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Thursday, October 27, 2005
Butternut and ricotta cheesecake

Ever since i saw Eric Roux’s program about squashes, i’ve been focused 1) on finding butternut squashes and 2) on cooking them.
But at the moment, i cook so much i have something like 10 posts waiting to be actually posted. And this one is one of them.

I deeply love cheesecakes. They’re for me one of those things you never ate as a children but fantasied about for years and years. Fortunately my boyfriend (for now 5 years !) is British and his mother Sheena makes the most exquisite Lemon Crunch Flan, a kind of Non-baked cheesecake. So from this time my love for cheesecakes was calmed down a little; but just a little.

When we went to Canada a year ago i stopped at every bakery to try their cheesecakes, aiming to find the most creamy, the most cheesecakey cheesecake. And i never did; but when i got Nigella’s How to be a domestic goddess for Xmas last year, i immediately spotted her recipe for London Cheesecake. And i can tell you it fully does it for me.

After years of passion for the simplest cheesecakes, i’ve now become a kind of cheesecakes explorator and after having made thousands of variations i realized i never used pumpkin in them. So when i saw Nigella’s recipe for Pumpkin cheesecake i thought it would be great to make a butternut and ricotta cheesecake, and so i did, and i wasn’t wrong.

Butternut squash and ricotta cheesecake
for a 23cm cheesecake – 12 servings
This cheesecake is rich and creamy. I love its golden abricot colour that makes me feel in the mood for the summer even if it’s rainy outdoors.

1kg butternut squash, unpeeled and cut in 3cm cubes

250g gingernuts biscuits or digestives
125g melted butter
½ tsp cinnamon

250g ricotta
500g cream cheese
6 eggs
juice of half a lemon
200g caster sugar

Steam the dices of butternut squash for 30min. When cold enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, mash it with a fork and leave in a sieve overnight. You want the puree to be as dry as posible.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 23cm springform tin with a double layer of foil (your tin needs to be waterproof) and baking parchmnt.
Blitz the biscuits in the processor until they resemble fine crumbs and add the cinnamon and melted butter. Blitz again and press this biscuit mixture to create an even base. Put in the fridge while you get on with the rest.
Blitz the pumpkin purée, ricotta and cream cheese in the processor. Add the eggs and sugar. Finally mix in the lemon juice. Scrape the cheesecake filling into the springform tin and sit the tin in a roasting pan. Pour the water from a recently boiled kettle into the roasting pan to a level approximately halfway up the cake tin.
Bake for 1¾ hours, or until the filling has set with only a small amount of wobble left at its centre. Take the tin out of the water bath and sit on a cooling rack, removing the foil as you do so. When it is cool enough, put the cheesecake in the refrigirator overnight, before unspringing if from the tin to slice.

This recipe was featured in Eric Roux's blog on the 4th of november.

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Monday, October 24, 2005
Making the Christmas Cake - STEP BY STEP

It is one of my skills to think about Christmas all year round and even more from October. I have been thinking of making this Xmas cake for weeks and weeks, but in Toulouse i don’t have an oven so i had to wait to be back home for the holidays to make it.
This year i decided to celebrate Christmas at my grand-parent’s with all my family. I thought it would be great to get all my relatives together since some haven’t seen each others for years. It’s going to be a great feast. I’ve already prepared the menu and the invitation cards. Can’t wait !

Last year i made a Xmas pudding and had the intention to make a Xmas cake, but sadly i didn’t have the time. So this year i only focus on Xmas cake (especially because i much prefer Xmas cake to pudding – think marzipan and royal icing, cake decoration...).

Since i wanted to spend time with this cake to feed my xmas addiction, i thought it would be fun to make a “step-by-step” recipe with pix for every step.
This xmas cake may not be conventionnal because i used more glacé cherries (yummy), more golden sultanas, no currants, less sultanas, no “usual” candied peels (but delicious orange candied peel), lots of galcé fruits (pears, more cherries, angélique...), but as i can’t remember the quantities i’ll just give you Nigella’s (yes again) ingredient list.

Making the Xmas cake – step by step
for a 23cm cake
700g sultanas (180g approx)
225g raisins
110g currants
110g glacé cherries
110g mixed peel
120ml brandy

225g butter, soft
195g brown sugar
½ tsp lemon zest
4 large eggs
2 tbsp marmelade
350g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

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Sunday, October 23, 2005
Plaisir sucré

I’ve bought Pierre Hermé’s Mes desserts au chocolat and spotted the Plaisir Sucré at the same moment i opened the book. It looked so amazing and i was sure it tasted so so good.

I decided to make it for my mom's birthday on the 22nd of october, but i went food-shopping too late and this asks for time. So i started making it and decided we’ll eat it the next day.

So yesterday night i made the hazelnut daquoise, the base for the chocolate whipped cream, the chocolate sheets and the nutella-crêpes gavottes & milk chocolate spread.
This morning just after waking up i made the ganache.

But i had a little problem (and you can see it on the picture): the ganache, even after resting for more than 6 hours in the fridge, was very liquid; i wonder if some of you might have had the same problem.
I'll add more chocolate/less cream next time.

From the top:
Chocolate whipped cream
Double layer of ganache
Nutella – crêpes gavottes & milk chocolate spread
Hazelnut daquoise

If you want to see what it should have looked like, go here – Clément from A la cuisine! made a wonderful Dark Chocolate Plaisir Sucré and you can actually see the ganache!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
La pissaladiera

As my mother knows i love to cook she enjoys when i'm at home because she gives me a TO-MAKE list. Today she wanted me to make a pissaladière for supper.
And i'm not going to blame her for this since as soon as i'm back from my daily occupation - taking care of a hundred of goats and making goat cheese (post on his way) - i think of what i'm going to cook. Sometimes i even wonder why i'm not in a culinary school at the moment; maybe i'm not confident enough(but that's another story, let's rewind back to the pissaladière).
A pissaladière is a provençal onion pie, originally from Nice (or Nissa in provençal language- as the saying goes "if you're going to get wet"). It has a kind of breadish dough base, topped by and anchovy paste spread and slowly-cooked onions, anchovies and black olives.

My recipe for Pissaladière
serves 4

The bread dough is from Nigella's How to be a domestic goddess but i find 1 tbsp of salt was a little too much so next time i'll reduce to 1/2 to 3/4 tbsp. She also stipulates to use 300ml of water but you don't need that much - around 250-275ml would be just fine.
The onions take long to cook (they must be VERY VERY cooked but not couloured), to be frank i didn't check the cooking time, but i'd say something like 25min. It may occur that yours cook faster. I saw in a book they used 3kg of onions for the same quatity of dough, but i think 800g were enough.
Using butter is not conventionnal but i do think it helps the onions to soften.

500g strong white flour
7g (1 sachet) easy action yeast
1/2 to 3/4 tbsp salt (see note above)
300ml warm water
5 tbsp olive oil, plus more
800g yellow-skin onions, finely cut
a clove of garlic
2tbsp butter
2tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp anchovy paste
some anchovies
some black olives

To make the dough: mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. In a jug, pour the water and olive oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and knead to a smooth dough. Coat with extra olive oil. Leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. While the dough is rising, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan. Lower the heat and add the onions and a crushed clove of garlic. Try to set the heat on the lowest possible. Clamp a lid on and leave for 30min, stirring from time to time.
Take the dough and divide between 2 or 4 balls. With your hand form 2 (or 4) 1,5cm thick circles. Spread evenly the anchovy paste and make a few holes in the dough circle with your finger.
Divide the onion mixture between the dough bases and sprinkle with anchovies and olives.
Bake for 30min.

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Monday, October 17, 2005
Chocolate-cherry cupcakes

3 reasons why i made these :
- when i go to U.K., one of my greatest pleasure is to visit the local supermarket. I know it may seem strange and i can already hear you saying "poor girl, she buys things in a supermarket", but in british supermarkets i can find little treasures like cream of tartar, ready made royal icing, dried/frozen/fresh cranberries, esay action yeast and natural glacé cherries. So when i went to Kingston in May i went to my beloved Waitrose located in John Lewis (another English great thing - department stores) and got out of there my arm full of goodies; including natural glacé cherries (produced in France, but i can't find them over there !!!). So i put these english gems in my cupboard and have to admit i almost forgot them. But here they are and really have to be used before feb 06.
- since i've discovered chocklit wonderful blog about cupcakes i decided i could make cupcakes - they're so nice, beautiful and easy to make and eat. I've litteraly been dreaming about cupcakes over the last few days...
- i've made a list of recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess to make and those chocolate- cherry cupcakes were part of that list.

Chocolate cherry cupcakes (from HTBADG, page 196)
I used a griotte jam (griotte is a kind of small and very perfumed cherries) instead of morello cherry jam. And i replaced the self-raising flour by 150g plain flour (tipo 00) and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder - i can say i was inspired by chocklit experience for red velvet cupcakes.

These cupcakes rose beautifully and as Nigella i love their dark, glossy elegance. I can't say you really taste the cherry in the cupcake, but you definitely feel a hint of sweetness/bitterness given by the cherries.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005
Happy birthday Aida

Yesterday night we have celebrated my little sister 12th birthday. I already had in mind what i wanted to make : a kind of mezze with a dip or two, polpette (meatballs) and blinis with caviar and creme fraiche and for la piece de resistance, i thought a piece montee would be quite impressive.
For the mezze i made :
blinis with caviar -
i love my recipe for blinis; they're soft, dense and light at the same time. Just one tip, i always add 2 tbsp of creme fraiche in the batter (for approx. 25 mini blinis).
aubergine, yogurt and mint dip - i used a recipe from the great Nigella's Feast. It's really good. I'll definitely make this again. The pinenuts really adds something
polpette (meat balls) - the recipe is from Feast -again- "aromatic lamb meatballs", but as i don't like lamb i used beef and the result was great. I think this are good with some bitter leaves like cresson alienois.

The piece montee
Actually i had never made choux buns before but i thought it would be easy - just follow the recipe. I had three recipes : one from Feast, another from my chocolate desserts from Pierre Herme and the last from a french pastry book of mine. These three recipes were identic so i used Pierre Herme's. But for my first attempt, i didn't read the recipe till its end: i added the flour off the heat and ended up with a liquid batter; so i put my pan back on the heat while stirring. I got a nice smooth batter. The choux buns were right, but as i thought they weren't i just throw away the excess batter and whipped up another - this time following closely the recipe. But the result was awful; if my buns rose high in the oven they took less than 1 minutes to fall once out of the oven. I was dissapointed. But my dad told me tu ne devrais pas rester sur un echec (you must keep going and try to do another batch); and so i did. I made another batch of buns. OK, my choux buns aren't that high, but they're good. I'll try again when i'll be a little more relaxed.
For the toffee sauce i prefered to make a soft caramel rather than an hard one. I think the toffee-ish side of the caramel brings lusciousness to this already luscious pudding.
Just one more thing : the filling is a simple vanilla creme patissiere.

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Friday, October 14, 2005
My dad's sun-dried chanterelles

Drying in the sun of the Cote D'Azur...

Chanterelles are one of those autumn goods you never have enough of. They're golden and ebony delicate mushrooms with a great perfume.

Last tuesday, my dad went in the arrière pays and picked a lot of mushrooms : sanguins and chanterelles.
The sanguins are very good pickled and then stored, covered with oil, in a airtight jar for at least 3 weeks. Concerning the chanterelles, you can either freeze them or as my dad, dry them. I admit it takes a long time to sundry them, but frankly you've got nothing to do bar puting all the beautiful mushrooms on a double layer of brown paper.

Sun-dried chanterelles
Place the chanterelles (no need to brush them as when they'll dry, the earth will fall off them) on a double layer of brown paper.
And place all that in the sun every morning : they'll dry in 2-3 days.

If you haven't got time or sun : turn on your oven to the lowest temperature and dry the chanterelles -placed in a baking tray- for a night. The next morning your chanterelles will be nicely dried and concentrated in flavour and you kitchen will smell like a mountain cottage.
The sun-dried chanterelles waiting in their jar to be eaten...

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Friday, October 07, 2005
A la recherche des butternut perdus

[looking for the lost butternut squash]

Eric Roux is a cook who have a great chronique on a mid-day show on Canal+. I love his chroniques are they're the most delicious and interesting food programmes on French tv : to tell the truth the first thing i do when i'm back home for lunch around 1pm is to turn on the television and watch him speak about tomatoes, grapes... while cooking for myself.
Last wednesday he talked about pumpkins. I was all excited because he showed differents kind of them and i was sure he was going to mention the famous butternut squash : the most divine pumpkin for me. Then he mentionned it, needless to say i was in heaven : "afterall it was possible to find buttermut squash in France, hourray!". I already knew Eric had a blog, but never dropped by.
So i went on his great blog and post him a comment on how much i loved his show and how much i was happy to know i could find butternut squash in france. He very kindly answered me by email that he was sure i could find what i wanted (i'm not going to repeat "butternut squash" all over this post) in Toulouse food maket.
Lucky me : i didn't have class on friday.

So this morning i woke up at 7am, took the bus down to the city center and went to all the food market i could find; but nowhere was my dear butternut squash. Desperate and hopeless i finely bought 4 lovely pomegranates and tentatively went to the last food market, asked the man if he had courge musquée (french name), but as he didn't seem to know what they was i said butternut and then he showed me 3 butternut squashes waiting for me to buy them... Guess what i did. Buy the 3 of them. And if i have too much, i'll just freeze them (clever girl, hey). I found the butternut squashes in a stand located inside the Place des Carmes market. I'll write recipes for butternut squash next week when i'll be in my home

The pomegranates - from cinderella to jewel princess

Oops, i didn't tell you everything; Eric Roux asked me if i could give hime a recipe using butternut for him to put on his blog. But i won't give him only one recipe but 3... that will be :
-butternut bruschetta from BBC's Ready Steady Cook
-either a very rich pumpkin risotto from Tom Norrington Davies or a beef and butternut squash curry from Paul Rankin
-butternut cheesecake from Feast