Le Praline Ou Pralin


photo 2What is Pralin? It is like a peanut butter but made with sugar and hazelnut. Pralin is normally used to make the filling of many chocolate truffles and the layers of some European cakes. Pralin is really easy to use. You basically add it to other ingredients to make either layers of cakes or chocolate truffles. You add to chocolate to make the filling of chocolate truffles and you mix it with various other ingredients such as hazelnut oil, feuillantine and chocolate to make a delicious crusty cake layer.

In France, pralin can be bought in all the grocery stores. But if you are leaving in the US, it is basically impossible to find it unless you buy it from Professional websites and it can be very expensive.

Well, the busy person that I am did not think to look at the ingredients for Lisa’s birthday cake so i was in  a bit of jam when I realized that I needed some pralin for the recipe.

After googling how to make it, this is what i found. It is perfect and can be made in large batch and kept frozen for later usages.

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Ingredients:

  • 200 gr. of hazelnuts, or almonds or a mixture of both
  • 200 gr. of sugar
  1. Place the almond and halzelnuts on a deep flexipan and roast them 15 minutes in a warm oven of 400.photo 2
  2. Let them cool completly.
  3. Place them into a plastic bag and rub plastic bags in between your hands to make the skin fall off the hazelbuts.photo 3
  4. Empty the bag of all the nuts carefully so as to keep the “skin” still in the bag. Set aside.
  5. In a small saucepan, cook 200 gr. of sugar over medium temperature until the sugar on the edges of the pan start to turn a golden brown. Then with a wooden spoon or a heat resistant spoon, start turning until the mixture is an amber color.photo 4
  6. Add the roastd nuts to it and pour the mixture onto the deep flexipat or the silpat to cool.photo 5
  7. When it is completly cool, place it into a chopper and chop until the mixture is looking like a peanut butter texture. Stop. Use it for your recipe.photo 3Keep the rest in a ziploc container in the freezer. It will keep for a long time.

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Poire Belle-Helene Revisited


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One of my dad’s favorite was Poire Belle-Helene, or Pear Belle Helene. It is a dessert made of Poached Pears atop vanilla ice-cream, and covered with Chocolate Syrup and toasted almond. It is delicious and really easy to do.

According to Wikepedia, “Poire belle Hélène was created around 1864 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.” The original  Simpler versions replace poached pears with canned pears and crystallized violets with sliced almonds.

I love the combination of vanilla, chocolate and pear. It is a comforting dessert, warm and delicious.

This past Saturday I was in the mood for those combinations, but was also craving cheesecake instead of ice-cream so that is when I decided to combine all those ingredients to make this dessert.

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Ingredients for 12 people: 

Ingredients for the Pear Compote:

  • 3 pears peeled and cored
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/8 tsp of tonka powder, if you can’t find any replace with cardamom
  1. After coring and peeling the pears, slice them in half and cube them very small.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and when the butter is sizzling, add the diced pears. Mix well.photo 1
  3. Add the sugar, the water and the tonka or cardamom spice.
  4. Bring to a boil and when it is boiling, reduce the heat down and cook until the liquid has reduced to half.
  5. When it is done, remove it from the heat and let it cook completely.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Syrup:

  • 1 cup of chocolate of good quality ( I use Ghiradhelli)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  1. Place the heavy cream into a microwable safe bowl and cook the cream for 2 minutes or until it is really hot. ( you may cook the cream over the stove if you do not want to use the microwave).
  2. Place the chocolate chips into a small bowl. Pour the hot cream over it and let it sit for a few minutes.photo 4
  3. After a few minutes mix the cream and the ganache will be perfect, free of lumps;-)photo 5

Ingredients for 12 individual lingot cheesecakes:

