My take on the French chouquette

chouquette cream puff

After a month-long break, I am back with one of the prettiest posts I have shot in a long time. Let me introduce you to the chouquette, a light, airy pastry that can be decorated any way you wish.

These pastry bites use the same dough as the cream puff, only instead of filling the pastry with cream, you top them with pearl sugar or chocolate to add sweetness and texture. In this post, I wanted to treat them like doughnut holes so that I could offer you guys a healthier alternative to the breakfast staple.

These pastries are a one pot wonder – and they bake up in a flash for those who are impatient bakers. For those starting to look for handmade gift options this holiday season, this is a great option as chouquettes are easy to make and can be decorated quite lavishly. In this post I have created four options for you: the traditional version that is topped with a crunchy homemade pearl sugar, a chouquette topped with chocolate chunks, a cinnamon sugar dusted version, and my personal favorite: a green tea chouquette topped with black sesame.

bite-high-quality

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs

Toppings:

  • Cinnamon sugar (about 1/4 cup should work)
  • Pearl sugar – you can make this by mixing a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water and then pressing it into a heated saucepan. Leave it to cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring and re-pressing a couple times while waiting. It will harden into lumps as it cools.
  • Green tea icing: 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Dark chocolate chunks

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a pot with the water until it is entirely liquified. Bring the butter/water mixture to a boil.

Step 2: Add the flour, nutmeg and salt. Stir until the mix forms into a lump. Keep the pot on the heat and stir the dough vigorously for a minute to evaporate any excess water. You want to create a very thick paste.

Step 3: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir the dough vigorously for a few minutes to help cool the dough down. You want it to be cool enough that you can touch it and not be burned. (If it is too hot or your arm gets tired, you can let it sit for a few minutes to cool off.)

Step 4: Add the eggs one at a time. The dough will become lumpy at first, so you will not want to add all the eggs at once. Beat the egg into the paste until it becomes homogenous before adding the next. When all of the eggs are mixed in, transfer the batter to a plastic bag. (You can easily do this by inserting the bag into a mug, and inverting the mouth of the bag over the rim of the cup.)

Step 5: Cut a centimeter sized opening into the corner of your plastic bag – this will be a makeshift pastry bag. Pipe 1 inch-sized mounds onto the sheet, leaving an inch of space between each. Using a dampened finger, lightly tap on the top of the batter to even out any pointed tips. For those making the sugar or chocolate versions, press the sugar or chocolate chunks into the tops of the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.

Step 6: For those making the cinnamon sugar version, while the pastry is fresh out of the oven and steaming hot, dump the pastry puffs into a bag filled with cinnamon sugar. Close it, and shake to coat evenly. For those making the green tea version, mix the powdered sugar, matcha and water until you have a thick paste. Dip the tops of the pastry into the icing and then top with black sesame seeds.

DSC_0015--edit

chouquette animation

 

Chocolate raspberry tart with almond filling

final-chocolate-tart

Here is the first post in my French food series! A few months ago, I returned to Paris to visit my host family and see my old haunts. While there, I had a few posts that showed you what I visited and ate. (Which you can see here, here and here.) I also hinted to launching a French food series where I show you how to make my take on French food. This will be my first post on the topic.

After landing in France, one of the first things I ate was an almond pear tart. These tarts are commonly found in neighborhood bakeries and are one of the more approachable French desserts that someone could make. (Though, if I am completely honest, any French dessert will be a bit tedious in order for it to be pretty and pristine.)

For this recipe, I wanted to use fresh raspberries and dark chocolate to give the otherwise light tart a deeper flavor. Here, I mix melted dark chocolate in the batter to give the almond filling a gooey, creamy texture.

chocolate-tart-pan

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (just so I can pretend this is slightly healthy – but it also gives good texture)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into centimeter-sized cubes
  • 1/8 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs orange liqueur
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Step1: We will start with the crust. Mix all of the crust’s dry ingredients in a bowl, and then massage the butter into the flour with your fingers. It will become mealy, almost like wet sand. Slowly incorporate the cold water into the dough until it comes together. (If by any chance you choose to use an entirely all-purpose flour crust, you will need to double the amount of water.) Knead the dough ball a few times to ensure everything is well mixed, and then shape it into a flattened rectangle. (If you make a round tart, keep the circle shape) Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Step 2: When the dough is fully cooled ( you do this to re-solidify the butter and make the dough easy to roll), roll the dough into a thin sheet big enough to fill your tart pan. In the end, my dough was about half a centimeter thick. Press the dough into a greased tart pan and then prick the bottom of the dough with a fork to prevent air pockets. Cover the dough with parchment paper or foil, and then fill the tart with dry beans. This will ensure the crust stays flat and even.

