June 2005 archives

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

cherry-jam-bowlcherry-jam
cherry-jam-cherriescherry-jam-funnel

Stand back. This is gonna get messy.

I’m going to teach you how to make something without a recipe.

cherry-jam-1

Before you panic, remember that your grandmother made lots of things without recipes and without measuring everything down to the last 5/9ths of a teaspoon. Just breath. That’s right, it will be okay. It’s easy to make jam and you can do it without a recipe.

cherry-jam-pits

Here’s how…

No-Recipe Cherry Jam


You’ll notice a difference in the cherries and the jams shown in the post. The lighter one is made from sour cherries and the darker is made from sweet cherries. The recipe will work well with either.

1. Buy as many cherries as you feel like pitting.

Usually I have the patience for about 3 pounds, but it’s up to you. Figure one pound of cherries will make one good-sized jar of jam. Plump, dark Bing cherries work really well, although Burlats are good, and if you can find sour cherries, your jam will rock.

2. Wear something red. Rinse the cherries and remove the stems. Using the handy cherry pitter that I told you to buy a few weeks ago, pit the cherries. Make sure to remove all the pits. Chop about 3/4ths of them into smaller pieces, but not too small. Leave some cherries whole so people can see later on how hard you worked pitting real cherries. If you leave too many whole ones, they’ll tumble off your toast.

3. Cook the cherries in a large nonreactive stockpot. It should be pretty big since the juices bubble up. Add the zest and juice of one or two fresh lemons. Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity, and will help the jam gel later on.

4. Cook the cherries, stirring once in a while with a heatproof spatula, until they’re wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them. Aren’t they beautiful, all juicy and red?

cherry jam

5. Once they’re cooked, measure out how many cherries you have (including the juice.) Use 3/4 of the amount of sugar. For example if you have 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar. It may seem like a lot, but that amount of sugar is necessary to keep the jam from spoilage.

6. Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it’s cooking, put a small white plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil. (Wouldn’t it be a shame to burn it at this point?) Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir as well.

7. Once the bubbles subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick-ish, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done.

wrinkle test

If not, cook it some more, turn off the heat, and test it again. If you overcook your jam, the sugar will caramelize and it won’t taste good and there’s nothing you can do. Better to undercook it, test it, then cook it some more.

Once it’s done and gelled, add a bit of kirsch if you have it, clear cherry eau-de-vie which will highlight the flavor. Or add a few drops of almond extract, but not too much, or it will taste like a cheap Italian cake. Ladle the warm jam into clean jars and cover. Cool at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.

sour cherry jam

See, you did it!



Related Posts and Recipes:

Easy Jam Tart

Peach Leaf Wine

Quick Mincemeat Recipe

Red Wine-Poached Rhubarb

White Chocolate and Sour Cherry Scones

Seville Orange Marmalade

Bergamot Marmalade

Shallot, Beer, Prune, and Cocoa Nib Jam

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

USDA canning guidelines

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Pickled Sour Cherries

Upside Down Cake

Almond Cake

Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream

cherries

La Table Nutella

The hottest table right now in Paris is not at some snooty Michelin 3-star restaurant. It’s La Table Nutella, a temporary café to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Nutella, the world best-selling spread. Nutella, a paste made of hazelnuts and chocolate (and, um, a few other things) was invented in the Piedmonte region of Italy, famous for it’s delicious hazelnuts.

Each morning a line forms before 7 am, waiting (and hoping) for entrance. I kinda gave up, not really wanting to wake up that early and standing on the street. And I hate crowds of people grabbing food. Plus I had heard stories of a new French revolution brewing since there wasn’t nearly enough food to feed the hoards, and the staff was insanely stressed trying to control the crowd.

nutellacafeblog.jpg

It seems that the staff has figured out a solution to the problems plaguing the café by severly limited the amount of guests, which means the dreaded queue.
Then like magic, I got an email from Louisa that she scored a VIP table and we could cut in front of the queue, something the French are so adept at they even have their own word for it: resquillage.

