Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hosting The Daring Bakers' December Challenge: A Bûche de Noël

Hosting the Daring Bakers' December '08 Challenge
[Version en Français à venir tout en bas]

Once upon a time, there was a six-months pregnant lady who loved to bake but was having a hard time with all things kitchen and particularly baking-related because she was pregnant. A year and a half before this moment, she'd joined the Daring Bakers and, a few months after that, she'd snatched a vacant spot in the hosting schedule. At least even as she was just pregnant but didn't know it, she'd had the presence of mind to ask her friend Marion if she would host the challenge with her. This turned out to be her best move by far because hosting with Marion brought its fair share of smart choices and laughs about what the challenge recipe should be. (Marion, btw, is having technical difficulties with her blog and is away on vacation right now, so she will not be able to post her challenge until the New Year).

What Marion and I asked the Daring Bakers to do this month is a Yule Log in the French style which is an entremets or cream dessert in English for those who don't know what an entremets is; as such it was not imperative that it be made as a log or as a Christmas dinner dessert. In France yule logs you might encounter at a Christmas Eve dinner are fairly evenly divided between the rolled genoise and buttercream type which we made last Christmas and this kind which is a layered dessert with mousse or ice cream as its main component and various inserts.

In searching for a recipe that we both liked and both wanted to make, Marion came up with a fantastic website called Florilège Gourmand written by a woman named Flore (thus Flor-ilège Gourmand, Florilège means a collection of remarkable things or an anthology in French). She seems to be a kitchen fairy who is constantly coming up with more delicious-looking desserts one than the next, and so we decided to build a basic recipe for our challenge out of components from various entremets recipes on her website. Thus was born the Daring Bakers' December 2008 Challenge.

Hosting the Daring Bakers' December '08 Challenge

The recipe calls for the following 6 elements: A Dacquoise (a nut meringue), a mousse with a stabilizing component that will allow it to freeze smoothly, a creme brulee insert, a ganache insert, a praline feuillete insert (a chocolate, praline, and crushed crunchy cookie layer), and icing. Essentially the log is composed of the dacquoise as a base with the mousse and inserts interlayered over it and icing to finish the whole thing off. The dacquoise can be used all around the log rather than just as a base, and this option was given, but I chose to make mine more an as entremets so with dacquoise as the base only.
We are now somewhere close to 1600 active Daring Bakers and Marion and I knew that, given that there are 6 elements in this recipe and that not everyone likes chocolate (gasp), it would be better if we let the DBers have as much freedom as possible, so we gave the Bakers as much latitude as they wanted to pick and choose their own flavor combinations and the only rule we set forth was that they needed to make all 6 of the recipe elements.

