Hello there! It's been a long time since the last post and yes, I have baked (and even cooked!) in the interim. Alas, there are no photos to back up this claim, so we'll just pick up today and move forward from here.
Currently, I'm residing in a strange place (France) with a strange measuring system (metric!). For science, I am 100% in the metric camp. Even for distances, I'm starting to come around. But for COOKING! please, leave me my cups and teaspoons. I like how the recipes look, I like how a tablespoon of peanut butter lumps into my dough. Unfortunately, nobody here shares my passion for American measures and my cooking apparatus is all metric. What to do what to do? Mostly I use google to convert my dear cups into milliliters and grams. But really? This is not efficient! It takes too much time and I'm never sure if milliliters or grams are appropriate. I was lucky, I made a few decent cakes, I even made an apple pie with a crust from scratch, but I knew I needed to venture into the land of (cue scary music!) metric recipes.
Just when I started to think this, my long-suffering boyfriend (I say long-suffering because he has to taste and critique everything I cook whether he really wants to or not!) invited me up to visit his family in Rennes and after to visit St. Malo (pictured below).
During this visit, I started talking to his mom, let's call her Mme. P, about cooking and lo and behold the world of simple French metric recipes was opened. Not only that, but Mme. P introduced me to and gave me some super Flexipans. These things are a.maz.ing. Amazing! And cute. That's not very descriptive, is it? Ok - according to a little online detective work, Flexipans are made of glass filaments and alimentary silicone. Both of these materials form the pans, give them long life, and help them to resist high heat. Thanks to the silicone, whatever dough/mix you put into the Flexipans doesn't stick! Which means that (in theory) you don't have to butter or butter/flour your molds (hurray!). According to the French website which sells these pans, they are resistant to temperatures of + 270°C to - 40°C (518° F to -40°F). I've never seen a recipe that calls for 518° F, so I think it's safe to assume that I'm not going to accidently fry one of these pans any time soon. Also, these pans are microwave safe and cool down after being removed from the oven/microwave really quickly. In addition, when your flans/muffins/little cakes/whatever you've put into the molds pops out, they're shiny on top! Like a cake that's been polished to a high gloss. (Tell me that doesn't merit the word amazing!? Not possible!)
Let's move on to the recipes and I'll tell you a little more about my first experiences with Mme. P's Flexipans.
Among the plethora of recipes that Mme. P gave me try were three that caught my eye because 1.) of their simplicity, 2.) of their tasty ingrediants, and 3.) they would let me try all three of my new Flexipans.
The final products of all three recipes are shown
on the right. From the top down we have:
1.) Petits palmiers au saumon
2.) Petits flans aux poireaux
1.) Petits palmiers au saumon - or rather, puff pastry with smoked salmon and comte cheese. Hello simplicity! Roll out the puff pastry, lay the smoked salmon on top, sprinkle the grated cheese over the fish, roll from one edge to the middle then repeat on the other side. Cut like a pinwheel roll, bake at 220C for 15-20 and voila. The pre-dinner munching can begin! Now I admit, I broke one of my original rules here because I didn't make the puff pastry, but I know you'll forgive me because store bought takes approximately 30 seconds to unroll and homemade takes about 7 hours to complete. Not to fear though, I haven't given up my quest for the perfect pain au chocolat. As for the petits palmiers, I had a little trouble slicing them. I tried putting the roll in the fridge for awhile to firm it up, but this didn't accomplish much. Next time, I'll try a different knife (and hope that it's no longer 90 F outside!). The recipe says to flip the palmiers after half the cooking time has elapsed. I didn't (because I'd already burned myself once) and they were still great.
2.) Petits flans aux poireaux aka Little Leek Flans. The LLF's were great. Fabulous even. The Flexipan is a great quality - the little things just jumped out after they were baked! And they were so easy! Much like a quiche (at which I'm rather adept now - proud to say!), they're composed of eggs, heavy cream (creme fraiche), salt, and leeks. Cooks the leeks over medium heat for about 10 minutes, mix all together, pour in mold and bam! Flan! And no, contrary to popular belief, flans are not just for dessert; they are "open pies containing any of various sweet or savory fillings." As the French would say, "miam miam!"
3.) And finally, my poor little macarons. Now, we're talking here about macarons in the French sense of the word. No coconut, no chocolate. Instead, these gorgeous little cookies should look something like this. Mine obviously. . . do not. Don't get me wrong - they tasted great. They even tasted like they're supposed to taste. Macarons, according to this recipes, are composed of sifted ground almonds, powdered sugar (or rather sucre glace which is nearly equivalent to our powdered sugar), and egg whites. I beat those egg whites to stiff peaks by hand - who says cooking isn't a sport? Fold powders into egg whites without letting eggs fall, fill molds, bake and hope for the best! As I said before, these little delicacies (fait maison - homemade) tasted great but looked a wreck. I had a really hard time getting them out of the (adorable) heart-shaped molds. Now, Mme. P warned me that this mold was a lower quality than the other two I was using and wooooooh! did it show. Next time, I think I'm going to try greasing the little hearts with a little Pam or some Baker's Joy. Maybe that'll help? We'll see soon - I have enough almonds, sugar and eggs to try this recipe at least one more time!
So there it is, in grams, milliliters, and centiliters, yours truly has moved into the world of (easy) French recipes. What we've learned today?
1. Converting recipes is NOT easy. Find recipes that correspond to the measuring instruments at hand.
2. Flexipans are AMAZING. High quality ones are a must.
3. Buying puff pastry is ok.