Grenoblois: Grenoble Caramel Walnut Cake

Today was sort of a baking fiasco.  I love my kitchen, the huge amount of space, my wonderful marble countertops (great for kneading), and the funky color scheme ( mint green ceiling, yellow tiled walls, and terracotta mexican tiling).  But I HATE MY OVEN.  I think the last time this kitchen was updated was in 1986, when kitsch was cool.  I mean, it’s still cool, in a retro sort of way, but an oven that is from that year…..well, do I have to say anything more?

I have a hard time baking in this oven.  It’s either too hot, or not hot enough.  The times that I know I need for certain cakes/brownies/cookies etc. are all out of whack, and it frustrates me to no end.

But, I persevered, and through blind faith and luck, the cake came out great, albeit a little denser than I would have wanted.  I baked it in a bundt mold, a large one, but it looks like it was made in a miniature one.  But, no despair, the most important part is the taste right?

I decided to make this because I hadn’t since I was at culinary school, and I had a surplus of walnuts in my pantry.

This cake is really wonderful as an alternative dessert, instead of flour you use bread crumbs, and that is why it is so moist and dense.  The beaten egg whites help to make it a little fluffier, but when you take it out of the oven, it will sink.  That’s ok though.  Taste is not compromised!

It’s lovely with coffee, even better with a brandy.  Your choice!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g butter, melted

250g walnuts

6 eggs, separated

200g sugar

3 tbsp rum (I used Frangelico, hazelnut liqueur)

1 tsp instant coffee dissolved with 1 tsp water

3/4 cups breadcrumbs

For the caramel:

6 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp water, at room temperature

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp frangelico or rum

walnuts

Preheat oven to 200C (400F).  Butter your cake pan and set aside.  Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor.

Combine egg yolks with 2/3 cup (150g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand up mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until pale and fluffy, and doubled in volume, 10 minutes.  Fold in the butter, your liqueur, and coffee, then the bread crumbs and walnuts.

Wash out your bowl, or if you have another one, beat the egg whites, fitted with the whisk, until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining sugar, and beat until smooth and shiny.  Gently fold the egg whites into the walnut mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until browned, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 6 tbsp sugar, water, lemon juice and liqueur in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until a dark caramel forms, then add the walnuts.

Turn the cake out onto a serving platter.  Pour the caramel over.  Let cool completely before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Summer Cherry Tart

It’s cherry season!! Cherries. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  Ok, ok…..I won’t.  But boy are they amazing.  Little tiny morsels bursting with sweet, tart juice.  I could eat them all day.  But strangely enough, I hardly ever cook with them.  Well, not strangely enough, they don’t last enough in my fridge to make it into any dessert.  I eat them like popcorn.  They’re addictive, and healthy.

But, I wanted to make a sort of pie with them, no, a more fancy version.  A tart.  Oui oui, I wanted to go all fancy on them, give them the sophistication they deserve.  Hence I came up with this, it’s not a clafouti, and it isn’t a pie….it’s a tart with a baked custard.  But the custard isn’t overpowering so that it won’t let the full flavors of the cherries shine through.  I wanted them to be the starring role, not the side-show.  I love this dessert because it isn’t overly sweet.  And the crust has just the right amount of saltiness, and it melts and crumbles in your mouth.

It’s great for tea time, (if you still do that) or for a light dessert.  You can add a little crème anglaise, or some vanilla ice cream, but I love it just the way it is.  (Cue Billy Joel).

I have to say, the crust is the most confounding thing.  In french it’s a Sable, which basically means it’s a b*tch to work with.  It’s kind of like a short crust, so when you’re rolling it, you have to be extremely patient and careful…..cause this sucker is like a petulant child, tearing and breaking at a whim.  But the final result is well worth it.  Just make sure to keep your work surface dusted with plenty of flour, your hands and rolling-pin too.   And the amount of liquid, it’s better to add a small amount first, then continue adding tsp by tsp…because if you add too much, then you’ve reached a point of no return with this dough.

Ok, so if that last paragraph didn’t scare you and you still want to give this a whirl, here’s what you’re going to need”

Short crust dough (recipe follows)

1 egg

40 g flour

40 g butter, melted and cooled

1 tbsp Kirsch (or cherry liqueur)

30 g sugar

75 ml of cold milk

1 Vanilla pod, cut lengthwise

450 g pitted cherries

Powdered sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, crack your egg and add your flour, mix but not too much.  Add the melted butter and Kirsch, then add your sugar and milk.  Scrape the vanilla seeds into your mixture.

Roll out your dough into a 1/4 of an inch disk, and make sure it is an inch larger than the tart pan you’re going to use.  Put it in the fridge and let cool for about 20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg celsius, and with a fork poke the bottom of your dough, cover with parchment, fill with pie weights or beans, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove your weights, and bake another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and raise the temperature to 200 celsius.  Arrange the cherries on the crust, and cover with your milk mixture.  Bake for about 25-35 minutes, the top should be a golden brown and when you insert a knife it should come out clean.  Place over a rack to cool, then remove the sides of the tart pan and let it cool to room temperature.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Short crust dough recipe:

250 g flour

150 g butter, chilled and cut into squares

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp cold milk (more if needed, but tsp by tsp)

In a large bowl place the flour, salt and butter.  With a pastry cutter, or your fingers crumble until you get a wet sand texture. Add the egg and milk and form dough into a tight ball.  If it is too crumbly, add a little more milk.

Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

The Bistro Salad : Eggs, Frisee and Lardons……with a touch of wild Asparagus!

 

As I mentioned in Facebook yesterday, I had a friend coming over for lunch.  And he is a foodie like me.  So, I was in a state, what do I make for lunch???  I always make something I am comfortable at doing, like pasta, but yesterday, I didn’t have the time to make a sauce that he hadn’t tried before.  So, what do I do?  Well……my go to ingredient is eggs.

Funny thing about eggs.  I HATED them as a kid.  I am ashamed to say that when my mother made them, every morning for breakfast, fried, I would eat the WHITE, and leave out the YOLK.  Yes, I can see you all clucking you tongues and waving your heads in utter disappointment.  And, I do the same to the little me.  Shame on little me.  Eggs are DIVINE.  They are rustic, yet supremely sophisticated.  They are for breakfast, they are for dinner.  Heck, they are almost in every dish we eat, sides, mains, desserts.  Eggs are the benchmark of french trained culinary chefs.  They measure your worth in how perfectly you prepare an omelette.

Now, I have to say, I love love love love my eggs now.  Every which way (except for raw, that is one frontier I have not crossed yet, but who knows).  And now I have to say, I SUCK ROYALLY at poaching them.  So, I have a nifty trick, which I am sure most of you do too, and that is to wrap them in plastic and then place them in the water.

I usually poach them this way for about 6 minutes in simmering water.  But a good simmer, not a wimpy one.  But my trick also is to take them out and give them a good jiggle.  If you don’t see any snotty white parts, then you’re good to go.  Unless you like those parts.  And I don’t.

So, yesterday I made that tried and true Bistro Salad, Oeufs avec Lardons et Frisee.  Frisee salad with lardons and poached eggs, but I found these wonderful wild asparagus, here they call them “triguero”, they are really thin, almost reed-like.  They taste like fresh forest, grassy almost.  Delicious.  Oh, and I added some fresh tarragon to my egg bundle, because I love tarragon.  You can add any herb you like, it’s so amazing because when you cook it this way, it becomes part of the egg, and infuses it with the herbs’ flavor.

So, this is a really simple, but filling meal for lunch or dinner.

You’re going to need:

Frisee Escarole Lettuce

Lardons (Bacon, Pork Jowls, Pancetta etc.)

Asparagus (white, wild, green)

Eggs

Tarragon (or any other herb that you prefer)

Salt, Pepper and some really good vinegar (like sherry, red wine, champagne)

And some crusty bread.  You’re gonna want to sop up the yolk.  I do now.  (Thanks for the round of applause folks!)

Wash and rinse your Frisee Escarole, and then hand “chop” into bite size pieces and place on your serving plate.

Cook up some lardons, a.k.a, bacon, pork jowl, pancetta, anything you have on hand, and reserve the fat.  That is the oil we are going to use.  Just cause it’s a salad, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  But it’s tasty!

In the same pan that you fried your “lardons” quickly saute your asparagus.

In a small stock pot, bring some water to a simmer.  Get some plastic wrap, and place it into a small bowl, making sure that it is big enough to hold your egg and for you to be able to tie a knot.  The plastic wrap should hang over the sides of the bowl.  Place a teeny bit of olive oil in the wrap, some of your herbs, some salt and pepper, and then crack your egg into it.  Bring up all the corners and tie it into a knot, without any air bubbles.  The air bubbles will make your egg float and it won’t cook properly.  Put it into the simmering water for about 6 minutes, and then unwrap it.

So, now you can drizzle your lardons and it’s oil over your frisee, add a little salt and pepper and mix it up.  Place your egg on top, and then top that with the asparagus.  Drizzle a little vinegar on top of everything, crack your egg and whoop for joy.

You have an amazing lunch/dinner/snack/appetizer in front of you!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla