Pastry sweet

May 09, 2008

Polenta Cake with Rhubarb Ribbons

This Polenta cake is a sweet throw back to my short lived career as a pastry chef in an Italian restaurant. I was coerced into the job after the real pastry chef quit and left me with a book of recipes to replicate.

All I can say is that I have lots of respect for pastry chefs. At that time, my baking qualifications were mainly centered around magic brownies and boxed Betty Crocker.

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Thankfully, Italian desserts are less complicated than French ones. And, I'm pretty adept at following instructions. I did, however, mix up the various flours a few times (the bins weren't labeled) which made for some interesting interpretations.

The most difficult part of the job was forcing myself not to taste everything all of the time. I came up and down off sugar highs like a yo-yo swinging around-the-world.

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Biscotti batter tastes awfully good raw and so does cheesecake batter, tuille cookie batter, chocolate molten cake batter, homemade vanilla ice cream, and proseco sorbet. Oh yes, and rhubarb compote is pretty darn delicious too.

We made a meyer lemon polenta cake with a rhubarb compote in the Spring. The original recipe is long gone and the restaurant closed years ago (too bad, it was well loved) but this is the closest approximation to what I remember.

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Coarse stone ground polenta will give this cake a slightly crunchy crumb. If you want a finer crumb use cornmeal or finely ground polenta. It can be imbibed with syrup (lemon or orange) for extra moistness or left plain as in this recipe.

The rhubarb ribbon is an easy trick I picked up in France. It makes for pretty presentation and shows off rhubarb's delicate pink and green shiny layers.

And then of course there's the obligatory blackberry kir royal. Well, why not? It looks pretty with the cake.

(and tastes good too)

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December 26, 2007

Gâteau Chocolat

If your planning on having a formal dinner party to bring in the New Year instead of nibbling around buffet platters, then I have the menu for you! I will post the courses in installments so I don't take up a years worth of bandwidth.

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When I cook long meals I always begin making dessert first. Once the dessert is out of the way, then I prep the rest. That's why I've chosen to start with the end of the meal and work backwards.

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This cake is bittersweet chocolate rich. It's also flour-less and easy to prepare. The texture is like a dense mousse: moist and luxurious on the palatte. It's the perfect ending to a long menu because it will not take up too much space in already bursting bellies and you only need a sliver to satisfy the strongest sugar cravings.

I always notice that people are silent at the table when they eat it – the best compliment of all!

The full menu is the following:

vichyssoiseVichyssoise with Crab garnished with Crème Fraîche and Chives


oysetersTSHeirloom Carrot and Rainbow Radish Salad, Warm Oyster Vinaigrette, Fresh Oysters


primerib2Herb Crusted Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussel sprouts, Au Jus


choccake2Gâteau Chocolat, Crème Anglaise

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December 03, 2007

Poires Rôties Avec Syrop de Vin Rouge

I could layer cake and butter cream frosting clear up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and it would never look as impressive as a pear roasted in red wine syrup. I love fruit desserts. And this one in particular for being so easy and elegant.

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Pear desserts can often be too sweet and that is where the red wine syrup adds a rich earthy acidic counterpoint. It also helps to caramelize the skin of the pear during baking giving it a stained glass look. This effect turns the fruit from a bottom heavy little squat bell to quite the stunning brightly faceted jewel – pear shaped diamonds are always on my holiday list.

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As if homemade diamonds weren't enough reason to make this dish, the practicality of it for entertaining is fabulous. There is no need to peel or core the pears and it can be made ahead of time and kept in a warm place. Simply put the pears in a baking dish, pour the red wine over, sprinkle sugar over pears and wine, bake and baste for 45 minutes. They can stay in a warm oven while dinner is being enjoyed and then served.

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November 16, 2007

Pain de Mie

I like bread. Do you like bread? We like bread. See Ms. Glaze buy bread. See Ms. Glaze eat bread. See Ms. Glaze finish whole entire loaf of bread in one day.

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Today's lesson boys and girls is on the French white bread with a thick dense spongy crumb called Pain de Mie. In the United States we call this sandwich bread. But here in France, we call it: addictive. Uh-dic-tive. Good.

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(Children, this is too expensive for pain de mie in France. It should cost no more than 2 euros)

I would like you to write a short essay on Pain de Mie and post it below. I will give you an example from a previous student, Billy, who used his creativity to share with the class on why he likes Pain de Mie so very, very much:

"My mommy buys me pain de mie. She cuts off the crusts and then slices it for toast. I like it when she puts jam and butter on top. But what I really wish she would do is make a bed for me out of pain de mie so that I could squish into its soft crumb and fall asleep. I would like to take my nap on a pain de mie mattress because I don't think I would have anymore nightmares. I want her to make me two pain de mie pillows too, so I can smell the bread as I am going to sleep. My mommy would be the best mommy in the world if she would do this for me."

See? Wasn't that lovely?

