Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Utensibility; my suggestions!

I need to make a confession.....I'm a kitchen gadget/appliance addict. The funny thing is, in France, the kitchens are small. I've moved some 'stuff' out to the garage, back to a guest room (my cookbooks, xtra spices, appliances that won't fit in the kitchen, etc). When my husband goes away for a trip, he usually comes home to something new in the kitchen. He (smartly) does not complain, because I rarely repeat a meal. Complaining would upset his apple cart, ME.

When the Ultra-Hip Sam, of Becks and Posh, wrote about Utensiblity Week, I many things to buy, so little space.
Let me start with 3 splurge items: The first two items are super splurges, but give me so much pleasure.

My Simac Ice Cream Maker, well, this baby churns it out. Makes silky smooth sorbet, creamy ice creams! Since it has a built-in fridge unit, you really don't have to chill your custard and wait till the next morning. When you finish with one batch, just add another custard or sorbet mix.

Next item is my Kitchen Assistent dough machine. This kneads dough forever! Not quite a Hobart like they used in the Cordon Bleu, but it is a fine 'home-machine'. I was tearing up my Kitchen Aid Mixer (small version) making brioche dough and decided upon this, no regrets, as I'm always making bread!

The third item really isn't much of a splurge, but a necessity for the sauce makers.
The copper pan, well, if you like to make sauces (beurre blanc, hollandaise, creme anglaise) this is a MUST! It must be copper of 2.5cm, it must be inox (if you buy tin, you'll need to re-tin eventually), the handle should be iron! Sorry about the state of my copper pot, you know, not being shiny, but what can I say about the kitchen help!
    My budget item is such a simple thing, I'm sure every kitchen has one. A pair of tongs! You can use these for everything!

    Have fun spending, Sam!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not your average white bread

Pain de Mie is a white sandwich bread. It is baked in a pan with a lid, when the dough starts to rise in the oven, the lid compresses the dough. The result is a dense crumb and a thin crust. Perfect for sandwiches, toast and it makes a wonderful vehicle for a canape.

The key to this bread is to fill enough dough into the pan and let it rise to 'just' the right height, put the lid on and stick it into a hot oven. I don't always judge this properly. But, like golf, you always are thinking about the next shot and I always think my next loaf will be the perfect one.

The French use this bread, sans the crust, as fresh bread crumbs (mie pain). Stick it in your food processor add some olive oil and fresh herbs and you have a lovely crust for a rack of lamb! I keep this bread in the freezer and cut of a hunk when I need bread crumbs. It is a great basic all around bread! It is made with milk instead of water. The milk makes for a tender bread. There is a bit of sugar added as well, I love the flavor!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Relaxing with Max

It has been pretty hot in Paris. Not too much inspired cooking going on. Lots of salad-type meals. Grilled duck breasts land on some grilled eggplant and grilled endive, they in turn, land on some tender greens. Makes for a nice light supper.

I made a Semolina Bread, a little warm weather in the kitchen and that dough rose high and fast in the fermenting stage. It is a delicious, hardy loaf for toast. I have a bit of my fresh yeast left in the fridge and am inspired to make a Pain de Mie (Pullman loaf).

Even the devil-dog, Max, has depleted his high energy levels in the heat. He loves to chill-out and do a bit of reading on the bed! (pardon the staged photo, 17 year old with a digital camera)

Things have cooled a bit, I had some frozen dough in the freezer and we had a small pizza tonight. Yes, the pizza was split 3 ways! And yes, that is fresh Arugla (rocket) and cherry tomatoes on top.
BUT....can anybody make a suggestion. Tonight I used my pizza stone. It sat on the oven floor heating, but transfering the dough/pizza to the stone was a flop, I floured the baking tray for an easy transfer, but it didn't budge! I just slid the baking tray into the oven on top of the stone.
Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Biga

Still in a baking mood from SHF#9 on Friday afternoon and having scored some fresh yeast from my local Boulangerie, I decided to whip up a double Biga recipe. Half for Pizza dough, the other half for a Ciabatta Bread I want to serve today.
When ever I teach a 'hands-on' Pizza class, the ladies have to endure my fresh yeast lecture. I break open a cube of yeast and pass it around for them to smell. I always hope this convinces them to start using it.

Below, is the biga after an nights workout on my kitchen counter. It is alive and kicking. A biga, or starter dough, or poolish......adds big flavor to your dough. If I have time, I like to use it.
My pizza recipe is from Roberto Donna. I saw a video feed on, Julia (that Julia) is baking with him! I wrote to him at his restaurant and he wrote back with the recipe (can you believe it?).
The recipe came scaled to restaurant size, I scaled down to a kilo of flour. I love the recipe because he uses fresh yeast.

For Saturday lunch, I added some 'Bruschetta' herbs in the dough. Topped with a fresh goat cheese from the market that morning, some roasted veggies. I placed the pizza on the gas BBQ and we had a lovely Saturday lunch. I loved the herbed dough!

On to the Ciabatta. This recipe is from Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno's Book, Ultimate Bread.
They are from Books for Cooks fame, in the UK. I love that place!!!!!
After I added the biga to the dough, you let it proof for 3 hours. Shaped and baked, this is the result. It is a hard dough to get used to. Very sticky and loose. You don't want to disturb it too much when you place the dough on the baking tray.

