I like to nibble on a grissini with a glass of wine. It prevents the wine making me do stupid things.. Or dunk it in a cup of tomato soup, a gazpacho.. But frankly, the store bought grissini are awful. No matter how expensive or grand they are. They taste like compacted paper. Maybe you agree. Then you might enjoy this recipe which is so easy and so quick and so delicious and has absolutely nothing to do with compacted paper!
The recipe is so easy, I can do it in only two sentences…
- Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and cut into strips of about 15mm and divide each strip into two short strips. Brush the flat strips with one beaten egg.
- Take each strip at the ends and twist while you stretch a little at the same time . Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel, freshly ground pepper and crushed red pepper berries.
- Place under grill for 8 minutes until golden, remove from the oven, turn them over, return and grill for another 8 minutes until golden.
- Remove and leave to cool.
- Can be stored in an airtight container for a week.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on the flat strips, before twisting them. In which case you have to check your addition of salt, because the Parmesan is already very salty.
- Use other interesting salts..vanilla salt, sea salt, saffron salt(see photo of ingredients), maldon salt…
- Use some seeds of your choice. I’m not too fond of seeds like poppy seeds, which has no taste whatsoever and only embarrassingly sticks in between your teeth..
- Take care not to over bake your strips so they too indeed become compacted paper.
- Serve with a glass of wine or champagne or soup, in summer with a cold gazpacho.
- Sprinkle with sugar for something to serve with dessert or a champagne in summer.
- Bake only with brushed olive oil and when out of the oven, still warm, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.
- Brush with melted butter for more flavor instead of olive oil.
As is the case all over the globe, December is family time. A time to snuggle in front of fires or laze on beaches and close to Christmas, we get together with families to open tins of cookies and traditional foods and drinks. Of course. It is Christmas. A time to remember. A time to forgive and forget. A time for peace..there is a song that says it all…
“Its a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease..”
Getting together with families, whether only one or ten, we do it around tables and food than matter to us. After all, food is more than just nourishment for our bodies. It also feeds our senses. Our sensitive souls. Yes, a soul is a sensitive thing, we fight and cry and love with our souls.When we sit around a table and taste our apple pie, we remember our parents, our childhood, our children. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. It is all good. We are feeding our souls.
Like the Chronicles 1 I have decided to also show our family tables, because it has now changed too…our Christmas table for the last 7 years at home has seated only our small family of 4. We have now grown to a wonderful 6 around the table! An exciting new chapter!
I’ll leave you in peace to browse if you like or skip top the bottom if you don’t.
- More photos of Decembers past can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar..Joyeux Noël.
- Music to add to your December playlist..Une Nuit à Versailles – Vanessa Paradis. I am quite the fan. Sure, there are some songs I skip, but mostly I enjoy them all. this is her 4th live album..hope you enjoy. Here is one of the songs..Il Y A
- Tomorrow I will see you with the last walk through memory lane… Easy caramel squares..and Chronicles III, backstage.
28/11/2012 | Categories: Amuse bouche, Aperitif, christmas, cookies, cooking, december, food, France, french countryside, Lifestyle, Living, photography, photos, snack, Tablesettings, winter | Tags: . French lifestyle, Ambiance, Aperitif, christmas, cookies, december, food, France, French countryside, myfrenchkitchen, photography, ronell van wyk, snack, tablesettings, winter | 13 Comments »
Who doesn’t know les madeleines de Marcel Proust..? Those well-known shell shaped petits gateaux with their particular little hump on the one side and the ribbed shell opposite side.
- 90g butter and a little more for the pans
- 90g flour
- 75g sugar
- 10g honey
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
*Melt the butter. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and salt for 5 minutes. Add the flour. Stir in with a wooden spoon. Add the cooled off melted butter and the honey. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. Melt the extra butter and brush the insides of madeleine pans. Fill the pans with the dough, about 1 tsp into each cavity. Bake for 10 minutes(5 minutes for the mini madeleines). Remove from the pans before completely cooled.
Extract from Proust, la cuisine retrouvé, Le Chêne, 1991. the recipe is created by Alain Senderens, who was inspired by the cooking of Proust.
- Add the lemon zest of 1/2 lemon
- To get the nice hump on your madeleine, it is necessary to have the dough cool and the oven temperature high.
- Bake the mini Madeleines only 5 minutes.
- I prefer the real old fashioned metal pans. The ribbed shell effect is much more pronounced than when using the silicone pans.
-My chickens produce small eggs with large egg yolks and I have to use 2 of them to replace 1 normal egg-
-Zest from a lemon to flavor les madeleines-
Il etait une fois…La madeleine, histoires et recettes d’un produit d’exeption lorrain - Michel Caffier
(book to be found at Amazon.fr)
Marcel Proust said: (roughly translated from below) “One winter’s day, when I came home; my mother saw how cold I was and offered me a cup of tea. I didn’t usually drink tea and I refused, but then I changed my mind. she brought me some small cakes called madeleines which seemed to be molded in a scallop shell. Still overwhelmed by the sad day I had and the sad day that lay ahead , I mechanically brought a teaspoon of tea, in which I softened a piece of madeleine, to my lips. At that moment, when it touched my palate, I trembled, suddenly very aware of something extraordinary happening to me. I was overcome with a deilcious pleasure; isolated, without notion of its cause..I ceased feeling mediocre, ordinary, mortal. Where could this powerful joy have come from? I sensed it had something to do with the tasting of this tea and cake.”
This wonderful little book is all about la madelene, how this delicious French petit gateau was born, how it got its name, how it is labelled;, sold at the stations by young maidens, the influence of St Jacques de Compostelle and it ends with the traditional recipe, which is the ones I used, and a list of additions to change the madeleine with some chocolate, hone, lemon and more.
Legend has it that one day, at the chateau de Commercy of Stanislas, in the middle of a beautiful meal, the maître d’hotel reported an incident to the prince: out of anger towards his chef, the assistant chef took out his anger on the serving of the dessert. It is unsure in which form this revenge was, but the fact was, that there was no dessert to be served. A maidservant, witnessing the distress of the maître d’hotel, offered him a solution.Tender petits gateaux, the way her grandmother made it. Necessity reigns and Madeleine Paulmier was given permission to present her little cakes for dessert. Of course it was a huge success and so la Madeleine was born.
A typical scene at the station of Commercy: young women selling madeleines to travelers. In a poem, Jacques Prévert recalls these little cakes so often bought by the soldiers of Verdun with their last trip. (postcard dated beginning XXth century).
At Commercy, the sign the bell ringer was created by the Colombe family, a line of bakers for over 150 years.From the 1780′s, Claude Colombe used the secret recipe of Madeleine Paulmier.
à la prochaine
A while ago, my daughter bought a packet of sablés des près from Bonne Maman and it was so good. So I looked at the ingredients and decided to create my own. Et voilà mes sablés aux graines!… if ever I can be allowed to blow my own horn, this would be it! These sablés turned out delicious and I’ve decided it will be my Christmas gift to friends this season. I’ve done half of the quantity with the addition of poppy- white sesamé- and sunflower seeds and the other half with only fennel seeds, which have a more “herb” taste and are as delicious. With a cup of tea or tisane…late night…before bed…pure comfort! The only problem? How to stop at two sablés..!
- Whole wheat flour can be used instead of white flour.
- When using whole wheat flour, use light brown sugar instead of white sugar for more rustic coloured cookies.
- Replace 1/2 c flour with 1/2 c rice flour.
- Replace the three seeds with 3 TBSP of fennel seeds.
- If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dried ingredients.
- Use a stencil to flatten the cookies…with a letter of the alphabet, or another design that you like.
…la touraine pittoresque…
I’m saying goodbye to a breathtaking autumn…! Our rains have arrive this weekend…pouring down non stop! And so the warm splendor of autumn has now been forced to make way for the abstract art of stark winter impressions.
