Wednesday, May 30, 2001


recently i took a yoga class where the teacher asked, "who here is a beginner?" since i have only been doing yoga for a year, i definitely consider myself a beginner and i take beginner classes along the mixed level ones every week. today i received an email from someone asking about starting yoga and they asked how hard it was to be a beginner.

how hard is it to be a beginner? i find that a very thought-provoking question. because of course in many ways you are always beginning with your yoga, no matter how many fancy poses you have learned to do. this seems so obvious it must be a truism, right? what i like most about being a beginner is the enthusiasm of it; when yoga seems really exciting and important. that's a lovely feeling certainly worth nurturing, i think. wasn't it e.m. forster who said, "enthusiasm is beautiful?" but enthusiasm is a feeling worn lightly; it doesn't seem to weigh you down. so being a beginner is easy and fun, in my view. it's not hard at all!

sometimes it seems to me that people consider themselves beginners if they don't have a "serious" yoga practice. i'm not sure i know what that is -- i've met yoga teachers, people who've been teaching for several years and who spend hours a day involved in with yoga, but in all honesty and with all due respect, after taking class with them, it seemed like they could just as well been teaching junior-high gym or ballroom dancing. they had no enthusiasm or sense of discovery. do they have a "serious" yoga practice? i might say not, that the curious person who shows up once a week for a month just to try yoga out might actually be more "serious" in an important way!

this reminds me of something erich schiffmann recently wrote:

"the thing I think is especially fabulous about Yoga is that it takes one beyond the fitness-only mentality. the more Yoga you do, the more you experientially understand that it's about the development of religious feeling. religion, remember, means re-linking, coming into the realization of our inseparable oneness with the Infinite. getting fit is more about realizing where/how you fit in, how you are linked with the Oneness, than how long you can stand on your head or how far over you can bend or how physically well-conditioned you are."

in this sense, the open-minded beginner is definitely more serious than you might at first think! even if someone only did yoga five times with an open mind and then went on to experiment with six weeks of charismatic rolfing or whatever, i would say they were serious. an interesting statement from ramakrishna paramahamsa seems a propos here:

"yes, one should courageously follow many sacred paths - practicing every authentic religious discipline, recieving every powerful initiation, enjoying every mystical attitude. yet how few are ready to plunge into the ocean of supreme knowledge.they learn a few phrases and immediatley begin delivering lectures. why? because Mother's Delight is in continuing the game. she does not liberate all the players. the playful Goddess instructs the human mind: 'go forth and experience every possible aspect of manifestation.' can one blame the mind? awareness can be disentangled from conventional, habitual experience only when the Wisdom Mother, through Her ineffable Grace and Attraction, inspires the mind to investigate its own intrinsic nature, which is Her reality."

although ramakrishna's way of life and his experiences seem extreme to most of us nowadays, i don't think this dilutes the wisdom of his insight above, do you?

posted by fortune | 10:36 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Tuesday, May 29, 2001


hope you enjoyed your long holiday memorial weekend! we're still experiencing some server problems -- for example, with the archives -- that i hope address shortly. thanks for your patience. . .i certainly spent a moment remembering the veteran in my family, homer kurtz, my great-uncle, who went "over there" in the first world war.

he fell in love with a french mam'selle, but she wouldn't come back to the farm in kansas with him. . .whereupon it was said that when he returned home, he threw himself from the hayloft.

on a brighter note, although dying for love has a certain romantic quality, i spent the holiday making pizza. several people have made me aware that fresh mozzarella can be hard to come by in some places, although it is plentiful in italian brownstone brooklyn. this is certainly annoying! so herewith, i offer links to a nice mozzarella recipe.

because this great recipe offers many pictures, i won't post it here. let me just say that it's easier to make than it sounds and all it really requires are supermarket supplies. . .some yogurt, buttermilk, rennet, a very large bowl, and a cooking thermometer. many people find they make a better quality cheese by crushing up a normal vitamin c pill and adding it to the milk as well! the vitamin c helps the cheese form nicely and gives it an improved texture, just as vitamin c also helps the yeast in bread. interesting, hmm?

the recipe takes about 30 minutes of real work over the course of two or three days. the rest is all waiting. without any more delay -- Dr. Fankhauser's American Mozzarella.

note that you can use a microwave to heat the water at various times. here's a nice recipe for microwave mozzarella. while making your own fresh mozzarella costs about as much as buying it -- here in new york it's often as much as $6 a pound -- you do get the absolute freshest product. and by using different kinds of milks, salting it longer, etc. you can make a mozzarella exactly to your tastes. since it's easy to make in larger batches if you have room, you can also make a lot and give it to friends! it's a tremendous thing that everyone appreciates.

posted by fortune | 9:49 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Friday, May 25, 2001


since the unseasonable weather continues, i'm going to spend this memorial holiday weekend baking and drinking hot coffee, not iced. . .

one of the first recipes i posted for you was for my unique yellow tomato pizza sauce. so here's the pizza crust recipe to go with it, based on one by author Maggie Glezer:

3-1/3 cups (15-3/4 oz. on the scale) King Arthur Sir Lancelot flour
1/4 teaspoon instant SAF yeast
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups (12 oz.) lukewarm water


in a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt. mix in the water until the dough is shaggy and most of the water has been absorbed. let rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate. knead the dough in your stand mixer for 10-15 minutes, or until you see "baker's windowpane." touch dough after 5 mins. of kneading; if still very sticky, add 1 oz. flour and continue kneading.

cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape each piece of dough into a tight ball. roll the dough up like carpet, turn the roll around, position it seam side up, and roll the cylinder up again. roll the cylinder perpendicular to itself a third time, then turn the dough so that the seam is on the bottom, and round the dough under your palm into a tight ball. roll each rounded piece in flour and arrange in a floured baking sheet. cover with plastic wrap.

let the balls rise at room temperature until they are soft and puffy but still springy, about 5-6 hours. or refrigerate the dough just after shaping it for up to 36 hours. remove them from the refrigerator and let them finish proofing, about 7-8 hours. note that in the full summer heat, these times could be halved.

one hour before baking the pizzas, arrange a baking stone on the oven's second-to-top rack and preheat the oven to its highest possible temperature setting. you are trying for 750 degrees but 550 degrees is fine.

now flour your counter or pastry cloth and place a fully risen dough ball on it. flatten the ball with your hands and spread nto a disc. just pull it out gently between your hands, rotating the disc as each side is pulled. to perfect the shape, place one hand on the center of the dough (to prevent it from getting too thin, which it has a tendency to do) and gently tug around the edges until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick in the center and about 1/4-inch at the very edge.

place the shaped dough on a sheet of parchment paper, or directly on a floured pizza peel or flat cookie sheet. spread about 1/4-cup sauce on the pizza and scatter on 1 to 2 ounces cheese. slide pizza into oven and bake it for about 4 minutes, or until the crust has colored slightly, burning in spots and staying pale in other areas, and the cheese has melted. the baking time should be around 4 minutes if your oven is hot enough, up to 6 if it is cooler.

posted by fortune | 11:46 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Thursday, May 24, 2001


yesterday evening i took a work colleague with me to yoga, a nice mellow basics class. . .

it really brought home to me how great it was to have a yoga buddy. even if your buddy's interest in yoga is more casual (or more serious!) than your own, it just makes going so much more fun. also it gives you a place to start really seeing how a "yoga attitude" can make a difference in your life and your relationships.

obviously you're already friendly with someone who'd become a yoga buddy. . .what's interesting is to watch over time and see how yoga affects that friendship. i would hope a yoga component would add a deep element. but who can say? this is going to be my new experiment for the summer: try to employ "joyful appreciation" and see what happens with my yoga buddy. will we end up being close friends? or will we just tire of sweating in the same room?

on a less serious note, a brooklyn coffee store often mentioned here, two for the pot, was featured on the local news channel new york one today. the owner of the store, john, has delighted in being ranked number 1 by zagat's for two years running. about time he got the publicity he deserves!

posted by fortune | 10:12 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Wednesday, May 23, 2001


this morning i got some email asking me about music for yoga. let me make four recommendations. . .

perhaps the most familiar yoga music is kirtan, or sanskrit chanting. some people really enjoy singing kirtan as well as listening to it during asana practice. three singers ('kirtan-wallahs") seem particularly well known here in the USA:


  • jeff kagel, also known as krishna das, and who has recorded with yoga students madonna and sting on his triloka label;

  • christian hunter, also known as keshav, apparently yet another pal of sting's;

  • wah, a friend of krishna das' who has toured with yoga student courtney love;

  • jai uttal, a jazz musician and friend of yoga students don cherry, blondie, and bob dylan, who has toured with popular bands like yoga students phish and the beastie boys.



