February was the month I went to Paris and remembered why I love so much being there.
February was when I promised (for the 3rd time...) I'd take French lessons and not make a fool of myself at any two sentences en français.
February was the month I told the world my love for a French Chef (and didn't get divorced).
February was when Paris had better weather forecasts than Lisbon.
February was the month French Cuisine had a call to become 'World Heritage', opening the discussion.
February was when I decided I'd have another take at Portuguese Cuisine.
February was the month I baked madeleines, clafoutis and brioche.
You do understand I had to smile when I read the Daring Bakers Challenge for February, don't you? Is there any recipe more fitting then Julia Child's French Bread? Merci beaucoup Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook!!
February was the month I baked 2 baguettes & 1 epi following a 10 pages' recipe!
My thoughts on the challenge:
- The recipe worked like a charm. It's definitely time consuming - it took me 12 hours to taste a slice of delicious French bread!
- I used T55 flour. It's a high gluten flour, just perfect for this type of bread needs.
- Yeast's quantity was slightly smaller. I used dry baker's yeast, about 3/4 pack.
- My baguettes' slashes are very clumsy. I didn't have a proper blade. I'll definitely use one if baking baguettes again.
- I used a little semolina to prevent baguettes and epi to stick to the tea towel I used after shaping the bread.
- My pizza stone was perfect. I used parchment paper for the first 10 minutes, moved the bread to the stone then and baked normally.
- The epi turned out better than the baguettes. For a great explanation of how to cut an epi, go here.
- I froze the baguettes. We already ate one - it was also very good after defrosting according to the recipe notes.
- Patience is hardly one of my qualities. I waited patiently for the bread to cool before slice it! I didn't know I had it in me. Thank you Daring Bakers!
Check for the original recipe at Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook.
All excited about my trip and willing to tell you all about it, I haven't been posting recipes for a while. This brioche was baked before leaving to Paris , when I was already into the french spirit. Every time I bake brioche I always remember Marie Antoinette's words "Why don't they eat brioche?" when she was told that people were claiming they had no bread. End of (hi)story: if you don't use your head why keep it, right?
12 individual brioches
5 medium eggs
150 grs unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
500 grs all-purpose flour
2 tsp dry yeast
egg yolk to finish
To get started all ingredients must be at room temperature. In a large bowl, mix in flour, yeast, and sugar. Make a hole in the middle, add eggs lightly beaten and salt. Use a fork or your hands to combine into a manageable dough - if necessary add a tablespoon of water. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Slowly incorporate melted butter. Place dough onto a floured surface. Knead well for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic and shinny. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Prepare brioche molds (mine are silicone). Divide dough in 12 equal parts. From each part, reserve 1/4 the dough. Turn every large part into a ball, put each in a mold and, with a finger, push down to create a little place to hold the smaller ball. Cover with a tea towel. Let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180º. Brush every brioche with the egg yolk mixed with a dash of water. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from molds and allow to cool over a metallic rack. Brioches keep well for 3-5 days in an airtight container.
Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement oublier
Et puis je fume
I keep singing to myself the cover Pink Martini did of Piaf, Je ne veux pas travailler, Je ne veux pas déjeuner, Je veux seulement oublier, Et puis je fume. Everything comes to an end. Even the good things. Or specially those! And then there are the memories: after so much photographed food, it seems that we did nothing else but eat whilst in Paris... As I don't want you to think we only commited the Gula deadly sin, I'll leave you a place and a special look from our trip: the new museum Quai Branly and the work of American photographer Saul Leiter, showing at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. The gorgeous photos in this post belong to Monsieur Le Official Taster (aka my hubby), possible thanks to the stunning light and the sunny weather back in Paris those days!
The Quai Branly is located in the Eiffel Tower area and has been recently open. The exhibitions there couldn't compete with the nice morning sun, so we just walked across the gardens that surround the museum's building - Jean Nouvel's project, who also designed in Paris Institut du Monde Arabe and the Fondation Cartier. Like the Louvre's pyramid some love and some hate it. I, great fan of how old and new work together in Paris architectural space, couldn't made up my mind.
Saul Leiter's work was most surprising. It was the first time I heard from him, after reading in Airfrance MAGAZINE about the exhibithion. We ended up looking for the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (which is not in the maps) in a late Sunday afternoon and we were most happy to use both our time and money to see Saul Leiter's photographs. A must see for those in Paris until April 13th.
The coffee addicted in me feels at home when the familiar smell arrives at the table, the bitterness tastes like honey and the caffeine kicks in. I don't need sugar or chocolate or two plates and a napkin - I just need coffee. But in Paris every petit noir is a little production in itself. The beautiful cup above was served after a delicious lunch at a restaurant we went to for the first time. But before I get to lovely Bergamote let me tell you that in Paris coffee is overpriced. Way overpriced! French café au lait is equally expensive. At least is very good and easy to get.
The Bergamote was a pleasant surprise - located in Boulevard Saint Germain, just a few steps away from Mabillon metro station, this small restaurant is a well kept jewel for those who love fresh herbs. Every dish comes with a symphony of flavours only available by the smart use of thyme, cilantro or basil and some light presence of spices. We had lunch and our last dinner in Paris at the Bergamote. They have several menus (also available in english), plus an extra plat du jour every evening and noon. I can fully recommend the place: food's delicious, service is very nice and the room is really cosy. And to think that before Bergamote's I didn't care a thing about Créme Brulée!
