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White Chocolate Meyer Lemon Souffles To Thank You

White Chocolate Lemon Souffles

Thank you all for stopping by in the last couple of days and offer your nice words about the awards. I am blown away by your enthusiasm, but again I should not be surprised. Now its' my turn, so this post is all about you! You are the best! A four sentence bit at the end of a post is not enough to tell you the gratitude I feel so I made you something to celebrate: White Chocolate Lemon Souffles.

Thank you for your support and dedication, your listening ear and welcoming hearts. They have made it so much fun to come here and share bits and pieces of life. I am still rubbing my eyes at everything that has happened in the last year. I also want to dedicate this celebratory dessert to my pal Jen. She knows why. If there were an award for the Best Food Blogger – Friend category, she would totally own it.

I need to clarify that I have not reached my 500th post yet but I am really close. One reader suggested that I ask you what to bake to celebrate this little milestone. I like that idea, but what I really want to know is: what is your favorite dessert to celebrate a special occasion?

Work Tools

I was on cloud nine all afternoon Monday and told B. as soon as he stepped foot in the house. After the initial "Honey that is great! I am so happy for you", he asked "so…what’s for dinner?" Ah yes…reality check….A normal day at the house, as it should be. I like normal days, they keep me grounded, head on my shoulders and mind in the skyes. What I like is to throw a little something special into a normal day and as a mini celebration and chocolate souffles are perfect for that. I like using white chocolate sometimes as it adds a little creamy touch to a cake or a mousse. I really like it paired with stronger and bolder flavors like raspberries, lemons, passion fruits, etc…

I like all kinds of souffles, I really do, but if given the choice, I like pastry base or roux based ones. Meringue based ones are nice and decadent in their blissful layer of air but they always leave me wanting more. I am done and I already want another one…and there goes the waistline. With a more substantial base, a souffle almost turn into a comforting pillow and a good book on a cloudy day. Lemon and white chocolate together are perfect for that.

White Chocolate and Lemon Souffles Recipe:

Serves 6-8 depending on the size of the ramekins

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (175ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
6 ounces (180gr) white chocolate, finely chopped
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter for the ramekins
1/4 cup granulated sugar + extra for the ramekins

Prepare your ramekins by brushing them with butter making sure you keep your strokes vertical, it will help the soufflés rise. Dust with sugar and give the ramekins a turn so all sides are coated and shake the excess off. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a saucepan set over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and salt and stir for a couple of minutes to cook the starch. Gradually add in the milk and whisk often while you bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, zest and white chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until the eggs are stiff.Fold a little of that meringue into the white chocolate mixture to lighten it up and then fold the remaining egg whites until both are completely blended making sure to leave as much air as possible. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins and bake for 35 minutes until golden and puffy. Serve at once.

Chesnut Chocolate Souffles

This last picture is obviously not of white chocolate souffles…These are Milk Chocolate and Chesnut Tapioca Souffles that I will tell you more about this weekend. They were highly addictive too!

Tangerine Creme Brulees Tartelettes

Tangerine Creme Brulee Tartelettes

I was making a dessert for a client the other day to celebrate their anniversary when I started wondering if there was any anniversary for B. and I to celebrate soon. No first kiss, first dinner cooked together, no first trip anniversary in sight. Actually there is one soon…if I wrote real fast and everyday: I almost have written 500 posts on this blog. Five hundred stories, five hundred desserts, five hundred times I shared, laughed and cried with you… Now that made me nervous, like after a first date…"Did I talk to much? Did I laugh too hard? Did he/she have a good time?" Thanks for stopping by and offering a minute of your time as well as your stories, comments and emails. Let’s plan a big bash for post 500! Any (sweet) suggestions welcome!

Back to that lady’s anniversary and dessert. I like bumping into patrons I knew at the restaurant, it’s always fun to catch up and as fate would have it, I always end up with an order for macarons, tarts, cakes, you name it. The occasions are as varied: birthdays, showers, romantic dinners, business luncheons. In Lauren’s case, a 30th wedding anniversary and a dessert request for a quiet dinner at home with close friends. I really like Lauren. Impeccable taste in everything, down to earth and sincere. That to me is sophistication. She mentionned how much she loved my creme brulees I could not help but frown. She added that anything would be great but that they did not need anything super fancy or elaborate this time. Woohoo! I have zippo time for elaborate these days. Actually I have zippo time to even notice my socks are mismatched (oh yeah…not so cute at 33!).

