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next door

21 Sep

Five years as a pastry chef and I never learned how to poach an egg properly. It never came up. I liked crispy-fried eggs for my breakfast, when I wasn’t eating croissants at work.

And then I landed in a new place, a mixture of happenstance and good friends, and poached eggs were on the menu. On everything. My failure rate was high, in the beginning. I looked at every ‘easiest / best poached egg technique’ on the internet and I ate the disastrous ones for breakfast and lunch and snacks. I felt like Frances the badger when she is ‘Tired…of…jam.‘ And finally a friend, a French-trained chef, walked me through it. I had everything backwards. It was supposed to be the deepest pot in the kitchen, whole cups of vinegar and a light smattering of bubbles, like expensive fizzy water. The finished egg should feel like the fleshy part at the crease of a bent elbow. The chasm between reading about something and experiencing it is vast.

In Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the sushi chef’s apprentice explains that it was ten years of prep work, massaging the octopus to make it tender, before he was allowed to make omelettes. And it was two hundred failed omelettes – failed in that they did not meet Jiro’s high standards – before he made one that was worthy of a nod of approval. The apprentice cried with relief, pride.

I haven’t signed up for any classes this autumn. Last year it was illustration, before that bread, and Japanese. I like the discomfort of the steep slope on a new learning curve. This year I am working on my eggs. I still mess a few up, and still eat those ones for lunch. The rest are good.

And I get the best coffee as a reward.

abrikossnitte (apricot-pecan twists)

30 Dec

abrikossnitte coffee tangerine drawing

I spent most of Christmas Eve at our kitchen bench, drinking tea and reading the paper, watching my mother cook. It was a different kitchen, a different city, from where I grew up, but sitting at that old, scratched bench it felt like home. It was where I had breakfast and after school snacks, where I made Christmas cookies with friends, where I perched for a last cup of tea and piece of cake when the house was dark and quiet.

Open on the bench was a copy of The Cooking of Scandinavia, for the split-pea soup recipe. It is a borrowed family tradition: the Swedish have pea soup on a Thursday, we have it on Christmas Eve. A thick yellow soup, flavoured with ham, onion and a few cloves, always served with a dollop of sharp mustard in each bowl. It has nothing to do with Christmas except that it is whole and hearty, good preparation for the onslaught of rich food ahead.

Leafing through the book and laughing (not unkindly) at the old-school food styling, I remembered some of the Scandinavian Christmas traditions I have bumped into: one Christmas Eve with a friend’s family, we had Danish risalamande, or rice pudding with whipped cream and flaked almonds. The person who found the whole almond won a small marzipan pig. This year on 13th December, or Santa Lucia, a Swedish friend brought us gingerbread stars topped with a bit of blue cheese, a surprisingly delicious combination. I have also been following Fanny Zanotti’s dreamy photos and recipes from a snowy Christmas in Sweden.

Then I found a comprehensive section on Danish pastries, which the Danish actually call Wienerbrød, literally ‘bread from Vienna’, which is where flaky breakfast pastries actually originated. Hence viennoiserie in as a general term in France. The recipe is pretty similar to croissant-making, but with egg and milk and fragrant cardamom in the dough, and slightly different folds.

This variation, the abrikossnitte, translated as ‘apricot slips’ are little rectangles of dough – layered with apricot jam – that look like they have been twisted or plaited. I was curious to try the shape, much easier to make than it is to describe. Or draw: my original drawings made my mother laugh for how vulgar they looked. A laminated dough is not difficult, once you know how, but it does take time. (A good holiday project.) So I spent Christmas Eve alternating kneading, rolling, and reading while the dough rested. They were ready for breakfast the next day: flaky twists, sticky and sweet with a crunch from the pecans on top. Perfect with a pot of strong coffee.

abrikossnitte folds

Abrikossnitte (Apricot-pecan twists)

adapted from The Cooking of Scandinavia, by Dale Brown and Time-Life Books

Scandinavian buns are often flavoured with cardamom and may be filled with jam or almond paste as well. This variation look like little twisted rectangles, layered with apricot jam, but the dough can be used for many different shapes or flavours. Try with Nutella instead of jam, or even cheese and mustard.

