Monday, January 25, 2010



The alarm trills at 6:45 a.m. Sluggishly, I push off the blankets, roll over and groan. My feet hit the floor and, bundled up in the warmest fleece sweatshirt I have, I, the chosen one, stumble my way to the kitchen in the dark. Wiping sleep from my eyes, I grope for a filter and the coffee can and light the little blue flame under the pot of water. It is my turn this morning to make the juice that courses through our veins and gives us life: coffee. The other, him, JP, meanwhile, relieved of the day’s burden of making the coffee, snuggles down a little further under the covers and waits for that luscious coffee smell to permeate throughout the house, beckoning him to begin his day.

Once the day has been kick started, JP off to the office, Marty walked, I wend my way over to my desk, hit the button on my laptop and think about how long I should decently wait before pouring myself a second cup of coffee while I wait for the blue backdrop to signal the computer’s awakening and my day as a food blogger to begin.

Now I rarely use my blog to write about my daily life, the successes and the failures, the discoveries, the simple repetitive errands and just the boring ho hum of the every day. Maybe because I think no one would be interested, maybe I believe that there’s nothing exciting to be told, but once in a while I feel that maybe I should bare a little more of my soul, open up my home to curious eyes and let you into my crazy world. Yes, I have a husband who adores me, yes, I have a funny little Boston Terrier who is happy to snuggle up on a cold winter day or entertain you when you are down, yes, I have 2 grown sons, both talented, smart and kind, and yes yes yes I live in France. And yes, I bake, pardon my French, out the wazoo, but life is no bowl of cherries.

I leave many of you breathless with the amount of baked goods popping out of my oven on a regular basis. Well, it’s not all chocolate cake, lemon tart and the sweet life. Sometimes I’m forced to eat crow, other times I end up eating my heart out. If truth be told, much ends up in the trash, the occasional flop, yes, burned this, undercooked that, or just plain yucky tasting, but the bread and cake and cookies and, yes, macarons, that they just plain refuse to eat as well. One sulks, complaining that he doesn’t understand why I make new things all the time, things that it is just so obvious he won’t like, imploring me to just keep baking the same 4 or 5 things I can be sure that he has always enjoyed. The other one takes the political route, a stand off, a sit down strike against any and all that I bake, openly and adamantly accusing me of force feeding them against their will, child abuse, dangerous and reckless behavior and simply willfully trying to embarrass them in front of their friends. And the husband? He waves his arms around, voice raised, ranting against waste and frivolity, urging me in no uncertain terms to put a halt to the mad baking, pointing to his growing girth. And so next day, the uneaten, the stale, the unwanted finds its poor way into the trash.

My days, when not on twitter and facebook, are spent running around town in a mad search for ingredients for this dish or that baked good, madly flipping through cookbooks for ideas, pulling out bowls, trying to figure out where husband has decided is the appropriate storage space for measuring spoons, lining up and measuring out ingredients, trying so very hard not to mix up two or even three recipes I’ve decided to attack at once, balancing bowls, hand mixer and buttered pans on the edges of counter, rickety table and sink praying nothing flops off onto the floor, piling up ingredients and baking sheets on chairs (for lack of any more table space) all the while pushing little dog nose away, trying like hell to find a flat, even surface in this ages-old apartment with warped floors like a roller coaster on which to place my liquid measuring cup in order to be assured of an exact reading, juggling this thing and that, praying, cursing, flicking batter all over the walls and washing dishes. Lots and lots of dishes. Dishes piled up in the sink from last night, dishes the sons have dumped on the countertop too busy to wash, dishes I need for my next project or simply dishes in the way. This lovely old apartment we moved into in July? Gorgeous rooms, authentic wooden parquet, lovely, gracious marble fireplaces and gilded mirrors and quiet? Well, kitchen from hell! Sons plead with me to stop cursing, stop banging pots and pans against countertop in frustration, stop muttering “I hate this kitchen! I hate this kitchen! I hate this kitchen!” over and over again like some crazy lady mantra. No space, no room, uneven floors which cause sloping counters and a 30-year-old school desk in the guise of a table, the only piece of furniture that would fit into this ungodly space, in which everything that can rolls off onto the floor, oven door that won’t open unless the furniture is moved, fridge door that opens backwards which means I must wedge my body between open door and shelving in order to find anything, faucet too low and sink too small leaving my dish and glass collection growing smaller each week and counters flooded. And no dishwasher. And the dirty dishwater that goes down the drain and up into my shower on the other side of the wall.

