It’s been a long time coming and took a little bit of juggling and re-adjusting positions and schedules but my family is here. My parents, my brother, his wife and my two nieces arrived late Thursday night after a long day of traveling. It’s been nothing but laughter and catching up since then. And it feels good. Real good.. We get to spend a Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. The first time in many many years.
There was no Birmingham in our future when we started planning this family vacation last year. There was no new position in my photography career, no new house, no old house full of moving boxes. No being long distance relationship for me and Bill thrown in the mix. Needless to say, it has taking everyone a lot of giving in, giving up, selflessness to make it happen and have everyone feel good.
That’s my family. Tight. Together. Tighter after the last year mourning so many close loved ones in short periods of time. Tragedy struck us hard many times over the years. But we came out stronger. We came out better and with such an expanded amount of love and "do – live – go" attitude. I know they give me strength.
I had my "this is so worth it" moment this morning when Bill and I took the dogs for a jog on the beach. After the horrendous week that we all felt as a nation and community, sharing the sorrows of so may families, I could not wait to hug mine. My nieces, so beautiful, so young and innocent. Their parents, their fears as caretakers and educators. My parents, for the many many good things and tough lessons they have brought us over the years.
The next few days will be all about cooking together for Christmas, hanging out and just be together. We have decided to mix American and French traditions for Christmas dinner and I am looking forward to breaking into the foie gras and at the same time have my nieces have their first go at sweet potato casserole. One thing for sure, there will be Buche De Noel. And Spiced Poached Pears with Mascarpone Cream. And definitely my grandmother’s Riz au Lait, or rice pudding will be made over the next few days.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with good cheers, lots of love and great food. Keep up with traditions or make new ones but most importantly, take care of yourself.
Rene Fauconnier. My grandfather. August 19th 1910 – December 18th 2011.
My grandfather was larger than life. At least within our family. His voice, his demeanor, his character commended respect but also love and trust.
He lived 101 years. He was married to my grandmother for 71 years. When she passed away six years ago, his heart shattered in a million pieces.
During WWII, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and put on a train heading to a POW camp. As an officer among other brave officers, he was part of a group who decided to undo the bolt and lock on their wagon and jump. In enemy territory. During 12 days, they walked and crawled back to France. All the while my grandmother was raising the children they would create every time he was on leave…
His sense of duty and dedication are some of the traits he passed on to his children, grandchildren and great great children. He had a way to make sure of it.
Every year, he would fill photo albums with all the events he’d captured through the lens. He would include a five to ten page account of everything that happened to anyone in the family. If we ever had a dispute as to whom attended what, we’d call him or go get that album.
My grandfather on his horse in Morocco during WWII.
My grandfather had a really round belly. Like Santa. Except he had very skinny legs. I always thought he would make a really good Santa, at least from the belly.
I loved the way he laughed.
I loved the way I trusted him. I loved how safe he made me feel.
I loved the way he loved my husband "L’americain" and tried to scramble the three words of English he had learned during the war.
I also loved the way he would stop, frustrated by their lack of ability to communicate and he would exclaim "J’suis trop vieux moi maintenant! C’est a Bill d’apprendre le francais" (I’m too old now! Bill should learn French!)
He loved good food, good wine and good conversations.
At his 100th birthday party, with my brother Arnaud.
I will always remember the way he had to answer the phone "Oui, j’ecoute!" (yes, I’m listening!) … no matter who was on the other end.
He had a knack for telling stories. He loved hearing a good one too.
He was generous in all aspects possible.
He was always reading up something in his encyclopedias.
I always had the feeling he knew how we, grandkids, broke and glued back together a couple of lamps playing hide and seek at Christmas.
He was one of a kind.
Thank you for allowing me this one minute of silence. Forgive me for the lack of posts this week.
I look at the little girl in the photographs below and I see so much of myself in her. And I hope she’ll beat to the tune of her own heart as I try to. I hope she’ll tell the people in her life, close or distant, how much they matter as I do. As often as possible. Because in the end, it’s what counts. Truly. I hope she has the courage to take chances, get hurt, and love again. To be imperfectly alive. As my friend Brene says "it will confuse and terrify people" but I will be there if she needs me.
