the best gluten-free meatballs you'll ever make (no, seriously)


Today I spent the afternoon with an old, sweet friend, chowing, catching up, and thumbing through stacks of books at BookCourt. You have to know that I tried to resist, I went on about the stacks of books towering ominously in my living room, however, I broke down and bought Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Jenna has impeccable taste in books, and she’s one of the few friends whose recommendations will make me buy books sight unseen–her appreciation for language and story are that great.

Over lunch we talked about food, marveling over the thin, crispy latkes dipped in sundried tomato aioli we ordered and the power of shared meals. Eating is a primal act, and the idea that we can share our most base need with someone else means something. Jenna and I are the kind of people who will pen sonnets over the food that we’re eating as we’re eating it. So when I told her about the shift I made this year–from stone-cold carb addict to veggie lover, from someone who checked out while eating to someone who plates their food and savors every bite–she was intrigued. And while she completely understood my need for nourishment and self-care, she wondered aloud if I’d missed anything from the old days.

Sometimes, I said, I ache for bread. Oh, for the love of god, BREAD. I miss pressing my face up against the oven window and watching the dough crisp and rise. I miss tearing into a hot loaf with cold hands and watching the cream butter melt into the crevices. And while I no longer crave cheese, cream, pasta or anything gluten (and I make a point to not simply replace gluten with its non-gluten counterparts because that’s sort of not the point in getting healthy)–I’ll pause in front of a bakery and think about boules and baguettes.

Have I mentioned that gluten is in EVERYTHING? I can’t have meatballs out anymore because they’re normally mixed bread crumbs or panko. So I’m forced to make them at home. And while that may sound laborious and inconvenient, there’s something thrilling about discovery abundance within limitation. I love these meatballs, which are rendered tender and moist due to the inclusion of sundried tomatoes and eggs. I’m bringing a pot of these with some pasta to a friend’s house tonight, and I hope she (and the kids) love them just as much as I do.

And yes, the first time I’m allowed to have gluten again I will be having bread.

1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin, room temperature
1/2 pound ground sausage, room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, minced
1 1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1/2 28oz can of pureed tomatoes
1 lb of pasta (gluten-free or regular) pasta

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients (from beef to the black pepper) until just combined. Do not overmix. You can get 20-25 meatballs out of this mixture, depending upon how large you like your balls. Yeah, I realize I just typed that.

In a large roasting pan or two baking dishes, add the meatballs and the crushed tomato sauce + pureed tomatoes. Cook for 10-15 minutes.

While the meatballs are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.

Add the pasta to the meatball + sauce mixture, and toss to coat. Serve immediately with fresh parsley!


dairy-free recipes gluten-free meat pasta recipes

grain-free granola (and dear god, this is GOOD)

Sometimes I miss gluten, I do. I’ll see an Instagram photo of a thin crust pizza topped with pancetta and figs and I’ll mourn. When I was in Spain, I took an apartment next to a bakery and the waft of baked morning loaves was sometimes unbearable. I don’t miss pasta as much as I thought I would, or the laundry list of foods that contain gluten in one form or another, but I miss bread. I miss oats. I miss granola. Now you may wave your pro-oat flag and tell me that there are gluten-free versions of oats, to which I’ll solemnly shake my head and respond, no, you are mistaken. All oats have gluten, and the gf versions simple don’t have the form of gluten intolerable to celiacs. Thus, it’s safe! Let the gluten-free label mania commence!

And then there are people like me, who are sensitive to gluten of all molecular shapes and forms, who break out into hives that one day I indulged in some gluten-free oats in my pancakes. I’ll spare you the visuals.

I thought I’d have to wait 7 more months to have granola until I came upon this paleo-friendly recipe. AND DEAR GOD, ORANGE KITTENS AND CHARRED-CRUST PIZZA WITH CRUMBLED SAUSAGE, THIS IS GOOD. Better than the oat version, my grain and gluten-free friends. Believe me when I say that I didn’t even purchase my requisite coconut or almond yoghurt (don’t believe what people tell you–these versions simply aren’t as good as the dairy-ridden kind)–I ate this granola by the spoonful. I love how it’s at turns salty and sweet, and the softened figs and dates give the granola a lovely texture.