With silly excitement, I will now trot along November deeper into winter, all the while planning our Christmas tree, which will be put up on 1 December, like tradition dictates. (Keep an eye on the watch it you’d like to see..) And to keep the winter blues at bay, I will be planning our outings and visits to chateaux and places of interest for this season….the chateaux have such different ambiance in December…in Chenonceau for example, a huge fire crackles in the massive fireplace…and after such a visit, it will be off to warm ouselves around a chocolat chaud in a cozy brasserie. It is also the time to go to shows and chorals and music concerts in the catedrales. But more about all of this later. For now, a last tribute to la Touraine pittoresque!
..je vous souhaite une bonne semaine!..
08/11/2010 | Categories: autumn, Cakes and tarts, cookies, France, french countryside, Montlouis sur Loire, snack, winter | Tags: cookies, France, herbs, Montlouis sur Loire, myfrenchkitchen, ronell van wyk, winter | 24 Comments »
Some people are cooks. Some people are bakers. Some do a little bit of everything. I’m not a baker at all, but I do try my hand a little at everything…
- Add a little water/cream if the dough is too stiff or add a little flour if it is too sticky.
- The dough needs to be a little sticky to cling to the baking sheet when pressed through the cookie press. It is not as stiff as dough which is rolled out.
- Use butter at room temperature.
- Use smooth jam which is fairly thick and sticky, too runny jam will bake out. Don’t overfill!
- to avoid losing a first batch, always check baking time and temperature beforehand with only a few cookies to determine the right time and temperature, as ovens differ.
Twenty seven years ago a bride tried her hand at everything too. Her own wedding. All of it. From each individual handwritten invitation to the last flower in her hair and on the tables.
Baking her own wedding cake was the biggest challenge of all. With no money in her pocket and a generous friend living on a farm with a huge kitchen, she took it on. A rich and dark fruit cake, covered with a “tablecloth” made from marzipan and finished off with a simple smaller cake shaping a bible and a bouquet of marguerites. All the while learning and compensating as she went along. The marzipan “tablecloth” turned out to be a bigger nightmare than than the organic chemistry she was obliged to take. Maybe the roots for not loving baking was established while wrestling with that marzipan tablecloth…
…a first and last self baked wedding cake……
Long evenings in between university exams were spent on writing the invitations in calligraphy with a pen and nibbs and golden ink that got thick every 30 minutes. Making the confetti was an ordeal – many a hand helped cutting and tying tiny bunches of dried flowers with long thing strips of ribbon which had to fill 4 baskets…
No hairdresser or make-up artist for this bride – there was no money for such luxury and too much work to be done on the wedding day…like arranging flowers. An early wedding gift was put to good use as vases for the table flowers - champagne glasses, of which five have withstood the test of twenty seven years and are still in use today….! They carried simple bunches of red roses and some white gypse…all romance…
…roses in champagne glasses…
Persistant on designing her dress herself and having it made by a seamstress, she saw her dress show up unfinished and wore it on the day with some spots carefully held together by pins and quick hand stitching. But beautiful and dreamy it was and now it is waiting for a daughter or granddaughter or even a next generation who might someday just like it enough…
…for a daughter or granddaughter perhaps…
The photographer arrived, just to find the bride still in working clothes, wrestling to make the wreath for the veil. Time was running short and with the help of a creative and loving sister, the wreath of roses was finally attached to the veil. Her long hair was hastily shaped by many hands in a large chignon to hold the wreath and veil, while quick daub of lipstick had to suffice for some colour on the face. An antique cameo rounded off the picture.
…roses for a wreath…
Time ran out and it was off to church in the red rover, driven by her brother. Flying low, they arrived at the entrance to the church a couple of minutes early. The nerves and emotions in the rover were raw and the throats were dry. So the bride and her brother took off again in the red rover, stopped at the nearest roadhouse, rolled down the windows and ordered two milkshakes. A bride always makes passers-by stop and enjoy, dream, fantasize…This time was different. Passers-by stopped and anjoyed and giggled at the sight of a bride with a straw in the mouth.
The red rover pulled up 20 minutes later back at the church, the door was flung open and with a few trippling steps, the bride was ready to glide down the aisle. Late but happy.
…an old fashioned wedding…
*Trucs & astuces de grands-méres.
