Marion Cunningham was a big promoter of American food and cooking, which included some of the peculiarities of our style of eating. There was a funny story recounted by Kim Severson way back in 2001, that when Marion came to France, she insisted on having a cup of coffee before dinner at a three-star restaurant. Which, of course, perplexed the waiter. But Marion always insisted on doing things the right way (or at least, her way) and once she told me that she went to teach a class in making pie crust at the Ritz in Paris, and she brought along a can of vegetable shortening, which prompted the French chef to take a look into the can, and ask her – “What is this sh*t?”
Results tagged salted butter from David Lebovitz
Uncharacteristically, I’ll spare you the specifics, but I need to catch up on about 147 hours of sleep. And while we’re at it, I could use a hug. And since the former isn’t necessarily easy to come by here, as is the latter, I was embrassé by dinner at Alain Ducasse restaurant. While it’s been tempting to remove the “sweet life” byline from my header until things return to normal, since one of the sweeter sides of Paris is an occasional foray into fine dining, I dusted off my lone, non-dusty outfit, and rode the métro to a swankier part of town.
When I was in Monaco and I went to visit the chefs and the kitchen at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, Louis XV, the pastry chef asked if I could possibly stay and taste their lovely desserts. Unfortunately I had to catch a ride back to Paris because I didn’t want to miss, well..nothing – I couldn’t stay. Then a few weeks later, a lovely invitation to his Paris restaurant arrived in my mailbox and I cleaned myself up, then headed into the aquarium.
Aside from a few crêpe stands here and there, Paris isn’t a city known for street food. And malheureusement, that Pierre Hermé truck isn’t open for business…although wouldn’t that be nice.
(However if it was, I would probably race around my house in search of spare change every time I heard it coming toward me, like I did when the Good Humor ice cream truck approached when I was a kid. Or haranguing my poor mother to dig furiously through her purse to dig up 40 cents for a toasted coconut ice cream bar to calm down her semi-hysterical child.)
Sure, come mid-day, the sidewalks of Paris are packed with people scarfing down les sandwichs (sic), which seem to have taken over as the lunch of choice in Paris. It’s nice to see the crowds and lines at the local bakeries, but it’s sad to see the long(er) lines at Subway sandwich shops, which I suspect are because people are craving a little creativity with what’s between the bread. And while the one Subway sandwich I had in my life was inedible – I didn’t realize you could screw up a sandwich…until then – I think the locals are fascinated by the varieties offered. Plus they’re made-to-order, and served warm.
The French do have versions of les ventes ambulantes, such as the pizza trucks parked alongside the roads in the countryside and there are the gorgeous spit-roasted chickens sold at the markets and butcher shops in Paris. But recently an American launched a roving food truck in Paris to staggering success, and a second one followed her lead. And judging from the line-up, it’s mostly French folks angling for a bite to eat.
While I’m happy for my fellow compatriots, and I love a good burger as much as the French seem to (judging from the crowds), I can’t help thinking how kooky it is that American cooks get to have all the fun, and some French cooks might want to get in on the action. Here’s a few ideas I’ve been thinking about…
Some time ago I switched my allegiance to grainy bread. Perhaps it was because I was thinking, “If I’m going to eat all this bread around here, I should at least be eating grainy bread.” Or perhaps I got bored with the one-note flavors of white bread, and began enjoying the fuller flavors of whole grain loaves. But over the last few weeks, while I’ve been in between kitchens (and toasters), I now wake up each morning with the sole goal of scoring a fresh baguette for breakfast.
I’m often asked what I would miss about Paris when I’m not here, and although you can pretty much get anything you want nowadays anywhere in the world (thank you, internet…well, I think…), the bread in Paris is still pretty great. Not every bakery makes a good baguette, but when you get a perfect specimen, one that crunches audibly when you bite through the crust and the inside has a creamy color and a slight tang from a bit of levain – save for a swipe of good butter or a bit of cheese – anything else is simply unnecessary.
In my recent winter newsletter, I sent out a list of some of my favorite recipes that are great candidates for the holidays. Here I compiled more recipes from the site for sweets and treats that I hope will make your holidays a little happier.