I could eat this for days. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones, one of the bread-eating, pizza-crust-nibbling folk, living a gluten, fanciful life, this granola will kick your crap oats any day of the week.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
3 dried figs, chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (if you don’t have this, add another tsp of vanilla extract)
pinch of cinnamon + sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Turn the mixture out onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin, even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture halfway through the baking process. Let cool completely before serving to ensure that the granola will harden into clusters.


gluten-free pancake + breakfast recipes

montreal-style bagels

Today you’ll find me munching on two of these bagels {yes, goddamn it, two!} and working on the novel. After nearly two months living in my new home, I’m finally making use of my loft home office, cleaning it out, adding lamps and file folders, and here I am, writing, eating — two of the things I love to do.

If you have some time, I implore you to make these bagels. The honey delivers a subtle sweetness, and while I’ve never travelled to Montreal, these bagels are certainly making me ache for a holiday.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of The Gouda Life
For the bagels
1 1/2 cups warm water {100F}
2 1/4 tsp (8oz, 1 packet) dry active yeast
1 tsp cane sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp grapeseed or safflower oil
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided

For boiling the bagels
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp baking soda

For the topping
1 cup sesame seeds

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let sit until frothy, 5-7 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, salt, oil, and honey and egg + yolk. On medium-low speed, mix in 1 cup of flour in until fully incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium-high, and add the remaining three cups of flour. The dough will feel sticky and shaggy, at first, but after 4-5 minutes, the dough will smooth out and wipe the sides of the mixer clean. If you find the dough is still tremendously sticky, add in 1-2 tbsp of flour until the is supple and smooth. Add the dough to a larger, greased bowl and cover for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 18 equal portions. Stretch or gently roll, using fingertips, each portion of dough into an 8 inch rope and bring the ends together to form a circle. Pinch the ends together and then roll gently with the heal of your hand to seal. It’s important the ends are well secured otherwise they’ll open when boiling. Place bagels on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with a clean towel for 20 minutes.

Pour the sesame seeds {or any assorted toppings you wish to use} into a large shallow dish.

While the bagels rise, bring 16 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add the baking soda and honey and turn down to a simmer. When ready, add the bagels 4 at a time to the simmering water. Let cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove with a deep-fryer spoon or slotted spatula/spoon, drag through the sesame seeds on both sides and place back on the baking sheet. Repeat with all bagels.

Preheat oven to 500. Place 1 sheet of bagels in for 10-12 minutes or until starting to brown on the bottom. Flip bagels and cook for another 5-8 minutes, watching closely after 5 minutes so they don’t over cook. They should be golden brown. Serve with creamy butter, cream cheese — or do as I shamelessly did, add a few slices of genoa salami, arugula and whippped butter. DIVINE.

Keep in airtight container in the fridge for 1 week.


bread recipes

hot cross buns {without the cross}

It feels nice to be a human again. After a week of disturbed sleep, a case of the blues and a hacking cough, I feel as if I’ve finally turned a corner, nipped this flu in the proverbial bud as it were. I’ve still got the terrible cough, but at least I can move without wincing and my mind is finally focused and clear. So much so that I printed out a few chapters from my novel last night and spent some quiet time editing.

Looking back, it’s incredible how a bout of illness can cast a dark film over the whole of one’s world. This makes me even more grateful for the calls and notes from friends and loved ones, which served as little shards of light intent on nicking away at the dark.

I’m saying dark a lot, I realize, perhaps one of the reasons being is that I changed the title of my novel from Mammoth to Follow Me Into the Dark. I always tell writers that a book is never what you set out for it to be. Once you think you’ve identified what it is, it changes its form. Novel writing is tricky this way, and while working pretty deep in the second, meatier part of my novel, I started to think about light and dark as easy and much more subtle metaphors, as opposites and partners. I played with inverting our meaning of light and dark, and all of this felt right for the story I’m trying to tell. Vague, yes, but this was a pretty big breakthrough for me as I hit 170 solid pages.

Then there’s PART THREE. GULP.

Anyway, in lieu of not working out for four days {I decided to stop being a hero and rest and recover}, I baked like a fiend, and thank god I made these hot cross buns without the cross because right now I’m hankering for one of these bad boys slathered in almond butter.

Enjoy your week!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Donna Hay, with modifications
For the buns
1 tbsp active dry yeast
½ cup (110g) cane sugar
1½ cups (375ml) lukewarm milk {temperature barely hits 100F}
4¼ cups (635g) unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1½ cups (240g) dried cherries + cranberries
unsalted butter, to serve

For the glaze
1 tbsp water
2 tsp gelatine powder
½ cup (110g) cane sugar
¼ cup (60ml) water, extra

Place the yeast, 2 teaspoons sugar and the milk in a large bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. The mixture will start to foam, indicating that the yeast is active. Add the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, butter, egg, sultanas, mixed peel and remaining sugar to the yeast mixture and mix until a sticky dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 8 minutes or until elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean, damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.


Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the dough balls in a lightly greased 22cm square cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until risen.


Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the extra flour and the water in a bowl and stir to combine. Place in a piping bag or a plastic bag with one corner snipped off, and pipe crosses on the buns. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden and springy to touch.

While the hot cross buns are baking, make the glaze. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set aside for 1–2 minutes or until the gelatine is dissolved. Set aside. Place the sugar and extra water in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Use a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Add the gelatin mixture and cook for 1–2 minutes or until the gelatin is dissolved. Brush with the warm glaze while the buns are still hot.

Serve warm with butter. Makes 12.


bread recipes pastry + bun recipes sweet recipes

buttermilk biscuits + defining {or not} what’s next

I spent the day with one of my closest friends, architecting a plan for her to build a brand based on mindful movement. Sarah’s this great light, and she has the ability to imbue any situation with calm. Whether she’s teaching yoga, coaching authors, or writing sketches for UCB, everything she does comes from a quiet reflection inward to create tremendous movement on the surface. Her ask of me was this: how do I bring this all together? Her question put me to thinking to the definition of yoga — a union of body and breath, and while I found it so simple to distill something simple from the seemingly complicated, I for some reason can do this for myself.

Within me I feel a fissure, a very noticeable division. I am the whole of three parts: business, food, writing. After decades of drift, I’ve found that I constantly cleave to creativity whether it be helping a multi-million dollar company re-envision its infrastructure to re-imagining words on a page. I live the puzzle of it all. How I’m able to move pieces around a board to create a new shape.

How do you sell that? How do you package it neat and tidy, when I’ve never been a woman who took on the shape of those words. I know I can’t drift; I can’t get be in this purgatory of sorts, skirting the in-betweens. Today I told my friend that I’ve no idea what it is that I should be doing. All I can do is move toward opportunities that excite me, right? Take it from there, right?

I honestly don’t know. So there’s me, gathering dough. There’s me trying to find the union between art and business. There’s me trying to figure it all out.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Southern Living, via @Emptychampagne
4 cups all-purpose soft-wheat flour, such as White Lily {I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, and it turned out fine}
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup {2 sticks, 8oz} cold butter, cubed
2 cups buttermilk
Melted butter

Preheat oven to 450°. Sift together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in buttermilk with a fork until dough forms a ball. You can also do this in a food processor, blitzing the dry ingredients, adding in the butter (and pulsing for 10-12 times) and pouring in the milk through the tube. Your dough will be quite sticky — don’t let that drive you mad as it will come blissfully together and be smooth once you turn it out onto wax paper.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle dough with flour, and flatten into a disk. Cover, and chill 15 minutes.

Remove wax paper, and turn dough out onto a well-floured surface; sprinkle with flour. Pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch cutter, reshaping scraps once. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 450° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush immediately with melted butter.


savory recipes scone + biscuit recipes

homemade english muffins {fancy-pants}

We won’t talk about the fact that it took me two weeks to write ten good pages of my novel, that I’m 40% done with a book I thought I’d finish come March. I’m trying really hard not to beat myself about this, about the fact that Fridays were supposed to be devoted to writing when the day, in actuality, has been about rest. And while I know my lovely agent is excited for this book, the best writing I’ve done in years, I hear an old teacher’s voice reverberate, and she tells me that no one is waiting for my book so why not focus on making it good.

I took one of those Buzzfeed career quizzes today, the sort of quiz that defines your vocation based on a series of random questions that are set to profile you in some way. I got “Writer,” and I shook my head because that’s only one of three things I consider myself to be. If there was a term for who I am professionally, I venture it would be “Creative,” because this is who am I and how I imbue all the things that I do, whether they’re marketing or organizational projects, baking or novel-writing.

So today I offer you homemade English muffins, which were supposed to resemble large mushrooms, capped domes and the like, but they don’t. Funny how some things are never what you want them to be.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.
1 cup whole milk {I used 2%}
1 cup water, divided
2 ½ tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 ½ tsp activated dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
butter for rings
½ cup instant polenta

Bring milk, water (3/4 cup), butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer. Stir frequently so the ingredients dissolve and the butter melts evenly into the mixture. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and cool to room temperature (approximately 30 minutes). Sprinkle yeast over remaining 1/4 cup of warm water (105-110F) and let stand for five minutes. Whisk the yeast and water to dissolve. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture. Add egg. Beat on low to combine, and gradually add the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl so all of the flour is absorbed. The batter will be sticky, and once a dough forms, increase to high speed and beat for 30 seconds. Refrigerate, tightly covered with cling film, for 4-8 hours.


Butter the inside of 12 entrement rings (3 inch diameter 1 ½ inches tall). If you don’t have rings, a muffin tin will absolutely do. Coat insides with polenta. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange rings on it. Sprinkle approx ¼ tsp polenta in each ring.


After at least four hours, stir the batter with a fork, and fill rings using a 2 ½ inch scoop. Sprinkle each top with ¼ tsp polenta.

Fill two large classes with hot water. Bookend the sheet pan with the glasses and cover the lot of it with a large kitchen garbage bag and tie tight. You want to make sure that no air enters the bag, and that the water doesn’t touch the muffins. Proof for 1 ½ hours, or until the muffins rise above the rings.

Preheat oven to 350˚F bake for 25 minutes, let stand for 5 minutes, then remove rings.


bread recipes muffin recipes

the easiest no-knead bread you’ll ever bake

Forgive me this brevity, but I’ve spent the better part of this weekend trying to write from viewpoint of an eight-year-old child, the world through her eyes, as it were. The world as she experiences it, first-hand. This chapter was more difficult than I had imagined, while it was easy to have her observe the more sophisticated dialogue and surroundings around her as a means to give weight and perspective against her narrative, I found achieving her voice challenging. I wrote her as an adult would write her, and I had to go back and spend six hours on six pages, obsessing over diction and word choices. Often, I kept returning to Emma Donoghue’s The Room, for reference, but still.

While living a day where I took on the role of revisionist, this lovely loaf of bread steadily ascended. And this morning, I sliced into this hot loaf, slathered it with butter, and got excited to start the day.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (5/8 = 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.


Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.


At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


bread recipes

apple cinnamon loaf

Every time I come to this space, this virtual postage stamp of a home where I get to meet you, there’s a story. There’s always a story, a way in, a means to connect image and type. Yet, right now, I’ve got a lot going on. There are too many stories trying to make themselves heard, trying to rise above the din, and I need some space to think. While I typically spend the holidays with my best friend in Connecticut, I’ve elected to stay home, in the quiet, and sort all of this out. I’ve a tremendous amount of excitement going into 2014, and I want to make sure that I think about my path and architect it (as much as I can) with the kind of space and clarity I deserve.

Today, I’m simply going to leave you with something delicious as I start the process of plotting what’s next. Who knows, I might have a story tonight, but right now it’s all about me listening to the sound of my own breath.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
Makes 2 loaves
For the dough:
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup cold water
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, as needed
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the bowl and pans

For the apple filling:
2 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/2 pounds) peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes*
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon


To make the dough sprinkle the yeast over the warm 1/3 cup water and stir. Wait 5 minutes for the yeast to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl. Add the milk, 1/3 cup cold water, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment and on low speed gradually add half of the flour, then the salt. One tablespoon at a time add the butter. Gradually add the remaining flour to form a rough dough. Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead on medium low speed adding more flour if needed until the dough cleans the bowl. Continue kneading until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.


Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to check the dough’s texture. The dough will be slightly sticky. Butter a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

When the dough has risen prepare the apple filling. Mix the cut apples, egg yolk, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Butter two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour. Set aside.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll or stretch the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough and starting at the top begin to roll up the dough, jelly roll style.

Using a bench scraper or large knife, cut the dough into 1-inch-thick slices.

Now cut through the slices to make 1-to-1 1/2-inch pieces. It will look like quite a mess, but you’re doing the right thing. Using the bench scraper, scoop up the dough-apple mixture and divide equally among the prepared loaf pans (a kitchen scale comes in handy here), distributing as evenly as possible.