Making Tangerine Creme Brulees

I went home and told B. about our meeting and mentionned the creme brulees bit and frowned again. He noticed it. "Do you realize it’s lack a nervous tick with you everytime someone mentions creme brulees? You frown." Yes dear, I know. "Wouldn’t you frown too if you made them day in -day out, twice a day, every day and you can’t even recall which batch you are on and the restaurant’s owner does not want, will not have anything but vanilla creme brulees, and that the only time you got away with flavor was for a Grand Marnier tasting and that was cutting close and what was once your favorite dessert became "the one that shall not be named"? Phew… I needed to breathe so I stopped….He was staring, with that "oh my god, she is crazy" look on his face and took a step back before asking what I was going to bake then. Smart man, taking a step back.

I actually did not think about it long because it always boils down to this, what the client wants and what the client likes and I like them both a lot. They will get creme brulee. Only I’ll have my say in it, somehow. Since we are in full citrus season, I went for a tangerine creme brulee tartelettes: a tangerine pastry cream, baked in cocoa and cardamom shortbread (sable) shells and finished with a little sugar creme brulee crust. To commemorate their 25th anniversary of "tying the knot", I toppped each tartlet with a knotted candied citrus zest. I am such a love dork sometimes…

Tangerine Creme Brulee Tartelettes

Tangerine Creme Brulees Tartelettes Recipe:

Kitchen Notes: The dough recipe was enough for four 4 inch fluted tartelettes and four 3 inch straight edged tartelettes, so I would say it makes between 6 to 8 tartelettes depending on your molds. You can replace the tangerine with orange or grapefruit, and leave the Grand Marnier out.

For the cocoa cardamom sable dough:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (93 gr) powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (188gr) flour
1 tablespoon (10 gr) natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon (2gr) ground cardamom
pinch of salt

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, cocoa, cardamom and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will have extra dough that you can save for another use in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months. Cut out 8 rounds two inches larger than your pastry rings. Fit the dough inside the rings with your fingertips and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Line the rings with small squares of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.

For the tangerine cream:
2/3 cup (120gr) sugar
3 eggs
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons (30gr) all purpose flour
1 stick butter (115gr), melted and cooled
2/3 cup (160ml) tangerine juice
grated zest of 2 tangerines
2 tablespoons (20gr) Grand Marnier (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the tangerine juice and zest. Place the mixture in a saucepan over medium low heat and cook until thickened about 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly without letting it boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Grand Marnier if using. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream to prevent it from forming a crust while cooling. Let cool to room temperature.

To assemble:
tart shells
tangerine cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/4 cup packed brown sugar for the brulee crust
tangerine slices and candied tangerine zest (use the recipe for candied kumquats, using tangerine zest instead)

Divide the cream evenly among the shells and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Top each tartelettes with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixed and using a blow torch, caramelize the top of the tarts to create a sugar crust. If you do not have a blowtorch, set the tarts on a sheetpan under the broiler and broil them until golden, watching carefully to monitor that the edges don’t burn.
Decorate with segments and zest of tangerines.

Update: Thank you to all of you who voted for Tartelette in the 2008 Food Blog Awards. I am grateful for your support in making Tartelette the Best Food Blog in the Chef Category and the Best Food Blog Of The Year. I will proudly honor this vote of confidence!

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cakes

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cakes & Latte Ice Cream

"You sound like you are far away…there are lots of fuzzies on the line", my mom said earlier on the phone as I was standing on the edge of the water watching Bailey timidly dip his paws in the cold marsh.
"Well mom…I am far away…and outside and it’s really cold and rainy. That’s probably why".
"I know where you are, obviously but what on earth are you doing outside in the rain?"
"I am taking a taking a trip home"
"This is picture perfect January Parisian weather, mom. It’s cold, it’s damp, I can smell the leaves, the grass and I can hear the silence"
"hear the silence. Your grandma used to say that."

