The other evening I was lucky to spend an evening with Stefania Barzini. Hosted by Beatrice Ughi, Stefania is a well renowned Italian chef and author. She also runs a cooking school, as well. With five of us sharing a typically small New York City kitchen, Stefania led us gracefully through preparing a wonderful set of dishes that included - among other things - polpette (meatballs), as well as a unique hummus made with shaved bottarga. It was a tasting preview for an upcoming workshop.
Last week I tried Fika, the Swedish cafe in New York's Hells Kitchen. I wanted to see my friend, author and illustrator Johanna Kindvall (and her co-author Anne Brones), who were signing their new book; Fika The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Besides getting a chance to say hello to the authors, I drank elderberry spritzer, tasted "chokolade Bollar" and chatted about cook books! Below are photos of some of the people I enjoyed seeing (or meeting) including my old bread baking teacher.
Judy Witts Francini, a friend as well as a cook and culinary tour guide, just sent me her book Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen. I'm looking forward to trying her take on classics around pasta, legumes, vegetables, and sweets. I am especially interested in her ragus. Check out her blog, Divina Cucinna. And if you're on your way to Italy, check out one of her tours.
This spring she'll be visiting New York City. When she comes, I'll try joining her while she's touring here, then sit down for an interview for the blog, and maybe even get her to come over to la casa mio (my house!) for some collaborations in the kitchen.
When I heard about Elisia Menduni's new book Sicilia La Cucina Di Casa Planeta, I wanted a copy. My food maven/teacher/tour guide Judy Witts Francini had introduced me to it. There is something about flavor, sun, sea and soil through the voice of Sicilian food that makes such cuisine so compelling. The book, simple, clean and full of delicious photography, is studded with stunning recipes. It beautiful captures the richness of this Island, each mouthful full of flavor and also history. Bravo Elisia.
When I heard that writer/baker Sam Fromartz had a book coming out, I squeezed my fingers on my ipad and got a digitized copy. In retrospect, I should have bought the paper version, as it's easier to page through and enjoy. Regardless, it's a terrific book. Sam recounts his early years in New York, then his journey to Paris to learn how to bake baguettes. Along the way he brings up many of his favorite destinations, places like Esposito's, long gone but which I too once loved. Anyway, it's a great bake of a book.
Bread bakers make for a humble, friendly community. Wolfgang Süpke exemplifies such spirit. Meeting him via social media, I asked him for a link about a book he mentioned. Wolfgang didn't just offer a link, he sent me the book, itself. Thanks to Wolfgang for this beautiful copy of Deutschlands Bester Bäcker.
Written in German, it's a beautifully photographed book with a plethora of formulas for bread and pastry native to Germany. Having spent time as a kid living in Germany, and later serving there as in the American army, I look forward to trying a lot of these terrific looking treats.
Ein großes dankeschön an Wolfgang, der beste Bäcker in meinem buch!
For some time I have tried to grasp how to make a good loaf from the Tartine bread books. They just never never end up looking like they do in the book. It may be due to issues around hydration or lack of fermentation. Recently I had more success after adapting a Tartine formula for their oat porridge-and-almond bread, substituting quinoa flakes for oatmeal, and using 30% Quinoa in the final dough. The finish bake is still fairly hydrated but still full of flavor and color and sports a crisp crust!
The recently published Tartine No.3 had been fermenting a lot of anxiety among passionate bakers, including me. So many of us have been itching for the book's publication. I ordered both a digital and hard-copy this past weekend. So far, I skimmed through the book on all my Apple devices. I like it, a lot. It makes me think of a Rick Steve's style traveler-meets-bread-geek book.
Chad Robertson's picture laden manifesto celebrates (and illustrates) so much of the craft that inspires us bread geeks; from fermentation methods to the importance of intuition, as well as sometimes stumbling into lucky mistakes!
This book is a great addition to any baker's library. It is clear, concise, and beautiful, a picture book for those already adept at baking, and something to teach those just starting. Go find it and enjoy!
The bread community reminds me of sour dough. From each inspired shared experience from a baker (the starter) a new baker is born. My interest in baking came from reading a few initial books. Something in that experience was powerful. In just the first few pages, I repeatedly found myself hurrying straight to the formulas, impatient to bake. My interest grew. I finally went to school to learn the craft. On my free time I staged nights in commercial bakeries. The passion grew. On trips abroad I baked, and explored regional styles, learned, exchanged, methods, techniques and formulas with fellow bakers.
Well, there's a new book out that may well inspire many more passionate bakers. It's written by a friend and fellow baker. Sourdoughist and fellow cycling enthusiast, Ibán Yarza the piped piper baker of Spain. "Pan Casero", or home made bread, is the title of his new book he wrote. This embodies the baker community, refreshing, building a exchange gift and love of bread, gracias panadero! It's terrific. And yes, inspiring.