We Can Probably Add “Glacière” to The Résumé Now

29 07 2010

It should come as no surprise when I tell you that I love making ice cream.  Sorbet and granita, too.  And let’s not forget frozen yogurt.  So today was kind of my dream day at work.

Like many parisian pâtisseries, mine makes an assortment of ice creams and sorbets to sell in the summertime.  The chef’s been on vacation, and the vendeuses have been pestering me to replenish their ice cream supply.  There were a few problems with this.  First of all, we’ve been undergoing some minor remodeling at the shop, and our ice cream machine got relocated to the pantry closet in the shuffle.  Someone seemed to think that was an ideal place for it, but as the pantry lacked the proper electrical and water hookups, the machine has been collecting dust most of the summer.  The electrician finally showed up on Monday and the machine was, in theory, ready to go this week.

In theory, communism works.

First there was the mystery tube to nowhere.  It turned out to be the exit tube for the water.  (Why this machine needs so much water, I’m not sure.  I asked, and everyone just seemed surprised by the question.  The main response I got was along the lines of “Well, you shouldn’t ask yourself those kinds of things.”  Welcome to France.)  The tube was not long enough to reach the drainpipe.  So we had to remove it, take it across the street to the hardware store, and get another one, similar but longer.  Then install it.  This was yesterday.  Obviously, no ice cream got made.

Today, I spent all morning making the various ice cream and sorbet bases, aided in part by an apprentice who will henceforward be referred to as “Lil’ Hipster.”  While I made the anglaises for vanilla, praliné, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate ice creams as well as mixing up lemon, pear, passionfruit, and banana sorbet fodder, he made the bases for apricot, pineapple, white peach, and coconut sorbets.  (This was, of course, after three of us – me, Lil’ Hipster, and the baker – searched high and low for the powdered glucose and eventually had to call the chef and wake him up to find out where it was hidden.)  I relished having the chance to tell the kid to leave the kirsch out of the pineapple sorbet, because rum makes much more sense.  I was delighted to be able to make calls like “let’s use toasted coconut in the sorbet, instead of the white stuff!”  Up until lunchtime, everything was going swimmingly.

Then I decided to put one of the sorbets in to churn.  Twenty five minutes later, it was still liquid.  (Usually, the machine freezes a much larger batch of ice cream in about twenty.)  After wasting my time asking the baker and bugging the chef again, I noticed that the valve on the water input pipe looked closed.  I opened it, and was rewarded with a splash of water on my feet.  Yesterday’s new pipe had not been properly attached.  At this point I found myself asking the Universe, “Why?  Why don’t you want me to make ice cream?”  I knelt down in the puddle and tightened the fastener until opening the valve no longer produced a gush of water on the floor.  And tried one more time.

This time, the lemon sorbet froze in a record six minutes!  Hooray!  I can still get all the sorbets done this afternoon!  And I did.  The ice creams will be done tomorrow, plus I ordered more fruit purée so I can make strawberry, raspberry, and sour cherry sorbets.  In case you’re wondering, and want to stop by for a scoop, the best flavors so far are coconut, passionfruit, and white peach.  Banana is my least favorite.  The lemon is super tart, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One last thing, about the title.  Glacier is the French word for someone who makes ice cream.  As per usual, there is no feminine form of the word as such.  Glacière means icebox.  Although I like the second definition given here, translated into English it reads: “machine for making ice cream.”*  That’s me.

*Ok, I’ve done a little creative translation – the words for ice and ice cream are the same in French.  Confusing much?  Also, big bonus points to anyone who can tell me the Homer Simpson quote I am thinking of now.

On this day in 2009: Put the Lime in the Coconut

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Memory That Always Makes Me Smile

9 07 2010

It’s great to have a rapport with your boss (or bosses).  Back when I was working in Dallas, I had such a rapport.  I worked for a couple with whom I got along swimmingly.  We had a lot of similar views about food – important when you’re working with it – and complementary desires to experiment and try new ingredients, techniques, and so on.  It was, however, a very small company, and as such, the finances were always tough.  Here’s something that happened one afternoon, rather typical of the sorts of exchanges I used to have with my bosses, when we all spoke the same language.

THE SCENE: Pastry shop.  Day.  MR. BOSS MAN enters.  He’s been crunching the numbers.  He gives a rundown to MS. BOSS WOMAN, or maybe he tells her that we can’t afford to buy any more chocolate.

