Posts tagged ‘Pastries’

November 28, 2012

FrenchGiving : The Third Edition (Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat pain perdu)

This past Thanksgiving marked my very third Thanksgiving spent in France.  The first Thanksgiving was spent in intimate company where I attempted to recreate my mom’s recipes with plastic cups as estimated cup measurements.  The second Thanksgiving was a bit larger: 12 guests, innovative recipes, classic recipes, a wild goose chase for fresh cranberries, the whole kit and caboodle.  The tradition of cooking for this holiday was something that fulfilled me and made me less sad about being so far away.  This is why I have not called this year’s day Thanksgiving.  Because it was not.  This year was a new idea.  Seeing that I knew I couldn’t give this holiday my whole heart (5 days of cooking, days spent biking back and forth to supermarkets across town, hours to do the dishes afterwards), I decided not to do it.  I hesitated.  I thought about making one infamous dish.  But then I decided that you can’t have Thanksgiving with just one dish. It doesn’t work like that.

So I put a moratorium on Thanksgiving for this year and this year alone.  I couldn’t bear to go at it half-heartedly.  But my roommates, now with a taste of Thanksgiving in their hearts after 2 years gone by, were desperate to celebrate somehow.  I did what any American parent knows will thrill their children and I said….”how about breakfast for dinner!?”  Worked like a charm.  They were happy to do something,  I was happy that it wasn’t a shoddy version of Thanksgiving, and everyone cooked a frenchicized version of an American breakfast dish, sending all of us into food induced Frenchgiving comas after our 10 pm dinner.

My contribution was thanks to my darling Schnooze : croissant “french toast” / pain perdu.  In French, french toast is translated by “lost bread” because it was initially made out of stale brioche in order to salvage the hardened treat.  I bought some pain au chocolat (chocolate ‘croissants’ for a lack of a better translation) and turned them into a French toast worth making over and over again.

Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat perdu

What you’ll need:

  • 4 croissants | pain au chocolat
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla as desired

Now what?

  1. Cut the croissants in two length-wise
  2. Dip them, but not for too long, into the milk/egg/sugar/spices mixture.
  3. Cook them in a heated frying pan with a little bit of salted butter until they are crispy, crunchy and melty.

Et voilà.  Bon appétit.  It is as easy as that.

September 15, 2012

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am addicted to salted butter.  After 2 years in France, I find myself buttering baguettes with a far higher butter to bread ratio than I ever could have imagined.  There is something about the salted butter in this country that makes it go ‘crunch’ between your teeth and leaves you (endlessly) hankering for more.  In fact, if I could eat only baguette and salted butter for the rest of my days, I think I would be totally fine with it (and totally 3000 pounds.)

The other day, I started taking classes again.  They are in French and 7 hours long.  Hour 1 is fine, I’m perfectly attentive and learning…but by hour 6.5, I am planning what I am going to bake/cook in order to “change my ideas” and think about something else.  During our last in-class 15 minute break, while all of the other students were conversing about formation and adult education, I was on my phone googling David Lebovtiz’s chocolate chip cookies (a tried and true recipe) in order to know what ingredients I might need on the way home.  The first chocolate chip cookie recipe that popped up wasn’t the one I was looking for, but it seemed to tempt me even more.  A traditional cookie made with SALTED BUTTER.  Hallelujah, the angels were singing.

I stopped at the supermarket on the way home from school and splurged on the nicest, saltest butter that I could find.  I wanted it to “croque” (crunch) in my mouth. And crunch it shall.

This cookie is delicious. That is all I really have to say.  Make them and see for yourself.  In the US, salted butter really isn’t as salty as in France, so you might have to add some thicker salt (iodized salt just won’t do it) along the lines of fleur de sel or kosher salt…anything large and lumpy!

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from David Lebovtiz) my baking guru

(I got about 36 cookies)
What you’ll need:

  • 4 ounces (115g) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed (110g) dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup (180g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (200g) coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Now what?

  1. Mix butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a stand mixer (or by hand) until creamy. Do not overmix! This leads to flat and crunchy cookies rather than large and fluffy ones.
  2. Add the egg, vanilla extract and flour and combine until smooth.
  3. Finally, add the baking soda, sea salt and chopped chocolate (and chocolate ‘dust’)
  4. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour (ideally overnight).
  5. Once it is chilled, place spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet evenly spaced out.  Be sure to press down on the top of the dough to flatten them.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through (for even baking!) After 10 minutes, flatten the tops of the cookies with a spatula and put back in the oven for about 2 more minutes.  Be careful not to over bake (if you do they will still be delicious, just crunchy.)
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

(coming home to cookies.)

August 26, 2012

Fannie’s Chocolate Muffins | Muffins au chocolat de Fannie

After spending a week in the South West of France (near Bordeaux) with a group of very culinary people, I managed to pick up a few tricks of the trade.  In France, the only thing the French like more than eating is talking about food WHILE eating (what else is there to do when you spend 5 hours à table).  My heaven. And it isn’t the typical American banter, either.  The French don’t talk about calories, about portions, or about what they aren’t allowed to eat because it’s “bad for you.”  They talk about the basic steps involved in creating a fabulously flavorful yet simple dish.  Or the highly caloric pleasures they indulge in occasionally which leaves them satisfied but not one thousand pounds.