Step 3: Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until the edges have hardened and slightly shrunk away from the pan. Remove the beans and foil, and return the crust back to the oven to brown the surface of the bottom of the crust. This will be another 5 minutes.

Step 4: While the crust is baking, make the filling. Heat the butter in a saucepan on high and cook it until it browns slightly. Then add the chocolate into the hot butter to melt. Mix until homogenous. Mix in the almond flour, sugar, vanilla, liqueur and salt. When fully combined, and the mix is not overly hot, add the eggs. Stir to combine.

Step 5: Pull the tart shell from the oven, and reduce the oven’s temperature to 375. Pour the almond mixture into the shell and then press the raspberries into the filling. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes. When done, the top of the almond filling should look similar to the top of a brownie, and it should not jiggle when agitated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

raw

baked

Back in Paris (well, kind of) and visiting Versailles

palais-royale

I’m back with another France post. Like I mentioned in my last post, I am publishing my France trip series a little late since I got sick while I was on vacation. So, I am currently in Texas while writing this. However this post focuses on my days spent at the latter end of my trip. My friend and I centered ourselves around Paris and Versailles.

Photographed above is Palais Royal. This was one of my favorite places to hang out when I studied abroad as my preferred study café was near there. However, this area is also a very popular location for photo shoots – in fact, if you look into the background of the photo, you will see the crew of a photoshoot taking a selfie. You can probably see the photographic appeal of Palais Royal, with all of the striped columns. If you ever visit, look for the railing in the ground. You can see it in the midground of the photo. If you look through the railing, you will see that the columns extend underground. There’s your fun fact for the day.

DSC_0018--edit

versailles-2

Of course, if you visit Paris, Versailles will be a tempting day break away from the city. It is a quick 20 minute ride away, not to mention that it is also a cheap trip. If you take the RER, one of Paris’ commuter trains, the round trip will only cost around 8 euro. Sasha and I have both already been here, so we decided to only come for the gardens as visiting the interior of the castle can take hours of waiting in line.

Fortunately for us, the gardens were free that day. There was also an art exhibit taking place, which would explain the circular mirror in my second photo.

*Also, one more fun fact, there was a bit of breaking news while I was abroad. It was announced that part of the palace grounds would be turned into a luxury hotel. So if you ever want to sleep like royalty, that’s now a possibility. What are your thoughts on that?

food-mosaic-2

For our remaining days in Paris, we spent most of our time wandering around the city. The main photo in the mosaic was a goat cheese salad I made for my friend. Since she is vegetarian, it was a bit hard to find food that she could eat in the city, so we spent a good amount of time eating in. With that being said, it was incredibly fun to cook over there and eat on my host parent’s terrace. Photographed is a goat cheese salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing. I also found a loaf of fig bread that we used to dip in the leftover dressing.

The photo at the top right corner shows one of my favorite foodie hot spots in Paris. When I was abroad, a friend of mine took me to this café and bakery as it was her favorite place to take a pause and have a coffee or tea. I have since adopted it as my favorite as well. It’s on Rue de Rivoli and sits almost a block or two from the Louvre. Why was it our favorite café in the city? Because it’ s cheap. Well, at least for the neighborhood it is in. You can stop in for a snack and mint tea for under 10 euro. The staff is also very friendly.

Lastly, on my Instagram, you guys might have seen that I visited Père Lachaise cemetery and Parc Buttes Chaumont. The photo on the bottom left corner of the mosaic was my snack while wandering the park. Chouquettes are airy puffs of pastry topped with crunchy chunks of sugar. I will also be recreating this recipe in a future blog post – I just need to figure out how to get my hands on the sugar sprinkles as I have yet to find something similar in the US.

Well, that’s it for my travel posts. I already have some recipes lined up for publication for you guys – one being a flakey chive pancake. However, I will announce that I will launch a series of French-inspired posts influenced by the foods I ate while on vacation. I did hint at it a little, but here is the official notice for it. Anticipate it!

 

Giverny and Rouen | Visiting Monet’s garden and eating my way through Normandy

monet-garden

So this is a belated post. I am currently back in Texas. However, at the end of my trip I caught a bad cold, so I decided to push back blog posts until I got better.

Which brings us to now! Yay. Ok, so with that being said, the next two posts will be France-themed. Like I mentioned on my last post, I travelled around Paris and some northern French cities last week with a college friend. This post will be dedicated to the time spent in Giverny and Rouen, France. Both cities are north of Paris, and are easily accessible by train (Giverny was about 30 minutes away and Rouen 45).

monet-garden-2

The main reason we decided to get out of Paris was because we (my friend Sasha and I) wanted to see some of the smaller cities and get a more authentic French feel out of our vacation. While Paris is beautiful, all of the architecture is the same due to Napoleon’s order to have the entire city rebuilt in the 1800s. Because of this, the city can feel monotonous if you have been there before. I really wanted to see some of the countryside and some medieval architecture. Which brought us to Normandy.

