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.

Jean-François’s Mousse au Chocolat: Jean-François Chocolate Mousse

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This decadent dessert is a favourite among restaurant go-ers at the Restaurant de L’Abbaye and I’m thrilled to be able to share the chef’s recipe with you today. Once you taste the rich and creamy texture of this mousse you’ll be surprised at how straightforward it is to make, and because it will keep for a few days in the fridge, I think it’s the perfect ‘wow-factor’ dessert to make in advance when you’re entertaining guests.

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There’s no oven time required for this chocolate mousse, which has the added advantage of allowing you to be creative with your presentation. There are the usual ramekins or decorative bowls, but you could also set the mousse in vintage crystal glasses or teacups for an afternoon tea with a twist.

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The most important thing to keep in mind with this dish is the darker the chocolate you use, the richer the finished product; so don’t overdose on a good thing by serving your guests enormous portions! Less is always more when it comes to indulgence.

Ingredients:

  • 450g dark chocolate
  • 10 egg yolk
  • 10 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into little pieces and place them into a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl on a bain-marie, turn the heat to the lowest setting and leave the chocolate to melt slowly.
  2. In the meantime separate the egg whites and egg yolks. Place the yolks into an electric mixer bowl with the sugar and whisk at high speed until it becomes slightly white and fluffy or about double in size. Then pour the mixture in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.
  3. Whisk the egg whites with a tablespoon of sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks, i.e. until the mixture holds its shape for a little bit (or another way to know if it’s ready is to tip the bowl upside down and if the misture stays in!)
  4. Combine the melted chocolate and the yolk mixture and slowly fold them together using a spatula.
  5. Then add about a ¼ of the whites at a time and gently mix them with chocolate mixture.
  6. Portion the chocolate mousse into individual little bowl and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
  7. Serve by itself or with some sable biscuit on the side!

Almond and Cherry Pithivier

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There’s one cooking show that I could watch endlessly over again. For me, it’s the perfect mix of Francophilic nostalgia, mouth-watering food and my style of cooking: rustic. It is…Rick Stein’s French Food Odyssey. If you’ve never had the pleasure before, you can find it online: www.amazon.com . You’re welcome.

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With its focus on French favourites, there are lots of dishes on Rick’s menu that were regulars at the dinner table growing up, but one that I have never tried was something called a Pithivier, and so, I decided to make one. My only regret…I shouldn’t have waited so long!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets butter puff pastry
  • 125g softened butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 125 almond meal
  • 15 flour
  • 2 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 225 fresh cherries, stone removed

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Method:

  1. Cut a disc of puff pastry using a medium size plate (about 25 cm) for the bottom and a slightly larger one for the top (about 29 cm), using a larger plate. Rest them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the almond filling, cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and one of the yolks, gently add the almond meal, flour and Kirsch, stir until combine.
  4. Stir in the pitted cherries.
  5. Place the smaller disc on flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spoon the almond mixture in the center and spread it to about 2.5 cm of the edge.
  6. Beat the remaining yolk with 1 tablespoon of cold water and brush the edges of the bottom disc. Place the larger disc on top of the filling and press the edges together to seal, pressing out any trapped air. Press the outside of the edges of the pastry with a fork to give it a attractive finish. Place the Pithivier in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Brush the top of the Pithivier with the rest of the egg wash, then with the tip of a small sharp knife, score radiating arcs from the center out towards the edge, taking care not to cut too deeply. Make a hole in the centre to let the steam escape.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius(428F), until the pastry puffed up and is golden. Then lower the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius(356F) and bake for a further 40 minutes or until a skewer pushed in the middle comes out clean. If it start to become too brown, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top.
  9. To give the Phitivier a classic glazed appearance remove it from the oven, increase the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Dust the pastry with icing sugar and bake for 4 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool slightly, then serve with vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
  11. I also recommend a glass of Chateau Viranel “Gourmandise” available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

Galettes des Rois

 

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We sing the song, and relish in raucously shouting the line “FIVE GOLD RINGS,” but many Australians would be surprised to learn that the classic Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” refers to the 12 days from Christmas Eve, not before it. What’s so special about the twelve days after? Well, this is the lead up a Christian holiday known as The Epiphany (6th January), which is still a public holiday in France and many other European countries.

Now, the French aren’t known for being particularly devout, but we do love a public holiday, and especially one with a special dish attached. For The Epiphany, it’s the “Galette” (or Gateau) des Rois, which translates to “Kings Cake”, in reference to the Three Wise Men who are believed to have visited the baby Jesus on this day.

I seriously doubt the Three Kings presented Jesus, along with their more famous gifts, a brioche-style, over-grown doughnut all those years ago, so I don’t quite know why we make “Galette Des Rois” in celebration of this event. What I do know is that it’s delicious and I’m sure Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus would have loved it as much then as I do today.

Galette des Rois are eaten from the 6th January until Mardi Gras (the Christian one marking the day before Lent fasting begins, as opposed to the Sydney version), and each one will often hide a little porcelain or plastic figurine somewhere in the dough. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice has certain privileges and responsibilities, which differ from country to country. Between countries there are also vastly different names and recipes for the Galette des Rois, even within France itself.

Today, I’ve chosen to share the recipe my Mum used to make for my brothers, and me, which is known as a “Gateau des Rois”.

