Published by Monday, November 13, 2017 Permalink 0


by Margie Gibson

Baking Powder Wars: The Cutthroat Food Fight that Revolutionized Cooking, by Linda Civitello 

If baking powder doesn’t seem substantial enough to merit an entire book, that’s only because its history and background have not been widely explored and remain generally unknown. Linda Civitello’s carefully researched book has finally opened a window onto a fascinating subject and era in U.S. history. The book is interdisciplinary in nature, shedding light on the science and chemistry behind baking powder, the international exchange of ideas and scientific knowledge that enabled the powder’s development, the history of chemical leavening agents, politics and corruption, suspicion of foreigners (in this case, Germans), and insights into the role baking powder played in the economic history of the U.S., as well as marketing, feminism, and social issues. 


























I found especially interesting the book’s exploration of how baking powder revolutionized women’s lives, freeing them from the necessity of spending long hours kneading and baking bread for their families. The popularity of baking powder in the US  also explains how baking styles here developed differently from European baking — U.S. cooks relied much more extensively on a chemical leavening action while more traditional European cooks relied on beating bubbles into the batter and using eggs as a leavening. This difference created new American baked goods such as cookies, quick biscuits, cobblers, and light, fluffy cakes.

Baking Powder Wars provides fascinating insights into a unique American product — insights that will change the way you look at a marvelous invention that we have too long taken for granted.

Baking Powder Wars: The Cutthroat Food Fight that Revolutionized Cooking, by Linda Civitello, University of Illinois Press


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Kentucky Food: Barry King’s Angel Biscuits

Published by Monday, June 27, 2016 Permalink 1

onlinepastrychef via / CC BY-NC-SA


Angel biscuits are eaten at special Kentucky meals such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Derby.

2 pkg. active dry yeast (don’t use quick-rise yeast)
1/2 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. warm water

5 cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Crisco (solid) or other vegetable shortening or lard, well-chilled
2 cups cold buttermilk
Butter, melted

Yield: 60 small cocktail size biscuits or about 2-dozen large.

NOTE: Angel biscuits can be made and baked immediately, but I like to make the them 12-24 hours in advance, so that the biscuits have time to rest and ferment a bit before baking — it adds a special quality to the flavor.

angel biscuits and country ham, Kentucky Derby Southern food, recipe by Barry King




















  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, and let it rest until mixture begins to foam.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour with remaining dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; add buttermilk and yeast mixture to the flour and stir with a large spoon until a soft fluffy dough just comes together.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead/fold a couple of times. Pat out dough to flatten.
  5. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until it is at least 1/2-inch inch thickness.
  6. Using a biscuit cutter (small for cocktail sandwiches, or larger to accompany a meal), cut dough into individual biscuits and place on a greased cookie sheet.
  7. Brush lightly with melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
  8. About an hour before baking: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. Remove biscuits from the refrigerator and allow to proof at room temperature in a warm kitchen — the biscuits should start to rise and be soft/pillowy to the touch.
  10. Place biscuits on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.
  11. When done, the biscuits will be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height.
  12. Brush lightly with melted butter.
  13.  They are perfect for brunch or filled with sliced Kentucky country ham with cocktails.
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Published by Saturday, May 23, 2015 Permalink 1

Emmanuel Ménétrier / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


Pot-au-feu and petite marmite in today’s vocabulary are the same thing. Until the nineteenth century, the term pot-au-feu simply referred to a family soup to which was added different ingredients every day, usually with beef and chicken added on Sunday. The regional variations were endless, depending on availability and season and depending on the cook.

In 1829, the French etymology dictionary defined  pot-pourri  as “the name our fathers gave to the pot-au-feu.” In the nineteenth century, the recipe started to take on its modern ingredients of beef, root vegetables and a veal bone, but it still included chicken, which many people, including my French butcher’s wife, leave out these days.

Escoffier, who codified French cuisine in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, set down the recipe in Le Guide Culinaire in 1902, still calling it petite marmite. The regional variations started to disappear, and the recipe has now been simplified by most home cooks to contain only beef, no chicken. Escoffier insisted on the importance of the chicken, but today, one rarely finds a pot-au-feu with mutton, veal, pork, chicken, duck or turkey. The other name, petite marmite, has pretty much gone out of usage.

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Swiss Food: Fribourg-style Saffron Bread

Published by Friday, January 24, 2014 Permalink 0


Swiss Food: Fribourg-style Cuchaule: Saffron Bread to Eat with Your Bénichon Mustard

by Jonell Galloway

From the archives

In my article, Bénichon Mustard, A Fribourg Specialty to Welcome the Cows Coming Home a few days ago, I talked about the brioche-like saffron bread cuchaule which is traditionally eaten with Bénichon mustard during the Bénichon fall fair in Fribourg, Switzerland.