The whole process will take a minimum of 6 hours (most of which is time in the fridge). Or it can be done over 48 hours, depending on your schedule: just leave the dough in the fridge between steps. If at any point the dough feels too soft or sticky to roll – pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to solidify the butter, then carry on. The dough can also be frozen at any point (up to a month) and defrosted overnight in the fridge, before continuing as before.

makes 8-10

260g plain flour

35g caster sugar

5g / 1 tsp salt

5g / 1 tsp fast-acting yeast

10 cardamom pods / ¼ tsp ground cardamom

100g milk

1 egg (50g)

125g butter, cold

100g apricot jam

to decorate: a little milk + coarse sugar + chopped pecans

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. (If using whole cardamom pods, remove seeds and grind them in a mortar and pestle.) Make a well in the centre, add the milk and egg and bring everything into a dough with one hand. Add a splash of milk if too dry or a touch of flour if very wet – although it should be a bit sticky at the beginning. Knead for 10 minutes on the counter until smooth and stretchy. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare the butter slab: place butter in the middle of a large piece of baking paper. Fold it around the butter, like wrapping a present, to make a parcel about 15x20cm, A5 size. Tap butter with a rolling pin to soften, then roll out to fill the paper parcel, of an even thickness all over. Chill until firm.

With a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough to about 20x30cm. Carefully unwrap and place the cold butter on the top two thirds of the dough rectangle (see picture above). Fold over the bottom third, then the top third with the butter. Rotate the dough 90° (so that it looks ‘like a book’ with the seam on the side). Press down gently on each seam – top, bottom and side – with the rolling pin so the butter can’t escape.

Roll out lengthways to 40-50cm. Fold the narrow ends into the middle, then fold in half – this is a ‘double’, ‘wallet’ or ‘book’ fold. Chill for 30 minutes then repeat the double fold, making sure that it looks ‘like a book’ when you begin rolling.

Finally, roll out one more time, just long enough to fold the dough in half. Chill for 2-3 hours or overnight. (Or freeze the dough at this point for later.)

Roll out the dough block to a thin rectangle, about 20x45cm. Spread apricot jam on one long half (10x45cm) then fold over the bare half. Divide the long strip into 8 rectangles. Cut a slit in the middle of each rectangle, then tuck one end under and pull it through the cut, forming a twist effect (see picture below). Space the 8 twists out on a baking tray lined with paper. Loosely cover in plastic and allow to double in size at room temperature or in a gently warm place (no more than 25°C). Allow for at least an hour. OR refrigerate the tray overnight and carry on in the morning. OR freeze twists until later, then defrost when needed on a tray in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 200°C. When twists have doubled, brush gently with milk, sprinkle with coarse sugar and (optional extra) chopped pecans. Bake for 5 minutes at 200°C then lower the heat to 180°C for another 10-15 minutes, until they are nice and golden-brown all over and underneath. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.

abrikossnitte cuts

breakfast borscht

8 Jul

beetroot raspberry smoothie

There was a woman falling asleep on the metro today. Her head nodded slowly towards the shoulder of the man next to her until she would catch herself, then stumble again into sleep. At one point she leant over so far that you could see her name, ADELE, handwritten on the label of her brown dress. Her black, patent-leather shoes were coming apart a little at the seams.

That’s about how I feel in the mornings, even though I no longer leave with the first metro. Now I allow myself a full fifteen minutes to roll out of bed. Enough time to at least bring breakfast with me instead of relying on croissants. Most days that is a variation on a beetroot smoothie, in an attempt to balance out the inevitable charcuterie plate-rosé that is a Paris summer supper, on a terrasse or in a park. (Because of the heatwave – la canicule – that Parisians are so enjoying complaining about, a few of the biggest parks are going to be open all night on weekends, including les Buttes-Chaumont just up the hill. Which means no more park guardians with whistles peremptorily ordering us out mid-picnic. Which means more rosé! Less sleep!)

