Recently in Candy and Sweets category

A Visit to Parisian Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux

This was an easy post!

If you’d like to know what it’s like to visit Jean-Charles Rochoux with me, one of my favorite chocolatiers in Paris, go visit Too Many Chefs for Meg’s write-up of our visit.

Update! You can read about my visit to Jean-Charles Rochoux, and see his staggeringly-beautiful chocolate creations.

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Belt-Tightening

Summer is here in Paris. It arrived without warning last week and was brutal. It was hot, and it hit around 31°(about 88°) and so humid, I faced a real-meltdown of chocolate. And just about everything else around here, including me, suffered the same fate. Just when no one couldn’t bear it anymore, it stopped. Then we had rain and cool weather. It’s so other-worldly (hey…am I back in San Francisco?), but summer arriving means a lot less clothes, and since I’m now European, it’s obligatory that they’re much, much tighter. Damn Europeans and their fine-tailoring. So that means it’s time to pay for the last 8 months of eating too many pastries, tasting too many chocolates, snacking on too many macarons, and drinking perhaps a bit too much vin rouge. I don’t know if I can hold my stomach in consecutively for the next three months, but I’m going to try. I’ve unpacked my shorts for summer and they definitely are un peu serré.

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Speaking of tightening my belt, last week I got to spend the morning at my favorite place in Paris, getting rid of a few excess US dollars I had lying around. My favorite place isn’t the Eiffel Tower nor the Louvre (they don’t take dollars), nor was it the Museé d’Orsay or the Jardin du Luxembourg. Yes, I got to go to the American Embassy, my favorite place in Paris! I like hanging out there, since everyone there understands me, unconditionally, and without judgment. There’s no raised eyebrows or startled expressions, like last week when I recently ordered ‘Big Turd Jam’ (confiture des grosse selles), when I meant red currant (confiture des groseilles). Luckily they were out of the first one.

But the American Embassy is great: I can argue back with impunity and get huffy with them. Hey, why not? I’m on equal turf, and I’m an American and my English is just as good as theirs.
And I can argue with anyone all I want and make perfectly-formed sentences with correctly-placed pronouns and not worry if this verb is masculine to I need to match the adjective to the gender as well, or decide if I need to decide which of the gazillion French verbs I need to conjugate correctly, unlike I have to do at the Préfécture.
What are they going to do if I screw it up my English at the US Embassy? Kick me out? Or in?

So there I was, on the rue St. Florentin, where I waited, stood in line, got scanned, went through the metal detector, then had my water bottle confiscated (I guess it’s a threat to national security), then headed to the IRS office. Being a foreign resident you get an automatic extension for paying your taxes, which comes in handy when the mail isn’t very reliable. I guess somehow they caught on and give us expats a break.

So in my bid to help fight the war on terror and make the world a safer place (though things don’t quite appear to be quite heading in that direction) I sat under the over-sized, overly-glossy, and over-polished pictures of George and Dick (whose has a rather curious smirk on his face for an ‘official’ portrait), and wrote my checks.

And prayed things wouldn’t get any worse.
And in fact, for me, they were about to get better.

A whole lot better.

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Since I was in the neighborhood (well, not really, but since I left my neighborhood, I’m gonna stretch it), I decided to visit chocolatier Jacques Genin. A lot of people talk about M. Genin with a hushed reverence and most of it is directed at his terrific chocolates. But one bite of his Passion Fruit Caramels and I’m singing a different tune. And you’ll be too.

I had stopped at a bakery down the street for bread and noticed les palets Breton, delicate buttery cookies made from salted butter, so I bought a stack. Four was the minimum for some reason… this from the country where you can buy half a baguette for 42 centimes, and when madame wants to buy one fig, madame will be given the same courtesy and service (and take as much time) as, say, an American pastry chef trying to race through the market buying a flat of figs or a few kilos of nectarines to test recipes.

So I bought four, but M. Genin was happy to relieve me of half of them. In exchange, he swooped his hands into the tray he was wrapping of caramels and stuffed them in my bag (and those caramels are as precious as gold, since you can’t buy them in stores.) As you can see, each caramel is buttery, tender, and keeps its shape just long enough to get it into your mouth, where it dissolves into an explosion of creamy-smooth sweet goo, slightly tangy from the passion fruit, with exactly enough of the tropical pulp to offset the restrained sweetness of the caramel.

