Spiced Oatmeal: Edible Morning Mush


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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve had some pretty decadent meals recently.

(And you haven’t even heard about the roasted foie gras with a candied almond crust or the pasta tossed with truffle oil and topped with Oscietra caviar I recently devoured at Gunther’s in Singapore.)

My own kitchen, however, is where I can right some of these delectable wrongs.

And I’ve chosen to start with breakfast, a meal that I usually skip. Well, unless it involves eggs and super-crispy bacon. And perhaps a stack of pancakes. But I digress …

Now, having read about the virtues of oatmeal as a cholesterol and fat fighter, I decided to put aside my years-long aversion to the morning mush and take the plunge.

But how to make it palatable? That was the trick.

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A Tiger In The Kitchen: Unveiled



Not too long ago, reporter Mark Joyella caught up with me about my cooking and eating adventures for a piece he did for the Brooklyn Heights Blog.

On my little deck in Brooklyn, we had a lovely time chatting about festive cardamom cookies and my stab at eating bull’s penis. (You can also see the video on Vimeo.)

I’d been a little embarrassed about posting it — because you can see exactly how dead my houseplants are in the background of some shots! But Mark did such a nice job, I thought I’d share it with you.

So, if you’ve been wondering what exactly I’ve been up to so far this year, check it out …

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread: Devil in a Loaf Pan


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It was only as I was licking cinnamon sugar off a plate after rapidly devouring three slices of bread that I managed to put a finger on the word I was looking for to describe the cinnamon raisin walnut loaf I had just made.

Trouble.

And this is coming from someone who has generally preferred savory or plain loaves to sweet cinnamon-raisin breads.

Peter Reinhart’s recipe for cinnamon-raisin bread? It’s trouble.

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Cinnamon Buns: Faith, Restored


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What you are witnessing here, folks, would be what they call “getting back on the horse.”

After the smoke, the blackened loaves, the almost-blazing defeat that was my attempt to make ciabatta last week, I’d begun doubting my quest to bake my way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice along with 200 plus amateur bakers around the world.

Could I really pull this off? (Without burning down my apartment, preferably.)

Should I even try?

But love can be a powerful motivator. In this case, that would be Mike’s profound love for cinnamon buns.

Since I joined the bread bakers’ challenge in May, Mike had been waiting impatiently for cinnamon bun week. And by the time cinnamon buns came up, I had begun to see a greater purpose to baking them — I thought they might help assuage my lingering guilt over a not-so-little visit I made to Stella McCartney in Paris recently. (Hey, 50%-off is pretty good, even in Euros.)

So I grabbed my saddle and called for my horse.

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What Ciabatta Taught Me


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This moment, I had known it would come.

The one where I’m sitting on the floor of my smoke-filled apartment, staring at three rock-hard, blackened loaves and thinking, “I am a failure.”

Having never baked bread before, I’d known it was a little insane to sign up for the weekly Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, where a group of more than 200 amateur bakers around the world bake a bread every week from a recipe in Peter Reinhart’s bread-making bible.

But then my first attempt — bagels — had gone well. And in the ensuing weeks, decent versions of brioche and challah followed.

I started to get cocky — I even promised chef Simpson that I would bring my first stab at ciabatta to his July 4 party. There would be two Italians there — who better to judge the quality of my first Italian bread?

Of course, this was all before the alarming amounts of smoke, the smell of burnt cornmeal seeping into every cranny of my apartment and, eventually, the surfacing of three dark lumps of what could pass for coal but were actually my “ciabatta.”

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Challah: A Lesson Learned


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I was never any good at girlish things as a child.

Not jump rope nor dressing up Barbie. (Or myself, for that matter.) And certainly not the braiding of any hair.

So it would be accurate to say that the notion that someday I'd attempt to make challah, the braided bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays — no, that never once crossed my mind.

In fact, when I learned last week that challah was on the schedule for the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge, I instantly planned to sit this one out.

Me? Braiding? Gummy ropes of dough? I was set to say "No thank you" to failure and disappointment and skip ahead to ciabatta, the next bread on the list. But no, my friends wouldn't allow it. "It's easier than ciabatta," said Heather. "Think of the French toast that you can make after," Geri said.

Since "French toast" is high on the list of magic words in my husband's vocabulary, out came the mixing bowls and the challah-making commenced.

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Prelude to Paris

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I’ve been thinking about Paris.

About bumping knees with Mike at the petite tables of the always-packed Bistrot Paul Bert. And wandering the streets in search of good bread. Or shoes. Or both.

So when it was announced that Recipe #4 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge was brioche, I took it as a sign.

Sure, it seemed silly to be attempting to make brioche for the first time when in a matter of days, I’d be in the land of great brioche. But I wanted to understand it. Just last week, I’d made bagels for the first time, a Herculean task that helped me develop a mammoth respect for a bread I’d often overlooked at breakfast.

So, with one pound of butter and a carton of eggs in hand, I steeled my arteries and was ready to go.

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A Bagel Grows in Brooklyn


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Making bagels — in New York.

The task, on its face, seemed like it would be so simple it was almost laughable. After all, I’ve baked. I happen to live in bagel-central. What could be difficult?

It turns out, a lot.

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