Category Archives: French

Piece Montée

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I was so excited when I found out what this month’s Dearing Bakers challenge was. Finally something that was very unique and used techniques I was not familiar with. I started out the night before by making the pastry cream. This is probably my third time making pastry cream and I’m definitely getting better. Maybe it was just the recipe, but this was the best pastry cream yet. Making pate a choux (for the puffs) was definitely something very new to me. The dough is made over heat, which made it very difficult to keep the eggs from scrambling when you added them. I think I managed pretty well, but my arm got very tired from all the heavy stirring. After the puffs were baked and chilled they were all ready to be filled with the amazing pastry cream. I used a very small tip and a pastry bag and just filled the puffs. Piece of cake! Putting together the Piece Montée was more difficult and required caramel to make them stick together. I have worked with melted sugar before, but I still managed to get burned (it still hurts!). I ended up with a Piece that was a little crooked and not too pretty, but tasted amazing (I guess you could call it an ugly duckling). I decorated with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and some strings of caramel. Thanks to my boyfriend for helping out!

Ready to be filled!

Filling them up!

Filled and ready!

Finishing touches!


Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I’m not sure how I feel about this challenge. It was exciting to make because I have never had a tian before, yet there was nothing new about the techniques used for making this dessert. The flavour of the finished tian was great, but I think I would have preferred a fruit salad with whipped cream. The tian consisted of four layers and a caramel sauce to go over the top. The bottom layer was a Pate Sablee, followed by a layer of orange marmalade, then whipped cream, and finally orange segments on the top. The most fun part about this challenge was segmenting the oranges and making the marmalade. A few years ago I watched a TV show where a chef was demonstrating how to segment oranges, I never thought that was something I needed to know, but I think this just proves that TV can be educational and I shouldn’t feel bad when I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy instead of studying… 😉 Hands down the most tasty /best part of this challenge: the raw pate sablee dough before it was baked. So, so yummy.

The thing I didn’t like about this challenge was that if felt so much like the previous challenge, Tiramisu; Only a little bit of baking, a lot of cream, and then just assembling layers. When I joined the Daring Bakers I thought there would be more baking involved (obviously), something with baking powder or yeast, but lately it just feels like we’re making desserts without doing much baking. Also, even though the pate sable dough tasted great, it was a pain to roll out. I don’t know what went wrong because I followed the directions exactly… but a big “thank you” to my mom for doing the work after I decided to give up and was contemplating whether or not I should just eat the whole dough raw.

In the end though, I was happy with the result. I decided to flavour some of the whipped cream with cocoa powder and I substituted grapefruits for some of the oranges. Now I’m just crossing my fingers that the next challenge will be something that is more baking-related.

Thanks for stopping by folks!

Daring Bakers Challenge Macaroons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

So, what does this mean? It means I have joined the Daring Bakers. Once a month we get a challenge which is secret to the public, we all bake something using the recipe from the challenge and then publish our posts on the same day (today). Hence, you can now expect me to blog about something truly wonderful and slightly advanced once a month. I was glad that this was my first challenge, I have made macaroons twice before (once successfully and once not so successfully…ok it was actually a disaster). The type of macaroons I’m talking about is of course not the chewy coconut kind, but the French kind – the amazingly cute and tasty kind. I have been to Ladurée in London, a very small pastry shop with a good selection of macaroons. When I was in Paris for my birthday this year my boyfriend bought me a cake and macaroons from their big store on the Champs-Élysées. Their macaroons are world famous and I can definitely understand why, they look too good to eat and they have a great selection of flavours. If anyone is ever in Paris, Ladurée is THE place to go for a treat.