In the fridge, we normally have a packet of steamed beetroot, and raspberries in the freezer. Then whatever other fresh fruit and dairy lying around gets thrown in as well. Just the right balance of sweet/tart/earthy/creamy. I like to think of it as breakfast borscht, not least because the French way of pronouncing smoothie – smoo-zee – makes me a little twitchy. And it is a bright wake-me-up pink, cold and fresh enough to stop me nodding off in the metro.

~~~

Not really a recipe for a beetroot smoothie

serves 1

One small cooked beetroot. A handful of frozen raspberries. Something juicy (a ripe peach, half a peeled cucumber, a large chunk of watermelon). A few tablespoons yoghurt, fromage blanc or lait fermenté. A splash of apple juice or water to thin it to desired consistency. Blend in a large widemouth jar until smooth. Add straw and screw on lid for portable breakfast. Done.

sourdough crumpets for one

14 May

sourdough crumpets for one

When I followed the link on Orangette’s rhubarb compote, I fell into a rabbit hole. I devoured the whole of The Pastry Department in one sitting, admiring its clean prose, tessellated pen and ink drawings and pure pastry chef geekery. Dana Cree’s recipes are from her restaurant, Blackbird, in Chicago, that I would now love to visit. They speak to the professional in their sophisticated flavour combinations, in her pared-down instructions. But they are inspiring to a home cook as well – that raw passion and intensity, the idea that you need to experiment, to taste and taste again. Reading through made me feel like a small child, allowed to eat at the grown-up table for the first time. Wide eyed and determined to live up to the trust placed in me. The list of components in the Blackbird crepes – chicory streusel, coffee mascarpone, teff crepes, rum bling, chocolate cremeux, and more – sounds like a challenge of the best kind.

I want to write to the younger version of myself, and tell her everything I’ve discovered along the way…. This blog is written for her, that wide eyed girl making the untethered leap into her first pastry chef position, and for anyone like her pushing forward into pastry careers of their own. – from the about page

It feels like discovering an Ottolenghi of desserts: when you want to make every recipe, right now, today, despite the long list of ingredients. A generous chef – who lists all of her formulas rather than keeping them secret – and one with a sense of humour. I especially liked the recipe for Mr Darcy’s sourdough crumpets. Since I have named my houseplants (Dorothy and Alfred) I am surprised it didn’t occur me to name my sourdough starter as she did hers. An English name for an English breakfast. And since I was on my way home from England with a stash of tea and crumpets, since I was wearing a Pride and Prejudice book necklace made by my adorable cousin, since I hate throwing away most of my starter if I am not baking bread when I feed it in the morning… it felt like fate.

(For this recipe, you will need to be cultivating a sourdough starter already. The upkeep is minimal: feed it flour and water every day or couple of days, leave it to bubble at room temperature. Put it the fridge when you go on holiday. Much easier than a kitten. If the promise of golden-brown, flavoursome sourdough loaves AND hot crumpets in the morning is not enough to convince you, then I don’t know what else to say. I am not enough of an expert to explain the whole process, certainly not as a codicil to a blogpost, but I can recommend the Tartine book with all its pictures as a good start.)

I haven’t opened the packet of shop crumpets. I have been experimenting with the Mr Darcy formula in the morning – bread flour or all purpose? do I need rings or will this heart shaped cutter do? how much butter? how thick? – and enjoying the freedom to play around. And the fresh, holey, chewy, butter-soaked crumpets, of course.