the reason i mention all these celebrity names is not only to attest to the quality of the kirtan-wallahs' music, but also to show how influential kirtan has become in contemporary popular music.

as for records i like, i particularly prefer krishna das' live on earth 2 cd set, esp. the first song on the second cd, "devi puja." there are quite a few people from bangalore at my job, and one woman noticed this album. i lent it to her; she waxed enthusiastic about it for a week. she found it very spiritual, which i guess shows the quality and sincerity of krishna das' music.

if you have any others to recommend, don't hesitate to email me!

posted by fortune | 11:27 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Tuesday, May 22, 2001


hope you enjoyed your long holiday memorial weekend! i certainly spent a moment remembering the veteran in my family, homer kurtz, my great-uncle, who went "over there" in the first world war. he fell in love with a french mam'selle, but she wouldn't come back to the farm in kansas with him. . .whereupon it was said that when he returned home, he threw himself from the hayloft.

on a brighter note, although dying for love has a certain romantic quality, i spent the holiday making pizza. several people have made me aware that fresh mozzarella can be hard to come by in some places, although it is plentiful in italian brownstone brooklyn. this is certainly annoying! so herewith, i offer links to a nice mozzarella recipe.

because this great recipe offers many pictures, i won't post it here. let me just say that it's easier to make than it sounds and all it really requires are supermarket supplies. . .some yogurt, buttermilk, rennet, a very large bowl, and a cooking thermometer. many people find they make a better quality cheese by crushing up a normal vitamin c pill and adding it to the milk as well! the vitamin c helps the cheese form nicely and gives it an improved texture, just as vitamin c also helps the yeast in bread. interesting, hmm?

the recipe takes about 30 minutes of real work over the course of two or three days. the rest is all waiting. without any more delay -- Dr. Fankhauser's American Mozzarella.

note that you can use a microwave to heat the water at various times. here's a nice recipe for microwave mozzarella. while making your own fresh mozzarella costs about as much as buying it -- here in new york it's often as much as $6 a pound -- you do get the absolute freshest product. and by using different kinds of milks, salting it longer, etc. you can make a mozzarella exactly to your tastes. since it's easy to make in larger batches if you have room, you can also make a lot and give it to friends! it's a tremendous thing that everyone appreciates.

posted by fortune | 11:12 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Monday, May 21, 2001


so sorry another server hiccup! but i will keep my promise on the cookie recipe modifications, and also tell you about a brooklyn store that sells antique coffee pots.

talking to a friend of mine the other day who haunts various funky areas of the city to find hip places for cool magazines. what a way to make a living! she described to me a wacky shambles on the red hook pier called General Nightmare, where an extremely eccentric character sells (if he feels like it) various weird things.

like what i asked her? she said, oh, like the ugly stuff the young kids put in their apartments, and a lot of old fashioned kitchen stuff. what kind of kitchen stuff? oh, she said, like these strange looking coffee pots, very space age with bubbles. a light bulb went off in my head. vac
pots??? she also described what seemed like old chrome electric perc pots.but she didn't pay too much attention to them, as she was mostly riveted by the extremely eccentric owner.

red hook is of course by nyc standards in the middle of absolute nowhere and requires a car or car service to get to, not that any car service would take you there without a lot of protest!

here's the info: the "store" is called General Nightmare, 196 columbia st., past halleck st. on the pier. 718-858-8659. the hours, as such, appear to be thursday through sat, around noon to whenever (very late, possibly midnite if the owner feels like it). sunday in the afternoon.

i haven't been there myself and can't vouch for this info beyond the fact that my friend is into the ultra-funky. so for what it's worth. . . .

posted by fortune | 10:05 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Saturday, May 19, 2001


the most universally beloved form of chocolate has to be the chocolate chip cookie.

so without further delay, here is my recipe for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. crisp, but not too crunchy; a little thin, not puffy; delicate, not too doughy; with a full, buttery flavor. and the chips must be high quality. after i give the basic recipe, tomorrow i'll suggest modifications for those of you who like them chewier, crunchier, etc. they take only an hour to make total.