For a successful soufflé(salty or sweet), place the soufflé mold with the prepared soufflé for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before baking.
“Pour reussir un soufflé, placez la preparation pour 15 minutes au refrigerateur avant d’enfourner.
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17/12/2009 | Categories: Cakes and tarts, christmas, cookies, december, France, Montlouis sur Loire | Tags: christmas, cookies, december, France, Montlouis sur Loire, myfrenchkitchen, ronell van wyk | 28 Comments »
We can choose to do it hard and time consuming over Christmas time, or quick and easy. I choose easy. And of course without sacrificing flavour. These squares have it all. Coming from a very good friend of my mother, many many years ago, they taste like friendship and memories.
An entry for Susan at Foodblogga’s christmas cookies round 2.
Coffee cookies. My ultimate favourite cookie ever. And a reminder of my mother and my childhood in the kitchen. And probably the strongest reminder of my mother’s constant quest for excellence. Which brings me to this writing.
Seeing a coffee cookie, reminds me of her favourite extraction from a song;
♪♪ “Do what you do do well, boy, do what you do do we-ell, give your love and all of your heart and do what you do do well…” ♪
Not to be mistaken with doing something better than someone else, or doing it according to the standards of someone else, but to set your own standards and strive to give and do your own best. To put love into whatever you take on. To go to bed at night, knowing that you gave your best. Whether you’re ironing a shirt, or writing a book, or playing a tennismatch, or preparing a sandwich, or baking a coffee cookie; the best is, you not comprimising for second best.
I can’t put a coffee cookie in my mouth, be it my own or baked by another hand, without thinking of this philosophy stemming from my childhood and following me to where I am today. Her coffee cookies had to be perfect in colour and length, the tops had to have perfect little “spikes” and never were they to be flat and fat and run-out in the pan, which of course goes all the way back to the preparation of your dough. Those cookies, not reaching all of these criteria, would be put aside never to see the cakestand. And that would mean another batch to be prepared to reach the desired quota. To stack the cake stand with pride.
I have not only inherited her recipe, but also her strive for excellence. I have passed it on to my daughters. And from the heart they put into their ordinary and sometimes mundane tasks, I know they’ll pass it on too. Maybe that is why I still enjoy baking these coffee cookies… a reminder, a question to myself: Do I still give all of my heart and all of my love to do what I do well?
8 cups flour
1½ t salt
2 cups yellow/brown sugar
2 cups golden syrup
1.1 lbs butter
3½ tablespoons cooking fat
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup strong black coffee at room tempreature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a big mixing bowl.
Add the butter and fat and work into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix the baking soda with a little coffee and add to the flour mixture with the rest of the coffee, the golden syrup and the vanilla extract. Mix together well, cover and leave overnight.
The next day: Set the oven to 200ºC.
Grease cookie pans and set aside.
Using a sausage maker/meat grinder/electrical food grinder/cookie maker with a cookie fitting, push clumps of dough through the cookiemaker, cut to the desired lenghts, about 4-5 cm.
The dough can also be rolled, cut into strips of about 4-5 cm, with the tops lightly scrathed with a fork to give it some texture.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.
Leave the cookies on a wire rack to cool.
Filling: Mix together 2 heaped tablespoons of butter. Add icing sugar, strong black coffee and vanilla extract and mix until a spreadable, but not runny consistency.
Spread one side of a cookie with the icing mixture and cover with a second cookie.
The longer the cookies are kept, the more flavourful they become.
Makes about 180 filled cookies
*I post all my recipes for that matter, hoping to inspire people to experiment themselves and play around with their imagination when it comes to detail. I’m never too specific, because I would like to encourage people to cook with their tastebuds and instinct and imagination, tasting along the way, changing direction, altering the recipe, really discovering your own methods rather than just following a recipe to the letter. That way, you develop an instinct for cooking and you really make a recipe your own, otherwise it will always stay someone else’s.
Coming back to the length and shape of these cookies: When working with a cookie maker of some sort, it comes out a certain thickness and you just have to decide on your desired length, which I suggested be 4-5 cm(1.6-2″), but it can surely be longer or shorter. By pushing the dough thicker out the end, will result in a thicker cookie.
