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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Banana Cream Pie Goodness



For a couple days now I have been craving the velvety taste of this pie, like a pregnant woman will crave pickles and ice cream! Although I am no woman, and am lactose intolerant, I absolutely could not resist making this pie when seeing a couple bananas starting to brown in the fruit basket in my kitchen. Here's how it turned out and the recipes that I used.

Banana Cream Pie

The recipe calls for a 9" BAKED pie shell, so I baked some "sweet tart pastry" (pate sucrée) that I had in the fridge, before starting the filling. Had enough dough for a mini pie shell too (great for individual pies). Here is a recipe for the pastry.

- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 cup cold butter cut in small cubes
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 Tbsp water, or as required

1. Combine the flour, salt and icing sugar in a bowl. Cut in the butter in the flour mixture with a pastry blender to obtain a fine crumb looking mix.
2. Add the yolk to the crumb mixture and then the water. This can be done in a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment to obtain a smooth dough consistency.
3. Flatten dough into a disk shape onto plastic film, wrap it and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before using it.

Filling:
- 3 cups milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 yolks, slightly beaten (save the whites for later)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tsp Vanilla (or more for extra flavor)
- 3 Bananas

*Before starting, have your pie shells bakes and cooled off, ready to go. *

Step 1:
In a large saucepan, have your flour and sugar ready to go. In a second sauce pan, scald the milk. When the milk is scalded, pour into the flour and sugar mix and stir vigorously to prevent lumps. Continue stirring over medium-high heat until mixture has thickened. Take off from heat and cover.

Step 2:
In a medium bowl, have your egg yolks slightly beaten. Pour some of the hot mixture into the yolks while stirring to prevent ending up with an "omelette" inside your pie. When the yolks are well incorporated, pour back into large pot of hot custard and stir, cooking for 1 minute longer.

Step 3:
Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Let sit until slightly cooled. In the meantime, slice your bananas thinly and scatter them in the bottom of the pie shells. Pour cooled mixture over top. You can have this as your final product once cooled, or make a meringue with the leftover whites.

Step 4 (Swiss Meringue):
- 3 Egg whites
- 170g granulated sugar

To make:
Whisk NON STOP the whites and sugar in your mixer bowl, over a pot of boiling water (bain marie), until the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove mixer bowl from on top of the pot of water and transfer to mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the meringue has cooled and arrives at hard peaks. Place in piping bag with star tip and decorate your pie as you wish.

YOU'LL LOVE IT! :)

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix




Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet, Not An Easy Fix


"Lose weight FAST!"
"10 Lbs in a single week!"

It may be the pastry chef inside of me being engulfed in guilt for making people gain weight, but I feel like sharing with you a very good soup which is surrounded with controversy. However or what ever they say about this this soup, the history of the cabbage certainly did not start by being part of a dieting hoax, nor will it end here. Let's see how it all came to being caught in a weight loss "scam".

The cabbage in itself has been found in cultures around the world, and is believed to be the oldest known vegetables. From being found in clay pots dating back to 4000 B.C. in the Chinese civilizations, to having sprung itself out of Greek myths, this is truly a remarkable piece of our history. In Rome, Cato ate cabbage raw with vinegar and lived to be 80, while Pliny researched the benefits of cabbage and looked at its medical properties.

Whether it was boiled with meat in the Medieval times or made into a salad by the Dutch, someone out there found out that it held a secret to shredding pounds off your body. Let's get to the science behind it. Cabbage is a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, iron, potassium and calcium. But be careful, for eating too much of it will only result in spending long days on the "throne" and having glossy hair; mostly due to the sulphur content found in the cabbage and its high levels of fiber. The "Sulforaphane" (sulphur) MAY increase antioxidants and enzymes in your body that help detoxify your system. These lastly mentioned claims are only speculations, but it would seem that the cabbage has proved itself time and time again over many thousands years, in many many civilizations.

Next time your at the hot dog stand, make sure to have some sauerkraut in your finxings, it may just help out your body in more ways then you know! But for now, here's a potentially dangerous and bland recipe that could possibly make you lose 10 lbs in a week.

***CAUTION***
This diet is to be followed with at least 4 glasses of water a day and multivitamin and ONLY for 7 days. If you are feeling light headed or weak, you may want to start eating regularly again. This is NOT a dietary fix and should be followed by a more stable and regular diet if one wishes to keep the weight off.

