CtBF Paris Paris

There are a few pastries with the name Paris…something. This time, these are supposed to be eclair shaped choux pastries with hazelnut praline pastry cream. Oh, and a little chocolate glaze.

This is really 4 different (relatively simple) recipes combined to create something more than the sum of their parts.

So. Hazelnuts. They are not my favorites, though iconically French. I was tempted to swap them out. Macadamias! Pecans! And truth be told, part of it is peeling them. Do not like. So messy!

I looked up methods online. Apparently, Alice Medrich showed the process to Julia Child, and it works!! A little disconcerting with the boiling and coloring, and while still time-consuming, it worked perfectly. Boil water with some baking soda, add hazelnuts, cooking for about 3 minutes, into a cold water bath, and then peel away!

The water gets purple! And it’s still a little labor intensive. But! As it turns out, the hazelnuts for our recipe were not supposed to be toasted, so this was perfect! Kismet. Needed to let those hazelnuts dry, so onto my choux paste.

I have been making (cream) puffs practically my entire life. But not these ones. My mom and dad hosted plenty of business dinners and fun parties in our small town in Michigan. It was back in the day when home entertaining for business was more prevalent. Plus living in a town with one small restaurant that today might be considered a coffee shop? Well, we had quite a number of guests from Europe and around the country. So my mom hosted many parties. One of her favorite appetizers (that I happily got to pass) we’re savory cream puffs. In fact, I’m sure I was an adult before I ever had sweet ones. Probably why I love, love gougeres of all kinds.

OK, so, while I might not be an expert, I still think choux puffs are easy. The biggest trick for me was the timing for baking. Finally I got it done. Butter, water, salt and sugar brought to a boil. Flour is added, and then cooked until it comes together and cleans from the side of the pan. Then eggs are added to the dough. I piped my puffs the easy way, though to be fair, even a teaspoon will work. The tricky thing was timing. At the end, I baked my mini-puffs as long or longer than noted for the larger eclairs in the book. Eventually they were nice and crisp. So. Next up. Hazelnut praline. Sugar is slowly caramelized. Once it’s caramelized, chopped hazelnuts are added, then cooked until nicely toasted, then dropped onto a prepared pan to cool and crisp.

Pastry cream? Did I say that I originally planned to divide this recipe? Since eggs for different recipe were 3, I would make a third. But none of the recipes were huge, so I made the full amount. This was ok. Maybe should have cooked longer. But the cream is made, then chilled covered closely. Next? The praline gets chopped in the food processor, a bit of the pastry cream added, then all folded together. The final component is a a chocolate glaze made with cocoa powder and confectioners sugar. The trick getting the right consistency. All that remained was assembling the Paris Paris puffs! I also used the ziploc bag trick to fill them. Then swathed in chocolate, the 36 puffs were done!!They needed to be chilled for an hour or so before serving.

So. The result? Initially, they were pretty sweet. Too sweet. And since hazelnut is not my favorite favor, well.. but. We shared with friends, and they were mesmerized. And the next day, not so sweet. Pretty delicious. I think oftentimes I’m overly critical. Over the few days that we’re told these will last in the refrigerator. Amazingly, they have disappeared!!

What I really am inspired to do is to make these again. Both sweet versions (pastry cream with fruit!!!) and revisiting savory varieties. Choux paste is so very fun. Mini servings are charming. And oh, I have more peeled hazelnuts tucked away, so it’s a bit easier to add them in. I

So many options, and this was a wonderful reminder of how wonderful choux puffs can be!

Visit the Cook the Book Friday’s link, to see what others thought about this recipe!

CtBF – Salted Butter Caramel Chocolate Mousse

Anyone who knows me, or follows my blog, knows that I sometimes don’t always read things thoroughly before I start (back in the day, I would fly into a city to do a 1st site visit without having the address – this before smartphones and GPS – just pick up a map at the rental car counter “I can find it”… with about 2 exceptions of 150 at that job – it worked!). This was no different. When I read about the 2 June recipes, I transposed the dates. So… I did not get this made in time, and though I had purchased the ingredients, was not worried about not making the dessert when I made said purchase… um.

