French Sablé Cookies

I was first introduced to the sablé by Dorie Greenspan. They appeared in one of her books…which one, I can’t remember. But I do remember that they were easy. And involved a lot of butter. Sablés were the base for Millionaire’s Shortbread, a glorified, homemade twix bar. Caramel, chocolate, and crumbly cookie? It looked very divine.

If I have made sablés, it’s been a while and I have no recollection. So while rifting through my current favorite cookbook of the moment, Patisserie Made Simple, I found a recipe and decided to give it a go. My decision was helped immensely by a photo I saw of a chocolate chip sablé. I still have dough left over and I’ll be studding it with Guittard chocolate chips!

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Sablé dough is very crumbly, but fear not! You just have to work it a bit and it really helps if you roll out the log in some plastic wrap or—in a less ideal situation, like mine—foil. It helps keep everything together and in a somewhat uniform shape. I think Dorie Greenspan recommends using a paper towel tube.

Have fun with this! Add-ins optional and a great way to get creative. Someone mentioned she was going to do a cinnamon version! Dark chocolate; sprinkles or turbinado sugar for the edges; citrus…if you make something wild, let me know! I’d love to add it to my notes.


Recipe (from Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber) [40~ cookies]

2 tsp vanilla extract

1.75 (200g) sticks butter, room temp

heaping 0.75 cup (175g) sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

scant 3 cups (400g) flour

turbinado sugar (or whatever you please) for the edges

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Beat butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy and pale. Add egg yolks and beat again until nicely whipped. Dump the flower in, all at once, and mix on low speed or pulse. The dough should be very crumbly—you don’t want to mix it into a cohesive ball. Use your hands for that and dump it onto plastic wrap. Shape it roughly into a log and wrap it up, elongating and rolling as you go. The log should have a 1.5” diameter (or however big/small you want it to be).

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. It should be firm.

Preheat the oven to 325˚F and put parchment on two baking sheets. Roll logs in sugar or your topping of choice. Slice just under an inch thick and place on baking sheet—they don’t expand nor spread, so you can make them cozy. Bake, 20-25 minutes until lightly browned on edges. They should look kind of pale.

Cool for 10 minutes, and then eat them warm (what I would do) or cool completely.

Happy baking!!

xxx

I (Don’t) Have a Dream.

To follow up with the last Agápē post, here we are with dreams. And, yes, this post is following the same conversation referenced in the last one, because this conversation was long. The car ride was two hours.

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Anyways, on to dreams. Do you have one? I do. Actually, I have many, and if you know me, you probably know one of my big dreams—living in France! Forever. My friend, on the other hand, says she’s not a dreamer. And you know what? I think that is ok, too. To dream or not to dream; you have a choice.

There are merits to dreaming. You always want to see what’s next. But there are downsides, too. It’s hard to let dreams die. Same goes for not being a dreamer. I think one of the upsides is that you are more moldable. Dreamers can have tunnel vision and/or an iron grip on what they want. But being moldable gives God the ability to shape you into who he wants you to be. On the downside, it’s easier to be complacent, or maybe resistant to change from “going with the flow.”

Whether you’ve got a dream or not, I think both camps fall into the trap of not expecting God’s best. The dreamers are so white-knuckled on the steering wheel, they forget they shouldn’t be driving; the non-dreamers may have fallen asleep in the back seat. Either you remove God from the equation, or aren’t alert for the next thing he’s up to! I admit, I’m usually white-knuckled on the steering wheel (I also hate driving in real life), but I’ve fallen asleep in the backseat, too.

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Why should we expect God’s best? Because he wants it for us. Although, keep in mind that best doesn’t mean “OMG I’m going to love everything God does and it’s going to be a picnic!” Sometimes, what’s best is really hard. But the good news? God’s going to pull you out of that valley.

That segues into the next post: God will disrupt comfortable.

In the mean time, my goal with these posts is to foster a kind, healthy discussion about what you think about these topics. As long as you are polite and constructive, I would love for you to drop a comment. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m missing something? Let me know!

Brioche Pain aux Chocolat

If I were the expert on all things pastry (which I definitely and not), bread would be the ultimate MVP. You can do so much with it, sweet and savory. Pain aux chocolat is an excellent example. I made one batch of brioche, but two desserts- the brioche creams and these. You could also noodle cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, brioche nature, and a ton of other stuff out of one recipe.

