Summer is looking to find Fall around here it seems. Today for example is what I like to call "une journee formidable" – a glorious day. And as corny as it sounds, (I like corny, there) I’ve been humming this old song all day. Bright sunshine, mild temperature and a nice breeze. I turned the A/C off and opened up all the windows.
And breathed. I have put myself on mandatory time outs at 11 and 3 o’clock every day and go outside, do a funky shake down – move about in the house or just play with the pups. Days are intense, yes, but absolutely gratifying. I was just thinking the other day that I may have a lot of projects in the works but all have a wonderful personal relationship attached to them. Everyday I am given the chance to help someone’s vision come true. That is a privilege.
When Holly and I decided to celebrate our working together on her cookbook, she graciously invited us to her house and I volunteered to bring dessert. I was not going to bring tarts, that’s for sure…! I took advantage of the farmers market bounty one weekend and bought tons of fresh dark and juicy plums.
I needed something that could go on a little ride around the block and still make it in presentable form. I was, indeed, going to have dinner with a Cordon Bleu graduate, eheheh! As usual at our farmers market, I bought a little more than what I needed so I made one 8×8 crumble to take to dinner and a few smaller ones for us to enjoy again later.
With travels, work and just "being" (friends, weeekends, parties,…), I did forget they were there, all by their lonesome self in the freezer. Yep. I know. Sad. Well only for a brief moment when I realized they had been hanging out with a full container of ginger ice cream I had just made for a party. I took the crumbles out one evening and selfishly kept some of the ginger ice cream for us too.
Indeed, Summer was calling on Fall that night. And quite perfectly so…
Plum Crumbles With Ginger Ice Cream:
Serves 4 to 6
Notes: you can replace the gluten free flours and the cornstarch with the same amounts (for each) in all purpose flour.
For the plums:
4 plums, pitted and thinly sliced (skin on)
1/4 cup sugar (I used sucanat – a non refined sugar)(use regular sugar if needed)
zest of one lemon
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb cornstarch
For the crumble topping:
For the topping:
3/4 cup (90gr) millet flour
3/4 cup (120gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (65gr) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (80gr) unsalted butter, cold, in small pieces
1/4 cup sucanat (or sugar)
Prepare the crumble topping:
In a large bowl, stir together all the flours and cornstarch, cardamom and pinch of salt. Add the butter and sucanat and start mixing everything together with your fingertips. You want to form a few large clusters of dough. It will be easier to grate once cold. Freeze the mixture while you prepare the fruits.
Preheat the oven at 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Prepare the plums:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the plums and the rest of the ingredients. Toss well. Divide between 4 -6 ramekins and place them on a baking sheet as the fruits are most likely to release their juice, causing a spill. When ready to bake, grate the crumble over the ramekins (use a box grates) and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Can’t get enough heirloom tomatoes these days. They were lovely in June. Yes. They are even better now and we are having them every day. If you stay for dinner you might get some lovely slices simply sprinkle with coarse sea salt, olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped basil. If you are around for lunch, I will just hand you a crusty piece of bread to scoop up thick pieces of tomatoes, garlic and basil, all dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
If you come around on Sundays though, you will get them in a tart. Or eight. Depending on how late we got up… For some reason, Sundays have become more domestic because of our schedule. We take the time to prep things for the week, he in his office among his papers to grade and the bills and I, in the kitchen getting foods ready for us or work that week.
No matter what, it almost always end up around the dinner table with a couple of friends. Or a lot. And a bottle of wine. Or many. Living wholeheartedly the moment as it presents itself. And right now, it’s easy with the gorgeous days we are having. It sure is Fall somewhere. Not here. And I am basking in all things Summer for a little while longer.
Sun ripened tomatoes, piment d’Espelette, black olive tapenade all fitting in the palm of my hand in tartelette forms. Easy to take to the dock for a little snacking.
I’ve been enjoying a whole lot of simple meals lately and I got to say that when the schedule gets as packed as it has, they fuel me and keep me going until late in the night. I am not only talking about time cutting efficiency but flavors so clean you can taste the vitamins in every bite.
So yes, it’s still a whole lot of summer here. Radishes as crisp and pink as if you had just picked them. They can give you some lip back though. These are feisty spicy little things, ehehe!
