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Jahresarchive: 2010

French Words A Week: Fromage Et Saucisson

Bin 152

A few weeks ago, Tami and I stumbled upon a cool little place in town called Bin 152. A wine bar, situated at 152 King Street. But it’s more than a wine bar. It’s a cheese bar. A charcuterie and cured meat heaven. It’s also an art/antique gallery. It’s also lots more than that. It’s Fanny’s (the French half) and Patrick’s (the American half), the owners. It’s a place where we know we can pop in any time of the week, afternoon or after dinner and have good company, good libations and food. Seriously love those guys and hanging out there.

Fanny & Patrick

Fanny and Patrick in front of Bin 152

For this round of French Word A Week, I thought it’be nice to tag along a little interview I did with Fanny and Patrick. We met one very sunny day at their establishment and they patiently played the game of a few portrait shots as well as plating some charcuterie and cheese for a beauty shot. So yes, today you get to learn two more French words.

Cheese - Saucisson - Bread

Spicy saucisson and Tomme at the bar.

If you ever travel to France, beside "glace a la vanille", you’d better know how to pronounce "Fromage" (cheese) and "saucisson"! (cured dry sausage) (click on the words to hear)

The fromage and charcuterie lists are Bin 152 are among the best I have seen around. I don’t do restaurant reviews here because my heart always beats too passionately when it comes to people and food but Fanny and Patrick’s concept is too good to keep secret (although they are such a gem that we are a handful of locals who are torn about singing their praises out loud or keeping them all to ourselves!).

Bin 152 - Interior during Exhibition

Each month Bin 152 hosts a different exhibition, collection or artist.

The beverage list comprises wines from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, beers (drawing a blank here on the various ones), as well as some non-alcoholic options. Prices range from $7 to $16 for glasses and bottles start under $30. The food is not to be missed either. No matter what you order, every item is $7 from the creamy, hard, aged, stinky, cow or goat cheese to chorizo, duck mousse, saucisson, or cured bresaola (and that’s not the end of it!). Everything is served on wooden cutting boards with just a couple of knives and plenty of fresh baguette. Simple, non pretentious and easy going.

Alright, so clearly I love the place but I also love those guys. Fanny is from Nice originally and traveled to many countries before landing in the US and meeting Patrick who was born in New Jersey but grew up in Colorado. After opening the Charleston branch of a bakery in NYC, Patrick and Fanny decided to venture on their own and improve on the wine bar concept. Hope you enjoy the little interview!


From cozy Happy Hour hang out to slightly mysterious night spot.

Helene: How did you come up with the concept of Bin 152? How do you select the wines and the cheese/charcuterie that go on the menu?
Fanny: Patrick had a wine bar in San Francisco of which we used the basic model, but then we expanded the cheese and charcuterie menu and included the antique furniture twist. So basically we improved upon an existing model that was and is still successful in SF.

Helene: What has been the most challenging part of opening Bin 152 so far?
Fanny: The biggest challenge has been the long hours. Other than that it’s been fabulous.

Helene: Fanny, what’s your favorite word in the English language? Patrick, what is your favorite word in the French language? The toughest to pronounce (for each)?
Fanny’s favorite: rhythm and toughest to pronounce: any word that ends in a "th"
Patrick’s favorite: bisous (kisses)(!) and toughest to pronounce "emporter".

Helene: At home, do you guys share your cooking/baking time?
Fanny: We do. But I mostly cook and Patrick bakes.

Helen: What would be your idea of the perfect feast? (name dishes, place, people, whatever comes to mind)
Fanny: My grandmother’s cooking — cassoulet, paella, au feu de bois; and Patrick’s pizza with mushrooms, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, truffle oil and his special crust.
Patrick: I usually like the simple things done really well. I like roasted chicken with herbes de provence, a great pasta bolognese, any fresh fish cooked perfectly, I love fried zucchini flowers and anything my lovely wife cooks — she’s an awesome cook.

Mention food and feasts and we all start to sound poetic, don’t we?

Snack Plate At Bin 152

Even the cheese has a "smiley" face…

Bin 152 is located 152 King St in Charleston, SC (Tel.843.577.7359). As Fanny mentioned, they do keep long hours and we are selfishly happy for that: they are open Monday through Friday from 4pm to 2am, Saturdays from 4pm to midnight and closed Sundays. Their website should be up in the next few weeks.

