Teaser.

Good golly. I have patience for many things in the kitchen, however despite the allure of this bread, I am steering clear of any attempts to recreate its blistery-golden crust and likely stellar chew. There was, once, a failed attempt at making sourdough starter some ten years ago,  after I’d ogled my way through the La Brea Bakery bread book. However after several days, I needed a break and made for a weekend getaway.
In the middle of Summer.
Needless to say, when I’d returned, my starter was a giant, pungent, purple mass, bubbling over the top of my refrigerator in 85-degree heat.
That was my last experience with long-fermentation, and the words “feed me, Seymour!” are always in the recesses of my mind. The humming and cooing over craft loaves in recent articles makes me grateful to live in an area where celebrated bakeries such as Macrina, Tall Grass, Columbia City and Essential Baking Company are within a quick walk or farmer’s market-reach away.
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Coconut Cream Cake.

Moving on.
I took an extended weekend to spend time with family, peppering it with a bit of travel and baking. The cake above is just a teaser, as I’m still tweaking the recipe. I hope to post it eventually.
The week finds me craving the comforts of home, and of good company. I’d invited a girlfriend of mine over for dinner who prefers to avoid both meat and gluten, so naturally my mind conjured up Eastern flavors. I had some red lentils and a tin of tomatoes on hand, and plenty of spices, along with some ghee I’d made a few weeks back. If you’ve never made ghee, or clarified butter, it’s insanely easy to do; all one needs is a bit of mindfulness and time.
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Lately, I’m come to favor blooming spices in a bit of fat or oil. Usually I’l grind or bruise them with either a mortar and pestle or, to be truthful, my coffee grinder. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just toss them into the dal at the beginning of cooking. Needless to say, freshly-ground or bloomed spices are simply the best way to get the truest flavor and aromatic bang from your ingredients.
Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

For this dal, I bloomed the spices in ghee, and cooked the lentils along with lots of garlic and ginger and chopped tomatoes. It’s fantastic served with some nutty basmati rice. It’s my ultimate comfort food.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Ooh! p.s. I also whipped up some pickles. Well, carrot pickles. They should be ready in about 5 days.
Lucky me.
Spiced Carrot Pickles

Spiced Carrot Pickles

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes
2 c. water
1 c. red lentils
1-2 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely sliced garlic
1 14.5 oz plum tomatoes, chopped, reserving most of the liquid
1 tbsp ghee, or unflavored oil
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp brown or black mustard seed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin seed
1-2 chills or 1/2 tsp red chili peppers
Salt, for seasoning
Basmati rice, cooked, to serve
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Method:
Combine first five ingredients, including tomato juice in a 4-quart pan over medium high heat. As mixture comes to a boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered.
Meanwhile, bloom the spices: melt ghee in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add spices and toss well, cooking for no longer than 30-60 seconds so as to avoid burning. Scrape ingredients into pan with lentils, cover again and continue cooking.
Check lentils for doneness at ~35-40 minutes. They should be soft and mash slightly with the push of a spoon. Season with salt to taste and serve over rice and garnished with cilantro.

 

On cabbage, pie and time…

I don’t know how time passes so quickly, but it does. One minute, I’m looking over the Seine, the next I’m daydreaming over a pot of wilting cabbage. I realize it’s not nearly as romantic, and totally unrelated, however that’s where I found myself this past week, trying to maintain a slow(er) pace as I dutifully prepared a batch of Marcella Hazan’s Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup.

The dish exceeded my expectations such that I had to make it twice. I also managed to produce a batch of dulce de leche, since I knew I’d be spending a couple of hours at home. 
But back to Paris…

Sacré Cœur!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect week. Spring in full effect, brightly-colored flowers demanding my attention, giant blushing cherry blossoms, the freshness that comes after a good Spring rain. Oh! It was lovely.
It began a little like this, with my constant peppering of questions such as “What are we supposed to do today? What’s on the Excel spreadsheet?! What time are we supposed to be at the Grand Palais? If we take time here, we will miss…”
The expectations we’d made, along with our rigid itinerary devolved, quickly becoming an inside joke as we relaxed and settled into full vacation mode.
La fontaine Médicis

La fontaine Médicis

the Seine

the Seine

Without a rigid agenda, we were free to wander and really experience the city. We peeked into galleries and boutiques, quirky private museums and of course, lots of specialty food and tea shops.
Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L'epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron's from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L’epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron’s from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

At one point, I was banned from lugging anything else home. We’d been trying to avoid checking luggage, and as it were, were ushered through with just a bit over the weight maximum and a handbag bursting with chocolates and other treats.
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Birthplace of the macaron.

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E. Dehillerin, where I spent a good two hours geeking out on all things kitchen.

 

My heart lies in the kitchen, nestled into a good pastry. And so at the request of a certain young lady and after an intense day at work, I spent the bulk of an evening making an apple almond crostata that is likely one of my most favorite pastries yet.
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I’m fairly adept at making pie crust and had intentioned to make a straightforward, simple dough, when a bit of cornmeal in the cupboard caught my eye. I recalled a blueberry pie with cornmeal crust that I’d made over the Summer; the rustic crunch of cornmeal strewn throughout buttery pastry…yet I wanted to make something more than pie; I wanted to make something serious, a pie that wouldn’t crumble or yield too much when pierced with a knife.
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Front: Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust top left: apple tart bottom right: apple custard

A layer of frangipane (almond cream) soaked up all of the juices as it snuggled up with each apple slice; providing a cake-like consistency. Leftover odds and ends were folded into a free-form pastry, and the extra egg was poured into a sort of apple custard. I’m so glad this crostata was destined for sharing, otherwise I’d have finished the whole thing off in a few days, unapologetically.
The crostata comes together rather quickly.
Wait a minute – scratch that.
This is going to keep you home for a few hours, however once the nutty aroma of butter and pastry, notes of cinnamon and apple hit your nostrils, you’ll realize it was totally worth it (and probably get a bit of laundry done while you wait).
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust
*This pie will keep for 1-2 days on the counter, or 3-4 days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
10 tbsp butter
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
Ice water (as needed)
Almond Filling:
2/3 c almond meal (I used blanched almonds, ground finely in a coffee grinder)
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
Apple filling
5 apples, such as granny smith, honey crisp or pink lady or a combination, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/3-inch wedges
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one-half lemon
1 beaten egg, and 1 tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Brush insides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter using a pastry brush, or paper towel, if necessary. Set aside.
Using a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
Butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles small peas.
Add eggs, one at a time, giving a few quick pulses to combine.
Pulse another 15-20 seconds until the mixture just starts to come together, adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Wrap in plastic or parchment and allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
While dough is resting, prepare almond paste. Mix all ingredients together using a food processor, stand mixer, or whisk; if the butter is soft enough, it should be easily combined by hand. Set aside.
Sift together the dry ingredients; toss with sliced apples and give it a squeeze of lemon juice. Allow to sit for ~15-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Divide dough into roughly 1/3 and 2/3 portions; you’ll want slightly more dough for the base than the top.
Roll dough into a large disk ~1-1 1/2 inch wider than the diameter of the pan.
Tuck dough into pan, inching up the sides.
Spread almond filling into base, then arrange apples in concentric patterns, keeping them somewhat close together.
Roll out remaining dough to ~1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Cover apples with remaining dough in a lattice-type arrangement (you can find instructional how-to’s here).
Brush pastry with beaten egg, then adorn with a bit of coarse sugar.
Bake for ~1 hour, until golden and bubbling.
Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for ~15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Allow to cool for at least 1/2 hour.
Serve either warm, or at room temperature.