~~~

Sourdough crumpets

recipe adapted from the pastry department – she recommends you feed the starter after 6pm for morning crumpets. Approximately 12 hours before should be fine. She uses plain (all-purpose) flour for her starter but since I mainly use mine for bread otherwise, I use a bread flour. And 100g is the amount I normally throw away when I feed my small starter, leaving only a teaspoon or so behind.. So I’ve just carried on doing it this way. Feel free to scale up: just feed your starter double the night before. If you don’t have buttermilk in the fridge, just add a couple of drops of lemon juice/vinegar to whole milk and let it curdle for a few minutes. And I’ve used baking powder when out of soda. You can use biscuit cutters (heart-shaped or not!) instead of rings for the crumpets. Or if you do them freehand, they will be a little flatter but no less delicious. 

makes 2 large / 4 small crumpets

100g leftover sourdough starter

20g plain flour

20g buttermilk

2g baking soda (1/4 tsp)

1g salt (a pinch)

Whisk all ingredients together and let stand for 30 minutes. Heat up a large flat frying pan, medium heat. It shouldn’t be so hot that the butter burns. If you are using rings, heat them up with the pan. Add a little butter to the middle of each ring. Whisk mixture one more time and tip into a piping bag. When the butter is sizzling, pipe (or spoon) mixture into the rings so they are about 1cm thick. Bubbles will form and the top will set. Keep an eye on them so the bottom doesn’t brown too fast. Eat immediately with butter and flaky salt, or save for toasting later.

persimmon pain perdu

21 Jan

persimmon halves

There is a persimmon tree in the parc du Buttes-Chaumont. I never noticed it before, never saw the bright orange globes so high up. Until one day they were on the pavement, split and squashed, over-ripe. It looked as if someone had had a food fight.

Normally I can’t stand persimmons when they are too ripe, when they darken and turn to pulp inside. I like to slice them so you can see the star template, so the texture is that of a crisp pear. But then I like my bananas almost green as well.

French toast didn’t used to appeal to me either. Maybe I am just too attached to banana pancakes. Maybe it is the memories of scout camp: huddled under green tents in the drizzle, we fried up white sliced bread to serve with ketchup. Perhaps it is all in the name, in England, “eggy bread”. The actual French call it “pain perdu” or lost bread, with the idea that it has been found and rescued. (The image of persimmons too can change depending on the name you assign: sharon fruit or kaki.)

Then a friend made me her French toast, taking her time, methodically waiting to really crisp and caramelise the edges of the custardy brioche. Then I was inspired to try the recipe in the Tartine book, since we had an abundance of sourdough bread, some of it already going stale. They have you toast the bread, soaked in eggs and milk, in a skillet on the stovetop to form a crust, adding more liquid as you go to saturate it totally, then stick it in the oven to bake through. It was indeed delicious, the underside as brown and crunchy as crème brûlée. But my favourite part of the recipe was the recommendation to squash a ripe persimmon on top. That was absolutely perfect, adding a juicy, delicate sweetness where maple syrup would almost have been overkill.

There are still plenty of kaki in the French markets, so take advantage. Buy a few, even if they are starting to darken and look bruised, to scoop out of their skins and serve on top of your breakfast whether it is pain perdu, pancakes or porridge.

No recipe today, due to lack of oven and a kitchen under renovation. Pick your favourite French toast recipe: after all it is just eggs, milk, a little sugar and bread – preferably stale. Cut doorstop slabs of the bread and soak the slices in your egg mixture in the fridge overnight, if you are lazy like me and do not want to wake up an hour early to do so. Add some lemon or lime zest for an extra kick. Fry with a generous amount of butter on a medium-low heat, take your time, and finish off in the oven while you make coffee, cook some bacon and cut up your persimmon.

dukkah

21 Dec

coriander jar

The recipe has been in my diary since the summer, when I re-read Laurie Colwin’s “More Home Cooking”. Her food is down-to-earth and her stories gently funny; I liked the one on what to feed a jetlagged friend (something salty so they drink lots of water). The image that really stuck with me though was that of her sister (maybe? the book is still in the south of France) caught guiltily eating this spice mix, dukkah, out of the jar with a spoon.

Now eating Nutella by the spoonful, that I understand. But a mix of nuts and seeds, cumin, coriander and cinnamon? Surely that would be too dry, too strong?

