Monday, November 16, 2009



I love Autumn. I really do. It’s the incessant, never-ending rain that the change of seasons brings that I gets me down. I am not a rain person. Bundled up in my huge, padded coat, cap pulled down snuggly on my head to my ears, sneakers or, worse, rubber boots, on my feet, I’ve got on my frumpy dork look as I tromp out of our building and over to the market for provisions. I feel less like a chic Frenchwoman on her way to browse through the gaily colored market stalls and more like a badly dressed Girl Scout slithering her way through the wilds of an unknown, dangerous land foraging for anything edible. My face gets splotchy, my hair frizzes, my bangs curl up, making me look like some cartoon character, the dorky one in the back of the class.

But if I am lucky enough that I don’t have to leave the house on one of these drab, gray, wet days, if I can stay all cozy warm inside, then I just want to bake. I peek out of the kitchen door and reassure myself that Marty is snuggled up against the hot radiator, pouting for lack of a bright ray of sunshine, but snuggly all the same. I glance up at the menacing sky out the kitchen window and grumble, never happy when Autumn shows its ugly side. No bright, chilly walks in the vineyard with Marty, happy as a bug racing in and out among the vines, no mushroom hunting in the forest, looking for that one magic cèpe to dig up and bring home, no hand-in-hand lover’s stroll over to the château or across the river to see the elephant. Maybe there will be a rugby match on tv this afternoon, the 3 of us curled up together on the sofa, cheering on Les Bleus, pausing at mi-temps for le goûter, something warm from the oven.


The weather is fright’ning
The thunder and lightning
Seem to be having their way
But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lovely day
The turn in the weather
Will keep us together
So I can honestly say
That as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lovely day
And everything’s OK
- Irving Berlin

Stirring creamy cake batter or kneading fragrant, yeasty dough is my favorite rainy-day activity. The oven preheating, warming the kitchen up all toasty, waiting for the odors to permeate the air, cinnamon or chocolate, fresh bread or cake or scones, the promise of tasty goodness, comfort on a rainy day. The rain comes and goes, a regular, hypnotic pitter-patter or a sudden wild flair-up, hailstones pounding against the window panes and down onto the balconies, Marty wide-eyed with wonder and concern, JP huddled up on the couch all wrapped up under a blanket or, better yet, with the warmth of a small fuzzy dog on his chest. I reheat another mug of café au lait as the timer ticks off the minutes until the bread is done and I sit at the kitchen table with my book, Daniel Deronda this week, an occasional quick, furtive glance towards the oven to survey the progress.

I grew up in Florida, as you know by now. Many call it The Sunshine State, but its evil twin, The Hurricane State, lurks not very far behind. From June through November, the brilliant, scorching sunshine is regularly broken by flash showers, like clockwork. Hot, bright sunshiny skies, heavy, humid weather and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, at 3 o’clock on the nose, the black black clouds scud across the sky, thunder rumbles in the distance, moving closer, menacing. Flashes of lightening out of nowhere light up the ever-darkening afternoon as kids scatter, dropping bats and balls, rocks tossed willy-nilly onto hopscotch grids chalked onto the cracked sidewalk, kids running for cover as goose bumps skitter up and down their arms as the temperature does a roller coaster drop. The sky opens up and the rain pours down in Biblical proportions, straight, heavy, unforgiving.

And then it stops as quickly as it began, the black clouds roll back like curtains and the brilliant Autumn sun bursts out again, drying up the wet, as if it never happened. And all the kids pop out of their hiding place and resume their play as if it had never been broken.

The Autumn rain in Europe is as unpredictable as the Florida storms were predictable. Rain here is unremitting, days on end, no burst of heat and sunshine to warm and comfort us and allow us to run out and play. Just rain with an occasional pale, weak light peering shyly at us through the clouds, promising something that just doesn’t come. Rain, interminable rain.

Well, at least it gives us the excuse to bake. And bake. And bake.

Today, bread. A wonderful bread, ode to Autumn, full of oatmeal’s earthy goodness and sweetened just enough with the season’s maple syrup. It takes a while to put together, mostly just waiting, time to run in and catch the rugby match or an old movie or dash to the store for more supplies. A wonderful almost cakey bread that is the perfect snack or breakfast slathered with soft butter and drizzled with more maple syrup, or a wonderful complement to a cheese platter.

