Christmas baking: Brown sugar pecan sablés

Brown sugar pecan sables (3)

 

Hi everyone!

We’ve entered the second week of December. This means, it’s time for Christmas baking (if you haven’t already done so). I’ve been a little late in Christmas baking this year because I have been stuck baking these sablés; I have baked three batches in the last two weeks.

These brown sugar pecan sablés are as delicious as they are addictive. You can’t stop at one, I guarantee that. The only thing that stops you from having more is the nagging feeling that you might end up with a sore throat if you pop too many of these in one seating.

A bottle of these brown sugar pecan sablés does make for a lovely Christmas gift. Speaking of gifts, I think that the beauty of homemade gifts is fast disappearing. While it may be  convenient to pick up a gift for someone either from a physical store or even from the multitude of online options, a gift that you make with your very own hands tells a poignant story – of your appreciation, love, care for the special someone.

Since I’m not too good with craft work, many of my gifts come in the form of food gifts (which I absolutely love receiving as well as giving).

So before you head out to pick up something  for a friend, colleague, or neighbour, think about the little something you can make for them to spread a little Christmas love and cheer.

Brown sugar pecan sables (1)

Brown sugar pecan sablés
Makes about 40 sablés
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
140g light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
280g plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
90g pecans (toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped)

Method:

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed just until completely smooth and no streaks of better remain.
Mix in the vanilla.
2. Add the sifted flour and salt and beat until incorporated. Stir in the cooled and chopped pecans.
3. Split the dough into three or four portions. Turn out the first portion of the dough onto a sheet of cling film and roll it into a log (About 3cm in diameter). Wrap the log tightly and refrigerate until chilled for at least 1 hour or overnight. Do the same for the remaining portions of dough.
4. When you are ready to bake, use a knife and slice the log into about 0.5cm discs and placed cookies onto a baking parchment lined baking tray. Place the cookies about 2.5cm – 3cm apart as it will spread slightly.
5. Bake in a preheated 180 degrees celcius oven for about 10 -12 min, or until golden brown and firm.

Brown sugar pecan sables (2)

Posted in Baking, Cookies | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Best pâtisseries to visit in Paris

As promised, here is a shortlist of my favourite pâtisseries in Paris. I’ve also included a chocolate shop and a croissant shop (I know they aren’t patisseries but they definitely deserve your attention).

Mont blanc eclair Angelina

1. Angelina

Angelina is a patisserie that you should visit when you are in Paris. Its location makes it very easy to include it in your itinerary. It is along rue rivoli, just opposite the Jardin des Tuileries. If you are visiting the Lourve or shopping along rue Saint Honoré, you should definitely pay Angelina a visit.

There is a tea salon attached to the shop where you can opt to sit down and have a leisurely tea with the lovely pastries or you can do a quick take away like I did. I’ve been to Angelina on both my trips to visit. Angelina’s hot chocolate or chocolat chaud is one of the best that I had – it is rich, velvety smooth and very chocolatey (all in a good way) and you should probably share it so you have some room for the other sweets.

Angelina is also most known for its Mont blancs. The Mont blanc is superb. I love its delicate, crumbly sablé, with its chestnut mousse. Go early for that because it sells out by late afternoon. The Mont Blanc éclair is a good alternative if you can’t get your hands on the traditional Mont blanc.

Angelina
For hot chocolate and mont blanc.
Address: 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001
Nearest transport: Tuileries (1)
Hours: Open every day, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Telephone: 01 42 60 82 0

Gerald Mulot Paris


2. Gérald Mulot

Known for his tarte aux fruits and tarts in general, but I, too, love all his pistachio and berry combinations. His macarons are known to be very good too so try it if you are around the area.Gerald Mulot tartsGerald Mulot shop display

 

Gerald Mulot cakes

Gerald Mulot
For tarts, pastries, cakes
Address: 76 rue de Seine, 75006
Nearest transport: Odéon (4,10)
Hours: Monday-Sunday 6:45am-8:00pm; Closed Wednesday
Telephone: 01 42 78 52 17

matcha eclair

3. Sadaharu Aoiki

What is this Japanese doing in Paris? Sadaharu Aoiki started his first pastry store in Paris before opening up his patisserie in Tokyo. You can find Japanese flavours and inspiration combined with French techniques in his creations. You have to try his matcha (green tea) croissant (it is the best! buttery, flakey and green tea works!) and his matcha éclair, as well as his take on the gâteau Opéra, Bamboo. Other interesting cakes to try are the ones infused with yuzu (a Japanese citrus).

