Chocolate Cigars

Sometimes I have a hard time starting posts because I don’t have a story to tell about the recipe.  Normally I might just stumble upon a recipe a thought it looked good or wanted to experiment with a new bread.  Well, that isn’t the case today.  These chocolate cigars were inspired by one of my favorite memories of my Grandpa from when he visited us one summer about 10 years ago.

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After lunch at a deli one day we went over to the dessert/pastry case and my mom let us each eagerly pick out our own sweet treats.  He picked out a chocolate cigar that was far and away the biggest thing in the case (hey, he was on vacation!).  It was this colossal heap of puff pastry, chocolate, nuts, and powdered sugar.  You know, something light to cleanse the palette.

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My Golden Ticket: Zingerman’s Baguette Class & Bakehouse Tour

If my life last week were turned into a Roald Dahl book it would be called ‘Adam and the Zingerman’s Bakehouse’.  I have lived down the street from Zingerman’s Deli for almost two years but rarely buy bread there since I make it myself.  But I have always been curious to see what a professional, commercial, bakery looks like and two weeks ago I got my chance.  And I didn’t have to dig through thousands of loaves of bread to find a golden ticket either!  Move over ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.  Sadly, I do not inherit the Zingerman’s bread empire at the end.

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On the plane last month back from Paris while munching on the last pieces of bread my wife turned to me and said, “You should work on your baguettes”.  Though I had tried several different recipes and techniques I really had never managed to make something more than a mediocre to average baguette.  I had been telling myself for months that I would finally take one of Zingerman’s many baking classes, and wouldn’t you know it that a week after we got back they had a baguette class!  This was better than a Wonka Factory tour; no worries about drowning in a chocolate river or becoming a giant blueberry, just awesome break knowledge, experience, and a bakehouse tour.

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100% Swedish Rye Bread & Poor Man’s Charcuterie

Wow, it has been over two months since I posted a bread recipe.  Right before leaving for France (and again last weekend) I made this Swedish rye bread.  I had been wanting to try a 100% rye loaf for some time and this was a simple quick bread that could be made in under an hour.  There are more complex ones in the Tartine No. 3 book that I’d like to try at some point but this was certainly a great starting place.

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This bread is relatively small due in particular to the low levels of gluten in rye flour.  This makes it difficult to build a full sandwich out of, but perfect for charcuterie!  Except we didn’t really have anything that you’d normally put on a charcuterie (that’s just a fun word) board, so we improvised with delicious results.

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Adventures In France: The Riviera & Final Thoughts

Well I sure have gotten lots of mileage (kilometerage?) out of this trip, haven’t I?  The last few posts have recapped our recent travels in Paris, Dijon & Annecy, and Provence.  Today I’m going to share a few pictures and tales from the final leg of our trip in Cassis and Nice in addition to a few observations I made over the course of the trip that haven’t really fit anywhere else.  We left Aix-en-Provence and drove south to Cassis for a half day to explore some of the calanques (limestone cliffs/coves) and have some good seafood.  There are three calanques that are walkable from the center of Cassis for people willing to walk anywhere from 1 to 4 hours round trip.  We walked through the first one, Port-Miou and about halfway to the second, Port-Pin, before turning back for lunch.

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We were both pretty set on having bouillabaisse for lunch and stopped at one of the many restaurants along the harbor in the center of town.  I’m not sure if I had ever actually had official French bouillabaisse, but I knew what it was (fish stew).  I expected to get a bowl with pieces of fish and broth, but no, this was the real deal!  The staff brought out this heaping tray of full fish and an equally large bowl of broth.  We got to work and left very satisfied!

IMG_2755 IMG_2756We got to Nice without much issue and I was relieved to have finished the driving portion of the trip.  We had dinner during the France v. Nigeria World Cup game and could hear the shouts after each goal, followed by a several hour chorus throughout the streets of happy car horns and shouting at the conclusion of the 2-0 win.  The next morning we walked through a flower market on the way to a hilltop lookout point which provided fantastic views of all of Nice (and Cannes, if you strained your eyes west).

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That night I had more delicious seafood for dinner and my wife had what was essentially truffle macaroni (very tasty!).  Most exciting for me was when we told the waiter that menus in French were ok, he proceeded to detail the specials at a normal pace and I mostly understood him.  The following day we took the train back to Paris and wandered around the tuileries before having a dinner consisting entirely of soufflé!  A long plane and short cab ride later, we were home.  All in all, a pretty incredible trip!