MR. BOSS MAN: (Pointing at me) … And you.  Have been on retroactive vacation for the last two weeks.

ME: That was the worst vacation ever.

MR. BOSS MAN: Wait ’til you get the bill for two weeks of pastry camp.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Dear Readers,

19 04 2010

A lot has happened in the last week.  Tuesday morning I arrived at work to see the chef with his arm in an immobilizing sling.  He’d dislocated his shoulder – AGAIN (this is the third time, I think) – playing American football.  Which is clearly my fault, as the inventor of the sport and the person who set up the team in Paris and forced him to play.  Anyway, he informed me that since he couldn’t use his arm, he’d be taking the week off, leaving me to do all the work with only a stage to help me out.  (At least this one has a good work ethic, unlike some.)  So in addition to having to pack up my apartment at night, my days were much longer and more stressful than usual.  The icing on the cake was that I had to cover his shift on Saturday, too, which meant that I had to get up at 3:30am on moving day, go to work, come home, finish packing, and then move into a new place.  Fortunately, Nick and I had a great number of friends helping us out with the move, and many hands truly did make light work.  So many, many thanks go to Joe, Laurence, Scott, Ana, Arnaud, Nicolai, Celine, and Jesse for making moving day go so smoothly.

The phone/internet/tv switchover didn’t go smoothly at all so I am currently without reliable service for at least a week.  I hope you’ll bear with me and another possible post-less week.  I promise to be back as soon as possible with a farewell tour of my old neighborhood, photos of the new kitchen (once it’s ready to go – I’m helping the landlady shop for appliances today), and, of course, more recipes.

Love,
Camille

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Sourdough Attempt, and Why I Cook

23 02 2010

Michael Ruhlman recently posed the question, “Why do you cook?”  I believe I touched on a bit of the answer in my post about his rolls, and I definitely remember having to write an essay in the topic towards the end of my tenure as a culinary student.  I’d like to go back and read that now, seven years later – I’d be interested to see how my answers have changed, and in what ways they remain the same.

Why do I cook?  Well, that’s actually a complicated question, as cooking is both my job and my hobby.  But it was a hobby first, one I developed a passion for to the point of making it my career.  I guess the most interesting question, to me anyway, is “Why do I still cook at home when I do it all day at work?”

I know plenty of chefs, cooks, and bakers who don’t do any cooking at home, which is perfectly understandable.  Me, I come home and cook because it relaxes me, believe it or not.  After a day filled with deadlines and production goals, it’s nice to come home and cook what I want to cook, not what the schedule or the orders or the inventory say I need to cook.  I like being able to make all the decisions, and making last-minute changes when the mood strikes.  I cook because it’s relaxing and fun.

Another thing I enjoy about cooking, that I don’t always get to enjoy at work, is the creativity.  Being able to cook at home keeps those creative muscles in shape.  From coming up with dinner every night, to the challenges posed by the CSA grab-bag, to the wacky ideas that I simply must give shape because they won’t leave me alone, cooking at home prevents me from getting bored with food.  I cook to stretch my imagination.

In any given cooking job, there are always tasks you do more often, and ones you don’t do at all, and these change from job to job.  When I cook at home, I practice those techniques that I am not using at work, because you never know when you’re going to need to butcher a chicken, bake bread, or chiffonnade some basil in a future job.  I cook to hone my skills.

Finally, I love to eat, and I love to eat well.  I certainly can’t afford to dine out every night, and cooking at home is a much cheaper option.  (The downside to this is that after a certain price point, I get irritated if the food is nothing better than I could cook myself.)  I also like knowing where my food came from and what’s in it, and I feel good serving lovingly made food to my family and friends.  I cook because I care what goes into my body.

All of which ties in nicely with my attempt to bake sourdough bread last weekend.  I got it in my head Saturday night that Sunday would be a good day for bread baking.  I asked Nick what kind of bread he wanted (“You can have ANYTHING you want!”) and he asked for sourdough.  My starter was healthy, so I fed it to bulk it up and while it waited on the counter, I looked into some recipes.

