Yesterday, I packed a change of clothes, the 16 year-old pup and we headed down to Charleston for the weekend. I almost said, "home to Charleston" but home has become this "in between" where my heart resides. Charleston will forever be home. This is where I fell in love. With him. With the South. With this incredibly puzzling time of history. With a city living at a sound of a very peculiar beat. Where unbelievable friendships formed and tested time, growth and loss.
Yet, there is not much of what people would consider a home remaining for us in Charleston. Our house there is now empty and Bill moved in with his parents for the time being. But we have a home. We have multiples. They are not made of wood or stone. They have been build with our hearts, our stories, our tears and worries, our joys and laughters. While I could become completely nostalgic and sad of times passed, I just take a moment to appreciate the fact that we have made a home of wherever we are together, regardless of wherever is.
Everytime I make the drive down to Charleston, my heart stops in its track at the first sign of marsh land and tall grass. There is a definite look to that part of the world. It lures you, grabs you and never lets go of you. I do miss sunsets and sunrises over the marsh. At the same time, I have fallen completely in love with the luscious foliage of Birmingham, the drives up and down the hills of the city, the genuine kindness of the people there. I was dragging feet getting out of the house yesterday morning to get down here. I felt home. I was going to the other home.
Home is truly where the heart is and I am incredibly lucky to be able to call both places home.
There is something that will always make me feel anchored to a new place and that is baking. The simple act of putting a cake in the oven and being rewarded with the scents of vanilla, pears and cake batter is enough to make anyone feel good anywhere. I could be in my grandparents' home and making an apple tart with my grandmother or with my mother next door making madeleines. I could be here or there and I would feel the same. Grounded.
If making a simple cake is any reflection of the life I lead, well, I made this cake at home in Alabama and took it home to Charleston to be shared this morning around the breakfast table at my in-laws. I am happy and comfortable in my own skin wherever I am. And right now this wherever is "in between". And I will always make a good simple cake to remind me of that (Recipe after the jump).
In the 156 updates about the new house, here is the latest. A new dining room and chairs were delivered last Saturday turning the new pad into a real home. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Seeing this new space where new and visiting friends would now gather and break bread with us truly made me feel peaceful.
Having been brought up among amazing cooks who took every opportunity to gather friends and feed and wine them, and where no Sunday was without a dozen people gathered at the dining room table, I knew the moment of feeling home would truly come when that corner of the house would no longer be empty.
Now, I am deep into looking at new recipes to cook and plan dinner menus for possible dinner parties. I am finally feeling a sense of being settled and started unraveling the cookbooks, the food stories, the imagery I had to set aside this whole summer and early Fall because of all the cacophony happening in my life.
It felt a bit strange to spend Sunday doing things just for me. Well, for the house really. I built some shelves, took care of the giant pile of leaves on the back deck, and did all the mundane things plenty of people do on a Sunday. Coffee and the newspaper in the morning. A walk in the park in the afternoon. Laundry, vacuum. Sundays were never completely mine as a freelancer. There was always a file to edit, a folder to send, a lot of backing up to do. And I admit, I am digging a good Sunday now…
Especially one that starts and ends with cake. A Parsnip cake to be exact. Think Carrot Cake but with parsnips instead. Not something this Frenchie would have ran to make had I not met the cookbook author behind the recipe, just very recently.
Meeting famed New Zealand cookbook author Julie Le Clerc was one of the highlights of the workshop I taught in Charleston last week where she was an attendee. Getting to know her personally, her food philosophy and realizing how much of a hard worker she is (writing, styling and shooting each of her books – all 14 of them), kind of made me fall even more with her recipes. Beside the fact that she is lovely, generous and humble in person…I did own a couple of her books prior to meeting her but had not spent enough time cooking from them.
After a great weekend of photo workshop alongside Julie and a dozen other talented women, I could not wait to get back home and take out her books from that big box staring at me since I had arrived in Birmingham.
She definitely created a good cake when she included that recipe in her book, Julie’s Favorite Cakes. The thing is, it does not taste "parsnip-ish" at all. Instead the mild flavor lets you enjoy the pineapple and frosting a lot more than if it had been carrot. I am definitely sold on the concept!
