Thursday, June 24, 2010

White Butter Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

White cupcakes with Swiss Vanilla Buttercream
No, not the famous 48 cupcakes  that I've been mentioning in previous posts but instead a first try on making cupcakes from the White Velvet Butter Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum and pairing it with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I've been eying this cake recipe for a while now for the simple reason that it contains no eggs.

When I first ordered The Cake Bible I was overwhelmed by reading the recipes and once I started making them I realized that they actually saved time and I was guaranteed a perfect cake each time ! Yes, Yes you heard me right. Rose Levy Beranbaum is a advocate for weighing all the ingredients and after doing it with each recipe its now become standard practice , I can bake the cake and KNOW that it will be perfect. 

You are saying you don't have time? From when I start to when I put the cake in the oven it takes me about 20mins and that involves weighing everything. Your best friend should you decide to do this should be a digital scale.

The  Swiss Meringue Butter Cream recipe was the same one that I used to make my son's birthday cake and I loved it paired against the chocolate butter cake (again from the Cake Bilbe). However against the white butter cake, it overwhelmed the cake and all that you tasted was the butter cream which just weighed down the cake. The cake on its own was perfect, soft and delicate with a slight ivory color. 

They were appreciated by the hubby and my son as well as some of kids that live in our condo building so all was not in vain :) 

Serves 12

4 1/2 large egg whites or 135 grams
1 liquid cup milk or 242 grams
2 1/4 tsp or 9 grams of vanilla
3 cups or 300 grams of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups or 300 grams sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon or 19.5 grams baking powder
3/4 tsp or 5 grams salt
12 tablespoons or 170 grams unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and  beat for 1 1/2 mins to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25 to 35 mins or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans after the removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10mins. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire rack. To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the tops are up and cool completely

Makes: Two 9-inch by 1 1/2-inch greased and prepared cake pans

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

International Incident Noodle Party - Asian Noodles with Pan-Seared Flank Steak

Asian Noodles with Pan-Seared Flank Steak

My friend Jeroxie over at Addictive & Consuming started these International Incident Parties, where every month there is a new theme spanning the cuisines of the world. This month the theme was noodles.  We love noodles here and I'm always curious to try new recipes. To see what others have done on the same theme click here. You'll notice that I'm late on posting but between working and being a mom and a wife well :)

My goal for this challenge was to attempt to make egg noodles myself, however I chose to make this recipe on the same day that I promised a friend that I would make 48 cupcakes for her daughter's birthday party.

That said, I ended up using commercial noodles not the same I know but time was definitely not on my side on Saturday, I however found a great recipe over at Epicurious for Asian Noodles - can't guarantee that its an authentic recipe but what I can say is that it was quick and very tasty !

Asian Noodles with Pan-Seared Flank Steak Bon Appétit | October 2000 

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Yield: Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon plus 4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 8-ounce piece flank steak

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons oriental sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 9-ounce package fresh angel hair pasta or 9 ounces thin spaghetti
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips  I used Broccoli instead but used 2 heads
4 ounces fresh snow peas, trimmed, halved diagonally

1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce, honey and crushed red pepper in glass pie dish.
Add flank steak; turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
Whisk 4 teaspoons soy sauce, rice vinegar and next 4 ingredients in large bowl for dressing.
Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray; heat over medium heat.
Add steak and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Let cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until almost tender.
Add broccoli; cook until vegetables and pasta are just tender, about 2 minutes.
Transfer to bowl with dressing.
Add onions and 4 tablespoons cilantro; toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice steak crosswise. Arrange steak atop pasta, spooning any juices over.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cilantro.

Bon Appétit !

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Daring Cooks June Challenge - Vegetable Terrine

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

When I saw the choice of pâtés I was not very thrilled, don't get me wrong I quite enjoy pâté and living in France there is one for all tastes. I'm aware that there are ingredients such as liver and other parts involved but choose to err on the side of ignorance and forget. So my choice was easy, I chose the vegetable terrine and for the bread - what else but a baguette.

