Results tagged dried fruit from David Lebovitz

Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Figs

Cranberry Sauce

People often ask me what Parisians do for Thanksgiving. And while many French holidays are celebrated in America, Thanksgiving is one that doesn’t cross the Atlantic.

I’ve done a Thanksgiving dinner for friends and it takes quite a bit of time to find and assemble all the ingredients. And although a few stores that cater to American expats stock everything, it’s more fun to make fresh pumpkin puree for pies, break up a pain au levain for stuffing, and to get a free-range French turkey – which I found out that many poultry sellers with rotisseries will pop it on their spit-roaster for you, which is a boon for those in Paris with dinky ovens.

Cranberry Sauce

And, if I may be so bold, Thanksgiving is a holiday where we spend eating food that doesn’t especially appeal to people outside of the United States. The French eat pumpkins, but roasted, and not in dessert. (Nor with marshmallows!) The French version of stuffing, or farce is mostly meat, with a bit of seasonings to round out the flavor. And flour-thickened brown gravy isn’t quite the same as sauce au jus de volaille.

Cranberry Sauce

So while we Americans love all that stuff for nostalgic reasons, people in France don’t have that same set of references we do, and most seem to politely “appreciate” it, but I don’t know any French people who hoard molasses or stuffing mix, or spend the few months prior to November downloading Thanksgiving recipes.

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Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

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How to Make Chocolate Bars

When I took pastry courses a number of years ago here in France and in Belgium, I tended to want to focus on the chocolate classes because – well…gosh darn it, I love it so much. We’ve become the best of friends over the years and I am never far from my bin of chocolate that I buy in bulk. (Although at some point, someone is going to have to do an intervention.) But I like cooking and creating with chocolate just as much as I do eating it and homemade chocolate bars are simple and wonderful gifts. And if entertaining at home, it nice to bring out a homemade tablet that you’ve made yourself to serve with after-dinner coffee or glasses of Armagnac or Cognac.

professional chocolate molds

The good thing is that you don’t need fancy – or expensive – chocolate molds to make chocolate bars at home. I have a stack of polycarbonate ones from my professional days of yore. But anything made of plastic will do. Since I can’t bring myself to throw away anything that might be reused, I pulled out a stack of cream cheese containers that are neat little rectangles and I used those this time around.

cream cheese containers

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmeal raisin cookies

We seem to be going though an age of competitions and it’s interesting for me to see so much fascination with being a chef, and people acting out on television what goes on (or they perceive goes on) in restaurant kitchens. I spent most of my life behind the stoves and let me tell you, it’s often not pretty and I would not want anyone following me around with a camera while I cooked. (Which is why this blog doesn’t include a webcam.)

I’m not sure how this fascination with being a chef came to be as it’s really ‘grunt’ work and there’s nothing at all glamorous about it; no matter how many tattoos you have or how much you swear at underlings, there’s still a ton of work involved and no way you’re going to get through it by the end of your shift. Sure, I had a great time cooking with friends and co-workers (well, most of them…), but the grueling hours and the physical labor involved is one of the main reasons that I’m permanently damaged, both physically and psychologically.

flocons d'avoine oats

Thankfully I was part of that elite group of people in the professional cooking world: The bakers and pastry chefs. Unlike the line cooks, who were whooping it up and play with fire, we disciplined souls were in the back of the kitchen, dusting doughs with flour, rolling out cookies, melting chocolate, and creaming buttery cake batters. But a regular chef once said to me—”Why are all you pastry chefs so weird?”

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Fruitcake Bar Recipe

I’ve been making these Fruitcake Bars more and more as the holidays approach. Not only are they incredibly simple to put together, unlike other fruitcakes, these really do taste great.

fruitcake bars

They can be made up to a week in advance, which will undoubtedly help alleviate holiday stress. It’s from my archives but thought it worth sharing again since folks enjoyed them so much at a recent Paris book event (and wine-tasting), and because the baking season is quickly approaching and it’s nice to have a recipe for a very easy-to-prepare dessert or snack.

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Fruitcake Bar Recipe (Friendship Bars)

fruitcake bars

Maybe this happens to you. Maybe it doesn’t.

You’re invited to a party and as a nice gesture, you bring something along. Being a baker you decide, naturally, to bake something.

So you get to the party, you’re wining and dining, loosening up and enjoying yourself. But when people find out you’ve brought a dessert, they all of the sudden get very interested in you, and what you’ve brought, what’s it called, how you’ve made it, what’s in it, what’s the recipe, etc..etc…

The most difficult was when I brought a Bûche de Noël to a Christmas party, which is a fairly complicated affair involving spongecake, chocolate buttercream, soaking syrup, and lots of crackly meringue mushrooms for decoration. Some nutty woman followed me around all night with a pen and note pad, prodding me for recipe details and I spent the whole night trying to avoid her.

But let’s say you’ve been working on recipes all day, or adding recipes to your blog. So you go to a party and maybe you’d rather just not talk about what you’ve made: After all, don’t they know you have a food blog and a couple of cookbooks where they can get all that information?

(And no, I don’t have a recipe for Bûche de Noël. But thanks for asking…)

Bakers Edge Pan

So my technique for throwing ‘em off the scent is to make up names for things I’ve baked that mean nothing, something innocuous that no one can possibly question what’s inside it. I’ve brought to parties Chocolate Surprise Cake, Mystery Spice Cake and Baked Summertime Fruit Dessert. But you need to be careful since if you pick the wrong name, something like Chocolate Emergency Cake, you’ll have to explain the story behind the moniker ‘emergency’.
And we can’t have that, can we?

Then there’s Friendship Bars, which is the name I often give these Fruitcake Bars.

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