Well, I doubt it was bliss, peace of mind, or calm I experienced then as my feet were getting cold and the dog was looping around his leash from boredom but this moment spent outside did make me feel at home for a short while. Mom advised I got in and made myself some coffee, to which I enthusiastically agreed as I had the perfect slice of cake to go with it. Turned the coffee pot on and plated that one little cake I had saved and sat down in front of the fireplace. Then it felt cozy and warm…all the way down to my chilled bones. The temperatures have indeed dipped quite dramatically for the region and I may be the only crazy out there walking with a smile on my face, happy to bundle up in extra layers. It really put me in a mood for chocolate, coffee-ish and/or nutty desserts.

Making Chocolate Mousse

When a friend called asking if I could make a cake for a dinner party of 8 she was hosting, I don’t think I even asked her preference. I happily volunteered a moist chocolate cake filled with a silky and rich chocolate mousse with a touch of espresso. I also made a pint of latte ice cream for her to plate with it. A couple days later she called as I was putting the layers in the oven and inquired how the cakes were coming along. I drew a blank, my blood froze solid. "Cakes? How many do you need for 8?!!". She figured that since I like to make individual desserts that I would make petits cakes while I thought since she liked larger cakes that she was expecting one tall cake. Hmmm…since two 8-inch layers were already in the oven I said I’d make eight cakes out of that, somehow.

Instead of trying to cut 16 rounds, fit them into rings and fill with mousse, I went on with my original idea, only slightly modified. Once the layers were baked and cooled, I layered them with the mousse, refrigerated until set, cut the cake in 8 servings and cut off the round edge of each slice so they would stand straight on a plate. I decided to skip an icing of buttercream or ganache as the mousse was already rich. I used the trimmed tops of the cakes instead and I broke these into pieces, dried them in the oven, processed them to fine crumbs and coated each individual gateau with those.

One couple could not make it to the party. Their loss, our choco-espresso bliss…

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake & Latte Ice Cream

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake Recipe:

Serves 8

For the cake:
1 stick (113gr) butter
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1/2 cup (45gr) natural cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups (185gr) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5gr) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5gr) espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5gr) baking soda
1 cup (250ml) warm water

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter two 8-inch round baking pans, sprinkle some flour into the pans, shake it around and tap the excess off. Line the bottoms with two 8 inch circles 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 flour, baking powder, espresso powder and baking soda and mix on medium-low speed while slowly adding the warm water and mix until smooth. Divide the batter between the prepared pans 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 cakes.
Lower the oven temperature to 300F. Level the cakes by trimming the tops off and break them in pieces. Place those on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until dried. Let cool completely and process them until smooth in food processor. Set the crumbs aside.

For the mousse:
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (62.5ml) whole milk
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 stick (55gr) butter
1 egg yolk
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream, cold

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure that the bowl fits snuggly over the pan and does not touch the water), melt together the chocolate, milk, espresso powder and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolk. In a mixer, whip the cream to medium peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer in a springform pan, top with the mousse and place the second cake layer on top. Refrigerate until the mousse is firm, about one hour. Run a knife dipped in hot water around the edge of the cake and unmold. Use a long knife to cut the cake into 8 slices and make sure to dip it in hot water and wipe it clean each time to get clean cuts. Trim the ends of each slices to obtain triangles. Coat each piece with the reserved cake crumbs.
Serve with ice cream or some whipped cream if desired.

Guest Post: Almond Blancmange

Surprise! I am here but I am not really here…. At the beginning of the year I mentionned that there would be some new and familiar faces coming by to mend the fort while I would focus on deadlines for the cookbook. The support these people have given me is beyond any expectations whether it be a "hey! Whassup?!", a "dude! Calm down and breathe!" or a single image they took or post they wrote moved me in many different ways. I also thought that asking them to guest post would let you discover amazing people if you don’t know them already. They won’t all be food bloggers, but they do have a couple of things in common: talent and a love of all things sweet. I’ll be back next post!

Today, it’s my very own hero Jen of Use Real Butter keeping you company. I discovered Jen through the Daring Bakers and our friendship has grown in the most delicious way this past year. She is funny, bubbly, and sincere. She gives it to you as it is, has a very opiniated opinion (her words), a mouth watering blog and brilliant food photography. We have a say in our house "Jen’s…that’s what for dinner!"

