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Entries in Bread (34)


Tartine Bakery – My Epicurian Pilgrimmage

By now, you all know that I'm a little strange. I do strange things. For example, I make pie charts out of cookie shapes, have let bread rise in the bathroom, take photos of restaurant bathrooms, and repeatedly forget my pants.

You should not be surprised when this behavior spills over into my vacations. I plan vacations around food. Other people want to see things (the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon....), I want to eat them.

I had Tartine Bakery in my gastronomical cross hairs for quite sometime. i love a good bakery. Even think of run-of-the-mill bakeries have something going for them: the smell. I get so distracted by the smell of baking bread. Scented candles be damned! Baking bread is a Top 5 food smell. It ranks number 1 amongst the following:

1. Baking Bread

2. Caramelizing Onions

3. Sauteing onions in butter

4. Bacon cooking in a frying pan

Tartine Bakery, as you may know, is in San Francisco. I live in New York. This is quite a distance to travel for bread. But it's not just any kind of bread! It's old school bread using naturally grown leavens and starters. At least it says so in their book, which I bought and then subsequently made flat (ish) bread from their expert instructions.

But my baking mishaps did not shake my belief that the Tartine bakers knew what they were talking about. They could make this bread that I wanted to master (and have not to date). And I wanted to go there and eat it.

And so I did. I went to Tartine, one sunny fall morning with my friend Kaz who diligently stood on the long line snaking out the store and around the block while I ordered us Four Barrel cappuccinos and stared at the pastry counter weighing my options.

There were a few things that I needed to try, as I had heard much gabber about them.

1. The Gougere: (I believe this is pronounced "goo-jhay" with a soft-ish "j" sound). A gougere is made from choux dough mixed with cheese (traditionally gruyere or similar).

What the bleep is a choux dough? It's a light pastry dough used to make fabulous eatables like profiteroles and eclairs. A bloke named Panterelli invented it way back in 1540 (what did I tell you about old school?) when he took off from Florence with Catherine de Medici. The name evolved, and finally became "choux" because of the cabbage-looking buns it was used to create. Choux means "cabbage" in French.

This particular gougere was the size of a softball, but weighed hardly a few ounces. Gently ripping it open revealed a hallow center, with pockets for air. The gruyere cheese flavor was prominent but not overwhelming. Interspersed with cracked pepper for a little bite, the whole ball was moist and chewy encased in a thin and crispy outer shell that was perfectly golden brown.

2. The Morning Buns: And speaking of buns, I was advised that these were pure perfection. Light, flaky, buttery and with a hint of orange essence in the sticky sweetness that topped the swirling layers of bread. I take issue with being named "morning" buns, as I was more than happy to eat them at all hours of the day. I took to keeping a spare in my purse as I wandered around San Francisco. Just in never know when you need a morning bun.

The gougere was for Kaz (although I ordered an extra for myself to try later) and the buns were for the table to share (we were meeting a few people), so what to order for myself?

I pulled my new favorite food-advice move and demanded a decision out of the Tartine employee behind the counter, "I've never been here before and it's likely I won't be back for a very long time. What should I eat?" Without missing a beat, he said, "The ham and cheese croissant," and popped it in their toaster to be warmed.

Regular eaters take warning: This ham and cheese croissant is not for the faint of heart, small of stomach or the Lipitor taker. If you fall into any one of these categories, you may want to call in reinforcements in the form of "helper eaters", as it's a monster. I scoff at helper eaters. If you are eating from my plate it's because I've invited you to do so as I would like for you to sample the wonderfulness that is there. It's not because I need your help, because I don't.

Therefore, you should be unsurprised that I made short work of the ham and cheese croissant. After eating it in its entirety, I turned to Kaz who was sitting beside me and said, "I am perfectly happy right now." She smiled knowingly.

The pastry is expertly flaky. By which I mean it is not dry, but layered in such a way that the top browned outer shell crunches away, revealing the softer, buttery underbelly layers in a way that makes you feel like you are uncovering buried treasure.

In this case, the buried treasure is a thick slice of Niman Ranch ham and gruyere cheese. The cheese blended so well with the buttery pastry that the sweet and salty-gooey combination seemed to become one. It was difficult to tell cheese from buttery layer, and I was blissfully happy to let that happen. Thick with flavor, the ham provided an extra punch of salt and was intertwined evenly around the pastry so that there was never a hamless bite.

A trip to the bathroom revealed a simple and clean facility with lots of extra supplies and gentle planet-oriented reminders:

I know I indicated to the helpful man behind the Tartine counter that I wouldn't be back for a very long time. I had, however, lied. I returned two days later on my birthday for birthday Morning Buns and Four Barrel lattes.

I was recovering from a Chinese food and wine pairing meal at Mission Chinese of epic proportions (see the photos below), so I couldn't handle the Ham and Cheese.

In addition to the buns I sampled the bread pudding which was wonderfully rich and custardy and topped with endless amounts of giant blackberries. I also bought an Almond Frangipane Croissant, which I stored in my purse for the plane ride home later that day:

Overall pastry eating experience: The Godfather.

