Search Results for: venice

Well that was interesting.

I went to prison last night and, to my great surprise, they let me back out again. It was quite an experience to watch a group of convicts — many of them serving extended sentences for very serious crimes — perform Shakespeare. Quite honestly I’m still trying to decide what I thought of it. It wasn’t the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen, though many of the performances and several of the scenes were jaw-droppingly good.

Over the years the Shakespeare Behind Bars troupe has performed a variety of different Shakespeare plays, many tragedies (Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth) but also comedies (The Comedy of Errors, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice). This year’s show, Richard III, was I think the first of the history plays they’d performed. You won’t be surprised to discover that the histories are generally my favorites, especially the so-called “Henriad”: Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Henry V. So…no surprise that I was keen on seeing it. …

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments

A Speculative History of Lamination

There’s been an unexpected benefit to my Dog Days of Summer Savory Baking Project: it’s provided tantalizing glimpses into the history of layered (also called “laminated”) doughs: phyllo, warqa and now the thin-stretched layers of yeast dough used for torta di bietola. Though I can’t draw a direct line from one to the next, all of them at least appear to be points on the evolutionary road that led to modern-day laminating techniques and doughs like puff pastry.

Sure, the French claim to have invented puff pastry, but don’t they stake a claim to everything with this much butterfat? The Italians likewise say they created — or at least perfected — puff pastry, and indeed there are mentions of laminated dough that date back to Renniassance-era Venice and Florence. But then similar claims have also been made by the Spaniards and the Turks.


Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 6 Comments

Dough, Butter, Dough, Butter, Dough…

Hmm…remind you of anything? If you said croissant dough or puff pastry, then you get to day’s cash prize (conditions apply, subject to void where prohibited). Filo dough is the ancestor of so-called “laminated” (i.e. “layered”) doughs. The chief differences being that while filo relies on melted butter and individual stacked sheets, laminated doughs employ semi-firm butter and a clever folding method that creates their many paper-thin layers in just a few steps. Dough folding is a European variation on the layered pastry idea that’s thought to have taken hold in Europe in about the Sixteenth Century. Layered pastries of…

Read on…

Leave a comment

Dawn of the Noodle

So where did pasta come from exactly? Nobody knows. It could have been Italy, might have been China, was perhaps the Middle East, but then might have been someplace else altogether. Anyplace people were cultivating wheat and pounding it into flour. The thing is, boiling a paste of flour and water (like cooking it on a hot rock or frying it up in fat) doesn’t exactly represent a giant technical leap. It’s something that might have occurred to just about anyone with a little dough and some time (and water) on their hands. However there’s a significant qualitative difference between,…

Read on…

Leave a comment

What ho, yon fruitcake.

More than a few food scribes will tell you that fruitcakes date to the Greeks and Romans (doesn’t everything in a newspaper food column?). But that’s only true if what you mean by a fruitcake is a cake with fruit in it. It’s sort of like trying to put a fixed date on, oh, let’s say pizza. If, for you, pizza is any kind of round flat bread with savory somethings on top, you can probably date it back to when bread was invented, around 10,000 BC. If, for you, pizza is a thing that has cheese on it, then…

Read on…

Leave a comment

Eat eat, you’re nothing but skin and bone!

Being Scots-Irish I didn’t have an Italian grandmother. However I did have an adoptive one lent to me by neighbors; the grandmother of two boys who lived across the alley from the house I grew up in. Given that both of them had sandy blond hair and their last name was Aylesworth, they weren’t your standard eye-talian boys. Though standing in their grandmother’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon I thought I was in Sicily. She was one great lady, and even though I was what you might call a “full-figured” youth, you’d have thought I was a Somalian refugee by…

Read on…

Leave a comment

Who was Marco Polo?

WARNING: The following post has nothing whatsoever to do with noodles. But then neither did the travels of Marco Polo, so what are you complaining about? So who exactly was Marco Polo? An explorer? Yes, but only secondarily. First and foremost he was a Venetian, which in those days meant he was a businessman, looking to take advantage of the biggest business opportunity that had yet been presented to human beings on planet Earth: the Mongol Empire. The Mongol Empire was the largest single domain the world had ever seen up until that point, stretching from the Pacific Ocean on…

Read on…

Leave a comment

Ho-Hum Breakthroughs

For those of you getting tired of me crying “I’ve finally done it!” with my Chicago-style deep-dish pizza crust recipe, you might want to just go ahead and move on to Creampuffs in Venice now (anyway, Ivonne’s got a pretty wicked-looking Nutella panino up there this morning). But I did make a pretty significant improvement to it over the weekend. For a few weeks now I’ve been concerned about the richness of the crust. It was a criticism a few canny pizza bakers expressed early on with the recipe, though I wasn’t sure what to do about it. The dough…

Read on…

Leave a comment

The Results Are In!

The winners of the 2nd annual Next Generation Chocolatier Competition have been announced. Congratulations to Jin Patisserie in Venice, California! (And nice going on a very cool web site).

Leave a comment