Results tagged fleur de sel from David Lebovitz

Molecular Gastronomy and Playing With Powder

pouring caramel

There’s a lively debate about Molecular Gastronomy in the culinary community. For the most part, from what I’ve heard, it’s all rather derisive. Just like Matisse was widely-panned for painting a woman’s face with a green stripe down the middle, I think we’re going to have to let time tell us if this is just a passing fancy or if it’s something that’s here to stay.

I’ve been sharing my apartment for the past few months with the Alinea cookbook. We haven’t socialized much, but we’ve been circling each other, warily.

My first though when I opened the book was to scratch my head, and think, “What the heck am I going to make from this?”

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Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Peanut Caramel

peanut butter cookies

I promised a bunch of holiday-friendly recipes this month, and this one is a doozy! Peanut butter cookies, filled with salted peanut caramel—do those sound as good to you as they do to me?

The recipe is from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, who is one of America’s best bakers. Her name might not be on the edge of your tongue, but she’s been quietly rolling doughs, mixing up batters, and baking off custards in this book, which is an encyclopedic authority on baking that tips the scales in both the breadth of recipes, and the actual weight itself.

And I thought my soul was a bit weighty.

When I was asked a few months ago to write a quote for the book jacket, I rifled through the preview pages, bookmarking a slew of recipes I plan to make.

Continue Reading Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Peanut Caramel…

Seaweed Cookie Recipe

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Last week, I was making my weekly ice cream deliveries to the vendors at my local market, which was especially necessary since my freezer was super jam-packed and begging for relief. (Which you may have seen when I inadvertently bared-all in my kitchen slide show.) When I stopped by to drop off a pint to my pal Régis, who sells salt at the market, I immediately honed in on a big basket he had heaped full of tiny sacks of bright green seaweed-flecked salt. He opened one, waved it under my nose, then handed it to me to play around with at home.

The first thing I did was add it to some eggs I was scrambling in the center of some fried rice, and it was excellent. Then I thought it would be delicious sprinkled over cold soba, thin Japanese buckwheat noodles. And it was. So I kept going and made a jeon, a big Korean pancake, which was another hit, too.

I’m on a roll!

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Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel

Starting this weekend, you’ll be able to buy my delectable Chocolat Chaud au Caramel-Beurre-Salé, aka Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel, right here in Paris.

In partnership with Régis Dion, of La Farandole des Sels, we’ve put together a packet using a special recipe I’ve created for making the richest, most luscious hot chocolate in your own home using his silky-smooth creamy caramel-beurre-salé and fleur de sel, the fine salt hand-raked from his family’s salt marshes off the coast of Brittany.

My Hot Chocolate with Salted Butter Caramel mixture will be available for a limited time at the outdoor markets (below) where Régis offers his fine salts.

UPDATE: Régis has closed his business and the hot chocolate mix is no longer available.

You can try the Wittamer Hot Chocolate Mix, or my Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream.

There’s a classic recipe for Salted Butter Caramel from Brittany in my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

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Fleur de Sel

There’s been a lot of discussion about what is the best salt in the world. There’s lots of opinions, tastings, and scientific studies floating around.

But I’m here to tell you, my absolute favorite salt is Fleur de sel de Guérande. I think there’s no finer salt available anywhere.

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When I was invited to visit the salt marshes and learn to rake the highly-prized, precious crystals of fleur de sel, I decided that the Guérande, in Brittany, would make the perfect place to begin my August vacation. Brittany is a rugged part of France that faces the Atlantic and is unspoiled by tourists. The coastline is gorgeous: large rock formations are piled everywhere, giving one many opportunities to ascend the boulders and enjoy the magnificent views in all directions. The ocean was a bit too cold for me to swim in, but Bretons have no trouble diving right in.

(Trust me, it’s freezing cold, which meant no swimming at the beach for me…especially the naturist beaches!)

But there’s also lots of buckwheat crêpes and sparkling apple cider to keep your spirits up as well, just in case you get stuck in one of the rainstorms, as I often did. And although the Guérande lies in the south of the region, and in spite of Breton flags everywhere, I was curiously told by the locals that the Guérande was actually part of the Loire-Atlantique, not Brittany.
Like the numbered roadway signs that lead to nowhere (locals told us not to follow the signs since they’re wrong), and in spite of the magnificent Michelin maps, driving in France provides its fair-share of frustrations.

Still, we managed to make it, and by the time we arrived I was ready to throttle someone. Yet looking out over the marshes did indeed have a calming effect—perhaps they can build a salt marsh in Paris, visible from my apartment?

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Le Marais Salant of the Guérande.

These are the salt marshes of the Guérande, les œillets.
They’re so prominent, that they’re visible on the Michelin maps of France, although when I got home and tried to look on Google maps, viewing the region was prohibited. Perhaps there’s a military installation nearby, since it’s on the coast. The exceptional salt from the Guérande is justifiably famous since it tastes like no other salt in the world. Although the words ‘fleur de sel’ have been bantered around and used as marketing tools for many salts being promoted (nowadays you find salts labeled as such from Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere) nowhere else on earth does the salt have the same fine flavor and delicate crystals of Fleur de Sel de Guérande.

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Seaweed Sandwiches

My first experience with eating seaweed was when my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Barnett, brought in a big bag of gnarled dried Japanese seaweed, presumably to familiarize us with foods from other cultures. Few of us kids growing up in sheltered New England would touch the stuff, although I took a little taste, but didn’t share her enthusiasm for the sea-scented tangle of salty greens.

So she ate the whole bag herself.

Later that day, Mrs. Barnett went home early, doubled-over, and clutching her stomach.

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As an adult, I’ve broadened my horizons, overcome any aversion, but most of the seaweed I consume comes surrounding tekka-make rolls, or other sushis as they’re called in France. (They add the “s” to pluralize them, even though you don’t pronounce it.)

My salt man, Monsieur Dion, who I used to get my fleur de sel and grey sea salt from (before he closed), appeared at my market on Sunday with a big barrel of Salicornes Fraîches, pickled in vinaigre de vin blanc with carrots, onions, and a few branches of thyme, which his brother made in Brittany. When I visited Brittany last summer, we visited Algoplus, where I tasted the locally-harvested salicornes, which had the curious taste of green beans. And in fact, the French call them haricots de mer, or green beans of the sea. In English, they’re called ‘glasswort’. According to Judy Rodgers in, The Zuni Cookbook (a book anyone interested in cooking should own) she includes a recipe for Pickled Glasswort and says the English used to call them “chicken claws”.

While the haricots de mer were tasty, just a forkful was enough, although perhaps anything served with a dollop of crème fraîche, as they were served, certainly seems more appealing. And although I conceded that they were tasty, I resisted the tempation to buy a jar, assuming they’d end up in my ‘Too Good To Use’ shelf (which I feel will soon collapse.)

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After considering their vinegary, cornichon-like taste, I mentioned to Monsieur Dion that they’d be good served alongside or atop something fatty and meaty, like pâte or a rich smear of rillettes, and before I could finish my sentence (which, as a rule, takes much longer for me in French than in English), he produced a platter bearing slices of crusty baguette spread with rillettes de porc, topped with a piece of salicorn. The next day, I used a few slices of toasted pain aux ceriales to make my own sandwich layered with juicy, vibrant-yellow slices of tomato, cured salmon with lots of fragrant dill, a thin layer of coarse-grained mustard, all finished with a squeeze of puckery lemon juice. I topped them off with a few ‘sprigs’ (I guess they’re sprigs, although in French, there’s probably a special word used exclusively for ‘sprigs’ of les salicornes.)

My sandwiches were terrific, and I spent the afternoon not clutching my stomach, but visiting the breathtaking Musée de l’Orangerie, then walking home along the Seine, without incident…and nary a rumble from below.

Algoplus
Zone du Bloscon
Roscoff, France
Tél: 02 98 61 14 14

Salt-Roasted Peanut Recipe

“You’re A Winner!” said the email.

“You’ve won a Katana Series Nakiri knife, from Calphalon.”

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While I seem to be the quintessential person who never wins anything (except the fabulous no-expense paid trip to Paris that I’m enjoying), and I don’t remember putting my business card in the raffle fishbowl, I was happy to accept. And the knife made a lovely addition to my Katana collection, joining the smaller one that I already owned. I’ve been using both, and they’re really rather incredible knifes. I love the handles, and the blades are scary-sharp. Which is good.

While we’re on the subject of deadly weapons, let’s talk about salt. Everyone is scared of salt.

I don’t pay much attention to hot-shot chefs, but I’d read that Thomas Keller was once asked what makes a good cook, and he replied, “salt”. He summed it all up in one simple word, and that’s truly what it all comes down to…and that’s why he’s a great chef and I bought his French Laundry book even though there’s no way in h-e-double-toothpicks I’m ever going to make anything from it. But if he can use it, so can you.
So no matter what you do to food, whether you whip it into a foam, toss it on the grill, spend 17 hours cutting it into little itty-bitty cubes that people wait 6 months to taste, or churn it in your ice cream maker, salting makes all the difference in cooking and baking.

A lot of people are afraid of salt, citing health concerns. Yet experts tell us that if you stay away from pre-packaged convenience foods, the average person only consumes about 1 1/2 teaspoons to salt per day. Although I should talk…I can’t have enough of it and sometimes buy it by the kilo. So maybe at this point you’d be wise to just scroll down to the recipe.

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I mostly sprinkle top-quality salt on top of things, as a finish, where you’re going to taste it rather than adding it all at the beginning of the recipe where it can get lost. Whatever salt you use, I recommend coarse salt crystals, since the larger pieces take longer to dissolve, thereby giving your palate more time to experience the complexity of flavors, rather than just dissolving into a salty mouthful like fine salt does. Plus most commercial salt has additives which give the salt a bitter, acrid taste.

If you don’t know what fleur de sel is, you should. It’s fine crystals of salt that’s hand-harvested in marshes in Brittany, off the Atlantic coast of France. Although lots of fleur de sel-style salts have been showing up from Italy, Portugal, and elsewhere, the best fleur de sel is from the Guérande. I use it on everything; its fine, delicate taste is best appreciated when sprinkled over things, as mentioned above, rather than dissolved (like in soups) so it’s best to save it for places where it can be appreciated.

Fleur de sel is admittedly pricier than ordinary table salt, but when people balk at paying 5 or 6€ for a container of salt, that will cost them pennies (or centimes per day), they get all freaked-out. (Hey, it’s cheaper than gas, and lasts longer.) Just a last-minute flurry over a slab of foie gras or dark chocolate bark will give it a curious, other dimension. When you start using it, you’ll be as hooked as I am. You’ll never go back to ordinary table salt again.

I only buy fleur de sel harvested in Brittany, and I’ve recently befriended a récolteur who invited me to his marshes this summer to rake and harvest salt. His salt is incredible; light and flaky, with the fine, delicate taste of the sea. He sells his salt in Paris and I always tell guests to stock up here, since it’s one of the true bargains in Paris. A 250 g bag costs just 4€ ($5), which translates to .0136986 cents per day.

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So I hereby give you permission to spend a little bit more on salt. It will improve your cooking, just like upgrading to a good olive oil will improve your salads (and really, how much do you use?) If you don’t believe me, take this simple test: Taste a few grains of fleur de sel. Then taste a few grains of commercially-available fine table salt. I can almost guarantee that you’ll never use ordinary table salt again.

This is one of my favorite recipes for using fleur de sel, crispy Salt-Roasted Peanuts. These are terrific with cocktails or aperitifs, but I also like to enrobe them in bittersweet chocolate and if you’re making Hot Fudge Sundaes, they’re also dynamite sprinkled over the top.

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Salt-Roasted Peanuts

  • 2 cups (300 g) raw peanuts
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) light brown sugar or cassonade
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with a silicone baking mat.

In a bowl, mix together the peanuts, corn syrup, and light brown sugar, until the peanuts are well-coated.

Sprinkle the salt over the peanuts and stir just a few times, but not enough to dissolve the salt.

Spread the peanuts evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring three times during baking, until the nuts are deep-golden brown and glazed.

Cool completely, then store in an airtight container immediately, to preserve their crispness.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.

FAQ’s

I can’t find raw peanuts.

You can use roasted, unsalted peanuts, and reduce the baking time to 15 minutes. I buy raw peanuts in Asian markets.

Can I use other nuts?

I never have, but let me know how they turn out if you do.

What if I can’t get light corn syrup where I live?

Use glucose, available at professional pastry supply shops.

Can I use honey or golden syrup?

Yes, but they’ll be stickier and not as crisp. See the linked post under ‘corn syrup’.

Can I use another salt?

You can use any coarse sea salt, but choose one that’s light-tasting. I like Maldon salt from England very much, or you can use kosher salt.

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.

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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