Thursday, June 26, 2014

Finding Hemingway in the Latin Quarter

The March 2014 trip to France with the kiddies was just about perfect in every way.  Enthusiastic kids, My Favorite Parisien as our guide, IronWoman as my co-chaperone, worry-free arrangements made by ACIS, and incredible weather.  Spring was on the way.  Flowers blooming and brightening every corner and window box.

The first day in Paris, the day after our departure and overnight flight, is always the toughest one (well, the last day is rough, too, but for different reasons) because everyone is dog tired.  I put on a good show, trying to be everyone's cheerleader and absolutely not letting them stop and sit much because they will fall over asleep if I do.

She's not sleeping, she's reading...

8th graders sleep in a plane when they are super excited, surrounded by their friends and there is a movie screen right in front of their faces so that they can watch movies all night?  Ha.  I must be an 8th grader at heart.  I do usually get about four hours of sleep, though.  This year, I decided that a trip to the Latin Quarter with a stop at the Panthéon would be a good way to start the trip and keep the group moving.  MFP agreed and off we went after dropping the bags at the Hôtel Princesse Caroline.  We stopped at a little spot for crêpes for lunch.  One of my boys had an extra chocolate crêpe and wanted to find a homeless person to give it to.  Endearing, n'est-ce pas?  His first attempt was to give it to some students who were sitting on the sidewalk working on a project together.  Nice try, but I think they thought him a bit nuts.  (When the sun comes out, so do the Parisians.)  He finally found a lady sitting on the steps of a church and offered it to her.

While strolling around, we found the remains of Philippe Auguste's wall built in the 12th century.  MFP explained why the word enceinte, which also means pregnant, was used, but since I was sleep deprived, I cannot for the life of me remember what he said.  (I will Google it later or maybe a reader will help me out here?)

We also found a plaque showing what the wall originally looked like.  I love the fact that history is omnipresent in France and that it is explained to us.  Around the year 1200.  Wow.

We made it to the Panthéon, a place that I actually had never visited until just a couple of years ago.  Oh, I had been past it, read all about it and all that, but I just had never bothered to visit.  Let me tell you, it is fascinating and full of history.  Huge paintings, the Foucault Pendulum, and the final resting place for many illustrious Frenchmen.  And at least one woman, Marie Curie.  Victor Hugo is there.  Someone had recently left flowers for him.

In 8th grade, the kiddies study WWII, the Holocaust and the Resistance.  I wanted my students to see the tombs of some of the members of the Resistance, most notably Jean Moulin.

If you want to see the Panthéon brochure for more history, click here.

The kiddies and MFP on the steps--

While wandering around the area, we also found evidence of a more recent famous person who lived in Paris.

I read The Paris Wife a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is the story of Hadley, Hemingway's first wife.  I've read several of Hemingway's books.  The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Moveable Feast, his memoir set in Paris in the 1920's.

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
                                                                                             --Ernest Hemingway, 1950

I love the scenes of Hemingway in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  By all accounts, he was an intense fellow.

So what would Papa Hemingway eat?  While checking out recipes this morning, I found one of Hemingway's recipes on the Saveur website.  Sorry, Hem, but I might make it as a meatloaf for dinner tonight.  Will have to go out searching for India relish (never heard of it but it is a mixture of pickled cucumbers, green tomatoes, cauliflower, white onions, red bell pepper, celery, mustard seed, cinnamon and allspice) and Beau Monde seasoning (black pepper, allspice, bay leaves, salt, cloves, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace and celery seed).

photo credit:  Helen Rosner

Papa Hemingway's Favorite Wild West Hamburger
4 burgers

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 oz. sliced ham, minced
1/3 c. dry red or white wine
1/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
2 Tbsp. grated tart apple
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. ground sage
1 1/2 tsp. India relish
1/2 tsp. Beau Monde seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small scallions, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 plum tomato, cored, peeled, grated
1/2 small carrot, grated
1/2 small yellow onion, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Buns, lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, ketchup, mustard and mayo for serving

Mix ingredients, except for oil, buns and condiments, in a bowl; form into four patties.  Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook patties, flipping once, until cooked to desired doneness, 8-10 minutes for medium rare.

Bon appétit to Paris, Hemingway, and history lovers everywhere!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lazy baker

It's Monday.  The morning after returning from a family (yes, both sons!) trip to Asheville.  A little mini-vacation planned around our nephew's wedding.  It was a wonderful time.  Lots of laughter, good food and drink in a beautiful setting.  The wedding was at the North Carolina Arboretum, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Even though they had a back up plan in case it decided to rain (the way it had the three evenings leading up to the wedding), the happy couple was optimistic and decided to have the ceremony outside.

