I really appreciate all of the helpful and positive feedback that we’ve gotten on our first Crepes of Wrath web video. Everyone has been extremely nice and I appreciate all of the love; thank you especially to everyone that’s shared it with friends or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It makes a huge difference and the response has been so great that I can’t wait to post our next one. Aside from all of the excitement surrounding that, Kramer and I had an excellent holiday weekend. We paid our second visit to Mission Chinese in an effort to completely burn away our stomach lining from spicy food (worth it), then met up with our friend Morgan to watch the premiere of Best Week Ever, which he writes for (spoiler alert: it was hilarious). Saturday, Kramer took a class at NYU while I finally got around to getting a massage with a gift certificate that I got for the holidays. I was hoping I’d get a seriously deep tissue treatment, and man, that is an understatement. My shoulders and neck felt swollen from my rub down, and at certain points I considered telling the guy that the pressure was too much, but now I have no knots in my back, so I suppose this was yet another example of ‘no pain, no gain’. Who says massages should be relaxing, anyway?
That night, we met up with my friend Emily to get dinner at Parish Hall (delicious food and awesome cocktails), followed by drinks at Spritzenhaus in Greenpoint, because who doesn’t need an after-dinner pretzel? We were able to sleep in a bit on Sunday, then I went to Toby’s for coffee, which is now my new favorite coffee spot in Brooklyn, followed by an afternoon of braising and frying, for brisket tacos and homemade jalapeno poppers, respectively. The tacos were fantastic…the poppers, not so much. I may try making them again, but the breading just didn’t seem to stick to the peppers well enough. Maybe I need smaller peppers. Does anyone have a recipe for jalapeno poppers that they love? I want to fry these suckers, not bake them, so don’t give me a ‘healthy version of everyone’s favorite blah blah blah’, please and thank you. We ate with Morgan, Hannah, and Rachel, then headed out to see Mama, which wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it was going to be, but I still covered my eyes and jumped at the appropriate parts. On Monday, our glorious day off, we met up with Joel, Rachel, and a bunch of other people for dim sum at Jing Fong in Chinatown. I have never seen a restaurant as big as this place before; it probably seats well over 500 people, but what do I know? All that really mattered was that the food was tasty and incredibly cheap; we were all stuffed and walked out of there for $16 a person. In an effort to walk off all of the shrimp puffs and sticky rice, we stopped by Pearl River to pick up some sauces, spices, and most importantly, dishware, then sat on the couch for a few hours at home before grabbing a slice and meeting up with our friend Emily to see Colin Quinn do a practice run for his new off-Broadway show. I was surprised that I enjoyed the set as much as I did; I kind of went not expecting much but he was really funny! It helped that the show was about the Constitution and American history, which I am a complete sucker for.
I am also a sucker for bread. Any bread. I don’t care if it’s some nice, crusty artisinal variety (which I like to believe this is, but again, hey, what do I know?) or a roll out of a bag. I love bread, and as I recently explained, I have been trying to get over my fear of baking with yeast and making bread in general. I found this recipe floating around on a few different blogs, and while I couldn’t find its exact origins, I did read that it worked surprisingly well. As I was making it, I was a bit skeptical. The dough was wet and looked more like cream of wheat as I was ‘kneading’ it (a term I use loosely, and once you see the below photos, you will understand why), which made me panic just a bit. I had to keep my cool, though; Kramer, the master bread maker, was sitting in the living room and I wanted to pretend that I was totally comfortable with this wet, runny, not-at-all-coming-together dough. Most bread recipes usually say something like “form the dough into a ball” at some point. This one did not. As I covered it to allow it to rise for two hours, I was very, very nervous. When I saw that after rising, it still seemed sticky, I was even more nervous. However, I carried on with an uncharacteristic optimism, saying to myself, “I’m sure it will be fine,” over and over again. Obviously, I’m really glad that I did, because this ciabatta turned out beautifully. The exterior is nice and crusty, while the inside is fluffy, flavorful, and soft. Kramer and I had a really hard time waiting for it to be cool enough to slice so that we could dip it in olive oil and balsamic. The ciabatta kept well for about a week (I made two loaves and doubled the below recipe), so we were able to enjoy it as toast for breakfast, as lunch for sandwiches, and for dipping alongside soup for dinner. This is an excellent beginner recipe, as there’s not much kneading involved and you just kind of let the dough do its own thing, which is just fine, because trust me, it knows what its doing.
The awesome care package my friend Andrea sent to me: my favorite candy (wine gums, straight from England) and my favorite subject (American history) all in one!
The view from my office window on Friday.
An incredibly large dim sum restaurant that we went to on Monday with our friends, thoughtfully organized by Joel and J.K..
The dough will be very wet and you will be worried. I am here to tell you not to worry, just knead it and slap it around and don’t over-think it!
Pour some olive oil over the top of the dough, then let it rise for 2 hours.
Flour your baking tray, then flour your hands very well. Just place the dough onto the baking sheet and shape it into a loaf-looking thing (honestly – it will look more like a ‘thing’ than bread). Bake at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or so, until lovely and golden.
I highly recommend dipping this ciabatta in some nice olive oil and balsamic.
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons warm (115 degrees F) water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Pour in the warm water, and beat for 5 solid minutes, either with a mixer or a wooden spoon. If you have a dough hook, use it and knead the mixture for an additional five minutes, until the dough is well combined, otherwise just keep beating with the wooden spoon.
- When the dough is well combined, flour your hands, stick 'em in a bowl, and pull parts of the dough up and slap it back down into the bowl. Do this for another 5 minutes. This will push air bubbles into the dough and create nice holes when it bakes.
- Oil a large bowl, then plop the dough into that bowl. Drizzle your olive oil over the top of the dough, then cover the bowl in plastic wrap and cover with at towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow it to rise for 2 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then sprinkle it with flour. Flour your hands, and shape the dough into a long loaf, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with a just touch of flour for strictly aesthetic purposes (trust me, it looks pretty), then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the bread is lightly golden. If you tap the bread, you should feel like it's hollow - that's how you know it's ready! Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow it to cool down for a minimum of 20-30 minutes before slicing into it and dipping in olive oil, spreading with butter, or turning into a tasty sandwich.