Bagels, Manhattans, and Carrot Cake


Mindy, John, and I decided to make dinner together a few nights ago. I have tried to make bagels in the past with mediocre to good success. That afternoon I found myself ogling Floydm's recipe and photos over at the Fresh Loaf and couldn't help myself from throwing together the sponge well before we had decided on a menu for the evening.


John and I had been interested in making carrot cake for the last few weeks so we decided to try our hand at making one for that evening. In general I have no particular lust for cakes, though carrot cake is an exception. I have to surprisingly admit, however, that this was my first time making one. I used the cake and icing recipe from the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking.


Mindy made us brandy Manhattans to enjoy while we prepared the food. Up to that point, I had only ever had Bourbon Manhattans. I think I prefer the latter, but these were indeed delicious.

Img_6331_1 Img_6337_1

The bagels turned out pretty well. I have to admit that I did not let them retard overnight. The texture of the crumb turned out very nicely and the crust had a satisfying chewiness, but I think they would have become more taut and smooth if I hadn't been so impatient. . . Next time. . .


We assembled a variety of greens, meats, cheese, vegetables, and condiments to make bagel sandwiches and enjoyed the carrot cake for dessert. The cake turned out very nicely. I am interested in trying more recipes in the future, but this was a perfectly respectable basic recipe.

Rosemary Focaccia with Pasta and Egg Bake


Two of the best things about being home are seeing friends and family and having access to their kitchens. Recently my dearest friend Eileen and I made dinner at my parent's house in Woodstock.

I made focaccia with fresh rosemary and coarse sea salt using a recipe from Williams and Sonoma Essentials of Baking. My parents had recently given me this book as a gift and I was eager to prepare a recipe from it.


Focaccia is relatively easy to prepare. I would suggest that new bread bakers give it a go before other types of yeast leavened bread. The olive oil makes the dough quickly come together for kneading and the second rise in the baking pan helps to visually assure the baker of a structurally perfect rise (you can see my bread just before it was put into the oven in the above photo).


Be sure to diligently oil the baking pan before spreading out the dough in order to avoid burning the bottom of the bread. I think that next time I will also brush some oil over the top of the dough before putting it in the oven to bake. The top crust came out a bit on the dry side.


I had found some spinach and red peppar tagliarini in the grocery store and the small round nest that each bunch made inspired me to try an irregular method of preparation. I set each nest flat in a glass baking pan with sides that came up above the pasta. I then prepared a tomato and pesto sauce to completely cover the pasta. Lastly, I cracked a raw egg into the center of each nest, sprinkled the tops with fresh rosemary, covered with foil, and baked at 325F while watching it closely.

The experiment turned out pretty well. Next time I would make a thinner sauce and add an excess of it. The moisture baked off fairly quickly and left the very tops of some of the pastas a bit dry. I would also use a glass top for the baking pan in place of the foil. The eggs would have baked just fine that way and the top would have trapped more moisture.

Brno, Czech Republic

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

November 11th-15th, 2005


We left Liszó, Hungary, spent one night in Budapest, and then headed to Brno, Czech Republic. There we visited a friend from college, Chris, who has moved to Brno with his awesome girlfriend Kate. They have a beautiful apartment and were kind to let us stay with them while we were in town.

Img_3111 Img_3154

John and I arrived a bit worn-out from our quick-paced recent travels and spent a lovely few days with them eating, drinking, playing pinball, cooking, visiting the Mies Van Der Rohe Tugendhat home, and watching VH1's top one-hit wonders.


John and I had not had a chance to cook in a very long time. We jumped at the opportunity to use their kitchen and decided to try our hand at making pierogi. This was our first attempt and it went fairly well. Next time we make them from scratch I think I will have to research dough recipes better. The one we found made decent wrappers, but they were a bit too thick and bready for my tastes. A more delicate recipe would do the delicious potato filling wonders.


I also made some marjoram and olive bread. Typically I would not have chosen marjoram, but it was one of the few herbs I could identify in the grocery store. It worked pretty well, but didn't add too much flavor. I also used both green and black olives, chopped.


Both the pierogi and bread turned out well. We bought a selection of delicious Czech beers and shared a nice dinner with Chris and Kate. It was nice to relax with them for a few days and it certainly prepared us for the transition into a nice and slow six weeks in Poland.

