Paris-Brest

 

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As is the way in many European cultures, the French love to celebrate special occasions with food. And not just any old food, often dishes are created just to celebrate a particular event, at times becoming just as iconic that the event they were created for.

One such dish is the Paris-Brest. This delicious choux pastry was created at the turn of the 20th century to celebrate the annual bike race from Paris to Brest, and is shaped like a doughnut to resemble a bike tyre. The pastry is sliced through the middle and filled with a light and creamy hazelnut praline. Back then, the cyclists competing in the race would snack on these sweet treats (a far cry form the carb gels that pro cyclists have nowadays), but now they are available in most patisseries in France.

To watch the how to make Choux Pastry video click here

Choux Pastry:

Ingredients:

  • 125g water
  • 125g full fat milk
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 135 plain flour
  • 245g free range eggs, about 5 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a deep sauce pan bring the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter to the boil.
  3. Once the butter has melted, take the sauce pan off the heat and ad the sifted flour. Return the pot to the heat and dry the choux pastry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the choux pastry to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one a time, make to incorporate each egg before adding another one, you can use an electric mixer like a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment to make it easier.
  5. Using a piping bag, pipe the choux pastry in a ring shape, brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with coarsely chopped almond.
  6. Bake in hot oven for 40 minutes.

Hazelnut Praline:

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Ingredients:

  • 135g hazelnuts
  • 90g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven.
  2. Make a dry caramel with the sugar, make it the same way you would for a normal caramel but without water.
  3. Pour the caramel over the toasted hazelnut and leave to cool.
  4. Blitz the hazelnut in a food processor until you have a smooth paste.

Crème Pâtissière:

Ingredients:

  • 180g milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 40g egg yolk, 2-3 yolk
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 20g corn flower
  • 15g butter

Method:

  1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until slightly white. Then add the corn flour and whisk until mixed through.
  2. Bring the milk and vanilla pod, seeds scrapped out, to the boil.
  3. Pour the hot milk over the eggs and whisk until dissolved. Cook over medium heat until it start to boil, then cook for a further 1 minutes.
  4. Transfer the crème into a clean bowl, cover with glad wrap and leave to cool in the fridge. Make sure the glad wrap touches the crème!

Crème Mousseline Praliné:

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Ingredients:

  • 90g unsalted butter, soft
  • 255g crème patissière
  • 40g hazelnut Praline
  • 40g Hazelnut paste
  • pinch of slat flakes

Method:

  1. Whisk the crème patissière until smooth, then add the hazelnut paste, hazelnut praline, salt flake and whish until combine.
  2. Add the soft butter little bit a the time and whisk for 3-4 minute until homogenized.

Build the Paris-Brest:

Method:

  1. Cut the choux pastry in half, so you have two rings.
  2. Sprinkle hazelnut praline and toasted almonds on the bottom half
  3. Using a piping bag with the star nozzle, pipe the crème mousseline on the bottom half.
  4. Put the top part of the ring back on and sprinkle with icing sugar!

Enjoy straight away for dessert or afternoon tea!

Pork fillet fricassé in a Chablis sauce

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Growing up with parents who were both passionate about food, it’s no wonder that my brother’s and I are involved in the hospitality industry in some way. My eldest brother studied viticulture, I have been a chef for over 15 years and my older brother is the proud founder of Airoldi Fine Wines, through which he imports some the finest specialty and premium French wines into Australia.

As part of his ongoing passion to educate Australian wine lovers about some of the best wines our motherland has to offer, he regularly holds intimate dinners, often hosted by the winemakers themselves. This month I was lucky enough to attend one such dinner, hosted by Benjamin Laroche of La Manufacture Wines, Chablis, France.

The Chablis region, located within Burgundy is classed as an appellation, meaning that only wines from that geographic area may be called Chablis. The prominent wine variety is a chardonnay, which makes it perfect for pairing with leaner meat like pork.

Inspired by La Manufacture’s exquisite Chablis wines, I’ve created this pork dish which heroes the fruity and crisp flavours that they are known for.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork fillet, about 500g and diced
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 2 brown onions, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 250ml Chablis wine
  • 10 button mushroom, quartered and sautéed
  • 100g smoked bacon, diced

 

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Method:

  1. Heat up a casserole pan with some olive oil and a nob of butter.
  2. Seal the pork on all sides until it start to carmelised. You may need to do it in 2-3 batches to avoid boiling the meat, then keep aside.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat then add the thyme. Now you can add the bacon to the mix.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine, making sure to scrap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to unstick all the delicious bits. Then add the mushroom.
  5. Put the pork and juices back in the pan and pour in the stock. Bring the sauce to the boil and then add the mustard. Cook on medium heat for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Add the crème fraîche and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
  7. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and finish the sauce with some chopped parsley.

