A Savory Pumpkin Pie

16 12 2009

Patidou quiche, uncut

December.  Dreaded by pâtissiers around the world.  I wish I had something witty to say about this quiche I fashioned from last week’s CSA panier score, but I made over 100 kilos of ganache today at work. 


I used up all the chocolate (60 kilos) and all the cream (40 liters) and that’s why I stopped.  I have one more kind to make tomorrow morning before I spend another long day wrestling the hardened (well, not really hardened, more like firm-ened) ganaches into frames so that they can be cut, enrobed, boxed and sold for Christmas.  The skin on my hands feels like the sticky side of velcro, and all I really want is to dig into the leftovers of this roast patidou squash and shallot quiche, which is as luxuriously creamy as you could ever possibly want a quiche to be.

...and After

I’m counting on it to smooth out today’s rough edges.  As for my hands, well, that’s why God created shea butter.

A little slice of heaven

Read on for the recipe.

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The Land of Chocolate

25 08 2009

It seems ironic that the day I finally sit down to post my chocolate ice cream recipe is the first rainy day in a couple of weeks.  Especially since I created it in Seattle, back in June when I was still on vacation, where we had nothing but beautiful sunny weather.

writing the recipe - photo by Nick

It was a chocolate-intensive day (and sandwich-intensive, too, I might add) that started with a tour of Theo Chocolate.  While I admire their commitment to organic and fair trade production, I though the presentation got a little preachy on those topics, to the detriment of explaining, say, how ganache is made.  Not for my benefit, mind you, I make the stuff for a living, but I doubt anyone on the tour with me that day left with any real understanding of the difference between the production of a bar of chocolate and the production of a chocolate confection.  Still, it wasn’t a total wash.  We got to taste several different chocolates, from single origin bars to novelty bars to the aforementioned ganaches.  I couldn’t leave without picking up some of the Ghost chile chocolate and a box of single-malt scotch ganaches.

You can't make ice cream without cream

One of my missions while in the USA was to gather up some American artisan chocolate bars.  I was looking in particular for Patric, which my former boss can’t praise highly enough, and Askinosie, which I was turned on to by David Lebovitz.  Upon hitting the ground in San Francisco, I was on the lookout for chocolate shops.  I found Bittersweet without much trouble, and they did carry a handful of chocolate bars.  I walked out of there about $35 poorer and four chocolate bars richer, but I was a little disappointed that it was more of a café/coffeeshop than a true chocolate shop.

Whisking the chocolate into the custard - photo by Nick

Fortunately, Pete, our host in Seattle, is a chocolate enthusiast.  He had spotted Chocolopolis and wanted to check it out.  Having a couple of chocolate-loving houseguests was the perfect excuse.  So following the Theo tour (with a little lunch break) we headed to Chocolopolis.

And it was there that I found what I was looking for:

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Tea for Two Tarts, the Second

17 08 2009

Mise en place for tea ganache

When we last left off, I was hoping for more opportunities to combine tea and fruit for unusually delicious Summer desserts.  As luck would have it, the downstairs neighbors invited us to dinner less than a week later.  I was informed that the pregnant wife had largely lost her sweet tooth, but I like a challenge.  I figured something featuring dark chocolate and fresh seasonal fruit would fit the bill nicely. 

A fan of white nectarine slices

Flipping through Pierre Hermé’s Larousse du Chocolat for inspiration, I found a recipe for an intriguing-sounding chocolate tart with jasmine tea and peaches.  Hmmm…I do like a good ganache tart.  Nick had come home from the market with a bag of assorted stone fruits that morning, so we tasted one of each and determined that the white nectarines were really something special.  Besides the gorgeous blush color of the flesh, they had a unique aroma and delicate flavor that I thought would play nicely off the bittersweet chocolate.  Scrapping Hermé’s overly complicated tart dough in favor of a simple almond sablé (because we all know that almonds and stone fruit are like chocolate and peanut butter – they just go) and subbing in a more robust tea in the (now milk chocolate-free) ganache, I was pretty sure I had a winner on my hands.

