Blé Sucré

Living in Paris, one has the luxury of having a a boulangerie or patisserie on just about every block or street corner. In my few weeks here, I can honestly say that I think I have already eaten enough baguettes to last me a lifetime. For 1 euro, it’s such an easy snack or accompaniment to a meal at a very cheap price.

While I have eaten myself through enough baguettes, the same cannot be said for croissants and pastries. I have such a sweet tooth and a basic croissant au beurre is the perfect morning breakfast treat. Luckily for me, there is a wonderful little patisserie right down the block from called blé sucré (translated to wheat sugar). In the 3 block walk to blé sucré, there are about 10 other places to stop and grab an coffee and pain au chocolat, but believe me, the extra few blocks to this little gem of a shop are well worth it.

Their croissants are perfect. Just the right amount of flakiness and it peels apart into perfect strips. As I’ve sampled more and more croissants during my time here, you really do start to notice what separates the mediocre croissants from the epic ones. Mediocre ones tend to have a spongy texture and lacks the perfect flakey crust. The ones from blé sucré on the other hand earn top marks in all aspects of the perfect croissant.

The other day, I decided to venture off the beaten path of my usual regular croissant and happened to grab this piece of amazingness. I really need to start doing that more often because you usually end up with something even better than what you went in for in the first place. 

I’m not even quite sure what it is, as I didn’t hear the woman when she mentioned the name, but let me just say, it’s wonderful. If you like almond croissants, cinnamon buns, or danish pastry, this one if for you. Similar to a cinnamon bun, but without quite the gooiness factor of one, this peeled apart in rounds and had a maple/sugary type glaze on top with some slivered almonds. It was so delicious and as usual, I couldn’t control myself from eating it far too quickly. Along with a cup of coffee and a glass of juice, this would definitely be the perfect breakfast treat.

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Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Have I ever mentioned that I like pumpkin 😉 I think it goes without saying that ever since getting this cookbook for my birthday last month, I have been dying to make these muffins! It saddens me so much to think, that while you can buy canned pumpkin anytime of the year, it’s really a fall season flavor. I have decided that I will not let this pumpkin stereotype hinder me and I shall continue to bake with pumpkin all year long, no matter the weather!

These were super easy to make and would be the perfect breakfast muffin if one decided to wake up just 3o minutes early. Once all the wet and dry ingredients have been added together, the dough may seem a little dry, but not worry, as this is normal. Be sure to add some pepitas and extra cheese on top to give it that last boost of yumminess. These are definitely a little bit on the spicy side, but I’m sure one could leave out the cayenne and black pepper and they would still be quite enjoyable.

PUMPKIN CHEDDAR MUFFINS

Adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Revisited

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 12-cup muffin pan.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

3) In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and brown sugar.

4) Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

5) Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin sees on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

6) Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm. Makes 12 muffins.

7) Enjoy!

Peach Jam

I don’t know why, but starting about a month ago, I became obsessed with the idea of making jam. I don’t know where it came from – maybe seeing all the beautiful fruit at the farmers’ market? Or the beautiful display of canning products at the Broadway Panhandler?

Whatever it was, I finally decided to make jam last week! Having no prior experience making jam, I decided to order a jam kit online as well as a large stock pot, given that our largest pot isn’t even big enough to make a serving of pasta.

After venturing to the farmers’ market to buy perhaps some of the last peaches of the seasons, I started the jam-making process. It was actually a lot easier than I anticipated, it just takes a solid chunk of time where you really have to pay attention. At first, I was awfully confused with the whole boiling water bath for the jars, but I realized that with the help of the special rack that came with my pot, it was all actually quite easy.  I jumped around from recipe to recipe and had a hard time deciding between using pectin or just sugar. I finally decided on no-sugar pectin because it was the only kind they had at the supermarket and added about 2 cups of sugar. It didn’t come out quite how I wanted it – it was bit more of a fruit compote than jam – but it was still yummy and I’ve been having it on my toast most mornings.

I am 100% certain that this was just my first adventure in my new obession with jamming.

PEACH JAM

(Adapted from the pectin box and PickyourOwn)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 – 12 fresh peaches
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 box no-sugar added pectin
  • 1-4 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you want it

DIRECTIONS

1) Crush 1 cup chopped peaches in the bottom of a large saucepan. Add remaining peaches, and set pan over medium-low heat. Bring to a low boil, and cook for about 20 minutes or until peaches become liquid.

2) Add sugar, and bring to a boil once again over medium heat. Gradually stir in dry pectin, and boil for 1 minute.

3) Remove from heat after 1 minute, and transfer to sterilized jars. Process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. Let cool, and place on shelf.

Here is a great tutorial (towards the bottom) on processing jam in a hot water bath with a nifty little video that helped me a bunch!

Banana Bread

It’s been a rainy and dreary week here in New York City. I was almost blown over yesterday on my way to class by the wind and my jeans were soaked through by the time I got home in the evening. I keep looking at the sandals in my closet, wishing I could wear them instead of my rain-boots and sneakers everyday of the week. I think it might be just about time to break out the Birkenstocks and socks, but I know I’ll receive the wrath of my roommate who says I look ridiculous when I do that. I’d say it’s time that spring break get here ASAP!

I love banana bread. It’s the perfect breakfast accompaniment, but is also sweet enough to add to a dessert. I had the chance to sample this recipe a few weeks ago when I was babysitting and it was delicious – perfectly moist and sweet. I’ve been hoarding bananas from the dining hall and they finally turned the perfect shade of black and brown. I was able to use them the other night and the banana bread  was gobbled up by my suite-mates by the time I woke up the next morning. I always use the lesser amount of sugar, as the natural sugars in the banana compensate for additional sweetness. It’s quite simply and is easily mixed all by hand. I split my batch into two baking tins, but it could have easily all gone into one classic loaf pan. Keep an eye on the oven – I almost over-baked mine because I didn’t hear the timer go off. This is going to be my go to banana bread recipe from now on 🙂

BANANA BREAD

(Adapted from smittenkitchen.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted salted butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2) With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.

3) Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices.

4) Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix.

5) Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan.

6) Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean.

7) Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Nutty Granola

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to head upstate to spend some time at my uncle and aunt’s country house with a friend from school. I was so nice to be able to get out of the city for a bit. Their house is so nice and relaxing. We played in the snow, had a feast of a dinner on Saturday night and got to take a NIA class that my aunt teaches. It was an excellent way to spend any weekend, and if I could, I would go up all the time. Not as much homework was done as I would have liked, but oh well. The view up the Hudson was far too nice to allow me to sit down and write my essay 😉

One of the my favorite parts of our Saturday evening cooking escapades was the fact that I got to use my uncle’s nice big camera to take lots and lots of pictures of food. My aunt was making fun of me for taking pictures of food and not people, but there is just something about a good camera and food that seems to go together so well. I took so many photos of just about everything we were making – granola, ribs, veggies, even the butter. I can’t wait to someday get a good camera to use for taking pictures of food. I added a few of the other photos in addition to the granola at the end of this post. As I said, it was quite a feast. And no, I did not eat the ribs, I’m still vegetarian,  just incase you were wondering.

My uncle is the master of making granola. Everytime I go their house upstate, there are always huge canisters of the most delicious granola ever. I’ve made it with him before, but have never watched carefully what goes in it. This time, we made it together and he showed me the techniques for how he makes the best granola. As he reminded me over and over again, it’s very easy to customize granola to however you like it. If you like it extra nutty – add more nuts. If you like it more fruity – add more craisins or raisins or any other dried fruit you like. We made a huge batch, but given the rather intensive baking time it takes, it’s worth it to bake a whole big batch at once so it can last a longer time. When baking, be sure to keep an eye out on it as the edge can burn rather quickly. Once again, it’s nice to have a recipe, but granola is very adaptable, so have fun! 

UNCLE DOUG’S NUTTY GRANOLA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (Don’t chop to finely)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • up to 2 cups raisins or dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F

2) In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax seed meal, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, and cashews.

3) In a separate sauce pan, bring to low simmer,  the oil, honey, molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, spices, vanilla and water.

4) Slowly pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and mix until evenly blended. Spread in 2 9×13 greased cookies sheets.

5) Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, stirring every 20 minutes, or until toasted. Beware of granola browning too much a the edges.

6) Reduce heat to 200 degrees F for 30 minutes

7) After 30 minutes, turn oven off and let sit for another 30-90 minutes

8 ) Store in an airtight container

9) Enjoy 🙂



Scones Part II

So I’ve always been a big fan of scones. Well, actually, more my dad is a big fan of scones, which in turn has led me to become a big fan of scones. Last year, I found a recipe that I personally thought was fool proof. It was super easy, you could add any additions you wanted – blueberries, blackberries, chocolate chips – and they almost always turned out scrumptious. This past weekend, I decided to take a chance and try a new recipe. I decided to use Alton Brown’s recipe. I love his recipes, and this one was no exception. There is really never any excuse not to make fresh scones, because they are so easy and quick to make. I added some frozen bluberries to mine, cut them up into circles (I usually make triangles), popped them in the over, and voila – delicious scones.

This is bound to become my go to scone recipe from now on. I used low-fat cream but stuck with both shortening and butter. I’m sure you could just go with butter if you didn’t want to use shortening, but I had both on hand, so I figured why not. I also brushed the tops with some a little bit of left over cream to give them a bit of a shine when they were done. All in all, very good 🙂

SCONES

(Adapted from the foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup addition of choice (I used blueberries)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well.

3) Cut in butter and shortening.

4) In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Stir in fruit.

5) Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough out and cut into biscuit size rounds. Brush with extra cream.

6) Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.


Blueberry Scones

So I’m not going to lie, I have no where near enough time to bake as I would have liked now that I am in college. Everything just seems to be work work work and read read read with no time for baking. That being said, this past Thursday, during an afternoon when my writing class happened to be cancelled, I decided to make some scones. My dad tells me every day I should make scones and my suitemates seemed to like the idea of some pastries in the house as well.

I was about to venture out and use a new recipe, but after having already purchased the ingredients a few days prior, I just fell back on the classic recipe that I use all the time and never ceases to fail me. ( I didn’t make the glaze and used blueberries instead of strawberries) While the recipe never fails, our oven does. After keeping the scones in for longer then I ever do – and I even cut them smaller – they had still not baked all the way through. The dial said it was at 400 degrees, but I find that very hard to believe. Oh well. They were a little gooey, but still sweet and yummy.

Strawberry and Blueberry Scones

This week has gone by mad crazy fast! I can’t believe it’s almost Friday. I only have about 3 weeks left of school. Hallelujah! In some ways, it is a little bit sad, but honestly, I can’t wait until summer and then NYC in the fall – although with the 80+ degree weather that is expected this weekend, I would say summer is already upon us in full force.

Anyway, enough reminiscing and on to more interesting things – baking that is. Today in french class, Ms. Jones was out with the french exchange students at the beach and we were left to basically fend for myself. Of course I spent half the period doing nothing and half the period looking at recipes. I then realized that Friday morning we have french first and I immediately blurted out “Who wants scones tomorrow?” Almost everyone’s response was a hearty “yes,” and so began my adventure of making scones.

I have never made them before, but they didn’t seem all that hard. Batch one turned out great, a little undercooked maybe – or so my dad said – but other wise good shape and form and nice aroma. The second batch, using a different recipe was a complete disaster. Note to self – never use fresh strawberries in a blender; everything gets mushy and unusuable. So after a failure batch, but still boxes of left over strawberries, I went back to the first recipe again. All of this result in one set of yummy blueberry scones and another set of what appear to be rather good looking strawberry scones, although the strawberries do look a little mushy. I hope they like them in the morning!


adapted from the foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

Scones:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or 1 cup of fresh strawberries – whichever you prefer)

Lemon Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.
  5. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.
  6. Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape.
  7. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Glaze

  1. Mix the lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the lemon zest and butter.
  3. Nuke it for 30 seconds on high.
  4. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.

Banana Nut Muffins

So every few weeks or so we bring in muffins to my history class because it’s first period of the day. Last time I brought in cupcakes which were so good, but I figured cupcakes aren’t the best breakfast food, so this time iI decided to make muffins, specifically banana nut ones. The recipe came from the cookbook How to Cook Everything. It was very simple, but since it called for molasses instead of sugar and less milk because of the bananas, it was very thick, so in the end, I needed to add about 1/2 cup milk more then the recipe called for.


INGREDIENTS

*3 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil plus some for greasing muffin tin
*2 cups all purpose flour
*¼ cup molasses or honey
*½ tsp salt
*3 tsp baking powder
*1 egg
*1/4 cup milk
*1 cup mashed ripe bananas
*½ cup roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400* F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with muffin liners.
2. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, milk, butter or oil, molasses and banana.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist; add more milk or other liquid if necessary.
5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about 2/3 of the way full and handling the batter a little as possible.
6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of them comes out clean.
7. Remove from the over and let rest for 5 minutes before taking them out of the tin.