Well, all of the bloggers at Cook the Book Fridays seemed to love this. I saw notes about someone(s) making it several times in a week! Well – could not miss out on that!

I hosted by book club  (GOBC) in Sedona last Sunday. It was incredibly nice of my friends Teri and Kate to come up – their significant others (including kids!) helped them make a day of it. And no – I don’t have pictures – I get sidetracked at events. Anyway, I thought that it would be a perfect time to make the mousse. I had decided on making a grilled soft-taco lunch – steak, shrimp, fresh salsa, guacamole, tortillas, beans… chocolate would be a perfect ending to that!

While I was deciding what to make, I had the Food 52 Genius book out. I kept going back to that blueberry pie! Anyway, the mousse is fairly straightforward. As a fun treat, I decided to use my grandmother’s little “ice cream” dishes – perfect for this!

IMG_0646

The big difference with this recipe is the caramel. I wanted mine to be fairly dark to add some different notes to the mousse. I actually am fine with making caramel. Have I ever taken it a bit to far? Sure. But it’s not that big of a deal. Seriously. You just can’t step away from it.

Once the caramel is the color you want, you whisk in the butter, and then the cream. The cream will make the caramel harden, so it takes quite a while to melt – but it will!

This mixture gets cooled, the egg yolks added to the chocolate, and then the whipped whites get incorporated (per usual, about 1/3 to loosen the mixture, then the remainder).

This actually made a perfect amount to fill 6 of my glass dishes. These get chilled in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

IMG_0665

Do I have beautiful photographs of the mousse as it was served? Um, no. So very typical, I just got sidetracked with my friends.

Did we like it? Yes. But seriously, I could only eat about 1/2 at a time (though Mom had no such problems when she had hers!). This is a serious chocolate dessert. The texture is beautiful and I enjoyed the additional flavor of caramel. I’d used gray salt for my salt in the dish, and liked it – I could have added a few grains on top (or maybe some smoked salt).

But, remember that blueberry pie? I couldn’t resist. I had some blueberries, and they had loads of them at the market. The photo in the book was just gorgeous (!) and when I read the recipe, it’s very much like a strawberry pie that my grandmother made when I was growing up. The crust is baked, and the filling is added. I didn’t make the incredibly complicated crust from the book – used the butter crust from KAF.

The filling is made by cooking a bit of the fruit with a little sugar and water, then adding cornstarch for thickening. While that’s still hot, the remaining fresh blueberries are added, mixed well and the put into the crust. That’s it. Let it cool. Eat it. Be amazed.

IMG_0667

The filling worked perfectly, and as you can see – the pie holds its shape – makes for a beautiful slice (not that I have pictures of an actual slice, mind you).

IMG_0669

Truth be told, I served both for my book club. Like my friend Betsy, I’m not the chocoholic in the house, so I really loved the pie. Seriously. But I will say that both desserts were a hit – just oh so different. Given all of the flavors at the gelato spot – I never pick the chocolate. So, I would definitely serve this again (think of all of those gluten-free folks!), and if I were not worrying about gluten, I think this would be fabulous in mini tart shells – how wonderful on a mini-dessert tray? Or the dessert shot glasses that were so popular a few years ago. The chocolate is such a rich blast of flavor – that would be a super-fun way of serving it. Oh, and I did not include whipped cream on either – though it would be good. Just more. Neither actually needed it.

The mousse can be found on p258 of My Paris Kitchen, and you can find out what other bloggers in our group thought of the recipe here. The pie can be found on pp204-207 in Genius Recipes (Food 52).

 

 

ffwd – never doubt Dorie (aka, who knew?)