And in between I rush frantically back and forth between kitchen and computer, checking mail, checking cake in oven, clickety clacking on the keyboard as thoughts rush through my head, download my pictures and pull up iPhoto. And here is where my lack of organization and non-existent concentration comes into play. Writing a blog post – sometimes two at a time, - visiting a few blogs that I’ve neglected, write a few more sentences, back to the kitchen, back to the computer to touch up the latest pictures, write a few more sentences, visit another blog, see who on twitter is looking for me, back to the kitchen. Hang up the laundry, do some dishes, walk Marty (where is Simon?), promise myself that I will clean the bathroom tomorrow and back all over again. Surrounded by utter mess spread willy-nilly around me: books, cookbooks, dictionaries, my beloved Thesaurus, scraps of paper, agenda and more, pots and pans and bowls and on and on. Get the picture? Is anyone else as totally unorganized as I am? At least I don’t have Deeba’s problem of losing electricity for hours at a time!

And then, of course, 6 o’clock rolls around and cake is cooling on the table, cookies are baking in the oven and I’ve just realized that I forgot completely about buying or preparing anything for dinner. 7:30 and JP slams in. Singing. Chattering to Marty who runs to greet him at the door. Calling out my name. And here I am still wearing my gym clothes that I put on in the morning hoping to find the time to work out (maybe I have and maybe I haven’t), frosting smeared across my face, bits of dough stuck in my hair, chopping vegetables, hoping Simon doesn’t get home too late with the salad and fruit I sent him to pick up, and putting on my happy housewife smile.

So sometimes, just sometimes, I want something simple, something good, something wonderful that won’t make me crazy in the making. Something lo-cal, healthy and fresh that counterbalances all the cookies and cake, all the chocolate and popcorn I’ve been nibbling all day, something homemade and not reconstituted out of a box to make the man happy and everything will be all right.

I would like to send this gorgeous Challah over to Yeastspotting, our favorite weekly yeast baking extravaganza created and hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.


4 – 6 small Amandine potatoes, washed *
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
2 fennels, rinsed, trimmed of tops, bottoms and outer layer if need be
Chunk of pumpkin, about 1 lb/500 g
3 – 4 medium carrots, scrubbed, trimmed and peeled
Several whole garlic cloves, peeled or unpeeled (I left mine peeled for roasting)
Olive oil
Course or regular salt, freshly ground black pepper
Fresh or dried thyme leaves
Balsamic vinegar

* you can keep the skin on, no problem, they hold their shape while the roasting makes them luscious and tender with a wonderful nutty flavor

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly grease a large oven tray or baking sheet.

Once all of the vegetables are cleaned and trimmed as needed, cut them into chunks or slices, taking into consideration that you want them all to roast together and be tender at the same time. Here’s how I sliced mine:

Place all of the sliced/chunked vegetables in a large bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil – again, depending on how many veg you are cooking; you want each piece lightly coated with olive oil, not drenched – and toss, making sure all the vegetable pieces are evenly coated.

Spread the vegetable slices/chunks out on the prepared baking tray in one layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt, generously with freshly ground black pepper and thyme leaves.

Pop in the oven and roast until done – this can take anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes depending on your choice of vegetables, the size of chunks and the oven.

When all of the vegetables are tender – even slightly caramelized – remove from the oven and arrange them on a serving platter. Dribble a little bit of Balsamic vinegar evenly over the vegetables and serve.

I reheated the leftover vegetables the next day by simply tossing in a non-stick frying pan over a medium flame until heated through. They were delicious!

From the fantastic book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Zoë François (adorable!) and Jeff Hertzberg; M.D.

This recipe makes four 1-lb (500 g) loaves.

1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ Tbs active dry yeast
1 ½ Tbs Kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil)
7 cups flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water)
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top, optional

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter (warm, not hot) with the water.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a wooden spoon, a food processor or stand mixer. I used the spoon. Stir and fold just until all of the flour is blended into the wet ingredients and is moist.

Cover with plastic wrap (not airtight) and allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough should rise then collapse. This actually took longer to happen for me with this dough (it did happen in 2 hours when I made their Olive Oil dough for both my Focaccia Farcita and my Olive, Sun-dried Tomato and Pine Nut Focaccia). I actually put the dough in the fridge after 2 hours when it looked like this:

And it continued to rise in the refrigerator.