Lesson for tomorrow is on why Ms. Glaze is fat. Ms. Glaze is fat because she can't stop eating French bread. Ms. Glaze needs to stop eating French bread or she will be as big as a house and no one will want to play with her anymore because she won't be able to squeeze through her tiny Paris apartment doorway.

For a recipe you can try at home check out: Pain de Mie recette
For more about bread baking check outt: Bread Baking in Conzieu

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October 18, 2007

Tarte Aux Noix

I keep telling myself I'm not going to publish another tart recipe but I can't help it! It's my "go to" dessert. I whip them up kind of in the way my dad used to make Dagwood sandwiches. I open up the refrigerator and see what fruit I have on hand and throw it into a tart shell. So far, so good – I've never heard anyone complain. Like I've said before, once you get the short crust down (pâte brisée) the rest is up to interpretation.

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Walnuts are in season right now. Perhaps you've noticed a walnut tree in your nextdoor neighbor's front yard with a litter of nuts scattered around the ground bursting out of their green casings? Go pick them up! Steal them! Hurry!!!

Cooking with fresh walnuts does require a little elbow grease because they need to be shelled and briefly toasted. I take the flat side of my cleaver and whack them hard to crack the shells. It's not pretty, but it works. If you're really picky you can peel off the skins around the flesh of the walnut with the tip of a knife or soak them in milk overnight to help remove the skins and soften the tannins. I don't bother with it for tarts. Fresh walnuts are more moist than the store bought kind or those that having been sitting around in the nut bowl since last October.

For this recipe I created a simple skillet caramel with added molasses, tossed in the toasted walnuts, added some chopped apple, raisins, spices, and then an egg yolk tempered with warm cream. I poured the walnut melange into a tart shell and baked it until the apples were soft then topped up with an enormous dollop of chantilly cream for presentation.

Walnuts are very October...

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September 21, 2007

Pink Champagne Sorbet

My biggest problem with this recipe is not tasting it every other second while the liquid freezes. Just because it's frozen champagne doesn't mean it has any less alcohol content, so be forewarned!

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Pink Champagne sorbet is festive, ridiculously easy to prepare, and a nice refreshing way to end a heavy meal. The only special equipment needed is an ice cream maker. Add a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and an almond tuille cookie for presentation.

I sometimes use Proseco because it's cheaper than champagne. However, it's also sweeter so I cut out about 1/4 cup of sugar. Start with half a cup of sugar and then taste the result before adding more. Remember, it's sorbet so it needs to be sweet, but the champagne should be taste-able (not just feel-able) as well.

Recipe:
2 cups pink champagne or regular
1 cup sugar
Splash of orange juice

Instructions: whisk champagne and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Add the orange juice or not. Dump it into the ice cream machine without drinking half first. Let it do it's thing and then serve it up!

Note: to make this non-alcoholic either purchase a non-alcoholic sparkling wine or simmer the champagne on the stove (start with 1/2 cup extra) and then flambé it to burn off alcohol. Make sure to cool down the liquid before putting into the ice cream machine.

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August 26, 2007

Tarte Aux Nectarines et Mûres

I'm obsessed with the colors orange and deep purple right now. Maybe it's because I've been deprived of Halloween for three years here in Paris or that I'm craving antioxidant rich berries and fruit. Who knows? In any case, I love to make tarts. The crust takes about 10 minutes to prepare and the tart itself is a beautiful way to showcase seasonal fruit.

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I often roll in chopped fresh herbs into the crust before baking to add a little je ne sais quoi to the flavor. For this one I rolled in some minced rosemary and it worked heavenly against the mouth puckering wild blackberries and sweet nectarines.

Depending on what I'm in the mood for and how hard I'm willing to work, I fill my tart shells with different fillings. Sometimes it's a simple baked almond cream other times I whip up a flavored cream cheese (like for this one). If I'm really pressed for time I'll just smear some jam across the bottom and if I've got loads of energy I'll make pastry cream.

What I'm trying to say is that it's really hard to mess up a tart! Once you've got the pastry shell down you can have fun with the rest.

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June 23, 2007

How To Make Puff Pastry: Feuilletage

Note to self: never make a puff pastry video on a hot day, in 90˚F weather, after drinking a whole bottle of champagne! Whoo-eee!!!

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Now that I've got that disclaimer out of the way, I can tell you about making puff pastry or Feuilletage with the fabulous blogger Tse of Chez Tse. We studied at cooking school together and later she joined me at Guy Savoy before interning at the famous patisserie, Pierre Hermé.

Puff pastry is easy. It really is. And it tastes better and bakes lighter than store bought dough loaded with hydrogenated oils. The ingredients are simple: flour, water, salt, and butter. If possible use beurre sec or "dry" butter that has a low moisture content and high fat content . It will make the process easier and help keep the flour from turning into a greasy mess. But, just to prove that regular butter can be used, we've chosen normal unsalted beurre for our video.

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There are so many uses for puff pastry from easy fruit tarts to pastry shells for savory dishes. Make a big batch and freeze half!

For recipe click on "continue reading How to Make Puff pastry...."

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June 06, 2007

La Trilogie du Lait et du Biscuit

Do you lie awake at night thinking up recipes? Sometimes I get so obsessed with food that I can't sleep. My current obsession is flavored milk. It reminds me of childhood and going for sweet treats with my Mom to the Peninsula Dairy Store in Palo Alto where they once bottled milk and ice cream for delivery. The little shop still remains, but sadly the milk plant does not.

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My hometown has an interesting milk history with so many dairy farms close by, so it's practically impossible not to be a milk lover. It would be equivalent to trying to find a Frenchman that doesn't like cheese – or wine for that matter. In fact, Palo Alto still employs one of the last milkmen on earth. (And no, we do not all look the same!)

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The other day at my neighborhood parisian cafe, I was so crazy with this flavored milk idea that I ordered lait parfumé à l'orgeat (milk with orgeat) and then another with lait parfumé à fraise (milk with strawberry). I'm sure the waiter thought I was either pregnant or crazy. And then it just hit me: tiny glasses of neopolitan milk with three types of warm cookies!

What could be cuter than that? Strawberry milk with orange-lime zest cookies, rich chocolate milk with cinnamon spice cookies, and cold plain milk with double-chocolate cookies!

Normally when I bake cookies I eat half the dough and then half the cookies when they come out of the oven. I'm worse with brownies. I was so sick from eating cookie dough yesterday I had to take a long nap to sleep off the excess calories. Sugar does that to me; just puts me straight into a sleep coma. I've taken an excerpt for the master cookie dough recipe from the cookbook The Secrets of Baking. (indispensable pastry cookbook if you don't already have it). You'll have to purchase the book though for all her neat variations!

The flavored milk is straightforward. For the strawberry milk make strawberry syrup: roughly chop a basket of strawberries and place them in a small pot with 1/4 cup of sugar on medium heat. Let them cook down without adding water or anything. Once you see medium sticky bubbles, strain it and reserve the syrup. Then add it to your milk once it's cooled (or to a glass of champagne – equally delicious!). For the chocolate milk I make hot chocolate with the richest cocoa powder I can find and then chill it.

This recipe was really fun for me, a nice change from the cuisine world. Hope it inspires that inner child!

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March 16, 2007

Coq Au Vin: Bistro Dinner for 8

While I was home in San Francisco – on vacation – my mother put me to work. "You wouldn't mind cooking for just a few friends?" Three large dinner parties later I decided that bistro fare was a little more manageable for my own sanity.

My mother doesn't brag too much about my cooking. But most of her telephone calls to our inviteés went something like this: "Are you busy Friday? You know, Amy's cooking – my daughter, the chef? Yes, she's back from working in a 3-star michelin Parisian restaurant and she said she'll cook for us."

No pressure...

So here's a menu that's guaranteed to impress the masses. But you must start the Coq Au Vin the day before. Don't trust any of those 30-minute Coq Au Vin recipes. There is no substitute for the real deal.

And by the way, no one in France really uses Roosters anymore. To do so would be revolting by Paris standards. Back in the day, you soaked the nextdoor neighbor's rooster (who was driving you crazy with his 4Am wake up call) in red wine and then cooked it slowly to tenderize the annoying little pecker before serving it back to your neighbor over a friendly bottle of bordeaux. That's passé. I don't even know where you can buy a rooster in Paris. Feel free to use chickens instead.

Crudités
Salad Verte avec Tarragon Vinaigrette
Coq Au Vin
Assiette du Fromage:

Tarte Au Poire et Cardamom Crème Anglaise
Café

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December 26, 2006

Holiday Menu

One day left until I leave Paris and get on a plane to San Francisco. Yipppeeeee!!!! Cooking in the 3-star restaurant I work at is unbearable right now. We are all dying to get out. This month we've been working 6 days a week to pay back for our vacation time which makes no sense to me – c'est comme ça in our traditional French restaurant.

Seriously, if I have to de-feather, de-bone, gut, and cook another fowl I think I'll slit my wrists. Nonetheless, I made this menu for some friends that are leaving the restaurant – and there are no birds in this meal.

And one more thing - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Gros Bisous and well wishes for a relaxing Holiday season and fun filled New Year!!! Thank you for all the support, wonderful comments, and inspiring emails that you have provided me over this last year!!!

