Growing up, my favorite waffles were, of course, Eggos. Flavorless, with a fun catch-phrase, they were the perfect vehicle for syrup and butter. It’s no wonder that I always preferred pancakes at renowned breakfast restaurants, like IHOP and Denny’s. In college, our cafeteria was equipped with a flip-waffle iron and a bowl of batter. You could make waffles at any time of day. But, after eyeing the thin batter and tasting the outcome, it was clear that these were merely pancakes posing as waffles.
Then, I moved to Massachusetts, where I learned a lot about food (Aunt Jemima’s isn’t real maple syrup!?). I worked at a creperie as a barista who didn’t drink coffee. The crepes were filled with strange, exotic ingredients I had never heard of, like arugula and Brie. I also learned that the owner actually specialized in a variety of waffle called “Liège waffles” (also sometimes known as Belgian waffles). I had no interest in trying one – I knew what waffles were all about. But an extremely enthusiastic coworker convinced me to give it a go. She took the deep-pocketed rectangle, toasted it, got out the whipped cream and strawberries and impatiently watched as I took my first bite. And then my taste-buds exploded (with flavor, not literally exploded). Sweet, dense, yeasted, chewy, filled with sweet crunchy pockets of sugar that also caramelized on the surface of the waffle – why ruin this with whipped cream and strawberries? Eggos were no competition – in fact, I wasn’t even sure if they were really waffles at this point – these were the best waffles I had ever had!
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Posted in Bakery, Bakery Supplies, Belgium, Breads, Desserts, Recipes | Tagged Belgian Pearl Sugar, Belgian waffles, breakfast, dough, Liège waffles, sugar, waffles, yeast | 13 Comments »
If you love good bread, chances are you will be familiar with the name Poilâne. We started working with Lionel Poilâne in the mid-90s, flying his bread in each week to supply a small, but growing group of customers who had developed a taste for his dense and flavorful bread while traveling abroad. Since the ”Ici Pain Poilâne” sign went up in our shop, the demand for this famed French bread has steadily increased.
Poilâne was founded in 1932 by Pierre Poilâne, Lionel’s father. Originally from Normandy, he opened his bakery in the 6th Arrondissement in Paris. In 1978, at the age of 28, Lionel assumed control of the company from his father. He went on to supervise the growth of the company and played a key role in defending France’s bread heritage and traditional methods of baking. In 2002, Lionel and his wife, Ibu, were tragically killed in a helicopter accident. Their daughter, Apollonia, took over the business and ran this Parisian institution from just down the street – in her Harvard dorm room. Today, Apollonia continues to helm Poilâne’s operations, stringently maintaining standards, keeping the product line focused and adhering to the artisan traditions established by her grandfather, Pierre.
Poilâne Pain au Levain
Poilâne’s pain au levain, inscribed with a beautiful cursive “P,” is the bakery’s best known loaf – sometimes referred to simply as Pain Poilâne. Each loaf is made with only four ingredients – sourdough, flour, water and Guérande sea salt – and weighs about 4-lbs. They are baked in Poilâne’s “manufactory,” located in Bièvres, a suburb just outside of Paris where the wood-burning ovens operate 24-hours a day. The resulting bread is crusty, beautifully fragrant, dense yet porous and keeps very well (for a week if refrigerated).
Currant Loaf (top left) and Walnut Loaves
These days, we receive our weekly shipment of Poilâne bread every Thursday and, in addition to the pain au levain, we bring in Poilâne’s currant and walnut loaves. Pain Poilane is delicious simply with a smear of salted French butter (a favorite snack of Ihsan, Formaggio Kitchen’s owner), or as Apollonia Poilâne likes to eat it, with soft-boiled eggs!
We are able to special order larger quantities of Poilâne breads for customers. Special orders require one week advance notice — and, for planning purposes, please note that our shipment from Poilâne arrives every Thursday. Please call our shop in Cambridge at 617-354-4750 and ask for the bread counter for details and pricing. If you are not local to our Cambridge shop, please place orders for Poilâne bread online.
Posted in Breads, Crackers & Snacks, Food History, France, Producer Profile | Tagged Apollonia Poilâne, bread, food, Ibu Poilâne, Lionel Poilâne, pain au levain, Pain Poilâne, Pierre Poilâne, Poilâne bread | 5 Comments »
Three cocoas: Dutch-processed (L), Valrhona natural (R) and Les Confitures à l’Ancienne drinking cocoa (bottom)
At this time of year, customers often pop into the shop looking for cocoa – whether for baking a dense chocolate torte or for a warming cup of hot cocoa after hours of shoveling. There are a few different type of cocoa available and we thought it would be helpful to shed a bit of light on the differences.