I realize that some of you may not know Julie and her recipes very well. To remedy that, I am giving away a copy of her latest book, Made By Hand. She brought a copy with her to the workshop and it is stunning. The design is lovely, the photography is superb and the recipes tempting. There are also icons with each one guiding you in your choice if you are vegetarian, celiac or grain free, without being necessarily geared toward one food choice over the other.
It makes cooking for friends that much easier…!
To enter the giveaway and throw your name in the hat to win a copy of Julie’s book, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post between today, Monday November 19th and Friday November 23rd at midnight, central US time. One entry per person, no anonymous comment will be eligible. The lucky winner will be announced in a follow up post next week.
A couple weeks ago I boarded a plane heading toward Portland, Oregon. I had no idea of what was ahead of me. I had no expectations either. I have learned that beside the ones I put on myself or my work, expectations can ruin an adventure. They make you focus on one thing and make you miss the alternative, the little things, the beauty that lies wherein.
I had nothing on my mind than not to miss my flights because Portland, a city I had never visited awaited. And I was meeting up with Tami in Chicago to catch our connection. Both our schedules had been so incredibly intense that we had to put ourselves on a self imposed "time off – time out – see you later – don’t burn the house down and please feed the pets" to finally give each other a big hug and a good conversation.
We did not sign up for the trip just to hang out with each other but it was definitely one of the perks. Actually neither of us (and neither of the twenty or so other participants on that trip) knew the other was going for a while. It makes me smile that a group of strangers all received the same email one night, not knowing how much they would gain of the trip, discovering a new city, new kindred spirits and themselves in the process.
Yes, I had been asked on a sponsored trip. I am never asked on any of them or swanky organized parties and dinners and frankly, I am ambivalently happy about that because I’m still not sure how I’d feel if offers were frequent. I had never been to Portland. There was an opening in my schedule. Bill was busy every day and night with work and music. I said yes. So glad I did!
For three days, Travel Oregon made sure that we discovered the city of Portland, its food, its people, its landscape and many facets. From canoeing, foraging, fishing, to canning and charcuterie with people and artisans who cared about their craft, their land and wanted to invite us to come visit and leave with the desire to come back. Never were we asked to post, tweet, facebook or promote anything.
Portland, honey, I fell in love with you. You’ve got mountains like back home. You’ve got heat and snow. You’ve got magical hours and colorful places. You did not have to twist my arm, just to let me soak it in to hook me up.
This post will be part of a series of three, all accompanied with a recipe inspired by a dish I had there. There was some good eating and good drinking in Portland. Happy hour seem to start early and lasts all night. The running joke was "it’s been a full 5 minutes since my last cocktail/bite"…Portland, you’re pretty special.
Tami and I flew in a day before to get our feet wet, catch up and catch our breaths before the trip would start with some friends we’ve known for years and some we were meeting for the first time. We had only one "must do" for that evening: Pok Pok and its famed Thai & Vietnamese dishes. For various reasons, I did not take any photos of the dinner. I was focused on conversing with Tami, our bartender was extremely distracting (think Toni Bourdain and Eric Rippert secretly engineered offspring), and I needed both hands to polish off the most succulent fish sauce chicken wings. The numerous cocktails created with the restaurants house made drinking vinegars, did not help with focus either.
Dinner was quite an adventure for my palate. Every bit of spicy was balanced by a hint of freshness. Every sweet met its salty. I must recreate one of the desserts we shared that night, the Pok Pok Affogato, when I have more time. Quite possibly the best of the last five years for me.
We rounded up the evening with cocktails at the hotel (Hotel Deluxe) lounge, The Driftwood Room. I am rarely impressed by the lounge within a hotel but this one quickly became a rendez-vous point for most of us on the trip. Crisp and refreshing cocktails with glamourous names and vintage appeal. The Springtime In Paris, the Ginger Rogers or the Rita Moreno kept us going and talking a little while longer each night.
The next day, the official start of the Travel Oregon weekend was not starting until late in the afternoon so Tami and I grabbed our cameras and walked about town. We stopped in the famous Powell’s bookstore and happily got lost in this mecca of new and vintage books. A short walk down to Porch Light, a lovely prop shop recommended by Lara and we met up with Paula from bell’alimento who had just arrived for the trip also.
Gruner restaurant and its shaded outdoor seating provided a lovely respite for three ladies with varied tastes and preferences. More lovely cocktails and beet pickled deviled eggs to start us off. Salad with smoked trout, apples, blackberry vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts, a tarte flambee (Flammekueche), zucchini and ricotta dumplings with roasted tomatoes. All were passed around the table and enjoyed without restraint.
Dessert is what inspired today’s recipes. We clearly would have been happy to sample all of them but we only had room for a few more bites. And what glorious bites! The hazelnut-powdered sugar doughnuts with warm chocolate ganache were surprisingly light as a feather and melt in your mouth dangerous. The star of the meal was however the Honey Walnut Cake with Riesling Sabayon and Blackberries. A perfectly light cake with deep flavors of honey and walnut balanced by the soft and refreshing cream of the sabayon. This one was a sure winner for us three.
After more walking around town and a little get together to meet our trip companions for the next three days, we were whisked off in separate groups to different restaurants for dinner. Three of the activities on the trip were a choice between 4 or 5 options making it a truly tailored experience to our preferences or adventurous spirits. It also made it more manageable to handle small groups and to share our activities with our friends later on in the evening as we were recapping the day.
That evening Paula and I found ourselves seating across at the dinner table at Ping, created by the man behind Pok Pok. I know, two Asians restaurants in two days….Given the lack of seriously authentic ones here, I was a darn happy camper again.
The menu and cocktail pairing created for a small group was truly amazing. And abundant. Two dishes really stood out for me. The Quail Egg Skewers wrapped in local bacon and drizzled with a spicy mayo were an unusual bite of soft and crunchy, spicy, salty and neutral. The Vietnamese Style Short Ribs marinated in fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic and scallion oil were a perfect balance between balance of execution and presentation and depth of flavors. Strong, salty, refreshing and sweet.
The rest of the menu food was as rich and interesting as the setting and atmosphere of the restaurant with a theme of street food meets bistro carried out throughout the building.
The rest of the evening is a blur. My belly was full and grateful. My senses overwhelmed by this much "different" experienced in one day, one evening. Hard to believe that we all got up hungry and joking about it. Luckily for us, our next meal was just an adventure away…
Stay tuned for more about Portland! I hope you enjoy the Honey Walnut Cake, with sabayon or just a spoon of whipped cream. It is even great the next day, toasted for breakfast…
Note: the winners of Tart Love: Sassy, Savory and Sweet by Holly Herrick is Jessie in Los Angeles and Kate in Rochester NY. Send over your mailing address at mytartelette [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll send the book right away.
*Disclosure: I was not asked nor received compensation to write about the trip. Transportation, meals and drinks when enjoyed as part of the trip itinerary were all taken care for by Travel Oregon. I did come in early and left late, staying and eating on my dime at the hotel and restaurants around. And it was all worth it…!
Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon:
For the cake: Recipe from David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan (or 1 cup gluten free flour mix here)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Reserve.
Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Grind the nuts in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the flour until fine. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground nuts, remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the orange zest and vanilla. Add it in three times to the butter mixture. Beat well to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack to cool. Serve with the sabayon.
For the Riesling sabayon:
1/2 cup Riesling wine
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Place a saucepan filled t 3/4 full with water over low heat. Bring water to a low simmer. Place Riesling, egg yolks and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl over pan with water. Whisk vigorously until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes. Serve with the cake and fresh berries.
The excitement of coming home is often trumped by the reality of an empty fridge. Rarely in my family actually. Back home, we have this tradition to invite the weary travelers for dinner so that they don’t have to worry about getting groceries, cooking while unpacking and sorting laundry. They also know that they can start recounting their trip and everyone will listen and partake.
The meal is nothing fancy, nine times out of ten it will be a quiche and a salad, a fruit and some yogurt. There may or may not be a cocktail or aperitif before the meal and a few many pictures looked at after dinner. The whole idea is to get together and pay attention to the ones around us, listen and smile along with them. It’s good for the soul.
