Results tagged recipe from David Lebovitz

Shallot Marmalade Recipe

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Shallot jam is a wonderful addition to many dishes. It’s a bit sweet and a little tangy, the best of both – and s generous spoonful goes well with roasted meats, pâté, and can dress up a grilled chicken breast. You might not be familiar with shallots, but they are common in French cuisine and are the sweeter cousin to onions. I buy them by the sack at the outdoor markets and in American supermarket, you’ll find them tucked away in the onion aisle.

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Here’s a few general tips on jam-making:


  • Hard & Fast
    Most conserves benefit from being cooked quickly, over moderately-high heat. This allows the ingredients to retain much of their character.

  • Don’t Overcook
    There’s nothing worse than overcooked jam. That’s when the sugar caramelizes, and that flavor overwhelms whatever else is in the jam. There’s not much you can do to save it at this point, so watch out.

  • Brighten Up
    Fruit jams often benefit from a squirt of lemon juice or a shot of liqueur added to brighten up flavors.

  • Don’t Overreact
    Never use reactive cookware when making jams. Materials such as non-anondized aluminum and tin can react with the acids and leave a tinny aftertaste. To avoid burning and hotspots, use heavy-duty cookware with a thick bottom.

  • Don’t Double Your Pleasure
    In general, don’t double recipes. Better to make two small batches, since each will take less time to cook, preserving the appealing flavors of your ingredients.

  • Degrees of Faith
    If you aren’t sure if your jam is cooked to the right temperature, check it with a candy thermometer. For this jam, it’s easy to gauge its cooking, but fruit jams ‘set’ at about 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104 C).
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Shallot, Cocoa Nib, Beer, and Prune Jam
About 1 1/2 cups


This goes great with pâté or as a sweet counterpoint to anything rich and meaty. In Paris, there’s normally a gathering before dinner for drinks, such as a kir or a glass of Champagne. I’ve served this with slices of foie gras on toasted brioche, a perfect partnership.

I used the largest shallots I could find since I’m too lazy to peel those little ones. Feel free to substitute raisins for the prunes.


  • 1 pound (450 g) shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon unflavored vegetable oil
  • big pinch of coarse salt
  • a few turns of freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) beer
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons cider or balsamic vinegar
  • 8 prunes (3 oz/90 g), pitted, and cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa nibs (see Note)

1. In a medium-sized heavy-duty skillet or saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots over moderate heat with a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently, until they’re soft and wilted, which should take about 10 minutes.

2. Add the beer, sugar, honey, vinegar, prune pieces, and cocoa nibs and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to caramelize. While cooking, continue stirring them just enough to keep them from burning.

3. The jam is done when the shallots are nicely-caramelized, as shown.

Store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least 2 months.

(Note: You can buy cocoa nibs online, if you can’t find them where you live.)


Related Recipes

Seville Orange Marmalade

Bergamot Marmalade

Apricot Jam

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Rhubarb-Berry Jam

Lamb Tagine Recipe

One of the first lessons I learned on my way to becoming une vrai Parisian was to never, ever be on time. I should backtrack and say: One should never to be on time when invited for dinner party. The hosts, who called with my first invitation to a soirée about a week after I arrived in Paris, said “Come at 8pm…But you know, in Paris, that means to come at 8:30pm.”

Subsequently when I have guests for dinner, I expect them to be around 20 minutes late, although there’s much debate on how late you’re actually supposed to be. But if you’re on time, or early, you might acidentially catch your hosts either in their little DIM skivvies.

Or less-appetizingly, stashing away the Picard boxes.

It’s a tricky balance when you inviting folks for dinner, trying to make sure what dinner’s gonna be hot and well-cooked without having to spend the last 30 minutes trapped in the kitchen while your guests drink up all the rosé. And it’s now become fashionable to be even more late, as if to show that you have oh-just-so-much on your agenda, which has made being tardy something of a status symbol. But if your friends show up one hour late, and you’ve made something like Pork Roast, which can dry out in a minute, you’re screwed. Then you’ll only be thankful for them not arriving early and catching you in your petit slip français.

