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.

Bastille Day Dessert: Grand Marnier Soufflé

Grand Marnier Soufflé serve 4

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What’s wonderful about the soufflé is that because the basic recipe can be adapted to include any flavour you like, sweet or savoury, you can really make the dish your own. I’ve chosen it as the dessert for my Bastille Day feast this year and because July is in Winter here in the southern hemisphere, I’m flavouring it with oranges, both the real stuff and a splash of Grand Marnier for good measure.

Soufflé had a reputation for intimidating the most avid cooks, due to the fact that you never know whether it’s going to be an epic success or failure until the moment you take it out the oven and gingerly place in onto the serving plate. But as they say you’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit (or the soufflé in this case), so role up your sleeves, take careful note of the instructions and you’ll be set for sweet success.

For the Crème Pâtissière:

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolk
  • 25g plain flour
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 2 orange zest
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeded
  • 5cl Grand Marnier

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Method:

  1. Bring the milk, orange zest and vanilla skin to the boil.
  2. Meanwhile whisk the yolk, sugar and vanilla seed together.
  3. Add the flour to the mix and whisk until combined.
  4. Pour the hot milk over the eggs and mix well so that all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Pour the mix back in the sauce pan and cook on medium heat while whisking until it start to thicken, then cook for a further 5 minutes while whisking.
  6. Pour the crème pâtissière in a clean bowl add the Grand Marnier and whisk until combined. Cover with cling film, make sure the film is in direct contact with the crème to prevent the formation of a skin, then put in the fridge to cool down.

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For the moulds:

  • Brush the moulds with soft unsalted butter, making sure to cover the entire surface. Place them in the fridge to set the butter.
  • Once the first layer has set repeat the process once more, then dust the moulds with caster sugar.

For the soufflé:

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Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 55g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven a 240 degrees Celsius.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peak in an electric blender, a good way to know if they’re ready is to tip the bowl upside down if it doesn’t fall off, it’s ready!
  3. Slowly add the sugar while whisking on medium speed and whisk for a couple of minutes or until the sugar is combined.
  4. Mix ¼ of the egg white with the crème pâtissière and whisk to loosen the mix.
  5. Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold everything together.
  6. Gently spoon the soufflé mix in each mold, gently tap the mold on the bench to avoid leaving any air bubble and smooth the top of the soufflé with a palette knife.
  7. Bake the soufflé for 8-10 minutes at 240 degrees.
  8. Dust the top of the soufflé with icing sugar and serve straight away!

 

 

Back to Basics: Choux Pastry

Back to Basics: Choux Pastry

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As we know them today, Choux pastry was created by a pâtissier named Avice in the 18th century. They were named as such because they looked like little cabbages and the French word for cabbage is “choux”. The original recipe though is thought to have been created in the mid-sixteenth century by an Italian chef in the service of Catherine de Medici.

Choux pastry is one of the quintessential French recipes. The pastry itself is quite easy to make but it’s what you do with it that contains the ‘WOW’ factor. The show-stopping French wedding cake, the Croquembouche, is a tower made of choux pastries, covered with caramel and spun sugar. Profiteroles, éclairs and churros all use the same basic choux recipe and as well as gougères, which are a savoury option, filled with cheese.

For something simpler, why not try filling them with my delicious orange and vanilla crème pâtissière and coating them in a crunchy caramel topping. They will make the perfect dessert to share with friends or family after a delicious meal or to entertain guests at an afternoon tea party!

To watch the how to video on my YouTube channel, click Here

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Makes approx. 36 Choux

Ingredients:

  • 500ml water
  • 200g Butter (unsalted), diced
  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 8 Eggs

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Method:

  1. Bring the water and butter to the boil.
  2. Once the butter is completely melted, reduce the heat to medium, add the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cook the dough for a few minutes to dry it a little bit, this process take should take about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough into an electric mixer bowl and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment to cool it down. The dough should just warm before you add the eggs.
  5. Start adding the eggs one at a time while mixing.
  6. Once the eggs are all mixed through, transfer the mix into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
  7. Line a couple of flat baking tray with greaseproof paper and pipe 2cm circle on the tray, make sure you leave about 1cm between each choux.
  8. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, the choux should sound hollow and feel a little hard when you press them between your fingers.
  9. Once cooked place them on a cooling rack and leave to cool.