I am positive I will go to my grave with a long list of desserts trailing behind me… I don’t mean my gluteus maximus (hey, I’m keeping it clean since this isn’t my blog), I mean a list of dessert recipes that I want to make. For every new recipe I master, there are at least three or four that I add to the list. Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t master recipes, I just make them, shoot them, post them, and pawn them off on friends and neighbors. Despite this sisyphean endeavor to work my way through The List, imagine my delight and astonishment when I am introduced to a completely new dessert.

sprinkle gelatin over cream and water

I think Tartelette will laugh when she learns that the first time I ever heard of Blancmange was when I was in junior high and listened to the British synthpop band by that very name. It wasn’t until 20+ years later *gasp* that I sunk my teeth into the dessert, blancmange, at my aunt’s house. Utterly delightful stuff.

ground almonds and sugar

If you told me that I could not eat chocolate ever again, I would not be heart-broken. I like to make things with chocolate, but I am okay without eating it. Now, if you said the same thing about cream-based desserts, I might sit down and have a cry because I actually enjoy eating them almost as much as I enjoy making them.

add some amaretto to the cream (you boozehounds, you)

Having tried blancmange once before, I found a recipe for a modern variation on the dessert in one of my cookbooks. This one contains ground almonds – enticing! Based on other recipes I’ve perused, it looks as if blancmange is typically very smooth – a thickened cream-based dessert that is served unmolded. I ran into one discrepancy in the recipe, which was to use 1.5 cups of blanched almonds and in parentheses, the recipe said 4.5 ounces. That’s not right at all. 1.5 cups yielded 7.5 ounces. In hindsight, I think I’d go with 4.5 ounces and I’ll make a note of that in the recipe.

folding whipped cream into the almond cream mixture

Even with a lot more almond than I think the recipe should have had, it was delightful. I would probably grind the almonds down finer than I did for a creamier consistency in the future. The process of folding in the whipped cream lends to the airy texture of the dessert. I made individual servings in ramekins, which unmolded with some stubborness. That may have been due to the high almond content.

these will set in a couple of hours in the refrigerator

The resulting texture was slightly thicker than mousse. If unmolding had not worked, I could have easily served the blancmange in lovely quenelles (although I’m not sure that would fly if I had made the recipe with less almonds). Either way, the important accompaniment is the fruit. Any combination of berries, drupes, you name it, pairs lovingly with the almond and cream. It also looks as stunning as it tastes. A simple and elegant recipe to serve.

et voilà

Modern Almond Blancmange Recipe:
from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup cold water
1 envelope (2 1/2 tsps) unflavored gelatin (powder)
4 1/2 oz. almonds, blanched, sliced or slivered (just under 1 cup)*
2/3 cup sugar
4 tsps kirsch or Amaretto (ummm, I think I could definitely use more of this)

*the recipe says to use 1 1/2 cups which 66% more than 4 1/2 ounces, so if you want a really almondy dessert, go for it, otherwise I think 1 cup is sufficient.

In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup of cream and the cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Set aside. Pulse the almonds and the sugar in a food processor until the almonds are very finely ground. When the gelatin mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the kirsch or Amaretto. Add the ground almond mixture and stir until combined. Whip the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream to soft peaks (do not overbeat). Fold the cream into the almond mixture in thirds. Rinse a 6-8 cup mold or 8 4-ounce ramekins (I did 6 6-ounce ramekins) in cold water. Pour in the mixture and cover with plastic wrap (but don’t let the wrap touch the mixture). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the mold. Dip the mold quickly in and out of hot water. Invert the mold onto a moistened plate and unmold. [Or, if you’re me, cover the ramekin with plastic wrap after loosening the sides and dipping in hot water, then turn it over and smack it on a kitchen towel on the counter several times. When it finally comes out, use another piece of plastic to cover the top, then invert it again, remove the first piece of plastic, then invert it once more onto the serving plate.] Garnish with lots of fresh fruit (berries, peaches, etc.).

