Results tagged bread from David Lebovitz

Browsing in Paris

Yesterday, I decided that since I was the last person in the world to be using Safari as a web browser, I should switch to Firefox. Everyone says it’s better and since I use Movable Type for the blog, Firefox has little buttons to make things bold or to italicize, so I don’t need to type in a bazillion symbols everytime I do that.

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About twenty years ago, which I hope means the statutes of limitations has run out, when working in that vegetarian restaurant I mentioned, someone brought in something for us to, er…well…let’s just say, it was something that was designed to change your perception of reality if you took it.
So of course, we did.

When you work in a restaurant, you develop a rhythm, especially when it comes to setting up your statio in preparation for the rush of customers. If you have a fixed menu and you’ve been working in the same place for a while, when you arrive, you can almost work on auto-pilot to make sure everything’s in place (called mis-en-place), so when the rush comes, you’re full-organized and never get buried under orders (or as they say, ‘in the weeds’). If you’ve done it right, the evening runs like a finely-tuned Swiss watch. If not, you’ve got no business in a restaurant kitchen.
And your night will be a catastrophe (not to mention the customer’s as well).

So one evening, someone brought in something which we ingested that was terribly strong and radically alerted our ‘perception of reality’ (yes, even vegetarians have their vices). As we started our work, though, the owner arrived and surprised us with a brand-new menu, full of items we’d never seen before. So we had to completely change our set-ups and prepare all new dishes.
It was a massive bummer, to put it mildly.

It’s like your computer crashing, taking everything with it, and you need to re set-up everything again. To make a long (long) story short, once the customers arrived, it was like your worst dream coming true, the kind where you’re running towards something, but the faster you run, the farther away it gets. So as the order tickets started coming in, we all panicked and found ourselves seriously in the weeds (in more ways than one), and the evening was a catastrophe.

When I installed my new browser yesterday, everything changed on my little Mac.

My beloved bookmarks, which I’ve spent years collecting, I cherished as your grandmother cherishes her Hümmel figurines, were gone. And the look of my blog platform changed: Yes there were those terrific little buttons that add links, italics, and what-not, but each time I used one, it jumped up to the top of the document, meaning I had to re-scroll back to where I was typing, prompting a mad dash to find where I left off. So like coming down from a bad high, back to my familiar reality, I’ve returned to Safari.

I guess old habits die hard. Like my love for rustically grainy breads, and had a chance to return to one of my favorite bakeries in Paris yesterday when I had a doctor’s appointment on the other side of the city.

Continue Reading Browsing in Paris…

Boulangerie 140

At last count, there are 1263 bakeries in Paris.

On just about every street, there’s at least one, if not two, or even three bakeries. Some of them are very good, a few are perhaps not so fabulous, and several are excellent. Parisians eat a lot of bread, far more than their American counterparts.

Visitors often wonder, “How come we don’t have bakeries like this is America?”

“Because people won’t eat bread in America anymore. Everyone’s afraid of it.” I respond

Tragically, most nod in agreement.

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Luckily there’s not too much of that nonsense here in Paris. From early in the morning, until the last baguette de levain is handed across the counter for dinner, you’ll find folks en queue, lined up impatiently waiting to get their daily bread.

And for some reason, I’m always in front of the most impatient one, who firmly keeps nudging me forward. My strategy against those Parisian pests is to gently innocently start backing up, which kinda freaks them out and invariably causes a chain reaction, since the person behind them is usually pressed up against them as well, nudging them forward too.

It causes a certain amount of shuffling and mild hysteria, but tant pis.
Anyone who wants to get that close to me better buy me a drink first.

Or at least a loaf of bread.

But when there’s a bakery as good as 140 in town, Parisians have good reason to get pushy about their bread. And neighborhood residents buy stop here once, or even twice daily to get theirs. And like many of them, I’m happy to stand my ground for a crisp, golden baguette de campagne that feels crisp and warm when it’s handed over the counter to me. Or for the buttery-mouthful of a flaky croissant that shatters into a gazillion crackly shards when you bite into it.

