Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hemingway must be rolling over in his grave

I just received the following note from a friend:

In September we spent a week in Paris with four friends. I was showing them the sights on the Left Bank, when we stopped in to Shakespeare & Company.  The first thing I saw upon entering, on a shelf to the right of the door was your book!!!
 I almost fell over!!! How very cool is that??!!- Shakespeare & Paris....itself!!!

 For those of you who don't know, Shakespeare & Co. is the famous bookstore in Paris, founded by Sylvia Beach, that was the epicenter of the ex-pat literary world of the Lost Generation: Hemingway, Joyce, Elliot, Pound, Gertrude Stein... not to mention, believe it or not, another former resident of my tiny town: Djuna Barnes. What are the odds....

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving baguettes

What could be more traditional for Thanksgiving than, um, baguettes? Nevertheless, that will be my contribution to the table this year. Here's an easy recipe kneaded in a food processor if you want to follow my lead. Best part: all of the work is done ahead of time

460 g all-purpose flour
40 g corn flour*
345 g ice-cold water
1 teas. instant yeast
10 g salt

*Note: this is corn flour, not corn meal, and not masa harina. It's Easily obtainable from Bob’s Red Mill in a grocery store, and it adds a creaminess to the dough, but if you don’t have it on hand, increase flour to 500 g and decrease water to 340 g.
  1. The day before baking, thoroughly mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and mix until uniform. Transfer to a food processor and allow to rest, covered (a process called "autolyse") for about 15 minutes.
  2. Process for 45 seconds or longer, until a ball forms and starting flying around the processor bowl. Return the dough to the bowl you started with and cover tightly with oil-misted plastic wrap. The dough will seem a little wet – this is normal, and is what gives you those nice air holes.
  3. Place in refrigerate and allow to ferment overnight.  -- OR -- ferment at room temperature for about 2 ½ hours.

    Baking Day:
  4. Remove dough from fridge and allow to warm in container for about 2 hours.
  5. After 1 hour, place baking stone on middle shelf in oven. Place an old sheet pan or frying pan on bottom shelf. Preheat oven to its highest setting, usually 500-550 degrees F.
  6. After 2 hours, divide dough into 4 equal pieces on lightly floured countertop.
  7. Form each into a 3x5 inch rectangle, then fold into thirds, as folding a letter to go into an envelope. Fold once more, in half, and tightly seal the seam
  8. Roll out to baguettes, to a length of about 12 inches. Remember, they have to fit on your stone. Take a piece of parchment paper or wax paper and place the bread between folds to hold the loaf shapes. Support at both ends. Cover with plastic and allow to rise about 30 minutes
  9. Score loaves down the middle with a single-edged razor held at a 30-degree angle. Transfer loaves to a peel, and then to stone. Pour 1 cup water into the pan in the oven, taking care to protect your hand. If queasy about that, toss in the same amount of ice cubes instead
  10. Reduce heat to 480 and bake until center registers 210 F, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How does this end?

"How does this end?" I asked a friend, an Egyptian immigrant, over the weekend.

"Its been going on for hundreds of years," was his less-than-encouraging reply, "And it will continue to go on."

While the terrorist attacks have been largely seen as retaliation for France's military action in Syria, perhaps the larger long-term problem is that France has long kept the lid on a simmering pot of jobless, frustrated, angry young men from the former French North African colonial possessions Morocco and Algeria, men who live largely on the outskirts of France's cities and on the outskirts of French society. They used to feel powerless to express their anger. But now there is an organization with the motivation and means to give them the power, in the form of bullets and explosives. So, I come back to my original question. "How does this end?" Let's hope it doesn't take hundreds of years.

However long it takes, the solution will have to come both from military might and social reform. The French do have their hands full.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Jeb apoligizes to French -- Mon Dieu!

Poor Jeb. He just can't get it right. First he gratuitously disses the French by making a crack in the last debate about Marco Rubio's Senate attendance: "I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?" Then when (quelle surprise!) the French, who actually have a longer work week than the Germans, take exception, he SEALS HIS FATE with the Republication Party by...apologizing!

Trust me, no candidate has ever gotten anywhere with the Republican electorate by apologizing to a foreign nation -- especially not the French, who for some reason remain the scorn of Republicans. So it's a three-man race now, and I'm putting my francs (ah, make that euros) on the young whippersnapper who never shows up for work.