I recently was the recipient of a wonderful and fun award – The Over The Top Award - from two great bloggers and friends, Connie at W Va Fur and Root (great writing, a fun read, beautiful photography and an insight into an amazing person and her life) and Simone of Junglefrog Cooking (a gorgeous food blog with fabulous recipes, stunning food photography, amusing tales of her travels and cooking experience and a wonderful place to visit), both ladies truly are over the top! Thank you both so much for considering me Over the Top as well! And thanks for your friendship, both.

I know that I'm Over The Top!

All recipients of this award must answer the One Word Meme, answering each question with a one-word answer, so here goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? Desk
2. Your hair? Dark
3. Your mother? Working
4. Your father? Heaven
5. Your favorite food? Homemade
6. Your dream last night? Reunion
7. Your favorite drink? Yahoo
8. Your dream/goal? Published
9. What room are you in? Office
10. Your hobby? Baking
11. Your fear? Many
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Traveling
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something you aren’t? Organized
15. Muffins? Yes
16. Wish list item? Move
17. Where did you grow up? Didn’t
18. Last thing you did? Lunch
19. What are you wearing? Jeans
20. Your TV? Off
21. Your pets? Dogs
22. Friends? Love
23. Your life? Complicated
24. Your mood? Hopeful
25. Missing someone? Siblings
26. Vehicle? Feet
27. Something you’re not wearing? Fur
28. Your favorite store? Publix (with Sue)
29.Your favorite color? Pinks
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? November
32. Your best friend? Many
33. One place you go to over and over again? Market
34. One person who e-mails you regularly? Meeta
35. Favorite place to eat? Home

Now I’m to pass The Over The Top Award to 6 favorite bloggers. Whew, the choice of who I want to award this to is harder than answering those questions! There are so many great bloggers and great friends blogging! Well, let’s see:

Mowie of Mowielicious
Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey?
Her Royal Spudness of The Daily Spud
Greg of Sippity Sup
Alessio of Recipe Taster
Courtney aka Glamah of Coco Cooks

These blogs are truly over the top as are these food bloggers! Wonderful friends, beautiful blogs, great recipes. I love reading these blogs, fun and thoughtful and wonderfully satisfying and you will too if you click on the links and visit them.

I am sending this bread over to El Aroma de Idania, this month’s host for Bread Baking Day #24. Idania chose the theme of Mixed Bread and I decided to bake Oat Bread with Maple Syrup, a lovely mix of white and wheat flours blended together with oats. A delightful mix of the savory and sweet, this tender, moist bread is perfect to be eaten for breakfast or as a snack or with a meal or a platter of cheeses or sliced for sandwiches.

"I've spotted the yeast, just spotted the yeast! What a glorious feeling..."

I am also sending this to Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event.

From The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
Makes 2 loaves

2 cups (500 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 ½ cups (135 g) rolled oats (I used Quaker Oats)
1 package (2 ¼ tsp, 7 g) dry active yeast
¼ cup (65 ml) pure maple syrup
2 tsps salt
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3 cups (400 g) white bread flour
3 cups (450 g) whole wheat bread flour

Heat the water and milk together in a saucepan until scalding (just under a boil when you see tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan). Pour the liquid over the oats in a large mixing bowl. Leave to soak for one hour.

After the hour, the oatmeal should be warm or tepid. Sprinkle the dry yeast over the oatmeal and stir it in. Then add the maple syrup, the salt, the melted butter and the white flour and stir until well blended. You will have a thick batter that can be stirred with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place for an hour to rise. It should double up and be light and bubbly.

After the hour, stir the batter down with a wooden spoon and start stirring in the whole wheat flour, about ½ cup at a time, stirring each addition in well. When the dough is too stiff to stir anymore with the spoon, scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead in as much of the remaining whole wheat dough, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and bounces back when pushed.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape them into loaves. Put the loaves into buttered, medium-sized bread pans or on a buttered baking sheet. Since I didn’t have medium-sized bread pans, I chose to form my dough into round miche-type loaves. Cover the loaves loosely with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise for just under an hour, until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes. Check the loaves along the way and if they seem to be browning too quickly, put a piece of aluminum foil over the loaves for the remainder of the baking. When done, they should be a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove the loaves from the pans or baking sheets and allow to cool before slicing.


diva said...

jamie this looks lovely. why do you tempt me so?! well, i take it that i'm adopted. so yes, there u have it.
back in my house in birmingham, i used to bake all the time but we'd leave the heating off cause we couldn't afford to have it on all the time. So baking was a great idea as i'd leave the door ajar post-baking which means free heating up of the kitchen. Nice and cosy deep into the winter months with cake, biscuits and cups of tea! :) x

George@CulinaryTravels said...