Cabage Soup Recipe

- 6 large green onions

- 2 green peppers

- 1 or 2 cans of tomatoes (diced or whole)

- 3 carrots

- 1 container (10 oz. or so) Mushrooms

- 1 bunch celery

- 1/2 head cabbage

- 1 package Lipton soup mix

- 1 or 2 cubes bouillon (optional)

- 1 48oz can V8 juice (optional)

Season to taste with salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, etc.

Directions:

1. Slice green onions, put in pot and start to sauté with cooking spray.

2.Cut green pepper stem end off and cut in half, take seeds and membrane out. Cut the green pepper into bite size pieces and put in pot.

3. Take the outer leafs layers off the cabbage, cut into bite size pieces, put in pot.

4. Clean carrots cut into bite size pieces, put in pot.

5. Slice mushrooms into thick slices (otherwise they will disappear in the soup), put in pot.

6. If you would like a spicy soup, add a small amount of cayenne pepper (red pepper) now (1/3 teaspoon is quite a bit as the soup will get spicier as it cooks further).

7. You can use beef or chicken bouillon cubes for seasonings. They have all the salt and flavors you will need.

8. Use about 12 cups of water (or 8 cups and the V8 juice), cover and put heat on low. Let soup cook for a long time (two hours works well).

9. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

10. Eat all the soup you want, whenever you want for the next 7 days.



For more information about this recipe or the diet please follow this link.

http://www.cabbage-soup-diet.com/


I have used this recipe before once or twice and found that its results are quite real, but found the soup itself very bland. To help liven up this recipe you may want to add once or more of the following ingredients; Thyme, Garlic Powder, any type of Hot Sauce, Italian seasoning, Cumin, Paprika. Basically, anything to give it flavor. Here is a link to find more recipes to use cabbage in and some helpful tips on how to use and conserve it; http://www.cheriestihler.com/CC/recipes.html .

Another mystery uncovered and maybe this time, for you to benefit!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Corndog Bread (Twist On Cornbread)



Let's start by giving a history of how this recipe came to be.
First I do have to credit part of this discovery to my very good friend and former classmate, Alicia. She came to Canada from Barbados and I had the absolute pleasure of getting to know her and part of the Barbadian culture. Most specifically the food. One of my favorite things that she introduced to me, is the Barbados Hot Sauce. Habanero peppers, onions and mustard give this hot sauce a very distinctive taste which goes amazingly well with their fried fish.

As I was walking down the "foreign food" section in the supermarket, a bottle of the bright yellow sauce came to my attention! I could not walk away without buying myself this very special treat. Even though I knew that it would not be the same at the real stuff, it sure is as close as I am going to get in the center of Canada.

Skip to a couple of days later, and I was in my kitchen throwing together my favorite recipe of cornbread to go with some soup. Wanting to add some heat to the cornbread, I quickly reached in the fridge for the bottle of Barbados Hot Sauce. Thinking that it was simply going to add heat without changing too much of the recipe, I added a few tablespoons. The result of this was surprisingly good! The distinctive flavor of the sauce had given the cornbread the exact taste of a corn dog that you would normally find the fare.

So here's how to make this very yummy treat which will go great with a bowl of vegetarian chili, recipe of the vegetarian chili will be posted at a later date for sure.

First combine:
- 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt (I'm sure that regular salt would be fine)

In a large bowl whisk together:
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
- 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar

Add to the oil:
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 Cup Whole or 2% Milk
- 1/2 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp Barbados Hot Sauce (Opt from original recipe but gives the corn dog bread its flavor)
- 1/2 cup minced jalapeno peppers (Opt)

- When the oil and egg mixture is mixed well, add in the flour mixture and mix gently until just combined. The batter will still be a little lumpy.
- Pour into a well greased 8x8 inch square metal pan and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes. Half way through the cooking i reduced the heat to 375 just so it didn't over bake too much. It gave it a fluffier, lighter texture without being too dry.
- You can also pour the batter into 9-10 muffin tin holes, 3/4 full. Pour the empty spots 1/4 full with water to not burn the pan. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
-Both ways should be ready when the top is a golden brown and springs back when touched in the center. When taking out of the oven, cool slightly on wire rack.