Here it is, smells & tastes great! Has the right about of 'holes' in the crumb. I'm taking it to a party tonight to accompany some goat cheese (yeah, from the market) stuffed peppers!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sugar High Friday

Jerrett, the host of SHF#9 thought that Tarts might be a good theme! Everybody loves a good tart and this is a great excuse to try out Shuna's dough recipe.
I was intrigued by the fact that you don't have to rest the dough like most recipes I use. It also gave me an excuse to purchase a few more cookbooks, in French (ahhhhh! I'll never learn that damn language!).
I found a recipe that struck my fancy. Bought the ingredients.
I present to you, Tarte au Poire-Chocolat

These books are for the home-cook. This recipe from the, Tarte Salées et Sucrées uses canned pears. It also has some different ingredients such as Crème Fraîche in the Creme de Chocolat part. You also dust the cooked crust with almond powder, that sounds interesting as well, then you add the pears, top with the Chocolate Cream. Easy & Quick!

I found the dough to be rather easy to work with. Rolled it immediately and then threw it in the freezer, comme ça! Took it out when firm and baked it blind! I have two important things I look for in a dough.
  1. The Crisp Factor (I like a crispy crust)
  2. The Shrink Factor (no shrinkage, please!)
The proof was in the puddin'. No Shrinkage! Wow, Shuna! Next time to give the crust a bit more color, I'm going to crank up the oven a bit, the phone rang while I was baking the crust so it didn't get the attention is deserved!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Wish you could taste these!

My quest for the perfect Cannelé. Well, how about a 'respectable' Cannelé? A decent representation of a Regional French Pastry, I'll settle for that!
There are many recipes out there. Some use super fine sugar, this recipe uses Powdered Sugar. Some use Beeswax to paint the mold, this recipe uses butter. Oh yes, there are different molds out there. My first try, several years ago was with porcelain molds, they never caramelized the exterior. I also have the Gastroflex mold, no comment, I think they are better for ice-creams! I end up squishing the cannele' when I unmold. The next debate is tinned or tin-lined copper molds. Let me be honest, I was too cheap to buy 12 copper molds. I went for the tin.
The last post, I made the batter (pate). My molds have been buttered and chilled. Batter, has rested for 24 hours (Pierre does say the batter can rest for 3 days, this is good to know!)

Next step, The Coulage.
The batter is being poured into the molds. That hairy hand, don't worry, it's not me! I fill to a 'breath' from the top.

Here they are cooking in a convection oven, at 180C. The butter from the mold is escaping and landing on the baking sheet.

Yes, they are colored, but not done yet. Notice that they are rising out of the molds. Pierre suggests that you take a knife and pierce the top. I have done this and they are starting to sink back into the mold.
I've made these before and didn't pierce the tops and they never sank back down into the mold, resulting in the tops not being as caramelized as the rest. Still very tasty, but not picture perfect!

Here are the finished product. Burned you say? No way! Pierre says if they aren't dark brown they aren't cooked. I am very happy with this result! Crisp exterior, creamy interior. Delicious.

I find that there is much debate and passion over these little confections. I'm including some homework for you, if interested! There is a large thread at egullet where they talk about different recipes, trial & error. There is a post found on egullet as well from Louisa at Moveable Feast, a CB grad!
When all is said and done, these delightful little mouthfulls don't stay too long on the cooling rack in my house! I do wish you could taste these!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Cannelé -- A work in Progress

After a hard shopping trip on Blvd. Haussman, many moons ago, I stumbled on the Laduree kiosk in the wonderful Lafayette Gourmand. I was on my way to the parking garage, the line wasn't too long, and, looking at the wonderful treats I saw something a little different; A Cannelé. I ordered three.
In the elevator down to my car, I munched on one. After paying the parking ticket to get out of the garage, I ate another one. Get the picture? They were delicious. While fighting my way down Blvd Haussman and onto the Rue de Rivoli I was trying to shift gears and finishing off my third. I decided to try to find a recipe! (actually, doing a 'yahoo search' is how I found my way into the wonderful world of Food Blogs)

Producing the perfect Cannelé is one of my passions. I'm currently working on Pierre's recipe. I made the batter, which rests in the fridge overnight then finds its way into buttered molds, Pierre says butter and then chill the mold. He is the man!!!!
I'll keep you up to date on my progress!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Culinary Clock

June----a bittersweet time around here.
School is finished in one week and many of the expat community start to roll up and move out.
Their contract usually runs between 3-5 years. It is just about that time I build a nice friendship and then that family is shipped off. A downfall when living amongst the 'temporary'.
Fast friendships move quickly on to the next life adventure.

On a more positive note, one of the many things I enjoy about living in France is the fact that you can set your 'culinary clock' by what season it is. The fruit and veg season, AND, the shopping season.
The French (in my opinion) are very regulated and right now is the beginning of the 'canning season'. The stores are now filled with all you'd ever want and need in canning jars (bocal), beautiful copper confiture pans and all the paraphernalia that you'd find in Grandma's basement. Buy, buy, buy, next month you won't find the same ample booty that you find right now!
I found in the local Super U a sac of Grana Padano in Cubetti! Impulse buy -- a quick gander through my cookbooks and I found a picture of some marinated feta.
I'm now imagining my marinated grana cubes on a fresh slice of Ciabatta bread (my latest passion) that I've toasted on the BBQ grill. The cheese will be soft and flavorful, melting from the heat of the grilled bread.

One sac of Grana cubes, some fresh Thyme from my garden, that has just finished flowering, but is still supple, gets thrown into the mix. The previous mentioned is now bathing in some unfiltered Lebanese Olive Oil. I'm thinking this might be pretty good!