Talking with a friend the other day – she is on the kitchen stool with a glass of wine, I am testing the recipe, blending the toasted spices and nuts, stopping and starting around the conversation – we realise that much as ex-smokers tend to be the most vehemently anti-smoking, people that have had issues with eating disorders tend to be largely impatient  with others’ dietary requirements, intolerances, particular preferences. She says she is gluten-free now, last week it was lactose. He only ate half the piece of cheesecake, claimed he was getting love handles. Obviously I know that there are medically diagnosed problems, food allergies. I know that. She knows that. Nonetheless as if we are trying to distance ourselves from our past, our obsessions, we are the most judgemental.

Smell that. I open the lid of the food processor, releasing a toasty cinnamon air. Good right?

But when walls are broken down, when someone admits to suffering, to have suffered from disordered eating, it is amazing how quickly others will respond with me too! Without that kinship, it would be admitting to weakness, to vanity, to a preoccupation with the self in a world of much more tangible problems.

We each dip a finger to taste the crumbly rubble, not quite a powder. Oooh.  We taste it again. It is like earth and fire, full of warmth.

cinnamon, cumin and pepper jars

It isn’t about being thin or pretty but feeling full or empty. From the beginning of university until not so long ago, I struggled with food. Push and pull. I ate my feelings, as everyone does occasionally. It went from once a month to almost every day, when I could count the ‘good days’ (tuna and rye crackers) one hand in that month.

We try it on some sourdough, spread with honey and goat’s cheese and topped with a baker’s pinch of dukkah (all fingers at once, not just finger and thumb). That will be breakfast and snacks for the next two days until the loaf runs out.

And then, slowly, sometime in the last year and a half it faded towards the horizon. It stopped being ‘I am’ this thing, this disorder that defines me, and became ‘I have’ and ‘I used to have’. I can feel its imprint on bad days, a worn pathway, a feeling of too much too full too frantic. Asked to describe it once, I said that when anxious I felt a balloon inflating in my chest and the only way to remove it was to fill myself up until I was a sack of concrete.

Now I remember how to feel physically hungry, not just emotionally empty. My feelings are not always in check – nor should they be – and sometimes it surprises me the forged link of hunger/sadness. Two days ago I finished class in a terribe mood, sure that everyone hated me, inexplicably miserable. Then, wait, I realised, I had been too busy to eat lunch. All I needed to right my self-esteem was a quick sandwich of baguette, cured ham and salad, with a sprinkle of more dukkah. (I ‘borrowed’ some from the jar in my handbag I was giving away as a gift. Sorry Jen!)

Where am I going with this? For one, more people than you would think will own up to those moments in the kitchen at midnight, guiltily nursing that spoon, if only you know how to ask the question. It is a relief to say, me too. Hopefully this does not read as melodramatic or self-centred. I just know that a few years ago I would have loved to know someone with the same experience, someone who made it out the other side. I would have felt less ashamed.

And secondly, this spice mix, dip, topping, whichever, is my favourite thing I have made all year. It is redolent with spices, savoury and sweet, salty. Hot with black pepper but tempered with the hazelnuts and sesame seeds, so that it can be used in generous spoonfuls rather than pinches. Of course, when I googled it I discovered it has been fashionable in the food world for at least a decade now, in all of my favourite blogs: 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen and now in David Lebovitz’s new book. And more importantly, in Egypt for centuries: street vendors serve cones of dukkah, or duqqa, with bread and olive oil for dipping. I cannot wait to serve it over boiled eggs, potatoes, soups, avocado toast… My flatmate makes home-made fermented-milk yoghurt which is incredible with dukkah and honey. I think Laurie Colwin would approve.

hazelnuts sesame and salt

Dukkah

Friends and family in the near vicinity, you may be getting a jar of this for Christmas. For those of you far away, I won’t risk posting sachets of mysterious powder, so you will have to make your own. This makes a generous quantity, three jam jars full, or many spice jars (save empty ones from the supermarket for your presents). You won’t regret making a big batch, especially if you go to the trouble of buying coriander and cumin seeds, might as well use them. Adjust to taste: add more nuts for a milder flavour, more pepper for more heat. Enjoy on everything.