I translated this recipe from the Delimoon site from the French and adapted it.

Photo courtesy of Moja Kuchnia with authorization.

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Gluten-Free Recipe Conversions – Strategies for Substitutions

Published by Friday, August 9, 2013 Permalink 0

Jenn Oliver, Culinary Chemist, The Rambling EpicureCulinary Chemistry: Gluten-Free Recipe Conversions – Strategies for Substitutions

by Jenn Oliver

From the archives

When my husband and I first started cooking gluten free in our kitchen, we mainly focused on one type of meal — those that were naturally gluten free.

The naturally gluten-free foods were the easiest to cook from scratch because they required no substitutions at all — risottos, fresh fruit, vegetables, custards & puddings, stir fry, roasted potatoes, homemade “chips”, salads, fresh steamed fish, bean stews, meringues, and even a macaron attempt or two. As a beginner to the gluten-free world nearly five years ago, I was thrilled with how many foods we could make without ever having to worry about an ingredient on a package label that could be harmful to my husband’s health.  As long as we cooked from entirely fresh ingredients and avoided anything that came in a package or required flour, we were fine — and what a great variety we had to choose from!

But it didn’t take long before my husband would say, “You know, I really miss pizza,” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a thick creamy gravy to go on mashed potatoes sometime?” It was inevitable, really, that shunning all things flour-related was bound to cause waxing nostalgia for the meals we no longer ate. While it was great to get our feet wet by starting with the easy gluten-free meals that didn’t require any substitutions or extra thought, it seemed wrong to deprive ourselves completely of other foods that we enjoyed.

I set out on a mission of sorts to figure out how to convert our favorite foods to gluten free, where I found a veritable “Wild West” frontier land when it came to recipes — myriad flour blends and formulas either in packages on grocery store shelves or listed in books, none of which explained how they came to be or why they worked, often calling for expensive and elusive ingredients. It all seemed like some esoteric recipe voodoo.

I decided instead to create my own blends, first categorizing the various alternative flours and ingredients by texture and coarseness, and then quickly realizing that while those aspects do play a role in the end product, the key factor was in fact not the texture, but the starch, protein, and fat content, as these are the things that determine most how a flour will behave in a recipe. I can’t say I get a perfect product every single time on the first try, but the turning point in my success was when I started looking into exactly what I was replacing with my gluten-free flour blends.

Sometimes it really is the gluten that needs to be emulated, such as in a bread recipe, where the developed network of gluten in conventional breads actively works to trap the air pockets made by the yeast, allowing the bread to rise. Techniques for mimicking this include adding other leavening agents to help account for the fact that some of the air will indeed escape before the bread is done, or adding binding agents to help trap the air that is formed — and maybe even a combination of both of these techniques.

Often this is why one sees gluten-free recipes that include extra eggs, or gelling agents like ground flax or chia seeds, manufactured gums, or incorporation of starches into the GF blend, such as tapioca or arrowroot. Once we understand why these ingredients exist in a gluten-free recipe, we can better judge how to make substitutions to fit our needs – for example, don’t have ground chia seeds? Maybe adding an egg in its place will do the trick. The bread fell flat a bit and was too dense? We now have options. We consider the properties of the ingredients we are using, and this information can be used as tools for determining how to logically go about changing our recipes to improve them.

Other recipes that conventionally use flour don’t actually care about the gluten at all. Take, for example, a roux, essentially made up of a flour and a fat that are cooked together and then used as a thickening agent in soups and stews, such as gumbo. In the case of roux, there’s no elasticity needed, and no air to be trapped – all we are looking for is thickening, which occurs thanks to the starch components within wheat flour. This is great news for gluten-free cooks; there are lots of starchy gluten-free ingredients at our disposal that we can use to replace conventional wheat flour!

All-purpose wheat flour contains, along with gluten, a fair amount of starch. So to create a 1:1 substitution (by weight of course), one would just need to come up with a gluten-free flour blend that is also mostly (but not all) starch. This can be done either by using flours with similar starch content to wheat flour, or by supplementing the GF blend with a pure starch (cornstarch, tapioca, arrowroot, potato, glutinous rice flour, etc.). Each type of starch differs slightly in its chemistry, but for the most part they all have gelling and viscosity properties – i.e. they help food thicken and stick together. In something like our roux example, it’s not going to matter a whole lot what kind of starches we use, because the only aspect of the starch we are calling upon in this case is its thickening power.