These are some of the daily rituals that go on around here, of which I’m frequently guilty of taking part.

(The pushing part I’m still getting used to.)

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Although I don’t live close enough to 140 to go two or three times a day, it’s one of the handful of bakeries here that I’ll happily scamper across the city to visit. Aside from their numeric name, which always gives me a chuckle, they bake some of the best breads in Paris. And recently, I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of this top-notch boulangerie.

Continue Reading Boulangerie 140…

le Quignon: Bazin Bakery

Americans often wonder how French people some know we’re American before we even say one word. It used to be our sneakers; they were the dead giveaway. Nowadays, wearing sneakers, or les baskets, is as French as carrying a baguette.

The other way they can tell us-from-them is that Americans tend to smile. A lot. We are a rather happy tribe. And Americans tend to eat and drink while walking (or while driving, which I’ve explained to some of my French friends, but they look at me in disbelief). Even though in Paris it’s becoming a bit more common, it’s still unusual to see someone chowing down while walking on the street or in the métro. It’s just not done and people will definitely give you funny looks if you’re – say, cramming a Pierre Hermé pastry into your face while sitting on a sidewalk bench. Or shoving a sublime, cream-filled éclair au chocolat from La Maison du Chocolat into your mouth, trying to make sure not one precious drop of bittersweet chocolate pastry cream lands anywhere but in your tummy.

But one little nugget of Parisian tradition still amuses me every time I see it. It’s the yank, twist, and pull of le quignon.

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You’ll see it 99% of the time someone leaves a bakery with a freshly-baked baguette. The moment they exit, they grab the crackly knob at the end of the loaf, le quignon, and yank it off. It’s a quick twist and snap, then it gets popped right it into their mouth as they hurry on their way. I tend to think of it as an instant, on-the-spot, quality-control check.

I usually end up with a mess of flour on my dark overcoat, since one of my favorite breads in Paris, le Bazinette, has a fine dusting of flour on it’s crackly crust, and permeating all the little brittle crevasses. If you’re lucky enough to get to Bazin early in the day, a favorite baguette of mine is available with a hearty mixture of grains; flax, sesame, and poppy seeds.

The one shown above is their baguette de tradition, a hand-shaped baguette, slightly sour from the addition of un peu de levain, natural sourdough starter, which gives the bread a hearty, earthy character and allows it to remain fresher longer than the usual 4-hour lifespan of a regular baguette.

Bazin

Bazin is one of the prettiest bakeries in Paris too, overlooking what I am sure is the smallest (and most unnecessary) traffic rotary in the city. In order to get a Bazinette with grains, you need to get to the bakery early in the day, since they always seem to sell them out quickly.

Bazin
85, bis rue de Charenton
Métro: Ledru-Rollin
Tel: 01 43 07 75 21
(Closed Wednesday and Thursday)

French Beignets

Since we’re on the subject of beignets, I spotted these enticing looking pastries at one of my favorite out-of-the-way boulangeries in Paris.
It must be a global trend.

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Boulangerie au 140
140, rue de Belleville
Paris
Tel: 01 46 36 92 47

Métro: Jourdain

Parisian Pretzels

The best bread in Paris isn’t made in any Parisian boulangerie, it’s made chez Christoph, the home of an affable German fellow who stunned me at a party a few months back when I savored more than my share of his excellent, hearty, homemade multi-grain bread.

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He told me that each Saturday, he bakes just two loaves of multi-grain bread to last him through the week in his tidy Parisian kitchen, overlooking the Pantheon. A biologist during the day, I envision Christoph tinkering in the kitchen until he got his bread just right (he said it took him years). Although I offered to come by on next week to buy bread from him, he brushed me off with a hearty laugh.

(Hey, I wasn’t kidding. I never joke about anything as serious as my pursuit of great bread.)