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A delicious side of glazed baby Dutch carrot slowly cooked in butter and sautéed Tuscan Kale with a touch of garlic is, I think the perfect match!

As a matching wine I suggest “La Manufacture” Chablis from Benjamin Laroche available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

Watch the how to video here or visit my Youtube channel here for more videos.

Far Breton

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Brittany is a region set in the north west of France and like most other areas of the country has distinct culinary specialties for which it’s famous both nationally and globally.

Most famous of all Breton dishes I would say is the galette. A savoury kind of crêpe made from buckwheat and filled with delicious but simple ingredients. In the dessert sphere, there is the kouign amann, which is pastry sheets laminated in butter and sugar that caramelize as they cook. (The best version I’ve tasted outside of France can be found at the amazing Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne).

The third famous dish, and the one that I’m showing you today sits somewhere between the two above as it is a dessert, but far less sweet than the kouign amann. It’s the Far Breton.

Far Breton is a custard flan with tasty prunes (which have been soaked in rum or Armagnac) hiding at the bottom that is baked to form a gold or almost black shell on top. This recipe started life in the 18th century and was originally eaten completely savoury as a side to meat.

It’s super simple to make but one tip I would give to achieve the most authentic result is to use the freshest (preferably organic) milk you can find, and, despite promoting using local produce most of the time, butter imported from Brittany or Normandy. The Brittany (and Normandy) regions make some of the best butter in the world and while we have high quality dairy in Australia, the taste just isn’t quite the same.

Far Breton:

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Ingredients:

  • 700ml full fat milk
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 200g pitted dried prunes
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 tablespoon rum
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 2 vanilla pods, seeds out

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 150 degrees Celsius (fan forced) and place your cake tin in the oven
  2. Warm up the milk and cream in a sauce pan or microwave.
  3. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds together until slightly white and fluffy.
  4. Add the sifted flour and whisk until the batter becomes smooth.
  5. Pour in the warm milk and mix until combined, then add the rum.
  6. Pour the mix in the hot tin, put in the prunes and salted butter pieces.
  7. Bake in hot oven for about 1 ½ hour. Do not open the oven once the cake is in!

Leave to cool in the tin at room temperature and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea! Or the way I like it, is with a glass of Calvados!

Watch the how to video below or visit my Youtube channel here to view more videos.

Preserved Lemon

 

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Canning food in glass was stumbled upon by Frenchman and confectioner, Nicolas Appert in the 1790’s. It’s a great way to capitalise on seasonal produce when it’s at its best and the process ensures that whatever your preserving remains fresh and sterile for months.

Although the zesty flavours of citrus fruits are reminiscent of summer, they are in fact winter fruits and are at their juiciest and sweetest in the colder months. I’m lucky enough to have a well-established lemon tree in my garden and as much as I enjoy incorporating fresh lemon into my winter dishes and drinks, there are just too many on the tree to consume! This is where preserving comes in handy.

Preserved lemon is nothing new; it’s a popular ingredient in Northern African cuisine like the tagine’s of Morocco and Cambodian cuisine too.

Preserved lemon has a secondary benefit as well – it makes great gifts!

 

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Ingredients:

  • Rock salt
  • Caster sugar
  • Fresh Bay leaves
  • Lemons
  • Boiling water
  • Pint size jar with screw lids

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Method:

  1. Wash and dry the jars well and wash the lemons.
  2. Put the kettle on to boil the water, you’ll need enough to fill up each jar about half way.
  3. Cut a little bit of both end of the lemons and then cut in quarters but not all the way down, just to about ¾ so they still hold together.
  4. Sprinkle the salt and sugar inside each lemon and put them in the jar cut side down, sprinkle a bit more salt between each lemon.
  5. Press the lemons down to release the juice, the lemon juice should fill half the jar. If you don’t have enough juice you can squeeze in some more, but don’t waste the lemon you can add it with the others!
  6. Put 3-4 fresh bay leaves in the jar and top up with boiling water. Screw the lid on straight away. The tip them upside down to mix the salt and sugar with the liquid. You’ll to repeat that process for the first three days.
  7. Leave the preserved lemons to rest in the fridge or a cool cupboard for at least 4 weeks before using.

Watch the how to video below or visit my Youtube channel  here for more

Gateau Basque

 

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My love of cooking has a lot to do with nostalgia. I feel that when making a recipe from my childhood or one that is linked to a place or a special event, I am immediately transported back to that time or that place and can relive those delicious memories once more. Gâteau Basque is one such recipe for me as it represents the time that I spent working in the Basque country early on in my cooking career.

The recipe itself is not fancy or particularly difficult. It’s a classic sweet pastry, filled with a vanilla and rum cream, not unlike the crème patissière that you’d find in a strawberry tart.

