Category Archives: my paris kitchen

Staff of Life {CtBF}

I love making bread.  Over the past few years, it has gradually become part of my weekly kitchen routine.  My bread strategy is firmly in the “no knead” territory, making it long on rising time but super short on effort.  Initially, I was hooked by the Jim Lahey recipe made popular by Mark Bittman. Last summer, on a trip to Vermont, I couldn’t resist a detour to the King Arthur Store, where I bought a sourdough starter.  That sparked a new avenue of bread experiments.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is David Lebovitz’s Multigrain Bread, which resembles the loaves he buys in Paris.  This loaf is neither no-knead nor slow-rising, but I always like learning new things, so gave it a try.

This loaf has several good things going for it:

#1 It’s relatively fast. I mixed up the starter right before bedtime.  Initially it looked unpromising, but overnight the starter rose into a bubbly brew.

Before

After

#2 The combination of seeds mixed into the dough was delicious. Flaxseed, millet, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped pumpkin seeds.  Yum!

#3 As with my usual routine, this loaf is baked in a Dutch oven (I used a stoneware bread dome) which produces a perfect artisan-like crust.

#4 The technique for scoring the top of the loaf with a pair of scissors was easy, attractive, and effective. I’ll be reusing this new trick on future loaves.

On the other hand, I question the recipe’s name.  Multigrain?  It’s made with mostly bread flour with a small amount of whole wheat.  That’s two grains, but in my book, that’s hardly multigrain.  Maybe he meant to call it Multiseed Bread?

This plain bread dough was easy enough to knead because I let the stand mixer do the work.  After I added the seeds, the dough wasn’t quite sticky enough to absorb them.  I ended up adding a few tablespoons of water which helped.  I would recommend adding the seeds when the other ingredients are added to the starter and knead it all in one go.

I typically bake a loaf this size at 500F for one hour (in a preheated bread dome).  I questioned the directions for 30 minutes at 450F.  In previously recipes from My Paris Kitchen, I’ve noticed that extra baking time is often required.  My oven must run cooler than David’s.  I opted to set the oven temp to 500F.  After 30 minutes, it was not done.  I let it go another 15 minutes.  The internal temperature said it was done, though I might have liked a darker crust.

In the end, I liked this bread.  It had a nice crumb and toasts well.  Would I make it again?  Perhaps if I didn’t have the time to make my usual favorites.  I really enjoyed the seed mixture so I’ll try adding that combo to a no-knead or sourdough loaf in the future.  Lots of lessons learned with this recipe.

To see what other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of this recipe, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe here at Fine Cooking or on page 241 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

An Evening Pick-Me-Up {CtBF}

Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts to order in a restaurant.  I find the contrast between the creamy custard and the melted sugar crust a pleasing way to end a meal.  The only other time I’ve made crème brûlée at home was about 5 years ago for French Fridays with Dorie.  When this week’s recipe challenge for Cook the Book Fridays was another version of crème brûlée, this time infused with coffee flavors, I was ready to try it again.

The custard is relatively easy to put together.  The milk, cream and sugar are warmed together, then whisked into egg yolks.  The mixture is flavored with instant espresso powder and coffee-flavored liqueur.  I used an ANCIENT bottle of Tia Maria that my mother gave me when she cleaned out her liquor cabinet over 30 years ago.  Alcohol must be quite the preservative because I tasted it first and it still tasted like coffee liqueur.

You don’t even have to thicken it on the stovetop, worrying about clumping or burning.  Crème brûlée is gently cooked in a water bath in the oven until set.  Mine took almost an hour to get to that point, possibly because I used small ramekins instead of lower gratin dishes, but I wasn’t in any hurry.

The custards wait in the refrigerator until it’s time for dessert.  I sprinkled a heavy layer of sugar on top of each bowl, then I put Howard in charge of the mini-blowtorch.  He seemed to enjoy melting the sugar until it was slightly golden.  After all that bubbling, it’s surprising how quickly the topping hardens.

After my first experience, I think one reason this elegant yet easy treat didn’t make it into my repertoire is that Howard insisted this wasn’t a dessert he enjoyed.  With this latest version, I convinced him that it was like coffee ice cream, which he does like.  He was a sport and tried it.  I think he surprised himself when he liked it.  I filled 6 ramekins, so we shared the leftovers with my in-laws when they visited this weekend.  They liked coffee crème brûlée too!  Maybe we will be making this again, at least the coffee version.

I used the egg whites to make this impressive (and more difficult) dessert, an almond macaroon torte with chocolate frosting from Smitten Kitchen.

If you’d like to give coffee crème brûlée a try, you can find the recipe here on Leite’s Culinaria or on page 253 in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  To see how the other bloggers from Cook the Book Fridays made out, follow the links to their results here.