Rome, Italy

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

October 27th- November 1st, 2005


When John was young he spent a few summers living in Rome with his family.  As a result he has many fond food memories from the city and we were excited to seek them out together after visiting Venice.  The two favorites concern two very important food groups: Gelato and Pizza.


We sampled the Gelato at Giolitti, which is often heralded as the best gelato in Rome, and found it pleasing.  The best thing about our visit was watching a well-to-do middle-aged man in a suit slink up to the gelato counter looking like a heart-broken small child with an empty cone in one hand and a palm full of fallen gelato in the other.  The help behind the counter quickly repaired the situation with a fresh serving and the man went back to his table with a huge smile.  I think a country where ice cream is not just reserved for small children must be doing something right.


However, the best gelato by far can be found at Fonte Della Salute on Trastevere.  As well as having tastier gelato and a better flavor selection, this establishment feels more welcoming and than Giolitti. John used to live nearby Fonte Della Salute and became quite a regular here as a child.


Though I sampled countless flavors of gelato in Rome, I always come back to the pistachio.  The sweet, slightly salty, nutty flavor combined with the impossibly creamy texture is irresistible.


Just down the street is Pizzeria Ai Marmi (Trastevere, 53-55-57-59) where, conveniently, the best pizza in my opinion can be found.  Sit outside, enjoy some wine, and people watch for the best experience.  Our favorites are the four cheese and the unmissable zucchini blossom pizzas.  The flavor on the later is so simple, yet so thick and unctuous, that it pairs perfectly with the thin, fire-baked crust.


In keeping suit with our picnic theme, which is both enjoyable and inexpensive, we put together a lovely lunch and sat in the enormous. Villa Borghese park. We purchased breads at Forno Campo dei  Fiori bakery and produce in the Campo dei Fiori market.


We enjoyed a flat bread (pizza rustica) which was seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.  It wasn't too oily and had a good, simple, straight forward flavor and a perfect chewiness.  We stuffed panini, which I learned are crusty rolls that you can pull the top button off of and you find a hollow bowl of bread that is perfect for stuffing with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. 


The olive bread had lots of green olives, a crisp crust, and a dense white interior.  Though the crust was a bit too dry.  It was a decent bread, certainly far more palatable than our olive bread experience in Venice.

We ate extremely well in Rome.  The gelato and pizza are the best I have had (unless you are talking about Chicago style pizza of course) and I eagerly anticipate returning to Rome one day to enjoy them again.  We had a great time seeing the sights and, of all things, our hostel was evicted on our second night in town.  We had a humorous and memorable (though of course only in hindsight) experience when we returned from the Trevi Fountain late one night to find the contents of our hostel spread out on the street with tired and worn looking travelers and employees curled up beside our belongings.  After several hours of being thoroughly confused, we were finally taken to another hostel around 4am, handed a beer by the lovely staff, and showed to our rooms.  I bet that hasn't happened to many people.


Lastly, I would like to leave my readers with these fantastic photos of a street-food-joint near the St. Sebastian Catacombs.


Does that make you hungry?

Next up, Zagreb, Croatia.

Venice, Italy

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

October 25th- 27th, 2005


After leaving the chestnut farm in France John and I spent a few days in Venice with my uncles from Chicago who were also visiting at that time.  All over Venice are businesses where for a few euro you can fill up empty bottles with very decent wines right from the barrels.  This inexpensive option combined with lovely weather made for some excellent picnics.


We enjoyed prosciutto and various delicious cheeses.  A few months ago Alberto from Il Forno mentioned a cheese, Caciocavalli, in a top ten list of Italian foods to try.  With such a recommendation I could hardly pass up the opportunity to try some. 

Img_2435 Img_2442

This cheese (on the right) had a more subtle flavor than I was expecting, though it was bold and delicious hidden just beneath a truly buttery texture.  This was a great cheese and I would love to try more varieties of it in the future. 


With so much cheese we naturally sought out breads as well.  The best bakery we found in Venice was Mauro El Forner de Canton, where for under four euro we purchased 2 Grissini Naturalli, 1 Ciabette, and 1 Pane con olive.

Img_2423 Img_2425

Everything was excellent.  Unfortunately we also tried another bakery nearby, Panificio F. Paronuzzi  where we bought Strudel con Olive e Formaggio.  We were lured in by what seemed to be appealing breads, but were rock hard, dry, crumbly, and made with limp and lifeless olives.   But it looked so beautiful!