Bill’s family is not like that. Nothing negative in my saying this, it’s just what it is. It’s not something they do. I am ok with that. When my in-laws were still traveling, I would do it for them. I think they thought it was "another cultural difference". I heard that comment a lot at first, always in a jovial way. And yes…there are lots of things that we do differently. But we like getting together around a good meal just the same, also.
When we travel, I try to have something easy waiting for us in the freezer. That way, I can just put them in the oven or on the stove and start unloading, sorting laundry, and all the fun stuff associated with "home atmosphere re-entry". I am not this organized for everything but I do notice that I am when there is food involved. On se refait pas…one doesn’t change!
I know that even if we have great meals while traveling, we will have a hunkering for seafood, plenty of clean and light flavors, a big plate of vegetables, and something sweet to end. It’s nothing fancy but it comes together easily while we find our bearings at home again.
I like to fix us something that packs a punch in the healthy department such as salmon. After days on the road, it makes me feel like I am bringing all our levels back up in a flash. By the time we are done unpacking and everything is sorted out, my fish is ready to cook, which takes virtually no time, and the vegetables are just crisp and al dente.
For dessert, while I am completely fine with a piece of fruit and a yogurt, I like something that brings me closer to home, even if only in my thoughts. Something that I know my mother or grandmother would have made for the travelers coming home that day. One of the things my grandmother was an ace with baking was her fruit tarts and her riz au lait (rice pudding). These are comfort food for me.
One day my aunt and uncle were coming back from their vacation, she started preparing a meal for them and plopped me on the stool next to her so I could watch her waltz with pots and pans and work her magic with ingredients. She decided to turn her rice pudding into a rice pudding cake. Gateau de riz is truly a home cook’s dessert in France. Almost an institution. She found the recipe and we made it our own. With figs. Lots of figs from the market. And lots of whipped cream. She loved whipped cream. I do too.
To this day, everytime we go away on travel, I either prepare a galette loaded with fruits (so they won’t go bad while we are gone) or a "Gateau de Riz Au Lait" and park them in the freezer. Once back home, I just sprinkle either or with some sugar, heat it up in the oven and by the time we are done with dinner, dessert is warm and ready for us. And we are ready for bed!
In about 48 hours, and in between two photo gigs, we are taking another road trip (shorter this time) to Orlando, Florida. On Disney ground. And it’s not even a vacation and I’ve never been to Disney. I am teaching t at the USCPA Annual Conference. They revamped lots of their sessions and asked that I teach a couple of workshops of Food Photography & Styling. I am really honored to be among chefs who are small business owners and entrepreneurs and who get together to share knowledge and information. I am taking an extra day to do "the Disney thing" and get it out of my system though!
This past Sunday, as I poured over both our packed schedules for August and September, trying to secure itineraries, airfares and hotels, my brain just about exploded and I exclaimed "Oh boy, I need a drink!". I like an aperitif once in a while but I was really thirsty was something light on the alcohol content(I did not want to book a flight to Seattle while I was supposed to head out to New Hampshire!) and refreshing against the heat and humidity around.
Luckily, friends were coming over for dinner to celebrate my friend Holly Herrick’s Tart Love almost-book release (she had a review copy to show me my photographs "in action")and I had the perfect excuse to try this Apricot and Cherry Breezer cocktail from Bakers Royale. I marinated the apricot juice with dark cherries the first time (depicted above) which made it a really cool shade of red-purple. It hit the spot perfectly! Refreshing, light and not completely boozy that you can’t function. I saved the extra in an ice cube tray to thaw and use up as needed, mandated, prescribed or required…! This cocktail will be the perfect thing to have next week when we get home and unpack. To repack almost instantly.
Cheers to you and to August! It is definitely a busy month to us all as we try to wrap up the summer…but nothing that can’t be helped with good food, good cheers and good people!
Gateau De Riz Aux Figues, adapted from this one from Elle A Table:
Serves 6 to 8
1 cup short grain rice
1 cup water
1 can coconut milk (14oz)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
6 large eggs
20 small figs (more if necessary to cover surface of cake, mine were really tiny)
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, bring the rice, one cup water and half the coconut milk to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and let cook until all the liquid has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, mix together the remaining coconut milk, brown sugar and the eggs until well blended. Add the rice and mix until everything is well incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.
Cut the figs in half and arrange them on the cake. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Eat warm…it’s nicer.