The dough can be used right away but is easier to work with when chilled. I made the dough the day before I made the Challah.

To prepare the Challah:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, dust the surface of the dough, your hands and your dough scraper all with flour, keeping extra flour handy, and scrape the dough down the sides of the bowl. The dough will sink and flatten. Dipping your hands and the dough scraper in flour as needed (the dough is sticky) break off one 1-pound (500 g) piece of dough for each Challah you would like to make and place on a well-floured work surface. Dust the dough with more flour and shape it into a ball.

Divide the ball of dough into 3 equal pieces and, using your hands, form each piece into a long, thin rope (remember making Play-doh snakes? Same thing: roll between your hands with the rope hanging down and roll back and forth on the table.) If the dough resists shaping just let the pieces rest fo about 5 minutes and try again. Place the ropes of dough lengthwise on the baking sheet.

Braid the ropes starting from the middle and working towards one end, tucking the ends underneath the braided dough, then turning the baking sheet and braiding the other half down from the middle to the end, again tucking the ends underneath.

Allow the dough to rest and rise for 1 hour and 20 minutes (only 40 minutes if using freshly made, unrefrigerated dough).

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the loaf with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the seeds if desired.

Bake the loaf or loaves for about 25 minutes until risen and uniformly golden brown. The braids near the center will offer resistance to pressure.

Allow to cool before slicing and eating.


The Cooking Ninja said...

I love roasted vegetables. They taste so good. :) Love your bread. I'm going to make that one soon.

Nanette said...

Dear Jamie you made me laugh so hard that I started too cry!

I love your truth & honesty.

Never change a thing, well maybe next time change out of your gym gear before JP gets home of an evening!

Heavenly Housewife said...

This was a great post Jamie.
*kisses* HH
p.s. i love challah bread

5 Star Foodie said...

Gorgeous challahs! We've been making lots of roasted vegetables lately, my daughter loves them with maple syrup :)

diva said...

Oh Jamie, i can sympathise even though i don't bake and cook as much h as you do but when i first starting out earlier in my teens, my mum used to go mad. Screaming at me for messing up the kitchen, for having boxes of cookies everywhere that get chucked out in the end because every one was starting to worry about putting on weight all that. And all the new baking ware and gadgets. It left me quite distraught but you're always inspiring because you bravely trudge on in life even when the skies are grey :) Another beautiful post of yours.

Jamie said...

@5 Star Foodie - Yum! These really would be so perfect with maple syrup!

@diva - *sniff sniff* you brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my tired face. Thanks, honey...

@Heavenly H - ** kiss kiss and hope to meet you in June!

@Nanette - Big huge hug to you!

@The Cooking Ninja - Go on, girl, go on! We keep each other on our toes, you know!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I recognise that obsession! It's comforting to read about someone else who is going through something very similar. I try to combine a couple of recipes at once, maybe two things using the same ingredient or make a few tart cases and write them up as separate posts spaced apart. I know full well the horror of throwing away batch after batch of macarons. I take goodie boxes to my friends these days to spread the baking love!

I hadn't read the apartment post before. It looks lovely but I agree about the kitchen. Uh-oh. I am blessed with big kitchen but I even moan about that sometimes so I guess we food-bloggers are never happy unless we have somewhere annexed by a conservatory with big glass roof for photos, lots of shelving for props and heaps of counter space for all the gadgets. And room for a table for 12 people. I can but dream!

Peter M said...

Jamie, that challah is gorgeous and if you have any left...for bread pudding or French toast!

Happy Cook said...

Well the starting of the day sounds exactly like mine till the making of coffee. But i get up bt 7:20. I did look to the older pic and you have a big kitchen, you should see the kitchen in my apt it is really tiny.
And your challah is looking more beautiful than mine.

Now i see yours i want to have a fat slice too.

Jamie said...

@Peter M - Thanks so much Peter and if you can keep a secret... the one without poppyseeds was kept plain for bread pudding!

PageRank Check said...

I love roasted vegetables so healthy and tasty

KennyT said...

I want one loaf of these!!

Jamie, reading your post is a great enjoyment, and I can learn beautiful English from you.

Nova Walsh: said...

What a story! Thanks for sharing some of your life. I'm certainly interested to hear how your days go - thanks for sharing. I know it is very hard to cook in a small uncompromising kitchen - what comes out of your kitchen is a miracle! The bread is beautiful!