We stayed in Marghera, just outside the city, in cheaper lodgings than we could find in the center.  While it was sort of a pain to take the bus in each day, we did have the opportunity to enjoy the Piccolo Lounge Cafe.  One of the best things we ate here were little morning donuts made of lightly sweetened bread and filled with a fine and smooth, sugary-sweet apple filling.  Delicious.


One other fun find was this salt bearing my first name.  I have never met another Gemma in the states, so it is always fun to see my name in print.


Next stop, Rome.

Copenhagen, Denmark

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

October 11th- 14th, 2005



A few days ago we arrived in Kraków, Poland where we will be settling in for a month and a half.  This a much welcome rest from our manic travel schedule.  We are teaching ourselves Polish and slowly exploring.  Sadly, the sweet little apartment we are renting has no oven.  I had been looking forward to baking bread again, though I will just have to wait a bit longer now.

In mid-October, after a brief stop in Marseille, France, John and I stayed a few nights in Copenhagen, Denmark with the esteemed and wonderfully hospitable Zarah from Food & Thoughts.


We visited a lovely nearby bakery named Emmerys where John and I picked out half a round of Emmerys bread, a tebirkes, a foccacia, and hummus.

The foccacia was super oily, but other than that it was quite good.  Flavored with sage, light and chewy, this was a tasty bread.  The tebirkes was a new experience for me.  A creamy, golden, flaky dough held sweet and mild flavors of honey, butter, and toffee.  The top was dusted with poppy seeds, cutting the sweet tastes with nutty notes.  Very delicious!

The Emmorys bread had a thin and chewy crust dusted with flour which was quite good, though something with a little more texture would have been even better.  The crumb was soft and moist with white and whole wheat flours, a fantastic taste, and a pleasant sour aroma.  A very nice bread. 

The hummus was quite good, but fairly expensive.  It had a smooth texture without being overly oily and a light citrus flavor.  Very good, but nothing that couldn't be created at home.


On our last night in Copenhagen I made a nice little dish by sauteing pumpkin seeds and chanterelles in butter and seasoning with salt and pepper.  A bit of arugula and toasted slices of Emmerys bread finished off a simple meal. 


Thanks Zarah!

Next stop, Garmisch, Germany.


Paris, France

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

October 4th- 7th, 2005


In October John and I spent a few days in Paris after visiting Munich. While there we met up with Michele from Oswego Tea and visited a Poilâne bakery. This warm and rustic shop held a mouth-watering array of breads and other baked goods.


We purchased a lusciously flaky and buttery croissant, butter cookies, and a portion of a Poilâne sourdough loaf.

Of all the croissants I have tasted, I would venture to say that this one was most worthy of the phrase "melts in your mouth." The flaky exterior enveloped a light, smooth, and milky interior. A pleasure to eat.


Michele took us to La Grande Epicerie nearby where we wandered through the store gushing at the fancy (not to mention expensive) goods. John and I bought simple sandwiches at their deli and a fantastic chèvre to go with our bread.

The bread had a thick and chewy crust dusted with flour and beautifully crafted. The crumb was moist, golden, and resilient and had a nutty, sour taste. The simple elegance of this bread is stunning. I politely envy Michele for living so near to this bakery.

Next stop, Marseille, France.

Munich, Germany

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 30th- October 4th, 2005


We are in Varaždin, Croatia right now staying in a gorgeous apartment with a jacuzzi and wireless for one night. We spent the last few days in Zagreb and we are heading to Hungary tomorrow. Over a month ago now, we spent a few days in Munich, Germany with our friend Gretchen after visiting Gent, Belgium. We know her daughter Meg quite well and subsequently Gretchen sees many of our other friends from time to time.

Gretchen hand-delivered a birthday card to me that a number of my friends in Chicago made (as well as a pretzel that had been purchased in Munich). It was so nice to read small personal notes from people that I miss quite a bit. It made my birthday. We enjoyed the pretzel with the mustard that we received in Gent, Belgium.


That evening Gretchen took us out to the Augustiner Keller near Marienplatz where John and I drank liters of beer and I had some delicious seasonal mushroom cream soup.


Unbeknownst to us, we ended up in Munich during Oktoberfest. John and I decided that we were somewhat obligated to pay the festivities a visit, though in the end it was a superb waste of time. Oh well, now we know.


I really enjoyed Munich. If you visit I highly suggest the free English-language tour (they also provide the same service in Berlin). I miss the pretzels.

Next stop, Paris.