A tip: I also always find it wise to put only a few cookies in the oven as the first batch, whichever cookie I’m baking, so as to decide whether I like the thickness or the length or the shape, or test the temperature of my own oven, the time of baking etc, and then I will go over to the final process of cutting and baking in normal big batches. It prevents huge batches of burnt or uneven baked or failed cookies and lost effort and disappointment.
Suggestion 1: If you are rolling out the dough, I would suggest a thickness of about 4-5 mm.(about 0.2″) Cut them into rectangles of about 50mm x20mm (2″ x 0.8″). Scratch the tops with a fork to give little ruffled edge, like you would get with a sausage maker or cookie maker.
Suggestion 2: On 2 tablespoons of butter, add 1/2 cup icing sugar and mix. Add about 30 ml of black coffee to the icing mixture and mix. Finally add another 1/2 cup icing sugar or until you have a spreadable filling that isn’t runny. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and spread between two cookies. Milk can be substituted for the coffee.
A good book on cooking/baking techniques and info on whatever you need to know about cooking and baking is Larousse Gastronomique – a complete encyclopedia. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Larousse-Gastronomique-Greatest-Cookery-Encyclopedia/dp/0600602354
An “old” cookie that will always be fashionable. Named after General J.B.M. Hertzog, the prime minister of the Union of South Africa, from 1924 to 1939. It was apparently his favorite cookie.
This recipe comes from Huisgenoot wenresepte 2 by Annette Human, which is perfect as is, gives perfect results every time, year after year. It is probably the only time I’ve exchanged one of my mother’s recipes for a “better” one!
25g castor sugar
10ml baking powder
1 ml salt
125g butter, at room temperature
3 extra large egg yolks
15 ml cold water
75ml apricot jam
3 extra large egg whites
160 g coconut
Sift the flour, castor sugar, baking powder and salt together.
Crumble in the butter and mix with finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix the egg yolks and cold water and add to the butter mixture. Mix to a dough. add a little extra water if it is too dry.
Work the dough into a ball, cover and leave aside to rest.
Heat the oven to 180 deg. C(350 F)
Grease the inside of muffin pans.
Roll out the dough, about 1 mm thick. Cut round circles with a cookie cutter, big enough to cover the inside of the muffin pan. Press into muffin pans.
Put a teaspoon of jam into each dough crust.
Whisk the egg-whites until stiff and gradually add the sugar to whisk to a meringue.
Stir in the coconut.
Put a tablespoonful of coconut meringue onto each jam-filled dough crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
Leave to cool before removing. store in a cool place.
Whenever I make these lemon squares, I think of my sister, who is quite a few years older than me. The day she got married and took off with her husband, leaving me as the last one behind at home, felt like the end of the world to me at 15 years old. Then I got to visit them and it all changed when she served up a plate filled with these delicacies. From then on, I couldn’t wait to go visit. She always had something new and interesting and exciting going on in her house and life and her tins were filled with lemon squares and cookies of all sorts and the most delicious dried peaches straight from the farm….sounds like perhaps the main attraction for visiting! At some stage I inherited her recipe and it has become a favourite in our family too and of everybody else that “inherits ” it along the way.
It is a non – baking cookie/biscuit and can be kept in the fridge for a long time, if you’re so lucky to have any left to last that long.
Trudie’s lemon squares
- 2 packets of butter biscuits (Petit beurre)
- 250 g butter
- 1 can of sweet condensed milk
- 250 ml desiccated coconut
- lemon juice and zest
- About 20g butter
- 450ml icing sugar
- lemon zest and juice to taste
- Melt the butter over low heat and add the condensed milk.
- Stir in some lemon zest and juice to taste and mix well.
- Add the coconut.
- Break in the biscuits and mix well until the biscuits are finely broken up en well coated.
- Press into a greased lamington tin, 24 x 34 x 2cm.
- Leave to cool down completely or place in fridge.
- Combine the ingredients for the lemon icing and mix to a smooth icing.
- Cut in squares and decorate with some candied lemon and lime zest.
Serves about 48 squares