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Ingredients:

  • 300g strong plain flour
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 6 pinch table salt
  • 100g mixed peels
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 170g unsalted butter (soft)
  • 2cl orange blossom water
  • 2cl dark rum
  • 1 lemon zest
  • 30g glace fruit
  • 30g orange marmalade
  • 20 pearl sugar
  • Tiny porcelain or plastic figurine of your choice (optional)

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Method:

  1. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in an electric mixing bowl, like a Kitchen Aid for example. Mix the ingredients for a couple of minutes with the paddle attachment (the yeast can never be in direct contact with the salt as this would ‘kill’ it). Crumble the yeast and add it to the flour.
  2. Add the eggs, orange blossom water, rum, 80g of mixed peels and lemon zest and knead until you have a firm and elastic dough (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the soft butter a little bit at a time and knead for a further 5 minutes. The sides of the bowl should be clean and the dough should be quiet soft.
  4. Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for an hour or until it is doubled in size.
  5. “Knock back” the dough, that is, knead it for about 30 seconds and then cover it with cling film and place it in the fridge overnight.
  6. Place the dough on a floured surface and spread it using a rolling pin, just as you would do for normal dough. Fold it in 4 and repeat the process twice.
  7. Form a ball and place it on a flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Dip 2 of your finger in the flour and stick in the center of the dough all the way down to the tray to create a hole. Carefully widen the hole using your hands. Reform the dough so it has a circular shape (a bit like a giant doughnut!).
  8. Wrap a pastry cutter or a stainless steel ring a little bit smaller than the hole in greaseproof paper, and place it in the center. That way the hole won’t close as the dough proofs. If you want to place a figurine into your “Galette”, now if the time by simply pushing it into the dough. Make sure you let people know what they may find in their slice before they tuck in!
  9. Cover with cling film and leave to proof for 1 hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  11. Brush the dough with egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 2 Tbsp water).
  12. Bake for 30 minutes. Then cover it with foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  13. Cool the “Galette” on a cooling rack until warm.
  14. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoon of marmalade with water and keep aside.
  15. Brush the “Galette” with the marmalade and sprinkle the pearl sugar and the remaining mixed peel on top.
  16. This delicious treat is now ready to eat for breakfast or for dessert. In French tradition, whoever finds the figurine in their slice has to make the next “Galette” to share!

 

Short Bread

Short Bread

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Shortbread started off with very humble beginnings – as the slow cooked off cuts of bread dough. Eventually, butter took the place of yeast to more closely resemble the shortbread we know and love today. With its buttery richness it’s not hard to imagine that shortbread was once considered a luxury and could only be afforded for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas or New Year’s Eve. A particular variety known as “petticoat tails”, flavoured with caraway seeds was apparently a favourite of Queen Victoria.

For this iteration of the Scottish favourite, I used classic gingerbread cookie cutter shapes, which would be perfect to use if you’re cooking with the kids! For a more grown up version, you could create the classic shortbread fingers or the wheel shape sliced into triangles (i.e, the petticoat tails).

Ingredients:

  • 500g plain flour
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 vanilla pod (seeds only)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (356F).
  2. Mix the sugar, diced butter (soft) and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until the mixture become creamy and slightly white.
  3. Then add the egg yolk and whole egg and mix until well combine.
  4. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and add it to the butter mix. Mix on medium speed, until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Roll the dough on a slightly floured bench to the desired thickness, I recommend about 3-4 mm.
  6. Using a pastry cutter cut different shapes and place them on a flat baking tray lined with baking paper.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or so until the sides of the short bread becomes golden. Cool them down cooling rack.

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Fruit Mince Pies

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I shared these fruit mince tarts with an English friend and I could see in their expression, as they bit into the crumbly pie casing, that they were tasting nostalgia as much as spiced fruit mince. These merry morsels are historically British you see, heralding from the Crusade era when the English brought back Middle Eastern recipes mixing meats with fruit and sweeter flavours as well as exotic spices.

Mince Pies have always been associated with Christmas, though as time has gone by the recipe has evolved to leave out the meats but amp up the sweets! For this recipe I left my fruit mince to soak in brandy for 24 hours, but some people have told me tales of their grandmothers soaking it for months!

Fruit mince pie

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Ingredients:

  •  250g dried figs
  • 300g raisins
  • 150g Slivered almonds
  • 250g dried apricots
  • 300g currants
  • 300g sultanas
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 200g mixed peels
  • 110g macadamia
  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 150mL brandy
  • 1/3 cup Verjuice
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 175g unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Peel and coarsely grate the apples, then cover with verjuice to prevent discoloration.
  2. Chop the apricots, raisin, figs, macadamia and hazelnuts.
  3. Combine them in a large mixing bowl with rest of the ingredients except the butter and mix thoroughly.
  4. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring from time to time.

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Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 175g unsalted chilled butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 1 free range egg
  • 2 Tbspn iced water

Method:

  1. Dice the chilled butter
  2. Blend the flours, icing sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. If you do not have a food processor use the tip of your fingers to mix the butter and flours together.
  3. Add the egg yolk and iced water and mix until the dough comes together. Form a ball and flatten it a little bit, it will make your life easier when you start rolling, wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge for an hour to rest.
  4. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius (392F).
  5. Take the pastry out of the fridge 15 minutes prior to rolling it.
  6. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured clean surface to the desired thickness (about 2mm).
  7. Stir the fruit mince one last time before filling the pastry.
  8. Line the moulds with pastry (a cupcake tin works perfectly for this) and fill them up with the mince to about 3/4. Press the mince down gently in the pie. Using a star shape pastry cutter, cut a star for each of the pie and place them on top. Press down a little bit and brush them with egg wash.
  9. Bake for 18 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown on top (some oven might cook a bit faster or slower).
  10. Allow to cool on a cooling rack before serving with.