Savory Greens, Tomatoes & Goat Cheese Tarts

Arugula, Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

It’s no secret that I love tarts. Obviously with a nickname like Tartelette. Oh you thought it was just the name of this site didn’t you? Well, not entirely. My family gave me the moniker of Tartelette when my age was still in the single digit category. I love tarts. Sweet or savory. Square or round. Rectangular or triangular (have yet to make that one!). The sky is the limit when you make a tart. I just happen to like them all…

And it really bugs me that I can’t register the domain "tartelette" but have to put "my" in front because someone grabbed it already (and is just sitting on it). This is not "my tartelette" ya’ll, it’s yours, it’s everybody’s. It’s a place to come satisfy all your senses, your eyes, your tastebuds, your brain. Read a little, smile a lot. I don’t know. I hope it feels as much of an open invitation to come sit at my table as I hope to convey.

Savory Tart Ingredients

That’s probably why we love to have friends come visit. Stay for a while or just in passing. We live in such a gorgeous city. We love to walk the old cobblestone streets with them, have dinner on the patio or go to the dock to get some crabs for dinner. You can’t help being in a good mood with all this sun year round and beauty of the city. We may not have all the stores and convenience of a big city but we are truly spoiled by the richness of the history and the spirit of the people.

I think Tami felt that when she visited us a couple of weeks ago. She came to relax after some grueling days at work and we had also made plans to contribute on a project together. I’d say our friends have varied personalities and lives but one common trait is that they all love food and they all love to eat good food. So you can bet that in the midst of working hard and playing harder, Tami and I made sure to eat fresh and satisfying foods to keep us going.

Savory Tarts

She came at the right time too! I had just made a couple of batches of gluten free puff pastry, to find the combination of flours we liked best and to make sure that the results were consistent each time. I had plenty of leftover dough but no real desire for anything sweet. I ended up blind baking and freezing three tart shells instead. At least, if I did not use them right then and there, I’d have them ready to whip up a quick quiche or tart for a light lunch or an impromptu gathering.

Tami and I shared a tart filled with a light custard filling and topped with fresh dandelion greens (she’s hand modeling for me too!, heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese. We devoured it. Almost all of it. I saved a couple of slices for B. and he wanted more. He made me promise to make more. Soon. So I did.

Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Dandelion Greens

The second one I made shortly after was filled with a simple salad of arugula, goat cheese and cherry tomatoes tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Score once again. I literally could have eaten it all by myself but the pleasure of sharing with Bill just to see his face light up as mine did was priceless. Gosh it was good! The world goes rounder with tarts. That is all…

Check out Shauna’s Rough Puff Pastry that she just posted here. Such determination…

Someone asked me where I found the wooden spoon shown with
these cakes. It’s a picnic set that my mom got on Sprout Home but Anthropologie announced today they now carried them (price gauging them too).
– vintage knives: etsy & antique store
– enamel plate & Bowl: Pottery Barn
– cutting board: World Market
– glasses: Pier 1 (on sale for $1)

Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Dandelion Greens Tart:

Serves 4

For the crust:
– 1/2 a recipe for gluten free puff pastry

1 egg
3/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup heirloom tomatoes, halved
2 cups chopped dandelion greens (or other strong greens)
3/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup vinaigrette (depends how soaked you like your salad)

Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 350F.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick and line it into a 9 or 10-inch round tart pan or rectangular, etc… Place the tart on a baking sheet and line it with a piece of parchment paper on top and fill with dried beans or ceramic weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk until well combined. Add the salt, pepper and mustard and whisk to incorporate. Pour the filling inside the shell and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.
Mix all the tomatoes, greens and goat cheese in a large bowl. Toss with as little or as much vinaigrette as you like and spoon the salad on top of the tart. It’s ready! C’est pret!

Arugula, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Tart:

Serves 4

For the crust:
1/2 recipe gluten free puff pastry

For the filling:
2 cups arugula
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup vinaigrette (same as above)

Prepare the crust:
Follow the step in the previous tart recipe.

Prepare the filling:
Toss all the ingredients together as you would a salad and spread on top of the cooled tart shell.

French Word A Week: Lait


I meant to post this yesterday but time got a bit away from me. All 24 hours of it. It’s Spring. Spring in Charleston is something else. Everyone is everywhere, all at once, all together, all the time. Buzz, buzz, buzz! Let’s just say that I can’t wait to get a fill of colors and good people today at the farmers' market and grab a pain au chocolat for him and a cafe au lait, double milk, for me.

Yes, this week’s word is milk. "Lait" (click on link for pronunciation) (and if you were in France in the 1990s, remember this?)

If you ever go or have been to France you will notice that we take our morning cup of coffee with milk rather seriously. We take the entire dairy world just as seriously actually. No kidding. The first picture in this post by David Lebovitz pretty much sums it up. Plain, fruity, creamy, chunky, organic, artisan… you name it – we have it.

And I do have a slight collective penchant for milk bottles of all shapes and sizes.

