Pain de Campagne

Blog Note: On Friday I mentioned that I will be moving Bakers and Best off servers soon, and that folks who have subscribed via the reader would need to resubscribe another way.  After doing some more digging with WordPress, turns out they will be able to help me with that!  So, the site will look different but you’ll remain subscribed all the same.  If you don’t see a Photoshop Phriday post in your reader at the end of this week, it means I somehow managed to mangle the transition, but am working to fix it!  Back-end web development has been like trying to learn a foreign language in another language I don’t speak.

I’ve written a great deal about recipes that I put off for long periods of time, but this one has to take the cake.  When I got Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice in the spring of 2011 I put a sticky note on the pain de campagne recipe.  And here we are four years later, me finally having made this bread.  I’ve done plenty of other things in that time, including start this blog!  Yesterday marked 3 years since I started up my little corner of the internet.


Pain de campagne is your very basic french country bread.  If you don’t speak French this should help with learning how to properly pronounce the name.  I have a very rudimentary understanding of French pronunciation rules and constantly have my wife, who speaks French, correcting me.  My first instinct is to say something that sounds like ‘panda campaign’ (save the pandas!) but that is horrifyingly wrong.  Good news is, you don’t need to be able to say the name to make and enjoy the recipe.  I already proved that when making Pääsiäisleipä a few weeks ago.

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Photoshop Phriday: Rick Leach

If you are putting together a list of famous Michigan (the school and the state) athletes Rick Leach is certainly going to be on it.  Born at the U of M hospital and raised in flint, Leach was the Michigan quarterback from 1975-78.  He was the first true freshman QB in program history to start a season opener; Chad Henne and Tate Forcier are the only other two to earn that distinction.  Under the direction of Bo Schembechler Leach would rewrite the Michigan record books.  When he left he held almost every passing and total offense record at the school.  Forty years later Leach still holds the NCAA record for highest percentage of passes for touchdowns.

Rick Leach

So what does an All American, three time All Big Ten QB do in the offseason?  Play baseball of course!  Leach won a Big Ten batting title at Michigan and holds the elite distinction of being an All American in two sports.  After graduating in 1979 Leach was drafted by both the Detroit Tigers (1st round) and the Denver Broncos (5th round).  He had already been drafted by the Phillies in both 1975 and ’78, but opted not to sign.  Leach did sign in 1979 with the Tigers and played parts of 10 MLB seasons from 1981 to ’90.  Last week Real Sports on HBO aired a piece on Jim Harbaugh that mentioned his adoration of Leach growing up.  Harbaugh does a great impression of Leach, who clearly shares his love of sweet potato sourdough loaves.

Banana Pancakes

Breakfast is undoubtedly my favorite meal and when it comes to breakfast there are few things as satisfying as cutting into a stack of pancakes.  My wife prefers waffles so I’ll usually make a batch of pancakes when she is out of town.  However she makes exceptions for certain kinds, including these banana pancakes.  The recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and has become my go-to pancake recipe.


How to Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World by Bittman are the two biggest cookbooks on our shelf and some of the most frequently used.  Each of the books has a variety of base recipes and then lots of different ways that you can adapt them to certain ingredients.  So the basic pancake recipe also has 5 or 6 variations with different fillings that you could use.  It’s great if you have a set of ingredients but just aren’t sure what to do with them.

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Photoshop Phriday: New Orleans VooDoo

Last week I was at a conference in New Orleans and on Friday night I went to a Pelicans game with a friend who lives in town.  While there I noticed goalposts for an arena football team hanging in the rafters and shortly after found out they were for the New Orleans team, the VooDoo,  Watching arena football on NBC ten-ish years ago was one of the first things that fueled my strange obsession with any type of football that isn’t the NFL (CFL season is just about two months away!).  Having done the touristy things in town for three days I was thrilled to find out that the VooDoo had a home game on Saturday night.  So off I went to the Smoothie King Arena on Saturday night to pique my interest in semi-pro sports.


For those that don’t know, the Arena Football League is a 12 team indoor football league played on a 50 yard field (half the length of the NFL or NCAA).  This in addition to other rule changes (no punting allowed, sadly) encourages high scoring games and a fast pace of play.  There is also no out of bounds area, just padded sideline boards.  This is one of the many things that I think made the fan experience equal parts special and terrifying.  Before the game the PA announcer warned that “players may go flying into the stands and cause serious injury” and that “any ball that goes into the stands is yours to keep, but you have to return any player that does”.  On this play receiver Marcus Smith reeled in some freshly baked quinoa flour baguettes, disappointing the fans who thought they might catch them (Photo courtesy New Orleans VooDoo).  Click to read more about the game…

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Pääsiäisleipä (Finnish Easter Bread) for #BreadBakers

This month Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla chose the #BreadBakers theme of Easter, Passover, and Springtime breads from around the world.  Breads are by definition heavily limited for Passover and since I made matzah last year I decided to see what interesting Easter and spring breads I could turn up for this month.


A great deal of the Easter breads I had known about before were (unsurprisingly) rich and egg laden doughs, often with a whole egg baked into the outer part of the loaf.  The Greek Easter bread Tsoureki is an example of one such bread.  Though I figured any Easter bread would be egg heavy I wanted to do something more off the beaten (HA!) path.  A search on The Fresh Loaf turned up this incredible bread filled with fruit, nuts, and a wonderful combination of spices.

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Corn Muffins

If you’ve ever been on campus at the University of Michigan, a sporting event, or rifled through my wardrobe (probably only one blog reader who can claim that I hope), you will know that U of M’s colors are maize and blue.  If you want to get really technical they are Pantone® 7406C and 282C.  Interestingly enough the colors weren’t adopted until 50 years after the school’s founding and then it was still another 45 before they were made official in 1912.


A friend of mine who went to another Big 10 school opposes Michigan’s use of the word maize, vehemently maintaining that ‘corn is not a color’.  He has decided my love of Michigan equates to a love of corn and as a result part of our wedding present from him included a dozen cans of corn.  With two months to go until our first anniversary we still have eight of them left; truly, the gift that keeps on giving!

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Photoshop Phriday: Denard Robinson

Nearly two years ago I shared a photo at the end of my 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf post that started me down the path that would lead to Photoshop Phridays.  This week I revisit that and take a closer look at one of my favorite Michigan football players, Denard Robinson.  From 2009 to 2012 Denard was one of the most exciting players in all of college football.  His first play ever at QB, a bobbled snap that turned into a touchdown run, set the tone for fans that with him there was always the potential for a big play.  Denard somehow stayed relentlessly positive in what was a darker time for the Michigan program.  He stuck with the program through coaching changes, moved to different positions as a senior, and in doing so demonstrated some of the most admirable qualities of a leader and team player.   I recommend Ryan Kartje’s 2010 profile of Denard to learn more about his story before coming to Ann Arbor.


As for the highlights and records, where to even begin?  His logic defying performances are all over the Michigan and NCAA record books.  In 2010 he became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 in a single season.  That year he also set the NCAA QB season rushing record (1,702 yards) and as a senior surpassed Pat White for the career QB rushing record at 4,495 yards.  Denard is responsible for 8 of the 10 highest single game yardage totals in Michigan history (Devin Gardner has the other two).  If you want specific highlights, I’d recommend starting with his 87 yard TD run against Notre Dame (part of a 502 total yard performance), or the miraculous ending to the 2011 win against Notre Dame.  These days Denard is on the Jacksonville Jaguars and last season finally had a chance to show NFL fans what he was capable of.  No doubt his favorite banh mi sandwiches helped fuel his legendary collegiate performances and infectious smile (Photo credit to Joseph Tobianski).