My log is composed of pecan dacquoise, chocolate-caramel ganache, banana mousse, pecan praline feuillete (with dark chocolate instead of milk and cigarettes russes cookies for the crunch - and here I confess that having used those, I was inspired by Aran of Cannelle et Vanille to surround my log with them in the same fashion as her decoration for the last DB challenge), chocolate-cardamom creme brulee, and milk chocolate icing.
Since I'd made all of the elements except for the praline feuillete at one point or another in my baking lifetime, and as the praline feuillete recipe is very simple, I knew this would be more of an issue of organization than anything else. I do, however, have to point out that when one is suffering from pregnancy brain (aka what's my name again? what am I doing here?), doing anything that requires concentration and organization can be a formidable challenge. I mean, seriously people, my Dad called me on the phone the other day and the sound was terrible so I told him I would hang up and call him right back, and I hung up...and forgot to call him back. There's also the issue of carrying a basketball around in front of you (aka directly in the way of everything) which can hamper your center of gravity and general dexterity. Generally speaking, in spite of pregnancy brain striking along the way such as when I restarted the mixer after stopping it because the Italian meringue for the mousse was done (has a tendency to kinda ruin your Italian meringue, but I salvaged it), measured and cooked only one measure of sugar for the praline (when I was doubling the recipe) before adding the pecans (I added sugar and winged caramelizing it so that turned out ok too), and being pretty sure that I did not portion out the mousse correctly when I put the log together, the log came together nicely and the only major challenge was my overall fatigue, especially since the little squatter (as we call her) has a tendency to watch Bruce Lee movies and try to emulate them in there, which can be quite painful sometimes.
Here are a couple of things I thought would be useful to point out for any of the Bakers (or anyone else) who would make this recipe again (or for the first time):
- In our private forum, many of the bakers who wrote about their log-making experience said that their creme brulee was very icy and did not melt as fast as the rest of the log, causing difficulty in slicing the log. I thought about this for a little bit and after making my own creme brulee, which was not icy, realized that the issue here is probably one of fat content in the cream and the milk. If you've made ice cream before you may catch on to what I'm getting at immediately. The reason you want to use whole milk with as much cream as possible in it (as in not whole milk that's been pasteurized to the point of oblivion), and heavy cream that has at least 35% fat content in it, is that fat does not freeze. The ice cream champion himself, David Lebovitz, devoted a post to the issue of obtaining ice cream rather than just ice sometime last year and I believe this was one of his main points.
- Another issue having to do with the creme brulee was that the recipe calls for baking it at 100C (210F) for one hour. Again, many of the bakers seemed to have trouble with this because their creme brulee would not set in that amount of time. Since I only had to cook my creme brulee for 10 more minutes than stated in the recipe at the stated temperature, there are two main things which strike me about this issue: The first is that the higher the fat content in your milk and cream, the more quickly they will thicken when cooking, so fat content is important in this regard as well as in managing your creme not being icy. The second thing is that if you do not have an oven thermometer, you really cannot know how accurate your oven's temperature is, no matter how many other things you may have been able to cook in it at temperatures you were given in other recipes. That's not a matter of my being difficult about keeping this recipe the way it is, it is just a statement of fact (and as someone who worked with an oven that kept no consistent temperature at all but who managed to make many of the DB challenges and other pastries with it because I had an oven thermometer, albeit with strange cooking times, it makes sense). Well-known pastry chef Pierre Herme states that you should have an oven thermometer, as a basic kitchen utensil to save you major headaches, before trying the recipes in several of his books.

Hosting the Daring Bakers' December '08 Challenge

And now to some of my thoughts about hosting this challenge: First, a big thank you and gros bisous to Marion for being so much fun to work with; I couldn't have picked a better co-host. Second, thank you Lis and Ivonne for creating this group at all and for letting me host this month to begin with, you are brave souls; a big thank you to Daring Baker Fairy Tartelette for providing help with recipe variations, general guidance, and listening to my kvetching. A huge thanks to Flore of Florilege Gourmand for graciously letting us use her recipes.
Although I know there were Bakers out there who were unhappy with the choice of recipe for various reasons, whether it be the perceived length of it, the perceived cost, or really anything else, Marion and I knew that we couldn't put up a recipe that was going to please everyone, not with 1600 people to consider, so we went with a recipe that neither one of us had made before, that we felt would challenge most of the bakers with the exception of our pastry chef and very advanced members, and out of which we could be sure that most of us would learn at least one thing provided the recipes were followed. The keywords here are challenge and learn, remembering that the name of this group is the Daring Bakers and that the dictionary definition of Daring is "venturesomely bold in action or thought." I know some of the Bakers hated this recipe because it didn't work out for them, but I just want to remind them that the spirit of the group is to try new things and to stretch your baking limits, trying it and challenging yourself is what matters, not whether you had a perfect outcome or loved the taste of the outcome (although the taste thing would obviously be preferable). For the Bakers who enjoyed this challenge and especially those Bakers who wrote comments to me or Marion to say that they were scared but looked forward to it or were pleased to have challenged themselves through it, Mazel Tov, we are very happy that you took pleasure in trying this out and we appreciate your comments because we worked very hard to put this recipe together.

Hosting the Daring Bakers' December '08 Challenge
Having said that and stepped down from my tower, here is the basic recipe (without all the variations we offered up on the DB website) for a French-style yule log or entremets by Flore of Florilege Gourmand:

You probably will want to make the elements in this order because of what you can get done while some elements are baking and given some of the prep times:
1) Creme Brulee
2) Praline Feuillete (Crisp)
3) Mousse
4) Dacquoise
5) Ganache
6) Icing

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking
Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper
Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the caster sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn
Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula
Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the whipped cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn
Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have a plunging mixer it comes in handy.
Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)
Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).
Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. If you do substitute cereal you should use half of the stated quantity, so 1 oz of cereal.
If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008 over at Mele Cotte.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking
Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper
Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)
Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan
Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR saran wrap or cling film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.