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Menu

Red and Black Caviar Amuse Bouches
Black Truffle Slices on Warm Crostini
Veuve Cliquot Champagne

Tuna Tartar with Pearls of Japan & Avocado
Moet & Chandon Rosé Champagne

Carrot and Red Pepper Double Soup
Magnum Jordan Pinot Noir, Nicole's Vineyard 1999

Leg of Lamb with Herb Potatoes

Spiced Persimmon Purée with Vanilla Ice Cream & Pecan Caramel

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Caviar Appetizers
Ingredients:
15-16 small fingerling potatoes
Creme Fraiche
1 lemon
A small jar of black caviar or roe (I cheated and didn't use real caviar)
Package of belini's
Hummous
Red caviar or roe

Instructions:
1. Trim potatoes on both ends so they stand up straight. With a small melon baller scoop out half of flesh. Cook in boiling salted water for 7 minutes or until cooked. Remove and chill until ready to fill.
2. Zest one whole lemon. Save half for decoration and finely chop the rest. Add chopped zest to creme fraiche. Fill potatoes with creme and top with a teaspoon of caviar and one zest peel.
3. For the red caviar appetizer simply place a teaspoon of hummous on a belini and top with a teaspoon of red caviar.

Truffles on Toast
Ingredients:
One baguette sliced
Olive oil
One truffle
Fleur de sel

Instructions:
1. With a mandoline slice truffle into rounds about 1/8" of an inch thick. Thicker if your budget can allow it!
2. Make crostini with the baguette by placing sliced rounds on a baking sheet. Sprinkile olive oil over pan and bread and bake at 350˚K until bread is toasty. Top with a slice of truffle, a sprinkle of fleur de sel – and that's it!

Tuna Tartar with Pearls of Japan
Ingredients:
1 small box of pearls of japan
Fresh herbs: chives, tarragon, chervil
1 carrot brunoised
1 zuchinni brunoised (just the green skin)
Rocket or fancy small lettuce leaves
1 Kilo of sushi grade tuna
2 Avacadoes
1 limes
1 lemon
Olive oil
Tabasco

Instructions:
1. Make half the box of pearls of Japan and follow instructions on box. Blanch brunoised carrot and zucchini in boiling water for one minute and mix with pearls and 1 T of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a blender or with a hand mixer blend half a bunch of tarragon, chives, and chervil with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Strain.
3. Chop tuna into small pieces and mix with a few tablespoons of herb oil, salt, pepper, and 1 T of lemon juice (not too much or it will cook the tuna).
4. Mash avocadoes and add lime juice to taste, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of tabasco
5. Layer salad in a ring mold of choice with tuna, avocado, pearls of japan, and some lettuce (dressed in the herb oil) on the top

Carrot and Red Pepper Double Soup (Alice Waters)
Ingredients:
1 Bag Carrots
3 Red Peppers
Olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:
1. Peel and chop carrots. Heat a skillet on medium and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook carrots until soft (don't brown!). Add carrots to a big pot with 2 cups of chicken stock. Blend with a hand mixer. Add more chicken stock as necessary to create a thick soup consistency. Season with salt and pepper
2. De-seed and chop red peppers. Repeat instructions above but add to a separate pot and start with one cup of chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper The soups should have the same consistency
3. When ready to serve ladel carrot soup in first and then the red pepper soup in the middle. The pepper soup will form a flower shape.
4. Garnish with yogurt or creme fraiche and chives

Leg of Lamb with Herb Potatoes
Ingredients:
Leg of lamb for 6 people (ask your butcher!)
One package of yukon gold potatoes. Figure 3/person
One yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
one boullian cube of lamb stock to make 1cup of stock (you can substitute chicken stock)
Thyme
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Instructions:
1. Have the butcher cut around the bottom of the leg of lamb bone so after cooking you can simply slide it out. Tie leg with cooking string and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
2. Slice yukon gold potatoes into 1/2" rounds. Slice onions. Peel and crush garlic (don't chop finely)
3. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
4. In a large roasting pan mix lamb boullian, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, thyme, and garlic
5. Place lamb on a grilling rack over potatoes. The melting fat from the lamb will drip onto the potatoes!!! Turn the lamb every 25 minutes.

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Persimmon Purée with Vanilla Ice Cream and Pecan Caramel
Ingredients:
2 large ripe mush persimmons
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
pinches of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla powder to taste
Premium vanilla ice cream like Haagen Daas
One cup pecans chopped
1/2 cup sugar
silpat mat

Instructions:
1. Take persimmons and scoop out flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork. Add lemon zest and spices to your liking. Cover and refrigerate
2. Spread pecans on a silpat mat
3. Place sugar in a small pot and add 3 tablespoons of water. Mix gently with your finger tip until sugar is dissolved. You can add a little more water if necessary. Be careful not to get sugar water on sides of pot because it will crystalize.
4. Place sugar water on medium high heat in a small pot and watch. Once it starts to boil and bubbles begin to pop slow and the color turns a dark amber (but not black!!!) remove from heat and pour over pecans. It will harden and then you can break apart into big decorative pieces. Do not stir caramel while it's cooking. If necessary you and swirl the pan gently to even out the color. The color is very important too – amber to dark amber is okay for this candy.
5. Place a scoop of ice cream into a bowl and spoon spiced persimmon purée around it. Stick a caramel piece in the center of ice cream or however you find most decorative. Serve up!