Once seated, we ordered just about everything on the menu. All proceeds go to the group Rêves, so we didn’t feel guilty.

eggblog.jpg

This is a dessert created by pastry chef Philippe Conticini for the café, who has written a companion cookbook with stunning recipes using Nutella. It’s an eggshell filled with a rich, creamy chocolate custard that tasted remarkably like great chocolate pudding sans the skin. The baton, or cookie, that came with it was crunchy and the perfect accompaniment..

We split a giant brownie, and when I say giant, that thing was huge… Très Américain! Layers of sticky, dense brownie batter baked with a ganache-like paste of Nutella and toasted hazelnuts. I loved it, but others felt it was too rich.

brownieblog.jpg

So I ate theirs for them.

The Apple-Nutella Crumble was an unfriendly Franco-American alliance on par with Bush and Chirac (Apple Crumble has replaced the ubiquitous Apple Tart in France as the dessert-of-the-moment)…although I don’t like apples and chocolate together, so I’m not the best judge. I did enjoy the fromage blanc with a dollop of Nutella but we all flipped for the little croissants which when split open, oozed out a serious amount of gooey Nutella inside.

When I cut it open, like the croissant itself, Louisa’s enthusiasm spilled out, “Oh yeah, baby, bring it on!

Seems I’m not the only one in love with Nutella.

ilovenutellablog.jpg

La Table Nutella
46, rue de Sévigné, 4th
Until June 22
Monday through Friday, 7am to 11:30am
Saturday 8am to 3pm
(Get there early; latecomers will most likely not get seated.)

The Grainy Breads of Paris

Bread from 134RDT

I’ve dedicated a healthy portion of my life walking the streets and boulevards of Paris to find grainy bread here. In a city where there’s a boulangerie on every corner, you can get excellent baguettes or a nice loaf of pain au levain just about anywhere. But it’s hard to find a loaf of bread with lots of seeds and stuff in it. Maybe it’s because the breads in Paris, like Parisians, are so refined. And as much as I love all the breads in Paris, it’s the grainy breads that I find especially appealing.

Here are some of my especially favorite grainy breads from various bakeries across Paris. These are the sturdy, hearty breads that I enjoy most. And the ones that I’ll happily walk across town for one.

Grain Bread

Norlander Bread
Christian Voiron
61, rue de la Glaçiere

I learned about this bread from Clotilde’s explorations and it’s a favorite. Tight and compact, Norlander bread is the heaviest bread I’ve found in Paris. And it’s also small, making it the perfect bread for a little afternoon snack with some contraband peanut butter, which a friend smuggled out of an American army base in Switzerland.

Nordiqueblog.jpg

Pain Nordique
Le Grande Epicerie
22, rue de Sèvres

I’ve been told the Grand Epicerie makes over 80 different kinds of bread underground, beneath this enormous food emporium. This is a lighter, airy bread, yet full of lots of sunflower seeds and a good amount of oat flakes. It’s excellent sliced-thin and toasted. But get there early: for some reason, by mid-afternoon they start feeding all the Pain Nordique loaves into the slicing machine and bagging them up.

Last time I was there, I was in the slowest line in the world, and as the lone saleswoman waited patiently on some madame that was bickering over the prices or freshness of a single roll or something. Meanwhile the other salesperson was tossing the brown loaves into a slicing machine as fast as he could. All I could do was stand there helplessly, hoping that my turn would come soon, before he could finish slicing all the loaves. I ended up getting the last two. Whew!

Pain aux Cereales
Eric Kayser
8, rue Monge

This is one of thes best breads in Paris, period. I don’t know how Eric Kayser does it, but each loaf comes out encrusted with golden sesame seeds. Slice it open, and you’ll find a delicate but full-flavored bread studded with crunchy grains of millet, sesame and sunflower seeds, with a naturally sweet taste. I used to walk across Paris to his shop on the rue Monge for a loaf (actually, I always get two and freeze the other.) Kayser has opened bakeries across Paris – and even one in New York City – so it’s easy to find this bread. It’s got a lovely lightness, along with the crackle of the grains, and is perfect with cheese or swiped with butter and honey for breakfast.

tradiograinsblog.jpg

Tradigrains
Au Pain de Saint-Gilles
1 bis, rue Saint-Gilles

When the quality of the baguettes of my local boulanger, Au Levain du Marais, slid downhill after their month-long summer vacation a few years ago, I agonized over the loss for weeks and weeks. I was torn. In France, your live your life according to your local bakery. You know when the loaves go in and come out of the oven, when the baker is off, and how to get the baguette cooked just the way you like it (bien cuite, svp!) You adjust your life, since most bakeries are closed two days of the week, so you need to plan your schedule and meals around those two days.

My supreme disappointment lasted for months until I discovered this grainy Tradigrains loaf at Au Pain de Saint-Gilles in the Marais, just a few blocks from chez David. Now this is proudly my baguette of choice. Do you see why?

Millet, poppy seeds and flax seeds ripple through the interior of each loaf. I can barely get out the door of the bakery without ripping off the end, called le quignon, and devouring it (a French tradition, after any baguette purchase…I think of it as an immediate quality-control check.)

[The loaf pictured at the top is from the 134RDT at 134, rue de Turenne.]

Related Links and Posts

Blé Sucré

Bazin

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc

Paris Favorites

Chocolate Bread Recipe

Du Pain et des Idées

Paris Pastry App

Chocolate, On Rue Tatin

Cooking On Rue Tatin
with Susan Loomis and David Lebovitz

For this very special week, I’ll be joining cookbook author Susan Loomis for a week of cooking and baking at her gorgeous and famous home on Rue Tatin (yes, she lives on Rue Tatin!) in the village of Louviers. Susan has written extensively about her life in Normandy and her latest book, Cooking At Home On Rue Tatin has quickly become one of my new favorite cookbooks.

During the week with Susan and me, we’ll be cooking up a storm in her professional kitchen, creating menus and elaborate multi-course meals featuring local ingredients as well as learning cooking secrets and techniques as we go.
We’ll be focusing on chocolate this week, and I’ll conduct special seminars during your visit. We’ll have a focused tasting and evaluation as well as learn how-to tempering chocolate, create wonderful chocolate confections, and baking classic French chocolate desserts.

We’ll also visit an outdoor market in the medieval village of Le Neubourg that is simply amazing, as well as conduct private tastings of goat cheese and wine with local producers and specialists.

More information can be found by visiting On Rue Tatin.
This week is certain to sell-out as group size is limited; reserve your space now.

September 25-30, 2005

Second Chances

For the past several years, I’ve avoided Mariage-Frères in the Marais. Last time I was there, a friend who had just arrived from the states had to go there immediately for tea. As the afternoon wore on, he began the usual jet-lag wilt (I can mimic the facial expressions, complete with nodding-back head, but I can’t describe the feeling adequately at the moment.)
The best description that comes to mind–“Your body arrives one day…and your soul arrives a few days later.”

DSC01289blog.jpg

As my friend faded into oblivion, I unsuccessfully tried to signal one of the linen-clad waiters for l’addition. At Mariages-Frères, the waiters have perfected and refined the art of avoiding the customers gaze. So we waited and waited and waited. That was my last visit.

But last week a non-jet-lagged friend asked to meet me her there for tea, and I thought why not give it another chance? Three years is a long time to hold a grudge against something that’s a Paris institution.
Our rendez-vous was mid-afternoon, and the tea salon was calm and the servers were graceful and accommodating. I had a perfectly brewed pot of green Sencha tea along with a rather good wedge of tarte layered with fresh raspberries topped with a black tea chiboust.

tartblog.jpg

In the grand tradition of tea time, we imbibed in small cakes as well: a lovely, moist financier scented with green matcha tea and a madeline with a subtle bit of Earl Grey tea leaves.

teacakesblog.jpg

Mariages-Frères
30-35, rue du Bourg-Tibourg
Métro: St. Paul

Coconut Chocolate Macaroon Recipe

Many people tell me this is one of their favorite recipes from my cookbook, Ready For Dessert. In addition to these fantastic Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons you’ll find my infamous recipe for Fresh Ginger Cake which makes a fantastic summertime dessert served simply with sliced, juicy-sweet peaches or flavorful strawberries and raspberries.

macblog.jpg

I made a batch of macaroons for a Thai banquet last night here in Paris, where a happy alliance of French and American food bloggers (and food-lovers) got together for dinner. We chopped giant bunches of vivid-green herbs like cilantro, mint, and other greens with names that we learned have no English, or French translations. Jumbo prawns from Chinatown were quickly peeled and sautéed, and tiny branches of fresh green peppercorns were quickly skillet-cooked until tender.

