A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
There are a few desserts on my blog that I completely conjured in my head like the Chocolate Pear Cake, Coconut-Choc Scrolls, Coconut Chocolate Nut Cookies or the Carrot-Zucchini Cake etc. This new recipe is no exception. It all started with an innocent picture in a magazine of a layered apple slices, and from there it slowly brewed and ballooned into an extremely sinful fantasy... the urges grew stronger and yearning for that biteful of aromatic apples basked in spices, craddled in drooling buttery biscuit pie crust with to-die-for caramel walnut toppings became so real that I could almost savour it.
My attempts to make this tart was thwarted a few times... Somehow the apples always ended up eaten as an every day fruit as we either had other desserts lined up or over indulged during lunch. Finally the occasion came not once but twice. I made my first trial tart with Pierre as my ardent & willing taster. I was a bit nervous as it was my first attempt at making a caramelized walnut topping and frankly, I had no idea how to make one and neither did my mom-in-law. She suggested that maybe I stir the walnuts into the caramel. Well, that didn't went down quite as I expected. In trying to get the walnuts coated with caramel like I had in my head, I ended up with a big lump of un-spreadable caramelized walnut. AAAAHHH!
Anyway, with Pierre's stamp of approval, I made a 2nd one for my in-laws who were coming for lunch the following day. This time around, I got my caramelized walnut topping right. Bless my mother-in-law who, upon seeing me struggling with the apple slices, taught me the correct way of doing it like the professionals. I can't believe everything was going so beautifully well that day. I was so proud of myself. The oven beeped and my tart was all ready for its photo session before being devoured. Unfortunately for us, that day happened to be cloudy all day long. Pierre decided to place the tart on our kitchen window sill to have better lighting with Mom-in-law worrying that Pierre might accidentally drop the tart while taking the pictures. And me, menacing that I'll have his head if he dropped my gorgeous work of art. Phew! All went well and Pierre proudly told his mom that her worries were totally unfounded when suddenly, before our eyes, the tart slipped out of his hand ....SPLAT! 2 floors down, it became part of our garden's decoration and bird food. The horrified look on Pierre's face when the tart took a suicide plunge was PRICELESS! The scene was too hilarious to begin with... any upset thoughts flew out of the window. Pierre kept apologizing to me while Mom-in-law and I couldn't stop laughing. All was not totally lost, mom-in-law managed to salvage a bit of the tart from our garden floor. LOL! No, you can stop your wild imagination right there, there weren't any extra ingredient on our plate.
Making the caramel
It's so sinfully good and decadent. How can I described it? Every bite is filled with aromatic, spice basked apples with salty sweet crunchy caramelized walnuts together with the butter biscuit crust - awesome combination. Best of all, it's not overly sweet. Pierre said it's the best apple tart I ever made. LOL! This desert also proves that salted butter rules
You can replace the biscuit pie crust with pâte brisée (short pastry crust) instead. Either you blind bake the crust or bake it at 210°C for 10 minutes, then lower it to 180°C.
For the caramelized walnut toppings, don't make the same mistake as I did, went walnut crazy and totally filled up every space available on the pie. LOL! Just enough to cover the pie is fine, more than that will be overkill.
The number of layers of apple slices in the pie is up to your discretion. For us, 3 layers high is just the right combination. If you are doing a mix of apples and pears, make sure that the pears aren't too ripe as they have high water content and will turn your pie filling mushy.
Last weekend our whole family was hit by gastric flu. What a torture! It was the first time Little One got sick (poor baby) but amazingly she fought it off rather well and recovered from it very quickly. While she was on the mend, I caught the bad bug and was violently sick (I thought I had it bad). Luckily Pierre was still ok then so he could look after Little One. Then as I got over the worst, it was Pierre's turn to be sick to the gut. Unfortunately for him, the virus hit him the hardest (I have never seen him in that shade of gray). The next day, both of us were lifeless, while our little darling had her energy back and went on trashing the whole house. We have never been hit by an actual tornado, but now I have an idea of how it would look like afterwards.
I made this pie a day or two before all of us fell sick (rest assured that the two events are totally unrelated). There were some leftover old apples and over-riped bananas on the table (as usual). I didn't want to make another apple/banana pie so decided to add some pineapples in it to give it a more exotic taste. Then I thought why not a coconut crumble top - it would go very well with it. Originally I wanted to use a plain pie crust but was inspired to make a nutty pie crust for a change. All those ideas combined this over-the-top recipe :
Hazelnut Pie Crust (variation over a classic sweet pie crust)
Hazelnut Pie Crust
The whole pie itself tasted not bad at all - it has a different taste at each bite : sometimes apple/banana and other times pineapple/apple or banana. I was expecting a tangy and strong pineapple taste but was rather disappointed with the weak pineapple flavour. Pierre felt that I didn't put in enough pineapple whereas I felt that I should have used fresh pineapple instead of canned ones (but I had an old can lying around).
Adding the dark chocolate wasn't a wise choice as we found out that it overwhelmed the whole taste of the pie whenever we took a bite that has chocolate in it. So it's best to omit it.
