Category Archives: Inspiration in Ink

Inspirations In Ink: Teatime in Paris!

TeatimeInParisI love tea and I love Paris. It wasn’t until I started reading through the new book “Teatime in Paris!” that I received from its author Jill Colonna that I was introduced to the teatime custom in France. I knew about British teatime, but I have always thought of France as a coffee drinking nation, never realizing their culture included a time and place for tea. In France, this late afternoon treat is known as le goûter.

You know how you seldom see a fat French woman? Jill explains that this because the France is not a nation big on snacking. Eating is done at mealtime, but teatime is a secret “little meal” time: a break before dinner, when you can enjoy a cup of tea with a small pastry, guilt-free.

On the one hand, “Teatime in Paris” is a cookbook that offers recipes for an assortment of Parisian teatime pastries: éclairs, macarons, tartlets, cookies and more. In each recipe, Jill explains each step in a clear voice with helpful photographs, erasing the intimidation that some of the seemingly more complicated recipes induce.   Tea pairing suggestions accompany each recipe. I love it!

In addition, this book is an armchair tour book. As you explore the recipes in the book, you also go on a virtual tour of patisseries in Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement with Jill leading the way. She tells you about the pastry shops that inspire the recipes shared in the book, allowing you to dream of your own Parisian teatime.

The book start off with the simplest teatime treats: madeleines, financiers, cookies, and other assorted treats including other little cakes, ice cream, and crepes. The Mini Tigrés, tiny chocolate-speckled cakes topped with a dab of ganache, are adorable. And who can resist anything with speculoos, so why not Speculoos Ice Cream?

Next, you’re introduced to pastries made from choux dough. Choux pastry is the base for éclairs and other sorts of cream puffs. Each one, offering a different combination of pastry shapes, filling, and topping, range from the classic to the imaginative. For one thing, you can make waffles with leftover choux dough. And with lemon verbena growing in my herb garden, I plan to try the Lemon and Verbena Mini Éclairs.

This brings you to a chapter of tartlets (my favorite kind of French treat). Again, different flavors of pastry crust are combined with different fillings for a mouthwatering selection of tarts, both individually and full sized. There are several recipes to make use of the best of summer’s fruit, but I look forward to ripe figs in the fall for Fast Fig, Almond, and Lavender Tart where puff pastry is topped with frangipane, sliced figs, and dried lavender blossoms.

Have you always wanted to try to make millefeuille, those impressive towers of flaky pastry sandwiched between pastry cream, at home? Jill lets us in on a secret. It’s easy to make millefeuille at home if you start with frozen puff pastry! Different flavors of pastry cream and maybe some fruit and you can easily enjoy homemade millefeuille.

Jill has a blog (and an earlier book) called “Mad about Macarons”. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the chapter on macarons is the most extensive. It also inspires confidence. Again, Jill’s instructions are accompanied by step by step photos to guide you through making your own macarons in your kitchen that rival those on offer at a Parisian pastry shop. There are also ideas to vary the shape to make “Maclairs” (in the shape of éclairs) or even to imitate a Paris-Brest with its traditional tire shape.

Ingredients in this book are measured by weight, which is the French way. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, go buy yourself a digital scale. Measurements are so much more predictable when the ingredients are weighed, and there are fewer dirty dishes.

Diamond Biscuits

Diamond Biscuits

I baked a batch of Diamond Biscuits (Diamants), a “slice-and-bake” version of shortbread. The cookie dough log is rolled in granulated sugar which adds the sparkle that gives these their name. Two or three of cookies with a cup of tea make a perfect pick-me-up in the late afternoon at my own Parisian teatime, at home. You can try them too.  One tip: if you chill them longer than 25 minutes, you might need to let them sit at room temperature for a little while before rolling the log in sugar so that the dough is soft enough for the sugar to stick.  In this case, additional baking time might also be required.  Go by the color, not the time.