Vegetable "Terrine" and Baguette

I know what you are saying to yourself, where is the terrine ? Yes I can understand your confusion but as I mentioned in my blog descriptive, this journal is about my successes and failures. My thoughts reading the initial recipe was that there was too much liquid and that the terrine would not set up, I was right for my case (I stated "my case" as everyone else in the group produced beautiful terrines) and when the time came to unmold well you see what happened.

The recipe in itself was delicious , perhaps to heavy on the white bean layer but truly a very refreshing summer dish. My only success was the baguette which I was happy with as it was my first attempt.

I enjoyed this challenge, because I believe that cooking should be fun and let me tell you the hubby and myself had a good laugh when the terrine collapsed so it was a success !

I will try a pâté the next time, but perhaps a mushroom variation that falls more into the true category of a pâté.

If you are interested in trying one of the recipes at home please click on the appropriate link below:

Recipe Sources:
- Three Spice Liver Pâté: adapted from Ravenous Couple, which was inspired by White on Rice Couple.
- Chicken Liver Pâté: slightly adapted from Stéphane Reynaud’s Terrine
- Tricolor Vegetable Pâté: from Bon Appétit Oct 1993 on Epicurious
- Trout and Shrimp Pâté: unknown (handed down to Valerie from someone, who got it from someone else, etc.)
- French Baguette: from King Arthur Flour

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Salade de chèvre au miel (Salad with goat's cheese and honey)

Salade Chevre Miel (2)

A few weeks ago on one of the first sunny days here in Paris, a good friend and colleague convinced me that we should go out and have lunch on a "terrace". You need to understand that once the first rays of sunshine hit the Parisians all flock to the nearest terrace to soak in the rays with a rosé or other beverage.

As any self respecting person living in France  we knew that we needed to leave early to get that much coveted spot. We were fortunate we were able to get two seats on the terrace at a somewhat 'trendy' restaurant. Luckily for us this is also a stone's throw away from our office so the gods were smiling on us this day. Its trendy because of its location, in part a stone's throw away from the famous avenue Montaigne (designers row) and right next door to the Europe 1 (radio station) studios, so from time to time its quiet common to see some famous faces.
The salad special of the day was chèvre au miel - translated it was a green salad with vinaigrette, chèvre , thin slices of smoked duck, potato and sun dried tomatoes with the crowing touch being a liquid honey drizzled over the chèvre and smoked duck.

I have to admit I'm not a fan of ordering salads in restaurants as I'm most often disappointed. Why ? My hubby makes a great green salad with  his own vinaigrette. Nothing fancy but its always very tasty and the advantage of being at home is that we know our ingredients. Too often in restaurants the salad is just put together with what's available and as a result the taste is often not present. However this day, I said why not ! and I was very pleasantly surprised. In fact so pleasantly surprised that I decided to recreate it at home that weekend.

In my version there are two modifications, our vendor at the market was out of smoked duck as so was the supermarket so I substituted dried ham from Bayonne (Pays Basque country), the original recipe had steamed potatoes, I thought that the potatoes were not necessarily needed and as such left it out - no one was wiser.

The great thing about salads is that you are free to choose your quantities in function to your likes, I've tried to list the measurements but bear in mind that these are approximative.

Salade a de Chèvre au Miel ( Salade with goat cheese and honey)
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For two servings -

1 small head of Romaine lettuce cleaned
1 medium goat's cheese - I used a Chabichou a a traditional soft, unpasteurized, natural-rind cheese with a firm and creamy texture. Its traditionally aged for  10 to 20 days. However you can use whatever medium goat's cheese that you can find
3-4 tablespoon of liquid honey - I used the Acacia variety as this is most common and the taste is quiet neutral
Approx 15 slices smoked duck - I used the French equivalent to Prosciutto - Jambon de Bayonne and used 3 slices per person
100grams or 3ozs of  Sun dried tomatoes
Vinaigrette - I could give you the hubby's recipe, but then I would have to destroy you, soooo use a vinaigrette that's not too heavy on the mustard and you'll be fine.


