29 Jan 2013

The Bear Who Baked (Treacle Tart)

It's very common to have stuffed bears, to give them names. 
It's even very common to take them around with you all the time.
It's very common when you're 5 years old.

I'm 30, my bear is called Chocolat, and he travels with me everywhere. 
His journey started in Quebec (without me actually, a friend took him on holidays with him) 7 years ago. He came back with lots of funny pictures and that's how I realised he would be a perfect model for my travel pictures. (You can fall out with a boyfriend or a friend...no chance I'll want to tear up the holiday pictures of my stuffed bear in million pieces in a year or two)
Since then, we went to Jordan, Morocco, Argentina, NYC,... we even went to the Olympic Games and met Jamie Oliver together. 
Funnily enough, I also discovered that Chocolat is a great conversation starter. When I'm in a country where I don't understand the language, just the fact that my bear brings smiles on people's faces (even if it's to make fun of me) makes a first contact with locals easy. 

Smiling is the best international language I know.

And well, maybe I'm just a child and I find it amusing to take pictures of my stuffed bear as if he had some kind of conscience. I'm sure I'll love showing my kids Chocolat's travel books when I grow older though.

(To follow Chocolat's travels: http://www.facebook.com/chocolat.lourson)

golden syrup recipe

Treacle Tart

Treacle tart is one of this British baking mystery which has been intriguing me since I've arrived in the UK.
A breadcrumbs tart? Really? And well, once again I was surprised but not disappointed. It's too easy to make and too good to be missed!  

1 shortcrust pastry
2 lemons (juice and zest)
300g golden syrup
140g fresh white breadcrumbs (see below How to make breadcrumbs)
1 egg yolk (for the egg wash)    

Make the Treacle Tart
1/ Preheat your oven to 180deg C

2/ Roll out the shortcrust pastry and line a deep pie dish with it and prick the base with a fork (it will stop it from raising while cooking)

3/ Cut off all the edges of extra pastry, put it back into a ball and roll it out again, cutting it in large strips, that you will use to decorate the top of the tart)

3/ In a saucepan, gently melt the golden syrup without boiling it (I put the whole unopened can in a bowl of very hot water for 10min beforehand to make it runny and easier to measure)

4/ Add the breadcrumbs, zest and juice of the two lemons, and mix well. Leave this mixture to set for 5min before spreading it onto the tart base, without pressing it down too much.

5/ Egg wash (brush with the egg yolk diluted in a bit of water) the edge of the pastry, and make the cross patterned lattice with the pastry strips over the mixture, leave the strips hanging over the edge of the tin. Once the lattice is in place, use the tin edge to cut off the strips by pressing down with your hands, creating a neat finish. 

6/ Egg wash the lattice, taking care not to put too much egg wash on the breadcrumb mixture itself, and bake in the oven for 35-40 min until the pastry is golden brown and the mixture set.

7/ Remove the tart from the oven and leave to firm up in the tin. Serve warm or cold. 

How to make breadcrumbs: just crumb some white bread (I used a white loaf from the supermarket) in a food processor. The bread can be fresh or 1 or 2 days old.

recipe lemon tart

breadcrumbs recipe

golden syrup lemon recipe 
recipe lemon golden syrup tart

recipe tart golden syrup

recipe treacle

recipe lemon tart

What's on the Drinks Menu Alex?
As a sweet wine, you could try a sweet muscat
On the dry side, why not match the treacle tart with a Pinot Grigio?
And for those who are looking for a alcohol free option, nothing will be better than a lemon tea!

Thanks Alex!

23 Jan 2013

The Macaroon, a French delight in London

London and Paris Fashion Polices are ruled by completely different laws.

On one side, you have The London girl, who will care about her style, only as long as her comfort is not compromised (apart from Friday and Saturday nights, where they go crazy with their ‘Going Out’ outfit) 
"My new stylettos? I can't wait to wear them at work, but I'll still take the tube with my favourite Suit-sneakers or my Suit-UGGs outfit (if you have a problem with that, Stranger, just close your eyes" 

The London girl even goes as far as convincing herself that some of her comfy essentials might actually be fashionable. (i.e. let's print some flowers on our rain boots and we'll end up with an ultra-fashionable rain-fighter outfit)

On the other side of the Channel, you have The Paris girl, who will take her comfort into account only within the limits of her style 
"I haven't paid my new Louboutins 700€ not to show them to the entire world... what if they hurt so much that I can't walk tomorrow? Well, at least I'll have suffered in style" 

And in the middle, you have me, a French girl living in London and trying to embrace the local habits and customs. And I'm torn apart. 
It didn't take me long to succomb to the temptation of getting a pair of flower printed Hunters and fake UGGs, because God, these shoes are so comfy!
But I'm still French and I forbid myself to wear my UGGs out of the house.