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake With Meyer Lemon Mousse

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake With Meyer Lemon Mousse

If you love a woman and are reading this blog, married, mated or single, this might help you understand her a tiny bit better: surrender. When she sees everything in chocolate, surrender. When she wishes for double cream in her eclairs, surrender. When she sneaks that last piece of caramel cake for a late night snack, surrender. Every month I go through a one week citrus fest and B. surrenders. I can’t get enough vitamin C in my body and he laughs at the dessert scenarios I create to get my fix. He does not seem to mind the latest onslaught of Key lime mousse, grapefruit sorbet, citron givre and this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake topped with a Meyer Lemon Mousse. The strawberries…I thought the touch of red would tell him I love him too (wink).

I love when it happens in the middle of winter since the selection could not be more perfect. I guess there could be worse cravings than this, right? Mine usually veer to chocolate and stinky cheeses after 4 days but after 10+ years together, B. knows, and as long as I don’t combine some stinky Livarot and chocolate cake at the same time, (not that I ever did or will), he’s pretty happy with the dessert choices. Most days are simple like half a grapefruit sprinkled with a little sugar and quickly broiled for a little sweet crust, fresh orange slices and mint salad. Some days it is a bit richer and then we split or we take it next door and share. Knowing that there is a gathering of some sort almost every Saturday around here, I made these individual cakes not knowing for sure their upcoming fate. Will they be all mine? Nah….! They helped a good game of Scrabble with our good friends last until the wee hours of the morning.

The cake base is a straightforward lemon poppy seed cake jazzed up with Meyer lemon zest and juice. Why Meyer lemon? It’s mild, fragrant without being offensive to your palate or your stomach. Next to my childhood "citron de Menton" (which we celebrate almost as much as Carnival), this is the one that sends me into citrus heaven so when they started popping out at the stores, I hoped, skipped and jumped…Feel free to use any other kind. The mousse base is a simple diplomat cream (pastry cream based) with lemon juice and more zest added. I did save half a lemon to candy some slices for decoration and almost slapped myself for not making more…they were so good on their own. The recipe may look like a lot of work but really beside making the cake and the mousse, the rest is assembly.


Lemon Poppy Seed Cake With Meyer Lemon Mousse Recipe:

Kitchen Note: You can build this cake as one 8-inch round cake if you do not have cake rings, or three 4-inch round individual springform pans. The cake won’t be as tall built in an 8 inch so I’d advise doubling the mousse recipe. You can also do what I tend to do and recycle cans of tuna, wash them well, remove the top and bottom lids and line them with parchment paper or film strips like you would with purchased rings. I am also known to recycle soup cans if I need to build tall individual desserts. The ones I used here were 3 inches wide and 2 inches tall.

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups (185gr) all purpose flour
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1 tablespoon (14gr) baking powder
1/4 (1.5gr) teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3-4)
3/4 (175ml) cup milk
1/4 cup (62.5ml) lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon (9gr) poppy seeds
1 stick (113gr) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300F. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the cake. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the egg whites and the milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and slowly add in the egg white mixture while stirring with a whisk. Add in the lemon juice, zest, the poppy seeds and the melted butter. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Line a half sheet pan or a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper, lightly spray with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Let cool and cut out six 3-inch rounds to fit your cake rings. Line 6 cake rings with parchment paper or rhodoid (pastry film, but cut sheet protectors work well too), secure with tape if necessary and place your cake bases at the bottom. Place the cakes on baking tray. Set aside.

Soaking syrup:
In a small saucepan set over low heat dissolve 1/4 cup lemon in 1/4 cup of water with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Let cool to room temperature and brush the cake rounds with the syrup.

1 to 2 cups strawberries

Quickly wash the strawberries, pat them dry and slice into 1/8 inch to a 1/4 inch thick slices and line the cake rings with them. Set aside.

Meyer Lemon Mousse:

1 1/2 teaspoons (3 sheets) gelatin
2 tablespoons (30ml) cold water
1 1/4 (310ml) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (throw the seeds in the pot with the milk)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams)sugar
1/4 cup (40 gr)cornstarch
1/4 cup (62.5ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream

In a ramekin, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until you prepare the cream. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together, add the cornstarch mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, (pour through a strainer if this happens). Remove vanilla bean. Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice and zest, cook another 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Immediately add in the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream so that it does not develop a skin as it cools to room temperature.
Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form and gently fold it into the pastry cream. Pipe or spoon the mousse immediately in the cake rings, level the top with an offset spatula and refrigerate. If you have any leftover, spoon into dessert dishes or glasses for quick snack.