Winner in my book!

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Traditionally, pain aux chocolat is made with chocolate batons—literally sticks of chocolate. Alas, I had none, but I did have some Guittard dark chocolate chips, which I’d say worked just as well, as my picky brother scarfed a bun down.

Again, this is Huck’s brioche recipe, but use whichever one you please. I’ve simply found that after testing out a few recipes, this one gives me the texture I’m looking for. It’s soft and airy; light and feathery; other brioche recipes I’ve tried have been a bit dry. France also had its share of dry brioche. I went to a market in Arles where they were selling pain aux chocolat, 3 euros for 10. And gosh golly, it was DRY. I did not finish it.

As for the chocolate, batons are tradition, but chocolate chips are fine if that’s what you have. Dark, milk, in-between; it’s up to you.

Notes

  • As you can tell, I didn’t egg wash these, either. I highly recommend that you do. Glossy buns are just more fun—and definitely prettier!

Happy baking!!

xxx

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Getting Uncomfortable.

This is an extension of an Instagram post. I’m not a super fan of dissertations in the caption box…but I am a fan of dissertations here. Ha.

A couple days ago, I was sitting in the car with a friend. The drive was long, but not tedious. California, as populated as it is, still possess stunning, unparalleled views. Especially in the Bay.

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No matter how nice the view, though, long rides can be at best, awkward, depending on the rapport between passengers. But chatter flowed freely. It was just two friends catching up about life.

We hopped from topic to topic, but mostly we talked about what we had been learning about ourselves. Long morning commutes offer time for deep introspection, if you’re willing to go there. Out of that conversation sprung several points that I mentioned on Instagram, and which I’ll be expanding upon.

The first is that we concluded that we love being comfortable. This has nothing to do, however, with our fashion choices nor our abodes, nor anything else in a material sense. We’re talking about mental comfortability. The stability and safety net a routine offers. Comfortable offers us white-knuckled control over our lives. But you know what? Comfortable is dangerous, too. It never challenges us nor asks us to expect more. We’re on cruise control.

And let me just be upfront here and say I LOVE BEING COMFORTABLE. My grip is like iron and I hate being in any situation I can’t control. But since January of this year, God has been gently showing me how amazing things can be when I loosen my grip to accept what he has to offer.

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That’s not to say being content is a bad thing. In fact, I would rather be content than happy any day. There’s a difference between contentment (which I believe is confidence and joy in where you are at) with being placid. And, this can be detrimental to our walk with God, because we stop expecting him to do great things. What’s worse, we see ourselves as the drivers of good things. Comfortability squashes (healthy) vulnerability and makes God a spectator, as opposed to the director, of our lives. And when we become comfortable, anything that challenges that is immediately threatening—even if it’s good for us.

My friend told me about a podcast she’s been listening to about Exodus and the story of Moses. It’s presented by Reality SF and this series is revelatory. It’s called “Deliverance,” and it’s not just looking at the miracles. It’s a character study of Moses and the greatness and imperfections that came with him. You know what’s nuts? We could all probably see ourselves in him.

My friend recommends “The Call” and “Evil Never Goes Down Easily.” “The Call” specifically talks about comfortability…and why we need to let it go.

Wow, ok. This has been long. I’ll be following this post up with my next point: Dreams.

In the mean time, my goal with these posts is to foster a kind, healthy discussion about what you think about these topics. As long as you are polite and constructive, I would love for you to drop a comment. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m missing something? Let me know!

Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

352921Words are perhaps the most powerful weapon humans can wield against each other. They give us the power to love, to hate, to profoundly alter someone’s reality.

In A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny explores the potency of words to craft our own realities, kill others’, and the the brutal consequences of love denied.

As part of the Armand Gamache series, Penny brings the reader back to the quiet village of Three Pines with the murder of CC de Poitiers. The woman has been found, electrocuted, on a frozen lake during a curling match. The culprit may seem surprising, but after reflection, there could be few other suspects.

CC de Poitiers is quite despicable from the first chapter. Vain, self-absorbed, and extremely cruel, she is one of the most nasty character’s I’ve encountered in Penny’s novels. CC has the unpleasant side affect of making those around her nasty, too, and at worse, making them feel like utter garbage.