115g ( 1 cup) hazelnuts

150g (1 cup) sesame seeds

15g (3 tbs) cumin seeds

20g (1/4 cup) coriander seeds

15g (1 1/2 tbs) black peppercorns

15g (1 tbs + 1 tsp) coarse sea salt

12g (2 tbs) ground cinnamon

Toast the nuts / seeds / spices one kind at a time in a dry frying pan. Shake it every now and then to cook evenly. When they smell toasty, tip into food processor and do the next lot. (If you want to skin hazelnuts, tip them still hot into a tea towel and rub firmly to remove skins.) Add the salt and cinnamon, no need to toast, and blend everything to a rubble, not too fine a powder. My food processor does not do very well with the peppercorns so I crush them roughly first with a makeshift mortar and pestle: rolling pin and mug.)

Divide into jars. Eat on everything.

buttering the sky

19 Dec

pain

On my shopping list:

bread flour (white and whole wheat)

brioche flour

rye, spelt

baskets for proofing: “bannetons”

The dough waited overnight, cradled in a colander lined with a tea towel, ready to be turned into this morning’s loaf. 60/40 brioche/wholemeal flour, 80% hydration, salt.

The kitten alarm clock started meowing as soon as it was light, luckily only 8 a.m. in our grey winter. I fed her with cat biscuits, fed the starter with a handful of flour and some warm water, and preheated the oven. For the first time the loaf had a significant roundness to it – it had a high, proud shape, a sharp edge where it had been scarred. When I sliced it open the crust had a real crackle, the crumb a good spring, variegated holes. It just needed butter to be perfect.

I am far from being religious, but making pain au levain makes me feel a kind of Old Testament awe. I made something from just flour and water and air, a living thing. It might as well have been Adam’s rib for all I feel so proud. I made something from scratch. Flour and water and air, these are my everyday gods.

On my kitchen wall:

Slipping

On my shoes,

Boiling water,

Toasting bread,

Buttering the sky:

That should be enough contact

With God in one day

To make anyone

Crazy.

                                       –Hafiz

raspberry tangerine jam

5 Dec

raspberry tangerine jam

In Perugia, I lived in an apartment with big windows and cold floors. My flatmates would force slippers onto me when I walked around barefoot in the morning. Then they would make me coffee, and in the evening, spaghetti. Sometimes pasta twice a day. Around this time of year, November December, we might just have roast chestnuts and vino novello for supper.

One of them – I can’t remember which one – used to leave the skin of tangerines, peeled in one long strip, on top of the radiator. So that the house would smell like citrus. Which reminded me of the passage below, from M.F.K. Fisher.

(I have a recipe for raspberry tangerine jam, which is a delightful combination. Perfect with toast or porridge, or in buttery cookies. You should make it on a December afternoon to warm up the house.)

But Fisher tells such a good story, I will leave her the last word. Enjoy. From Serve it Forth:

I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.

In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales ofl’intérieure. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course – it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but –

On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension’s chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o’clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.

– M.F.K. Fisher

Raspberry Tangerine Jam

We often used frozen raspberries in the bakery, especially when they are going to be cooked down to make puree. They still have a lot of flavour. The first time I made this I used the whole peel but because of all the pectin in it, the results were quite stiff. Just use half, put the other half on the radiator.

makes 1 large or 2 small jars

400g frozen raspberries

1 tangerine,  preferably seedless

250g jam sugar

Sterilise your jars. (Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I fill them with boiling water.) Put some spoons in the freezer for testing.

It is a small quantity of jam, so it can be made either on the stove or in a microwave. If you try the latter, keep an eye on it as it sets quickly. Heat the raspberries gently to defrost. Blend half the tangerine peel and all of the pulp (remove seeds first) with a spoonful of the sugar to make a puree.