Gent, Belgium

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 28th- 30th, 2005


After Devon John and I spent one last night with friends in London and travelled to Gent, Belgium (by way of Calais, France where we unfortunately got stuck for a night-- though you should read our travel page for that story).  We stayed with a lovely young woman and had a great time.  I highly suggest Gent to anyone travelling through Belgium.  The people we met were fantastically sweet and the city was gorgeous.  Canals thread through the city and oh, the Belgian beer!


Near the center of the city we stopped at a chocolate shop, Jacqlin Handmade Belgian Truffles.  The ornate pieces were quite expensive, but after a few minutes of hemming and hawwing, John and I decided on these two.  A pistachio buttercream and a praline.  The pistachio buttercream was quite good, but very sweet.  I would have enjoyed a bit more of the subtle bitter flavor that lurked below.  The praline was not nearly as good. 


Next we stopped at a fantastic bread shop near the castle.  It has no sign and I failed to learn the name however.  We ordered a cheese and poppy seed breadstick and lovely roll. 


Both were excellent.  The cheese breadstick especially.  It had a flaky, buttery texture and melted in your mouth.


Directly next door stood a "Belgian Waffle" stand.  We ordered one from a delightful man in an oversized hat and savored it on the street.


This waffle was warm, soft, and superb.  It tasted of apples and toffee and was far-too-fleeting.

Visit Gent!

Next stop, Munich.

Devon, England

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 22nd- 26th, 2005


After York we made one last stop in the U.K. and stayed with some friends of John’s mother. Chris and Tom were some of the most hospitable people I have had the opportunity to meet.


They have a gorgeous and ancient farm named Little Pirzwell where they raise sheep and Devon cattle as well as tend to some extensive gardens.


Their lovely farm is lined with blackberry bushes (as is much of the surrounding area) and we picked and enjoyed plenty of the fresh sweet fruit.


We went along with Chris one morning to the general store in the next town over and reveled in their stock of almost entirely locally produced goods. We picked up two loaves of bread from Common Bakery, one was a spelt loaf and the other a gorgeous tomato and herb. These breads were delicious, organic, and wheat free.


Chris is also a superb baker and would daily make fresh bread (her olive bread is especially coveted) and pies with effortlessly perfect crusts


On our final night in Devon Chris prepared a glorious feast of Greek beef stew, baked potatoes, roasted pumpkin, stuffed bell peppers, green beans, fresh bread, and delicious pie--with much of the meal coming directly from their farm. A superb and fresh meal.


Next stop, Gent, Belgium.

York, England

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 20th- 22nd, 2005


After a fantastic time on the Isle of Bute we traveled to Yorkshire, England. While there we visited a great bakery, thanks to a tip from our host Emily. This bakery is named Via Vecchia and is marked with nothing but a blank red sign and nestled among the other businesses on the Shambles.

A sweet older woman sold us a cheese and marmite loaf, a cheese bagel, and an olive and thyme loaf whilst congratulating us after each selection with, “Good choice.” This tiny store front boasts a constant stream of patrons as well as a large number of posters of topless women. Fear not, their prices are far more modest.


We next walked a few yards to the market and bought some cheeses, Derby sage and Highland mustard and herbs, also at a very good price.


The olive and thyme loaf was soft, white, and moist with whole garlic-steeped green olives, flecks of thyme, and a dusting of flour.


The cheese bagel was good, though definitely not even close to a bagel. This light and airy roll was extremely soft and compressed with even a slight grip.

The marmite and cheese loaf was the real treat. I would venture to say that even those who dislike marmite could enjoy this bread. It was dense and hearty with a fantastic and substantial crust and a soft and creamy interior. The crumb was moist and had loads of cheese and gorgeous swirls of marmite.


The cheeses were also quite good. The Derby sage had a strong taste of sage and a creamy texture. The Highland mustard and herb had whole mustard seed which provided a strong and pleasant flavor. This cheese was much softer than I expected and could easily be spread if brought to room temperature.

Also along the Shambles we found Mr. Sandwich, a shop run by a very jolly older man that sells dozens upon dozens of sandwiches for only one pound. Amazing! These were good sandwiches, well worth their cost. We ordered a fig, goat cheese, and cucumber and a mozzarella, tomato, and basil. If you cannot find something to tickle your fancy on the 30+ list, he will gladly make you the sandwich you crave.


Next stop, Devon.

Isle of Bute, Scotland

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 17th- 20th, 2005


We recently stayed in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute after spending time in London. It was absolutely gorgeous and we had a fantastic host. After visiting a few pubs one night he took us to the only bakery on the island, The Electric Bakery. It was about 2 am, though after a few discreet knocks on the bakery window the baker came to the door to sell us hot rolls with butter and savory pies. There really was nothing that could have been better to fill our stomachs after a night of Scottish pubs.


The next morning I visited their store front and bought some scones (cheese, fruit, and cherry), a soda biscuit, and a crumpet (though this last item was from the shop next door, as The Electric Bakery had sold out).

Our host lived across the street from the 11th century castle that you see in the background of this photo.


The scones were very good, however they were quite different from the heavy and flaky variety that I am used to. These were very light and airy as if they had a fair amount of egg in them. The cheese were our favorite by far.

The crumpet was also very nice yet different from those I am used to. This was a very flat and thin crumpet, almost like a pancake yet still with the characteristic hole pattern. It took butter excellently.


We returned to the bakery the next night and had a chance to go inside and speak with the baker, Colin. We ate sandwichs of warm cheese and onion pies inside warm morning rolls with butter.



Colin was nice enough to let us look around the bakery and watch him work for a few minutes. The breads smelled amazing and the heat from the ovens took off the evening chill from outside.


After leaving the bakery we went to an old abandoned building which once held another bakery long ago. It provided gorgeous views of the Rothesay bay at night.

Next stop, Yorkshire.

London, England Post 3

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 12th- 16th, 2005


While in London John and I made a trek to Paul Boulangerie and Patisserie near Covent Garden. Paul boulangeries can be found in many other cities. I had never visited one before.

John tried this Quiche Lorraine and gave it a very favorable review. I nibbled on the crust and found it very tasty indeed. You can see some of the Paul cakes and pastries in the background of this picture.



We sampled their sugar-coated chouquettes, tiny crowns on choux pastry dusted with sugar. These sticky sweet little puffs melted in your mouth and were delicious, though left your hands needing a wash.


We also tried their mini-croissants. These were some of the best I have had. The flaky crust had sincere integrity and did not compress in your hand after the first bite.


The interior was soft and golden. I think these could have been a touch moister, but to be fair we did visit in the afternoon and they may have dried out a bit. Overall, these were superb croissants.


We also tried the brioche. These were good, but nothing to write home about. They also suffered from tasting a bit too dry.


Lastly, we bought a loaf of two-olive bread for our long bus ride to Glasgow the next morning. We packed some fruit and cheese to enjoy with it as well. This was a nice bread, it would have been lovely toasted but it was tasty right from the loaf as well. The baker did not skimp on the black and green olives and the crumb was soft and hearty, making this a lovely lunch. I could have gone for a bit more substance and character in the crust, but then again I could have also gone for six more inches of leg-room on the coach. We can't always get exactly what we want I suppose.

Next stop, the Isle of Bute, Scotland.

English Muffins


These English muffins were one of the last yeast breads that I made in our old apartment. I used a recipe from The Old West Baking Book by Lon Walters. This is also what I used the last of my sourdough starter on, though I have learned from my readers that I had a plethora of other options.


I used my molds to get the shapes correct and to encourage tall and fluffly muffins. Be careful not to fill the molds too much, or you will get thick and cakey muffins instead of light ones.


Enjoy, of course, toasted and with plenty of butter.

London, England Post 1

I spent the last few months traveling from London to Beijing. Here is a taste of one place we spent time. Follow the links to read about others.

September 12th- 16th, 2005


John and I walked down the Thames today in London. We became quite hungry around the Tate Modern and decided to duck into this colorful and no-doubt touristy enclave which contained a small bakery. We ordered a delicious focaccia and two espressos from Maison Brillant.

The focaccia was quite nice and non-greasy. The goat cheese was melted on top of fresh tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, mushrooms, and some dried thyme. They warmed it for us to share and it hit the spot.

This was a pleasant place for a snack and reasonably priced.

To read more about our time in London, follow the link.

Bonnie's Chocolate Zucchini Cucumber Muffins


I decided to use more of the chocolate that Patrick sent me in a batch of Bonnie's Chocolate Zucchini Muffins.

After mixing up the dry ingredients I began grating the zucchini for the wet ingredients. Lo and behold I found myself grating a cucumber. My friend Jane recently moved to Chicago and with her she brought bags of produce from Minnesota. Apparently the vegetable had tricked me from the moment I laid eyes on it in the brown bag at her apartment.

