Tag Archives: French

Post-election goat cheese and pistachio loaf

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Australia has a new Prime Minister-elect. Before the election, some people planned to move overseas (unil the next election) if one political party won; and some others planned to leave the country if either of the main political parties won – guess they must be somewhere far away by now.

Political ‘stuff’ aside, if I was choosing a place to live for the next three years, where would I go? Would I be able to find goats cheese, fresh mozzarella, figs and quince in season? How far is a good vendor of xiao long bao, or pho, or green papaya salad or hor mok? What about crusty sourdoughs? And would I miss Clive Palmer’s Titanic II?

I probably would take an extravagant round-the-world trip instead.

The first stop? France. All that cheese, wine, and women who don’t get fat (what about the men?), and all that kuign amann.

After France, the possibilities are (almost) endless – Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Spain, Portugal, Russia (with a ride on the Trans-Siberian railway), Iceland, some corner of the Middle East (Syria, I wonder if I could go back to Syria), Japan, and let’s not forget that blogger feast in a Medieval feasting tent I’ve been planning with Laura.

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In the meantime, I’ll bask in the sunlight, clear sky, reading at the beach and riot-of-colours flowers that come with a Sydney spring. And bake things with a French accent. Such as this savoury goat cheese loaf (still working on that kuign amman…).

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Fougasse with walnuts and fig paste (don’t mention the focaccia)

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Fougasse, panis focacius, fogatza, fouace, hougasse, fouasso.

Just don’t say focaccia.

Fougasse is a type of flat bread made in France, with a name derived from Latin and Occitan (the language of the Languedoc region, among others, and apparently a close relative to modern Catalan). The most famous variety is slashed to look like an ear of wheat, and is savoury, though other varieties include a sweet bread flavoured with orange water. Fougasse is baked until it’s very browned, and should have a crispy crust and a soft interior.

The English and French Wikipedia both tell me that fougasse was used by bakers to test if their bread oven was at the right temperature. If the French Wikipedia says so about a French bread, it must be right, right??

I also quickly learned it’s not focaccia. For a variety of reasons, including focaccia is Italian and fougasse is French.

Having got these preliminaries out of the way, I can get on with this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, sweet fougasse. I’ve wanted to make fougasse, with its distinctive wheat or leaf shape, for a while. Who could resist the idea of slashing dough, pulling on dough, until there are giant holes in the dough? It’s all of my “playing with food” wishes come true.

But.  Like a stroll through Alice in Wonderland, nothing turned out quite the way I expected.

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Pierre, there’s butter in my brioche

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I had to laugh when I saw Pierre Hermé’s brioche recipe described as “richer than Bill Gates!” The archetypal French viennoiserie, compared to an all-American capitaliste?

Then, a few days ago, I read that Bill Gates is once again the richest man in the world, taking back the title from Mexico’s Carlos Slim. Such is the world of impossible riches (72 billions, really??), shady dealings and fickle finance.

If I were Bill Gates, I’d be celebrating with a bottle of the best champagne, and a few slices of baguette liberally smeared with smelly French cheese and garnished with truffles. Whole truffles. Make that the biggest truffles, just like Alice B Toklas wrote. Then, I’d spend time learning to make the perfect brioche.

I guess that’s why I will never be rich like Bill Gates or Carlos Slim. They love making money and owning Microsoft / America Movi. I like baking, and reading books for hours on end. And learning to make brioche.

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This “richer than Bill Gates” recipe is the closest I’ll get to feeling like a multi-billionaire. There is a whopping amount of butter, as much butter as there is of flour. “Enriched” doesn’t begin to describe what happens to the dough, ‘supersized by butter’ is closer to the mark.

Yet, such is the miracle of brioche, what came out of the oven wasn’t stodgy, or greasy, or heavy. Although the bread was richer than any bread I’ve ever had, although we knew we were eating butter by the spoonful, the bread was light, with an open, tender crumb, almost fluffy. There was a flaky crust that shattered – but oh so delicately – when we bite into it. Then there’s the ‘chiffon cake-like crumb’, as TX Farmer from the Fresh Loaf describes.

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Vampire-proof French garlic soup

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If everyone ate more garlic, the world would be a happier place
Ruth Reichl, Comfort Me With Apples

 

I’ve sometimes wondered why people thought garlic helps to ward off vampires. Is it the “righteous” pungency; the undeniable whiff of, um, holiness? Hopes that vampire virus will be killed by garlic’s antioxidants, a belief that no one can chew on a mouthful of raw garlic and survive? Or, is it due to ‘Vampire disease’ or porphyria, the result of in-breeding among the European nobility – is Count Dracula just a misunderstood, new-age (light and garlic-) sensitive guy?

Whatever the reason, I was intrigued by a soup that was described as “[t]his one will keep your house safe from vampires for a year at least.”

This French garlic soup has venerable but mysterious origins. Francois Xavier of fxcuisine found this recipe in Larousse de la cuisine des familles (alas, I couldn’t find that book anywhere, even online), “presented as a family recipe from a Provence mama.” The soup is made with a garlicky olive oil roux, which is mixed with the roasted garlic, cooked to a smooth consistency and slight nuttiness, then thinned with water or stock and simmered to fragrant soupy-ness. There is very little else besides perfectly roasted, semi confited garlic bulbs (which I also blogged about last weekend) and a handful of herbs. Even the pasta to bulk up the soup is, I think, kind of optional.

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This is not a Parisian glamourpuss. Light brown in colour, slightly lumpy in a stew-soupy way, it was a lesson in how brown food is not a food blogger’s photography dream.

But, one taste and I was hooked. Potage de creamy, complex and comforting garlic? Yes please!

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Bánh mì, for you and me (2)

This was going to be a short, straightforward post about the red braised pork belly that we had in our DIY bánh mì. How we stuffed the pork belly, and Vietnamese luncheon meat (but of course) into baguettes (richly slathered with pork liver pâté and home made mayonnaise), added carrot and daikon pickles, cucumbers, sprigs of coriander and shallots, topped with dipping sauce, and munched our way to bánh mì bliss. Cue photo of pork belly on Asian-esque melamine plate. Usual food blogger stuff.

Then, I read the recipe again, and started wondering.** (If you want to skip to the recipe, it’s at the end of the post.)

** A wandering mind – this is a sign that I have been away from university for too long. My mind didn’t wander much when I was doing a part time Masters while working full time, it was too busy figuring out how little research I could get away with for that 10,000 word essay.

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La pizza française? Pizza and onion confit

No, this post is not about pissaladière.

I have been looking at blogging projects that would prompt me to learn new baking skills and to bake on a regular basis – I’m conditioned by uni and work to meet external deadlines, however arbitrary. Tuesdays with Dorie, which is working through the book Baking with Julia, seemed a fun project to join. Et me voila.

This Tuesday’s recipe is pizza with onion confit. It seemed the perfect way to start with the TWD group. I have been fascinated by Julia Child even before the movie, Julie and Julia. For almost as long, I have been fascinated by the magic of yeast.

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I loved the dough, as did Mr Gander and his mother, and it worked well as both thick and thin pizza bases. The onion confit was a tasty though different take on pizza topping. Next time I would use a different (softer) style of red wine, or tweak the recipe a little. My notes on the recipes and tweaks are below, for full recipe please go to The Boy Can Bake or see page 159 of Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  

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Almost Christmas: très serious fruit cake

This year, I have tried out many Christmas fruit cakes. While there are variations in the mix of dried fruit (or, indeed , fruit mince!), type of alcohol, or the exact way to mix the batter, the cake that comes out of the oven share important characteristics of a dark fruit cake, ripe with tradition and dried citrus peel.

What happens when a French chef puts his spin on a fruit cake? Will it have unexpected quirks, as though you were served baguette instead of scones for Devonshire tea?

I had one answer to this question when I made Philippe Rochat’s recipe for Serious Fruit Cake, reproduced on the now-dormant fxcuisine. (The site is still well worth a visit and still sets the benchmark for memorable and often unusual food adventures. For this cake, FX used one of the most expensive brands of rum in the world – yikes!) According to FX, this recipe was designed by Swiss chef Philippe Rochat as food to be taken on an expedition by his friend and adventurer Mike Horn.

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