Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin Roulade with Mascrapone and Amaretti Cream

Yule logs have always been a central part of holiday treats for my family. I've spent most of my Christmas holidays in the South of France and, although the menu changed for Christmas eve every year, the two real staples have always been starting with some homemade foie gras, and ending with a traditional 'buche de Noel', or yule log. This cake is my twist on the classic yule log using festive pumpkin. I love the color it gives to the cake, and with a creamy mascarpone and amaretti cookie filling it's really beautiful to serve during the holiday season.

Pumpkin Roulade with Mascrapone and Amaretti Cream

3/4 cup of flour
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
3 eggs
2/4 cups of sugar
2/3 cup of pumpkin puree

1 cup of mascarpone
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tbl confectioner’s sugar
5 small amaretti cookies

Preheat your oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The parchment paper should completely cover the sheet.
In a bowl, swift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add in the sugar and beat until mixed. Fold in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture. Pour the mixture on top of the parchment paper. Using an offset spatula, spread the mixture to create an even layer of batter and get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 10-12 minutes or a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, dust a kitchen towel with confectioner sugar and place on a baking sheet or tray. As soon as the cake is cooked, carefully invert it onto the towel and peel off the parchment. Immediately roll the cake into a log shape keeping the last fold down on the baking sheet. If you don’t roll the cake immediately it will become less malleable and difficult to work with.

Leave the cake in the fridge while you make the filling. Beat the mascarpone, sugar and confectioner sugar until smooth (about 2 minutes). Using a grater, grate the amaretti cookies. Fold until fully incorporated.

Un-roll the cake and leave flat on the baking sheet. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, add the marscarpone filling and spread in an even layer. Leave 1/8 inch border uncovered. Roll the cake again as tightly as possible making sure the filling stays smoothly inside the cake. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Easy Creamy Tiramisu

There has been a lot of desserts on this blog lately! There's something about the holidays that make you want that touch of sweetness in the kitchen, isn't there? Tiramisu was one of the first desserts I learned how to make as a teenager, and it's a recipe I always turn to when I'm looking for something familiar, traditional and comforting. To me, tiramisu is much like risotto in that it looks so much more evolved and complicated to make than it is. I love the mix of creamy mascarpone, coffee and chocolate in this dessert and although it's a year-long delight, it really works well at this time of year.

So here it is, my easy, fail-safe tiramisu. I hope you will cherish this recipe as much as I do. I have made little tweaks and changes over the years and this is now my ultimate tiramisu. I'm sure Tyler Florence would agree!

Easy Creamy Tiramisu

Serves 6-8

2 containers of Mascarpone
6 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1/2 vanilla bean seeds or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of rum
1 big pot of strong espresso coffee (the coffee should be stronger than the one you would drink)
1 box of ladyfingers
A couple squares of good quality bittersweet chocolate

Place the coffee in a bowl at room temperature to allow it to cool down while you prepare the rest of the dessert. Mix the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl until the mixture becomes pale and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Set aside.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt (using an electric mixer) until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a big bowl, add the mascarpone. If the mascarpone seems a little stiff, beat for 1-2 minutes to lighten it and make it easy to work with. Gently fold in the whites making sure that the mixture stays airy. When smooth, add the sugar and yolk mixture. Add the vanilla and stir.
Take your serving bowls and line them up on your working surface. Dip each ladyfinger into the coffee making sure each side gets properly dipped. The ladyfingers should just hold together. Arrange 2 ladyfingers at the bottom of the bowls (you may have to cut them in half beforehand depending on the size of your serving bowls). Add 2-3 ladles of the mascarpone mixture into each bowl. Top with another 2 coffee-dipped ladyfingers and top with another couple ladles of mascarpone mixture. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours or overnight. Right before serving, grate the chocolate over the tiramisu. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Some of my Christmas Favourites

As we're getting closer and closer to Christmas I wanted to share with you some of my favourite Holiday treats. Whether it's edible ornaments, some cakey ricotta cookies, some tiny meringues, snowy coconut and chocolate squares,a classic yule log or some indulgent truffles- there are dozens of ways to make it feel like the holidays in your home. These are some of my all-time favourite - I especially love how easily packageable the meringues and ricotta cookies are: they really make wonderful gift!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lemon Bundt Cake with Chocolaty Topping and a Christmas Giveaway

As the holiday season is upon us, it's time for Chocolate Shaving's very first Christmas giveaway! Growing up in Paris, I used to visit London a lot. It was there, as a young teenager that I discovered Wagamama. If you've never been, you must! It's a fun, low-key restaurant with tasty noodles dishes and other Asian-inspired treats. While I was working at the BBC this summer, I made my way back to Wagamama. I sadly found that the food wasn't as carefully executed as it once was (it has become a real mega-chain now so that may come with the territory) but I've always adored their cookbook.

It's a beautiful book with most of the restaurant's staples and will make you want to make all the dishes at home. For those of you who aren't used to cooking with Asian ingredients, it's really a great way to start. Now, for the giveaway rules. You have 2 ways to enter the contest. One by writing a comment on this blog post, and a second chance by writing a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice! Simply let me know what your favourite holiday sweet treat is. The contest ends December 18th, at midnight and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. I will draw the winner at random. Good luck!

As for today's recipe: this is another easy recipe to entertain with. It's the perfect option for a Christmas or new year's party. The ganache and pistachio topping on top of the cake gives this dessert that extra special holiday feel.

Lemon Bundt Cake with Chocolatey Topping
Fits a 10 cup bundt cake

3 cups of cake flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1 cup of sour cream
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbl of lemon juice
4 eggs
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 cups of sugar

For the Ganache:
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (70%)
2/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of corn syrup
1/4 cup of shelled pistachios, cut into small pieces

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, add the sour cream, lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract. Mix until the mixture just comes together. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Whisk in the oil. Add in the sour cream mixture being careful not to over-mix.

Fold in the flour mixture and mix until just homogeneous. Grease a 10 cup bundt pan and carefully pour the mixture inside, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake for 50 min to 1 hour or until the cake just pulls away from the sides of the pan. Unmold and leave to rest on a cooling rack. In the meantime, make the ganache.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a bowl. Add the cream to a small saucepan on medium heat. Bring the cream to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the cream and chocolate are completely smooth. Add the corn syrup and whisk again. Using a small bowl with a beak, gently pour the ganache over the cake. Top with the chopped pistachios. Set on a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Orange and Chocolate Mousse

We've had a lot, a lot of snow in Montreal in the past few days. Every year, when the first real snow comes, the city calms down for a few hours as the roofs and trees lend their backs to a layer of cotton-like froth. I find it magical. No matter how many times I've seen those specks of snow falling from the sky I get so giddy when it happens. The snow has been the perfect beginning to the holiday season as I'm putting together all the sweet treats I'll be making leading up to Christmas.

When I have people over during this time of year, the last thing I want to be doing is spending all my time in the kitchen putting a meal together and miss out on the fun-filled night. These chocolate mousses have always been a real staple for me. They are just perfect for entertaining as you make them in advance so they can set in the fridge. I like add orange zest and Grand Marnier to these to make them extra special, and top them with thin candied orange slices and chocolate shavings. They really are perfect for any holiday celebration. The mix of chocolate and orange is always pretty perfect and the two flavors mingle wonderfully in this concoction. I hope you give it a try!