Diamond Biscuits (Diamants)
Recipe from “Teatime in Paris!” by Jill Colonna

125 g butter, softened
45 g granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
150 g all-purpose flour

Mix the butter and sugar until light and creamy, either using a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer with the flat (paddle) beater. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the flour. Keep mixing until the batter forms into a ball. (At this stage you could add a different flavor such as cinnamon.)

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, ensuring you roll it as round as possible into a sausage, to about 3 cm (1¼”) in diameter. Roll in cling film and chill in the fridge for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/360F.

Once chilled, roll in granulated sugar, then cut into 1 cm-thick (approx 3/8″) discs. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat and bake for 8 minutes or until golden.

Serve with Lady Grey tea or Darjeeling (the champagne of teas)

Shaping Tip: To keep your sausage shape round in the fridge, without a flat side, roll in cling film and place it on top of a plate covered in rice.

 

Each time I page through this book, I savor my little visit to Paris, and I’m filled with inspiration.

A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 4 plates (out of 5)

I received this book from Jill Colonna for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Inspirations in Ink: Food 52 Genius Recipes

Food 52 Genius Recipes

The internet hosts a wealth of high quality recipes and other content about food, for free. And yet, a steady stream of cookbooks are published, season after season, year after year. Cookbooks are sometimes entirely new content, but some repeat, in hard-copy form, content already available on the web. This raises the question of: When is it worthwhile to add a cookbook to your bookshelf?

As an avid home and collector of cookbooks, I’ve thought about this question often. I’ve noticed that many recent cookbooks are filled with enticing photographs to accompany the recipes and text. This food porn elevates the books to “coffee table book” status and serve as food’s answer to “armchair travel”, allowing the reader to salivate and satisfy a hunger without ever entering the kitchen.

When in browsing mode, to me it feels more relaxing, leisurely, and even practical when turning the pages of a book in my lap and inserting scraps of papers to mark dishes I’d like to make than clicking and bookmarking web pages for the same purpose.

Books also benefit from structure and the application of less instantaneous editing. Books launched from or derived from websites or blogs improve the original by taking a big step back to reflect and distill the content down to its essence and organizing the information into a cohesive whole.

Food 52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore is a shining example of all the reasons that a book is worth adding to your collection.

I’m a huge fan of Food 52. I even occasionally follow Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes column on the Food 52 website. With the sheer volume of new posts on just this one website, I find I can’t keep up with it all. The book is not just a collection of the columns in bound form. About half of the recipes in the book were featured in the on-line column, but the other half are newly identified genius recipes. Yet genius recipes are not original recipes, developed by the author, amplifying the question of why this book when the content is already available from other sources.

Taken as a whole, this book is not simply a compendium of great recipes as identified by the author. Miglore’s criteria for a genius recipe start with a great recipe, but each one offers a new twist, sometimes a combination of ingredient combinations but more often an unexpected technique. For each recipe, Miglore offers an extensive head explaining why she considers this recipe to be “genius”. In addition, each recipe is accompanied by at least one gorgeous photo by James Ransom, in the spare, elegant style you’ve become accustomed to if you visit the Food 52 site.

Many of the recipes she has identified as genius are ones I’ve previously discovered on my own and wholehearted agree with. Marcella Hazan’s Tomato sauce with butter & onion has been a favorite in my house for more than a decade. And I make Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread almost every week.

Others are new revelations. I made three recipes that were new to me though there are so many other recipes in the book that I can’t wait to try.

Daniel Patterson’s Poached Scrambled Eggs quickly boil eggs for 40-seconds in salted water with no added fat. This one was fast and magical to watch. I think I under-salted the water as they were a little bland. Patricia Wells’ Green lentil salad was simplicity itself and made a wonderful accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken and eaten on its own for lunch. My favorite so fair is Roberto Santibañez’ Classic Guacamole where you pound the onions to a paste with cilantro and jalapeño and fold this into diced avocado for the purest taste. I’ve made the guacamole several times in recent weeks.

This book is a winner, and I heartily recommend it!

A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 5 plates (out of 5)

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.