Monthly Archives: December 2009

Missing France

I’m sitting in my friend’s dorm in London, watching youtube videos before heading out to the Tate Modern and other activities of a touristy nature. Just returned from an amazing week in Berlin, Brussels, Bruges, and heading to Canterbury in 2 days…

but sort of wishing I was still in France.

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A snow storm.

Grenoble gave me one last present today with a healthy dose of Alpine snow. The presence of the unbelievably huge and fluffy snowflakes made the last day unbelievably surreal.  I walked around my neighborhood a little to play in the snow. Here are some pictures.

Laura and I had brunch to work through a fairly intense hangover at fittingly named  La Bon’Heure, a restaurant that could only be justly described as a French diner. I had a Croque Madame Savoyarde. It gets the Savoyarde description because unlike the usual gruyere/emmental cheese, you could choose between regional Reblochon or Beaufort. I went with Beaufort because I had never tried it before. It marks the 5th regional cheese tasted (Reblochon, Bleu de Bresse, Saint Marcellin, and Vacherin before that)  and a happy close to my gastronomical adventures here in the Rhône-Alpes region. For my last dinner, my host family recreated a Christmas dinner for me and gave me 2 cookbooks (one of sauces and one of quiches)! I feel so lucky to have been placed with them.  Having a holiday dinner with them, however, does make me miss holiday dinners with my own family.

It’s just past 12 and technically Saturday, but it doesn’t feel possible that I am leaving France later today. I am not ready to leave and don’t feel ready to head back to Swarthmore…

Comics and Doodles and Good Byes

Having 10 hours of French language class a week begins to wear on you by around week 2. My friend Laura coped by constructing elegant postures to hide her napping habit. I, on the other hand, doodled… constantly. Whether attempting to master the Times New Roman font in pen or drawing people in my class (and in the case of German vocab master, turning them into pirates), I was left with a collection of hundreds of sheets covered in doodles.

I also took a comic book class this semester. For our final, two of us decided to get our hands dirty and attempt our own comic books, along with an accompanying critical essay. 10 pages of critique and 3 extremely unfinished looking pages of comic strips later, I am handing it all in tonight at our farewell dinner. This marks the close of my semester abroad and my delusions that I actually know how to draw. I have so much respect for illustrators and comic book makers, it’s unreal.

To be honest, I’m feeling really sad about leaving France. It has been an amazing semester and I thank my host family and the warm people of Grenoble… and the fine artisan bakers for making it so special. This sadness is tempered by excitement to travel to Berlin, Brussels, Bruges, and London with my friend Jon before returning stateside. This will be my last post until 2010, so happy holidays and New Year and all that jazz.

Jumping the gun: Early New Years Resolutions

In the midst of a late night (read 2:42 am) paper writing session, and a momentary feeling of writer’s block, I have decided to use this time to announce publicly my resolutions for 2010. Please don’t be surprised that all of them listed here revolve around food, as it is in the title of the blog and is the focus of most of my non-school efforts. I probably will think of something non-food related at a later, more appropriate date. I have listed them in order of importance/urgency, to know which ones need to be handled sooner than others.

1. Decide between Local Agriculture/Slow Food Movements in Philly or Issues  in Anti-Hunger Advocacy in DC for my thesis topic and, subsequently, my summer plans.

2. Perfect the Macaron. These light, meringue based marvels are the fashionable pastry equivalent to cupcakes in France, except that they are impossibly difficult to make and, therefore, the perfect challenge for a fledgling pastry warrior. Flavors to learn (starred* flavors are ones that I have thought of as potentially great macarons, while the rest are flavors that exist in pastries around France): Chocolate, Raspberry, S’mores, Caramel Apple, Orange Blossom, Matcha Green Tea/Sesame, Red Velvet*, Mud Pie*, Blueberry Rosemary (inspired by a Cocktail)*, and Tomato Basil Mozzarella (my host mom told me about a baker at her office who makes savory macarons, and the idea does sound fairly crazy, potentially delicious)

3. Become a soup master. I don’t know what else to say about this one really, other than that I have realized abroad I really really like soups. Perfect comfort food, very nourishing, endless flavor combinations. 

4. Learn to make jams with the proportions the woman in Provence taught me. (Fig/Ginger, Strawberry, and Abricot). 

5. Open online Coconut Cake Wedding Cake Shop. I know I probably (definitely) won’t sell any, but it will give me the chance to make a really really big version of my favorite recipe of coconut cake (which I have yet to share on ff&f) and maybe one day add other items (like macarons and jams, made to order). 

I’m not going to reread what I wrote, because it will be funny in the future to have proof of my slow descent into madness during finals season abroad.

Nicole’s Perfect Pâte brisée.

My cooking teacher, Nicole, is a 60 something (if I had to guess) year old culinary school grad and daughter of a pastry maker . This means that she knows practically everything you’d ever want to know about French cooking. Our course is designed to teach us simple, versatile, and traditional French cooking that we can bring back home with us. While I absolutely adore her, I feel like I am walking on egg shells in her kitchen the entire class. I am told that I consistently under-salt and over-pepper, and all my work is double checked. So far, I have been doing everything to Nicole’s satisfaction (except for one Bechamel incident which wasn’t entirely my fault) and the course is definitely the highlight of my week.

One of the recipes that I am most grateful for is Nicole’s full-proof Pâte brisée recipe. It’s not everyday you get a pie crust recipe that has stood the test of generations of bakers and culinary school instructors. One thing you will notice about this recipe, is that it lacks the egg yolk many other traditional recipes use. I don’t know why, and don’t really care because the result is always a perfectly flaky crust. I asked for Nicole’s permission and she is thrilled to share the recipe with all of you, on the sole condition that you never forget the pinch of salt when you make it. 

