Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Flour for European Bakers and a French Sugar to Search Out.

I have to start this post with a big thank you to David Leibovitz and his blog for providing me with the information I needed to bake a good pie crust in France. The first time I made a pie there, last Christmas, I had no idea that the standard all-purpose flour in French supermarkets was not basically the same as American all-purpose flour. Boy was I in for a surprise. When I made a pie crust with my standard recipe it was soft and super sticky. It ended up baking up better than I expected but I knew that I wanted to educate myself about finding an equivalent flour to American AP in France before I baked another pie there. I now know French AP flour is milled more finely and has less gluten. If you read the package label it is type 55 or type 45. The French flour that is equivalent to American AP flour is the organic flour type 65. I found it at an organic chain called Naturalia. DL says that organic type 65 can be found at supermarkets but I did not find it at the store near my son's home in Lyon.
I tried making rolls with type 55 flour because I was curious how it would be for bread. The dough was soft and sticky and I ended up having to knead in more flour to get the proper texture. In France at least when you are working from an American recipe for baking you will have to search out type 65 flour or plan on adjusting the recipe.
One of the pies I made for Thanksgiving in Lyon was pumpkin using the recipe I posted in January 2012. It was the best pumpkin pie I have ever made. Because I was in France I had to use a different sugar and couldn't use canned American pumpkin. Instead of the dark brown sugar found in the US, I used a very dark sugar labeled Daddy Poudre a Maurice Cassonade Coursée. If you should search for it, it comes in a yellow plastic bag. There is another sugar from Maurice sold by Daddy that is in a blue bag which is not as dark. The pumpkin I used was a potimarron which is called a kuri squash in the US. I wanted to bring some of the dark sugar home with me but when I returned to the store they were out of it. I looked for it at a couple of other stores and they didn't have it either. I could only find the lighter sugar in the yellow bag. That means I won't be able to figure out if the better pie was a result of the sugar, the squash, or the combination of the two. Quel dommage!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Banana Bread

My favorite way of using up overripe bananas is to bake banana bread and this is the recipe that I have come up with. If you are baking this in France, like my son who requested the recipe, my favorite food blogger, David Lebovitz, has sources for the buttermilk and baking soda: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/02/american-baking/  He also tells you which French flour will give you the best results when baking from an American recipe.

Banana Bread 
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
butter and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan
Cream the butter and sugar. Sift and measure the flour. Measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk until mixed. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and banana to the butter, sugar, and eggs. fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Place the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350º F oven for about 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes and then remove from the pan.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Piperade

Peppers hanging to dry on a house in Espelette which is in the Basque region of France.













Piperade is a traditional Basque dish made with sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and seasoned with piment d'Espelette, a pepper grown around the French town of Espelette. Piment d'Espelette has a mild heat and is delicious on a variety of foods from vegetables to popcorn, one of my husbands favorite ways to use it. Piperade is traditionally served with chicken or eggs but is excellent with most any meat that you would enjoy with red sweet peppers alongside. Leftover piperade is great and we love it with spätzle which makes for a German-Basque fusion meal. Our first introduction to piperade was when our French daughter-in-law made it for us and the recipe I use is based on her recipe. Though it is best made with pimento d'Espelette, and I have always made it with the Basque pepper, it is not easy to find in the U.S. You will likely have to order it online. I have read that you can substitute hot paprika or mild New Mexico chile powder.

Piperade
1.25 lb tomatoes
3 large red sweet peppers, seeded and cut in julienne
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut in julienne
6 slices thick cut bacon, the best you can find, cut in lardons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
salt to taste
2 tsp piment d'Espelette
1 tblsp honey
Brown the bacon in a deep heavy pan, I use my le Creuset Dutch oven. When the bacon is cooked remove it and put it aside until the dish is finished, leaving the fat in the pot. Peel and cut the onions into julienne. Add the onions to the pot with the bacon fat and let them cook over medium low heat while you prepare the other vegetables. Give them a stir from time to time. Remove the seeds from the peppers and cut them into julienne. Add them to the pot with the onions. My daughter-in-law removes the skins from the tomatoes, but I don't. So it is your option whether to do it or not. If you choose to, cut an x into the end opposite the core and dip in boiling water for about 1 minute. Place in cold water. The skin should come right off. Core the tomatoes, slice them in half across the equator and gently squeeze out the seeds into a bowl. Cut the tomatoes into large dice and add them to the pot. Put the tomato seeds and any juice with them into a food mill. Put all the juice recovered from the seeds into the pot. Add the herbs, honey, and piment d'Esplette. Bring the heat under the pot up to medium high, when the contents just come to a low boil, cover the pot and lower the heat so that the piperade will just simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Piperade is one of those dishes that is better the next day. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quick and easy ways to enjoy funny looking root vegetables

We signed up for a weekly delivery of fresh locally grown vegetables. Given the time of year and climate, this means lots of root vegetables.

As a Finn, it's hard to think of kohlrabi as anything other than a classic Christmas casserole dish. Turns out that peeled, raw and sliced appropriately, it is a delicious dipped in hummus (and presumably anything else you may enjoy dipping, say, a carrot, in). So easy and so yummy.

Once I google imaged 'root vegetable that looks like ginger' (and yes, google auto filled this search about half way through) we determined that we had received a Jerusalem artichoke. I'd feel a little rude posting the recipe we ended up using in full here, so I'm going to link to the delicious recipe for oven caramelized Jerusalem artichokes instead. It was unbelievably tasty. We dipped in clarified butter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dorie Greenspan's Swedish Visiting Cake

Three friends of mine have asked for this recipe and so I thought I would add it to my blog to have it easily found in the future. This cake is super quick and easy to make, with very little mess. A 9" cast iron frying pan is perfect for baking it. The cake is firm like a pound cake which makes it easy to eat with your fingers. It is wonderful with a cup of tea.

Swedish Visiting Cake
1 cup sugar plus a little more for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (Dorie says it is optional, but I think it is necessary)
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, I left it out)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tblsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
about 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a seasoned 9" cast-iron frying pan or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9" round cake pan or a pie pan.
Put the sugar into a bowl, add the lemon zest and rub it into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts if you use them. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Then fold in the melted butter. Put the batter into the baking pan you are using and smooth the top with the spatula. Scatter the almonds on top and then sprinkle with a little sugar. Place the pan on a baking sheet at the middle level of the oven. (I neglected to do this the last time I made it and it didn't seem to make a difference. I was using a cast-iron frying pan and it may be more important if you are using a lighter weight pan.)
Bake the cake 25-30 minutes, until it is golden and a little crisp on the edges. Run a thin knife around the sides to loosen it. You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the pan or on a serving plate. Cut into small wedges and eat it with your fingers. The cake keeps well for up to 5 days and will freeze well if you need to keep it longer

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Steak in Tortillas with Fresh Avocado Salsa

This is a dish that is loved by both my sons and now that they are married, by their wives. I have to make it for them every time they come home to California. This is a dish that is by far the best during tomato season. If you want to make it at another time of year, use cherry tomatoes. If you can't find Anaheim chiles, also called green chiles, you may substitute poblano chiles. The steak should be marinated at least 6 hours, overnight is better. If you can find masa harina and have a tortilla press, make your own tortillas. The recipe is based on one that can be found in Sunset Favorite Recipes II.

BBQ Steak
1.5 to 2 pounds sirloin steak
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry oregano or 1.5 tsp fresh
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
Combine the marinade ingredients in a container which closely fits the steak. Add the steak, cover, and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours. If the steak is not covered by the marinade because the container doesn't fit closely enough, flip it over several times.
When you are ready to cook the steak, remove it from the marinade, let it drain, and cook it over glowing coals until it is done the way you like it. We like it medium rare. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes. Slice the steak diagonally across the grain into strips and then slice the strips into bite size pieces.

Fresh Avocado Salsa
4 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or 1 basket cherry tomatoes, halved
3 green onions (scallions), both white and green part, finely chopped
3 tablespoons canned Anaheim chiles, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 Haas avocados, diced just before serving
Combine all the ingredients except for the avocados in a bowl and cover. Let sit for a few hours at room temperature for the flavors to blend. If you must prepare the salsa earlier, refrigerate and then allow to come to room temperature before serving. When the steak is off the bbq, fold the avocado into the salsa.

Make 18 corn tortillas and keep warm or wrap purchased ones in foil and heat in the oven.

Serving
Place several pieces of steak on a warm tortilla, top with a large spoonful of salsa, fold and enjoy.
Serves 6




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flammkuchen aka Tarte Flambee aka Alsatian Pizza

I've gotten quite a taste for the old Flammkuchen since being in Germany. They tend to be always a reliable and inexpensive option anywhere you eat, and it's hard to beat the combination of bacon, onions, and creme fraiche. But I wanted to do as my sister-in-law did, which was turn it into a quick and satisfying weeknight meal.

Unlike in Saarland, which is reasonably close to Alsace, we don't have a decent pre-made dough in the
Do you really have a better idea for dinner tonight?
stores, (the only option being some pre-made pizza kit which included what must have been a dreadful tomato sauce). So I hit the internets and was pleasantly surprised that one can make the dough without yeast, thus saving loads of time. After trying a few I found I was happiest with the "einfacher," or simple and easy, Flammkuchen. I've already got the recipe memorized and now can crank it out quick and easy.

Toppings:
50g chopped and cooked bacon
Creme fraiche
Red onion and shallot

Dough:
200g flour (about 1 1/3 cup)
110ml water (just under 1/3 of a cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the dough ingredients, gather into a ball and work a few times so it has some cohesion. Don't work too much or it will be harder to roll. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit in the 'fridge for 30 minutes if you have time.

Preheat oven, hot is good. Pull dough out of 'fridge, roll out thin. Cover with creme fraiche and tasty bits, then throw in oven. Let bake until edges of dough brown a touch. Remove, divvy, eat. You can have this thing from start to table in 45 minutes once you get it down.