To garnish:
candied lemon slices (tried this recipe just the other day, works very well)

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake With Meyer Lemon Mousse

Hazelnut Tartelettes With Spiced Creme Fraiche Parfait

Hazelnut Tartelettes With Spiced Creme Fraiche Parfait

We all procrastinate at one point or another, and we all have different ways to go about that. B. for example will spend an hour doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen (which I will mess up in 2 seconds flat) before grading papers. The other day he suggested we put down the Christmas tree and decorations. Like a kid who does not want to go back to school, it makes me sad to take the decorations down and to realize it will be "one whole year" before Christmas. As soon as his back was turned I started cleaning and reorganizing the pantry instead. It needed it after the holidays when a bunch of things started to get shoved in there due to lack of time, focus and general "I’ll deal with it after the holidays"…so you see I was actually working my end of the deal.

In that little pantry winter cleaning, I reorganized the nuts and spices and set a bunch aside feeling inspired by some hazelnuts, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, cloves…the scent was intoxicating. The perfect post holiday antidote: more seasonal winter spices. I made a pomander with some of the cloves, mixed some cardamon with Meyer lemon zest and sugar and that’s when it hit me… hard… I just wanted to eat it… the bowl… of spiced lemon sugar.

Hazelnut Tartelettes With Spiced Creme Fraiche Parfait

So I procrastinated some more and made some sable breton dough with lemon zest in it and baked large cookie to use as bases for tartelettes. I shelled enough hazelnuts to make a variation on my beloved’s beloved pecan tart, with honey and cloves. I still had other spices dancing in my head and in front of my nose that I made a quick spiced creme fraiche frozen parfait to top the tarts with. Let’s face it, pies, tarts, tartelettes, are good..even "naked" but a little ice cream does not really hurt either.

After lunch, B. started again with his desire to put away the decorations, push the furniture back where it was before we moved everything for Christmas dinner. My philosophy is furniture belongs where it feels good, where you are comfortable…and right then, right there in a quiet afternoon with a bright sunbeam coming through the window…it felt good. So I got up. And I went to the kitchen. Again. I put some sugar and water in a pan and I make caramel, and I played with sugar, making caramel twirls to decorate the tarts with, procrastinating a little longer. I made four tarts and we have been sharing one every night for dessert, so yes…"we" have been staring at the Christmas decorations for four days…Bliss…I could not make up my mind for the pictures I like best, so you get them all…oops!

In The Beginning...

Hazelnut Tartelettes With Spice Creme Fraiche Parfait:

Serves 4

Sable base:
1/2 stick (65 gr) butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup (105gr) all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out to 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will have extra dough that you can save for another use in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months.
Cut out four 4-inch disks into the dough and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.

Hazelnut Tartelettes Recipe:
1 egg
1/2 cup (110gr)dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (85gr) honey
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon (15gr) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup (86gr) chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 275F.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, dark brown sugar and honey until fully combined. Add the salt and butter and fold in the nuts with a spatula.
Grease four 3 inch tartlet shells and fill with the batter. Or, place four 3 inch tart rings on a parchment paper line baking sheet (I wrap the rings with foil to make sure the batter does not sneak out) and divide the batter evenly among them.
Bake for 30 minutes or until set and firm. Let cool. Run a knife along the edges of the tartlet shells and unmold carefully. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spiced Creme Fraiche Parfait:
1/8 grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons (75gr) sugar, divided
3/4 cup (175gr) creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1/4 cup (60gr) heavy cream

In a stand mixer or handheld mixer, combine the spices, egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of the sugar and whisk until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they have firm peaks, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, one at a time, until the egg whites are glossy. With a spatula, hold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, working carefully not to deflate the batter. Wipe the bowl where the whites were with a paper towel and whip the creme fraiche and heavy cream together until thick, about 2 minutes. Fold this into the egg batter.
Line a 8×11 inch baking pan with plastic wrap and pour in the parfait batter. Smooth the top with a spatula. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

To serve the tartelettes: place a nut tart on the cookie base and top with the spiced creme fraiche parfait. Serve at once.

