Ah oui, le moelleux au chocolat… The perfect chocolate cake that oozes melted chocolate when you cut into it. I used a new tin (on sale from Williams Sonoma - FTW) that made my extra-large cupcake-sized cakes into perfect cups for toppings like strawberries and whipped cream…
The recipe I followed as from an amazing Lyonnaise, Marion Chapsal, but it’s very similar to others you can find online. The trick is not to put in too much flour or to bake it too long… If it still looks wet, it’s perfect. :)
**PS, these ones, believe it or not, are gluten-free! I found an awesome GF patisserie mix at a bio store in town. They didn’t taste GF at all. Love!**
Yes, you read that title correctly. Last night, with the help of three equally eager sous chefs, I made the King of Chocolatey Amazingness, Nutella. I found the recipe for la pâte à tartiner on David Lebovitz’s website after learning last month that I had tragically just missed World Nutella Day (add February 5th to your calendar ASAP!) I’ve been waiting since then for an excuse to make it. The recipe makes over two cups of heavenly spread that store for only a week (and everyone knows that abundance with an expiration date is a dangerous combination) so I knew I had to whip it up and (a) give someone who lives elsewhere the first jar and (b) have guests en route with whom I could spread the second jarful on some brioche or baguette.
A Friday night babysitting gig was the perfect solution. I typically watch these kids (super cute and French – ages 5, 9, and 13) for a couple of hours after school once or twice a week. They have their goûter and do their homework, which leaves us with only an hour or so to play. A Friday evening, though, with no school in the morning turned out to be the perfect time to try it out.
Yesterday, a picnic in the park with my boyfriend and his brother, niece, and nephew, and inspiration from a fresh delivery of fruit to the local market, called for the most amazing(ly simply) fruit dip ever. Served with sliced Granny Smith apples, juicy strawberries, and vanilla wafers, this post-lunch dessert made a reappearance come dinnertime.
I’ll definitely be making this all spring and summer long…
Last month my mum flew to London to help my sister settle into a new internship she was starting at the Hawking Centre in Kent. My mum was born in Scotland and immigrated to the U.S. as a wee lass, and so she had been looking forward to revisiting the motherland for decades. Thrilled that an opportunity to cross the pond had finally presented itself, she booked her plane tickets, called up all of her aunts and uncles and long-lost cousins, and asked me to join her on what would become one of the most memorable adventures we’ve been on together, just the two of us. After exploring Kent with my Sis, my mum and I toured England and Scotland in our Euro-sized rental car for two weeks, visiting extended family and traipsing through castles, stone circles, and 600+ year-old pubs.
One of our favorite stopovers was the Mary Mount Hotel in the Lake District in England. We stayed there twice in fact - one night on the way north to Scotland and again on the way back south. We spent hours in the oak-paneled lounge, staying cozy by the crackling fire, sipping our brandies, playing cards, and, of course, enjoying a very generous serving of Sticky Toffee Pudding. Mum and I did our fair share of adventurous eating throughout the course of the trip, going as far as trying haggis and black pudding. Sticky Toffee Pudding, though, was one of our favorite English culinary traditions - we tried it four or five times, for the sake of comparison (or so we claimed) - and I find it a complete travesty that it hasn’t yet made its way to the bellies of most Americans.
I just discovered the website, MuffinFilms.com, and the video “Mini Muffins” sounds remarkably – in fact, uncomfortably – familiar:
- “Mini muffin?”
- “Uh, I’m not hungry.”
- “Mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins! Mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins! Mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins, mini muffins! MINI MUFFINS, MINI MUFFINS, MINI MUFFINS, MINI MUFFINS!”
- “Uh, is this what you want? «MUNCH»”
- “… Pancakes!”…
Saturday, enjoying a lazy day indoors and safe from the rain, I got a very sudden and very intense craving for lemon cream cupcakes. This type of craving rivals only my affection for blondie bars, so I was surprised how desperately I felt the urge to run to Le Petit Prince (my nickname for the corner store) to find some cream cheese. Luckily, everything else was already in the cupboard or the fridge, so just two hours later, voilà!
When I was planning the menu for our Rose et Chocolat party, I was concerned about what pink food to serve. Red fruit, even frozen berries, are hard to come by in the winter here in France, and having already nailed Martha’s raspberry cupcakes, I wanted to try something new to complement our menu of Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, Decadent Truffles, and kir royales.
Smitten Kitchen’s charming account of her gâteau de crêpes convinced me that, somehow, I had to make this recipe work for this party. As it turns out, about 30 drops of red food coloring is all it takes! The cake is exactly what it sounds like: about 20 stacked crepes with a light, creamy frosting between the layers. A burnt sugar topping finishes it all off:
Beyond the occasional overnight guest or two, my boyfriend and I haven’t had a real get-together chez nous since the fall, and lacking any real reason to have a party, the invitation for our Rose et Chocolat party asked our friends to join us for celebrating winter, possibly impending snow, and the pink-and-chocolate fanaticism that surrounds February.
The idea was born from a party I threw last year in D.C. during an insufferable snowstorm (55+ inches!) that featured drinks made with homemade raspberry vodka, Martha Stewart cupcakes (pat on back!), and other yummy treats, and I decided to continue the tradition in our new French home. This year’s menu included:
- Chocolate Stout Cupcakes (they were such a treat when I made them for our beer-fan friends and so thematically-appropriate – who cares if we have them twice in one month?)
- Decadent Chocolate Truffles (because they seemed easy and tasty – and why not give homemade candy a go?)
- A Crepe Cake (I’ll be posting the recipe for this monsterpiece later this week!)
- Kir royales (easy peazy: crème de cassis + champagne)
Guests were told to bring just themselves or to contribute anything pink or chocolate-y, and we ended up with beaucoup de bottles of rosé, elaborate cakes from fancy Lyon patisseries, and an abundance of fruity mousses.
The cupcakes were of course a hit, because let’s face it – how ingenious is it to pack Guinness into a cupcake? Pretty solidly ingenious. The BF was left with the responsibility to recreate the magic and, guided by the cupcake version of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, he did quite a phenomenal job:
The truffles, though, were my biggest point of pride. I displayed them in little paper cups on two plates and, until the BF pointed out to our guests that I had made them myself, everyone assumed that they were store-bought. I knew they tasted good (“poison tests” at every step in the process guaranteed that), but the fact that the chocolate was sufficiently tempered to look store-bought was the best compliment.
As I’ve tried to document, French food is fabulous. However, that said, sometimes you get a craving for something else. Knowing that our two houseguests would be here for a while, and are avid beer fans, the BF and I wanted to take them to a local brewery for dinner. In keeping with the new theme (“beer”tastic instead of “French”tastic), I wanted to make a tasty dessert. Smitten Kitchen has a great-sounding recipe for chocolate cake made with Guinness and, based on the comments, I knew it was the right choice for this crowd.