2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.
3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
9B) Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is:
1) Mousse
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the log with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Places left behind - Les endroits qu'on quitte

The main (well really the only thing) I'm going to miss of London was taking the monsters to the Park every day. The slide show is called Hyde Park but really we almost always were on the Kensington Gardens side which is Franzi's favorite (the quite lionish looking one on the left and also the older one of the two) and actually mine too. As for Myrka on the right, I have a clear memory of slipping into the Circular Pond while trying to reach for her when she fell in as the cutest four month-old puppy you've ever seen . Luckily, it was late in June that year so I simply got up with her and walked out with a helping hand from A., completely soaked from the waist down but warm enough to just walk back to the car.

Ig & Oog aka Franzi & Myrka

Can you spot a furry creature in the middle of one of these photos? Franzi is getting old now (12) so she rarely runs after one unless she thinks he's really within reach, but Myrka...oh Myrka (3), you just make a little clicking noise with your tongue and off she runs with the folly of youth without any idea where she's headed but certain that there is a squirrel nearby making that noise.

Album powered by ComBoost - Voir diaporamas : pleine page - grand ecran
If it weren't so cold in the late fall and early winter season we would have spent more time there every day, but usually by mid-October it becomes a brutally windy, rainy place and since Franzi doesn't walk very quickly anymore, you get chilled quite quickly ambling around. It's still quite lovely though. That and Richmond Park where you can see all the deer. Some time I'll post some pictures from a walk we took there last summer. For now I leave you with a reflection.


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Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate-Orange Creams - Pots de Creme Chocolat-Orange

Chocolate Orange Creams
These little guys were born of three things: One is a bunch of leftover egg yolks after making some buttercream frosting for a Daring Baker cake, another is from seeing this recipe on the good baking fairy Tartelette's website, and the third is a forlorn tablet of Valrhona orange chocolate that I had forgotten about in one of the cupboards.

FR: Ces pots de crèmes sont nés de trois circonstances: D'abord, plein de jaunes d'oeufs qui me restaient après avoir fait de la crème au beurre pour un défi des Daring Bakers, ensuite cette recette sur le site de la bonne fée pâtissière Tartelette, et finalement une tablette de chocolat-orange Valrhona qui se morfondait dans un de mes placards.

Chocolate-Orange Creams

Custard-style creams are one of my favorite things because they make me think of home, and France is home even though many other places have been and are home as well. My most favorite thing is a good strawberry tartlet the way it's made in France, a sable crust with a layer of almondine cream, a layer of custard cream, strawberries and glaze. I don't care much for other styles of fruit pies, give me custard on a fruit pie or give me nothing is what I say.

FR: Les crèmes du genre patissiêre sont une de mes choses préférées parce qu'elle me font penser à chez moi, et la France c'est chez moi même si plusieurs autres endroits ont été et sont chez moi aussi. Mon truc préféré c'est une bonne tartelette aux fraises comme on les fait en France, avec une pâte sablée, une couche de crème amandine, une couche de crème pâtissière, des fraises et de la gelée ou de l'abricotage adapté. Je n'aime pas tellement les autres genres de tartes aux fruits (telles celles des Américains), donnez-moi de la crème d'un genre ou d'un autre sur ma tarte aux fruits ou rien du tout, voilà ce que j'en dis.

Chocolate-Orange Creams

Anyway, these are the easiest thing in the world to make and Tartelette's recipe is quick and light in the end, even if one has a broken oven, which was the case back when I made these. (For interested parties, what was wrong with the oven that eventually imploded was that the knobs had somehow been installed to turn the wrong way, which meant that even though we could turn the oven on, when we'd set a temperature, the wiring wouldn't actually control the temperature at all. Sometimes, when I think about it now, I am amazed that we got anything to cook properly in there - by we I mean A. making roasts and me making cakes and things like these little creams). If you like chocolate, they are definitely, as Tartelette points out in her post, the quickest and best homemade comfort dessert around.