Nibbles & Drinks
The Best Holiday Nut and Pretzel Mix: This it the best snack I know of to go with festive drinks. I can’t get enough of it. Make this for your next cocktail gathering!
Spritz: Want a holiday drink that’s lighter than a cocktail, and more festive? Try pouring a Spritz (or two) this year for guests.
Roasted Squash: Could this recipe be any easier? Oven-roasted slices of squash, which you can customize with different herbs and spices. Leftovers are great cubed and tossed in a salad of winter greens with toasted pecans and dried cranberries.
Sardine Pâté: Silky fish pâté is great spread on toasts with flutes of sparkling Champagne.
When I worked in the restaurant business, if you happened to walk in during staff meal, you could always tell who were the pastry people: we were the ones dousing our food with vinegar and salt. That is, when we had time to sit down and eat. I like sweets, but I like them tempered with something not-necessarily sweet, which is why sometimes you’ll see a squeeze of lemon juice added to a fruit ice cream base or bakers like me include a pinch of salt in batter, to balance things out.
For many years, salted butter was banished from most baking recipes, since the amounts varied by brand and unsalted butter was said to be fresher; the theory was that salt is a preservative adding it to butter may mean the butter is older. In France, you can get the most wonderful salted butter at not just fromageries, but in supermarkets, which usually say on the package that the butter has cristaux de sel de mer, big crystals of sea salt, and they note which region the salt is harvested from as well, giving it provenance.
Because the question comes up from time to time, I thought I’d answer some questions about making substitutions in my recipes, and swapping out or deleting ingredients.
The short answer is: Ingredients are added to recipes for a specific purpose and there is a reason that they are there. When you substitute or swap out ingredients, results will vary and won’t be the same as mine.
Some may work, and others won’t. And I can’t comment on results unless I’ve tried it myself. The most common request is folks who want to reduce the sugar or fat in a recipe, but in most instances, people are not happy with the final results. So unless you have health issues such as allergies and intolerances, it’s best to stick with the recipe.
One recent change that’s occurred in home baking is the proliferation of “premium” products, such as “European-style” butter, stronger flour (with more protein and gluten), high percentage chocolate, and instant yeast. Using products such as these can alter results and it’s simply not possible to write a recipe that includes variations for each kind of product that might be available in the diverse geographical regions of the world. So it’s up to you to use your best judgement and alter a recipe as necessary, to compensate for the variation in products. (You may wish to consult the manufacturer directly to get further directions on using their product.)
Realizing that people have various dislikes and dietary needs, here are some guidelines you might find useful when using my recipes on the site or in my Books. If you’re looking for more comprehensive information about baking ingredient substitutions, I’ve provided links at the end where you can find answers. Do remember that these are general guidelines and are not applicable to each and every recipe that exists. Home bakers are encouraged to experiment—especially those on restricted or special diets, because they’re often best educated on how to modify recipes to meet their particular dietary needs.
Spices are interchangeable in recipes. When I come up with spice amounts, they are to my personal taste and that which I think others will like. Reducing 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 teaspoon won’t alter the way a cake or cookie turns out, but it won’t have the same oomph as the ones I did. However not everyone likes, say, cloves or other spices. So if you see a spice in a recipe you don’t like, you can omit it and perhaps dial up one of the other spices or flavors to compensate.
Gluten and Flours
In recipes that call for flour, I mean all-purpose flour. If I mean cake or bread flour, that will be noted. I’m not an expert on gluten-free baking and there are others who are so can’t advise about substitutions with specialty flours. King Arthur carries a gluten-free baking flour that they advise is a good swap for wheat flour. I haven’t used it so can’t confirm, but people who bake gluten-free likely have their own techniques for substituting wheat flour if you don’t wish to use a gluten-free flour mix, such as:
I had a wee bit of a dilemma recently. In my refrigerator was a half-jar of crème fraîche, that I had to use up before I left for a recent vacation on the beach. I’d been thinking about making caramels with it, but I also knew that I would be slipping on a swimsuit within a few weeks. And being alone in my apartment with an open jar of ultra-rich crème fraîche was probably not a good idea.
So what did I do? I hemmed and hawed about it, until I channeled my mother, who would have flipped out if I tossed away the rest of the crème fraîche. (Or anything, for that matter.)