A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Last Sunday, all mothers and mothers-to-be celebrated Mother's Day in France. This year, Little One's class, together with their teacher, made a lovely heart-shaped card with a poem and a hanging mirror with crystals all around it. What a lovely surprise gifts! Little One had been so excited about it and couldn't wait for Mother's Day to give it to me. The poem says 'There are millions of bees in hives, there are millions of birds in trees but there's only only 1 mommy.' Although it's not written by her, still I can't help being all weepy about it. Yes, us women and our hormones...
To celebrate this special day, we decided to make a lovely strawberry tart with crème patissière as strawberries season has just began. They are still kind of expensive but heck, why not indulge ourselves?
This is a very simple yet tantalisingly delicious tart to put together. Definitely an all time family favourite.
Pâte Sablée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)
Making Crème Patissière
Assembling Strawberry Tart
This is one of Pierre's favorite dessert: it is sweet and provided you put it in the fridge before serving, very refreshing as the water and crème stay cool. All those components (crust, crème patissière and of course strawberries) actually can be eaten on their own, but together they also form an amazing combination!
If you have a food processor, to save time, process the dough ingredient with it. And if you can't bake your dough on the same day, wrap the raw dough pasty in a cling film and put it in the refrigerator - it can stay there for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months. When required, simply defrost it slowly in the refrigerator.
Strawberries are very perishable, so only purchase them a few days prior to use. Choose those that are firm and have shiny deep red colour with attached green caps. When buying prepackaged strawberries, make sure they are not packed tightly and the container looks clean (no sign of stain or moisture). Before storing it in the refrigerator, check for any strawberries that are mouldy or damaged. Remove them from the the good ones or they will not contaminate others. Store them unwash in its container in the fridge.
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.
Peachy! that's exactly how I would describe Little One, in spite of the fact that she is currently having a bad case of flu. One would think a child this sick would sleep through the night. No, not my daughter. She has to be special... waking up every few hours through out the night. I don't know which is scarier - being caught in a nightmare or being woken up from a nightmare with sound of your bedroom door opening, someone calling out 'mommy' sending your heart 'boom boom boom' hurling off your chest. Oh mind you, she wasn't cranky with sleepy eyes, she was in fact very much wide awake like 'ok, I'm done with sleep. Now it's time to get up and play', even talked and joke with me while I accompanied her several times back to bed. Heaven above, give me strength!
Now the other reason for her present state of euphoria : PRESCHOOL! She LOVES it, BREATHES it and EMBRACES it totally. Today, we enter the 3rd week of school and one would think her enthusiasm has worn off... no, no, no. She is excited about it as she did on her 1st day. At the sound of activity in the kitchen in the morning, she would quickly hop out of bed, come down with a keen look on her face: 'mommy, time for school?'. Just last Sunday, she got up early, we were having some quiet time together when suddenly she said: 'Mommy, it's time to dress me up for school or we'll be late..' When I explained to her that there is no school on Sunday, she was crestfallen but immediately cheered up when I told her she has school the next day. I have to say that her enthusiasm for school is quite infectious.
Cute and great as her eagerness might be, it's wearing her parents off. Ever since school started, no ever since she turned 3, she explodes with boundless energy - no matter how little sleep she seems to get. Don't tell me she inherited from her paternal grandfather who needs only 5 hours of sleep. If that's really the case, we are in for a very rough ride. For my sanity sake, I hope it is just a passing phase.
To celebrate the state of Miss Little Peachy, here's a simple recipe taken from Cuisine Vénitienne.
Making the Pastry
Making the tart
Obviously a fruity dessert - if like my other half you are more into creamy, rich desserts this will probably not be your cup of tea. I personally love this tart, the flaky crust, the light sweetness and the peaches whose flavor stays true to the fruit.
The first time I fell in love with the taste of blueberries was my very first waffles with blueberry jam when I was a teenager. It then started in me a blueberry craze - I would buy a slice of cake with blueberry toppings or make a peanut butter-blueberry jam sandwich, blueberry ice-cream etc. I had never seen or tasted the fruit itself (not many growing around Singapore), until I started living in France. While out on a walk in the forest with my in-laws, we came across some blueberries. I picked one up and tasted it - it wasn't anything like I remembered. I was kinda disappointed but all was forgotten when it was presented to me as a dessert.
We were at my in-law's place for the long weekend a week ago, and boy were we in for a real treat of desserts - they picked a bucket full of blueberries in the forest just the day before and made some blueberry yogurt ice-cream with it. As for what was left, we decided to turn it into a blueberry tart.
That pie is great in summer if you put it in the fridge: because of their water content, the cream and blueberries cools down and make for a refreshing dessert. This tart is not too sweet as my in-laws aren't big on sugar, you can turn the knob up by choosing a sweet pastry dough instead and covering the tart with blueberry jam or jelly on top (as many bakeries do) .
This recipe works perfectly with strawberries or raspberries too.
Hope everyone had a good Valentine's day last Saturday.
