Baking Chez Moi – Apple Kuchen

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Working through Around My French Table and now Baking Chez Moi, I’m so often struck by the cultural heterogeneity that is France.

Just as languages bear the traces of migration, conflict, and trade, so too do our recipe boxes. In a country such as France, that’s seen millennia of shifting borders, population, and governance, it’s not surprising that French cuisine is diverse. Of course, the menus of the French restaurants of my youth didn’t reflect that at all.

It took discovering writers like Julia Child, Elizabeth David, and M.F.K. Fisher to show me the breadth of French cuisine. It took joining French Fridays with Dorie to fully explore the reaches of French cooking in my own kitchen.

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie dish is a gift from its neighbour, Germany. Kuchen (which really just means cake) is itself a dish full of diversity – the word has travelled all around the world and depending on your destination, kuchen can be cheesecake-like, strudel-ish, reminiscent of coffee cake, or nearly pie.

It can also be this: a tender tart crust that’s also sturdy enough to hold butter-soaked cookie crumbs, topped with roasted apples and boozy dried fruit, suspended in a rum-flavoured custard. It was just as good as it sounds and don’t be fooled by the toasty bits on top – the last step is slathering the top with sugar and butter and running the cake under the broiler. I had to stop myself from nibbling at these bits of fruit and content myself with those on my own piece.

I was very content, as you might imagine.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Apple Kuchen.

Baking Chez Moi – Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies

  

In my favourite storybooks, when I was small, the bears…or rabbits…or children always seemed to come home for tea. This was probably the beginning of my tea obsession, but there was something else that stuck with me.

The description of jam-filled cookies and the illustration of perfectly round, lightly browned, sturdy cookies – sometimes iced, sometimes plain. Now, I realize that these were probably the easiest things to draw, but they piqued my imagination. I never did find a cookie that measured up precisely, though Dorie’s Palets de Dames came close.

However, these Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies come closest of all. There’s something about the shape of them that’s reminiscent of a vintage drawing. Something about the texture – soft without too much give. And something about the jammy surprise in the centre that’s pure nostalgia. Who can say why these satisfy this particular memory for me? I just know that when I have grand-nieces and nephews, I’ll be baking these cookies for them for storytime.

You can find the recipe here. And for the record, I used peach jam, mixed with a tiny bit of ginger. It was a great choice.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies.

Baking Chez Moi – Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta

Panna cotta sounds elegant and difficult, but it’s only one of those things. Unlike its more temperamental cousin, custard, it doesn’t need monitoring. As long as you soften the gelatin in cold water, then stir it into hot cream until it dissolves, its really just a matter of waiting until it sets in the fridge.

And once you know that the gelatin does all the heavy lifting, it’s hard not make panna cotta a habit. Especially since the variations are seemingly endless. There’s a multitude of recipes out there, with variations on flavour, presentation, and accompaniments.

This version was particularly refreshing at the end of a hot day. Dorie layers vanilla panna cotta atop a mango and lime purée. Eating it made me feel like I’d been transported to a tropical hotel. Looking at it made me feel like running over to Gourmet Warehouse and picking up some glass ramekins or tiny Weck jars.

I love my ramekins – they’re pretty and they’ve served me well. But, they’re totally wrong for presenting this dessert. It’s meant to be admired even before you spoon into it. I probably don’t need more ramekins, so next time I make this, I’ll unmold the panna cotta onto a plate and garnish it with a generous amount of the purée. Or, I could go shopping, ignoring the fact that I live in a small apartment and I have a very long wish list of kitchen items.

We’ll see.

And since it’s a Catch Up Friday, I thought I’d mention that I have indeed made the Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars. I posted about them in a French Fridays post in April.

Crispy Topped Brown Sugar Bars

They were fantastic, but I’m afraid to make them again, as they might disappear before I share them with anyone else.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta.

Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

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There’s nothing like the excitement of a new book, is there? Especially one that you’ve been anticipating for a long while. I finally got my hands on such a book on November 2nd, when I headed down to Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to pick up my copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s eleventh cookbook, Baking Chez Moi.

Dorie was in Vancouver for the only Canadian stop on her book tour and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the taping of her interview with CBC’s North by Northwest Cooking Club. (Some even luckier folks got to have dinner with her later that evening.) She told stories about living and baking in Paris and shared tips and tricks while she demonstrated putting together her Pink Grapefruit Tart from the book. CBC has posted the interview now, which you can find here.

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Meanwhile, the audience got to munch on miniature versions of the tart, while sipping Barbara-Jo’s signature tea blend. (If you think my idea of heaven would be listening to one of my culinary heroes, while munching on a delicious tart and sipping a cup of perfect tea, in a bookstore devoted to cookbooks – well, you’d be right.)

Pink Grapefruit Tart

After the interview, she fielded questions from the audience and engaged in some banter with her husband, Michael, who is accompanying her on the tour. His version of the stories she shared were sometimes a little different from hers and he quite charmingly interjected when he thought it was necessary.

Michael and Dorie

At the end, I introduced myself and Dorie gave me a big hug. It was lovely to finally meet her after cooking through Around My French Table with the French Fridays with Dorie group for the past four years.

Dorie

Which brings us to the first entry in Tuesdays with Dorie‘s newest project – baking through Baking Chez Moi. We’ll be posting together twice a month as we work our way through the book and I’m quite excited to be joining in. Just browsing through my copy of this cookbook left it bristling with bookmarked recipes, so I’m glad that TwD is here to provide me with some structure. (I’ve joined in with Tuesdays with Dorie before, along with my nieces, over at The Family That Bakes Together for some Baking with Julia assignments.)

PaletsdeDames

The recipe chosen to kick off the bake-a-long was Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a sweet, cake-y vanilla cookie topped with a shiny lemon glaze. I made these three weeks ago, when the French Fridays crew celebrated Dorie’s Birthday. I thought about making them again this week, but they are far too addictive. I will wait until I’m sure I have plenty of people to share them with.

I’m looking forward to reading through everyone’s posts and connecting with old friends and new through this new group. Our next assignment for Baking Chez Moi is in two weeks, when we tackle Dorie’s Cranberry Crackle Tart.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this week’s recipe here: Palets de Dames.

Baking Bread and Watching Birds

Birds at the feeder.

I’m out in the Valley today, baking bread at my parents’ place, which gives me a great view of the birds making short work of the seed in the back porch bird feeder. My mother tells me that it takes them about two-and-a-half days to work their way through a full container. That should slow, now that the weather (dare I say it?) is turning toward spring.

Stll more birds, feeding.

I’ve started participating in another group project, but I’m reserving Tuesdays for my community posts on this blog, so I’m taking my Tuesdays with Dorie posts over here. It’s going to be a bit different, more collaborative, and a little more focused on the kitchen.

Thanks so much to Elaine for sending me the copy of Baking With Julia! I think my friends and family will be thanking her, too. I see a lot of baked goods in my future.

A bird at the feeder.