You are currently browsing Sarah’s articles.




Baguette

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

I haven’t been baking for a while (or blogging for that matter) for various reasons, mostly because I have been working too much these last few months. Also, I had reached a plateau with my baking – I just wasn’t happy with how my breads were turning out.

Inspired by the holidays and a couple of resources that I recently found, I baked up some baguettes for Christmas. Happily, I had an excellent result. Still not perfect, but such an improvement upon what I had been baking before that I know I can get it right.

Over on The Fresh Loaf, I found a great List of Tips for Better French Bread. The thing that finally struck me is that I can’t be afraid to get my hands dirty (duh). I can’t be squeemish about working with wet, sticky dough. In fact, it is moisture that makes the loaf tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside. Also, I have to crank the oven as high as I can, and spray the oven several times throughout the baking to get some nice steam going.

Voila, I turned out two beautiful (if I do say so), crispy, and tender-in-the-middle loaves. Also, the tips for autolysing and folding (as opposed to punching down and kneeding) I think made a huge difference in improving my crumb, though I still have to practice.

Another new inspiration: A recipe for Sour Dough English Muffins that could not have been easier, but was still impressive. We had home-made English muffins for our Christmas breakfast! Pretty darn cool.

Since we were just lamenting with some friends about how hard it is to find decent bread in Chicago, I am more determine than ever to master this art. Now I just need to acquire that pizza stone. Mmmhmm.




Baguette

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

I haven’t been baking for a while (or blogging for that matter) for various reasons, mostly because I have been working too much these last few months. Also, I had reached a plateau with my baking – I just wasn’t happy with how my breads were turning out.

Inspired by the holidays and a couple of resources that I recently found, I baked up some baguettes for Christmas. Happily, I had an excellent result. Still not perfect, but such an improvement upon what I had been baking before that I know I can get it right.

Over on The Fresh Loaf, I found a great List of Tips for Better French Bread. The thing that finally struck me is that I can’t be afraid to get my hands dirty (duh). I can’t be squeemish about working with wet, sticky dough. In fact, it is moisture that makes the loaf tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside. Also, I have to crank the oven as high as I can, and spray the oven several times throughout the baking to get some nice steam going.

Voila, I turned out two beautiful (if I do say so), crispy, and tender-in-the-middle loaves. Also, the tips for autolysing and folding (as opposed to punching down and kneeding) I think made a huge difference in improving my crumb, though I still have to practice.

Another new inspiration: A recipe for Sour Dough English Muffins that could not have been easier, but was still impressive. We had home-made English muffins for our Christmas breakfast! Pretty darn cool.

Since we were just lamenting with some friends about how hard it is to find decent bread in Chicago, I am more determine than ever to master this art. Now I just need to acquire that pizza stone. Mmmhmm.

Please visit us at Shy Chi Foodies!

Our tomatoes have the blight *again*! We got new dirt for our potted toms, and washed out the pots, but we didn’t use bleach or any other disinfectant, and I guess that was our mistake. Our beautiful tomatoes are infected again. We have two plants that are potted in entirely new pots, so we’re hoping that they don’t have it. But it could have jumped.

I was already getting excited for our 200-plus tomatoes and all of the meal planning and recipe research, and then, disappointment.

We are trying to chalk it up to learning, but when the grocery store tomatoes and even the farmers market tomatoes leave much to be desired, we are once again…..sad tomatoes.


2010 tomatoes

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

Our tomatoes are here! We ordered six heirloom plants from Seeds of Change this year. From left to right (variety in parenthesis), we have Goldie (yellow perfection), Xavier (marvel striped), Paul (Paul Robeson), Cal (red calabash), Tilda (German queen), and Malachi (Amish paste). We’re hoping for some fruit in late July. We can’t wait!

Well, it is Spring again, and we’re ready for planting. Last year, our tomatoes sadly failed, succumbing to the blight that was harming so many others across the country. So, I did a little research and reached out to my Twitter and Facebook community, asking for advice. What I have gathered so far is that this year, blight shouldn’t pose a problem. A gardener on Twitter advised me to throw out the soil in our pots and start over. I wonder what we would have to do if we had planted in the ground! We’re playing it safe and dumping out the dirt and starting out with fresh potting soil.

This year, instead of going to a big box store, we ordered seedlings from Seeds of Change, some heirloom tomatoes and with some herbs (thyme, chives, bay, sage, oregano, and rosemary). They arrived yesterday. We got all ¬†of the rest of our supplies today, so tomorrow we plant. It has been unseasonably cool here in Chicago this year, but I think we’re safe now, and we can safely plant our babies without fear of frost.

With luck, by mid-summer we will be harvesting some Yellow Perfection!

While we don’t have major family get-togethers on major holidays, we take full advantage of the days off and the national tradition of cooking a delicious meal and busting out the elastic-waste pants.

At Chez Conner-Smith, we love Thanksgiving.

And Gillian, chef extrordinaire that she is, has been in planning and preparation mode all week. Today we did our final shop. I had been at the office all morning, and when I came home, she had been busy getting all of the recipes out, brining the turkey, and making check lists.

And this is all just for the two of us.

So, tomorrow, we’ll post our menu, recipes, and photos. And over the weekend we will report on what we do with the leftovers.

 


Baguettes

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

In Oakland we lived within walking distance from Arizmendi, a fantastic bakery where we would get fresh baguettes or other baked goods whenever we needed them. Being dissatisfied with the offerings of bread in our neighborhood in Chicago, I have gotten back into baking.

Our Saturday morning ritual now is listening to our favorite NPR shows while I make baguettes or some other baked good for the week. By noon, we are enjoying fresh coffee, bread, butter, and jam (or lavender honey). Yum.

The baguette recipe is so easy, I don’t know why I haven’t been making it all along. I found it on Epicurious, and I have been trying to perfect it ever since. You can see from the photos that I am having a little trouble with the slits after the final rise. Gillian suggested wetting the blade of the knife, and I’ll report on the results next week. Meanwhile, though imperfect, and a little shy of salt, they still taste pretty good, and the crust has a nice crisp.

We have been seriously remiss in updating Shy Chi Foodies. Sorry folks! We promise to make a better effort from now on.

Suffice it to say that I have a new job that is monopolizing my time, and, frankly, I am the one who is more inclined to write at this point. That is something that may change as Gillian finds her voice more and more.

Meanwhile, my update this week is that my favorite social bookmarking site is back after a long hiatus, and I have created a group for foodies there, called, what else, Foodies.

Please join me there! Ma.gnolia is a wonderful resource for sharing resources about all interests. I’m a huge fan.

I also found an interesting article from the New York Times from September 22, 2009, about culinary resources on the internet. Gillian and I are fans of Epicurious.com, and there are a few other good ones listed here, too.

I have been asking Gillian to find some sourdough starter for me for a while now, and for my birthday, she gave me two different kinds so that we could compare the flavors. One company actually sent us two containers of starter, so now I find myself with three different starters.

With the third starter, I am experimenting by feeding it with spelt flour instead of wheat. Inspired by the beautiful spelt bread that my dad step-mother always have when I visit them in Minnesota, and by my nephew who learned recently that he cannot eat wheat, I am going to start baking with all kinds of different flours. I thought it would be nice to have some sourdough starter that is non-wheat.

This weekend I will make a regular wheat bread, and as I write this, the sourdough starter is enjoying a nice meal and getting ready to leaven some dough for me. Of course, I will post the results here.