What is cocoa?
Cocoa is the result of processing raw cacao seeds into what is called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. Cocoa mass is made up of roughly equal parts cocoa solids and cocoa butter. When you buy a chocolate bar it often has a percentage figure on it. If, for example, the label indicates 75%, that means the bar is made up of 75% cocoa mass and unless other ingredients are mixed in, 25% sugar. If you’ve ever had a taste of 100% cocoa mass, you know how important the sugar is to counterbalance the natural acidity and tannic quality of the pure cocoa. In some cases, a bit of extra cocoa butter may be added to give the chocolate a smoother textural dimension – a greater melt-in-your-mouth quality. Continue Reading »
Posted in Chocolate, Education, Food Science | Tagged alkalized, Chocolate, cocoa, cocoa butter, cocoa solids, Dutch processed, food | 2 Comments »
Last Wednesday morning, as we received our weekly delivery of California produce, the wind was picking up and the clouds were grey and churning – a sure sign of snow on the way. As we hurriedly brought in the fresh greens, jewel-like lemons and first-of-the-season strawberries, the juxtaposition between the impending New England storm and spring produce from California was increasingly apparent. Unpacking a box of Moro blood oranges from Rancho del Sol, I was immediately hit with a rich, balsamic fragrance that was only matched in richness by the oranges’ bright ruby appearance. Having yet to preserve any of this season’s citrus fruit, I immediately decided to snap up a pound to juice and candy. Continue Reading »
Posted in Candy & Confections, Desserts, Produce, Producer Profile, Recipes | Tagged Bill Zaiser, blood orange, candied blood orange peel, candied fruit peel, citrus, food, Linda Zaiser, Moro blood oranges, preserving, Rancho del Sol, recipe | Leave a Comment »
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Millésime Bio which has arguably become France’s most compelling organic wine exposition. As in previous years, it once again convened in Languedoc’s Montpellier and I had the opportunity to experience the show for the fourth consecutive year. For me, it’s a pause from the retail side of wine buying – a chance to revisit the producer/supplier side of the job. As usual, it involved the intersection of cultural, linguistic, visual, and visceral stimuli that allowed me to hone and redefine my palate as a taster. I discovered a few producers whose wines that I had never tasted, and gained further insight into some of the producers that we currently support. Below are some of the highlights that I hope will trickle into our selection soon! Continue Reading »
Posted in France, Italy, Wine | Tagged Andre Beaufort, Cascina Corte, Chianti Colli Senesi, Giovanna Tiezzi, Grand Cru Ambonnay, I Clivi, Julien Guillot, Marc Gillemot, Millésime Bio, Pacina, Pierrette Michel, Quintaine, Sandro Barosi, Stefano Borsa, Vignes du Maynes, Viré Clessé, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Azeitão – coagulated with the cardoon thistle
If, as Clifton Fadiman once said, “cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality”, then rennet could be considered the springboard of cheesemaking. Stripped down to its most basic processes, the first steps of cheesemaking involve taking warm milk, adding a starter culture (to convert the lactose in the milk to lactic acid) and adding rennet. The lactic acid begins coagulating the milk in a slow process that yields a delicate curd and some cheeses are still made using this method as the sole form of coagulation. Most cheeses, however, also employ rennet to separate the curds from the whey, speeding up the process and leading to a firmer, more elastic curd. Continue Reading »
Posted in Cheese, Cheesemaking, Food Science | Tagged cardoon thistle, Cheese, chymosin, coagulation, curds, fermentation-produced chymosin, food, microbial rennet, pepsin, rennet, vegetable rennet, vegetarian rennet, whey | 1 Comment »
Some of our customers may have noticed a new fresh goat milk cheese in our cases. Carolyn Hillman, our go-to fresh chèvre producer for many years, is taking a hiatus from production for the next year or so. While heartbroken about this absence, I am thrilled to be able to support another grande dame of Massachusetts cheesemaking – Susan Sellew of Rawson Brook Farm. Susan is entering her 30th year of production! Continue Reading »
Posted in Cheese, Local, Producer Profile | Tagged Cheese, chevre, food, fresh goat cheese, Rawson Brook Farm, Susan Sellew | 1 Comment »