I like them as simple as that. A touch of butter, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt as I dig into a tartelette. Or two. When I have enough of that spicy kick, I roast them in the oven with some thyme and a drizzle of olive oil and they become soft and demure as can be. Interesting how the simple act of roasting them can change their nature.
The tarts take virtually no time to assemble if you have the dough prepared ahead of time but it’s always possible to use already made dough (probably won’t be gluten free though). Tapenade is something quite specific to the South of France but it relatively easy to find online or make from scratch. Heirloom Tomato Tarts:
For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette (or pinch red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (80gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) potato flour
(or 1.5 cups of all purpose flour if not using gf flours)
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
For the filling:
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup black olive tapenade
6-8 heirloom tomatoes, cut into thin slices
chopped basil (as much or as little as you want)
salt and pepper
Feta cheese (about 1/3 cup) – optional
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter, piment and mustard on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add all the different flours, and the xantham gum and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your preferred mini tartelette pans (or you can use one 10-inch pie pan). If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pans, just patch it with your fingertips. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months and prepare it up to 4 days in advance
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
Spoon a little or a lot of olive tapenade in the bottom of each tart shell and top with overlapping slices of tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and some basil.
Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the shells are cooked through.
Drizzle with olive oil right before serving. Sprinkle with feta cheese if desired.
Time flies. Let’s face it, the only time when it doesn’t is when we twirl our thumbs. And even then, I have seen people twirl they thumbs long enough to realize how time flew by – along with life – as they were doing so. The only thing I’ve twirled this week were my hair while sitting at the computer to edit pictures and lastly the spoon in my verrine of Honey Yogurt Mousse with Raspberry Coulis. And cookies! I have twirled a cookie around my little finger. My life is now complete…
Ok, you know that’s sarcasm. There is more to life than mousse and cookies… although…Simplicity has been the motus operandi lately around the house and will remain for a little while (more on that later) and as such, these fit the bill perfectly. I could not help but giggle as I was spooning the different layers in the glasses. I kept thinking of my niece Camille who looked at me with wide open eyes one morning I was twirling honey and yogurt for my cereals.
She’s at the age of food discoveries and adventures. Foods that look good touching, separated, stacked. Textures that play well together. Or not. Colors. Foods that fly on spoon to get into your belly. Those especially rock. And I was happy to oblige and fly that spoon for her. I’ll always treasure those moments alone just as much as those spent with her sister or with her sister alone. These two are just beautiful inside-out and I am proud of my brother for that. Awesome parenting.
The little things that are second nature to an adult like mixing honey and yogurt mean a great deal to her right now. Other food related questions were pretty entertaining too. How do you make the air bubble up in a mousse? Why do you turn your spoon in your cup as you eat? Our morning rituals were about the essentials of food. Came four o’clock and we were into Disney Princesses and their lack of fashion sense. Go figure.
All these moments came rushing back in my head as I was making these and taking great care in separating the layers of yogurt mousse and raspberry sauce. Why? No idea since it would all turn into a giant swirly twirly mess once we’d start digging. It reminded me of the day Camille spent 15 minutes separating her steak from her tabouleh salad only to mix it all up in the end. It’s food. It’s fun. And if you don’t mind eating cold, play along.
When I say we have to do simple these days, I am not exaggerating. I don’t usually talk a whole lot about work here (that’s what the "tear sheet" section of my portfolio is here for – needs an update too) but the next few weeks, months, will be trying my energy to come here to post. Right before leaving for France I signed a contract with Gibbs Smith Publisher to do the photography and styling for Holly Herrick's new book on Tarts. Holly is wrapping up the writing and I have started the photography as we speak (Fall/winter 2011 release). I am completely psyched about it!
It’s Holly’s third book as an author, my second as photographer & stylist and our first together. With a blog titled Tartelette, I also think it was kismet…
It is as rewarding as it sounds. It’s a lot of hard work too. I am doing the shopping, cooking, styling, photographing, post processing, etc… Holly is an accomplished recipe writer (and food stylist – team work!) so I do work with the assurance that the recipes will work. I just take extra steps since we only have one shot to tell you a thousand thoughts. So yes, there is necessary tweezer action in pulling that piece of tomato forward to even out colors or tucking that slice of peach sticking out like a cowlick on a baby’s head.