Choose a warm spot in your kitchen for proofing the loaves. Place the pans on a cookie sheet. Fill a glass with very hot water. Place the pan with the loaves inside a big plastic garbage bag, place the glass of hot water in the bag, inflate the bag by waving the opening up and down, then close tightly. This will mimic a professional proofing oven (you can also just set the pans in a warm place; this worked fine for me).

Let stand until the loaves have risen to the top of the pans (mine actually puffed up much higher than the edge of the pans), about 1 hour. The dough will look lumpy.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the glass from the pan, then the pan from the bag. Bake on the center rack (on the cookie sheet) for 30 to 35 minutes. Cover the loaves loosely with foil and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and an instant read thermometer reads 210 degrees F. Of note, my loaf was done after 35 minutes, which can mean a whole slew of things, so I recommend you keep checking.

Transfer the loaf pans to a wire cooling rack and let stand for 5 minutes. Unmold the loaves onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper and turn the loaves right sides up and let cool completely.

What I noticed was that flavor was so much more pronounced and refined when I let the loaves rest overnight in ziploc bags. If you can stand it, allow your loaf to cool down, have it the next day and have it for French toast the following day.


cake + sweet loaf recipes sweet recipes

rosemary focaccia + felicia in the kitchen? {hmm…}

Today I spent the day with two markedly different women who are creators and builders. Both are strong, outspoken, passionate, and live a life of their own design. These are women who’ve walked away from the confines of a cubicle and the overhead glare of lights in search of something extraordinary. Strange hours and weekend work are the norm, but this doesn’t faze them because they design their days. They are the people who walk the park during the day and write their way into the gloaming. I admire them this, their propensity for the hustle and their desire for a career with purpose.

I talk a lot about what I’ve left behind but little of where I’m going. Today, I prattled on about indecision. I’ve never been in a place where this is so much choice, but at the same time there has never been a less clear and definitive path. And while there is a real and pragmatic need to be met (rent, student loans, credit cards, cat, etc), there is also something seemingly innocuous. A figure just beyond the periphery, and I’m trying to be the sort of person who rolls with it, who crosses all applicable body parts in the hope that this path will reveal itself. So I went on about this, spoke mostly about the industry of food and my passion for it, specifically pastry, and my friend shook her head, smiled, and said, From an outsider your path is clear. You’re on to something big. I can see it, and I’m not even an outsider. So when I talk about all these different things, these choices, maybe the path is within these things I’m pursuing, it’s just a matter of organization.

I can’t help but think of this quote by Doris Lessing, which came to me at precisely the moment it needed to:

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”


I’ve never wanted to own a pastry shop. I never wanted to be a recipe developer. I never wanted to pipe or create insane feats of gastronomy. After reading Provence, 1970, I felt an odd kinship with the great M.F.K. Fisher. Not that I would even dare compare myself to this great light, but the idea that my food writing could be deeply informed by education of technique gives me pause. I have so many ideas in my head right now — my burgeoning magazine, books, all that sort of thing — but I’ve always wanted to have an innate understand of pastry. Deeper than the practiced home baker, but a grasp of the basic alchemy.

I think I want to apprentice in a pastry shop or a bakery. I don’t know how I’ll get this to happen. I don’t have a plan just yet, but I know that this is something I want to try on for size.

So this is me, inching closer to the impossible. Trying to figure it all out.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
2 cups cold water
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, as needed
1 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for the bowl


Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup warm water (105-115F) in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Pour into a mixer bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups cold water and the rosemary and whisk to combine.

Attached the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the flour, then the salt. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed just until the dough is smooth and it cleans the bowl, about 3 minutes. Do not over-knead. Gather up the dough and shape into a ball.

Coat the inside of a medium bowl generously with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bow, and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a half-sheet pan, and spread evenly with your fingers. Punch down the dough and transfer to the oiled pan. Using your hands, coax and stretch the dough to fill the pan. If the dough is too elastic, cover the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes, then try again.

Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag and place two tall glasses of very hot water in the bag at opposite ends of the pan to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy, about 45 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Fill a spray bottle with water. Remove the glasses from the bag, then the pan. Using your fingers, gently dimple the top of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top of the dough. Using the palms of your hands, taking special care not to deflate the dough, very lightly spread the oil over the focaccia.

Place the focaccia in the oven. Aiming for the walls of the oven (and not the top of the focaccia), spray water into the oven. The water will create steam to help crisp the focaccia. Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before serving. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.


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