baguette

Oven Mitts and Potholders

by Anne Maxfield on June 24, 2019

Oven MittsOven mitts and potholders are one of those things you take for granted.

If you’re of a certain generation, you probably made them in camp, weaving bands to make potholders (remember that?).

Or you bought them ages ago because you liked the design. It went with your kitchen.

And they were fine until…

You went to pull out the Zuni roast chicken and found out, to your horror, that they don’t work.

Or, more recently, you were testing the Baguette Baking Box at oven temps exceeding 450°.

Whether they melted onto my (almost) perfectly seasoned cast iron pan or just didn’t offer enough protection for a long enough time, it became a real issue in my kitchen.

After ruining several contenders, and almost either burning myself or dropping dinner, I started to search the Internet.

Melted PotholdersThat’s when I found out that most oven mitts don’t work on temperatures over 400°. Even ones that reputedly did, like the ‘Ove’ Glove which is advertised to have heat protection to 540°, let me down. It might have been able to handle the heat, but it was impossible to tell because the printing on the gloves melted into the handle of my pan.

Even my favorite review site, Wirecutter, didn’t test them on temperatures over 400° and while I’m pretty fast in the kitchen, their criteria for approval was a mere “10 seconds while holding a heavy pan, which we think is a reasonable amount of time to remove hot items from the oven or stove.”

I don’t know about you, but while I’m juggling a very hot and heavy pan, I’d prefer to focus on the job at hand and not worry about an imaginary shot clock going off and turning my mitts into meltdown.

In search of a better (read, more to my liking) response, I moved on to that most trustworthy source—the Internet, specifically Facebook. People offered up lots of advice, most of it useless. However, my brother said to sit tight and wait for my birthday.

His gift? A pair of killer mitts. These babies can take on anything up to 572° and I don’t have to worry about that imaginary shot clock while I’m crisping chicken or baking baguettes.

My second choice and good for most everyday tasks are a well-worn (and slightly melted) pair of KitchenGrips potholders that are supposed to be good to 500° (but only on one side…) and bought because they went with my kitchen.

What do you use?

 

 

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DIY Baguettes with the Baguette Baking Box

by Anne Maxfield on June 3, 2019

A Bigger BaguetteBeing obsessed by bread is something a lot of people fall into. Being obsessed by baguettes makes people do crazy things.

Near us there’s an object of that obsession–a wood-burning brick oven brought over brick-by-brick (along with two French masons) and reconstructed in Hudson.

Recently my former business partner put me in touch with another infatuated baker, this time building his version of a better mouse trap—The Baguette Baking Box.

The Baguette Box is an elegant, easy solution to ensuring a steady stream of great bread is always available. You mix up the dough, let it rise, shape it and bake it in the box. Et voilà, perfect baguettes.

Baguette Baking BoxDean Anderson, the entrepreneur behind the box, invited me to his home to demonstrate the box in action. He wants people to be able to make baguettes without a lot of effort and he’s worked for the past 18 months on perfecting his box and the easy no-knead recipe.

He had some dough that he had started the night before and as we were chatting, he formed it into a couple of loaves and baked them. It wasn’t long before we had fresh, hot, delicious bread.

Dean sent me home with a prototype box so we could see how it worked in the hands of two non-bakers. Frank mixed up the first batch of dough and we left it to rise overnight. When we went to get the box and pre-heat it, we noticed that it was missing the lid. Dean assured us that the dough would be fine in the refrigerator for a few days and sent us the missing lid.

Baguette Before BakingSomehow it ended up being about 2 weeks before we finally got around to baking our first loaves. Despite the dough sitting around for a couple of weeks, and Frank mistakenly adding a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon (which he then endeavored to remove from the flour), we had very edible baguettes.

I mixed up another batch of dough and baked a second batch the next day. These were really good! Great crust, not too dense inside (the issue with the first ones) and definitely not as salty. It was super easy to do, just requires a little advanced planning (it’s about 10 hours from start to finish).

Baguette After BakingMy third batch was the best (so far). Dean had emailed me a recipe for a slightly bigger loaf and I got to work. It’s so easy, you can just break into bread making at the drop of a hat (or in this case email). I liked the bigger loaves and the baguettes had great crust and perfect interiors (and I ate half of one in about 2 minutes).

There is a website coming, but if you can’t wait to get your hands on one of the Baguette Boxes, contact Dean at Breadbakingbox@gmail.com. Don’t forget to tell him you saw it here first!