Good call.  The weather was perfect.  A little overcast, but that's better for photos and for keeping your guests from sweating anyway.  Congratulations and welcome to the family, new Mrs. B!  (You have wonderful in-laws, by the way!)

I did cry.  Of course I did.  I was wearing waterproof mascara, though.  I know myself well.  But who wouldn't cry?  Happy tears.  Especially at this sight.  Such unbridled happiness.  And as a mom of two boys, I loved this moment.

So sweet.

There was talk of baking, cooking, this blog, eating, etc.  I reminded everyone that I am not a chef.  I just like to cook, eat, and talk and write about both.  Plain and simple.  When the Ex-Ex was telling about my latest "Baking Binge" (I made about 6 dozen cookies and a blueberry clafoutis in the space of 24 hours-- so I guess that qualifies as a binge...), he was reminded by his sons that there are worse things that he could be subjected to.  This morning, though, while rummaging around on Facebook, after reading a short piece written by David Sedaris about his Fitbit (he is so obsessive and so funny), I stumbled upon a new take on home made blueberry muffins.  Perfect for me on a day I have declared to be a lazy day. At least for the moment while I am still in my pyjamas at 8:55 am.  Long live summer vacation!

Thanks to Beth Moncel and her book Budget Bytes for the recipe, courtesy of The Huffington Post on-line.  (The word obsessive is used to describe her in the book blurb on Amazon.  Theme for the day?  Not for me, trust me.)

I chose the new mug from Mast General Store that Mama Mildred gave me on my last visit to see her.

In goes the flour and brown sugar.

Add butter and milk and stir it all up.  Blueberries pushed in and ready to go.

It does come out hot enough to steam up my iPhone camera.

Back away from the steam and no one will get hurt.

Not really pretty until you bite into it.

Blueberry Mug Muffin
serves 1

1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
Pinch cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp. milk
1-2 Tbsp. frozen blueberries

In a microwave safe mug, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well mixed.  Add butter to the mug and use fingers to rub or smoosh them together until no large pieces of butter remain and mixture looks like damp sand.  Stir milk into flour-butter mixture.  It should now look like thick muffin batter.  If it is too dry, add a splash more milk.  Sprinkle blueberries over the top and push them down into the batter with a spoon.  Microwave on high for 90 seconds.

Beth says she likes this with some maple syrup on top.  Or honey would be good.  She even said she has made it with some peanut butter pushed down into the middle of the batter- to get a kind of peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich taste.  A little vanilla ice cream if you make this for dessert?  Some whipped cream?  Different fruit and a little flavoring?  Cherries and almond?  Blueberries and some lemon flavoring or zest?  Raspberries?  Peaches?

I ate it for breakfast.  (The Ex-Ex ate cookies...)  Not bad.  Clean up not bad either.

Yikes!  Time to strap on my Fitbit and meet IronWoman for yoga.  I am not toooo lazy...

Bon appétit to June newlyweds, summer vacation and lazy Monday mornings for some of us!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An American Bakery in Paris

About 25 years ago, I thought that it would be really cool to open a bakery in Paris.  An American Bakery in Paris.  What's not to love about Paris?  Looking at this every night...

The first time I saw brownies for sale, in a shop at the food court at the Louvre, I realized that it could have been me to introduce them to the Frenchies.  Then I saw blueberry muffin tops.  Cookies became the craze.  Cupcakes have made it big there.  I missed out on it.  Would I still do this?  Oui, I think I would.  Would it be in Paris now though?  Or in Provence?  I can spend hours debating that in my mind.  I love to stroll through La Brune's little village and dream.  What about this house?  Pale pink shutters.  The shop could be on the ground floor and I could live upstairs.

It really is just a dream.  I cannot imagine that I could get a work permit.  Not easy for Americans unless you already work for an American company and they sent you over there, so I hear.  Not mention how on earth I would finance this dream.  But it's fun to think about it, n'est-ce pas?
Here are some of the things I would make...





Coffee cake

More cake

And lots of cookies.

I love cookies.
And Cookie Monster.  I met him in Times Square last June.

And he is on display at the Smithsonian.

It's been baking week since school ended.  The Ex-Ex can't figure out why I go on these baking binges. I can't either, to tell you the truth.  I just love to bake.  I love the way it smells.  I want someone to grab a couple of warm cookies just out of the oven and sign as they bite into them.  I even love to wash the bowls and measuring cups when I am finished.  That part might be a little weird.
Actually, I think that Iron Woman got me started on this baking binge.  While the French ladies were here in April, she made cookies for our first dinner.  Oatmeal Butterscotch.  Then she brought me a bag of the butterscotch chips so that I could make my own.  The Ex-Ex told her that they were the best cookies he had ever eaten.  The French ladies loved them, too.  Therefore, I will give her credit.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. old-fashioned oats
1 2/3 c. butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375˚F.
In large bowl (I use Mildred the KitchenAid stand mixer), beat butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well for 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.
Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.   Gradually add to the butter-sugar mixture, stirring just until combined.  Stir in oats and butterscotch chips.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake 8-10 minutes in preheated oven, until edges begin to brown.