She is a part of me. My niece Lea. She’s turning ten on Monday and this post is for her. Being ten is a big deal. I know! I see so little of her over the years that everytime I feel like meeting a different person. I love how my brother and his wife are raising her and her sister. It’s chaotic, it’s loud and imperfect and it’s full of laughs and love, hugs and stories.
I was so happy to spend some time alone with her while visiting my parents this summer. We took some time out to go about their village, talk about life and take some pictures. We also spent an afternoon baking up a storm together! First there was this lovely Mirabelle and Almond Frangipane Tart and then we made a couple of batches of cinnamon rolls. I had made them for the family one Christmas 4 years ago and knowing how much her dad loved them, she insisted we made some more.
I’m warning you right now, these are not gluten free. I was tempted but I was not home, did not have everything I needed on hand, the equipment and oven were different so I stuck to the original recipe, a knock off version of Cinnabon™ Cinnamon Rolls. For a gluten free equivalent, please check out Shauna’s cinnamon rolls here. Magic.
Please, meet my gorgeous niece Lea in this cinnamon rolls 101.
Happy Birthday Sweetie – Joyeux Anniversaire ma belle!
Once your dough has risen and is ready to use, flour your work surface abundantly.
Get your rolling pin and your smile on – this is going to be good!
No reason. I just think she’s beautiful…
Liberally sprinkling dark brown sugar and cinnamon over the dough.
Rolling the dough into a log.
Cutting the log into roll size pieces.
As I was taking pictures outside before a huge thunderstorm hit us, I looked over my shoulder and this is what I saw. And my heart jumped with excitment…A budding food photographer. Yes!
Cinnabon™ Knock-off Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12 rolls
For the dough:
1 pkg. active dry yeast (1/4 oz. size or 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 cup warm milk (105º to 110º F.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
For the icing:
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 oz.) cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare the dough:
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.
Mix together the sugar, butter, salt & eggs. Add flour and milk and mix well
Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands lightly dusted with flour. Put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. It should be about ¼ inch thick.
Preheat oven to 400º F and position a rack in the middle.
Prepare the filling:
combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the surface.
Form the rolls:
Working carefully from the top (a 21 inch side), roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
Cut the rolled dough into 1 ¾ inch slices and place 6 at a time, evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan. Let the rolls rise again until doubled in size (about 30 min.). Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden on top.
Prepare the icing:
While the rolls bake, mix the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, then add the milk and flavorings. Mix on high speed again until the icing is smooth and fluffy.
When the rolls come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes, then coat generously with the icing.
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!
I have not been here a week yet and my heart is already replenished and my eyes filled with beautiful memories. I keep catching myself throughout the day thinking "I can’t believe I am here". It’s good to go home and see all my cousins for a joyous occasion for once. I’ve been enjoying my mom’s wonderful cooking, let my nose take me to the cheese box and renewed my love affair with the most fragrant cantaloupes, Saturn peaches, and tiny mirabelles. I’m in complete bliss.
On Saturday my grandfather gathered the family for a celebration of his 100th birthday. As he said, never in his life did he imagine that the family that he and my grandmother started at 2 would grow to an intimate (!) group of 50 – children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (and their spouses). That’s us. We as a whole function as a giant tribe composed of many smaller clans. It’s joyous. It’s loud. It’s everywhere and all at once. It’s tensed and climatic. It’s pretty darn awesome when I get to be there (and so grateful my uncle took this photo!).
When you think that there are exactly 100 years between my grandfather and his last great granddaughter, well you are slightly inclined to smell the roses and open up the bubbly! And celebrate we did! My cheeks hurt so much from laughing and smiling as I looked over my shoulders to see my cousins now all grown up and parents of their own.
As I said, my heart is full. Even fuller now that I got to spend quality time with my brother’s children for a few days. Because of their age difference we were able to take full advantage of both their rhythms and while Camille was napping, Lea and I spent time baking and chatting about life and other “very serious things” (her words!).