So while on vacation, two very lovely women tried their hand at a chocolate muffin bake-off.  All eleven of us sat around the table grading each muffin based on presentation, taste, texture, aftertaste, among other things.  No one was concerned about how many calories each muffin was.  That’s why I love France.  But anyway, I digress.  While both muffins were very tasty, I took with me the recipe for the winning muffin which is no more complicated than a very basic French fondant au chocolat.  Let me sell you this chocolately delight right now: 5 basic ingredients you are sure to have in your kitchen.  Very short preparation. 15 minutes in the oven.  Outstanding taste but very, very simple.  What the French do best, quoi.

Fannie’s Chocolate Muffins | Muffins au chocolat de Fannie

What you’ll need:

  • 7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (50 g) flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
  • 1 stick + 1 tbsp (120 g) butter

Now what?

  1. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a microwave safe bowl (or on the stove in a bain marie)
  2. Add the eggs, sugar and flour.
  3. Bake at 350 f/ 180 c for 15-20 minutes.  Don’t overcook.  The inside should be melty and slightly undercooked!

(a willing Julie always ready to help get rid of the extra batter)

August 6, 2012

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake | Cheesecake à la ricotta

I am an Italian American which means that I grew up feasting on all things delicious (and saying things like ‘rigoth’ instead of ricotta and ‘ganol’ instead of cannoli).  As a child though, I didn’t fully appreciate the allure of this cake.  Every Easter, I poo-pooed it and grabbed some Cadberry eggs instead, satiating my sophomoric taste buds.  But there is something funny about being across an entire ocean that makes me rethink all of those old recipes that I grew up knowing but turning my nose up at out of sheer ignorance.  When spending Easter without your family, for example, all that you can think about making is your Grandma’s cheesecake, even though you can’t seem to remember exactly how it tastes.  In just creating the cake with your own hands, it brings forth an entire culture, familial history and series of memories that are essential on all days, but on holidays in particular.

But it’s no such holiday right now and I am simply fulfilling a request for an Italian cheesecake.  Using ricotta instead of cream cheese really changes the texture a whole lot.  Don’t poo-poo this cake like I did a very long time ago.  Make it just once and it will be your go-to cheesecake for a while!

Usually this produces an enormous amount of batter.  Since I was cooking for 8 (on two separate occasions, I know, cheating my way out of baking two separate desserts! How dare I!),  I thought I would make single serving portions out of wax paper.  This could be a very fruitful idea, in theory, but be sure to press your crust INTO place to prevent overflowing cheese rivers that create your very first  kitchen “debacle.” I did manage to salvage four cheesecakes (which I believe to be kitchen karma telling me I should’ve never lump-summed two desserts into one…)

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lb (600g) ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 g) of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½  tsp vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup (60 g) heavy cream, whipped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups graham crackers (or speculoos cookies), crushed

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Beat drained ricotta until smooth and gradually add ¾ cups sugar and egg yolks, beating after each addition.
  3. Beat in flour, lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff and then combine with whipped cream.  Gently fold cream mixture into ricotta mixture.
  5. Turn into 12-inch spring form pan (or mini vessels, or mini muffin tins, or mini ramekins or whatever you’d like) which has been well buttered and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.
  6. Bake 10 minutes at 425 and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for one hour or until golden brown and wobbly to the touch.
  7. Turn off heat and allow to cool in the oven with the door closed.
  8. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

(the vessels)

(the cream)

(the very minis)

(the salvaged)

(the explosion)

(the massacre)

August 4, 2012

Suzzzz’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I grew up in a house where coffee cake was king.  Normally it came in that glorious blue Entemmenn’s box and I would find it picked over in the cupboard by other phantom family members, missing giant chunks of its crumbly crust.

But there was another family favorite for “special occasions” and it even won my sister Stephanie a (plastic) trophy (the highest of all honors!) in a “baking contest award” in elementary school.  This is one serious cake.  I think its deliciousness stems from the fact that it has a somewhat original ingredient as its main source of moisture.  The infamous sour cream.  What IS sour cream?  How to differentiate between creams in this country, I’ll never know.  I’ve tried my hardest to find a similar product in France, but all I’ve come up with is “la faisselle.” That will have to do.

Proust is to madeline as I am to this coffee cake.  For me this cake smells like Christmas (‘tis really the season to eat sour cream) but it also smells like Sunday brunch.  What better sort of cake to dip into your big bowl of coffee on a lazy Sunday?

Suzzzz’s (aka Mom) Sour Cream Coffee Cake

What you’ll need:

  • 2 sticks sweet butter
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream (la faisselle if you are in France!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shelled pecans, chopped (I used walnuts which worked just fine!)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 10-inch bundt pan and lightly dust the inside with flour.

2.  Cream together the butter and 2 cups of the sugar.  Add eggs, blending well, then the sour cream and vanilla.

3.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

4.  Fold the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, and beat until just blended.  Do not over beat.

5.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining ½ cup sugar with pecans and cinnamon.

6.  Pour half of the batter into the bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the pecan and sugar mixture.  Add remaining batter and top with the rest of the pecan mixture.

7.  Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.


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