Toffee Brickle Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. white granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar (I use light brown)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/3 c. (8-oz. package) of Heath Toffee Bits

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Beat butter, sugars, vanilla and salt in large bowl until well blended.  Add eggs and beat well.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in toffee bits.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Got milk?
Maybe I could help baseball catch on in France, too.  Me and Cal Ripken, Jr.  You in, Cal?

(Got milk? ad campaign by

Bon appétit, fellow bakers, Cookie Monsters and baseball fans!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Je me présente

Allow me to introduce myself.  (Meet my fingers, pictured above.)  I am a French teacher.  I just finished my 34th year of teaching middle school.  Truthfully speaking, though, what I really do is brainwash 11-14 year olds. It is not a secret.  I am pretty honest and open about it.  I warn the parents on Parent Night each fall.  I am lucky enough to be at a great school.  My students choose to take French in 5th grade.  Taking a second language is mandatory and is part of our core curriculum.  A few years back, we started making 6th graders new to our school take French if they aren't able to place into our Spanish classes or if they want to try a different language.  I usually get to teach that class.  I really brainwash them and most of them stay with French and I teach them for three years.  Tears are shed at the end of 8th grade when I have to tell them good-bye and send them off to high school.  Waterproof mascara is a must.  Anyway, back to the purpose of today's blog.  I have to find ways to interest middle schoolers in conjugating verbs and learning how to use object pronouns in a language other than their mother tongue.  Some of them buy my speech about language learning being like putting together a puzzle, some of them look meaningfully at me and nod their heads while they are wondering what is in their lunchbox or thinking about who danced with whom at the last middle school dance, and some of them just stare.  I call this the "The lights are on but no one's home" syndrome.  Once in a while, I get a slap in the face glimpse into how their little minds work.  Three years ago, in the 6th grade class, I was in front of the little darlings enlightening them on some fine grammar point, I'm sure, and one boy's hand went up in the air.  Ah bon, une question!  I thought.  The question... Why do you always wear black, madame?  One of the girls didn't miss a beat and answered for me... Black is very slimming. Not what I would have said to a class of 6th graders, but I decided just to go with it.
In case you are new to this blog and don't know me, cooking is one of my passions and I share that with my students.  Food is a huge part of French culture and we have several vocabulary lessons centered around it.  Eating is their passion.  Each quarter, my kids can do an extra credit project worth a 15 point quiz score.   Books, movies, researching artists, these are some of the ideas I throw out, but cooking, baking in particular, is the most popular project.  Most of the time, the kids bring in samples for their classmates.  We sample madeleines, chocolate mousse, palmiers, and chocolate truffles, but the most popular treat is macarons.   The beautiful little sandwich cookies made from almond flour.  I have several cookbooks that friends and students have given me and I lend them to the kids to find recipes (or to just drool over the photos).

A few years ago, one young man would bring me a macaron or two on a weekly basis from A Southern Season, a wonderful store in Chapel Hill.

They are such pretty colors and so much fun to photograph.
I spent an hour or so going through the 33,890 digital photos on this computer to find my best macaron shots, going back to 2008.  I have quite a few shots of Parisian Pierre Hermé's creations.  I have a crush on him.  He sent me an autographed picture a couple of years ago in response to thank you letters written to him by some of my 8th graders.  (As part of their final exam, they have to write a 20-sentence thank you letter in French.)  Okay, he sent a picture to each of the kids, too, not just moi...

Oui, that says Pour Teresa.
I love the artwork on his cute little boxes.

During our spring break trip,we always either stroll by a shop or visit his section in Galeries Lafayette so the kids can get their fix and taste the real thing.

Sometimes, while we are on our spring break trip one of the students will actually share one of theirs with me.  If you insist...  I would never be rude and refuse such a gift.  This one was savored on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.

I've also admired the displays at Fauchon.

Arles Betty would argue that Ladurée's macarons are best.  Oh yes, they are good.  Taste tests had to be done.  Unfortunately, I never had the two side by side to test.  Maybe next trip.

They have a kiosk at Charles de Gaulle airport, as well as little tea room and shop in the new Air France terminal.  Très chic.  While in NYC last summer, we walked up to the shop that had just opened on Madison Avenue.