1 c. (2 sticks) (8 oz by weight on the scale) Plugra/Keller's European Style butter
1 c. (7 oz. by weight) white granulated sugar
1 c. (8 oz by weight) dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract
3 cups (13-1/2 oz by weight) King Arthur's Mellow Pastry Blend Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
16-20 oz. Callebaut bittersweet chocolate chips

preheat oven to 325 degrees. use nonstick cookie sheets, or line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

attach the paddle to your stand mixer (or use a hand mixer.) in the stand mixer bowl, cream butter and sugars together for 4 minutes (speed 5 or 6). scrape down the sides after 2 mins. mixture must be fluffy and should be an appetizing caramel color.

add eggs one at a time, beating well (speed 4) for 30 seconds after each one. add vanilla and beat (speed 4) for one minute. scrape bowl, beat (speed 4) one more minute.

combine flour, salt, and baking soda into one bowl. dump one third of this mixture into the creamed butter and eggs, mix lightly (speed 2) just to combine, about 15 sec.; add another third, repeat; add final third. beat (speed 4) for about 30-45 seconds.

set mixer on speed 1 or 2 and slowly pour in chips until combined evenly.

if you have a 3-4 oz. disher or small ice-cream scoop, use that to portion cookies onto sheets. otherwise, drop heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheets, spacing 1-1/2 inches apart. bake cookies 9-12 minutes, or until golden blonde. sides will be just dry and set; the centers risen but slightly shiny with a faintly visible crust. if edges are browned, cookies are overdone! avoid this!

remove cookies from oven and let firm on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes, until they can moved with a spatula. expect the cookies to deflate and firm up to become crispy. then move to rack and let cool completely. makes about 3 dozen.

cookies freeze well in ziplock freezer bags -- that is, if your friends and family don't filch them all first! try to freeze half, and keep the rest in an airtight container.

posted by fortune | 8:23 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Friday, May 18, 2001


for those of you considering whether the expense of private yoga lessons are worth it, let me offer an enthusiastic yes! for me, it's all about adjustment. . .

while in a group class a teacher can walk by and make a quick, helpful adjustment to a pose, it's only in a private lesson that a teacher can take the time to show you how your body, wherever it is at that moment, can compose the asana. this helps you move toward a more graceful and harmonious yoga practice.

this emphasis on adjustment means, i think, that you have to choose your private teacher with great care. i don't think it's enough to just like a teacher's personality, or to have enjoyed his or her group classes. you need to discuss their experience with adjustments. some teachers just don't do it well.

to my mind, alexander experience is a big help. while few yoga teachers are also alexander certified, many have taken a good number of alexander classes on their own and can bring some of those tenets to yoga.

so many yoga centers offer occasional alexander workshops! even if you can't afford to see a private teacher once a week, as i do, definitely consider enrolling at a weekend alexander workshop or find a continuing class to see how the alexander technique can help you become more aware of yourself. the ultimate goal is to be self-correcting in your asana, whether through the use of modifications or just gaining a better understanding of where your body is at any time.

posted by fortune | 10:51 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Thursday, May 17, 2001


let me take a moment to thank all my visitors -- i appreciate the thoughtful email you send. thanks for coming by and dropping me a line.

my previous flash-based magnetic poetry site came down as part of the widespread may reboot. while most people took the opportunity to put up even more pounding-techno flash sites with xml, i decided to go the other way, even though i love flash. the result: this blog. after a lot of thought and some discussion with my friends, i decided to make a more personal site that emphasized communication, rather than toss up a bunch of fancy scripting. and i hope this current site does this.

while i eat only darker chocolates, my husband still retains a preference for milk. but finding a good milk chocolate is difficult. valrhona has the best in its jivara milk chocolate, i think. it's only 40% chocolate solids, but that's rather high for most milk chocolate.

since i often enjoy cluizel chocolate as well, i have also tried their milk chocolate. cluizel is a family-owned company that manufactures its own chocolate. however, i have to say both my husband and i have been disappointed in the cluizel lait pur java 50% milk chocolate, which has surprisingly little chocolate flavor to my taste. the aftertaste seems plain flat to me, and i was surprised by a weird dry fattiness in the bar. i went running for a glass of water; that's how much i disliked the aftertaste and the way it left a coating on my tongue.

while my husband liked the valrhona, in the end he was just as happy with lindt. so i'm still searching for a really lovely milk chocolate for my husband. got a recommendation? drop it my way -- i'll appreciate it.

posted by fortune | 8:40 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Wednesday, May 16, 2001


some server problems kept me from publishing yesterday; please accept my apologies. yesterday's post dealt obsessively with the iced coffee i made from the caffe d'arte beans. by now it's almost needless to say that the coffee was perfection, rich, light, so very not bitter, and with a creamy head of foam as the french press plunger glided through. i made this pot at my office and its intoxicating aroma drew my poor starbucks-loving colleagues to my desk.