Obviously, for baking, things get a little more complicated, but I’m convinced the overall strategy remains the same. The first thing I ask myself when converting a recipe is, “what in conventional wheat flour is doing the work? What traits do I need to make sure I replace with my gluten-free mix?” And then we can use our knowledge about the various gluten-free ingredients available to reproduce those properties. Actually, I think once one gets a bit more comfortable with gluten-free substitutions, there is even more freedom and more possibilities for “customizing” than when working with conventional all-purpose wheat flour. This is because one has the ability to pick and choose from amongst so many great ingredients — not just for certain properties, but also for flavors. For example, I often incorporate chestnut flour, because I just love the earthy rustic qualities it lends to baked goods.

Gluten-free substitutions don’t have to involve some mysterious wizardry in order to have success. Sometimes it’s just a bit of recipe tweaking, and other times, a little knowledge about the science behind why a recipe works goes a long way.


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Recipes: Dairy-Free Switzerland

Published by Saturday, July 27, 2013 Permalink 0

Recipes: Dairy-Free Switzerland

I’ve just discovered , dedicated to making traditional Swiss and other recipes dairy-free.

Dairy Free Symbol, image by


Heddi started her site in 2012 to face up to the daily task of cooking for her son, who has multiple allergies, including milk allergies.

A dairy-free version of many traditional Swiss recipes for lactose-intolerant people. Switzerland is a land of milk and cheese, so this is a difficult task. Bravo for her efforts.



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Switzerland: Swiss-style Knepfle Pasta

Published by Thursday, June 13, 2013 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Switzerland: Swiss-style Knepfle Pasta

Knepfle is originally from Alsace in France, but it is also eaten in Switzerland, in particular in the Jura region, which borders Alsace.

You can buy them at the supermarket, but they’re much better when you make them at  home.

Swiss-style Knepfle Recipe


3 1/3 to 4 1/10th cups unbleached white flour
3 eggs
2 cups milk
About 1/2 cup water
3 large pinches of salt
1 oz. butter
Large pan of water for boiling knepfles
Coarse sieve with large holes


  1. Put eggs into a bowl. Add milk, water and a pinch of salt. Beat with wire whip.
  2. Little by little, use wire whip to add flour until a heavy dough is formed. The dough should fall naturally off the whip.
  3. Let dough rest for 30 to 60 min.
  4. When time is almost up, bring  large saucepan of water to boil. Add 2 pinches of salt.
  5. Heat an oven dish large enough to hold all the knepfles.
  6. NOTE: The hard part: Real pros push the dough through a coarse sieve, but this can be a bit tricky. If this is your first time making knepfles, I suggest that you drop the dough by teaspoons the first time, and try using a sieve the next time. Make sure you have a sieve with large holes before trying this.
  7. Leave water to boil gently and start dropping teaspoons of dough into water, in several goes.
  8. Let knepfles poach until they rise to the surface. This should take about 15 minutes.
  9. Use a slotted spoon to remove them. Do this carefully so they don’t fall apart. Drain well. Place in heated oven dish.
  10. Do this in steps, until all the dough is used up.
  11. To serve, over medium to medium high heat, melt butter in a frying pan (butter should be sizzling).
  12. When hot, add dry knepfles and brown, carefully turning them from time to time. Cook until browned, about 15 minutes.
  13. Serving: There are many ways to serve knepfles: plain, with cream or bacon bits, or with other sauces.


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A Mesolithic Dinner: Food, Wine and Art by Jane Le Besque

Published by Tuesday, June 4, 2013 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

A Mesolithic Dinner: Food, Wine and Art by Jane Le Besque


Jane Le Besque hosted a “mesolithic dinner” on June 30, 2013, in her home in the Pays de Gex just over the border in France, an event sponsored by Slow Food Geneva. The dinner was cooked using ancient flavor combinations and techniques, and served on split logs onto which slate plates were placed and used as plates.

What Food Did Jane Le Besque Serve at Her Mesolithic Dinner?

Although Jane’s dinner was labeled “Mesolithic”, it was indeed much more than that. She covered the evolution of food from the post-glacial hunter-gather periods, through the Mesolithic and Neolithic, and going on to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, centering on Europe.

It started with the Mesolithic era, with an assortment of coastal and lake fish, eel, root vegetables and wild greens. The meal then slipped in to the Neolithic era with galettes made from ground lentils, peas and barley, served with spit-roasted boar. The menu ended with an Iron-Age “travelers pack” of dried fruits and dried-porridge slices fried in cumin and butter. The Bronze Age brought blue cheese and butter.