Some of you have emailed wondering about another book. I can tell you that Carrie’s book that I styled and photographed, Deliciously Organic will be released in November. I just got the chance to look at the final manuscript and I got such a strong pinch in my heart. I am so honored to have participated in Carrie’s vision and message and at the same time worked with such a professional team. And the food…ah the food! It will knock your socks off!
Just thinking about the pile of work ahead makes me reach for one of those yogurt mousses. Soft, creamy, tangy from the raspberry and with that soft touch of honey through and through. Exactly what the doctor should prescribe on a Friday night. Make mine a double!! The cookie is a necessary icing on the cake so to speak. Trust me. Makes it even better…
Honey Yogurt Mousse With Raspberry Coulis:
Makes 4 to 6
Notes: the gelatin amount used in the mousse is small enough to help stabilize the whipped cream and prevent the liquids from separating but is not enough to gel it completely so the texture remains soft and silky.
You can use 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour instead of the rice, millet and potato flour used in the gluten free shortbread recipe.
For the coulis:
2 cups (500gr) fresh or frozen raspberries
a few springs of lemon thyme (or lemon verbena, lemon balm, mint, lavender, etc…)
1/4 cup honey
For the mousse:
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1 cup (250ml) Greek yogurt
1/4 cup (60gr) honey (I use a lavender honey from the Hautes Alpes)
1 cup (250ml) heavy whipping cream
For the shortbread cookies:
1 stick (115 gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (95 gr) powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup superfine white rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 potato flour
(or replace the rice, millet and potato flour with 1 1/2 cups all purpose)
2 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt
Prepare the raspberry coulis:
Place the raspberries, lemon thyme and honey into a heavy saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the raspberries start to break down, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool and discard the lemon thyme if using. Set aside until ready to layer with the mousse.
Prepare the mousse:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt and honey. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks. Set aside.
Heat the gelatin in the microwave for 12 seconds or melt on top of a double boiler. Working quickly, pour the melted gelatin over the yogurt and whisk thoroughly. Gently fold in the whipped cream until everything is blended.
To assemble: layer about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of mousse and 2-3 tablespoons coulis in glasses and repeat the layers one more time. Serve with shortbread cookies if desired.
Prepare the shortbread cookies:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy on medium speed, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flours, milk and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between sheets of plastic wrap to about 1/4 – inch thick. Cut out rounds with a pastry ring or cookie cutter of your preferred size. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.
I honestly think the older I get, the harder that jetlag thing becomes. Maybe it is simply that each time it becomes a tad bit more significant in emotions and events. I did give myself the weekend off to do the mundane "back from vacation" routine and spend some time with B. and our friends getting re-adjusted.
I also took time to write down some sort of schedule as my work time is pretty much spoken for until this April. I look forward to come here on this page and unwind with more recipes and stories!
In that spirit and to tell you "Thank you" from the bottom of my heart for reading, laughing, frowning and smiling with me, I put together a little basket of French goodies I picked up on my trip to give away today. Head to the end of the post for instructions on how to enter…!
In the meantime, on to the Southern part of my trip back home. I do hope my aunt and uncle won’t mind my posting about their gorgeous home and the wonderful meal we had when we stopped there on our way from the Alps to Aix-En-Provence. I am so proud of the work they have done, I can’t help share some pictures.
I have always thought my aunt Agnes should have been a stylist or an interior decorator and this visit proved it once again. They basically bought a ruin in Provence with 4 walls, a roof and pretty much nothing you could call a home inside. Today, they have turned it into possibly the most peaceful retreat one could think of.
I don’t tend to carry my camera to every meal I attend but I knew that lunch at their place would be the perfect opportunity to make you part of an everyday meal for us. French food and cooking is always surprising. A perfect mix of intricate, controlled preparations, detailed methods and a more relaxed, everyday cooking which makes going out a true fete and dining in a celebration of simplicity.
With the myriad of regions, provinces and history in France, it’s not uncommon for visitors to go a tad bit crazy over the fantastic food. I know I do everytime I come home but really French cooking is nothing but a strong appreciation for seasonal foods and the cooking methods that bring out the best of it. Simple, fresh, fragrant. And Provence is naturally perfect for that.