  • ▪ 387.5 gr  or about 14 oz of cream cheese at room temperature ( about 1 1/2 cream cheese bar)
  • 110 gr.  or about 1/2 cup of sugar
  • ▪100 gr.  or about 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 80 gr.  or about 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 13 gr. , or about 3 tsp of egg yolks
  • 13 gr. , or about 3 tsp of corn starch
  • 70 gr. , or about 1/4 cup and 1 tsp of heavy cream
  • a vanilla bean
  1. Place the cream cheese in a kitchen mixer and beat it.
  2. Add the sour cream and mix again.
  3. Add the sugar, egg yolks, eggs and beat it again until the texture is free of lumps.
  4. remove the vanilla seeds from the bean with a sharp knife and mix it with the heavy cream. Add the corn starch and beat until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture into a fleximold of your choice. I chose the lingot tray.
  6. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes at 194.
  7. When the cheesecakes are cooked, let them cool and place them in the fridge to cool for a few hours ( overnight is better).photo 2
  8. The following day, remove the cheesecake one at a time and dip them into the warm chocolate ganache to half.photo 3
  9. Place the cheesecake on individual plates.
  10. Place a few tablespoons of the pear compote on top of the cheesecake and drizzle of bit of the chocolate on the side of the cheesecake for added decoration. Et voila!

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If you wish to serve more pear compote, spoon the pear compote on the plate, place the cheesecake on top of it, drizzle some chocolate over the cheesecake et voila!

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Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Les Tendresses… or Chocolate Darlings


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Two weeks ago I went to the Demarle Convention in Santa Ana. As a consultant for the company I always get energized by going to such event. I connect with other consultant and we share tips and ideas on becoming more successful.photo 2

They are so many meetings,  workshops and speakers that I always learn so so much. The event usually last 4 days. Even though it is meetings and workshops for 4 days, it is much fun because it is a bit of ” me time”;-), no husband to answer to, or children to take care of. Nice!!!

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photo 3Four days in between girls would have been nice on itself, but to top it off the company  hired a World Known Chef of the name of Stephane Glacier to do several cooking workshops during the event. What a treat! We learned so much!!!

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Today i would like to share with you  one of the recipe he was so courteous to share. It is a quick recipe, very easy to make, to adapt and to dress up. In my eyes, a winner.

Ingredients for 12 mini desserts:

  • 190 gr. or 6.7 oz. of almond powder ( 3/4 cup)
  • 190 gr. or about 6.7 oz of sugar (3/4 cup)
  • 190 gr. or about 3 eggs 
  • 100 gr. or about 7 tbsp. of butter 
  • 25 gr. or about 1 oz. of flour (1 tbsp + 2 tsp)

For the chocolate Ganache:

  • 100 gr. or about 7 oz. of heavy cream
  • 15 gr. or about 0.5 oz. of honey
  • 100 gr. or about 7 oz. of chocolate chips ( preferably European or Ghiradhelli)
  • 15 gr. or about 0.5 oz of butter

Soaking Syrup:

  • 200 gr. or about 7 oz. of water
  • 100 gr. or about 3.5 oz of sugar
  1. Turn the oven to 400.
  2. In a regular-sized bowl, mix the almond and the sugar.
  3. Then add the eggs a bit at a time. Add the flour and the melted butter. Don’t over beat!photo 1
  4. Pour the content of the bowl into a large ziploc bag. Cut the corner of the bag with scissors and fill in the flexipan of your choice. photo 2I used the doughnut tray.photo 5
  5. Place a silpat flat to cover the flexipan. ( it will prevent the cake from rising too much).photo 3
  6. Place the flexipan onto a medium perforated sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Then turn the flexipan around to even out the baking and cook for another 10-12 minutes.
  7. While the darlings are cooking, prepare the ganache and the syrup.
  8. In a small saucepan, cook the water and the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. ( if you want to add a yummy orange flavor, add a tablespoon of the Blood orange olive oil in the syrup if you do not have orange extract).Set aside.
  9. Place the chocolate chips into a small bowl. Then microwave the cream and the honey for 1 minute and pour the hot cream over the chips. ( Add 1 tablespoon of orange flavored olive oil again in the ganache to flavor it).Let it sit a while.
  10. With a small whisk, mix the cream slowly to make the ganache. Add the soft butter and let the mixture cool at room temperature.
  11.  When baked, remove the flexipan from the oven and let it cool before removing the silpat and unmolding the cakes.photo 1
  12. Dip the warm cakes into the syrup and place them onto a cooling rack to drain and cool.
  13. Pour the ganache into a piping bag and pipe rosette on top of the litlle cake. Et voila!!! Un vrai Delice;-)

