Friends, Paris. What can I add to the conversation about what happened last Friday?I’m devastated and so very sad. Paris is one of my happy places. I’ve always felt safe there. Safe and happy. I’m heartbroken for the city and her people, for France and its citizenry, as they, like the rest of us, try to understand this very complicated world.
One of the bakers I follow on Facebook, Painrisien, posted a lovely sentiment on Saturday morning – that the boulangeries were open, even in the affected areas, and that the bakers were plying their centuries-old trade because life continues and bread is life.
I closed my laptop then and set aside my phone. I went to my kitchen, another of my happy places, and took down the flour and sugar, pulled out the butter. Baking is my security blanket when the world gets crazy. I love the alchemy and the physicality, I love knowing that ingredients, mixed in the right proportions, will always become bread. Reflexively, I began making Pulla, my mom’s Finnish bread. I wanted the familiarity of baking by heart, the homey fragrances of warm milk and cardamom, and the work of kneading the dough. Kneading bread, feeling it transform beneath my hands, gives me a soothing sense of control. Once the Pulla was set aside to proof, I washed the dishes and scrubbed the counters. I cleaned the stove and the floors. And it wasn’t enough. I needed more.
I scanned the cupboards and counters: There was the last of the candied orange peel, the rest of the chopped dried cherries/apricots/peaches from last week’s apple pie, a handful of dried cranberries. There was an apple in the bowl, an orange in the fridge. There was a dollop of creme fraiche and the last of a container of buttermilk.
I shredded the apple and zested the orange. I mixed all the dried fruit together. Flour, sugar in a bowl. Eggs, crème fraiche, buttermilk whisked together with vanilla and a couple of spices. I combined it all and made what has to be said, is the most delicious quick bread I have ever had. Ever, no lie.
It never fails. The joy, the pleasure, the magic of baking – it brings me back from the brink every time.
Bread is life. Make the bread.
Dried Fruit Quick Bread
1 cup shredded apple, juice squeezed out
1 ¾ c chopped dried fruit – I used cranberries, cherries, apricots, peaches, and candied orange peel
1 ¼ c flour
¾ c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp – 1 Tbs orange zest, to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c melted butter, cooled
¼ c crème fraiche
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add dried fruit and stir to distribute evenly. Make a well in the middle.
Whisk together eggs, crème fraiche, melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla, and pour into the well in the dry ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be thick and sticky.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about an hour, checking at 50 minutes. A tester inserted in the middle should come out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan, peel off parchment, and let cool to a warm room temperature. Wonderful with butter, or toasted with a little jam.
And remember: If we stay away, if we become too afraid to go to Paris (or anywhere else our heart desires), the darkness wins. Which can’t happen, not in the City of Light, not anywhere. Blessings.