Tag Archives: French

Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien is a French Cafe/bakery chain in New York City.  Still, the amount of delicious pastries and bread they offer is just ridiculous. I stumbled upon this place and decided to have lunch here. I ordered Earl Grey Tea, Grilled Chicken & Smoked Mozzarella Tartine, and an apple cannele.

Tea set

I think overall they are trying to go for a classy but rustic feel. All the tables and chairs are wooden, but the tea set is a beautiful white. The tea came in a tea bag with hot water and cream on the side. It was good tea.

Grilled Chicken & Smoked Mozzarella with arugula and basil pesto

This was the first tartine I have ever had, and it was very delicious. I loved the artisan bread, and each bite was a world of delicious flavors. My favorite was incorporating the radishes on the tartine, although the pickles went really well too. They used very smokey and slightly firm mozzarella, which I loved. The only problem I had with this dish was the chicken. It was brined, but other than that it didn’t lend much flavor. Overall I’m not a big fan of chicken I suppose.

Apple Cannele

Having just had authentic canelé from Dominique Ansel Bakery, I was not impressed by this psuedo cannele. However, it was a delicious treat in and of itself – sticky and slight caramelized exterior, moist and chewy interior was good. There were also solid chunks of apple. I would have loved to try some of their other pastries, but the tartine was really filling – I almost couldn’t finish the cannele.

Afternoon Tea Time

I think this place is a great location for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. Their tasty breads, amazing pastries, and rustic atmosphere were all memorable.

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Dominique Ansel Bakery @ NYC

I first heard of canelé from chow.com, where they had this one video about the best canelé in the US. By their description, crispy caramelized interior plus a custard interior mesmerized me, and I was determined to get such a rare treat on my trip to New York. (On a side note, if you look at the recipe for a canelé it looks like pancake batter, or crêpes batter… count it on the French to make simple things so complicated.) Then there’s kouign amann. Serious Eats is crazy about this stuff, but this bakery seemed to specialize in selling these delicacies as well so that also went on my list.

Canele and a Kouign Amann

The canelé was everything I had expected. Sweet and caramelized, the exterior indeed was a shell that produced a nice crunch when I bit into it. The interior was a like a custard cake, super moist but also chewy. I think I would have liked this treat to be baked (say, in my handy dandy toaster oven) so that the exterior could be more crunchy and the interior warm. However, it was definitely very good, and I would most definitely come back again next time I’m in NYC.

Kouign Amann

The kouign amann was better than the canelé, I have to say. It was also very much caramelized, so the exterior was crunchy. The interior was sweet and fluffy. This was also my first time trying this treat, and I definitely love it.

Long story short, I couldn’t imagine visiting NYC again without coming back to this place.

The innards of a tasty kouign amann

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Pain D’Avignon @ NYC

I don’t even remember how I know this place, but I had the dying desire to buy something here. I figured since it was French, I would buy a croissant here. I was also very intrigued by the cranberry pecan pull apart roll so I got one of those too.

Strangely shaped croissant and bread roll

Don’t be fooled – just because the bakery is French doesn’t automatically mean their croissant is delicious. The exterior was very crispy, and it looked gorgeous, but the layers didn’t expand very much on the inside, so there were large pockets here and there when we bit in. The orange flavor was a strong note at the back of the mouth which I really liked. Also, the croissant didn’t taste like butter, which I found weird, but it made the croissant not too rich to eat.

Now this is good bread. Just by taking it out of the bag I could smell it, the smell of fresh bread (yeast, mostly). The exterior was hard, so I expected a dense loaf, but it was surprisingly soft but chewy. The cranberries made the roll quite sweet, and the pecans really complimented the cranberries well, making it sweet and nutty bread. This is bread I would come back for.

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Elongated cabbage dough

Pate a choux is supposedly French for “cabbage dough,” meaning that the resulting baked dough looks like a cabbage, which I guess is kind of true if you’re making cream puffs. Since I made eclairs, I guess that would be elongated cabbage dough? Haha.

One lone cream puff, the king of them all

Making eclairs and cream puffs have always been a little… elusive to me, in the sense that I haven’t always been successful. Unfortunately, due to (probably) bad dorm kitchen ovens, this is probably the first time I have completely succeeded. I made sure to watch the the Good Eats episode on pate a choux, and used AB’s recipe instead of the one we were using. I don’t like the taste of it as much as the one we were using. I suspect the cream puffs not rising has more to do with dorm kitchens than anything else, so hopefully I can get that other recipe to work again.

Original recipe from Food Network’s show, Good Eats.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 5 3/4 ounces bread flour
  • 1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Procedure

  1. Boil water, butter, sugar and salt.  Sift the flour and combine with hot liquid, and cook on the stove top until the dough is not sticky or wet to the touch (about 5 minutes).
  2. The eggs is the tricky part. Since we need a lot of structure to the dough, we’ll need more whites than egg yolks. However, depending on how much water you cooked out of the dough, it may not require the full 1 cup. You want the dough to be wet enough so that its smooth, but also dry enough so that it will still stand on its own when you pipe them. Refer to Good Eats on youtube if you’re not sure.
  3. Pipe onto silpat/parchment paper into long eclairs or cream puffs. Since I don’t have pictures of this process, it is probably best to consult Good Eats or other recipes with images to see how its done.
  4. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, and then 350F for the next 10 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.
  5. When you take it out, pierce it immediately and fill with pastry cream!

Again, I have no idea where my pastry cream recipe is from because it has been passed down to me from previous baking teachers, but here’s what I have:

Ingredients:

  • Milk 8 ounces
  • Sugar 1 ounce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ egg
  • Cornstarch 20 g
  • Sugar 30 g
  • Butter ½ ounce
  • Vanilla ¼ tsp
  • Chocolate 4 ounces (optional)
  • Heavy Cream 1/4 cu (see note)

Note: since the heavy cream came last and is never mentioned in the procedure, I didn’t bother adding it, but you could if you want

Procedure:

  1. Dissolve the sugar into the milk (and heavy cream) and bring to a boil.
  2. Beat the eggs, and sift corn corn starch and add sugar into the eggs till smooth.
  3. Temper eggs by pouring the warm milk into the eggs mixture. Return to pot and allow it to thicken and boil. Whisk constantly, otherwise you will get lumpy pastry cream.
  4. Take it off the heat and add butter and vanilla. If making chocolate pastry cream, add chocolate as well. Stir to combine
  5. Cover and/or chill. Put into piping bag to pipe into cream puffs/eclairs!

The king cream puff, staring into the rising sun

Too bad the cream puff got eaten first, because of its special shape. Such is the life of a king!

The reason that I didn’t take pictures of this process is because I’ve made this sooo many times I completely forgot that I would blog about it. I’m sure there are plenty of other people making these, so my lack of pictures should be fine. =)

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Croissants

Hi all, so I recently “discovered” that I could edit my photos before posting it onto my blog.  It was retarded of me, really, to not edit them before.  I know photoshop inside and out, but it never occurred to me to edit them for bad lighting and such before posting.  I always thought I just needed a better camera and better lighting, but photoshop can still make my not-so-great pictures into not-so-great-but-better pictures.  I think I will take the time to edit pictures from now on, even though it takes a while.

I can smell the butter just by looking at this photo

So my friend decided to hold a breakfast for dinner potluck at her place, and she asked where to get good croissants.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity to make some for everyone.  I am going to be teaching a baking class at my university this upcoming fall, and so I need to run through all the recipes before the start of school to make sure that I know what I’m doing.  Croissants happened to be one of the things we bake, so this was my perfect chance to practice.  I have no idea where the recipe comes from.  I inherited a bunch of slides/teaching material from the previous baking instructor, who inherited from his instructor.  I will post it here, but it is in no way my recipe; I just followed it!  Also, the breakfast for dinner potluck was a lot of fun, and the pictures of the food at the potluck can be seen in my mini Evernote Food blog (found in the extras section) . Now for the recipe and more pictures…

Note: use the recent post on Serious Eats about croissants for help if needed.

Ingredients:

  • Bread Flour 250g
  • Sugar 25g
  • Yeast 5g
  • Salt 12g
  • Milk 180mL
  • Softened Butter 25g
  • Cold Butter 140 g

Procedure:

  1. Mix the bread flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.  Activate the yeast by heating up the milk to no more than 32C and letting the yeast dissolve in it.  Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes.  Melt the butter into the milk, and combine the two just until incorporated.
  2. Place in a floured bowl and let it ferment until the volume doubles.
  3. Wrap up the dough and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Take the cold butter and cut into 1/2inch high slabs and line it up in plastic wrap as shown.  Roll out the cold butter between the plastic wrap until it is a millimeter or two thick in a shape of a rectangle.  Do not let it melt during this process.  If it starts to become melt put it back into the fridge for 20 minutes and try again.  The butter must be also warm enough to be pliable.  You want a continuous sheet of butter, not cracked.  When you are done rolling it out, wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it into the fridge as well.
  5. Roll out the cold dough on a well floured surface.  The butter should cover 2/3 of the dough.  Place the butter down on the dough.  Fold the unbuttered 1/3 dough over the butter.  Fold the buttered third over the dough.  You should get layers of dough, butter, dough, butter.  Seal all the edges.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes in the freezer or, if longer, in the fridge.
  6. For the lamination steps, you can chill the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes between each step to ensure that the dough and butter stays cold.  However, it will make the dough very tough by the end of it, so you might want to switch off.  The goal of lamination is to make layers by folding without the butter melting, so use your judgement.  Roll out the dough and do two 4 folds (fold the two sides towards the center and then fold the dough together like a book) and then do two 3 folds (divide dough into 3rds and fold one on top of the other).  When you are done, you can either let it chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes or overnight.
  7. Roll out the dough into 1/2cm thickness (read: thin.).  Cut the dough into isosceles triangles for regular croissants, and rectangles for pain au chocolat.  You can pack different fillings into the rolled up croissants if you want.  I chose cheese because I happened to have some laying around.  Typically they are filled with almond paste, and of course pain au chocolat is filled with chocolate, which I used chocolate chips.
  8. Let it proof until light and fluffy, around an hour.  Give the tops an egg wash for nice brown tops
  9. Bake at 400C for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Croissants out of the oven!

Look at those nice crispy layers

This was definitely a croissant success!

Anyway, I’m sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. I didn’t really plan it out very well. Please pay serious eats a visit if you’re confused.

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