Pâte brisée

200 g of Flour

100 g of Butter cut into small cubes (cold)

1 Pinch of Salt (!!!!!)

1/2 a cup of cold water

Combine the butter, flour and pinch of salt together with the tips of your fingers. Nicole explains that the tips of your fingers and your knuckles are the only appropriate parts of your hands to touch the dough, because they store the least amount of heat. Once well combined, add the water and kneed until it forms a ball. If it seems a little dry sprinkle a little water on it and kneed it again. Conversely, if it seems to sticky you can sprinkle a little flour on it continue to kneed. The result should be a firm ball of dough. Let cool in the fridge (or outside in the cold) for 30 minutes before using.

Since making a Leek Quiche with the dough in our course under the watchful (sometimes vaguely threatening) eyes of Nicole, I have used the recipe twice for my own pie creations. The first was an apple pie I made for my host family (who have continued to ask for American treats). I am referring to it as à la Grenobloise because I added local Grenoble walnuts in the topping. The second was for Thanksgiving when I made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie with the recipe. 

I can’t really include recipes for any of the pies since I sort of experimented with all of them (except the pumpkin pie which was just standard back of the can instructions and not worth sharing anyway). Also, the apple pie was not very spicey because my host father doesn’t like cinnamon and the filling wasn’t as syrupy because you can’t get brown sugar in France, so I just opted for cane sugar. The pecan pie was a total guessing game because I substituted 1 cup  of corn syrup for a 454 g can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Needless to say, I will never use corn syrup again because LGS is way more delicious. It gives the pie a really nice caramelly taste instead of just sweetness like corn syrup. 

What I can include is a picture of the apple pie and a picture of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Enjoy!


Early 90’s Music Appreciation Post

I keep listening to The Magnetic Fields’ The Wayward Bus and Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Did anyone else expect college to be sort of like the early 90’s: sullen, flannel-wearing, and Baywatch obsessed? Ok, so maybe that wasn’t my expectation and more of just a strange parallel. 

I love how hilariously bad these vids are, but the Liz Phair one does make me want to do Karaoke a little bit. 

Chocolate Three Ways

OMGOMG I know!! I’m posting a recipe.  This is so strange.

I need this post. I am so swamped with work and ff&f seems like the perfect refuge from papers. Also, I finally got a picture from my professor of this dessert.

Weeks and weeks ago, the Grenoble group celebrated the birthdays of two students. Both are really big fans of chocolate, one so much so that she is willing to be shunned by the French (or so French language professors will have you believe) by drinking hot chocolate at all the little cafes that line the streets of this enchanting city (3 weeks to go and I’m already feeling nostalgic). I opt for “le petit cafe” because social anxiety drives me to conform, and because I really like the little spoons.

At any rate, I figured I’d try my hand at a “trio” of desserts and pretend I was on Top Chef for a night. Everything was really well received, even though I wasn’t thrilled with how the white chocolate on the candied orange peels tasted. *ff&f Warning* Nestle Baking White Chocolate doesn’t melt well at all and tastes funny. 😦 

Moelleux au Chocolat– (Fudgey Chocolate Cake) I have notice that when it comes to their food, French people are extremely precise. It is for this reason that there are three words for chocolate cake (fondant, moelleux, and gateau). I was planning on doing a flourless chocolate cake, which I think falls closer on the range of fondant, but I got nervous as I was chopping the chocolate and opted to add some of flour. After searching around and reading the recommendations of French mothers on a parenting websites’ baking forum, I chose to add 100 g of flour and another egg. The flour brought it more to what I think a moelleux is, but maybe that’s because I soaked it in ganache while it cooled. 😉

Cake

100 g of flour

125 g of sugar

200 g of butter

200 g of baking chocolate

4 eggs

Chocolate Ganache (follow any recipe you find. I think I used the first one that comes up on a Google search for ganache au chocolat, but it made way too much. It calls for 200 gr of chopped baking chocolate, 125 g whipping cream, and 50 grams of butter. Heat the cream and pour over chocolate, then melt in butter. It will look broken and loose at first… don’t panic.)

Cake Instructions:

Melt Chocolate and butter gently in a double boiler. Let cool a bit. Beat eggs and sugar together until pale yellow in color. Pour in chocolate and combine. Stir in flour just until combined. Bake at 375 for 15 to 25 minutes. Poke a few holes on the surface with a fork and then pour ganache over the top, just to cover the surface. Sprinkle some cocoa or powder sugar on top to if you don’t like shiny cakes. 

Hot Chocolate with Sceneted Marshmallows

I wish I kept track of this better, because it was pretty tasty, but for me Hot Chocolate is more of a feeling than a science. I used a mixture of milk and cream because I felt like it. Heat it up with cocoa and cane sugar to whatever intensity and sweetness you like and serve in espresso cups along with the cake and the orange peels. I also added a tablespoon of vanilla sugar to the pot, but usually I’d opt for a little vanilla extract. 

The special part about the hot chocolates was that I served marshmallows made by the amazing chocolate and candy makers at La Culte de Chocolat in Grenoble, along with the cups. They came in  plain, violet, anise, and lemon, but I only went with the first three. Anise was my clear favorite and definitely added a nice flavor to the hot chocolate. 

Candied Orange Peels, Dipped in Chocolate- 

I have explained how to do this in an earlier post (Bread Pudding Recipe), so I’ll keep it brief. Boil the peels in water (just the orange part) twice for 1 minute then boil them in a simple syrup for 5 minutes. Let them cool then dip them in melted chocolate. 

Ps. I’m sure there are a million typos but my English has seriously deteriorated, and I’m tired to edit tonight. Yay ff&f Lives!