This recipe is best served straight out of the oven when it is still steaming hot! To store, wrap in plastic film and leave on the counter. It should keep about a day or two after.

As always, eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mango Mango In The Dead of Winter (Shrimp Curry Mango Dish)


Well it is the dead of winter here in Manitoba, the longitudinal center of Canada, and the weather is always so unpredictable. The one thing we can be sure about, is that the mangoes brought into our supermarkets, have traveled great lengths to arrive in our seasonal glacial climate.
If one day, you are inside, hiding from the cold and you just happen to have a few ripe mangoes lying around on your counter, this would be the perfect recipe to make.

Shrimp Mango Curry is the name and bold and fresh flavor is the game!
(Dish inspired from the recipe found at FOODIZM) http://foodizm.blogspot.com/2009/03/mango-curry.html

There are two ways of going around this recipe; you can either use the VH mango curry sauce, or make a fresh mango curry sauce from scratch. Trust me, the flavors found in your own mango curry sauce (which has simmered away for a couple hours) will drive you insane with its aromas and rich taste.

To start, assemble all your first few ingredients. You'll want to make the mango curry sauce first. To make this you need:
- 2 Mangos
- 1 Onion
- 1 Tbsp Curry
- 1 Pinch Cumin (I used about a tsp of cumin seeds that I sizzled in peanut oil at first)
- 1 Pinch Coriander
- 1 Big Pinch Pepper
- 1 Big Pinch Chili Powder



Step 1:
- Chop the mango and the onion in small cubes


Step 2:
- Heat a tablespoon of peanut, canola or vegetable oil, in a sauce pan and sprinkle all the spices in the oil to bring their flavors alive. When the spices have sizzled in the pan and the aromas released, drop the chopped mango and the onion in the spices.


Step 3:
- Bring to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook for 10 minutes until the onion and mangos have softened up.


Step 4: Spoon mixture into a blender of processor to transform into a puree.


BE CAREFUL that your blender or processor is made out of glass so that it you don't end up with a yellow kitchen appliance when finished.



This recipe yields just over 2 cups of Mango Curry Sauce.

Now to the main dish! You will need:
- 3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled, halved then sliced
- 1 onion
- 1 (341 ml) bottle of VH Mango Curry Sauce, or the same amount of the sauce recipe found above.
- 1 (398 ml) can of coconut milk
- 16 shrimps
- fresh cilantro


Step 1:


- Once you have your vegetables prepped, heat up a splash of oil in a big enough pot. To add a little bit more flavor, I put some curry in the hot oil before adding the carrots, potatoes and the onion. Fry the vegetables on medium-high heat until the onion are translucent.
Step 2:
- At this time, add about 6 Tbsp of Mango Curry Sauce and HALF of the coconut milk. Let simmer on low heat until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.


Step 3:
- When the vegetables are nice and cooked, add in the prepared shrimps. When adding the shrimp, add the rest of the coconut milk and another 6 Tbsp of the curry sauce.


Place lid back on the pot to let simmer another 5 minutes to make sure that the shrimp are cooked.

Serve on jasmine rice and make sure to add some fresh cilantro on top to serve. I am a HUGE fan of cilantro, to I added a little more to get the actual flavor of the herb as a part of the dish.


Get your hand on some naan and you'll have a perfect meal! You can't get anymore comfort food then this! Potatoes, rice, rich curry flavor and the freshness of the mango and cilantro to brighten it up, you'll absolutely LOVE it!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Kiwi...



I must share with you a very interesting fact about the kiwi which brought great frustration into my last couple of days. You know what they say, you do learn from your mistakes! In this case, my frustration brought me to do a little research which answered a lot of questions.

I wanted to try my hand at making a kiwi puree for a "macaron" filling. Of course, I simply assumed that I could simple cook the fruit with sugar and water and obtain a nice puree. Well was I ever wrong! The kiwi, and most of its subtropical counterparts, contain an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting. To cook the fruit and be able to puree a kiwi, would turn the fruit to an unattractive yellowish color after reaching 60 degrees Celsius (140F).

