Archive for January, 2009

Holiday Party Levain Style

 

 

This past Sunday we finally celebrated the holidays!!?? I know that may sound strange, but after a long, busy holiday season the whole staff was invited to celebrate at our annual Christmas party. Hosted by Pam and Connie, the night was FILLED with lots of food, wine and laughs!

 cesca-front-door

We celebrated at ‘Cesca, a local Italian restaurant that is right around the corner from the bakery. It was such a great choice – easy to get there for those of us who had to work on Sunday and it offers delicious Italian fare in a beautiful setting. It was so good to be able to see everyone looking their best (no bandanas or Levain t-shirts allowed) and to talk to everyone while sharing a great meal. With some after dinner guests that met us, we all moved up to the bar area to toast, cocktails in hand, to the wonderful year behind us and to the wonderful year to come.

 cesca

Monday morning arrived quickly and with little sleep and a few headaches, the morning shift arrived ready to start a new week. We spent the morning chatting about what a great time we had and how gracious it was of Pam and Connie to treat us to such a wonderful night. What fun we all had!

 

Thanks Pam and Connie and we want you to know that we are all looking forward to a great 2009!!

Starter: Lesson 1

bread-scapeYou have begun a starter, or levain, and have been living with it for a week, it is time to put it to work. 
 A starter can be used in any bread recipe, adding a small amount, perhaps 1/2 cup for a recipe that would yield two loaves.  The starter is somewhat liquid, so take that into consideration when adding additional water.  
If you do not have a basic bread recipe that you like, go the Levain Bakery website, levainbakery.com, click on recipes and there you will find a delicious formula for a crispy french baguette, to which the 1/2 cup of the starter can be added with the warm water.  A french baguette is traditionally very light and crispy, the addition of the starter will add a bit more density to the loaf as well as a different dimension in flavor.  Both the french and sourdough baguette ane wonderful, just different.  
After using starter you can continue to “feed” it with flour and water and keep covered and it will grow and live for years!  
Next week, naming your starter!

Valentine’s Day

apron_on

Look at our great, limited edition aprons!  We love them and are so excited.  A good apron is one that is so great you don’t mind wearing it and perhaps even forget to take it off.  While we were photographing this I ended up walking around in it, not even noticing it was still on!  (You can only purchase them on our website www.itsallaboutthecookie.com until supplies run out or February 13th, whichever comes sooner.)

 

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to tell those special people in your life that you love them and that they are special.  To me, it is not a day about lovers but love.  Growing up both my mother and my father each always gave me something special for Valentine’s Day.  And my mom always made a heart shaped chocolate cake iced with red butter cream for dessert.  Needless to say it was one of my favorite holidays!  And, yes, I am sentimental; I try to wear something red on the 14th! 

 

For the bakery Valentine’s Day is special because it epitomizes what we hope to do every day, which is to add a little love to everyone’s life.  We believe here at Levain, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that if you bake with love your end product will reflect that.  We will all be wearing our red bandanas in the bakery on Saturday the 14th to show our love and we will have beautiful red ribbon to wrap your boxes.

 

This Valentine’s day do something special for those special people in your life – whether it is sending them some dark chocolate cookies and an apron or making them a card or simply telling them that you love them. 

Buon Giorno

cafe latteAfter such a great crazy holiday season at the bakery, I decided to take a break and take a trip to the one place I’ve always wanted to go to – Italy. The moment my plane touched down, I felt totally connected to this wonderful place.  (Exact destination – Firenze). I was instantly in love – the Italian language, the people and especially the food. Everything is just so simple there, simple but wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here in the states, now more than ever, but there is something very magical about Florence and the towns around it.gina-a-firenze

 

As I pranced around the city, I was able to visit some really amazing cafes. During my visits, I would notice how fresh everything was and how good everything smelled. I also got to play the part of a tourist and really see how it feels to be on the other side of the counter. ”Buon Giorno, come stai oggi?” was instantly shouted as I entered every café.  Being so far from home, it was so comforting to walk into a place and feel instantly welcomed.  Eating a delicious treat and having a cup of coffee was a special part of my everyday routine .As I was greeted by the servers with big smiles and asked questions about my country, I thought about all the amazing tourists that walk through our doors at the bakery. They come from all over the United States and even all over the world to visit us and feel that same way I felt. I am so proud and happy that my staff and I can do the same. We can offer a great cup of coffee, a wonderful treat and a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere so everyone who visits can feel right at home. We can even shout out a “Buon Giorno!” if you’d like.

Fresh Start(er)

 starter
While the nation and pratically the world is basking in the glow of the inauguration of a new President and the opportunity for a fresh start, my mind wanders to a fresh start of a different kind.  Rather, a starter to be exact.   And, I wonder how many of you have not only baked with and maintained a starter, but actually started one.
By definition a starter is a natural leavener developed by capturing wild yeasts in a dough or batter simply consisting of flour and water.  Starters can be made from so many things, I think the one with which I had the most fun I used apples and raisins.  As a matter of fact, we find starters so facinating, we went so far as to name our beloved bakery after the french word for a starter, Levain.
A starter can be used to totally leaven a bread or in conjunction with a fresh yeast, which can give a baker more control over the rising process.  A starter, or levain, if well maintained and fresh, will not only add a different dimension of flavor to your bread, but also to the crumb and crust of loaf.  Beginning a starter is not difficult and really fun.  Here’s how:
 No real measuring needed (love that):
 In a plastic or stainless bowl combine flour and water to make what should resemble a thick paste.
 Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for several days. 
 Continue to observe the mixture as it begins to breakdown, become a bit watery and bubble.   That bubbling is mixture becoming a starter!  It is eating (so to speak), digesting and giving off gases; thereby growing.  You can maintain the starter by “feeding it” flour and water, stirring and recovering.
 Next week, what to do with your new pet!

Levain Cam

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The Delle Donne’s birthday celebration visit to the bakery!  As many of you know we have “Levain Cams” at both our locations which take still photos every 10 seconds, then upload them so that you can go to our website www.levainbakery.com the same day, find your photo and email it to your friends and family to document your visits to the bakery.  After seeing how much people loved photographing themselves at the bakery we thought that this would be a fun, easy way to share your visits with friends and family.  Stop in anytime and check it out!

you@levainbakery.com

In the spirit of moving forward we are also trying to catch up after the holidays and wanted to share some great pictures you have sent to us. 

The first from Katrina who visited us back in April!  Her first trip to NYC!levainknk

Katrina also has a great blog “Baking and Boys” which you can find at www.kevnkoi.blogspot.com.

 And, back in March we had a visit from Tami and her friends Teresa, Ashlyn and Valerie who came from South Carolina for their Mother/Daughter Spring Break trip and walked up from the Westin in Times Square to find us and try the cookies they had seen on the Throw Down!  We would love to hear how Tami’s 19th annual Christmas cookie swap went this past December! 

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