Friday, 17 October 2008

French Flatbread

Woke up to the smell of fresh warm bread this morning - been baking my own bread. Well, semi-baking. Ok, my bread machine has been doing the baking for me.

I set it on timer a couple of nights a week, and it's been miraculously producing crusty airy loaves, just like pain de campagne. Only last night I rushed, and must've put slightly too much butter in, or pressed the wrong buttons, and it's come out crusty, but brick-like and doughy.

Which is why I will never have my own dream tea-room - my baking is just too random still hehe

edited one week later: ahhh well, after several experiments, it turns out I'd been pressing the wrong buttons to produce the good bread, and it all went wrong when I concentrated and made sure I pressed the right buttons! Weird! Now I'm really confused...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Tonight's Canapés and Nibbles

writing them down before I forget...

platters and platters of the following...

mini toasts topped with butter, jambon cru and a little piece of melon

teeny tiny sausage rolls made with frankfurters cut into 4-6 pieces, then wrapped in pastry, brushed with egg yolk and baked in the oven

prunes wrapped in streaky bacon and baked in the oven (can also do prunes wrapped in duck breast fillets skewered on a cocktail stick topped with a square of Emmental on the end - served cold)

little bite-sized squares of lardon quiche

ham and garlic cheese roulade - just spread garlic cheese over a piece of normal ham, roll up tightly and then cut into half-centimetre rounds - really nice!

cherry tomatoes stuffed with fresh goats cheese mixed with fresh chives, garlic and finely chopped radishes... the preparation that goes into this is astounding: cut the tops off the cherry tomatoes and reserve; scoop out the insides of the cherry tomatoes with the tiniest spoon (the insides can be saved to make a really sweet tomato sauce). Blend the chopped chives, crushed garlic and finely chopped radishes with the soft goats cheese, spoon into the tomato shells, and put the little tomato lids back on... mouthful of pure squishy fresh delicious-ness!

boudin noir with apple toasts: black pudding sliced and fried, on lightly toasted bread, topped with pieces of lightly cooked apple

sliced bread with cream cheese with figs and walnuts - the cheese is just the supermarket variety - Boursin type thing but with figs - will have to check if the walnuts were already in it or added later... but quite delish...

all washed down with neverending supplies of rosé-pamplemousse, whiskey or Pastis (neverending apéritifs!) and followed by my intensely chocolately cupcakes topped with intensely chocolately ganache with sprinkles, and Nathalie's gorgeous caramelly coconut-custard cake - I will be stealing the recipe tomorrow hopefully!

and rounded off with a lovely little expresso with a large sugar lump.

More Cupcakes!

Another Saint's Day, and four dozen cupcakes coming up!

Kind of scary making them for other people...

I love baking, always loved making cakes and feeding them to people, but now they've started bringing me armfuls of chocolate and butter and sprinkles and telling me how many dozens they want haha

It's fun...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Look at that S car go!

I tried my first ever snail on Saturday afternoon at a little French country wedding! Had the most gorgeous time! After the ceremony at the Mairie, we all trooped off to the picnic area for photos, and then on to the Village Hall for a "vin d'honneur" and nibbles, followed by an evening buffet with a neverending supply of pink and red wine, starters consisting of an array of salads and pâté de campagne, main course with rôti de porc et de bœuf, a selection of local cheeses with green salad, and a spectacular pièce montée made of choux pastry balls filled with crème patissière, assembled into a tower glued with caramel, and sprinkled with pearl sugar, served with champagne, followed by toasts and speeches by the Bride and Groom, coffee, games and dancing into the night, then back again for lunch on the Sunday afternoon.

So, back to the snails...

We had "rosé pamplemousse" for the apéritif - chilled rosé wine with "sirop de pamplemousse" (grapefruit cordial), in the same proportions as for a Kir - really light and refreshing... Went down a little too easily hehe

Meanwhile family and friends passed around nibbles: crudités with a delicious crème fraîche, chive and crushed garlic dip, little boats made out of chicory leaves with garlic cheese and a cherry tomato inside, bacon cake, feta and wild mushroom cake (delish! recipes to follow soon!), toasted canapés topped with cream cheese and smoked carp fillet, and mini snail tartlets. Now these looked just like the mini spinach tartlets I make at home and my son wolfed down two of them before realising they were indeed snails in parsley, garlic and butter, but he wasn't phased at all and thought it was pretty cool and said he liked them (though with a slight shudder)! And so of course I had my arm twisted to try one too! I'm pretty squeamish and have to say I nibbled on the pastry, and then had to pop it into my gob, think of oysters and down it in one! It was totally worth it for the well dones and pats on my back I got afterwards - like an initiation of sorts haha!

And then my friend told me how to prepare them:

So, the rough idea is, you catch a few snails, the little grey ones you get in the garden are the tastiest apparently. Put them in a little box and feed them nothing but flour for a month. That way they detox and get rid of the nasty stuff... Then you immerse them in plenty of white vinegar with a little water, til it turns frothy, and rinse them about 10 times in plenty of fresh water til the water stays completely clear. You then prize them out of their shells (and clean the shells if you want to serve them in the shells afterwards). Mix up lots of crushed garlic, finely chopped parsley and butter, put the snails back in the shells with the seasoning and bake in the oven for [I need to check] OR you can cut little circles of flaky pastry and pop the snails and seasoning on the pastry circles and bake in a hot oven for half an hour.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Michel's Cupcakes

I made a batch of two dozen chocolate cupcakes Monday night for my neighbour Michel's party. It was his "Saint's Day" so we had a little celebration with lots of little canapes and nibbles and Sangria hehe

I used Agathe's Chocolate Cake recipe, but instead of making one big cake, I spooned the mixture into paper cases to make mini brownie-like cupcakes, decorated them with a thick ganache and sprinkled crystallised rose and violet petal fragments on top while the ganache was still slightly warm so the petal flavours infused into the chocolatey topping...

There was a particularly nice canape that I want to remember - blue cheese (Bleu d'Auvergne) blended with a little butter (proportions: three-quarters cheese, one-quarter butter), chilled in the fridge but brought out to mix regularly, then spread onto mini bite-sized toasts, and topped with half a grape. The sweetness of the grape worked beautifully with the blue cheese. Yum!