When I feel my energy level dip or my brain getting more fogged up than usual, I know I need a little boost of milk. A tad more than the few drops I pour in my morning coffee. Which is why I love our farmers market, I can get fresh from the farm raw milk all throughout the summer the way we used to back home.

So…What do you do to get that extra jolt to make it through the week? Please share! Food related or not.

Have a great weekend!

*Vintage enamel cup from ebay
**ceramic milk bottle (gift) from
Alyssa Ettinger

***distressed wood handmade by yours truly

Vanilla Bean Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

It’s the little things lately that fuel me up. The details. Paying attention. So much is out my hands that it’s all in the little things. Maybe it’s the renewed warmth of Spring doing that to me with very much intensity. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the work days that intensified lately. It makes me crave finding my grounds, keeping them and taking care of us.

Food is naturally part of that equilibrium. Roasted chicken and mixed greens enjoyed with friends during a lazy Sunday lunch. A simple salad of heirloom tomatoes shared with B. in between his classes and his music. A classic nosh of French cheeses and pate downtown at a new favorite hang out. A simple plate of lentils and kale topped with a friend egg on a weeknight. Simple. Details. Seasonings. Spices. Balance.

Vanilla Ice Cream

When it comes to dessert, you can bet I am right around the corner with a big plate and large smile! I rarely want a slice of cake or a dozen cookies. Fresh. Seasonal. Textures. Aromas. These words resonate strongly when it comes to picking desserts. There are things I can’t have anymore and ingredients I need to pay attention to so desserts need to pack a punch in a few bites. They need to make me weak in the knees or I’ll pass. I am a gourmande. I’d like to enjoy that for a while and not feel worse because I am not keeping tabs of what I do.

Most nights dessert is a bowl of strawberries or raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream (my absolute weakness), a handful of cherries, a baked apple. Simple. Then there are the simple but planned out desserts we enjoy a couple of times a week. The ones I come to tell you about here. The ones which flavors dance in my head long before I actually make them.

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

Like these Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches. They were not just good. They were simple. They were made from scratch with good stuff like homemade vanilla ice cream. And they were gluten free. I know! You’re thinking "Stop the healthy stuff Helen or we’re going to throw you a cookie." "Ice cream! Portable! Yes!".

I could fit one in my hand without a problem. I could do a 3 bite dance just as easily. I could also carry one in my pocket. I am sure the pups would follow me to the end of the earth with such a trick, ahahah! B. simply loved the taste of the wafers which always make me happy as I bake more and more gluten free that he can’t point out the switch. He grabbed a handful of plain wafers on his way out earlier. Just like that.

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

I took the cookie recipe used on a job last week and modified to be gluten free and I was really pleased to see the end products behaved the same while being prepared, baked and stacked. The original recipe called for margarine which I subbed for half butter and half coconut oil (see reasons and how to’s in recipe section here) but feel free to use all butter. For the ice cream, I kept it pretty simple and did an eggless base loaded with good vanilla seeds.

Here’s what I like about making ice cream sandwiches from scratch beside the obvious "they’re better for us": it gives me an excuse to make fresh ice cream for some other night of the week. I don’t have to fill all the cookies at once and can do so as we please since they too can be kept in the freezer and I can keep some cookies plain on the side when a chocolate cravings comes knocking at midnight. As it is now….

Why is the freezer door this loud this time of night when everyone is asleep but me? Ha!
One more thing before I go: If you are curious to read about more about the whys/whats/wheres of this blog, check out an interview I just completed on Bizymoms by going here. Thanks!

– milk bottle and various plates: ebay
– flatware and straws: Kikkerland on
– paper straws: Bake It Pretty (I hear Anthropologie also has them)
– "Ice Cream Parlor" cup (2nd picture): cup outfitted with a DIY pattern from Eat Drink Chic.

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches:

Makes twelve 3-inch square sandwiches

– you can use 2 cups all purpose flour instead of all the combined gluten free flours (sweet rice through cornstarch)

– for the dotted look on the sandwiches, I used one of the tools comprised in this set that I received as a gift years ago.

For the cookies:
4 tablespoons (55gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons coconut oil (55gr), at room temperature
1 cup sucanat (organic cane sugar) muscovado or brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup superfine or regular sweet rice flour
1/2 cup superfine or regular brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup cornstarch (use tapioca flour if allergic to corn)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Prepare the cookies:
In the bowl of a electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butterm coconut oil and muscovado sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, all the flours, baking powder, and salt. Still with the mixer on low speed, at the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until the dough starts to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
On a lightly floured surface or a Silpat, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use your preferred cookie cutter to cut out as many pieces as you can. Gather and re-roll the scraps if necessary. Make patters on cookie with a fork or other tool (see notes) if desired. Place on lined baking sheet and bake 8 – 10 minutes. Cool completely before sandwiching them with ice cream.

