Category Archives: Bread

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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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

Foodies in Lorraine

Lesson learned: if you are going to a food event, especially a food event in France, don’t skip lunch so you have room to taste. There will be champagne tasting, and wine tasting and beer tasting, and it will be a hazardous walk home!

Last Sunday was the Salon de la Gourmandise (just what it sounds like) up on the mountaintop in Epinal. For 3€, I’d be a damn fool to not go and see if I could find some local specialties and try some new foods. Lorraine is best known for a few different products, and none of them are quiche Lorraine:

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Challah: Baking in a Cooking Kitchen

Dinner: warm Sunday leftovers on greens with hunks of challah.

Apparently I am spoiled after living and cooking by myself. I had everything a baker could ever need: tons of giant mixing bowls, small ingredient bowls, plenty of pans, three sets of measuring cups and all the oils, eggs, sugars, salts and spices required to bake on a whim.

Guess whose kitchen has none of that? The one I’m in right now. The man has a $300 chef’s knife, but no  Saran wrap.

Serious effort required.

So this afternoon I found myself mixing challah dough with what was basically a wooden spork and a stock pot, like a  human stand mixer. Two-handed. I also had to use a liquid measuring cup for every ingredient, so I’m not sure I can ever replicate this exact bread.

Of all the breads I’ve tried, challah has been the most fun to work with. The dough is light, soft and squelchy, and there’s something really satisfying about making shaped bread instead of just a loaf. The finished product was airy and delicious, and will be great for sandwiches (grilled cheese?) and maybe French toast if I have time. The recipe, however, made a loaf about the size of Maryland.

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Challah, via King Arthur Flour
(I warned you, this will make a loaf so large that you laugh until you cry.)

(three 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 1/2 cups (approx.) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, for glaze
1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

See full directions here, abbreviated below.

–Stir yeast into water in small bowl, then cream sugar and shortening in very large bowl. Add eggs, beat til fluffy. Add yeast and 4 c flour, beat 2 minutes. Cover tightly for 30 minutes.

–Stir to deflate, while adding salt and 2 c. flour. Turn onto floured surface and knead (adding flour as needed) until a smooth, elastic dough. Put dough in large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover, let rise 40 minutes.

–Turn dough onto lightly oiled surface, divide into thirds and roll swiftly with both hands to make three 20-inch ropes. Lay ropes on greased cookie sheet and braid, starting in the middle and braiding each end out. Pinch ends and tuck under. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. NOTE: make sure you leave some space at the end of the loaf. Otherwise, it will eat your pan.

–Beat egg w/cold water to make glaze and spread over rope. Sprinkle with seeds if desired.  Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool on rack.


Starting From Scratch

When I came home from three weeks of vacation last month, the loaf of bread I accidentally left in my cupboard looked exactly the same. No mold. Not even stale. I was unnerved. I had fresh memories of crisp baguettes, so my next move was pretty clear: no more store-bought bread.

My second argument for this was that it’s cheaper to make your own. But is it really?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a pound of whole wheat bread costs an average of $1.86 in the US. The 100 percent whole wheat bread I normally buy (Arnold, no high fructose corn syrup), costs more like $3.50 to $3.75. The wheat bread I made this past Tuesday cost me roughly $3.38.

So, I’m breaking even. I continue to win on taste (amazing with fresh soup), healthier ingredients, stress relief from dough kneading, and actually being full. Wheat bread from the store fills me up about as much as eating a couple sheets of paper, while a small slab of this bread leaves me very satisfied. I also get a lot of pride from making things for myself, which is really what all of this is about.