So... what did I do ? Well, i first tried and tried again. First, after using almost an entire pack of agar agar, i obtained a very gelatinous but liquid light green substance. Secondly, i decided to simply pulse the kiwi down to a puree and then heat it up with water and sugar, but the agar agar did not succeed in holding everything together.

Another problem is that the kiwi's enzyme, is a protein-splitting enzyme. So good luck trying to find something else to obtain the results you want. I was almost ready to give up when i found an ingenious recipe that solved all my problems.

A recipe called for mixing an egg to 2 kiwis. How do you mix an egg to 2 kiwis? Well after building enough anger towards to kiwi fruit, i pulverized it a hand mixer until it became nothing but green liquid. After whisking continuously over the heat and adding cornstarch and sugar, then brought to a boil, it thickened up into the creamiest and most delicious kiwi custard. Some of the color was sacrificed while cooking, but it was nothing that a couple drops of yellow and green coloring couldn't fix.

In the end, it filled the macarons wonderfully. Here's a pic of my first large order of macarons! Of course, the colors being "Las Vegas" colors, as my Cordon Bleu teacher always said. Got to love the contrast between colors though!


So there you have it! Next time you want to utilize the wonderful kiwi (sarcasm?), you'll have this extra knowledge to help you out. Hopefully without stressing out too much...

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Friday, February 19, 2010

L'OoOoOpera La La La (Opera Cake)



Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce an absolute delight of a dessert, the Opera Cake!



It's decoration is as charming and captivating as the emotions it will evoke once the flavors start exciting your taste buds! It's moist texture, enveloped with rich coffee and chocolate flavor will do nothing less then to make you melt! OoOohLaLa

But let's get down to business!

The world first saw the, now called, Opera, at the Expo Culinaire of Paris in the early 1900's. At the time it was introduced by Louis Clichy as the "Gateau Clichy". And of course, as it happens ALL the time in the history of French pastries, someone took the idea of the Clichy cake and renamed it. The "someone" in this cake would be the great Dalloyau pastry shop! It was many years after when, the now famous Parisian pastry shop, named the cake after the Paris Grand Opera. The layered cake was probably renamed in its best interest of representing different acts of an opera with its different layers.

So, are you dying to know what the layers are yet?

- Start by having a very thin layer of a "joconde" biscuit on the bottom.
- You then soak this layer of biscuit type cake with a coffee infused syrup. It is almost drenched to its maximum capacity of absorption.
- Next come a 3-4 mm layer of coffee buttercream
- After that comes another layer of joconde biscuit and let's not forget the syrup.
- Ganache anyone? a sinful combination of chocolate butter and cream, is layered on the second layer of joconde.
- Another biscuit soaked with coffee syrup is put on top.
- One last layer of coffee buttercream is applied before being covered with a chocoalte glaze to seal the deal.

Confused yet? The process does seem a little confusing and trust me, it is, when you are assembling this for the first time. But success is an OH so sweet reward when completing this wonderful creation.


Hope you can get your hands on one of these one day and experience for yourself the overwhelming admiration I have developed for this dessert!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Religieuse



Many stories surround this mysterious looking pastry, but one thing is sure. The curious shape that this pastry holds, with its intricate decorations, will catch everyone's attention. Some say that, the way this pastry is decorated. It would then remind us of a nun's uniform, which gave it the name "Religieuse", meaning a nun.

Today, let's go back to the mid 19th's century for a more formal history. The famous pastry chef Frascati created this pastry aroudn 1855. It had originally created in a square shaped pastry filled with pastry cream and then decorated with whipped cream. Since the invention of piping tips a couple years after, the Religieuse took its current shape of 2 balls stacked one top of each other. Both spheres are filled with a flavored cream and then they are stacked and decorated with a buttercream.

(Thank you to Sébastien Durand for this wonderful information about the Religieuse!)

Let's get them assembled!

Step one:
- Bake off the choux paste which you have piped in circles. One about 2 inches and the other 1 inch. Make sure that you have enough of each to pair them together.

Step two:
-When they have completely cooled, fill them with pastry cream of your desired flavour. (These are chocolate) A 3-5 mm tip can be used to fill the choux balls through the top of the pastry.


Step three:
-Once they have cooled and have been filled, they are ready to dip in fondant.
Let the fondant set on each choux before you assemble them. this will give a cleaner result.


