July 25, 2011

Prunes

I've been lazy as an old slug lately. I'm sure the rainy, grey weather has something to do with it. I've got to figure out someway to get some of my energy back. But really, 55°F in mid-July just isn't fair!!! Because of this stupid rain, running has been difficult and unpleasant. I'm going to have to get used to running in the rain if I want to have an activity this winter.

I learned that my gym professor had a stroke, at 45! She had 2 operations and is starting to recognize her family, but I doubt if she'll be giving gym classes in September. It's awful. It's called an AVC in French which stands for "accident vasculaire cérébral". Anyway, it scares the bejeezus out of me.

But on to the subject of this post: PRUNES! Prunes are plums in French. Dried plums, aka, prunes are called pruneaux in French. I've had quite alot of prunes around lately. They're in season right now. So I made one of my favorite tartes and tried my hand at making jam.


As for making jam...  It turned out kind of runny but I didn't want to put alot of sugar in it.  Monsieur Titi tried some at lunch and made a swinched-up face because the jam is sour. But he's the one who doesn't want to eat anything too sweet. I won't bother explaining how I did it because it's not really very good.

As for the Tarte aux Prunes. This recipe always turned out great. It's easy and can be adapted for several kinds of fruit. You might enjoy trying it.




Here's the recipe:
Tarte aux Prunes

Ingredients:
One pre-made pie crust; I use a pâte sablée or a sweetened crust

20-25 ripe and ferm prunes (plums)
Plum jam
8 Palets Breton or other crunchy-type vanilla cookie
Brown sugar
25 grams of almond powder

Preparation:
Heat oven to 180°C (360°F)
Cook the crust empty for around 12-15 minutes, follow instructions on the package.

During this time, wash, and cut the plums in two, take out the pit and place them in a dish.

Spread evenly the plum jam over the bottom of the crust, like this ... I'm not sure of the amount but you don't want a ton of jam, just enough to cover the bottom.



Then crust the palets brétons in a plastic bag with a rolling pin and spread them evenly over the crust.


Then place the plums, bottom side up, on the crust. Squeeze them in nice and tight. Pour in any left-over juice in the dish. Cover with brown sugar and the almond powder.


Cook approximately 35 minutes until bubbly and brown. Enjoy!

July 16, 2011

My Fantastic Cheesecake!


A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my new springform pan. I also received some wonderful suggestions for good cheesecake recipes. On Thursday, Monsieur Titi and I had our joint birthday party. Here's the cheesecake I made. I want to thank NADEGE for her recommendation! After my hesitations about making a cheesecake, I realized that it's really easier than you'd think.
I made a few tiny modifications to the recipe but basically followed it. The results were fantastic! Our family was "bluffées" or really amazed at the cake. You'll see the recipe below.







Served with strawberries

Mascarpone Cheesecake with McVittie’s Crust

Crust :
200 grams McVittie’s Original biscuits (these are the closest thing to graham crackers that I've found in France)
100 grams butter

Filling:
500 grams cream cheese
500 grams mascarpone
1-1/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs or 6 medium eggs


Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Remove all ingredients from refrigerator so they are at room temperature.

Tightly wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty tin foil. Butter the inside of the pan and cover the bottom with cooking paper.

Crush the McVittie’s biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Mix with softened butter. Press this mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan, but not on the sides. Bake crust for about 12 minutes. Let cool.
Decrease oven temperature to 165°C or 325°F. Bring a pot of water to a slow boil.

For the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each egg.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour (in a ventilated heat oven). The cake will become firm as it cools. Take springform pan out of the roasting pan, and set the roasting pan aside. Place springform pan into oven, turn off heat. Leave door open. Let cool for 1 hour.

Take pan out of the oven and remove foil. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate (covered in foil) at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

July 09, 2011

Une apologie aux masculin et feminin

Une apologie (an apology) in French is a discourse which defends or justifies a person or a doctrine. It is not to excuse oneself. So I'll not excuse myself for making an unforgivable error in my last post.

Une moule is a mussel, a shellfish. Un moule is a pan in which one bakes or makes other types of formed foods.
What I bought recently was UN MOULE -- a springform pan, not UNE MOULE -- a mussel. I bet Amazon Com would have had trouble sending me a mussel.

There are nouns in French, which in the masculine gender mean one thing, and in the feminine mean another. There aren't a ton of these tricksters, but they do exist. Just one little example: un manche à balai (the handle of a broom) and une manche à chemise (a shirt sleeve).


