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.

DREAM BARS … ” rich, luscious topping on a shortbread-type base”

It’s not easy to come up with a sweet treat for Christmas day.  Not when you have so many favorite.  However, hands-down DREAM BARS speak Christmas to me.    It simply wouldn’t be Christmas with out these additive treats to  nibble on after Christmas dinner.

DREAM BARS is an old-fashioned recipe from a small Robin Hood cookbook.  I started baking from it more than 53 years ago.    Then it disappeared to the Land of  Forgotten Recipes.

I was in the Land of the Patisserie.   Gastron Lenôtre’s books became bed-side reading.    Pastries, flans, tarts,  Chou pastries, meringues, French custards, rich chocolate ganaches had me in their decadent clutches.

ROXY’S  BISTRO’s display case indulged with  crème brûlée,  Paris-Brest, St Honoré  cakes, chocolate mousse, apple charlottes,  petits fours glacés,  gâteaux laden with  custard and cream .

I’ve come full circle with my baking.  How rewarding to fill your home with the heady aroma of old-fashioned  baking… cookies, loaf cakes,  gingerbread, coffee cakes.  They are easy, they are quick to make and bake,  and they are so much better than anything that comes in a bag or box.

DREAM BARS

Base:

1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 1/2  tbsp icing sugar, 1/2 cup butter (or best quality hard margarine if your diet requires it)

In a large bowl mix together the flour and icing sugar.  Blend in the butter with your fingertips, or cut in until very fine mealy with a pastry blender.  Pat the mixture firmly into a greased 8 inch square pan.  Bake in a slow oven at 300F for 20 minutes.

While your base is baking making the topping:

2 large eggs room temperature

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 scant cup of all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 generous cup of coarsely chopped walnuts

1 cup of cocoanut.

Beat the eggs well with a whisk  and add sugar.  Whisk again.

In a small bowl add flour, salt and baking powder and stir to blend.  Add this to your egg mixture and blend.  Now add the vanilla, nuts and cocoanut.

Spread this over the base and return to oven.  Bake in a slow oven (300F) for 30 to 35 minutes.

The topping is very soft when removed from the oven but becomes firm as it cools.  DO NOT TRY TO CUT OR REMOVE  from pan until cold.  Cut into squares or bars.  Drift a little icing sugar over the top.

This delicate square becomes an easy,  dessert if you serve it with a scoop of ice cream or a generous spoonful of whipped cream.  It’s as impressive and delicious as any complicated French dessert.  Bon Appetit!

CREME BRULEE . . . the perfect dessert to compliment a very French dinner.

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Crème Brûlée is like Coco Chanel’s little black dress.  Perfection in its simplicity.  Perfection in its execution.   Designed to impress but not to over-power.   Always in good taste.  And the memorable ending to any dinner.

If you only make one dessert in your life – make it crème brûlée and make it yours.  My new recipe is similar to the dessert we served in our restaurant ROXY’S BISTRO, but I have simplified it and made it practically fool-proof.

Generally I make the classic version – with vanilla.  Or,  feeling creative I’ll poke around in the drinks cupboard and use cognac or Grand Marnier as the flavouring.    One can even put a generous dab of jam in the bottom of the ramekins before you pour your custard.  Like Chanel’s little black dress – the possibilities of changing this recipe are endless.

This recipe contains only three ingredients – eggs, cream, sugar and flavouring.  It takes just a few minutes to whip up then into the oven it goes.

Put on your apron and come into MRS BUTTERFINGERS kitchen and make CRÈME BRÛLÉE.

 

 

CHEESE GOUGERES – the perfect appetizer to compliment a very French dinner.

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It was an important evening.  We were celebrating the joy of life with friends and family.  The dinner –  cassoulet ( three days in the creation of that rich French dish of beans, lamb and pork) with a green salad and for dessert crème brûlée.  The challenge  – the perfect appetizer to compliment this very French dinner.  It’s a fine balance.  I wanted to serve an appetizer that would not distract from the main course or heaven forbid – the dessert.

Gougères were the answer to this menu dilemma. My favorite way to serve gougères is adding cheese to the mixture.  You simply grate any hard or semi-hard cheese into your batter then spoon the mixture onto parchment lined baking sheets.  You can bake them immediately but a better choice  is freezing them.   Once frozen scoop them into freezer bags and store until needed.  No thawing necessary.  Simply follow the baking instructions and add a couple of minutes to the baking time. Then tumble these delectable morsels onto a gorgeous serving plate and watch them disappear.

You can bake the classic gougères and fill the delicate little darlings with a flavourful filling.  Think wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce.  Or finely chopped shrimp spiked with wasbi.   The choice is limitless.  Filled gougères freeze beautifully –  simply reheat in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes.

Join me MRS. BUTTERFINGERS in my kitchen and create magic with GOUGÈRES.

HOW TO COOK PERFECT CREME BRULEE

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Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas a few days early.    Our son and his wife will be away on Christmas Day.  The supper menu has a decidedly French flavour.   Réveillon Tourtière (a French Canadian pork pie) instead of turkey and for dessert crème brulée.

How can a dessert made with just eggs, cream, milk and sugar be so utterly beguiling.

A dessert that seduces you with every spoonful.

Pure sensual pleasure in every mouthful.

Silky custard fragrant with vanilla collides with the bitter sweet flavour of burnt sugar and captivates you for ever.

It is pure alchemy.

It is pure Christmas.

This recipe for crème brûlée  was always on the menu at our restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro.    We made it five days a week for seven years.  Do the math.  Repetition makes perfect, and I perfected this recipe so it is right every time.   This recipe is perfect for six generous servings, but if you are having a large dinner party it doubles beautifully and serves twelve.

(For the recipe simply click on crème brûlée  above)

WITTY PIGEON PLACE CARDS

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A flock of witty French pigeons discuss the menu.

Olive Tapanade  for an appetizer

plump green and dark olives

fragrant rosemary, sage and thyme.

Something robust,

Italian

Porchetta

pork roasted crusty brown with fennel and garlic.

Dessert

The pure alchemy of crème brûlée’

To amuse

witty pigeon place cards.

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Place cards for fun.

To amuse especially  the youngest guest at dinner.

I down-loaded this charming idea from countryliving.com/pigeoncards.  Printed them on coloured cardstock to compliment my French plates.

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I thought these birds are so sweet I’ll trace them onto patterned cardstock (found at a craft store) to match these plates.

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For an all white theme I traced the sweet birds onto pages from an old book then distressed the edges a little.

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How easy is this.  Your pattern and a bone folder (or soup spoon) and one can create their own flock of pigeon place cards.

(You’ll find the recipes for Olive Tapanade and créme brûlée  on my food blog Mrs.Butterfingers.Simply click on the recipe names.    The porchetta recipe – that is yet to be posted.)

LOOK WHO’S COMING TO DINNER

Lingering over dinner with good friends produces some interesting conversation.  As the candles shortened and sputtered, the wine glasses refilled,  three of us  talked into the night.  I was spending time in Moon River in Muskoka, Ont. .   My hostess  –  a world traveler and  professional photographer.  The other guest at the table a gorgeous brunette  bank manager,  and lover of Mennonite food and Mennonite quilts.  It was she who asked me  “if I was planning the perfect dinner menu what would  it be?”  I answered  “I would start with the dessert first.  The last thing you eat you never forget.  Dessert would be a classic crème brûlée.

And so from dessert  I went to the first course –  Foie Gras (a generous amount).  The main course a perfectly roasted free range  chicken with tiny potatoes sautéed in butter. Next a salad of the greenest little butter lettuce leaves and a simple vinaigrette dressing.  No appetizers  just a bowl of cashews with flutes of Veuve Clicquot.

The brunette bank manager  asked me who I would invite to this perfect dinner.   “Eight is the perfect amount of guests at the table”,  I replied.

My first choice Eleanor Roosevelt.

Sitting beside her would be D.H. Lawrence. I believe Eleanor would discuss “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” or “Women in Love” with David Herbert.

I would have M.F.K.  Fischer sitting next to me.  We would talk about food and discuss How To Cook a Wolf.

Across the table would be Georgia O’Keeffe and Pablo Picasso.

Before the evening ended Pablo would fall in love with Georgia AND the glamorous photographer.

Beautiful, brunette bank manager, carried away by the moment, would offer to bankroll a chic little restaurant in the tiny town of Bali.  Would I be interested?

What a glorious evening.   We would finish with crème brûlée, and  snifters of Courvoisier L’Or.  The sunrise would glisten and glitter on the Moon River. The call of the loons would fade away.   The perfect dinner party would regretfully come to an end.

Now you plan your perfect dinner party.  Tell me who you would invite and what you would serve your guests.