We did have a little baking spree last Thursday afternoon and kept the oven quite busy while filling my parents’ home with the most captivating scents of cardamom, mirabelles, honey, almonds,… A perfectly golden Tarte Aux Mirabelles was the reward of an afternoon of rolling, mixing and whipping.
Perfect sun gold tiny mirabelles from a neighbor’s garden with soft as silk pulp and just enough juice to keep you busy licking your fingers clean. Time to pit the mirabelles literally flew by as we talked and laughed. While I was taking care of the fruit, Lea rolled the remainder of a pate sable my mom had made a few days prior and I started on the almond filling. I noticed that my love for stone fruits and frangipane is a family thing. Lea was all about it too. Of course! She’s my niece…ehehe!
We are leaving the cool weather of Paris tomorrow for the sunny terrain of the Hautes Alpes and Provence and where I grew up and finally taking a little detour to go to Toulouse in the South West to be with my brother on his turf for a couple of days. It’s going to be a few packed days of driving and visiting!
Can’t wait to show you more of the gorgeous scenery and foods of the South of France.
Tarte Frangipane Mirabelles – Almond and Mirabelles Tart
Note: you can substitute mirabelles with any stone fruit that you favor. If you are not baking gluten free, replace the rice, millet, sorghum flours and cornstarch with 1.5 cups of all purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.
For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (80gr) superfine sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) corn starch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cold water (optional if the dough seems too dry)
For the filling:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, softened
1/3 cup (115gr) honey
1 cup (100 gr) ground almonds (blanched, slivered, whole, your call)
1/4 cup (60gr) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 cups pitted mirabelles plums (or your preferred stone fruit)
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip the butter 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 the salt, and all the different flours, and the xantham gum and mix briefly. Add some water, one tablespoon at a time if the dough feels too dry. 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.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
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 prefered pie pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10-15 minutes until almost completely baked. Remove the weights and parchment paper. At this point you can refrigerate the baked crust for up to 3 days before using.
Prepare the almond filling and mirabelles topping:
Place the butter, honey, ground almonds, and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream and cardamom but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.
Arrange the mirabelles halves at the bottom of the pie crust and pour the cream over them. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with a bit of extra honey if desired when still warm.
I am home. Or what I like to call “my parents home”. I have always been happy where they live now but I left my heart in the South when we moved to be closer to my grandparents. I do however like their present close proximity to Paris and the surrounding areas. I am spending a week there in the lush and cool climate of the Yvelines before heading down to Provence where I grew up.
As I was heading out to the Boulangerie-Patisserie the other day and took a few snapshots of their town. So typical of the area. A mix of old and new. Hope you enjoy the tour…
I know I am by the greenery around me. When we first moved here, we were mesmerized by how green and different trees and gardens were compared to Provence. You can bet I still have the same reaction now in South Carolina where things.
You know you are in France by the road signs and the very messed up unusual intersections.
I think I can safely say that every small town in France is built around the church and here is no exception. This is where I spent many Sunday mornings wondering if sermons were this long the world around!
Old stones always bring about respect. Last time I said that my grandfather laughed that himself was an old stone. I can’t even begin imagine what he thinks as he looks at the Veterans Monument. The guy is a century old. He’s seen both wars. He’s got stories. That’s why we are all gathering. We can’t stop listening. And learning.
I remember sitting on this bench outside the church impatiently waiting for my parents to stop chatting with their friends and to take us to the patisserie for a little Sunday treat. Today I thought what a great background for my pictures this piece of old wood could be!
That afternoon, instead of coming straight home, I decided to take my niece Lea on a little walk through the park around the corner from my parents’ house. I handed her a little point and shoot and hop we went.
We walked for a few minutes and then I looked behind me and the picture before me filled my heart with love and pride. A budding photographer…
The ducks at the castle were there to welcome us. As kids we used to take them day old bread. I completely forgot about it this time that I was with Lea and they figured it in no time and turned around.