8, Rue Montfaucon, Paris
I have a crush on Christian Constant. A culinary crush, of course! Chef Constant is the bright mind behind haute cuisine restaurant Le Violon d'Ingres, the brand new concept of Les Cocottes and my beloved Café Constant. Though I know exactly what my meal was (saumon froid and a more than memorable fig tart), I don't remember anymore how I got to Café Constant for the first time. Christian Constant's idea of serving classic yet affordable French cuisine in a neighbourhood bistro made me know his food before I could even know his story. When I got to know more about Chef Constant brilliant career, I was thrilled at his easy, yet sophisticated cuisine. In our trip to Paris, I took "Ma cuisine au quotidien" for him to sign but never got the guts to ask. Guess I'll have to come back!
Why is Café Constant my favourite? Packed most times, Café Constant is a bistro with an eclectic ambiance - elder regulars, french habitués just passing by for a glass of wine, young couples, families or (lucky) tourists like us - Café Constant is good comforting food rather than anything fancy. We had dinner there twice: both perfect. The menu written up on blackboards was kindly explained to us by a portuguese boy who works there. We remembered his face from our first time, a couple of years ago - he was more than suspicious when we ask him if he could speak portuguese!! Merci R. and all the staff!
my perfect meal
139, rue Saint-Dominique, 7th
Here I am, back from an awesome trip to sunny Paris!
Paris was one of the last European capitals I visited - it took me 30 years of life to get there. When I went for the first time (a little over a couple of years ago), my expectations were fairly low. And then I fell in love. It was a mature, grown up kind of love, as if it was meant to be since always. I went back a few months later, only to find out more and more things to love about Paris. Food was one of them - markets, food shops, pâtisseries, boulangeries, restaurants... Paris is heaven on Earth for any food-obsessed person! This trip was great in that department. We had wonderful meals in old and new places. Oh how I love Paris!
More to follow on my favourite bistrot parisien and a lovely finding. À toute à l'heure!
I'm leaving in a few hours for the City of Lights to spend some quality time with my adorable husband, walk by the Seine, drool on the stands of boulangeries and pâtisseries, have dinner at my favourite bistro Café Constant, get lost in the museums and watch some tennis. The photos above are two years old and bring lovely memories when I look at them! I'll be back in a week time.
Why would a cake be named after a rock? I'm aware marble cake is called that way because of its chocolate effects. But a stone? In Sweden it's called Tiger Cake (or Tigerkaka, to be more precise) - colour tones are much closer and feline imagery is much richer than stones'... A cat is a cat and a stone is a stone. Marble or Tiger, this is just a cake.
I'm not mad about nutella. Oh wait, I wasn't suppose to tell, was I? Let me try to explain. I'm not crazy about chocolate. Unbelievable, I know. It's not that I dislike chocolate, it just doesn't trill me. February, the 5th is Nutella Day. This is a nutella recipe from a non-believer. Try it at your own risk!
Tiger or Marble Cake
150 grs caster sugar
80 grs butter, unsalted
2 large eggs
100 ml non-fat milk
100 ml cream
100 grs chocolate (64% cocoa or nutella)
1/2 vanilla bean, open, seeds scrapped
250 grs all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
In a heat-proof bowl over boiling water, melt milk and chocolate or nutella together with vanilla bean (reserve seeds for the batter). In a medium bowl, cream sugar and butter (at room temperature) until smooth. Add one egg at a time, stirring after each addition. Mix in cream and vanilla seeds. Add in flour and baking powder, without over mixing. Pour half the batter into nutella mixture, mix to incorporate. Remove vanilla bean.
Preheat oven to 180ºC. In a greased and dusted pan, alternate a spoonful of each mixture, until all is used. Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted wooden pick comes out clean. Allow to cool over a rack.
Passing by the fashion magazines shelves, I stopped at a cover featuring a mysterious beautiful woman wearing a stunning purple dress. The article was about winter colours and the (once again) mysterious title was 'Colour Jewel-like Palette'... Purple was the colour to look for. The new Black. And while I still don't own a purple dress, that was the exact colour I was looking for my red cabbage soup. Bright stunning purple puree. The new Green! My other half knows better than to show any surprise at what lunch or dinner looks like but he couldn't hold a Wow at the mysterious soup. The photos don't make justice to its marvelous colour! I'll now be looking for a dress with the exact purple tone of a soup...
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
big pinch of salt
2 Tbsp cumin (or to taste)
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 medium red cabbage head (about 750grs), loosely chopped
4-6 cups vegetable stock
In a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add cumin and onions. Saute for a few minutes or until they soften up a bit. Stir in the apples. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped red cabbage (discard the hard core). Mix in the stock. Season to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook until red cabbage is soft, roughly 20 minutes. Puree with a hand blender until smooth.
To serve, drizzle with a little apple vinegar. Garnish with goat cheese, sliced apple and cumin. Or have it plain. It's delicious both ways!