Tourteau Fromagé

This week in Paris is the Salon d’Agriculture! Ten different exhibition halls celebrate Agriculture in the world and France from showing different types of cows, chickens, and pigs, to farming supplies and innovations, to our favorite, regional French food! Including the discovery of this not so beautiful cake… the Tourteau Fromagé.

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The Tourteau Fromagé has a unique round shape and burned top! The name translates to baked cheesecake but the word “tourteau” by itself is actually a type of crab and might be where the shape comes from. It’s also believed that the name comes from the word “tourte” which means pie.

The cake originates from the Poitou-Charentes region which when you find out that the cake is made with fresh goat’s cheese, makes sense, as this region harbors 2/3rds of country’s goats.

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All good recipes seem to come from accidents, just like this one did. Plunged too quickly into a hot oven, the chef tried to save the cake by lowering the temperature. The top was burned, but it was soon discovered that the texture was incredible, similar to a dense angel food cake, and delicious as all of the moisture had been kept inside. The base of the cake is a thin pate brisée. The top serves a purpose too, keeping the cake from collapsing after it is baked.

Traditionally it was served in the region at weddings with Champagne, but now is often eaten for dessert or even breakfast. Some people eat the blackened crust, and others do not! It’s all personal preference, but is delicious either way.

 

 

 

Croissant Help Sheet!

Everyone knows croissants contain quite a bit of butter. That’s what makes them so delicious, flaky and could possibly be why they are a classic French breakfast item with a café!

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But have you ever tried to make croissants? There are lots of steps, they might be considered pretty tricky, but the results… oh it’s so worth it! I mean what’s better than a croissant fresh from the oven!

We love getting emails from our past students and have seen quite a few croissant questions over the years. We put all those together and the fabulous responses from our chefs to provide to you some croissant tips and tricks to make the best breakfast treat!

 

What butter should I use?

French boulangeries use butter that has a high fat content of 85 to 87 percent. For best results use quality butter with a high fat content and no additives or extra water added. European style or imported butters can often be found in specialty grocery stores. For more buttery info, check out this blog article we wrote on French Butter.

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What type of flour should I use?

Most French croissant recipes use pastry flour (T45) to produce a croissant with a light, delicate texture.  Bread flour or All Purpose can be used to produce a chewier, more sturdy croissant.

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Do I have to use Fresh yeast, what if I can only find dry, instant yeast?

Either yeast can be used, but they are not equal. If you replace fresh yeast with dry, for every gram of fresh yeast in the recipe, use ½ gram instant dry yeast.

To what size do I roll out the butter block and the détrempe?

This is a tricky question but a commonly asked concern but there is no exact precise measurement to this step of the croissant making process.   What is important is to make sure the détrempe is not rolled too thin (no less then 1cm thick) before adding the butter block, that the block of butter is at the correct proportion to the détrempe, and the pâton  is always rolled to the same thickness between each turn.  Refer back to the diagram on the recipe page or the step-by-step pictures below. Both can be used as a guide to see the proportions of the butter to the détrempe.

We use two different methods at our school for adding the butter block. For the first method as seen in the school recipe sheet diagram, prepare your détrempe and roll it out to a long rectangle then prepare your butter block to cover about 2/3 of the détrempe (it will be roughly the size of a piece of paper that has been folded in half).  Make sure the butter is rolled our evenly and fully within the lines of the détrempe with about a 1/2cm border of dough. Place the butter block in the bottom 2/3rds of the détrempe, fold the end that is dough only over the butter (it will come to about the middle of the butter), then the other side of the dough (this side you are folding the butter block and dough) to cover.

For the second method, refer to the diagram below. You are wrapping the butter up with dough, almost like a present! A delicious present of butter that is!

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My butter is squishing out/escaping during the rolling!

Make sure the pâton has been rested long enough and that the butter is not too warm or it can start to melt out. Also make your work surface is sufficiently floured; if the détrempe sticks too much it can tear and create holes where the butter can leak out. If the dough is too warm, stick it in the fridge for a couple of minutes before continuing. It also helps to work on a cold surface like granite or marble.

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What if my dough looks like it has little lumps of butter in it, or butter looks like it has broken up under the détrempe?

This happens when the pâton has been rolled out when the butter was too cold. Before completing the next turn, let your pâton rest outside the refrigerator for just a few minutes to let the butter soften a little.  The butter needs to still be cold, but it also needs to be pliable so it will spread smoothly with the détrempe.

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What are the final dimensions that I roll my dough to before forming the croissants?

This depends and is entirely up to you! The most important point is that your dough should be about 3-5mm thick. First plot out what you are thinking about making and then roll the dough to the size that will work best.