I just wrote myself a sticky note to ask my aunt for her confit de carottes recipe. Melt in your mouth slow cooked carrots that held their shape perfectly right up until you’d close your mouth upon them. Then it was an explosion of sweet and savory, garlic flower and thyme.
We ate and drank and took our time to appreciate the scenery before us. So much so that we made our way to Aix-En-Provence in the later part of the afternoon. The sun falling down over the city was casting a gorgeous golden glow on the house fronts and pebbled streets.
Going back there was a treat for all of us. My father went to school at the Institute of Political Studies there and got a bit emotional showing me his first apartment right on the Cours Mirabeau. We spent quite a bit of time in that area retracing steps to stores, restaurants, and other places we used to visit.
Things have inevitably changed since we used to live in the area but a few things remain as we remembered. The markets, the plazas, sitting at a cafe listening to an open air classical concert. Fountains, facades, shops…it was good to be back even for such a short stop but we had somewhere more important to be.
Going back to my old village of Calas-Cabries was amazing in ways I can’t explain. In the five minutes I was out of the car, everything came back. The streets, the turns, the walkways, the shortcuts. My first bike fall, my first crush, my first dive...Trees and bushes had taken over the front lawn in my old house and that was just as well. I could almost hear us play in the pampa’s grass again and not think about the pool newly installed.
Time and life change things. I did not expect anything upon returning home. Expectations ruin things most of the time. The old village had not changed however. The church where I did my communions, the central plaza where I did my ballet recitals. All these years spent there becoming the person I am today. I finally started making sense of myself to myself.
The chapel on the hill where we’d have Scouts meetings. It was good to be home and take a walk under the pine trees and to hear the kids running around at recess. Nothing like a trip home to reset the human clocks right.
It’s good to be home now although I am already planning another couple of trips out West! First isBlogHer Food in San Francisco October 8th and 9th. I am honored to be back as a speaker on a photography panel with my buddy Jen from Use Real Butter as we share the same view about conferences being teaching tools not mere presentations of what is or should be. Sharing is key. We hope to see you there!
The reality of the other day’s weather hit me like a brick. Chilly and rainy in Paris and hot and humid (doh!) in Charleston which meant only one thing. I’d better post the sorbet combination we had a couple of weeks ago as we are in the tail end of melon season, at least on this hemisphere. I sure hope B. does not run to the freezer after this. The Watermelon and Honeydew Sorbets with Lemongrass Sauce is gone. I may or may not have anything to do with it…
As Fall was creeping up on us in France, I was having to fight my mom on a daily basis as she tried to feed me entire cantaloupes as often as she could. Ok, I am exaggerating. But really, she loves them. Me? I think I overdosed as a child. Don’t get me wrong, I like cantaloupe just fine (especially with port and proscuitto) but I’d rather have a thick slice of juicy and ripe watermelon or honeydew at this moment in my life.
Now turn watermelon and honeydew into sorbets and add a few spoonfuls of lemongrass sauce and well… I am all over that too. My turn to wish I had been less gourmande and saved some for my return. A scoop or two would be greatly appreciated today as I keep on editing the pictures I took last week. I promise you Provence – I am just behind on post processing (read, picking my favorites!).
I started this post on Wednesday evening as I was packing to head back home to the US. My suitcase and my heart were heavier than anticipated and I just set this writing bit aside. I am now back home in Charleston and guess what, if it weren’t for the heat and humidity here, I would not feel too much out of place. It’s indeed rainy and gray. I guess Mother Nature is kindly easing me back into real life.
Yes, these past two weeks were like a dream. As Shauna mentioned to me yesterday, it was quite a profound trip. Absolutely. The reality of my inbox and to-do list this morning is a necessary evil. I am so grateful for the trip I have just had and all the people who took the time to make it this special. I am also very happy to come back to mounds of work. I know I got that from my grandfather. As we were chatting the other day, he exclaimed "I got to go now. I am starting my second century. I am quite busy you see." And now my restlessness makes sense…
We like cold treats in my family. Ice creams, sorbets, gelato. Two scoops, three scoops, sugar cone, wafer cone…you name it, we like it. When visiting my brother in Toulouse, we stopped at Octave one afternoon and it all made sense. Our table was an array of licorice, coffee, violet, pomelo, rhubarb, apricot ice creams and sorbets. Not all at once and all together! I was quite impressed with the decisive palate of my young nieces. Yep. I liked their parents even more, ahah!
