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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Charlotte aux framboises et au fromage blanc

[Fromage blanc and raspberry Charlotte]

Charlotte is one of those desserts -- so easy to put together -- that is usually made by the children, but loved by both kids and grown-ups.
And because i own a copy PH10 by Pierre Hermé, in which he explores lots of different and unusual combinations, that doesn't mean that i don't like simple things.
Indeed, I have a weakness for all the cakes and biscuits i used to make as a child: gateau au yaourt, charlotte, baba au rhum... And i still adore to make them and eat them on a regular basis. Actually, le gateau au yaourt may be the best plain cake ever; at least for me.

I don't know why the food you made and ate as a child has such a power on the grown-up you've become; but this is more than accurate -- lots of my favourites are as old as i am and eating them reminds me all the great moments i spent when making them years and years ago.

I think that my love for food - a great treasure - was given to me by my grandmother. She's the best cook i've ever known; able to make everything and always curious about new ways of doing things. She's even addicted to 'cuisineTV' (the French cooking TV channel) and watch the Naked Chef as often as possible, although she can't understand everything he makes because 'il parle et fait tout trop vite' [he speaks and cooks too fast].
I remember spending hours on the kitchen counter watching her.

Now it's my turn to show her my skills with more or less success. So each time i visit my grandparents, we first go to the market to buy the freshest produce, then we cook all day, learning from each others.
But i feel i am digressing here.

As i've said above, everyone love his Charlotte. I mean it's fresh, light and fruity! What's not to love?
So for the 5th birthday of my little cousin Sindri (pictured on the previous post) i made a charlotte using the frozen rapsberries i had picked last summer.
I made a big Charlotte for the birthday and a couple of more sophisticated individual Charlottes (see note below), which would perfectly fit for a dinner party.

Charlotte aux framboises
This is so easy to make, but highly rewarding too. It's very subtle and fresh.
If like me, you're using frozen raspberries, you should defrost them before mashing them.
By any mean replace the raspberries by strawberries, pears, bananas, or a mixture of berries.
You can also make your own savoiardi using this recipe, but i was in a rush so wasn't able to make mine.
As for the fromage blanc, you can use thick greek yogurt instead.
This recipe gave me 1 big Chalotte + 2 small ones.
Tips given -- 3, 2, 1, go!

Charlotte aux framboises
serves 8

250ml water
150g caster sugar
red food colouring paste (i used the end of a toothpick)

enough biscuits à la cuillère [savoiardi lady fingers] (i bought 72 savoiardi and almost finished the packet - i'd say 50 savoiardi)

5 sheets gelatine
300g fresh rapsberries
70g caster sugar
500g fromage blanc (thick french yogurt)

Line a 20cm charlotte mould with clingfilm.

Bring the sugar and water to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.
Add the food colouring and put in a soup plate.

Soak two thirds of the savoiardi in the syrup and arrange them on the side and bottom of the lined dish.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold waterfor 5 minutes or so. Drain the gelatine and melt it either in the microwave or over a double boiler.
Mash the raspberries and sugar with a fork. And mix in the melted gelatine.
Add the fromage blanc and mix well.

Fill the prepared dish with half the mixture. Soak another 5 savoiardi in the syrup and arrange them.
Add the remaining mixture and "close" the charlotte with enough soaked savoiardi.
Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.
Unmould and eat!

Note on the individual Charlottes:
Line the exterior of two 7cm cooking rings with cling film and the interior with rodoid.
Soak the biscuits as above and line the cooking ring with them.
Fill with the remaining mixture and leave in the fridge overnight.
Unmould and eat!

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Monday, April 17, 2006
Les cloches sonnent...

I am not familiar with Easter traditions in other countries, but in France the Bells from Roma bring the chocolate eggs. So when we ear the bells ring, we jump into the garden looking for all the chocolate goodies hidden in the grass...
It's always a great moment for the children and actually for the parents as well.

This year i decided to make the chocolate eggs. I bought the moulds and Barry Callebaud high quality chocolate: both dark and milk.
It was quite fun as when you start making chocolate eggs: 1) you can't stop - tempering the chocolate is highly addictive and 2) all your kitchen will be covered in chocolate by the end of the day.
It is very time consuming too; though it may be because i have only one mould which allows me to make only two eggs at a time.

How to make chocolate eggs?
for 2 medium sized eggs

enough chocolate to fill the mould - 450g for mine
a chocolate thermometer

Melt the chocolate on a double boiler until it reaches 50-55°C. Then allow to cool to 27°C (milk chocolate) or 28°C (dark chocolate).
Finally heat again on a double boiler until it reaches 29°C (milk choc.) or 30-32°C (dark choc.).The chocolate is ready to use.

Fill the moulds to the top and tap the filled moulds on the countertop to release any air bubbles.
Wait for a few minutes and tap out the excess chocolate into a lined baking sheet (you'll re-use this chocolate).
Now, using a flat spatula, scrape across the mould, removing the excess chocolate. Allow to cool until completely set and repeat once or twice.

When the chocolate is finally set, carefully unmould the eggs.

What is more rewarding than a happy face when discovering the hidden chocolate treasures?

- - -

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Thursday, April 13, 2006
Orange Spring Glow

I just love Spring.
And i am getting so very excited because Easter is coming faster than i would have imagined. Blossoms are everywhere and it is so delicious to see the sun shining after months of desperate grey fog.

Anyway, today i feel like i am "montée sur ressort" [springy]. And wanted to play a little.

Can you guess what's on the picture???
UPDATE - as Chanelle guessed it is Orange Granita.

Orange Granita
What i did is so simple i am ashamed to pass on the recipe to you. But sometimes the simpler the better.

Orange granita
serves 6-8

250ml water
100g caster sugar
juice from 6 oranges or 400ml fresh orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange zest

Place the sugar and water in au saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Mix in the orange juice abd zest and pour the mixture in a shallow and freeze for an hour.
Stir the mixture with a fork to break the ice and freeze for a further hour, mix every 20 minutes.
Repeat until completely set.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Nella mia cucina Semplicità è la regina

[In my kitchen, Simplicity rules]

Ever since i was a child, i've been deeply in love with Italy and all the wonderful thing that this country offers.
Not only the Italian language is beautiful, but Italy is full of gorgeous things that deserve to be known.

My passion for Italy was born because my grand parents were from Italy and because my dad is always reminding us our origins - which is a great thing in my opinion.

The first thing i discovered about Italy was its stunning landscapes: laghi, montagne, valli...
I remember every single passegiata [walk] i made with my parents.

Then is started studying Italian at school (9h a week) for 7 years. There i was shown how beautiful was the Italian litterature. I fall in love with Giovanni Pascoli, the most divine poet.

And now, though i remain highly interested in letteratura, my interest in Italy has slightly changed from romanzi e poesie to cookbooks.
Indeed the last time i went to San Remo, we stopped in a bookshop where i bought a great book on all the greatest Italian food treasures: L'Italia da gustare, 101 città del cibo e del vino [Italy to taste, 101 cities of food and wine].

From the Italian cuisine, i keep the simplicity. I like the fact you use the best products available.
What is better that feeling every single taste in a dinstictive way? Good olive oil, good bread, good cheese... That totally does it for me.

So when i spotted this gorgeous ball of mozzarella di bufala, i knew i had to have it.
True mozzarella di bufala is divina in the simplest way; and though it is quite expensive, i would never buy the supermarket sort, even for a pizza.

Best mozzarella salad
This "salad" is for mozzarella lovers only. I won't say this is a recipe, but more a reminder: olive oil goes well with mozzarella goes well with pepper.
Have a good, preferably homemade, country-style crusty bread along this salad.

Just a short note on mozzarella: history and fabrication process (in Italian!)
"La mozzarella di bufala veniva prodotta già nel Duecento dai monaci di San Lorenzo di Capua, che la offrivano ai canonici giunti in processione al convento, e in Campania viene prodotta intensivamente dal Seicento. E un formaggio fresco di pasta filata che deve il nome al fatto che la pasta viene "mozzata", fatta a pezzi con un operazione molto delicata. Dopo la bollitura del latte infatti la pasta che si forma viene passata in un recipiente dove vienfatta fondere, viene spezzettata minutamente e poi lavorata per darle la carrateristica forma a treccia, o di sfera o bocconcino." (L'Italia da gustare, p.194)

Best mozzarella salad
serves 2

one ball of mozzarella di bufala
1 tbsp extra virgin oilve oil
a couple of pinches of your favourites bays (i used: black and white peppers, Jamaican chili and pink bays)

Tear the mozzarella in a plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the bays. Tada tada! You're a chef!

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Friday, April 07, 2006
Me and the Ice Cream Factory

Les petits soldats de bois [Thousands of small little wooden soldiers]

One of the good points of being an ingeneering student is to visit industrial food factories.
Today, i visited a fabulous ice cream factory in Carcasonne (an old fortified city an hour away from Toulouse): Boncolac [which may mean something like "great milk", but i would be so sure about it].

We discovered how the cream, milk... were processed to make yummy ice creams.
It was very impressive to see all the machines working and the thousands of popsicles going out from them.

First we went outdoors to see how all the ingredients were brought in. Tons of barels containing fruit pulp...

Then we entered the most delicious room ever to be seen: the chocolate stocking room. Imagine 7 meters of chocolate all around you... What would you do? Seriously, i thought i was going to turn mad and steal a 25kg bag of extra bitter chocolate; but obsviously, i didn't for the reasons you all know: i would have made too much chocolate goodies and wouldn't have had any time left to go to school.

Now let me introduce you to the most exciting room: the one where the ice creams are made.
The first assemblage chain we discovered, was the one that makes vanilla and coffee ice cream cones. It was so funny to see how the machines fill the cone waffles. Very impressive too.

After that we were shown the fabrication process of caramel popsicles coated with a delicious shiny chocolate glaze.

We were also taken to the room where the ice cream tubs were filled and sealed. I especially loved the blackcurrant sorbet as it has a bright pink colour (i had prepared a nice animated gif on that stunning sorbet, but sadly you can't upload animations on blogger!!!).

But i remain addicted to the vanilla sort; maybe the most luscious ice cream on earth.

We ended our visit with the vanilla popsicles and this may be my favourite part of all. I adore the small wooden stick holding the posicles and reckon they look like thousands of little soldiers, hence the subtitle.


Just a short note: thanx Sam for mentionning this post in the Food and Drink section of BlogHer. I was happily surprised and very touched.

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