Step four:
-Have a piping bag with "creme mousseline" or buttercream. You may use a "Matfer" size A7 tip which will give you a great finished look for the decoration. For the decoration, it is easier to place the almost finished religieuse on a turn table for decorating.
For decorating, you will want to place a small amount on top of the larger choux.

Then place the smaller one on top.
Starting at the base of the small one, and going all the way up to the top of it, created a string of icing almost like a crown.

To finish her off, a rosette fitting for a queen on top.

And there you have it! :) Before you know it, you'll have an army of Religieuse just waiting to be eaten!
To taste these tasty treats, visit the Frenchway at 612 Academy in Winnipeg, MB.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Monday, February 15, 2010

Louis Riel Day A Holiday!



On the third Monday of every February, Manitobans now have a new civic holiday! This civic holiday compares to what most of the other Canadians provinces call their family day. Manitobans deemed it appropriate to put in a place a holiday where we could celebrate a personal hero of ours; Louis Riel, by calling it, Louis Riel day.

So you might ask yourself, who is this Louis Riel guy anyway? Well here's a few interesting facts about him and what he did for Manitoba.
- He was the leader of the Métis leader of the Red River Resistance between the years of 1869-70. During this time played a big part in the drafting of the Manitoba Act. This in turn brought the province of Manitoba into Canadian confederation.
- Many statues have been erected all over Manitoba in his honor, including a walkway bridge named Esplanade Riel.

He was and still is an important figure in Manitoba's history. So let's go back in time and look over a very important staple food of the time; the "Bannock". This very simple bread is usually leavened with baking powder. It can be baked, pan fried or even deep fried on occasions; although the most traditional way was to prop it on sticks by the fire. There is nothing better then to fry up some bison sausage in a cast iron skillet on the campfire and then bake the "galette" (bannock) in the grease left behind by the sausages. Truly something that needs to be experienced for one's own life experience!

Here is a delicious recipe for Bannock! Enjoy!

- 3 cups flour
- 1 1\2 tsp baking powder
- 1\2 tsp salt
- 1\4 cup shortening or butter
- 1 1\4 cup of warm water

Step 1:
- Mix all dry ingredients (flour, BP and salt) in a large bowl and create well in center.

Step 2:
- Place the chosen fat (shortening or butter) and water in the center of the well.

Step 3:
- Blend mixture with your hands and divide dough into two balls. Roll balls into 1 centimeter thick flat breads.

Step 4:
- Fry in cast iron skillet over fire if possible. If not possible, frying it with a little fat (oil or butter) in a regular skillet pan work too.

Best way to eat this delicious staple food is with butter, cheese or strawberry jam!
If you are feeling adventurous, you could even try adding some raisins to the bannock batter in smaller portions and frying up the batter in a little bit more fat to create more of a dumpling type dessert. Either way, this is a very versatile recipe which can be easily adapted to your needs; as a bread, or dessert.

video



Happy Louis Riel Day!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day Baking




Well folks, its this time of year again! Depending on if you are in love or if you find yourself alone this year, you might think differently about this one day of the year where love seems to take center stage. Personally, i do not understand the holiday, for everyday should be filled with just as much love as the commercialized holiday on every February 14th. Whether you agree or not about this holiday, most of the population seems pressurized into spending their hard earned money on chocolates and flowers.

Personally, being in the restaurant industry, i am always pleased to take advantage of this "lovely" holiday to accentuate my pastries with never ending hearts and love symbols! Here's a few of the things I have made today for V-day and a simple technique to decorate your sugar cookies for any occasion!

So to start, simple sugar cookies to send a delicious love note to your valentine.

Step one:
- Bake off your favorite recipe of sugar cookies, in the shape of hearts. Remember that sugar cookies should stay white and not take on too much golden color. Make sure that you don't roll out your dough too thin and remember that the cookie will harden when it cools.


Step two:
-As you let them cool off, make your royal icing. You'll need one think icing and one of a more liquid consistency. The method you will be using is the damming /flooding technique.


Step three: Decorating your cookies.
- You will be using the thicker (royal) icing for the damming (outlining) of the cookie. Make sure that the outlining has a chance to dry enough before flooding the cookies with the thinner icing.

