October 31, 2011

the new normal

Isn't it interesting how quickly unique and different become normal? I made my first trip to Switzerland just about this time last year. Everything was new, everything. All at once. Bam! We spent entire evenings recapping everything we had seen and done and everything we had put on our list to do and see next time. We were so distracted by all this newness that we barely noticed we were sitting on the kitchen floor eating out of plastic bowls and drinking out of plastic cups.

Since that first weekend Zürich has gone from new to almost normal. It feels so normal now that I forget to share it with you, and that's why I'm sharing our recent trip to Colmar, it's new, for me and for you, and it reminded me with its Disney Land-esq quaintness, that everything I see in this little slice of the world that we live in is different and unique, even when it begins to feel normal.
Zach's great-grandfather was from Colmar, so it has been on our to-visit list every since we moved to Zurich, but somehow we get distracted with other trips and weekend activities and we never quite make it there. We almost didn't make it last Saturday. Swayed by the changing leaves we almost headed South into the Mountains, but then we made a last minute decision and zipped across the Swiss-French border for a lunch date in Colmar.
I have to give credit to Zach for the last two photos. The one of me is a bit out of focus, but I love the lighting and the look on my face reminds me that just because things feel a bit more normal now doesn't mean that they aren't unique. And I love the second picture because it the pastels remind me of Easter and spring just as we are begin to grapple with with dark afternoons and snow (still cannot believe it snowed on the East Coast this past weekend, before Halloween, wow).
We've come to love traveling outside of Switzerland for the simple reason that the minute we cross the border to France, Italy, Germany, everything is just so damn cheap. This restaurant is advertising a three course meal for 11 euros. That is basically free in Zurich terms.
We were on our way to the train station when we spotted these waffles being made. We had to have one, obviously.
In all honesty I found Colmar a bit tooooo cute. It was so cute that it felt fake, like a blown up version of the little villages seen by children as they ride in little row boats through 'It's A Small World' at Disney World (which admittedly was one of my favorite rides when I was little). Can't you just imagine people popping out of these windows, dressed in period pieces, and singing?

Sorry about my little absence from blogging. I know some of you were curious/worried as to where I went. All is well. Things have been busy. I started working on a little architecture project that kept me away from cooking and photographing last week. Perhaps I'll share it with you in an upcoming post...

October 20, 2011

dusk and dawn

These days seem to disappear into the dusk. They also seem to creep out of the dawn. I'm usually not a witness to the changing morning light, preferring to wake up when the sun's already up, but considering it doesn't rise until almost 8, I've become uncomfortably familiar eating my breakfast in the dark, wrapped in a blanket. I've actually been getting up early enough to have breakfast with Zach, which is pretty much unheard of in the history of our nine years together. He's an early bird. Always has been. He get's anxious if he sleeps past 8 on the weekends. Not me. I inherited my mom's night owl tendencies. She's always up past midnight, creeping around the kitchen, lurking on her computer, flipping between Letterman and Leno. And I'm up too...creeping, lurking and flipping. But not this week. This week I've been trying to shift my clock by getting up early and not snoozing the morning away. Getting up early means that I'm pretty much ready for dinner by 5, but Zach still doesn't get home until 7 or 8 so I have to keep myself busy and out of the house so I don't eat everything in sight. Generally I walk along the lake, but today I wandered to a little cafe called Piazza (Idaplatz 2, 8003 Zürich) that a friend pointed out when we were out walking on the other side of town. I brought a sketch book, ordered a cafe creme, and pretty much just stared out the window for a while. It was nice, a good change of scenery.
This was my type of cafe - my cafe creme came with a cute little mug of cream instead of the typical individual plastic containers. It also arrived on a silver platter with a glass of water and a little chocolate. And it was actually one of the cheaper coffees I've had in a cafe, 4francs (for all my American readers, that is actually cheap).
So I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep this early morning thing up, but I will say that it feels really good to have accomplished two hours of work before 9. What doesn't feel good is feeling exhausted and starved by late afternoon. Zach are you home yet? Only about twenty more minutes until he gets home and we eat leftovers (beef stew).

October 16, 2011


These gougères are heavenly. They are airy and bite sized and oh-so perfectly cheesy. They are ideal for a party, easy to whip up, quick to bake and just damn good. Your guests will think you are a culinary goddess, they'll ask you how you do it, they'll suggest you start a catering business and then they will proceed to eat you out of cheese puffs.