Matcha croissant (1)

Sadaharu Aoiki
Address: 35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006
Nearest transport: Saint-Placide (4)
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 10am-6pm; Closed Monday Telephone: 01 45 44 48 90

Alain Duasse chocolate shop

4. Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse

This shop is resulted when Chef Alain Ducasse couldn’t find a chocolate he was happy with to supply his restaurant. This is a bean-to-bar shop and a paradise for all chocolate lovers. Every bar is made with love and care. You would be hard pressed to leave without finding something you like here.

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
Address: 26 rue Saint-Benoît, 75006
Nearest transport: Saint-Germain-des-Prés (4) Hours: Open every day
Telephone: 01 45 48 87 89

L'eclair de genie

5. L’Eclair de Génie

Love éclairs? This is probably the place to be where you have more than 20 flavours of éclairs to choose from. I had the praline pecan crunch and the passionfruit and raspberry one.

L'eclair de Genie shop

 

 

eclairs and macarons

L’Eclair de Génie
Address: 14 rue Pavée, 75004
Nearest transport: Saint-Paul (1)
Hours: Closed Monday; Open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7:30pm Telephone: 01 42 77 85 11

134 RdT croissant

6. 134 RdT

If you are in the area, do stop by 134 RdT for a croissant. They are not awarded the runner up for best croissants in 2013 for nothing. It is a casual takeaway bakery. The croissant was cold when we had it so it is best if you can bring it back to toast it up. Imagine how that would taste!

croissant

134 RdT
Address: 134 rue de Turenne, 75003
Nearest transport: République (5, 8, 9, 11), Filles du Calvaire (8) Hours: Closed Saturday & Sunday
Telephone: 01 42 78 04 72

pierre herme

7. Pierre Hermé

How can I have left the Picasso of pastry out? It is so hard to pick a pastry when you have to choose just one. Try his assortment of macarons. I love them. Finally tried the white chocolate and olive macaron and I loved it. His tarte infiniment vanille is a beauty and a vanilla lover’s dream come true. It has the loveliest pâte sablée, a creamy, smooth white chocolate ganache with vanilla bean, vanilla bean mascarpone cream, vanilla sponge.

Pierre Hermé (near Le Chocolat du Alain Ducasse)
72 rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
+33 (0)1 43 54 47 77
Nearest transport: Saint-Germain des Prés (4), Saint-Sulpice Opens Mon to Sun, 10am to 7pm

Pierre Hermé (also the patisserie)
185 rue de Vaugirard (15th arrondisement
75015 Paris
+33 (0)1 47 83 89 97
Nearest transport: Pasteur (6,12)

(There are a few other Pierre Hermé stores in Paris but note that some of them only sells macarons and chocolates like the one in Marais and Galleries Lafayette)

 

IMG_2177 Pierre Herme Tarte infiniment vanille

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baking | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Matcha (green tea) madeleines

matcha madeleines (2)

There’s just something particularly French about tea and those shell-shaped madeleines.
Made famous by the French (in the Lorraine region) and Marcel Proust’s novel “In search of lost time” where he wrote about the “madeleine episode”, these shell-shaped cakes are loved by many around the world.

While I was in Paris, I splurged on some Mariage Frères tea and I think it is only fitting that such a splendid tea should be enjoyed with some freshly made madeleines.

I find them particularly irresistible when they are still warm, just minutes out of the oven. Its rich, buttery flavours and its moist and tender crumb is what I love about them.

The only thing not French about these madeleines is its matcha (green tea) flavour. I usuallylove a good lemon madeleine but these matcha madeleines win them hands down. I have not made these matcha madeleines in a long while but I was reminded of them when I saw Sadaharu Aoiki’s version and thought that it’s time that I revisit them.

green tea madeleines

matcha madeleines (6)

matcha madeleines (1)

***

A good madeleine is not technically challenging but it requires quite a bit of care and patience. The batter needs to be rested in the fridge before baking and I usually let it rest overnight – this will give the madeleines their distinct hump.

A traditional madeleine is usually made with the genoise method (which involves beating the eggs and sugar to ribbon-stage before adding the dry ingredients and melted butter) rather than adding baking powder to give it the rise.

You should also butter the madeleine trays generously and place it in the freezer until cold before dusting flour sparingly over the moulds. This helps to release the madeleines easily I like using metal trays, stainless steel better than non-stick. The use of silicon trays give the madeleines a waxy look that I don’t like, they also produce smaller humps though the benefit is that they would not stick at all.

