Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter / Joyeuses Pâques to all my Peeps!

Non, I did not create this Peep Eiffel.  I am a total idiot when it comes to crafty ideas.  I just stay in the kitchen.  This is Arizona Tammy's Easter hommage to La Tour Eiffel, created out of Bunny Peeps.  For those not in the U.S. or who have been living under a rock, Peeps are a marshmallow concoction with their own webpage.  I rarely buy them.  But  Arizona Tammy bought enough for both of us, n'est-ce pas?

Fun Facts about Peeps (from Son #1 via Yahoo via Good Housekeeping/Shine Food)

1.  In 1953, they made each Peep by hand and it took 27 hours to make each one.
2.  It now takes 6 minutes to make a Peep.
3.  4.2 million Peeps are produced each day.
4.  Each Peep Chick has 28 calories.
5.  3500 candy eyes are produced in 1 minute.
6.  The record for most Peeps eaten in 30 seconds is 25 by Takeru Kobayashi in 2012.

As for moi, I have been looking at all the fun Facebook posts-- from Nutella

 to the new bells at Notre Dame Cathedral who celebrates her 850th birthday this year (from Bonjour Paris)

to a Peep line-up at the Montgomery County Police department

to Virginia Jones' picture of a chocolate Tour Eiffel

to Mme P's oeufs de Pâques. (note the American touches-- baseball and football!)

Son #1 is home for the weekend.  We have taken him to downtown Durham every day that he has been here- from Lily's Pizza at Brightleaf Square to Alivia's to the farmer's market to Bull City Burger and Brewery's Hands on the Bull contest (I was a judge!).  Son #2 went to Florida for spring break and now is back in Knoxville.  The Easter Bunny (and his mommy) miss him.  The Easter Bunny brought a little bit of chocolate to our house.  (There is a secret stash of Cadbury Creme Eggs waiting for Mme P's arrival!  Ne t'inquiète pas, mon amie!)

I got up before anyone else (other than the cats) and turned on Mozart's Requiem in D Minor, dragged Mildred the Mixer out of her hiding place, and started measuring and mixing.

Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake
from Cheryl at The Pampered Chef

For the batter:
3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted

For the topping:
1 c. butter, soft to the point of almost melted
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cinnamon

For the glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
In a large bowl, mix all the batter ingredients together except for the butter.  Once mixed, slowly pour in the butter.  Pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan.

For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well-combined.  Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cake tests done.

Remove from oven.  While the cake is still warm, drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Bon appétit and Happy Easter Bunnies to all!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nutella for breakfast

Well, why not?  Not only Nutella but Nutella and coconut.  Is there a better combination?
Last Friday, I was fussing at myself in front of one of my 7th grade classes about the fact that I saw a really cute Nutella cookbook at a bookstore in France, but I hadn't bought it.  Lo and behold, first thing Monday morning what should walk through the door of my classroom but the cookbook AND one of the recipes prepared by one of the girlies who went on the trip with me.

Isn't this seriously cute?  This girlie wrote me a thank you note that is now safely taped to the inside of the book.  She made the treat pictured above for her classmates.  I took one bite and then showed great restraint by waiting to consume the rest only after escaping from campus during my free period to get a cup of coffee.  Civilized, non?  I wanted to savor every little crumb.
There are 30 recipes for deliciousness such as Whoopies au Nutella et à l'Orange (they really like to use the word Whoopie now!)

Financiers coeur Nutella (a different take on my last blog recipe- I need a pan!)

Petites crèmes au Nutella

Sucettes au Nutella coeur au caramel fondant (see how this oozing caramel keeps showing up??)

Crumble aux poires et au Nutella (the Frenchies love crumble, too)

Macarons au Nutella

and Petites meringues coeur Nutella.

The other kiddies are drooling over the book and may ask to copy recipes.  I've already promised one class Nutella brownies or cupcakes and I need to make good on that promise en grande vitesse...

Coulants au coco coeur Nutella
4 servings
Recipe and photos from Les 30 meilleures recettes Nutella, Larousse 2011

140 g / 5 ounces (almost 2 cups) shredded coconut
80 g / 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
40 g / 3 Tbsp. softened butter
1 egg yello
100 g / 3.5 oz. / 1/2 c. coconut milk
3 egg whites
A pinch of salt
Flour for the molds
4 tsp. of Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F / 180˚C.
2.  In a bowl, mix the coconut, sugar, butter, the egg yellow and the coconut milk.
3.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until the eggs whites form stiff peaks then gently fold them into the coconut mixture.
4.  Butter and flour 4 ramekins.  Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts.  Put one teaspoon of Nutella in the middle of each one and cover it with the coconut mixture.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let them cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove them from the molds.

*Push the Nutella into the middle of the coconut mixture so that it doesn't dry out or form a crust while baking.