***Trick of the day***
- Use a toothpick to spread the thinner icing inside of the outlined area. The same toothpick can be used to pop the air bubbles which sometimes appear as the icing settled on the cookie.
(Big thanks to Nina Notaro who showed me this trick for the first time!)


Step four:
Let them dry out without stacking them. You don't want to crush out all the hard work you did on your beautifully decorated cookies.


Here's a few other things I made for Valentines day at the bakery. Enjoy and have a wonderful Valentines day!


Pink heart were added to the éclairs which we always make fresh on a daily basis.


The fruit tarts were feeling the love!



Wedges of decadently rich chocolate shortbread proved to have a big heart on V-day!

Customers we're eager to share sweet words with their loved ones on this day dedicated to love!

So that was my part in spreading the love on V-day, as for my evening, I'll be relaxing in front of a movie and wait for this day to go by till it comes again next year. :)

To change the subject of this blog to a more poetic view, here's a poem that I was thinking about today which is all about new love, lost love and hopes of love returning one day! Enjoy!

THOUGHTS OF YOU

The thoughts of you were once exciting,

They used to awake the rhythms inside

My imagination would drive me to wild conclusions

Till the day we met and our bodies collided

We met under stars and the music was playing

The people surrounded as we danced apart

The force was so strong, and all I wanted

Was to feel the warmth of your skin against mine

We finally linked as the days had passed

To start a friendship who would grow into love.

A love that would drive me to cross the river,

The bridge which, at last, linked our worlds, our hearts.

I had wished it would last till the seas would dry,

Till the seasons would seize to change and come back.

The leaves started falling when our worlds were colliding

Our hopes of true love fled away in the wind.

To leave you was arduous ,

too quick and too harsh

The tears were rushing

And the days made scarce

I now find myself appraising our love

But to encounter no lust, no craving, no joy

Instead I shed tears of frustration inside

For a love which grew strong and so suddenly killed

A shame that our paths were not met to lead

To the same happy ending I would have loved to arrive

Now dropping the anchor in rivers of tears

I try to keep smiling for I have reached new lands.

I know you are there over fields and mountains

I will think of our good times and days of sunshine

To dry out the rivers which now, divide us,

Maybe in turn we will unite once more.

"Astérix", written on December 9th 2009


Eat well, sleep well, and till tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Macarons! NOT Macaroons!



Dear readers,

For those of you who have had the privilege of going to Paris, you have probably seen the immense popularity that the "macarons" hold in today's French society. What ever you do, do not confuse the French delicacy with a mound of shredded coconut, held together with egg whites! The French Macaron is a special treat to have when first arriving in Paris. The hard shells of the disks, keep a nice surprise of moist, chewy, almond flavored meringue. And of course, what would be the "macarons" without their delicious fillings, which always seem to balance and compliment the disks, which keeps it snuggled inside of them.

Before we continue, let's go back to 1533, where the "Macaron" is thought to have been brought from Italy by Catherine di Medici and her pastry chefs. Of course at this time, the simple cookie was only a single cookie made out of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar.

In 1792, this cookie gained even more popularity when 2 Carmelite nuns started selling it in Nante, (Nancy) as a way to support themselves as durint the French revolution. The pair, seeking asylum at the time, were then known as "the macaron sisters".

It wasn't until the 1900's that Pierre Desfontaines from café Ladurée in Paris, had the idea of putting two macarons cookies together with a filling. Since then, café Ladurée created hundreds of flavours of this elegant treat with it's silky smooth centre.

As pioneers of the pastry industry come back from Europe with a desire to recreate the Ladurée Macarons, popularity for this dessert is uprising. But it can take years to recreate the perfection needed for a perfect macaron every time.

The first step is to find yourself a great basic recipe for the cookie part of the macaron. After that, your imagination will for sure run away from you a million miles an hour. Flavors for the macarons, can range between a basic chocolate cookie with ganache filling, to the complexity of a black sesame cookie and azuki bean filling. Also ranging from simple raspberry to combining black olives with white chocolate, the combinations are endless.

After learning the techniques and recipe in school to create the macaron, here are my attempts at finding something that works for me, before filling out an order for later this month.

Let's get ready:
With my piping bag (with tip) ready, granulated sugar measured out and on standby by the egg whites in the mixer and my icing sugar and almond powder sifted together twice sitting in the bowl, I am ready to rock and roll. I also have handy my food colorings and have already lined by baking trays with parchment paper. After this "mise en place", i'm ready to start with step 1.

Step 1:
Whip up egg whites to medium-hard peaks. Add your coloring to respect the filling going inside of them, by keeping in mind that you want a soft, pastel color for your macarons. Whip 2 seconds to incorporate the color.


Step 2:
Place the beaten, colored egg "whites" with the icing sugar and almond powder mixture in the bowl. Now the next step is crucial! You must master the technique of "macaronner". Yes thats right... they invented a special technique that specifies to this step of making the macaron.
Macaronner consists of mixing together the whites and the almond powder mixture together untill it all becomes smooth and shiny. This requires energetic beating of the mixture with a spatula to take the air out of the whipped egg whites. This will result in the mixture to become a little liquid, but do not worry, it's part of the process.

Step 3:
Scoop the mixture into your piping bag, equipped with a no.8 or no.10 tip. Carefull because the mixture will run out of your bag if you are not careful.

Step 4:
Pipe it out onto the prepared trays, in dollops the size of a penny (around a centimeter big), for it will spread out. Make sure to pipe it with your bag at a 45 degree angle for the mixture to not run out all at the same time onto your tray. At the same time, you want your macarons to be perfectly round and not oval.


Step 5:
Another crucial step, the drying of the macaron. Once they are piped out, you have to let them dry out for at least 20-25 minutes for them to have a skin formed on top. During the cooking of the macarons, the skin will rise with the whites growing underneath it and creating a feet all around the cookie. This is a key element to the perfect macaron.



Step 6:
Bake them off between 300 and 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Every oven will differ, and to obtain the perfect macaron, you will have to experiment. Start with 310, probably a best bet to start with. You will want for the top to not move too much when shaken from inside the oven, but at the same time, you do not want any browning to occur on top of them. Uniformness of the original unbaked color should be present at all times.


Step 7:
When they come out from the over, place them directly into the freezer to peel them off from the parchment paper with more ease and to conserve the shape and not destroy them.

Step 8:
Assemble them with the filling. The filling should be light but firm at the same time. The ratio from cookie to filing should be between 1:1 and 2:1. Anything else might result to a messy product.

So there is a quick overlook at the elegance, simplicity and complexity of the French Maracon!
Please do not confuse these with Coconut Macaroons! Thank you! :) Here's a few pictures of my trial macarons.



Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Great Winter Soup: Cauliflower and Potato


"Who doesn't like a big bowl of rich and creamy soup on a cold and blistering winter day?!"

That's exactly what I told myself as I was walking back to my vehicle with a freezing fruit smoothie in my hand. I had not really realized that the temperature had dropped to -35 degree Celsius with the windshield, and suddenly would have preferred to had just bought a big bowl of soup instead!

As I got home from my errands, it was time for lunch and I still had in mind, that big bowl of soup which I was craving. So I opened up the fridge and there it was, on the bottom right shelf, a big head of cauliflower, starring at me right in the face! It was now so clear in my mind, what I had to do. I then grabbed a carrot, a few potatoes, a head of garlic, remains of a celery stalk and that big head of cauliflower! A few cuts with my knives, some spices and a good amount of butter was all that was left in the way of creating a beautiful batch of soup!

So here it is; Cauliflower and Potato Soup, the perfect cure for your winter chills. For this recipe you will need a pot, large enough to fit your veggies, 4 potatoes and a head of cauliflower. You will also need a hand mixer or blender, but the hand mixer works best for soups.

Here's the recipe:

- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1 carrot, quartered lengthwise and chopped finely
- 3 sticks of celery (use inside branches with leaves for more flavor)
- 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 onion
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 4 potatoes, peeled, and diced in small cubes
- 1 entire head of cauliflower, chopped in small cubes
( doesn't need to be pretty, it's all going to end up pureed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parmigiano to garnish (also adds alot of flavor to the soup)

Step 1.
Drop the butter into a large pot and melt on medium heat. Add in the carrots, celery, garlic, onion, onion powder and oregano. Let slowly sizzle in the pot to release all the flavors.

