Hazelnut Biscuits

January 7, 2015

Hazelnut Biscuits I’ve been enjoying reading The Complete Nose to Tail lately. It’s not only the fantastic recipes, but it’s Fergus Henderson’s writing that’s kept me hooked. It’s eloquent with an unmistakable British wit. And the photography by Jason Lowe is intelligent, dramatic and timeless.

These hazelnut biscuits are from the cookbook. They are incredibly simple to make and are packed with toasted hazelnuts. Initially, I thought that the 280g of hazelnuts in the recipe might be a bit too much. However, when it comes to trying new recipes, I like to slavishly follow the author’s instructions in order to learn what they are trying to convey. As it turns out, this high proportion of hazelnuts worked really well for me. Think of it as a recipe where the biscuit dough acts as a mere holder for the gorgeous Piedmont hazelnuts, instead of of them being intermittently dotted.  [read more…]

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kugelhopf I’m hoping to start a new Christmas Day tradition with this year’s kugelhopf. A kugelhopf is a yeasted cake or a rich bread, whichever way you’d like to see it, that adorns pastry shop windows all over Alsace. It’s a traditional French Christmas bread, with a disputed history, made in earthen moulds. If you don’t have one, you could use a metal bundt pan mould instead, which offers better browning.

I’d bought an earthen kugelhopf mould from a tiny, crammed vintage shop in Montmartre. With access to top quality kugelhopfs all over Paris, the kugelhopf mould had been relegated to serving the purpose of decorative kitchen object for the past year. I used Christmas as the perfect excuse to make this humongous rich festive bread.

Traditionally, the kugelhopf is made with raisins that have been soaked overnight in cognac or armagnac. I simply plumped them in water. I also veered away from the norm a bit – I was quite intrigued by the recipe in Tartine Bread (USA | UK | India) which also added a mixture of apricots, pistachios, freshly ground cardamom and orange blossom water to the dough.  [read more…]

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Cranberry Sauce

December 24, 2014

cranberry sauce

We’re getting ready to take time off and visit our family for the holidays.  We’re going to have a traditional roast for Christmas lunch. I’ve packed my bags with cranberry sauce, kugelhopf dough, chocolate chip cookie dough, chestnuts, chocolate, Comté, and my knife kit.

I made the cranberry sauce a day before and bottled it. It is my first time making it and I am surprised at how incredibly easy the process is. Cranberries are quite tart to eat on their own and they need a whole lot of sugar to mellow their flavour. It works surprising well with roasts. I can imagine making a sandwich with the leftover meat, cranberry sauce, rocket and some sharp Pecorino Romano.

Cranberry Sauce

300g fresh cranberries
200g sugar
180g water
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, zested

  1. Put the cranberries, water and sugar and cinnamon stick in a bowl. Cook on a medium heat until the cranberries have burst and it looks like a ruby red jam, about 10 minutes. You can cook it longer if you want it to be more spreadable or cook it just until the berries have burst for a chunky sauce.
  2. Once it has thickened, stir in the zest of 1 orange.
  3. Bottle and seal until you want to use them.
  4. Note: Because of the high pectin content in cranberries, the sauce may firm up to a solid on cooling. Rewarm with a little bit of water to make it spreadable again.

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Kouign Amann

December 23, 2014

kouign-amann1 Kouign Amann is a rich, buttery viennoiserie made with an unthinkable amount of butter and a generous sprinkling of sugar for a little sweetness and caramelisation. It’s crisp, flaky and caramelised on the outside and soft and cakey inside. One bite and you’ll know what I mean.

I’ve learnt two ways of making kouign amann. One, that I’ve listed in step-by-step details and the other I learnt while working at Chez Michel in Paris. A few times a week, after the lunch service when the kitchen was clean and the burners turned off, I’d help the chef make kouign amann. It was always made with Bordier butter and always in a copper pan. The kind that you use for a tarte tatin.  The kouign amann was denser – with only 3 turns. And the sugar was sprinkled on the slab of butter right in the beginning.

Kouign Amann A few pointers:

  • Use the best salted butter you can get your hands on because that’s where all the flavour’s coming from.
  • Bake at 180C (reduce to 170C halfway if it’s browning too quickly) for a good caramelisation.
  • I used this kouign amann recipe, but scaled it down to 25% and that made me 10 individual cakes that I baked in a muffin pan.If you’re using French salted butter, the kind that has tiny chunks of salt, I recommend laminating the dough in one go. Because salt crystals are hygroscopic, it’s going to make the dough damp in parts when you leave in the fridge between turns. Laminate, cut and shape in one go.
  • I’ve been making a lot of laminated pastries lately and when it comes to the butter, I cut up the cold butter into big chunks, throw it into my stand mixer and beat with a paddle attachment for a few minutes. I’m looking at making the butter malleable to work with but not soft. Then I shape it back into a rectangle between sheets of parchment paper and start the lamination.

