April 24, 2011

the perfect egg: a recipe for îles flottantes and one for pain brioché

Iles Flottantes

with Lime & Jasmine Blossom Crème Anglaise & Rose Meringue
will serve 4 
for the Crème Anglaise:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of milk
2 lime leaves
grated zest of 1 small lime
a handful of lime blossoms
a handful of jasmine blossoms
1 vanilla bean split in two

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla bean, grated lime zest, lime leaves, lime and jasmine blossoms.
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and doubled in volume.
Just before the milk reaches the boiling point, remove it from the heat, cool it for one minute and gently pour it on the egg yolks while whisking them.
Return the milk and eggs to the pan, cook over medium heat while stirring continously. 
Do not let the custard reach the boiling point. As soon as the custard coats the back of the spoon, remove from the heat and pour it in a cold bowl, whisk it until cooler. Place the custard in the fridge with a plastic film on top.

For the Meringue:
3 egg whites
2 Tsp of sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp rose blossom water

In a perfectly clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the sugar, salt and rose water until they stiff and shiny.
Spoon on a lightly buttered baking sheet dollops of meringue. Cook at 100C
for 45 minutes, do not let them color too much, remove from the oven and let them cool.

Prepare the Iles Flottantes: pour the custard in a large bowl and float the meringues on top.

For the Caramel:
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tsp water

In a heavy saucepan, heat the sugar with the water until it forms a syrup.
Let it bubble until it starts coloring, tilt the pan until the color is uniform but do not use a spoon otherwise the sugar will crystallize. Do this until a nice light mahogany color is reached.
Drizzle the caramel on top ot the meringues and serve.

Pain Brioché

makes one loaf or 10 small buns

4 cups of flour
1Tbs of dry yeast
3 tbs of sugar
2 tsp of sea salt
3 large eggs
175grs (6oz) of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup of milk

Place the flour, the sugar, the salt and the yeast in a large bowl. Mix together.
Melt the butter with the milk in a pan on low heat. When melted, remove from the heat and cool to barely warm. 
Add the eggs and the milk/butter to the flour, mix, then start to knead (it will be sticky), add a little flour if you need to. Continue to knead for 10 minutes. When the dough is satiny and feel springy, place in a buttered bowl and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place. After that time, it should be doubled its size. Punch it down and let rise another 2 hours (if you made the dough in the afternoon, let it rise in a cool place overnight).
Shape it in a loaf or in a braid or make buns.
Let the dough rise 20 minutes after you shape it.
Cook in a preheated oven 200C or 350F for 40 minutes for the loaves and 20 minutes for the buns until golden.

April 14, 2011

Baking bread in a different world

If there is one thing I miss a lot here in Bali, it is a good, crusty, warm loaf of bread fragrant with the sweet smell and heady tang of yeast. I have been dreaming for a long time to build a bread oven but so far, it has remained only that, a dream.

Not only could I bake bread in it but pizzas and fruit tarts as well. Ahhhhhh, just the thought of it transports me back to the bakeries in France at noon, when all the baguettes, pains de campagne and other breads are still warm and ready to be nibbled on the way back home.
A few months back, I decided that if the bread oven was a dream, the bread itself could possibly become a reality. I went to the town next to our village, bought an electric toaster oven/rotisserie and started to develop some recipes which, if not on a par with French bread, are pleasant and edible.
So for all of us who do not live in a country where good bread is available at every street corner, there is still hope for a decent loaf of daily bread!

    Baguettes et Petits Pains 

will make 5 baguettes or 10 petits pains

4 cups of bread flour
2 packages of dry yeast
2 tsp sea salt (you can increase to 1 Tbs if you like)
1 Tbs natural sugar
1 1/2 cup spring water (not tap because of the chlorine in it)
Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast, the salt and the sugar. Mix with your hands, add the water.  (I do not bother with mixing the yeast, sugar and some water together first). Continue mixing with your hands until the water is incorporated, add some flour if you feel the dough is too wet.
Turn on a counter and start kneading, pulling and stretching, tucking it under to incorporate air in it. It will be tacky at this point but continue, it will start becoming more elastic as you knead. You may add a little flour if you start to have more dough on your hands than on the counter! 
Do this for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and feels alive.
Form the dough in a ball and let it rise for 2 hours in a bowl covered with a towel in a warm, not drafty place.
After that time, when the dough has doubled in volume, deflate it gently. Add a bit of flour and form it in whatever shapes you want. Place the formed dough in a towel or on the baking tray and let it rise for 15minutes.
Bake at 475ºF or 250ºC for 20 minutes. Voilà, warm, crusty and chewy bread!

