The Bread Feed
It’s cherry season! I never get tired of eating them one by one, but for something different, I took a pound of dark, firm sweet cherries and baked them into a schiacciata.
Wait… a what? Say: skya-CHA-ta. Think: a Tuscan classic (often made with grapes) whose name is Italian for “squashed.” See: a golden flat bread, similar to focaccia, bejeweled with juice-oozing fruit. Taste: the sweetness of cherries, rosemary, and anise against the backdrop of an olive-oil scented bread, wonderful for breakfast or a snack.
The cherry version is a bit more messy than the grape version because pitting the cherries (and for heaven’s sake make the small investment in a cherry pitter) allows their juice to escape into the dough as you are mixing them in, making the dough both wetter and pinker. I did not find this to be especially troublesome, but an alternative to mixing the fruit in would be to sandwich it between two layers of flattened dough.
My mom wasn't the most diplomatic person on earth but she had a huge heart and her love for her family never faltered. I miss her sorely. Everyday and especially today.
Street art in Chico It was our first night in California for this trip - we had stopped in Chico in the Sacramento River Valley - and I had a dream.
It started with a commotion in the garage at our old house. I could hear it through the closed door. Women's voices. My husband's voice. He was protesting loudly. I opened the door and saw a silver white van parked in the empty garage where our car used to be. The van's nose was facing out and its back hutch was up. Two silver-haired ladies were standing in front of it, arms crossed, barring access. I rushed out. "What's going on?" The ladies' arms came down: "Miss, we have a delivery for you and you only. Here it is." Turning, they pulled out a big white cardboard box and opened it. The side walls fell away. In the back of the van now stood a tall house plant in a large old-fashioned copper pot with wrought-iron handles. The plant had silvery lacy leaves and a pale green stem edged with a downy blush.
One of the ladies handed me an envelope. The message was in my mom's familiar handwriting: "May this plant bring you much happiness in your new home." Never mind that mom has been gone four years now. In my dream I felt both happiness that she had remembered, tenderness to see that she hadn't changed (she always loved giving house plants) and frustration that she had gotten the dates and addresses mixed up because the moving van was gone and we were flying down and there was no way I could take this big plant with me on the plane...
I was about to wake up out of sheer vexation when I felt a tug on my sleeve. It was a young boy. One I couldn't recall having seen before. He lay a hand on my forearm and said almost shyly: "I am very happy you are moving to California" and just like that he was gone. But not so fast that I didn't catch sight of a shock of shiny dark hair and a pair of bright eyes. Noah! It had been Noah. Older than he would be today for sure. In his early teens probably and different looking but the hair, the eyes were unmistakable...
I woke up for good. My heart was beating fast and I was elated. Call me weird, call me sentimental, call me irrational. I will be the first to agree that all of that may well apply. But I felt deeply comforted.
A couple of hours later the Man and I went out for breakfast (for real this time) and on the table next to ours in the café where we had coffee and a croissant was this paper that someone had left or forgotten...
The headline grabbed my attention first of course. But then I saw the hands and I understood that these hands were what the dream had been all about: holding on for dear life on either side of the Great Divide.
I don't intend to ever stop...
But see, we used to have kids in the area and we no longer do. They moved back to Northern California last summer. After several months of pondering, we decided to follow. Onwards to an environment of golden vistas and drought-resistant yards. It will be quite an adjustment, I am sure. But a happy one too. And as much as I love the Northwest, I'll be glad for more sunny days and long walks on nearby beaches.
The house is sold. We found good homes for what we couldn't take with us and packed the rest. All my baking stuff is already down in California (our son came up to help us pack and drove back with it), so that right now this baker's only connection to bread is eating the loaves stored in the freezer, which is good but not as much fun as playing with dough! I have a couple of Meet the Bakers posts lined up but they will have to wait until we settle down again. New starters will need to be created, a different oven experimented with, local ingredients sourced and tried out. All this plus a visit to our other kids across the country next month is making for a busy start of summer with little computer time. So please bear with me if I don't post much for a while... I'll be back as soon as things quiet down a bit.
Also, if any of you are traveling to the south of France this summer, I'd like to point you towards a bakery which a friend of mine is opening this Saturday in Marseille: it is called Dame Farine (it means "Lady Flour" and it has no connection to this blog) and it is located 77 avenue de la Corse (more photos on facebook). Marie-Christine is an excellent baker and I can't wait to visit her bakery myself. If you go, please say hi! to her for me and send me pictures of her bread!
The weather is warming up here in the Northern Hemisphere. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, now would be a great time to start one from scratch. Flour, water, and patience are the only ingredients. You could be baking up a few loaves of Norwich Sourdough in as little as one week from now!
Dan Barber -who is also the co-owner of of Blue Hill Restaurant and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York- just published The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, a book which relies on personal experience and field stories to promote a way of eating that is focused on the environment and what it can sustainably produce.
I just started reading it and I am already hooked: Barber presents a fresh and compelling vision and I am excited at the prospect of a debate on his ideas.
Dan Barber will be one of the keynote speakers at the Grain Gathering in Mt Vernon, Washington, later this summer.