Monday, July 29, 2013

Madeleines au Citron et Crêpes Suzette

Another (the last) class with Hélène! There is no chocolate in this post. That sort of made me sad!
...but not that sad.

Because can we talk oranges? I love them. My dad's dad was a citrus farmer so we're into it at my house. Marmelade is such a good jam-like thing, because of the bitterness in the peel. It balances the sweetness the same way the bitterness of cocao balances the sweetness in chocolate.

Crêpes Suzette is a delicious dessert of crêpes with orange juice/zest caramel sauce and flambé-ed Grand Marnier.

I didn't really taste the alcohol (or what was left--all of the alcohol burns, so it's kid-friendly!) but the orange was out of this world. We melted granulated sugar, freshly squeezed orange juice, and all of the zest from both oranges to make a caramel, then dipped each crêpe.

It is a sticky situation. I was totally scraping my plate.

We also made Madeleines with lemon oil. Hélène swears by it, as opposed to lemon extract, because it has a much stronger flavor. But, be forewarned...too much essential oil is nasty. A little bit is heavenly!

These were amazing! The baking process is really interesting: you preheat to a hot temperature, immediately lower the temperature when you put the cakes in, then lower another two times in the process.

The heat-shock at the beginning of the cooking process allows the outer sides to attach to the mold and the middle to puff up dramatically, and the lower tempuratures allow the cakes to fully cook through without burning. It's a scientific miracle.

Butter the dish with your's the most fun you'll have all day. Also, a nice coating of butter gives the outsides a lovely golden brown as if they were fried, but they're not too greasy. It's fantastic!

So yeah...not missing chocolate. That's the first time I think I've ever said that!

P.S. Also...none of these recipes have salt in them. I think if you want to add a pinch, it could help balance/intensify the sweetness!

Crêpes Suzette
Yield: probably around 12-16


  • 250 g flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 liter milk (2 cups plus a tablespoon or so)
  • 5 tablespoons vanilla sugar (leave a vanilla pod in a bunch of sugar for about a week, or just use 5 tablespoons sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • 120 g sugar
  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced
  • Butter, to cook crepes
  • Grand Marnier (about 1 cup)

  1. Mix eggs and milk. Add vanilla sugar and mix to combine. Add flour and mix to combine. Allow batter to rest, and add milk after resting if you flour is feeling particularly absorbative today.
  2. Melt in a wide, flat saucepan the orange juice, zest, and sugar to caramalize and reduce. Gentle, low heat.
  3. Cook crepes: put a pad of butter in a small saucepan over low heat (we made small crepes--they're easier to flip), ladle in a thin layer of batter, swirl to coat. Flip once the first side is golden/brown in spots, using a butter knife/frosting spatula and fork. Cook all crepes like this, layering on a plate on the side as you finish them
  4. Put the Grand Marnier in a saucepan and heat to warm. Set on fire and let burn until all of the alcohol has burned off (liquid will be very hot).
  5. Put each crepe in the orange sauce, fold over, and place on a plate. Pour a bit of the Grand Marnier on the top and serve warm.

Madeleines au Citron
Yield: 2-3 dozen Madeleines


  • 3 eggs
  • 130 g sugar
  • 20 g honey
  • 150 g flour
  • 150 g butter (soft)
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 3-4 drops of lemon essential oil


  1. Preheat oven to 230 degrees C (450 F). Butter madeleine mold.*
  2. Mix sugar, honey, and butter to combine. Add eggs and lemon oil and mix to combine. Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl, then add and mix to combine. Smell, if it needs more lemon add 1-2 more drops. Fill molds (not all the way to the top; see picture above) with batter.
  3. Put pan in oven and immediately lower temperature to 200 degrees C (about 400 F). Bake 5 minutes, then lower temp to 180 degrees C (350 F) for another 5 minutes.
  4. Unmold as soon as they come out of the oven!

*Note: if you don't have a madeleine mold, you can make these cakes in real shells off the beach! Just wash them and butter them up. The cakes will be that a bad thing or something?

Recipes courtesy of Hélène Biesse.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gibassié et Truffles au Chocolat

Another fun cooking class with Hélène!

This time we made Gibassié, a Provençal dessert traditional to Christmas.

There's a ton of tradition surrounding the Christmas meals and table decorations in Provence: there are three meals, at the second they eat a little bit of each of thirteen desserts, and  there are three candles and three tablecloths, one of which is removed/blown out after each meal, so by the last one there is one candle lit and one tablecloth.

Gibassié is one of the thirteen desserts, and it's a crumbly cookie (sort of like a hard scone) in a circle with the rays of the sun patterning the top.

It's a sort of sable dough made with star anise, orange blossom water, and olive oil, and it is so delicious. A ton of flavors that go well together, and I don't even usually like anise.

The other recipe we made is also traditional to Christmas: chocolate truffles. Kids love to make these, since there's plenty of rolling and coating involved.

You can make truffles by simply making a stiff ganache, but here there's an egg yolk, added sugar, and butter (we also added some Grand Marnier), which does not decrease the chocolate flavor (there's still a ton of chocolate) but does add a lovely soft texture and butteriness.

Ours was a bit grainy, but I think sifting the powdered sugar as we gradually added it would have helped with that, so I've changed the recipe accordingly.

Enjoy a Provençal Christmas, in July!



  • 500 g flour
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 15 cL (what is this system? That means half a cup plus two tablespoons) olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 3-4 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 3-4 tablespoons star anise seeds


  1. Mix the flour and sugar. Add the orange blossom water and olive oil and mix.
  2. Add the anise seeds, mix. The dough should start to come together like a sable cookie, if not, add some more orange blossom water. Then some more oil, adding both bit by bit until the dough just comes together.
  3. Form into a disk, and pierce the top like rays of sun into as many pieces as you have people who will be eating.
  4. Bake at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) for 20 minutes. Let cool, then cut on the rays (It will crumble. Let it.).

Truffles au Chocolat


  • 150 g dark chocolate
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 60 g icing/confectioners/powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon alcohol (optional)
  • 125 g (about) cocoa powder, for rolling
  1. Melt the chocolate over low heat in a single layer
  2. Add the butter, egg yolk, and cream, stirring to combine. Then, add the sugar, sifting into the bowl and mixing as you go to avoid lumps. Add alcohol and stir.
  3. Refrigerate filling for 2 hours.
  4. Roll into little balls, then roll in the cocoa powder (a "parisian scoop," or tiny melon baller, works great for this).
Recipes courtesy of Hélène Biesse.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

American dinner chez les Francais

I'm studying abroad in France, and living with a host family has been so rewarding. It really allows me to get better at French by focusing on the language tout le temps (all the time) and being kindly corrected without being graded on my mistakes. This is big! I've made so much progress learning like a child, without that pesky paralyzing fear of failure!

Hey, this looks kind of like an egg!
Well, so this was my first time making homemade macaroni and cheese. We (another girl in the program who's also staying with the same family--my co-locataire--and I) wanted to make an American dinner for my family. So, mac and cheese.

It helps that I have a 9 year old brother and 2 year old sister here.

I am so proud of this that I think it's better than my dad's homemade mac and cheese (sorry, Dad...). In a "lookie mommy what I made" kind of proud. I will still always love my dad's, though.

And guess what! I made something that doesn't have any sugar in it!
But...there is butter and flour and an egg. And it goes in the oven. So basically, it's the baker's gateway dish to savory cooking!

Oh, yeah, we made salad too.
This recipe comes from Ree, who I absolutely love. She definitely makes American food: good, simple, cowboy food. I trust her to have a kick-a** recipe for mac and cheese for a first-timer.

Indeed. It's creamy, luxuriously cheesy, and to top it all off, I added chips. Specifically, cheese-flavored chips, because I'm crazy.

Also, my co-locataire made some amazing brownies from the Ghiradelli recipe. She ended up using coarse sea salt in the brownies, and it was fantastic. Crunchy, salty pockets throughout.

It was a heavy meal for when the high temp is in the 90's, but worth it.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese
note: baked lays are healthier than regular. baked mac and cheese has extra chips on top, so it is less healthy. this is confusing, but it should not discourage you from making this heavenly dish. especially if you choose cheesy chips.