Olive Oil Dough & Fougasse

This soft dough is basically the same as above with the addition of extra virgin olive oil, the proportions are slightly different. It makes tender rolls and a perfect base for focaccia.

will make 2 large focaccias or 10 rolls

4 1/4 cups bread flour
2tsp sea salt
2tsp natural sugar
5/6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup spring water
Follow the directions for the recipe above with the addition of the oil at the same time as the water.
This dough can rise longer and be punched down 2 times. I make a large batch in the afternoon, make rolls for dinner and keep half the dough for making focaccia for lunch next day.

Roasted Lemon, Onion & Garlic Focaccia

for the focaccia:
2Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
A few basil leaves
1 ripe tomato, sliced thinly

for roasting:
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 garlic head, unpeeled
1tsp sugar
1Tbs olive oil
In a roasting pan, place the lemon, garlic and onion. Mix and rub the oil and sugar in. Roast 200ºC (375ºF) until  golden. Let cool slightly. Push the roasted garlic out of their skins. Cut the lemons in small pieces.
When the dough is rested, take half of it and turn it on a baking tray, push the dough to fit, from the center to the sides, but do not stretch it, poke it with your fingers and drizzle the oil. Cover with a dishtowel, let rest for 45 minutes.

When rested, poke the dough again gently, let rest 30 more minutes (you could skip this step if pressed by time).
Sprinkle the roasted garlic, onion, lemon and Rosemary sprigs on the dough. Arrange the tomato slices on top (you could add some cheese if you'd like), sprinkle some sea salt, grind some pepper on top and bake in a preheated oven at 250ºC (475ºF). Lower the heat to 220ºC (400ºF) and cook for 30 minutes.


1/2 batch of olive oil dough or 1/2 batch of white dough for baguettes
Preheat the oven at 250ºC (475ºF).
Place the dough on a floured counter and spread it gently in a rough square, let it rest 5 minutes. Divide the dough in three smaller squares. Be gentle in handling the dough, do not deflate it, you want to keep air in it.

Cut a large cut in the center and 2 smaller diagonal cuts on each side. Open wide the holes with your fingers as they will get smaller when the fougasse is baking. Sprinkle flour generously on the fougasse.
Place on a well floured baking tray in the oven. Cook for 15/20 minutes until golden.
Variations: After the dough has rested, mix in some good black olives, chopped anchovies and rosemary sprigs, knead a few times and let it rise for another hour, then follow the directions above for shaping and baking. Another good variation is to add some walnuts pieces and some blue cheese instead of the olives and anchovies.

I am still dreaming about my bread oven. Maybe one day....

April 8, 2011

Rejang Dewa and Lawar

Today all over Karangasem where we live, families are celebrating Odalan, the birthday of temples. On Saturday we will go pray at Pura Lumbung but today, Odalan has already started at that temple and young girls are performing Rejang Dewa (the dance for the gods), an event which takes place every year and a half.  Months ago, they started to prepare for that day.

They have been dressed amd made up since early in the morning and now they are ready to wear their beautiful gelungan (hats) made out of ental (the palm leaf which is used to make lontar, the sacred books)  Each one has been lovingly decorated with flowers by their mothers. Like the Banten, Gelungan is a tall and fragrant dedication to the gods, carried on the most sacred part of the body, the head.

The inherent grace and beauty of these young girls is always humbling to me, they naturally possess poise and dignity beyond their years.

Komang's beautiful little cousin, Iluh Mentik

On the other side of the village, since way before dawn, the men have been busy preparing Cassava Leaves Stuffing for Babi Guling, Saté and Lawar at the Banjar Dewa Mas near the temple.