Yes, there is a castle in their town. One that lived through the French Revolution and that has been used after that in many different ways. It has been the City Hall for many many years now.
Everywhere you walk around the castle you can spot remnants of times long gone. A mix of overgrown and preserved.
One side of the castle used to be a primary school where I spent one year there. It was downright awesome… Going up stone cold stairways to get to our classroom. Daydreaming while looking through the windows over looking the water underneath us.
The doors are the same. The paint chips the same. Even the cobblestone have remained.
I will be back and show you more of the trip. Other places where I grew up and lived. In the meantime, I promised my two adorable nieces to bake a tart and a cake.
Note: from reading the comments there seems to be a misunderstanding: this is not the place where I was born and grew up.
Just looking at this picture, I’d say it looked I just took a trip to my beloved Provence. But I did not. This was taken at the Getty Villa in California last week, in between two workshops.
If I did not know any better I’d think these were shot right outside the window of the house where I grew up. Cherry blossoms. Figs just starting to budd. Olive trees. Cypresses. Sun and warmth. The ocean in the distance. Still at the Getty Villa.
More cherry tree blossoms. Just because I can’t get enough. Because I even love baking with their extract. Because I grew up surrounded by them. In another South. Feeling dangerously like home. Mine. Back home across the other ocean.
Lunch at the Monkey Tree on Vashon Island, Washington where I stayed with Shauna, Danny and Lu for a couple of days. Giggled with Lu reading books after books. Baked gluten free goodies and ate with friends. Family now.
Warmth and comfort. Blackboard specials and used wood. Worn. Shared. Felt a community coming together in a great little quaint spot around a good bowl of soup and a crusty loaf of bread.
On top of the piano at The Monkey Tree. Where things that don’t belong suddenly start to make sense.
If I did not know any better, I’d say I were in North Carolina for a couple of days. This cafe. The trees. The fields. The houses and the greens. I could get used to this. There are piers, docks and seagulls. I’m thinking this is so easily familiar…
Oh Vashon! Temptress… I could easily forget I can’t have any of these. Not with friends who are constantly searching a way to make great foods just a tad bit differently. That’s all. We tried and experimented. The process. The friendship.
And this little one. Who steals my heart each and everytime. And the snow. Big fluffy watery flakes of snow that made the moment just that much more magical.
Type. Backspace. Type. Backspace. Type. Just keep putting one word in front of the other. Like your feet. That’s how life is. You walk, you run or it passes you buy. I run. I laugh. I breathe. I stand straight. My grandmother used to tell me that all the time. No kidding. "Just keep walking. Stand straight. Breathe". To make sure I’d get the day’s lesson right, she would sweeten the tone by giving me something sweet to nibble on. Most often it was her vanilla rice pudding."Riz au lait" as we call it in France.
Today I am borrowing some of your time to pay tribute to my grandmother, Paulette. No tears. No drama. No long drawn out sadness on my part. I am over all that. I have been over it even before she passed, three years ago. Quietly. Softly. That’s how I am spending my day. Flipping through photo albums. Trying to sort emotions, thoughts and feelings about her. Smiling. Mostly smiling. And I am finding a bit of comfort by preparing some rice pudding like she used to make us when we had a rough time.
Like many of you, a lot of my memories evolve around food. Some bring me back to her apricot tart, some to her floating islands. And many colds, sore throats and heartbreaks to her rice pudding. There is something about the smell of milk and vanilla simmering on the stove that instantly calms me down. Its simplicity and the memories associated with the gestures of making "riz au lait" helps me focus on the important. It’s nothing fancy, but simply good and homey. Like Mamie Paulette.
I was here when my mom called me to tell me she had passed. We were actually packing our suitcases to go on a short vacation. I remember calling the airline to immdiately change my plane ticket and actually tell the agent on the other end "I don’t care if I am being a pain. No one messes with me today." She would have said it just like that too. A few hours later I was on a plane, doing what I had done just a few years before for my brother. Yep, August could clearly suck if I did let it get to me. But it does not. Not anymore.
