Seems like we would never get to France but we finally made it, happy and safe!
The plane never left on Thursday so we left on Friday qnd got rerouted through Houston. We literally ran the whole airport to make our connecting flight for Paris where we late. We waited 2 hours at the luggage carousel to find out that one of our suitcases had not left Houston when we did…. The airline company tracked it down and the bag was finally delivered to us sunday night… we are extremely relieved because B. now has clothes to put on his back, we got shoes and all the presents we had gathered the last couple of months.
We have been touring the beaches of Normandy for the past 4 days and paying tribute to the men of D Day. Very emotional for the both of us.
We are back home, a few kilometers outside of Versailles, and we are now getting ready for Christmas. I have NO time to sit down at a computer and upload pics and blog, between visiting the family and friebds and helping my mom with all the upcoming festivities, so I think you won’t see much of me until I come back.
To leave you on a culinary note, here are some of the things being cooked from scratch in our household: foie gras terrine and pate, smoked salmon, chestnut and apple stuffed capons, duck sausages, praline and Nutella Yule Log, Nougat and passion fruit ice crea, yule log, 120 petits fours, truffles,…. 2 days in a row and most likely again for New Years Eve. Insanity now prevails!!!
Everybody, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I missed the last Blog Party hosted by Stephanie but I am ready to have fun this time. We are 6 hours away from departure but I figured I could not leave without one little piece of decadence.
Because I have spent the last few days running around I decided to fall back on one of my favorite books for inspiration. When I first got Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking From My Home to Yours, I bookmarked this brownie recipe right away but never got around to making it until yesterday. What a perfect fit for the party which theme was Hollywood. I was not sure what cocktail to pair it with so I went with one of my new favorites, an Apple Martini. The color always makes me giggle….!
Katherine Hepburn Brownies, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp ground coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1 c Sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 ts Vanilla extract
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 ts salt
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, coffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon . Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk well. Stir in the flour and salt and mix well. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
Apple Martini, adapted from about.com:
2 oz gin or vodka
1 oz green-apple shnapps
Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice cubes.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The brownies were really moist and flavorful and the martinis went down way to easily. We gathered outside with the neighbors and enjoyes the warmth of th evening, I have the feeling this is the last time I an standing on the porch at ten o’clock at night with a skirt and a t-shirt.
Off, to finish making sure for the tenth time that we have not forgotten anything…!I will come back as soon as we are settled and as soon as my parents understand the need to spend hours on the computer looking at other people’s culinary adventures!!
Well, we played Santa this afternoon and got all of our goodie baskets delivered to the neighbors and family members. Looks like nothing is going to last until Christmas but that is ok. To make the holiday spirit last a little longer I also included an ornament in each and some clementine marmelade I made yesterday.
We are all packed (I think…!) and ready to go. Last things on the agenda are to tidy up the house tomorrow, rsvp Stephanie’s Blog Party and get my fish to the neighbors, the dog is already at my in-laws and the house is so empty without him! But let’s go back to the blog before I start feeling weird again!
I was able to include the meringue kisses in the gift baskets because I made one of my favorite pastries over the weekend and had leftover egg whites, and since I hate to waste but love to bake, well there it was!
I first had a gateau Basque when my parents and I took a road trip in the Basque region a long long time ago and we stopped in a small village and looking through the window of the local bakery I saw this little cake calling my name. The one I had was filled with pastry cream and sour cherries and I found out since then that there are many different interpretations if this dessert, with or without cream or cherry filling. Finding this out I think I bought one in every town we visited!
I did not have any particular reason for making this cake except that the baking stars aligned themselves and the signs all pointed me in its direction. Have you ever had that happen to you? I was getting coffee at the German bakery next to the gym (I know, evil combination) when I looked at their half price table: day old bread, muffins, and jams. Among the loot I found a jar of sour cherry jam and I love the stuff so in my basket it went! That same afternoon I was reading one of my favorite new French blogs, Blanc d’Oeuf , when I started reading about Stanislas' interpretation of Gateau Basque with cherry jam….. and the rest is history… the cakes also because they are all gone…already!
Mini Gateaux Basque, adapted from Blanc d’Oeuf:
300 g flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 egg yolks
150 g powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
200 g butter
sour cherry jam, for the filling
Note: I made the batter by hand with a whisk and a spatula, but feel free to use a mixer.
