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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Paris: Putting The “Ohh” in Aligot


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Like many good New Yorkers, I had come to regard carbs as the enemy.

I’d accepted that Asian noodles were my Delilah. But with a few exceptions — any dish of steak frites that crossed my sight being the main one — I’d been able to stick to this waistline-watching strategy. I would push around (most of my) potatoes on the plate and leave bread (mostly) untouched. 

Paris, however, has ruined me.

There were the perfectly baked breads that just demanded to be devoured. The delightfully salty butters that called to you from the table, insisting on being slathered on said perfectly baked breads and then devoured.

And there was the aligot at L’Ambassade D’Auvergne, a lovely little restaurant that specializes in the super elastic dish of melted Laguiole cheese stirred together with mashed potatoes and garlic.

My breaking point came when I set eyes on the aligot.

Fighting it was futile. I admitted defeat and said, “Just take me.”

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