Working as a pastry chef for 25 years, eating all that chocolate and butter and sugar, I crave all-things salty. And I can’t think of any better vehicle for crunchy grains of coarse salt than chewy, puffy pretzels.

Luckily I was invited to come, roll, and twist away!

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When I arrived, he’d already made the dough (very sneaky, presumably guarding the recipe!) So we kneaded the mixture a bit, then divided up little rounds of the soft dough, rolled and pulled them into snake-like ropes, making sure to keep a moderate bulge in the middle, which he said would help them keep their shape better during baking

Once the dough is rolled, he swiftly gathered the two ends, twisted them twice, then folded them over the chubby dough, creating the classic pretzel.

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The dough rested for a while, then was refrigerated.
Afterward, he told me to be careful, as he took a suspicious little vial from his cabinet, which contained milky-white little pellets.

“It’s sodium hydroxide”, he said. “It will eat a hole in your clothes.”

and we’re going to eat this?”, I’m thinking.

He dissolved a handful of pellets in water by stirring briskly, then floated the unbaked twists in this solution, apparently this is what gives pretzels that familiar shiny coating.

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A few large grains of salt are sprinkled over, and into the oven they went.

Minutes later….

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For some reason, we had to wait a while to eat them.
I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was my American urge to have-it-all-and-have-it-now. It was torture.

After about 30 minutes of watching them resting on the counter (and about 10 unsubtle hints from me…) he finally got the hint and let me sample one. Still slightly warm, yeasty, with that inviting little crackle of salt, they were the perfect pretzel.
Then I had another.

Soon the other guests arrives (I’d already consumed 3 pretzels beforehand, since I have a habit of eating more than my share) and we had a big feast of German food: sauerbraten, Hax’n, Cucumber-Feta Salad (which a woman from Norway brought. It wasn’t very German, but it was tasty), and Alisa’s Mandelbroten.

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And I brought a towering German Chocolate Cake for dessert, attempting to navigate through the crowded buses and hectic sidewalks of Paris. I didn’t have much success, but no one seemed to mind. There wasn’t a crumb left, and when no one was looking, I got to lick the lid.

Links:

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe (Alton Brown)

Pretzel Croissants (City Bakery)

Soft Pretzels, Refreshed (Smitten Kitchen)

Chocolate Pretzel Recipe (Derby Pie)

Panzanella Recipe (Bread and Tomato Salad Recipe)

God forbid you don’t buy fresh bread every day in France. And I love bread, so it’s not unusual for me to come home carrying more than I should. So the problem is, it’s rather difficult to eat all that bread.

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So what to do with all that lovely leftover bread? I make Panzanella, a Tuscan salad designed to use up lots of leftover bread, which we ate this weekend during an outing in the countryside. Tuscans don’t salt their bread, which goes back to a long-standing rift between them and the people from Pisa, who controlled the prices of salt many years ago..and they say I hold grudges!

(But if you’ve ever had unsalted bread, you perhaps can understand why they have so much leftover.)

You can use any firm-textured bread you have on hand. I prefer levain bread, which is dense and won’t fall apart when tossed around. But you should use what you have leftover as long as it’s not too airy. And in spite of what everyone tells you, it’s not vital to use pricey heirloom tomatoes:marinating them in copious amounts of fresh herbs will infuse ordinary tomatoes with summertime flavor. And feel free to use lots of chopped fresh herbs as well. Oregano, marjoram, thyme, and fresh mint are all wonderful mixed in.

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Panzanella

About six servings

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz


In traditional panzanella, the bread gets soaked first. However I find tossing it in a copious amount of liquid from the tomatoes, and the dressing, does the same thing and adds lots of flavor. Interestingly, I’ve read that tomatoes were supposedly not used in panzanella until 1928. But like most foods, origins are often mired in controversy.