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street San Francisco, CA 94110
t. 415 487 2600 / f. 415 487 2605


Parmesan Pull Apart Rolls

It is Day TWO of Bread Week! Are you excited? You should be.

Today we are focusing on something I consider an indulgence. A delicious treat-accessory for your dinner table: dinner rolls.

Having full-fledged rolls on your table is way different than having sliced bread. While I consider a good baguette, or crusty loaf a staple at the table, I find that it is often used as a vehicle for delivering the remnants of a tasty meal to your mouth. Especially if that meal was pasta.

Don't get me wrong, a pre-meal bread basket can stand alone. But this too is often received while still anticipating the main course.

Rolls are different. Especially these. A buttery-soft, brioche-like roll with a cheesey SNAP provided by parmesan cheese. The golden outer crust is thin and pliable.

These rolls are meant to be savored, with complete disregard for what came before or after. That being said, you could slice them down the center and make sliders with them. I would recommend porchetta. With some pickels. Or you can have them for breakfast, smeared with a little quince paste. It works, trust me.

What You Need:
1 pacakge active dry yeast
1 tsp mild honey or sugar (I used agave syrup)
2/3 cup warm milk (1105-115 degrees F) divided (I used half and half because I ran out of milk)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated manchego cheese (You can use all parm or all manchego, I just decided to mix for fun).
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
5 tablespoons unsalted BUTTER! cut into tablespoon sized pieced and softened
1 tablespoon water
Equipment: a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a food processor. I used my food processor and it all worked out nicely.

What To Do:
Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/3 cup warm milk in the mixer bowl and let it stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Wisk together the flour, cheese and salt and then add to the yeast mixture along with the remaining 1/3 cup warm milk. LOW SPEED. This this has the potential to blow.

Increase speed and beat in 2 of the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat until a very soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. You may need to pause the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is elastic, about 2 minutes.

The dough will be very sticky. Don't panic. Scrape this dough into a bowl and dust with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

PUNCH down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut it into 12 equal pieces, rolling each piece into a bowl. Arrange the rolls 1 inch apart in a buttered 9x12 inch round cake pan and cover with a kitchen towel. Don't use a terry cloth towel. It sticks and becomes a disaster. You don't want to be a disaster do you? I didn't think so.

Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. The dough will double at the end of this rise.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with a rack in the middle.

Whisk together the remaining egg and brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. This will make them shiny! And you DEFINITELY want shiny rolls.

Bake until golden brown (and shiny), about 20-25 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the rolls from the pan with a knife and invert them onto a rack. Turn those little guys right side up and cool for about 20 minutes.

Eat them! Immediately, if you can because that is when they are best. If you can't, you can wrap them up and freeze them for later.

NOTE: This recipe is from Gourmet Magazine, February 2009. Even though the magazine has folded, I have squirreled away my favorite photos and recipes (in that super-fancy binder with plastic sleeves I mentioned here).


Bread is Life

I love bread.  Pizza is made with bread.  Bread pudding?  The best of its kind.  Quick, what food do you immediately think of when I say "Jesus Christ?"  That's what I thought. Indeed, bread IS life.  Without it, what would we honestly do?  Even the little things, like using it to mop up the remainders of an oily and/or saucy entree, would become infinitely less common and satisfying.  Like freedom and daylight savings time, bread is an aspect of my life that I am always thankful for.

And in continuation of our meals on reels tradition, I'd like to feature one of my favorite movie scenes featuring bread from one of the greatest "RomComs" of all time: Moonstruck.  In this particular scene, Loretta (played by Cher) seeks out her fiancée's brother, Ronnie (Nic Cage), to inform him of their upcoming wedding plans.  But what was thought to be a simple, break-the-news type conversation actually turns into a unanticipated yet typical Italian detour through passion, anger and guilt.  It's well acted, and pretty hilarious.

Check it out here.

Looking to channel your inner Ronnie Cammareri and do some bread making of your own?  We have a suggestion.

Herbed Focaccia

What You Need:
For the herbed oil:
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced

For the yeast mixture:
1 cup warm water
1 cup flour
1 package active dry yeast

For the bread:
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of mixed herbs (rosemary and thyme work nicely)
3 Tablespoons of the herbed oil mixture
4-5 cups of bread flour (all purpose flour works too)
Extra water (just in case...)
kosher salt

What To Do:
For the herbed oil:

Comine all ingredient in a small saucepan.

Stir over medium-low heat for about 7 minutes - don't let the garlice burn! The mixture should become nice and aromatic.

Remove from the heat and let it stand to cool.

For the yeast mixture:
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F).

Let the mixture stand 5 minutes - it should start to foam and bubble a bit.

Add flour and mix well.

Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

For the bread:
Add the remaining water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix it all together well. You can use a standing mixer like a Kitchen aid for this. You could try it with a large, hearty food processor as well.

Add 2-3 cups of flour, and herbs and mix. Mix it! Until it is smooooooth. Yeah.

Now, turn it out onto a floured surface and slowly knead. Knead it! All the while adding the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. If you have that fancy standing mixer equipped with a dough hook, you can keep it in there and let that gizmo do the work for you. If not, you're gonna have to do it yourself. Fortitude! It's worth it.

Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn't be too sticky, but only slightly tacky. Like 70's wallpaper. If it's too sticky, add in a touch more flour - try 2 tablespoons at a time and go from there.

Transfer this dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Punch it! And turn it onto a lightly oiled 9x13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes.

After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make little dimples on the top. Dimples are cute. Your bread should have them.

Brush the top with the herbed oil mixture and sprinkle with some kosher salt.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 and make for 20 minutes longer.

Save the rest of the herbed oil for dipping! Dip it!



A Special Grilled Cheese for John's Birthday

It's John's Birthday today, and while he might kill me for doing this (if he can catch me), he is 30 today!
I thought I would take this time to tell you a few things about John and why he is an awesome brother: 

1. He fields my various witty remarks (anxiety attacks, pleas for more blog content, harassment about his weekend plans) that I shoot at him via gchat with apparent ease and only occasionally ignores me.

2. John has two general reactions:

Positive reaction: "Great." Sometimes things can be "glorious," and then you know it's really great.

Negative reaction: "S*&T!" The delivery of this remark is always the same regardless of the magnitude of his disapproval. 

3. I can only sometimes detect the fear in his eyes when I tell him my latest crazy scheme.

4. He gives dating advice! My personal favorites are these:
a. Do as I say, not as I do.
b. Do not laugh excessively at a dude's jokes.
c. Stop dancing like that.
d. No fear, naw mean?
Side note: I literally have no idea what he means. Especially about the dancing.

5. Regardless of what is going on, what we had been talking about previously, John will divert my attention to Vespas. I receive links to them all day long accompanied by his Vespa negotiating tactics:

"Let's low ball these people and take no prisoners: We're willing to pay $2400 over 6 months.  Throw in the helmets and the automatic, in-dashboard cannoli dispenser or there is no deal." 

6. He will practice his golf swing, (sans clubs) anywhere. In public, out in a bar, on the sidewalk, etc.

7. My dog, Toby hates him. But John will walk him for me anyway.

8. When I moved back from California, he let me sleep on his couch on weekends for a whole year and hang out with his friends. I got very good at beer pong.

9. He likes to sing "Shout" in public. To rave reviews.

10. John used to eat some weird stuff when he was younger. One of his favorites was, "grilled cheese dunked in yogurt." this was a classic American cheese sandwich which he dunked in Dannon vanilla yogurt as he ate it.


However! I have updated this gastronomic disaster and created something truly delicious. So in honor of John and his birthday, I give you Comte and Scallion Grilled Cheese on Focaccia Bread with Honey Mustard Yogurt Dipping Sauce.

What You Need:

For the sandwich

4 slices Focaccia bread, sliced about 1" thick

Comte cheese, sliced thinly: enough to cover the top of two of the Focaccia slices. I used a "Tewksbury" cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery that I bought at the Union Square Greenmarket.

1 bunch scallions: chop the white and light green parts only, discard the dark green leaves.

2 tablespoons butter

For the honey mustard yogurt dipping sauce

See this recipe from a previous post about a sangwich.

What To Do:

Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the chopped scallions and sauté until they are soft, about 7 minutes.

Take your bread slices and one by one, dunk them in the pan of butter and scallions, pressing both sides into the mixture.

In the meantime, heat up the broiler of your oven.

Once you have coated both sides of all four pieces of bread, place the sliced cheese on top of two of the slices. Top these cheesed-up ones with the remaining two pieces of Focaccia and let simmer in the pan for about 2 minutes. Flip and simmer another 2 minutes for the flip side.

By this time, your broiler should be nice and hot. Transfer the sandwiches to a cookie sheet and pop them in the broiler so they get nice and toasty. But watch out for that broiler - don't let your cheesy masterpieces burn!

Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the honey mustard yogurt dipping sauce on the side.

Finally, in honor of John's birthday, we are giving away a prize. All you have to do is wish John a happy 30th in the comments of this post and you will be entered to win a prize.

What is this prize, you ask? John was recently in Italy and brought back another jar of this fabulous herbed sea salt.

We will randomly choose one commenter and award him/her the prize!

Happy birthday, little bro!


Meals on Reels Friday Round-Up

We have reached another Friday! Gonna see a movie this weekend? We have some recommendations that pair well with food (of course)!

Our first film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Chow down on some garlic bread with these recipes while you watch.

Our second film: My Cousin Vinny. Streak your hair, get out your leather and go to Brooklyn for grits at Egg!

Our third film: If you fry it, they will come: Hot dogs and Field of Dreams. Magic in the Moonlight.

In other news, I'll be traveling to South Beach today for my first Triathlon of the season. You can also get the recipe for my home made energy bars at that link. Tweeting will be light as I don't want to take out my pre-race panic attacks on you lovely people.

Come Monday or Tuesday we might have some more BIG NEWS. So stay tuned. And we will also be continuing our Meals on Reels program. Don't forget to send us your favorite movie/food scenes! Post 'em in the comments!

Have a great weekend!