SP-Peach-&-Ginger-Floganard 

‘Same Same, But Different’.….This was the slogan written on the shirts my brother brought back from South-East Asia for Olivier’s stag party. Odd that this phrase should pop into my head when cooking but it really does answer the question  “What is the difference between clafouti and flognard???”

For the purists in this world clafoutis is a desert made with whole cherries and a sweet batter poured over the top.  A clafouti made using any other type of fruit ie) peaches is called a flognard or flaugnarde.

I often make this dish as it is a quick and easy summer desert. If you are pressed for time, don’t bother peeling the peaches or substitute them for red plums! This recipe calls for standard ingredients that you should have on hand, and if you are without cream just use extra milk. A dusting of powdered sugar (icing sugar) adds a nice touch for serving.

RECIPE

VIENNESE SHORTBREAD

13 May 2009

SP-Viennese-Shortbreads

SHORTBREAD : I have always liked butter…. but in small quantities – feeling that too much of a good thing overwhelms the pleasures of the palate. Unfortunately, when I was a little girl my grandfather did not share these sentiments, and when asked to make us sandwiches for tea, he was prone to far more generous layers of butter, than bread & cucumber combined. There was then a mad dash to remove 90% of the golden spread & hide it in a napkin, before he returned to check that everything was ok!

All this being said, there is one area of baking where the less is more butter philosophy is brought into question – this being sablé (shortbread) cookie making. Butter is the defining building block, the foundation of this biscuit, without which you would be left with smiply flour & sugar. It’s quality is therefore of the utmost importance and once you have tasted these cookies, home made with fresh butter, you understand why the storebought variety always seems to have this slightly unpleasant aftertaste … it’s the butter.

It reminds me of the final scene in the movie ‘Mostly Martha’, where Martha (a famous Hamburg Chef) tastes the lemon tart her psychiatrist has prepared for her, using her recipe.

  • some thing’s not right… she says
  • how can that be? I followed your instructions to the letter?… he replies
  • you heated the oven to exactly 210°?
  • yes
  • you didn’t over knead the pastry?
  • no
  • and the sugar, did you use Belgian sugar?
  • Do you mean to say that you can tell what kind of sugar I used?
  • No, of course not, but I can tell what kind you DIDN’T use!

SHORTBREAD

RICE PUDDING

21 April 2009

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Rice Pudding

RICE PUDDING

It is funny how you grow up believing that certain foods should be made in certain ways. It is hard to break the mould of family tradition, especially for tried, tested and true recipes.

My English grandmother always made rice pudding in the oven, with butter, nutmeg, sultanas and fresh full fat milk, delivered in glass bottles to the house each day. As children we adored having the responsibility of leaving the small green token for the milkman, along with the empty bottles for him to collect and replace with filled ones. When you peeled back the thin aluminium cap, there was a thick layer of cream that had settled on the top.  Who ever was in charge of the tokens was in charge of the cream!

Thus for me this recipe was made in the oven, baked until a nice golden crust formed on top. It was only recently that I changed my tune and now enjoy stirring a steaming pot of this creamy desert on the stove top. One advantage I found to making rice pudding this way, is that you can better control its consistency, avoiding the disappointment of the desert drying out. And if you do not like nutmeg or cardamom, as mentioned in my recipe, you can replace these spices with half a vanilla bean!

RICE PUDDING

CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE

9 March 2009

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Chocolate lava cake

Molten chocolate lava cakes have become quite the talk of the town in recent years – slightly crispy exterior opening to reveal a melting chocolate heart! They really are the best of both worlds… a chocolate pudding & chocolate cake combined.

Though I have to admit that I have shied away from serving these lovely cakes at dinner parties, as the whole de-moulding process can go so terribly wrong – towers cracking, chocolate promenading, desert plates ruined.

It was Katya’s TEA CUP idea that solved the problem! Five to six cups (sturdy Ikea variety works best), are buttered & sprinkle with crystally demerara sugar, then covered with unctuous chocolate batter. After being perfectly cooked, they are served with a dollop of whipped cream & powdered with coco or spice.

The presentation is beautiful, the taste divine & gone is the impending doom of serving. You don’t even need to rush out & buy expensive fancy moulds to make this desert!

See link ‘Chocolate lava cakes‘ below for recipe:

CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKES

BRIOCHE BREAD

5 March 2009

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Brioche Bread

BRIOCHE BREAD RECIPE : My mother-in-law has a black-belt in bread making, especially when it comes to her famous Swiss tresse (braided pain brioché). But I am getting ahead of myself and if I am going to tell a story it’s best told from the beginning.

Before I met Olivier’s family, breakfast for me was a non event. It was generally eaten quickly, on the run, out the door to work. So it will come as no surprise to you that a quick fruit, piece of toast or cereal, was all that was on the menu.

