Friday, October 25, 2013

Amsterdam – My home-wares and interior design store treasure hunt

Amsterdam has creativity and taste oozing at its seams. A young, fresh and vibrant city, yet naturally so cozy, homely and cuddly. A perfect reflection of what I dream our own home to be like. In the process of designing and furnishing our new home, I needed a city where inspiration is baked on a daily basis. A city where ideas run wild but are tamed by tasteful and creative designers and shop-owners. A city where the words 'inspired', ‘relaxed’ and ‘happiness’ are direct definitions of its inhabitants, as this is how I want to feel in the process of decorating our home. What better place than Amsterdam!?

After a bit of research and planning, I decided to road trip up to Amsterdam. I stayed two days and very quickly realized that I never wanted to leave! I always seem to leave part of my heart in certain places when I travel. Amsterdam has definitely captured a chunk of my heart on this particular visit. 

Knowing that I would only have two days, I proactively mapped out my perfect treasure hunt for my favourite homewares and house shops beforehand. Google maps quickly became my best friend and what better way to ‘wrap up’ my two days in Amsterdam, than pass on my newly acquired knowledge to you!

My mapped-out treasure hunt

My two days were filled with bicycles (of course), good coffee, a well-nourished belly (necessary for shopping!), smiles (lots of them), inspired ideas, a full car trunk and ultimately, a much lighter wallet J

Before embarking on this epic home-ware marathon, make sure you start your day with a coffee at this gorgeous coffee shop called STACH (Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 52). There is one more location, a bit further out of the centre, where they are set up as a proper breakfast/brunch/lunch restaurant. Check out the details here. 

Stop 1:
After renting a bicycle from MacBike next to Central Station, I started with one of my favourite areas, called Haarlemmerstraat. This street is located near the Central Station (after a bridge called Haarlemmerdijk).
A busy and atmosphere-rich street lined with creative stores for homewares, kitchen and cooking utensils, vintage clothing, shoes, young designers, specialized coffee, tea and oils, as well as plenty of coffee shops and food nooks to keep you well nourished and happy.

Here are a few of the ones that caught my interest:

Sukha Store

Grab a coffee or meal at Vinnies Deli (Haarlemmestraat 46h) if you like organic and healthy food options presented SO beautifully….and who doesn’t!? Click here to find out more on the website.

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Stop 2:
Jordaan (Noordermarkt – Westerstraat)
The next stop is Jordaan, which is a short cycle along Prinsengracht canal from Haarlemmerstraat. No matter where I’d ride my bicycle in Amsterdam, my heart would not fail to melt away at the cute little houses and narrow streets in between the picturesque canals dotted with wooden boats of all shapes and sizes. This cycle along Prinsengracht, however, does get a special mention. It made me want to pull out my camera at every new street corner. It is also home to the Anne Frank House, the widely visited and famous museum of Anne Frank. This area also hosts the fantastic Noordermarkt, which you should try not to miss if possible:
  •         The Noordermarkt on Mondays transforms into a vintage flea market selling fabric, records, second-hand clothing, and other assorted treasures.
  •         The Noordermarkt on Saturdays is a biological, or organic, food market, selling a wide range of organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, cheese, mushrooms and other local produce.

On your cycle along Prinsengracht, one shop you’ll need to stop at if you like sweet, little antique ceramics is Juffrouw Splinter (Prinsengracht 230).

When in Jordaan, make sure you stroll or cycle down Rozengracht, a bigger street with plenty of lifestyle and home-ware shops. I stopped at the following:

Kitsch Kitchen
Rozengracht 8- 12
Imagine an entire world made from brightly patterned oilcloth and melamine.
Rozengracht 196 
Great design shop specializing in European home accessories.
Rozengracht 231
Unpolished, weathered, used, recycled…

Rozengracht 196
From Dutch to Scandinavian Design

Rozengracht 191-193
Lifestyle shop

Rozengracht 36-38
Paint and special papers

Rozengracht 54

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Stop 3:
Not far down from Rozengracht, you’ll find Leidseplein with a few more treasures tucked away:

Friday Next
A very nice concept store with lots of beautiful furniture next to inspirational corners, big moodboards, bags and books. They also have a cozy lunchroom-coffee corner. Overtoom 31 

Harvest and Co
Walk a bit further from Friday Next and turn right at the 1e Constantijn Huygensstraat, in the second street (2e Helmersstraat 90-92) on your right you find Harvest and Company, specialized in high quality vintage furniture, interior goods, specialty coffee, fine art, and beautifully crafted items for travel, work and living.