Miso Salmon With Ginger Vegetables:
2 teaspoons brown miso paste
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
Two 4-oz salmon fillets
1/2 red bell pepper (I used a couple of mini ones)
1 cup snow peas
2 garlic cloves, minced
In a small bowl, combine the miso, sesame seeds and half the grated ginger. Rub the salmon fillets with that mixture. Heat a large saute pan and sear the salmon for about 4 minutes on each side in a little sesame oil.
In the meantime, prepare the vegetables: in a large saute pan or wok, heat a little sesame oil again and cook the red bell pepper and snow peas along with the garlic and remaining grated ginger until al dente.
Serve with the salmon.
Apricot Cherry Breezer:
Click to get the recipe on Bakers Royale.
I have written and erased the first sentence of this post fifty times it seems.It makes me smile a little considering the number of sentences I started and erased fifty times more since last November. The best one I could think about today was "Thank you".
I have thought a few times about this week. Right here. Right now. The week when my first book, "Plate To Pixel. Digital Food Photography & Styling" is out into the world. From November to March, it was the hard work of a team that did not stop until it was right. This week the book is yours. Ours.
Wow… it still is just barely sinking in. Once the book in my hands, it took a full 24 hours for my shoulders to relax and a smile to timidly cross my lips. Then as I was standing there in the rain with Bailey, that smile grew to a stupidly wide expression of gratitude and excitement.
I bolted back inside to Taylor who was getting his video equipment together and said "let’s do this! Let’s show people how awesome food photography can be with a little help from a friend!"
And so we shot this video promo of "Plate To Pixel. Digital Food Photography & Styling". Words fall short to tell Taylor what an amazing job he did on it. Thank you dear friend!
I come from a family of crafters. My dad is a published author and a painter. My mom designs frames for other people’s art. My brother Arnaud is constantly building and crafting objects and toys. My brother Thierry was a talented photographer. Writing this book feels a bit like my way of contributing to the family DNA!!
I loved working on this book so much! I wrote it with you in mind. And you is a lot of people with different likes and dislikes, different ways to go about life. But we all have the same goal. Take pictures of food and have a wonderful experience doing it.
Whether you need just a little push, a lot of help or just reinforcement that you are on the right track. I compiled information, hands-on visuals of bouncing, diffusing, white balances, exposures, depth of field, … Composition and styling techniques, equipment setup so you can see the full how-tos of a picture, step by step styling demos…and the list goes on!
I will be doing fun giveaways in the coming weeks to express my thanks for your support and kind words these past few months and your enthusiasm these past few days.
But today is especially awesome to celebrate the release of the book. There won’t be one lucky person but three!
– I am giving away 2 signed copies of Plate To Pixel and a little surprise inside…
– my super talented friend Asya from gleena.com who is the artist behind the numbered ceramic plates I love to use here, is giving away four white ceramic dessert plates numbered 1 through 4 (like the ones in the picture below)
All you have to do is leave a comment here between today, April 26th 2011 and Friday April 29th 2011, midnight Eastern time.
Guidelines: one entry per person, no anonymous comment, leave 24hrs for your name to appear in giveaway as I manually moderate entries.
Now…how about some Double Trouble Chocolate Cake to really celebrate?!!
Double Trouble Chocolate Cake:
For the cake:
1 stick (113gr) butter
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1/2 cup (45gr) natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup superfine rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup gluten free oat flour
1 teaspoon (5gr) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5gr) instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5gr) baking soda
1 cup (250ml) warm water
Note: for a non gluten free version, you can use 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour instead of the rice, millet and oat flours.
For the ganache:
12 oz bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter one deep 9-inch round baking pans, sprinkle some rice flour into the pans, shake it around and tap the excess off. Line the bottoms with one 9-inch circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. On low speed, add the cocoa and mix until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure they are properly mixed in. Add the flours, baking powder, coffee powder and baking soda and mix on medium-low speed while slowly adding the warm water and mix until smooth. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature and unmold the cake. Divide in three horizontally.
Prepare the chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate and salt in a non reactive bowl and set aside. In a heavy bottom saucepan set over high heat, bring the cream to almost boiling (really hot basically!). When hot, pour it over the chocolate and salt. Let stand for 5 minutes before slowly whisking the mixture to bring it together to a smooth and silky ganache. If it’s not completely smooth, return to very low heat for a few seconds to melt the chocolate some more. Brands vary so this step may be necessary if the chocolate is not completely melted.
To assemble the cake:
Let stand the ganache about 15-20 minutes so it is thick enough to apply between the layers of chocolate cake. Leave about 1 to 1.5 cups for the top and sides and set and slightly warm it up a bit so it spreads more easily.
All week I have been wanting to come here and post, chat and just have a bit of normalcy. All week nothing felt normal. Things that were big to me meant nothing once the television was turned on. Natural tragedies, political and social changes. The words I was dissecting were just that. Words. Yes, posting seemed trivial. Yes, meeting clients and working on shoots felt awkward.
At the same time, it was what I had to do. What I must do in order to help others. When thousands of people In Japan could use a lending hand, now is not the time to sit and be idle. Now is the time to work, work more and as much, often, … so that one can participate in the rebuilding efforts through donations, raffles, organized to help people who right now face the most gutt wrenching uncertainties of their lives.
Yes, I can do my part. I have given and I will again when asked. So can you. We all can. We can show our humanities. Aside from various events I am participating in, I also would like to do extend the way I contribute by involving you guys.
For each of my prints purchased through my etsy shop, I will donate $20 of its amount to the Red Cross for Japan. My goal is to raise at least $1000. That’s 50 prints. We can do this! You’ll help a great organization and receive a professionally printed picture for your home. If you want to help me, head over here: Tartelette on etsy.
Like most of you, every daily activity, every bit of work done this past week was tinted with a strong feeling of compassion and heartache for everyone out there in the world facing hardship. The one way I found to honor the memory of the missing was to keep up with that daily routine and once again count my blessings and hug my loved ones a little stronger while saying good morning.
It meant paying close attention to keeping a positive attitude and quiet inner peace while at work on difficult projects. It also made me react the same way I do when things are off kilter with the world, I gather friends and family for dinner. I do what I know to do well. Sitting everyone down around a good meal and listen to their story. Letting people unload around a sweet little nosh and a glass of wine is one of the best therapies I know.
It’s been a busy week but I still wanted to come up with something refreshing that would pair well with the gorgeous weather and warm weather we are having here. It is Spring after all. It does get from warm to hot in days however, which is quite perfect timing for something as light and airy as a Mixed Berry Trifle.
Layers of homemade almond lemon cake, clouds of fresh whipped cream, and the mild tang of raspberries and blueberries. No one seemed to have issues making their spoons cling all the way to the bottom in appreciation. Appreciate the little things in life. Something I am quite fond of.
One more thing before the recipe: the winner of "Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe" by Cecile Cannone is…Janelle from Leemaemarie. Email me your snail mail info at mytartelette at gmail dot come and I’ll get the book off to you!
Mixed Berry Trifle with Almond Lemon Cake:
Makes enough for 4 to 6 and you’ll have some leftover cake which is great toasted for breakfast!
Almond Lemon Cake:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (112gr) unblanched sliced almonds
3/4 cup plus 2.5 tablespoons (180gr) sugar, divided
6 large eggs
2 large egg whites
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons white rice flour
Preheat the oven to 325F/160C.
Line a 8 to 9-inch round cake pan with a piece of parchment paper and lightly grease with some melted butter or cooking spray. Reserve.
Toast the almonds on a separate baking sheet until pale golden, about 7 minutes.
Cool completely and pulse the almonds with 2.5 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Stop before the nuts start to form a paste.
Place the eggs into a 2-cup measure with a spout and whisk them just to break them up.
In a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium low speed until foamy. Increase the speed and whisk until soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining cup of sugar. Continue beating until the meringue is thick and glossy. With the beater off, stir in the almond mixture until evenly incorporated.
Re-attach the whisk and with the mixer on medium speed, add the beaten eggs to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. It should take a total of 20-25 minutes but be sure to beat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Add the lemon zest.
Sprinkle the flour over the batter and fold until completely incorporated. Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and immediately poke holes in the cake with a fork. Pour the lemon juice over the holes and let the cake cool completely before using it.
1 generous cup fresh raspberries (if using frozen, thaw them before using)
1 tablespoon honey
1 generous cup fresh blueberries (same as above if frozen)
1 cup heavy cream whipped to soft peaks with one tablespoon honey
Reserve some raspberries and blueberries for decoration purposes and mash the rest with one tablespoon of honey in a small non reactive bowl. Divide the mixture among 4 glasses. Cut 2 or 3 slices of cake in small 1/2-inch cubes and layer some pieces over the raspberry puree. Add a layer of whipped cream. Add a layer of blueberries. Add a layer of cake and a final layer of whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Decorate with fresh berries if desired.
As a child, I can’t say that I ever knew hunger. I got hungry for sure. But I never knew the deep feeling of being hungry and knowing I would not be able to satisfy my growling stomach. My parents did not always have it easy and I can see there were times when budgets and expenses were calculated to the penny but one thing my brothers and myself never questioned to have or not was food.
If times were a bit strained, we, as children, never knew it. I just noticed we ate more eggs throughout the week and lots more soups. I never put two and two together because I never had to. There was always food in my plate. Some children don’t have this chance. Some children go hungry on a daily basis.
My parents knew that. They made sure we did too and very early on in our lives made sure we knew the purpose of charity. We did it silently. Charity is an act that comes from inside of you. It does not need to be advertised or require praises. Just do. We know what it’s like to hit hard times and to have a great support system of friends and family. Some people are not as lucky. Most of all, children should never know the physical and emotional pains of hunger.
If I can direct your heart to cozy place this holiday season it would be toward Share Our Strength and their "No Kid Hungry" campaign. Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking emailed a few weeks back and asked a bunch of bloggers to partner up with Share Our Strength to help them spread the word and raise awareness through a virtual progressive dinner, inviting readers to a Holiday Table filled with all sorts of ideas from appetizers to dessert, vegetarian, budget friendly, gluten free, gourmet, etc...
All these dishes are so tempting and for us so easy to come up with but for others it would take a village to fill up their plates. And the ones of their children. We are that village. We are that community. I have an ever shaking faith in our humanity but I believe the holiday season makes us softer and in that regard, I am indeed asking that you would consider participating and pledging to help Share Our Strength "No Kid Go Hungry" campaign. Why? Because one dollar makes a child already closer to 10 meals. That’s huge…
My virtual contribution to the campaign is one of my dad’s all time favorites, a Strawberry Jelly Roll Cake. His mother used to make it for him when he was a kid and I grew up listening to my dad’s recollection of Mamette (her nickname) and her famous jelly roll cake. It made him feel like a king. Every child should know that feeling. I always felt like it was a special moment when my mom would try her hand at it. A simple cake such as this became the anchor of some many memories in our family.
A lot of us out there will be creating wonderful family memories gathered around a pretty table filled with great foods, family recipes, easy, budget friendly, etc…you name it. We will give praises and thanks. We will raise our forks and cheer. We will eat, rub our bellies and laugh.
Every child deserves to have such memories…
Strawberry Jelly Roll Cake, adapted from this recipe.
Serves 6 to 8 people
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (65gr) rice flour
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (65gr) millet flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
softened butter for the baking sheet
1/2 cup to 1 cup strawberry jam
powdered sugar to decorate
Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter the bottom of a baking sheet (I used 2 quarter sheet pans) and line with parchment paper, butter the paper liberally.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add the rice and millet flours, gum, baking pwder and salt. Switch to a spatula and fold the ingredients together briefly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the whites at high speed until medium stiff peaks form.
Take about 1/3 of the egg whites and fold them into the egg yolk/flour batter. Do not worry about folding carefully, you just want to use the moisture from the whites to add fluidity to the batter.
Now, carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites into two installments.
Spread the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until barely golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes. Place a piece of parchment paper onto your work surface, invert your baking sheet over it and slowly peel the parchment paper from the bake of the cake. Using the bottom piece of paper, start rolling the cake onto itself, starting from the longest edge.
