Category Archives: Baking

What it sounds like to work from a DC coffeeshop

Ebenezer’s near Union Station, a Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.*
Population: Between 15 and 30

I have a vanilla, soy, no-foam cappuccino…
I have a mocha latte….
Iced coffee!
Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich?
Iced, mocha lavender latte?
Thank you!
Iced coconut latte?
I had a chamomile tea?
I have a large, iced, mocha caramel custard latte…
Large iced caramel custard on the bar!
Single shot?
I have a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese!
Have a great day!
It was just a moment to break your life
We’re heading out to New England this afternoon
I have a medium half-caf…
Medium caramel whip…
What’s the wifi password?
Um, banana.
I have a second dirty chai…
Small americano?
Small black eye?
Small red eye?



*Full disclosure: I had a medium americano and banana bread from home. The coffee is very good, but I can’t speak for the mocha caramel custard latte whips.


Speculoos City

Most cafés in Northeast France serve a Belgian Speculoos biscuit with every tea or coffee you order. While you can find Speculoos throughout the country, it’s more at home in Lorraine, which shares a border with Belgium as well as the holiday of Saint Nicolas, when bakeries produce giant Speculoos cookies in the shape of the good saint. Whenever I was served a coffee in another region of France and received a chocolate chip cookie, it was a bitter disappointment.

The cookie is a basic spice cookie, which sounds plain but is completely addictive. I’ll prove it!! The flavor is so popular at the moment that you can buy gazillions of speculoos-flavored treats: cereal, pudding, toasts, spreads, and pastries. The spread is at least as deadly as Nutella. I don’t drink espresso all that often in the States, but some clever friends knew that when I did I would feel sad without that Speculoos on the side, and bought me a cookbook to make them at home, along with a ton of other dishes (speculoos pie crust, speculoos tiramisu with chevre and figs, apple/almond speculoos soufflés!) made with the flavor . Continue reading

Why Crate and Barrel sells pie weights

It’s Bastille Day! The 1789 day French civilians and others stormed the Bastille and it freaked everyone out, even though there were only seven prisoners and more rioters were killed than anyone else. Vive la revolution!

I celebrated this historic day by making a very non-French quiche and eating it with a bunch of French speakers outside of Fort McHenry. I didn’t have enough time to make the pastry dough from scratch (though apparently I am one of very few women who even attempt one), and I turned up my nose at the idea of adding beans to my pie crust while toasting it, because I’d never done it before.

On the right, first not-so-great attempt.

Pride always comes before a fall.

The pie crust turned into a mountain. I convinced myself I could still just pour the filling in, and created an oven disaster that validates Crate and Barrel’s $7 pie weight, though from now on I’ll just be sticking with reused dried peas or clean pebbles, à la français. Attempt two came out cute and clean, though to be perfectly honest both tasted delicious.

I was aiming for a decidedly non-French quiche; a ricotta, arugula and lemon recipe. A quiche typique of ham, cheese, eggs and layered pastry dough always leaves me feeling like a human log, and this was a fantasic and EASY variation.

Even if you do it properly and make the pie crust, it can’t possibly take you more than 20-30 minutes of active work to make, and then all that’s left is to receive compliments from the resident French quiche experts at the picnic.

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Bedouin Mint Tea in the White Desert

Cairo last Tuesday was so smoggy that buildings on the other side of the Nile were blurry by 9 a.m. On Wednesday night the White Desert, nearly 250 miles southwest of the capital, was nothing but cool sand, flowing black sky dotted with stars, and silence.

A popular trip out of Cairo is overnight tours of the white and black deserts, and we definitely needed more nature in our vacation. It was only one night tent-less under the open sky with two guides from nearby Bahariya, but it turned out to be one of the more thrilling parts of 10 days in Egypt. The very best part was not hiking or sandboarding, but wandering around the white desert rocks and chatting and laughing in the night around the palm-fed fire.

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Egypt, Kushari and Diabetes

I left for Cairo via Amman, Jordan on Friday at noon. Today is Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and I have had falafel for at least one meal every day since Friday. I am going to die.

Falafel crammed into pockets of poofy, pita-like “aish” bread. Falafel flattened and dotted with sesame seeds, then served with aish. Fried zucchini flowers and vegetables stuffed in aish. Foul, a fava bean spread make with plenty of spices and tucked into, you guessed it, aish. I’ve seen countless men weaving bikes down crowded streets; carrying a 4×5 plastic tray piled with aish on their head.

Baklava, kunafa and basbousa desserts: all phyllo, honey and nuts. Then the real 1-2 punch to my glycemic index: kushari.

With a side of aish, of course.

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Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls

Before this year, Christmas involved getting to the presents right off the bat, a hurried breakfast while my sisters showered, and running off to grandma and grandpa’s for more of the same. This year, I rolled out of bed at my usual 9:30, padded along the wooden floors in my aunt’s Parisian apartment and started making cinnamon rolls from scratch. What followed was one of the most relaxing and delicious Christmases I’ve ever had. And not a cookie in sight!

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The Chosen One: Picking Your Own Boulangerie

Une baguette, but not "une tradiiton."

The stereotype of a French person walking around half the day with a baguette tucked under his or her arm is completely true. There are six boulangeries fewer than 250 meters from my apartment, which means I, like the average French person, had the luxury of choosing one. The French pride themselves on their cooking and their palates, so I consider the process a rite of passage. Continue reading