Tuesday, 11 October 2016

apple picking

w a l k i n g    t h r o u g h    o r c h a d s

Did we just create a new family tradition? Together with what seemed to be most other families of DC... Could be. I definitely wouldn't mind doing this every year. I really enjoy activities linked to the change of seasons for reasons I can't quite explain, maybe it gives me a carpe diem feeling, saying goodbye to one season, greeting the next one, realizing it with my own eyes, enjoying the characteristics of each one. Of course it makes it a lot better under a beautiful bright and blue autumn sky. Watching the sunlight filtered through the rows of trees, picking your own apples (that lovely little sound when the branches let go of them), listening to the wind and feeling the sun in your face it makes these apples better. Even before you've tasted them. We picked some beautiful non-shiny pink ladies and cameos (not a big fan of shiny apples) with richer colours than the ones you'll find in most supermarkets, more orange, more purple & pink, less red. It's a pleasure just looking at them. We'll be eating them like that this week and baking too of course: apple crumble, apple jam & thin French apple tarts, because new traditions should always be paired with old ones.

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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

mini canelés

of course you can pronounce it

And even if you can't pronounce it, you can still eat them. According to gmail I asked a friend for this recipe in January 2011. We had dinner at her place and for dessert she served the most delicious mini-canelés. I knew I had to try making them myself, I just didn't think it would take me 5 and a half year before I actually got to it. But I finally did, and not just a little bit. Since we were having our housewarming here in DC I made 195 exactly, so maybe that makes up for the fact it took me so long to get started. I also plan on making them again very soon - not as many though -  the kids loved them even if they're not usually fans of canelés.

If you don't know canelés (insert horrified emoji), here's how Wikipedia describes them: small French pastries flavoured with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelised crust taking the shape of small, striated cylinders. Originally a speciality of the Bordeaux region of France, it is now widely available in the rest of France and abroad. The last part is not completely true. I haven't been able to find any here in Washington DC, which is why I make my own. I also prefer the mini version because there's more of the crunchy, caramelised part.

Recipe for approximately 60 mini-canelés:

What you need:

First of all you need the following special equipment: two 18 canelés molds (you can find them on Amazon).

1/2 liter milk
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
100 g all purpose flour
250 g caster sugar
50 g butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons of rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

What to do:

1. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix with the milk and vanilla extract in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, yes boil, but on moderate heat and while stirring regularly. Meanwhile (you got two hands, right?)  mix flour, sugar and eggs in a large bowl.

2. Once the milk is boiling pour it gently into the flour mixture and blend on low speed until there are no lumps left. It should look like crepe batter. 

3. Let the batter rest for one hour, then add the rum and mix again. Heat the oven at, damn I don't know any longer if I should write this in Celsius or in Fahrenheit, so I'll do both: 270 degrees Celsius/520 Fahrenheit.

4. Fill the canelés molds 4/5 of the way (no buttering needed!) and bake the canelés for 5 minutes, then turn down the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 Fahrenheit and continue baking for about 40-45 minutes depending on how caramelised you want them to be. The inside needs to stay tender. Remove the molds from the oven, let them cool down for a few minutes and then demold.

Let me know how it goes!

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Sunday, 2 October 2016

a magical evening in the basque country

about a secret dinner in a vegetable garden

A few times in life magic happens and you're one of the lucky ones watching it unfold before your eyes. It can't be planned in advance or even expected. You can only hope for it. Okay, so maybe it helps if @ophelieskitchenbook is involved in the process. If she comes up with an idea called #secretdinerclub (diner with one n only as in French, Madame, Monsieur) and decides to have the first one in the Basque Country - a region I love dearly - you're already off to a very good start. Add a dream setting in the middle of the enchanted vegetable garden of la Ferme Landaldea complete with a beautiful table and an incredible menu under a bright full moon in great company and I fail to see how anything could have been better.

You can learn more about the menu as well as all the talented people who participated in making this evening so special on Ophelie's blog post here (in French). The most amazing part was that everything we ate had grown around us, a very humbling experience that revived my old dream about growing my own vegetable garden and gave birth to a new one: to one day be able to make that incredible caramelized beetroot pie with my own beetroots. Till then I'm still high from this magical evening.

The lovely Ophelie in her element:

When time stood still:

Keep an eye out for this magical hashtag on Instagram and see what Ophelie comes up with next.

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