  • 4 cups dried pasta shapes
  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard, or one teaspoon dijon if that's what you've got
  • 1 pound cheese, grated--I used emmental (basically swiss) and parmesan, since cheddar's hard to find here
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • potato chips, ritz crackers, toasted bread crumbs, etc., crushed, to top


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta until very firm--it should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.
  3. In a small bowl, beat egg.
  4. In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
  5. Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
  6. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
  7. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
  8. Add in cheese and stir to melt.
  9. Add salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more as needed!
  10. Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
  11. Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with chips/crackers/crumbs, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden on top. (You can keep the dish before baking in the fridge, then bake before serving, too!)
Recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman

Monday, July 15, 2013

Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Peanut Cookies

I'm here in France, and I'd really like to share all of the quintessentially american recipes I know with my host family!

Problem is, peanut butter doesn't exist in this country. I mean, it exists, but it's either smuggled from the states or it's "puree of peanuts" found in health food stores only. Not Jif, not Skippy, not Peter Pan.

And I love making cookies for them--my host brother is 9 and loves cookies (in his accent, cOOkees). These are awesome. Soft and nutty from brown butter, hearty from oats. Sweet and just a tad juicy from the raisins, and the peanuts add a bit of the flavor of a peanut cookie and some much needed crunch.

It's like GORP and an oatmeal cookie, mashed up.

The only problem is that it's not exactly the smartest thing to do to turn on your oven in the height of summer in the south of France. So worth the sweat.

P.S. You could halve the recipe, but why would you want to do that? They freeze well, and I think the dough would also freeze well!

Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Peanut Cookies
yield: 30-40 substantial cookies


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar (2/3 cup white sugar and a couple of tablespoons of caramel sauce for me, since molasses is hard to find here too!)
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
  1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly (most of the water has evaporated) and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. The brown bits are caramelized milk solids! Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so. Set aside and let cool  (or put it in the fridge for a while).
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, oats and cinnamon, mixing, then set aside.
  3. Once butter has cooled, add to a large bowl. Whisk in sugars, stirring until smooth. Add in egg and vanilla, whisking until smooth once again. Slowly begin to stir in dry ingredients. Fold in raisins and peanuts, distributing them (as) evenly (as possible). Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or more.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using an ice cream scoop or your hands, form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet, then bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms and edges are golden. Between batches, put your baking sheets in the freezer for 5 minutes or so to minimize spreading in the hot summer months! Keep the cookies thick and chewy, just chill it out.
Recipe adapted (and doubled) from How Sweet It Is.

            Thursday, July 11, 2013

            Fondants au Chocolat et Tuiles au Grué de Cacao

            That's a mouthful of a title.

            Kind of like the mouthful of cake I had after we made these amazing treats. I took a cooking course with a lovely woman in Arles who, in previous years, has hosted students on my program. I'm so glad I signed up, and can now share the recipes with you!

            (P.S. The title means molten chocolate cake and lacy cacao nib cookies!)

            There's an extraordinary amount of chocolate in these two desserts. It's so delicious. The molten chocolate cake develops a nice crust, like the edges of a brownie.

            And the lacy tuiles seep butter but crisp up minutes after baking into the perfect crumble-able ice cream topping. They're rich, and the cacao nibs add crunch and a deep chocolate flavor.

            Without further ado, the recipes! Pictures included for some, but not all steps, because I'm an airhead (name that blog...)

            Fondants au Chocolat
            Yield: about 10 cupcake-sized fondants


            • 200g good-quality chocolate
            • 70g butter
            • 4 eggs
            • 70g granulated sugar
            • 50g all purpose flour
            • lemon curd, marshmallow fluff, etc for a surprise inside
            • cupcake liners (or butter and flour for the pan, but that could get tricky to unmold. We used silicone cupcake liners, with which I am now in love)
            Mise en place
            1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F) and prepare the baking cups/cupcake tin (come to think of it, little ramekins would work great!
            2. Melt the chocolate (alone and without stirring!! This is very important so as to not disturb the crystalline structure of the chocolate) in a saucepan over very low heat, or in the microwave.
              Before stirring, after melting. You can still see the imprint the top of the chocolate pieces had!
            3. Add butter, stir to combine. Add eggs, stir to combine. Add sugar and flour and mix again until well combined. The batter should be liquidy and glossy.
            4. Add about half an inch of batter to the bottom of each of the cakes, then a dollop of curd, jam, fluff, whatever you like. Add more batter to cover, reaching about 3/4 full. 

            5. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges are set but the centers still have a bit of jiggle to them. Cool for about 5 minutes, then unmold and serve warm. Though we didn't have it, vanilla ice cream would be an incredible addition.
            Tuiles au Grué  de Cacao
            yield: about 20 cookies

            • 30g all purpose flour
            • 100g granulated sugar
            • 10g cocoa powder (dutch process)
            • 90g butter
            • 2 tablespoons milk
            • 20g cacao nibs

            1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C (350 degrees F). Prepare baking sheets with something nonstick (silicone or parchment are my preferred, but foil+nonstick spray works too!).
            2. Mix all ingredients. The consistency of the dough should be that of ganache, thick and stiff and fragrant with chocolate.
            3. Drop on baking sheet by the rounded tablespoonful, smoothing tops to make rounds that are about a centimeter tall and 2.5 inches diameter. Leave about two inches between (ours spread and fused, but cut apart into rectangles they looked good too!).
            4. Bake for 8-? minutes. This is the trickiest part, because they're so dark you can't see when they're burned. But they should be caramelized, such that when you take them out they're still flexible, entirely flattened, and there are holes between the nibs. They'll look black as asphalt (see picture above).
            5. Cut apart, if fused, and wait to cool if you want the crunch. During this maleable time, you can form the tuiles around a glass or jar to make pringle-shaped cookies, or roll around a stick to make cigarettes.
            Recipes courtesy of Hélène Biesse

            Saturday, July 6, 2013

            France + Food

            Because, let's face it...going to another country, eating is really important. Important for nourishing the traveling body and soul. And important for understanding the place. Eat where the locals eat, eat what the locals eat.

            Amazing sandwich at Fad'oli, a favorite sandwich shop here!

            I was a bit homesick earlier this week, and for me, it was manifest in missing the food at home. I have a really strong idea of what a meal includes, and I felt like all I was eating was bread, cheese, and butter. Missing meat (particularly poultry...) and fruit/vegetables.

            The peach that made me cry, it was so good. I kid not.
            Which is crazy because the fruit and vegetables here are really fantastic, especially at the Wednesday/Saturday market, and protein deficiency fears are (I believe) an American socially-created need which helps all of those companies making protein bars.

            Sandwich from our picnic. Includes jambon cru (procuitto), a sausage kind of similar to pepperoni, two kinds of cheese, and some beautiful ripe tomatoes
            I eat bread at literally almost every meal here. And it's good bread, too!

            Fun fact--bread is so integral to france's culture that the government has a whole bunch of legislature relating to it! It's traditionally just flour, water, salt and yeast, and they also dictate (or did dictate in the past) its price. Baguettes are always less than a dollar, and they always go stale (unless kept in the freezer).

            quiche with chorizo at Les 2 Suds
            And, without further ado, more pictures!

            Camembert, honey, walnut sandwich with chocolate molleux at Au Monde de Sophie. Quickly becoming a favorite place to get a sandwich! They have great combos.
            Fromage blanc, strawberries, and a phyllo-dough-like bowl. Dessert at Les 2 Suds.
            Finally got some chicken! Lovely lemon flavor, on a kebab with carrots/zucchini and rice pilaf. At  Bar a Thym.
            Pizza with artichokes and olives at La Dolce Vita...they have a great deal with half a pizza, half a salad for 8 euros!
            Crepe with Nutella! Though apparently french people don't eat crepes in the summer, just in the winter. So much for eating like a local! (in Avignon, at I forget which cafe). It was delicious, comme meme.
            A kebab sandwich from La Medina (kebab places are all over, this is the best one). The sandwich was basically a burrito sized pocket of MEAT.
            La Medina also does Briques, which are phyllo dough pockets of potatoes, eggs, cheese, tuna, etc. mmm
            Cherries from the market! What a lovely breakfast.
            ...and, to finish, something sweet. A tarte with caramel and walnuts, so so delicious.
            More to come! Including pictures and recipes from a cooking class I did!