BRING A RICH, DARK, SALTY AND SWEET TREAT INTO YOUR KITCHEN . . . DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FLEUR DE SEL COOKIES

 

French bakers have always known that a whisper of salt brings out the very best in dark, rich chocolate.    This decadent little cookie is a riff on the  fleur de sel  double chocolate cookies  created by my most favorite bakery in Toronto – Bobbette and Belle.

It has a quiet, unassuming almost old-fashioned appearance  that ends with the first delicious, crumbly addictive bite.  This is not your mother’s chocolate cookies!  It reminds one a rich short bread cookie.  The first nibble  of double layers of chocolate and the exquisite drift of sea salt  takes you to the moon and back.

This superb cookie benefits from baking a day or so in advance of serving.  The chocolate flavour intensifies as it rests quietly in the cookie jar.    It’s unique salty sweet flavour is the perfect ending for any dinner party  especially when you add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

FLEUR DE SEL DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIE  recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

 

 

SO VERY FRENCH LEMON TART . . . the perfect Easter dinner dessert!

This lemon tart, a  sublime combination of buttery crisp cookie-like crust,  silky lemon filling and decadent freshly  whipped cream is the perfect ending to Easter dinner.  The nibbling of chocolate Easter eggs.   The second helping at dinner.  All is forgotten.  All is forgiven when lemon tart is served.  Lemon cleanses the palate and refreshes the soul.  Later you may not remember the meal but you NEVER forget a truly amazing dessert.

The traditional  French dough recipe  is not difficult to make.  You must use a stand-mixer.  A hand-held mixer is not heavy enough to mix the dough.  The buttery dough makes a  delicate, crisp  crust.    Make the pie crust  a day ahead of time and the filling the next day.   The recipe makes enough for two pie crusts –  use one now and freeze the other for a delicious tart in your future.

Pierre Hermes is the inspiration for this stunning, sublime lemon cream (think curd) filling.  Hermes, a French pastry chef,  is famous for his unusually flavoured macaroons. The addition of a little orange zest calms the sharpness of the lemons.   The tart filling  has all the ingredients of the  traditional lemon curd but it is lighter and silky smooth.  The secret is the method used when adding the butter. It is simple to make,

I am repeating this dessert recipe  but when a recipe is good it bears repeating and remembering.   It is preferable to serving  store-bought pie unless you have access to a French patisserie.  See and read the how-to in the kitchen of MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

 

A SPECTACULAR ONE POT RECIPE . . . BASQUE CHICKEN

Take some brilliant red peppers, add a red onion, toss in tomatoes and garlic and create alchemy with chicken and chorizo.  The combination is rich and welcoming and fills your kitchen with the most delicious aroma.   This spectacular recipe is one of those dishes that are the heart and soul of your kitchen.

This is an adaptation of a favorite Daniel Boulud recipe.    Chicken legs  and or thighs, slowly simmered until the meat falls from the bone delivers great flavour.

The recipe for this very French dish BASQUE CHICKEN awaits you on MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

A RUSTIC FRENCH APPLE TART THAT’S A ”DOODLE” TO WHIP UP.

 

When I made desserts for our French restaurant they were  outrageously elaborate.  It was never just chocolate cake but  a  dense flourless creation –  bete noire with creme anglais and raspberry sauce.  I went through gallons of cream making   Grand Marnier souffles, creme brulee and praline ice cream with salted caramel sauce.     Desserts in our restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro, were extravagant, rich creations  to indulge the senses.

Now I prefer a simpler style of baking.  This recipe is the quintessential  country French apple tart.    This  wonderful  version  is great for beginner pastry makers  because you don’t have to worry about rolling the pastry into any particular shape.

The pastry for this pie is so delicately flaky it whispers as you cut into it.  I’ve just  dusted the pie with icing sugar, but if you want to gild the lily a few drifts of softly whipped vanilla flavoured  cream would be lovely.

The markets are filled with dozens of different kinds of apples.  Slip into my kitchen and bake with MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

CAN YOU BAKE A FLAPPER PIE, BILLY BOY BILLY BOY?

FLAPPER PIE is a dessert creation unique to the Canadian Prairies.    It was in every housewife’s cooking repertoire.  For several very good reasons.  One – it was easy to make with a never fail graham cracker crumb crust.  Second – twelve months of the year you had the ingredients in your kitchen.  And last of all – this nursery food with just a few ingredients – was adored by all who had the good fortune to enjoy it for dessert. When I first made flapper pie I used a hand egg beater to whip the egg whites.  It was  a physical workout.    Then I acquired a Sunbeam MixMaster.  I was in cooking heaven.  I could whip up one of these delicious pies faster than you could drink a pot of tea.  Flapper Pie did have one draw-back.  It didn’t keep well.  Sadly you were forced to consume it all  the day you made it.  That said if you could not accomplish this feat – soft  crust and all it was still not bad the next day.

For the recipe gather your graham cracker crumbs and head over to MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

CHARLES DICKENS AND MY INTRODUCTION TO SILVER

How Charles Dickens introduced me to silver.

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Every evening through the bitter cold Saskatchewan winters our mother read Charles Dickens to us.  The Old Curiosity Shop, Little Nell and her Grandfather was as real to us as the neighbors next door.  That was the year I turned  nine years old, and discovered what I thought was an Old Curiosity Shop.

Nine years old meant I was old enough to go downtown by myself.  I could spend all the time I wanted walking up and down Prince Albert’s Central Avenue.   Looking at books in Adam’s Book Store.  Buying a cherry custard ice cream at McConnell’s.

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It was off a side street I found a shop with a  dirty window crowded with other people’s memories  – walking sticks, stone crocks, faded photographs and mysterious objects I couldn’t identify.  I had discovered my Old Curiosity Shop. When I opened the door a bell tinkled.  The shop was dusty with forgotten pasts.  It smelt of mildew.   Of neglect.   It was wonderful.

The floor creaked.  Bare light bulbs hung from the high ceiling. There was no order.  Clothes tumbled out of trunks.  China plates and bowls teetered precariously.  Ancestral photographs frowned at me.  And then I found the silver.  Tarnished black.   Again it was wonderful.

A bundle of elaborate silver spoons had been thrust carelessly into a green glass canning jar.  The aging price sticker said five cents each.  I had a dime.  I could buy two.  I knew what I could do with them.   Armed with an old tooth brush, silver polish and soft flannel I had been lovingly polishing my mother’s silver candlesticks and tea service for several years.

And that was the start of my obsession with silver  – preferably old, along with my acceptance that all silver will tarnish and life is too short to be polishing your silver with commercial polish every Saturday.  This recipe for cleaning silver is safer (no chemicals), cheaper (house-hold ingredients) and better for your silver.  It returns your silver to incredible brilliance with damaging it.

 

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MAGIC SILVER CLEANING SOLUTION

Aluminum foil, glass dish or plastic bowl, tongs,   1 cup boiling water, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon sea salt. 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Line your bowl with the foil.  Add the baking soda and sea salt.  Pour in the white vinegar(it fizzes).  Pour in the water.

Lay your silver items – not touching – in the bowl for 10 to 30 seconds depending on the amount of tarnishing.  Longer if they are badly tarnished.  Remove with tongs and rinse under running water.  Then polish with a soft cloth.  (try to avoid touching the silver with your fingers as they will tarnish your silver)

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This amount is perfect for silver jewellery and small items. I made up the amount times eight (8) so I could clean large items.  If you find it not working after cleaning several items simply remove the discolored  foil and replace it with new foil.

Dear friends I did research on this method and I was confident I wasn’t harming my silver.  It is important not to leave the silver in mixture for any length of time. If your have valuable family heirlooms you might want to research this yourself, but it does work a treat on silver plate.  My understanding is continuous use of commercial silver polish actually removes the silver.  This method does not.  The hot water quickly cools but the mixture continues to work.

I absolutely promise your silver will gleam.  I had not polished any silver for almost a year.  It was so tarnished that as I dipped first one side of a silver jug and then went to turn it to the other side the difference was like black and white.    Gather up your collection of silver and polish it all in one go.  It  is like having your own butler from Downton Abby is shining away in the pantry

 

 

 

VALENTINE ROSES FOR A NEW LIFE

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BEL’OCCHIO  …  the beautiful eye

About a million February’s ago I was making plans for a truly splendid Valentine’s Day.  I had recently finished a script for a documentary film.  I had been paid extremely well  and wanted to celebrate this so romantic day in a special manner.

I thought about the loves of my life.  The important people in it.  What they meant to me.  There were several woman who were close friends but had moved to other cities.    Theirs was always the sympathetic ear. The helping hand.  The strong, stand by me attitude.  But they were no longer in my life.  Distance plays havoc with friendships.

I knew that some my friends did not have “significant others” in their lives, and a one struggled with her marriage.    I picked up the phone and ordered a dozen red roses to be sent to each friend.    I was very specific about how they were to be  delivered.  In a long florist box tied with an enormous ribbon.  And, they were to be delivered the day before Valentine Day’s.  I wanted my friends to wake-up on that day to a room fragrant with roses.

I received happy thank-you notes but it was not until three years later did I discover just how much  the roses meant to one of my friends  –   Helen.   Over the years I saw her steadily gaining weight.  By the time she moved away she was more than 100 pounds overweight.

 One evening Helen called.  She was in town briefly.  Would I meet her for a drink at her hotel?  I arrived early, sipped my wine watching for the friend I had not seen for years.  A tall, drop-dead gorgeous blond woman strode into the room.  Heads turned.  Admiring glances from men.  It was Helen.

This was her story.  When she received the roses she knew she had to change her life.  She told me that  of all her friends I was the only one who never suggested  she should loose weight.  She  said she knew that I expected one day she would do it – when the time was right. Helen was in an emotionally abusive marriage.  On that Valentine’s day she started her program for weight loss.  As the pounds dropped away she became stronger and more confident.  Her abusive husband, unable to control this new woman, left her.    My friend Helen got her life back.

 As we travel through this life we have no concept of what a simple act of kindness can do.   We have a responsibility to care about our fellow man.   Perhaps this Valentine’s day one can send roses to their elderly neighbor.   Share your planned romantic dinner with your single friends.  Send cards telling your friends how important they are to you.

From the bottom of my heart a happy Valentine’s day to all who read my blog.