Showing posts from 2012

My first Croquembouche!

I always wanted to try and make a croquembouche (or pièce montée for the French out there) but was afraid to tackle something that seemed so difficult and technical. That is, until I saw an episode of Masterchef Australia: All Stars last week, featuring Adriano Zumbo's recipe. For those who want to try it in its full measure, here's the link: Personally, I divided everything by 4, which still yielded about 20 choux puffs, and made some adjustments of my own:

PUFF PASTRY 100g butter 5g sugar 135ml whole milk 5g salt 105ml water 130g all-purpose flour 4 eggs
CREME PATISSIERE 425ml whole milk 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract 5 egg yolks 110g white sugar 45g corn flour 45g butter, diced, softened CARAMEL 150g white sugar 50ml water 65ml corn syrup
Preheat oven to 190°C fan forced. Lightly grease an oven tray.
For the choux pastry: Place butter, sugar, milk, salt and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat…

Sunday morning deliciousness

Since we got back from our vacation on France's Atlantic Coast, we've been craving some Pain aux raisins. This amazing bakery in Château d'Oléron made the best ones, and we literally had to have it everyday. So I decided to give it a try and make my own version of them, with store-bought puff pastry, mind you, because I'm not ready to spend hours trying my own puff pastry, especially when it's over 30 Celsius degrees outside (and inside, since we don't have air conditioning). The result exceeded my expectations. So here it is.

1 Puff pastry roll 2 egg yolks 50 grams white sugar 25 grams corn flour 250 ml milk (not non-fat) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup raisins
Make vanilla custard. Stir the milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Meanwhile whisk yolks, sugar and corn flour in a bowl until thick and pale. Using electric beaters fitted with whis…

Le Relais des Salines

We're back! Vacation's over. We didn't have the weather one can expect in July, but we still enjoyed our two weeks in France. During our stay on the island of Oléron, off the Atlantic coast just opposite Marennes, France's oyster nest, we discovered a wonderful little restaurant, located on a wooden pier in a place called Le Port des Salines, outside the town of Grand-Village-Plage (see below).

The place seems to be packed all the time, so here's a word of advice, book ahead if you want to seat outside. The menu is displayed on chalkboards throughout the restaurant, because the owner changes it three times a year, sometimes more, according to the availability of  seafood and seasonal produce. And yes, it is mostly seafood you will be served there. 

The first time we went (the food was so good, we returned a couple of days later), I had the Rillette de crabe served with parmesan crisp for starter. Mark had housemade foie gras stuffed with langoustine. Both were abso…

Awesome pizza

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a restaurant called Marzilibrücke in Bern, Switzerland, where I ordered an eggplant pizza. Overall, it was disappointing: not enough eggplant, too much cheese. So this past weekend, we made our own eggplant pizza, in a regular oven (using a pizza stone). The result was simply outstanding.

Crust 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

1 jar passata (italian pureed pomodoro tomatoes)
fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 eggplant
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
1 mozzarella ball (or 2/3 cup of shredded mozzarella)
Cut the eggplant into slices and lay them on a sheet of paper towel. Sprinkle salt on the slices and cover with another sheet of paper towel. Let rest for 20 minutes (th…

Raspberry and Cream Cheese Tartelettes

There is a good chance that my partner and I will be hired to cater for the parliament elections at the French embassy in a couple of weeks. We've already worked up a menu, both for lunch and dinner courses, but I wanted to experiment with a new crust recipe this weekend, before I use it for one of the desserts I plan on making for the big event. I was pleased with the result. The pâte sablée (crumbly crust) came out great and worked wonderfully with the cream cheese and the fresh raspberries.

RASPBERRY AND CREAM CHEESE TARTELETTES Makes about 10 tartlets or 1 whole pie

Pâte Sablée / Crumbly Crust 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1/2 cup white sugar 2 egg yolks 1 tablespoon water pinch of salt
Beat egg yolks, sugar and water with hand whisk until mixture sugar dissolves and mixture turns a pale yellow. Mix flour and salt. Cut butter into squares. Using your hands, squeeze butter chunks and flour until texture looks like sand. Pour egg mixture over flour/b…

Mandarin Chicken

So much was lost when Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Lives, homes, jobs,... but also the little things that we hold dear to our hearts: photo albums, treasured heirlooms or beloved recipes. The Times-Picayune collected and published some of the latter that people went looking for in the years that followed Katrina. Mandarin Chicken was one of these recipes.  This clipping was sent to us by my partner's stepmother a few years ago. Since then, we have received nearly a hundred requests to share this recipe. Note: Every Chinese restaurant in New Orleans has its own version of Mandarin sauce. It seems to us that this one needs a few pinches of Chinese five spice in the sauce. Also, it is usually served with crushed peanuts and chopped scallions sprinkled on top.
This recipe comes from Fong's Chinese restaurant in Kenner.


Egg Batter
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 eggs
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Accent
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking…

Light Delight

For all the health conscious out there (me included, from time to time), here's a dessert, light and airy, that will delight your palate without the guilty feelings. 