Crème Patissière (French Custard)

Ingredients:

  • 40g Plain flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 500ml Full Fat milk
  • 4 free range egg yolks
  • 2 vanilla pods, seeds out
  • 2 orange zest
  • 20ml cointreau

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Method:

  1. Bring the milk, orange zest, Cointreau and vanilla pods to the boil.
  2. In the meantime, whisk the yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds together. Then add the flour and whisk until combined.
  3. Pour the milk over the egg mixture and whisk well until everything is mixed through.
  4. Return the pot to the stove and cook on medium heat while whisking until it thickens up. Once it starts boiling cook it for about 3 minutes more.
  5. Pour the crème patissière into a bowl, place a layer of glad wrap directly on top of it and leave to cool completely in the fridge.

Caramel:

Ingredients:

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 15cl water
  • 100g pearl or hail sugar (for the finishing)

Method:

  1. Mix the water and sugar together in small saucepan and cook the sugar until it becomes golden brown, and then take it off the heat.

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Finishing the choux:

  • Make a small hole in the bottom of each choux using the end a pen.
  • Pipe the custard in the choux using a piping bag fitted with a nozzle.
  • Dip the top of the choux in the caramel and the Pearl sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

Apricot Tarte Tatin

 

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The story of the Tarte Tartin gives hope to everyone who is absent-minded in the kitchen. This “accidental” dessert is credited to the sisters Tartin who ran a hotel in the town of Lamotte-Beuvron, in France’s Loire Valley. One of the sisters, Stephanie, was known as an excellent cook but also a bit of a scatterbrain. As the most popular version of the story goes, one day she left the apples for her apple pie in the pan for too long and so they over-caramelised.

Not wanting to waste the apples, but wanting to hide the mishap, she covered them with tart pastry and placed the whole pan in the oven to bake. Once cooked, she flipped her concoction back over to serve in order to make it look like a normal tart.

If only every kitchen disaster could be such a hit with guests!

The great thing about this recipe is that it works just as well with any fruit that caramelises nicely. I was lucky enough this summer to have a bumper crop of apricots on my tree and they worked beautifully for this Tarte Tartin. Peaches also work a treat and for the savoury lover, some juicy cherry tomatoes rival their sweeter cousins.

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Ingredient:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 50 ml water
  • 15-20 apricots
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 50 ml rum
  • 1 sheet butter puff pastry

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Method:

  1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Put the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan, give it a stir and cook the sugar until it caramelize.
  3. Pour the caramel into a tart dish, glass or non stick is preferable, and make sure it covers the entire base.
  4. Cut the apricot in half, remove the stone and place them on top of the caramel cut side towards you. Once you’ve layed down the first layer of apricots, repeat the process once more. When you flip the Tatin you’ll see the nicer side of the apricots.
  5. Dice the butter and place it on top of the apricots. Pour the rum on top of the fruit.
  6. Place the pastry over the apricots, tuck the sides in and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Once cooked, leave it cool down a little bit then carefully flip it over. A good way to do it is to place a tray on top of the tart and using two towel flip in one move.
  8. I suggest you serve the Tarte Tatin with a delicious vanilla bean ice cream and a glass of Chateau “Suduiraut” Sauterne available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au .

Christmas Eve Dinner “à la Française”: Part 3

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Classic Bûche de Noël

Ingredients for the Génoise (sponge):

  •  4 eggs
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 125 g plain flour

Method:

  1.  Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius (392 F ).
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until it triple in size. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
  3. Sieve the flour. Slowly fold in the flour with the egg/sugar mix using a rubber spatula. Make sure you scrape the side and bottom of the bowl and that all the flour is mixed through.
  4. Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper and evenly spread the mixture on the tray.
  5. Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden on top. Once cooked put the sponge on a cooling rack and leave to cool.