Monet lived in Giverny and used his house and garden for a good amount of his subject matter, the waterlily series being one example. When we found out how close Monet’s garden was to Paris, our side trip was decided then and there.

monet-kitchen

monet-kitchen-2

I figure my photos of the garden are pretty self explanatory – they were gorgeous to say the least. However I also had a bit of a food nerd moment while I was touring Monet’s house. You guys can probably tell that I am an avid cook. So when I saw this gorgeous kitchen, I had to photograph it. Aside from the kitchen, his house was beautiful. There was an entire room dedicated to displaying his paintings.

giverny-mosaic

We stayed in a neighboring town called Vernon and slept in an adorable Airbnb there. We had what I assume was a renovated carriage house or storage house. We also had shared use of the owner’s garden. Pictured above is her cat (named Truffe).

airbnb

vernon

I took advantage of the host’s patio table. Sasha and I were pretty exhausted after walking around Giverny, so we spent the afternoon in the garden playing with Truffe, sipping tea, and eating pastries. The next morning we departed for Rouen.

rouen-giverny

The photo on the left is one of the few I had of Rouen’s old architecture. The city’s “old” district is full of timbered buildings and hidden churches. There was also a surprising amount of street art – one example can be found on my Instagram. The photo on the right was actually taken in Giverny – there is an awesome garden restaurant next to the Giverny Foundation. It ran like a cafeteria of sorts, you pick up little wooden or paper trays of food and then find a seat outside where you can eat amongst the flowers.

Photographed is a mussel, leek, and fish bake; a beer brewed in Normandy (the cleanest tasting beer I have ever had – it’s made by La Richard Coeur de Lion if you ever come across it); and a rhubarb tart. I will soon be experimenting with a recipe for a similar leek/fish bake as that was one of the best meals I had while on vacation, anticipate the post for it.

Well that’s it for this post! The next one will focus on our travels specific to Paris and Versailles.

Apple tart with oil based, vegan crust

final-main-edit

I’m back guys! Sorry for the minor delay. In this post, I am going to show you guys a simple, but beautiful apple tart that uses an oil-based crust.

I made this tart with the idea that it would be similar to a French alternative, the tarte aux pommes. In the French version, there is a layer of apple compote that glues the apple slices to the crust. However I didn’t like how mushy it could be. So I mixed the French and American style pies to make this result. Similar in appearance to a tarte aux pommes, this recipe has the texture of traditional apple pie. Crunchy, chewy and juicy, this is a pretty dessert to make if you have a few spare apples on hand.

Also, in case you guys have never used an oil-based crust, it is very similar to the traditional alternative. Only this one is more on the crumbly side. If you want an easier crust recipe – this is a good option since you just press it into the mold. (Original crust recipe from King Arthur flour.)

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I threw a little whole wheat flour in too)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 to 4 tbs water

Filling

3-4 apples, sliced thinly with the skin on (the skin helps give visual interest/texture)
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs butter, cubed (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Glaze

1 tbs orange marmalade or apricot preserves
1 tsp lemon juice, orange liqeur or water

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Mix all of the crust ingredients in a large bowl until you achieve a large ball. Press into an ungreased pie dish or tart pan. Prick the bottom of the pan with a fork to create vent holes.

Step 2: Mix the sugar, apple slices and cinnamon in a bowl. The apple slices should be a couple millimeters thick. Layer them in a flat, even spiral around the base of the tart pan. Place a few cubes of butter on top of the apple slices. Bake around 40 minutes until the crust is flakey and the apples start to shrivel up and soften. If the crust browns too fast, cover it with a layer of foil.

Step 3: When the tart is fresh out of the oven, rest it on a cooling rack. While it is cooling, microwave the orange marmalade so it liquifies, then add the juice/liqueur/water to thin it out. Using a pastry brush, dab the marmalade mixture over the surface of the apples. This will keep the tart from drying out.

apple-tart-collage

Blackberry cardamom clafoutis

cardamom berry clafoutis

Hello all! It’s been awhile. I got caught up with work, a bad case of strep throat and graduating from IU. Yes, that’s right. I am now an alumna of Indiana University. That’s kind of hard to believe.

However to celebrate my graduation, I thought I would return to one of my favorite desserts. This was a post I created at around the same time I featured a shake and bake blackberry clafoutis recipe at the Indiana Daily Student. It was one of my favorite videos and I loved the concept of having an easy clean up recipe.

