Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween - The End of October

October is probably my favorite month of the year, although not as much this year...darn flu! Once we get into November, it becomes what my darling daughter calls the 'Blur Season' until about New Years. The pace picks up for sure.

I still haven't posted about my trip the way I want to. Over the years (and sometime in October I began another blogging heading into year eleven). Hard to imagine all those posts and recipes, but it has been, and continues to be, fun. My memory is fairly typical of someone in early senior years... mostly good but not always. I find that the posts help me remember the fun times and people and places of I've experienced. So I'll keep doing food posts but will intersperse them with travel posts, starting in Boston, moving on to Ireland, then to Provence, to the Avignon region and then to Paris. It will probably take me all of November, so if you hate travel posts, you may want to just mostly ignore Feeding My Enthusiasms in November, although there will be some non-travel gems.

Even the travel post will have food elements of course. I was able to cook in Provence and in Paris and we had some lovely meals out, plus saw markets and shops with lots of lovely foods. On our last day in Paris we went to a harvest street fair which had lots of food and wine.

There will undoubtedly be a few posts of pre-Thanksgiving baking and cooking and also the beginning of Christmas baking and cooking. I'll be posting with the Bread Baking Babes on the 16th and with the Cake Slice Bakers on the 20th. The odd bread or cake or cookie recipe will show up, too.

So happy Halloween! Enjoy the jack o'lanterns and candy and costumes and gear up for the blur season.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sourdough Season

Last year at this time I was still working out what I needed to eat and not eat to be healthy. At the time I promised myself that if it turned out that I wasn't allergic to gluten that I would start a sourdough starter in a year. So here we are in what I think of as sourdough season. The reason for it being now is that the last of the grapes have just finished ripening on our vines and those are what I used to start of the starter. The grapes are wrapped in cheesecloth and the packet tied with kitchen string. Once a slurry of flour and water is in a bowl, the cheesecloth packet gets immersed into it and then pressed a little so that the grapes crush a bit, releasing some juice. The wild yeast that has collected on the grape skins gets the process of collecting wild yeast in the starter going. The rest is just a matter of time and regular feeding of the starter.

I still have a few days of feeding to go before the starter is ready, but I used the 'toss off' yesterday to be a base for a lovely loaf of bread. Some additional water and dry yeast was added, then more flour and a little salt. That's really all that is needed, along with plenty of kneading!

The finished loaf had a thin but crisp crust and a nice, moist, tangy interior crumb. If I had added some steam as it baked the crust would have been better, but it was still very nice and a great way to start the sourdough season. Look for more sourdough bread in the coming cool months.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sugar And Swirls of Spice for the Cake Slice Bakers

It's often sad to finish up with a cookbook, but each October the Cake Slice Bakers do just that. We have been baking since last November from Maida Heatter's Cake book and I've enjoyed all of the cakes I chose to make during that time. This month we get to choose our own recipe. With it finally feeling like Fall, I decided to go with a cake that has a spicy component and a vanilla/almond component. This marble cake is delicious, the crumb is moist and light and tight and it looks pretty, too.

If you make this cake be prepared to use a lot of bowls. You make the spice batter and, unless you have multiple stand mixer bowls, you scrape it out into another bowl, clean up the mixer bowl and use it to make the vanilla/almond batter. For that batter you need to whip egg another bowl. A three bowl cake, but it is well worth it (but just wanted you to know).

In the past I've made marble cakes where you put in the batter in sections and then swirled the two batters together with a knife. The recipe didn't indicate that we should do that, but I wish I had. This way the batters are more like ribbons than marbling. Still yummy, but next time I'd do a swirl or two. I also changed the directions a bit because, unless you have many stand mixer bowls, it is easier to beat the egg whites first and then mix up the light batter so that the whites are ready to fold in as soon as the white batter is mixed. You might even want to beat the whites before you do the dark batter...

Do try this one if you want a pretty, spicy, wonderful tube or Bundt cake. You'll be glad you did.

Marbelized Spice Cake
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes
12-16 portions

Note: This is a three bowl recipe - 1 bowl for the dark batter, 1 for the light batter, and 1 to whip the egg whites in. If you have three stand mixer bowls, great. If not, be prepared to transfer batters and wash and dry bowls as you go along. You'll need to wash and dry the beaters either way.

Dark Batter

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon EACH: baking soda and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon EACH: nutmeg and ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
4 oz. (1 stick) margarine, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 cup unflavored plain yogurt

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and, once you have everything ready to go, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a large tube pan with a 14 cup capacity, then dust it all over with fine, dry bread crumbs to coat. Use your fingers to sprinkle crumbs on the inner tube. Invert the pan over paper and tap to shake out excess. Set the pan aside. (I used two small decorative Bundt pans and a 6 cup capacity standard Bundt pan and there was just a little too much batter. Allow some room for the cake(s) to rise.)