When the raspberries have softened and started to liquefy, add the tangerine puree and the rest of the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 5 minutes. The bubbles should sound a tone deeper, the mixture more syrupy than before. When you drag the wooden spoon across the bottom, it should take a second for the liquid red sea to come back together. If in doubt, test the consistency on a frozen spoon: when the jam is at room temperature it should hold its shape instead of sliding quickly over the spoon, it should form a slight skin that will wrinkle slightly when you push it. You will see the jam sticking around the edges of the pan and on the wooden spoon too.* Carefully pour into jars, to the brim, close and turn upside down to cool.

*Plagiarising self from last post about jam.

just breakfast

21 Nov

breakfast

One of the first food blogs I followed, Simply Breakfast, was just that. Elegant and interesting breakfast for one, simply photographed. It disappeared a while ago, but some of her photos can be found here.

I love weekend breakfast, I love inviting people over for pancakes or waffles. (Or tebirkes!) I love making several pots of coffee and sitting around in pyjamas and slippers long past noon.

In the week though, I tend to oversleep and run out of the door with fruit and a yoghurt to eat standing up at work. Not so good. I need the motivation to wake up earlier and eat something heartier.

Options:

Porridge: a surfeit of regular, oat porridge got boring a while back. But Holybelly’s black rice porridge with fromage frais and berries is absolutely fantastic, ink-dark and full of flavour. I tried it at home twice, forgot about it twice, burned it twice. Working on it…

Toast: in any French household there is always a bit of baguette lying around from the night before. Our fridge is full of half-full jars too, lemon curd, fig jam, a tangerine-raspberry experiment that is a touch too stiff. Weirdly though, my sweet tooth is fading, the more I work with pastry. Who knew you could eat too many macarons?! For a savoury option, we have enormous avocados from the Indian shop across the road. They are as big as two normal ones, light and delicate. Mashed avocado, olive oil and coarse salt on toast. Perfect.

Eggs: Am too lazy to turn on the stove before work, so a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge makes things easy. This morning I had boiled eggs on buttered bread, plenty of pepper; a leftover matcha pannacotta with honey; and a pomelo. Luxury.

What are your breakfast staples? I would love some new ideas.

tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

17 Nov

tebirkes

Paris has been rewarded with a glorious autumn, to make up for its washed-out summer. The air is crisp and the sun bright*, so much so that I have been cycling around town instead of hiding in the metro. I took a Velib home from the Persian cultural centre by the Canal St Martin, after their soothing tea with cardamom and dried lemon. I crossed town, cycling along the water, for another meeting of the Grape Leaf Club. This time we made chicken paupiettes and French onion soup, and each of us went home with a jar of stock and chicken thighs in a spicy marinade. I discovered a whole row of posts painted to look like Lego men up at Pantin and another line near Nation in rainbow colours. Some of the best street art is clearly temporary: condemned buildings soon to become flats, allowed to live a last hurrah with a swirl of graffiti.

A few weekends ago, we stayed inside for a Danish movie night. On the menu, Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights), rye bread with salami, cheese and mackerel, and meatballs with mashed potatoes to follow. The latter were pretty simple: veal and pork, an egg and some diced onion, all squashed into rounds, browned and finished with a cream and mushroom sauce. With the mashed potatoes, they were the ultimate comfort. It is amazing we stayed awake for the film, although it was actually quite funny – a black, bitter humour – starring a young Mads Mikkelsen.

While browning the meatballs, while the others were laughing in the other room and piling meat and cheese onto bread and teasing the cat, I was also rolling out the tebirkes** for the next day. (The kitchen is one of my favourite places to be during a party: I can hear and enjoy enough of the conversation while my hands are busy.) To continue the theme: Danish pastries for Sunday morning. But not the “Danishes” that people in Britain grew up with, custard and apricot and a thick glaze. I had never tasted anything like it. These tebirkes are a hybrid of a croissant, a brioche and a Germanic seeded roll. They have all the butter and flake of a French pastry (confusingly called “viennoiserie” here, from Vienna) but some of delightfully sour taste of a multi-grain sourdough – from the addition of yoghurt. Plus, they are rolled up with a marzipan filling that caramelises around the edges as they bake, and topped with more poppy seeds.

