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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Eclairs et choux a la vanille

[Vanilla eclairs and choux buns]
Adapted from Feast (Nigella Lawson), Mes 100 recettes de gateaux (Christophe Felder) and Mes desserts au chocolat (Pierre Herme)

I hate to fail with something - especially when it comes to the cooking realm.
I remember my vain attempt at making a piece montee for my sister's birthday. I had to face the truth - i utterly failed. I tried again and again (making pate a choux at least twice in one afternoon), but the result was always the same: the choux rose in the oven then fell flat. It was what i can now call a disaster.

Something like a month ago i decided i should try again. So i did. And though it wasn't as successful as i expected, the choux weren't flat at all and tasted great.

But this time, the problem was the icing; can you imagine i used cold water to bind the icing sugar? This resulted in an awful grainy icing.

Eclairs a la vanille
makes 12 eclairs
I like the way Pierre Herme cooks his eclairs - with the open oven door so that they don't get soggy or flat at all.
As for the creme patissiere, i must say i am addicted to Christophe Felder's. It's so light and creamy.

For the pate a choux
125g water
125g milk
5g salt
2 pinches of caster sugar
125g butter
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 200C and line two baking sheets with parchement paper or better still silicon baking mat.
Put the water, milk, salt, sugar and butter in a large sauce pan and heat until the butter is melted and the water has just begun to boil. Take the pan off the heat and add all the flour in one go.
Beat with a wooden spoon and put the pan back to the heat for 2-3 minutes; you should get a smooth ball. Turn off the heat.
Now beat in the eggs, one at a time. The dough should be stiff enough to hold its shape.

Pipe 10cm long tubes leaving a space of 5cm between each tube.
Turn down the oven to 180C. And bake for 15 minutes. Then, to let the steam out, maintain your oven's door open with a wooden spoon and bake for a further 8 minutes.
Remove to a cooling rack.

For the creme patissiere
500ml milk
20g butter
2 vanilla pods
100g caster sugar
40g cornflour
40g flour (preferably tipo 00)
4 egg yolks

In a large pan, put the milk, butter, vanilla seeds, split vanilla pods and half of the sugar. Bring to the boil.
In a large bowl, sieve the flours and beat in the egg yolks. Add the sugar and whisk until light-yellow.
Remove the vanilla pods from the pan and pour a laddle of milk over the eggy mixture. Whisk well and put back into the pan.
On a medium heat, bring this mixture to the boil while stirring constantly.
When thick, remove from the heat and put the creme patissiere into a bowl. Allow to cool and keep in the frigde until ready.

Now you can fill the eclairs with the creme patissiere and top them with a simple icing made of icing sugar and water.


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Monday, March 27, 2006
Une boite avec les ingredients pour "afternoon tea" - EBBP # 4

After few days off, i was happily suprised to see spring back again. But i was even more happy when i opened my mail box - a beautiful parcel from England was waiting here for me.
I just ran to my room, opened the parcel and discovered with delight all the great goodies Anna from Baking for Britain sent me.
It was 'une boite avec les ingredients pour "afternoon tea"' [a box filled with all the necessary ingredients for a successfull afternoon tea] as said the little card she gracefully wrote in French.

A letter accompanied the parcel - describing all the items it contained.
I love the way Anna feels about afternoon tea. For her, afternoon tea is what you make it. And i especially loved that part : "The same sentiment of genteel indulgence can be experienced by pouring a cup of your favourite tea variety, and taking a single slice of home-made sponge cake, or the largest of the biscuits from the biscuit jar".

To start an afternoon tea you must have something savoury, such as:
- Patum Peperium (or Gentleman's relish): a spiced anchovy relish, which makes a delicious spread on buttered toasts.
- Bath Oliver biscuits. Anna likes them "as a basis for membrillo and manchego", even if it's not very conventional.

Then you should have something sweet:
- Cornish saffron buns: so good when toasted, split and spread with butter (or even with some lemon curd)
- Lemon curd: Anna says it's a doodle to make, but truth to be told, i am always happy with a jar in my cupboard.