I know this because I served them on Friday night and that is exactly what happened - goddess status instated, catering business imagined and a wave adios to a pile of cheese puffs. It was Zach's birthday on Friday so we had a little party, complete with strung christmas lights and candles in the fire place. Sadly I didn't take any pictures. I was too busy and happy playing hostess that I completely forgot, which I guess is better than being preoccupied with taking photos. Anyway just know that Zach was celebrated with excessive amounts of cheese and much too much coconut cake.
These little puffs remind me of The Union League Cafe in New Haven, where they are always piled in little bowls along the bar. They remind Zach of our trip to Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian version of gougères called pao de queijo. I'd always assumed they were out of my culinary reach, and I bet you are thinking the same right now. But truly, they are easy, easier than most appetizers you might make for cocktail hour. They are also great because you don't have to bake them all at once. You can freeze the ones you don't want to make right away and bake them later.
from Dorie Greenspan - Around My French Table

1/2 cup / 118 mL of whole milk
1/2 cup / 118 mL of water
1 stick / 8 tablespoons / 113 g of butter cut into 4 pieces
1/2 tsp /2.5 mL salt
1 cup / 125 g of all-purpose flour
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g of shredded Gruyére or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC and position racks to divide the oven in thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the flour all at once, turn down the heat and begin stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pot, keep stirring quickly and consistently for another minute or so until the dough has come together and is very smooth.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Let it sit for a minute or so. Begin adding the eggs one by one, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next egg. The dough will appear to separate after each egg addition, but it will come back together and that is when the next egg should be added. Add the grated cheese.

Once the dough is made it needs to be spooned onto the baking sheets immediately. Using a tablespoon drop little dough balls onto the parchment paper, leaving roughly two inches between each mound. Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375ºF/190ºC. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Continue baking until gougères are firm, puffed and lightly golden, about another 12 minutes. Serve warm or move to a rack to cool.

The gougères freeze and reheat beautifully so if you don't want to make them all at once simply spoon some mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet and stick that sheet in the freezer until the mounds are frozen, then transfer to a ziploc bag and store. They can be baked straight from the freezer - no need to defrost - just give them a bit longer in the oven. This is what I did today. I didn't take any photos when I made them on Friday so I whipped up another batch today, baked 8 puffs for Zach and I to snack on this afternoon and put the rest in the freezer for another time.
Here are some of my make-shift decorations that are still hanging around. I grabbed all of the empty glass jars that have been hanging in our cupboards, filled them with water and dropped some floating candles in them. I also bought a ton of clementines and placed them around the apartment in different sized bowls. I love clementines so it's a decoration that just keeps on giving. The Christmas lights are still up and I'm guessing they'll probably stay up well past Christmas, especially considering we need a little extra light around the dinning table. And don't you just love fresh flowers every once and awhile?
We went for a walk after I finished cooking, like we do pretty much every Sunday. A little fresh air and a chance to walk off the cake we both ate for breakfast - yikes! Our friend Katie made this amazing strawberry cupcakes for Zach. They are to die for. As she reminded me, anything with swiss butter and strawberries is bound to be good, but still, these are insane. She made them from the Sprinkles recipe - try them out (be sure to add 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the recipe - Martha forgot it)
I wasn't the only one who had cake for breakfast. Zach had a piece of the coconut cake. In fairness it's really just a plain cake with coconut frosting, but it's still coconut-y and delicious.

We had a surprisingly low key weekend, with a few walks, lots of leftovers and some time in front of our new iMac (hip hip hooray) !!

October 11, 2011


I just learned about Instagram. I know, I know...late to the scene, but I'm loving it none-the-less. These are some shots I took yesterday. It was a lousy morning, but a gorgeous afternoon that ended in an amazing sunset (see bottom left photo). I think I'm going to incorporate a long walk down the lake at dusk into my daily routine. I also think I might look into buying a film camera. I want to take a photo and not have any idea how it will turn out until the film comes back. It's always nice to have something to look forward to.

Any tips on buying an older film camera would be appreciated.

October 10, 2011

warm apples in caramel

This is not your typical celebratory dessert. It's not a cake, there are no candles, it's not complicated, but rather it's simple and seasonal and warm, just what we needed for our little celebration of sorts. The marking of time is always interesting with time feeling like it moved quickly or slowly and all based on an event in the past and the tracking of the little moments in between that event and the day that bears some significance - the year mark, the decade, the it's-too-long-ago to count backwards mark. Within the past week Zach and I stumbled upon two of these markers - he has lived in Switzerland for one year and we have been married for 6 months. These aren't must-toast type of occasions, but we recognized them none the less, reflecting back on last October when Zach started his new job and was eager to fill me in on every little detail of our new city and apartment. And then there is the 6 month anniversary. Zach commented that although we've been married for 6 months we've probably spent at least two of those months apart. With my visa issues and traveling back and forth it's probably true. But I'm here now, and thinking towards the year mark in April seems like a long way away. What will change? Will Zurich feel more like home? Will I have a steady routine or a job? It's too much to think about, better I just think about today, one day at a time for this expat.

