A Friend in Knead

Deli Rye Bread

Alas, bread has been less forgiving of me than even my high school girlfriend. During the last few sun-dappled months of senior year, she came to realize I was genetically predisposed to want to go to our prom with her brother rather than with her. Understandably steamed, she gave me an astonishingly icy shoulder for weeks. She softened eventually, in no short thanks to my inimitable charm and style tips, and we remained friends. But my relationship with bread? Forgive the pun, but it hasn’t been so cut and dried. From the very beginning of my cooking days, I’ve been inexplicably drawn to desserts and attracted to savories. On the other hand, baking creations of the yeasted kind terrified me. Then came Jim Lahey’s miraculous no-knead bread recipe and its breathless promise of perfect boules, which swept the Internet and spawned two books. I was extraordinarily curious. I bought a copy, pulled out my Le Creuset, and baked. And baked some more—yet my boules look more like Middle Eastern flatbreads. It felt as if bread had a vendetta against me, as if it was punishing me for my dalliances with puff pastry, cakes, and cookies the size of coffee saucers. Read more »

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese Recipe

There is nothing about me that is remotely Southern. I can’t name the capital of Virginia. I have no idea whether Lee or Grant led the Confederate troops into battle (although I do know who won the war). And for the life of me, I simply don’t get the concept of boiled peanuts. For years my only primer to Southern society and mores was Gone With the Wind. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I have, when in a mischievous mood, borrowed from Scarlett O’Hara, that great icon of Southern strength and frivolity, when entertaining. See, our house in Connecticut has four ridiculous columns in front. It looks more like an antebellum home from the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon Line than anything remotely in keeping with the neighborhood. When we’re expecting guests known for their resilient senses of humor and hearty constitutions, I don my big floppy gardening hat, sit primly on the front stairs, and prattle on in my best Southern accent to no one in particular, peppering it with plenty of “fiddle-dee-dee”s. Vivien Leigh won an Oscar for her flibbertigibbet ways. I’m usually awarded a chorus line of shaking heads and pitiful looks as everyone steps over me on their way inside. Read more »

Fresh Ham and Cheese Croissants

Cindi’s Croissants

Croissants. Not just any croissants. Freshly baked ham and cheese croissants. And not “croy-santz,” but true, honest-to-god, homemade “krwa-sawhn.” That’s what I’m talking about.

I don’t make croissants nearly as often as I should. For the longest time, I’ve relied upon my dear friend Cindi Kruth. Cindi is one of our recipe testers, as well as one hell of a baker. The One and I went over to her and her husband Martin’s home one Saturday morning last autumn, and what awaited us? These croissants. About two dozen of them, fresh out of the oven. As soon as we walked in the door, she swung around with a rack of these in her hands. I’m not ashamed to admit I ate about six myself. How could I not?

Yes, yes, I can imagine what you’re thinking now, as you look below for a recipe and don’t find one. How much ham and cheese are we supposed to use, David? Why haven’t you included the recipe, David? Are you trying to torture us, David? Read more »

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