I ended up winging it, using Ruhlman’s ratio (5: 3 flour to water), assuming that my starter was 1:1.  I didn’t use any commercial yeast, only the starter, and it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would.  (Must finally be getting warmer out!)  But here’s the thing: I had no idea if this recipe I had slapped together would work the way I wanted it to, but I did it anyway.  I paid close attention to the development of the dough – I didn’t let it get too excited because I wanted a fairly dense crumb, something good for sandwiches.  And you know what?  It worked.  It didn’t taste very sour, but the texture was just what I was looking for.  In fact, it tastes a lot like French pain au levain, which I guess it technically is.

fresh-baked bread

But there you have it: I experimented, I learned something, and I was rewarded with tasty homemade bread.  Plus the immense sense of satisfaction I get from turning ingredients as simple as flour, water, yeast, and salt into something as wonderful as a loaf of bread.

On this day in 2009: When in Alsace…

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Mashed Potatoes, and a Confession

12 02 2010

It occurred to me when I picked up this week’s CSA panier that in nearly two years of writing a food blog, I have never written about one of my favorite – and most frequently made – dishes: mashed potatoes.  I plan to rectify the situation today, but first I’ve got to get something off my chest.

A confession, if you will.  (My Catholic conscience is hoping this will help.)  The chef was on a bread training course this week, which means I was running the show from Monday to Thursday.  We had a stage this week, which, as usual, nobody bothered to tell me about in advance.  By stage I mean a junior high student who is spending a week in the pâtisserie to see what it’s like, and if he (it’s almost always a he) is interested in doing an apprentissage there later.  Well, this week’s kid was lacking in the common sense department.  On the first day I asked him to find the pastry cream in the walk-in (success), grab the small mixer bowl (success), and put the pastry cream in the mixer bowl (failure).  He put the ENTIRE bowl right into the mixer bowl.  I couldn’t help but laugh, and then wonder how I was going to get it out of there, which luckily didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem.  It was a real lesson in giving VERY specific instructions.  Which can be trying on the patience of someone who is just trying to get some work done.  Generally the mishaps were along these lines, though – not a big deal, but enough that I had to drop what I was doing to solve problems. 

There was one incident that really pissed me off, though, and that was when I sent the kid downstairs to take the sheets of biscuit over to the oven (don’t get me started on the impracticalities of my workplace layout).  I figured it would take him a while, guessing that he would carry the sheet pans over one at a time instead of two, but by the time I had scaled and spread out nearly six more sheets of biscuit and he had neither returned nor sent up the dumbwaiter so I could refill it, I got irritated.  I went downstairs and found him sitting down next to the empty dumbwaiter, eating a warm pain aux raisins, and chatting with one of the salesgirls.  Grr.  I shot him a nasty look, slammed the dumbwaiter closed, and stomped back upstairs, grumbling about how I hadn’t had my breakfast yet, either.  And I was hard on him for the rest of the week.  That’s what I feel bad about.  I mean, he’s just a kid.  He’s not being paid.  He’s there to learn, true, but maybe I should have been nicer.

What do you know?  I think that worked.

So, mashed potatoes.  I’ve got these down to a science.  I’m sure that there are loads of people who will disagree with me, but this is how I make them, and they always taste good.  Whether or not I’m peeling them, I always cut my potatoes into small pieces.  This is mainly a time thing – diced potatoes cook so much faster than whole ones.  Then I simmer them in copiously salted water until very tender.

drying the boiled potatoes

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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. 

Before...

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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A Triumph

21 10 2009

It’s actually been pretty fun at work this week.  I haven’t said that in a year and a half, and I was afraid I never would.  We’ve been trying out new recipes for the bûches de Noël for this holiday season.  Not only do I like experimenting in the kitchen for the way it breaks up the general work routine, but this year I have been included in the proceedings.  As in, asked for my opinions and for any ideas I might have in the way of new bûche flavor combinations.

I really wanted to do a chocolate/banana/peanut butter thing, but I know better than to get too wacky (i.e. American) with this crowd.  So I Frenchified the idea, swapping in praliné mousse for the peanut one.  I ordered some bananas and when they were good and ripe I sliced up a couple and sautéed them with butter, raw sugar, and rum.  The chef found an intriguing recipe for a banana biscuit, so we tried it, and it’s delicious.  I put a sample of the cake together today, and when we tasted it, we knew we had a winner on our hands.  So just like that, my creation is going to be produced and sold this Christmas and New Year’s.  If you live in Paris, I highly recommend you come pick one up when the time rolls around.  (Or better yet, reserve one in advance.  I’ll let you know the details at a later date.)