Jamie that bread looks and sounds amazing. Fabulous post as always.

Sippity Sup said...

Thanks for this award and the wonderful read as well! You got my morning started off right. GREG

glamah16 said...

CS always says Im over the top. Thank you. I relish my Babushka moments because I'm addicted to spending cozy weekends, baking , like you. Now I want to start kneading.

The Cooking Ninja said...

oooh this looks very good. I have oats in my pantry. Wanna try it but need to know if bread is sweet as I can see maple syrup is one of the ingredient.

Btw: U r living on the wrong side of France. :p Come over my side, we have more sun than rain. I love it here. Used to be so depressed in Nantes during autumn n winter bcos I'm a tropical girl.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I hate cold rainy days and especially on Sundays!

Interesting meme and gorgeous loaves! That bread recipe is wonderful!



lisaiscooking said...

Your oat bread sounds wonderful and perfect for a rainy day! I'll take even a sprinkle or two (since we don't often get more than that) as an excuse to bake!

Colloquial Cook said...

Oh les belles miches :-P sorry, I couldn't help :-) Du sirop d'érable dans du pain, I'm sold! Now, hy is the word verification "toxic"? Hm, odd. Or is it because maple syrup is highly toxic for computers? Hmm. Hmmm.

IDania said...

An american living in France? Another Julia Childs?
One of the things I love most about this bloggers cyber events is the fact that we get to know so many interesting people from all over the world...
I am cuban-born. Lived in the US all (or most of) my life and am spaniard by adoption... Isn´t it fantastic??
Thanx for participating in the BBD-24 I'm hosting this month!!!
Love + kisses,

IDania said...

I almost forgot!!!
That bread looks expectacular... MMMM, I bet the taste of it its even better!!!

Jamie said...

@IDania: Absolutely; and this way I discovered you and your blog! And I have to say that my husband dreams of Cuba! And Spain!

@The Cooking Ninja: this bread is barely sweet, terrific for breakfast with butter and jelly but fabulous with cheese, too. It's a bit too cakey for hubby who likes something more baguette or ciabbata-like for his meals, but he thinks it is delicious!

@diva: adopted!

@Colloquial Cook: Claire, you even crack me up just commenting on my posts. How about a smear of Gratte Cul or Couilles des Papes confiture on a slice?

Heavenly Housewife said...

Jamie, you are my kind of girl. You speak my language: carbs. Here in england we are having the same nasty weather. Being a FL girl like yourself, I wonder if you also find the winters very hard to deal with. I always dread them with a passion.
Your bread looks amazing, the texture looks fab.

Barbara Bakes said...

I'm not a rain person either. I've been caught in those Florida downpours both in Key West and Orlando. Your bread looks delicious, you've got me wishing I had some bread baking!

Katherine Aucoin said...

The bread definitely chases away the rainy day blues! Great post!

MeetaK said...

not much of a bread baker - living in germany i am spoiled for choice and get gorgeous bread from bakery! this looks great and look forward to you making it for me when i visit! thanks for the award sweetie.

Daily Spud said...

I was enjoying the ode to rainy day baking and eagerly anticipating the oaty bread, not even suspecting that in amongst all that would be a pressie for little ol' me! You are too kind Jamie and I gladly accept the title of over the top - when it comes to spuds, that is surely true :)

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Oh wow Jamie, thanks so much! I've never received an award, so I don't really know what to say - I'm speechless! Thank you, thank you, thank you, I'm so glad you think I deserve it. I am slightly over the top sometimes, you just need to ask B! Actually, wait until you meet him... NEXT WEEK (Yay!), you'll hear it for yourself!

The bread looks divine, and your writing teleported me back to Nantes instantly, I can just imagine you walking around there xxx

Mary said...

Congratulations on your award, Jamie.
I also love your bread. Funny how people are different. I love the rain.

Elra said...

I am just the opposite and actually love rain, we don't get much rain lately. Bread look delicious Jaime.