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Ingredient for the “ Crème au Beurre” (butter cream):

  •  4 egg whites
  • 130 ml water
  • 400 g caster sugar
  • 440 unsalted butter

Method:

  1.  Put the sugar and water in a medium size saucepan and cook to 118 degrees Celsius (244.4 F).
  2. Start whisking the white on medium speed when the sugar reaches 110 degrees Celsius (230 F). When the sugar is ready, slowly poor it over the white and whisk on high speed until cooled down (almost room temperature).
  3. Add the butter little bit a the time while whisking, make sure the meringue has cooled down enough before you add the butter, otherwise it will split and turn into a soup!
  4. Once you’ve added the butter, whisk for a couple of minutes and keep aside.

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For the sugar syrup:

  •  200 g caster sugar
  • 200 ml water
  • 30 ml rum

Method:

  1. Bring the sugar, water and rum to the boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Place the sponge on the bench. Using a pastry brush slightly wet the sponge with the sugar syrup.
  3. Using a pallet knife evenly spread the “Crème au Beurre”. Sprinkle shaved coconut and finely grated white chocolate on top. Roll the sponge on itself, make sure you roll it tightly to avoid it from collapsing later on!
  4. Cut a piece of cardboard half the width of the “Bûche”, wrap it in foil and place it under the Christmas cake.
  5. Using a pallet knife evenly spread the “Crème au Beurre” on top and around the sponge.
  6. Take the Bûche out of the fridge 30 minutes before dessert time!

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With this delicious Christmas dessert I recommend a chateau Chateau “Coutet” Sauternes-Barsac 2006 available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

 

Madeleine

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I often feel that much of the magic and romanticism surrounding French food lies in the mysterious origins of so many dishes. Factual histories become Chinese whispers, embellished and morphed along the way until each version has as many likelihoods and doubts as the next.

Madeleines are a perfect example of this, where the only thing we can be sure of is that they are truly scrumptious (and it’s probably also safe to say they were named after someone named Madeleine).

It’s accepted that these little cakes hail from the French town of Commercy, in the North of the Lorraine Region of France, and is now considered a speciality of the area. Beyond this, there is lots of conjecture on what the true origin of the Madeleine is.

One version claims that they were a family recipe, made by a cook named Madeleine, for her noble employer, Slanislaw L. Slanislaw’s daughter (and wife of Louis XV), Maria, shared them with the King who adored them and decided to name them after their maker. I like this version, but this doesn’t explain the unusual seashell shape, which is what makes this dessert so recognisable.

Another version, which is less romantic but explains the shape, poses that they were again made by and named after a cook called Madeleine, but this Madeleine was making them for pilgrims tracing the path through France to the final resting place of Saint-Jacques (St. James, the patron saint of Spain) whose symbol was the seashell.

While you’re mulling over your own thoughts on the matter, why not grab a coffee or tea and might I suggest adding the perfect petit-four to match – a Madeleine!

Madeleine:

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Ingredients:

  • 375 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs (medium size)
  • 250 ml full fat milk
  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 500 plain flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla essence or 1 vanilla pod seeded
  • 50 g grated coconut
  • 1 orange zest

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Method:

  1.  Preheat the oven at 200-220 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, sugar, 50ml of milk and the vanilla, then add the coconut and orange zest.
  3. Sieve the flour and the baking powder.
  4. Slowly add the flour to the egg mix while mixing with a spatula.
  5. Once the flour is mixed through add the rest of the milk, and mix until the milk is incorporated.
  6. Add the warm melted butter and mix until combined.
  7. Lightly spray the Madeleine mould.
  8. With a spoon or a pipping bag place the mixture in the Madeleine mould and bake for 10 minutes. Take them out of the mould as soon as they come out of the oven and place them on a cooling rack.

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Serve the Madeleine warm for an afternoon tea or for an after dinner treat with a glass of Chateau Viranel “Gourmandise” available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au .