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Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Apricot Tart


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Fridges are fun to look into. By looking at someone’s fridge you can tell if that person cooks, loves to cook or just dine out. Generally a person who cooks will have an array of things to use at all times. Things like cheeses, pie crust, and raw ingredients.

I like to keep things like pie crust, puff pastry, phillo dough, wonton wraps because they are medium that can help you get dinner on the table quite fast. I love to use wontons to make fun appetizers. The pie crust of course can help you make tartlets, quiches and pies.

This past Friday, some friends of ours decided to come by unexpectedly to pick up some things at the house, and since it was close to diner time, I quickly ran to the store to get some meats to grill. We made a salad, some vegetable flan a tart for dessert. Not too bad for an unexpected dinner;-) Of course it is easy if you already have everything on hand.

For dessert, I made an Apricot tart because it is easy to do and I had no other fruits than apricots on hand. Of course, you can do this recipe with pear, apple, plum and strawberry.

Ingredients for a tart for 8 people:

  • 1 puff pastry dough thawed at room temperature for 15 mns.
  • about 24 fresh apricots 
  • sugar
  1. Turn the oven to 450.
  2. Place the puff pastry dough onto the roulpat and with the rolling pin, roll the dough so that it will fit the flexipat ( 12 x 15in”).
  3. With a fork, perforate the bottom of the pie.photo 1
  4. Cut each apricots in  8 quarters and lay them out onto the phyllo dough.photo 2
  5. Sprinkle some granulated sugar and cook the pie for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle more sugar so that it will caramelized the apricots a bit and cook for another 5 minutes.photo 2
  7. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool a bit before serving.photo 5
  8. Serve cold, or warm with or without ice-cream. Et voila!

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Easy Baguette A l’Ancienne


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There is baguette, and baguette. I don’t want to offend anyone here, but it is difficult to find great baguettes here in the US. Not everything that is long, brown and narrow is a baguette.

In fact did you know that a baguette is defined by French law? A standard baguette has a diameter of about 5 or 6 centimetres (2 or 2⅓ in) and a usual length of about 65 centimetres (26 in), although a baguette can be up to a metre (40 in) long.

So if  it is smaller or larger in size, it will carry a different name. For example, a short, almost rugby ball shaped loaf is a bâtard (literally, bastard), another tubular shaped loaf is known as a flûte. A thinner loaf is called a ficelle(string). A short baguette is sometimes known as a baton (stick).

The word “baguette” was not used to refer to a type of bread until apparently 1920,but what is now known as a baguette may have existed well before that. The word simply means “wand” or “baton”, as in baguette magique (magic wand), baguettes chinoises (chopsticks), or baguette de direction (conductor’s baton).

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Though the baguette today is often considered one of the symbols of French culture viewed from abroad, the association of France with long loaves predates any mention of it. Long, if wide, loaves had been made since the time of Louis XIV, long thin ones since the mid-eighteenth century and by the nineteenth century some were far longer than the baguette.

