Archive for December, 2008

Christmas Goodies

 

It’s the day after Christmas and I just got back from celebrating with my family.  We ate ALOT….my mom cooked a magnificent meal! We played games, opened presents, drank lots of wine, and had plenty of laughs. What a great day.

 

ginas-parents2          My family is always so fascinated with the going-ons of the bakery. My parents especially, ask lots of questions. They are curious about what we bake and who buys it and what generally happens through the course of my day. It’s so amazing to them how much I love what I do even though it can sometimes be such hard work.

 

My mom has always loved to bake and cook and did a lot of it with my grandmother growing up. While I was growing up, we did the same and she has been able to pass down some incredible recipes and traditions. She always jokes that one day she will show up at the bakery ready to work so I decided to get her some Levain bakery attire so she would be ready to jump right in. (I also had to get some for my dad so he wouldn’t get jealous!) They loved it!

 

In fact, I got a piece for everyone in my family. Whether it was a t-shirt, a hoodie or a thermal shirt, they all were very excited to sport the Levain bakery name.  So now with just with one phone call I could get them all working in case I ever need a little extra help.

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Mid-December

 

alana-packing It is hard to believe how fast the holidays fly by.  From Thanksgiving through New Years goes in a flash when you are busy.   For us at the bakery it is a wonderful time of the year.   You cannot help but get into the spirit with a little help from our customers and some holiday music.  This is our season.   The weather is perfect to be in bakery, the heat from the ovens feels great.  People are so happy.  As we pack up our gift packages we hope we can send a bit of what we are feeling here to the people who are receiving the gifts.  

We also love this time of year because we can decorate the outside of the bakery!  We love our holiday decorations, thanks to Bowman Dahl.

holiday-bench

More Celebrations and Good Times……

Once again, we celebrated a very special birthday at the bakery this week. Connie, who is one of the owners of this great place, celebrated her birthday Friday. mmm-cake-time

lauren-connie

 

 

 

 

 

As we ate her delicious birthday cake and sang happy birthday, we also were preparing for one of our busy pre- holiday weekends.

 

We do this by making extra batches of cookies as we await all the holiday shoppers to stop in for a snack and refuel. We also will be expecting lots of tourists who will come by for a cup of our delicious valhrona hot chocolate and a yummy cookie. What a great way to spend the weekend!

 

Our Christmas lights are up (they are so beautiful), the Christmas music is playing and we are ready and very cheery about the upcoming holidays.

Eleven more days…….

lauren-alexis-gina

Every great crust could use a little cornmeal!

Thursday night and I have not written my weekly Thursday blog post.  

I remembered earlier today that I had to write something and began to 

think, what?   Cornmeal.

 

I try to sometimes, this being one of those times,  to think of quick, but really significant and delicious additions to bread.  The crust of bread is probably my favorite component of the loaf; the 

color, the blisters and  dearest to my heart, the texture and taste.  

For me, texture and taste are traveling companions, one rarely goes without the other.  This is precisely where the cornmeal comes into 

the picture.   We have gone so far as to totally encrust a loaf of 

semolina dough in cornmeal or just layering parchment paper with it 

so that  it forms a subtle crust just on the bottom.   You will find 

that it  will enhance both companions immensely.

 

  Either option, from total cornmeal immersion to just a crunchy hue, will give your loaf  and new meaning!

Karaoke

mama-g

We have learned through the years that since the holiday season is so busy in the bakery business that it is generally better to celebrate in the New Year.    But, for the past nine months, everyone at the bakery has been talking about karaoke, and about how much fun it would be to go together.  So, Gina thought it might be a fun thing to go one evening before we got too busy, and she made the arrangements. 

shulie-alexis-prepare1

Apparently we are not a shy group!  No one wanted a private room and I learned why – we are also all very competitive.  A group from Random House was there Wednesday evening and it became a little bit of a competition between us to see who could “perform” better.  We went with the classics; they went with rap and hip-hop.  As much fun as it was, my consensus is that we are better bakers than singers!  So back to our baking for the remainder of the month.

preparing-mike-in-hand

connie-ben-lauren-belt-one-out

shulie-em-take-a-turn

Sing-along

karaoke

We always play such great music at the bakery and our customers are constantly asking us who we are listening to or what we are playing. Thanks to our bakery ipod, we are entertained everyday, as we work, by some great singers such as Dionne Warwick, Ella Fitzgerald and me????

 Of course, I’m not a great singer but I thought that we could all try to match the talents of some of our favorites with a fun staff night out at karaoke. After a long hard day at work last Wednesday we all, (including Pam and Connie!:))met at a local karaoke bar to show off our stuff.

I was so excited as people started to arrive but got a little nervous at first because no one picked up the song book to choose a song. Were they a little embarrassed?  Was this a bad idea? I had to do something to get the night rolling so I decided to be the first to go. As I looked through the book, I spotted Dancing Queen. That would be the icebreaker! (Who doesn’t love Abba?)

  As the night went on and everyone kept choosing songs, we heard some great duets, solos and group sing-alongs. What fun! We had lots of laughs and had some time to get to know each other a little bit better. After a few hours, the night came to an end. As I sat in the cab on my ride home I thought to myself – what stars! Both in and out of the bakery!!

Singing the praises of Foccacia

Foccacia is one of my favorite breads for several reasons.  Firstly, it was the first bread that I made on my own because of its simplicity.  At the time of my maiden bread baking voyage, I was still not the most accomplished of shapers, so foccacia offered an easy, yet beautiful alternative to the shaped loaf.  Secondly, I love that although the basic recipe and procedure for foccacia can remain the same, the possibilities as to what you can create from that core recipe are only limited by your imagination.

 

So, here is a good basic foccacia recipe:

 

2C warm water

1 package dry active (or 2oz. fresh yeast if you can find)

1/2C extra virgin olive oil

4C all purpose flour

1T salt (kosher, the coarseness of this salt is much more flavorful)

 

Combine water, yeast and oil, mix for a moment.  Add Flour and salt.

 

This should be a very wet dough.  It should not form a ball or pull away from sides of bowl.

 

Work the dough for about 5 minutes in mixer.  Turn dough out onto a half sheet pan that has been greased and lined with wax paper or parchment.  Let rest for about 1/2 hour then add a drizzle or two more oil and begin to spread the dough to fill the pan.  Use fingertips to maneuver the dough and more oil if needed.  The fat in the oil will loosen the strands of gluten and make it easier to work.  

 

Now your creativity can really takeover!  I have used toppings that are as simple as garlic and black pepper to caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan and so many more.  Whatever you do choose to use, don’t forget to include a little more kosher salt. 

 

So try to make a foccacia dough to practice your bread mixing techniques, then go wild with the toppings!  Make it savory, make it sweet….just make it!

 

I would love to read about your topping ideas.  Have fun!


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