Posts Tagged 'bread'

Fresh bread and a picnic


With the kick off of Memorial Day, summer is officially here. Well, somewhat. We have still had some chilly days but we have had some real beautiful ones- and one of my favorite things to do on a beautiful day is have a picnic.

We are so blessed to live in a city with so many great parks around, one of my favorite being Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights. How great it is to pack a blanket, grab some friends and head over to any of the great parks this city has to offer and just relax! One of the most important elements of a great picnic is the food and one of the most important things to have is a loaf of fresh bread.

Our bread, here at Levain, is baked fresh everyday. They are all delicious …..My favorites for a picnic are the baguettes or a crusty ciabatta… Pair that up with some great salumi (my favorite- mortadella from Salumeria Rossi) and some cheese and I’m a very happy person. Of course, we cannot forget an ice coffee and a chocolate chip walnut cookie to end the meal. Soooooo good!!!!!!

So make sure to stop by next time you are preparing for next picnic-grab some bread and don’t forget to grab some sweets and you will be all set! Have fun!




In the next few weeks Connie and Pam will be offering several class dates with two different curriculums.  Our hope is that you will leave with the confidence to take what you learned and make it at home.



The first curriculum will be Italian Breads which will include making a basic focaccia, ciabatta and pizza.







The second curriculum will be Breakfast where you will learn make our oatmeal raisin scones, bomboloncini and plain brioche.






Tuesday March 24, 7:30 -9:30pm – Breakfast

Wednesday March 25, 7:30-9:30pm – Italian Breads

Monday March 30, 7:30-9:30pm – Breakfast

Tuesday March 31, 7:30pm -9:30pm – Italian Breads











Class size will be limited to four people 

Cost per person $250

To sign up go to:

Classes may be filmed

If you have any questions please contact Emily at


Alexis M




Alexis is part of our team of bakers and assists me with the everyday happenings at the bakery. She works really hard and always keeps us on our toes with her funny, zany stories and her love for comfort food like triscuits and cheddar cheese. When Alexis is working, we always know that our day will be full of laughter. PS-. Every song that comes on at the bakery is her “FAVORITE SONG”.


Name:  Alexis         


What’s your sign?   Aries


Where did you grow up?   Colorado


How long have you lived in New York City?   4 Years


How long have you been working at Levain Bakery?   August 2008


What’s your favorite color?    Orange


What’s your favorite thing at the bakery?    Plain Brioche


Cat or Dog?   Dog


If you could be a cookie package, where would you want to be shipped?  Home


What smells the best when it’s in the oven?  Baguettes


Chocolate Chip Walnut or Chocolate Chocolate Chip?  Chocolate Chocolate


What’s your favorite song played at the bakery?  Everlasting Love


What’s your least favorite song played at the bakery?   TKO


If you could be one thing in the bakery, what would you be and why?    Deck Oven, wish I had one at home, it bakes everything perfectly.






Fresh Yeast

Recently, I have had two conversations, with two different bakers, about yeast.  Dry, fast acting yeast.  yeast2


Both bakers were voicing their dissatisfaction with the results they were attaining.  One with foccacia and the other with a pain de mie.  I asked them what type of yeast they were using and both replied, dry fast-acting.  Well, I said, that is probably the source of your problem, and began to extol the virtues of fresh yeast.  Yes, it is hard to find, but not impossible.  I suggest finding a restaurant supply company, or wholesaler, close to where you live.  Or far, depending on how devoted you are.  These wholesalers almost always have fresh yeast and almost always welcome a person walking in to purchase with cash.


This yeast is generally sold in one or two pound blocks, which for a commercial bakery is perfect; not necessarily the case for a home baker.  I suggest weighing one ounce portions, wrapping them in plastic wrap, putting that in a freezer bag and then in the freezer.  Then, you have your one, two or three etc., ounce portion ready when you are.  Just combine with the warm water at the beginning of your mixing process.


Generally, one to two ounces is sufficient for most recipes.  


This yeast is also not the fast acting type.  It will take some time for your dough to rise.  But I am a firm believer that the most important ingredient in bread is time.  


So, go fresh and be patient! 


(In New York City a great place to find fresh yeast is at the few remaining restaurant supply wholesalers in the meat packing district.  One-Stop Restaurant Supply and Woolco.)

Fresh Start(er)

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!

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!

Dough Mixing 101


If I were a gambler, I would bet heavily that Billy Joel never baked a loaf of bread. However, one of his most famous lyric is one of my favorite dough mixing montras, “Get it right the first, that’s the main thing. Get it right the next time..”.  

Whenever I am teaching new employees, or refining my own dough mixing techniques, I am constantly trying to make them, or myself, aware of the measurements. Whether it is the amount of flour or the water, pay attention. Dough, like most of us, does not like to be tortured; it likes to get to its preferred consistently immediately. It does not like to be too wet, then have flour added to make it too dry and then have water added, and so on. 


In an effort to develop, or hone, this skill, I think it is a really good idea to start off with a very simple bread recipe. Devote all attention to how much of each ingredient you are using. When adding liquid, do so all at once, with the confidence of a seasoned dough mixer. If the dough is not the desired consistency, (for a light, crispy baguette, I really like a very soft, although, not wet dough) add either flour or water to get the consistency that you want. However, take note on the adjustments that you made, so that the next time, or the time after that, you get it right the first time!

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