1 cup blueberries 1 pound of fromage blanc (here, you could substitute either plain yogurt, ricotta cheese, or even cream cheese) 2/3 cup white sugar 3 large egg whites 1 teaspoon almond extract 4 gelatin leaves (2 grams each) 1/2 blueberry coulis (see recipe below) sprig of mint (optional)
Blueberry coulis 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) 1/2 cup white sugar
Make coulis by bringing to a boil blueberries and sugar in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until blueberries have bursted and mixture thickens. Sieve the coulis to remove blueberry skins and set aside. In a bowl, mix fromage blanc with sugar and almond extract. Place gelatin leaves in a small bowl filled with cold water to soften. In a saucepan, bring to a boil 3 tablespoons of water. Remove from heat. Squee…


Yesterday I made some focaccia bread. Of course, we ate some when it was fresh out of the oven. We finished it today by cutting it in slivers which we dipped in white bean puree and baba ganoush that Mark made from scratch this morning. A real treat!
FOCACCIA BREAD 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pinch ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves
1 purple onion

In a small bowl, dilute dry yeast in warm water and sugar. Let bubble (5 min.).
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast mixture, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Probably the single best cookie ever created! And now, with this recipe we found on, we can make them over and over.
CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES Yields about 1 1/2 dozen large cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted 1 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 egg 1 egg yolk 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 1 cup chopped nuts (we used pecans and salted cashews)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Shape dough into balls (from 2 tablespoons of dough each) and place onto the prepared cookie she…

May 1st!

It's Labor Day today, pretty much everywhere in Europe (obviously, with the exception of the part of Switzerland that we live in, since all the shops are open). So we decided to do some gardening and were fortunate enough to find one of our favorites (hibiscus) in the garden store just a short walk away from our house.

Another Fantastic NOLA Dessert!


This wonderful dessert was invented by Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's Restaurant in New Orleans. It is a fusion of two of the most iconic desserts of the Crescent City: Bananas Foster and Bread Pudding. Thank you for sharing it with the World. Note: Instead of day-old French bread, I used day-old brioche.


6 cups bite-sized pieces of day-old French bread
3 cups milk
3 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
2 large very ripe bananas
3/4 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup roasted pecans
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 300F. Put the French bread pieces into a 9x12x2 inch baking pan. In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, milk, 2/3 cup of sugar, bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla until smooth. Pour this mixture over the French bread pieces. Fold in the raisins and the pecans and …

Ain't Nothing Like Shrimp

On Friday night, Mark delighted me with one of our favorite dishes, Caesar Salad with Fried Shrimp. Since our options for store-bought Caesar dressing are pretty limited in Switzerland, Mark made it from scratch, using the following recipe. The result went beyond our expectations.

3 cloves garlic 5-7 anchovies in oil (to taste) or 2 Tbsp anchovy paste 2 Tbsp lemon juice 2 tsp dijon mustard 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 parmesan cheese, finely grated 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp black pepper dash of tabasco
Throw all ingredients in an electric blender and pulse until well mixed. Best enjoyed with romaine lettuce, homemade croutons and fried Gulf shrimp (as shown above).

Mousse au Chocolat

I usually enjoy my chocolate mousse rich, dark and thick. This time I used chocolate with 55% cocoa because that's all I had in my pantry and it was too late to run the store (which explains the lighter color on the picture). I would normally use 70% cocoa for a richer, stronger flavor.

MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT Yields 4 servings  200 g. dark chocolate (about 7 oz.) 2 Tbsp white sugar 5 large egg whites 4 egg yolks
Break down chocolate in small squares and melt in a double boiler. Separate the egg whites from the yolks (only keep 4 yolks). With an electric beater on medium speed, mix egg yolks with sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture turns into a pale yellow. When chocolate is melted and shiny, remove from heat (I usually transfer it to another bowl) and add the egg yolk mixture. Stir thoroughly. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, incorporate egg whites into chocolate mixture in three times. Pour the mousse into 4 ramequins or servi…

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Mark took a stroll down memory lane this week, with a recipe straight from his childhood: oatmeal raisin cookies. They came out chewy, with a slight crunch from the chopped nuts he added (he used salted cashews this time).

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 1 cup sugar 1 cup packed dark brown sugar 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 3 cups oats (not instant) 1 1/2cups raisins 1/2 chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.

Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns are one of my favorite treats. Here's the recipe I use. It makes about 15-16 buns.


1/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/4 cups flour


1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp unsalted butter


3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine warm water, yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Stir to dissolve end lit sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until blended. Switch to a dough hook and slowly incorporate remaining cup of flour, on low speed. Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky (adding a little bit of flour if wet), 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place a large,…

Carrot Cake

After trying different recipes for carrot cake over the last few years, I finally came upon the one worth publishing! My former attempts always came short in terms of flavor or moistness. This one has it all, it tastes gorgeously rich and moist, and the flavor combination is well balanced. The only thing I added to this recipe is raisins (gotta have them). Note: I made this carrot cake in a loaf shape because I got tired of round cakes, which I've made a lot of lately.

Cake 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3 large eggs 2 cups sugar 3/4 cup vegetable oil 3/4 cup buttermilk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 cups grated carrot 1 (8-ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup raisins 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
Frosting 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese 2 tablespoons buttermilk (optional) 1 cup confectioner's sugar 1 teaspoon vani…