The entire population of Nantes must spend Saturdays at Ikea. We show up at 9:30 a.m. sharp as the doors open, and already we are pushing through a babbling, excited throng of young couples, pregnant women, retirees and families. They stroll through the aisles as they would an art museum, simply admiring and casually enjoying their day out, or so it seems; they gawk and point as if at the local zoo. We, on the other hand, are there for one reason, and one reason only: to buy a kitchen. And we mean business. Husband sprints ahead and I trail in his wake, jogging to keep up, weaving in and out of bins piled high with sheets and pillows, rows of beds and sofas just beckoning my shins, hoping to make contact, dangerous mountains of glassware and dishes. I skirt around screaming children who have dropped to the ground in a call for attention, bored and tired, as angry, insistent mothers grab them briskly by the arm and pull them up and along. Fathers and husbands push huge, unwieldy trolleys as wives pause to study potted plants, cutting boards and price tags. Couples discuss, debate, compromise, stopped dead in their tracks, oblivious to the rolling waves of humanity clogging the aisles, attempting to push past them, myself included. I spot my husband somewhere up ahead, his head bobbing up and down in a determined trot. What has brought this mass of mortals to leave their warm beds, their comfortable homes to come to this cold, harsh, crowded spot at this ungodly hour on a Saturday morning?
This will be the nième time, six or eight? that we have visited, perusing the demonstration kitchens, discussing, debating, deciding. We would arrive as a blitzkrieg, route mapped out, artillery at the ready to meet any challenge, face any confrontation as we barreled through the store, on the offensive and prepared for the onslaught of fellow clients and rubberneckers. We had no time or patience for sightseers; no, my husband’s credo, when it comes to Ikea, the supermarket or any other place of mass consumption where the hurly burly of society crowd together in droves, is in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sadly, no schmoozing for me. So the kitchen was selected – under duress – in a minimum of time and number of visits. Then came the all-important working with the kitchen counselor. One stands in line, is given a number and is given an indication of the time one must wait for said appointment with counselor. They say one hour and in about two and a half as the store lights are dimmed, the crowd dramatically thins out and the other counselors begin bidding each other good night, we finally sit down at a computer to go over our design.
The kitchen space in the new apartment is, to say the least, unusual, in that it doubles as the entry and foyer; one walks into the kitchen when entering the apartment. So son and husband put their very clever brains together and came up with the ideal design. Happily, husband and I agreed immediately on the color scheme and countertop. Then the flooring – the type and color – were debated and decided upon – and this took about four visits to Leroy Merlin, that incredible mecca of home improvement. Which, I will add, fills my husband with more joy than any visit to Ikea can inspire. We are rarely in a rush at Leroy Merlin unless, of course, I want to peruse the wallpaper or lighting fixtures. All deco-visiting is briskly nixed. Then paint is selected and we are pretty well on our way, at that humbling point of no return: the official purchase of a kitchen.
And this is what we did this weekend. List securely in hand, we tumbled into Ikea with the rest of Nantes and scurried directly to elbow our place in line to await the prized visit with the kitchen counselor. Of course, this would all be so much easier and less stressful if we had conferred the design, delivery and installation to a professional cuisinista, but no, architect son would have none of it. He had to design it, he had to select the elements and he had to build it. And he certainly created and executed a smashing design! He took care of the problem of kitchen/entryway with flying colors. He accompanied us repeatedly to oversee the choice of elements, arguing over our “taste” only occasionally. He sat with the counselor and went over the minutia of the design and the measurements until it was perfect. And he even found a charming muscleman with a truck to help us pick up, deliver and carry up four flights of stairs 800 kilos (1800 lbs) of boxes containing our precious kitchen!
And we went through all of that with only a few fights, a fistful of bruises, dozens of pizzas and take-away kabobs, and our marriage still intact.
And this morning, sun streaming into the chilly kitchen, we began….
I have actually found a few afternoons to bake. And as the first Monday of each and every month is the Twelve Loaves announcement, I had to slip out early, leaving the two men happily ensconced in construction. Happily, Simon ate the last four of the tiny Chocolate Cinnamon Bundts this afternoon, leaving me the freedom to create another homebaked goodie in its place. A Lemon Pecan Quick Bread with a Blueberry Swirl and topped with Almonds.