Just Glazed White Nectarine and Tea Ganache Tart

For the final touch, I topped the über-shiny ganache with another circle of pretty nectarine slices, which I then glazed with a nappage fashioned from some handmade jam.  The neighbors were duly impressed with the tart’s beauty when I arrived at their door, and not a crumb remained at the end of the night, so I assume it tasted acceptable.  (Ok, it tasted great.  The tea subtly perfumed the intense chocolate, and the nectarines provided a juicy counterpoint.  It may be one of the best desserts I’ve ever made, and it wasn’t the slightest bit difficult.  Look! I did it while drinking a mojito!)  Even the sweet tooth-lacking pregnant woman had seconds.

Want the recipe?  Here it is:

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Tarte au Ganache Cassis

13 07 2009

The CSA panier that I get usually contains about 5 types of vegetables and 1 fruit every week.  And every week there is at least one surprise, which is one of my favorite things about it.  I love the challenge of coming up with recipes for things I don’t think I like, or new ways to use things I’m getting tired of, and especially playing with new (to me) ingredients.  Picking up my first delivery after coming back from vacation, I was expecting a bag brimming with luscious summer produce – tomatoes (check), zucchini (check), eggplant (not yet), stone fruits and berries (no dice).  The first fruit I got (of which I got a double ration) was cassis.

Definitely not blueberries

At first glance I thought they were blueberries, which excited me greatly.  Further inspection revealed two pints of blackcurrants (cassis in French).  Tart and seedy, they didn’t lend themselves to out-of-hand eating, so I set about finding something to do with them.  A search of my Frenchie-est cookbooks came up fruitless (rimshot).  Desperate for some inspiration, I opened up Pierre Hermé’s Larousse du Chocolat (which, regrettably, doesn’t seem to exist in English, at least not on Amazon) and found one recipe using cassis.  It was a ridiculously complicated chocolate and cassis entremet, with multiple layers of cake, ganache, syrup, and glaze.  Way fussier than anything I want to do outside of work.  I did, however, think that the ganache portion of the dessert had potential.  A cassis ganache tart sounded terribly sophisticated, and easy, too.  So I threw together a quick batch of my favorite sweet crust and baked it to a crisp golden brown.

The ganache itself was quite simple.  Minimalist, even.  I buzzed the fresh cassis with my immersion blender and was delighted by the rich burgundy color.

What do you get when you put cassis in a blender?

I pushed this mush through a fine-mesh strainer and was rewarded with an impossibly shiny, jewel-toned purée.

Mesmerizingly shiny cassis purée

I combined the purée with some water, sugar, and crème de cassis liqueur and brought the mixture to a boil.  As soon as it was hot, I poured it over some chopped chocolate (70%, from Madagascar, because chocolate from there tends to be fruity and I thought it would be a harmonious pairing), let it sit for a minute to soften the chocolate, then stirred until the ganache was silky smooth.  Hermé’s recipe called for as much butter as chocolate, but I was afraid that would dull the flavors.  So I whisked in a teaspoon or two of butter and called it good.  While it was still warm, I poured the ganache into the cooled tart shell and carefully set it in the fridge to set up.  There was a little extra ganache, so Nick and I dipped strawberries and apricots into it to get our chocolate fix for the evening.  I’m pleased to report it was delicious.

The next night, I removed the tart from the pan and cut a couple of thin slices.  They looked lonely all alone on their spare white plates, so I strewed a few fresh cassis over them and called it dessert.

Chocolate-Cassis Ganache Tart

Every bit as elegant as I had hoped, the ganache was the perfect consistency: firm enough to hold its shape when sliced, yet soft enough to melt upon contact with the tongue.  The chocolate and cassis made great friends, too, the bittersweet chocolate taming the puckery cassis while allowing it to keep its personality.  Which makes me wonder… why aren’t there more chocolate-cassis recipes out there?  And what would you do with fresh cassis?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

French Easter Chocolates

10 04 2009

While American children content themselves with hunting for dyed eggs and chocolate Easter Bunnies, French children (and probably some adults) have their choice of a myriad of elaborate chocolate sculptures. 

Oeuf Dentelle - Lace Egg

All the chocolateries in town are decked out for the holiday, with  many dozens of chocolate eggs, fish (?), chickens, and whatever other chocolate shapes struck the chocolatier‘s fancy.

Mr. Egg Head here looks a little worried about his future.

At work, we’ve had the chocolate melters (like industrial-strength chafing dishes) going nonstop for weeks now.  The new chocolate walk-in has been loaded up with half-eggs, bird parts, and other bits and pieces to be glued together with more chocolate to produce montage after edible montage.

