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I’m back,

June 11, 2010

I promise!

Upcoming delights. ©Dominique Lemoine 2009-2010

I know I’ve been away for soooo long without any explanation or apology that most of you probably just forgot me. But I’ve never really left this blog, I’ve just been wandering around it dying to come back!

I can’t say I haven’t had any time at all to sit down and write, that I’ve been on a long trip in the Amazon, or that I’ve been caught forever in an elevator in the 536th floor. No. I’ve just been negligent and I don’t really know why: I  mean, I’ve clearly had the time to get back to posting, I’ve definitely cooked, I’ve taken pictures and I’ve thought what to write about and how to improve this blog… But, somehow, I never got around to putting my fingers back on the keyboard and start typing again.

I guess I’ve been kind of struggling with my past, trying to actually realize that most of it is gone and can’t have a place in my present and trying to keep what I can of it and make it work in my new path. I know that life is not all black and white, but sometimes it feels so hard to combine literature and cooking that I just can’t help freezing and feeling lost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m not sure about the decisions I’ve made: I loved doing a literature major, learning lots of languages on the side (one thing that, for sure, is never going to stop, no matter what) and working in a national newspaper and in the university I graduated from just as much as I’m loving pursuing my cooking career, starting my own online baking business, creating and founding a new gastronomic and cultural venue in my hometown and, of course, writing about food!

So here I am, hoping you’ll get enticed once again with just a taste of what’s coming: Lemon-Strawberry Muffins, Chocolate-Passion Fruit Charlotte, Gâteau au chocolat with Gulupa frosting, Berry Charlotte, Chocolate bottom Cheesecakes, Peruvian Ceviche, Dark Beer Bread, Mediterranean Focaccia, White Chocolate and Raspberry mousse…

Like it? If there’s one you’d prefer to see first next week, tell me and I’ll grant you your wish!

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When life is hard…

May 14, 2009

…you have to Bake.

The dough is full of holes...The biscuits are in the oven. ©Dominique Lemoine

The dough is full of holes...the biscuits are in the oven. ©Dominique Lemoine 2009

I had a really rough time last week and the one that started a couple of days ago hasn’t been a lot better. For the past 9 days I’ve cried almost every single day, I’ve kept my head down and my mouth shut. I haven’t even smiled that much and, believe me, I’m a smiling person. My parents are getting divorced (and, somehow, that still affects me deep down inside although I know it’s for the best), my mom is awfully depressed and my formal job sucks.  

There have been ups and downs (with ups that are pretty “down” and no where near “up”) but I’ve been feeling blue and unglued most of the time. There’s one word in spanish for that, just one word that describes perfectly how I’ve been these days: chinche. We say, in a familiar way, that children are being or feeling chinche when they are desperate, crying and rubbing their eyes and not knowing what to do with themselves. Just like me lately. But, unlike them, who can only suck their thumbs, cry their eyes out and wait for their baby bottles, I’ve found myself a way to escape: baking.

Whenever I feel lost and despaired, I arm myself with a whisk, a spatula, some dough and an oven to pluck up some courage and punch life in the stomach. Keeping my mind busy with the exact amount of ingredients that I need and the precise steps I have to follow, and just feeling how it all comes together in my hands soothes and comforts me to the core.

So, it looks like I’m some sort of emotional baker. Of course it’s not that I  do it just when I’m sad or down -I love to bake, simple as that-, but it sure works like a charm when my heart needs some cuddling and I’m about to fall apart. Last sunday I was definitely chinche, so I needed something delicious, fresh, salty (I had had enough chocolate already) and warm right out of the oven. Everything pointed to Biscuits Ciboulette-Fromage (Cheese-Chive Biscuits), the delicious remedy bites I want to share with you this time.

(Makes about 12 biscuits)

  • 2 cups of flour (the best quality you can get)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder (not yeast)
  • one pinch of salt
  • 1 cup full of  grated cheese (cheddar or a strong flavored cheese is better,  I used Münster this time)
  • 1/4 cup of  finely minced chives
  • 90 g of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup of milk
©Dominique Lemoine

©Dominique Lemoine 2009

  1. In a bowl, put together the flour, baking powder, salt, cheese and chives.
  2. Cut in the room-temperature butter and mix until small coarse crumbs appear.
  3. Pour the milk and mix thoroughly until you get a moistened, even mixture.
  4. Put the dough in a lightly floured surface and knead it.
  5. Then, roll it out to form a thin (about 2 cm thick, or less) circle.
  6. With a round cookie cutter (or you can always use a glass if you don’t have the right tools) cut out as many small rounds as you can. If needed, gather the scraps of dough, knead again and roll out once more to cut more biscuits.
  7. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).
  8. Place the biscuits on baking paper on a baking sheet (or pan), put them in the oven and let them bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re golden brown.

