Mini Vanilla French Madeleines

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A new cookbook is rocking the food world right now, written by the women behind The Cook’s Atelier in Beaune, Burgundy (France)! After perusing this gorgeous gastronome tome, I quickly found their Instagram and found myself signing up for their newsletter.

One week later, voilà! A newsletter + recipe for mini madeleines pop into my inbox. The recipe is savory, but I was in a pinch, didn’t have the necessary parmesan, and wanted to try out my new mini pans ASAP. I made my go-to recipe for regular madeleines, found ing—you guessed it—Patisserie Made Simple.

I’m planning on trying out the savory recipe soon (it features chives and parm, yum!), but for now, here’s the recipe for plain madeleines that I love. Bonus to minis? Pop-able like potato chips! May be a minus, depending on how you look at it.

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Mini madeline molds are only 1 to 1.5 inches wide…not much space! I found it easiest to scoop the batter into a plastic bag or piping bag and pipe the batter into the molds. You don’t need much! A teaspoon or less per cavity should do it.

Happy baking, friends! And if you make a different flavor, let me know! Looking for inspiration 🙂

xxx


Mini Madeleines

Recipe can be found in Patisserie Made Simple. Also check out The Boy Who Bakes: blog and Insta! I love Ed 🙂

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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!

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

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

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

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

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.

Review: The Little French Bistro by Nina George

32283424***This is the start of a new section of the blog, where I keep my reviews for all francophile reads!!! The regular book blog is still here, too.***

Marianne, wife of a German military officer, has suffered for decades under an uncaring husband when she throws herself into the Seine. Later, after breaking out of her hospital room, she finds her way to Brittany, reputed to be “the end of the world,” and to a little restaurant called Ar Mor. There, Marianne learns to discover what she has for so long missed.

In The Little French Bistro, Nina George explores self-love, renewal, second chances, and adventure, showing that despite past choices, it is never too late to turn around.

Love is twofold in the world George creates. There is external love, given by others. However, there is also a love of self, a permission we grant ourselves to be who we are. Arguably, lack of self-confidence and self-love can be infinitely more limiting than lack of external love. Marianne must learn this as she learns to love, be loved, and give herself permission to take ownership of her life.

At 60 years old, it seems that she has let her life slip away. Her unexplained unwillingness to leave her husband shadows her throughout the novel, but her actions in Brittany attest to the belief that we can always have a fresh start—but that we choose it is key. In many parts of the novel, Marianne is on the verge of returning home, believing that it is impossible to stay and own her life in the small coastal village. But, as she slowly discovers what it means to be alive, she finds her will to commit suicide and her urge to run back to her husband waning.

Through all of the lessons, George still shows that Marianne is very human, and highlights the struggle to break free of our old selves. One of the greatest powers we have is that of choice, and oftentimes it is our unwillingness to make or commit to one that traps us.

Palmiers (On Trust)

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For this week’s adventure in pastry, I decided to make palmiers. Pronounced PAL-me-yay.  But honestly, it wasn’t much of an adventure, because I used store-bough puff pastry. It’s been so warm and we have no air conditioning, so even if I had wanted to make my own, it was not happening.

I poured some sugar into a bag of lavender that I had lying around- lavender is one of my favorite flavors. It’s delicate, very floral, and can stand its own.

In making this pastry, I started thinking about trust. (I like to explain life by means of food.)

Puff pastry can be rather difficult to make. And in this instance, we’re the scattered lavender, but what we want to be is the dough.

I don’t have much time left in school, and it’s (really) freaking me out. Any notion of “what I want” is out the window. The most honest answer is “I don’t know.” Scattered lavender. No particular place to be. No particular place. As much as lavender is lovely, it needs a vehicle as it’s not too great straight off the bush.

This pastry is a perfect encapsulation of me—and perhaps people. Multi-faceted, many layers, fragile, finicky. But, I think that if we trust (in my case, God, but fill in your blank), that we will find it easier to stretch when life stretches us, because we are in very capable hands that are not our own.

Why should we trust these hands? Because only someone incredibly skilled can manage something like puff pastry. I know because I’ve tried, and it didn’t turn out very well. We are in very, very capable hands. And while we are fragile, we don’t have to break. We can be mended, stretched, puffed up.

However, we can only move from petals in the wind to something sturdier if we trust and allow our essence to be place there. With trust comes the confident expectation of good things. Not to say that our pastry will never tear nor will it ever have holes. But when we can trust; when we can be confident; when we can hope; we will find courage to take flight.


For the palmiers

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1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to directions

(up to) 1/4 cup sugar (you can use citrus zest, vanilla pods, etc. to impart some flavor)

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface, up to 14×9. Sprinkle with sugar (and anything else you fancy. These can be savory, too.) Roll one of the long sides like a cinnamon roll until it meets the center. Repeat for the other side.

Using a sharp knife (chef’s knife is fine), cut into 1/2 inch cookies and lay on a baking sheet. They do puff up, so leave some room, at least an inch. Place on parchment paper.