Orange and Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4-6 people

5.5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa)
350 ml of heavy whipping cream
3 large egg whites
2 tbl + 1 tsp of sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 1/2 tsp of Grand Marnier
4 pieces of candied orange, to garnish
4 squares of bittersweet chocolate, to garnish

Chop the chocolate and melt using a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, reserve and let cool while you prepare the rest of the mousse.

Place the cream in a bowl making sure the cream is very cold as well as the bowl. You can place both in the fridge for 20 minutes if needed. Beat the cream until light peaks form, making sure the mixture is still light and airy and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they just form stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar.

Add the orange juice, zest, and Grand Marnier to the chocolate and gently fold it into the cream. Once the mixture is homogeneous, gently fold in the egg whites in 2 batches making sure to keep the mixture airy and light. Place the mousse to set in the fridge for 2 hours. Spoon the mousse into ramekins. Grate the chocolate over the mousse to garnish and top with thin strips of candied orange.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pistachio Meringues

These little meringues are the beginning of my holiday baking series here on Chocolate Shavings. Now that the holiday season is upon us - we got our got our first snow this weekend! - it's time to start thinking about all the baking that lies ahead!

These little snow caps are the perfect way to welcome the holidays. They are easy to make and have that perfect crunchy texture. The only trick to preparing them is making sure you leave them to dry out completely in shut-off oven before you package them. Meringues are pretty sensitive to humidity and moisture, so make sure, depending on where you live, that you aren't making these on one of those very humid days. Once the meringues are dry and perfectly crisp, you can package them as you please!

Pistachio Meringues

4 egg whites
1 pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of finely chopped pistachios

Preheat your oven to 200F. Beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy. Add 1/2 of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Add remaining sugar and beat again for a few minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the meringue into a piping bag and carefully pipe little bite-size meringues. Try to keep your piping hand steady and pipe the meringues keeping the piping tip at the center of each meringue. To finish off each meringue, rapidly remove the tip when you are happy with the shape of your meringue, creating a little spike on each meringue. Top each meringue with a pinch of chopped pistachios.

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until meringues are dry and crisp (depending on the humidity levels and the exact size of your meringues, it could take less time). Turn off your oven and leave the meringues to completely dry out over night. Gently detach the meringues from the parchment. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream

Ah scones...! Now those should have been posted here a while ago! Growing up, I was one of those kids that did a lot, a lot of extracurricular activities. One Saturdays, for years, I would have an acting class that took me several hours on weekends as we would put together semi-professional plays twice a year. The classes were on the outskirts of Paris and we would always hit traffic on the way home. My mother and I started this sort of ritual to break the long route to get back to our apartment. We would stop at Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer has since closed in Paris (to my big disappointment) but at the time, it was a real mecca for a some great food finds that just weren't available in Parisian supermarkets. That is where I discovered a lot of 'junk food' - to my great pleasure and the dismay of my mother.

But, there was always one thing we could agree on purchasing... scones! We would get these amazing blueberry scones with some double cream. Every time. And for an afternoon snack on Sunday, we would heat the scones in the oven and serve them with a heaping tablespoon of cream and some chunky blueberry jam.

This is my ode to those long lost days! These scones are, once again, from Good to the Grain. I love them because they really aren't too sweet and have the perfect, perfect texture. Scones are really all about texture. They have to be firm, but not too firm and crumbly without falling apart. These really are best eaten warm, straight out the oven so I would suggest immediately freezing the scones you don't want to eat and re-heating them in the oven before serving.

Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream
Makes large scones 8
Adapted from Good to the Grain

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of barley flour
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt

8 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg

1/2 cup strawberry jam (make sure it's a heaping 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture. Use your hands to rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is in sizes ranging from rice grains to flattened peas. The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of this recipe.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until thoroughly combined. Scrape the buttermilk and egg into the dry mixture, and mix until barely combined.

Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough may be too sticky to handle; if it is, dust it with flour and fold it together a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Flour your hands and pat each piece of dough into a disk about 3/4 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

Cover one disk with the jam. Top the spread with the other disk and press down gently so that the dough settles into the jam. Brush the dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp knife to slice the circle into 8 triangular wedges, like a pie. Carefully place the wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a few inches between them as they will expand.

Bake the scones for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the jam has bubbled over onto the baking sheet. To keep the scones from sticking to the pan, slide a thin spatula underneath them while they’re still warm and move them to a baking rack. The scones are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. Serve with the maple cream

Maple Cream

1 cup of creme fraiche (or sour cream)
3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Whisk the sour cream and maple syrup together and serve alongside the scones.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poached Pears with Chocolate Ganache Puddle

This post will be a short one - I'm writing from New York where I'm taking some time to re-visit some of my favourite food spots. I've also been to a few new places I will be writing about soon. My days at the FCI might be a couple years behind me now, but I always find time to come back to NYC and get re-inspired by some of my favorite eats.

This recipe is really simple to put together but really looks beautiful when served at the table. Poached pears are really an easy way to showcase fruit, and poaching them with some fresh ginger gives the pears a wonderful flavor.

Poached Pears with Chocolate Ganache Puddle
Serves 4

4 Bosc pears
1 piece of fresh ginger, 1/4 inch thick, peeled
1 lemon
2 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Add the water and sugar to a large saucepan on medium heat. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved into the water (you can swirl the pan to help it dissolve). Using a vegetable peeler, peel a couple strips of lemon zest and add to the water. Then, juice 1/2 lemon and add to the water. Add the ginger. While the sugar is dissolving, peel the pears. Be careful to leave the stem intact and to neatly peel the skin around it.

Add the pears to the water mixture and simmer for 15-18 minutes or until the pears are soft but still hold their shape.

To make the ganache: finely chop the chocolate and add to a heat-proof bowl. Place the cream in a little pot and bring to a strong simmer. Right before the cream starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate and cream form a homogeneous mixture. Fold in the vanilla extract. To plate, add a couple ladles of chocolate sauce to each serving plate and place a well drained poached pear at the center of each chocolate puddle.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grilled Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Avocado and Almonds

This weekend, we prepared the perfect, perfect lunch. It started with this fresh, colorful salad and ended with a ginger-poached pear with chocolate ganache (recipe to be posted very soon). This salad was our way of holding on to the lightness of summer dishes a little while longer. The mix of ingredients would indeed make this the perfect picnic salad for a warm August day, but worked wonders for a light lunch on a crisp November day. The ingredients are simple: grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds and avocado but a few simple techniques really bring this salad over the top. Firstly, we marinated the chicken overnight with plenty of garlic, lemon and herbs. This might seem like a lengthy process but it only takes a few minutes to do and ensures that the chicken stays moist and flavorful. When you're ready to make the salad, all you have to do is grill the chicken. Another simple, but essential element is to toast the slivered almonds. When toasted, the almonds release all of their natural oils and they really take on a whole new dimension of flavor. Again, this is a simple step that only take a few minutes, but in a simple salad like this one, these little tricks really make a difference. This is really what Chocolate Shavings is about. It's about those little steps that take a dish from ordinary to over the top.

For all of us busy professionals, this salad can be a bit of a life saver as well. In our house, when we take the time to marinate and grill chicken, we also add a couple extra chicken breasts to have as leftovers. If you have some leftover chicken, almonds and mandarin oranges, you have a second meal ready in minutes the next day. I don't know about you, but Mondays are usually my real busy day of the week. I'm still in leisure weekend mode and tend to have some trouble giving the week a proper jump start. Having an easy meal to put together on Monday is the easiest way I've found to ensure that I can get organized for the rest of the week to come. I always leave more complex recipes for later in the week, when I'm a little less frazzled. Warm up some pita bread in the oven and toss the chicken, oranges and almonds together. Add a good dollop of Greek Yogurt with a good squirt of lemon, and toss everything in the pita bread. Add anything else that might fit nicely from your fridge- like a couple halved cherry tomatoes, some feta cheese or some diced cucumber. I've never been a big fan of real leftovers. The idea of heating up yesterday's meal doesn't usually get me very excited about dinner. However, making yesterday's meal into a new tasty dish - that I like!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Avocado and Almonds
Serves 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 small cans of mandarin oranges
1 avocado
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
4 large Romaine leaves, cut into thin slices

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and oregano until well combined. Add the crushed garlic. Place the chicken breasts into a ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the chicken in the bag. Tightly close the bag and shake to make sure the marinade is well distributed. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight.

Set a pan on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken breast to the pan, discarding any leftover marinade. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Leave untouched for about 4 minutes, turn over and season again. Cook for another 4 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove from the heat and reserve.

In a large pan on medium heat, add the slivered almonds in one layer. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to do this in batches. Stir frequently and cook the almonds until they are just golden brown. Keep a constant eye on the pan as the almonds will quickly go from golden brown to burnt. Remove from the heat and reserve.

In your serving bowl, add the chopped romaine. Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the salad. Cut the avocado into bite-size cubes and add them in. Drain the mandarin oranges and add them in. Add the vinaigrette a few minutes before serving and top with the almonds.


2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl whisk together the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Once the mixture is homogeneous, add the olive oil and whisk until smooth. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Tart

I was in Toronto for Canadian Thanksgiving this year, and since I wasn't in my own apartment I knew there would be very little cooking on my part this year. I was invited to one of my friends' home for Thanksgiving dinner and was asked to bring dessert. I was looking for the perfect treat to finish off a copious Thanksgiving meal when I stumbled upon a beautiful chocolate pecan tart from Wanda's Pie in the Sky, a Toronto-staple for all things sweet.

This tart had to be the best pecan tart I had ever had. Growing up in France, enjoying a pecan tart wasn't part of my culinary traditions, nor was celebrating Thanksgiving - of course! I've embraced new traditions since moving to this side of the world but tended to find the pecan tarts I had tasted to be far too sweet for my liking. This tart was different. The cocoa crust was a nice touch and the filling for the tart was not too sweet and wonderfully rustic with Jackson Pollock-inspired drips of chocolate ganache to finish off the tart. After everyone raved about how good this tart was, I knew I had to get my hands on the recipe and try it at home. Thankfully the Wanda's Pie in Sky cookbook gives the recipe and the tart tastes just as delicious as it does from the store.

For my American readers, this would make the perfect Thanksgiving dessert - trust me. This pecan tart is worth every second it takes to make it! The recipe is made to be a full-size tart. I made individual tartlets by adjusting the baking times.

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Click here for this recipe as well as other delicious Kitchen Aid sponsored treats!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Buckwheat Chocolate Muffins with Raspberries and Chocolate Ganache

These muffins are another recipe from Good to the Grain. This is the third recipe I've made from the book and was a great way to keep on using the buckwheat flour I know have in my pantry. To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed by the texture of these muffins. They are very, very, very dense! I changed the original recipe a little (I did not have any persimmons and used fresh raspberries instead) but I still felt that these weren't quite the right muffin texture. They were still delicious, with dark chunks of chocolate seeping throughout, and little specks of bright red raspberry. I added some chocolate ganache to finish them off, which added a nice touch of sweetness. These muffins are really best eaten warm, right after having been topped with the ganache. If you don't eat them right away, I would suggest freezing them and re-heating them in a warm oven when you want to eat them again. If freezing, freeze the muffins without the ganache as soon as they have cooled down and add the ganache right after the muffins comes out of the oven and are defrosted.

I will be playing around with proportions to make these a little less dense but they were sill quite the delectable warm treat - with a tall glass of milk of course!

Buckwheat Chocolate Muffins with Raspberries and Chocolate Ganache

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup of fresh raspberries
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin.

Mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugars for few minutes, until light and creamy (about 3 minutes). Then add in the eggs and beat until combined. Then add the yogurt and beat until combined.
Add in the dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time, until combined. Fold in the raspberries and chocolate. Transfer the batter to the muffin tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. Twist each muffin out of the tin and set on its side to cool.

Best served warm on the same day baked. Extras can be frozen and reheated.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

First, I should start this post by saying that I'm usually a crepe lover. I grew up with crepes being a family weekend staple, usually enjoyed with just a a little granulated sugar and a generous squeeze of lemon. My mom, as I've mentioned before, doesn't cook very much, but what she makes, she makes amazingly well.

Let me tell you, even though I didn't grow up eating pancakes (when I first moved here I use to call them crepes, fatter and less popular cousin) these pancakes are absolutely amazing and didn't make me miss the crepes a single second! They are part of my new quest in the kitchen: baking with new types of flours. I've always had the feeling that flour was needed in baked goods but really didn't bring much in the flavor department. By using more flavorful, textured flours you end up needing to use a lot less sugar as well. Let's face it, if flour and sugar were in a battle they would be carrying pretty similar weapons. Sugar, besides pure, basic sweetness, holds very little subtleties in flavor. That's why I usually tend to use brown sugar instead of white as the addition of molasses makes the taste of the sugar more interesting. In the case of these little pancakes, the buckwheat flour mixed in with freshly grated pears makes them the best pancakes I've ever had.

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

Adapted From Good to the Grain

Dry Mix:
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1 cup of whole-grain pastry flour
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 tsp of baking powder
3/4 tsp of kosher salt

Wet Mix:
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 + 1/4 cup of whole milk
1 egg
2 medium ripe pears

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk and egg until thoroughly combined.

Peel the pears. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the whole, peeled pears into the milk mixture. The pear juice should fall into the milk along with the grated pears.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently combine using a rubber spatula.

Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed on the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter. Working quickly, dollop 1/4 cup mounds of batter onto the pan.

Once bubbles have begun to form, flip and cook until bottoms are golden brown. The pancakes should cook for about 5 minutes total.

