Parisian Baguette Making Class

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Is there anything better than a crusty, chewy baguette, fresh and warm out of the oven? In a word, no. That’s why when my friend Christina suggested taking a Parisian Baguette class over at the International Culinary Center, I jumped at the chance! This was my first time taking a cooking class, and it did not disappoint. We had a great time, learned a lot, and, of course, ate way too much bread.

The class was structured really well. I appreciated that the instructor didn’t waste time talking about what we were going to learn, or making a lot of introductions, but rather dove right in to the course. We made three different types of baguettes – classic, wheat germ, and whole-wheat. The instructor taught us techniques for mixing, kneading, shaping, and scoring, as well as a little bit about the building blocks of bread (flour, salt, water, yeast – simple!), and what effects different types of flour have on the outcome of your bread. After learning each thing, we practiced…by making about a million baguettes. Kidding…we actually made like 300 between about fifteen of us…that’s a lot of baguettes! I started to feel like a worker bee in a baguette factory. It really gave me an appreciation for what chefs and bakers do – bread-making ain’t easy (even though the instructors make it look easy!).

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At the school they make baguettes in a 470 degree oven that has a stone bottom (kinda like a pizza oven), because that holds consistent heat a lot better than the metal that conventional ovens are made of. The professional ovens have a button you can press that cooks the bread with steam, which is what creates that crunchy, crusty texture you get on a delicious baguette. Our instructor taught us a few different techniques for replicating that high heat and steam at home, the easiest of which is to cook your bread inside an oven-proof pot with a lid, in the oven. With this method, the water released from the bread while it cooks gets trapped in the pot, and thus the bread steams itself (just like you do with no-knead bread).

If you’re thinking of taking a cooking class, I highly recommend the International Culinary Center. They offer a lot of different class options (I heard the pasta one was excellent), and the instructors I had were great. Also, they gave us plenty of homemade bread to snack on during the class (very important). Word of advice: if you’re going to take this class, bring a big, tall shopping bag with you! At the end we were able to take home as many baguettes as we wanted, but they didn’t have any bags for us (just parchment paper) Not a big deal…probably good actually, otherwise I would’ve taken a whole bag of bread home and eaten it all! Anyway, I spent the day with a few almost two-feet-long baguettes poking out of my rather shallow bag…a little awkward, but well worth it. Next class: Macarons and Madeleines!

Have you guys ever taken a cooking or baking class? What did you think?

photos by me

Rita Konig’s NYC Apartment

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I wrote about my love for Rita Konig’s Greenwich Village apartment here, so I was thrilled to discover another home tour of hers floating around the Internet, which I’d completely missed. This is Rita’s first Manhattan apartment, which she moved into after relocating from London. To say that I love this apartment would be an understatement. I capital LOVE this apartment. I think I could move right in and feel perfectly at home. The colors, the artful clutter, all of the books, all of the floral patterns. It feels so perfectly homey, bright, cozy, and sophisticated, all at the same time.

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I love the stacks of books and the D. Porthault linens.

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Green and pink are always a gorgeous combination, and that picture grid is obviously an amazing focal point.

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I love these botanical prints, which remind me of the ones I saw recently in the Sotheby’s Showhouse.

photography by James Merrell

Recent Reads: March

recent reads march

Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

Ya know how every domestic thriller that’s come out in recent years is enthusiastically purported to be “the next Gone Girl!”?  Well, to me, Unbecoming (which was not advertised that way) was more reminscent of Gone Girl than any of the other books I’ve read that claim to be. It covered the idea of putting one face forward to the world while your behavior is actually more indicative of a true (and less flattering) self. It was about taking on new and false identities, trying desperately to be something you’re not, using people to get what you want…and in these ways, it reminded me of the subtle underlying themes that made Gone Girl good. In a more overt way, it was similar as well because it dealt with a husband and wife who think they know each other, but as events unfold, it turns out that they don’t. This book also really blurred the line between “good guy” and “bad guy,” and had me rooting for a character while feeling like I shouldn’t be. The writing was rather amazing too in that you see a character change before your eyes, and yet you don’t realize it until suddenly, you’re left with a different person on the page in front of you, and you find yourself thinking, ‘when did that happen?’

I read this right after Girl on the Train (one of those books claiming to be the next Gone Girl), and while I did enjoy Girl on the Train, I found Unbecoming to be a vastly superior novel…much more layered, complex, and nuanced. I’m not sure why this book hasn’t gotten more attention and hype. I had never heard of it, but simply came across it in the bookstore and bought it on a whim (one instance of judging a book by its cover actually paying off!). Highly recommend!

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl (audiobook)

I really enjoyed Delicious!. This was such a charming, fun novel that was all about food, New York City, magazine publishing, and one girl’s journey through all of it. It was well-written and had a unique premise, along with surprising twists and turns and charming, lively secondary characters. Ruth Reichl is an excellent writer and I enjoyed this one a lot. An easy, but high-quality read (or listen).

The Post Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver (audiobook)

I read this book years ago and of course, forgot most of it, so when I was looking for my next listen I decided to “re-read” this. I loved it just as much the second time. This is such a rich, layered exploration of relationships and what makes them right, or not right…or both. The basic premise introduces an expat in London named Irina, who has been in a relationship with the same stolid, dependable man for ten years. On a seemingly ordinary night Irina comes to a crossroads where she faces a tempting choice, and depending on what she chooses, the course of her life is altered. From there the story splits into two parallel story lines (like the movie Sliding Doors). Shriver alternates back and forth between “Black” and “White,” for each chapter title, in what feels like an ironic nod to the fact that in her telling of this story, she resolutely refuses to let the alternating story lines be either. She really makes you think about what’s important in a relationship, and how complex that is. Just when you think you know which choice was the “right” one for Irina to have made, Shriver gets you to rethink things, basically proving that when you make a choice, there is no RIGHT decision. Every decision comes with its upsides and downs, and what’s “right” really comes down to what you personally value in a relationship, and in your life. Shriver is the kind of writer who delves into ideas, and thoughts, and stretches them out and really makes you ponder things. She mines material from the most ordinary of circumstances and makes everyday life into something incredibly thought-provoking. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year, by Andy Cohen (audiobook)

I’ll start by saying I loved this book, and at the same time, that it was ridiculous. By that I mean, entertaining, fun, and what some would call a “guilty pleasure”…kinda like watching an episode of the Housewives. I mean, I like Andy Cohen and find him completely charming and lovable, so I enjoyed this. It’s literally “the Andy Cohen diaries….” just an accounting of his daily life-and I mean, he lives a pretty interesting life, so I think he’s justified in writing a book about it. Then again, there was also a lot about his dog, his dog’s Instagram, his eating habits and goal of losing weight, and other well…shallow things, as the title tells you! It was just a light, funny, read, which we all need sometimes!