This second celebratory week for the French Fridays with Dorie group asks the question “what recipe(s) were surprises for you?”. OK, that wasn’t the real question, but when I think about the title – I think about those recipes where I was very quite skeptical, but learned that Dorie knew what she was doing when she wrote about it – and I was happy to have tried it.

There are three recipes that immediately came to mind. The very first recipe I ever tasted in the book was gérard’s mustard tart. My friend Teri, who got me started with this whole blogging adventure, served it at a book club meeting that she hosted. She did indeed make the selfsame tart as in the book. She’s a very skilled baker, and hers looked just like Dorie’s. She also introduced me to the group, since she planned on joining, and thought it would be fun for me too. I had been following her baking/blogging adventures and thought that it would be fun. Her blog certainly informed my concept, including documenting the steps in the process, etc.

To be honest, I didn’t really love, love the original version. It was good. So when it was time to make the tart in October of 2010, I decided that I would take advantage of a different version in the book. The tomato-mustard tart. This is something that I really must make again. I often forget because I think it would be amazing with summer tomatoes. But the mustard, the crème fraîche, the fabulous pastry – all combine with the tomatoes and rosemary combine for an amazing affect! Not in a million years would I have expected to like this so much (of course another benefit was making her tart dough…)

100_0175 100_0174

The photos don’t do it justice, but certainly, this is one of those haunting – “wow that was good” recipes. Thank goodness it will be tomato season soon!

tourteau de chèvre was another surprise. This is a cheesecake of sorts – but one as unlike any American cheesecake as can be imagined. It really is the simplest thing to make – A crust of Dorie’s sweet tart dough, and then just eggs, goat cheese, a bit of sugar, vanilla or orange-flower water, touch of cognac and a bit of cornstarch. I am fairly certain that was my first use of the orange-flower water as well. Another item introduced by our author.

I really was taken aback by just how good this was. Not too sweet, a bit of tang from the goat cheese. I actually made mine with the regular pastry crust, not the sweet version. Either would be terrific. 100_0802

It was fun too, to have a recipe end up looking so much like the photo in the book. So satisfying.

And finally, another recipe that I adored, but didn’t expect to. goat cheese and strawberry tartine. It would never have occurred to me to put together this simple combination – but with such amazing results! We had this with a bit of wine on the patio, but the same idea could be used at any time of day. The sweetness of the strawberries and the tang of the goat cheese are accented with a good-sized grind of black pepper and some Balsamic vinegar.

100_2437

It will be fun to see what others thought about this little assignment. There were other surprises for sure, some of them not so pleasant even, but these were at the top of my list. To see what other Doristas thought about their never-doubt-Dorie moments, you can find their links on the French Friday with Dorie website.

ffwd – the “aha” moment (aka, the top 5)

For the next several weeks, the participants in French Fridays with Dorie will be exploring our experiences over the past several years to answer a few interesting questions. This week’s challenge is to “choose your favorite, loved the most, best recipe in FFWD to share this week and tell Why? Also share with us your Top 5 favorites list”.

Not surprisingly, this is turning out to be a difficult task. After hundreds of recipes – there are many choices. One of the most interesting things will be to read about what all of the others chose as well. Since we are a diverse and international group – I hardly think that the lists will be the same (though I suspect a couple will resonate across the board).

And making things a bit more interesting over the next few weeks, there are a couple more challenges – The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment and The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe, prior to our finale and last hurrah! from this particular book. Lots of potential for crossover! And I have to say, that as I look through the recipes, and when we made them, we really came out of the gate at a grand pace! Lots of contenders from 2010 and early 2011! And a warning: some not-so-great photos of some of my top favorites! At least I maybe have learned a bit more the just how to make some great French recipes!

So, on to Candy’s Top Five Six!

#5 – Hachis Parmentier. This was also a candidate for the Play-It-Again-Dorie category. I have made this quite a number of times, always to rave reviews. But this kind of dish, as something French was a revelation. I’ve made it in the different versions, and it still remains a staple. And of course, seeing it on the menu at French restaurants (once within a month or so of its first appearance) sealed it as a resounding favorite.

