Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cream of Leek Soup

Cream of leek soup
Elm Treenware Bowl from Old Bedford Mercers

Spring is just around the corner and leeks have such a fresh green taste this time of year. I washed my leeks very well and then sliced them very thinly. In a hot pan with a dab of butter I carmelized the leeks and added some light cream bringing it to a simmer. I then kneaded butter and an equal portion of flour into a beurre manie and whisked it into the simmering soup. When it was thick and bubbly, I served it with a spinkle of white pepper and salt to taste.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Biscuits de Chocolat

 Biscuits de chocolat - small cakes of chocolate

Small Cakes of Chocolate Biscuit

2 one-ounce tablets of chocolate, grated
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
8 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Beat the grated chocolate, sugar, and egg yolks until thick and creamy. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Sift the flour over the mixture and fold it in gently. Set cupcake papers out on a cooky sheet and spoon a small amount of batter--not more than 1/4 cup--into each one. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the batter. Bake at once in a slow (325ºF) oven, until the tops of the cakes are just firm. This should take 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Wheaton, Savoring the Past, the French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1769 (1983), p. 262.

Biscuits de chocolat

Mettez dans une terrine deux tablettes de chocolat rappé, avec une demie livre de sucre fin passé au tamis, quatre jaunes d'oeufs, battez le tout ensemble avec une espatule, ensuite vous y mettez huit blancs d'oeufs fouettês, que vous mêlez bien avec le sucre et le chocolat, vous avez un quarteron de farine un peu séchée au four que vous mettez dans un tamis, passez-la au travers dans la composition de biscuits, que vous remuez à mesure qu'elle tombe, pour la bien mêler avec; dressez vos buiscuits dans des les moules de papier, jettez un peu de sucre fin dessus en le faisant tomber lêgerement d'un tamis; mettez cuire dans un four doux.

Menon, La Science du maître d'hotel, confiseur (1750), p. 408.

Things I would do differently: I would melt the chocolate and cool it. I would beat the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar had dissolved, then I would have folded in the cooled chocolate. Next I would have added the flour, then the stiffly beaten egg whites. I would have only used 4 egg whites, not the eight called for. Because the chocolate was grated, it sunk to the bottom of the paper and looked like mini chocolate chips on the top (bottom) of the little cakes. Melting the chocolate would have allowed for it to blend with the eggs and, I believe, would have resulted in a darker, richer looking chocolate biscuit. I would add a pinch of salt to the egg whites before beating. Because of the lack of leavening, the egg white causes a crust that subsides--not a problem--just remove the crust after you remove the paper mold and turn the little cakes upside down on a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar after baking, not before; otherwise, it just sits there. As Wheaton states, spices had ceased being a major factor in use with chocolate by mid-18thC, but I will add a pinch of cinnamon or chili and/or black pepper next time--the taste was almost too sweet, and would have benefited from the addition of spices.

My submission for IMBB #13, My Little Cupcake, hosted by Makiko Itoh of I was just really very hungry.

Do look at this site for another way of "cooking" cakes in the 18thC, steaming cakes in tea cups, the original "cupcake."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Caramel Sauce

Pear sorbet with caramel sauce

Caramel is mentioned in La Varenne's The French Cook, Englished in 1653, so it is time that I add this technique to my repertoire. I have some winter pears that will do nicely as a glacé or sorbet, as well.

Peel and core 1.5 pounds Comice pears and cut into rough slices. Cook in a small amount of boiling water until slices are translucent. Drain and puree cooked pears; stir in 3/4 cup sugar while the puree is still warm. Chill mixture and once cooled, add a few drops of Armagnac or brandy. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to instructions.

To make the caramel sauce, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Boil for a good 10 minutes or until sugar starts to caramelize. Turn heat down and, stirring constantly, continue to cook until sauce becomes a deep, rich caramel color. Quickly add 1/4 cup heavy cream and stand back, as mixture will splatter. Then stir caramel sauce again until smooth.

To assemble, place three scoops of pear sorbet into a dish or tuile cup, ladle warm caramel sauce over the sorbet and top with chopped, toasted walnuts. Serves 4. I added a curl of lemon zest as a garnish.

Debbie at Words to Eat By chose caramel as this month's Sugar High Friday.

Sorbet & Caramel Recipe: W, February 10-17, 1986, p. 48.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Crème Fraîche

Rich, thick crème fraîche, sometimes so thick you can stand a spoon in it or cut it with a knife into cubes, is a specialty of France. I have tried several ways of making my own crème fraîche and I'd like to share my secret with you.

Take 1 cup of heavy cream (whipping creme in America) and warm it to wrist temperature (105ºF) in a non-reactive pan, then stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Pour into a warmed crock, cover it, then leave on the counter to rest in a warm place until thick (may take 12-36 hours at room temperature). Stir and place into the cool spring house. Use for desserts, sauces, slathered on bread--enjoy!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

poireaux & st jacques

For dinner I prepared a first course, leek fettuccine and some "scallops" (cut circles) of white fish, as I live too far inland to be able to purchase coquilles. Lake Huron, even though frozen way beyond the shore, provides lovely fish if you are brave enough to face the cold and chop through the ice for a catch.

I cut my leeks where the white part ends and saved the green for potato soup later in the week. Next I sliced the whites length-wise into julienne, which I poached until tender in a pot of salted water. After draining them I began a sauce of leek broth and some cream with a bay leaf, reducing it by half. I tossed the leeks in the cream sauce and made a bed of them in the serving dishes.

From the filets of fish that had been skinned I cut circles to resemble scallops and dusted them with a sprinkle of flour and seared them in a splash of oil and a dollop of butter until a rich brown color on both sides and the flesh had just set. I removed them to the bed of leeks and added some minced shallots and mushrooms to the pan. When the mushrooms and shallots were golden, I deglazed the pan with some verjus and added some cream and again reduced the sauce by half. After spooning the sauce over the "scallops," I sprinkled on some bread crumbs mixed with grated cheese and a pinch of cayenne and placed them into the oven to heat through and then passed a fire shovel with coals over the top to brown the crumbs slightly.

The chef recommends: Pessac blanc 2003 Château Haut Lagrange
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