Hazelnut Tartelettes With Spiced Creme Fraiche Parfait

Brioche des Rois – A Provencal Epiphany

"Brioche des Rois"

Last week with the quince and pear frangipane tartelettes, I mentioned that I was inspired by the traditional "galette des rois", a creamy almond frangipane encased in between two sheets of puff pastry, that we eat to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. Tradition is to enclosed a little ceramic figurine inside, and once sliced, whoever gets the said trinket becomes queen or king for the day. Nowadays, that little ceramic is looking very designer-ish, far from the days we would use a dry fava bean as prize.

My dad is always the one cutting and the youngest child in the family is always the one under the table calling the name of the next person to get a slice. Now, why under the table? No reason but they really can’t cheat and see who is getting the ceramic and it’s just more fun! Why my dad? Because he always cheats and gives it either to the patriarch, my grandad, or the guest of honor… and it’s just more fun!

Truth be told, we rarely wait for the actual day of Epiphany to start eating the galette in France. Just like Halloween here starts in August, the galette des rois starts being sold right after Christmas day. In my family, we traditionally gather on New Year’s day to share a couple with a glass of Champagne to toast in the new year as everybody is still on vacation, available for one last family gathering and still at the ready for a little extra butter and sugar.


I distinctly remember one year that B. and I were still visiting after New Year’s…no less than 10 galettes shared within one week. Everybody was trying to have us over one last time before our return to the US and dessert was inevitably the galette. And as the guest of honor B. was always king…not that he seemed to mind! On our last night, my mom made some of my favorites and when dessert came, she exclaimed "Allez, on tire les rois une derniere fois!", "Let’s pick the king one last time". I gave her that look of "I love frangipane and puff pastry but if I see one more galette, I think I might be sick". She knew what was coming and before I could speak my mind and she brought out my childhood favorite instead, the Couronne des Rois. A round brioche type cake adorned with candied fruits and pearl sugar to mimic jewelry on a king’s crown (yes, similar to the New Orleans king’s cake).

Growing up in Provence this is the one we would get first for Epiphany while grandma was waiting for us up North with the frangipane galette. I love both equally. I really do…So this weekend we had the brioche Couronne des Rois for breakfast and the frangipane galette for tea in the afternoon. I did not forget to put my little ceramic inside and cut slices for the two of us and B. was crowned king again…surprise, surprise…I am my father’s daughter after all…ehehe…

After making the brioche dough, I divided it in half, formed my two rounds and topped one with the traditional pearl sugar, candied red and green cherries and candied citron and topped the other with homemade candied kumquats and pearl demerara sugar (found by chance at the Whole Foods). Citrus season is here and I can’t stop eating kumquats, it’s like popping natural vitamins for me. The skin is so thin and the seeds so tiny that you can, have to eat the whole fruit, so yes, for some it is an acquired taste. A contrast of textures and flavors, tart and bitter all at once. Here, I took the time to take most of the seeds out but they usually fall while taking their sugar bath so no worries if you happen to leave some. If you think I am excited over kumquats, wait until I see blood oranges!!
For even more traditional King’s cakes and celebrations, check out Zorra’s event here.

"Brioche des Rois"

Brioche des Rois Recipe:

2/3 cup (150ml) whole milk
2 1/4 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 packet (7gr) dry active yeast
1 egg
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange blossom flower water
5 tablespoons (70g) butter, at room temperature
egg wash: 1 egg+2 tablespoons milk whisked together
1/3 cup apricot or apple jelly
candied fruits, pearl sugar or candied kumquats to decorate

In a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, warm up the milk over low heat or 20 seconds in the microwave until lukewarm (no higher than 110-112F) and stir in the yeast with a wooden spoon to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg, sugar and salt until just combined. Place the mixture in a stand mixer, with the motor running on low, stir in the flour and orange water. As the flour gets incorporated start adding the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Let the machine run for another 8 minutes to knead. You can do this by hand but the dough is extremely wet and a stand mixer makes it easier to handle.
Place the dough in a lightly oil bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, free of drafts for about 30 minutes. At this point, transfer the dough to the refrigerator for an hour. At this point you can leave the dough in the fridge for a day or overnight or proceed with the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough into a ball (or divide in half and keep one part refrigerated as you work on the first one), stick your thumb in the middle and push it open to form a crown or large donut. You can also form rolls and gather them together in a round. Place the brioche on a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise for 30-40 minutes. To keep the hole open I place an empty jelly jar in the middle that I fill with water so it doesn’t crack during baking. Brush with the egg wash and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool. In the meantime, heat up the apricot or apple jelly until bubbling hot and brush it on the brioche. Immediately stick the candied fruits and pearl sugar on the brioche.