#4.5 – Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs. I almost forgot this. What an amazing dish! Perfectly cooked mushrooms with shallots, and added cream, with a bit of thyme. Served on toasted Brioche with soft poached eggs. This is a to-die-for dish. Rich yet simple, and utilizes a number of French techniques. Can’t believe I almost missed putting it on the list!!

100_2317

#4 – Scallops with Double Carrots. The original recipe called for Monk Fish. None to be had here – but good quality scallops can be found. The sauce created by using carrot juice in addition to carrots themselves – well, it made the dish. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with bacon and scallops either. It was a completely new idea to me to create a sauce that way, and so it was a great lesson learned. So creative! I can’t for the life of me find a photo. Really? Do a search – many images of other Dorista’s versions available!

#3 – Salted Butter Break-Ups. No Dorie Greenspan book would be complete without an amazing dessert recipe. And even more quintessential, a cookie recipe. This recipe for oversized cookies that get broken apart at the table – well it makes for such a charming way of serving (assuming you are not surrounded by unreasonable germaphobes), but it also produces a dramatic, lovely and incredibly delicious cookie! Crunchy parts for those who love that – a bit more chewy for that preference. All in one cookie. Something for everyone!

100_0700100_0703100_0716

#2 – Roasted Salmon and Lentils. I am not a huge fan of salmon (unless I just caught it!), and had never really had any lentils that I liked (or, let’s face it, tried many) until this recipe. Oh. My. Goodness! This recipe single-handedly made me a convert to Lentils de Puy, as well as salmon. It’s that good. The lentils are perfectly seasoned, the salmon cooks perfectly, it’s hearty, healthy and very elegant in a French manner.

100_1501

#1 My Favorite, Best Recipe is: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. I thought about this a lot. But decided that this typically French apple cake, with it’s marked butter flavor, bursting with apple chunks got my vote. Yes, its relatively simple, but it seemed to embody the idea of a meal around Dorie’s French table.

This was a fun journey back in time to re-visit posts, what I thought, and also, what I thought was good enough to make again. All of these dishes fall well outside of the category One-And-Done. And while I had to rely on the original photos (or none at all!), they all offered something so good, that I was willing to brave the reminder of some pretty poor photography skills!

There is a celebratory air around the French Fridays with Dorie group, you can get a peek into all of the participants’ posts at the site.

ffwd – salmon tartar and waffles & cream

I’m combining a couple of recipes this week – something I don’t typically do – but, well, it happens! And what different recipes they are.

I was planning on making the waffles last week, but my week got away from me. Something that happens all too frequently these days. I did really want to try them though – one of the French ways of serving waffles. As dessert!

This week’s recipe is for Salmon Tartar. Kind of a layered salmon ceviche with tomatoes and avocados. Sounded pretty delicious, even if raw salmon isn’t my all-time favorite (unless of course I just caught it off the coast of BC).

I thought why not make a French Fridays meal of it? Start with the salmon, which should be light enough to allow for dessert waffles!!100_3951

This turned out to be one of the “fussy” recipes. Three different concoctions to create the layered effect. Two types of herbs, shallots, cherry tomatoes (in 3! slices), lime supremes, zest and juice, along with some sriracha and other seasonings. Salmon, avocado (mine wasn’t nice). Of course, it was made more difficult by tiny portions as well.

I decided to take the idea of layering in a glass. I can think of other glasses that would be even nicer, especially for an appetizer (champagne flutes, shot glasses…). I had the worst time photographing, but it did make for a fun presentation.

IMG_3796

IMG_3798

This was quite tasty. Even though I took care in choosing my salmon, this preparation really requires the best, freshest (and I would say leanest – so better wild than farm-raised – something like King salmon would be ideal, though Coho is still a favorite) salmon you can find. I thought that the flavors were great, and loved using the new chives and mint from the garden. But the salmon texture was a bit too soft for my taste, and I did not heed Dorie’s advice – the pistachio oil got away from me… and I used too much. All of that said, this really is a nice dish, and I can think of times when it would be fantastic – I like the idea of salmon tartar “shooters” on a buffet table (chilled of course), or as a small plate starter. About half the size of this serving. Very fun, very beautiful preparation – and if you’re in the Pacific northwest and can get great, really fresh salmon – totally something that would be on the list of preparations.

