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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.

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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.

There are many professions that I have fantasized about. Years ago when we were living in Oakland, I was taking classes at a yoga studio that was located above a bakery. I adored the smell of fresh bread while doing sun salutation B. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to have a career as a yoga instructor and baker (together).

This is my birthday week, and Gillian has been giving me a gift a day, to help me realize that dream. This week I received two types of sourdough starter and all of the equipment to keep my new pets alive, an assortment of baking pans, a sticky mat for rolling out dough, and a special mold for shaping loaves.

And on my birthday, as I was preparing to do my morning vinyasa, I opened my yoga mat bag to discover a brand new, very pink, very girlie yoga mat.

Soon I will will post my sourdough baking adventures here. and be realizing my dream of becoming a yogini and a baker.

Well, I would not say that I have quite perfected my pie crust recipe yet, but I had a “eureka” moment earlier this week when I mad a quiche. For the first time, I worked without a recipe in front of me (I know, it’s a crutch), and I accidentally put in just a hair more water than I usually do. Voila! It made all the difference. the dough was so much easier to work with. It didn’t crack and split nearly as much, and it was much easier to roll out than usual.

I have been questioning the necessity of having the dough so cold, though I know that it really makes for the flakey crust that everyone loves. Just a little more H20 made all the difference, and even after about 1/2 hour in the freezer, the dough was totally workable.

Still far from perfect, but I feel much more confident now in my pie crust making skills.

The quiche, by the way, was delicious. Zucchini sauteed with a little oregano, and fontina cheese, though not our favorite brand of fontina, so the texture was a little rubbery instead of the lovely melty ooze that we love so much.

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