  • 4 cups torn pieces of hearty, country-style bread (approximately 1-inch/3 cm pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup best-quality olive oil
  • 8 medium tomatoes (1½ pounds/750 grams)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeds scraped away
  • 3/4 cup pitted black olives, preferably kalamata
  • 1 cup packed (80 grams) coarsely chopped mixed fresh basil, mint, and flat-leaf parsley

(Note: I don’t precisely measure herbs for this, so feel free to use lots and lots. The more the better!)
½ pound (250 grams) feta cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) degrees. Spread the torn bread pieces on a baking sheet and toast until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir once or twice as they’re toasting. Set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. Add the diced onion and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Stir in the olive oil. Remove the stems from the tomatoes and cut into 1-inch (3 cm) pieces. Cut the cucumber into ½-inch (1½ cm) pieces.

3. Add the tomatoes and cucumbers to the bowl with the dressing. Add the bread, olives and fresh herbs and toss well. Taste, and add additional salt, oil, and vinegar to your liking.
Crumble the feta over the top in large chunks and toss briefly.

The Grainy Breads of Paris

Bread from 134RDT

I’ve dedicated a healthy portion of my life walking the streets and boulevards of Paris to find grainy bread here. In a city where there’s a boulangerie on every corner, you can get excellent baguettes or a nice loaf of pain au levain just about anywhere. But it’s hard to find a loaf of bread with lots of seeds and stuff in it. Maybe it’s because the breads in Paris, like Parisians, are so refined. And as much as I love all the breads in Paris, it’s the grainy breads that I find especially appealing.

Here are some of my especially favorite grainy breads from various bakeries across Paris. These are the sturdy, hearty breads that I enjoy most. And the ones that I’ll happily walk across town for one.

Grain Bread

Norlander Bread
Christian Voiron
61, rue de la Glaçiere

I learned about this bread from Clotilde’s explorations and it’s a favorite. Tight and compact, Norlander bread is the heaviest bread I’ve found in Paris. And it’s also small, making it the perfect bread for a little afternoon snack with some contraband peanut butter, which a friend smuggled out of an American army base in Switzerland.

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Pain Nordique
Le Grande Epicerie
22, rue de Sèvres

I’ve been told the Grand Epicerie makes over 80 different kinds of bread underground, beneath this enormous food emporium. This is a lighter, airy bread, yet full of lots of sunflower seeds and a good amount of oat flakes. It’s excellent sliced-thin and toasted. But get there early: for some reason, by mid-afternoon they start feeding all the Pain Nordique loaves into the slicing machine and bagging them up.

Last time I was there, I was in the slowest line in the world, and as the lone saleswoman waited patiently on some madame that was bickering over the prices or freshness of a single roll or something. Meanwhile the other salesperson was tossing the brown loaves into a slicing machine as fast as he could. All I could do was stand there helplessly, hoping that my turn would come soon, before he could finish slicing all the loaves. I ended up getting the last two. Whew!

Pain aux Cereales
Eric Kayser
8, rue Monge

This is one of thes best breads in Paris, period. I don’t know how Eric Kayser does it, but each loaf comes out encrusted with golden sesame seeds. Slice it open, and you’ll find a delicate but full-flavored bread studded with crunchy grains of millet, sesame and sunflower seeds, with a naturally sweet taste. I used to walk across Paris to his shop on the rue Monge for a loaf (actually, I always get two and freeze the other.) Kayser has opened bakeries across Paris – and even one in New York City – so it’s easy to find this bread. It’s got a lovely lightness, along with the crackle of the grains, and is perfect with cheese or swiped with butter and honey for breakfast.

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Tradigrains
Au Pain de Saint-Gilles
1 bis, rue Saint-Gilles

When the quality of the baguettes of my local boulanger, Au Levain du Marais, slid downhill after their month-long summer vacation a few years ago, I agonized over the loss for weeks and weeks. I was torn. In France, your live your life according to your local bakery. You know when the loaves go in and come out of the oven, when the baker is off, and how to get the baguette cooked just the way you like it (bien cuite, svp!) You adjust your life, since most bakeries are closed two days of the week, so you need to plan your schedule and meals around those two days.