And now. The Waffles and Cream. One of the things I have found very interesting is the French way of eating some of the items that in America we would serve at breakfast. Now, I can never get with the idea of whipped cream and chocolate or all manner of dessert items on pancakes or waffles for breakfast – despite the prevalence of those dishes in American restaurants. To have something like a “regular” waffle for dessert was interesting. My mom used to make chocolate waffles for company desserts – but nothing like these. I really wanted to try them!

The batter is thinner than typical, and very rich with butter. But the egg whites folded in were not new to me. I’m pretty sure Fanny Farmer and Joy of Cooking recommend that preparation method for home-made waffles – and it does make for a light one! As noted, this recipe has more butter, and some additional sugar – and ends up being quite thin.

100_3955100_3956

Dorie tells us that it’s ok to have a few lumps of egg white as well, I took her advice (this time!). The waffles are cooked in a Belgian waffle maker (ideally) to provide maximum surface area for crispness, as well as satisfying wells to capture toppings.

100_3957

The suggested toppings were whipped cream and caramel sauce, or even ice cream – and maybe some chocolate sauce. Berries of course would be fabulous. I chose whipped cream and salted caramel sauce (store bought but delicious). In any event, a dusting of powdered sugar is suggested.

100_3958

I have to say, these were amazing. Very easy to make, and oh so light, but a terrific foil for any kind of topping. The waffles were crisp and light. I certainly think that this could be a great last-minute treat – when you’re looking for something more than just ice cream, but didn’t have time to bake a cake! And I just loved the idea of having this for dessert. The texture was different enough than a waffle served for breakfast, that it really worked. Certainly other flavors could be used as well (lemon poppyseed anyone?).

So a very happy French Friday dinner! If you would like to see how others made these recipes, you can find the waffles and cream, and salmon tartar as linked here.

ffwd – croquants

I had never heard of croquants, and not speaking French, the name of this little confection meant nothing to me. After reading the description of the cookie, the ingredients and method, I was intrigued. Yes, very.

You see, croquant means crunchy in French. And the method is crazy-simple. The idea that I might be able to put together a delicious cookie with 4 ingredients, well, I just had to try it. But then, it started to become overcast and then it started to rain. Now, living in the desert southwest, I love the rain, but I also know from years of making candy at Christmastime with my mom and then on my own, meringues and candies need to have a dry day. Alas – today was one!IMG_2622

(this is the view from my driveway in Sedona, I’m not actually there today, but it did look like a “nice day” photo)

The ingredients are: very coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pecans), sugar, egg whites and flour.

100_3901

Sugar is added, then the whites, and finally, flour is incorporated into the mixture. Interestingly, the whites are not beaten or whipped, they are incorporated as is – which makes this an amazingly simple recipe.

100_3902100_3903

The recipe calls for the dough to be placed on parchment-lined baking sheets. And that they are supposed to be rounded/mounded. The perfect time to use my cookie scoop. This one turned out to be the perfect size.

100_3904

The cookies are baked in a 400 degree oven. Mine took 12 minutes (turning the sheet halfway through). Since it wasn’t a huge recipe, I baked one sheet at a time, which allowed me to have the (important) cooled sheet for the subsequent batch. Another important point is to ensure that the cookie dough is about 2″ apart. I cheated a little, but then only had to use 2 pans.

100_3906

The cookies are to be puffed up and cracked a little and a nice brown. It was nice to see some of the larger pieces of nutmeats showing through the tops. They cool on the pan for about 10 minutes until they can be lifted off. Then the croquants are left to cool completely. I would think that the parchment would be essential in this – or certainly a lining sheet of some kind.