In microwave, melt the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, combine and whisk together the egg, egg yolks, powdered sugar, the vanilla, salt. Add the butter and give it another whirl.
Add the flour and baking powder and fold into the egg/butter mixture with a spatula or whisk.Park in the fridge for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a standard size muffin pan.
Place 3 Tb. of the batter in each muffin cavity and with your fingers or the back of a spoon, push the batter up on the sides of each cavity a little. Put 1 Tb, sour cherry jam in each, cover with 3 more Tb of the batter over the jam. To make sure the top would seal over the jam while baking I scooped out the amount I needed and flatten it out between my palms before laying it out on top of the jam. The 2 batters will meld together while baking and encase the jam without any spillovers.Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Feel free to make these with just jam or just pastry cream or both, which is I have to admit my favorite way.
Now, here is another food and blog related post: I received my Blogging By Mail package monday afternoon and my secret Santa spoiled me rotten! Shaula from Tsuredzuregusa and her family are organic and flexitarian oriented folks so my package included tons of goodies B. and I favor also.
– large container of dried cranberries
– long organic protein bar with hemp and dried cranberries, and some chocolate on top
– Numi flowering tea ( I had been wanting these for so long), you put the dry flower in boiling flower and it blossoms while the tea steeps.
– Good Earth original tea
-bag of hickory smoked soy nuts
– big box of O’Cocos chocolate and cinnmaon chips (individually packaged for portion control)
– bag of Dr. Kracker Pumkpin seeds and cheddar flatbreads
– bag of Almondina, thin almond cookies
– bag of sweet potato and beet chips which we devoured while discovering the inside of the package
Thank you again Shaula! and to think that your husband’s family lives in Charleston is pretty amazing! or Stephanie knew what she was doing….and that would not surprise me a bit!
Allright …because I can’t resist showing you my big furry love:
That was yesterday while I was trying to put aside the clothes and shoes to be packed….and he would not let me near my slippers and running shoes…. the two pairs that absolutely define who I am these days!
He was trying to add his favorite toy to the pile as a "if my toy is on your toys then my toy wins"…one of his favorite games, along with "if it falls on the floor it is mine" and "if you touch my leash you have to take me out"!
Oh yes we are for these! I have already made 3 batches and each makes a lot. Every time I go fill a gift basket with a jar of these, B. comes down fron his study and starts munching claiming he needs the energy…160 research papers and 160 finals and we are leaving on Thursday! He has proclaimed himself the official Santa Gift Basket Tester…good thing we’ll be walking a lot while in France
The recipe from these is straight out of Real Simple magazine and I only did minor alterations to the ingredients and process.
Spiced Mixed Nuts, adapted from Real Simple
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups mixed nuts (I used almonds and peanuts but any combination of untoasted walnuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios works great)
1/4 cup (½ stick) butter, melted
Preheat oven to 300° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil or parchment. Grease lightly and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating to a loose, meringue like texture. Beat in the cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cayenne, and salt. Add the nuts and butter and stir well to coat evenly.Divide the nuts between the baking sheets, spreading evenly in a single layer. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes to a golden brown (do not allow the nuts to darken too much), rotating the sheets during cooking for even roasting. Line a work surface with foil or parchment.After removing the nuts from oven, immediately slide them onto the foil or parchment. Cool completely. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
I want to apologize if my posts are short and not filled with interesting memories or tidbits but I reserve that for the coming weeks : thursday we are going to France for 3 weeks, spending Christmas and New Years with my family. There will be a lot of posts about our traditions, our menus and the excellent chefs and meals in my family. One example, when I called my parents yesterday my mom was at a neighbor’s house preparing foie gras….and when I called back she was in the finishing phase of her onion and fig confit….and my brother called me requesting that I made Yule logs for New Years and by the way one of the guys attending that dinner is trying to get a star on the Michelin guide for his own restaurant…talk about pressure!!
I will post as much as I can, promise…!
One more item destined to my gift giving baskets. You are probably starting to wonder how big these are getting! Well, not everybody is going to receive every single item I have blogged about so far, (allergies, preferences, etc…), but they are pretty big indeed. They’re really not baskets however… I got very holiday-ish decorated hat boxes and filled them up. The last set of ggodies will be completed tonight.