I will NEVER get this masculine and feminine business straight. Whenever I use a noun in French, it's pretty much a crap shoot whether I'll get the gender right. My French friend, Mag, assures me that it's not that big of a deal, but she knows the difference. ARGHHHH!!!

Yesterday morning, we went out to a u-pick fruit farm. I went specifically for blueberries (myrtilles). And, I got strawberries (fraises) and blueberries. I didn't get any pictures while we were picking. But it was a lovely, cool morning. The strawberries were 4€ the kilo and the blueberries, 3.50€. I wound up with 2 kilos of strawberries and 3.25 kilos of blueberries.

I didn't want to make jam, so I froze the blueberries for later use. The strawberries I used to make a sauce for my upcoming birthday cheesecake. And I tried a recipe I found on Internet for a strawberry cake. My springform pan arrived today, so I wanted to give it a dry run.




Ready for the freezer

A little crispy around the edges.

Strawberry Cake

Yield: Serves 10 Cook Time: 50-55 minutes

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (90 grams)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup of crème fraîche)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced (I used 500 grams, which is a little more than a pound)

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top of cake



Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.

3. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Arrange strawberry slices on top of batter. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over berries.

4. Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan. To serve, cut into wedges. Store cake at room temperature, for up to two days.

I should have gently mixed the berries into the batter, because being on top allowed them to dry and burn on the edges.





Adapted from Martha Stewart

July 06, 2011

Une Moule à Charnière

I've been wanting to buy a pan like this for ages. I keep looking whenever I go to a large grocery store but never seem to find what I want. Finally, I gave in and ordered a "moule à charnière" or springform pan from Amazon UK. The word "charnière" means "hinge", so these are hinged pans.

La Moule à Charnière aka Springform
I got inspired to try my hand at a real cheese cake because Philadelphia cream cheese has been launched in France in regular grocery stores. This is so exciting!!!! I've been waiting for 22 years!

The catch...
It only comes in little pots of 150 grams and costs 1.69€! There are still no large blocks as we find in the US. Normally, for a real cheesecake, you need about 500 grams. For a good cheesecake with some ricotta, you need at least 350 grams. That's a little pricey.
So I should receive the pan by Saturday. Next Thursday, for my birthday, I'm going to try my hand at making a cheesecake. I will, of course, keep you posted.

If anyone has a REALLY GOOD recipe, I'd love to have it.

June 29, 2011

Trouver chaussure à mon pied



It's sale time in France --- les soldes!!!! I desperately needed a new pair of running shoes. My little toes are sticking out of my old ones.
Monsieur Titi promised me that we'd go sports clothes shopping during the sales. It's been so hot here that we didn't get out until today.
But there was nothing to worry about, still lots of stuff on the shelves. I found "mon pied" or my happiness in this New Balance beauties. They're a 41 (or probably about a 9-1/2 in the US). I've got BIG feet! They only weigh 300 grams! And, they were 1/2 price! Only 69.95€ rather than 140€.
Can't wait to go out running to try them out.

It might interest you to know that in French, we say "prendre le pied" (take the foot) to mean that we had a good time, or made ourselves very happy. I've heard that this expression comes from the time of the pirates who'd get their share of the booty at the end of an expedition. It would be dealt out in the measurement of the time = the foot. So, you see that the French used the foot as a measurement too, before they adopted the metric system.
And, when we say to find a shoe for your foot (trouver chaussure à son pied) it means that you've found a perfect fit (usually in men...).

June 25, 2011

Visiting Expats in my Area


In France, there are several on-line networks for expats. Many concern Paris and the job market. There is one, however, that operates in many areas all over France and shares really good information. It's the Survive France Network.
I saw that there was a fellow, James, who lives in the Loiret. So I had to know where. Turns out he and his wife, Mag., are about 40 kilometers away from me.


They were nice enough to invite me over for coffee and dessert last Sunday. I found their house easily and also found two lovely people. Mag is from Brazil originally and James from the US.
We had a nice chat about all sorts of things. It's always wonderful to meet expats in my area. I hope they'll come here to see me.

Monsieur Titi thinks I'm nuts. He says "Are you going to go visit every anglophone in France?" But I think, "Why not?" A French person would never go visit a total stranger, even if they were dying for French company.

Would you go visit someone just because they were American, or English, or South African?

June 19, 2011

Remembering Coluche


I wasn't in France yet when Coluche died. This June marks the 25th year of his death. He created Les Restos du Coeur (an association to feed the needy).
I've tried over the years to listen to his many recordings and videos. He's one of the best comics --- and social commentators --- ever.  As far as I know, his work has never been translated, but for those of you who can understand French, here's one of his sketches about being polite --- La politesse.

Enjoy!