Some Thoughts on Baking

This here, above, was my first attempt at making a French baguette.

What does a fashionista eat for breakfast? Two Fabergé eggs and a Fendi baguette.

Pardon the corniness. That was an old joke I made up while I was a student at Parsons School of Design. I thought about it the other day when I tried my hand at making a French baguette from scratch. We finally installed an oven so we've been experimenting with baking. My hope is that I'll soon advance to making croissants/pain au chocolats because there's nothing I miss more in the morning than having a croissant/pain au chocolat with my coffee, like the ones from Le Bergamot or Ceci-Cela or Patisserie Claude–not the fake ones that they sell at Costco. That might be a lofty ambition because I haven't baked a single thing from scratch for over a decade! I once tried to make a loaf of Irish soda bread that literally turned out to be a brick and hung up my apron in defeat shortly thereafter. Besides, eating baked goods was quickly going out of fashion amongst the New York set, where keeping a svelte figure reigns supreme. And the thing about baking is that you usually end up eating whatever it is that you bake. I love tearing into a yummy carb as much as the next person, but–oof–makes feel like have a tire around my waist! I guess I've sort of abandoned the idea of dieting since moving to the mountains. You know how you're either predominantly left-brained or right-brained? Well, I always thought of myself as predominantly a cook in the kitchen rather than a baker. I like to cook intuitively and never gave too much credence to the measurements in recipes. With baking, it's more of a science. You have to be accurate with measurements and rising times and baking times, and temperatures. It was beyond my left-brained self. I figured, there were so many fabulous bakeries in the city–why go through all the trouble when you can just point-and-pay? Now that I'm out here at the ranch, though, I've discovered the joys of baking. It's not as hard as I thought it was! Nothing ever is when you take the time to figure it out, I suppose. There's something so lovely about getting flour on your hands, kneading dough, and just going through that whole process. Makes you appreciate these sorts of simple pleasures a whole lot more. 

Pain au Chocolat

87 West 4th Street near Barrow Street

My boyfriend had been trying to convince me that Patisserie Claude's pain au chocolat was the best in New York while I, on the other hand, was hard-set on the one from Ceci-Cela. He insisted on a taste-off. "What's the point?" I said, "I already know which one I'll like." On my birthday, though, I somehow gave into the idea of taking a morning stroll to Patisserie Claude to have coffee and share a pain au chocolat. "It better have thousands of crisp, buttery layers that shatter when you bite into it," I demanded, as we walked over, "And it better have that 'pull' in the middle."  Within the first bite, I knew. And so did he. The layers were so delicate and airy that they floated around and landed on my scarf. I swooned over the generous chunks of chocolate. Perfection. "Okay," I conceded, with a grin, "You're right. It's really, really good."