I made a couple of things over the weekends that left me with 3 egg whites. I am running around like crazy before our trip so I chose not to venture into macaron making and since I wanted to use them for my goodie baskets, I chose the safe route with Meringue Kisses.
These are the easiest things to do and they go great with chocolate mousse, parfaits, trifles, ice creams..". They are also called "Forgotten cookies", and sometimes include nuts and chocolate chips. I am pretty sure everyone has a version of them. I can’t tell you where this particular recipe comes from as I found it on a old wrinkly piece of paper in my mother in law recipe box and no source was included.
Holiday Meringue Kisses:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt.
Start these in the evening, you will understand why at the end.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a stand or hand held mixer, start whipping the egg whites. When they start to foam and form a soft mousse, add in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time in a nice steady stream (don’t just dump it in there or your meringue will plunk). When the meringue has a shiny gloss and stiff peaks, stop mixing and put the mixture in a piping bag. Pipe rosettes on parchment lined baking sheets.
Put in the oven, turn the oven off and leave the meringues overnight. In the morning they will be done and dry!
I divided my batter in 2 and added a couple of drops of red and green coloring, gave to spatula turns and piped them for a holiday feeling.
Only one problem with these: far to easy to pop in your mouth one after the other. Not sure if the neighbors will get any tomorrow….!
I wish I could have made this with Roquefort cheese but for a couple of reasons I went with a basic Gorgonzola: the taste is strong enough to show through the cracker once it is baked and I am trying to use up as many perishables as I can before our upcoming trip. I am also including these in my goodie baskets for Christmas because not everybody likes sweets…I know crazy eh?! They go really well with the rest of the assortments, especially beside a little box of spiced nuts.
I found the recipe ages ago and originally made them for a cocktail party but they never made to the munchies table because B. and I devoured the whole batch before our guests arrived….they are excellent. You can really taste the blue cheese because there is barely enough flour to hold them together and they are so buttery that they instantly melt in your mouth.
These are really convenient to have around during the holidays. The dough can be made way ahead of time since it needs to refrigerate before baking and you can cut slices as needed if you have a small party. Believe me, that won’t be necessary…. If you have leftovers, which I highly doubt, the baked crackers will keep for a week in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Blue Cheese Crackers, adapted from Pascale:
100 gr. all purpose flour
80 gr. salted butter (unsalted works fine too)
1/2 tsp. chili powder ( I used piment d’Espelette)
1 Tb cornmeal
100 gr. blue cheese
Crumble the cheese. Cut the cold butter in small pieces. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients with you fingers or a pastry cutter and gather into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a cylinder about 6 inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the log into 1/2 thick slices and spread them out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. They will spread a little. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges start to get golden brown.
I made another batch the other day and baked bigger slices, about 3 inches wide and topped them with smoked salmon for an appetizer. Delicious!
I hope you are not getting tired of my cranberry obsession but I found a cup left of home dried ones and after sampling the chocolate biscotti from Dorie Greenspan, I decided to go for the first recipe I had noticed: her Lenox Biscotti. We are not getting tired of the mighty berry yet but that reminds me if a time where the executive chef ordered me two cases of pears instead of one. You would not believe how many desserts, recipes, creations, adaptations I came up with trying not to waste any. I almost thought about writing on book on pears.
Another great one from that book, so good that I made another batch right away since we could not stop dunking and finding inventive reason why we should!
Her original recipe called for chopped almonds which I replaced with cranberries, and I used orange flower extract instead of almond extract. If you want a foolproof recipe that you can adapt to your heart’s content, well look no further.
Lenox Biscotti, adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cormeal
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract (I used orange flower water)
3/4 cup sliced almonds ( I used dried unsweet cranberries, but store bought work well, believe me I have tried aready)
In stand mixer (hand held is fine) cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the flavor extract you chose.
Sift together the flour, baking powder,salt and cormeal and add to the butter mixture. Fold in the cranberries (or nuts).
Scrape half the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a spatula and your fingers, form the dough into a log, 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Repeat with the second portion of the dough.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the logs are light golden but still soft to the touch. Let cool for 30 minutes but keep the oven on.