100_3907

These are suggested to be served with ice cream, a strong cup of coffee, or even a cup of tea. They are very sweet (in a good way), so I decided for a first taste (or two!) that tea sounded perfect. And it was!

100_3909

These really are delicious confections. I loved the flavor of the nuts, and the crunch of the cookie – with just a hint of chewiness inside. I can see making these many times because while they are sweet, they are not particularly rich. And they would make a lovely addition to a cookie tray as well. Finally, they are supposed to keep well for a week or so, which makes them a bit more practical – hopefully they will last long enough so that I can test that theory!

There were many others in our French Fridays with Dorie group who made these as well. You can find their lovely posts here.

ffwd – 2014 Christmas Card/Recipe Exchange

Question #102: If you could indulge in only one type of cookie this holiday season, which cookie would you be eating a lot of?

Thus started my participation in this year’s Christmas Card exchange among the members of French Fridays with Dorie. For the past few years, those who were interested/able exchanged Christmas cards. It’s a wonderful tradition, and one that has also prompted me to up my game on Christmas cards in general. It is such a treat to check for mail and find some interesting and lovely cards that are so thoughtfully provided by friends and family. After receiving a couple of (wonderful) recipes in the post along with a card, as a much lesser co-conspirator with our friend Alice who amazes us all with her energy and is the real spirit behind this project, we decided it would be fun to exchange recipes and blog about them – either our own, or someone else’s that we wanted to try.

Well, so that leads us to where we are now. I worked on an international project until the 18th of December, and of course, cards with recipes wouldn’t necessarily arrive until close to Christmas itself. But what a wonderful project! We were able to share in the real lives of our virtual friends, and in some of the experiences of love and family across the miles. Totally irresistible!

So, back to my question – my Mom’s answer was: “the coconut bars Grandma used to make”. So that was my choice for the recipe exchange. Of course, this is a group that has decided opinions – so the first time I read “eeewe!” I thought that perhaps I should make my own. But so many other choices too. I confess that I went with the 1st received methodology for choosing my recipes. So many more I would love to try! But alas, not enough time!!

I did enlist my nieces for some of the work. We get together every year for as much time as we can to bake cookies in anticipation of the Christmas Holidays. It’s a special time we get to share with each other, and we are able to catch up on what’s going on. Now that they are “all grown up” it is even more fun that they can make time to spend an afternoon with “Aunt Candy”.

OK, so my coconut bars were on the agenda. I guess people like coconut or don’t – if you do, these are really fantastic. Before the girls joined in the fun, I made Maria’s melomakarona. What a fun departure, which was the whole point. I got huge kudos for these when I shared with friends. I also made Karen’s Christmas Crack(ers) as I dubbed them – irresistable, and just a bit lighter than traditional toffee. I’d never made them before and it was fun to try Karen’s Grandmother’s recipe! We also made Tricia’s snickerdoodles – always a treat (well, ok, not perfect looking, but still a favorite for all of our tasters). Finally, Trevor’s hollandaise was irresistible as a treat for Christmas eve – just the perfect thing to make our king crab legs and broccolini that much more special!

Since my timeframe is getting a bit narrow, I will leave you with the photos of our efforts. So very much fun, and I was sorry to not have enough time to make all of the recipes I received. I will certainly make the effort over the coming days/weeks, as they all sound so delightful.

100_3779100_3781100_3782100_3783100_3785100_3784100_3787100_3789100_3791100_3793100_3794100_3797100_3803100_3778100_3806100_3809100_3822100_3823100_3814100_3817100_3818100_3819100_3821IMG_3328

IMG_3314IMG_3315IMG_3320

Thanks to all of the Doristas who helped make this season Merry and Bright. It is such a pleasure and privilege to cook along with you, and be so impressed with all of your awesome efforts each week. Thanks so much for sharing a part of your home and families this season!! Here’s to a delightful and delicious 2015!!