The Bread Diaries – first child

Here I sit, a pastry chef, inspecting a tub of wet cement on my maple work table. No, no, no, not cement, it’s my newly born sourdough starter, a culture of wild yeasts and bacteria I mixed up on January 1 of this year and have been feeding and nurturing ever since. But I have to admit, the warm, maternal feelings were slow to come. Cement is all it seemed good for initially. I could have repaired my plaster walls with the stuff, right? Plus, it’s viscous and blobby and not pretty.

My attitude changed when it came to life. It percolated. Bubbles! For a person more accustomed to a cast of sugar, chocolate, eggs and nuts, this truly was a mystifying creature to behold. Never mind the chip Continue reading



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Who doesn’t love a dark, cocoa-y sandwich cookie with that salty-sweet white filling? After all, the Oreo has been around for over 100 years and is still famed as the best selling cookie in the US. Who am I to argue?

I’ve been making a simple, not-too-sweet dark cocoa icebox cookie for years. I love them naked, as-is. I love them dressed up and drizzled with some dark chocolate. A little fancy flaky sea salt doesn’t hurt either. Last summer during a rare break in my farmer’s market baking day I took liberties with my loyal cookie friend, squishing the sugary filling between two wafers. And so, the adorably naughty BeeWee was born!  Continue reading

Heirloom Spice Bread

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After the holidays, the last thing I wanted to eat was sweets. So, I took an easy-peasy vow to follow my instinct. Not a bad idea too, since all I got for Christmas this year was fat!

But then I got a hankering for this spice bread that mom used to make when we were kids. With all the sweet nostalgia of childhood swirling around the memory of its delicate deliciousness, it became quickly and firmly implanted in my brain. This was definitely an instinct worth following.  Continue reading

Basque Salt Cod with Garlic and Roasted Peppers

Mountains of salt cod, or bacalao, priced by cut and quality, at Mercat Sant Josep, aka La Boquería, Barcelona.

Cod is pretty hum-drum as far as fish goes, but it dries and salts up into a miracle. The prosciutto of the sea? Maybe. Salting has been used to preserve the bountiful North Atlantic hauls for centuries. It became a been a heavily traded product in the 17th century and is still a staple throughout the old Atlantic trade routes. You’ll find bacalao, bakaiļao and bacallà in Spain and its regions, baccalà in Italy, and similar names throughout Europe, plus–leave it to French to be different–morue in France. All over Europe, the Carribbean and throughout the regions touched by the seafaring trade, are a multitude of preparations of the same humble salted fish, each reflecting local flavors.  Continue reading