I can say without hesitation that my macaroons did not turn out like they should have. My oven is very unreliable and it is impossible to know what the temperature is, so I think that is where it went wrong. At least, that’s what I like to think, for all I know it might have been a mistake I made that caused these macaroons to turn out the way they did. First of all, they did not look like proper macaroons should. I didn’t manage to get the trademark “feet” on my macaroons, instead they looked like plain old flat cookies. Secondly, they did not feel like macaroons. They were really chewy (which I actually liked), but they should have had a slightly hard outer shell and be soft in the middle. BUT, they did taste like macaroons! Yay! I filled mine with a simple chocolate ganache which I made by heating one part heavy cream to a simmer, and then adding that to one part 70% chocolate to melt the chocolate. I let it cool until the consistency was thick enough to pipe a nice thick layer on the macaroons, and then sandwiched them together. I really enjoyed the taste of these macaroons and I brought them with me to the dinner party I mentioned in my previous post. The girls all seemed to enjoy my failed macaroons, I don’t think they cared too much that they weren’t exactly perfect!

I think macaroons are really fun to make, so I will probably try them again some time. Next time, I will use a different recipe that I have had success with in the past. I think this recipe was a little too complicated, but you can find it on the Daring Bakers website if you feel like trying. I will recommend that if you decide to make macaroons you should find some other recipe, take a look on other websites and choose one that you think would work best for you. Good Luck!

Fennel, Tomato and Garlic Gratin

On my first trip to the cinema here in New York I saw “Julie & Julia“. Since this film is about food and blogging I thought it would be right up my alley, and it was! I remember when I was in Paris this June I was also looking for a French cookbook in English, but I didn’t have any trouble finding one (unlike Julia Child). I picked up a copy of “a little taste of… france” which has some classic French recipes, including Boeuf bourguignon, one of the dishes prepared in the film. As I watched the film I realised that I have only tried one recipe from this book, so I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen. My roommate, Brittany, is a semi-vegetarian (she eats chicken and fish) so I decided to pick a vegetarian recipe. I had today off from school so I had some time on my hands to get fresh ingredients. I went down to the Chelsea market, recommended by my Time Out New York book. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed by the market. I have visited some amazing markets around Europe (I think my favourite so far is the market in Valencia, Spain) and the Chelsea market just didn’t compare to the standards I have seen before. But I did find everything I was looking for, although it was a little too expensive for my student wallet. Next time I will try the Union Square market which I have heard is really good on Wednesdays.

Back to the recipe… I haven’t cooked much with fennel before, but when I have it has always been in some kind of fish and tomato soup. I love the smell of fennel and I quite like to eat it raw as well. I really love garlic a lot so I always add more than the recipe calls for, in this one too. I have left the recipe as is, so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to add extra garlic. I didn’t encounter any problems making this recipe, but I have a few recommendations on how to make it easier for you. Firstly, the recipe says to boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds before skinning them. I would recommend 30-40 seconds as I struggled trying to get the skin off my first few tomatoes. Secondly, I would make sure to use day-old bread. I used really fresh bread and it was very difficult to make the crumbs.

I have to say that I was very pleased with how this turned out. The taste was amazing! I didn’t expect the lemon flavour to come through as well as it did and the crispiness of the crumb topping worked really well with the soft tomatoes. I put half the batch in the freezer and I am already looking forward to defrosting and reheating it one day in the not so distant future. This is also a fairly healthy meal, with at least two portions of your daily serving of vegetables. Olive oil contains healthy fats and the parmesan adds calcium to the dish, but if you are worried about calories I would just cut down a little on both of those ingredients. I served this with a side of chicken, but I think a white fish like sea-bass would be really good with this too. Next time I will try adding some herbs, basil or thyme are always good with tomato. I highly recommend this recipe I and hope you will try to make it!

Recipe (serves 4)

I kg fennel bulbs

500 g tomatoes

80 ml olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Gratin topping:

60 g white bread, broken into crumbs

65 g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 garlic clove, crushed


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the fennel in half lengthways and slice thinly.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened but not browned.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently for 7 minutes until softened and lightly golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, score a cross in the top of each tomato, plunge into boiling water for 20 (30-40) seconds, then peel the skin away from the cross. Chop roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the tomato is softened. Season to taste.
  6. To make the gratin topping, mix together all the ingredients (if I had a working food processor I would probably just throw all the ingredients in together and chop), sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Source: a little taste of… france