In our croissant classes, we are making several different shapes from one piece of dough. For the recipe we use, the dough rolls out perfectly to be the size of one of our baking sheets which is 40x30cm or 16×12 inches. Of course this size will depend though on the amount of dough you have depending on the recipe you use, so follow rule #1 of rolling the dough to be about 3-5mm thick.

If you are just going to make croissants, roll the dough to be the height of the triangle you want to work with, about 9 inches or 20cm is a good starting point. The base of the triangle will vary as well depending on how large or small you want your croissants to be (a good start is about 3in or 8cm).

For pain au chocolat, we use the chocolate sticks as a guide and form with rectangles that are about 15cm by 8cm (3x6in).

Don’t forget that the scrapes can certainly be used! They should be layered on top of one another then rolled out as to not lose those layers. A fun idea is to cut them into strips, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before twisting and baking into delicious snacks!

How long can croissants be kept in freezer?

Croissants can be frozen up to 2 months. This can happen at two stages during the process, as a pâton or after they have been shaped. They should be kept in an airtight container or plastic storage bag to maintain freshness.

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How do I bake the croissants from frozen?

Allow to thaw in the fridge overnight, proof 1 to 2 hours, or until they jiggle like Jello when the pan is shaken. For best results, spray with water a couple of times during the proofing process. Brush with egg wash and then pop them in the oven!

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A Few Last Tips and Pointers:

  • Croissants need time and patience, it is best to not be in a rush.
  • Chill it! Maintaining the détrempe and pâton chilled and giving it time to rest (at least 30 mins in the refrigerator) between the various stages of tourage is essential. The butter is also very sensitive to temperatures and considering the quantity, it’s best to keep it cold,  if not it’ll begin to melt and “ooze out” of the dough and result in “uneven” layering
  • Make sure butter is cold, but pliable. It is important that the butter spreads evenly for good.
  • Croissants are sensitive to heat throughout the entire process. If your kitchen is hot, they will proof faster but make sure it is not too hot that the butter melts out of the croissants before baking. If your kitchen is on the cooler side, your croissants may take longer to proof, but they will get there!
  • Croissant dough can be used to make so many different things. Roll with cinnamon sugar for a flaky take on cinnamon rolls, or flavored pastry cream or jam! Of course a piece of chocolate or two never hurts. 🙂

 

To learn more about making croissant and get hands on experience from one of our fabulous chefs, visit out class calendar at LaCuisineParis.com!pistachio twirlsedit

All Things Scallops in France

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There is a certain ring of elegance to Les coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops)and let’s face it, any food lover would attest to the delectable taste and texture that have made them a favorite dish around the world.  The French are particular fans of these jewels of the sea and so it comes as no surprise that a lot of extra care and pride is taken during the process of raising (and obviously, consuming!) the highly prized scallop.

The name itself translates to Saint-James’ Shells and originates in the Medieval age, when Christians used the scallop shell to symbolize their pilgrimage to Saint James’ Shrine in Galicia, on the northern coast of Spain.  The association of the Saint with the scallops is blurry, but the legends say that the apostle James once rescued a knight who was found covered in scallops!

DSC_5009Today though, France uses scallops for more gustatory experiences!  Most common is the classic Saint Jacques à la créme, a beautifully balanced dish made with seared scallops, de-glazed with either white wine or cognac and then reduced with a cream.  Don’t hesitate to order this at a restaurant, especially in January when scallops are at their freshest and are found in abundance!  Trust us, it’ll be a memorably meal.

Scallops are composed of two main parts, the fleshy white muscle and the roe, also known as coral.  Did you know that scallops are in fact hermaphrodites? The part we eat is the muscle, the male part, while the coral or “hook” (which wraps around the muscle) acts as the female part. In France, specifically in Normandie and Bretagne, we generally see the species St. Jacques Pecten Maximum, which is known for its delicate taste and the generous size of the muscle. This particular variety is native to the Atlantic, English Channel and North Sea.

In France, the regulations around the fishing and harvesting of Saint Jacques are very strict DSC_3155and tightly regulated. Fishermen must carry a special permit and the season begins officially on 1st of October and ends on 15th of May.  Shells must be at least 11cm/4.3in to fish, in order to protect their harvesting, as it takes up to 3 years for these creatures to grow!
If you go to a fishmonger, you will find scallops in a few different forms, either in their shells – coquille Saint-Jacques or shucked – noix (nuts) Saint-Jaques.  You can order them shucked (ouvert) if you prefer! Stored properly, fresh scallops will hold up to 48 hour in the fridge and preferably with the flat “fan shaped lid” on top.  As a first course, calculate about 2 scallops per person and serve at least three if you’re using it as the main dish.


How to Choose Fresh Scallops

In the shell: If you tap it gently, you should see a slight movement of the shell (they are alive after all!).
Shucked: Whether with or without the coral, the meat should be pearly and very firm which is a sign that it was recently shucked. Also, beware of scallops that are a bright white which is a sure indicator that they were preserved in brine to increase weight.  

 

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A unique way to serve your scallops is by using the beautiful shells as a dish. First, be sure to clean the shell thoroughly and remind your fishmonger to keep the shell!

Can’t find fresh scallops? You can easily find them frozen, but remember – when defrosting frozen scallops, place in a bowl full of milk!  This will allow the scallops to keep their white color and will provide a crispier sear.

Flavor pairing
Scallops have a mild sweetness and you want flavors that will further enhance its natural properties. Rule of thumb: anything “fatty” such as bacon, cream, butter, olive oil will pair perfectly with scallops.

Recipe: Fondue aux Poireaux
One of our favorite dishes to accompany 
saint-jacques is creamed leeks.  The sweetness of the sauteed leeks reduced with the cream combines perfectly with the scallop! 
4 leeks
1 large shallot
Butter
Optional : white wine
100 g whipping cream
Salt, pepper

Clean leeks thoroughly. Chop leeks and shallot. Sweat shallot in a frying pan with butter. Add leek and sweat until very soft.  At this point, you can add some white wine to deglaze. When reduced, add cream and let cook for a few minutes. Season to taste.

Bon appétit!

 

 

Cheese of the Month – Saint Nectaire

“If someone wants to treat you to a feast, there’s always going to be some Saint-Nectaire.”

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©saint-nectaire-fromage.fr

Now there’s a literary quote we can get behind! Legrand D’Aussy wrote this in Voyage dans la haute et bas Auvergne, his 1788 memoir about travelling through the Auvergne region of France, where the cheese has been produced for centuries. Saint Nectaire had been growing in popularity  ever since it was introduced to Louis XIV at the court of Versailles in the 17th century. Louis was was a well known gourmand (foodie), so when he decided it was one of his favourite cheeses, and regularly had it served at court, the cheese was always going to succeed!

Before it became acquainted with the court, this cheese was largely made on farms in small, personal production. In the past, the cheeses were aged on the ground or on rye straw in the natural caves carved into the volcanic rock of the Clermont-Ferrand region. Women were the originators of Saint-Nectaire: the small cheese allowed them to convert the milk from the cows that had stayed in the valley when the men were in the summer pastures with the rest of the herd.

So, what makes Saint-Nectaire the key to a feast and the favourite of a king? It is made from the milk of cows who graze on rich volcanic pasture lands in Auvergne, which gives it a distinctive earthiness. It was nicknamed “rye cheese”, because the aging process traditionally took place on a bed of rye, and lends it a nutty taste.

The middle of the cheese is a creamy white colour and the outside is grayish with splotches of orange, purple, yellow, white, and red. In fact, if the outside of the cheese is a solid color, it legally cannot be sold as Saint-Nectaire due to AOC regulation. This is because to stay in line with the traditional methods required to pass AOC standards, the milk cannot be pasteurised, and no part of the production can be industrial, meaning that the rind will inevitably be uneven.

Important! When buying this cheese, be aware that it is both industrially produced and produced on farms. The farm versions are much better, as they have the authenticity and have been created by the best quality produce on a much smaller scale. If you’re worried about being able to tell the difference, just remember that the farmhouse (fermier) version of the cheese has an oval label and the industrial version has a square label. Another way of ensuring a good quality of cheese, is to double check for the ‘AOC’ label – that all important classification we are always talking about!

 

Macaron Making, all problems solved!

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If you’ve ever made macarons before, you know how very finicky those DSC_1625wonderfully delicious cookies can be! There are so many factors to consider from meringue techniques right down to the humidity in your kitchen (interestingly enough most problems come from the meringue!). With these little tips from our All Star Chefs though, you too can be a Macaron Master!

We’ve put together a few of the questions we get asked most often, to give you some pointers when you get round to making your own macarons.

Now let’s see what these chefs have to say!

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The ingredients…

I can’t find ground almonds. What is the difference between ground almonds and almond meal?

Check specialty cooking stores and even try looking in the bulk section. If you are still having trouble try online retailers like Amazon or King Arthur Flour.

Ground almonds and almond meal are actually the same thing- so don’t be discouraged when you can find one and not the other, they just try to confuse us with the different names. 🙂

If you’re not able to find ground almonds, then you can also just make your own by grinding blanched almonds in a food processor. Just don’t grind them too much or you’ll end up with almond butter, another delicious thing, but not so good for making macarons.

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Recipe: Tartiflette au Reblochon

When the weather starts to get chilly in France we are all about comfort food, which but of course, involves cheese! Tartiflette is a traditional dish from the Savoie and Haut Savoie region of France. This gratin dish is made with sliced potatoes, onions, a healthy gulg of white wine, and lardons, then topped with an entire round of Reblochon cheese that’s been cut in half before bring placed in the oven.

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©”Belfast Christmas Continental Market (20), December 2009″ by Ardfern

The word tartiflette is probably derived from the regional word for potato, tartiflâ ” and was actually developed in the 1980s by the Union Interprofessional Reblochon to promote sales of reblochon.

Reblochon gets its name from the French verb reblocher, which literally translates to ‘pinch the cow’s udder again.’  Yes, here in France, we actually have multiple verbs for milking cows! Back in the 14th century, farms were taxed on how much milk their cows would yield.  Therefore, it became a regular practice for farmers to hold back a bit of milk and avoid high taxes.  They would then reblocher their cows and use the creamy, rich leftovers for themselves.  Today, Reblochon remains just as rich as in the past, with a matière grasse, or fat content of 45%.

If you’re having trouble finding reblochon, raclette or a strong triple cream brie should do the trick!

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©By HaguardDuNord

Tartiflette au Reblochon

30g butter
1 kilo baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
200g lardons fumé (or smoked bacon, chopped)
200g white onion, chopped
1 round of reblochon, cut in half
salt, pepper
A healthy glug (or two!) of white wine (about 60ml or so!)
Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F). Butter a casserole dish and set aside.
Add the sliced potatoes to a pan of salted boiling water cooking until just tender.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter and sauté the lardons until crispy (about 10-12 minutes). Transfer to a plate topped with kitchen paper. Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook until translucent.
Add the wine to the pan, stirring until slightly reduced. Scoop out the potatoes and add to the sauce stirring to coat.
Layer half of the potato mixture into the casserole dish, sprinkle with some of the lardons, and then top with one half of the sliced Reblochon. Repeat the layers, ending with the other half of Reblochon and the remaining lardons (in the picture above the Reblochon was cut into stripes to better fill the dish). Bake about 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
Tartiflette is great with a simple salad with a Classic French Vinaigrette.
Bon Appetit!

 

 

Abbaye Citeaux – December

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For centuries, abbeys and monasteries have been funding themselves through small, artisan production of liqueurs, sweets, beer or dairy products. The Abbaye de Citeaux is no different. The Abbaye de Citeaux cheese is named after the Cistercian monks who founded the monastery, in the Burgundy region of France.To this day, the cheese is exclusively made in that very monastery, using similar techniques! The creamery at Abbaye de Citeaux is now run by Frère Frédéricand Frère Joel.

This is a rare cheese, found primarily in  markets, and whilst you would never be able to find this in a supermarket, we certainly think it is worth the search!

The monks of the Abbeye Citeaux produce this cheese using cow’s milk,  and is semi-soft with a washed rind, that is brined before the aging process begins. This cheese is wheel shaped with a diameter of 18cm, a thickness of 4 cm and a weight of around 750g. It is matured for two months on average, in a humid cellar of the abbey, where it is washed regularly. One of the best things about this cheese is that it is made all year around! This is unusual for small production cheeses, but its production is a key part of the daily ritual in the Abbaye.

In the form of a wheel, the smooth rind has a color that varies from pale grey to orange. The soft, plump exterior exudes a distinct fragrance. Elastic yet creamy, it has its own particular  Burgundian terroir character.

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The Abbaye de Citeaux cheese has a pungent aroma that overpowers the flavour of cheese- but don’t be put off! This cheese is delicious: the texture is supple with an ivory white interior and an earthy, creamy taste, with a slight acidic note which cuts through the creaminess.

The milk used to make the cheese is derived from white and red Montbéliarde cows that graze the meadows surrounding the abbey.

This is a cheese that continues to be made in a remarkably small production, so is the quintessential artisan fromage. Only 300 cheeses are manufactured every Monday and Tuesday, most of which are sold at the Abbey shop and the rest at markets and exclusive cheese mongers.

For want of a better word, the aroma of this very special cheese could be described as “barnyardy”, with an earthy palate. We would suggest pairing it with a Bourgogne rouge or a cépage Pinot noir, and its fruity flavor marries perfectly with rye bread!