I like piping the batter into the moulds. I find it quicker and cleaner than using a spoon. Give the trays a little tap once you are done piping to knock out any large air bubbles before baking and you will be well on your way to some pretty delicious madeleines.

Another thing about these madeleines is that they are best served fresh (definitely on the same day as it is being made and if possible, immediately). They go a little stale quickly but can be reheated just before eating.

If you are thinking about making these but haven’t quite decided if a madeleine mould is worthy of your investment, you should just get one. I promise that this recipe will give you worthy madeleines that you will be baking over and again.

matcha madeleines (7)

“And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Matcha (Green tea) madeleines

Makes 24 – 28 regular sized madeleines
Adapted from The Ethnic Paris Cookbook by Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije

The recipe can be halved but I prefer making more and keeping the leftover batter in the fridge to be baked on a rainy day where warm madeleines would be very welcomed. It is important to have the eggs at room temperature before baking so they can be whisked to their full volume. The melted butter should be added in when it is cooled and not hot (to prevent the batter from deflating too much).

I bake them – one in stainless steel tray and another in a non-stick metal one. The stainless steel tray gives you the best result (a more distinct hump, even colour).

Ingredients:
230g unsalted butter
240g eggs (About 4 large eggs), room temperature
160g granulated sugar
2 tbsp honey
230g plain flour
2 tsp green tea powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Method:
1. Chop up butter into cubes before melting it over low heat. When the butter is melted, let it cool before using.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, green tea powder and whisk to mix thoroughly.
3. Place the room temperature eggs in a mixer bowl and whisk at medium speed for about 30 seconds.
4. Add in sugar and honey to the eggs and whisk on medium-high speed for about 5-8 minutes until pale, thick. The batter should be at ribbon stage. It is important not to underbeat at this stage.
5. Add in the sifted ingredients in three additions – using a paddle attachment, beat at low speed until just incorporated.
6. Gradually pour in the melted and cooled butter while the mixer is still running. Do not pour all at once if not it will be difficult to incorporate the large amount of butter into the batter. Mix until well-incorporated.
7. Cling wrap the bowl and refrigerate the batter for at least 3 hours or overnight. The batter could be kept in the fridge for up to a few days.
8. Butter your madeleine trays generously especially around the crevices and place the tray(s) in the freezer.
9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Take out the madeleine moulds from the freezer and dust flour over the moulds, inverting the trays to tap our any excess flour.
10. Fill a piping bag and pipe each cavity to about 3/4 full. Since the batter is cold (right out from the fridge), these took about 15 minutes to bake. If you are baking them on the same day of making the batter, they may take a shorter time (check at 10 minutes). The madeleines should be well-risen, with its distinctive hump. The edges should be golden brown.
11. Invert the madeleines onto a wire rack. They should come out easily if you have done a good job at buttering the trays. Best served immediately, dusted with icing sugar, while still warm.

*Storage tip: Eat these immediately or store them in an air-tight container and heat up up until warm before eating.

*Serving alternatives: You can dipped the top of the madeleines in green tea ganache before serving for something a little more fancy.

Matcha (green tea) ganache
To coat all 24 madeleines

Ingredients:
100ml cream
120g good white chocolate, chopped
1 tsp matcha powder, sifted

Method:

1. Heat up cream in a small pot until it begins to boil.

2. Add sifted matcha powder to the chopped white chocolate in a separate bowl.

3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and use a spatula to gently stir until well-incorporated. Allow it to cool (you can cool it in the fridge if needed) until it is thick enough to coat your madeleines so the ganache doesn’t run off.

green tea ganache madeleines

matcha madeleines (4) matcha madeleines (5)

Posted in Baking | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Bonjour Paris: 5 things I love about Paris (Part I)

Paris -view from the eiffel tower

Hello there (or should I say Bonjour!),

Apologies for the absence. I hope you haven’t miss me much.

I’ve been busy after getting back from my travels. I know I should have shared this sooner.

This is my second time to Paris (and it wouldn’t be my last).  Je t’aime Paris.

I love her the first time, maybe more now.

***

Paris bistro

 

The people whom I meet seem to be on two extreme camps when it comes to Paris.  One half of them would be wax-lyrical about Paris – the food, the shopping, the city and anything and everything that they love about the City of Lights. The other half would be say how much they think Paris is overrated and everything they dislike about the city (many of those reasons can be very extreme). I am not sure if it’s just the people I talk to but Paris seem to illicit such a wide spectrum of  intense and extreme emotions.

As for me, you probably would have guessed from my previous blog posts that I belong to the camp who adores Paris. Just to share with you some things I love about this city.