So I can’t say I’m going to get any thinner, or my shorts will soon fit better, or when I hit the beach in August, I’ll be turning any heads. But when you have a guy like Jacques Genin feeding you chocolates and handing you caramels, who cares if your belt needs to be loosened out a notch.

Or two.

Jacques Genin
133, rue de Turenne
Tel: 01 45 77 29 01

NOTE: This post was updated in 2009, and now M. Genin has his own boutique in Paris, at the address above, which is open to the public.

A Visit To Richart Chocolate

Want to know what’s it like to visit one of the finest chocolate shops in Paris?

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Les Itinéraires des Beaux Jours: Richart’s Exquisite Upcoming Chocolate Collection

Richart Chocolate
258, blvd St. Germain
Paris
Tél: 01 45 55 66 00

Pocket Coffee Haiku


Trim cube of chocolate

Gush out liquid espresso!

Clever caffeine cloak


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Pocket Coffee Online

No Man Is As Island. Except Me.

When I decided to move from San Francisco, the two places I narrowed it down to were Honolulu or Paris. The beauty of living in Hawaii is…well, the beauty of Hawaii. Lots of warm beaches and surfing, alarmingly-fresh sushi, tropical fruits galore in your backyard, and an accumulation of frequent-flyer miles from trips to the mainland.

Paris, on the one hand, was France.

So I moved to France.
Here I am, going about my everyday life: in line at the boulangerie waiting for my baguette, negotiating with the fromager for the most interesting cheese of the season, and sitting in cafés all afternoon reading Kant and Kafka.

So this year I won a blog award, and was thrilled that my prize was being donated by ‘Ono Kine Grindz from Honolulu. The prize turned out to be two oversized, heavy cookbooks on Hawaiian cuisine. So instead of the books (one of which I had), Reid offered to send me a selection of tasty Hawaiian products instead.
“Awesome”, I thought, “I can’t wait.”

But wait I did.
And wait some more, did I.

Then then I waited some more.

I know it’s kinda rude to ask, but I finally shot him an email asking him if he had indeed sent it, which he had way back when.
Now I don’t know if it’s La Poste or the US Post, but living in the US I always received packages, most arriving relatively quickly. But in just a few short years in Paris, the arrival rate for packages is hovering at about 26.4%. I mean, where are they going? Are they sitting in some warehouse? Are they being pilfered or stolen? Do packages just simply vanish?

(Note: If any French people have anti-US Postal service stories, post the link to your blog entry in the comments section. Similarly, if anyone works for La Poste and would like to anonymously give some clues as to the whereabouts of my other packages…no questions will be asked. And I promise never to write anymore about lost or stolen packages.)

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So even though I didn’t move to the island of Honolulu, I realize that I’m living on an island right here. One that is impenetrable when it comes to deliveries.

Anyhow…so my second package from Reid managed to arrive this week, and I was so happy when I unwrapped all the fabulous things:

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Loose-leaf Pacific Place Tea, which I am busy brewing. This dark, long-leaf tea is beautiful, scattered with colorful little petals of marigold and cornflowers, with tropical fruit aromas as well. I hope it’s not sacrilegious, but I’m brewing up some iced tea with it.

A sack of real Kona Coffee! Most of the time if you go to Hawaii you’ll get served something called ‘Kona’ coffee, but if you look at the percentage of real Kona coffee in it, you’ll find it’s blended and the actual amount of Kona beans in it is around 10% (my delivery rate is better than that!) I was at Peet’s coffee once and was served true, 100% Kona coffee. And it was amazing and well worth the lofty price tag.
And mine was a gift!

I screwed open the jar of Kiawe White Honey and stuck my finger in the blank-colored, crystallized honey. Boy, was that good! This very rich organic honey is made from the flowers of the kiawe tree which grows from the volcanic soil of Mauna Kea.

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Poha Berry Jam. Poha berries are related to what are called physalis in France and Cape Gooseberries (or Ground Cherries) in America. Poha Berries resemble tomatillos with their papery leaves hiding the dull-orange fruit inside. At the market recently, a Frenchwoman told me they were called, “les feuilles d’amour”, the leaves of love, in French.

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I remember reading about Lilikoi Curd from Planted by the river from Heidi. I adore anything with passion fruit in it, one of my favorite fruits ever. This jar of curd has li hing mui, dried salted plums added. I’m thinking of making Heidi’s Lilikoi Passion Fruit Curd Cake but I fear I’m going to eat it all for breakfast instead. (In fact, I’m certain I will.)

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Being a baker, I am avidly interested in vanilla and always looking for unusual pods to sniff and bake with. Vanilla beans are the most labor-intensive crop in the world, hence their price and scarcity. In 1998, Hawaiian Vanilla began planting vanilla orchids in Hilo, and now they sell vanilla beans and extracts, all cultivated and made in Hawaii. When I pulled the pod out of the glass tube and gave it a sniff, it was sweet and fragrant, one of the best-smelling vanilla beans I’ve had. I’m going to use it to make some Vanilla Ice Cream, plain and simple.

Mahalo to Reid at ‘Ono Kine Grindz. Go visit his site.

Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

I make this every year for Passover. It’s not that I’m all that religious (for some reason I seem to celebrate only the holidays where there’s lots of eating, drinking…and presents, of course.) But I always pick up a box or two of matzoh, which is stacked high in supermarkets this month, plus I love the sweet-crunch of this toffee-like confection.
The only problem is that I haven’t figured out how to adapt it for Easter.
Perhaps you can cut it into ovals with a cookie cutter and try to pull one over on your family.

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The recipe is loosely-adapted from baker and cookbook author Marcy Goldman. Marcy’s run a web site devoted to the art of baking since 1997, called Betterbaking.com. In addition, she’s authored a cookbook of the same name with recipes and ideas and funny stories she’s gathered along her life as a mother, professional baker, and consultant.

You don’t have to be Jewish to like or make this (just like you don’t need to be Christian to like Christmas presents) but it’s delicious and super-easy to make…you can keep the candy thermometer in the drawer as well!

Feel free to substitute milk chocolate or white chocolate, and instead of the crushed almonds, to play around with toasted shredded coconut or other kinds of nuts. As I type, I’m thinking wouldn’t pistachios and white chocolate be nice together on top?
Maybe next year…

I spent this morning at my market handing little sacks of this to my favorite vendors (and a few I’m trying to win over.) So if you’re out at a market in Paris this morning and see the lots of butchers, fishmongers, fromagers, and olive merchants snacking on something, you’ll know what it is.

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Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

  • 4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted or salted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (firmly-packed) light brown sugar
  • optional: fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Line a 11″ x 17″ baking sheet completely with foil (making sure it goes up the sides) and preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Line the bottom of the sheet completely with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof utensil.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the syrup darkens and gets thick. (While it’s baking, make sure it’s not burning. If so, reduce the heat to 325F degrees.)

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips or chunks. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread smooth with an offset spatula.

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Sprinkle with a flurry of fleur de sel or coarse salt, then scatter the toasted almonds over the top and press them into the chocolate.

Let cool completely (you may need to chill it in the refrigerator), then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

mazel tov!

Related Links and Recipes

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch (Recipe Update)

Salted Butter Caramels

Candied Ginger

Candied Peanuts

Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramels

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (Marcy Goldman)

Le Petit Dejeuner of Champions

Garrett’s caramel corn for breakfast…

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Is that wrong?

(Merci Louisa!)

California Caramels: Little Flower Candy Company

Last year I read about a pastry chef-turned-candymaker in Los Angeles. She was becoming known around those parts for her tender caramels, blended with wisps of sel de mer (sea salt.)

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Inspired by the amazing CBS, caramel-beurre-salé caramels produced by the master himself, Henri LeRoux, Christine Moore’s caramels are indeed the best I’ve had in the US.

A friend drove me out to the Silverlake region of Los Angeles. It’s a rather funky area, full of shoe shops, stores with second-hand clothing racks on sidewalks, just-opened bakeries, and a music studio that Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) opened for the young folks of the neighborhood.

And there’s the The Cheesestore of Silverlake, a small shop with wheels of cheese piled high on the counter, and a carefully chosen selection of ‘gourmet’ foods…although I hate to use that word, which seems so pretentious, and this shop is anything but. They’re incredibly friendly (and yes, I seem to be the only one who truly likes LA…) and we spoke a bit about what they carry, their cheese and wine selection – and, of course, the creamy, wonderful caramels.

Although a few might consider them a tad salty for their taste (I love them), The Little Candy Company caramels were cooked to just the right temperature…not too tough, not too sticky and meltingly-soft, cooked just enough to that chewy stage to give them some ‘bite’. As we ripped open the package, unwrapped a few tender morsels and popped them in our mouths, we did concede that it was impossible to reproduce the French caramels exactly. But boy, those caramels sure were good. No matter where they’re made.

-Sea Salt Caramels from The Little Flower Candy Company can be ordered via their website.

-Check out the recipe for Christine Moore’s Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets.