Baked apples stuffed with pecan and American Pale Ale beer (or apple cider) jelly

Baking apples in the oven, with nothing more than just good apples from the orchard of my grandfather.

Cooked slowly in the wood oven of my grandparents, to give enough time to the juice to be released during the cooking process and to form a light but flavorful caramel on the bottom of the dish. And when I was a child, this was the best part of this dish! With a teaspoon, I have enjoyed (and still enjoy) removing every pieces of this fruity caramel.

Warm or cold … baked apples … so yummy, so many great memories of my childhood in France.

Since this time, every winter, I am baking apples. I love them!

This is my new version of a French treat … with a little twist: beer or apple cider jelly with roasted pecans in the middle.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Servings: 6

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

6 to 12 apples

For this recipe, I have used Northern Spy apples. You can also use Cortland, Gala or Russet. There are so many options.

80 to 120 grams toasted pecans (depending of the size of the apples)

How to toast the pecans?

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly sprits baking sheet with cooking oil. Spread pecans on rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until nuts are aromatic and darker in color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool, and coarsely chop them.

You have to watch them carefully as they are easily scorched.

12 generous teaspoons of American Pale Ale Beer or Apple Cider jelly

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Rinse and dry the apples.

Carefully remove half of the core from the apples with a sharp knife or apple corer. Do not cut all the way through, and be careful not to split them in half. Place them on a baking dish.

Stuff each apple with 1 to 2 tablespoons of toasted pecan and 1 to 2 teaspoons of jelly.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes (or more if apples really big), until apples are tender.

You can eat them warm, or cold. I keep them for several days in the fridge, I love them as a snack or a small treat.

Bonne appetite!

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American Pale Ale beer jelly (or vanilla) infused yogurt pudding with caramelized peaches

This summer I cooked a lot of peaches …. mostly because I wanted to nail one recipe, and one only: a French tatin peach pie. Peach pie can be really soggy, this was my challenge. It took me 6 to 7 peach pies, but now I nail it. My peaches are perfectly caramelized and my tatin peach pie is not anymore soggy.

The positive aspect of this experience is the fact that I have rediscovered that caramelized peaches in sugar and butter is real yummy. It also brought back some sweet memories: my grandmother sweet indulgence made with peaches. I wanted to bring back these memories, with a little twist.

Peach with beer? Mummm, can we pair them?

Through my reading about pairing food with beer, I have learnt that American Pale Ale works well with caramel and fruits. Et voila!

it gave me the idea to try baked yogurt pudding with caramelized peaches and American Pale Ale beer jelly. And it was not a mistake, it is gorgeous!

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min                   Cook Time: 30 to 45 min                    Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 peaches, ripe but firm

30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter

40 grams (1/4 cup) sugar

250 grams (1 cup) plain yoghurt

140 grams (0.6 cup) sweetened condensed milk

80 grams (0.3 cup) cream fraîche

4 teaspoons of Imperial IPA Beer Jelly (or one teaspoon of vanilla extract as an alternative)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Cut peaches into quarters. Pan fry them quickly in butter (be sure to use a pan large enough to have one layer of fruits) on high heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the granulated sugar and mix. Lower the heat to medium heat and wait for peaches render their juice (it can take 10 to 12 minutes). Increase the heat to high and dry and simmer the peaches until there is no more juice.

It is really important to have at that point no liquid at all because the peaches will release some juice when cooking in the oven, and if this is the case, the peach pie will be soggy.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the peaches from the caramel and transfer them equitably to 4 X 250 ml glass Masson jar.

Warm up the American Pale Ale Beer Jelly using a microwave or a water bath.

Mix together the yoghurt, condensed milk, cream, beer jelly and egg in a medium bowl.

Pour the yoghurt mixture over the peaches and bake in the oven for 20–35 minutes, or until the pudding is just set. I find that 25 minutes is enough but it will all depend of your stove.

When the pudding is cooked, it will look smooth like a panna cotta, but it will still be a little wobbly. It is important not to cook it for any longer once it reaches this stage, because overcooking will make it curdle and the water separate.

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, then serve.

The pudding will become firmer and lose its wobbliness when it is chilled in the refrigerator.

You can keep this dessert for at least 48 hours in the fridge. It is a really refreshing sweet treat.

Imperial IPA beer jelly (or vanilla) infused yogurt pudding with tomato compote

In the French Caribbean islands, we are making vanilla tomato jam. And yes, tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable!

I have always loved the idea to use tomatoes in sweet recipes. I started with jam a few years ago. This is one of my favorite jam here in Toronto. We have so much tomatoes during the summer. But this summer, I wanted to be a little more adventurous and I have decided to develop a dessert with tomatoes that also includes one of my beer jellies.

Imperial IPA beer jelly is the perfect choice because hops and tomatoes work really well together. But don’t worry, if you don’t have any Imperial IPA beer jelly, you can use vanilla for both the tomato compote and the yogurt pudding. It is going to be delicious too.
Inspired by Indian cuisine, this is an aromatic, crunchy, creamy and refreshing sweet treat (adapted from Ragini Dey’s recipe (Spice Kitchen)). It remind me one of my grand mother Adele recipe. Hope you will like it!

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min        Cook Time: 30 to 45 min         Yield: 4 servings

 Ingredients

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 vanilla bean

4 curry leafs (or 1 small bay leaf)

4 pods of green cardamom (opened, seeds removed and ground)

180 grams (7/8 cup) sugar

250 grams (1 cup) plain yoghurt

140 grams (0.6 cup) sweetened condensed milk

80 grams (0.3 cup) cream fraîche

4 teaspoons of Imperial IPA Beer Jelly (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract as an alternative)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C).

Cut lengthwise down the vanilla bean into two halves and scrape the pod halves to collect the seeds.

Mix together the tomato, vanilla pod and seeds, curry leafs, cardamom and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and cook for about 8–10 minutes.

Do not overcook the tomatoes, it is really important to keep intact the crunchiness and the freshness of this fruit.

Remove the tomatoes, and distribute them equitably between 4 X 250 ml glass Masson jars.

Reduce the tomato syrup half or until it forms a syrup. Remove the vanilla bean and curry leafs, and pour the syrup into the jars over the tomatoes.

Warm up the Imperial IPA Beer Jelly using a microwave or using a water bath.

Mix together the yoghurt, condensed milk, cream, beer jelly and egg in a medium bowl.

Pour the yoghurt mixture over the tomato mixture and bake in the oven for 20–35 minutes, or until the pudding is just set. It seems that 25 minutes is enough but it will all depend of your stove.

When the pudding is cooked, it will look smooth like a panna cotta and still a little wobbly. Do not cook it for any longer once it reaches this stage, because overcooking will make it curdle and the water will separate.

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, then serve. The pudding will become firmer and lose its wobbliness when chilled.

You can keep this dessert for at least 48 hours in the fridge. It is a really refreshing sweet delicacy!

Peach Tatin Pie with Lemon Verbena Whipped Cream

(Peach is one of my favorite fruits during the summer season. I think it might be strongly related to my great childhood memories: pick directly from the tree during a hot day or freshly bake – French peach pie or preserve for the winter season – jam and canning experience with my grandmother Adele. My grandparents had one kind of peach in their orchard – the “pêche de vigne” (peach of the grapevine), delicate small white peaches full of fragrances. It was (and still is) a delicacy!

On the other hand, lemon verbena is a leafy herb with a strong lemony flavor. It originated in South America and was brought back to Europe, where it served as both a decorative and functional plant. When I was living in France, verbena has been one of my favorite herbal teas, the most common use for a lot of people. Here in Canada, I didn’t have the opportunity to drink any longer a cup of verbena tea, and I was so pleased when I have had the opportunity to source this delicacy here in Toronto a few years ago.

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When you live overseas, there are simple pleasures, like finding products that bring you back home and make you feel cheerful: mustard of Dijon and perrier for me, “bonne maman” jam for my friends… and for a lot of us, the petits beurres (French butter cookies) also, French cheeses of course, and verbena.

Lemon verbena can be used when cooking, generally in sweet dishes, and this is something I wanted to explore for many years. In most of the recipes of peach tatin pies I have reviewed for this blog, people are using fresh verbena. Unfortunately, here in Toronto, it is quite difficult to find a verbena plant. In contrast, verbena as an herbal tea is quite easy to find – ask your favorite gourmet tea boutique, I am pretty sure they have some. To get all the flavor possible out of the dry leafs, the best solution is to infuse the dry leafs into a liquid. This can be done by steeping the leaves in boiling or near boiling liquid, much the same way as you might make tea, then straining them out before using the liquid in another recipe. And this is exactly the way that I have chosen to follow for the verbena infused cream.

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Like in Provence, peach and verbena is the perfect combination for a sweet summer treat. The touch of lemon verbena lends an incredibly bright and fresh streak to the sweet cooked peaches in the tatin pie. Yummy… I was ready to try!

I love making pies, any kinds. I do it mostly without looking at a recipe. However, for this specific pie, it was quite different and really challenging. First, it was a new recipe for me. Secondly, I didn’t find any recipe online (except America Test Kitchen) that talks openly about the major issue when baking with peaches: they are really juicy and your pie or cake can be really soggy.

For my first peach tatin pie, I followed the recipe I have found online. No juice before I started to cook the pie in the oven, but after 35 minutes … A flood of juice above the crust, soggy, soggy. I did it again and again – in total we ate 6 peach tatin pies, improving each time a little bit more to get at the end the perfect peach tatin pie. I still love peaches… not a problem!

My advice

Don’t be afraid to cook your peaches on high heat, to caramelize them perfectly (you can see my pictures soggy vs caramelized). The peach is a delicate fruit and I was afraid to overcook them and obtain some sort of peach marmalade, but it has not been the case. The dry-heat/high-heat method cooks off a lot of water (and you need this) and helps to cook the peaches to just the right texture.

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I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Prep Time: 30 min                           Cook Time: 50 min                                         Yield: One 9-inch pie

Ingredients

8 to 10 peaches, ripe but firm

60 grams (4 tablespoons) butter

80 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

1 sheet puff pastry

1 pinch of salt

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

If your peaches are not yet at maturity. Place them in a paper bag for 2 to 3 days.

Wash peaches

Remove any stems and leaves still present on the peaches. Brush away any visible dirt or residue by hand. Fill a bowl or partially fill your kitchen sink with water, adding a small amount of soap as it fills. Place the peaches in the bowl or sink, rubbing the surface of the fruit to remove dirt and residue. Rinse the peaches in cool running water.

Cut them into quarters. Pan fry them quickly in butter (be sure to use a pan large enough to have one layer of fruits) on high heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the granulated sugar and mix. Lower the heat to medium heat and wait for peaches render their juice (it can take 10 to 12 minutes). Increase the heat to high and dry and simmer the peaches until there is no more juice.

It is really important to have at that point no liquid at all because the peaches may release some juice when cooking in the oven, and if this is the case, the peach pie will be soggy.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the peaches from the caramel and transfer them to a 9-inch pie dish.

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Cut a 10-inch disk out of the puff pastry sheet. Drape it over the peaches in the pie dish.

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 to 25 minutes.

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Cut around edge of cake pan to loosen pastry. Carefully place a plate on top of the pie, slide your hand under bottom of the pie pan (be sure it’s cool enough to handle, or use a pot holder), and flip over the tart. Carefully lift off cake pan. The caramel should ooze out and pool around the tart. Rearrange any peaches that may have become dislodged. Cut warm tart into wedges; serve with verbena infused whipped cream.

I recommend to cook the pie when eating the first and second courses of your meal, and flip over the tart at the last minutes, just before to serve it. If it is not possible, it can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Let stand in cake pan at room temperature. Rewarm tart in 350°F oven for 10 minutes before continuing.

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Verbena infused whipped cream

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream

4 teaspoons dry lemon verbena

4 tablespoons icing sugar

Preparation

Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; add lemon verbena. Cover. Let steep 15 minutes. Strain cream into a medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Beat infused cream with 4 tablespoons sugar to soft peaks.

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Ready for the peach tatin pie…

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Bonne Appetite!

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Dark Cherry Clafoutis

Oh my, this is one of my favorite desserts during the summer . Easy to do, luxurious, wobbly, custardy, light but flavourful, healthy and so tasty.

Clafoutis is one among so many different French fruity desserts that we can enjoy during the summer season. It is a speciality of the Limousin region, where it is traditionally made with the local black griottes, or sour cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter.

There are numerous variations using other fruits, including plums, prunes, apples, pears, rhubarb, figues, cranberries or blackberries. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a “flaugnarde”. You can also prepare a savory version with different vegetables like cherry tomatoes, shallot, zucchini, spinach… You can also add ham and cheese. Children will love it!

Clafoutis is a versatile and casual dish, a little rustic for sure but so tasty. So feel free to personalize it, your family and friends will love it.

The name “clafoutis” comes from the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill. And it is exactly what this dessert does, very pleasurably, indeed.

Traditionally, a French clafoutis contains the whole cherries (i.e. with the pits). Over the past few weeks, I read a lot about cherry clafoutis and I have found several recipes that call for removing the pits – some important authors: Julia Child and David Lebovitz, to name some of the well known North American French cuisine gurus.

The idea of removing the pits is a difficult decision for me. I live in North America and I understand that it is important to adapt recipes to the audience we would like not only to reach but also to engage in a culinary journey. However, I really want to share with people the pleasure of French food and the essence of what makes our cooking style that is prepared using simple ingredients so tasty.

I have a lot of thoughts about this dilemma. It is true that I am under the influence of the French tradition and the fact that I don’t want to be too “Americanized” – stubborn French girl!

But to be honest, it is more complicated than this. It relates to my childhood, my grandmother Adele’s clafoutis, the way she taught me how to make this recipe, and the sweet and lip-smacking souvenirs associated with this dish. A real gourmandise! And honestly, I really think I will be so disappointed to discover after so many decades of delicious cherry clafoutis that the fact of keeping the pits doesn’t make any difference at all. The flavour is the same with or without the pits!

Then, I have decided that I will leave to you the decision to remove or not the pits. The only thing I can do is to give you the “food science” explanation of why we need to keep the pits when doing this specific dish – to be able to make the most delicious clafoutis!

According to The Larousse – one of the most prestigious series of French cooking books, the pits have a particular aroma which infuses the batter as they warm up in the oven. As a result, removing them robs the dessert of its full cherry flavour. The pits contain amygdalin, the active chemical found in almond extract. Thus, a small amount of amygdalin from the pits is released into the clafoutis during baking, adding a complementary note to its flavor.

If you decide to remove the pits, you can add some of this flavourful characteristic by adding 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. This is the secret!

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe for a true French cherry Clafoutis.

 

8 servings          Preparation 3 hours and 30 minutes                    Cooking 45 minutes

Ingredients

600 grams (1.32 pounds) sweet cherries

45 ml (3 tablespoons) kirsch or other brandy

3 large eggs, at room temperature

70 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract (only if you pit the cherries)

80 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plus 45g (3 tablespoons) sugar

330ml (1 1/3 cup) whole or low fat milk

Pinch of salt

Softened butter (for the baking dish)

 

Preparation

Wash the cherries and remove the stalks.

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If you are not buying organic cherry, it is really important to wash them appropriately to remove as much as pesticides you can. Cherry is one of the “Dirty Dozen” among the fruit and vegetable list. I recommend to simply wash them in a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. You can soak the cherries in a solution of 10% vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse them in clear water. Using this technique, you should be able to remove 80% of all pesticides.

Put in a bowl and lightly crush them, so the skins pop but the fruit retains its shape. Add 3 tablespoons sugar and the kirsch, toss together, cover and leave to macerate for two hours.

If you use pitted cherry, you don’t need to crush them but you will have some juice. Do not discard it, you can add some to the batter.

Why is it important to macerate the fruit in kirsch (or other brandy) and sugar for two hours before cooking?

This is a technique I use a lot when I am doing jam. The sugar will slowly permeate the cherries and intensify their flavour. The alcoholic bath will give an extra flavour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

Grease generously a 3-liter (3-quart) baking dish, just wide enough to hold the cherries in one layer.

Lay the macerated cherries in a single layer in the baking dish.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt and the 80 grams of sugar. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the vanilla extract and almond essence, if using it.

Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for about 45 minutes, until it just sets but it is still a bit wobbly (a knife poked in the center should emerge relatively clean).

If you want you can sprinkle some Demerara sugar on the top (it will add a more interesting texture, providing a crunchy counterpoint to all that wobbly custard and juicy fruits).

The clafoutis can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. It’s traditionally not served with any accompaniment.

You can make it up to one to two days in advance, and refrigerated it.

Bonne Appetite!

 

A little of science…

Nutritional and health value of cherry – A way to boost your energy and your overall health

There are two primary varieties of cherries: sweet and tart (also known as sour cherries). Sweet cherries, such as Bing cherries, are best eaten fresh (and raw), while sour cherries develop a fuller flavor when they’re used in cooking (like baking).

Cherries are one of the very low calorie fruits (63 calories, 13 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fibre per 100 grams).

Cherries, and more specifically sour cherries (mostly because most of the research done so far has been done with sour cherry), are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness.

It is important to keep in mind, if you eat cherries for their therapeutic value, that 10 sweet cherries or 1 cup of sour cherries contain about 4 grams of fructose (recommended total daily fructose consumption ≤ 25 grams).

Below are some of the benefits eating different kinds of cherry:

Be Zen and sleep well

Cherry fruits are one of few natural sources of stable anti-oxidant melatonin, a hormone that can lower the body temperature and also can cross the blood-brain barrier easily. As a result, it can produce soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down the nervous system irritability, which helps relieve neurosis, insomnia and headache conditions. To sleep better, you can drink half to one cup of sour cherry juice an hour before bed.

Balance your blood pressure and maintain your heart as young as possible

Sweet cherries contains potassium (6% daily value per 100 grams), a natural blood-pressure reducer. Potassium balances fluids in our bodies, essentially offsetting the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium. One cup of these ruby gems packs roughly the same amount of potassium as a small banana and also contains some quercetin, an antioxidant that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and stretched.

Sour cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions.

Finally, anthocyanins (the pigments that give the sour cherries its red color) may activate a receptor called PPAR in different tissues of body. It can regulate metabolism genes expression, which in turn regulates fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.

Relieve muscle pain

Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries may act like anti-inflammatory agents by blocking the actions of cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes. Interestingly, the sour cherries’ antioxidants can also protect against attacks by exercise-induced free radicals, which can lead to painful inflammation. Thus, consumption of cherries has potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries like post-workout pain.

Fight cancer

Sweet cherries are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, anthocyanins (red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties) and quercetin, which may work together synergistically to fight cancer. Interestingly, preliminary studies suggest the anthocyanin cyanidin may prevent genetic mutations that can lead to cancer and keep cancer cells from growing out of control. While tart cherries contain some anthocyanins, sweet cherries pack nearly three times as many (two-thirds are found in the skins). The riper the better: as cherries darken, they produce more antioxidants.

Shape your body and overall health through weight management

Anthocyanins in sour cherries may activate a molecule that helps augment fat burning and decrease fat storage. Recently, researchers have shown that rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t receive cherries. Interestingly, their blood also showed much lower levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than their cherry-deprived counterparts.

Let’s eat some sour cherries when they are in season!

References

http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/cherry_nutrition_benefits

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/natasha-turner-nd/cherries-benefits_b_3757989.html

September is ….Tomato merry-go-around

It was really difficult to choose the recipes I will share with my guesses for this amazing dinner party. I love tomatoes and I cook them in so many different ways… all so yummy. These are some of my favorite recipes, new ones I have developed here in Canada as well as my family’s recipe: “les tomates farcies”. A must!

Join us in September to enjoy a dinner all focusing on tomatoes … savory and sweet … there is no limit!

tomato merry-go-around

Register at The Kingston Social

References for the pictures:

http://www.kireei.com/tomates-y-flores/

http://www.cuisineactuelle.fr/recettes/tomates-farcies-au-boeuf-hache-209505

http://www.showfoodchef.com/2010/08/tomato-canjam.html

A taste of Provence … this is our demo + dinner party for August

I don’t have to go back to France, I will simply cook some of my favorite Provencal dishes to feel “I am at home, with my friends and Family in the region of Avignon. Join us in August for a taste of Provence:

A taste of provence

We will published the recipes in August…

Register at The Kingston Social

Reference for the pictures:

http://french-riviera-blog.com/2012/03/24/a-walking-tour-around-the-old-town-of-nice-and-restaurant-guide/

http://www.pratique.fr/recette-ratatouille.html

http://www.pratique.fr/recette-ratatouille.html