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August 13, 2006

Yogurt Gelato

If you're having flashbacks to all those neon lit frozen yogurt stores that sprang up across America in the early 90's, rest assured that this gelato is very different and truly tang-a-li-cious.

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yogurt vanilla gelato with frozen champagne grapes

I first had this flavor at Amorino's gelato store in Paris. It was a hot day and I was craving something refreshing and slightly tangy. I was in the mood for a vanilla flavored gelato and not a citrus sorbet, so I chose yogurt. My friend at the time scoffed at my decision, "Yogurt? What are you on a diet?" but after she tried mine, she dumped hers in the trash, got back in the fifteen minute line circling the block, and ordered yogurt gelato for herself.

The recipe is simple and accompanies fresh fruit desserts perfectly. I use greek yogurt because I think the flavor and the consistency work the best for this. The only caveat is you need an ice cream maker.

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August 04, 2006

Madeleine Tea Cakes: A Lesson in Life

This post is for Claire who asked me to share my recipe for the delicious buttery famous French Madeleine tea cake and Kathryn who was my cooking partner in pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. I'm sure that Claire had no idea her request would bring up a plethora of memories... but, well, food is the window to my ...

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photo by Miwa on Flickr

Years before relocating to Paris and long before my career as an actor/director/teacher I worked in restaurants. The most notable being Ristorante Ecco (now closed) in San Francisco's hip South Park area which was one of the top ten Italian restaurants for years (anyone remember it?). I worked as Garde Manger preparing hot and cold appetizers, gourmet salads, and assembling all the desserts during service. Easily this was a job meant for several people but I managed...

One day our pastry chef quit. She was also working for the famous restaurant, Stars, in SF and couldn't handle both. I was asked to take her place while continuing with my Garde Manger position since we had a small cooking staff and none of the other Chef's had any extra prep time.

Baking for the first time in a restaurant was a total nightmare. Thank God Italian desserts are much simpler than French ones! I made every costly mistake in the book. Including not tempering the eggs right for our Creme Brulée, using bread flour for a cake that required all-purpose flour (the bins weren't labeled – how was I to know?), cooking cheesecake until it wasn't jiggly in the center and not letting it set afterwards, wasting over ten kilos of Valronna chocolate because I didn't temper it right – oh the list is endless!

There were many nights when the servers would tell the clientele that we were "sold out" of a particular dessert because I messed it up during the day and didn't have time to go back and re-bake it. I learned the hard way without the aid of a fancy cooking school education how to bake.

Fast forward to Summer of Paris 2005. I relocated to Paris with my husband and decided to go to cooking school and relearn all the things I had done wrong. I started my education at Le Cordon Bleu with a basic pastry class. I thought I was going to be best in class due to my vast experience in desserts. I was sure that no one would equal my skill, speed, or artistic creativity. I was wrong.

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Parisian desserts are a science. They are not "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" like Italian desserts. On our first day we were given scales to weigh ingredients as opposed to the traditional measuring cups, a full case of knives and pastry utensils, and an enormous notebook with recipes covering every famous French pastry and cake that you can imagine. Our first recipes included several tried and true French tea cakes and biscuits – the Madeleine included.

I whizzed through the first recipes faster than anyone in the class. My pastry skills and muscle memory seemed to come back naturally. Even the teachers were impressed. And then came the Madeleines. I whipped through the simple recipe – maybe too fast – and waited for the rest of the class to catch up so we could put our little cakes in the oven at the same time.

When the oven buzzer went off I was excited to see my shell-like cakes with the traditional little bump on the other side (a phenomena that no one can explain, but signifies a well baked Madeleine). I was even more excited to taste their buttery spongy-ness with a fresh cup of black tea.

Our beloved pastry chef took out the cakes and stacked them on the cooling racks. One looked particularly horrible. The Madeleines had puffed up too much and formed one cake over the whole tray and the ingredients seperated. I remember thinking, "Oh, I'm sooooo glad those aren't mine. How embarrasing." and then when I couldn't identify my cakes as any of the other perfect golden brown delicacies, I went nervously to see whose name was on the ugly batch. Yup, they were mine.

The chef came over to me and said in broken English, "Zheese ahre yourz?" with a look that can only be compared to one who has seen the Grim Reaper in person. "I guess so." I replied, close to tears. He then proceeded to quiz me on how I made them and if I had measured everything perfectly. I assured him that I had. "Zhees happens you know, with zhis biscuit and no one knowz why" he comforted me. He popped one in his mouth and told me they tasted excellent. They did taste good at least.

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I have made these several times since and I haven't had the same problem. I have even tried it with the butter melted compared to using softened butter and I still haven't had any problems. Most likely, I rested the batter longer than every one else's in an extremely hot classroom and perhaps I wasn't as exact with my measurements as I should have been.

This little cake taught me some lessons: there is no place for ego in the kitchen, be exact when baking a recipe for the first time, learn from your mistakes.

Madeleines are a specialty of the northeastern French town, Commercy. They are baked in shell-shaped molds and often served with tea. I prefer the original recipe but there are many out there that change it. Start with this one and then you can explore

Click on "Continue Reading Madeleine Tea Cakes" for recipe....

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June 29, 2006

Cherry Clafoutis

It's cherry time in Paris and the farmers markets are overflowing with them – Yipppeee!!! I love to eat cherries just about anyway possible, but the dessert: cherry clafoutis or clafoutis aux cerise, is one of my favorites. It shows off the fruit without too much sugar and it's easy to prepare for a crowd. We're serving this at Guy Savoy right now and people can't get enough of it. The real trick is to start with good quality firm, juicy, meaty cherries.

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Traditionally the pit is left in the fruit. This is supposed to give flavor it also makes the prep time shorter (double yippeee!). It keeps the cake-like batter from turning pink too. You can pit them if your afraid of cracking a tooth, but half the fun is spitting out the seeds. I often substitute apricots or other stone fruit when in season (blanched first).

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Recipe to follow...

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June 05, 2006

Fun With Phyllo

Kids won't eat fish? Wrap it in Phyllo. Husband/Wife/Partner just invited the boss over for dinner and you've only got leftovers in the fridge? Wrap it in Phyllo. Need appetizers for a huge dinner party that you can make the day before and refrigerate and bake right before serving? Wrap it in Phyllo. It's easy, versatile, and makes everything look and taste better.

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Phyllo (Filo) pastry dough means "leaf" in Greek and it is a dough well worth having on hand. Although the flaky pastry has a Greek name, it's origins are Turkish (Istanbul) dating back to the Ottoman reign. Phyllo is often associated with the famous Turkish dessert, Baklava, that is a rich honey and pistachio treat. However, there are countless uses for it.

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I really do think phyllo is fun! It can be molded into any shape: cone, present, triangle, circle, rectangle, etc and filled with any thing left over in the fridge, savory or sweet. Although you can make the dough by hand (very difficult with unsatisfactory results) it is easier to purchase at the grocery store. Phyllo dough is flour that has been compressed with water and just a little oil. Then it is rolled through huge machines that elongate the glutens in the flour to make paper thin layers.

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How to use it: I normally use about three layers at a time. Make sure they are properly defrosted if previously frozen and not dried out. Each layer needs to be brushed lightly with melted butter (clarified preferred, but not essential) or olive oil. Place the layers on top of each other, put filling in the center, and shape the dough around it. Voila! Bake it for around 6-10 minutes at 350˚F / 170˚C until pastry is golden brown.

Any filling used should already be precooked or something that only needs to be warmed through like goat cheese with fresh basil and tomato (yummy!). Just make sure filling ingredients aren't too soupy or it will turn the dough to mush.

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Recently I made a last minute dinner for my visiting parents using frozen scallops and one carrot and one leek. The results was heavenly. I julienned the veggies and sautéd with butter until al dente and separately cooked the scallops until just warm in the center. Then I buttered my phyllo dough and made a bed of the carrots and leeks with the scallops on top.

I formed the pastry dough into a big peony shaped flower around the filling and loosely tied the top with kitchen string to help keep it's form while cooking. What fun to cut into at the dinner table and inhale the delicious steam coming through the openings in the pastry!

I have also used phyllo to wrap individual par cooked rack of lamb with a pistachio/herb dressing, confit pigeon leg with foie gras and duxelles, and much much more. The fun is endless. Kids like to play with it too – it's like a wrapping a present and then getting to eat it afterwards.

Recipes to follow: Scallops in Phyllo Dough

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April 11, 2006

Passover Pastry Macaroons

This recipe is for Teri, who had the brilliant idea that Macaroons would be an excellent Passover dessert because they don't use leavening. They do use almond powder in place of flour, and I know some families stay away from nuts on Passover. It also makes a great gluten free dessert too. If you are planning a huge dinner party DO NOT try these for the first time tomorrow and expect perfection. Instead, play around with it when you have time and put it on the menu for next year. Happy Passover!

Macaroons
Photo by Typefiend, Gregory Han
(flavors: vanilla, coffee, caramel, black pepper, chocolate, raspberry, cherry, pistachio, cardamom, lemon, etc.)


