french cuisine

All posts tagged french cuisine

La douce France, the cake edition: Lavender and honey cupcakes

Published July 8, 2013 by The Feminist

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Warning: this recipe may piss off French culinary snobs
Julia Child once wrote that “In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” So trust me when I say that this recipe is not a take on a French classic. I do not want to piss off the entire French population. The French treasure their classic recipes and local ingredients in such a way that goes beyond my comprehension. I don’t hold on to traditions, on the contrary, I like to break them. So if your French, and for some odd reason you’re finding yourself reading my blog, I advise you to stop right now. This post may be bad for your heart.

Don’t say I haven’t warned you.

To all of you who are still here: welcome and feel free to imagine the perfumed aroma of lavender and honey! (Why oh why doesn’t smell technology exist yet?)

lavendel

Lavender is one of the most amazing scents on this planet, and one that I inevitable associate with France and especially the rolling countryside of La Provence. Should you still be under the assumption that lavender is just for soap and toilet fresheners, think again! Because lavender is amazing in cooking as well!

These cupcakes were completely transformed by adding lavender to the batter. They tasted fragrantly floral without overpowering the well-known and comforting taste of the humble cupcake. (Again, the French would probably call this heresy. Using their lavender in an Anglo-Saxon cake? How dare I? 😉 )

I used fresh home-grown lavender for this recipe. That way I can be 100% sure that there were no pesticides or other icky chemicals involved in the plant’s growing process. You can also use dried cooking lavender, but if you do so, you should know that the essence of dried lavender is much more concentrated. (You should reduce the amount of lavender by two thirds if you’re using the dried version)

To create a lovely well-balanced lavender flavour I made my very own lavender-infused sugar. Just add 1 ½ tbsp of fresh lavender to the required amount of sugar and let it sit overnight so the lavender can infuse the sugar. Before you start making the batter, sieve the sugar so that all the lavender remains behind.

What follows is the ultimate dilemma: more or less lavender? The first time I baked these cupcakes I only used the lavender-infused sugar. This resulted in a very yummy and fragrant cupcake, but although the cupcake tasted ever so slightly perfumed, you couldn’t really tell it was thanks to the magical aroma of lavender. I tried the cupcakes again a couple of days later, but this time used the infused sugar and one third of the lavender florets used to flavour the sugar (very finely chopped). The flavour was much more intense and you could tell it was lavender, but still without completely overpowering the whole thing. So it’s actually entirely up to you: will you be safe or will you be brave?

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Lavender cupcakes with honey frosting

Ingredients (4 big cupcakes or 6 regular cupcakes)
• 0,5ml whole milk
• 75gr lavender-infused caster sugar (see above)
• 60gr plain flour
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 20gr unsalted butter
• 1 egg

Honey frosting
• 3 tbsp of honey, preferably good quality lavender honey
• 25gr unsalted butter
• 4 tbsp icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Put the flour, infused sugar, ½ tbsp finely chopped lavender (optional, see notes) , baking powder and butter in a bowl and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency.
3. Mix together the milk and egg in a jug and slowly pour in the flour mixture.
4. Spoon the mixture into your prepared cupcake tray and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
5. For the honey frosting, beat all the ingredients together until you get a smooth and somewhat fluffy frosting.
6. Spoon the frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate with a sprig of lavender.

The Epitome of Elegance: Rose and Apricot Millefeuille

Published April 27, 2013 by The Feminist

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Forget Grace Kelly, Jackie O. and Marilyn. No Hollywood diva can compete with the delicate and dainty appearance of the Millefeuille. Although I usually opt for the more robust cakes and pies with bold and rich flavours, today I felt like tackling the grandeur and grace of one of France’s greatest classics.

My version of the Millefeuille is –as always- a bit different from the original. Instead of thousand layers of puff pastry (which is what “millefeuille” literally means), I just had two. Admittedly, my version may not have the majestic luxury of the French classic, but I believe it still looks rather delicate and refined. (Just nod your head if you agree 😉 )

However, when it comes to flavour, my very own personalized rose and apricot Millefeuille far surpassed the rather boring flavour palette of the original. (no offence to all French pastry chefs) I went for a rose and honey flavoured custard topped with fresh apricot, dried cranberries and home-made meringues. It tasted so exquisite, it was almost impossible to believe I had made it myself! It would even make Michel Roux jealous!

Michel Who? Exactly. No one nails the essence of superior flavour better than I do. Me, pretentious? Just remember: if you want to be a good baker, you have to be a bit boastful! 😉

Rose and apricot Millefeuille

Ingredients(makes 6):

• One sheet of puff pastry
• 2,5 dl milk
• ½ tsp rose water
• 3 egg yolks, (you can save the egg whites for the meringues or use shop-bought meringues)
• 2 tbsp corn flour
• 2 tbsp caster sugar
• 3 tbsp runny honey
• Handful of dried cranberries
• 3 ripe apricots, peeled, stoned and halved
• Almond flakes
• Icing sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Cut out 6 rectangular pieces of puff pastry, brush them with some of the remaining egg white and sprinkle over some almond flakes. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let them cool completely before cutting them in half horizontally.
2. To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour until pale and fluffy.
3. Heat the milk, honey and rose water in a pan over medium heat until it starts to boil. (I also added a couple of drops of red food colouring to give the custard a beautiful pink hue.)
4. Add some of the hot milk to the egg mixture and mix well. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan of milk and beat constantly on a low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Pour the rose custard in a bowl and cover with cling film. Let it cool completely.
5. Cut the puff pastry cases in half and spread a thick layer of rose custard on the bottom layer.
6. Top with small chunks of apricot, dried cranberries and some crushed meringues.
7. Finish with the top layer of puff pastry and dust with icing sugar.