Elra said...

How beautiful that challah is Jaime, it is worth sending this to Susan of course. Love the ways how you roast the root veggies by adding balsamic vinegar.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Mmmhhh, that is one of my favorite breads! And, aaahhh, those winter veggies are so delicious!



Cathy said...

What a wonderful post, Jamie. I've never made challah and your photos are so beautiful I must give it a try. Love roasted veggies too, especially with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar after roasting.

Mary said...

Jamie, I loved your post, your recipes and your photos, most of all I loved your honesty. It's always so nice to visit here. Blessings...Mary

Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf said...

Wow - I am both exhausted and starving. Exhausted from juggling all those pots and pans and everything else in your home. Your kitchen sounds like a war zone for me - I'd be permanently black and blue, ha ha !

There are few things as simply delicious and comforting as perfect roasted veggies - and challah, especially when home-baked. And braided so professionally as you did here. Bravo! Challah French toast in the morning, n'est-ce pas?!

But tsk tsk to your three men who don't appreciate all the baking (and everything that goes with). Meanwhile, I'm still not over JP not liking macarons...

gastroanthropologist said...

A wonderful post and I loved reading it. And, the bread and roasted veggies are just what a food blogger (who tends to go for the baked sweets) needs at the end of the day!

I wish I blogged when I worked in a restaurant. Having a staff of 30 to share all the recipes I tested was so great and not so harmful to my waistline! I try to scale my recipes down as much as possible so I'm not left with trays of cookies. Some things sadly end up in the trash...

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Gorgeous bread!
You have more energy than I do.. when do you fit in nap time? :)

Zoë François said...

Your Challah is absolutely amazing! I love your step by step on braiding, that will be so helpful for people!

Thank you for sharing the gorgeous loaf with your readers.

Cheers, Zoë

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Great post as always Jamie. Now that I've got to know you better, and after you stayed over at mine, I can just imagine you going through your daily routine!

PS: I've got a whole challah here - so yum. B got it from a friend of his. Now I can make one for her next time she visits!

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, it was worth the wait! I love how you weave tales of your home life through the fabric of your food stories. Makes for a much more complex and tasty feast. And, the vegs look awesome, and I would kill for a bite of that challah.

As for your men, they do not know the gift they have in you.

doggybloggy said...

I love the first picture - and roasted veggies!

Asha @ FSK said...

LOL.. You are hilarious!!! :))

Btw, gorgeous apartment and your kitchen is 5X the size of mine.. kidding (sadly!)

ParisBreakfasts said...

I've been roasting everything in sight this winter, but I never thought of fennel! I must try that too.
Love your newsy stories

baby cribs said...

I like this post so much! Roasted vegetables are easy to do and I find it delicious.

Barbara Bakes said...

Now that is gorgeous bread and veggies never looked more inviting. I bet you had a happy husband! The happy housewife smile pic and reference made me smile! We food bloggers are a strange bunch aren't we!

lobstersandwich said...


Once again your writing,your story telling...just one word...I love it...ok 3 words!!

Thank you for the story, the pics, the recipe( I'm hungry again) and sharing a bit of yourself and your life.

More soon

Jamie said...

@gastroanthropologist - A late but very Happy Birthday to you!

@Natashya KitchenPuppies - Nap? Nap? You mean that thing JP takes on weekends while I'm cooking/baking/ironing? Oh I take a coffee break (coffee/cake/1 chapter in my book) at 10 and at 4).

faithy, the baker said...

Lovely bread! Looks so soft and perfect! I've not eaten challahs before, perhaps i should try making one..

Jamie said...

@faithy, the baker - this is such a simple recipe you must try it! And what perfect Challah it makes.

Madame Sucre said...

I honestly roast almost everyday LOL.. its the easiest meal for us and the kid!

I love this post its so funny .. I could totally relate :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

LOL my hubby loves to go this particular restaurant but blogging means that I can't go back there multiple times as I'm too busy searching for new places. Poor thing! But he gets to go on his birthday and truth be told we do go but we just don't blog about it.

And great minds think alike Jamie! I made challah the other day for the first time. I loved plaiting it! :)

Srivalli said...

Thats one lovely post Jamie!..I enjoyed reading it..roasted veggies look so tempting..and yeah challah has been on my list for so long!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

LOL - great minds think alike - clearly all the best blogs are making roasted vegetables this week :) That challah looks amazing - and your kitchen sounds like my old kitchen in the rented house. Much swearing, banging, crashing and cries of "I HATE this kitchen" used to emanate from there...

lisaiscooking said...