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In Paris, with so many Arabic butchers around, it’s easy to find cuts of meat that lend themselves to slow-braising and making North African stews like Tagines. Being a pastry chef since the beginning of time, I was always a little terrified of meat, never quite knowing how to handle it. But I bravely started going into the butcher shops, inspecting the enormous slabs of meat trying to look as if I knew something about them, then I’d make my pick. Conveying how to cut it for me is another story, but most of the time, chopping my hands through the air like Helen Keller doing karate seems to get the point across. My Arabic is terrible, so most of the time, I end up brining home a lamb shoulder, since it’s inexpensive, not terribly fatty, and most importantly…easy to point to since they keep them right in front of the butcher cases.
(Ok, lamb shoulder’s also hard to ruin.)

For some reason, leaner cuts of meat usually tastes better in restaurants than when I make them at home. I don’t know why. But stewing cuts of meat, like lamb shoulder, I find I can make taste equally as good, or better, than anything I get when I go out. I’ve been making Tagines for the past few years with great success and once you start with a solid master recipe, like the one below, you can vary it for different kinds of meat or poulty, and you can make them as spicy or aromatic as you want by adjusting the spices. And since most benefit from long, leisurely braise in the oven, they’re perfect when you’re entertaining guests who arrive at various times, leaving you free to assist in the all-important task of making sure you guests have plenty of cool rosé in their glasses. But don’t neglect yours either.

Lamb Tagine
About 6 servings

You can substitute chicken for the lamb. Cut it into 8 pieces and reduce the oven time to about 1 to 1½ hours. I also like to add a handful, say about 1/2 cup (75g) toasted, blanched almonds to the stew during the final 30 minutes of braising, or some green olives. Another option is to add prunes or dried California apricots, which add a sublime sweetness. I used to add strips of salty preserved lemons, but I’d always wake up in the middle of the night ravenously thirsty and have to chug a few liters of water, so now I don’t anymore.

Often Tagines are served with big hunks of softly-baked bread sprinkled with anise seeds, I prepare cracked wheat or bulgur to serve underneat with a bit of chopped parsley added at the end. I’ve find it preferable to bread of couscous since it’s a whole grain and the fabulously nutty and crunchy grains are really a delightful chew.
And so friends can customize their Tagine, I pass little dishes of plumped yellow raisins, homemade sweet shallot marmalade, and toasted chick peas (pois chiche brun) which I find in the Indian markets near La Chapelle, places I often spend hours poking around in.

  • 1 lamb shoulder, cut into 6 pieces (have the butcher do it)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1½ cups (375 ml) chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 teaspoons dried ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse salt, plus more if necessary
  • 1 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriandre), rinsed and tied with a string
  • 20 threads of saffron
  • juice of ½ lemon

Up to three days before you plan to make the Tagine, massage the lamb shoulder with the salt and let it sit in the refrigerator before you cook it.

To make the Tagine, in a heavy-duty Dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of oil and sear the lamb pieces very well, turning them only after they’re nicely dark, browned, and crusty (this helps add flavor to the Tagine.) As you cook them, don’t crowd ‘em in. If your Dutch oven isn’t big enough to cook them all in a single layer at once, brown the lamb pieces in batches.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Once the lamb is browned, add the onions and some of the stock, then scrape the bottom of the pan with a flat wooden spatula to release the flavorful browned bits. Add the remaining stock, then the spices, the bunch of cilantro, and the saffron.

Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the lamb over in the liquid a few times during the oven-braising. The liquid should just be steaming-hot and simmering gently. If it’s boiling, turn down the heat (some Dutch ovens conduct heat differently.) When the meat starts to fall apart easily, that’s when it’s ready. It’s hard to overcook lamb shoulder, so even an extra hour or so in the oven won’t hurt it.

Remove the lid and let the Tagine remain in the oven for another 30 minutes, so the juices reduce, becoming rich and savory.