Bon appétit, Nutella!  Merci, jeune fille pour le petit livret de recettes!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Searching for Aimée Leduc

If you have read any of Cara Black's Aimée Leduc novels, you know the significance of this pink Vespa that I photographed during my recent trip to Paris.  AND I even spotted it on Ile St. Louis.  Pink Vespa + Ile St. Louis = Aimée.  It must be hers.
I accidentally stumbled upon Cara's books while roaming the aisles of Barnes and Noble a few years ago.  Each murder mystery is set in a different neighborhood of Paris.  I've read them all.  I am reading the most recent one right now.  It came in the mail while I was in Paris.

Aimée has a private detective/computer security business passed down to her by her grandfather.  Her father was a police officer who was blown up by bad guys.  Her godfather is one of the top dogs of the Paris police force.  Her mom abandoned her when she was eight years old.  Aimée dresses in vintage designer clothes she finds at the flea market.  In the latest book, she wraps a Hermès scarf around her neck before going out.  I have one, too, Aimée!!  I found it for $5 at one of the local consignment shops.

As far as dressing goes, that's about all I have in common with Aimée.  But wouldn't I love to shop at the Paris flea market?  Oui, oui et oui.   Aimée has a bichon frise named Miles Davis.  I searched for Miles while on Ile St. Louis, but I didn't see him so I lifted a photo off the internet.  If I lived in Paris and wanted a dog to keep me company, I think he would make a great companion.

Aimée has had her heart broken several times.  She is attracted to "bad boys." I would match her up with a younger Bruce...

He was in concert in Paris last summer while I was there.  Maybe Aimée went to hear him?  Her latest love interest is a flic, a cop, but it isn't going well at the moment.
Her best friend and business partner, René, has been lured to Silicon Valley, but he is in over his head, too, although Aimée doesn't know it yet.
I really shouldn't give away any more of the plot.  I want to race through the book, but I am trying to slow myself down and savor it.  I could stay up all night and gobble it up, but I would have a sleep deprivation hangover worse than I already do and it will be a while before Cara comes out with the next book.
At the very great risk of messing with my odds for winning, Cara has a contest associated with this book.

I plan to win.  A week in Paris with Cara tracing the footsteps of Aimée.  Details are inside special editions of the book and on Cara's website.  I promise to blog all about it while I am there.
Aimée often forgets to eat while she is out looking for clues to the latest mystery.  In Murder Below Montparnasse, she is on the trail of a stolen Modigliani painting.  I have seen his work in museums but needed to google him.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

He was an Italian painter and sculptor, but he lived mainly in France.  He painted a lot of portraits.  His style is very distinct.

Anyway, while on the trail of a stolen portrait of Lenin, Aimée talks to a woman who has just taken a batch of financiers out of the oven.  Aimée eats half of the still warm cakes.  This is  my first time making them.  They are a Parisian concoction, created by a baker in the 19th century.

Enjoy the book and make some financiers of your own.  Aimée would approve, I think.

I do not have financier molds.  I used a cupcake tin, buttering and flouring each cup.  And do be careful about browning the butter.  It cooks pretty quickly-  I boiled mine for about 3 minutes.  I was so excited to finally find ground almonds at Harris Teeter.  I found them in a special section of kosher foods since it is almost Passover.

Tea time on this rainy chilly Sunday in North Carolina... I don't think my little cake will make it long enough to be room temperature.  Désolée, Dorie!  Aimée didn't wait either.

recipe from Dorie Greenspan

Makes 12 cookies
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces; 180 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 cup (100 grams) ground almonds
6 large egg whites
2/3 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
Put the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to the boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally.  Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep brown, but don't turn your back on the pan - the difference between brown and black is measured in seconds.  Pull the pan from the heat and keep it in a warm place.
Mix the sugar and almonds together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the egg whites, place the pan over low heat, and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat the mixture until it is runny, slightly white and hot to the touch, about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour, then gradually mix in the melted butter. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the batter to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 1 hour.  (The batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter 12 rectangular financier molds (these were tested in 3-3/4 x 2 x 5/8-inch [10 x 5 x 1-1/2-cm] rectangular molds that each hold 3 tablespoons), dust the interiors with flour and tap out the excess.  Place the molds on a baking sheet for easy transport.
Fill each mold almost to the top with batter.  Slide the molds into the oven and bake for about 13 minutes, or until the financiers are golden, crowned and springy to the touch.  If necessary, run a blunt knife between the cookies and the sides of the pans, then turn the cookies out of their molds and allow them to cool to room temperature right side up on cooling racks.

Bon appétit and happy reading!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Yes We Cook

Yesterday Mme P took me to LeClerc, a huge shopping center in Les Angles. There is a bookstore there and I can spend hours roaming around in bookstores. In French or English. They have a huge section on cooking there and Mme P found this one, Yes We Cook. I looked through it and gave my American stamp of approval. It's divided into sections, from L'American Breakfast with pancakes aux myrtilles, to Gourmandises Pour Les Sweet Teeth with chocolate chips cookies and carrot cake, to La Soul Food Des États Du Sud with hoppin' john and banana pudding. The recipes are translated into French with beautiful photos and explanations of the dishes and regions.