Happy indulging, for ’tis the season and all that.

 

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Rye Sourdough

December 22, 2014

Rye sourdough bread
I made the most terrific rye sourdough I’ve made ever since I began making my own bread.

Arjun and I made our first starter in Paris last year to be able to recreate the fantastic breads we’d become so used from the many boulangeries near where we lived. I’ve been feeding it since and even replenishing it with Paris water every time I visit (although I know that that doesn’t make all that much of a difference). I’ve been playing with different types of flours, hydration levels, baking temperatures and times.

Every time I bake a loaf, we’ll slice it up and pretend like we’re back in France with a platter of cheese, charcuterie and cidre doux.

To follow along the bread baking journey catch me on The Perfect Loaf.

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Gianduja Soup

December 19, 2014

gianduja-soup

It’s taken me two years to share this recipe with you.

I first had this cold soup on my birthday two Novembers ago at La Cantine du Troquet after a meal of steak frites. With every spoonful, my eyes lit up and I was so ecstatic about having my favourite flavours of chocolate and hazelnuts come together in a soup (or a milkshake?). It was topped with some candied pecans for a caramel-y crunch. I had to come back home and replicate it.

Soon after, I scooted over to G. Detou to buy a kilo of Valrhona Gianduja chocolate to make my version of the Gianduja chocolate soup. Or so I’d hoped – because what happened instead was that I nibbled through the entire kilo of the chocolate slab that was sitting in my fridge door over a few weeks. (I still can’t believe I did that.)

When we were moving to London, I stocked up on food, ingredients and equipment as if I were being banished to another planet. Kilos and kilos of different types of Valrhona chocolate, multiple madeleine pans, hazelnut from Piedmont, fleur de sel, chestnut flour, herbes de Provence, Tahitian vanilla, honey and jam. A few nights ago, I made steak frites for dinner and Arjun reminisced about the Gianduja soup. Reaching for my (new) half eaten slab of Valrhona Gianduja in my secret stash, I decided to make the soup before it was too late.  [read more…]

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Vanilla Brown Butter Madeleine

I think madeleines go down as my favourite little French cakes.

They are pretty, they are small, and they can be eaten in two bites. That makes them just the right size for me and my reduced sugar cravings (strange how the more I work with sugar, the less I like consuming it.) And what’s even better is that they can be put together in a jiffy.

In my time working at a patisserie, I’ve made countless batches of madeleines. Over time I’ve learned a few lessons and debunked the legendary myth that the madeleine batter needs to be refrigerated overnight to attain those coveted humps.

Let’s get into a few details: Most recipes, especially classical French ones ask for the madeleine moulds to be brushed with beurre pomade or softened butter. This, in fact, is not good (to the shock and horror of my French colleagues). The mould coated in thickened butter has two problems: it holds on to way too much flour when dusted resulting in the flour caking on the madeleine when baked and unmoulded leaving ugly patches of raw flour (this can also happen if you don’t tap off the excess flour properly). Secondly, the chances of the madeleines sticking to the pan are higher. Instead, what you should do is brush a thin coat of melted butter on the pan. Let the butter firm up (or if it’s a warm day just pop it into the fridge for a minute) and then dust it with flour through a sieve. Get rid of the excess flour by giving it a firm tap it on the counter. Make sure every nook and cranny has a film of flour – if not, the madeleines are going to stick to the pan. [read more…]

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lcb-shaheen-pasta

In an earlier post, I had written about how to win a scholarship to study at Le Cordon Bleu, like I did (thrice). This left me inundated with lots of emails from culinary aspirants wanting to know more.

In this post, I’m going to attempt to answer some questions that were unanswered. I’m going to tell you about life at culinary school, the cost of attending culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu Paris versus other schools, and a whole lot more. If you have any more questions, please add them into the comments section and I’ll get back to you quickly!

GENERAL QUESTIONS

I want to apply for a course at Le Cordon Bleu. What’s the process?
Signing up for a pastry or cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu is very simple and quick. You log on to their website and follow the instructions they’ve set out for you. You have to fill out your profile and write a short essay. If you’re in doubt you can email the admissions department at the location you’re interested in and they will get back to you.

How can I apply for a scholarship? [read more…]

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