To serve, remove the cilantro and discard. Squeeze some lemon juice into the liquid and add more salt if you think it needs it. Serve mounds of cracked wheat underneath the Tagine, with lots of the juices poured over. At the table, make sure you have a tube of harissa handy, the fire-y Moroccan hot sauce, for those of us who like spicy food, as I do.

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For dessert, I recommend something fruity and refreshing, like a scoop of Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt, from my book The Perfect Scoop.

I like it served with a fruity coulis made from red raspberries and cassis (black currants), mixed with sautéed cherries, made from the last cherries of the season, which I’m going to miss terribly.

Absinthe Cake Recipe

When I told Luc-Santiago from Vert d’Absinthe here in Paris that I didn’t like anise very much (or, stupid me, how long have I lived in Paris? I should have said, “I don’t appreciate anise very much.”), I wished I had my camera cocked-and-ready, as the look on his face was priceless. While I appreciate the culture and mystique of Absinthe and its cousin pastis, I’m not a fan of anise-based drinks.

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But luckily I am a fan of anise-baked anything, and do like that flavor when baked in cakes and cookies, such as biscotti and the like. I had a suspicion that a buttery cake with a healthy shot of Absinthe in the batter, then more Absinthe added as a crunchy glaze would be a success…and it was! Happily, the flavor of anise goes amazingly well with chocolate too, so feel free to pair this with a favorite Chocolate Ice Cream or a dark, slick chocolate sauce.

But it’s also lovely with a compote made of fresh or dried apricots, or a Nectarine and Cherry Compote. During the winter, I plan to make a colorful fruit salad of navel and blood oranges with a few rounds of tangy kumquats to serve alongside, since I’m suspicious of that green bottle on my shelf, with an alcohol content of 72%, may fall and explode. (Now that would have made a good opening for an episode of Six Feet Under.) But mostly I enjoy serving this Absinthe Cake all on its own and if you make it, I’m sure it won’t fail to get your guests full attention no matter how you serve it.

If you don’t have a convenient source for finely-ground pistachio meal, you can use almond meal (sometimes called almond flour). I’ve tested this cake with stone-ground cornmeal too, which provided a nice crunch, but Parisian friends found it a tad unusual since they’re not really used to desserts, or anything else, with cornmeal.

And I didn’t have any candied angelica on hand (like, who does?), but next time I make this cake, I’m definitely going to add a handful of finely-chopped angelica to the batter. I think tiny flecks of green flitting around in this cake would be rather festive and certainly in the spirit of le fée verte, aka; The Green Fairy, oui?

If you live in a country where you don’t have the freedom to get Absinthe, move. Aside from that, write a letter to your highest-ranking elected official whose job it is to protect the good of society from such ills, you can substitute an anise-scented apertif, such as Pernod, pastis, or ouzo, although they don’t have that sublime, sneaky herbaceous flavor and aroma found in true Absinthe. The other downside is that you won’t see any green fairies floating around your kitchen…which may, or may not, be a good thing…depending on which highest-ranking elected official you last voted for, I suppose.

Oops, and before I step down down from my high-horse, I do recommend that you use Rumford baking powder, or a similar brand, that doesn’t contain any aluminum. Most natural-food stores and Trader Joe’s carry aluminum-free baking powder and you’ll notice a major difference in your baking once you go aluminum-free. You’ll never miss that tinny aftertaste you get when using other brands.

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Don’t be put off by the sugary-looking glaze. As the cake cools, the glazes melds beautifully with the cake, which won raves from all who tried it.

Absinthe Cake

One 9-inch rectangular cake

From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

For the cake:

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 1/4 cup (175g) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 gr) pistachio or almond meal or (1/2 cup (70g) stoneground yellow cornmeal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably Rumford)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (105 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Absinthe
  • 1 orange, preferably unsprayed

For the Absinthe glaze:

1/4 cup (25 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) Absinthe

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Butter a 9-inch loaf pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a mortar and pestle or spice mill, grind the anise seeds until relatively fine. Whisk together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and anise seeds. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, until they’re completely incorporated.

4. Mix together the milk and Absinthe with a few swipes of grated orange zest.

5. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the beaten butter, then the milk and Absinthe mixture.