Candied Kumquats:
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (40gr) light corn or glucose syrup
1 pint fresh kumquats, washed, patted dry, and cut in 1/8 inch thin slices

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn or glucose syrup and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture reach 234F. Add the kumquats, being careful not to overcrowd your pan and let the fruit become translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and place it, separating the slices, on a piece of parchment paper or silpat. Use as desired.

Note: Tartelette travels to Oregon…well no not really…I just wanted to thank Danielle for including my work in The Oregonian’s "What we like to read, watch, click on" column today. The more I read about this region the more I want to move! Thank you!

Poached Pear and Quince Frangipane Tartelettes

Poached Pear And Quince Tartelettes

On this eve of a brand new year, (edit: I was writing this last night) I have spent a good part of this last week reflecting on the year gone by while helping our best and dearest neighbors move. We dealt with it the only way we have handled life in the past three years on our street: a long table in the backyard, lots of oysters and a bucket of cold beers, all hurdled around a big fire, watching the kids run around, the dogs chase each others and the adult pretend they were still twenty and carefree. No, it wasn’t all rosy but not everything is and as we went around the table and gave personal highlights of the year passed, I exclaimed "It’s been a pretty fantabulastic year!".

Professionaly for sure as I am currently buckling down in finishing the manuscript for the cookbook and working on a couple of surprises for you. But looking at all these friends gathered around the table hugging, laughing and reminiscing, my heart was soring for having formed stronger ties will all of them and all of you in the past year. I love and live hard and you listen…

Forelle Pears

As a last get together in the tradition of 2008, we each brought our own specialty and as you can imagine, I brought dessert. We decided to go all out and have a pre New Year’s Eve celebration since much like Christmas our little nucleus would be spread out on Wednesday night. Candles and garlands were hung around the yard, Champagne replaced beers and toast and smoked salmon replaced chips and dips. In my family, we share a slice of Galette des Rois on New Year’s Day but I decided to change things around keeping the main components of the galette, puff pastry and almond frangipane cream and layering poached quince and pear slices that I had in the freezer. I did tuck in a little ceramic figurine inside one of the tartelette as the tradition calls for and one of us was indeed crowned king that night. Good cheer and good fun.

Poached Pear And Quince Tartelettes

Poached Pear and Quince Frangipane Tartelettes Recipe:

Serves 6

For the puff pastry:
1/3 puff pastry (recipe here)

On a lightly floured board, roll the puff pastry into a 15×6 rectangle, cut out 6 rectangles (5×3). Prick them with a fork, lay them falt on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate while preparing the fruit and the frangipane.

For the poached pear and quince:
1 quince, peeled, cored and sliced
1 pear, peeled cored and sliced
4 cups water
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
6 cloves
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons lemon zest

In a large saucepan set over medium high heat, place the quince only and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Remove the quince from the liquid and let cool to room temperature. Proceed the same way for the pear but only cook it for 15-20 minutes.

For the frangipane cream:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 gr) granulated sugar
1 cup (100 gr) ground almond
seeds from one vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup (60gr) heavy cream

Place the butter, sugar, almond powder, vanilla bean seeds and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Evenly spread the frangipane cream over the puff pastry rectangles and layer the quince and pear slices over it. Sprinkle with chopped almonds or pistachios if desired. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Happy New Year! Bonne Annee!

I am looking forward to 2009! You might see some new and familiar faces come and tend the fort while I wrap things up writing. They illustrate what 2008 has been for me: discovery after discovery of talents, creativity and friendships. A year in which the support and art of others have pushed me to get better, live better, breathe stronger.

You all have made 2008 a wonderful year for me and this site. I will continue to give back to you the best way I can through baking and photographing it of course but also by being more regular on your blogs as soon as things calm down a bit.

So cheers to you in 2009! Wishing you the best 🙂