The dishes, the books, the dough in my hair. Sounds familiar! During the week, I have to stick to simple meals, or dinner would be at midnight. Your vegetables look delicious, and the challah loaves are beautiful!

Cristie said...

Beautiful bread, just lovely. The whole post is perfect.

Junglefrog said...

Haha... you don't seriously think you're the only disorganized person, do you? You haven't seen me running around. I loved that little peek into your life Jamie! I sometimes wish I had more time to cook and bake but unfortunately I gotta work sometimes That challah just looks beautiful!!

theUngourmet said...

I couldn't help but giggle reading this. I can completely relate to all of it! Well, except for the backward fridge door. I'm so glad I popped over to see you today. Fun post!

Your bread is lovely! I'd like a nice warm slice right this very minute!

Barbara said...

Loved your post, Jamie! I have never vented online either, but I did this week. I felt like doing it and thought I'd see what everyone else thought about that kind of post. I did throw in a recipe too, but mostly I complained.

My kitchen is small, but I live alone so it's usually manageable. When I test cook, I end up giving everything away, or, like you, dump it if it's horrible. When everyone was here Christmas it looked like a tornado had hit.

I love challah, use it for so many things, but have never made it. You make it look easy. I know it's not!
Also love roasted root veggies- I make them often, but my all time favorite is roasted sweet potatoes.

Sari said...

Beautiful beautiful post Jamie! You know, I'm very disorganised person. I've tried so many times to follow some rules to get myself more organised and effective. However, those were just useless attempts :)
Your baking is amazing and I admire it even more now after the tour around your kitchen! I wish I could bake like you! Maybe one day... ;)
The challah - oh it looks delicious! I love your step by step pictures. They are so helpful for bread-baking beginners like me! Please keep baking and posting, even if your men don't appreciate it! ;) I love it!
Have a wonderful day! Hugs!

Jenny said...

Your honesty has me hooked. :) Thanks.

Katy ~ said...

An outstanding post. You are a gem.

Deeba PAB said...

Touches my heart, your writing it does! You crack me up, and I can see your 'everyday' as a film. I love the veggies, esp the balsamic drizzle, and you've become a real bread baking chick!! Love it!!
happy Birthday in advance sistah! Speak to you tomorrow!!

Maria said...

One of the good things about winter-roasted veggies!

Nina said...

Wow a fantastic Challah.Its so easy to make....the step by step process really helps.Looks wonderful:)

Rambling Tart said...

Dearest Jamie - thank you SO much for opening up your heart and home. I laughed and sighed and grinned and uh-huh'd and thought - "I sure do like this lady!" :-) The challah is gorgeous and after seeing all your scrumptious roasted veggies, I know what I want for dinner. :-)

shayma said...

happy birthday, jamie. please do post about your life on a daily basis, that's what makes a blog so personal and interesting for us readers. here's raising a glass to you, Jamie. ps the photos of the bread, step-by-step are luscious. best wishes for the big day, shayma

Sippity Sup said...

So that's life in France... GREG

Laura said...

Happy Birthday,Jamie! I have two toddlers underfoot and have the same problem sometimes with baking and having disasters and not having dinner ready.
I have made the ABin5 challah and agree it is great. BTW, you can use the dough to make great onion rolls--just roll the dough out flat and roll it up with chopped onions mixed with some oil.

Lisa Michelle said...

I LOVE that you paired roasted veggies with challah! I bake a challah about once a week, and I have to say, my absolite fav soft eggy bread in the world. i could do a loaf by myself!

BTW, I WILL actually make the Mac Attack this tardiness either! lol

Joanne said...

I agree, a day in the life of a food blogger is no easy feat. It's a good thing you have this beautiful challah and those heartening veggies to ease the pain.

AmyRuth said...

Hi again. I came back to read a real story. Thank you for telling us about the "normal" life things of a food blogger hehe

Anushruti said...

A beautiful post Jamie. Enjoyed reading this.

Girdle Girl said...

I am a huge fan of roasted vegetables, sadly my kids don't agree. My particular fave is roasted parsnips.

Alice said...

Making challah is one of my favorite things to do on a winter day. Here's a really good version made without eggs and butter, believe it or not.
It's no-knead too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...