Honey Hazelnut Cake

Honey Hazelnut Cake

Yesterday, my parents came over for tea. This is always a perfect occasion for me to bake (yeah, like I need one), and today being my father’s birthday, I decided to bake a cake. After perusing my cookbooks and recipe files, I set my heart on this Honey Hazelnut Cake from the book “Les Gâteaux de Mamie”.

The original recipe is titled “Gâteau aux noisettes et au miel”, and is actually for cupcakes, but this was a birthday occasion and cupcakes would not do, so I made it as one cake. I noticed the amount of ingredients wouldn’t make a lot of dough, but it being just the three of us that was fine, and I decided to use my small non-stick charlotte pan that’s 18 cm in diameter, which resulted in the cutest mini-cake (you can see the size compared to the knife on this pic).

We enjoyed it very much. Both flavors come out very distinctly, and the inside is very moist and airy. It is a great companion to a cup of tea. The outside was a little too cooked for my taste, but my parents didn’t mind (at least they said so!).

This is a recipe I will definitely repeat, as it is pretty easy to make, but here’s what I will do next time :
– double the recipe,
– toast the hazelnuts to bring out the flavor even more.

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Absolute Chocolate Tartlets

Absolute Chocolate Tartlets

[Absolute Chocolate Tartlets]

I could have met my friends Marie-Laure and Laurence at a Chocoholics Anonymous meeting, so when they came over for dinner last night, I decided I would treat them to Absolute Chocolate Tartlets.

The recipe comes from one of my cookbooks, called Je Veux du Chocolat! (“I want chocolate!”) by Trish Deseine – another much cherished present from Maxence. In the book, it is called “Tarte Absolue” and is made as one big tart, but I love making single-serving things, especially desserts, and I wanted to use the little tartlet molds I had bought at E. Dehillerin two weeks ago : fluted edged, non-stick, with removable bottoms.

This is a pretty time-consuming dessert to make, but it’s a lot of fun, and the result is way worth it!

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Zucchini Stuffed with Quinoa and Ricotta

Stuffed zucchini

“Man, I’m stuffed!” said the zucchini.

Tonight, Laurence and Marie-Laure are coming for dinner, and as a main dish, I will serve them Quinoa Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini.

Those small round zucchinis had caught my eye in the sidewalk stall of our produce store and I immediately saw, in blinking letters : “stuffed zucchini!”. I got nine of them as there would be three of us, three always being a good number of items to have on a plate.

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Swiss Chard Pie

Swiss Chard Pie

Spinach is one of the rare vegetables I will not eat. Possibly, this has to do with the green puke they were trying to pass off as spinach at summer camp. I did try real supposedly yummy fresh spinach, but could not take it. Bleh. The only form I can eat it in, is when it doesn’t taste like spinach at all, in spinach ravioli for instance.

Now, people tell me swiss chard tastes very much like spinach, so my taste buds must be a bit weird, as I seem to love swiss chard about as much as I loathe its cousin. I had been craving swiss chard pie all summer, so last week-end, when I saw big bunches of it at the produce store, I got one. It was so huge I had to cut it in two so it would fit in the fridge. But that was very easily done with my new extra-sharp chef knife. Heh.

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Chouquettes (Sugar Puffs)

Chouquettes are little puffs of choux pastry, sprinkled with coarse sugar.

They can be bought by the weight in French bakeries, in a thin bulging paper bag. When you’re a kid, the best part is eating the sugar cristals that have collected at the bottom of the bag when the last of the chouquettes has been devoured. The proper way to do this is lick your index finger and gently pick up the cristals (be warned, you may have to fight your sister for them), until the sugar is crushed too finely and you give up, then just pour the remnants directly into your mouth, shaking the paper bag to get it all.

Chouquettes are also one of my boyfriend’s favorites, and he can tell you which bakeries around his office or in our neighborhood have reached the best standards in quality chouquettes.

When you’re a kid, the best part is eating the sugar cristals that have collected at the bottom of the bag when the last of the chouquettes has been devoured.

Having recently, and to my great delight, found a bag of the special coarse sugar that chouquettes require, Saturday afternoon found me happily setting forth on the project of making my own sugar puffs, sort of following the recipe given by this great cookbook Maxence (who knows me oh-so-well) gave me for my birthday last year, called “Les Gâteaux de Mamy” (Grandma’s cakes). I say “sort of” because I did compare this recipe with others I found on the web, and changed a few things around based on their recommendations, like I usually do.

The first batch was submitted to the test of the in-house expert, who declared them yummy. He did say they were a little moister and eggier tasting than bakery-bought chouquettes, and I decided that this was because they were a little undercooked, as our oven seems to run a little colder than it says (note to self, buy an oven thermometer, find out if this is true and quit complaining). Some websites recommended to leave them to cool down a little in the turned off oven, but I am Jack’s lack of patience, and I couldn’t resist taking them out right away, which did cause them to deflate a little (no incidence on taste, of course, just looks).

So the second batch was baked at a higher temp and for longer, leaving them inside for a little while this time. (The instructions below reflect this method.) This batch turned out to be just what our tastebuds hoped for : slightly crusty yet tender little pillows that melt in your mouth, contrasting with the delicously crunchy sugar cristals.

UPDATE 1. Below is a revised recipe, as it appears in Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, my book on Paris restaurants and food shops.

UPDATE 2. I have slightly improved upon the recipe with a couple of tricks: I now sprinkle the baking sheet with pearl sugar so the chouquettes are more evenly studded, and I brush the raw chouquettes with a sugar syrup to form a slight caramelized crust on top, and help the pearl sugar adhere.

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