Cassava Leaves Stuffing for Babi Guling

Komang's uncle (we could call him the Iron Chef of Karangasem) has been, with his two challenge ingredients "raw pork blood and bitter starfruit leaves", orchestrating the making of the mysterious Balinese Lawar.

No doubt, if you have been to Bali, you have heard about Lawar and maybe even had a chance to eat it. If not; let me explain, Lawar is mostly prepared for ceremonies and eaten as part of Megibun, the traditional shared meal. It is served as well with babi guling. It consists of roasted and boiled pork, coconut, spices, tree leaves and raw pork blood all mixed according to each Lawar master's unique recipe. Wayan Riem, Komang's uncle, is such a master and is always asked to direct and supervise its preparation. His skills, honed through a lifetime, are unsurpassed and his Lawar is reknown to be the best in the village .

Starfruit leaves and Lombok Chilies

The making of Uncle's Riem Lawar 

Wayan Riem is a very quiet man who has secrets and those are secrets he is not very inclined to share but Komang, being observant, has been able to "duplicate" his uncle's Lawar and give me a recipe that I am happy to share here. Of course, I am not really expecting anyone to make Lawar at home but for the curious and adventurous, it might be an interesting challenge. And next time you eat it, at least you will know what's in it!

Lawar is actually a complex dish, involving the preparation of two spice pastes, Basé Gedé and Pelalah which are mixed in three different preparations: Lawar Merah (the one with raw blood), Lawar Belimbing (with starfruit leaves) and Lawar Putih (white lawar with coconut). These three Lawar are then mixed together for the finished dish pictured below. Each of these Lawar can be served on their own.

For the Basé Gedé:
500 grs. (1lb) of shallots, peeled and finely sliced
200 grs. ( 7oz) of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
6 long red chilies, sliced
125grs ( 4.5oz) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
100grs ( 3.5oz)  of fresh galangal, peeled and finely chopped
50grs (2oz) of kencur, chopped (omit if unavailable
5 candlenuts, chopped
1 Tbs roasted shrimp paste (wrap in aluminium foil and roast over a flame until pungent)
2 tsp sea salt
80 ml (3.5oz) coconut oil or bland oil
Mix all the ingredients together by hand except the oil. Add the oil in a frying pan and cook the ingedients until fragrant. Set aside.

For the Pelalah:
200grs (7oz) garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
100grs (3.5oz) kencur (omit if anavailable)
75grs (3oz) fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped
5 candlenuts, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp roasted shrimp paste
80 ml (3.5oz) bland oil
In a mortar, place all the ingredients, except the oil, and grind into a rough paste. Add the oil in a frying pan and cook the paste until fragrant. Set aside.

 Lawar Merah

200grs (7oz) of pork rind, cleaned and boiled with a pinch of salt for 30 minutes
200grs (7oz) of pork meat with some fat, chopped finely and fried
100ml (3,5oz) of fresh pork blood
5 Tbs Basé Gedé 
3 Tbs Pelalah
4 Tbs of shallots, peeled, sliced finely, deep-fried until golden and drained
3 or 4 bird's eye chilies, chopped finely
1 tsp roasted shrimp paste
Juice of 1 calamondin lime or regular lime
Sea salt to taste

Mix well the meats and the blood together, add the basé gedé, pelalah, chilies, shrimp paste, fried shallots and lime juice. Mix well again. Tase and adjust for salt and eventually chilies.

Lawar Belimbing

500grs ( 17oz) of Starfruit leaves, washed and boiled for 5 minutes
1 1/2 cup of fresh coconut milk (good canned coconut will do if fresh is unavailable)
200grs (7oz) of pork meat with some fat, boiled 15 minutes
4 Tbs Basé Gedé
3 Tbs Pelalah
3 Tbs deep fried shallots (as described in above recipe)
3 bird's eye chilies, sliced finely
1 tsp roated shrimp paste
Juice of 1 Calamondin lime or regular lime if unavailable
Sea salt to taste

Once the starfruit leaves are boiled, rinse them under cold water and squeeze the water out, do this 3 times, it will help remove some of the bitterness.
Boil the coconut milk until thickened, about 10 minutes, cool and set aside.
Chop the meat in small pieces, set a side.

