer heatwave brought everyone out

Nicholas Boat Club canal tour

the Lloyd Hotel's dock

Other non-photographed highlights include dutch pancakes, extremely spicy thai, and frites.  Amsterdam is a beautiful city, has a great vibe, and there is tons to do.  Plus the beer is fantastic.  We’ll most certainly be back.