"the coffee here never smells like that," said one. the body of the coffee in the french press' etched glass cylinder glowed, a dark, jewel-like aubergine color, similar to wine. it contrasted so beautifully with earthy reddish brown foam, so near to the color you see in the murals of pompeii.

i've been making coffee at my desk now in a french press every morning for nearly the whole year i've worked here. i used to make peet's sulawesi. and i would offer the coffee to whomever wanted any, to save having to walk all around the office to the kitchen. but rarely would anyone take a cup.

and again, even with this compelling caffe d'arte, no one would actually dare to try any. the fear of the new and unknown. . .all i can do is offer. i've learned that it's the rare person who is willing to step up and try a different thing. sometimes these people are wild-eyed experience mongers. but the quiet, open personality is hard to find, and i always try to make friends with those types.

as for today, i'm still enjoying the pitcher of iced coffee i made yesterday with milk and a touch of sugar. it's a breezy spring day, just a tad cool. the weather this spring has been so changeable -- three hot days followed by a few cool days, three hot days, etc. -- but today had an unusual freshness about it.

walking down montague street in brooklyn heights, as everyone scurried to work, you couldn't help noticing how the wind turned the new leaves over and back in the sunlight. it was one of those mornings where when you get on the subway you are struck by how beautiful everyone looks, even as they droop against the poles with a crumpled newspaper.

posted by fortune | 7:01 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Monday, May 14, 2001


my greatest discovery at the vinegar factory is actually outside the realm of this site -- cheese.

i do love cheese, but the site can't be about everything. however, i do want to tell you about the creamy, rich taste of an artisanal cheese i discovered at the vinegar factory. it's a goat cheese from provence called banon. i highly recommend it.

it matched perfectly with the pain de campagne i made this weekend and would be great with cassis, iced ratafia de champagne, brandy, or maybe even scotch! because it picks up a slight nutty/grassy flavor from the chestnut leaves and has a lovely aroma of eau-de-vie, i think it's an excellent dessert cheese to serve with very ripe pears, cherries, or apricots. order it online or look for it at a cheesemonger near you. . .

let's take a moment to get back on topic. yoga contains an emphasis not only on asana, or postures, but also on mediation. many people lately have been combining vipassana or "insight" mediation, a buddhist tradition, with yoga. while i am far from expert in this area, let me say that i have enjoyed a practice known as loving-kindness meditation.

living in new york, the need for the four qualities of this practice are obvious: friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. presently i am going to start with the appreciative joy. this ties into some "homework" recommended by erich schiffmann. recently he commented:

"Wow: The homework was/is to look at things, one specific thing at a time, like a flower, and say "Wow. That flower is the specific and unique Self-expression of the Infinite. It is the Infinite being Itself as a flower." Then change your focus and keeping your eyes on the new thing, say the sentence again. It's fun. It slows you down. It helps you see the One in the Many."

of course when i bake and eat my bread, my coffee, my chocolate and cheese, it's a fine time to cultivate appreciative joy for the artisans, including myself, that make these simple and beautiful things possible for us to enjoy. to say, these things are an expression of the people who made them, not only to support themselves, but also as an artistic craft, as a way of expressing themselves and the infinite in them to the rest of us.

a friend of mine once reminded me of the zen saying that the most difficult things to do are: to eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty, and sleep when you're tired. i think a lack of appreciative joy is one of the components that make daily life seem so hard and depressing, and which is the source of so much self-hatred and anomie. at first it seems like a silly practice, and i must admit that i feel self-conscious and kinda dumb doing it. which make me ask myself: why do i resist? what is the fear of it? what could i possibly be trying to "protect" from it? so i'm trying to incorporate this meditation into my yoga practice every other day during shavasana.

posted by fortune | 8:26 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Sunday, May 13, 2001


as promised, i have a report on the coffee from the vinegar factory, and it's the day to finish up the bread.

beginning with the step two starter, it's time to take it on to step three "levain" and step four, full dough. for this you'll need:

5 oz. flour ( i used clear flour for its springiness and great taste)
5 oz. water

as before dissolve the step two starter in the water, stirring gently. add the flour and stir to combine. cover with plastic wrap and return to the levain to its rising place. generally, the levain should develop for 10 hours; however, with the continuing warm weather here, i had to check after just 4. and the levain was about to overflow its bowl! i very gently folded in a teaspoon of salt so as not to deflate the levain, thinking this would be enough to slow the dough down and keep it out through the night -- but when i started out of my sleep at 4 am, i knew something was up, and rushed to the bowl. that's right -- it was about to overflow again.

i had to accept that the warm humid weather was ahead of me, so i placed the levain in the fridge and went back to bed.

i awoke the next morning ready to discover the charms of the fresh-roasted coffee at the vinegar factory.

what a treat! as you promised, they had fresh-roasted coffee in resealable clear plastic 1 lb. one-way valve bags -- almost all varieties between $6 and $9.

naturally i nabbed the coffee roaster and we had a long chat. they use a beautiful new fully electronic gas-fired roaster, made by diedrich in sandpoint, idaho. it has some fancy venting so it can sit proudly out on the main floor.

the place has a restaurant on the second floor, which dictates their roasting schedule: on friday afternoon, and on saturday and sunday, they roast coffee for the restaurant. the rest of the week they roast for the store. since they let the coffee rest 24 hours before they sell it, the roastmaster said, the turnover works out so that you pretty much *can't* buy coffee more than 36 hours old there.

it's hot in nyc today, so i wanted a variety for iced coffee. the roastmaster indicated that the tanzanian peaberry and the mexican altura were the freshest varieties, having been roasted late on thurs. evening. since i was there on saturday morning, i felt that that was pretty great -- fresh coffee! some of the coffee is sold from bins, and they do have grinders there. i asked him how often they sharpened the burrs, and he said he didn't know off-hand.

i must say that the customer service is excellent and even the regular staff who just weigh and bag the coffee seemed to me to have a fair level of coffee knowledge.

i bought a half-pound of the altura, ground it at home, made it in the vac pot, then iced it. it was delicious, bright and with a caramel aftertaste. i don't normally drink this kind of coffee, so i was pleasantly surprised.

i returned home and removed the levain from the fridge so it could return to room temperature while i enjoyed my iced coffee. then i moved on to step four, full dough:

13-1/2 oz flour (again, i used clear flour)
8 oz. water
1 teaspoon salt (because, see above, i had already added 1 teaspoon earlier)

i gently poured the step three levain in the 5qt bowl of my stand mixer. it was gassy and tenacious, with long sticky strands of gluten that required a spatula to help out of the bowl. the scent was light and yogurty, think mild ocean breeze. i attached the paddle beater to my mixer, and again gently dissolved the levain into the water, setting the mixer on speed 1. then i added the flour to the bowl, and mixed at speed 2 until a rough, wet, sticky ball had formed. i sprinkled the remainng 1 teaspoon salt over this, and swapped out the paddle beater for the dough hook, which i quickly lubed with a brief shot of cooking spray.

i kneaded the dough on speed 2 for 6 minutes. the dough is very soft, and will climb the hook, so it's necessary to stop the mixer a couple of times and push the dough back down into the bowl. as the dough kneads, it changes to a glossy pool whose long gluten strands adhere to the sides of the bowl, stretching out and the dough hook moves through. the dough will be soft and tacky after kneading. just perfect!

when the kneading's finished, i simply cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in its usual place for 2 hours or until double. due this weather, it was nearly triple at 1 hour and 45 minutes! the dough remains quite soft. to give it extra springiness, i took a spatula and folded the bottom edge of the dough up into the center. then i gave the bowl a quarter turn, and repeated the procedure. i did this about 12 times. the effect on the dough was obvious right away -- it had more bounce even though it was still very soft and wet.

since i have a 14-inch pizza peel, i cut a large piece of baking parchment to cover the blade, and set that on the peel. if you don't have a peel, you can use a cutting board or sheet pan. sprinkling the parchment liberally with flour, i poured the dough onto the parchment. the first time you make bread with this method, you might be amazed, because the dough seems to puddle out. "how," you ask yourself," will this ever turn into a loaf?" but it will -- don't be afraid!

after letting the dough rest for 5 minutes, i sprinkled it with more flour and grabbed an edge of the dough, to repeat the folding procedure above. now the dough looks more like the tight ball you might expect! then i turned the dough over, folding seam side down, and covered it with lightly oiled plastic wrap. normally i would let it rise until not quite double, about 1-1/2 hours. but of course due to the weather, the dough was ready in just 45 minutes!

30 minutes before i expected the loaf to be ready, i preheated my oven to 500 degrees. i like to use a baking stone, but a bread cloche, quarry tiles, or even a normal baking sheet will do. by the time the dough was ready, it had slumped back into puddle. but i wasn't worried -- because i know that in the oven it will spring into a gracious free-form loaf.

i quickly slashed the loaf with four cuts to form a square -- the dough was so liquid, they nearly filled in immediately. but i knew the design would remain in the final loaf as a nice decoration. then i carefully slid the loaf, still on the parchment, into the oven and immediately reduced the heat to 450 degrees. if you're not using a cloche, at this time you can quickly mist the sides of your oven with a little water. i use your average plant mister to give a few fast squirts. . .

this loaf normally take 30-40 minutes to bake, until an instant read thermometer thrust into the center shows 195 to 200 degrees. don't overbake, and don't peek! set your timer for 30 minutes and be patient! looking at your loaf you will find that it will have transformed from a lake of dough into a cookbook-picture-perfect rustic-looking loaf.

it's important to set this bread on a rack to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing. the center is still firming up, and the flavors developing. slicing too early will give disappointing results. the reward for your patience? a nice-sized peasant loaf, with a crunchy, thin crust; a moist, resilient crumb filled with large, airy holes; a tender flavor bursting with the taste of grain.

i settled down to a lunch of my new loaf with slices of an artisanal sweet sopresetta, an herbed goat cheese, and moroccan carrot salad, all washed down with the iced coffee. wait, you ask, where did the sopresetta and cheese come from? tomorrow i'll tell you about some other treasures i found at the vinegar factory. . .

posted by fortune | 9:58 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Friday, May 11, 2001


today's the day to continue with the starter from the pain de campagne rustique. it's only 10 minutes work!

depending on how long you've let the starter work and the temperature of your kitchen, the original "step one" starter could now have a hard, dried-out crust. this has to be removed before you continue. also, give the starter a good sniff. since we used rye in the starter, which naturally ferments well and gives good flavor to the bread later on, it will have a somewhat more intense smell than a starter based on whole wheat alone. make sure you're happy with what you've got before you continue.

you need at least 1 tablespoon of tangy-smelling, active starter to proceed. of course with the amount of flour that we started with, even if you have to trim off a great deal of hard crust, you should have more than that. if you think the starter is active, but has too strong or sour a smell, throw half of it away -- this will reduce the amount of acid already in the starter while preserving enough yeasties to get you to the next stage.

remember, all you need now is a tablespoon or two of living starter. if, however, the starter really stinks repulsively, you may want to start all over again. or you can forge onward in the hope that the yeasties will outgrow the beasties in this second step. here are the ingredients for step two:

5 oz (by weight) flour
5 oz (by weight) less-than-lukewarm non-chlorinated water

place your trimmed, "step one" starter in a large clean bowl, and stir in the all the water. thoroughly dissolve the step one starter in the water, stirring as gently as possible. some people use 90 degree water; others use 65 to 70 degree water. i usually use the cooler water, personally. stir in the 5 oz. flour. this can be whole wheat flour, unbleached white all-purpose flour, or a mixture of the two.

again, cover this dough with plastic wrap and return it to its rising place. let it develop for 24 hours. if however the weather is warm, do check it at 4, 8, and 10 or 12 hours! if you find it growing absolutely out of control, try mixing in 1 teaspoon salt, which will slow down the yeast action considerably. just remember to subtract that salt from the amount you add to the final dough.

tomorrow we'll continue with the bread, and then chat more about where in new york and brooklyn you can find truly fresh coffee. i do hope to introduce you soon to burdick's charming handmade artisan chocolates in the shape of tiny cute mice and baby bunnies, perfumed with fennel, lavendar, lemon verbena, and other old-fashioned flavors. . . we enjoy them here thanks to john at two for the pot.

tomorrow will also feature a pilgrimage to eli zabar's vinegar factory in search of lovely fresh-roasted coffee suitable for iced. . .unless the bread takes an unexpected turn!

posted by fortune | 11:16 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Thursday, May 10, 2001


this morning i made iced coffee with the beans from caffe d'arte. and it was heavenly.