It’s not that we go for weird and colorful all the time in this family but we like to be tickled. In life, in love and in food. We have curious minds by nature but I admit it took me a while to warm up to the idea of the combination of cool clean melon sorbets in a milky lemony lemongrass sauce. I was even more worried when I served it B., Caitlin and Jeff. They got tickled. They loved it.
I did not come up with it. Richard Leach did. Yes, him again. And I should have known not to question it. It is splendid! The guy is simply amazing. I can’t even fathom the finesse and sensitivity of his culinary brain to nail it time and time again.
I know I was skeptical at first, but I am glad my curious mind steered me to try the combo. A pleasant hit of melons, citrus and lemongrass with every bite. The smooth interaction of ice and cream. It all worked. Perfectly.
Watermelon & Honeydew Sorbets With Lemongrass Sauce, adapted from Richard Leach.
For the watermelon sorbet:
4 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the honeydew sorbet:
4 cups honeydew, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the lemongrass sauce:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 1/2 stalks lemongrass
3/4 cup lemon juice
Prepare the watermelon sorbet:
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve or chinois. Process in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep frozen until ready to use.
Prepare the honeydew sorbet:
Repeat the exact same steps as with the watermelon sorbet.
Prepare the sauce:
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, stir together the milk, 1/4 sup sugar and 2 stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.
In a small saucepan, set over medium high heat, stir together the lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the last 1/2 stalk of lemongrass, also finely chopped. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes also. Refrigerate until cold.
Once both mixtures are cold, whisk them together and strain to remove the lemongrass.
Serve with the sorbets.
This past week I took a much anticipated trip down South with my parents. It had been many years since we had taken a trip just the three of us, something I have always loved to do as they love to discover new places and old ruins as much I do. We were to meet my brother and his family in Toulouse but decided to take the long way there via the Alps and Provence. They indulged me in a trip down memory lane.
Saint Crepin. Life is simple here.
Small village – lots of hospitality.
Being as close as we are, I also like this quieter time together to talk about serious things and catch up (I’ll always be their baby after all). French highways and a little trip under the Southern sun were perfect for that. I hope you enjoy the photographs below and maybe discover or re-discover other facets and areas of France.
Everything has a past & a present.
Streets of Guillestre.
Our first stop was the Hautes Alpes where we have had a chalet there for more than 30 years. I grew up spending every summer and winter there from the time I was four until I left for the US. Every major step of my life as a person, child to adult was pretty much spent there (and Provence). This is there where I learned how to bike without training wheels, swim without swimmies, took my first glider ride, learned how to build a fort,…
Cute little restaurant "Dedans Dehors" – Great food.
Our chalet sits at the foot of the little village of Saint Crepin which has changed in so many ways and at the same time remains the same. Everything in that curvy main street is a witness to the changes of time and economics. Being resilient and adaptable is not an attitude here, it’s a necessity.
Small town – lots of character.
Here I would watch my grandfather wait for the rain to stop and get out with his cane in the woods behind the chalet and hunt for snails. Here, we would sleep in the front yard to watch meteor showers and we took many hard turns and falls on our bikes, down the stairs or in the woods. A place for growth. A place for change.
Old barns turned into homes.
The Citadel of Mont-Dauphin.
This is also where Bill met my parents for the first time and assured my dad of his best intentions in spite the challenges or age difference and the distance between us could bring to this new relationship. A special place for sure.
The village inside the Citadel.
There are places I crave. This is one of them. As you can see, mountain villages are as sight to be seen. Colors. Flowers. Wood. Old stones. The green pastures and clear meadows of the Queyras behold such beauty. There are places that just put the world right by you. This is one of mine.
Life in the mountains.
In the village.
We only stayed a couple of days but it was enough to get a fill for all the things I missed. The town of Guillestre with its typical narrow streets and old barns now renovated and turned into homes or restaurants. The Citadel of Mont Dauphin, built under Louis XIV, still intact (never attacked!) with its cobblestone streets, gorgeous blues and artisans (pottery, leather, painters,…).
