Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mother's Day and His Lovely Pancakes

We celebrate Mother's Day later in France than we do in the States. It was this past weekend. It was my first Mother's Day! We had Alpine lake trout on the grill, stuffed with the proliferation of chervil that has to be cut back every week now to keep it from forming flowers and a good dose of dill weed, leftover from one of my herb ateliers with the Dartmouth College students.

Loic made good tasting pancakes with the levain we keep in the mountain kitchen, which seems to be doing well with some coddling every weekend. It still smells clean so we'll keep it going as long as it wants to keep playing house with us, it's been about a month now. It sits in one of the Russian soup pots I bought near that pickle market in St. Petersburg during our early years of marriage, by the stove. Once we get there and I get the fire going, it gets a good stir and a nice feeding and then warms up nice and toasty by the fire. It stays comfortably warm all weekend. When we leave for the week, the house cools down considerably, so it takes a nap for awhile. The kitchen is half underground, having been built into the mountain slope with 2 foot thick stone walls, so once it cools down it stays cool until we come back and pump up the fire again.

We just feed it on arrival (I toss in a sugar cube as a kind of repentance for nearly starving it to death and a couple of tablespoons of flour) and cover it loosely with foil. It gets fed flour again the next two days. Then we see how it looks the next weekend. So far so good, and the nice flavor reminds us both of the bread Loic used to make in Los Angeles when we were newlyweds, albeit much less scientifically recorded and monitored. I suspect that when the weather gets warm we might lose our levain, since it will most likely take on a sour aspect when the yeast population does begin to starve during the week. I'm just happy for the time we'll have with it. I won't worry about how long it's going to last. We like the bread we can buy up there just as much. But I like the kneading, and rising and all that. I like to plop a round loaf on the sheet, clip the top with scissors, and spray it with water every few minutes after it goes into the hot oven. The satisfying thing is that it comes out tasting like real bread each time, the kind we seek out, and the holes don't get too big.

I woke up on the morning of, and waited. I heard the baby making all kinds of conversation that eventually evolved to complaints. No coffee. I turned on my bedside light and broke out the almanac. Pages later, the morning birds started to change their song, baby continued to get into trouble, the sunshine began to creak and make sounds on the roof. I decided that it must be getting well into brunch time and made my way downstairs and he was still working on those lovely pancakes. They tasted very nice.

Here's a little film of our weekend levain.



Blogger racheld said...

Oh, Lucy! I was just here this a.m., enjoying your lovely mountain retreat, and marvelling at that SMART YOUNG MAN standing there on his own two feet! How time has flown since that first glimpse of the small bed and those little shoes. Then I was called away by my own companion (two and three-quarters, she says) who needed urgent help with her toothbrush.

I thought of you on Sunday when I was explaining bouquet garni to a neighbor, to whom I had given handfuls of herbs, including the "celery plant"---I could just see you tying a bundle for your stock-pot.

I'm honored and delighted that you dropped in at Lawn Tea---a lovely surprise, and I hope you'll visit again.


7:23 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger lisa is cooking said...

Beautiful photos, and your kitchen built into the mountain slope sounds lovely!

9:26 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Rachel, He IS a smart young man. I gave him a haircut today.

Thank you, Lisa!

11:21 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger dillon said...

Hi Lucy
I'm not sure if you've ever tried this recipe. After many years of bread making, this is my fav recipe. It produce wonderful chewy rustic bread with a crisp crust. It keeps for days, plus you can play around with the ingredients by adding some semolina, polenta,rye flour or milk.



1:00 AM, June 05, 2010  
Blogger Slippery Rock said...

Lucy - Looks like you have a little boy on your hands. No more baby! He is looking so cute. Are you coming stateside this summer? I made quacamole and salsa last night. I thought of last summer when I brought up it to the lake for you and I (and Frodo!) to devour. Yum! Miss you and love you, Clare

8:13 PM, June 05, 2010  
Anonymous Abra said...

Put your levain in the fridge during the summer weeks. It'll grow much slower, hence need less feeding, and it should make it just fine. I've kept them for years at a time in the fridge.

5:33 AM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hi Dillon, thanks for that. I will try it one of these days.

Hi Clare - no plans for a visit to Chaumont this summer but we'd love to see you in France! Love and miss you!

Abra, thanks for that advice. I will follow it. I just wonder if it will pick up any strange spores from the profusion of cheeses I have at various levels of affinage...

7:54 AM, June 09, 2010  
Anonymous Serena said...

Happy Mothers Day!!!! (Just wait until it is the boy himself and not the Daddy doing the breakfast making. The wait is excruciating, as curious sounds emanate from the kitchen, and the mess is a true marvel! I learned to make a VERY simple breakfast the norm.)

6:55 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

I waited for a good long time even if it wasn't Ian doing the cooking! It was worth the wait, though.

7:31 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Maria Verivaki said...

i lost my levain due to the heat too - it was just too hot for it to breed and it bacame awfully sour

11:06 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

This one lived for a long time but alas the colony collapsed during the heat wave as well. We brought it to Lyon to monitor it more closely. I was putting off refrigerating it because I loved to see it active. Then one day, poof. I have talked to my boulanger about obtaining his help to start over the vacation. Since the mountain kitchen is cooler, maybe it will have a better chance.

11:14 AM, July 08, 2010  

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