5 Star Foodie said...

This bread with maple syrup sounds fantastic!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm SOOO with you on favourite rainy day activities! Baking also smells so good and it makes me forget that I'm stuck inside :)

Deeba PAB said...

Oh I love the way you write Jamie. So descriptive, so happening & ever so FUN!! Bake, bake, bake...yes, rainy days are just for that, and I love the oaty bread you baked. That slathering of jam on top is just over the you my dear. Congrats on the brilliant awards. Loved the one word meme... really nice read! xo

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Great loaf! I love the Vegetarian Epicure, I have books one and two.

Natalya said...

Hi Jamie,

The cake looks so scrumptious and mouthwatering. It’ll be perfect for breakfast with some strawberry jam on it with a good cup of coffee.
In Lyon we don’t have rain over these last days and I am happy about it. But when it happens, I like to stay at home and sneak into my kitchen to cook something yummy for me and my hubby. As a rule, it’s always a comfort food: a bowl of soup or pasta with cheese sauce.

By the way, I like your blog and way of writing.

Good luck et bonne continuation !

My best wishes,

Jamie said...

@Natalya: Bienvenue à mon blog! Welcome! Je suis très contente que tu l'aimes!

Junglefrog said...

I love autumn! But well, ok, let me rephrase that; I love autumn when I do not have to go outside and get stay snuggled in, watch some movies (and yes! Do some baking) and generally have a lazy day. For me rain and lazy kind of go together pretty
I loved all those little things about you! I especially like q17; you didn't grow up! Haha... That is the best!

Jamie said...

@Junglefrog: Simone, my husband keeps asking me "When are you going to grow up?" and I ask him "Do you really want me to grow up?" You know his answer!

girlichef said...

What a beautiful way to pass a rainy day! Of course, I adore rainy days and thunderstorms and all of that associated wet stuff (okay, not hurricanes and destruction...just the regular stuff)! Your bread sounds fabulous and I loved reading your answers :D

Cathy said...

What a beautiful loaf of bread. Love that it's sweetened with maple syrup. What I wouldn't give for a big slice to enjoy with my coffee.

Mimi said...

Wonderful bread. Would be so lovely hot out of the oven with sweet creamy butter.

Katy ~ said...

Your bread looks and sounds divine. Oh my goodness I need a nice thick slice with lots of buttah!

Glenda said...

Loved the blog, love the bread and am glad you received another award!! Rain does make one want to bake and bake and so does the snow! Thanks for your stories and sharing of baking!

Baking Monster said...

I love the seen when hes singing in the rain I love to dance in the rain and I love baking all day! This bread looks terrific!

Sarah said...

I love a good thunderstorm but alas it rains next to never here and is always sunny... Not that i'm complaining! As for your beautiful oat bread, it looks delicious!

Donna-FFW said...

Id love some of this toasted.. looks fantastic.

I so so so enjpy rainy days where I am in the kitchen all day long:)

Sophie said...

Oooh Jamie, This oat maple bread looks just divine!!
I also love your writing!!

Congrats on your latest award!! Now, we know a bit more about you too!!!

A grand post to read & laugh,...

Johanna said...

looks delicious - just right for a rainy day (though I mean a cold rainy day in winter not today's steamy spring rainy day!)

Stefanie said...

oats and marple sirup, that sounds so delicious!

Anonymous said...

This is a must-bake--and the instructions are easy to follow. Thank you!

IDania said...

Hi (Julia) Jamie,

Round-up for BBD #24 is Published at:

Thank you for your participation,


P.S. Tell your husband for me, Spain is WONDERFUL... however, I'm sorry I can't say the same about Cuba... (not at this time)

asiangrrl said...

The best things are simple and homey, like this bread. Congrats on the award, though I am very late.

Elizabeth said...

Ah yes, it's so hard to look chic in the rain. On one of our bicycle holidays, we horrified the citizens of Cahors by appearing in public wearing bright yellow rain ponchos. I've never seen so many openly disapproving looks.

(Please excuse the late comment on this wonderful post. I was looking for the mechanical elephant and the search engine pointed to this post.)

Shizuma974 said...

I tried to adapt the receipe so I could make it with my bread maker but I miserably failed. :'( There was too much bread and my bread maker couldn't knead.
Next time I'll use only half of the ingredients and less flour maybe.
Anyway, thank you for the receipe :)


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