With a long serrated knife cut slices from each log and spread them out onto baking sheets. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes until firm.
Next step? Try to wait until they are cold enough not to burn your tongue….! Happy dunking!
I don’t know whether to blame or thank Lisa for that one! I have made it twice already and my neighbor ordered a whole on after sampling some over the weekend. A few days ago she mentionned a white chocolate and cranberry cake I should try in order to help me use the one bag of cranberries I still had. The mere thought of these flavors melding together in a cake made me crave a taste. She graciously emailed me the recipe and it sounded too good not to make it on the spot. The flavors of white chocolate and cranberries go perfectly together and the addition of orange zest and juice made it close to heaven. Perfect with a cup of bergamot tea on a cold afternoon…that’s the part I have to imagine because it was 72 today.
The recipe calls for a tube or 9 inch round pan but I wanted bite size squares (except for the picture) so I used a 13×9. The cake is supposed to be drizzled with a white chocolate-orange icing but I skipped that part. Why? Could not wait that long to eat it! The only thing I will do next time will be to reduce the butter from 2 to 1 or 1.5 sticks.
White Chocolate-Cranberry Cake:
1-1/2 pkg. (9 squares) whit chocolate, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. grated orange zest
5 Tbsp. orange juice, divided
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 9-inch tube pan or fluted tube pan.
Chop 6 of the chocolate squares; set aside. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, orange peel and 3 Tbsp. of the orange juice; mix well. Add flour and baking powder; beat until well blended. Stir in chopped chocolate and the cranberries.
Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min. or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 min.; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.
Place remaining 3 chocolate squares and remaining 2 Tbsp. orange juice in small saucepan; cook on low heat until chocolate is completely melted, stirring frequently. Drizzle over cake. Let stand until glaze is firm
Another winner going into my gifts baskets, cut into squares and nicely packaged in tin boxes.
Sounds like an insult but really it is just pillowy cottony light homemade marshmallows that I am including in my gift baskets. When I was a child, they were known to me as "chamallow", I guess the French had an issue with the pronounciation, but if you were a purist, they were "guimauve" and they were good…no matter what you called them!
I had been wanting to make them from scratch for a while and although the technique is not difficult I never really had the occasion to take out the powdered sugar, candy thermometer just because I had 30 minutes to kill and why not stand at the stove to watch that syrup get to 260!
When T&D invited us to dinner and I was preparing their goodie basket I remembered a long standing joke regarding T. and some very precious marshmallows. About two or three Christmases ago, he was showing the town to a couple of friends visiting for the holidays and they stopped at a Williams Sonoma store. The ladies got a couple of items and T. grabbed a couple of bags of marshmallows. I had never seen someone as close to a heart attack as when the cashier said :" And your total comes to $30, sir"….. were they coated with gold, was there a precious stone inside one of them? Not wanting to look like a Scrooge, T. took out his wallet and paid. The worst part was that they were not "that" special….and that really bites coming from a fine-gourmet store.
As a joke I decided to make him a couple of bags and the three marshmallows you see in the picture above are the ones that I managed to save for us to sample.
The process is actually quite easy and like in most things confectionary the only requirements are a good dose of patience, following instructions, and a thermometer.
Marshmallows, adapted from Cooking Light:
2 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with heavy-duty plastic wrap, allowing plastic wrap to extend 1 inch over sides of pan. Lightly coat the plastic wrap with cooking spray.
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl; set aside.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup of water, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer registers 260° (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; gradually stir in softened gelatin (mixture will appear foamy).
While sugar mixture cooks, beat the vanilla, salt, and egg whites at high speed in a heavy-duty stand mixer with whisk attachment until foamy.
Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour in gelatin mixture, beating until very thick (about 5 minutes). Gently spread marshmallow mixture over coconut in prepared pan. Coat 1 side of another sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Place plastic wrap, coated side down, over marshmallow mixture. Chill 8 hours or until firm.
Sprinkle powdered sugar and cornstarch over a cutting board. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. Invert marshmallow mixture over powdered sugar mixture. Using a dough scraper, cut mixture into about 1-inch squares. Store between sheets of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.
Yield: 8 dozen
Results? Delicious! I am definetely making more! Next time I am trying them in color!