As noted above, it would have tasted better if I had used fresh pineapple and the juice of the pineapple for the syrup spread instead.
For the crumble, it would have been better to just use only grated coconut sans flour.
My sincere apology for the delay in posting my mushroom recipe. Settling back to normal daily routine with a little one is hard and difficult after a summer vacation... plus I wanted to get good and precise mushroom informations, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I expected (partly because it's very different between French and English names).
I'm also so sorry for not having new pictures today. Here's a word of advice: when the new Windows Vista tells you that there's a problem with your memory card and ask you if you want to fix it, what it really means is if you want all your precious and perfectly fine pictures to be definitely and permanently wiped out.
As I was saying in my mushroom post, picking mushrooms was very exciting and fun - time just flew by while we were in the forest (to me it seems like the time has come to a stand still - just the gently cool breeze that blew at you once in a while, the sound of birds chirping... well including an occasional barking intrusion from the hunters' dogs.) I'm so lucky to have in-laws who love nature and who love picking mushrooms or else I wouldn't have the opportunity to ever experience this. I personally can't identify which mushrooms are edible and which aren't... it's Michèle, Patrick and Irène who guided me. Sometimes we will pick up a mushroom that we are curious about or not so sure of their edible state... once home, my parents in-law usually check out the unsure ones with their mushroom encyclopedia.
The hard work on mushroom trips is to re-identify them and sort it out by the species and throw out whatever that we aren't sure off or too old. This is to make sure that there are no poisonous mushrooms in it. Then we clean some of the mushrooms, try getting the worms and bugs out of the mushrooms by placing a plastic film over it to seal off air. After a few hours or overnight, all the bugs will come to the surface.
First an obvious disclaimer: picking mushroom and eating them can be dangerous, and sometimes deadly. Some poisonous mushrooms can look eerily similar to edible ones. You should not engage into it without taking all necessary precautions, including asking a specialist (in France, pharmacists are trained to recognize mushrooms and will traditionally help identify them, free of charge). Although I've done my best to be accurate, mushroom informations below could be inaccurate and should not be relied on when evaluating mushroom edibility or toxicity.
Judy guessed it right that I'm making a pie out of it while Gourmet Traveller,, Orchidea and Karin's sharp eyes identified: cèpes, Chanterelles and craterelles from the basket. To be more precise we had :
Creamy béchamel sauce
Creamy béchamel sauce
I didn't know a mushroom pie could be this delicious. The full woody flavour of the mushrooms just fill up your taste buds and the creamy sauce just heightens up everything. It was so good that everyone was fighting for the last piece ... hehehe ... guess who won the last slice? Bet you would never guess it.
Ok... people there is a mystery price to be won here ... whoever gets it right first gets a French specialty from this region and if the winner is a French, gets an Asian specialty instead.
The bring out the goodness and full flavour of this pie, it's best to use wild mushrooms, preferably: Craterellus or Black trumpet or Blewit or Chanterelles...or mix of wild mushrooms.
La pissaladière (pissaladiera in Provencal dialect) is a culinary specialty of the region of Nice. As it is some sort of onion pie, it is often considered as a type of pizza, and in fact the traditional Pissaladière is made with bread dough, along with pissalat, a sort of a paste or salted cream made from sardines or salted anchovies which gives this dish its name. As time passed, the pissalat has been replaced by the anchovies cream or filets.
The Pissaladière that I'm going to introduce is a modified version of Michèle's. I haven't forgotten my mushrooms - the recipe will be coming next
Not only it's delicious and flavourful, it's also a simple, easy to fix and healthy meal (unlike your regular pizza, no cheese or sausage in there ). It's an effective solution to get kids to eat veggies.
It tastes great even without the herbs sprinkled on top of it. The sauté onions just bring out all the delicious flavour.
I've been wanting to bake an apple pie with almond fillings for some time, but I couldn't find an apple pie recipe that would fit the bill in any of my books. So I decided to be a bit creative and modify an existing almond pie recipe. I started from a Bakewell tart, which combines an almond filling over a layer of jam. I replaced the jam with slices of apples instead and prayed for the thing to turn right.
What got me motivated to make the pie today was this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge 19 - Dinner and a DVD. You have to cook something to match one of your favourite movies. In this case guess which one goes with the apple pie... ? Yup, the famous teen comedy American Pie, where the poor and innocent pie suffered a humiliating fate. While my recipe is far from the classical apple pie, I hope it'll satisfy all the apple-pie lovers out there... but it's probably better enjoyed eaten
(adapted from Bakewell tart recipe)
It turned out surprisingly good. While it's a bit short of sugar for Pierre, it was most appreciated by the rest of the family. The texture is moist and soft, and has a nice almond flavor which fits very well with the apples.
In my hurry to get the pie ready for dinner, I forgot to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top of the apples as I had originally planned. And I would put more layer of apple slices (if thinly sliced) on the bottom and thicker slices on top.
