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Mussels with Chorizo – Be Still My Heart!

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Hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day.    It seems like Valentine’s Day ends the winter holidays, and we can officially start looking toward spring.   It’s been a mild winter here, but I’m ready to some simple, spicy springy dishes.   This recipe for Mussels with Chorizo  fits the bill perfectly.    Some of my favorite times with friends have included mussels.   It’s so fun to gather in the kitchen around a big steaming pan and a basket of bread.    I remember Tuesdays night  in Madison at an all-u-can-eat Moules and Frittes night at a sweet French restaurant.   So many flavors, and happy memories.

Since Around My French Table arrived, I’ve had my eye on this recipe.    I love mussels, love chorizo, love garlic, what more is there to say?    My all time favorite mussel preparation is white wine, garlic, butter and little thyme.  The sauce for dipping is SO good.  I’ve served this a many small parties and people who don’t even think they like mussels love them.   The FFWD recipe had stiff competition, but I felt positive given the great ingredients.

I still follow the rule that you should eat mussels during months with “r”  in them.   So May, June, July and August, sorry.   I’m sure the mussels we get are culitivated, and it really doesn’t matter.  But it kind of adds to the romance of mussels.   Living in the midwest, it’s not exactly the seafood capital, but our fish monger does a great job and we’ve never had any funky mussels.    Once the mussels are home, I pick through them and toss out any that aren’t completely closed.  Before I toss them, I give them a little tap and see it they’ll close.  If not, it’s adios.   Can’t risk eating a bad mussel.

The recipe serves 4, and there are only two of us so I used about 2# of mussels.

The recipe starts with the usual cast of characters. red pepper, onion and lots-o-garlic.

My chorizo was in a plastic tube, and soft.  I cut the tube in half, squeezed it into the pan, then sauteed the chorizo with the vegetables.   Oh the smell!   It’s so easy to wrap up the rest and use it another time.


After everything melded together, in went the tomatoes and wine.   I only used one can of tomatoes since there were fewer mussels, and I decided to eat them in bowl with baguette rather than pasta.  I’m guessing there may have been a little more wine.

Here’s are the little mussels just after putting them in the pan.

The lid went on tightly for 3-5 minutes, and ta-da!  Here’s they are just a few minutes later.

That’s it gang!  Into a soup bowl with a nice toasted baguette slices drizzled with some olive oil.    We have a mussel eating tradition which is to use one mussel like a castenet and pinch the mussel from the others shells.   It’s fun, easy, drippy and delicious and no silverware is required.    The bread soaks up the incredible sauce.   Just have a big napkins standing by.     At the end of the pot, we had no unopened mussels – success!

I have a plan to make both sauces and have a little mussel fest in March.   We loved this recipe!







Nutella Tartine – You Never Forget Your First Taste

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Just like you never forget your first kiss, you never forget your first taste of Nutella.

My first bite was in a Nutella crepe in Paris.  The warm chocolate hazelnut spread is heavenly, and just a bite or two is so satisfying.

This week’s French Friday’s with Dorie is a Nutella Tartine.    A tartine is a toasted open-faced sandwich.   Ingredients can include pesto, arugula, tuna, tapenade, goat cheese…. you get it.

The Nutella tartine uses toasted brioche, orange marmalade, Nutella and sliced almonds.    I perfect Sunday morning (or Valentine’s Day…) breakfast.

I decided to combine my Tuesday Baking with Julia white loaf bread with this recipe.   The bread is sturdy, with just the perfect amount of sweetness.

Nutella is a treasure, but there are a few treasures I’d like to introduce.  The first is the Breville Toaster Oven.  Dreamy!  It toasts, broils, bakes, everything perfectly.  It takes up no more room than a microwave.  It’s a new best friend.   If you’re in the market for a new toaster, pick up one of these instead.   I toasted the bread in the Breville, and buttered it with the next treasure… 

Sweet cultured butter.  I found an Irish brand at our cheese store.   The butter is so good, you can almost eat it alone.  You shouldn’t skip buttering  the bread.  If you can’t find fancy-schmancy butter, find some good salted butter.  This is one time when salted butter is important.  It will balance the sweetness of the jam and Nutella.  You can also make butter.  What?!? Make butter?  Yep.  It’s so easy and delicious.  Here’s how:

To Make Your Own Butter:

Pour 1 quart heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the PADDLE.   Mix on medium speed for several minutes. (about 10).  The cream will go through the whipped cream phase, then become light yellow, and separate into butter and buttermilk.   You’ll see the butter separate out, and hear the clunking in the mixer.

Remove the butter mass from the bowl, and scrape off any butter on the paddle.  Place the butter between sheets of parchment paper, or plasic wrap and knead the butter to remove any remaining pockets of buttermilk.  The buttermilk will sour, and taint the taste of the butter, so take time to make sure the butter is solid without liquid.    Then knead sea salt or salt and herbs into the butter to taste.  Start with about 1/2 tsp, and increase.  If you have a box of food service gloves, they come in handy for kneading the butter.

Form into a log, about 2 inches in diameter, and about 6 inches long.   Wrap in parchment paper, plastic wrap or waxed paper.   Chill (or use right away).  The butter will keep a few days in the refrigerator.

Back to the Tartine!

