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Saturday, July 07, 2001

we haven't talked about bread recently have we? so here's a little italian chocolate bread you might enjoy!

use high-quality chocolate and cocoa for this bread -- valrhona or scharffen-berger are my recommendations. this is a light "pane al cioccolato," not too much chocolate, not too rich.

3 c. (13-1/2 oz.) King Arthur European-style Artisan bread flour
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

sift these ingredients together in the bowl of your stand mixer. make a well in the center.

1 teaspoon SAF yeast
1 cup (8 oz) water

pour these into the center of the well, attach the paddle beater, and mix to a soft dough.

2 tablespoons softened Plugra/Keller's European-style butter

add these to the dough and mix for 1 min. switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-10 mins. until smooth and elastic. the dough may be a little soft and tacky. tear a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover the bowl. place the dough on the plastic, wash the bowl quickly, and lightly oil it. put the dough back in the oiled bowl, cover with the plastic, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. in warm weather, it will rise faster, so check periodically.

3 oz. chopped high-quality chocolate, 56-70%, depending on what you like

gently deflate the dough. spread it out into a rough rectangle on a board or the plastic and sprinkle with the chocolate. gently knead the dough for a minute or two to distribute the chocolate evenly. let the dough rest for 5 mins. shape it into 1 large round or 2 small rounds. let rest 5 mins.

lightly oil a 6-inch round deep souffle or cake pan. place the dough in the pan, cover with the plastic, and let rise again until double in bulk, about 45 mins. the dough should come up to the top of the pan.

preheat your oven to 425 degrees. bake the bread for 10 mins.; reduce heat to 375 degrees. bake another 25-30 mins. or until the internal temperature of the loaf is 195 degrees. brush the loaf with melted butter, remove from pan, and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

posted by fortune | 6:51 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, July 06, 2001

the cool weather continues today. . .which makes me think of chocolate.

i felt like i had a good handle on the most common brands of quality chocolate. but the beauty of the internet is that smaller, gourmet european brands that are usually not imported can now get more attention. thus i've come to discover an italian chocolate: cuba venchi ciccolato.

according to their website, you can find cuba at the dread what-do-i-need-more-this-or-my-kidney? dean & deluca. however, i don't recall ever having seen the chocolates there, so their stock may be sporadic. since it's july, ordering chocolate to ship is too risky -- i'll be checking in with the dean & deluca folks.

note that cuba venchi offers chocolate and rum torrone. now that sounds like something to have with a cup of coffee! in general, cuba venchi is famed for their hazelnut confections, the candies and truffles filled with gianduja, or hazelnut praline. i'm not wild about hazelnut personally, which i realize is a defect, since gianduja is an acknowledged masterpiece of flavor in the chocolate world.

however, i have to confess i'm looking forward to trying the 75% chocolate candy with extra bitter cream. sounds like a perfect match for an afternoon cappucino break! not that i'd refuse one of their basic 56% bars, though. . .

posted by fortune | 11:35 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, July 05, 2001

received my black "transformer" mat from bheka! and it is awesome.

the black mat is very thick and heavy; it easily weighs 4 times what a regular yoga mat does. it is also about 3 times as thick & cushy. ah! relief for poses where you set your knee on the floor! finally you don't have to interupt yourself to drag a blanket around to cushion your knees!

when you get your new transformer mat, it does have a strong "plastic" smell. you'll have to wash it twice in the bathtub to get rid of it. further, it's not quite as "sticky" as other yoga mats. this can be good for some postures (shoulderstand) but bad for others (standing balance poses). on a very hot day you will definitely need a hand towel to keep your hands from sliding in down dog.

the nice people at bheka were frank in telling me that the mat takes a week to 10 days to break in. they're definitely right about that! my new mat is still a tad stiff, which makes folding it over for things like camel pose difficult right now.

the two sides of this mat are very similar. most yoga mats have one obviously bumpy, sticky side, and a smooth side. the transformer's sides are more alike; the textured side is barely bumpy. the people at bheka told me that they practiced on the smooth side! i'll update you on this mat next week, but so far i'm enjoying it. also, since it comes in a longer length, it may be the only off-the-shelf mat good for people over 6 feet tall.

with the mat, i also ordered the handsome and sturdy rip-stop nylon mat bag. it has a nice-sized velcro pocket on the side, and a strong barrel clasp to close the bag. all the cloth, velcro and stitching are first rate. the bag's wide mouth makes it easy to get the thick transformer mat in and out. so i recommend the mat bag as well.

finally, i got a little yoga-tard with short legs. bheka offers them with a wonderful coolmax gusset, a lovely six-way gusset sewn firmly down into the legs. this means the garment is much less likely to rip open in a warrior vinyasa, as once happened to me with a more expensive but less-well-made speedo garment. very embarrassing! (in all honesty i must say that speedo does not appear to be selling this garment any longer.)