May this blog be my witness, if you ever see me in UGG boots, please slap me, cause I'll be a soul on the brink of getting lost for ever.

macaroons recipe

Macaroons (basic shells recipe)

Macarons, or "macaroons" as you call them in English, are not difficult to make (says the girl who's messed them up everytime she tried ah ah), but they need to be done carefully every step on the way. Take your time, follow each step, and you'll be fine!
If you leave in London, indulge yourself and go and learn how to make them with Caroline, who will make you have a wonderful time and will teach you so many tips and tricks to turn you into a Macaron Master!

Ingredients for the shells:
80g ground almonds

100g icing sugar
2 large egg whites (weight approx: 40g each egg)
40g caster sugar
Pinch of salt

Make the macaroons:
Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to approx 150deg C.

1/ Put all the dry ingredients; icing sugar, nuts and appropriate dry flavouring (apart from the caster sugar) into a food processor and grind to a fine powder, and sift them into a bowl

2/ Starting on a slow speed, whisk the egg whites and the salt into soft peaks. Gently add the caster sugar and continue to whisk until very stiff peaks and the mixture still look glossy.

3/ With a metal spoon or spatula, fold about one quarter of the sifted ingredients into the egg whites until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Continue to fold the ingredients until you have a soft thick shiny lava. (You want to see a smooth ribbon effect falling down off the spoon if you hold it up and let it drop back down into the bowl)

4/ Line your baking tray with siliconised baking paper

5/ Pipe small rounds of the mixture onto your baking tray using a 1cm nozzle (you'll make approx 40 - 50). Try and get them similar sizes (so they all cook at the same speed)

6/ Pick up each tray about 30cm above the table and drop it two or three times. You will see the big air bubbles come to the surface. This ensures your macaroons will come out with smooth tops and helps to prevent cracking.

7/ Leave the macaroons to sit 30 – 45 minutes to form a ‘skin’ on top (ie dry to the touch).

8/ Place them in the pre-heated oven (150 degrees C5). Bake for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove the macaroons from the oven and slide the baking parchment with the macaroons off the baking tray and onto a rack to cool. They should be set but not dried out.

9/ Once cool, carefully remove the macaroons from the paper.

10/ Sandwich the macaroons together with the appropriate filling (for example jam, peanut butter, chocolate ganache or homemade lemon curd) . Leave for couple of hours so the filling can set properly.

Not only will the macaroons  keep for a few days, but they even will be better 2 or 3 days after they've been made

homemade macarons

french macaroons recipe


Even squirrels want to learn how to make macarons!
 homemade macaroons

macaron recipe

Caroline Hope Tea and Scones
Caroline Hope cookery classes: http://www.teaandscones.co.uk/

15 Jan 2013

From my dad's kitchen, with love (French Potato Gratin)

Are you a talker or a listener?
When you meet someone new, do you tend to talk about yourself or do you make the other person talk about her/himself?

It's really funny how easy you can categorise most people in one of these two categories, particularly on a first date (things would usually balance after a few dates, and if they don't..run away!).

One of my friends who is a champion listener told me the other day : "I don't want to talk about myself to someone who might be out of my life in a few weeks"
Fair enough. I also tend to protect myself by being a listener rather than a talker. Yet, there is always a moment when one has to lower his /her guard and share secrets, if one wants to build a true relationship with someone else.

It's been few months since I've launched Pauline à la crème anglaise
My lovely readers, I think our relationship is ready for it : I'm going to share with you one of my best kept secrets, one of my biggest treasures.
Coming from me, it's worth a love declaration!

The Surprise Potato Gratin

This dish has been invented by my dad, who kind of is my idol. 
Cooking, travelling, taking photographs...my dad is my hero, and my friends have long teased me about it.
The magic of my dad's potato gratin is the hidden sausages that diffuse their flavours throughout the whole dish. It's called the Surprise gratin because you can't see the sausages until the very last minute when you "dig for them" in the gratin!

I strongly advise you to build in a few extra portions, that you can reheat the next day; it's often almost even better!

Ingredient, for 4 / 5 people
1 kg baking potatoes
150-200ml single cream
1/2L milk
1 small glass of water
250g grated cheese, ideally Comté cheese (or more, to taste)
1 big onion, chopped
salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
2 big sausages (I used French Morteau or Montbéliard sausages. Otherwise, you can use any kind of very good quality sausage)

You can find the best Comté cheese and Morteau and Montbéliard sausages directly brought to you from my home Franche Comté at Borough Market in London on the stand "The French Comté": http://www.thefrenchcomte.co.uk/ 
NB: including water in the baking mix helps the cooking temperature to rise up and therefor the gratin to cook better. And it makes it lighter!