She lives in her own world; anything she does not like or that does not fit is not a part of her reality. Words are key. The illegitimate daughter of a now homeless vagrant, CC crafts for herself a new identity as the daughter of Eleanor d’Aquitaine, also called Eleanor de Poitiers. In this new reality, she becomes somewhat of a princess in her mind, and words are so important she marries a man for his name: Richard Lyon, a play on Richard the Lionhearted, son of Eleanor d’Aquitaine.

The most central element in the chaos and subplots that ensue is CC’s verbal abuse of her daughter, Crie. Crie– desperately overweight, beaten down by her mother, withdrawn to her self– has a brilliant mind, gifted in science. But no matter how smart, how graceful she tries to be, it is not enough to earn her mother’s regard. Love is out of the question. Crie is a blemish on the world CC has constructed for herself.

When we are so alienating, so cruel, so senseless, it is foolish to expect that there will be no retaliation. Each person has constructed their own reality, banishing those who threaten their security. And sometimes, this fatal grace is the most merciful action.

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Brioche Cream Buns

If you’ve known me for any length of time, there’s a good chance you know that I love Flour Bakery + Cafe, a Boston staple.

In high school, I was introduced to Flour via Joanne Chang’s (the owner) first book: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. It was monumental. This book taught me how to make bread; provided one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes; offers the best muffin recipe of all-time (better than Huckleberry?!); and is downright comforting with un intimidating recipes.

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One of my favorite pastries at Flour is a brioche cream bun. Brioche, pastry cream, baked in the oven? It’s a soft, feathery bread with a custardy center.

Honestly, I actually greatly prefer Huckleberry’s brioche. Some brioches are drier than others, and Flour’s is a bit more so than Huck’s. To make my brioche cream pots, I used Huck’s recipe for brioche and Edd Kimber’s (AKA The Boy Who Bakes) pastry cream recipe, but you can find recipes for both in the Flour book. The pastry cream recipe is easy and good.

Some notes:

  • Don’t forget to egg-wash the bread. It’ll make it glossy and beautiful. As you can see, I forgot.
  • You can make any flavor pastry cream. I did cookie butter! But vanilla, chocolate, fruit, matcha, floral…up to you!

Happy baking!

xxx

Review: Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

23848325Love, duty, war. Princess Maurguerite de Valois finds herself in the middle of all three in this historical fiction novel by Sophie Perinot. As she grows up in her mother’s court, Margot (as she is often called), must navigate the treacherous, sinister world where nothing is as it appears. It is, in a way, a coming-of-age story about a young woman who learns to make her own choices—despite the consequences.

In efforts to win her mother’s (Catherine de Médicis) favor, Margot willingly becomes a political pawn by way of marriage. This is, however, before she falls in love with the charming Duc de Guise, and afterwards, it is a war of the heart. While Margot is eventually betrothed to her cousin, Huguenot Henri de Navarre, Perinot uses this tug-of-war to raise the question, “what would you do for love?”, and “what would you do out of duty?” It is never so simple, it seems, as Margot makes some surprising—and surprisingly daring—decisions.

Perinot also puts the fraught, teetering mother-daughter relationship on display. Often done away with for being a daughter, Margot flits from being accepted and, perhaps, warmly regarded (as much as Madame la Serpente could be warm) to being despised and distrusted. Catherine de Médicis’ favor acts as a central, unstable, ever cruel measurement of her daughter’s self-esteem, and the reader is asked to question how cruel love can and should be.

It is Margot’s courage in the throws of violence to defy everything she once held sacred that truly marks her coming-of-age as she claims her agency and her voice. We are often afraid to take what is rightfully ours, but are surprised when we are bold enough to own it. Love is a wildly powerful thing and not always benevolent. Love is manipulative and conditional, a tool to Catherine de Médici. To Margot, it her one chance to be valued for who she is, not for what she offers.

As the two women and others wrestle with love and war, it becomes clear that the most important thing is love of self. The dependence on others to provide love only hampers, but to see ourselves is to take ownership of who we are. This is what gives Margot the courage to take back her life and, ultimately, perhaps, alter the course of history.