29 October 2013

Pain au Chocolat

I tried my hand at pain au chocolat the other day. Pain au chocolat is by far my favorite treat to get from the bakery. And I don't say that without any tried and true knowledge. When we first moved to France, I made a personal goal to try one new thing every time we went to a boulangerie (bakery). And Why not? What would living in France be if I didn't try and master every pain, every baguette, every puffed pastry delight overstuffed with fresh cream? That is living the French Dream, my friends. Anyway, John was unaware of this goal of mine so it made him extra perturbed that we spent more than 80 centimes (roughly $1) every visit. He called me out on it last week when we left with a fresh loaf of bread and a mini loaf of chocolate. Just chocolate. That was the only ingredient I could identify. He asked and pleaded "Why, WHY, why would someone who scolds me for eating sour patch kids and skittles and fanta rationalize buying a loaf of chocolate?" Mind you, the loaf was only like the size of a tonka truck toy.

Anyway, he clearly doesn't get it. Yes I'm concerned with health and hope to have a career in nutrition one day but a happy normal living breathing person such as myself can indulge once in a while in one of God's greatest gifts to wo(men): BAKED GOODS. John prefers tonka trunks and ducks over baked goods. So he was mad, like this:

an actual angry picture of both of us at le jet d'eau in which we were both actually angry at life and each other
In the end, I saw that it bothered him just a touch and realized that I could just make them at home. My first recipe was pain au chocolat—so far the one pastry that never fails to please.

The day I decided to make these, I woke up late in the morning, which was a pretty hefty consequence. I had all but two ingredients: milk and chocolate. John literally sprinted to the market before it closed at noon:15, bought the ingredients, and walked home. The man (is happy to do and) will do just about anything for me. Except buy me a pain au chocolat from the bakery, which is why we are in this mess in the first place . . . anyway . . . I love him so much.


Pain au chocolat is mostly butter with some dough and chocolate.

500 g flour (about 4 cups)
1/4 tsp. salt
40 g sugar (about 1 heaping Tbsp.)
10 g yeast (about 1 tsp.)
28 cl milk (about 1 overflowing cup)
1 egg

I recommend watching this video for precise instructions. It is in French; however, with a g/kg scale you can measure the ingredients. And as for the method, watch it 20 times like I did. 

After refrigerating the dough overnight or for 8 hours at least, roll out into a thin circle.

Add 250 grams/2 cups of butter

Slap it on.

Fold top down, bottom up, then sides in.
Roll into a long flat rectangle.

Fold again top down, bottom up.
Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

If you don't have a rolling pin, don't even think about trying to make these.
You have to roll, fold, wrap, refrigerate like 7 times.

Flour surface EVERY TIME you roll.

After rolling into a thin long rectangle,
fold again top down, bottom up.

Wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll and fold again like as before.
Remember to flour the surface.
This time, refrigerate for one hour.
Tip: refrigerate your rolling pin as well to help keep dough cold while rolling.

Finally, the dough is ready.
Cut in half. Prepare to roll.

It's hard to see, but you should be able to see the fine lines that make up the layers of folds.
The butter and the layers is what makes this so flaky.
Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
Roll dough once again into a long thin rectangle, about 6" wide (or a little less)

Chocolate time.
Use a bar of chocolate that is about 3" wide.
Cut bar in 3" by 1/2" rows. 
Place two rows on dough about 2-3" apart.
Roll dough right to left.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 15 minutes.

Once the oven is preheated, whisk one egg in a bowl.
Brush the pains with the egg.
Put them in the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes.

Watch the butter ooze out.

So flaky, buttery, and chocolatey.

John even made croissants with the extra dough.
Why was there extra dough?
Because I don't understand European baking measurements!
Solution: ALWAYS WEIGH ingredients when you don't have the proper measuring utensils.

Although it was fun and all, I don't know if it is an economical compromise. Considering the time and cost of those ingredients, it is a much easier and cheaper to buy one from the bakery.
I literally had to babysit the dough for hours but it made the experience all the more endearing. I'm glad I tried it. I'm sure I will again.

John: "I think it needs more butter."

25 October 2013


We live in a tiny village in France 20 minutes from the border of Switzerland. It is a lot like Salt Lake City in that it is a valley surrounded by mountains, except these mountains are green. It is more humid here than in Utah but the scenery is very similar. That is one reason we love it so much. 

Our town is one in a chain of several little villes with pastures for cows and horses. In fact, down the street we have a 24-hour organic raw milk vending machine. The after taste is exactly like a bite of gruyere cheese. 

Our main mode of transportation is le bus. It takes John only 20 minutes to get to his school and it's a free ride because often the bus doesn't have a working ticket dispensing machine. However, it will take me 1.5 hours and two bus lines for a total of 16 Euro ($22) to get to my school in Annecy. Also I'd have to leave around 6:15 am to get to school by 9:30. We decided it would be a lot cheaper and more convenient to buy a car.

We looked at a few cars. One was an Audi but the brakes were touchy. This was the third car we looked at. It didn't start. 

But after we got it to start, we took it for a long ride and found that she runs so smooth and quiet. It seems every car on the road in this country has the engine of a dump truck. They are so loud! This one is quiet and smooth. Also, she was only 400 Euro. 

To you, she may be a bit rough on the eyes, but to us she is perfect! She'll need a little work done before we can register her and get her legal, but she's worth it! We're so excited. It's another step in the journey of becoming French.

Also we finally got these:

Our Carte Bleus. It's a French debit card. We waited THREE WEEKS for this. This is the key to everything. Well mainly the key to getting French sim cards for our phones. The key to data, Instagram and GPS and calling my husband when I'm lost in the streets of Geneva. In short, it's the key to survival. 

Let me tell you the process for acquiring this card:

Day 1 Tuesday: (Bank closed Sat-Mon)
Spoke with a banker for 1.5 hours
Signed 7 pieces of paper
Brought originals and copies of 
John's work contract,
my school schedule,
our marriage license
and our identification cards

Day 2 Wednesday: John drops off a letter from Cati and an energy bill
proving we live with her and this is in fact her house

End of week 1: John calls to make sure they received everything.

Week 2 Tuesday: we receive a letter saying what they said Friday when John called . . . 
they've received our information

Week 2 later: We receive a letter with our online account sign in.
Sign in doesn't work.

Week 2 later later: We receive a letter saying our debit cards are ready
to be PICKED UP at the bank.

Week 3 Wednesday: Go to the bank with 3 letters.
They have our cards but can't give them to us
because they need 1 more bill from Cati.

Week 3 Thursday: We drop off the other bill.

Week 3 Friday: John calls the bank to confirm they received the bill
and we can pick up the cards. 

we must come in before noon to make a deposit, or we can't pick up our cards til Monday.
It is Friday.
They don't take deposits after 12:00pm.
It is currently 10:30 am.
We scramble out of the house,
buy the car,
make it to the bank at 11:55 am,
park illegally in our new car,
Make a deposit
Get our cards.
To activate, we must withdraw money from the deposit we just made 
at the ATM outside the bank.
this country..........

15 October 2013


Swallowing your pride is like waxing your own bikini line, aka torture. For those who have never experienced that, I will summarize. 

The bikini line is the perimeter of a woman's bikini bottom where she would like to remove unwanted hair. To wax it, you smear warm sticky wax on the skin, apply a cloth, rub, count to three and rip. As you can imagine, these netherparts are ultra tender and hard to reach on your own.
Now swallowing your pride is somewhat the same process. You're upset at your husband for something silly and minuscule but you can't get over it. Queue smearing the hot unforgiving wax on your skin. You know you have to let it go or talk about it to get it off your mind so you begin to rub the cloth over the wax, preparing to purge the negativity. You've talked about it, you have nothing more to say but you still want some affirmation or at least groveling. But you can only stand there waiting in silence for so long. You've said what you needed to say and now it's time to move on. Time to rip it off. You count to three, completely dreading what is going to happen next. Not wanting to feel the discomfort of letting go, not getting exactly what you thought you deserved, the annoyance of forcing yourself to forget. 1, 2, 3......RIP. 

and then, the endorphins. And now you feel a lot less hairy inside and out.

*us at the Louvre