For our third Twelve Loaves challenge, Lora of Cake Duchess, Barb of Creative Culinary and I have decided that your homebaked bread – whether yeast bread, quick bread, pizza, scone or muffin or anything that can qualify as bread – must contain NUTS, SEEDS and GRAINS! That’s right, your bread must have either nuts, seeds or grains or a combination of 2 or all 3 involved in some form or another, one way or another.
I absolutely feel like a nut. My days, long and tiring, are spent renovating, building, painting and the little time I have left is usually dedicated to laundry, shopping, ironing and feeding my family. And walking my dog. Most days, my eyes are crossed from fatigue, my head is spinning, words tumble out of my mouth in a mishmash of nonsense and I can’t think straight. I have visions of hammers, paint cans and countertops dancing before my very eyes. So no yeast bread for me this month. Instead, I took a recipe from my Taste of Home Baking, a cookbook received as a Plate to Page workshop goodie bag treat from our wonderful sponsor Taste of Home, and twisted and turned it into what I have been craving, a luscious, lightly flavored Lemon Bread crunchy with chopped pecans, a swirl of wonderful Blueberry di Saronno jam from another fantastic Plate to Page sponsor, Sunchowder’s Emporia, and topped with slivered almonds. Dense, moist, lusciously lemon, the perfect little snack to get me going in the morning.
And as we wait for our new kitchen to be finished, as we watch it rise from the dust and cartons like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, I scratch and scrape together what I can, when I can and I simply hope that someone will eat it and enjoy it. But baking is in my soul, what soothes me and focuses me. And it is what I love offering my family. A little bit of myself.
So join Lora, Barb and I and make a bread from scratch for Twelve Loaves. This month’s theme is Nuts, Seeds and Grains!
All you have to do is follow the rules. It’s as easy as pie:
1. When you post your Twelve Loaves bread on your blog, make sure that you mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your post and mention and link back to Lora, Barb and Jamie’s blogs (this post). Please make sure that your Bread is inspired by the theme NUTS, SEEDS AND GRAINS! This is obligatory if you would like your link to be included!
2. Please link your post to the linky tool at the bottom of Lora, Barb or Jamie’s blog. It must be a bread baked to the Twelve Loaves theme.
3. Feel free to promote the Twelve Loaves by proudly displaying the Twelve Loaves badge in your Twelve Loaves post as well as in your sidebar! It isn't mandatory but is a nice way to get the word out!
4. Have your Twelve Loaves bread posted on your blog and linked to ours by October 31, 2012.
Follow @TwelveLoaves on Twitter and #TwelveLoaves
Chat with your hostesses on Twitter: Jamie @lifesafeast Barb @CreativCulinary Lora @cakeduchess
LEMON PECAN BREAD with Blueberry Jam and Almonds
Adapted from Taste of Home Baking
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups (about 280 g) flour, spooned lightly in the cup and leveled with a knife
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup sour cream (I used 0% fat fromage blanc)
1 tsp vanilla
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ - 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, as desired
2 Tbs blueberry jam (cherry would also be fabulous)
2 Tbs slivered blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan generously. Line the bottom with parchment paper (this isn’t necessary but I find it makes turning out the bread much easier).
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the second egg. Finely grate the lemon zest and add the zest to the batter. Squeeze or add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the batter.
Blend the flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat into the batter alternately with the sour cream, the flour in 3 additions and the sour cream in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Using a spatula, fold the pecans into the batter, scraping down the sides as needed, making sure the batter is well blended and smooth.
Pour/scrape the batter into the prepared pan and lightly spread to smooth. Spoon and dollop the jam or jelly in teaspoonfuls down the center of the cake batter. Gently swirl a long, thin knife blade back and forth through the jam, swirling it ever so slightly into the batter. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake the Lemon Pecan cake for 50 – 60 minutes or until puffed, golden brown and set in the center. A tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Remove the pan from the oven onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 or 15 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen and turning out of the pan. Flip upright and allow to cool completely before slicing.
Nota bene: if you would like a sweeter, tangier bread, closer to a cake, simply stir ¼ cup (about 85 ml) lemon juice in a saucepan with ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Spoon the lemon syrup over the cake while it is still in the loaf pan and allow to cool.