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So…here’s all the things other random things I wrote down and wanted to share, but didn’t in my previous posts.

  • It has been over a decade since France switched to the Euro, but almost every restaurant we went to listed the total amount due in francs at the bottom of the receipt.
  • Tax (and tip at restaurants) is included in listed prices and detailed in your final bill, so you always know exactly how much you are going to pay beforehand.  I like this approach and  I imagine this would be a confusing switch for French travelers coming to the U.S.
  • Street signs are basically non-existent and roads change names so often that people much more frequently navigate based on destinations.  In cities the street might be listed on the side of a building, but that is very hard to see when you are driving through an intersection!
  • There are three main types of ‘highways’ in France: small regional roads, larger departmental freeways, and national highways (toll roads).  Each has a different speed limit and trucks will have stickers on the back listing speeds (60, 80, 90 for example) that they will travel on each road.  I thought this was pretty neat and found they stuck very well to these posted speeds.
  • French car drivers on the other hand…wow they are fast!  But, I found them to be much more predictable and safer on the highways than American drivers.  I know this is a generalization of French and American drivers, but the French rarely drove in the left lane when not passing, and would quickly pass you then move back over.  While people did drive fast and it can be jarring, you knew exactly what they were going to do.  I feel like more often in the U.S. you have people unpredictably weaving in and out across lanes.

So that’s it for France, check back for more recipes starting Monday!

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Adventures In France: Provence

Last week I shared stories and pictures from the first half of our trip in France, first in Paris, then in Dijon & Annecy.  Today picks up with when we left Annecy to head south to Aix-en-Provence for a few days.  We ended up only spending about 1 1/2 full days in Aix, and used it as a jumping off point for a few other places in the area.  On the way to Aix we stopped for an afternoon in Orange to explore the roughly 2000 year old Roman Théâtre Antique.  Much of the original stage wall is still intact and a nearby museum has an impressive collection of other artifacts and visualizations of the theater in its prime.  The short drive from Orange to Aix was made about 30 minutes longer when traffic completely stopped on the highway for an emergency helicopter landing at an accident site, but I was impressed at how quickly the emergency crews cleared the road and got people moving again.

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Adventures In France: Dijon & Annecy

On Monday I documented our travels in Paris and today’s post picks up where that left off on our way to Dijon.  We arrived in the late afternoon to a wonderful B&B not far from the Dijon town center.  It was the summer solstice and thus the Fête de la Musique all around France (and many other countries), a nationwide music festival taking place on any street corner imaginable.  We drove into the town center and enjoyed the scene of bands playing on the steps of 16th century buildings.

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We had a great dinner at Le Chabrot in the old part of Dijon close enough to one of the concert stages that we could hear the music but far enough away that we could also hear each other talk.  I tried escargot (a first for me, well soaked in garlic and butter) and thoroughly enjoyed beef bourguignon (when in Burgundy…) before calling it a night.

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Adventures In France: Paris

Hello everyone!  Worried that I had abandoned you on your bread journey?  Nope, I’m back!  After 2 1/2 weeks honeymooning in France my wife and I returned home with full bellies and camera memory cards.  After starting in Paris we drove south to Dijon, Annecy, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice with brief stops in Orange, Avignon, and Cassis along the way.  Here’s the quick rundown: bread, pastry, small windy roads, lavender, hikes and picnics, Michigan alumni, World Cup, Beauty & the Beast jokes, art, cheese, more bread.

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Over the next two weeks (posts on Monday & Friday) I’ll be sharing the longer version with plenty of pictures.  The fact that we’ve only spent 1 1/2 out of the last 6 weeks at home coupled with me starting a new job soon means things are a bit hectic, and I used up my cache of recipes and photoshops the past few months.  So these two weeks will give me time to build up a few recipes to share with you.   In writing this first post I have realized how difficult it will be to do this trip justice, but I am sure going to try!  Today’s post will be just Paris, and on Friday I’ll detail our travels in Dijon and Annecy.  Next Monday will cover Provence, and the Friday after the Riviera and some final thoughts.  So, off to Paris!

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