unlike many exercise garments, the bheka yoga-tard runs true to size. so if you order a woman's medium, it really fits a dress size 8-10, unlike other lines of clothing that tend to run smaller than their stated sizes. again, i found the quality of the stitching and material to be high. the only problem i found with it so far is that the bands on the legs tend to roll up a bit in a vigorous practice. this means that you may find yourself pulling the legs down once or twice, which i didn't find too troublesome. i don't really like the feel of elastic on my legs, so i'd rather tug a bit than endure that pinchy feel, personally.

finally, the garment has a nice wide cotton shelf bra, cut to where your rib cage rounds, with a non-binding elastic band. i'm not large chested, but if you were, the extra length in the shelf would be good for you, since some women complain that the band slips up in many other garments, making them fall out underneath.

all in all, bheka has fair prices, honest shipping, good customer service and quality products. i recommend their equipment to those seeking plain, no-nonsense, practical yoga gear.

posted by fortune | 10:53 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

sometimes you don't want an espresso, and the fragile glass vac pot seems like too much work. . .for these times you long for the rich, yet simple coffee made in the stovetop moka or napoletana pot.

while we're used to the basic octagonal versions of these, pressed from cheap aluminum, you may rightly feel that they're not handsome enough to sit out on your stove all the time. which is why i'd like to direct you to some sites that offer better looking, stainless steel stovetop pots that won't break the bank. and yet they still make delightful gourmet coffee.

vev is a name well-known in italy. i particularly like the slender and handsome vespresso pot. despite its sleek shape, it's made of heavy materials, which conduct and hold the heat well. however, you may find the straight handle hard to hold.

if so, perhaps you'd be more interested the musa pot by respected maker guido bergna. its curved bakelite handle is pleasant to hold. the matching euro-sized coffee cups and vinegar and oil decantars are quite stylish too.

bialetti offers a nice pot, class, with a gently curved rubber handle that's heat resistant and especially easy to grip. any of these pots would look quite attractive in your kitchen and won't break the bank.

if you're not on a budget, however, do take a gander at the high-end alessi pots. they are gorgeous and functional. for example, the famous 9090 post-modern retro pot by designer richard sapper. however, i personally prefer the looks of another alessi pot, the 90018 by riccardo dalisi. however, its straight wooden handle and plain stainless loop are probably not the nicest fit for the hand. and since both of these pots generally retail for more than $200, you really need to just love the way the look on your burner!

my emphasis on the handle may seem peculiar, but when hefting a heavy 8-10 cup pot of hot, steaming coffee, you may find it more important than you at first thought!

posted by fortune | 12:38 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

a magazine i heartily recommend is fresh cup, a publication aimed at owners of hip little independent coffeehouses. it has great articles on coffee, tea, interesting notes on the business of both, and a section of new products.

a product i discovered there -- da vinci syrups. i'm not one of those people who pour a ton of caramel or hazelnut sweet goop into my coffee, but i know many people just love a caramel latte with a lazy sunday brunch. while monin or torani are probably better known syrups, i've come to think the da vinci have a fuller flavor. they are excellent for use anywhere you'd use a simple syrup or corn syrup (for example, in chocolate frostings and glazes) or of course as a flavoring for your latte.

check it out -- fresh cup magazine.

posted by fortune | 6:09 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, July 02, 2001

the weather is so nice and cool today after the huge thunderstorms last night. very refreshing. a perfect day to go do yoga.

which i will in just a few minutes. but before i rush off after the end of a busy, busy afternoon, i wanted to encourage everyone to find time over these next few 4th of july holiday days to make more time for your yoga.

if your local yoga center is closed, or you're feeling unmotivated by your usual collection of tapes, i recommend you check out shiva rea's 2 CD yoga set, yoga sanctuary. with a programmable CD player, it gives you a nice variety of possible classes -- choose the tracks you want, repeat the tracks you like, skip the tracks that don't have anything that you're interested in today.

i recommend these CDs a lot. . . namaste!

posted by fortune | 2:42 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, July 01, 2001

speaking of italian food, actually my personal favorite little neighborhood -type italian place in brooklyn is noodle pudding. funny name for an italian restaurant, hmm?

but the food is very nice, esp. the daily specials. i've only been disappointed by a few things on the menu. (sadly, the coffee and chocolate offerings are the places where the disappointment registers most.) whereas the fresh paparadelle with local caprini and fresh roasted yellow and orange tomatoes is delectable. . .and while the "art" on the walls needs fast improvement, it's still a fun place for a moderately priced meal filled with fresh summer flavors.

on a more serious note, after john friend sent me his email, i was trying to bone up a little more tantra. i guess the most interesting idea for me was:

"nature is love and the giving of love and . . . the realization of love can, after an arduous training, be experienced in man's nature." (see here for full context)

this is a little more meaningful than say, a john lennon-esque superficial hippie-dippie "love is all you need." of which i think we've all become rightly suspicious. it's an interesting idea though; but one definitely in need of proof in these post-milosevic times! while i enjoy yoga, i also try to keep an open mind about its philosophy. and a sense of humor! i mean, all we're doing is standing on our heads in an old building with a leaky roof near a run-down section of brooklyn!

posted by fortune | 9:07 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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