In the Basque country this cake is enjoyed as a dessert after dinner, but in fact it would make a perfect afternoon teacake with a delicious cup of coffee or fragrant earl grey on the side.

What recipes are nostalgic to you?

Ingredients:

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For the pastry:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 pinch salt
  • 120g unsalted butter, soften
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder

Method:

  1. Combine the soft butter and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add the flower, baking powder, eggs, salt and rum and mix until combined.
  3. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured bench and slightly knead the pastry until you have a smooth dough. But do not over work it!
  4. Slightly flatten the pastry, to make it easier for yourself when you roll it, wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge for about 1 hour to rest.

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For the Cream:

  • ½ l full fat milk
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 40g flour
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 2 vanilla pod, seeds and skin separated

Method;

  1. Bring the milk and vanilla skin to the boil.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the flour and mix until combined.
  4. Pour ¾ of the hot milk over the eggs mix and whisk until dissolved. Pour the mix back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat while whisking for about 4 minutes. The cream needs to be cooked well so it thickens when it cools down.

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Baking:

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Butter a 22cm baking dish (medium depth) with soft butter.
  3. Roll the pastry on a floured bench to a 4-5 mm thickness.
  4. Take 2/3 of the pastry to line the base of the dish, make sure the sides are clean.
  5. Once the cream has completely cooled down, transfer it the baking dish.
  6. Use the rest of the pastry to do the lid that goes on top of the dish. Tuck the sides in well.
  7. Using a fork, gently score the top of the pastry.
  8. Brush the top with a slightly beaten egg and bake in hot oven for about 40 minutes depending on the oven you have. The top should be golden brown and if you pierce it with knife, it should come out clean.

Leave the Gâteau to cool down completely before serving, or keep it for the next day of you can resist – it will be even better!

Watch the how to video below or visit my  YouTube channel  here for more

Homemade Brioche

 

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If I had to describe brioche to someone who had never tried it before, I guess I would say that it’s a hybrid between cake and bread. It often comes in loaves just like bread, but as soon as you slice it you can see the texture is lighter, and more buttery, yet not quite spongy enough to be cake. It’s because of exactly these properties that the French class Brioche as a viennoiserie, along with pastries like croissants and pains au chocolat.

The first written reference to Brioche was in the 15th century and though it’s origin isn’t confirmed, it’s generally believed to been a Norman creation (i.e. from the north of France).

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Savoury brioche is often eaten at breakfast in lieu of bread in France. Sweetened varieties can be likened to Greek Easter bread, and in fact, my favourite kind of sweet brioche, called Mouna, is also served around Easter time. Mouna is traditional in Pied-Noir or Algerian cuisine, and because this is where my Mother was born, she has made it for Easter ever since I was born.

You can use brioche to substitute for bread wherever you want to add a richer flavour and fluffier texture. For example, use it as burger or hot dog buns, or slather some cheeky nutella on top of a slice at breakfast, or, use it to make French Toast like many Aussie cafés are already doing.

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Ingredients:

  • 500 g strong flour (bakers flour or OO)
  • 20 g salt
  • 20g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast
  • 300g unsalted butter, soft
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoon milk, warm

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Method:

  1. Crumble the yeast in a small bowl, add the warm milk to it and dissolve the yeast using your finger tips or if using dry yeast, sprinkle it over the warm milk and let it activate for about 10 minutes (or until it starts bubbling on top)
  2. Place the flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixing bowl with the hook attachment (I like to use a Kitchen Aid) and mix the three ingredients together.
  3. Add the yeast to the flour and mix a little. Then add the eggs one by one and mix until combined.
  4. Knead the dough on high speed for 8-10 minutes to really work the gluten in the flour and give the brioche dough the strength and elasticity we want ( the dough should not stick and the sides of the bowl should be clean).
  5. Add the butter a little bit a the time, wait until the butter is incorporated before adding more! Knead for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Loosely cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest until double in size. Then, knead the dough on a lightly floured bench to knock the air out of it and put it back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge over night.
  7. The dough will be easier to work with and have a better flavour by proofing slowly overnight.

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The next day:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Take the dough out of the fridge and slightly knead it on a floured bench.
  3. Portion the dough in 100g balls, this recipe should give you about 10.
  4. Now you can form whatever shape you want, I chose to make buns with my brioche because I was having homemade Hotdogs for dinner!
  5. Place your Buns on a flat baking tray lined with baking paper, you may need to use more than one tray as we do not want them to close to each other. Loosely cover them with glad wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until double in size.
  6. Brush the brioche with a couple of beaten egg yolk mix with a little bit of milk and sprinkle some hail sugar on top if you’re making sweet brioche or some sesame seeds for example for savoury brioche.
  7. Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes, the brioche should be golden on top.
  8. Once cooked place them on a cooling rack and leave to cool.

Tip: Do not let the yeast come in direct contact with the salt as it would kill it.