Yes, those are bunny heads sticking out of phallic carrot cars.

So here are some pictures of the fruits of my labor over the last month or so.  This week has been long, putting the finishing touches on the chocolate sculptures in time for Easter.  (This is the part where I apologize for the crappy pictures – they were taken in haste, at work, while trying not to get too much chocolate on my camera.)  When I was making the Bunny-in-Car pieces, I was roundly criticized for putting the names of cities like Boston and Sydney on the road signs, because you can’t drive to those places.

Remember Les Schtroumpfs?  Here’s what became of them:

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Brownies Are So Hot Right Now

10 02 2009

I know that the combination of chocolate and chili is old news.  (Hey, they were doing it in Mexico before the Europeans came along and insisted it be sweetened.)  But that doesn’t stop these from being some of the most seductive brownies I’ve ever made.  It was Super Bowl Sunday and I needed something Mexican to bring to the party we were attending.  Nick was busy stewing beef and making corn tortillas (!!!), and I perused the cupboards, looking for some inspiration.  I had quite a bit of chocolate, and four kinds of chili powder, and chocolate-chili brownies were starting to sound pretty good.

With a little help from Dorie Greenspan, Mark Bittman, and David Lebovitz, I figured out the basic proportions I wanted to use and went from there.  For the chili powder, I used half guajillo and half chile de arbol, which I thought would give a nice, mellow heat with distinctive chili flavor.  Once the brownies were baked and cooled, it was time for the taste test.  (You don’t think I’d serve something I hadn’t tasted, do you?)  The first bite was soft and deliciously chocolaty.  I was worried that I hadn’t put in enough chili powder, but then the spice stole up from behind a grain of salt, and I knew I had hit just the right balance.

In other chocolate-related news, I have finally found an artisan chocolate producer in France!  I’m talking small operation, with lots of single origin chocolate bars to choose from.

Single-origin chocolate bars, produced in Le Mans, France

Chocolaterie Béline is located in Le Mans, in the Loire Valley.  I found their stand at a salon a few months ago, and was excited about the high cacao percentages and single-origin bars.  Luckily, I was not disappointed.  The chocolate is smooth, with deep, nuanced chocolate flavor.  I hope to see them at a future salon, but in the meantime, I can order bars online when I run out.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the brownie recipe!  Click through and do try this one at home.

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Joyeux Noël!

25 12 2008

Thanks, Jody, for the great Christmas Eve dinner idea!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Enjoy!

Cognac Hot Chocolate


In classic chocolaterie, “Champagne truffles” are truffles made with cognac, so I guess you could call this “Champagne hot chocolate,” but I don’t see any reason to confuse the issue.  Either way, this is a sinfully rich, grown-up twist on a winter favorite.  Go on, you’ve been good, right?


1 liter / 1 quart milk

60 ml / 2 oz. cream

3 Tbsp. cassonade or turbinado sugar

Pinch sea salt

250 g / 8¾ oz. bittersweet chocolate (I recommend 65-80% cocoa solids)

4 belts of cognac


  1. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Heat until simmering, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the chocolate or break it into small pieces.  Pour some cognac into each of four mugs.  (I trust you to make responsible decisions regarding the strength of your drinks.)
  3. When the milk simmers, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until all is melted and smooth.  Pour the hot chocolate over the cognac in the mugs.  Serve hot.

 Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

I’m Just Saying

1 10 2008

That maybe the week that all the apprentis are out for classes and we’re down a pâtissier because of Ramadan wasn’t the best choice for Le Patron when he decided that I needed to learn how to make the Christmas confections, no matter how finger-licking good that ginger ganache might be.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Two Awards and a Tag

25 09 2008

I’ve got a bit of a backlog going on these days – so many eating adventures, so little time to write them all down!  I also seem to be hoarding tags, so today I’m going to take care of all of them in one fell swoop.

First off, about a week and a half ago, I was awarded the Brillante Weblog Award by Hope from Hopie’s Kitchen.

Thanks, Hope!

The rules for accepting this award seem to be nonexistent, but I’m going to follow Hope’s lead and award it to one old favorite and one new favorite blog.

The old favorite: Coffee Helps.  I am still loving every minute of the intrepid Hails’ travel escapades.

The new favorite: The Zest.  Trisha is an adventurous home cook with a penchant for fresh veggies, healthy recipes, and replicating decadent bakery desserts at home.

