Results tagged almond from David Lebovitz

Blondel Chocolate

chocolate at blondel

Les françaises are justifiably proud of their chocolates and chocolatiers, but if you talk to them about Swiss chocolate, many will say – “Oh, Swiss chocolate is very, very good.” Yet when I press them on which particular brands of chocolate are “very good”, they often don’t, or can’t, pin down the specific names* of any.

chocolates at Blondel

Folks who have been to Lausanne – French, American, and otherwise – however, always talk in glowing terms about Chocolats Blondel. And indeed, they’re worthy of adulation from people, far and wide, a fact I recently was reminded of.

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Homemade Nutella

chocolate hazelnut spread

Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in New York with a group of other cooks, who were mostly women and we were all friends. We’d gather in the cold morning kitchen, working around a communal wooden counter near the warm stove armed with cups of strong coffee as we set about our various tasks while engaging in conversations while doing all the repetitive work of chopping the piles of vegetables we used for soups, salads, and other things that we were going to prepare the rest of the day.

One woman, who I’ll call Mary Smith (and who, for some reason, we all called her by her complete name, “Mary Smith”, rather than just “Mary”), was bookish and almost librarian in her demeanor, and she was attending a local Ivy league institution, getting her doctorate in Russian and Russian studies. She worked very efficiently with no unnecessary movements, and always had perfect posture, like a ballerina, along with pristine skin and straight brown hair pulled sharply back in a tight ponytail.

chocolate-milk and dark hazelnuts, toasted

One quiet morning we were all going about our usual business of silently peeling onions and chopping celery when Mary put her knife down on the counter, looked up, and simply announced, “Who do I have to bl-w around here to get some carrots?”

Startled at the suddenness of her request, as well as the straightforward delivery of it, we all just kind of froze for a moment in mid-action, and stared at her until someone broke the stone silence of disbelief.

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Almond Cake

almond cake

Seeing as I don’t get out as much as I’d like to, I’ve never really thought about what would be my “desert island” cake. Or should I say “dessert island” cake? As in, what is the one cake that I would want with me if I couldn’t have any other kind. Chocolate figures largely into the equation, but as much as I love Chocolate Orbit Cake or a custard-filled Coconut Cake, I’d have to say that this Almond Cake would be the one that I would choose to sustain me through thick and thin.

We made almond cake at least once weekly when I baked at Chez Panisse, which I’ve adapted from one of my baking bibles, Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere. Lindsey was the executive pastry chef of the restaurant, and co-owner, since the beginning, and she told me she used cook and bake everything in a home oven stowed away in a shed behind the restaurant, which is those days, was akin to the backyard in Berkeley. I always imagine something like a kid’s rickety fort, except one that smelled a little better.

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Stollen

stollen sliced & ready

I rarely make bread for reasons that should be obvious: it’s hard to justify spending the day at home mixing, kneading, and baking bread when you live in a city where there’s likely at least four very good bakeries within a two block radius. Unless, of course, it’s the middle of winter and the idea of braving 0º temperatures is less-than-appealing.

stollen dough in mixer stollen ingredients

Before the deep-chill set in this week, the previous week I was going to my dentist, and stopped in at the nearby Kayser bakery* (one might say I chose my dentist based on the proximity to that bakery, but I’ll deny it), and they were selling their terrific Stollen, which they make for the holidays. The small loaves cost only €3, which makes them, in my opinion, the best bargain in Paris.

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Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Recipe

chocolate-dipped florentines

Living in Paris, it isn’t always very interesting watching television, which I sometimes like to do during dinner. Sure there’s some great French channels, but I’m kinda lazy when I’m eating and prefer the English-language ones, which usually means CNN International.

So I often find myself flipping through cookbooks while I dine, glazing over the text and scanning the glossy photos. But when I came across this one, for Florentines, I stopped and bookmarked it right away. I’m always attracted to anything nutty, crispy, salty, or caramelized, and this recipe had them all. Of course, using ingredients that I usually have on hand doesn’t hurt a recipe in the popularity department around here, either.

sliced almondspowdered sugar

Crisp, caramelized almonds, just a few ingredients, and a wide swath of dark chocolate underneath. I ask you…what doesn’t this recipe have going for it? The recipe comes from Ottolenghi, a London-based restaurant that, frankly, I hadn’t heard of. But this cookbook is really gorgeous and makes me almost want to blitz across the channel and check it out. (Damn the exchange rate!) I have a lot of cookbooks and this one truly stands out. And when I saw the jumbo stack of Florentines stacked up on one of its pages, I couldn’t wait to share the recipe.

The book is full of other interesting, and compelling recipes. There’s one for Kosheri, a side dish made with lentils, rice, and vermicelli, that I’m dying to try. There’s a twice-baked Chocolate Fudge Cake that’s up the next time I have guests for dinner.

pre-baked Florentines

These crispy Florentines are super-simple to make, requiring just a few ingredients mixed together and baked. Who doesn’t love that? The authors mentioned that it’d be permissible to slather one side with melted chocolate, like traditional Florentines. The cookies were indeed fantastic without it—but it’d be a shame to pass up an opportunity to put chocolate on something now, wouldn’t it?

florentines

Chocolate-Dipped Florentines
20-25 cookies

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ten Speed)

I cut the original recipe in half since I wanted smaller cookies, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely. I added a few grains of salt, but thought I knew better and tried using a small metal spatula to spread the Florentines. But their suggested fork method worked better. You can put the cookies pretty close to each other on the baking sheet as they don’t spread during baking.

  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (50g) powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup (130g) blanched sliced almonds
  • a good pinch of flaky sea salt
  • grated zest of half an orange*, preferably unsprayed

1. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush very lightly with neutral vegetable oil.

3. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

4. Keep a small bowl of cold water and a fork near where you’re working.

5. Dip your hand in the cold water before lifting each portion of almonds, and place heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of the batter evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.

6. Once you’ve covered the baking sheet, dip the fork in cold water to flatten the cookies as much as possible. Try to avoid having many gaps between the almonds.

7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Exact time will vary based on how large your cookies are. The authors recommend lifting the bottom of one with a metal spatula to check and see if they’re cooked through. If they’re not brown across the top and bottom, they won’t be agreeably crispy.

8. Let cookies cool, then lift with a thin metal spatula and place them on a cooling rack until crisp. Continue baking all the cookies on the same baking sheet. (I found no need to re-oil it between uses.)

Store Florentines in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To Coat the Cookies with Chocolate

To coat one side with chocolate, melt a few ounces of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in a clean, dry bowl, stirring until smooth. Use a brush or metal spatula to coat the underside of each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate. Let cool in a cool place or the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, store Florentines in an airtight container at room temperature.

More Recipe Notes:

  • You can temper the chocolate if you’re not going to eat them within a relatively short period of time, if you want to avoid the chocolate ‘blooming’. Or just dip and cool them a few hours before serving time.

  • *I didn’t have any orange zest so added a few drops of orange oil, which worked perfectly.

  • When Twittering, I realized that these cookies are gluten-free.

  • Heidi did a beautiful post with photographs featuring Ottolenghi’s Red Rice and Quinoa Recipe.

  • Visit the Ottolenghi website for more recipes and information about the restaurant.

  • I’d planned to test baking the Florentines using my silicone baking mat, but had such good success with parchment paper I didn’t want to take any chances. If you do try it, let me know how they come out.

  • Chez Panisse Almond Tart Recipe

    Last week, when I had to go into my local France Telecom office, instead of the usual dread, a thought flashed through my mind: “Well, at least this might make a good story for the blog.”

    blogalmondtartchezpanisse

    But I want to spare you all that stuff so you can concentrate on the glories of Paris rather than the indignities that we citizens of the state must suffer under a regime that seeks to oppress the masses of the working people, who pay exorbitant prices for mobile phone service (and scallions…but that’s another story), who under the guise of state-run socialism are actually in cahoots with the only two other service providers that France Telecom will allow them to compete with themselves (yes…you read that right) so that we can pay 35 centimes a minute to make a call.

    I don’t know what one has to do with the other, but thanks for letting me vent. Oh, after I left their office I stepped a big mess on the sidewalk…the first time in three years.

    Mais oui.

    However I’d like to stay focused, if I can, and talk about the Chez Panisse Almond Tart.

    Continue Reading Chez Panisse Almond Tart Recipe…

    Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee Recipe

    chopped chocolate

    Something in Paris has turned horribly wrong. It’s called ‘the weather’, or to be more specific…winter has arrived.

    Which means it’s gotten cold, gray, and dreary. In fact, it’s so cold that I refuse to go outside until spring. Believe me, all those romantic photos of Paris you see are taken during the spring and fall are very deceptive and although beautiful, it would take a mighty big levier (crowbar) to get me outdoors.

    snow in paris

    So when to do when you’re stuck indoors for three or four months? Make candy!

    If you’ve never made candy, this one is really simple and incredibly delicious so there’s no reason not to try a batch. And truthfully, doesn’t it make you feel happier just looking at it?

    My recipe for Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee is easy: You chop nuts, you make a syrup, and then you pour the syrup over the nuts. Sprinkle some chocolate over it, spread it out, and finish it with more nuts. That’s it. There’s no fancy techniques and the only special equipment you’ll need is a candy thermometer; they’re easily found online, and in most supermarkets. (Yes, really. Take it from someone who lurks in supermarkets, searching for things like candy thermometers, late at night.)

    I like to add a sprinkle of fleur de sel, French salt, which gives it a pleasant salty edge which is divine with the dark chocolate and toasty nuts (any coarse salt can be used). Although you can use chips, you can also chop up a block of chocolate, instead.

    When making candy, here are a few tips that will help:


    • Read the recipe thoroughly before proceeding and have everything ready.

    • Make sure your thermometer is accurate. If you’re not sure, bring a pot of water to a boil. It should read 212 degrees if you live at sea level. I use a glass candy thermometer, although the digital ones work as well.

    • Be careful dealing with hot syrups. A good precaution is to have a large bowl of iced water handy. If you spill syrup on your hand, plunge it immediately into the water to stop the burn.

    • The best way to clean a caramelized pan is to fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Let stand until the syrup melts away.

    • Every once in a while, candy doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s too humid, or the sugar decides to crystallize (don’t encourage it by overstirring), or the planets aren’t aligned. Don’t get discouraged; it happens even to professionals.

    Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee

    Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

    • 2 cups (8 ounces, 225 g) toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped between 'fine' and 'coarse'
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 115 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • a nice, big pinch of salt
    • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 5 ounces (140 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips

    optional: Roasted cocoa nibs and fleur de sel

    1. Lightly oil a baking sheet with an unflavored vegetable oil.

    2. Sprinkle half the nuts into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) on the baking sheet.

    3. In a medium heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the water, butter, salt, and both sugars. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the thermometer reads 300 F degrees. Have the vanilla and baking soda handy.

    4. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.

    5. Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Try to pour the mixture so it forms a relatively even layer. (If necessary, gently but quickly spread with a spatula, but don’t overwork it.)

    5. Strew the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes, then spread in an even layer.

    spreadthatchocolate.jpg

    If using, sprinkle with a small handful of cocoa nibs and a flurry of fleur des sel. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.

    Cool completely and break into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container, for up to ten days.

    Related Recipes and Links

    Candy Thermometers

    Chocolate FAQs

    Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch

    Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos

    Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups

    The Great Book of Chocolate