I'm not sure what I would do without seasons. Seasons for me help mark the passing of time. If it was sunny and 75º everyday, would it feel like the same day over again? Would you notice the ebb and flow of the days and your life as much? Do you mark the years by new years day, which would likely be the same as every other day? I adore seasons. I don't think I could live without them. I wouldn't want to live without them. The weather here has shifted, it is cold and rainy and grey. The mountains have snow on them again. These are the things that allow me to grasp the fact that Zach really has been here a year. And that a lot of things have happened between then and now. That's how it goes I guess.

So on to the dessert - warm apples in caramel over toast (with ice cream if you wish). The apples themselves are super quick and easy and barely take any time at all. Easy as pie. Actually much easier than pie. No crust to make or roll out, no fancy designs, no baking, just apples with butter and sugar on the stove. And that's it.
Of course I made it a bit more complicated by making the bread too. I had seen this Easy Little Bread recipe and decided that easy bread went well with easy apples so I best make them both.
I've recently fallen in love with my kitchen scale. It's incredible. Of course it's much easier to use when recipes note the weights otherwise I have to search around the internet for the approximate weight of a cup of this or that. It really makes things easy. You just clear the scale before each new ingredient, allowing you to use one bowl for everything instead of nine-hundred little spoons and cups and measuring thingys. Try it. It's kinda fun and it's especially helpful if you live in metric land, stuck between grams and ounces.
It was one of those weekends where it was okay to stay inside. It was rainy and grey all day on Saturday and spotty on Sunday. Zach and I have recently become addicted to 'Words With Friends' the scrabble app. Sure we play with friends back home, but we also play with each other, sometimes two games at once. Zach has won almost all of the games (grumble) managing to eek out over 40 points on most of his words, while I'm excited if I get anywhere over 20. Have you ever seen one word get over 80 points? Me either, until Zach played 'cronies' for 87 points in a game against our friend Perrin - Per good luck coming back from that one. Oh and it's the perfect thing to do while you're waiting for the bread to rise (I place the loaf pan over the pre-heated oven since our kitchen is fairly cold).
Early Autumn Apples on Toast
from Nigel Slater - Tender Volume II

4 small dessert apples
3 plums (optional, I used them because I had them lying around)
a little lemon juice
50g/ 1/2 stick of butter
2 heaping tablespoons of golden caster sugar or superfine sugar
a handful of raisins
a knifepoint of ground cinnamon
Toast slices (1 - 2 per person depending on the size of your bread) made from hearty whole wheat or nut and raisin bread

Quarter the apples then core them. Leave the skin on. Slice the apples thickly (8 slices per apple) and the toss them with the lemon juice, which will help keep them from browning. Do the same for the plums and add to the apples.

Melt the butter in a shallow pan. Before it froths stir in the sugar and leave it to bubble for a minute or two. Add in the apples/plums and let them cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir in the raisins and cinnamon

Have the toast ready. As soon as the apples are soft and lightly coated in caramel, tip them over the toast. A dollop of ice cream is never a bad idea!

easy little bread recipe from this book
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
a handful of raisins (my own addition)
oil and butter for greasing the pan

Preheat your oven to 350ºF/180ºC

Mix flours, oats and salt together.

Mix yeast into warm water until dissolved then stir in honey.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and mix well. Grease an 8cup loaf pan (9x5x3) and pour dough into the pan. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for thirty minutes or until it has doubled in size. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
We ate it all. There were no apples left. I'm actually not sure how many people it was supposed to serve, but it served us just fine!

The season of eating is upon us, and I love it! Dreaming of turkey and stuffing already. I hear it's beautiful on the East Coast so perhaps you don't feel the urge to bundle up and stay inside and eat warm apples...but you will...soon enough! Enjoy the last of the sun while you can.

October 06, 2011

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are loved. I love them. Zach loves them. Jess, Molly, Heidi and Adam love them. And I bet you'll love them too. I was reluctant to post them because of how much they've been traveling around the foodie-web-scene (if only they were traveling into our physical mailboxes), but then I realized that maybe you don't spend your days wandering aimlessly around food blogs like I do, which means that you might not have come across these cookies yet - what a horrible thought! Jess had also been reluctant to post them, but she did and thank goodness because she convinced me to make them, and make them I did, batch by batch by batch by my-pants-don't-fit-anymore batch. They are just that good. So here goes another post on the chocolate chip cookies from Kim Boyce's Good To The Grain. Love them, and then pass them on, because after all...