Drinks consisted of mead, more often referred to as “honey wine,” more in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans than of more ancient peoples, and beer.

What is the Mesolithic?

As a reminder, the Mesolithic Age refers to the pre-agricultural period between 10,000 and 5,000 BCE in Europe, and variations of this period in other parts of the world. The term “pre-agricultural” is key in understanding what ingredients were available. The three terms paleolithic, mesolithic and mesolithic refer to what is generally called the “Stone Age,” i.e. the post-glacial hunter-gatherer period, when humans started to use stone tools and food was gathered rather than farmed.





























During the early Stone Ages or paleolithic (2.6 million years ago to around 10,000 BP), humans used some stone tools and utensils, but many tools were made from organic matter such as bone, fibers, and wood. Hunting and gathering were the chief ways of providing food. During the neolithic, starting around 10,200 BCE and ending between 4,500 to 2,000 BCE, depending on the location, we saw the beginning of farming. The mesolithic overlapped the other two ages, once again, at different times in different places. Metal tools brought these three Stone Ages to an end.

Jane Le Besque, artist and Mesolithic chef, serving mead
























Early Stone Age cooking was generally on leaves or directly over the embers, although clay cookware has recently been found in China dating from 19,2000–20,000 years ago, during the ice age. Stone Age plates usually consisted of a rock or other flattish surface found in nature, such as the flattened split logs Jane used in the same manner as we use wooden tables today. Earthenware did not appear on the dinner table until much later.

What Did You Usually Eat at Mesolithic Dinners?

What did they eat? Pretty much whatever they found and killed that was edible: meat, fish, wild plants. The specifics of this depended on the location, climate and season. Meals included the day’s finds. This might consist of berries, wild greens and other wild vegetables and plants.

Meat and later fish were not an everyday affair. They were difficult to come by and difficult to preserve, depending on the location (salt was found in Romania as early as 10,000 years ago). Stone  Age people ate very little grain, since agriculture didn’t exist yet. Hazelnuts and other nuts were often roasted, and stored for winter. Wild boar was common; dairy products and cheese were on the menu, although a limited variety.

About Jane Le Besque

Jane Le Besque lives and works with her family at the foot of the French Jura, a few minutes from Geneva, in the foothills of the Jura mountains.

She was born in England and has a Breton grandfather, hence the name. Since graduating from Birmingham Art College in 1986, she continued her studies at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She afterwards lived and worked in Toulouse, London, and now outside Geneva.





























Jane has always painted. She is her happiest walking through the woods and gathering berries, mushrooms, acorns, flowers and leaves to use in her cooking and painting.

One might say Jane has been interested in mesolithic cooking even before she learned the word. As a child, she spent her time gathering the wild things she now uses in her paintings,  making dresses out of them.

Her paintings are an intense reflection of her “gatherer” spirit. The Mesolithic dinner was held in her studio, lined with her paintings of flora of all types.








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Apollonia Poilâne and the Making of the Paris Poilâne Bread “Empire”

Published by Saturday, June 1, 2013 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Did the French Bread Revolution start with Poilâne Bread?

The familiar French word for friend, “copain,” means “to share bread with each other.”–Apollonia Poilâne, now head of the Poilâne bread “empire”

A humble baker called Pierre Poilâne started a bakery on the rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris in 1932. The 6th arrondissement was not a chic neighborhood at the time; penniless artists lived there, and often paid Poilâne in paintings. We might ask, did the French Bread Revolution start here at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi?

Poilâne used stoneground, unprocessed, whole-grain flour and sourdough starter, baking his bread in a wood oven — then unheard of in Paris, the capital of the baguette. It was unfashionable to eat anything other than white bread. This way of thinking was further reinforced by WWII, during which the French had no choice but to eat heavy, dark bread. He continued making it nonetheless, says France Today, and today, Apollonia Poilâne, Pierre’s granddaughter, runs the bakery.

Until 2007, she studied at Harvard and ran the bakery at the same time, having her personal supply of bread sent to her every week in Boston.

Note the elegant “P” carved into the top of each loaf.













This now-classic Poilâne loaf has a hard, crusty outside and a firm, dense crumb on the inside. It can keep be eaten fresh for up to 5 days after baking, after which it can be toasted.