-No hard and fast rules here, the main and essential part is that you completely dry the salad, if the leaves are wet the leaves will wilt and the dressing will not stick. We like to mix in the dressing first and make sure the salad is well tossed before adding the rest of ingredients.

-Once you have assembled the salad, with a spoon drizzle the honey over the cheese first and then over the smoked duck or prosciutto

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Asian Flank Steak with Sweet Slaw

in short......AMAZING !

Living in France the only way that I can get the US version of any cooking magazine is to go to W.H. Smith which luckily is not very far and well I get my fill on my favorite magazines and books. I was looking through my collection the other day and saw that I have every Bon Appétit December/January issue (a result of my trips back to Trinidad, transiting through Houston or New Jersey) with only a sprinkling of random issues. The June 2008 issue with its Cherry Pie remains my favorite cover and is permanently in my magazine box. Something about the blue background and cherry pie just makes me feel very at home.

Well as part of this issue there was the recipe for Asian Flank Steak with Sweet Slaw a dish that I had been eying for several years and never really getting up the nerve to try it. Perhaps it was the cabbage that held me back , not sure but I decided that I was making this dish for Mothers Day !  The dish was a perfect balance of taste and textures, even the hubby was in awe! The marinade for the beef has now become a "go to " for me, simple and packs lots of taste.

That Saturday morning at the market, our favorite fish mongers had the most beautiful Gambas, I had to have them :) The hubby ignored the price and said sounds delicious !  I decided that this would be the perfect finish to my Mother's Day dish.

I had a great day was very much spoiled by my kids and hubby, I made cookies for my kids and some others that live in the building , then on to a dinner with a delicious bottle of wine and cookies and expresso for dessert - a perfect end to a great day.

Grilled Gambas

Grilled Asian Steak with Sweet Slaw

Grilled Asian Flank Steak with Sweet Slaw   Bon Appétit | June 2008

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Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

1/4 cup soy sauce
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1 1/2-pound flank steak
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 red jalapeños, thinly sliced into rounds
5 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (about 9 ounces) * Living in France this was not accessible but I did use a regular cabbage and was not disappointed*
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Mix soy sauce, oil, 3 teaspoons ginger, and garlic in resealable plastic bag. Add flank steak and seal bag; turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes (I marinated mine for 2hrs, I thought 30mins was not enough for the cut of meat), turning occasionally.

Stir sugar and vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add jalapeños and remaining 2 teaspoons ginger. Place cabbage and 1/2 cup green onions in medium bowl.

Pour vinegar mixture over and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand while grilling steak, tossing occasionally.

Grill steak until cooked to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to work surface. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice steak thinly against grain. Sprinkle 1/4 cup green onions over slaw.

Grilled Gambas

I did not do much to the gambas, as wanted the taste to come through and not compete with the meat so lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and then put it on the grill until cooked. Be careful to not overcook as you loose some of that delicate taste.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcakes

For me one of the signs that winter is finally behind us are when strawberries start appearing on the market. In France there is a special variety called the Gariguette a variety predominately found in the south of France, they are typically smaller than the traditional strawberry and just a little more sweeter.

 Of course, like the famous Christmas story, visions of strawberry desserts start swimming around in my head and perhaps the most classic of desserts - The Strawberry Shortcake recipe popped into my head. One of my favorite desserts as its not very sweet and the mixture of the shortcake (think cross between scone/biscuit), fresh chantilly (whipped cream) and strawberries are a edible version of spring.

This dessert is perfect to do in advance, the shortcakes can be made up to a day before  and kept in a well sealed container. Any more than a day and they become too dry. The strawberries can be done in the morning and put to "marinate", the whipped cream can be done up to a few hours before, any more and the cream may fall.