FR: Enfin, c'est la chose la plus facile du monde à faire et la recette de Tartelette est simple et légère, même si on utilise un four cassé, comme c'était le cas pour moi quand j'ai fait ces petits pots. (Pour les intéressés, le four qui a finalement implosé était cassé de la manière suivante, les manettes avaient été installées pour tourner dans la mauvaise direction - comment cela est-il arrivé, mystère - ce qui signifiait que nous pouvions allumer le four mais que les contacts ne controlaient pas la température choisie du tout. Des fois quand j'y pense je me demande comment nous avons fait pour faire cuire n'importe quoi correctement dedans - par nous je veux dire A. faisant rôtir des choses et moi faisant des gâteaux et autres choses comme ces petites crèmes). En tout cas, si vous aimez le chocolat, comme Tartelette le dit dans son billet, ces petits pots sont les meilleurs desserts rapides et réconfortants de possible fait maison.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Le Riz Iranien - Persian Rice

Actually, since it looks like there are old unfinished posts laying around in my drafts section, I'm going to put up what's left while I'm not up to cooking so that I can start fresh, because there are going to be new and interesting things happening on this blog in a little while. So just fyi, this means the picture quality is going to be all over the place depending on what's left in there because some of these posts have been in there for-ever (like over a year forever).

FR: En fait, comme j'ai des vieux billets que je n'ai jamais fini dans ma section brouillon, je vais les afficher tant que je ne peux pas vraiment faire de cuisine, pour recommencer à zéro, parce que dans peu de temps des choses nouvelles et intéressantes vont se passer sur ce blog. Alors pour vous prévenir, ca veut dire que la qualité des photos va être complètement irrégulière pendant un moment parce que certains de ces billets sont dans mes brouillons depuis très longtemps (certains plus d'un an).
What does Persian Rice have that other rice doesn't? A crust that it totally scrumptious and yummy if you like crackly, crunchy yummy things like I do. The crust goes by its own name which is Tahdig (Tah-Deeg). The inner rice part is totally awesome too. This was actually my first attempt at making Polo by myself after watching my mother do it 80,000 times while growing up. Polo is what you call rice in Farsi. Rice is a staple of Persian cooking; many dishes are composed of rice with an accompanying stew called khoresht (ho-risht is the closest english pronunciation you could do), or sometimes you cook things into the rice so that then it is called a something Polo (depending on what the something is). For example, zereshk (zay-resh-k) Polo is barberry rice or sometimes when the recipe is involved and a whole bunch of things get cooked into the rice, the dish has a name of its own, like Tahchin (Tah-Cheen) which is one of my absolute favorites and is a combination of chicken or lamb cooked into rice with yogurt and saffron and a lot of technique (it's quite hard to make and often doesn't appear on Persian restaurant menus because it's so involved).

FR: Qu’est-ce que le riz Iranien a que d’autres riz n’ont pas? Une croûte qui est absolument croustillante et délicieuse si vous aimez les choses croustillantes et délicieuses comme moi. La croûte a un nom particulier qui est Tahdig (Tahh-dig). Evidemment le reste est délicieux aussi. Là c’était la premiere fois que je faisais du Polo toute seule après avoir regardé ma mère le faire 80,000 fois en grandissant. Polo est le mot Persan pour le riz. Le riz est un aliment essentiel de la cuisine iranienne ; énormement de plats iraniens sont composés de riz blanc avec un ragoût qu’on appelle khoresht en accompagnement, ou on cuit des choses dans le riz et à ce moment-là le plat est nommé quelque chose Polo; par exemple Adas Polo est du riz aux lentilles (Adas), ou encore si la recette est plus compliquée et beaucoup de choses vont dans le riz le plat a un nom propre, comme par exemple le Tahchin (Tahh-Tchine) qui est un de mes plats préferés et un mélange de poulet ou d’agneau cuit avec du yaourt, du safran et pas mal de savoir-faire dans le riz (c’est assez compliqué à faire correctement et n’apparait que très rarement dans les menus de restaurants iraniens pour cette raison).
Just to make the basic thing, there are a bunch of tricks to making Polo correctly.
First, to make real polo, that is for the rice to stay long and to separate well once cooked, you have to wash as much starch out of it as you possibly can. So you leave the rice in water for a little while so that the starch will start to come out of it, then you start doing this washing and swirling the starchy water out of it thing with it which my mother does a number of times in 4 seconds, but which takes me quite a bit longer because I might pour out some rice along with the water if I try to do it as fast as she does. When the water is completely clear then you've gotten all the starch out that you can.

