Encyclopédie du Chocolat

18 04 2011

Way back at the beginning of the year, upon learning of it on Fiona’s blog, I signed myself up for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.  I have since posted about zero (0) books.  It’s downright shameful.  I mean, reading and cooking are two of my very favorite pastimes.  So here goes nothing.

Foodie's Reading Challenge

My very thoughtful husband bought me this absolutely fantastic book for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to write a little bit about it but haven’t really known where to start.  It is, after all, an encyclopedia.  An Encyclopedia of Chocolate, to be more precise, edited by Frédéric Bau, the director of the chocolate school for Valrhona.

Encyclopédie du Chocolat

It is a sumptuously photographed book, which make it a delight to flip through, licking my lips at the mouthwatering pictures.  But it’s full of useful information, too.  The first part of the book is dedicated to techniques and basic recipes.  As a professional, this is probably my favorite part, because if I’m wondering, for example, why my praliné isn’t setting up properly at work, I can find the answer here.  (the mixture is probably too warm, in case you’re wondering.)  Or how to substitute dark chocolate for milk chocolate, and vice versa – the cacao percentage in a chocolate can have drastic effects on a recipe if you’re not careful.  Or say I just want to make Nutella from scratch.

I also love having such a great set of base recipes such as ganaches, pâte à choux, cream fillings, mousses, and caramels.  That way I can play around with the individual components and let my creativity run free.  Knowing that I have a good recipe as a jumping-off point is always a good start.

There’s an excellent illustrated section towards the back which shows the equipment used in professional pastry and chocolate shops.  Since it’s in French, this section is invaluable for my working  vocabulary.

In the middle are the recipes, grouped by category (Grands Classiques, tartes, and so on) with one recipe per chapter presented by a French celebrity chef.  Gilles Marchal of La Maison du Chocolat, Jean-Paul Hévin of best chocolat chaud in Paris fame, and Cyril Lignac of just about everything are among the participants.

Encyclopédie du Chocolat even won the award for best chocolate cookbook at this year’s cookbook festival in Paris.

When I finally decided to see what this book could do, I looked to the classic ganache tart.

note the lovely book in the background...

Of course, it came out beautifully.  For a photo of the finished product, as well as the resulting recipe, click on over to the Recipe of the Month at Girls’ Guide to Paris.

If you’re interested in buying the book yourself, and you can read French (the English version is due in October of this year), I’ve assembled a few links that might help you do so.  It’s up to you to figure out which one is geographically appropriate for you.

Encyclopédie du Chocolat at Valrhona Chocolate (US)

Encyclopédie du Chocolat at Amazon (Canada)

Encyclopédie du Chocolat at Amazon (France)

On this day in 2009: Kicking it Old School

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





I Get Older, They Stay The Same Age

9 09 2010

I’m not done recounting my vacation food adventures just yet, but going back to work after an extended break is always a bit of a shock, and I have some thoughts:

  • I am continually amazed by the physical and intellectual incompetence of the incoming apprentices.  When I ask a 17-year-old to multiply 200 by 6 and am met with a completely blank (not to mention slightly incredulous) stare, it really frightens me for the future.
  • Did they do anything at all in August?  I nibbled a bite of mousse cake Monday morning that definitely tasted like it had been in the freezer for a month.
  • Holy houndstooth, my feet are tired.
  • Note to co-workers – “You’ve put on weight” is pretty much the last thing anybody wants to hear, ever.  Especially if it’s the first thing out of your mouth when you haven’t seen someone in a month.  “You’ve cut your hair,” or “you look tan” would be much more appropriate, and welcome.
  • My hands are apparently still made out of asbestos, and I still like burning things.
  • I also still enjoy the zen of chocolate making, especially if I can claim my own workspace.
  • Looks like the chef is laying down some discipline with the apprentices this year.  Good.
  • Here’s a piece of advice for anyone starting out working in a kitchen (or a lot of other places, I’m sure): Never complain to someone whose shift started before yours about how tired you are.  Another related one is: Never tell someone who works six days a week that your (two-day) weekend was too short.  Thankfully, this is no longer an issue I have to deal with.
  • I’ve been having a bizarre reaction to my alarm clock this week.  Instead of the usual “No, not time yet, snooze,” I’ve been in complete denial about it.  As in “Huh?  That’s not my alarm.”  At least I’ve been pretty good about getting up once reality kicks in.
  • Is it really fall already?  When did that happen?

On this day in 2008: Easy Tapenade Salad Dressing

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, part Wedding

26 08 2010

When we last left off, I was pondering the potential difficulties of baking nine dozen wedding cupcakes in a borrowed home kitchen in August.

Lemon and strawberry filled cupcakes, before icing.

It got more complicated before the job was done.  Instead of a kitchen 10 minutes’ walk from my hotel, I was booked in a different home kitchen, 15 minutes’ drive across town.  So I had to rely on family and friends of the happy couple to get me to and from my workspace.

Piping away

And then the caterer wanted the cupcakes early, to have them set up at the beginning of the reception.  This caused a small amount of stress when I didn’t know the weather forecast, but Mother Nature smiled on us and gave us a lovely day in the mid-70s – cool enough that I didn’t have to worry about the buttercream melting in the sun.

still piping...

While I did remember to pack my silicone molds for the fillings, and to bring over French cocoa powder and Turkish hazelnuts, somehow I forgot to bring along a piping bag and my trusty star tip.  Fortunately, one of the guests was able to bring in a set of tips from Boston; unfortunately, they were a bit too small for what I had in mind.  I am blessed with a very resourceful husband who managed to doctor one of the tips to make it closer to the one I had left behind.  Another crisis averted!

Read the rest of this entry »





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.








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