My sad petit déjeuner habits were interrupted one Sunday, when I was invited to Olivier’s parents for breakfast. Sweet idea I thought – though someone really should have warned me not to eat for several days before, entering what I can only describe as, a Roman feast…..

BRIOCHE BREAD

CARROT CAKE

25 February 2009

sp-french-carrot-cake

FRENCH CARROT CAKE – a Journey

Can I tell you a secret?

I have always had a terrible weakness for American style carrot cake – the soft, moist slices, filled with spices and topped with thick cream cheese icing. However when it came to the subject of nuts – as far as I was concerned they had no business being in my carrot cake. That was until now.

It all started with my new French cook book, Des Recettes du Potager. On first glance this little green book is filled with savoury recipes for garden vegetables, but on closer inspection I found 1 or 2 sweet treats nestled inside. One of these was le carrot cake, made with ground toasted hazelnuts!

The French are famous for knowing a thing or two about baking, so why oh why did I have so much drama with this new recipe??? The first time I made this cake I followed the recipe to a T, and from an outsiders perspective I had triumphed – the cake rose well, had a nice crusty golden outside & soft moist inside. I especially like the small twist of flouring the cake pan with brown sugar (cassonade), which added a sweet caramel effect. But that’s where the joy ended. Taking a bit of this lovely looking cake, my 1st thought was, oh how delicious …., then wait, hold on, what’s that funny aftertaste, a sort of acidity that rests on your tongue, lingering in the background. Another bite confirmed that I was not hallucinating.

So it was back to the drawing board, for trail N°2. This time I replaced the ground toasted hazelnuts with almonds  & used chestnut flour instead of all-purpose white. The result was better, as the aftertaste was less noticeable, but it was still there, lingering, & I wasn’t happy.

You see – drama drama drama drama.

Story Continued + CARROT CAKE recipe

SHORTBREAD

19 February 2009

sp-stbread-cookies-sables

SHORTBREAD :

JUST CALL ME MELLOW YELLOW : Field Guide to Butter & Baking

Recently I have been reading the book TASTE by Kate Colquhoun, in which she describes the creation of English butter as an accident! When people travelled, cream was stored in leather pouches, which bumped and jostled along the route, until it thickened and turned into butter.

I remember learing how to make butter in kindergarden, it was like a field trip – but in the classroom! First we had to quietly get into a straight line (which was easier said than done for 15 little girls) and then each of us was given a glass jar, into which the teacher poured lovely thick cream. Tightly closing the lid, we shook the jars, watching in amazement as pale yellow islands gradually formed. Pouring out the remaining milk, we pressed the butter to remove excess water, rinsed & dried each cube & voila homemade butter!

Butter may have been simple to make but I’ve found that  it can be delicate to cook with, especially when it comes to baking. The New York Times has a great article on how butter holds the key to making great cookie, which seemed particularly appropriate to my current post, as one of only three main ingredients used is BUTTER!

THE BUTTER GUIDE – Here is a snippet:

  • Cold butters ability to hold air is the key to prefect dough / pastry!
  • Creaming butter softens it & adds the air bubbles
  • Preparing refrigerated butter for creaming: Cut butter into cubes, spread out on a plate & leave at room temp (do not use microwave or oven)
  • Ready to cream test: when butter is still cool but takes a finger imprint when gently pressed
  • Cream for at least 3 minutes at medium speed

SHORTBREAD

HONEY CAKE

19 January 2009

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HONEY CAKE, oh honey honey!

Happy New Year! My warm wishes for 2009 are a little late coming this year , as I caught a nasty flu bug my 1st week back to work & it wouldn’t let go. However I am now feeling much better and am back in the kitchen to prove it.

To get the ball rolling I decided to make my Aunt Elise’s New Years Honey Cake.  However on reading down the list of ingredients I hit a road block…. self raising flour…. why oh why…. well I can tell you why, my aunt is from England, as is her recipe and like most English baking recipes it lists this kind of flour. The only problem is, you CAN’T BUY IT in Switzerland.  But you can make it! So if you can’t move the mountain to Mohamed, move Mohamed to the mountain –  I like applying this philosophy to the kitchen!

Self-Rising flour is simply flour that contains baking powder and salt. Mystery solved. However I do not normally use this type of flour 1. because I cannot buy it locally  & 2. because I prefer to add my own baking powder and salt – it has a better raising effect. Plus if you store self raising flour for too long the baking powder loses some of its strength and your baked goods don’t rise as nicely.

Self raising flour basic recipe:

  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1 cup (125 grams) of all-purpose flour

Mix the ingredients well together, and voila!

HONEY CAKE