I decided to give it a go, making what John dubbed "highly experimental" muffins. I was sure to thoroughly drain the cucumber, as it holds much more water than zucchini. Amazingly, these muffins turned out quite well! The muffins obviously did not boast the lovely flavors that are created when zucchini and chocolate combine in a baked good, however the subtlety of the cucumber was quite nice.

I don't know that I would make this substitution again on purpose, however next time I feel like making these muffins and there are no zucchinis in the house, I won't hesitate to reach for the cucumber.

Sourdough Bread


We are moving soon and due to the length between leaving this apartment and when I will next have an apartment, I decided I would have to abandon my sourdough starter. Had I thought it was exceptional, I could have possibly conscripted a friend to feed her while I was gone, but I am viewing this as a clean slate to start over when I return.

Rather than tossing it wantonly into the trash, it seemed appropriate to try to use the remainder up. On Sunday night I made a sponge with the the starter and on Monday afternoon I baked two loaves of sourdough bread.

I followed the recipe in Lon Walters' Old West Baking Book for Classic Sourdough Bread.

This is one of my favorite cookbooks. Walters has created a fascinating and well-researched historical account of pioneer and Native American baking in the old west. I highly suggest this book if you are interested in bread baking. I can't claim the recipes are always the best, but they are always authentic and the stories behind each entry are worth reading. The trials these pioneer cooks worked through in order to get their team fresh and warm bread are quite amazing. If you did not before, this book will make you appreciate bread in the fullest sense.

The loaves turned out alright. I thought the flavor and the crumb were quite wondeful, however the crust could use some work.

Pane Al Cioccolato


My lovely friend Patrick mailed me some fantastic chocolate to bake with as an early birthday gift.


E. Guittard Bittersweet Dark Chocolate and Sharffen Berger Unsweetened Dark Chocolate. I decided to make bread using the bittersweet chocolate.


I followed the Pane Al Cioccolato recipe in Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.

Pane Al Cioccolato

3 C unbleached white bread flour
1 1/2 tbl cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbl caster sugar
1 envelope yeast
1 C lukewarm water
2 tbl butter--softened
3 oz high quality chocolate--coarsely chopped
Melted butter for brushing

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
Stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the center.

Cream the envelope of yeast with 4 tbl of the lukewarm water.
Allow to sit for about 10 min. or until frothy.
Add this mixture and the remaining water to the well and gradually mix into a dough.

Knead in the butter and transfer to a lightly floured surface to knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 min.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clear film.
Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hr).

Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and gently deflate.
Gently knead in the chocolate.
Cover again with film and leave to rest about 5 minutes.

Shape into your desired shape and place into the desired cookware. (I shaped into a round and placed in a lightly greased Pyrex bowl to bake.)
Cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 45 min).

Bake in a preheated oven at 425F for 10 min.
Reduce temperature to 375F and bake for about 30 min.

After baking, brush the top with melted butter and cool on a wire rack.

(If you choose to make two small loaves with this recipe instead of one, be aware that the baking time should be reduced about 10 min. Watch carefully.)


I substituted a mid-sized Pyrex mixing bowl for the bakeware, hence the odd shape. This bread is fabulous served with mascarpone or cream cheese, it also fares quite well alone.

IMBB #17: tasteTea: Matcha Pancakes with Matcha Yogurt Sauce & Matcha Soda Biscuits with Matcha-Ginger Butter


A La Cuisine is hosting this month's IMBB and the theme is tasteTea. I am quite a fan of using tea in cooking and was very pleased to see this theme.

Due to the events of late, I was expecting to have to miss this IMBB and was quite disappointed. However, my lovely friend Aviva has lent me her camera for the day so I am back in the game. (Thank you Aviva!).


I became a bit over-zealous when I expected to be unable to participate and therefore have made two items. I hope this does not annoy my fellow IMBB participants.

First, I decided to make matcha pancakes with matcha yogurt sauce. I based my recipe largely on Kate Habershon's Simple Pancake Stack recipe from her cookbook Pancakes and Waffles. I tried a crumpet recipe from this book a while back with mediocre results. The results of this pancake recipe were fantastic, however.


I added matcha powder, ground ginger, and a pinch of cinnamon to Habeshon's recipe. I then cooked the pancakes in a well buttered skillet on low heat and employed crumpet rings to produce the desired height and shape.