An American Place Strawberry Shortcake   PARADE | June 2000 
Makes 6 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 mashed hard-cooked large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 lbs or 340 grams - strawberries, cleaned and halved (quartered, if large)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Chantilly (Whipped Cream)
7ozs or 200 grams of confectioner's sugar (sucre glace)
4 cups  of heavy cream

Preparation for Shortcakes
1. Preheat oven to 375°F or 180F  Lightly butter a baking sheet.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and 4 tablespoons sugar into a bowl. Add the butter, using fingers to work it quickly into the flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the cream and yolks; stir with a fork until the dough just holds together.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is just smooth. Do not overwork. Roll the dough out 3/4-inch thick. Using a floured 2 1/2- or 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out 4 rounds. Gather the scraps, reroll; cut 2 more rounds.
4. Put the 6 rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and firm to the touch.

Preparation - Strawberries
 For the filling, mix berries, sugar and Grand Marnier in a bowl. Chill.

Preparation - Chantilly
To get the best results there are three steps that should be carefully followed:
  • The cream should be at least 30% fat
  • All elements used to make the chantilly should be cold, ideally place in the refrigerator 1 hour before
  • Start slowly to whip the cream slowly building up speed, this is to "fix" the cream and to prevent it from falling 
  1. In a salad bowl (cold) add the cream and whip in a clockwise movement to incorporate as much air as possible into the cream. Whip until it reaches the consistency of whipped cream.
  2. At this stage add the sugar (ideally confectioner's sugar as the grains melt easily into the cream) and continue to whip until all is incorporated.
  3. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready for use
Carefully split the shortcakes in half. Heap the bottoms with strawberries. Dollop with the whipped cream, then replace the biscuit tops. Serve immediately with remaining chantilly cream on the side.

Bon Appétit

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mini Crab Quiches

Mini Crab Quiches

L'heure de apéritif  or hors-d'œuvres can be a tricky part of a meal  it all depends on how casual or formal you would like to go and of course should flow with the rest of the meal. I have a love/hate relationship with this portion of the meal, I love the fact that its an opportunity to to test new recipes in a mini format or take something out of the ordinary and present in a completely different way to surprise your guests.

For me this part of the meal sets the stage for what's to come. Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with the salted crackers / olives  that are found on most tables but even the most simplest of menus can benefit from a little 'pizazz. The 'hate' part, I tend to go a little crazy and choose things that take up way too much time (ask the hubby) for what my hubby calls a fleeting moment - but what a delicious fleeting moment.

A few weeks ago my in-laws came across for lunch and I had been instructed to make a 'simple' lunch, my hubby just smiled at me when he relayed what his dad had said and in my mind I said sure something simple :) In light of these instructions I decided to forgo the entrée (appetizer) and just do apéritif / plat (main dish) / frommage (cheese)/ dessert.

This was one of those instances when I decided to take something so very simple - a quiche- and turn it into something special. In France mini quiches can be found everywhere and at a very reasonable price. I decided to do make mine and added crab meat to a modified quiche Lorraine recipe. Modified ? Yes , I added some freshly grated Gruyère cheese, traditionally quiche Lorraine does not have cheese in it, contrary to popular belief and I replaced the bacon with the crab meat.  Again, following on my 'simple' directions I cheated and used a pre-made Pâte brisée (pie crust).

Mini Crab Quiche

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Makes approx 24 mini quiches

5 eggs
30 cl Crème Fraiche
50g crab meat
Gruyere cheese
Lime Juice
1/2tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 pre-made pie crust (pâte  brisée)

Preheat oven to 180c or 350f

  • Heat a skillet with olive oil over medium high heat 
  • Add jalapeno and saute for a few seconds until fragrant add crab meat, lime juice, chives and cilantro
  • Mix well and then season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Remove from heat and cool
  • Mix together eggs and crème fraiche in a bowl using a fork.
  • Do not beat the eggs, using afork mix the two together so that everything is well mixed.Beating the eggs into a frothy mixture will make your quiche rise and give it more of an omlette consistency, what we are looking for is more of custard feel.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Roll out pre-made pastry and using a cookie cutter cut circles the diameter of a muffin tin
  • Line each muffin tin (grease with butter) with the pastry
  • Sprinkle crab mixture into each case and then with the grated cheese
  • Fill with quiche mixture
  • Bake for 20mins
  • Serve at room temperature