Chantilly

If you’re at all the food connoisseur like I am, I imagine the first think you think of when you think of Chantilly is whipped cream, right? Well, I did anyway 😉 After seeing that Chantilly was only a half hour away from Paris by train, my friends and I thought this would be the perfect place to go for a day trip over the weekend. My original idea had been to go and sample whipped cream all day long, but I soon realized that while whipped cream might have been a reason to go all the way there, the true attraction was the Château de Chantilly.

After quite the adventure of figuring out which tickets we needed for the train (somehow we made it much more complicated than it needed to be) and a 30 minute walk through the mist from the train station, we arrived at our destination. Château de Chantilly has been built and rebuilt many times throughout history. Originally built in 1484, the château as it stands right now after being torn down torn down a few times and even destroyed in the French Revolution dates from the 1800’s. Like any historical site in France, this beautiful château has huge amount of history within its walls. The Montmarcy Family were the primary residents during the Renaissance, and the CondĂŠ family proceeded them from the mid-1600’s to 1830, after which it was passed down to a handful of people until the Institute de France took hold of it in 1871. 

Not only is it a beautiful castle over looking thousands of acres of gardens, but it houses one of the best and largest fine art galleries in all of France after the Louvre, something I did not even know about until we arrived. They have paintings by Raphael and portraits of hundreds of nobles and monarchs of France. Supposedly there were some sketches by Michael Angelo, but I didn’t happen to see those. Although the weather outside was rainy, it was a wonderful day to go as there were only about 30 other people in the entire gallery, so you could spend as much or as little time in front of a piece as you wanted.

There are countless sculptures and paintings dedicated to dogs and animals – I think the residents of the château were big animal people – along with a beautiful library that contains manuscripts that date from the 11th century. It was amazing to be in a room surrounded by so many old things. Ya, I guess that happens a lot when you go to museums, but there was something about all these books and the knowledge that they contained that had an awe-inspiring factor to them. 

The gardens were designed by the same guy who designed the ones at the little palace called Versailles. We didn’t get to explore the gardens too much because of the rain, but there are huge stables which are almost bigger than the château themselves. In the summer, they have big horse expos and shows. As we walked away, I said this would be the type of place where I’d want to have my wedding on a sunny summer day 😉 

After a few hours in the château, we walked back into town where we had some delicious crepes in a Cuban inspired restaurant. 

While I didn’t find the bowls of whipped cream that I had been anticipating, I didn’t end the afternoon with this little piece of deliciousness.

Some more pictures from the afternoon in Chantilly: 

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Pumpkin Pudding

Yes, I know it’s January, but as I’ve said before, I think pumpkin really should be enjoyed all year round. It’s just so good! And yes, I did bring two cans of pumpkin with me to France (I know, I’m crazy). One I used back in Marseille for my pumpkin cake that I made for Christmas and I was saving my second can for something super special. I saw this recipe and realized this indeed was a special recipe. 

I had actually seen this pudding back around Thanksgiving, but over Thanksgiving I was so dead set on only have pies for desserts that I looked past anything that wasn’t in a pie shell. In retrospect, this would have been a wonderful addition to the dessert feast and I am certainly already thinking about making it next year. 

Ya, it’s a pretty basic recipe, but the results are delicious. It’s like eating straight from the inside of a pumpkin pie, skipping the crust completely. Heating of the ingredients gives it a silky smooth texture and although you’re supposed to let them cool to room temperature before you serve, I snagged one right off the pan and it was pretty tasty warm as well. I bet if you added some stiff egg whites to this, it would be even more mousse like and equally as delicious. As usual, I doubled the spices, and actually used more nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice instead of the ginger and cloves as I didn’t have any of those my limited spice collection. The pudding sinks a little bit in the ramekins after a few minutes out of the oven, but topping them with some whipped cream makes up for the lost space in the ramekin. Speaking of whipped cream, beating whipped cream by hand is a PAIN IN MY BUTT! I think I spent 15 minutes whipping before my arm basically gave out and I still didn’t have anything resembling whipped cream (I was too depressed to take a picture, but you’ll have to believe me).

PUMPKIN PUDDING

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups (from a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a saucepan.
  3. Heat over medium-high. Once glurping and simmering in the pot, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. The mixture will thicken and get a bit darker. Reduce heat slightly and whisk in milk and cream. Off the heat, slowly whisk in eggs.
  5. Divide between 7 to 8 ovenproof 6-ounce pudding cups or ramekins on a baking sheet (I used 4 ramekins and 3 mini espresso cups)
  6.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puddings barely jiggle when shimmied and/or a knife tip inserted into the center of puddings comes out clean. Try not to overbake.
  7. Top with whipped cream!

Strawberry Shortcake

What a week! I had work everyday, saw a show with my roommate, made some amazing dinners and went upstate yesterday for my cousins birthday party. I was so excited to get out of the city for a day. As much as I love NYC, it is always nice to get out of the city for a little bit, even if only for the day. Ten kids went up in the morning and ran themselves ragged playing kickball, swimming, eating food, and smashing a piĂąata to smithereens. I mostly hung out in the kitchen and manning the barbeque. I also took a quick bike ride down the mountain with my uncle, which once again proved that I need to get my butt into shape.

Not only was it my cousin’s birthday (it’s actually tomorrow but we celebrated a little early) but it was also my aunt’s birthday. Since we were getting a Crumbs birthday cake for my cousin, I decided to make a strawberry shortcake for my aunt because she told me how much she loves fresh berries and May is certainly the month for strawberries. I made the shortcake Friday evening in the city and then cut up fresh strawberries and made whipped cream when I got to their house on Saturday morning.

I’ve never made a strawberry shortcake before, but after looking at the recipe, I realized it was quite similar to making scones, which are one of my favorite things to make, so I was quite excited. I usually think of strawberry shortcake as being made with angel food cake, but this is much more dense – just like a scone. I’m not sure I liked it so dense, so if I make it again, I will probably head the angel food cake route. I was planning on cutting the cake in half to put the whipped cream in the center, but given how little the cake had risen I was worried I wouldn’t have enough cake to cut. I realized soon after I bit into it that I should have cut it in half to soak in more of the juices, but it was too late, so oh well.  This is certainly a quick and easy dessert to whip up, especially if you get your hands on some fresh strawberries and whipped cream 🙂

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

(Adapted from allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 pints fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups whipped heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

1) Slice the strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Set aside

2) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.

3) In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the salt.

4) With a pastry blender cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.

5) Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.

6) Slice partially cooled cake in half, making two layers. (I didn’t do this part, but I recommend it)

7) Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the other layer. Top with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.