Tag Archives: pastry

Pierre Hermé’s Traveling “Tango”

<img alt="Pierre Herme Pastry"/>

I thought I’d take a break from posting photos of our trip to Paris to give those who would rather look at food a break.  It’s only fair, I guess, after holding everyone captive with my vacation photos. But I will warn you this is still connected to Paris in a six degrees of separation sort of way.  It’s about dessert, and it’s about French dessert in particular.  French pastry from the French “Picasso of Pastry,” Pierre Hermé.  I thought my sampling of beautiful pastry in Paris was lacking so ordered his book, Pastries  as soon as we arrived home.

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Apple Tart Alsatian Style

You’ve promised your body that you will adopt a healthier lifestyle — something just shy of a “diet” because you know yourself too well.  If what you’ve taken on is reduced to that, it’s probably not going to last because you don’t believe in diets — and for good reason.  You’ve seen too many people begin with all the motivation they can muster, then when they realize the pounds aren’t falling off as quickly as they’d like, or that after what is considered a good effort, they’ve plateaued, motivation dwindles and the “diet” is quietly ignored.  I can’t risk that because my knees will never forgive me for having to carry around 50 pounds they hadn’t counted on at their age.

Poor knees.

Last September when I began to think about more obsessively about my weight and lack of routine exercise (no coincidence since I’d just turned 55) I began to find reasons to avoid the kitchen.  Meals became food I could easily pick up and eat with little or no thought.  I stopped looking at new recipes and rarely used one to try something new for dinner.  And baking?  I stopped that almost completely because it seemed pointless to bake something, taste it, then try to find a home for it outside of mine.  I’ve never been a big sweets eater, but I thoroughly enjoy spending a morning in the kitchen baking something — especially if it involves a little thought or teaches me something new.  I miss that and know baking needs to be a part of my life — as does dessert.

Dessert is a food group, isn’t it?

I’m kidding, of course, but the point is I want to bake and enjoy dessert occasionally so have to find a balance with desserts that showcase a simple fruit without a lot of added sugar or an excessive amount of fat, for example.

Something classic, satisfying.  Elegant, but not fussy.

With apples.

Glorious apples.

Just a small slice?

Yes, please.

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Cornish Pasties

Suffice to say that my plans to get several posts written and queued up before we leave on vacation this Sunday never materialized.  Close, but no cigar. Living in a hobbling, semi-ambulatory state for the last five days put me in my place more than once, and I found myself thinking, Really?  Do I really need to write one more recipe?  Or should I focus on getting this knee better so I can actually walk?

Of course I need to write.  Just one more.

One.

The last minute shopping has been done, the house is relatively clean, tickets, shuttles, and reservations are in order.  Maps, check.  Routes, check.  Super-strength enormous bandaids for my feet, check.  Nine months of obsessive planning, check. It looks like we’re ready for our trip to the UK.

We’ll be in London for four days, then drive through Kent, and East and West Sussex, staying a couple of nights along the way, cutting up toward Oxford and then the countryside near Worcester where we’ll stay three days.  The last portion of our stay will see us in York, then Cambridge and Essex before we drive back to Heathrow and our trip home.  It promises to be a wild two weeks, and like the last time, I’m sure at least one intelligent Brit will say, “Why are you Americans always in such a hurry?  You can’t really see the UK in less than a month.”  And we know they’re right, of course, but who can afford it?  Who can stay away from work that long?

Not us.

If we had the time and resources, we’d have made it to Cumbria near the Scottish border to enjoy the beautiful Lake District along the way.  And we’d definitely would have made time for a drive through Dorset to Dartmoor and Plymouth, where one of my great-grandfathers boarded an old sailing ship to journey through the Straits of Magellan to Sebastapol, California more than a century ago.

There will always be another time for Cornwall, with its craggy coastline and Arthurian legends, but I couldn’t wait for that time to try an authentic Cornish Pasty.

Is it authentic if it’s made by someone from Southern California who’s had sound Cornish advice?

Who cares if they’re as delicious as these.

Seriously.

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Strudel Two Ways: Sweet and Savory

Apple Hazelnut Strudel When I saw this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge I knew that it would be something I couldn’t wait to take on because I’ve always wondered how such a small ball of dough can actually end up stretched over such a large area and so impossibly thin.  But then a few things happened that have have caused a bit of a commotion in our house.  Ironically, I ended up putting it together at the last minute, which is seemingly the norm I’ve established over the past two years.  In this case,  however, the timing was perfect, and I was able to spend the day in my kitchen doing what I enjoy, which seems to have been just what was needed to soothe the savage beast.  I owe big thanks to this month’s hosts for their excellent choice.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

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Pastry Ring with Dark Chocolate and Cardamom

Chocolate Almond Filled Pastry Ring

One of the techniques I’ve shied away from has been making puff pastry.  Although I can be fairly tenacious, when I feel like I’ve worked diligently on something and it doesn’t turn out, I’m not willing to jump back to the task to get it right.  Let me adjust that — when it comes to something that isn’t important in the grander scheme of things, that is.  Making puff pastry would fit into that category.  If you’re a pro at making puff pastry, then you’re most likely thinking, “What a quitter.  It’s not that challenging…” and I would agree temporarily, but being the contrary person I am by nature, I’d come back with, “Yes, but when’s the last time you tore down a fence in your pajamas on the spur of a Monday morning moment while enjoying your first cup of coffee?”  And then I’d go inside and start a not quite puff pastry dough, but yeasted laminated dough all the same.

I think what annoys me most about my failings as a cook is the waste.  Yes, I absolutely learn something in the process of failing and know it to be an extremely important aspect of learning, but it’s the time invested when I’ve put off doing something else.  It’s the waste of product if it’s not eaten, and therefore, a waste of money as well.

Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  It’s really because I don’t like having my butt kicked by a recipe.

A good strategy after a colossal failure is to break down the task.  Perhaps begin again with something similar, but not quite as involved.  After success once, give it another go and pat yourself on the back.  Bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then instead of tackling the dreaded initial failure again, try another recipe, again similar, but a bit more involved.  Practice developing patience with copious amounts of deep breathing.   Think about those turns and all that butter nestled between those layers.  Still not quite puff pastry, but getting close.

So very close.  And some chocolate never hurts in the process, right?

I’ll get there.  I will.  You wait.

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