FR: Rien que pour le plat de base, il y a un nombre d’astuces pour faire un Polo correctement.
D’abord, pour faire du vrai Polo, c'est-à-dire pour que le riz reste long et bien séparé une fois cuit, il faut enlever autant d’amidon que possible du riz pour commencer. Donc on laisse le riz tremper dans de l’eau un petit moment pour que l’amidon commence à en partir, puis on lave le riz en versant de l’eau dessus et en le faisant tournoyer d’une certaine manière que ma mère arrive à faire plusieurs fois en 4 secondes mais qui me prend plus longtemps parce que je pourrais jeter du riz en vidant l’eau si j’essaye de le faire aussi vite qu’elle. Quand l’eau est complètement propre vous avez enlevé autant d’amidon que possible.
Second, there are two ways to make Polo properly so that it will have that crust; the most common way is to own a Polo Paz, meaning rice cooker, which are made a special way so that you'll always end up with some form of that crust. So beware, any old rice cooker won't do it quite like this, Persian rice cookers are made a particular way to achieve this, witness the "how dark a crust do you want on your rice?" measure on the right side of the above photo. Another way, if you don't own a Polo Paz, is usually to cook it in a deep saucepan with a TON of butter which would make the crust brown nicely and also come out of the pan when you'd flip it. My grandmother (the tahchin maker) didn't own a Polo Paz when I was little so she made it that way.

FR: Ensuite, il y a deux moyens de faire le Polo correctement pour qu’il ait une telle croûte; le moyen le plus courant est d’avoir un Polo Paz, c'est-à-dire un cuiseur de riz, qui sont fabriqués d’une certaine manière pour qu’on ait toujours une croûte comme ça. Donc attention, n’importe quel cuiseur de riz ne le fera pas exactement comme ça car les cuiseurs de riz Iranien sont spécialement fait pour ça, voyez les images pour vous aider à choisir quel genre de croûte vous voulez au final sur la photo de droite ci-dessus. L’autre moyen, si on ne possède pas de Polo Paz, est de faire cuire le riz dans une casserole avec une TONNE de beurre ce qui permet à la croûte de bien foncer et permet au riz de sortir en entier quand on renverse la casserole sur un plat. Ma grand-mère (celle qui faisait le tahchin) n’avait pas de Polo Paz quand j’étais petite et faisait le riz de cette manière.
Third, there are a few simple-seeming, but potentially tricky if you don't know what they should look like, steps you have to follow: Put the butter in to melt in the Polo Paz. Add the right amount of water for the amount of rice you want to make, make sure the butter and water are thoroughly mixed together. Wait for it to boil the way it does in the Polo Paz, which is this funny little plopping thing with a few bubbles at the surface, not like a full boil in a saucepan or something. Then you add the rice and you mix it well but very gently because you don't want to crush your rice or break it in any way. This takes a little while because there's a stop and go method to it where you wait for the rice to absorb the surface water and butter and then you mix some more, and if you don't do it properly you'll have weird layers of butter and rice and buttery rice instead of a uniform slightly buttery tasting delicious rice, plus you also have to be careful not to scrape the sides lest you break the already-forming crust. Then when you're satisfied it's all mixed properly, you smooth the top out so that it will flip upside down flat onto your serving plate and you let it boil uncovered for a few minutes until the Polo Paz rings (one of the mysterious things it knows when to do). Then you wrap the lid with a towel and put it on to cook the rest of the time which usually means about 45mn to an hour. The towel absorbs the excess water evaporating from the rice and is that extra little trick which enables you to have a really crunchy, crispy crust (tahdig). When I visit my parents, my mother and I split the crust between ourselves (my father prefers the rice).