After the bread is toasted, it’s spread with butter and orange marmalade and drizzeled with Nutella.   The toasted sliced almonds add great texture and crunch.   I like to cut the bread into slices, or on the diagonal.   This would also be great on a baguette.  If you’re not an oranage marmalade fan, you could substitute your favorite jam.   Simply, sweet and so lovely.   We loved the tart orange taste with the sweet Nutella.   We’ll be making these again!

Have a great weekend! Coming up… Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

Baking with Julia Week 1: White Bread

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It’s finally February 7th!  I’ve been waiting patiently (well, not so patiently) for today.   Today is the very first week of Baking with Julia, a baking group coordinated by Dorie Greenspan.  The original group baked its way though Dorie’s Baking book.  They completely the recipes and were ready for the next challenge.  Dorie Greenspan authored Baking with Julia, so its fitting her book is next.

Twice each month, we’ll bake two recipes from the book and post to     As some of you may know, I also participate in French Fridays with Dorie, which bakes & cooks recipes from Around My French Table.

I never had the opportunity to meet Julia Child, but I love her.  I love her fearless spirit, her laugh, her stature, and most of all her love of cooking.   When I pull out her books and read a recipe, its her voice I hear reading to me.   If something spills or doesn’t turn out quite right, she’s there in spirit with her happy, let’s move on, coaching.  I know things will turn out fine.   My hope is that I can inspire people the way she does some day.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book and bake along with me.   Feel free to add your link or notes in my comments area.  Or, sign up with the group.   The February 21st recipe is Chocolate Truffle Tartlets!  Can’t wait!

Let’s start baking!

Of all the categories in the patisserie world, I think I like bread making the best.   It takes times, patience, and the coordination of efforts with dough.    Yeast is in charge of most of the process.  You can try to rush it, but its really going to do what it pleases.   It’s more like a duet.

The recipe makes two loaves of bread.  I doubled the recipe (exactly) for make four loaves.   I also used my French bread kneading machine just to pull the dough together.   I finished the dough my hand.  The machine is to cool.  It turns against the doughs friction against the side as the hook pulls and turns the dough.  Just the action that you do with your hands.  It allows me to make bigger batches, and have my hands free for other baking.   It’s very gentle, and still requires fairly close supervision so the dough doesn’t wander up the hook or out of the bowl.  We used a machine like this at school, and I was able to find one when I got home.  I can make up to about 10 loaves of bread in it at a time.  Not huge production, but bigger quantities than can easily be done by hand.

Once the dough was mixed, it rested for about 5 minutes.  This process is called autolyse.  The yeast gets started, the flour and water setttle in, and the gluten begins to develop.

When I’m teaching a bread class, the number one question is always. “How long will I knead the dough?”  The best way to know that you’re finished kneading it to check a gluten window.   Gently cut off a small piece of dough, gently tease/strectch the dough with your fingers and look for a sheer pane of dough that wont’ tear as it’s being stretched.   It you can make it sheer without tearing, you’re finished!   Here’ a photo of the White Breads’ gluten window.

Notice the light coming through the sheer dough.  I was doing the photography and stretching myself, so the dough isn’t stretched as thin or far as I would have like.    Every single time I make bread, I check for the window.  Every batch is different, and I always want to make sure I’ve worked the dough enough.

After the dough has had a good rise, and at least doubled in volume, it’s time to shape the loaves.  I weighed the whole batch, then divided by four to make sure each loaf was about the same size.  You certainly don’t have to be this picky, but baking is much more even when the loaves are the same.   I like to cover the bread pans with a favorite towel.  Call me superstitous.   By the way, did I tell you that I always spin the dough three times, then flip it in the bowl before it starts to rise?   Habits are good!

Here are the sweet loaves shaped and ready for the 2nd rise.

The 2nd rise is about an hour.  The key to to let the bread rise until the loaf is about 1 inch about the top of the pan.  That way, with the added spring in the oven, you’ll have a nice tall loaf  with perfectconsistency to the crumb.  This recipe has a little bit more yeast than some recipes, so the bread rose faster than I was expecting.  It’s just a bit taller than usual, but doesn’t it look great!??

Now into the oven!  The yeast will work like crazy as the temperature of the dough increases.  Once the dough reached about 120 F, the yeast will die, and bread will be it’s finished size.    I bake the dough until the internal temperature is about 180-200F.   Just push an instant read thermometer right into the end.  You can also pop the dough of the pan and look at the color.   It should be golden.  Once you’ve got the temp and color, try to tap the loaf and listen to the “hollow” thump.   It’s hard to know that sound unless you know the bread is done.    I turn the bread out of the pans immediately and let them cool on their sides.  OK, another weird habit, but it works.   I pulled this bread out of the oven at about 195F and liked the pretty light golden color.  This was JUST enough.   It could have easily gone another 5 minutes.  It’s great for toast.  Don’t underbake your bread.  The golden color is caramelization of the sugars which equals flavor!

The bread is cool, and upon inspection, no swirly holes.   It has a nice soft but sturdy, consistent crumb.   And… look at the cute shape of the loaves.  They look like the cookie cutter shape of bread!  and…not too high to fit into the toaster!

I hope you’ll join me in two weeks for the Chocolate Truffle Tartlets.  In the words of our dear Julia,  “Bon Appetit”!

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