 

Warm cheese-chive biscuits. Hmm...!

Warm cheese-chive biscuits. Hmm...! ©Dominique Lemoine 2009

If you don’t eat all the biscuits you can store the ones left over in an air-tight container, in the fridge (!! otherwise the cheese will go bad and the biscuits will spoil), for 7  or 10 days.

I hope these biscuits delight you and make you as happy as they made me!

Mouthful of chocolate (and strawberries)

May 5, 2009
A homey bowl with watery, colorfull strawberries.©Dominique Lemoine

A homey bowl with watery, colorfull strawberries.©Dominique Lemoine 2009

Sometimes relationships, work, family or even cooking and baking don’t come out as we want them to, but there is always one sure thing -reassuring or not- about life: some things are just meant to be and that, of course, includes food.

There are flavors that will always go well together, no matter how common, cliche or traditional the matching may be or how hard we want to fight them and discover something new. Chocolate and strawberries is for sure one of the greatest, tastiest and most unbeatable combinations of all times…We just can’t get over it, these two ingredients keep bumping into each other again and again and it seems as though they’re going to keep doing it for ever and ever.

When we get a taste -even if it’s a tiny tiny bite- of one single strawberry soaked in a gooey, rich melted dark chocolate, the senseless and egocentric original .vs. unoriginal fight falls apart completely. There’s no point in it, really: no need to fight something that tastes so good just because it’s been around forever.

Anyway, after this contained kind of apology of simplicity and the magical chocolate+strawberries combo (and flavor indulgence), I just want to offer you a recipe with no story or excuse other than the fact that it tastes sooo yummy. So here you go:

Chocolate-Strawberries Napoléons:

(This amount of ingredients makes 6)

For the tuiles:

  • 1/4 cup of fresh, real orange juice
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 of refined sugar
  • 2/3 cup of melted butter
  • 3/4 cup of high-quality flour
  • 1 generous tablespoon of cocoa
  • 1/4 cup of grated chocolate (bittersweet, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup of ground almonds

For the cream:

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 5 Oz. of chocolate (again, bittersweet is preferred)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 15 fresh, red, beautiful strawberries cut in halves.
©Dominique Lemoine

©Dominique Lemoine 2009

 

Making the tuiles: 

  1. In a bowl, put together the orange juice, the egg whites, the refined sugar and the melted butter. Mix thoroughly until it’s even.
  2. Add the chocolate, flour and cocoa, and whisk well. Then, incorporate the almonds and keep mixing until you get a smooth, uniform mixture.
  3. Put spoonfuls of the dough on a baking sheet and flatten them with the back of the spoon in order to get 5 cm round (or the diameter you want), thin, disks.
  4. Bake these chocolate tuiles in the oven for around 10 minutes to 180°C (350°F). They will be ready when the center is -not excessively- dry.
  5. Take out of the oven and let the tuiles cool.

Making the chocolate cream (while the tuiles are cooling):

  1. Place the chocolate (cut into small chunks) in a bowl.
  2. Boil 1/2 cup of heavy cream and pour it over the chocolate  in order to melt it. Whisk vigorously to get an even chocolaty mixture.
  3. In another recipient, whisk the remaining cream with the sugar with an electric mixer until firm peaks start to form. 
  4. Incorporate the chocolate mixture to the cream using a rubber spatula.
  5. Put the chocolate cream that resulted from the process in a pastry bag (with the tip of your choice).
  6. Now that you have everything ready, all you need is to assemble the napoléons: place one tuile on a plate and pipe a generous amount of chocolate cream right in the middle. Then, arrange the strawberries all around and put another tuile right on top. Decorate with some more cream around the edges of the bottom tuile.
REady to eat Napoléon. ©Dominique Lemoine 2009

Ready to eat Napoléon. ©Dominique Lemoine 2009

Serve and enjoy immediately while it’s still fresh. If your eyes were bigger than your stomach and you have some tuiles (already baked) and chocolate cream left over, you can always store each separately and assemble more Napoléons later. Just keep the tuiles in a air-tight container to keep them fresh, and put the cream in the fridge. Remember to take the cream out of the refrigerator with enough time to let it thaw completely (whisk it and add a litle bit of cream if you need to make it softer), so when you assemble the Napoléons you don’t end up with a hard chocolate rock!

Blackberry Craving

April 25, 2009
Blackberries with a lemon juice, sugar and flour preparation. ©Dominique Lemoine

Blackberries with a lemon juice, sugar and flour preparation. © Dominique Lemoine

 I definitely have a crush on blackberries, especially the ones that grow here in my homeland, in South America. They’re fresh, tangy, watery but full of flavor, and have the nicest texture with they’re firm, solid centre and their juicy, round druplets.

Since I love this fruit so much and baking at home is just magical (transforming the simplest ingredients into something comforting and delightful can make your day -and everything else- worthwhile), I want to entice you this time, eaters and readers, with a quick, easy and delicious Galette de Mûres (Blackberry Galette).

(Makes a 25 cm Galette)

For the flake pastry dough

  • 2 cups of flour (the best quality you can get)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3/4  cup of unsalted butter, plus 3 tablespoons cut into cubes
  • 3/8 cup of ice water

For the blackberry filling

  • 2 cups of blackberries (or blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and just about any berry you can find)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup of sugar (or twice the amount if you’re dealing with south-american blackberries because they are more sour than the ones you can find elsewhere).
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
©Dominique Lemoine

©Dominique Lemoine

  1.  Put the flour and salt together and mix briefly.
  2. Add the room-temperature butter and keep mixing until you get a dry mixture with small farineaceous crumbs.
  3. Pour the ice water over the mixture and work it until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface (so it won’t stick) and roll it out until you get a round, even, thin disk.
  5.  Place the berries in a bowl and toss them together with the lemon juice, the sugar and the flour.
  6. Place the mixture on the center of the dough disk,  leaving a few centimeters around the edges.
  7. Fold the edges over the blackberry filling, making loose ruffles or pleats.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).
  9. Put the galette on baking paper on a baking sheet and leave it in the oven for about 25 minutes. The galette is ready when the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown.
Galette de mûres, sliced and fresh, right out of the oven. ©Dominique Lemoine

Galette de mûres, sliced and fresh, right out of the oven. ©Dominique Lemoine

Serve it while it’s still fresh and warm, and sprinkle the top with refined sugar so it will look more yummy. Have it with a good cup of real tea (loose leaves, not bags) or fresh ground coffee.

 

Tuna for two

March 6, 2009
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Raw tuna steaks with a sesame seeds marinade. ©Dominique Lemoine

I just loooove tuna. I think it’s one of the friendliest, healthiest (in spite the fact that nowadays everything we eat is harmful) and tastiest fish you can find in the market and put on your table. Besides, tuna is usually easy to prepare and to cook, and if you make it your main ingredient you will certainly end up with something delicious. In fact, this fish’s meat has one of the most wonderful colours and glow of all, to the point that I personally believe that its pinkish hue contains the key for cooking it and making something great out of it. Never, never betray that pink colour, the best way to eat it -if you’re dealing with steaks or medallions- is charred on both sides and rare inside (where it’ll remain pink).

So this time, I’m suggesting a seared tuna with a sesame seeds, coriander, white wine and red pepper (Cayenne Pepper) marinade. 

(For two)

  • 2 tuna steaks (about 5 Cm thick)
  • 1/3 cup of chopped coriander (which is the same Cilantro) leaves
  • 1/4 cup of sesame seeds (you can toast them before, if you prefer them a little bit roasted)
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 (or 1/3 if you like it spicy) cup of Cayenne pepper (peppercorns or flakes)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (or as needed to coat the tuna without damping it) of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt (sea-salt if possible)
  1. In a mortar, grind together the cilantro and basil leaves with the Cayenne peppercorns and the sesame seeds.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the above with the olive oil and the wine. Add the tuna steaks and coat them (even slightly massage them) with the marinade.
  3. Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour before getting the heat on the steaks.
  4. Preheat a grilling pan, take out the tuna from the fridge and scrape off some of the marinade.
  5. Season the tuna with a little bit of sea-salt and grill the steaks around 3 minutes per side so that the inside remains rare and pinkish.
  6. Serve!

 

Seared Tuna with sauteed vegetables garnish. © Dominique Lemoine

Seared tuna with risotto and sauteed vegetables. ©Dominique Lemoine

As for the garnish, there are a lot of things that would suit this kind of tuna since it’s a recipe about seasoning but keeping the original taste of the fish itself. Two weeks ago, when I cooked this, I decided to go for a simple parmesan risotto and some vegetables. Asparagus au naturel, boiled Brussels sprouts with a little bit of butter after strained and  sauteed zucchinis and red bell peppers (roasted and peeled), all served and sprinkled with a few drops of balsamic vinegar to give them a sweet but tangy taste.

Fondant au chocolat

March 2, 2009
 

Dark chocolate cupcakes, freshly baked. ©Dominique Lemoine

Dark chocolate cupcakes, freshly baked. ©Dominique Lemoine

Chocolate doesn’t really need an excuse. Whether it’s all about a birthday, a romantic dinner, a picnic or teatime with friends, chocolate is always the perfect option and the tastiest choice. So I’m starting with one of my all-time favourite baked goods: gâteau au chocolat (the classical french pâtisserie delicacy) and fondant au chocolat (the famous dessert created in the 1970’s by the french master Chef, Michel Bras).

Since the  dough both for the gâteau and the fondant is the same, I’m telling you how to make the normal chocolate cake first so that, if you’re willing to go one step further, you can turn it into a  dazzling fondant afterwards with its melted and creamy chocolate heart. I’ve been baking chocolate cakes since I can remember (around middle school) and with the time that has  passed by I’ve come to define the amount of  sugar, chocolate or flour I prefer in my recipe and goes best with my taste. Therefore, taking into account that -if you have a good pair of baking hands and some love for it- this is such an easy and fun recipe to do, I hope that you will grasp the essence of it, make your way through and, as I did, make it your own.

(This amount of ingredients works for 9-10 cupcakes or a medium size round cake baking pan)

  • 3 eggs

  • 200 g of dark pâtisserie chocolate (if you don’t like it too chocolaty, 150 grams will do just fine)

  • 35 g of unsalted butter

  • 70 g of refined sugar (if you want it sweeter, use 80 grams)

  • 50 g of flour

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of rum

  • 1 coffee-spoon of yeast (not baking powder!)

  • 1 pinch of salt

    mosaic8349751

    ©Dominique Lemoine

  1. In a small pot, put the chocolate (broken into pieces) with the butter. Let them melt together in bain de marie until you get a smooth and even mixture.
  2. In a bowl, put the egg yolks and work them with the sugar. Then, add the flour, the melted chocolate with the butter, the rum and the yeast. Mix thoroughly.
  3. In another bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and then incorporate them, delicately, to the dough.
  4. Fill the cupcakes or the baking pan with the mixture and let it bake in the oven for about 10 minutes to 220 °C, plus 8 minutes to 180 °C.  Personal Tip: Use a thick needle to check if the gâteau is ready. If the needle comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven. If it still comes out “dirty”, let it bake a little longer.
  5. Take out of the oven and remove the gâteau from the pan.

Now, if you want to bake a fudgy, chocolaty, mellow fondant, just follow the same steps (1 to 3) for the dough. The thing is that in order to have the melted chocolate heart of the fondant, you have to make  some small square or round chocolates.

  1. Take some chocolate (around 25 g for 9 personal fondants) and put it in a small pot and cover it with enough milk. Let it cook on the stove until you have an even liquid.
  2. Fill an ice cube with the mixture.
  3. Once the liquid is warm or cold (but certainly not hot), put the ice cube in the fridge until you get consistent small chocolates.
  4. Fill the cupcakes (or small personal size baking pans) half way with the dough.
  5. Put one of the chocolates and finish filling the cupcakes or baking pans.
  6. Let them bake, just as with the gâteau, in the oven. If you’re using the needle technique to see whether the fondants are ready, make sure you don’t insert it in the heart -where the melted chocolate will be- of the cake, do it on the sides.

Melted inside. ©Dominique Lemoine

Melted inside. © Dominique Lemoine

Enjoy!

Extravaganza

November 19, 2008

This so-called culinary/gourmet/foodie diary (or at least hoping to classify as interesting) originated from my palate, the hunger for more, the constant hunt for ingredients, recipes and restaurants, and -first and foremost- from living everyday’s life based on food (as my friends well know).
Everyone might think this is just too frenchie -no need to mention my name!-, but what best, more telling, more foodjunkielover and more extravagant than a good thick piece of Foie Gras sparkled with Truffles on the top? I believe, honestly, that the flavor of this combination speaks for itself and sums it all up.

Top it with two or three sips of champagne and there you go.