Bake for around 18 minutes or until nice and deep golden brown. Cookies should also be sufficiently puffed. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Rose Meringues (On Perseverance)

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Pot after pot after pot yielded little more than one more frustrated sigh than the last. Pan after pan held lackluster, pale shells that were dry at best and at worst, extremely doughy. Slowly defeat overcame me, and I accepted that the glorious speculoos éclairs I had envisioned hours earlier were not going to be realized today.

Looking at the egg whites I had amassed from several recipes, including the many batches of failed éclairs, I settled on making meringues the following weekend. But I couldn’t help but appreciate the fiasco, as frustrating as it was.

Baking teaches you a lot of things.

To be organized, to mise en place.

To manage your time, for beautiful bread.

To set goals, to learn.

To see the big picture and small details.

To appreciate the work, so you can have beauty.

Baking teaches perseverance, and it’s a very cheap lesson. For a few cups of flour and sticks of butter, I learned to try again. I learned to look at what went wrong; to observe the details; to adapt. I learned to focus on the result I wanted, and not give up because the first try was a failure.

Life is kind of like baking. You’ll want to be organized and have a goal in mind. But when the bread falls flat or the éclairs are too doughy, you don’t want to give up. You want to learn from your errors, adjust the strategy. You want to see what the final product could be. And you have to commit to trying again. And again, and again.

Whatever you’re working on right now—if it’s going great, that is fantastic. But if you’re struggling, don’t give up! This bread is flat, but your next one can rise. You only need to choose to get up. Be encouraged!


For the meringues

I based mine on a recipe in Pâtisserie Made Simple (Edd Kimber) and added rose water for flavoring. Floral notes always win me over with their delicate, heady punch. One to two teaspoons of rose water should do it, otherwise it’s like eating soap.

Lavender Lemon Pots de Crème

The spice shelves were dismal. The bulk spice section had been terminated. And no other grocery store seemed to stock it.

Time was ticking, and I still had no lavender. And, my rational self was screaming, “who does not keep lavender in stock!?!?!?!?!?!!?” Everyone, apparently.

Hedging a bet, I hoped into the Dragonfly (our lil’ red electric car) and zipped over to my favorite French bakery in the Tri-Valley, Sugarie. Faintly remembering they sold lavender-flavored goodies, I was now banking on being able to buy straight-up lavender from them.

A buttery scent greeted me, along with a case of pastries, as a scurried in. A mother was leaving with her toddler, who exuberantly hugged “Mr. Russ” (one of the owners) goodbye.

“Do I know you?” Mr. Russ asked. He squinted his eyes.

“I went to France last year,” I said. “You may not recognize me. I just cut my hair.”

“Oh, it’s you!” he exclaimed, and Natalie, his wife and co-owner, looked up. Their faces lit up with recognition.

“I’ve come to ask you guys a favor,” I said. “Will you sell me some lavender? I can’t find it anywhere else.”

“Honey,” Mr. Russ exclaimed. “Did you hear this? This girl just gets back from France and now she’s asking for favors!” he said, jokingly.

We laugh as Natalie scoops a couple tablespoons into a white paper pastry bag and seals it with a sticker. They won’t let me pay for it, but I leave money anyway.

And that, my friends, is how this post came alive today.


Hi friends.

After bumbling through my first actual week back here in the Bay, I’ve decided to implement my spring-semester epiphany.

In an effort to live out my francophile-ness (even more), this blog is doing a lil’ pivot to be my soap box for all things French. But don’t worry! I’ll still be talking about all the other stuff…but French recipes, novels, cookbooks, events, finds, fashions-anything French- is coming at ya. I hope you stick around.

So in the spirit of summer and my love of all things floral, my dear friend Haley and I made lavender-white chocolate pots de crème (literally “pots of cream”) from Baking Chez Moi by one of my fav authors, Dorie Greenspan!!

Haley and I have an unofficial cooking show (you can find it on Instagram stories- @mllemarissa) where we try out new recipes. Always- or very usually- dessert. And I got to choose (again), so I decided to conquer my fear of custards. Because water baths sounded scary and I am lazy, indeed.

Dorie Greenspan Pots de Creme

Here are les notes (the notes…) if you, like me, are planning to tackle your fear of custards.

  • 8oz ramekins are fine
  • A 9×13 pan is sufficient. Forget the roasting pan.
  • The white chocolate…is not very prominent. I think it plays the role of extra sweetening agent and extra richness.
  • Don’t walk away from the cream mixture. It will explode. Or at least overflow.  (Speaking from experience.)
  • Caramelizing sugar on top adds nice textural contrast, and slightly burned sugar adds a sharp bitterness to cut the creamy, floral custard.
  • Don’t caramelize the sugar with a lighter. You actually need a blow torch. I am speaking again from recent experience. (Let’s just say, 20 minutes to torch half the sugar, a dead lighter, and tired arms.)

Here’s Dorie’s recipe for caramel pots de crème, which is not too different from what’s in the book. Just melt 4 oz of white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the cream and add when you temper the eggs.