5 things I love about Paris:

Place des Vosges Paris

 

1. J’adore… the architecture and random buildings with rich history and stories that you stumble upon at every turn. It can be an old bookshop where Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce used to frequent (Shakespeare & Company) or the gothic building (Palais de Justice) that has been used as the courthouse during the French Revolution or the blue door that leads to Van Gogh’s home in Paris (54 Rue Lepic) or one of the oldest (and beautiful) squares in Paris, Place des Vosges.

Shakespeare and Company Paris

Gerald Mulot Paris

 

2. J’adore… les jardins (or the gardens)  many of them are so close to the city..like Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. They are beautiful gardens that are big enough for a stroll and probably a good place to rest your tired feet and have some of your takeaway pastries or if you fancy, even a picnic. Angelina is just across the road from Jardin des Tuileries and you can take away some pastries or delicious hot chocolate (if you are there on a cold day). You have to try their Mont Blanc or if they run out of it, the Mont Blanc éclair is delectable too!

Mont blanc eclair Angelina

 

3. J’adore… les gâteaux et pâtisseries (the cakes and pastries, course). Throw in the flakey and buttery croissants, the galaxy of macaron flavours, the chocolates.. Paris is the place to be for all dessert lovers. The Parisians love their sweets and they take pride in making them. There’s so much finesse in all their cakes and pastries. It’s hard for me to pick a clear favourite. I will share my favourite pastry and sweets shops in another post.

eclairs Paris

 

4. J’adoreles arts (the art) that you will find in Paris.  I’m no art history buff but Paris has so much to offer when it comes to art. And I’m not just referring to Musée du Lourve. Musée D’orsay is my favourite and it houses a very well-curated range of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork. Musée de l’Orangerie has some very good pieces, amongst them, Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies) is a piece that has an astounding effect on one.  I guarantee that it will leave you awestruck even if you think you know Monet’s Water Lilies.

Paris 2

 

 

5. J’adore… the long and random (the more random, the better) walks in Paris – the sights and colours, the smells, the sounds. The walks along La Seine is lovely and so is exploration of the Le Marais neighbourhood.  The metro system gets you just about everywhere quite easily and from there you can walk anywhere. It is a walking city and a beautiful walking city that calls out to you to put on some walking shoes and let them take you everywhere.

Paris - Le Marais

Paris 3

Those are just five things I love about Paris. What about you?

x,
Jo

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Pantry staples: Chocolate coated nuts

chocolate coated nuts cover

 

This post doesn’t have a recipe (not quite anyway) and everyone can make these with some good chocolate and some nicely toasted nuts.

My dad loves both chocolate and nuts. He loves them on their own and perhaps more so when they are together. He has a not-so-secret addiction to the Marks & Spencer’s chocolate coated Brazil nuts. My sister is his regular supplier of these treats and buys them for him by the dozens. You should see how quickly he runs through these (almost like a chocolate nut eating machine, if there’s such a thing) especially while watching soccer matches.

I decided to be nice and add to his supply of late-night snacks. I coated some melted Valrhona dark chocolate over some lightly toasted Brazil nuts. I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate and didn’t bother being too neat about them because I wanted these to be as fuss free as possible.

I did the same to some dried apricots and also made some nut clusters using a variety of nuts like almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts. I sprinkled some Murray river’s pink sea salt over them for that bit of saltiness. I would encourage you to do the same for the sea salt just makes it taste better.

I intended these chocolate coated snacks to last him for at least a fortnight but unfortunately, my dearest chocolate and nut eating machine devoured them all in a week!

So yes, this will be a great thing to store away in your pantry for a quick afternoon or after dinner snack for lazy days, provided you don’t have chocolate and nut eating machine like I do.

P.S these would be great to add ice cream!

brazil nuts and sea salt

Recipe: Chocolate coated nuts

Not much of a recipe here. All you need is some good chocolate (you can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate, whichever you prefer) and some nuts. For the nut clusters, you can chop up a variety of nuts and coat them with chocolate as you would with the brazil nuts.

Ingredients:
Brazil nuts
good quality chocolate, chopped

1. Toast nuts lightly in the oven. Let them cool completely while you melt the chocolate.
2. It is best to melt some chopped chocolate over a bain marie.
3. Dip the cooled Brazil nut pieces and remove them with a fork and place them on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Allow them to set before storing them in an air tight container. I keep these in the wine chiller.
chocolate coated nuts and apriocots
chocolate coated nuts 3

Posted in Pantry | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments