Bread Baking Workshop in Paris

Way back in 2011 when I was living in Paris, my mom came to visit. We decided to cap off our Mother-Daughter week with a Croissant-making workshop at Le Cordon Bleu. It was a day-long workshop where we made croissants, pain au chocolat, and brioche. We went back home and did our best to replicate what we learned in class, and it was the beginning of our croissant-making journey. We liked the class so much, we had our eyes set on an even more encompassing class—the four day “Traditional Bread Baking” Workshop. This fall, we finally had the opportunity to spend four days baking everything from mini baguettes, country loaves, spelt breads and pain au lait (my favorite), to of course, the best venoisserie of all— croissants and pain au chocolat.

Mini baguettes and country loaves

Mini baguettes and country loaves

We started the week with kneading my hand. Wow, quite the workout for this girl who is so used to the dough hook on my stand mixer! We basically went straight from the airport to our first day of class, but even though we were pretty jet-lagged, we were super energized by our instructor and just being in Paris, baking! We made little spelt breads shaped like wheat, and then we made buns, and lastly, a spinach sandwich bread. (We made about 3 different breads each day.) . Needless to say, everything came out scrumptious, but most importantly, I took away some really basic skills that could be applied to baking, universally.

Pain au lait

Pain au lait

Le Cordon Bleu has moved locations since 2011, but it’s still in the chic 15th arrondissement—now, in a super modern building with a gorgeous view of the Seine and the gorgeous 16th arrondissement. In fact, from our class, we could view the miniature version of Lady Liberty. We were on the top floor, but I got a chance to sneak up on the rooftop where there’s a gorgeous rooftop garden growing everything from herbs to tomatoes and eggplants—all used in the classes at school. It was also fun peeking into some of the other classrooms and watching the career students hard at work or in demos. (I didn’t exactly find the wine program students—apparently they were on a field trip to the Cognac region of France, drinking Cognac..)

The rooftop garden—the perfect place for a break!

The rooftop garden—the perfect place for a break!

And perhaps even more important than ingredients, recipes or techniques, we learned about the actual baking process—from deck ovens that costs tens of thousands of dollars and more tips and tricks to recreate those sophisticated machines at home. It was an incredibly jam packed, at times exhausting four days, but it was an incredible learning and cultural experience!

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One Last Summer Hurrah! (A cookbook writing kinda summer)

This summer has been an amazing and busy one. I am knee-deep in recipe testing and writing for my very first cookbook. It’s such a dream to be able to tell stories and share recipes in one cohesive place, and I seriously can’t wait to share that with all of YOU! But, let me tell ya: It’s not easy! It’s so much more than just a collection of blog posts and recipes. This is a whole different beast and isn’t like anything i’ve ever done before (In fact, I almost titled this post: “Writing a cookbook is really hard!”) But, I’ve learned that most things in life have a learning curve, so it’s really satisfying and rewarding to make it over some of these tough humps.

A weekend of cookbook recipe testing at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow’s Culinary Suite

A weekend of cookbook recipe testing at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow’s Culinary Suite

The summer has been so jam-packed: from the NABJ journalism conference in Miami, to a birthday trip to Negril, Jamaica where I ate ackee and saltfish for breakfast, pepper shrimp on the side of the road, and swam in the caves and jumped off of the Negril cliffs.

But, it was awesome to end on such a high note in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. So, how was the highlight of my summer a few weeks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas?!

Well, I must admit that I had never heard of Eureka Springs until I discovered the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow (https://www.writerscolony.org/). It just so happens that Eureka Springs is a gorgeous town with sprawling views, replete with natural springs, and is a progressive pocket and art hub in Northwest Arkansas, about an hour outside of Bentonville and American Art Museum Crystal Bridges. It’s a town that forces you to relax and chill—the perfect environment to foster creativity and writing. And the best part? They have a culinary suite that’s specifically designed for people testing recipes and writing cookbooks. I knew it would be the perfect place for me to end my summer recipe development and writing with a bang.

It was such a change of pace from NYC. I started each morning by having tea on my porch, rocking in a chair and reading poetry and the culinary historian Jessica Harris’s memoir. I then got to work in this giant, gorgeous kitchen, with double convection ovens and just about everything I needed to test many, many recipes in a single day. I ended the day with a feast prepared by the resident chef, Jana. When I needed a break, I’d take a walk through the hilly town, and would arrive back home, ready to make buttercream and butterscotch. Within a few feet, I’d probably pass a family of deer leisurely crossing the street, or the green Eureka Springs Trolley going by..

But alas, the summer is melding into autumn, and the temperatures are cooling down, and I’m back in the City. I’m so thrilled to be back in the swing of things, back to recording our Why Food? Podcast at Heritage Radio Network and being plugged into the food scene here. But, I’m already planning my next trip to Eureka. The amount of work I got done in an abbreviated time was simply unparalleled. I have to see how the next month goes—I may need another baking and writing retreat at the Writer’s Colony before this book is written!