And finally, if afternoon tea is called that way it may be because you drink ... tea!
- Twinings afternoon tea: a nice fragrant English tea.
- the cutest tea pot on earth to infuse your favourite tea

Thank you so much Anna.
Thanx to Andrew as well for this wonderful event.

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Update - as you may have noticed FOOD BEAM is going under mega relooking.
I shall tell you that this blog is better viewed with Internet Explorer and i am really sorry for all of you who use Firefox or any other web browser.
But i can proudly say that the comment section is back in order (thanx again to Andrew). OK, OK, there might still be some weird codes... But the comments are appearing!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Macaron Plénitude - or using one of the most beautiful book: PH10 Patisserie Pierre Herme

Do you remember my attempt at winning the most beautiful cookbook of all the time?
I didn't win, that's a fact, but getting this peculiar book has been on the top of my to-buy-list since this day.
Anyway, I had a good time creating Divine Cannelle and have been very flattered to see it ending up among the five finalists.

But after weeks and weeks of deep-thinking, I decided I should go for the book; whatever the price tag shows up.
The (expensive) book is called PH10 in honour of the ten-year long work of one of the greatest pâtisserie chef: Pierre Herme.

In this book, Pierre Hermé reveals the recipes for all his magnificent creations such as the famous Ispahan (flavours: rose, letchi and raspberry) or the celebrated Mogador (flavours: milk chocolate, passion fruit, pineapple, spices).

Actually "ouvrir PH10 c'est un peu comme etre soudain en possession d'un vieux grimoire revelant la formule magique du bonheur" [opening PH10 is like being in possession of an ancient grimoire that gives us the jinx for happiness].
And indeed this is true; when you immerse yourself in that 600 pages book you realise how much work and love as been put into it. 300 recipes, 200 (lovely) pictures.
I love the professional layout and the useful "composition" of the pastry.

Besides that, I can only admire Pierre Herme: his ability, his creativity and his deep love for the beautiful.
I love the way he created "collections" of pastries; I mean you can find your favourite pastry in various forms: entremets, chocolates, small cake, tarts, ice creams, macarons, confiseries…

I think he really brings out the glorious nature of patisserie.

The first recipe I tried from this book was the Macarons Plenitude as I didn't have much time to make a complexe entremets and because I had all the ingredients in my cupboards.

These macarons are delicious. The slightly salted ganache really enhance the delicate chocolate flavour.
From top:
- chocolate macaron
- eclats de chocolat à la fleur de sel [finely chopped fleur de sel-flavoured chocolate]
- chocolate and caramel ganache
- caramel macaron

How to make them?

First you've got to make the fleur de sel (a slightly coarse salt with a delicate taste) chocolate "eclats".
So what you do is basically – temper the chocolate (70% solid cocoa = Guarana) and make a thin layer of chocolate on which you sprinkle some fleur de sel.

Then comes the ganache; which is maybe my favourite part of the game. This delicious ganache is composed of a:
- toffee-ish caramel made by adding salted butter (here Pierre Hermé suggests La Viette Demi-Sel butter) and cream.
- melted chocolates (56% solid cocoa = Caraque, 40% solid cocoa = Jivara).
This ganache is so luscious I used the leftover to make one of the most delightful truffles I've ever managed to produce.

Finally, you've got to make the macaron biscuits.
These are made by mixing a meringue italienne [Italian meringue] and a "tant-pour-tant" (a mix of equal quantities of almond powder and icing sugar) + fresh egg whites.
Adding melted chocolate (for the chocolate macarons).
Actually my mix was still too liquid (but neatly better that the last time I tried to make macarons) but I think it was because my syrup was hot enough (it must reach 117 C) and I didn't have a good thermometer to check that.
I will go to my, now, favourite shop in Cannes where it will be a doodle to find such a thermometer.
My other problem is that I baked the second batch for too long which resulted in crispy-rather-than-chewy-but-still-delicious macarons. So I will suggest respecting the cooking times next time!

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