Moving on, Gloria at Cookbook Cuisine has bestowed upon me the I’m a Chocoholic Award.

Thanks, Gloria!

Instead of following protocol and awarding it to everyone who has left a comment (that would be a lot of people, and besides, a lot of my readers don’t have blogs) I’m going to pass it on in the form of links to two of the very best chocolate makers out there.

DeVries Chocolate, whose tagline is “100 years behind the times,” is run by Steve DeVriesin Colorado.  He spends several months a year traveling to cacao plantations in Central and South America and getting involved in the harvesting, fermenting, and roasting of the cacao beans for his chocolate.  The only thing he adds to the finished chocolate is a little bit of unrefined sugar, which results in an extremely unique molasses-y flavor complementing some of the richest, darkest chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

Patric Chocolate, based in Missouri, is the brainchild of one Alan McClure, whose chocolate obsession runs every bit as deep as DeVries’.  His single-origin, micro-batch chocolates are intended to be works of art and to be appreciated as one would a fine wine or Scotch.  I have not had the pleasure of actually tasting any Patric chocolate yet, but I have heard good things from some very reliable sources.

Also, look what I made this week!

They're filled with passionfruit ganache.  Not bad for my first ever attempt at molded chocolates!

* * *

And now for the tag.  I just got tagged with this quick, fun exercise this afternoon by Hope.  (Watch out, the link is in French!)  The rules are as follows: Il faut évoquer ici un livre que l’on a à portée de main, l’ouvrir à la page 123, trouver la cinquième phrase et citer les trois suivantes.  That is to say: Pick up a book, open it to page 123, find the fifth sentence and quote the following three.

Since I am a bit of a bookworm, I am going to do this with the two food-related books I am reading at the moment, one in French and one in English.

D’abord, Chocolat & Zucchini de Clotilde Dusoulier:

Épluchez le céleri-rave, coupez-le en six morceaux et râpez-les comme pour faire des carottes râpées.  (Ne laissez pas le céleri râpé reposer trop longtemps à l’air libre pour éviter qu’il s’oxyde.)  Mettez le céleri, le yaourt, la moutarde, le jus de citron, l’ail et l’aneth dans un grand saladier.  Salez, poivrez et mélangez le tout à la fourchette.

Next, Hungry for Paris by Alexander Lobrano: (Of which page 123 is mostly a picture, so I have quoted its entirety.)

Observing the culinary waltz here is, in fact, easily as much of a reward as the food you’ll find on your plate, although what it serves is perfectly respectable vielle France comfort food.  Or food you eat because you’re hungry.  Or not.  One way or another, it’s not food that’s meant to create a fuss.

Now I’m going to tag Andrea at Cooking Books, Dish at Hooked in Amsterdam, and Nererue at Lady Disdain.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

La Rentrée

3 09 2008

Well, it’s officially La Rentrée this week – all the kids going back to school, a full staff at work, and a new batch of apprentis!  I was very pleased to see a girl apprentice when I came to work on Tuesday.  What’s even cooler is that she used to work downstairs in the boutique and finagled her way into an apprenticeship with no prior culinary training.  Of course Le Patron is constantly asking her if the work is too hard or tiring, as though he doesn’t expect her to be able to handle it.  She’s got some spunk though, and already knows how to handle him.  Plus she’s already familiar with the pastries, which definitely gives her a leg up on the other two apprentices (both young, and I mean YOUNG as in no facial hair yet, boys).  Girl power!

So now that we’re fully staffed again, I have been put in charge of replenishing the supply of chocolates and confections for the chocolate boutique portion of the business.  (Many pâtisseries in Paris have accompanying chocolateries.  Notably, Arnaud Larher and Pierre Hermé have both recently opened shops devoted entirely to their macaron and chocolate creations.)  Anyway, what this means is that I’ve been tucked away in the cooler garde-manger room making ganaches and pralinés, spreading them evenly into square frames, chilling them, and then taking them out so I can use the frames again.  It’s one of those fairly boring tasks that I tend to approach with a zen-like state of mind, finding pleasure in the calm of the repeated actions and letting my thoughts wander.  This morning, for example, I ruminated on possible titles for a cookbook I’m trying to write.  Tomorrow I will give each square a thin coating of chocolate and cut them into perfect little rectangles.  Looks like more zen time ahead.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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