Make the gratin:
Preheat the oven at 190°C

1/ Peel and finely slice the potatoes

2/ In a large oven dish, spread the sliced potatoes, the chopped oinon, the grated cheese, and hide the sausages (that you'll have pricked) in the middle. Season all over with pepper, grated nutmeg and a touch of salt (be careful not to put too much salt, the sausages and cheese with already give a nice amount of salt to the gratin)

3/ Pour the water + milk + cream mix all over the gratin until it reaches 3/4 of the height of the potatoes

4/ Cook in the oven for approx 1 hour 30 min at 190°C. Once ready, take the sausages out of the gratin (surprise!!!), and serve with mixed leaves and some French mustard.

What's on the drinks menu Alex?
If you've put more cheese in your gratin, I would advise a white wine:
  • AOP Arboir white, or Vin Jaune from the Jura region
  • A Viognier from Australia or the United States

If you've gone heavy on the sausages, I would recommend a red wine: 
  • A Côtes-du-Rhône, ie a Châteauneuf-du-pape or a Vacqueras
  • A Shiraz from Chile or Australia

Thanks Alex!

7 Jan 2013

The French Galette des Rois (almond tart) and variations

In his best-seller book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, the very clever Dr Gray explains how different men and women grade acts of love from their loved ones.
While men would give 1 point to a small act of love from their wives (ie: a nice dinner), and 10 points to a big one (ie: a fancy car); women would only give 1 point to all acts, whether big or small.
What matters to women is the number of acts of love from their Lover. If you want to get points, you need to multiply them.
(Gentlemen, I am truly very sorry for you)

As a new year is starting and I'm in a really good mood, I've decided to give you, gentlemen, a little trick to make your lives easier: if you make / buy a cake, it can actually reward you with several points.

For example, all cakes made with banana, chocolate, toffee, whipped cream or almond count double for me.
(Serve me a strawberry mousse and you'll lose 10 points in one go!)

So, all you have to do is find out what your woman likes to stock up on brownie points!  

The French Galette Des Rois
(almond tart)

The Galette des rois (Three Kings' cake) is baked in France for the Epiphany. We have many galette recipes in France, depending on the region you come from. My favourite is definitely this one : the almond galette, which actually is my favourite dessert ever.

If you want to fully follow the galette des rois tradition, hide a coin in your galette and get a paper crown. Whoever finds the coin in his/her piece of galette will be crowned King or Queen for the day.

It's so delicious and so easy to make, just forget the Epiphany has passed and bake one!

Ingredients : 

2 discs of puff pastry
2 eggs + 1 yolk
150g caster sugar
150 ground almonds
150g butter, softened
few drops of almond essence

Make the tart

Preheat the oven at 190deg C

1/ Cut two identical discs of pastry (the size of a pizza) and lay one onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Keep the other pastry disc aside

2/ In a large bowl, beat together (with an electric whisk if possible) the butter, eggs, sugar, ground almonds and almond essence until light and fluffy

3/ Spread the almond mix on top of the pastry, leaving 1 cm free all around the edges, which you'll lighlty brush with water (to make it sticky)

4/ Lay the second pastry disc on top of the bottom one, and stick the edges pressing lightly with your finger tips. Seal them by scoring the edges with a sharp knife (it will help the pastry to fully rise). Score a squared  pattern on the top of the tart. 

5/ Brush the tart with egg wash (made with the egg yolk put aside mixed with a little water to dilute it)
6/ Bake for 20/30 min until golden and well risen. Serve warm.

The recipe above will give you enough almond mix to make a big tart and some additional small ones. So why don't you keep some pastry aside and try my wicked variations of this traditional French dessert?

My wicked variations of the Galette des Rois

American style: with peanut butter 
Additional ingredient: peanut butter
At stage 3, I spread a thin layer of peanut butter on top of my pastry before covering it with the almond mix. The sweet-savoury association of the peanut butter and the almond mix is surprising and delicious!

British style: with black cherries jam
Additional ingredient: black cherries jam
At stage 3, I spread a thin layer of cherry jam on top of my pastry before covering it with the almond mix. If the Galette des Rois and a Bakewell Tart has a baby under a cherry tree, this would be it! 

What's on the Drinks Menu Alex?
A sweet white wine : Muscat, Gewurztraminer Late Harvest
or a sparlking white wine : crémant from the Loire Valley, a Blanquette de Limoux or a Champagne