Sift the cake flour, then sift it again with the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder; set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the margarine until soft, add the sugar, and beat to mix; then add the yolks all at once along with the molasses. Beat  until smooth and slightly lighter in color; a couple of minutes.

On low speed add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions alternating dry ingredients with the yogurt in two additions. Beat batter as you go. Scrape the bowl and beaters as you go to keep everything incorporated well.

Set aside or transfer batter to another bowl if you only have one bowl as I do. In that case, clean and dry the bowl and beaters.

Light Batter

4 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

In the clean, dry bowl, with clean beaters, preferably the whisk beaters, beat the egg whites until they hold a soft shape. Reduce the speed to moderate and gradually add the sugar. Increase the speed again and beat briefly only until the whites hold a definite shape. Transfer beaten whites to a clean bowl, then re-clean the stand mixer bowl and beaters and dry them.

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz. (1 stick) margarine at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup soy milk

Sift the flour, then sift it again with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the clean stand mixer bowl, beat the margarine until soft. Add both extracts and the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed. On low speed add the dry ingredients in three additional alternately with the soy milk in two additions. Beat, scraping the bowl and beaters as necessary, until the ingredients are smooth.

With a flexible rubber or silicon spatula, fold in the beaten egg whites, a third at a time...don't fold thoroughly until the last addition.

Take the prepared pan and two large serving spoons. Scoop dark batter into the prepared pan(s), leaving space between the scoops. Fill the space, using the other spoon, with light batter. Scoop dark batter on top of the light batter and, using the light batter spoons, scoop light batter on top of the first layer's dark batter. Keep going, alternating dark and light, until pan is almost full, but leave room at the top for the cake to rise.

Rotate the pan briskly and tap it on the counter to release air bubbles and even the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. When don a cake tester inserted gently to the bottom will come out clean.

Cool cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Then cover with a rack, turn the pan and the rack over, remove the pan and let your gorgeous cake cool on the rack.

Serve as is or with whipped cream or ice cream on the side.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

A Festive Fete

We'll be leaving fascinating Paris soon, but we were able to enjoy some street food before leaving. This weekend Montmartre is having a Fete at Sacre Coeur a few blocks uphill from our apartment. We took the funicular up (looks like it operates much like the San Francisco cable cars) and looked back as we rose to view the city spread below, subdued due to gray cloud cover.

The previous day had been clear, cool and breezy with a bright blue sky - perfect fall weather! We took the Metro to the Musee d'Orsay to spend time with my favorite artists' works, then took a jaunt on the Seine down to Notre Dame and St. Chapelle. Time just flew by!

So the cloudy coolness of Friday's Fete was a big change. For some reason it made it difficult to get photos of the stained glass while inside the church, but it didn't matter because this church, while grand and gilded,

is also a holy place not just a tourist attraction. We lit a candle for Max and said a few prayers.

Outside the festival included street performers, an assortment of food stalls and lots of wineries stalls. There were also people dressed in costumes from the Napoleonic era.

My favorite food stalls to look at included the raclette sandwich stall where heaters warmed the top of a wheels of cheese and the bottom of a half baguette until a customer ordered. Then the melted cheese was scraped onto the warm bread and ham or other toppings added.

Another had an aprons young man stirring a mass of melted cheese in a large pot with a long handled stirrer who kept the mass of hot cheese moving and occasionally he lifted some up, showing thick strands of deliciousness looping from the sturdy stirrer.

 Sweetie bought a traditional potato dish that combined potatoes, bacon, olive oil, cheese and pepper. One stand served that mixture in small containers made from bent thin wooden strips. There was a colorful candy stall

and one that sold Japanese cashews, which Sweetie enjoyed.  I enjoyed some macarons with no filling - just two cookies with bottoms pushed together. The apricot was especially intensely flavored, although they were all delicious!

It was the day when high school aged students were invited to come, so there were lots of young people around with their youthful energy. We walked down a series of broad steps through the Willette Gardens, directly below the church. Despite the gray day it was a fine excursion to end our trip to Ireland and France.

A little later we visited the Anvers weekly market across the street from the apartment and purchased some roasted chicken and veggies for our dinner and some fruit for breakfast. The displays were works of art!

They had some delicious looking roasted chicken livers, mushrooms and potatoes, but I wanted to make dinner myself.

I cooked up onions, garlic, red pepper, carrots and zucchini with some thyme for a veg, and roasted cooked fingerling potatoes in the onion and garlic scented oil left from the veg dish.

A green salad with house made balsamic dressing completed the meal. Forgot to take a photo until we had almost finished! The apartment, La Parisienne on VRBO, was a delight and fun to cook in. There was everything one could want, lots of spices and condiments and pretty serving bowls and plates, too.

Hard to believe that it's time to go home!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Off to Paris!

I've wanted to visit Paris for a very long time. Since I started reading Vogue magazine when I was about 9 years old, the idea of Paris as the fashion capital of the world is long standing. I'm not as interested in fashion anymore, but it is still one of those 'bucket list' places to visit while we can.

