Tag Archives: baking

Playing in the Kitchen

Stoney really liked the Catalonian “tortillas.” So much so, that he tried a hand at making his own. No recipe, just playing.

potato and onion mixture, chopped

potato and onion mixture, chopped

I think he got remarkably close to our Barcelonan breakfast.

Stoney's first onion potato tortilla.

Stoney’s first onion potato tortilla.

He added some spices, but it still wasn’t quite as flavorful as the real thing. Next time we’ll experiment some more. It isn’t real pretty, but it looks a lot like the one in Spain.

My slice of tortilla with toasted baguette and a drizzle of olive oil.

My slice of tortilla with toasted baguette and a drizzle of olive oil.

The next morning I tried a new scone flavor I had been considering: pumpkin scone with maple glaze. It is very lightly pumpkin, because I have to use the fresh pumpkin, rather than the canned puree.

We almost ate them all before I remembered to take a photo!

We almost ate them all before I remembered to take a photo!

I do think my favorite meal to cook is breakfast!


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Filed under Creativity

Baking American-style in France

Folks, the French know how to bake. They make melt-in-your-mouth croissants, and these beautiful tarts, and chocolate cakes with barely enough flour to keep them standing up, and sponge-like cakes with airy stiffness. I have no shortage of desserts to tempt me. Strangely enough, though, sometimes I get homesick for American baked goods. Chocolate chip cookies with tender insides, cupcakes with a certain moist denseness, and frosting. And pie; not tarts, but real pie.

It’s at these times I feel led to try baking at home. I say “try,” because some seriously fundamental differences in ingredients lead to constant surprises in the kitchen. I’m learning, though! My best tutor has been this gentleman, David Lebovitz, who has done much of the experimenting on ingredients for me. This post alone solved my problem with cookies that spread way too thin, and turn out crispy and bubbly whatever I do (I know what flour to buy, now!).

This time I wanted to try for chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t found the sticky brown sugar David talks about, so I creamed the granular brown that I found. It seemed to work ok.

I don’t have even a handmixer at the moment, so I try creaming the butter and sugar with a pastry cutter. Works for cookies.

Like most eggs in the US are white, most eggs in France are brown, and with rich yellow centers.

The chocolate chips here are pepites, and quite small, and shiny, and not really like Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips. So we go for chocolate chunk cookies instead. France has long aisles of chocolate bars, many of which are not unlike a thin bar of baking chocolate in the States.

Chopping our own chunks of chocolate.

Hand-mixed cookie dough…looks good, but…

I learned from David that I need to be using the bio type 65 flour, and it definitely helps. But I think it is still lighter than US flour, and I think my butter choice was wetter than US butter (there are as many choices on butter here as there are on flour–trés confusing), so the first batch needed some tweaking.

Still too thin and spread-y. However, there is none of that bubbly-crisp thing the cookies had been doing.

The tweak here was merely the addition of more flour. The results:

Note the greater puff in this batch.

Voila! Finally a passably American batch of chocolate chunk cookies! The best ones had pecans added. They were lightly crisp on the outside, but soft-crumbliness on the inside, without being fall-apart crumbly. YUM!

My most recent experimenting was with molasses bran muffins. You open the molasses here (a challenging treasure to find as it is) and go WHOA! Now there is some stiff molasses, blacker than blackstrap. Next time, we will mix with a little honey. They turned out tasty, though, with both a chocolate chip AND a chocolate chip pumpkin version. This flour is definitely more workable for me!

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Filed under France, home & garden

The Genesis of a Craving Satisfied

Lately I’ve been craving…scones. Not biscuits, mind you, which are certainly wonderful in their flakey, fluffy soda-y-ness. Scones. I think it may be the result of the infusion of British accents several times a week: English, Irish, and New Zealanders.

So anyway, Theo and I gave in yesterday and baked up a batch, but kind of like my grandmother would have made, had she ever made scones, which I doubt. It’s the French ingredients, see. We started with my basic scone recipe, American-style, which means the measurements are by volume, not weight. European recipes mostly don’t use cups and teaspoons, but I brought my own kitchen measuring devices.

Whipped cream melting off my fresh-from-the-oven scone.

So…we mixed three cups flour (and I finally found some I am SURE is the equivalent of all-purpose), some salt, 5 teaspoons of baking powder (lavure chimique), and 1/2 cup of sugar together, and cut in my best guess of a 1/2 cup of butter. I can’t eyeball a stick, because butter comes in these rectangular slabs. And they are marked by the gram, not the tablespoon, not the fraction of a cup. I felt I was totally channeling my grandma, watching the texture of the dough, trying to get something almost like coarse sand, rather than tapoica, like I would for pie. Theo beat an egg into a cup of cream (the tiny little bottle of cream is actually creme entiere, which is one of several kinds of little bottles with the word creme on them, and was my best guess to be heavy cream), and we barely worked that into our dough.

We had decided on cinnamon scones, so I shook a pile of, I dunno, maybe a half teaspoon of cinnamon on the dough, then barely worked that in as well. This dough was turned onto a floured surface, and we put another half teaspoonful on the dough, floured the top, and folded the dough about four times. You really do NOT want to work the dough too much; the scones lose their tenderness. Also, the goal with the cinnamon is that some works through the whole dough, but some kind of clusters through it in ribbons.

We cut this dough pile in half, shaped the two halves into circles, then cut each into quarters. These were placed on an oiled cookie sheet and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. We baked them at 400 degrees F, which turns out to be 200 degrees C. I’m slowly adjusting to that French oven! I watched them closely, and it took about 10 minutes. I think they may be the best I’ve ever made.

I’m actually drooling again just looking!

It was amazing with a double cafe from my Senseo. And this morning Stoney and I chopped ripe French peaches (which are always amazing) and topped the scones with those. Crisp on the outside, tender inside, and just sweet enough. It’s enough to give you a British accent of your own!


Filed under home & garden

Celebrate with Cupcakes

My younger daughter turned seventeen last month, and she has a thing for cupcakes. She would much rather have a fancy cupcake than a whole fancy cake. She asked for snickerdoodle cupcakes, and I went in search of a recipe I thought I would like, and it was DElish! The only drawback was the uber-fluffy cinnamon frosting–it made decorating a real challenge compared with a buttercream. It was worth it for taste, though. We are revisiting these cupcakes for my husband’s birthday TODAY. My best friend and sweetie is FORTY-SEVEN. Congratulations, Love! I promise not to make your frosting pink.

Katie's 17th cupcakes


Filed under celebration, family, personal