I took the recipe from this blog here and adapted the method a little to make it more familiar, more like making croissants. Unlike croissants though, tebirkes I am happy to make at home because I know they can’t be found within walking distance from my flat of a Sunday morning. They sound labour intensive but they only need a little work the night before, and a good hour or two to rise the next day. (And they could be frozen for later.) I love the way the dough is speckled with seeds, the poppy seed cap on top. When they come out of the oven, some of the filling will have oozed out onto the tray, forming a toffee-like, brandysnap brittle. Worth making for that alone. Chef’s prerogative. They should be flaky outside and chewy inside, with a satisfying heft. Mine have been approved by one Danish friend, but she admitted that as with croissants, each bakery makes a slightly different version. And from what I understand if you make them longer and thinner they can be twisted into frosnapper. An extended culinary research trip to Denmark is clearly required to check. Perhaps in the spring…

*Technically, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. It rained all day this Sunday. But we did eat another batch of tebirkes, just to check they were still good.

**Pronounced tay-beer-kes. I think.

tebirke diagram

Tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

adapted from Honest Cooking

makes 8-10

125g unsalted butter

250 g bread flour

25g seeds (eg linseed + poppy)

20g rolled oats

4 g salt

10g fresh yeast (or 5g instant dried yeast)

125 ml milk

35g greek yoghurt

15g honey

1 egg yolk

Filling:

40g sugar

40g unsalted butter, room temperature

50g marzipan

Topping:

1 egg white (leftover from filling)

10g poppy seeds

Start by flattening out the butter to about 15x10cm: Fold a piece of greaseproof paper to the right size and enclose the butter within, then roll out with a rolling pin.  Refrigerate.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including yeast (crumble it up if using fresh yeast). Make a well in the centre and weigh milk, yoghurt and honey directly into the well with the egg yolk. Mix with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough out and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Try not to add too much extra flour, keep kneading and scraping the work surface. Once it is stretchy enough to form a thin membrane, shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out into a long rectangle, about one and a half times as long as the butter, and a couple of centimetres wider on each side. (E.g. about 25x15cm – see diagram above for proportions.) Brush off any excess flour, then place the butter at the top of the rectangle. Fold over the bottom end which should cover about half the butter. Then fold over the top so that the edges meet: basically the dough should have been folded in three, with the butter on the inside. Press the seams gently with the rolling pin to seal the butter in. Turn the parcel of dough so that it looks like a book – the seam on the right hand side, and roll it out lengthways, about 40cm long. Brush off any extra flour. Fold the edges into the centre so they meet halfway, then fold in half. The dough has now been folded in four. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate 30 minutes. (Optional: chill between the first two folds if the dough is too soft.) Finally, roll the dough out one more time (“like a book” again) to about 30cm long, and fold in three. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Cream softened butter and sugar until smooth then grate over the marzipan and mix in well. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle (40x25cm approximately). Spread the marzipan mixture all over, but leave a border along the long side furthest away from you. Roll up the dough lengthways towards the border, press down gently to seal. Brush the log with thhe remaining egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cut into 8-10 slices. Either let them rise at room temperature for an hour or two, until doubled in size. Or refrigerate until the next morning. In a cold environment, to speed up the rising process I like to heat my oven to 50°C for five minutes, then place the tray of tebirkes inside and turn the oven off.

Once tebirkes have doubled in size, preheat oven to 225C. Get a couple of ice cubes ready. Open the oven, throw in the icecubes and quickly slide in the trays. Close. This will create a nice steamy environment and help them puff up. Drop the temperature to 180°C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown all over. Serve warm. Best eaten on the first day, or gently warmed through later on.

(If making more than needed, either freeze extra tebirkes unrisen, or already baked.)

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