Succulent beef was grilled and marinated in a spicy glaze then tossed with hot chilies, fresh cilantro leaves, and cooling slices of cucumbers. Things heated up as we simmered tea-smoked duck in red coconut curry sauce which was spooned over steamed rice fragrant, with aromatic pandanus leaves. And I loved the shrimp stir-fried with vivid-green garlic shoots, which mellowed considerably once cooked quickly with the plump shrimp and Thai spices.

Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons

30 Cookies

From Ready for Dessert (Ten Speed)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut (see note)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a large skillet, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour.

Heat over low-to-moderate heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly, scraping the bottom as you stir.

When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

(At this point, the mixture can be chilled for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.)

When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds with your fingers evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

To dip the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the baking sheet. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate is set.

Note: Unsweetened coconut is available in most natural-food shops or you can purchase it online.

It goes under various names, such as coconut powder, medium shredded coconut, and coconut flakes. All will work well in this recipe.

Le Petit Suisse

If you live in the US and shop in supermarkets, usually there are just a few choices of yogurt, ranging from lots of mass-produced store brands to a few upscale organic selections. But visiting the yogurt aisle at the grocery store in France is always an exciting event for me.

The choices just go on and on and on and on and on and on and….

marketyogrtblog.jpg

There’s plain yogurts made from cow, sheep, and goat milk.

There’s reduced-fat.

There’s soy yogurt (à la vache! in this land where cows are sacred…)

There’s names like Fjord and Jockey.

There’s off-beat flavors like fig, kiwi, prune, and wheat (yes, wheat.)

Small fromageries sell dainty glass jars filled with tangy, farm-fresh yogurt. Enormous hypermarches like Auchan boast multiple refrigerated aisles stocked with nothing but yogurt and fromage blanc, a cousin to yogurt (fromage blanc and fromage frais are soft, fresh cheeses, eaten with a spoon.)

When yogurt is sweetened, the labeled usually proclaims avec sucre de canne, with cane sugar, which is highly regarded here as a sweetener, in spite of the many sugar-beets harvested in France. In the US, high-fructose corn syrup is used, which is much cheaper than sugar but has an icky syrup-y aftertaste that I don’t like. If you’ve ever compared a American Coke with a Coke from Mexico or Europe, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’ve always been tantalized by le Petit Suisse since stories of French people descending on a San Francisco supplier during their
Open Warehouse
events which are legendary.

Le Petit Suisse is not yogurt, but a very rich little pot of fresh, sweet fromage frais. The first thing you notice is it’s about half the size of the standard (4 oz) French yogurt (left, which is about half the size of a standard American yogurt (8 oz).

2yogurtsblog.jpg

Le Petit Suisse is made from skim milk, cream, and ferments lactiques. It was developed by a Swiss dairy worker, Monsieur Gervais, whose name is still emblazoned across the packaging. He’s credited for developing it over 150 years ago in Normandy, a region justly famous for it’s smooth, creamy, and unctuous cheeses like Camembert de Normandie, Epoisses and Pont L’Evêque.

Being France, naturally there are lots of rules involved if you want to enjoy it properly.

peelinggervaisblog.jpg

Overturn the little pot and squeeze it slightly to release the cylinder. Tip le petit Suisse on its side, then unroll it while peeling off the paper. Then you sprinkle a generous amount of turbinado sugar (called cassonade, or unrefined cane sugar) over the top, or serve it with a spoonful of jam. And dig in. It’s tangy-sweet taste lends itself to being served with a fruit compote as well, although I prefer it as shown. And I like to savor it with a tiny spoon; its richness is best enjoyed in small doses.

finishedblog.jpg

Related Posts

Caillé

French Sugars

Comté

French Cheese Puffs Recipe

Paris Cheese Archives

Learning French…Simplified

Just in case anyone thinks that learning French is difficult, my French workbook offers this simple explanation of how to easily construct a phrase.

French1.jpg