 As a baker I am thrilled that I might visit Patisseries while in Paris and see the delights master pastry chefs have created.

 Tasting the true Polaine boule is another goal for this trip (partially fulfilled). We have been having delightful baguettes daily (and a few croissants have been devoured by Sweetie).

Then, as an artist, I hope to visit art museums, plus take lots of photos to inspire my own art once home.

Best of all, I' m here in Paris with Sweetie.

We took a wonderful, clean and comfortable high speed train from Avignon to Paris this morning. Once we arrived we took either the Metro or the RER subway to the Gare du Nord, a few blocks from where we are staying. Any time we were confused, there were extremely helpful French people. Not sure where the rumor came from that the French are unkind or dismissive. Maybe in some past time,but we have not experienced that at all on this trip so far.

Finding and getting into our apartment (the building at the top of the post) was like doing some kind of puzzle, but it was worth it. It is lovely and overlooks a neighborhood park where children were playing with joyful noises all afternoon...actually all day from about 9 am until about 7 pm.

We had a simple dinner at the cafe on the corner, then enjoyed the street performance nearby. The crowds around the Metro stop nearby are dense. A far cry from our quiet rural life at home! Love it.

On the way back to our apartment in the Montmartre neighborhood, we stopped at a green grocer and stocked up on fruits and vegetables. Sweetie came home and enjoyed a perfectly ripe fig and an Asian pear that tasted like a cross between a pear and a lemon. Very refreshing!

Never did figure out how to add photos from my phone, so I've added 'em now that I've returned home. Bon soir!

Monday, October 03, 2016


The last two days have been relaxed, with a visit to Pont du Garde yesterday and a close look at the Avignon bridge, St. Benedict's Bridge (I think), the one in the nursery rhyme.

The experience at Pont du Garde was a bridge of sorts, too. Their excellent museum really communicated the Roman experience of creating the aquaduct that carried water for 300 years from the mountains all the way to Nimes. It was a marvel of Roman engineering. The bridge is taller than the Statue of Liberty, long enough to match three modern jetliners parked nose to tail. It has three graceful sets of arches and the museum exhibits showed what went in to making those successive arches.  By the time that we walked to the bridge, it was raining, but since neither Sweetie nor I melt, we were fine. If you look you can see the umbrellas of other visitors. Look for the umbrellas on high, found during our walk through the old town of Avignon later.

Not to be forgotten is our lunch that day. We still are not used to French business times. Shopping is done in the early morning and after 4 or 4:30 pm until about 7 (at least in Provence) and lunch is from noon to 2 pm. We left the Pont du Garde site about 2:30, forgetting to eat, so turned off at a grocery store only to find it closed since it wasn't shopping time. The only place we could find still open for eating was a McDonald's! I hadn't eaten at McDonald's in the States for something like 20 years. But I was grateful that they were open, that they had touch screens so we didn't have to order in fractured French, and the McNuggets tasted about the same, as did the frites (fries). Here is a near by building set showing the juxtaposition of old and new.

Today we walked around Avignon's old section

and had a picnic lunch in the gardens by the Palais du Pape. Plums, local cheese, pate and baguette...very French.

It was sunny but quite windy at the top of the garden where we could see all the way from the Luberon mountains where we were last week to the Rhone river and ramparts nearby.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Yes, there is a bridge, an old one (although it is only partial and hasn't been used for a long time as an actual bridge...they build a modern one). The Rhone River runs under it, right next to the walled city of Avignon. Prior to 1309 it was a tiny town, but then the Catholic Church had their first French Pope. He didn't think that Rome was safe enough, so he moved the whole organization to Avignon and turned it into a real town! For almost 100 years the Popes lived here and all the administration of the Church took place from here. That required the building of a massive fort/palace for protection and to house all the workers. It took decades with 400-500 men working all the time to create the Palais du Papes, or papal palace.

The papal palace is enormous, stately and sort of brooding. It was eventually used for a state prison sometime after the Pope left and returned to Rome at the insistence of the Romans. In the early 20th century they started to reconstruct the building, and that work is still going on as you can see if you look at the large arch in the photo below.

As you can imagine after centuries of neglect, some of the frescoes are damaged, but even fragmented or faded, they are still beautiful.

Inside the Palais there were numerous gargoyles. I spotted this fellow and he reminded me a lot of a similar creature hiding under the Fremont bridge near Seattle. What do you think?

We are staying a very short walk away from the Palais and can see the bell tower from our room in the hotel in the old section.

We hear the bells peal every hour. Since the same happened at our last place, I'm thinking this is the trip of the bells.

The plaza in front of the Palais du Papes has lovely cafes and one of the days we were there an amazing musician was playing jazz. One of the days we were here we walked up to the gardens just to the right of the building behind the cafe in the photo below and had a picnic. We were pretty fortunate with the weather. It only got cloudy the morning that we left town.