Wipe the pan with a cloth before the next batch and rub the pan with butter again. Serve warm, with maple syrup and fresh fruit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Olive Oil, Rosemary and Chocolate Cake

I've been on a mission. A mission to undercover how different types of flours can be used in baked goods. I've always felt that white flour was quite tasteless and although it adds necessary texture to cakes and tarts, it really doesn't have the depth of flavour that other flours might have. After eying this cookbook at different bookstores, I finally got around to getting a copy and it's been a real love affair ever since. Kimberly Boyce’s Good to the Grain is a real gem. The book is divided by type of flour and explores new avenues in baking. This is my starting off point to experiment.

This cake utilizes spelt flour, which, combined with good quality olive oil, fresh rosemary and dark chocolate makes for one of the best cakes I've had in months. Trust me. If you've never made a cake with olive oil, let alone with rosemary and chocolate, this dessert might seem like quite an odd concoction... but it's absolutely delicious. Because of the complexities and textures in this cake, it really doesn't need very much sugar which makes it a nice treat for any time of day.

Olive Oil, Rosemary and Chocolate Cake

Click here for this recipe as well as other delicious Kitchen Aid sponsored treats!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto

I was working on testing holiday recipes for Indulge magazine a few days ago and found myself with some leftover pumpkin puree. In the spirit of Fall and those beautiful shades of red and orange outside, I made pumpkin risotto. Risotto is always a great comfort dish. I love how creamy the rice gets after being stirred and infused with flavourful stock. Risotto sometimes gets a bad rep as a dish that is time-consuming and difficult. The fact is, it's not really either of those. You do have to be not too far from the stove for 20 minutes or so while it's cooking, but it comes together quite quickly and the prep time is pretty minimal. It's an incredibly versatile dish too, perfect to serve as a vegetarian option for Thanksgiving (if you use vegetable stock of course!).

I just love the color the pumpkin gives to any dish it's in. The flavor in the risotto is just perfect and adds that perfect touch to creamy rice. To all my Canadian readers, I want to wish you all a great Thanksgiving! Here is a link to some of my Thanksgiving side dish recipes if you're still thinking about what to serve!

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto
Serves 4
1 1/2 cup of arborio rice
4 cups of chicken stock
3 shallots, diced finely
1 teaspoon of dried sage
1 glass of good quality white wine
A large handful of cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup mascarpone (optional, to use to top the risotto)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra for serving

In a pot, bring the stock to a boil, reduce to a low simmer.
In a saucepan, add a good drizzle of olive oil on medium low heat. Add the shallots, and the dried sage. Once the shallots have softened (about 2 minutes), add the rice and mix, stirring until the rice looks lightly toasted. Add the wine and gently stir. Once the wine has almost evaporated, add the stock one ladle at a time. Keep adding stock once it has almost evaporated in the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper (the stock will reduce and is salty so make sure not to add too much salt while you're cooking the risotto).

In the meantime, heat some olive oil on medium high heat in a separate pan. Add the sliced mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Set aside.

Keep a constant eye on the rice, adding stock as it gets incorporated into the rice. The risotto should gently simmer for about 16-17 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms and pumpkin puree. Gently mix them, making sure the pumpkin puree is well stirred through. Fold in the Parmesan.Serve immediately, adding a spoonful of mascarpone and a little more Parmesan. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

I'm writing this post from the train, laptop on my lap and comfortably seated en route for Toronto. This train has a very bizarre sense of utter loneliness, with internet and plugs at every seat as well as this 'bubble' setup where it seems that you're sitting in a sort of space shuttle from the 1970s. While I enjoy being able to stay connected at all times, there's this sort of strange feeling that the modern way is leading us to become most distant from one another, and to continue our individual endeavours, at all times.

This week, the Social Network comes out. It's a movie I've been looking forward to seeing for some time now. The idea that facebook, the ultimate social network, could have been created by a rather quirky socially awkward Harvard student who was really quite shy and definitely not one of the 'cool kids' is fascinating to me. On the one hand, it seems that facebook (as well as all other social networks) are bringing us together in a way that was never possible before. You can track down old high school friends, colleagues and acquaintances and keep updated with their lives, as well as share with them your 2 cents on the world, your current doings and your most recent activities. On the other hand, it seems that this kind of technology makes us more distant than we've ever been. Instead of a hand written note, we send a quick email. Instead of a phone call, we write a rapid text that we can duplicate to 2,3 or 4 people if need be. We can instantly upload a photo album of a weekend outing on facebook and, instantly, share it with'friends' who will be able to know what you have been up to a couple hours ago but who might have not talked to you in weeks, months or years. The easiness with which we are able to do this also makes us lose the more intimate rapports we used to have with one another.It's the ultimate paradox: we are ever more connected, and ever more alone. We send out mass messages, and don't individualize our thoughts for specific recipients as we once used to do.

Taking the time to reflect on these subjects has helped me take a step back and find a way to get the best of both worlds. I still remember my early teens when I used to have internet dial-up at home, in Paris. My mom would make me want until 10PM so that she wouldn't miss any phone calls before then. I'd get excited just hearing the noise of the computer connecting and getting a signal. Now, I find myself in a train where my brain has been trained to get antsy if a page takes a few seconds to load.

In light of this discussion, it seems quite fitting that today's recipe is a slow-cooked tomato sauce! A good old classic, traditional tomato sauce! To be honest, you can make the recipe in less time if need be (I have a 20 minute version of this recipe here) but if you do have the time, the sauce does benefit from simmering for a while. Actually, the sauce, as many stews and slow-cooked dishes, is even better the next day. I usually make a big batch, and freeze some in small plastic bags. You can use it to top some fish, garnish a pizza, toss it in with some pasta or eat it on a big slice of crusty bread.

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

4 garlic cloves, diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 small Vidalia onion, finely diced
2 big cans of San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed in a little olive oil and seasoned with some salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a stockpot on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir for 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl, and, using your hands, crush the tomatoes. Once the mixture is smooth, add to the onion and carrot mixture and add the tomato paste. Remove the thyme leaves from the stem and finely chop. Add the thyme and stems to the tomato sauce and stir. Generously season with salt and pepper.
Leave to gently simmer on medium low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Once the sauce is ready, blend using an immersion blender until you reach the desired consistency. You can opt for a smooth tomato sauce or a more chunky kind, depending on taste.

Spoon the tomato sauce over the cooked spaghetti, and sprinkle with a good spoonful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oven-Baked Apple Donuts

No season makes me happier than Fall. Since moving to Montreal, the beautiful Indian summer has been one of my favourite moments of the year. Montreal weather tends to linger on (like our icy cold winters) but the peak of Fall only really last a couple of weeks so you have to learn to really appreciate it while it's here. Every morning during this time of year I can spot a new tree transitioning from green to a different shade of red, crimson, yellow and orange. There's something absolutely breathtaking to the vivid colors that nature projects in late September and October. It gets me every time. These are just a couple pictures of the trees this weekend.I suspect that in the next few days the green leaves will have changed their coat for good. There seems to be a whole story that nature is trying to tell us to stop us in our busy lives. It's all about taking the time to appreciate the beauty of changing cycles. Every year, the same tree starts the transition first. It always seems to me that he's the real trooper of the bunch, the one that had the courage to lead others and show them the way. Then, slowly, each tree embraces its destiny and one by one, they makeup a vivid canvas of colors. The picture they makeup as a whole is stunning, as is the individuality of each tree, slowly changing at its own pace in time.

Going up to the mountain this weekend with a good cup of coffee and a warm scarf, I enjoyed a moment of peacefulness by the water. There has been quite a lot of business going around these past couple weeks and it's sometimes nice to take a step back and just enjoy a calm, nature-filled morning. The recipe I bring you today fits those fall days like no other. It uses the fruit in season (deliciously plump apples) and is a healthier twist on the traditional deep-fried donuts. These are baked, best eaten straight out from oven, after they have been tossed in a little cinnamon-sugar.

Oven-Baked Apple Donuts

Makes about 24 mini donunts
Adapted from cooks.com

1/4 cup of lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 1/2 cups of bite size chunks of apple, peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup of cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup of milk

To Coat:
1/4 cup of butter, melted
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder

Preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugars salt and and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the cold chopped butter. Rub the pieces of butter with the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Mix in the milk and fold in the chopped apples. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir using a spatula or spoon making sure not to overmix. Place a spoonful of batter into each mold of a buttered mini muffin pan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the donuts are just golden. Remove from the oven, unmold and lightly brush each donut with the melted butter. Dunk in a bowl with the sugar and cinnamon mixed in. Shake off excess sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speedy Stir Fry Series - Chicken and Mango Stir Fry

Hi, this is O. again taking a little bit of Jenn's Chocolate Shavings space for my Speedy Stir Fry Series. Despite all the syrupy, sickly sweet concoctions served at many chinese takeout joints, I still enjoy the addition of a sweet element to a stir fry. This Mango and Chicken Stir fry follows a basic quick and simple technique, with some added finely sliced mango. It really brings this simple dish over the top. I find that it makes a perfect end of summer lunch.

Chicken and Mango Stir Fry

Serves 2-3 people

1 large chicken breast
2 tablespoons finely diced garlic
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon of peanut oil
5 green onions, cut in half lengthwise, then into 2 inch pieces.
1 mango, sliced into 1/4 inch strips

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons of Shao Hsing rice wine
1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of cornstarch

For the sauce:
1/4 cup of chicken stock
2 teaspoons of Shao Hsing rice wine
1 teaspoon of cornstarch

Mix together the marinade ingredients, making sure to dissolve the corn starch. Slice the chicken into bite sized cubes or strips and add to the marinade. In a separate bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients. Prepare your garlic, ginger, green onions, and mango and reserve.

Heat your wok until it begins to smoke. Add the cooking oil. I sometimes like to add a big chunk of leftover ginger to flavor the oil, but this is optional. Add the chicken and marinade mixture to the wok, spreading it evenly. Let it sear for 30-45 seconds without mixing. Add the garlic and ginger over top and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the green onions and sauce and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the strips of mango, stir a couple times and serve immediately with rice or noodles. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nutella and Marshmallow Brownie Bites

It's that time of the year folks, that time of the year! Every year, I cave and get a jar of Nutella from the grocery store. I only indulge rarely, mostly due to the fact that the jars rarely make it more than a couple days in my pantry. Because, really, is there anything better than a little spoonful of Nutella (or two, or three?)? Well, these little treats might be the next best thing. I had as a mission to put this jar of gooey chocolate hazelnut goodness to good use before it was gone in smoke. So here you are, Nutella bites! These are incredibly, incredibly easy to make - they literally take minutes- and only require 4 ingredients. The marshmallow is optional of course but it makes for a fun touch - perfect for kids and an added touch of gooeyness in the center of each Nutella brownie bite.

I also wanted to announce the winner of the ThinkFood cookbook contest! The free copy of this brain-healthy cookbook goes to Megan at Foodalution. Congratulations!

Nutella and Marshmallow Brownie Bites

Makes 12 mini brownies
Adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1/2 cup Nutella spread
1 large egg
5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
12 mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with paper liners. Put the Nutella and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full). Place a marshmallow in the center of each brownie and gently press down with your finger so you can only see the tip of each marshmallow.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the brownie part of each bite comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes. Set on a rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Creamy Mustard Chicken with Mushrooms

Working in the food industry often means having to boost your cravings at odd times of the year. Back in hot and humid June where sweaters and socks were tightly packed away, I found myself in my kitchen with my oven on for hours on end taste-testing slow-cooked recipes for different magazines I work for. Now that the leaves are slowly changing colors - my favorite, favorite time of the year - it's the best time to put these recipes to good use and get the most out of gentle and slow cooked meats.

This recipe is a real pleasure during those colder months of the year where you want to dig into a creamy and tender chicken dish after a long day. This recipe makes the most of being slow-cooked and retains all the flavor of tasty organic chicken by being cooked with the bone and skin. The skin should stay crispy and the meat be fork-tender when you bring it to the table. Served with mushrooms and a creamy mustard sauce it's pretty close to a perfect meal in my book. I like to present it alongside some wild rice mixed with nuts and cranberries, some couscous with herbs and almonds or some potato puree finished with a touch of truffle oil. It's also delicious as it is though - served with a nice piece of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Creamy Mustard Chicken with Mushrooms

6 chicken pieces, legs and thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock
16 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of half-fat cream
2 tablespoons of grainy mustard
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
A small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place a stockpot on medium high heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Dry the chicken pieces on each side with a paper towel and generously season with salt and pepper. Place in the stockpot and leave untouched for 3-4 minutes while the chicken browns. Gently turn the chicken and brown for 3-4 minutes on the other side.

Add the chicken stock to the stockpot, leaving the chicken skin side up so it doesn’t become soggy. Cook for 45 min-1 hour until the chicken is just cooked through. When the chicken is just about done, add a good drizzle of olive oil to a small pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Saute the mushrooms for 5-6 minutes. Lower the heat and add the reduced chicken stock from the stockpot. Add the cream, grainy mustard and stir. Reduce the sauce until desired consistency and add the lemon juice. Spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

This weekend, it started to feel like Fall in Montreal. The weather got frisky and it was time for boots, scarfs and autumn jackets to come out. I aboslutely love Fall, it's one of the best times to get in the kitchen and take the time to try out some new recipes. In times like these, a comforting meal always comes to my mind. It's hard to go wrong with some tender, juicy, fork-tender pulled pork.

After having had some great pulled pork at various restaurants in North America, it was time to develop my own recipe to make it at home. This is really not the kind of food I grew up on in France but has been a wonderful food discovery. This is the kind of slow-cooked recipe that is perfect for a lazy Sunday. The prep time is pretty fast, and then the hardest part begins... waiting for the meat to be ready!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Serves 4

600 grams of pork Shoulder, or pork butt
1 tablespoon of paprika
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Small ciabatta breads
1/2cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

In a small bowl, add the paprika, onion powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub the mixture on all sides of the pork. Set to marinate in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 220 F. Place the pork in a stockpot. Pour the chicken stock around the pork and add the bay leaves. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours, until the pork is fork tender. Flake the pork using a fork or your fingers. Place in a bowl and fold in the barbecue sauce. Toast the sandwich bread and fill with a hearty mound of pulled pork and serve with coleslaw. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Creamy Spinach Pasta with Pancetta and a Cookbook Giveaway!

First things first... the cookbook giveaway! I'm proud to have been asked to participate in the ThinkFood Cookbook which features brain-healthy recipes from 50 bloggers around the world. It was published by Posit Science and aims to bring awareness to brain diseases and gives advice on what foods are nurturing to your brain and body. The recipes all include 'brain-healthy' ingredients such as spinach, blueberries, matcha, pecans, cinnamon, garlic and dark chocolate. The book is absolutely gorgeous and I am honored to be a part of it.

Now, about how you can win this beauty of a cookbook! To enter the contest, simply comment on this post and tell me which recipe you are looking forward to try from my blog. Contestants must be from the United States or Canada to enter and the contest will end on Friday September 17th, at midnight. I will then randomly pick a winner and send you the book!

Now, for today's recipe! This is a take on pasta carbonara using pancetta and a healthy dose of spinach. It's nice and creamy and easy to put together. Just make sure you use good quality Parmesan as it really makes the dish. The eggs just slightly cook when tossed into the pasta and create that perfect amount of creamy goodness without using cream. It's really one of those perfectly comforting meals for the colder days ahead. I like to serve it with a simple tomato and crisp lettuce salad and finish the meal with a simple fruit salad such as this one.

Creamy Spinach Pasta with Pancetta
Serves 2

Penne pasta for 2
1/4 cup of diced pancetta
1 egg yolk + 1 whole egg
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, add the diced pancetta to a pan on medium low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and whole egg until the mixture is homogeneous. Add the cracked black pepper and Parmesan. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking water from the pasta to help temper the eggs. Whisk vigorously as soon as you add the water to the eggs.

Add the spinach to the pan with pancetta and saute for 2 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. Add the egg mixture and stir. Serve immediately with a little extra grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Speedy Stir Fry Series - Green Been and Beef Stir Fry

This week marks the first of a Speedy Stir Frys Series from my second half in the kitchen. Long before I attended culinary school and decided to make a career around the realm of food, we were just two college students that really enjoyed good food. I started this blog and the rest is history. This small section is a welcomed addition to Chocolate Shavings and I hope you enjoy it.

Always an avid taster of the recipes I develop, O. has witnessed the making of this blog since day one. We share a passion for photography and eating and spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. He will be writing a weekly section on his favourite stir fry recipes.. many of which we enjoy on busy weeknights.... so welcome!

Dear Chocolate Shavings readers,

It's long been my belief that the advent of asian fast food joints have given stir frying a bad name. It's become synonomous with chunks of cheap meat, covered in a sickly sweet sauce sitting in a pool of oil.
A couple years ago, Jenn bought me a Breath of a Wok, by Grace Young, and it has truly transformed the way I cook. I've discovered how stir frying correctly can be a versatile, powerful style of cooking. For the many many recipes Jenn has expertly served me over the years, I thought I'd contribute a tiny amount to the culinary wisdom that she shares.

Green Bean and Beef Stir Fry
Serves 2-3 people

This is a classic stir fry of mine. It has all the essential parts: simple ingredients prepared quickly and methodically to bring out deep, clean flavors. The most important part of the dish is the sear: leaving the beans and then the beef to sit, undisturbed, on high heat.

2 tablespoons of Shao Hsing rice wine (a chinese rice wine easily available in most asian grocers)
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, diced
300 of flank steak
3 handfuls of green beans, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons of black sesame seeds

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. Take the flank steak and cut across the grain into 2-3 inch portions. For each portion, cut with the grain into 3-4 sheets. Stack the sheets and slice finely against the grain into strips. Mix the meat into marinade.

Preheat the wok or skillet to medium-hot.

Prepare the green beans, trimming the ends and washing thoroughly. Blanch in the salted water for 2-3 minutes and drain.

Now you're ready to stir fry: Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the hot pan. Add in your meat mixture. Let it sear for 30-40 seconds. Spinkle on the garlic and ginger. Stir fry briefly then push meat to the side of the pan. Add the drained green beats and, similarly, allow to sear at the bottom of the pan for 30-45 seconds. Stir fry entire mixture for 1-2 minutes until meat and beans are cooked through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with noodles or rice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What to do with Leftover Puff Pastry: Chocolate and Almond Pear Tarts

This is the follow-up to my last post featuring my Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart. As I was mentioning, I've found myself countless times with leftover scraps of puff pastry which sadly never really turn into anything. This recipe is my easy way to do something productive with these leftovers, and to waste less!

I designed this recipe for 4 individual tartlets, but it's such a simple recipe that you can easily modify the quantities to fit any number of tarts. These tarts take minutes to make and are the perfect way to end any meal - or to enjoy as an afternoon treat. There is no added sugar, just some velvety bittersweet chocolate, some powdered almonds and some pear. Pear, chocolate and almond is always a winning combination in my book and I never tire of coming up with different combinations to use them together.

I've often been asked what items I always have in my pantry - and bittersweet chocolate chip and powdered almonds are always great staples to have on hand. Powdered almonds are used in a variety of desserts and add that perfect touch of nuttiness to any sweet treat. Adding powdered almonds to certain tart doughs is absolutely delicious, as is adding it to tart fillings. Canned pears, on the other hand, are not an item I usually have on hand but for quick desserts like this one, it really helps to ensure that your dessert will be perfectly cooked in very little time as the pears are juicy and soft. So here goes..!

Chocolate and Almond Pear Tarts
Makes 4 tartlets

1/4 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
3 tablespoons of powdered almonds
2 halves of canned pears, cut into 4 pieces
Leftover puff pastry
Muffin pan

Preheat your oven to 350F. Roll out your leftover puff pastry until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 4 circles of dough, slightly bigger in size than the diameter of each muffin mold.

Lightly grease 4 of your muffin molds and add one puff pastry circle into each mold, Using your fingers, gently press down on the center of each circle so that they take the shape of the mold.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small double boiler. Add the cream and stir until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered almonds and stir. Divide the chocolate mold between the 4 tartlets. Add a piece of pear at the center of each, and, using your fingers, gently crinkle the dough on the sides of the muffin mold so it folds back onto the chocolate batter.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart

I re-created this tart after enjoying it with my family in the Basque country in the South of France this summer. Served with a simple leafy green salad, it's the perfect meal. This also is part 1 of my puff pastry series for the summer.

First, a few words about puff pastry. Puff pastry is deliciously buttery, made of layers of butter and flour that rise and separate in the oven to create the perfect texture of velvety flaky pastry. If you're ever in search of a Sunday afternoon activity, you can definitely try making this at home - but be prepared to spend your afternoon working on it. For everyday cooking, buying puff pastry is really the best and easiest option. Homemade doughs are usually the way to go but puff pastry really is too much of an under-taking for everyday cooking and a good-quality store-bought puff pastry really does the trick.

I designed this recipe to make a full-size tart for 6 people as well as an easy dessert recipe for the leftover scraps of puff pastry. As you will see in part 2 of this post, you can make an easy sweet treat using the scraps. If you're like me, you often want to use leftover pieces dough but for some reason never end up making something very productive with it. This recipe makes it easy to use up leftovers and make real second dish out of them! So stay tuned for my chocolate, almond and pear tart dessert.

For now, let's stick to the goat cheese tomato tart!

Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart

Serves 6

400 g of frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1/2 cup of soft goat cheese
1/2 cup of light ricotta
1/4 cup of whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten saving 2 teaspoons in a separate bowl
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
A handful of cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander or basil
11 Inch x 7 Inch quiche pan

Preheat your oven to 325F. Lightly flour a working surface and place the block of thawed puff pastry dough in the center. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit your 11 x 7 inch pan. Lightly butter the quiche pan and gently transfer the dough to the pan, trimming the dough as necessary.

In a large bowl, add the goat cheese, ricotta and cream. Whisk the mixture until smooth and creamy. Add the beaten eggs (except for the reserved 2 teaspoons) and whisk again. Add the pepper and mix. Pour the mixture on top of the dough. Top with the cherry tomatoes. Using a pastry brush and the reserved 2 teaspoons of egg, brush the sides of the pastry. Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is just golden brown and the filling is cooked. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve alongside your favourite leafy greens. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zucchini Fritters

This weekend, I had a couple of my friends visit for a little get together. It was a great opportunity to have a lovely homemade breakfast before heading out for a busy day of visiting Toronto and catching up. I had been meaning to make zucchini fritters for a while and they ended up being the perfect addition to a poached egg on some toasted olive sourdough bread.

These really are easy to make, and can be whipped up while you toast the bread and wait for your poached eggs to cook. I hope you appreciate the photo as I saved the last four for a quick photo session and they then had to be eaten cold! I'm heading back to Montreal in a few days, after almost four month out of town. Between a job at the BBC in London, visiting my family in Paris and in the South of France and working from Toronto it's been quite an eventful summer! I'm looking forward to getting back to my kitchen though.. especially since I only had a few days to play around with my new pink Kitchen Aid. Be prepared for many recipes with that baby!

Since the new school year is upon us, I thought I would share the names of a few cookbooks that are coming out this fall. My ever-growing collection (I must have hit 70 by now!) has been missed this summer as I only had room for a couple books to bring with me during my travels. I'm looking forward to browsing these new cookbooks and something tells me that they will make their way to my over-stocked library shelf...

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
, to be released on October 26th, 2010. I have yet to try an Ina Garten recipe that wasn't absolutely fabulous. As most spontaneous and intuitive cooks will recognize, it's not that easy to write a fail-safe recipe but Ina does just that, every time.

Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond from New York's Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant. This is one of my favourite breakfast spots in NYC and they are now releasing a cookbook. I hope it does not disappoint! To be released on November 8th, 2010.

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
: If you loved the original Baked book, you should love this one! Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito will give us their take on popular dessert this special twists and tweaks. Release date set for October 1st, 2010.

Tartine Bread: One of my favourite spots in San Francisco is coming out with a second cookbook dedicated to bread. Making bread is really an essential skill for any home baker and I bet these recipes will make it ever more accessible. Release date set for September 29th, 2010.

What new cookbooks are you looking forward to this Fall?

Zucchini Fritters
Makes about 12

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the zucchini into a medium bowl, leaving the skin on. Add the lemon zest, chopped parsley, and eggs. Mix well to combine. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper Slowly add flour, stirring so no lumps form. Fold in the parmesan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until oil sizzles when you drop a small amount of zucchini mixture into the pan. Carefully drop about 2 tablespoons zucchini mixture into pan; repeat, spacing fritters a few inches apart.

Cook fritters until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Turn fritters, and continue cooking until golden, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer fritters to a plate; set aside in a warm place. Cook remaining zucchini mixture, adding more oil to pan if necessary. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Spaghetti

I just got back from a few blissful days spent in the Basque country where my family has a house we all reunite in once or twice a year. We spent a wonderful holiday filled with a lot, a lot of food, time relaxing in the sun and some much needed catching up. Family meals have always been a pretty central part of my family life and I can't imagine not recreating that feeling with my own family one day. Sharing a love for flavourful ingredients and satisfying meals, we feasted on the classic 'melon et jambon' - slices of cantaloupe with thinly sliced Bayonne ham -, curried mussels, slowly braised lamb with garlic haricots verts, goat cheese and tomato tarts, pear clafoutis.. and I much, much more!

All to say, that lighter meals are now in order! This pasta dish has become a classic in our house. We always have canned artichokes in our pantry and they come in very handy for these kinds of dishes. I get the ones that are marinating in oil and herbs so they are nice and tasty and needed little extra preparation. This really is a light pasta meal with only a couple tablespoons of cream, and is another one of those easy pasta dishes I can make in the time it takes the pasta to cook!

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Spaghetti
Serves 2

Spaghetti for 2
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
4 scallions, finely sliced
1 cup of canned artichokes, drained
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra to serve
2 tablespoons of whipping cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, place a pan on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the garlic slices and leave untouched for 2-3 minutes. Add the scallions and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes and add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the artichokes and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cream and stir. Add one tablespoon of the pasta water - the starch from the pasta in the water will help thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Stir so all the ingredients mix in with the spaghetti. Add the parmesan, a pinch of salt and pepper, the lemon juice and stir again. Serve immediately, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rosemary, Walnut and Fleur de Sel Bread Rolls

Receiving my KitchenAid stand mixer in the mail was the closest thing to Christmas in the middle of the summer. I opened the package like an excited child and gazed at its beautiful light pink tint — it was just perfect.

I was looking forward to using the stand mixer for bread because one of the three attachments that comes standard with the mixer is a dough hook. The dough hook attachment is amazing for kneading dough, a part of bread-making that has traditionally been a point of frustration for home bakers.

This bread recipe was a little time-consuming, but the spectacular results made it well worthwhile. Because it is a basic recipe, it can be used in a myriad of ways. Try adding some cooked diced pancetta, some coarsely chopped olives, sundried tomatoes or some grated parmesan — the possibilities really are endless.

I flavored these rolls with generous amounts of chopped walnuts and fresh rosemary, then lightly brushed the rolls with olive oil right before baking them. The finishing touch was sprinkling them with a little fleur de sel.

Rosemary, Walnut and Fleur de Sel Bread Rolls

Click here for this recipe as well as other delicious Kitchen Aid sponsored treats!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Matcha and Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I'm writing this post from the beautiful Basque country, where I've spent most of my summers since I was a little girl. Although I grew up in a bustling Parisian setting, our family would always find the way to get together and spend some quality time in a family home near Biarritz. Living so far from France today, it's always a wonderful feeling to come back to the same house, same surroundings and spend a little time closer to where I'm from. A lot of people vacation on the south east coast of France - where popular beach towns fill up during the summer, but the south west is a tad more rugged, with waves the size of mountains, real summer thunderstorms and beautiful scenery.

This is truly one of the places besides Paris where I fell in love with good food. The tables of 'charcuterie' (cured meats), beautiful fragrant cheeses, full glasses of sangria, grilled fish, and plums straight from the tree are a few of the staples I've been feasting on every summer. The proximity to Spain allows us to spend a few blissful days a year across the border every time we come here, and I always look forward to the tapas we enjoy standing up on the stone streets of the old San Sebastian. The delights here are truly my kind of food: rustic, generous, pungent foods without unnecessary sophistication. It's a lot of good olive oil, garlic and herbs - everything I love.

How does this relate to the recipe I bring you today? Well, it doesn't really.. but I made these matcha muffins right before leaving and didn't get a chance to post the recipe until now. I've been experimenting with matcha powder for a little while - and thanks to a gift from one of my good friends - I've been able to use matcha powder directly brought from Japan. I can't decipher any inscriptions on the package but the results have still been lovely! For those of you who haven't tried using matcha powder in your baked goods, I strongly recommend it! It's incredibly fragrant - a tiny amount only is needed - and it brings a great new layer of flavours to baked goods. So here goes!

Matcha and Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Adapted from Kirbie's Cravings
Makes about 14 muffins

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cups sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup low fat yogurt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1.5 tablespoons matcha powder

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line muffin baking pan with cupcake liners.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift together. Set aside. In another small bowl combine the espresso powder, cocoa and 1/3 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk whole egg with egg white. Set aside.

Cut the butter into pieces and place in an electric mixing bowl. Beat for 1 minute to soften. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat at high speed for about 3 minutes. Add in the egg mixture, beating constantly for about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture. On medium-high speed, beat in half of the yogurt. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour. On high speed, beat in the rest of the yogurt and the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the remaining flour.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of yogurt batter and mix into the cocoa mixture. Set aside. Add the matcha powder to the rest of the yogurt batter in the mixing bowl.

Using a large spoon, scoop some of chocolate batter in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Then add a spoonful of green tea batter and another small spoonful of chocolate batter. Using a toothpick, swirl the mixture so both flavors create a nice swirled pattern.

Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

White Wine Clams

Cooking with seafood really marks the summer months for me. Seafood dishes tend to be lighter, bursting with freshness and are usually ready pretty quickly. This dish was supposed to be made into a seafood medley served with buttered spaghetti, but, after a day spent at the beach - nibbling at freshly purchased red berries and soaking up the sun - a very light meal was calling my name. The clams were deliciously soothing served with a couple slices of crusty garlic bread to soak up the sauce.

There really is something about the sauce that emanates from cooked clams. When you cook clams this way, they release their wonderfully fragrant flavors into the wine and create the most flavorful stock. If you don't want to use up all cooking liquid, try using some of it in risotto or with any seafood pasta dish. You really can't recreate the depth of flavor that the clams create. They're nothing like it!

White Wine Clams

Serves 4

2 pounds of Manila clams, scrubbed well
1 cup of good quality dry white wine
5 sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 handful of coarsely chopped cilantro

Remove the leaves from the thyme stems and coarsely chop. Add the thyme stems, leaves, white wine, garlic and clams to saucepan on medium heat. Cover. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a high simmer for about 3-4 minutes.Shack the pan being careful to secure the lid down to make sure the clams open. Place all the opened clams in your serving bowl and discard any closed ones. Discard the thyme stems and simmer the stock for another 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice to the sauce and pour the sauce over the clams. Add the cilantro and serve immediately with some crusty bread. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Antipasti Platter

Okay folks, this is clearly not a recipe! I just thought it could be useful to some of you readers to share my favourites for a perfect antipasti platter - basically a way-out for those days when you don't want to cook too much! Sometimes, you spend a lot of time preparing a main meal and a dessert for guests (on this particular day, I was having oven-baked lemon halibut with sauteed garlic rapini and chocolate and lemon tartlets) and you don't want to spend too much time on an appetizer. On those days, or the hot summer days where you're only having a light meal with a cool glass of wine, an antipasti platter is always a great option. It's easy, pretty to serve and incredibly flavourful. All guests can make their own little plate from your selection and pick and choose what they like.

Here are some of my suggestions for a perfect antipasti platter. Start with some cured ham - you can choose an array of different kinds (I would suggest bresaola, prosciutto, rosette de lyon and coppa), a selection of good quality olives (I love kalamata, greek olives as well as garlic and almond-stuffed green olives). Arrange the cured meat and olives on one platter. The only work here is to toast some fresh baguette for an extra touch. Cut the baguette into slices, drizzle a little olive oil and set in a warm oven. Once the bread is just crusty, remove from the oven and rub the inside of the bread with a peeled clove of garlic. This is a small and easy step but it really makes a big difference as far as flavour goes!

On another platter, choose about 5 or 6 items amongst oil-preserved sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, caper berries, sweet roasted garlic cloves, mini buffalo mozzarella balls and artichoke hearts. If you're serving this as a complete meal, I would suggest adding a simple lettuce salad with an array of chopped herbs (chives, parsley, coriander) dressed with a basic olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. This recipe is just a guideline to the platter I served here, but let your imagination run free!

Antipasti Platter

Serves 4

6 slices of prosciutto (finely sliced)
1 cup of mixed olives
1 baguette, cut into slices
1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup of caper berries
1/4 cup of roasted garlic
18 anchovies

Arrange nicely on 2 or 3 platters, serving the bread freshly toasted. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Regular readers of this blog will know that I don't do too well with spicy foods. Don't get me wrong, I want to be able to order those spicy Thai and Indian dishes - but the truth is that I just can't! I've gotten better over the years out of sheer determination but I'm not quite there yet. For that reason, I've had trouble truly experiencing good Mexican food. This next sentence might make true Mexican food connoisseurs cringe, but Chipotle really made me want to make Mexican food at home. Although a lot of their offerings are spicy, their carnitas with mild tomato salsa, a dollop of guacamole, cilantro-rice and crispy tacos are really quite amazing. I'm not a fast food lover, but in my opinion, Chipotle really delivers on flavourful food while keeping in mind the ethics surrounding meat products. The meat is naturally and sustainably raised and is absolutely delicious.

When I was completing my Culinary Arts degree at the French Culinary Institute, I lived pretty close to a Chipotle and I must admit that I was often too tired to cook for myself after a long day of intense kitchen training... so this was my initial inspiration! This recipe is different though, and features beautiful pieces of flaky halibut (Chipotle, unfortunately, does not make fish tacos!). These are a healthy and light meal for a summer night as well as a perfect party food. Lay out a plate of seasoned fish, a tangy sauce and some mango salsa and every guest can make their own taco. I use Greek yogurt to make the sauce (as a healthier option to sour cream) but feel free to use sour cream or creme fraiche.

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Serves 4

3 medium halibut fillet
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lime
Olive oil

Mango Salsa:

1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juice and zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

12 hard tacos, reheated in a warm oven

Generously season the fish with salt and pepper. In a pan on medium heat add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the fish to the pan and cook untouched for 5 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for another 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Cut the fish into cubes as soon as it's cool enough to handle and arrange on a platter with some lime slices.

For the salsa: Add the mango, avocado, tomato and cilantro to your serving bowl. Add the lime juice, zest, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, add the yogurt and fold in the cilantro and lime juice. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Serve the fish, tacos, salsa and yogurt sauce at the table and let everyone make their own taco. Enjoy!
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