Step 2.
While this is sizzling away (and smelling amazing), prep your potatoes and cauliflower. Then drop in the pot. Stir everything together.

Step 3.
Bring the entire pot under the tap and run hot water in the pot, until it just covers the vegetables. Bring back to the element and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, cover with lid and bring temperature back to low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

(I promise you, the sweet aromas will invade your home and you will not be able to wait for this soup to be completed! )

Step 4.
Once the soup has simmered, remove pot from element. Although this is not recommended, plug in your hand mixer in a nearby electrical outlet and gently start pureeing your soup. Make sure that it does not slash anywhere because the soup is boiling hot. Continue this until the soup is very smooth. As soon as this is done, you can enjoy a bowl right away!

To serve this soup, garnish fresh parmigiano on top before serving only. This will add a very nice taste to the soup. You can also garnish with fresh parsley if you can find it in the dead of winter at your local grocery store. Personally I also adore eating this soup with a fresh baguette and butter! Nothing better then that!

Hope you get to try this wonderful recipe and that it brings warmth to this cold season. Please let me know how it turns out by leaving a comment on this post!
Thank you!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!

Astérix

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tart shells and never ending options!


Whether your pallet enjoys the richness of chocolate, or the tartness of lemons, a tart shell can contain what your heart desires most. The combinations of fillings and toppings are literally endless.

Step 1:
- Choose a dough:
- Pate "BRISÉ": - most often used for savory fillings, apple pies and butter tarts
- most often will contain lard or shorting instead of butter
- May not contain eggs
- contains granulated sugar and a certain amount of salt to balance the sweetness
-Pate "SUCRÉ":
- most often used for sweet tarts as in lemon meringue tarts, fruit tarts of all kinds
- contains butter and not shortening
- will have a yellow tint due to it containing egg yolks
- contains powdered sugar sometimes and not as much salt



Step 2:
-Choose a filling and know when to blind bake or not:
- If your tart will contain a curd, pudding or cream, you will want to blind bake the tart shells
Examples:
- Fruit tarts; pastry cream in blind baked shells and topped with fresh fruit



- Lemon meringue; curd is added to blind baked shells
- Banana cream pie; pudding is added in blind baked shells


TIP: Before adding any cream, pudding or curd to a blind baked shell, brush the bottom of the tart or pie with a see through layer of melted chocolate. This will prevent the crust to become humid or wet. This is called "chablonner" which means: "to spread a thin layer of chocolate to a cake, cookie of crust".




- If your tart contains a filling which can be baked, follow necessary steps
Examples:
- Butter tarts; filling poured in raw shells and baked all together



- Pear tarts, almond fillind and blanched pear added to raw dough then baked



- Apple pie, assemble pie and bake all together


Step 3:
- Let your imagination run wildly.
-Examples:
- Blind bake a pate sablé, chablonner, place slices of bananas on the bottom and cover with a chocolate pudding. You'll then have a banana chocolate pudding pie. Yum!
- Blind bake a pate sablé, chablonner, spread pastry cream in the shell and top with fresh fruit for a fresh tasting fruit tart.

The sky is the limit when it comes to combinations of what to put in a tart shell.
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Here's a few basic dough recipes.


Pate sucrée:
- 2 1/2 cups AP flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 jaunes d'oeufs/ eggs yolks
- 1/4 cup ice cold water
- lemon zest


In a bowl combine the flour, sugar and butter. Mix with a pastry fork (pastry blender) to create a coarse meal. Whisk lightly together, the yolks and water. Add to the flour mixture while mixing lightly with your hand to just combine the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge before use to let the dough relax for better results.




Pate brisée:
- 2 1/2 cups AP flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup chilled unsalted butter
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice cold water (till is holds together)


Place the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and break the butter into the flour with 2 butter knives of a pastry blender (pastry fork) until it resembles a coarse meal.
with one hand stir mixture around with your fingers. At the same time,with the other hand, pour in the water in a thin stream until the dough holds together. Press the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in a fridge to let cool and relax before using. This will relax the tension and elasticity created by the mixing of the dough.


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Basic recipes are the building blocks of all pastry products. The more you know, the more combinations you will think of! :) Stay tunned for more basic recipes to come! Please comment if you need any more assistance with ideas or techniques on a previous subject.


Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Astérix