Mix the meat, coconut milk and the sarfruit leaves. Once mixed, add the basé gedé, pelalah, shallots, chilies, shrimp paste and lime and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Set aside. 

Lawar Putih

1/2 fresh coconut, meat grated
150grs (5oz) of fried pork meat with some fat, chopped in small slices
150 grs (5oz) boiled pork meat with some fat, chopped in small slices
4 Tbs Basé Gedé
3 tbs Pelalah
4/5 Tbs deep-fried shallots
3 bird's eye chilies, finely sliced
Juice of 1 calamondin lime or regular lime
1 tsp roasted shrimp paste
Sea salt to taste
Mix the coconut meat and the meats. Add all the other ingredients except salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Set aside.

For the finished  Lawar, mix 1/3 of each preparation above ( Lawar merah, lawar belimbing and lawar putih) and serve with steamed rice.

February 15, 2011

In an Angel's kitchen: Tarte au Chocolat and Cannelés de Bordeaux

Her name is Céleste Mathilde and if her first name suits her perfectly, we should have thought of something more befitting for her middle name, Suzette or Madeleine perhaps?
At three years old, she was already mixing doughs. When she turned six, she had already mastered quite a few simple pastries like crêpes and clafoutis. By the age of ten, she was quite confident with some of the complicated steps of French baking and chocolate éclairs held no more secrets for her. At thirteen, for her 8th grade project, she wrote a twenty five pages essay titled "Cocoa and Chocolate" accompanied by a dozen of cakes and confections. That same year, as if that was not enough, she also baked and decorated the cake for her father's wedding for no less than eighty people.

It is no surprise that today, at eighteen, she is impatiently waiting to graduate from High School to attend "Le Cordon Bleu" in Paris and is working on weekends at a restaurant where she makes desserts and adores her work.
You see, she has it all planned out for a very long time! She already has the concept for her "Salon de Chocolat", what will be served and how everything will look like. Perfect and delightful of course, just like her!
She just needs to grow up a little more, that's all! But inevitably, that will come. And who knows then, what will happen?

Céleste is precious and beautiful like a pearl, fragile and strong, quiet most of the time...

She is captivating; sometimes impossible to understand and, like an exotic butterfly, dazzling and impossible to grasp. She can be patient, poised, collected and calm under fire (the kitchen one, I mean) as much as terribly mischievous, wild with a loyal heart and so very quick witted, it is hard to resist her.

A perfectionist at heart, she can spend hours lost in the making of confections as exquisite as jewels and since her passion is baking, she possesses as well the required cool and inquisitive mind of a scientist, no crazy spontaneity here, nothing like "a little more of this"; perfection is exactitude.
It takes a certain kind of person to be a baker: humble, passionate, obstinate, persistent, curious and very often unconventional. Bakers seem to me as highly creative with the left side of the brain, a paradox of sorts, their creativity managed by logic, like Cartesians in the kitchen, capable to render ethereal visions into tangible and delectable forms, if evanescent, which is part of their beauty.

Céleste's Chocolate Tart
for a 9inch or 20-cm tart pan

For the pâte sucrée:
2 cups or 400grs of flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup or 140grs  butter
4oz or 120grs confectioner's sugar
the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs of heavy cream

In a food processor, blend the sugar and the flour with the salt. Add the butter cut in small pieces, pulse, add the egg yolk, process briefly, add the cream until it forms a ball. Roll in a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven at 350ºF or 175ºC.
When the dough is firm, sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on a surface, wait a few minutes for the dough to slightly warm up and roll very thinly, about 1/4inch. Transfer to a tart pan with a removable bottom being careful not to stretch the dough, press gently but firmly the dough against the edges of the pan so it fits tightly; cut the excess dough with a knife, prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes. After that time, lay a piece of aluminium foil on the dough and fill it with beans, bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, bake 10 minutes longer watching that the dough remains pale but cooked. Remove from the oven and let it cool. The dough is fragile, handle carefully.

For the chocolate filling:
250 grs of bittersweet chocolate
100 grs unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
50 grs sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
a dash of Cointreau

In a bowl, beat with a mixer the eggs, egg yolk and sugar until thick and pale yellow.
Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the chocolate is glossy, add the Cointreau and let cool slightly. Add the heavy cream to the chocolate and pour this preparation in the egg mixture. Pour in the tart shell, cook for 10 minutes max until barely set. (If the top starts to crack, remove at once, it is starting to overcook). Cool until warm.

For the Crème Chantilly:
1 cup of very cold heavy cream
3Tbs confectioner's sugar
2tsp pure vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean

In a very cold bowl, beat the sugar, heavy cream and vanilla with a whisk until it forms soft peaks. Voilà, that's all there is to it! I guess in non-French circles, it's called sweetened whipped cream...

Serve a wedge of tart with a dollop of the Chantilly and some shavings of chocolate on top. If you were inclined to improve on something already perfect, you could, like Céleste, serve this with some strawberry sauce on the side and a little pitcher of lemon verbena Crème Anglaise.

Cannelés de Bordeaux

Cannelés are the beloved little cakes from Bordeaux, where I come from, and Céleste loves them. They are nothing short of an institution in Bordeaux and Maison Baillardran specializes in them and trust me, theirs are perfect! Like many things with ancient and humble origins, they are pretty simple to make and only require a few common ingredients. 
That said, to make a great cannelé is another story! A cannelé should be dark, caramelized and crunchy on the outside, creamy soft and sweet on the inside, redolent of rum and vanilla. Cooking them properly is tricky; letting the batter rest for at least 24 hours is mandatory, you will need to get the copper molds (forget about the silicone ones) and if you want to have a perfect crust, you need either beeswax or a professional pastry spray. 
Not to be discouraged, once you get the "tour de main", making and baking them will become easier; they are nothing more than a cross between a crêpe and a clafoutis batter baked in copper molds.

Batter for 12 cannelés:
1/2 liter ( 1/2 quart) of milk
2 vanilla beans, split
50g (2 1/2oz) butter, unsalted
250 g (8oz) sugar 
120g (4oz) flour, sifted
1 pinch of salt
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
3Tbs Rum
Heat the milk with the vanilla beans until the boiling point, turn off the heat and add the butter.

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt, add the egg yolks and mix very gently. When incorporated, add the eggs, mix thoroughly (and gently, not whisking or beating air into it) until the batter is very smooth (no lumps allowed). Do this by hand with a wooden spoon, not an electric mixer. When smooth, add the milk with the butter (barely warm) little by little, then the rum.
Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours (48 hours is better) for the flavors to ripen and allow the air bubbles to rise  to the surface. You do not want the batter to rise when it cooks or your canelés will be ruined, we are not making popovers or a soufflé!
Strain the batter through a fine mesh sieve. Keep it cold.
Heat the oven at 240ºC or 450ºF. Grease very well the molds with either beeswax and butter (1:1 ratio, melt in a small saucepan on low heat 50grs of beeswax, when melted, turn off the heat and add the butter, coat lightly the molds with the warm mixture and invert them on a rack), baking spray or butter. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
After that time, pour the batter in the molds, fill until 1cm (1/2 inch) below the surface, place on a baking sheet and cook for 1 hour. The temperature is going to drop: the molds are cold, the batter is cold (in purpose), after 10 minutes, the temperature should have come back to 450ºF, lower to 200ºC or 375ºF and continue to cook for 45 minutes.
Do not underbake, do not burn, that's what tricky: too soft and pale, it's NOT a canelé! Burned, it's not a canelé either and impossible to eat! You need to know your oven and watch like a hawk towards the end (you might want to pick one out of the oven towards the end of cooking, slip it out of the mold and check the color). It's the same as making caramel: it goes from  undercooked to burned in a matter of seconds, you have to stop at perfect in the middle and practice will make perfect!
Unmold after a few minutes, let cool, wait 1 hour and EAT!