And, not that we’re that obsessed, but the minute Frank got his hands on the box, his reaction was “now we can move to Peillon.” There was a gorgeous house there that we drooled over, but according to the description the nearest bakery was 15km away–almost inconceivable in France. No matter where we end up, the Baguette Baking Box is definitely coming with us!

 

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La Fin

by Anne Maxfield on February 29, 2016

Accidental Locavore Nice at NightIt’s always at the end of a trip that you discover stuff you wish you’d known before. On the next-to-last day in Nice, the Accidental Locavore discovered that if you hit the good bakery just at 12:30, the baguettes are blissfully warm! If I didn’t have a lunch reservation at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Victor Hugo (another last day discovery on a previous trip), the bread would have been covered with one of several cheeses I’d collected. And if Victor Hugo was open for dinner…

Accidental Locavore Green and White TulipsAnother idea that occurred to me on the way to the marché, was that I should have been looking for events etc. on Meetup. Duh. One of my goals there was to build a network, but it’s difficult when you really don’t have a starting point. I’m also used to the old France, before smart phones. People had conversations in restaurants with whoever was sitting next to them (or at least their dogs). Now everyone is so involved with their devices (also guilty) that they’re in their own little worlds (and the dogs look bored).

Accidental Locavore Sausage and PolentaChecking out a couple of AirBnB apartments for future trips would have been a good idea and it would have been fun to see some real estate. There were a couple that looked good in the pictures, but I’d want to know exactly where they were before committing for a month.

Accidental Locavore Fountains in the ParkMy last lunch was at a tiny wine store, not far from the Promenade du Paillon, a beautifully rebuilt series of parks, dividing the old city and the beach from the rest of the city. They’ve got a great selection of biodynamic (organic) wines and a small area in the back with marble tables and funny Formica chairs you may remember from kindergarten. There’s a plat du jour but only at lunch, otherwise, it’s just cheese and charcuterie (never a bad thing). That day it was Figatellu a Corsican sausage, slightly smoked, and served over polenta, with some poivron for color. So simple and just amazing—I’ll be back!

Accidental Locavore Along the MedLike tomatoes in August or wine at lunch in France, some things are just better sur place. I’ll take home with me the memories of walking along the beach by the Promenade des Anglais, hearing the tumbling of the rocks in the sea. I’ll wish I was one of the insiders at Safari, getting bisous from the waiters who have been there as long as I can remember. And if I was a resident, maybe even bisous from the women at Victor Hugo and the crew at the boulangerie.

Accidental Locavore Golden PotatoesI’ll come home and wish the potatoes had flavor, the bread had crunch and the cheese, ah well the cheese. But I’ll also know that I’ll be back, and soon!

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Bread

by Anne Maxfield on February 15, 2016

Accidental Locavore Croissant and Coffee To GoEating my morning croissant, the Accidental Locavore was wondering — why is it that there is so much fuss about being gluten-free in the US and it’s never mentioned in France? Here, every day starts with bread, continues with bread and often ends with bread. But do a Google search for gluten-free in France or celiac disease and there’s little there. And the results you find are mostly Americans wondering how to eat in France. To be fair, I know a few people who actually have celiac disease and like a severe allergy, they can be extremely ill from eating gluten.

Accidental Locavore TartineBut in France a typical morning starts with a croissant (or two) or a tartine, made from toasting a leftover baguette (if there is one) and spreading it with butter, jam or a mild cheese.

Accidental Locavore Croque EatenLunch could be a classic croque monsieur, a sandwich made with a baguette, or pizza. Even in a restaurant, there’s always a basket of bread. And any decent bakery has at least a dozen different varieties to choose from, ranging from tiny ficelles to giant sourdough loaves known as miches that could feed a family of ten.

Accidental Locavore Bread and TapenadeAt a recent dinner there were three different breads on my solo table – pain d’épice (a local spiced bread), slices of toasted baguette and regular baguettes. With my soupe de poissons came more toasted baguettes and the tart I had for dessert had a flour-based crust.

Accidental Locavore Lemon TartThink about this: how does a population with almost 300 million people (vs. 60 million in France), that annually eats less than half the amount of bread as the French, end up with five times the number of patients with celiac? Is it the flour and/or the way the bread is processed? It’s an easy bet that a loaf of Wonder Bread isn’t as good for you as an artisanal baguette. Wheat has evolved from having 14 chromosomes to currently having 42. Luckily, GMO wheat hasn’t made it into the market yet, but that doesn’t mean Monsanto isn’t working on it.

Accidental Locavore Lunch With OlivesMeanwhile, I’m off to grab a baguette and some cheese – it’s lunchtime!

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