My supreme disappointment lasted for months until I discovered this grainy Tradigrains loaf at Au Pain de Saint-Gilles in the Marais, just a few blocks from chez David. Now this is proudly my baguette of choice. Do you see why?

Millet, poppy seeds and flax seeds ripple through the interior of each loaf. I can barely get out the door of the bakery without ripping off the end, called le quignon, and devouring it (a French tradition, after any baguette purchase…I think of it as an immediate quality-control check.)

[The loaf pictured at the top is from the 134RDT at 134, rue de Turenne.]

Related Links and Posts

Blé Sucré

Bazin

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc

Paris Favorites

Chocolate Bread Recipe

Du Pain et des Idées

Paris Pastry App

L’Autre Boulange

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Bread lined up at one of my favorite bakeries in Paris, L’Autre Boulange


So it’s springtime here in Paris. At my outdoor market, I’ve been buying colorful blood oranges from Tunisia and Spain and making refreshing sorbets, then candying the peel to serve alongside. (My grandmother never let me throw anything away…) As the weather gets warmer, dinner’s often a simple salad of peppery arugula and watercress sprinkled with a drizzle of argan oil, a favorite oil, made from argan nuts that have been munched by tree-climbing goats in Morocco, after which they’re “expelled”, then laboriously pressed.

I’ve also been baking tagines (Moroccan casseroles) using spring lamb and plump, sweet prunes from Agen. And sometimes dinner will just be a slice of Terrine Gascon which I get from my local butcher, made from shredded duck confit and I suspect an overdose of duck fat. (I figure if I down enough rosé with it, that will dilute the richness in my system.) There are also many new cheeses that I’m trying at my fromagerie, such as an earthy, crumbly, and pungent bleu cheese from Savoie, ripe and gooey brie de Meaux, and a new favorite, Langres, a copper-colored knob that when sliced, reveals a soft, creamy interior with the lovely sweet-pungent smell of fresh cream, grass, and barnyard.

And I’ve been trying as many new chocolates I can get. I’ve had some lovely bars from Green & Black’s organic chocolate from Great Britain, as well as handcrafted Tuscan chocolates from Slitti and Amedei that I’ll be visiting with guests in May during my upcoming Italian Chocolate Tour.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tuscan chocolates, they are some of the finest chocolates you’ll ever sample. Wish you were coming along?

The International Salon d’Agriculture in Paris

Each winter, the International Salon d’Agriculture occurs in Paris at the enormous Porte de Versailles exhibition center. The French are in love with anything agricultural. I recently saw a huge, room-sized map of France artfully composed of vegetables and fruits from the various regions.

And they love cows. (Well, living in a country with the most exceptional cheeses in the world, I am beginning to worship them as well.) When I last went to the post office, I was offered their newest stamps, which featured a cow. When I showed them off to some French friends that came for dinner that night, there was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

Although I do like cows as much as, um, the next person…I was more intrigued by the food representing all the regions of France and several other European communities and Africa. I bought a hunk of nutty Gruyère from the Swiss pavilion that was really, really good and sweet-scented, slender vanilla beans from the Antilles.

There was lots of unusual seafood to gasp at, delicious Basque foie gras conserved with pimente d’Espelette (smoked pepper powder), and much wine to sample, as well as Pommeau, an aperitif of Calvados brandy blended with apple cider.

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I’m Thinking of Giving Up Fish

I meet some lively Africans from the Ivory Coast, who split open a cocoa bean and fed me the slippery seeds within. If you’ve never seen a cocoa bean, they’re beautiful pods filled with slippery, almond-sized beans imbedded in a creamy liquid.

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African Cocoa Beans

Although the Salon is great fun, it’s always mobbed and this year was no exception. The one thing you never want to do is get between a French person and food. Otherwise, look out!

L’Autre Boulange
43, rue de Montreuil (11th)
and
12, place de la Nation (12th)