This recipe adds a hint of cardamom that compliments that tart sweetness of blackberries. You can of course, not make this recipe in a jar. In fact, I have a traditional recipe that you can take the preparation steps from here. However if you want something that is fast and involves a quick clean up, give this recipe a shot.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries

Step 1: At the bottom of a greased baking dish, arrange the berries in an even, flat layer. Set aside.

Step 2: In a large jar, mix the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, stir well with a chopstick or long spoon until you have a thick paste. Then add the vanilla.

Step 3: Slowly add the milk into the jar while stirring. Twist the lid onto the jar and then give the mix a good shake for a few minutes until well combined.

Step 4: Pour the batter over the fruit into the baking dish. You can pour the mix over a strainer if there are remaining lumps. Place the baking dish in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake 20-30 minutes for a small dish like the one I used. 30-40 minutes for a larger dish.

cardamom berry clafoutis

Matcha île flottante with roasted soybean powder and Japanese black honey

final-option-4-crop

I first thought of this recipe a few months back when I did the chocolate almond meringues. I had put the first batch in the oven and found that I still had a cup or two of the whipped egg whites left. Since I tend to do a lot of midnight baking sessions and I didn’t want to have to bake again late into the night, I decided to make a simple île flottante recipe with the leftovers. Unfortunately I didn’t have the materials to make the cream sauce, so I didn’t bother photographing it.

However I decided to revisit the recipe again, only with an Asian twist. Matcha is a type of green tea that takes the leaves and grinds them into a flavorful, bright green powder. I incorporate that into the egg whites in this recipe. In the cream sauce, I use kuromitsu as a sweetener. Roughly translated into black honey in English, kuromitsu is a syrup made from a special black sugar. It has a flavor very similar to molasses.

I first tasted the stuff in a restaurant in Dallas. They topped a serving of ice cream with the kuromitsu and a dusting of kinako, roasted soybean flour. It was delicious. So, I decided to play with the dessert’s flavors. (For those that have never had kinako, it tastes a lot like ground peanuts, though more nutty.)

Enough with my mini story time, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon matcha

Crème Anglaise, recipe partially inspired from one from Epicurious

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk, any type
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons kuromitsu, or extra dark brown sugar if not available
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Toppings:

  • kinako to taste
  • kuromitsu to taste

Step 1: Whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. While the whites are whipping, mix the matcha with the sugar. Make sure there are no lumps of matcha powder or there will be bitter lumps of color in the meringue. Matcha is too strong a flavor when eaten straight.

Step 2: With the mixer on low, or stirring slowly, add the sugar mix in slowly. Wait until the sugar is mixed in fully before increasing the speed to avoid a cloud of matcha floating out of the mixing bowl. Whip the mixture until you achieve stiff peaks that are sturdy and hold their own in structure. Set aside.

Step 3: In a small sauce pan, heat the milk and cream while stirring occasionally. In another small bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar until combined. When the milk/cream mixture starts to steam, remove from heat. Add a tablespoon or two of the liquid into the egg yolks. Mix to combine. This will thin out and warm up the yolks, preventing them from cooking in the next step.

Step 4: Add more milk mixture into the yolks until they create a thin liquid. Add them back into the warm milk in the saucepan. Return the pan to the heat. While stirring constantly over high heat, continue to cook the milk/egg mix. You will notice the bottom of the pan will start to accumulate a thicker cream as the crème Anglaise cooks. This is the beginnings of the sauce forming. Continue stirring, and cook until you create a homogenous mixture that coats the back of a spoon. You know you are done when you can swipe a finger across a sauce-coated spoon and the liquid keeps the trail open. Set the sauce aside.

Step 5: With a spoon, scoop a quenelle of meringue. You can do this by making repeated, sweeping wrist movements against the rim of your mixing bowl. This will make an almost egg-like shape.  (This video does a good job describing the motion, however meringue will not move as uniformly as whipped cream, so no stress if it isn’t perfect at first.)

Step 6: Place your spoonful of meringue onto a plate, this will not be your serving plate. Add a teaspoon of water onto the base of the plate, try to avoid it touching your meringue too much. Microwave for 15-20 seconds. (Props go to Sorted Food for showing me this technique, I swear they are like my mini cooking school.)

Step 7: Pour some of the crème Anglaise into a shallow bowl. Place the meringue into the sauce. (This is where the name of this dish comes from. Île means island, flottant means floating. So the meringue is an island floating in a sea of crème Anglaise of sorts.) Sprinkle the kinako over the meringue and drizzle with kuromitsu.

*Last note, I strongly urge you guys to go to your local Asian grocery store and find kinako. It may be tempting to skip it as it is not a common ingredient, but that topping is what makes this dish. The nuttiness pairs well with the flavor of green tea.

 

final-option-6-crop

final-option-5-crop