Meanwhile I combined a dash of vanilla extract and a bit of matcha powder with plain yogurt to create the sauce. These pancakes were a welcome departure from the Saturday morning pancake routine while still being full-fledged comfort food.


For my second item I made Irish soda biscuits with matcha powder based on a Martha Stewart recipe. In addition I also made matcha and ginger butter (by simply bringing unsalted butter to room temperature, incorporating the ginger and matcha to taste and chilling in waxed paper) and used this in the place of the butter called for in the recipe.

The butter was nice. I think I will experiment more with flavored butters. However, I could take or leave this soda biscuit recipe.

I would like to thank Molly, a fabulous woman from the LTH Forums, for sending me this high quality matcha powder. It was a generous and well-timed gift!

New York: Breads

I recently visited New York with my mother. (Like so many other food bloggers!) She retired this year and we took this trip with two of her long-time friends and their daughters. We all had different goals for the trip and I regret that I did not get to as many bakeries as I had hoped, but the most important thing was spending time with my mom and I am happy to say we had a lovely time. It had been four years since I had last been to New York and I fell in love with the city all over again. I will always be a Chicago girl at heart but I hope to spend some more time in New York soon.


On the morning of our third day some of our party insisted on going to Rockefeller Plaza to shout at morning news stars and try to get on TV. After about thirty seconds of this I took refuge in the Dean & Deluca on the corner and decided I would spend my time reviewing something tasty. Their croissants sure looked like they would fit the bill.

This croissant was buttery and tasty, though uncomplex. The crust did not flake as one would desire and was overall below average with an unappetizing toughness. The crumb did most of the work and was in fact quite decent, as was the coffee (though I did not see any fair trade options).


Later in the day my mother and I parted ways with the other women and headed to Amy's Bread in Hell's Kitchen. Amy's is an adorable little store with a shockingly blue paint job and a pleasant staff. There are a few tables in back as well.

I ordered a rosemary mini, a small black olive loaf, a French baguette, and a tomato and basil focaccia.  My mother and I walked to Central Park and I planted myself in the grass to try the breads while we waited for the others to meet up with us.


I began with the French baguette. In the handout I picked up the French baguette is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, water, salt, and yeast. Shaped by hand!." I find the latter claim to be a bit alarming, what else should I expect from a small, professional, artesian bakery? The appearance of the baguette was nice (must be that hand shaping!). The crust was oddly chewy, soft, and flavorless.


The crumb had a nice flavor but a poor structure and very few holes, much like a hamburger bun. Butter did very nice things for this bread. Overall this was a below average baguette.


The rosemary bread is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, organic whole wheat flour, water, natural starter, fresh rosemary, olive oil and salt." This bread had a fantastic aroma and a lovely flavor. You can tell that they do in fact use fresh rosemary. The thin, chewy crust was good and had integrity, though ideally it would have been a little more robust and thick.


This bread had a nice crumb that was moist and semi-resilient with a decent hole structure. However, it was in serious need of some salt. With a bit of sea salt and butter this would have been a very nice bread.


The black olive bread is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, organic whole wheat flour, water, natural starter, Kalamata, Amfissa and Atalanti olives, salt, and yeast." This bread also had an excellent aroma and had a pleasant sourness that went well with the olive and yeast flavors. Much like the rosemary bread, this crust was decent, thin and chewy but could be improved upon.


The olives were chopped and used liberally, giving a strong and excellent flavor to each bite. The crumb was resilient and glossy with a decent hole structure. This bread took butter superbly.


The focaccia is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, water, natural starter, olive oil, milk, salt, and yeast." They had a lovely tomato and basil focaccia propped up in the display window and it prompted me to order one. However, as I spread out my loot in Central Park I noticed that my tomato and basil focaccia had no basil. . .


This was a beautiful focaccia nonetheless. Unfortunately, it did not taste as well as it looked. The crust was passable, but the crumb was down-right bad. It had the same hamburger bun-like texture of the baguette but this was far worse. It honestly looked indistinguishable from a bun and it tasted like one too. This focaccia was also far too oily. It was a hot day so I could be mistaken, but it appears as if the bread was doused until wet with olive oil after it was baked rather than before.


Amy's is an adorable bread shop and I suggest a visit. When you go stick to their rustic breads rather than their delicate European breads. Amy's would do well to let a real crust form on their breads. I do not know what type of oven they use, but a thick charred crust would do wonders for the olive and rosemary breads.

I will post more about our New York trip soon.