Macaroons

Ingredients
5 1/4 cups of ground almonds (poudre d'amands)
5 cups of confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups of egg whites
1 T granulated sugar

Instructions
1. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar separately. Don't skip this step. You can make almond powder by grinding up skinless almonds, but it is much better to buy the commercial type.
2. Mix almond flour and powdered sugar together with a whisk in a mixing bowl.
3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar and continue to beat until they are stiff.
4. Pour half of almond/sugar mixture over eggs whites and fold in.
5. Fold in the rest of the almond/sugar mixture with added color of choice (see below for options & use powdered colors if available). Do over mix/fold until batter is shiny.
6. Paper a cookie sheet with parchment
7. Put cookie batter in a pastry bag with a 8-10mm pastry tip.
8. Pipe circles to desired size. Somewhere between 1"-4".
9. Tap baking sheet and let cookies rest until a skin forms over the top of the macaroons. For the crackled look let them rest up to two hours. If you touch one and your finger comes away clean, then they are ready to bake.
10. Bake at 350˚ for 10 minutes.
11. Let rest in the oven with the door open and heat off for another 2-3 minutes.
12. Take two cookies and spread a thin layer of easy butter cream or filling of choice and sandwich together. (real buttercream frosting is not necessary because it is just a little bit for added flavor)

Variations for flavors
Vanilla: Scrape the seed of two vanilla beans and add to almond/sugar mixture or use 3 pinches of vanilla powder. Fill cookies with softened butter mixed with sugar and vanilla extract.

Coffee:
add 1T coffee extract or powder to egg whites. Fill cookies with coffee ganache or mix a little butter with sugar and coffee powder.

Chocolate:
add cocoa powder with the almond/ sugar mixture. Fill cookies with chocolate ganache. To make choclate ganache scald 1/2 cup of cream and pour over 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Whisk in one place until ganache forms, then make bigger whisk circles

Pistachio:
add green and yellow food coloring to the egg whites. Fill cookies by mixing almond paste with pistachio paste and butter

Raspberry:
add red food coloring to the egg whites. Use raspberry jam for filling.

Lemon:
add yellow food coloring to egg whites. Fill cookies by mixing softened butter with a little lemon juice and lemon peel

Note: even the best pastry makers will tell you that sometimes these turn out and sometimes they don't. They really are not easy even though the ingredients look simple. However, once you get down the general idea then you can get creative and make your own flavors. If you have a scale and want the metric measurements, let me know.

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March 27, 2006

Raspberry Almond Cream Tart with Chocolate Sauce

I've combined two of my favorite desserts from Le Cordon Bleu for maximum yumminess: almond cream tarts and raspberry crumble with chocolate sauce. In the past, I've had heated discussions with chefs over whether or not chocolate and strawberries truly compliment each other (they don't – and they're horrible in champagne too), however nobody disagrees that raspberries, almonds, and chocolate are a delicious trio.
Raspberry TartThe crust is made of a simple sweet short pastry (for a video demo of making the crust see tart aux pommes recipe) and then layered with almond cream and raspberries served with infused chocolate sauce. It's a great recipe to make a day ahead because you can blind bake the tart shell with the almond cream, refrigerate, and then add the raspberries on top the next day and bake again right before serving for warm yumminess. I put measurements in metric because it's more accurate. Sur La Table sells a really cheap digital scale and it takes up less space than cups and spoons. (no this is not a sneaky ad – those are all clearly marked)

For the recipe read on...

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February 12, 2006

Crepes, Crepes, Crepes!

I have a very special French friend, Marine, who besides being an amazing person is also our barometer for all things francais. She has helped tremendously during our first year abroad and has even been known to make reservations at itimidating restaurants, translate important documents, and include us in french traditions and holidays.

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In honor of "La Chandeleur" Marine held a huge Crepe Party. The significance dates back to the middle-ages. Traditionally, in France, La Chandeleur is celebrated every February 2nd, in honor of the dead (including the end of the winter), and for good fortune. Crepes are a symbol or wealth, and making crepes while holding a gold coin should bring good fortune and health during the year. Marine found historical details dating back to Pope VII! Nowadays in early February people make crepes, put on costumes and throw fresh eggs and flour to people on the streets! (well, some do, like students).

When I arrived, Marine had prepared all imaginable accoutrements for the crepes: tomato confit, sauteed mushrooms, grated gruyere, chevre, lardon (bacon), blue cheese, and eggs. For the dessert crepes we had our choice of homemade mandarin, blackberry, and strawberry jams or flambéd crepes with Grand Marnier. She also served an "inbetween" crepe filled with chevre, honey, and walnuts–
yummm!

I watched as she tossed crepe after crepe in the air....

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We did get a little too crazy with the flambéd crepes and at one point switched from Grand Marnier to Rum which was NOT a good idea. As we discovered the higher alcohol content in rum causes a much MUCH bigger flame. We melted the air filter on her stove which ended our flambé fun. Luckily the filter is easily replaced, however it dripped all over our last crepe of the evening.

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I DO NOT recommend lighting anything on fire, but for those curious about the process you heat up a small amount of alcohol (usually a congnac or some sort of liquer) to a simmer then pour it over gently while simultaneously lighting on fire with the longest possible match or lighter. Do not put your face over it or have anything around that can catch on fire– you can never tell how big the flames are going to be.

