Saturday, September 29, 2007

Napoleon was a fatty...

...because he ate a lot of these:
Ok, so my Napoleon is leaning a little bit...but that's because it is soooo full of creamy goodness! I had one with a cup of tea this afternoon and the puff pastry is terrific--super buttery and crisp and sturdy enough to support that quantity of cream.

Yesterday I also made this:
but I didn't get to taste it because it'll be served on the dessert tray in the restaurant. Inside are three layers of vanilla chiffon cake, two layers of Bavarian cream swirled with raspberry sauce and punctuated with fresh raspberries (punctuated is probably the wrong word to use, but that's what it felt like as I poked the raspberries into the Bavarian cream.)

I have a feeling that my family are going to have higher expectations for their birthday cakes once this class is done...I won't be able to get away with churning out a batch of my favorite Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes topped with a powdered sugar stencil.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Look what I made!
Isn't it pretty?

I can't actually testify as to how the Marjolaine tastes all together, since it was to be served in the restaurant at WCC, though I did sample the parts that made up the whole--the hazelnut meringue, the chocolate and praline French butter cream, the ganache. I imagine that put together they packed quite a wallop of fat and sugar intensity.

I tried a couple of the plated desserts this week and wasn't terribly impressed with either. There was a raspberry sorbet with Champagne sabayon
and vanilla souffle with chocolate sauce.
The sabayon and the sorbet were fine, but not memorable, and whose idea was it to stick a wheat cracker in as a garnish? Ick. The souffle looked pretty but really tasted mostly of eggs, not of vanilla and the chocolate sauce was watery and tasted like cheap chocolate was used (it probably was cheap chocolate since it wasn't going to be served to the public.)

So the noshing at the last class wasn't as good, but at least my Marjolaine turned out!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I used to be a dedicated re-reader, but until this past month, I've been forging on ahead on my endless "to read" list without much back tracking. But September proved to bring together some circumstances that allowed me to enjoy a couple of re-reads.

In the first place, the kids started up school again and that requires a hell of a lot of brain power on my part. Getting them into the routine again, meeting the teachers, staff, parents and new kids and helping ease the transition from the looseness of summer into the more-interesting-and-yet-more-stressful atmosphere of the school year has left me with few spare brain cells to devote to paying attention to new fiction. I've started and abandoned a number of books this month.

But a couple of things came to my rescue. The first was my wonderful book group chose to read Suite Francaise (which I read last January). Last time I read the book, I neglected to read all the author's notes at the end of the book which really was a disservice. Sarah emphasized that I really needed to read them to understand the scope and trajectory of the book that Nemirovsky had intended to write.

The notes are heartbreaking in a different way from the book. The stories in the book are exquisite and it is hard to believe that they are not her final draft. But the notes in the back reveal the urgency of the writer, the pressures (if you can call Nazi occupation and being of Jewish ancestry merely a "pressure") under which the composition took place and the purpose with which she embarked on creating her fiction.

I read the notes and then went back and re-read some of my favorite parts of the novel--particularly those sections about Lucille. And this time, thanks to the notes, I had some idea of what would or could happen to the character in the intended, but unfinished at the time of the author's death, final three parts of the book.

We got together last week to eat French food, drink French wine, and talk about this wonderful book.
Clockwise from upper right: Daube Provencal, sauteed greens, mushroom gratin, and salade vert. And for dessert I made chocolate orange creme brulee:
My favorite item in the meal was also the simplest--Lea made the perfect salade vert. I love a good salade compose with complex mingling of varied ingredients, but there is something about the purity of a salade vert that I crave in a totally different way. Simple, tender butter lettuces dressed with a perfect tarragon vinagrette make a convincing argument for less is more. Lea shared the recipe with me (listed below) and I'm going to make it again this week.

The other circumstance that lead to a re-read, or more accurately a re-visiting though this time in audio CD format, was the amount of work that needs to be done getting this house prepared for the change of season. The library kindly delivered up to me the full audio CD set of Harry Potter 7, all 17 discs worth, and I have downloaded it onto my MP3 player while I caulk and patch and prime and repaint chunks of the house. I have discovered that I'm not as fond of audio books when I haven't read the book version already. Call me a dinosaur, but the words are more real for me if they are on paper and first enter my brain in this format. But I do love a good audio book as a re-read (or whatever you call listening to fiction) and I think the Harry Potter series are remarkably well read by Jim Dale.

Now that we are (sort of) settled into our new routine I think I can spare some brain cells for new fiction again and our next book group book won't be a re-read for me: The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Salade Vert
adapted from Epicurious

Large bowl of washed and torn butter lettuces tossed with the following dressing:

1 1/2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped tarragon
1 tsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients except for oil. Then add oil slowly while whisking to emulsify the dressing and toss with butter lettuces.