Baguettes et Beurre vs Biscuits and Bacon

breakfast #1

It isn’t a competition for me.  Really, it isn’t.  I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog.  I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing.  Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders.  22 of them.  2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me.  26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time.  So, I will focus this post on food.

Breakfast.  A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.

I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…

pain aux raisins

Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)

breakfast at HduM

Lunch.  Picnics whenever possible.  Outdoor cafés.

Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais.  My choice.  I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it.  No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it.  I love it.

falafel

Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal.  A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time.  Not necessarily due to the food.  Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with.  I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.

4 musketeers

Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time.  Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture.  He is the best.

tuileries lunch

Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette.  We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time.  Cinco Jotas.  Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.

lunch at galeries lafayette

We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis.  They treated us to lunch in the school cantine.  At our school, we do not have a cafeteria.  We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day.  3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)

lunch at AMJ

Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge.  Goat cheese salad.  Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.

goat cheese salad

My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles.  Anything eaten with her is special.  We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart.  In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.

Lunch near Omaha Beach.  We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer.  We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew.  The frites were pronounced the best of the trip.  And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!

Dinner.  I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros.  We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.

The starter at a restaurant in Arles.  Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.

arles starter

A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert.  But when in France…

stew

Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel.  Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.

We tried something new.  We ate dinner in French homes.  Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group.  It is arranged by VizEat.  My crew was in heaven.  A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself.  The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit.  I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe.  I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.

camembert bites

This is really what I prefer for dessert.

cheese plate

Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want.  Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier.  Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop.  I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.

And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.

adam photo

Fougasse in Aigues Mortes.  Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.

fougasse

Ice cream.  Café et chocolat.  Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me.  A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.

icr cream

Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris.  A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette.  Divine.

Cooking classes with the kiddos.  Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris.  Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  I was with the éclair crew.  The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors.  I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.  Bertrand supplied the coffee.

A few other random food photos–

A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.

haribo

Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles

A sign above a shop in Paris

paris map steak

Feeling a little crabby?  So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie

crab

Oreos have hit France with a boom!  One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list.  So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look.  Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.

oreo

Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites

sacks of pommes de terre

A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-

monoprix cheese

Enough is enough for one day.  My tummy is growling and grumbling.  But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other.  Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States?  I can love both equally.  Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home.  Voilà.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I have the best of both worlds.

Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters.  And eat them warm, right from the oven.  I am going to do that right this minute.  Then I will come back and post the recipe.  Be patient!  I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…

gougeres pastry

Gougères

recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz

This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.

1/2 c. (125ml) water

1/2 c. (125ml) milk

7 Tbsp. (100g) butter

3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. (6g) salt

4-5 eggs

Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese

Freshly grated pepper

Finely chopped herbs

Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir.  Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan.  Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.

Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper.  Brush with beaten egg, if desired.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides.  Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate.  They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty.  I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm.  You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.

gougeres

Bon appétit!  Bon Poisson d’Avril!  Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you.  Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.

Weekend baking

IMG_3599

I am a creature of habit.  I have morning routines.  Even on Saturdays and Sundays.  Even during summer vacation. I like to get up, make the coffee, feed and water the cat, and bake.  The house is quiet.  It’s just Callie Cat and me, although she isn’t always quiet.  I think she really misses Rusty, her brother, who died a month or so ago.  She meows a lot more now.  Muffins are my favorite to bake because they are quick and the Ex-Ex likes to eat them for breakfast.  Scones are fun, too.  So is banana bread, but it takes a lot longer to bake, therefore I usually do that at night.

I like to make things from scratch.  I kind of hate to admit that I have become a mix snob, but I have.  Baking mixes were all the rage when I was growing up.  New and exciting.  And a lot of unpronounceable stuff added in, as we all now know.  I succumb once in a while, but I read labels now.  A chef friend of mine swears that high fructose corn syrup is the devil’s elixir, so I avoid that like the plague.  I use King Arthur‘s all-purpose flour.  I have fallen in love with that company.  It’s 100% employee owned and their motto is “Try it once, trust it always.”  Check out their recipes and company story and you will, too, I bet.

I am an amateur and I have been baking for as long as I can remember.  Cookies, pound cakes, pies, cupcakes, biscuits, bread. I’ve taken a few baking classes. Macaron-making with Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Hummingbird Bakery here in Durham (my city is an eating destination these days- I don’t really like the word foodie, so I don’t use it, but google Durham, NC and see what you get).  I taught Amy’s daughter and she helped her mom with the class which made it twice as much fun.

 

I took a macaron-making class in Paris this past March with my students at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  Several of the kiddies wanted to do this and, well, truth be told, they did not have to twist my arm.

My most recent baking class actually turned out to be two classes (the ovens weren’t working properly the first time so we were invited back to try again) taught at Sur la Table at Southpoint Mall.  Judy C suggested learning how to make croissants and I took her up on the invitation.  I love croissants.  Is there anything better than starting the day with a warm croissant, preferably eaten in France, with a cup of hot café au lait, people watching?

arles croissant

Non. Well, unless it’s a pain aux raisins

painauxraisins

I digress.

Back to the croissant-making.  It’s not as hard as I thought.  Time-consuming, oui.  You must plan ahead.  Jane Bobroff, a professional baker, was our teacher for Croissants from Scratch.  A woman who loves butter as much as I do.  Maybe even more.  King Arthur is one of Sur la Table’s sponsors, so I was quite happy.  Some of the baking vocabulary was in French since these little darlings are iconically as français as Maurice Chevalier.  Détrempe and beurrage. The dough block and the butter block.  Lessons in activating yeast, incorporating the beurrage, folding properly- letter and book folds, proofing the dough, egg wash, baking for longer than you think you should.  The class was a bit backwards since it takes a while to get the dough from yeast to oven.  We started with dough already prepared for us,

croissant dough

made our croissants,

cutting

set them to rise,

rising

and while we were waiting for them to double in size, we prepared dough for the next class.  We made Classic Croissants, Pain au chocolat, and Parisian Ham and Gruyère Croissants.

croissants slatable

Chef Jane also uses this dough for Morning Buns, croissant dough rolled with cinnamon and sugar and baked in muffin tins.

cinnamon

I will try this at home, now that I have taken the class twice, but I advise you to find a class or, if you follow directions well and are patient, to devote a Saturday morning to the process.  Planning backwards is a good idea.  Figure out when you want these pâtisseries to come out of the oven and work back from there.

For a much quicker breakfast treat, I will share my favorite, foolproof muffin recipe.  I have made many variations of this recipe since finding it in Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook Special Edition (in support of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation).  It is the 12th edition of this well-known and well-loved American bible of cooking, originally published in 1930.  This edition was published in 2003.  The muffin recipe page came loose long ago and is held in place with a paperclip.

Muffins

Prep: 10 minutes.  Bake: 15-18 minutes.  Oven: 400˚F.  Makes: 12 medium-sized muffins

1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. granulated sugar (or sometimes I use turbinado sugar)

2 tsp. baking powder (preferably aluminum free)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg, beaten

3/4 c. milk

1/4 c. cooking oil

1 recipe Streusel Topping (optional- I rarely make it)

  1. Grease twelve medium muffin cups (2-1/2 in.) or line with paper baking cups.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the mixture; set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together egg, milk and oil.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened.  Do not overmix- batter should be lumpy.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.  If desired, sprinkle Streusel Topping over batter in cups.  Bake in a 400˚F preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan.

Streusel Topping

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbsp. cold butter

2 Tbsp. chopped nuts, if desired

Combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumb.  Stir in nuts, if using.

Add-ins I’ve tried-  don’t be afraid to be creative here

Note:  Gently fold in fruit and peels at the end.  Extracts or flavorings should be added to the egg-milk mixture.  Spices, such as cinnamon, should be added to the flour mixture.

1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel

1 c. coarsely chopped cranberries and 2 Tbsp. additional sugar

Reduce flour to 1-1/3 c. and add 3/4 c. rolled oats to flour mixture (mini-chocolate chips maybe?)

Increase sugar to 1/2 c. and add 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds to flour mixture.

Reduce milk to 1/2 c. and stir in 3/4 c. mashed banana and 1/2 c. chopped nuts into the flour mixture along with the egg mixture. (best not to use paper cups for this one- they really stick to the paper)

1 c. Craisins ( any flavor)

1 medium-sized apple, peeled, cored and diced (Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp work well) plus 1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup of chopped, pitted cherries, fresh or frozen, plus 1 tsp. almond extract

Bon appétit and happy baking!  Your eaters will love you and your kitchen will smell heavenly.  Sip your coffee while they bake, as I do, and read Sean Dietrich‘s daily posts about life in the South.  I follow him on Facebook and he is always amazing.  We are yet-to-meet-in-person best friends.  His wife, Jamie, is a killer cook.  I beg her for recipes.  I have no shame.  Check out what I’ve written about them here and here