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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All classes are sold out. 165 lovely attendees. Thank you everyone.

To sign up for future classes, or if you have already signed up but wish to enter your phone number for SMS updates, enter your details in the form below. You will only get one email or SMS before each batch – and your details will never be shared with others – so you can be assured of never receiving any spam.


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Le Chateaubriand, Paris

October 6, 2014

Tocino de Cielo by Inaki Aizpitarte

View Slideshow

I am an Iñaki Aizpitarte fangirl.

I love everything he does. He makes me want to be a better cook, to play with flavours, to be more creative, to think beyond geographic boundaries.

Earlier this year Arjun took me to his much lauded restaurant, Le Chateaubriand in Paris and we were in for a treat. After a series of tasting and exploring new flavours and textures ranging from veal head fritters dusted with freeze-dried raspberries to sweetbreads served with pomelo, I came home happy and inspired.

While the menu at Le Chateaubriand changes frequently, the dessert, Tocino de Cielo, is a constant fixture. Tocino de Cielo literally means piece of heaven. This video shows how Iñaki makes his version of the Andalusian custard pudding made of egg yolks, sugar and water. He explores the region, trying out the classic dessert, while having different people try his. It’s also really interesting how he takes children along in his research to reinterpret this (seemingly) childhood favourite dessert of his.

If you’re planning on visiting Le Chateaubriand, you’ll need to book a few weeks ahead of time, or just show up at 9PM for the 9:30PM seating that needs no reservations.

Le Chateubriand
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris
+33 1 43 57 45 95

PS: Here’s a little to peek into his home and restaurant.

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plaisir sucre pierre herme

This is quite simply the best chocolate dessert I have ever had.

Pierre Hermé calls it Plaisir Sucré. Maison Landemaine calls it Jivara. Le Cordon Bleu calls it Douceur Chocolat. There might be many more versions of it around Paris, but at its core it’s the most delicate chocolate and hazelnut cake  built over several layers of sublime textures.

This one is a slightly simplified version of it. The only technique that you really need to know for this is chocolate tempering.  Simply put, the chocolate you buy is already in temper. But if you want to melt it to coat truffles, or in this cake, make chocolate discs, it needs to be in temper first. This means that you have to raise the temperature of milk chocolate to 40-50C, bring it down to 25C and then gently bring it back up to 30C, which is the working temperature for milk chocolate. By doing this the fat crystals realign themselves and the resulting set chocolate will have a lovely shine and crisp snap as opposed to being streaky and pliable.

What makes this cake so special for me is the layer that’s spread on the dacquoise – it’s a mix of milk chocolate, butter, hazelnut paste, toasted hazelnuts, praline and feuilletine. While you can make your own hazelnut paste and praline (tutorial coming up soon), feuilletine is the wildcard. It’s crushed up Gavotte Crepes that are incredibly addictive and the ones coated in milk chocolate always find their way into my basket at Monoprix. If you find yourself in Paris, you can buy a bag of feuilletine at G. Detou for about €5 [read more…]

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Financiers

September 16, 2014

Financier

While at a vide-grenier, the French equivalent of a car boot sale/garage sale, I stumbled upon a set of shiny new financier moulds. They were still in their original packaging and had a faded price tag from when Francs were still in use and Le Bon Marché was called Au Bon Marché.

On my return, the first thing I baked were these tiny little petits fours. I used a recipe for perfect financiers (almond cakes) from Nathalie Benezet, author of Le Petit Paris (USA | UK | India). I followed the recipe pretty much exactly as given. The only variation was that I added a quarter teaspoon of pistachio paste into half the batter for the pistachio flavoured financiers.

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