FR: Enfin, il y a quelques étapes apparemment simples, mais potentiellement délicates si on ne sait pas à quoi ça ressemble, à compléter : Mettre le beurre à fondre dans le Polo Paz. Ajouter la bonne quantité d’eau pour la quantité de riz que vous voulez faire, s’assurer que le beurre et l’eau sont bien mélangés. Attendre que le mélange bouille de la manière dont elle bouille dans le Polo Paz, une manière de bouillir très subtile avec quelques bulles à la surface, pas du tout comme de l’eau bouillant dans une casserole. Puis ajouter le riz et bien mélanger mais doucement pour ne pas écraser le riz du tout. Ca prend un petit moment parce qu’il faut mélanger un peu et attendre, attendre que le riz absorbe l’eau beurrée à la surface puis se remettre à mélanger et attendre, et si cela est fait incorrectement on se retrouve avec des couches de beurre et de riz et de riz tres beurré plutôt que tout le riz légèrement et uniformément beurré, en plus du fait qu’il faut faire attention à ne pas toucher les bords du cuiseur pour ne pas détruire la croûte qui est déjà en train de se former. Puis quand tout est bien mélangé, on aplanit bien la surface pour que le riz soit plat quand on le renversera sur le plat de service et on le laisse bouillir à découvert pendant quelques minutes jusqu'à ce que le Polo Paz sonne (une des choses mystérieuses qu’il sait quand faire). Puis on enveloppe le couvercle dans une serviette, on couvre et on laisse cuire le reste du temps ce qui veut normalement dire de ¾ d’heure à 1 heure. La serviette absorbe l’eau qui s’évapore du riz et est l’astuce en plus qui permet d’obtenir une croûte très croustillante (tahdig). Quand je rends visite à mes parents, ma mère et moi partageons la croûte entre nous (mon père préfère le reste du riz).
When time's up (which is something that my mother seems to know by voodoo because I haven't figured out what the formula is for knowing that it is 45mn or an hour or somewhere in between exactly), you flip the rice over onto a serving dish and presto, the best simple rice ever. I'm totally serious. My crust wasn't quite as brown for this first time as I would have liked, but it was crispy and tasted good anyway.

FR: Quand le riz est prêt (quelque chose que ma mère a l'air de savoir par magie noire parce que je n'ai pas encore bien compris la formule pour savoir que c'est 3/4 d'heure ou 1 heure ou quelque chose entre les deux), on renverse le riz sur un plat de service et voilà, le meilleur riz simple au monde, sérieusement. Ma croûte n'etait pas aussi foncée que j'aurai voulu pour cette première fois, mais elle croustillait et était très bonne de toute manière.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

And now for something different... sort of...

So since I am not baking much these days because I can't taste most batters and I can't eat most finished products if they contain butter or other saturated fats, which is a pretty sure thing in most tasty baking, I thought I'd do a post about fun kitchen paraphernalia that I find sometimes while I browse. I'll probably be doing more posts like these in the near future rather than baked goods, just so my blog doesn't consist entirely of Daring Baker Challenges like it has for the past few months.
I found this on British/Japanese designer Reiko Kaneko's website.It's made by Blaue Blume (I'd never heard of them before so I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't either) and I think it's hilarious, although I'm not sure I would actually purchase them for my own kitchen or serving purposes. I think it'd freak out the kids of the family a little too much and there's a certain whiff of Morticia Addams about them, especially the cake stand. I think if I did purchase them they would be brought out for events like Halloween.

I think you get the idea. Something else they had on was an egg cup made of little soldiers, like tin soldiers fighting around it. I couldn't copy the picture for some reason so here's the link to that page. That is actually a Reiko Kaneko design, not Blaue Blume. If I had small boys I would get some of those. I won't say I'm a huge fan of having all sorts of ridiculous or playful things in the kitchen but I do love the odd child-like thing here and there, just to remind me not to take things too seriously. Sometimes the odd child-like paraphernalia also makes things taste better, inexplicably...

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