I was at Michèle's place recently and was browsing through her small but valuable library of cook books when one titled Tourtes, feuilletés et autres pies caught my eye. On the front cover was this delicious looking meat pie that had me drooling over it. There are a lot of interesting recipes in this book and I couldn't decide which to try it out ... so here comes Pierre, my knight in shinning armour (or more exactly a Mystic Blue coupé - times change) to the rescue. After browsing the book for a long while and salivate at a few pages, he picked on this interesting recipe and this is what we had for dinner that day.
(taken from Tourtes, feuilletés et autres pies by Anny Mayer-Armbruster)
Preparation: 30 minutes
Baking: 40 minutes
This is the first time I'm baking this dish so I wasn't sure what to expect. For me, the pie itself taste fine: it has the nice flavour of the meat and cabbage, but it's overall kinda flat (a feeling that my in-laws also share). Perhaps I'm used to eating my food with lots of spices and not used to something that is relying more on just its flavour without any spices enhancing it. Pierre on his side somewhat likes it (funnily for someone who doesn't really like cabbage) and had a second helping too, but felt that there was way too much stuffing.
In preparation of this pie, I forgot to mince the apples together with the turkey meat so I did them both separately. We replaced the dry white wine with apple cider (we ran out of white wine in our cave and since we have apples in the recipe, we thought «why not?») and thick crème fraîche instead of the liquid version. We were somewhat taken aback by the large quantity of water that our stuffing produced during cooking and baking. In the end we had to scoop out the water. We don't know if this is due to the fact that we used apple cider instead of wine (we don't believe it should make much of a difference) or maybe I didn't drained the cabbage well.
We both felt that there was way too much meat in this pie compared to the quantity of crust, and would recommend cutting the quantity by 1/3 if you attempt the recipe. Also the book called for 1/3 of the turkey to be cubed. To us, it doesn't really make a big difference in taste and the chunks of meat aren't very nice to munch.
When choosing savoy cabbage, choose a head that's heavy for its size. The leaves should be crisp, not limp, and there should be no sign of browning. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.
This is another French recipe from my mother-in-law, Michèle. This big potato pie is rather delicious, and as often in this case, not the best thing for your diet ! It goes well as a side with some meat, but we also like to eat it as a main course (with salad) since you are unlikely to end up hungry after downing a portion
Well my first attempt at it turned out to be a masterpiece, although a bit by accident: I added a bit more bacon then normal (the "official" recipe use only 150 g) to finish a box, and the potatoes were well cooked to the point of melting in your mouth. With the cream, the result is a very delicious (and rich) texture, smooth in the mouth and with that tasty smoky bacon flavour. Yummy ! The crunchy crust around makes the whole experience even better. This is definitely one of Pierre's favorite recipe as well
Some variants skip the bacon but use a lot of parsley to enhance the flavor. We are not a big fan of parsley but if that's your thing, you might like to have a go at it.
Today I would like to introduce to you a very simple and delicious traditional dish of Alsace (eastern of France): the tarte flambée (in Alsatian Flammekueche or in German Flammkuchen). It's a sort of «Alsacian pizza», although its history is absolutely not related in any way with the famous Italian treat (except maybe as the inspiration for what is known today as «white pizzas»).
My first meeting with Miss Tarte Flambée was for a dinner at Michèle's place (my mom-in-law) in 2002. I was surprised by the simplicity and easily available materials for dressing up Ms Flambée and my, she is delicious too. Since then, I have met Ms Flambée several times, and I'm sure your friends and family would love her as much as we do.
Here's Michèle's recipe:
Baking: about 20 minutes
Makes: 4 person
It's in no way an high-end super-complicated dish to make, but it's certainly delicious and satisfying. I bought the bread dough directly from my favorite local bakery, and the delicious crust that it became made the experience even more enjoyable
You might want to let the dough rise before flattening it, then let it rise some more. Another version is using only crème fraîche without the eggs. Some people also add cheese or, mushrooms on top, but this is a departure from the original recipe.
The other day I was trying to figure out what do with 3 ripe juicy golden apples and 2 bananas sitting on my kitchen table. After much thinking, I said to myself 'hey, why not bake an Apple-Banana Chocolate Crumble?' Here's how it turned out :
Baking : 50 minutes
Makes : 1 - 12" pie
Pie Crust - sweet version (La pâte sablée)
Normally I bake this pie with only apple fillings but I have decided to try it out with banana to see how the flavour would turn out. I added dark chocolate pieces to it just for my other half because he loves chocolates. To my surprise, it turned out to be very good. It has a nice mixed aroma of apple and banana with melted dark chocolate without any of them overpowering the other flavour.
The other day I baked this pie using only 3 apples and with milk chocolate simply because I didn't have any dark chocolate at that time. It turned out as delicious as usual but both of us agreed that an extra apple in the pie would taste better and that the dark chocolate version tasted better.
As I do not like overly sweet stuff, this pie is just "nicely sweet". So for those who prefers it to be sweeter, please add more sugar to the crumble and sugary cinnamon spread.
If you cannot find any golden apples, royal gala is equally good as a replacement.
Sweet dough pie is rather fragile and it breaks easily. That's the reason why I rolled out the dough on a piece of cloth because it is easier to maneuver and transferring it to the pie dish than baking paper.