Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake

November 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

I think Dorie and I are destined to have a love/it’s OK relationship. It really does seem that one week I love the dish we make, the other, the dish is fine but nothing I would make again.  (Maybe our relationship will change since I am picking the order this month – see my post on my thoughts about that).  The Caramel topped Semolina cake was fine – edible, not bad, not good but nothing memorable that I would choose to make again.  I think it was largely a texture thing.  Too mushy and I have never been a fan of raisin that show up in baked goods all soggy and soft (dead spider bodies a friend once referred to them as reminding her of).

Beside the cake itself there were some really good things that came out of this baking experience.

  • Cream of Wheat was a breakfast item that I ate many a morning as a child and somehow it had vanished from my memory.  I was so thrilled to see it again that on Sunday morning I made myself a bowl to eat for breakfast – in my memories it came in a red box.
  • I made caramel for the first time.  It took a long time for mine to turn amber colored.  And the tip to warm the pan in the over the caramel will spread smoothly is a great tip and one I know I will use again.
  • We had an excuse to open and drink one of our favorite bottles of dessert wine.  Domaine de la Pigeade Beaumes de Venise.  My dear friend and I came across this vineyard while on a bike ride and we have consumed many of their bottles since that day in 2000.  It’s a sweet wine with ‘hints of pear, rose water and exotic fruits’.  It was a great pairing with the cake, and while there was leftover cake, there was no left over Beaumes de Venise.

I won’t make the cake again but I will finish the box of Cream of Wheat.


Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

October 29, 2010 § 7 Comments

Occasionally it’s better to let photos tell a story.

The cake fresh out of the oven (approx 7:10pm).





The cake just after my husband, my friend, myself and three little girls had our fill (approx 7:30 pm).





The cake just before I sat down to watch Glee (approx 8:20pm)





The cake right after Glee finished and before I started watching Top Gear (approx 9:10pm)





The cake just before I started writing this post (approx 10:00pm).





That piece may or may not make it to breakfast but it definitely won’t be there when my husband gets home in the morning (approx 8:30am).

This cake was superb – light and flavourful and so easy that you can whisk, sip a glass of chardonnay, carry on a conversation and not miss a step.  I left out the rum as I figured it wasn’t necessary and I had three 6 year olds waiting to eat cake.

The only things I may do differently next time:

  • Cut the apples into smaller pieces and make sure they are the same size.  Some of the larger pieces were a bit too crunchy.
  • Use salted butter as I felt it could have used a bit more salt.
  • Wait for it to cool so I don’t burn my tongue
  • Top it with either whip cream, brown sugar crumble or caramel sauce depending on how decadent I want it to be.

But I may also not change a thing.

Hachis Parmentier

October 22, 2010 § 17 Comments

Hmmmm.  This post is difficult for me.  I have to admit straight away that I grew up with Shepard’s Pie being one of my favorite dishes.  My mother made one weekly and it was delicious.  Given that it has been at least 20 years since I had one of hers, maybe my memory of it is greater than it should be, but I don’t think I am wrong about this one.  One thing I do remember about my mothers was that she would put the mashed potatoes in a piping bag and make big fluffy florets of mashed potatoes that would puff up and turn brown and be slightly crispy and slightly chewy.  That puff of mash would always be my last bite.

I was looking forward to making this dish because I have long been looking for the elusive magical recipe from my childhood.  My mother died about 15 years ago, long enough ago that I wasn’t all that interested in cooking and it didn’t cross my mind to gather any favorite recipes.  So, search I have and as of yet I have not found a Shepard’s Pie that tastes like hers.

Sadly, this recipe won’t be it either.  I chose to go the ‘Bonne Idee’ route as my mother’s was always made with ground beef.  Like with Gerard’s Mustard Tart, I think my disappointment was, in part, because of expectation and memory.  When you have in your mind what a Tart or a Shepard’s pie will taste like, ultimately, when it tastes different, you can’t help but be disappointed.

This would score about a 6 out of 10 in the world of Shepard’s Pie.  There was not enough flavour in the meat and the sauce was not thick enough, nor flavourful enough.  The cheese topping is good but doesn’t add enough taste to merit its addition. I ate mine with the addition of HP sauce, my husband added HP and Worcestershire sauce and my daughter a lot of ketchup.

I’d like to say that next time I would do the following differently:

Add Worcestershire sauce when browning the meat, add more tomato paste and perhaps even make a roux to really create a strong base of sauce for the filling. But saying that, I realize that I won’t make this dish again and rather just continue in my quest for the ultimate Shepard’s Pie recipe.

A note about our wine.  Again, I asked my wine guy at my local market for a suggestion.  He picked a 2008 Bodegas Juan Gil, a Spanish red that goes great with beef.  He recommended it for it’s being sweet and light, something that wouldn’t be too strong along side my pie. I thought it was a great pick.

Redemption in a bowl of soup

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

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Gerard’s Mustard Tart

October 9, 2010 § 5 Comments

Well, its been made and eaten with a great deal of enjoyment.  The tart was delicious and that it was so pretty seemed an added bonus.  The aroma as it baked was gorgeous, even my daughter, who is still fighting whatever it was that took her down on Saturday, commented on how good the room smelled.

I went with the ‘Bonne Idee’ version since our market is heaving with heirloom tomatoes right now.  My husband was helping me season the egg/creme fraiche mix and we both thought it needed more bite.  This is most likely a result of the brands of mustard we happened to be using or just our personal taste.  We ended up adding about 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to add some sharpness to the mixture.  I added five slices of tomato which cause the filling to spill over the top of the crust, and since the recipe explicitly says not to let this happen, I spooned out some of the egg mixture.

The tart was beautiful.  It cooked perfectly in just under 30 minutes.  The dough, unlike my first attempt with Dorie’s sweet tart dough, turned out perfectly.  The tart itself had a great balance of flavours and went perfectly with a simple green salad and a glass of white (more about the glass of white in a minute).

But, for me this tart crossed too far into the realm of being a quiche.  With one more egg and almost as much cream in the recipe as the neighbouring one for a quiche (Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche, p. 157), why is this is a tart and not a quiche?  I would love to know if there is a distinction or if it’s just a matter of taste and preference.  Also if anyone has a tip for getting a crust not to shrink beneath the edges of the pan while baking I’d love to hear it.

As much a I enjoyed Gerard’s Mustard Tart, I think I’ll stick with my tried and true tart recipes and look forward to trying quiche on a French Friday to come.

A note on the wine.  At my local market I am lucky enough to have befriended the wine buyer.  Tonight he sent me home with a Macon Villages, Cave de Lugny that paired perfectly with the tart. I’m not usually a lover of Chardonnay but the smooth, slightly sweet taste of this one seemed to heighten the acidity of the mustard in the tart.

My first French Friday

October 3, 2010 § 3 Comments

I came across Tuesdays with Dorie a little to late to join in.  So now I am going to take my first leap into blogging by joining French Fridays with Dorie.  My copy of the book arrived Thursday and with work, school and a husband still out of town I thought there was no way I would get to the Gougeres any time soon.  It was thus a blessing and a curse that my daughter started throwing up on Saturday morning (traumatizing her friend who was sitting next to her).  A curse because we had a good day planned but in the end it turned out alright as I got to jump into the Gougeres while she napped on the couch.

And, they turned out great.  Things to do differently next time:

  • If serving them with nothing else add more cheese or use a sharper one.  I didn’t get much of a cheese flavour out of mine.
  • Put the batter in a piping bag.  I struggled with sticky dough and a tablespoon and ended up with unevenly sized mounds and in the end only had 28 Gougeres (recipe said it would make 36).
  • I froze 10 so I’ll come back and comment on how those turn out.

Overall – incredibly easy and would make them again.  A friend of mine cuts them in half and fills them with chicken salad…I think I’ll try that next time.

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