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We gobbled our delicious crepes with Cidre (hard sparkling cider) and had good fun with baby Zoe..the real light of the party!

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Thanks again Marine for all delicious fun :-) and to Stuart Isett (Pro photographer) for capturing our flambé moments.

Sweet Crepes:
120 g flour (2/3's cup)
pinch of salt
30g sugar (one big Tablespoon)
2 eggs
250ml milk (one cup)
60ml water (two big Tablespoons) or subsitute Grand Marnier or eau de vie
30g butter melted

1. In a bowl sift flour, salt, and sugar. Pour eggs in a well in the center and whisk in incorporting flour from sides of well. Slowly whisk in milk and water util batter is smooth. Lastly whisk in alcohol. Strain if it is lumpy
2. Heat a crepe pan or large nonstick pan and swirl a little melted butter over surface. Pour in about 50 ml of batter and rotate pan so batter coats evenly. Cook for 1 minute then gently lift edges with spatula and flip onto the other side. Or toss like Marine if you're feeling lucky! Crepe should be a pale golden color.
3. Place desired filling on one half of crepe and fold the other half on top. Fold again to make a triangle and serve warm.
Fillings could include: nutella, bananas, jams, sucre, sliced almonds, chevre, lemon, and honey

Savory Crepes:
120 g flour (2/3's cup)
pinch of salt
big pinch of sugar
2 eggs
250ml milk (one cup)
60ml beer (4 big Tablespoons) 30g butter melted

Follow instructions above
Fillings could include: eggs, gruyere, ham, tomato confit, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, blue cheese, nuts, chevre, whatever else your heart desires!

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December 22, 2005

Tarte Aux Pommes, The Video!

I've been receiving a lot of questions about the Tarte Aux Pommes receipe that I posted a while back. So I've decided to put together a short video to demonstrate the techniques used. Let me know if you have any problems or feedback regarding this video. If you like it, I'll do more.

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For the full recipe, go to: Tarte Aux Pomme Recipe

November 07, 2005

Tarte Aux Pommes

J’adore this recipe! Not only does it satisfy my apple pie cravings but, it is surprisingly versatile. I like to make more filling than the original French recipe calls for, because I love warm caramelized apples. I always use Golden Delicious apples for the fan on top, but I tend to use an assortment of sweet-tart apples for the filling. Check out my TARTE AUX POMMES VIDEO for further instructions!

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Sweet Short Pastry
200g all-purpose flour, sifted
100g butter cut into small pieces
4g / pinch salt
20g sugar
5 ml water
1 egg
1-2 pinches vanilla power or tsp vanilla
Large tart pan or rings greased and floured
Apple Filling
7 apples (4 for the filling and 3 for the topping)
60g butter
60g sugar
30 ml water
juice of ½ lemon, if you want
2 cinnamon sticks
Bake at 180 C (around 350 F) and reduce to 160 C or 325 F after ten minutes. Cook until done, about 25-30 minutes.
Short Crust Assembly:
1. Put all dry ingredients into a big bowl (flour, salt, sugar)
2. Add the butter and cut with fingers. (With your hands smoosh the butter & flour inbetween your fingers as if you were counting money). Or pulse in cuisinart with 2-3 on/off turns.
3. Add vanilla powder, egg, and drop of water and continue to mix dough with fingertips. (2-3 on/off turns in cuisinart)
4. Form the dough in a ball and “fraser” twice against the bowl’s side–press dough with palm against the side of the bowl like kneading bread dough.
5. Flatten into round disk and refrigerate dough while making apple filling.
Apple Filling:
6. Peel all apples and core.
7. Dice 4 apples
8. Melt butter on medium high heat in a large saucepan. Add sugar once butter is frothy. Let butter and sugar turn golden brown before adding apples (about 2-3 minutes).
9. Add diced apples and gently stir. (about 5 min).
10. Add water and cinnamon sticks and cook on low heat for another 5 min or until apples are soft. Don’t overcook. (if apples are juicy then leave out the water)
11. Take apple filling off heat and let cool.
12. Take remaining 3 peeled and cored apples. Cut apple halves into paperthin slices. Make sure to keep the apple half in tact while doing this because it makes it easier to fan on the top of the tart.
Tart Assembly:
13. Roll short crust out to size of desired tart pan about 5 mm thick
14. Fill short crust with cooled filling and spread evenly.
15. Starting with outer edge of crust and fan apple slices in a circle over filling. Make sure there are no gaps between the crust and the slices. The fan should be tight.
16. Continue with a second and third circle fanning on half of the previous one. With any remaining small apple pieces fill the center and then place a few slices over to create the center piece. (see picture).
17. Dot wih butter and sprinkle sugar over top of tart. You can also brush top with an apricot glaze if you prefer the shiny look.
18. Bake! Serve warm with crème anglais or vanilla ice cream.

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