i didn't use the vac pot, which i keep at home. instead i marched proudly into my job with the freshly ground beans in my hot pink longchamps bag and made it in a french press that i keep at my desk. the result: pure wonder. the coffee has pours like wine, with a deep brown-purple color exactly like an italain eggplant. mixed with milk and ice, it's light and refreshing. i don't use sugar in my coffee, and this certainly didn't call for any.

again, i highly recommend the coffees of maurizio cipolla! between this and the mexican altura from the vinegar factory, i'm set for the summer.

but what about brooklyn? i'm determined some time this weekend to get back to d'amico's coffee in cobble hill, buy some coffee and talk to them about their roasting. look for this info soon! there are many underexplored resources in our fair brooklyn; let's see if d'amico's is one of them!

posted by fortune | 11:36 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Wednesday, May 09, 2001


as promised, today i'm starting a pain de campagne rustique, a bread made with natural leavens.

many recipes for this kind of loaf start with a firm dough. however, i prefer a more liquid starter, one of equal parts flour and water. i start with 4 oz. flour. and i mean oz., measured by weight on a scale. i can't emphasize this enough -- weigh all of your ingredients, even the liquids! get yourself a nice scale if you need one. there are many kinds at many price ranges.

so here's my starter recipe:

2 oz. organic rye flour
2 oz. organic whole wheat flour (neither bread nor pastry, just regular all-purpose whole wheat)
4 oz. water

i advise that you don't use tap water, which has chlorine. and that might inhibit the natural yeasties we are trying to capture from the air. i personally use evian or volvic water. don't laugh! some believe you should make this starter in a non-metal bowl with a wooden spoon, as well. many have told me it doesn't make any difference, so see what works for you.

i beat this mixture together for a quick 200 strokes in a medium bowl and then cover with plastic wrap. put it in a warm-ish (somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees) place for 24-48 hours. in the winter, it will definitely be 48 hours. in the summer, in nice warm humid weather, however, it could be as little as 24 hours.

how do you know when it's ready? the starter will have risen slightly, or even doubled. it will have a light froth on top, and be filled with tiny bubbles throughout. if you were to stir it gently, you might even see a heavy layer of liquid on the bottom, known as "hooch." the starter should smell tangy, like buttermilk, or a wet dog, but in a pleasant way.

if it smells horrible, then you've caught some nasty beasties with your good yeasties. at this point, most people toss the starter and try again. this isn't always necessary, since most of the time but not always the good yeasties will engage in a darwinian struggle with the nasty beasties and win. on a few occasions, the yeasties will lose. so the choice is yours. if it smells bad -- your entire kitchen will just stink unbearably -- you can take the safe route and toss the starter, or trust in darwin and continue on. you might say it's a test of non-faith. . . .

posted by fortune | 12:07 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments


Tuesday, May 08, 2001


a young woman's thoughts turn to chocolate on these cooler spring days!

not only will i start some bread tomorrow, i'm thinking about buying some chocolate. ordinarily, i would have schlepped into mall-hattan and dropped a kidney to buy chocolate at dean & deluca. don't protest -- i'm well aware of the existence of the kitchen market, which is almost as expensive and even snobbier. (their chocolate selections aren't listed on their website.) but lately the charming coffee store down the street (at atlantic and clinton), two for the pot, has taken to carrying scharffenberger and callebaut chips. so convenient.

i also have delighted in the dusty back shelves of the famous economy candy, on the lower east side, where you can get name brand chocolate -- valrhona, cluziel, cote d'or, lindt, callebaut, scharffenberger and many others -- at discount prices. the only problem is storage. i'm not always happy with the condition of the chocolate at economy. even allowing for just average photography, you can see from their website that bloom and condition can be less than optimum, as in the pictures of the chocolate wafers.

i'm well aware that not everyone across the country has the option of hopping on the subway and choosing from 4 stores for chocolate. i've heard a lot of good things about the boutique chocosphere in portland, oregon. i haven't bought there myself, but the prices are somewhat less than dean & deluca, although the shipping costs can be serious.

still, if you want to feature a high quality chocolate in your torrone or tart and live far from a fancy store, chocosphere's bulk options could be helpful to you. by bulk i don't mean discount, but rather in chef and caterer's sizes -- 1 and 2 kilo lots! they also carry some chocolates, like nirvana, that are very hard to find. not even dean & deluca carries them regularly. so check them out. and if you have a really super recipe for fudgy, dense chocolate brownies, send it my way, will you?

posted by fortune | 10:40 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments