Passover Treats

It’s that time of year again – out with the baguettes, the croissants, the pain au chocolat, in with the matzohs, brisket and macaroons. Somehow giving up these leavened confections seems to much more difficult here in France, but luckily for me I’m headed to London for the first 4 days of Pesach, so I won’t be tempted too much. 

I have never been to London before. Actually, I’ve never been anywhere in England, so when my friend Jess invited me to her home in London for seder, I was thrilled! London is one of those places that I’ve always assumed I would go to but never set my mind on going. Now that I’m finally headed across the channel, I’m really starting to get excited. While I won’t be able to do all my usual culinary samplings because of Passover, I’d say it’s fortunate I’m not coming to Paris for the first time, as missing out on all the boulangeries here would be just sinful.  

All London is straight out of a Harry Potter film, right? 

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Passover recipes. Hopefully I’ll be able to whip something up before I hop on the train Friday morning or maybe I’ll be able to make something when we arrive 🙂 I’m going to head down to the Marais in a little bit (the Jewish section of Paris) to see what treats they might have on sale now! And I’m sure I’ll have a full update on London next week!

My award winning macaroons 

An easy flourless chocolate torte

Lemon meringue pie

And probably my favorite recipe at all (that I never get around taking pictures of) Caramel Matzoh

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Two years ago I was in Panama drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Last year I was in the Alps hanging out with this guy…

And this year I imagine I shall be celebrating somewhere out in France. Funny how this has turned into such an international holiday for me! Being over in Paris, I know a lot of my friends are planning on heading over to Dublin for the weekend. I cannot wait to hear the crazy stories that I’m sure will come out of those adventures!

With St. Patrick’s Day in the air, I figured a cookie with a beer reduction added to it seemed quite appropriate. These are some super delicious cookies – they have 3 types of chocolate in them! I might not be the most authoritative figure on beer tasting, but I couldn’t really taste the beer. It’s definitely in there though, so if you want to make something with alcohol in for this beer drinking holiday, I promise you, this has beer in it!!

I know some people don’t really like white chocolate, but it’s the perfect compliment to this chocolate cookie. The beer reduction certainly gives the cookies their deep brown color even if the taste doesn’t shine through. I’m really missing my mix master a lot these days, as I know these cookies would have been that much better if I could have whipped the butter just a little more than my poor arm, which was trying as hard as it could with a simple little whisk. Of course, these was almost a whole sheet pan of these that didn’t even make it to the cooling rack before they found their way into my mouth 🙂

ST. PATRICK’S DAY CHOCOLATE BEER COOKIES

(Adapted from The Galley Gourmet)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 (12-ounce) bottles of Guinness extra stout or draught
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 extra large egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

1) In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the Guinness and the brown sugar, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until thick and syrupy and measures 1/3 cup, about 30-45 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (OR WITH YOUR OWN ARM!), cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

4) With the mixer on low, gradually add the cooled beer syrup, mixing until combined.  Gradually add the dry mixture until no flour is visible.

5) Fold in both the white and milk chocolate chips.

6) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours, preferably overnight.

7) Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop (about 2 tablespoons), scoop out portions of the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet spaced 3 inches apart.

8) Bake the cookies until the edges are set, about 15-17 minutes.

9)  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

10) Enjoy!

A Belgian Journey: Part I – Brussels

Only three days away from Paris and it feel like I was completely displaced from reality. For my first trip out of France of the semester, I went off to Brussels for the weekend with some friends and somehow it seemed so much longer. It was an absolutely amazing trip that I wish never had to end, but in a way, it’s nice to be able to call Paris home now and walking into my apartment last night after three nights in foreign beds was quite the lovely (albeit cold) feeling.

We started off on Thursday night to Brussels. I found an apartment on airBnB, which was seriously amazing. Anyone who wants to travel should really look into it – it’s cheap, easy, and instead of hostel or hotel, you have a real apartment to go back to with amenities and such. Awesome find! Anyway…

Our first evening in Brussels was spent walking around looking for a bar, but after realizing Brussels in not quite the happening on Thursday night, we ventured back to our place with some beers and cookies in hand. The beer selection here is really out of control. Even in the tiny corner bodega, they had at least 45 varieties of beer and interesting ones too. I should preface this all by saying I have been on antibiotics this week fighting a bronchitis type infection, so unfortunately, my alcohol consumption was greatly impeded this weekend, although that doesn’t mean I could look at all the pretty bottles!

Friday morning we started the day by walking towards the Mannekin Piss and a place that I heard about which great waffles. (New thought in life – only in Belgium does one find true authentic waffles). Lets just say the walk was worth it for the waffles, but not the Mannekin Piss. Seriously, I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s a little boy, perhaps a little more than 2 feet tall, peeing. No great shakes, although there were certainly enough tourists around to make you think other wise. 

More exciting than Mannekin Piss himself are all the chocolate statues made out of him…

Now to say it was cold during our stay in Brussels was an understatement. It was freezing! And there was snow and ice on the ground, making walking treacherous at times. So after our early morning waffles, after which our fingers almost fell off trying to eat them, we went into a cute little cafe to grab some coffee and warm up. 

Perhaps one of the biggest tourist draws is the Grand Place, which unlike Mannekin Piss, is actually a beautiful grand piazza with old buildings gilded in gold. We spent a few minutes ogling the buildings and trying to get some good pictures, but once again, the cold forced us to move on somewhat quickly as standing anywhere for too long was not comfortable. 

Our next stop was the Magritte Museum, dedicated to the works of the surrealist artist Rene Magritte. I really had no knowledge about who or what he did before we got there, but I left feeling a whole lot smarter about surrealist art. I don’t mangle up what he believed in completely, so I highly recommend you take a look at his wiki page and ponder this thought…

This is not a pipe:

Now once again, the lovely thing about having a nice apartment to go back to and not a dingy hostel was that at 4 in the afternoon, feeling exhausted and cold, we decided to head back to the apartment and take some well deserved naps. Of course, we didn’t make it all the way back without a stop at a chocolate shop first though!

After some lovely naps in a gloriously heated apartment, we made our way to dinner at Fin de la Siecle, near Grand Place. Now, I don’t know who here has been to Brussels before, but somehow the streets do not make sense! We were walking down towards the middle of town and then I see on the map that the restaurant is off to the right a bit, so I say, “hey, why don’t we try a new direction and walk right?” 15 minutes later, after stopping to ask for directions, I discovered we had somehow gone in the complete wrong direction even though the map seemed to say otherwise. Being a big fan of maps and having a generally pretty good sense of direction, I was incredibly distressed. All was well though when we finally got to the restaurant and had a delicious and cheap meal. 

We rounded out at the evening at a tourist trap of a bar called Delirium Cafe. They are famous for having over 2000 types of beer. All I honestly took from the place was that it was loud and crowded. Apparently I was the only one who was unimpressed though, as it was  packed with hundreds of people! 

Even in our one day in Brussels, I felt like we accomplished a lot. Although we were in a foreign country from our host home of France, and especially from home home in New York, it was nice to still be able to speak the language. I’m realizing more and more that I have not really done a lot of traveling in countries where I don’t know the language at all. Through my travels in France and Swizerland, French has always gotten me by and in Israel, I can understand and speak enough Hebrew that I don’t feel like a total stranger. As I do more traveling in Europe I guess I’m going to quickly have to accept that it’s going to probably happen more often than not that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb not knowing the language or knowing my bearings. I guess this is just another excuse to learn more languages, although French, Hebrew and Arabic are hard enough as it is now!

In order to not make this the longest post in history and as I’m far to lazy to edit all my photos at once, I shall post about our two days in Bruges later this week.

I leave you with the quote and the realization that I must have been born on a farm because I loved Bruges!

“Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.” -Colin Farrel in In Bruges

The Bastille Eclair

I’m realizing that in my pursuit to eat all the eclairs in Paris, I’m going to have a hard time writing about the shops that they come from because most patisseries here don’t have their own name. They just say Patisserie or Boulangerie out front. I guess I’ll just refer to the area from what it comes unless the store has its own name.

Anyway, this was my first eclair since the best one at Stohrer (actually, it’s not my first since then, but the first one that’s been worth writing about. Even in Paris you can find a really bad eclair). Right around the corner from me on Rue de La Roquette, is a very cute little patisserie that actually has an extensive display of pastries and breads for just being the corner bakery. I call it the Bastille eclair as you are stones throw away from the Bastille roundabout when you walk up to this patisserie.

I’ve had some bread from here before, but never anything else. After buying some produce at the market the other morning, I went inside to grab a croissant for breakfast. Needless to say, I walked out with 2 croissants and an eclair, since it looked so delicious.Since I had yet to have breakfast, I restrained myself and waited until I got home and had my croissant and coffee before I decided to take a bite out of the eclair. To start, it was definitely on the bigger side of eclairs that I have seen, making it all that much more alluring. I have to figure that getting anything this early in the morning means it has to be somewhat fresh, don’t you think? 

Right after my first bite, I knew that this was a decent eclair, but no where near the level of the Sthorer eclair, which all eclairs will now be compared to. While the pastry cream inside was good, although not quite as rich as I would have liked, the choux dough could not hold it’s own. Yes, I agree that the choux dough should be light, but this was just too light and flaky. As I’ve said, I had some bad eclairs here in Paris, so this definitely was not in the bad category, just not in the perfect category. Since this patisserie is just around the corner, I would certainly go back to grab another one, or maybe even try some of the other yummy things they had on display, but for now, I shall continue to sample more eclairs!!!

Rocky Ledge Bars

So I’m back to baking in my tiny little dorm room kitchen. I guess I can’t really complain given that most dorms don’t even have kitchens, but after the luxury of using my oven back home last weekend, I guess I still feel a little bit spoiled. That being said, I’m super happy to be back in NYC. I had a great time in Israel and North Carolina, but it was still so nice coming back and seeing my roommate and suite-mates. Classes are back in full swing and I’m already swamped with homework even in the first weekend.

That being said, Friday night we still had to have a bit of fun 😉 We had a big game night – mostly involving cranium and a super intense game of charades. There were about 11 of us and we all had loads of fun. I decided to make rocky ledge bars for our little soiree. I was almost going to make cupcakes, but then realized that those were way too involved for the hour I had designated for baking on Friday afternoon. They were super easy to make – although the brown sugar we had was rock solid and I had to spend 15 minutes softening it up in the microwave – but otherwise it was basically just dumping a bunch of chips, caramels, and marshmallows and a bit of cookie dough and popping in the oven.

I only got time to take a picture of the mixture, since they were all gobbled up during game night. As you can see, it’s just a jumble of amazing things. I kind of skimmed the recipe and decided to add more or less of whichever chocolate/caramel/marshmallow I liked. A+

ROCKY LEDGE BARS

(Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookie Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 18 soft caramel-candy cubes, coarsely chopped (I used these nifty little caramel balls that I found instead and used 1 cup)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, allowing a 2-inch overhang on the longer sides. Brush parchment with butter (not overhang)

2) Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

3) Using an electric mixer (I used a wooden spoon, since I didn’t feel like taking out the mixer), mix butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined.

4) Mix in flour mixture until combined. Fold in half of each of the marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch chips, and caramels.

5) Spread batter in prepared pan. Scatter remaining marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch chips, and caramels on top.

6) Bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

7) Let cool on a wire rack. Lift out of pan, and transfer to a baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes.

8 ) Remove parchment, and cut into about 16 triangles. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.