Oh, and a quick reminder to click over to Foodie Fights and vote for me in Battle Cumin and Pecan!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Rentrée Blues

1 09 2009

Once again, it’s official.  La rentrée is upon us once more, and my days as la cheffe are up.  Having lost the responsibility is worse than never having had it, because now I have a better idea of how I would run things, and I find myself getting annoyed when le chef doesn’t do them that way.  But it’s not just in the kitchen.  All over Paris, people seem a bit down – it’s always hard going back to the routine after whiling away the long summer days on vacation.  Trust me, I know.  My rentrée was at the beginning of July.

Foodwise, the end of summer always heralded blueberries for me, growing up in the Pacific Northwest where berry season comes pretty late.  So when I saw piles of blueberries at the market a couple of weeks ago, I had to buy some.  And following a disaster (well, ok, not disaster, but less-than-satisfactory outcome) involving Ruhlman’s muffin ratio, I wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Hopie tagged mewith this surprisingly addictive game: find seven blue objects in your house (although I see no reason not to expand the field of view) and do a little show-and-tell.  Like Hope, I decided to focus on my kitchen, seeing as this is a food blog, but now that my eye is trained to scan for blue things, I can’t stop!  Everywhere I go, I’m looking for seven blue items!  Hopefully posting this will purge that impulse.

The very first thing that comes to mind when I ask myself, “what’s blue in my kitchen?” is my beloved Emile Henry ceramicware.

I am inordinately pleased that my dishes match.

From soufflé-type desserts, to custards, to portioning out peanuts for snacking, the ramekins certainly get a workout.  As does the oval gratin dish, especially in the colder months, with treats like tartiflette, ham-wrapped endives, stuffed cabbage, and even the occasional gratin benefiting from the large exposed surface to get browned and crisp.  Quiches, tarts, and sometimes casseroles keep the fluted round dish busy.

A peek into the fridge revealed this:

Yay for homemade dressing!  And reusing containers!

Homemade bleu cheese dressing, made with the end of a wedge of bleu d’Auvergne, a pot of yogurt, and some chopped green onions.

You can see from that last photo that I reused/repurposed the crème fraîche container.  Yes, I am a card-carrying tree-hugger, as evidenced by the next couple of blue things:

Why is the GREENpeace brochure blue? 

Time to take out the trash... er, recycling.

A brochure from Greenpeace about harmful fishing practices (honestly, though, I think a brochure about which fish I CAN eat is more useful than one outlining the ones I shouldn’t eat); and my (rather full, but since emptied) recycling bins.

Are we having fun yet?  There is still the matter of that muffin recipe…

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C’est Moi Le Chef!

5 08 2009

Or is it la Cheffe?  No, chef is one of those sexist French words that has no feminine form.  At any rate, the chef is on vacation this month and he left me in charge.  In addition to my usual pastry and chocolate production duties, I am now responsible for planning and overseeing what gets done each day, defrosting the freezers at the appropriate time, and all of the ordering… which has yet to go entirely smoothly. 

Following a very difficult conversation yesterday with the secretary of the produce company, I consider it a triumph that the only thing wrong with this morning’s order was that the grapes were green instead of purple.  (I was informed by a colleague after getting off the phone that their secretary is notoriously terrible – I’m glad it’s not just me and my French skills, or lack thereof.)  Today I was anxiously awaiting the call from another purveyor.  I had the order prepared as soon as I finished the morning pastries, but by the time I had finished for the day and was ready to go home, they still hadn’t called.  I eventually had to track down their number and wait on hold for what felt like hours, although it was probably more like ten minutes.  At least once I got through the lady on the other end of the line seemed to understand what I was saying.  I feel pretty confident that tomorrow morning the right quantities of the correct items will be waiting for me.

Being in charge, so far, is great.  I get to choose the music; my lunch “hour” has been reduced to 30 minutes, because I like going home early; and I don’t have to wonder what’s on today’s prep list.  It’s also much more tiring than I expected.  Upon arriving home yesterday I fell straight asleep – something I very rarely do.  Today, though, I got home and wanted to cook.  I finally made the tzatziki I’ve been promising myself for weeks, using the now-sad-looking cucumber that I got a couple of CSA paniers ago.  It is waiting patiently in the fridge, the flavors slowly melding, for the apérothat usually accompanies Nick’s return home.  But I’m not done.  Hopie has gone and written about butterscotch pudding, so now I have to make it.  Unless I decide to make chocolate pudding.  Or both.  In a pie crust.  That’s probably not going to happen.  Today.  If there are any leftovers this weekend, though…

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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