 Arles Lucy and I had macarons at Angelina's once.  With hot chocolate.  Yum.

We also were very civilized and had macarons and tea in our hotel in Nice a couple of years ago.  

Those macarons came from the Arles market, I believe.  And they were really, really good.

Up close.

Even McDonald's in Paris sells macarons.  I snuck in to take a photo, but I didn't buy one to taste.

Arizona Tammy took a macaron-making class while the rest of us roamed the streets of Paris in the summer of 2012.  She even shared with us.

One day, I chose one from a bakery on Rue Cler.  A work of art.

I found these in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.

Just a couple more window shots--

Up close again.

Girlies enjoying their first Paris macarons.

Several students have attempted to make them.  They aren't easy because of the egg whites, folding, piping, hoping they puff up while baking...  This chocolate one, made by an 8th grade boy, was really good.  His classmates were very pleased.

This year's 4th quarter brought out several bakers in one of my 7th grade classes.

When one of the girlies got home from this year's trip to France, she discovered that her dad had experimented with macaron-making.  Très bien fait, papa!  (She did roll her eyes when she gave them to me.  I chastised her properly.)  Délicieux.

Laura Florand had a book reading at the Regulator Bookshop here in Durham and she had a chocolate-tasting to go along with it.  A macaron made it into the mix. 

After tasting that little yellow one, I went to Miel Bon Bons and bought some lavender ones.

Macaron mixes can be found at the supermarché in France.

I made some Chez Fanny for one of our dinner parties.

I've tried my hand at them several times.  Some were colossal failures and either stuck to the pan or the silicone mat that I bought at Galeries Lafayette, didn't rise and have the nice "legs" they are supposed to have or were just horribly piped and misshapen.  Some turned out nicely.

Well, the cookies turned out nicely but the salted caramel filling didn't work out so well.  It became topping for ice cream and I made a quick chocolate ganache filling.

My most recent attempt was a lime zest-lemon curd concoction.  Pretty, I thought.

My piping skills are improving and parchment paper works better than my silicone mats.

As weird as this may seem, macarons remind me of the galets or small stones that fill some of the vineyards in the south of France.  This shot was taken in Tavel.  I love these stones and have a collection of them.  (I love Picpoul wine, too!)

This past Christmas, the BFF gave me a watercolor done by Paris Breakfast's Carol Gillott.  Isn't it beautiful?

This is one of Carol's works, too.  I do not own this.  I just "borrowed" the photo from her blog.  She has a thing for macarons, too.

You may not live where you can just run out and buy one (or six) and sample the different flavors, but you can give macaron-making a try if you are patient.  Bon courage and bonne chance!

I have a small kitchen scale that measures in ounces and grams.  I bought it at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I think that it is much better to weigh the ingredients with a scale.  It is more accurate.

Lemon Curd Macarons

110 g almond flour
200 g confectioner's sugar
90 g liquified egg whites (placed in a bowl and put in the refrigerator for 2-3 days)
200 g granulated sugar
Yellow food coloring
Grated lime or lemon zest, optional

Lemon curd: (I cheated and bought mine at Harris Teeter)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To make the cookies:
Sift the almond flour and confectioner's sugar together.  Set aside
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until they begin to foam, about 1 minute.   Slowly add the granulated sugar, a tablespoon at a time, with the mixer set to medium speed.  Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.  They should be thick and glossy.
Gently fold the sifted almond meal-confectioner's sugar mixture, the zest, if desired, and the food coloring to the whipped egg whites using a spatula.  It should take about 50-60 strokes for the batter to reach the right consistency. (or you can sprinkle the zest on the top of the cookies after you pipe them)
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe into small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  The rounds should be no larger than 2-inches in diameter. Pipe them at least 1/2 inch apart.  (You can draw circles onto parchment paper and use as a template underneath the sheet of parchment paper you are piping onto, if this will help.)  Try to make them the same size since you will be matching them up when you put them together.
Gently tap the bottom of each baking sheet on the counter to release trapped air, then let the macarons dry for 30-45 minutes until a skin is formed on the surface.
Place the macarons in a 350˚F oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes until the shells harden.
Let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheets and then gently peel them off the parchment paper.

To make the lemon curd:
In the top of a double boiler filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, combine the egg yolks, confectioner's sugar, lemon juice and zest.  Cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Strain the curd into a heatproof bowl.  Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until chilled.

To assemble, match the macaron shells in pairs.  Pipe a small round of lemon curd, about half a teaspoon, on the flat side of a shell and sandwich together with a matching shell.  Repeat with the remaining macarons.

I found this quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe.  It has nothing to do with macarons, but I like it.

Bon appétit to all French teachers, French students and macaron-makers!  Bonnes vacances!