I found two little books that are too cute and that I could not resist--

One for making soft cakes (still working on my fondant au chocolat
And hoping to find a recipe for fondant au caramel like the one I ate in Paris). The other has macaron recipes. Still working on those, too. I made some yesterday for our dinner party, as a matter of fact! With the help of a mix (almonds already ground up!)

and the mats that we found at Galeries Lafayette in Rouen. They are silicone and have the shapes marked so you can be sure to get them all the same size!

I was quite proud of myself!

I love being Mme P's assistante in the kitchen. I sliced the biggest mushrooms I have ever seen, cèpes from the Ardèche,

for her poulet aux cèpes.

I shelled walnuts for the endive, apple and walnut salad.

I washed dishes. We had help from Bigoudi, the very curious fur ball.

M. P cleaned floors, rearranged furniture, set up the big table, and poured a glass of wine for us while we worked. Very important jobs! (Sorry for the blurry photo... He moves fast!)

Dessert was a Café Gourmand-- a selection of little bite-sized sweets. Mme P made her famous mousse au chocolat, I made the macarons, and Mademoiselle de Tavel brought crèpes with caramelized apples in them and lemon tart.

The evening was a great success, ending with M. P playing the guitar accompanied by Frenchie playing his recorder. I am very sorry that I did not take pictures... I can't believe that I didn't. I am sure that Arles Lucy did, though, so I will get some from her when we get home.
I am now in the kitchen, helping Mme P's son with his French past participles. I feel very useful as I blog and sip my coffee on this rainy Sunday morning.

Bon appétit!!

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Coucou from France!

Me voici... 
I have been in France for a week and have finally made it to a computer... with a French keyboard which means that the keys are all scrmbled up and I am reduced to hunting and pecking and probably misspelling!  C,est normale ici, je suppose.  the accents are somewhere but I am lucky to even find punctuation marks like the . and the !

Paris was as beautiful as ever.  Last Saturday was sunny and warm.  Then the snow started.  Yes, just like in January, dear readers of my blog. That begs the ? (I finally found thae question mark! and parentheses)-- am I the bringer of snow? 

We couldn,t get to the D-Day landing sites on Monday.  We got as far as Rouen and decided to stop there.  I was very happy to do that because I had never visited this beautiful city.  I wish I could post a photo.  I promise to do that when I return and have my photos organized. (Right now they are on my camera, iPad and phone... in other words, a mess!) 
(Back now and finally getting around to adding photos... they are still a mess, though!)

I saw the very spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the 1400's and I felt her presence in the very modern church that was built next to the site.

 I actually got to meet Tatiana de Rosnay, an author I love. 

She wrote the novel Sarah's Key, a book I have written about before.  It is about the Vel d'Hiv round-up of Jewish families in July of 1942 in Paris.  Mme de Rosnay was taking part in an all-woman motorcycle rally in Paris on Sunday that started while my kids were ice skating in front of the Hotel de Ville.  I followed her to her moto and told her how much I loved her book and she graciously posed for a photo with me. 

I just finished her novel The House I Loved two days ago.  It is about Napoleon III's and Baron Haussman's destruction of old Paris to build the grand boulevards and avenues.  Rose, the main character, fights the destruction of her family home. I found more of Mme de Rosnay's (perhaps next time we met I can call het Tatiana!) novels at a bookstore and will read them in French.  I can't wait.

The Best Guide in Paris was wonderful and took great care of us and stayed with us until our train pulled out of the Gare de Lyon yesterday.

My old friend M. Mistral met me at the station in Avignon and very nearly blew me away.  No kidding on that.  "He" is the wind that blows through this part of the world without a moment's notice and who is said to drive people crazy.  The gusts are around 50 mph right now, I think.  I wore a dress to school since we were officially welcomed to the area by mayors, the local press, and school officials, but M. Mistral didn't care about making my legs (clad only in tights) cold or messing up my hair.

We spent today at school, visiting classes.  Tomorrow we will visit the Palais des Papes, the famous bridge of Avignon, and the town of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.  I sincerely hope that M. Mistral takes a long nap in a nice little borie somewhere tomorrow (and for the rest of our stay).  Otherwise one of my little girlies might get blown into the Rhone river.  That might be a bit difficult to explain to the parents, n'est-ce pas?

Mme P is working late tonight, having her conseil de classe meeting and I have managed to spend almost an hour writing just this little bit.  C'est vrai malheureusement.

Bon appétit (I just found the é!), mes amis! 

Food adventures soon!  Let me just close with the memory of the warm fondant au caramel that I had for dessert at Le Bistro d'en Face in Paris...  I will learn to make this little cake that oozes warm caramel when you cut into it with your spoon.