There are birthdays to be celebrated. There are dinners and get togethers to be had. Most importantly there is plenty of sun to be enjoyed. And for my grandmother, if there was any of the above in her day, she was happy. I am like her in that way. In many other ways too as Bill likes to remind me constantly (some are not that endearing mind you!). I like that.
Today I am happy because I have all three. A good dinner is planned with friends and I am making another batch of rice pudding for dessert. It may not be a summer dessert per se but I know our friends will enjoy it. The slightly intoxicating smells of vanilla beans, the simmering of a good story to go along with it. I am also serving it with some citrus spiked caramel sauce tonight. I don’t remember Mamie ever making it like this but that’s my way of creating new memories.
I called my grandfather this morning (he’ll be 99 in wo weeks!). My mother was there too. As were my uncles and cousins. We shared a few chosen moments that defined grandma for us. We laughed and we smiled, exactly like the day we told her goodbye. All is well.
As bloggers, we are here for the good times and the bad. There are a couple of posts that struck a cord with me this week. We all are comfortable enough with you, readers, to give you the upbeat, the fun, the creative but also the truth that sometimes, we don’t really feel like jumping and down. But we feel enough at ease to tell you so because the good moments as well as the harder ones define our personalities and how they come throughout our blogs, throughout the days. Thank you for that.
We all celebrate the ones we love in different ways. That’s why we and they are unique. If you have a minute, leave a note to Marc who is paying tribute to his wife and blogger Bri from Figs With Bri (warning: I sobbed for a few minutes) and to my bad-ass chica, Jen from Use Real Butterwho is remembering her lovely sister Kris. I also would love to hear about some of the memories you may have. Good or bad.
Here is one about my grandmother everytime I make Floating Islands. My space is yours.
For the rice:
1/2 cup (100gr) arborio rice
1 1/2 cups (315ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (60ml) heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split open and seeded
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
For the citrus caramel sauce: (optional)
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
zest and juice of one lemon
Prepare the rice pudding:
In a stainer, rinse the rice under cold water for a minute to remove some of its natural starch.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the rice, milk, cream and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the sugar, stir briefly and remove from the heat. Let cool for a few minutes and divide the pudding evenly among ramekins. Let cool to room temperature and serve with the caramel sauce.
Prepare the caramel:
Place the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture becomes a golden amber color. Carefully add the lemon juice and zest (it will splatter so stand back a little). Stir the caramel until completely smooth again. Remove from the heat and let it cool until ready to serve.
I know I have kept building this up since my mother’s ratatouille and wrote a couple of other things in between. Part of me is thrilled to share my grandma’s apple tart with you and part of me wants to keep it inside just a little longer. It’s unlike me not to share so these past few days I kept wondering why it was so dang hard to write this very simple, very humble yet delicious recipe. A simple pate sucree topped with a vanilla bean apple compote and thin slices of apples. A sprinkling of sugar.
You can guess that it is just not about the tart. It’s the mamie behind it and telling "her" in a few paragraphs in a blog can’t possibly explain why this recipe means so much to us and why we absolutely love to make it. I am willing to try though, because I know that my grandmother is very much like yours. Comforting, simple and sometimes complex.
What can I say that could possibly do justice to my grandmother’s heart and personality? She was married to my grandfather for 71 years (love their wedding picture). This year they would have celebrated 75 years of marriage and I get all choked up when I think know what my grandfather truly wants nowadays. I know he wishes to see her again soon. It never saddens me when I hear him say that. I smile instead. I want to make him her apple tart so that he can smell the wonderful aromas of vanilla beans and apple "compoting" together. So that he can hear the swishing of her apron as I roll the dough for the crust. So that he can pass beside me as I am slicing the apples and say "listen to your grandmother. She knows when they are too thick".
Following her thought that a recipe is a canvas for the baker to give a recipe his or hers personality, she never wrote the ingredients or recipe down. To anyone who asked her about it she would simply jot down "pate sucree – compote de pommes – tranches de pommes". Basically, if you use what you know you like, you can’t go wrong even if it changes every time you make it. I did just that. I added some almonds to the dough for a little earthy flavor. I combined vanilla and cardamom for the cooked apple and I sprinkled the sliced apple with some sugar rubbed with lemon zest. To me that was Mamie. A little bite, a little spice, a good bit of delicious and a touch of pizzaz.
Apple Tartelettes Recipe:
Makes four 4- inch tartlets
2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (56.5gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 6- inch rounds and fit them inside four 4- inch tartlet molds, patting the dough in with your fingertips if it breaks on you as you transfer the rounds. Gather the scraps and set aside.
Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake the shells for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
Apple Compote: 1/2 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon (2gr) ground cardamom
2 tablespoons sugar
4 medium apples (your preference. I went with Fuji)
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup (60 to 80ml) water
On a flat surface, cut the vanilla bean in half lenghtwise without cutting all the way through and scrape the seeds from the pods with a pairing knife. Place them in a large saucepan along with the cardamom and sugar. Set aside.
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Add them to the vanilla and sugar mixture along with the water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down, cover and let the apples stew for 30 to 45 minutes. Check every 20 minutes to and add water to the mixture if the liquid evaporates faster than the apples can cook. I tend to cook mine just unti soft so that they keep a bit of texture under the tooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Divide the mixture evenly among the tart shells.
2 tablespoons (15gr) granulated sugar
zest of half a lemon
2-3 medium apples
In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and lemon zest so that the citrus natural oils can flavor the sugar.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples (the thinner the prettier. Decoratively arrange the slices over the compote and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.
Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top appples are golden brown.
Well, I guess there has to be a first for everything…This is my first time missing a Daring Bakers' challenge. Ever. In over 2 years. And does it feel weird!! But there are thousands of wonderfully executed challenges to be seen there. Just too much discombobulation here to do it justice.
My mother was thrilled to see your enthusiasm regarding her ratatouille and the fear of "being out there" for others to see quickly dissipated with yet another bite of it! My parents are leaving on Sunday and we have been packing activities, visits, friends and family in as much as possible. All this between work, shopping and a few baking sessions of course. Mom and I did find time to bake Grandma’s apple tart as well as these easy and delicious little tea cakes filled with raspberries and pistachios.
One thing we never fail to do as a family is to take time for tea. When 5 o’clock rolls around, the kettle is on and the cookie tin finds its place on the table. Even miles away, this is a little "home away from home" tradition I still have. Helps me stay connected. I can picture my grandfather and my parents sitting together for tea and cookies or cake. Sometimes there are friends dropping by. Sometimes, it is a wordless conversation of comforting gestures. I tend to do the same. I close the notebooks and take a minute to breathe. Sometimes it is a bunch of kids and friends stopping by. Same as home. One thing for sure is that our tea time never goes without a sweet nibble.
These teacakes are pretty straightfoward and lend themselves to all sorts of variations. We went through the pantry and the fridge and prepared mini cakes with fresh raspberries, but you could use strawberries or blueberries just as well. We went for pistachios but almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts would work beautifully here too. I like the flavor that the dark brown sugar imparts to these but feel free to use light brown or granulated sugar instead. I think I’ll try to find time to bake them another batch to take on the plane ride back home and sneak some into their carry-ons!
Raspberry Pistachio Teacakes Recipe:
Makes about a dozen
1 cup (120gr) pistachios, raw, divided
1/2 cup (110gr) dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon (5gr) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (205gr) cake flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon (4.6gr) baking powder
1 1/2 cups (185gr) fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray or butter 10 to 12 muffin cups or tins.
Coarsely chop the pistachios and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with hand held beaters), whisk together the sugar and the eggs on medium speed, until thick, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the speed and with the machine running, add the butter, vanilla extract, cake flour, salt and baking powder. Increase the speed to medium and whisk until just incorporated. By hand, fold in the raspberries, being careful not to break them up too much and half of the reserved pistachios. Divide evenly between the muffin tins (or other small molds). Sprinkle the remaining half a cup of pistachios evenly over the cakes. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.