For the vanilla ice cream:
1 cups (250ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) whole coconut milk
1/2 cup (125gr) mild honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split open and scraped – seeds set aside

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large saucepan set over medium low heat, bring the cream, milk, coconut milk, honey and vanilla bean seeds to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s intructions.
Once the ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, pour about half into a 9×9 freeze proof dish lined with plastic wrap (try to get about 1 to 1.5 inch thickness for the ice cream to sandwich later on) and the other half into a freezable container. Freeze until firm.
No ice cream maker? No problem! Pour the cream into a freeze proof container and freeze for a couple of hours. Take it out and whip it with an electric mixer or immersion blender, freeze it again, whip it again….do that four or five times. The mixture won’t be quite the same but pretty darn close.

With the same cookie cutter, cut through the ice cream that was poured into the 9×9 inch pan and sandwich in between two cookies. Keep frozen. The cookies will keep well wrapped in the freezer for up to 3 months.

I’ll upload the recipe in French either tonight or Wednesday – ran out of steam tonight!

La recette en Francais ce soir ou demain au plus tard. Le boulot ca fatigue – ahahahah!

French Word A Week: Glace A La Vanille


I’m always fascinated to see how events, things and people come together sometimes. I remember when I was still working in a restaurant kitchen that I could spend one night plating nothing but fancy chocolate cake adorned with pretty caramel twirls and the next the only thing people wanted was two scoops of sorbet. What bug was whispering the same thing to their ears the whole time? How could a dozen people at once get the same fancy for chocolate cake or ice cream?

Ever wondered why in one day or one week a lot of the same thing surfaces over and over again?

Here it was ice cream this week. Lots of it. For us, for work, for fun. It made me realize that some of you might be visiting France in the summer and what better words to learn than "Vanilla Ice Cream"? You never know…

So here it is: Glace a la vanille!

One evening my dear and lovely gave me his best smile (the one I can’t say not to) and asked "have you ever thought of making gluten free ice cream sandwiches?" "Hmmm…yes," I said "the thought occured to me. And your point is?". Once again, he gave me the grin and I acquiesced."Alright, alright….I give up. Ice cream sandwiches coming right up".

It really helps that I am up for any sort of sweet concocting and experimenting in the kitchen…Ahah!

The ice cream sandwiches in the picture above are from a feature with a retro theme I did this week. I was handed a plate of ice cream sandwiches made by one of the chefs on staff and they were good, or so I hear. I then proceeded to a gluten free version once home, down to the dotted look, (fooled B!) which I will post next week.

Have a great weekend!

P.S: Lots of you asked where I got the green cups in the previous post (Anthropologie – I also have the brown set which I love) which made think of posting my sources whenever I can remember (some are old – some are new -some are from antique stores – some are from home).

Flower bud vase: Wal-Mart
Mini cake stand : Sur La Table
Bake It Pretty

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

There are very few things that say Spring to me like a few stalks of rhubarb do. I am not alone sharing that sentiment just from seeing all the rhubarb recipes posted by fellow bloggers out there. That makes me happy. I do have a little love affair with "la rhubarbe" each year.

This complex, fibrous and tart plant is probably one I remember the most vividly about my childhood. I literally grew up on that stuff every Spring and Summer. I can’t recall a sunny day without my mother compote de rhubarbe or a vacation without my grandmother tarte a la rhubarbe.

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

I got an early start on my rhubarb baking (crumbles) when I got giddy finding hothouse cultivated rhubarb. But last week’s venture to the farmers market with my parents was a success with a bunch pretty stalks of wild rhubarb making their way into our basket.

I really wanted to use it before their return to France and thought that a go at rhubarb sorbet would be a good one to whirl but we did not have nearly enough. I was going to acquiesce to my mother stewed rhubarb but I knew B. would never put a dent in it. The mushy texture of stewed rhubarb is something the man cannot stand. I like it on plain yogurt or fromage blanc.

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

As much as I wanted to make my grandmother’s rhubarb tart it would have to wait until I am completely happy with the results. There was one elusive whiff of a scent whenever she’d pull hers out of the oven and I have yet to nail it down but I am getting close. Ha!

In the meantime, I made one of the desserts I knew would make everyone happy, Lavender Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb.

There is something about lavender that I can’t never grow tired of. I grew up in Provence, surrounded by lavender and mimosa. One look at a lavender bud and I feel like I am six again. Once the scent hits my nose I can almost hear the cicadas in the background and my mom yelling from the patio to get down from the apricot tree. Yes, it was a rather idyllic upbringing. One I wish to share with B. when we move back home eventually one day in our old age.