6. By hand, stir in the other half of the dry ingredients until just smooth (do not overmix). Smooth the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool 30 minutes.

8. To glaze the cake with Absinthe, use a toothpick and poke 50 holes in the cake. In a small bowl, gently stir together the 1/4 cup (25 g) sugar, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of Absinthe until just mixed. (You can add a bit of orange zest here if you’d like too.)
Be sure not to let the sugar dissolve too much!

9. Remove the cake from the loaf pan, peel off the parchment paper, and set the cake on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

10. Spoon some of the Absinthe glaze over the top and sides of the cake, allowing it to soak the top and spill down the sides a bit. Continue until all the glaze is used up.

(Note: The photo at the top was this cake, but baked in an individual-sized cake mold.)



Related Links

Absinthe Ice Cream

The Sweet Life in Paris

White Chocolate & Fresh Ginger Ice Cream Recipe with Nectarines and Cherries

If you’re anything like me, you’re thrilled that the season for summer fruits is finally in full swing. I like nothing better than returning from my market with a basket full of fresh peaches, nectarines, cherries, and whatever other fruits happen to look best that morning. And since I’ve started plying the Parisian vendors with Brownies, I’m getting much-desired VIP treatment at the market, and more often than not, there’s a few extra treats thrown in too. It’s nice to know that Parisians can be bought for the price of a simple square of chocolate.

While others may prefer to cloak summer fruits in fancy desserts, when the temperature starts soaring, the idea of standing in the kitchen for a few hours crafting some overwrought concoction has little appeal. And to be honest, it’s kind of a no-brainer when it’s this hot and I can be trying on jeans surrounded by Parisian jeunes hommes instead.

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My appearance on a radio program recently prompted me to share two of my favorite summertime recipes: luscious White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream with Baked Nectarines and Cherries. During the summer I bake fruit all the time which doesn’t require standing over the stove. Invariably when I return from the market, I wasn’t able to resist anything, and I’m a hopeless wreck when confronted with everything so perfect this time of the year. But baking brings out the sweetness, softening fruits beautifully into this delectable compote, which is so seductively simple to spoon up with freshly-made ice cream.

For the baked fruit, I like to use light cassonade sugar, which is widely available in France. In the US, natural food stores and Trader Joe’s sell unrefined sugar, which is lighter than brown sugar but granulated and as easy to use as white sugar.

And since everyone gets their panties in a knot about making substitutions, yes, you can substitute 6 to 8 plums or fresh apricots for the nectarines, but be sure to use the larger amount of sugar since apricots get much more tart once they’re baked. They’ll also take less time to bake as well.

I know you’re going to ask about peaches (see, now you’re getting carried away…), but I find peaches soften too quickly and I prefer the tartness of nectarines. Plus nectarines don’t need to be peeled and really hold their shape much better than peaches. If cherries are out of season where you live, you can add a basket of fresh raspberries or blackberries when you take the fruit out of the oven, allowing the residual heat help them meld into the compote.

Lastly, some readers have asked me about ice cream makers so I’ve posted some tips in the previous entry if you’re thinking of purchasing one. They’re come way down in price in the past year and since I personally can’t imagine getting through the summer without homemade ice cream; you might think about making one your next purchase too.

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White Chocolate And Fresh Ginger Ice Cream with Nectarine and Cherry Compote

4-6 Servings

Is there anything better than warm fruit, slightly-sweetened, topped with a scoop of ice cream melting on top or alongside? The creamy-sweet taste of white chocolate pairs marvelously with the piquant bite of fresh ginger. Just enough to serve as a pleasant contrast.

White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream
About 1 quart (1 liter)

  • 3-inch piece (2 to 2 1/2 ounces) fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup plus 1 cup heavy cream (500 ml, total)
  • 8 ounces (230 g) white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 large egg yolks

1. Slice the ginger thinly, cover it with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain away the water but return the blanched ginger to the pan. Add the sugar, the milk and 1 cup of heavy cream to the saucepan and re-warm the mixture.
Cover and steep for at least an hour, or until you are satisfied with the ginger flavor.

2. Put the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the ginger-infused cream mixture, whisking constantly as you pour in the warm cream. Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the white chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Discard the ginger. Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and chill thoroughly. You can set the bowl over an ice bath to speed it up.

5. Chill mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Nectarine and Cherry Compote
Four to Six Servings

I prefer my fruit less-sweetened, but you can add the larger amount of sugar if you like. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, just add a few drops of vanilla extract.

4 nectarines
1 pound (450 g) fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 to 6 tablespoons sugar
optional: 2 tablespoons rum or kirsch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C).

1. Split the nectarines in half and pluck out the pits. Put them in a 2-quart baking dish with the cherries. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the fruit.

2. Mix in the sugar and rum or kirsch, if using.

3. Turn the nectarines so they’re cut side down, arranging them in an even layer with the cherries and tuck the vanilla bean underneath.

4. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, opening the oven door twice during baking so you can jostle the baking dish to encourage the juices to flow. The fruit is done when a sharp paring knife easily pierces the nectarines.

5. Remove from oven and serve warm, or at room temperature with a nice scoop of the White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream.

Storage: The compote can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Polenta Crisp Topping Recipe

I am a bad food blogger.
I mean, who would post a picture like this?

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GRRrrrr!Seeing Red…

The most successful and popular food blogs start with a clever idea or beautiful image, and generally follow it with a witty or an emotionally-involving story behind it all.

Instead I’m posting this picture of the room where was to spend the entire weekend locked inside, which was to be my private retreat. Think Edvard Munch and The Scream, and I think you get the idea of my internal torment.

Last week I had left Paris to work on my next book, since it’s impossible to get anything done around here with all the caramels, chocolates, and glasses of red wine interrupting all the time. So off I went to the countryside for the weekend, armed with my laptop, some paperwork, too-little chocolate (which I later discovered, in a panic) and a good book.

So I arrive, start unpacking, and Merde!, I forgot my powercord! No electricity, except for the few hours on my battery, which luckily was new enough to get my through the first day. Since I’m two hours from anywhere civilized, and the hope of finding an Apple retailer is undeniably nil (although there is a nice egg farm & retailer next door) I was stuck doing nothing but reading and baking all weekend. So when you buy my next book, and find the last third of it blank, you’ll know why.

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Seeing Red…Currants

But all was not lost, since the house was surrounded by red currant bushes and the branches were loaded with tiny red berries, I spent a good portion of the weekend picking the little red orbs, relieving the branches of the tiny clusters of gorgeous little fruits.

And as I greedily filling my mouth with the puckery berries, I was overcome with a feeling of having to bake something. So all was not lost, and bake something I did!

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Rhubarb-Red Currant Crisp

For dessert the first night, I made a terrific Rhubarb and Red Currant Crisp with Polenta Topping. I sliced rhubarb into little pieces (about 8 cups), tossed it with some sugar (about 1/2 cup), some flour (about 3 tablespoons), a vanilla bean, and a few big handfuls of freshly-picked red currants, and voila, we had dessert practically right from the garden. Except for the sugar and vanilla and flour, although the house was surrounded by wheat fields, which was too green to pick and mill into flour. And besides, I’m not thatcrazy. Although I did go picked some wheat and cracked it open, but it was too fresh and I’ll sadly have to wait a few more weeks.

Aside from red currants, there were black currants (cassis) too, but they weren’t quite ripe. But the white currants were sweet and lovely but too precious to cook with, so I enjoyed them right off the branches. And next time you, or anyone around you, complains about the price of a basket of berries, go outside and pick a few hundred red currants and tell me what you think each basket is worth.
There’s a few running debates about the price of locally-produced, hand-picked berries, but you’re welcome to post comments here. And if you feel like picking any red and black currants, we’re heading back in a few weeks and could use a few extra hands.
(Warning: The pay stinks, but the rewards are delicious.)

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Seeing White…Currants

Oddly enough, last year I saw a few baskets of white currants in my local convenience store. (You know, the kind of place where you can buy milk or butter or wine on dimanche if you urgently run out.) In their tiny, miserable produce section, just next to the shriveled carrots and brown, wilted lettuce (who buys that?), there were three baskets of plump white currants, so I made a mental note that if it’s ever a Sunday and I need some white currants in an emergency, I’d know exactly where I could get some. But finding a powercord in an emergency?…c’est pas possible.

No, the grapes weren’t quite ripe for picking yet…

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No Wine…Yet.

But the egg farm nearby had lots of fresh eggs, so I made a Tortilla Española with bacon, and pomme de ratte potatoes, which everyone tries to tell me are called ‘fingerling’ potatoes in America, but I don’t think they’re the same thing, since I’ve never tasted any potatoes in the states that were as good as these. But if anyone out there can define what exactly is a fingerling potato, please let me know. Is it just any tiny potato?

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There Was No Apple Store, But There Was An Egg Store

So since this is summer, I’m becoming obsessed with making a lot of fruit crisps (instead of earning a living). One of my favorite ways to top them, and to ensure they live up to their crispy moniker, is to make a topping with polenta, coarsely-ground cornmeal. It can be difficult to find in Paris, and although instant-polenta is available, I bought it once…and that was one time too many. (C’mon folks, we’re friggin’ right next door to Italy!) But I was happy a few years back to find a good source for coarse polenta at the Arab markets that I like to prowl through, which they stock in abundance.

Fruit crisps are perhaps the best and easiest of desserts to make during the summer, when all the great fruits and berries are at their peak. They’re incredibly easy to put together if you’re anything like me and keep a bag of Polenta Crisp Topping in the freezer, so you can make one at a moment’s notice. In general, I find that 2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of flour, plus a dash of vanilla is just about right for almost any mix of fruits and berries. Mix it all together and put it in a 2-quart baking dish. Cover with crisp topping and bake in a moderate oven until the fruit is bubbling and the top is crispy and nicely-browned.

If using plums or apricots, double the amount of sugar, since they get rather tangy once baked. Although I used rhubarb and red currants in mine, you can use any mixture of peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and plums. Add a few raspberries or blackberries as well. Although I wouldn’t necessarily use white currants, you’re certainly welcome to. But if it’s Sunday and you’re fresh out, go check at your corner store to see if they have any in stock.
There’s something nice about living in a country where it’s impossible to find a powercord in an emergency, but white currants are available whenever you need them. Talk about priorities!

(More pictures from the country are on my Flickr page.)

Polenta Crisp Topping

Enough for about 8 cups of fruit filling

3/4 cup (105 g) flour
2/3 cup (90 g) polenta
1/2 cup (55 g) almonds or walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup (110 g) firmly packed light brown or cassonade sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (115 g) salted butter (chilled), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Put the flour, polenta, almonds or walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix everything together.

Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until the butter is finely broken up. Continue to pulse until the crispy topping no longer looks sandy is just beginning to hold together.

If you don’t have a food processor, chop the nuts finely with a chef’s knife then work the butter in with your hands or use a pastry blender.

Storage: Topping can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Can also be frozen in a zip-top bag for up to one month.

Recipe Adapted From: Ripe For Dessert.

Dulce de Leche Brownie Recipe

I thought I’d share this recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies. I’ve had several jars of the dulce de leche in my refrigerator, waiting to be used. And since I happened to be craving chocolate brownies, I though, “Why not combine the two?”

In the past, I’ve used homemade Dulce de Leche in this recipe, although you can use store-bought. I think these brownies are really fun to make – who doesn’t like swirling caramel? Just be careful not to overdo it. You wanted big, gooey pockets of dulce de leche.

brownies

Dulce de Leche Brownies
12 brownies

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

  • 8 tablespoons (115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).

Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.
Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Storage: These brownies actually become better the second day, and will keep well for up to 3 days.



Related Recipes and Posts

Chocolate FAQs

Chocolate Milkshakes with Coffee and Almond

Cocoa Powder FAQs

Baked Mint Brownies

Chocolate Idiot Cake

Chocolate Sherbet



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.

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)