27 March 2008

Puff pastry it is

Puff pastry seems to be one of the hardest pastry to make, at least it was the case for me until I started making it. In fact it is quite simple, it's a matter of having cold ingredients and following the various steps to the letter.

Puff pastry/Pâte feuilletée
250 gr all purpose flour
8 gr salt
125 ccm cold water

190 gr unsalted butter (beurre de tourage) (it is possible to put the same weight of butter than that of flour, but I like this recipe as it is somewhat lighter)

Sift flour into a bowl, with salt, add water and mix quickly (with paddle if using mixer) (approx. 1mn)
Shape into a ball and make a cross on the top with a sharp knife, place the dough in a plastic wrap in the fridge for 30 mn.
Take the butter out of the fridge and place it between 2 sheets of palstic wrap or parchment paper and beat it with a rolling pin in order to flaten it.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a square bigger than the butter, place the flattened butter on the dough and enclose it completely into the dough, and seal the dough (so the butter won't escape, very very important).
Roll out the dough into a rectangle 3 times longer than its width, fold top part to the middle and bottom part over top part, make a quarter turn to the right and repeat this rolling and folding process once, then chill for 30mn. You just made 2 turns.
After 30mn take dough out of the fridge and repeat another 2 turns. And chill for another 30mn.
Then repeat one last time the 2 turns and you are ready to use your puff pastry.
It is important to always turn the pasrty in the same way, quarter turn to the right leaving the opening fold to your right.
(I will post pictures soon to illustrate this recipe...)
Happy baking.

21 March 2008

Spring is upon us!

Finally Spring is officially here! Nature has been awakening in the past few weeks with flowers blooming and trees blossoming.
With a group of French friends "Les gourmandes" we celebrated Spring and Easter with a traditional Easter meal. For this occasion I baked a "Gigot Brayaude" (leg of lamb) this recipe comes from the part of France where I grew up "Le Bourbonnais" (in the center of France). Here is the recipe I saw my Mom make many a time as I grew up.

Gigot Brayaude/Leg of lamb (for 12)
3kg/just under 7 lbs leg of lamb
2 kg firm potatoes (I used Yukon gold)
8 cloves of garlic
Coarse sea salt
Fresh rosemary
Edible lavender (this is my personal touch)
1 large roasting dish
Place roasting dish on heated stove, pour approx. 1 inch/2.5cm water, coarse salt, pepper, 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced and bring to boil.
While water mix is on the stove peal, wash and thinly slice the potatoes, place them in the boiling water on the stove.
Let it boil away for 15Mn or so while you prepare the meat.
Trim as much fat as possible from the leg of lamb, then insert small slices of garlic in the meat all over by making small incisions with a sharp knife, use up the last 4 cloves.
Then baste the lamb with olive oil and rub on it fresh rosemary, thyme and lavender and sprinkle some pepper and coarse salt.
Place lamb on top of the potatoes and put dish in the pre-heated oven at 440 F (do not cover).
Cooking time is 15 Mn per pound to obtain a rosy not overcooked lamb.
Half way through the cooking time turn meat over.
Two thirds of the way turn oven down to 400 F.
When cooking time has been reached (for the piece I had I cooked it for 1h30Mn), turn off the oven and open the door slightly, leave the dish in the oven to rest for another 15Mn or so.
Then slice and serve with the potatoes, another vegetable that compliment this dish are green beans.

Bon appétit

18 March 2008

Flétan/Halibut en papillote

Back home and fish was on the menu last night, halibut to be more specific, such a tender fish. I baked it in a foil, here is my recipe.

Baked halibut/Flétan en papillote (for 2)
About 1 pound fresh halibut
1 medium fennel bulb thinly sliced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 lemon sliced
1 medium size tomato cut in 8
Thyme, salt, pepper
Provence Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 big clove of garlic
1 Tsp Parsley
Place large piece of tin foil (large enough to wrap the fish in it) in an oven proof dish (i.e. Pyrex), place fennel slices in the bottom of the foil, cover with lemon slices, fish and top with carrots sticks, place tomato pieces around, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, pour some olive oil and close the tin foil.

Bake in hot oven at 232 C/450 F for about 15 to 20 mn

While it is baking mix in the blender 4 Tbsp olive oil, peeled garlic, parsley (left over will keep in fridge for another use like basted on bread and grill it).

When cooked serve immediately and pour some of the olive oil/garlic/parsley mix over.

If you like your vegetables soft you may want to steam them for 5 mn or so before placing them in the tin foil, as the above recipe will give very crunchy vegetables.

09 March 2008

New York, New York

After the eventful trip over (rain storm, diversion...) I finally made it to the Big Apple and was blessed today by an amazing weather (OK it was bitter cold but still sunshine and blue sky!), so a very good first impression so far.
Here are a few pics to illustrate.

07 March 2008

Anatomy of a croissants

For the past few months I have been trying to master the art of croissant making.
I have tried a few different recipes and methods and it seems I am getting closer to my goal.
One of the very important thing in pastry in general and croissants in particular is the quality of the ingredients used.
Being in the US is an added challenge since the flours and butter are quite different than in France.
I think I have identified the butter I need to use, and most importantly I can find, where I live, I still need to try it, this will be an afternoon project in 2 weeks with a friend.
In the mean time I will be off to the Big Apple for a few days to discover this big city.
So I will leave you with a mouthwatering sight of this morning's croissants, the recipe will only be posted when I am totally satisfied with the result.

05 March 2008

Sweet no knead bread

We had guests for dinner Monday night and no fresh bread and not much time so I decided to make this no knead bread, you do no need a machine to make it and the honey gives it a very nice taste (I always put a bit more honey than mentioned below). I know the purists will object to this method since part of the joy of making bread is the kneading, but it is a very convenient recipe...

Sweet no knead bread
375 gr flour
1.25 cc salt
225 cl tepid water
50 cl tepid milk
12.5 gr fresh yeast/1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 TBSP honey (try lavendar honey for a very distinct flavour)

Mix water + milk + honey + yeast, set it aside for 10mn or so until it bubbles up
While it's brewing measure your flour and salt.
Mix quickly flour, salt and liquid with a spatula, without kneading.
Transfer to an oiled container (rectangular baking pan or round/oval salad dish), cover with 1 TBSP of flour and cover dish with a towel and let it rest for 1h30mn at room temperature.
After this time gently turn over onto a baking sheet or spring form lined with parchment paper, very lightly tap to release some of the gases, sprinkle some flour over it and cover with linen/cotton towel and let it rest for 30mn.
During this time turn on the oven to 232 C/450 F, place a small bowl of water.
Bake for 15mn at 232 C/450 F then lower the temperature to 204 C/400 F and bake for a further 15/20mn until bread sounds hollow, remove bowl of water after the first 15mn.
Let it cool down on a rack before enjoying it.
It is best eaten fresh but will keep in a sealed bag for 3 to 4 days, if so lightly toast it before use.