Let it cool completely. Unroll, fill with the jam and reroll. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Despite seeing it on the store shelves since late August, I resisted getting candy for Halloween until yesterday. For once, that’s kind of how my stubborn mind works. The more commercial a holiday gets, the longer I’ll resist buying into it, and it was not until B. gave me a friendly hint that maybe we should stock up for trick or treaters, that I finally started seeing the displays at the store. However, I had a better reason for waiting to be closer to Halloween: Lara's Candy Filled Doughnuts. Oh yes.
If I make cookies, they disappear as if a tornado went through the kitchen. If I get Halloween candy a week before the due date, I keep finding little gold and silver wrappers in his pockets for seven days straight. The man cannot be left alone with food. I count my blessings that he can’t cook but knows how to eat. I also love when he gets involved and excited about baking something even if I know I’ll be the one at the stove.
Nothing warms my heart more than seeing people get excited about food even if they feel or are clueless about putting it together. I know we will have a good time in the kitchen or at the dinner table ultimately. It did not fail when I saw B. huntched over Lara’s book letting out some "ooohs" and "aaaaahhs" with almost every turn of the page. Then he got quiet. Pages were not being turned. He gave me a look so meaningful I thought he was going to start his sentence with "mom, can I have that?"
Yep, at the sight of Candy Filled Chocolate Cake Doughnuts, this grown up guy was 6 years old again. Very relieved to hear his deep
sexy adult voice "hon, isn’t it time for Halloween candy?" You know the old complaint "it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it"? Yay…I totally knew what he was up to. I said "give me the book – Give me the book now – you can’t look at the book. You’re making me crazy." And then he gave me that look again and I melted. Again. Damn he’s good! So I told him to pick one and stick to it.
This recipe is so easy to put together and so timely if you want to play with some of your extra candy. If that ever happens to you that is. I had to hide a handful to make sure I’d have something to post! I made the dough the night before which always makes it easier to roll, gluten free or not and had enough to make 15 doughnut holes filled with various candies and 4 doughnut rings. I want to make a full batch of dipped cake ones now. Forever. Well, only if it involves salted butter caramel icing.
Lara…dear…you did again. And we could not be happier…!
Public Service Announcement: a while back, my friend Rachael from Today’s Mama and the nice folks at Avery asked me if I wanted to contribute a design to their "back to school" binder initiative with pictures of mine for the cover and back. Unless, it’s a doughnut Rachael asks me for, I pretty much melt when she talks to me. She’s hot. Strong. Nice and her schedule really makes me look like a lazy bum. Anyway… Avery and Today’s Mama are running a follow up campaign and giving away 10 binder certificate for you to create your own. It’s super easy and fun…and a neat way to keep things organize. More details on Today’s Mama.
Gluten Free Candy Filled Chocolate Cake Doughnuts:
2 cups Gluten Free Baking Mix for Doughnuts (recipe follows)
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 unsalted butter, cold and cut into small dice
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
vegetable oil for frying
your favorite candy (cut smaller if too big)
extra sugar and cocoa powder for dusting if desired
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the baking mix, cocoa powder, guar gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Blend on low and add the butter still on low speed, blending until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, yogurt, milk and vanilla. With the mixer running on slow, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and mix for 30 seconds. The batter should be similar to loose cookie dough. Let rest 30 minutes (I like overnight) (stay with me people I am still talking about doughnuts!)
When ready, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place a candy piece in the middle of the round, bring the edges over toward the top and seal. Roll the dough ball in the palm of your hands and place them on a baking sheet.
Refrigerate 20 minutes. During that time, heat the oil up to 350F.
When ready to roll, gently drop the holes in the hot oil. Fry a couple of minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and dust with sugar and cocoa powder if desired.
For doughnut rings:
Roll the dough and cut holes with a 3-inch cookie cutter then with a smaller cookie cutter to create a hole (I use the opposite end of a pastry tip). Fry as directed above.
For the salted butter caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 stick (115gr) salted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 cup 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 15-25 minutes until you reach a creamy consistency.
Let cool. Dunk or double dunk (!) the doughnut.
Gluten Free Doughnut Baking Mix:
Enough for a standard recipe in the book – mix all the ingredients together.
1 cup potato starch
1/4 potato flour or sweet sorghum
1/2 tapioca flour (we don’t like the taste so I used cornstarch)
1/2 cup sweet rice flour