The Frozen Fountain 
Prinsengracht 645 Furniture, fabric, arts

Zara Home
van Baerlestraat 25
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Stop 4:
Brandy Melville
Every home-ware shopping spree needs a bit of clothes shopping in between.  If you need to limit it to just one, then limit it to this one in Amsterdam. This store can’t yet be found in every European city, which places it on my novelty store list and makes it such an absolute treat to go to. A touch of bohemian, but mostly stylish and relaxed comfort – those are the words that spring to mind. Now go there and shop! Click here for their website.

Oh and if you didn’t manage to grab a coffee at STACH in the morning, make sure you fuel up with some energy now, as this lovely coffee shop is just around the corner and down the street from Brandy Melville.

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Stop 5:
This grid of nine short streets makes up Amsterdam’s most eclectic, boutique-laden shopping district. A lovely area abundant in boutiques, cafes, specialty and second-hand shops, the streets are located in a beautiful part of the city and offer something for everyone. Take a stroll, have coffee or lunch, do a bit of shopping, and be sure to stock up on provisions for a picnic on the canals.
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Stop 6:
Yes, this place does get a mention on it’s own. Why you may ask? It summarizes Dutch practical design and balanced taste in one shop alone. By now, HEMA is a major Dutch symbol (like the Tim Horton for Canada) and its always a pleasure to stop in. Whether its lunch, treats, gifts, make-up, stationery, basic clothes, or home-wares you are after, HEMA has a bit of everything. Such a useful and fun shop to spend time in.

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So there you have it…my treasure hunt of Amsterdam. That is literally what it felt like, to cycle or stroll from one destination to another, in search for unique treasures which will, one day, be able to tell stories in our new home. Thank you Amsterdam for being the way you are. It is on my bucket list to spend more than just 2 days here on a future occasion…maybe even spend a cycle-riding and inspiring summer in this city. ‘Why not’ I say!

Dank u Amsterdam. Het is mooi geweest.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

I finished baking this new creation about an hour ago, took my first bite about 30 minutes ago (for a little sweet snack) and oh my goodness!! It tasted so perfect, that I felt an immediate urge to share this recipe with the world. After many shopping trips to IKEA recently, I was craving some cinnamon buns this morning and wanted to try something new and slightly different…

My family went crazy over it, and for a very good reason. The bread is beautifully soft, sandwiched between melted, buttery, cinnamon goodness. And oh the presentation! The bread looks absolutely gorgeous coming out of the over – the imperfect shapes somehow manage to look absolutely perfect. And the way to eat this guy is so appetizing, as one can peel off layer after layer…after layer of yumminess.

Yes, you should throw on your apron and yes, you should try this recipe. Now. J

Its actually surprisingly simple but will blow everyone’s socks off. Guaranteed.

Now go and bake!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
 (Click here for another blog with this same recipe...for some more images, which are very helpful as they show the way you cut the dough step for step). 

Yields: one 9 x 5 loaf

For the dough:
2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

¼ cup granulated sugar

2¼ tsp. instant yeast

½ tsp. salt

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
(approx. 57gr)
1/3 cup whole milk

¼ cup water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs

For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (you can also be successful at this if you don’t have a dough hook). 
Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat just until the butter is melted.  Set aside and let cool briefly, until the mixture registers 115-125˚ F (46-52 C) on an instant-read thermometer. 
Add the milk mixture, water, vanilla and eggs to the mixer bowl.  Mix on low speed until a soft dough forms.  Continue to knead until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as needed 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky ( FYI: I used about 4 extra tablespoons of flour).  Knead about 3-5 minutes. 
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and cover.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.  (After the dough has doubled, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before proceeding.)
While the dough rises, add the butter to a small saucepan and melt until browned.  Set aside.  Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix well.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Roll into a ball, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough out into an approximately 12 x 20-inch rectangle.
Brush the dough with the browned butter.  Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough in an even layer.  (Don’t be a wuss…use all of it!)
Cut the dough into 6 equal slices, then stack on top of each other.
Stack all the squares on top of each other and set into the prepared loaf pan.  Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, 30-45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Transfer the loaf to the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  (If the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil at the end of baking.) 
Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan 20-30 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and carefully turn the loaf out, transferring to a serving plate.  Serve warm.

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