It was pretty darn perfect to notice my body instinctively repeat moves and turns or my brain to remember missing stones and oddities I only knew as a child. I could have stayed there an entire month but we had more to see and more highways to cover. Next stop was the town of Aix En Provence and the small village of Calas where I grew up but that will be for next time.
I leave you with a snapshot that my dad sneaked of me while in Fontvieille, one of my many favorite places in Provence. I have so many though…stay tuned!
For the first few years I moved away to the US, my family would always ask me to bake brownies when I’d come back to visit. There is a little of an unspoken love affair for that simple square of dark chocolate, sometimes studded with nuts, sometimes often adorned with a scoop of ice cream. Almost always with a short cup of espresso.
I can’t even recall where I found my first recipe for brownies and I admit I go through what B. dubbed my “brownie baking frenzy phases”. I have been known to bake quite a few batches in the span of a few days just to keep finding the elusive “perfect” one. I know I am not the only one with that problem.
Just as with anything in life, and after hundreds of batches tested and enjoyed by our friends and neighbors, I do believe there is no perfect recipe for us – just the one we like then. Consistently different and yet every time just right
However, there is one I have favored a bit more over the years, probably because I memorized it easily and it has never failed so far to produce the same deep dark squares of chocolate brownies, smooth and rich as velvet. The thing is, I am pretty sure I have never baked this one for my family here. I’m hoping to have enough time to do so and leave a batch on the kitchen countertop before I head back home to the US.
When Caitlin and her fiancé came to visit this past month so I could shoot their engagement session, I had just worked on a savory food feature and the fridge was fairly void of anything sweet. One evening that we had planned to grill and just chill on the patio, I figured Caitlin and I could tackle a batch of brownies as we went about the kitchen getting dinner together.
Who better than an “engineer baker” to share the kitchen with? Well, all my blogging friends actually but the dogs would go insane from excitement!! As we were baking, I threw in the idea of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Salted butter caramel sauce to be exact. All of sudden I had 3 pairs of eyes staring at me with such intensity that I knew I could not get around that one and take my words back. You cannot take back “salted butter caramel sauce”…Period.
Before I left for France I made B. a double batch and tucked one in the freezer labeled "in case of an emergency – ice cream to your right". After only one week away, he said that batch is about gone. His schedule has been a frenzy of work and rehearsals for Hairspray (he plays trombone) afterwards and he has had no energy to cook afterwards. We are traveling in the Alps and Provence as you read this (the magic of scheduled posting) and I sure hope I don’t get a text "come home now – brownies all gone!"…ehehe!
Vanilla ice cream worked perfectly with the brownies but I got to tell you that the ginger ice cream I made a couple of days after that weekend was so much better. It highlighted the intensity of the chocolate and contrasted with the sweet/salty caramel in such a way that it took us great self control not to polish a couple of more servings.
I made the same batch of brownies, ginger ice cream and salted butter caramel sauce three times that week. And if you find yourself with extra of either or and nothing to go with it, just a spoon will do. Trust me.
Notes: you can replace the gluten free flours with 3/4 cup all purpose flour if not gluten sensitive.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup best-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup millet
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup Kahlua or strong coffee
Preheat oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Butter the paper and set aside.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt together the butter, chocolate, and cocoa. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth; let cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice flour, cornstarch, millet, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until pale on medium high speed, about 4 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add kahlua or coffee. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool 15 minutes, lift out of pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely. (check at 15-20 minutes if using smaller molds). Cut into 8 rectangles. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
For the ginger ice cream:
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly and very finely grated ginger
In a large saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, sugar and ginger. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep as it cools to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight. Strain if desired.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s intructions.
For the salted butter caramel sauce:
1 1/4 cup (250 gr) granulated sugar
80 ml water
1 stick (115gr) salted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
150 ml heavy whipping cream
In a heavy saucepan set over low heat, combine the sugar and water. Cook just until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter. Let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove from the heat and add the cream ( it will splatter and get crazy). Whisk to combine and put back on the stove. Let it come to a boil again over low heat and cook 25-35 minutes until you reach a creamy consistency. Pour into a jar and try to refrain yourself from drinking it!