It seems however that right baguette appeared with the introduction of  deck ovens, or steam ovens. Deck/steam ovens are a combination of a gas-fired traditional oven and a brick oven, a thick “deck” of stone or firebrick heated by natural gas instead of wood. The first steam oven was brought (in the early nineteenth century) to Paris by the Austrian officer August Zang, who also introduced the pain viennois (and the croissant) and whom some French sources thus credit with originating the baguette. Wikipedia

Deck ovens use steam injection, through various methods, to create the proper baguette. The oven is typically heated to well over 205 °C (400 °F). The steam allows the crust to expand before setting, thus creating a lighter, airier loaf. It also melts the dextrose on the bread’s surface, giving a slightly glazed effect. Wikipedia

An unsourced article in The Economist states that in October 1920 a law prevented bakers from working before 4 a.m., making it impossible to make the traditional, round loaf in time for customers’ breakfasts. The slender baguette, the article claims, solved the problem, because it could be prepared and baked much more rapidly, though France had already had long thin breads for over a century at that point. Wikipedia

The law in question appears to be one from March 1919, though some say it took effect in October 1920:

It is forbidden to employ workers at bread and pastry making between ten in the evening and four in the morning.[7]

The rest of the account remains to be verified, but the use of the word for a long thin bread does appear to be a twentieth century innovation.Wikipedia

French bread is required by law to avoid preservatives, and as a result bread goes stale in under 24 hours, thus baking baguettes is a daily occurrence. The “baguette de tradition française” is made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt. It does not contain additives, but it may contain broad bean flour (max 2%), soya flour(max 0.5%), wheat malt flour (max 0.3%)”. Wikipedia

To me a baguette has to smell like one, taste like one, and it should have texture. Most baguettes found in the States are made industrially and therefore lack taste and texture. I don’t know if you have a baker in your hometown, but it is difficult to find a good baguette if there is not a baker around.  The closest that I know lives several dozens miles away.  So if you are in my case, you have two solutions: go to France and enjoy what is there ( hard and expensive but worth it;-), or try to fix your own at home. It is fairly easy to do and you do not need a bread machine.

Did you know that there are millions of baguette recipes? Even in France, when you go to a boulangerie you have a variety to choose from: Baguette Viennoise ( mix between baguette and brioche- my favourite for breakfast, Banette, Baguette traditionelle.

My sister is a baker by trade and I thought I would try some of her recipes. This baguette is what you would call baguette a l’ancienne.

Ingredients for 4 baguettes:

  • 6 1/2 cup of flour ( all-purpose bleached or unbleached)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of active yeast
  • 1  tbsp of salt
  • 3 cup of warm water. 
  • more flour to sprinkle
  • about 4 cups of water to create moisture in the oven
  1. In a large bowl, pour the flour, the salt and the active yeast and mix well.
  2. Add the water and with a spoon or your hands, knead the dough. The dough should be sticky.photo 5
  3. Then knead the dough again by folding it on itself. Do this step 40 times.photo 2
  4. Place the dough into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm place in your kitchen. You may use your warming drawer if you have one for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.photo 3
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl. Place on the roul’pat and divide the dough in 4.
  6. Flatten the dough flat.photo 4
  7. Then fold it over itself and roll it out so that it makes a thin cylinder.photo 1
  8. Place the dough onto the baguette silform that you would have placed onto a perforated sheet, and with a sharp razor blade, make indentations into the baguette every 2-3 inches.photo 2
  9. Cover the dough with a plastic film and let it rise again for 40 minutes.
  10. Turn the oven at 450.
  11. Place a metal sheet pan at the bottom of the oven and pour in 2 cup of water to create moisture and steam since our oven does not have steam on it.
  12.  When the oven has reached the temperature, throw about 2 cups of water into the metal pan again.
  13. Throw some flour over the bread, and place the bread tray into the oven and cook the bread for 20-25 minutes or until it is golden.photo 1
  14. Enjoy while it is warm or the following day. It will still taste great. photo 5photo 4

So what did I think of this bread?? Well it really brought me back home for a minute. It tasted much like those Baguette a L’ancienne that I love. The bread was crispy and the inside fluffy. It was not light  and airy like a Parisian baguette, but it was exactly like those Baguette a l’ancienne. It smelled very good as well. It smelled like a baguette, or a bread, not like yeast.

Conclusion: A winner. My husband even suggested that i sell them to the local restaurants. What a compliment;-)

I hope that you will give it a try.

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Cheddar Cheese, Green Onions and Pepper Gratin Dauphinois (or Scalloped Potatoes)


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Scalloped Potato gratin, or Gratin dauphinois in French, is a traditional regional French dish from the historic Dauphiné region in south-east France. The gratin is made essentially of potato, cream, swiss cheese and a hint of garlic and nutmeg.

This past Sunday, I decided to vary things up a bit and substituted cheddar cheese for the swiss cheese, and scallions for the garlic and nutmeg. Result: everybody was happy and went for second. Yeah;-)

Originally the dish is made with uncooked potatoes that are sliced very thinly, and the potatoes are cooking in the cream for an hour meanwhile absorbing the cream and becoming soft and delicious. Though the recipe is excellent as is, it takes a long time to cook ( 1 hour) and is not convenient to fix on a school night or even on an evening. So here I used pre-cooked potatoes to shorten the recipe considerably.photo

Ingredients for 1 casserole dish ( for 6-8) or 4 very hungry people;-)

  • 8 medium-sized potatoes or about 2 lbs. of potatoes peeled
  • 2 cup of cream
  • 2 cup of cheddar cheese
  • 6 scallions chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper
  1. Turn the oven to 400.
  2. Slice the potatoes very thinly and place them in the large round mold, place the octogonal silpat on top and microwave for 5 minutes. If you do not have  a large mold, place the peeled potatoes in a large pot, cover them with water and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes. The potatoes should still be hard. Let them cool. Then slice them thinly.
  3. Place half of the sliced potatoes into a dish of your choice. I will be re-using my large round mold because nothing sticks in those molds, and the clean-up will be easy.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/8 tsp of pepper, half of the green onions over the potatoes. You may also want to add some and  red pepper flakes if you wanted. We did.
  5. Then sprinkle 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
  6. Cover the cheese with what is left of the potatoes and repeat the process.
  7. Pour the cream over the potatoes, but more on the sides so you will not wash off any of the seasonings.
  8. Cook in a warm oven of 400 for 30 minutes. Et voila!photoI served those wonderful potatoes with a rack of baby ribs, and lemon and dill steamed green beans. Yummy!!!

What did you have this past Sunday?

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

If you like this recipe, I would love for you to subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address into the box on the right of this post. Also if you have time, please rate or post a comment. Your comments are always much appreciated. Thank you ;-)

Baked Brie the Simple Way


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This past Saturday I had a  very busy plate: Cooking class at 10 for 12 young ladies and a small order of appetizers for that same afternoon. I could have cooked dinner, but i chose to go for a long run and to play in my kitchen so when it was time for dinner there was nothing to offer. I will tell you that I really was not in the mood to make dinner because I knew that what I wanted to cook would not please my husband, and what he wanted was not going to please me. So what to do??? I did not want to go out for dinner and we did not want to take out. As i opened my fridge for inspiration, i saw two small brie that Lisa had purchased for the cooking class.

My family loves baked Brie and especially Garlic Baked Brie. They were introduced to this yummy appetizer in France and I thought that tonite this easy appetizer would make for a fun dinner option.  Easy, simple, Yummy. ….Yeah i know, not to healthy but it was Saturday night so who cares…

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Ingredients for 2-4:

  • 2 individual sized brie from President
  • 8 garlic cloves peeled and sliced in half
  • 2 baguette uncooked from the freezer section of the grocery store or from Costco.
  1. Turn the oven to 400.
  2. Remove the brie from its box and its wrapping.
  3. Place the brie on a cutting board.
  4. With a sharp knife, make 8 cuts on the top of the brie all around.photo 1
  5. Place a half  of a garlic in each slit.
  6. Place the brie and the baguette on a silpat and cook for 8 minutes.photo 3
  7. when the brie is ready, remove it from the oven.photo 1
  8. Place it on a plate and eat with the sliced bread, and sliced apples. You can also serve a salad to eat along. Et voila!

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Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!