Inside Pain Poilane bread creative common license













Pain Poilâne or miche, meaning “round loaf,” weighs in at around 2 kg / 4.4 lb. The recipe is secret, and it is not a whole-grain bread in the traditional sense of the word. Environmentally correct, pesticide-free varieties of wheat are grown and stored. They are then stone-ground, thus preserving the wheat germ. Stone grinding makes it possible to eliminate any coarse bran that might contain impurities.

Poilâne flour is what is called in French farine biseor wheatmeal — a brown flour intermediate between white flour and wholemeal flour — which maintains a higher nutritional value than white flour. Levain or sourdough starter and salt from the salterns of Guérande, a swamp of salt water in Brittany.

Pierre brought this type of bread with him from his native Normandy, where loaves were large and round, in the style of what the French now call “country bread.” Today, it is distributed all over the world.

Apollonia Poilâne, current owner of Poilâne bread bakeries













Pierre’s sons Lionel and Max took over the bakery in 1970. Just like Apollonia, they had learned bread baking by working right alongside their father, and continued the tradition of the original round loaf marked with the signature “P.” They eventually took separate paths, with Lionel keeping the original bakery started by his father, and Max going off on his own to start a bakery under his own name, Max Poilâne. In Paris, people have long discussions over which of the brothers makes/made the better bread, since both have continued to bake their father’s signature recipe.

Lionel Poilâne is better known outside France, since he grew the original family business, making it into an international name. This growth was made possible by his excellent teaching skills and his embracing of modern developments in the industry, such as the use of machine kneading, while at the same time maintaining his father’s philosophy of each baker following and taking responsibility for his or her loaves from start to finish. He referred to his concept as “retro-innovation.”

Lionel and his wife died when their helicopter, piloted by Lionel, crashed in 2002, leaving behind daughters Athena and Apollonia, the latter who is now following in her father’s footsteps. She started running the bakery on graduation from high school.

In this video, Martha Stewart visits the Poilâne bakery in Paris and learns about the bread making process in an interview with 22-year-old Apollonia Poilâne when she was still at Harvard. Click here to watch the video interview of Apollonia by Martha Stewart herself.


Martha Stewart

The offiical Poilâne site lists a number of recipes, for making and using some of the Poilâne bread and pastries.


Poilâne Bakeries

8 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris 6th arrondissement
Tel. +33 (0) 1 45 48 42 59
49 bld de Grenelle, Paris 15th arrondissement
Tel. +33 (0) 1 45 79 11 49
Open on Sundays
38 rue Debelleyme, Paris 3rd arrondissement
Tel. +33 (0) 1 44 61 83 39
Open on Sundays
46 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W
Tel. +44 (0) 207 808 4910



To read more about the French Bread Revolution, see also (bilingual in French and English):

The Revolution of French Bread Baking (part 1), by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac

The Revolution of French Bread Baking (part 2), by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac

Book Review: Jean-Philippe de Tonnac’s “Dictionnaire Universel du Pain” or Universal Dictionary of Bread, by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac

The 7 Lives of Bread: Pascal Auriac, master bread baker in Laguiole, a hidden corner of France, by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac

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Geneva and Lausanne: Sustainable Living Resources in Switzerland

Published by Tuesday, May 21, 2013 Permalink 0

Geneva and Lausanne: Sustainable Living Resources in Switzerland

This is a new list for sustainable living in Geneva and Lausanne and we’ll be adding to it and updating it on a regular basis. We will extend it to other French-speaking cities as we add to the list.

Free WiFi in Geneva and Lausanne





The city of Geneva is in the process of setting up free WiFi hotspots in and around Geneva, referred to as “GeSpots”. The project is a long-term project, but terminals are already available at the locations marked in green. Click here to see the map.


Free WiFi hotspots are available in the following locations in Lausanne: Saint-François, Riponne, Flon, Palud, Montbenon, Navigation, Port d’Ouchy and at the Service des Automobiles automobile registration and inspection office and the Blécherette aerodrome.

Farmers and Open-air Markets

Sandrine Chapuis’ own mesclun, mixed greens from hills of Geneva







This site lists all the markets by day. A handy map is included with each listing so you can see where it is located in Geneva.


The Marchés Lausannois site lists the weekly markets:

Downtown/Center of Town Markets

Wednesday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
In downtown pedestrian streets: agricultural produce and products
On Place de la Riponne: bakery, butcher, fowl, mushrooms and non-food products



Marché de Chauderon / Chauderon Market

Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Flea market

Marché du boulevard de Grancy / Boulevard de Grancy Market

Monday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Marché des Chômeurs

Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Place de la Riponne: flea market and miscellaneous other goods


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