All you need is love...Love is all you need...la la la....

These cookies are different. First let's start with the 'chip' part, because there aren't any. The chips have been replaced with a few chopped up chocolate bars, and let me tell you, this an important distinction in the cookie making world. Chips are even and perfect and chopped chocolate is all sorts of different sizes, from thin slivers to hulking chunks, and everything in between. The little slivers melt into the flakey dough, creating a whole new earth-shattering layer of chocolate. Whoa. Secondly, these cookies are made entirely with whole wheat flour. Don't roll your eyes at me, they are not healthy cookies - if you scroll down and see the butter/sugar content you'll see what I mean. That said, whole wheat never hurt anyone, and here it does a lot to help the flavor, deepening it and giving it an almost nutty undertone (I feel like I'm talking about wine and the notes of cherry and hints of oak). Okay so that is enough gibber jabber, on to the cookies.
I just realized this is my third time posting about chocolate-chip cookies (I wrote about them here, and then again here). But lets not forget that chips are different than slivers & chunks and that the cookies in this post blow those other two recipes out of the water, like way out into outer space. Those other cookies lacked oomph, height and were only good right out of the oven. These new cookies are good for days, literally. I baked a batch on Sunday and have been eating them all week - I had two today alone. Oh and these aren't small cookies. Nope, they are enormous, three-tablespoons-of-batter type of cookies. Don't be shy, make big cookies, you'll be glad you did.

Oh and for my lovely Zurich readers, I found dark brown sugar at Jemoli (see Billington's box above). It's a bit expensive at 5chf, but let's be serious, one cookie would cost you 8chf so I say it's totally worth it. If you don't want to make these cookies because of the brown sugar, I'll give you some of mine. Seriously. I'll ride the tram to your house and drop it off. They are that good.

And they only get better with age. After reading some of the other posts, I learned to mix the dough, form the dough balls and then stick the dough back in the fridge for at least an hour. And then instead of baking all the cookies at once like I usually do I only baked a few at a time, leaving the others to 'age' in the fridge until I was ready to make them. If you don't foresee yourself eating them quickly you can also freeze them and then bake them. Keeping the dough cold before baking helps give the cookies their height, which I personally love.
I should mention that Kerry inspired me to find a great cookie recipe. While she was here visiting she mentioned that her go-to dessert is a chocolate chip cookie. They're perfectly sweet, dense, doughy, hearty and comforting. We also talked about our individual stays in London and about how much we came to love digestive cookies, which was why when I saw these cookies compared to digestives on Molly's site, I knew these just might me my cookie, the cookie I eat after dinner every night, the cookie I find comfort in, the cookie that reminds me of all my friends who also love cookies...

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Kim Boyce's Good To The Grain

dry ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

wet ingredients
2 sticks (8oz/226g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I vanilla bean - cheaper here in Switzerland)
8 oz bittersweet 60% chocolate, roughly chopped

sea salt for finishing if you want

if you are planning on baking these cookies asap because you just can't wait, although I suggest you do, preheat your oven to 350F/179C

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Cream the cold butter and sugars in your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix until just blended - 2 min. Scrape down the sides and then add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one until it is incorporated. Add the vanilla

Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar and blend on low until the flour is just incorporated. Don't over mix the dough, if you have little flour chunks lurking in the dough then just mix them in with your fingers.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough balls, roughly 3 tablespoons per cookie. I used a tablespoon measure and just stacked them on top of each other for added height with the premise the more height the better (skyscraper cookies)! Leave roughly 3 inches between cookies if you are baking now, if not feel free to crowd them on the baking sheet so they fit in your fridge.

Bake cookies for about 16-20 minutes. If you haven't cooled your cookies then 16 min is probably just right, if you have, then 20 is probably your target. If they still seem gooey after 20 minutes, then trust the cookie gods and take them out because they will surely firm up. Leaving them on the parchment paper, move them to a cooling wrack to let them cool. They are good straight out of the oven, but even better when cooled, which must be the sign of an amazing cookie.
These cookies have been keeping me company as I try to get back into an architecture state of mind for a little project I'm working on. Lots of cookies and lots of music. I don't know about you, but I listen to songs on repeat until I'm sick of them.

Right now I'm rotating the repeat between these songs....
Here Before - Lissie
Love Lost - Temper Trap
Skinny Love - Bon Iver
Silver Lining - Rilo Kiley

What songs are you listening to? I need some new ones, just to break things up a bit. Happy cookie making/baking/eating - share them and then share the recipe!