This is the first year we were alone on Valentine's day. Woke up to no crying toddler, bliss! My honey got up early at 7 am, went out and bought some almonds croissants for breakfast and served me breakfast in bed. Never mind there weren't any flowers... I got breakfast in bed, that counts a lot as it is. There is always room for improvement, isn't it. For lunch, I made Moules marinère (Mussels cooked in white wine) for us. I wanted to make this chocolate cake for our dessert but he surprised me further with a strawberry cake bought from the local bakery. Now that got him another brownie point, don't you think so ? It was a nice and lazy day ... just waiting for Little One to come home from her week long vacation at her grandparents place. YES! you heard right! We had a toddler-free week on our own. I know it sounds horrible to say this but it was pure 'BLISS!' We had a wonderful couplehood time alone - goodness, we needed that so much. We had fun checking out the local restaurants like we used to and we can *censored* whenever we want to without interruptions (that's a big bonus) and wake up late in the morning as we wish. It took me a day or two to switch off my 'mommy mode'.
One thing I would like to remind my readers is to drink lots of water and well hydrate your body. Why do I bring up this subject suddenly? For the past few days I have been having headaches day and night. I took pain killers and try to sleep it off but nothing worked. At first, I thought I was having migraine since some of the symptoms were quite similar to that. After speaking to my sister and checked online for information, I found out that if one is dehydrated, one can get headaches. So since yesterday, I have been drinking lots of water and true enough, my headache did subside a little ... guess I was too dehydrated to even realize it and my body was trying to tell it to me in its own way. So please drink more water - that headache of yours might not be stress related.
Let's move on to something more appetizing ... today, I would like to introduce you to another traditional French dessert called Tarte Grandmère - a very simple and delicious tart. My mother-in-law told me that my hubby and his younger sister would always say this : 'Oh, we have guests tonight.' whenever they saw her making this tart. As it is very rich in calories, she only makes them whenever they have guests over for lunch or dinner.
Pie Crust - sweet version (La pâte sablée)
It is super delicious... so different than a normal apple pie. Whereas plain apple pies can be somewhat acid (depending on your choice of apples), the addition of caramel and butter makes it a lot easier in the mouth. Using salted butter adds an extra oomph, so if you have some around this is the way to go!
According to my mother-in-law, the pie pastry dough would taste even better if leave in the fridge overnight. The flavour of the dough is heighten and it is tastier.
This is a week of strikes - tonight the train is on strike and tomorrow it's the EDF (Electricity) and Paris public transport. Talking about strike, some students of Nantes University are on their 2nd week of strike as well to protest against an education reform. How can students be on strike? That's something that puzzles most foreigners who arrive here, me included. You don't need to go as far as Japan to get "Lost In Translation".
All these strikes bring me to another topic: coconut is my least favourite fruit! (OK, so there's actually no connection whatsoever, but bear with me). I don't like coconut cookies, ice cream or cakes but I love coconut gravies, like curry. Strange isn't it? So why did I make a coconut tart then? Well, one day the cafeteria ran out of sandwiches and all they had were tarts: lemon, chocolate and coconut. I don't like anything that is sourish nor too chocolaty so that left me the coconut tart - no other choice - needed to feed my growling stomach. I was very surprised at how delicious it was. Since then I have been itching to make a coconut tart like the one I have tasted.
Prepare Pie Crust
Prepare the coconut fillings
I was actually expecting a semi-dry filling, but got surprised to get it moist and creamy, almost like a custard. It's delicious though - I ended up covering the tart with a layer of melted chocolate (one side with black chocolate, the other side with milk-chocolate). The combination of coconut and chocolate was really nice - and reminescent of the Bounty chocolate bar.
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.
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.
What made me bake apricots ? The craving came about a week or two ago when I ate some very delicious ones at my mother-in-law's house (it's now apricot's season). Try as I might, I couldn't get them out of my head. When I read about Domestic Goddess' sugar-high fridays, the idea of cooking them Tatin's style came to me - it's one of the richest kind of fruit pie, right ?
The story of the Tarte Tatin invention is a bit fuzzy, but is known to originate from the Hotel Tatin (run by the two Tatin sisters) in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1889. The legend of this upside-down pie claims that it was first made by accident, although reasons for such accident are not very clear. Although the original recipe use apples, variants are now made with other sweet fruits like peaches and pineapples.
Shortcrust pastry (pâte brisée)
Using food processor
Without too much surprise, the apricots make the tart a bit acid, but I kinda like it. The taste grows on you - the full apricot flavour in each bite with a mixture of sweet and acid taste at the same time. To me the pie was as good with ice-cream as on its own. Pierre (who has a sweet tooth) feels that it was nice but it was a bit too acid to his taste, and the ice cream brought a welcome balance. We both felt that another 30 g sugar to the caramel would have made this tart even better, and I could bake it again with pâte sablée instead and maybe try some cinnamon on top (or is that the bottom ?).
I have never made this tart before so I had my doubts on how it would turn out. When I took it out of the oven, the apricots had lost a lot of juice and I thought all this water would ruin the crust and create a disaster. Surprisingly when flipped the baked tart over, it turned out beautifully.
Please add another 30 g of sugar to the caramel base. You can also make the caramel with water instead of butter. The pie would look prettier if you put the bottom side of the apricot on the caramel. There are 2 methods for baking it, one in two steps as I mentioned above and the other method is to simply put the pie crust on top of the apricot immediately and bake them at the same time for about 30 minutes at 200°C.