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

Beside sorbet, this is one of our favorite ways to eat rhubarb, gently poached in lemon juice and a touch of honey until barely fork tender to preserve most of the texture that would be lost otherwise. The contrast with the silky panna cotta both in texture and flavor elicited lots of oohs and ahhs from the table the other day. Lots of fidgeting and eying the kitchen for second too!

I had made more panna cotta and had gotten some more rhubarb ready to be chopped and poached for when Tami came to visit but we never got around to it. Too much fun was being had on the town. The house was so quiet after a month of visitors that both B. and I were glad to have a couple of these to dig into to chase the blues away.

Lavender Panna Cotta With Poached Rhubarb

By the way….if you are in Charleston this week, do not miss Cabaret at the Sottile Theater. Great cast, great performances! And I am not just saying that because B. plays in the orchestra (although I am kind of very proud he is!)

Green cups: Anthropologie
Low bowls: Anthropologie
Blue tea cups: vintage gift from
Tray: vintage find
napkins: remnant pack from
Cicada studio

Lavender Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb

Serves 4-6

For the panna cotta:
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon edible lavender buds
2 cups full fat buttermilk

For the poached rhubarb:
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup water or sweet white wine or blush wine
2 tablespoons honey
5 stalks rhubarb, chopped into small pieces (1/2 inch)

Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Reserve.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, honey and lavender buds to a simmer. When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture among 4-6 cups or ramekins. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly. Top with the poached rhubarb just before serving.

Prepare the rhubarb:
Place the lemon juice, water (or wine) and honey in a heavy bottom saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the pieces of rhubarb. Poach for 2-3 minutes then gently remove the rhubarb from the poaching liquid and set aside (they will continue to soften as they cool). You can reduce the poaching liquid to a syrup over medium heat and use to drizzle over the panna cotta, it’s fantastic.


Le P’tit Coin Francais:

Pour les panna cotta:
2 feuilles de gelatin
1 verre d’eau
500ml de creme liquide
60ml de miel
1 cs de lavende
500ml de lait ribot (babeurre)

Pour la rhubarbe:
5 tiges de rhubarbe, coupees en des
jus d’un citron
250ml d’eau ou de vin blanc sucre ou de rose
2 cs de miel

Preparer les panna cotta:
Mettre la gelatine a ramollir dans l’eau.
Dans une casserole a fond epais, chauffer la creme avec le miel et la lavende jusqu’a fremissement. Hors du feu, ajouter la gelatine refroidie et bien melanger pour qu’elle fonde. Ajouter le lait ribot et bien melanger de nouveau.
Verser dans des coupes ou des ramequins et laisser refroidir a temperature ambiante pendant 20 minutes. Placer ensuite au refrigerateur de preference 2 a 4 heures.

Pour la rhubarbe pochee:
Porter a ebulition le jus de citon, miel et eau (ou vin) a chauffer dans une grande casserole. Ajouter la rhubarbe et faire pocher 2-3 minutes. Prelevez les morceaux du liquide et mettre de cote. Reduire le liquide de pochage de moitie et verser sur les panna cotta avec la rhubarbe.

French Word A Week: Fraises


This is going to be a short and sweet French Word A Week post as Tami and I are busy working hard. In our case work is play and play is work but still. The weather is gorgeous right now in Charleston which makes me want to be outside and just walk around the city. The farmers market just started, the dogwoods are heavy with flowers. It’s all quite pretty really. And our strawberry season is literally just around the corner. Ah les fraises! (the strawberries!)

One of my favorite fruits. Fraises. Listen to the pronunciation here.

Strawberries here in town are a big deal. We even have a festival to celebrate its beginning at Boone Hall Plantation which is always a sight to be seen. Bill and I do the side step at this time of year because we can’t wait to see the "U pick" sign on the sign of the road. We love to spend a few hours on the grounds, digging up the sweet and juicy strawberries. I even took Marcela there two years ago when she came to visit. I wish I could take Tami there this year but we are one weekend too early.

At least I know what I am doing next weekend with our neighbors and their kids!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Dandelion - Goat Cheese - Heirloom Tomato Tart

As I was picking Tami for the airport this morning I was thinking "I got to go home and finish this puff pastry post already. Kind of ready to move on" Now that I sit at the computer putting words to my thoughts, it feels a little like Christmas morning. I am getting giddy all over again.

I know I know. It’s dough. But I am staring at a block of layer upon layer of buttery goodness. And it’s all gluten free. And it’s good. And it puffs. And it makes me stand up and say "heck yeah we can do this!" I’m obstinate and stubborn you see.

