Here’s my list of Ten Great Things To Eat in Paris, things I think you shouldn’t miss!
Results tagged butter from David Lebovitz
There’s something about a warm fruit crisp with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream melting alongside that most people are unable to resist. And who doesn’t love pulling that heavy baking dish, fragrant with the aroma of sweet seasonal fruit, out of the oven, with the rich fruit juices bubbling, with the heavenly smell of the buttery, nutty topping?
Really, what’s not to like?
Well…the dart-in-the-butt is that if you let it sit for any length of time, what you’re left with is a baking dish of fruit topped with solidified mush. And that, my friends, is what’s not to like.
So I came up with a plan—To put the crisp back in crisp topping.
Ever since I came up with this recipe, it’s become the only one I use and is a summertime staple around chez David. Even though there’s perhaps nothing easier to prepare in a moment’s notice, I like to keep a batch in the freezer for an impromptu fresh-fruit crisp, so you can easily double the recipe and freeze Part deux for the next time.
When I was finalizing the recipes in The Perfect Scoop, I was conflicted about something sweet. Even more so than I usually am. Some might call it a character flaw, but for me it’s normale.
I wrote too many recipes and I needed to make room for all the sumptuous photography. I’ll admit once I got started I got a bit too eager and couldn’t stop myself from churning up all sorts of great flavors. Although I did include a fabulous recipe for Pear Caramel Ice Cream, which gets its smooth richness from caramelized pears rather than boatloads of cream and egg yolks, I decided since my first book had a killer-good recipe for Caramel Ice Cream, that would suffice for ice cream fans.
Anyone who uses iPhoto probably remembers your first thrill of plugging in your digital camera and magically, with no effort at all, having your photos automatically downloaded for you. Then they’re neatly filed on your computer so you can view, cut, or paste your memories until your heart’s content.
It’s great for the first few times, but once you’ve hit a certain number of photos, in my case the 1k mark, things start to slow w-a-a-a-y down, making it necessary to either burn them onto disks like the old days (iPhoto’s dirty little secret, forcing us to resort to ‘outdated’ technology…bad Apple!)
Or sadly, just to delete them.
So I spent my weekend going through my older photos and realized that I never wrote about one of the most special places in France: Locronan, allegedly the birthplace of my beloved Kouign Amann.
Note I used the word ‘allegedly’.
I’d been told by several French folks that the town is famous as the lieu de naissance of this buttery cake. But when I asked at the Office de Tourisme, the woman there had no idea what I was talking about. And wasn’t all that interested in pursuing it with me either. So I’ll let someone out there do the research since I’m too involved in burning photos onto disks all weekend. But even though Locronon may not the be the birthplace of this famous Breton Butter Cake, it’s certainly become the epicenter for lovers of butter & sugar bound-together.
Although the town is teeming with tourists who come to gawk at the granite buildings and churches, the town is also teeming with other fans of the sweet-stuff: les guepes, or yellowjackets.
Every bakery had swarms of the lil’ stingers flying all around, hundreds of them are everywhere, feasting their wings off on the sugary treats and tartlets for sale, like the rhubarb ones above. The women who work in the bakeries must’ve made some top-secret pact with the bees since they showed no fear of them and would swat ‘em away while packing up tarts and cakes. We decided to use the bees as a guide and follow their advice, since they’d probably know which was the best Kouign Amann in town. Like truffle hunters use pigs and dogs, this pastry-hunter decided to follow the bees, and I reasoned the places with the most yellowjackets would have the best pastries.
Truth is, I don’t eat croissants very often for the simple reason that I don’t like to get dressed until I’ve had my morning coffee & toast. So having one is a relatively big deal for me, since croissants are only good early in the day: I refuse to eat one after 11am if I can help it. Like anything made with copious amounts of butter, they don’t get better the longer they’ve been out of a hot oven.
Although stories abound, no one quite knows who invented le croissant. It’s believe to be in an invention of the Austrians, who created a crescent-shaped pastry to oppose the Ottomans, who had invaded their country. They symbol of Turkey is a crescent, and granted, who doesn’t like to eat Turkey?
Except maybe vegetarians. So maybe croissants were invented by and/or for vegetarians?
Aha…a new theory emerges…this is how rumors get started on the internet, folks, and perhaps people will be quoting me decades later: “David Lebovitz says croissants were invented for Austrian vegetarians!”
But today, I think few would argue that the croissant is most closely associated with France and in fact, one rarely comes across a bakery in Paris that doesn’t offer their own version. If you need further proof of their proprietary alliance with French gastronomy, ask yourself when was the last time you heard the words das croissant?
Did you know that when a chocolate cake recipe says to ‘grease a cake pan and dust it with flour’, you can substitute unsweetened cocoa powder for the flour?
Simply butter the cake pan then spoon in a heaping spoonful of cocoa powder, then shake the pan to distribute the cocoa over the bottom and sides of the pan.
Voila!…a bit more chocolaty flavor in any chocolate cake.
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.)
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.
Here are some helpful tips to prevent cookies from spreading:
Don’t Overbeat the Batter
Far too many recipes advise bakers to simply “Cream butter and sugar until smooth”. So many people just turn on the mixer and go check their e-mail.
When you beat butter and sugar, those little crystals of sugar create air pockets between the butterfat. The more you beat, the more air you incorporate (those trapped air pockets steam open and expand in the oven). That’s great for a nice, light cake…but not for most cookies. So when the recipe says, ““Cream or beat butter and sugar”, just mix them for about 30 seconds, until well-combined.
Use Ungreased Baking Sheets
Measure Ingredients Properly
I know this is a big duh!, but adding more liquid or less flour than a recipe indicates makes a big difference. When people tell me, “I can’t bake”, I never understand that. I mean, how difficult is “8 ounces of butter” or “3 large eggs”? It’s not like a piece of meat that you need to guess and adjust cooking times. Baking is a no-brainer.
Don’t change ingredients either. Using extra-large eggs in place of large eggs means you’ve added more liquid. Using anything other than all-purpose flour (or whatever is called for) can also be problematic.
Check Your Fat
Most butter is about 80% fat, meaning the rest is roughly 20% water. When used in a batter, that water liquefies, and voila!. You can use a ‘European-style’ butter, which has a higher percentage of fat and remains more stable when baked. Examples of this include Plugra.
Some recipes use vegetable shortening instead of butter, which is another alternative (although I don’t personally use vegetable shortening). Vegetable shortening is 100% percent fat, which means there’s little water so things stay in place better when baked (it’s why pie dough made with shortening is flakier…there’s little water to saturate and toughen the flour.)
If you choose to replace butter in your recipe with vegetable shortening, find one without trans-fats, which are now available.
Check Your Oven Temperature
Every oven is completely different. I had a someone call me at 11pm one night to tell me her Peanut Butter Cookies took 10 minutes to bake instead of 9 minutes, as indicated by the recipe. Buy an oven thermometer and check the accuracy of your oven.
If you put cookies in an oven that’s not hot enough, they’ll droop and spread before firming up.
You can find more tips at my post: Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading
Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder (and how to make your own)