Gluten Free Mille Feuilles With Mascarpone Lemon Cream

It took quite a few tries to get to what I did consistently for the past two weeks. Five times now to be exact. Yep, even if it meant eating puff pastry for two weeks straight just to make sure I did not just get lucky on the first try. I got lucky all five times. That’s not luck anymore – that’s a recipe ready to roll. Pun intended. Oh yes!

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Dough "detrempe" ready to roll before butter block.

I could not have done it without Shauna and Danny. It was high time for a classic puff pastry recipe that would not make anybody cuss up and down their street "it was hell-ish to work with" and they just "managed a substitute". While I am finally happy with this one, I can’t wait for the rough puff pastry version that Shauna and her husband have been working on these past few weeks! Check her site soon for that version. I know their dedication. You’ll want to read it.

From the gluten free point of view, this ain’t no substitute! This is not hell-ish to work with. It actually feels as good under my fingers as my favorite puff pastry recipe from Martha Stewart. I want to rest my head on it and take a nap it is that soft.

It bends and it moves. It has dimples and ripples. It rolls and folds. It stretches just enough and never pulls away. That’s the joy of gluten free baking.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Rolling the "detrempe" before the butter block.

I used to think while working on the recipe that people who could bake with gluten had it easy because of the elasticity pertinent to each strand of gluten. Now that I am "getting" gluten free baking each day a little/lot more, I realize that we have a serious advantage: I can flour the heck out of my counter top to roll my dough and never worry about adding too much flour. I never worry about a batter becoming to stiff, too stretchy because I overworked the gluten. There is joy in this people. There is calming effect to that notion.

But, I am glad you were not there in the kitchen the very first time I tackled gluten free puff pastry. That was sometime last September. It did not work. It worked just enough to make me want to get it right though!

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Creating a cushion mat before the butter. Just enough butter.

I uploaded a picture and my recipe and send it off to Shauna. Her response was immediately "too much butter – but look at those layers" See…I knew it. It was possible. As much as it pains me to say, there was too much butter indeed for something gluten free. We bounced back a few thoughts: maybe add an egg, maybe change the flours. All valid thoughts. And then I sat on it for a few months.

There was something that bugged me from those first experiments. Handling that dough, with the proportions and recipe I had in front of me, was like being on the brink of a cliff on a tight road in a big old truck. Nerve wracking. It cracked everywhere. It did not bend. It did not look good or felt good under my hand. I have the tenacity of a bull so I didn’t give up but the whole time I kept thinking that I did not want any of my readers left alone with this dough. You would have hated it with every fiber of your being. I sure did.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Folding dough flaps over butter. Most pliable dough ever.

As months went by of gluten free baking, I have started to acquire a more comfortable handle of the flours, which ones were softer in my hands or were nicer to our palate. I started picking my puff pastry recipe again and jotting down my favorite flours and possible ratios for them.

Then I remember Shauna’s words "too much butter" and started working on the butter part of the recipe. This one left me puzzled. Classically trained. French. And now I had to do this Holy Grail of pastry with less butter. Oooohhh… I stripped it down to the very minimum and I went to work. And it worked. And I did this. Really.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Butter block encased and ready to be rolled in with the dough.

From the classic puff pastry point of view: this still bears a higher degree of difficulty than other tart dough but trust me when I say it’s not rocket science. Just like most things in pastry though, you have to pay attention. A little of that goes a long way. And some time to set aside to give your day enough chilling time between each turn. Not because it needs to rest its gluten strands, obviously but because this dough is a bit wetter than usual and the cold helps with all the rolling and handling.

Just like with regular puff pastry, one other critical step is to have your dough block and butter block at the right temperature before starting the layering/rolling process. I like for my butter block to still be firm to the touch but for the top to slightly give under my fingers. It might take you a couple of tries though whatever type you chose to work with (gluten or gluten free). One thing for sure is that there is such a thing as too cold butter and too soft butter. If you have the latter case, just place your dough block as the recipe indicates but refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before attempting to roll it out.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Rolling and layering – doing the turns.

The possibilities once you have your dough ready to go after all your turns are done, just make sure to refrigerate the dough once more before rolling and cutting and using. It will thank you a plenty.

See the first picture with the tart shells filled with all these beautiful ingredients? That’s going to be lunch for my friend Tami from Run With Tweezers who is visiting for a week and myself. That’s why I am late posting this today. We had a "no work all play" kind of day. Bill might have some leftovers…if he gets home at a decent hour. Otherwise he’ll just have to be happy with some chocolate mousse and Raspberry Mille Feuilles. Tough. I know. I am super strict with his diet.

Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Mille Feuilles

Classic Puff Pastry – Gluten Free

Notes: rolling the dough on a piece of silicone mat is very helpful if you are new to baking gluten free or new to baking puff pastry. You don’t have to if you flour your pastry board generously but I do it even now. Makes cleaning up way easier!

This is the flour combination that we liked best but feel free to experiment. I did try it twice with tapioca flour instead of cornstarch and although the consistency was the same – we did not care much for the strong tapioca taste so I tried a few times with cornstarch and it worked better for us. One day I replaced the millet with cornmeal(I was tired, not paying attention) and it worked out well also.

If you are not gluten free, here is my go-to recipe for puff pastry on which I based these experiments.

This dough is wetter than what you would expect, for a good reason: it really rolls soft and beautifully with a greater ratio of water than most BUT refrigerating is crucial with it. Each grain will soak in some of the moisture which will work to your advantage as it chills. Use plenty of gluten free flour to roll it out or use a silicone mat.

For the dough block:
1/2 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
3/4 cup cold water

For the butter block:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, soft but not room temperature just yet
1 tablespoon superfine sweet rice flour

Make the dough package: In a large mixing bowl, combine all flours with the salt and both gums.
Form a well in center of mixture, and pour the water into well. Using your hands, gradually draw flour mixture over the water, covering and gathering until mixture is well blended and begins to come together. Gently knead mixture in the bowl just until it comes together to form a dough. Pat dough into a rough ball, and turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly, and place in refrigerator to chill 1 hour.

Make the butter package: Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon flour on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Place uncut sticks of butter on top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon flour. Top with another sheet of paper; using a rolling pin, pound butter to soften and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Remove top sheet of paper, and fold butter package in half onto itself. Replace top sheet of paper, and pound again until butter is about 1 inch thick. Repeat process two or three times, or until butter becomes quite pliable. Using your hands, shape butter package into a 4-inch square. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator until it is chilled but not hardened, no more than 10 minutes.

Assemble and roll the dough: Remove dough package from refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9-inch round. Remove butter package from refrigerator, and place it in the center of the dough round. Using a paring knife or bench scraper, lightly score the dough to outline the butter square; remove butter, and set it aside. Starting from each side of the center square, gently roll out dough with the rolling pin, forming four flaps, each 4 to 5 inches long; do not touch the raised square in the center of the dough. Replace butter package on the center square. Fold flaps of dough over the butter package so that it is completely enclosed. Press with your hands to seal.

Using the rolling pin, press down on the dough at regular intervals, repeating and covering the entire surface area, until it is about 1 inch thick. Gently roll out the dough into a large rectangle with one of the short sides closest to you. Be careful not to press too hard around the edges, and keep the corners even as you roll out the dough by squaring them with the side of the rolling pin or your hands. Brush off any excess flour. Starting at the near end, fold the rectangle in thirds as you would a business letter; this completes the first single turn. Wrap in plastic wrap; place in refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator, and repeat process, giving it five more single turns. Always start with the flap opening on the right as if it were a book. Mark the dough with your knuckle each time you complete a turn to help you keep track. Chill 1 hour between each turn. After the sixth and final turn, wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or overnight before using.

For the chocolate mousse in the raspberry – chocolate mousse Mille Feuilles:
See recipe here.

For the recipe for the lemon mascarpone cream:
See recipe here. (minus the rhubarb)

French Word A Week: Pate Feuilletee

Gluten Free Mille Feuilles With Mascarpone Lemon Cream

We have literally eaten our fair share of this edition of French Word A Week lately and we would gladly do it again. Actually we might later today. It’s puff pastry, who wouldn’t be?

Yes, we are furiously infatuated by pate feuilletee in this household. You can listen to the pronunciation here (and yes it’s my voice this time and yes I am quite aware it’s two words. Bonus)

Hmmm…puff pastry…That elusive pit-stop of a baker’s apprentice. The one that elicit words such as "difficult", "temperamental", "finicky", "a pain in the derriere" and a sleuth of other chosen adjectives.


Add "gluten free".

Now we’re talking about a whole other level of difficulty.

Yet, within the course of this past year and bouncing off ideas, ratios, trials and errors with Shauna and Danny, I can say that our family finally ate a gluten free mille-feuilles worthy of that name!(pictured above)

I have made it four times in the past two weeks just to make sure that the first time I yelled "victory" was not a dream. Everytime it worked perfectly. Imagine a dough that does not crack when you roll it, that you do not need to patch and doctor up as you roll and fold. A gluten free dough that behaves exactly as one loaded with gazillion strands of gluten. Oh yeah….

I wanted to post the full recipe today until Shauna gently nudged me to do it one more time with step by step pictures so that people who have never made it could see the method and you could clearly see what I am talking about when I say I want to rest my head on the dough it is so soft.

So….the step by step tutorial is being photographed as we speak (I am in between 2 turns right now) and I’ll post the full recipe and several dishes/desserts I made with it on Tuesday.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend. We are having a few get togethers with friends and family until Monday when my parents leave to go back home. I’ll be moping around the house that day. Good time to write about pate feuilletee then!

Have a great weekend!

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

Spring. Easter. Trees in bloom. Bright sunshine. Rain drops. Big sneezes. Little colds. Travels. Coming home. And chocolate.

My mom asked me the other day what was my creative process to write posts. Well, there it is. I throw words on paper. Words that go with the pictures I have taken of the recipe I have just made. I take them and elaborate with each paragraph. That’s the process. My way of remembering to hit all the key points of what I want to talk about. Sometimes events prompt me to a recipe. Sometimes I just execute for no other reason than the desire to cook, bake or simply eat (I know – how very pedestrian, right?!). Now, that’s just me. How do you go about writing a post?

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

Words. Pictures. Moments. They all weave together to give you a story. I like stories. For the past two weeks I have been listening to my mom tell the family’s stories. Some were old news, others not. Cousins getting married. Some having babies. Planning my grandfather’s 100th birthday party. Quarrels and accolades. It’s a big family. It bends and it snaps. It mends together and alone too. There are events or moments however that help us cross bridges and stick together, like Easter and Spring.

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

And chocolate. A good, simple chocolate cake. One we happily sunk our teeth into coming home from an escapade to Asheville, NC this past weekend. This was the perfect time of year to experience the duality that is early Spring in our region. Each week brings a mix of cold and hot days, sunshine and rain, thunderstorms even. Cardigans, tee shirts, pants, short, boots and sandals. All have to be at the ready for a few more days until the weather balance finally shifts completely.

Back home we say "En Avril, ne te decouvre pas d’un fil" (meaning in April you are better off not shedding all your warm layers yet). Here in the South, that advice rings true comes mid-March but in his usual fashion, my Southern boy pretty much relocated all warm layers to the back of the closet. And got a cold. One of those nasty colds with big sneezes and heavy head, sore throat and low fever. And with men’s general low tolerance of discomfort, you would think this is the end of the world of course.

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

One thing that reassured me that the world was not going to fall apart for Bill was that he never lost his appetite. How can you in Asheville? One of the best food oriented towns in the South East! We had some of those typical Spring days I was just mentioning above leaving us with just a small craving for something chocolate. A small but nipping feeling that could only get satisfied with a light but intense bite of chocolate cake.

In doubt. Make cake. In craving. Make chocolate cake. The world around you will instantly be comforting and lovely.

Simply Good Chocolate Cake

This could well turn out to be my favorite gluten free chocolate cake to date. One that holds many promises for changes and substitutions. We had it plain but I can easily foresee the addition of pecans, walnuts or pistachios in the near future. Maybe chocolate chips added to the batter for that little extra fudgy feeling when they are still warm out of the oven. A ripe mashed banana could easily find its way in there one day soon. Who knows? Can’t wait to bake it again!

Before I leave you with the recipe, I must announce the winner of the givewaway last week: congratulations to Julie from Kitchen. The cards and book will be on their way to Vancouver as soon as you send me your address via email {mytartelette AT gmail DOT com}

Simpy Good Chocolate Cake:

Serves 8

Notes: I like to use superfine gluten free flours more and more gluten free baked goods as some people always have issue with the slight change in texture and softness compared to regular all purpose flour. They are easily found online but feel free to use whatever you have on hand and if you don’t have to go gluten freee, use regular flour instead.
By choice, I’ve almost completely switched to baking with maple syrup, honey or sucanat which I used here but feel free to use regular sugar instead.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150gr) sucanat or regular sugar
1 cup (250ml) sour cream
6 oz (180gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 stick (115gr) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (75gr) superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup (75gr) superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup (65gr) sorghum flour
1/2 cup (75gr) millet flour
OR 2 cups (250gr) all purpose flour instead of the 4 flours mentioned above
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (do not use with all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Line the inside of 8-10 muffin tins with cupcake liners, or 8 ramekins or one 8-inch round cake tin (use a piece of parchment paper at the bottom). Lightly butter or spray the inside of the tins.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs and sucanat/sugar for 2-3 minutes at medium speed until light and airy. Turn the speed to low and add the sour cream, the melted chocolate and butter and continue to whip until everything looks fully blended. Slowly add the cocoa powder, all the gluten free flours (or all purpose if using), the gum, baking powder and pinch of salt. Turn the speed back up to medium and whip until the batter comes together in a uniform manner.
Divide among the prepared cake tins (or one single cake pan) and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.