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Madeleine, Raspberry and Dulce de Leche Shortcakes

A couple of months ago, Donsuemor invited me to participate to their celebration of the National Dessert Month. Every day in October, they will be featuring a different Donsuemor-inspired dessert. I am both honored and happy to be inspired by one of the best madeleines I have had in the Bay Area. They are moist and buttery, just the way I like them.

Ironically, madeleines do not trigger any involontary memories for me who grew up in France, but might for Loulou who devours them on a regular basis after school here in the Bay Area. She is actually one of the sources of inspiration for this dessert. As she just turned four, I needed an idea for a kids-friendly, easy to make dessert that would replace the usual cupcakes.

The other source of inspiration is a russian layered cake called “ideal” that is prepared  with walnut meal and a sort of dulce de leche or caramelized condensed milk. The idea in that dessert is to weave in the soft and creamy dulce the leche to a crispy sugar dough base. Here, instead of making my own crust, I use the delicate taste of the madeleine, for individual sized madeleine-raspberry shortcakes.

For 6 shortcakes :

12 madeleines

8 oz Dulce de Leche

4 heaped tablespoons almond butter

1/2 pint (1 small basket) raspberries

juice of 1/2 lemon

Steps :

1.Preheat oven at 300 F

2. Cut the top part of the madeleine as shown above,

3. Set the madeleines in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They need to dry a little, but be careful not to brown them.

4. In the meantime, prepare the cream in a bowl. Mix the dulce de leche and almond butter.

5. Once the madeleines are dried, spread the cream over each madeleine. A set of two madeleines will be used for one shortcake.

6. Add approximately 7-8 raspberries on one of the cream-covered madeleines, sprinkle a few lemon drops, and cover with the other madeleine.

Et voila!

It is best to let the madeleines absorb some of the cream for a couple of hours before serving.

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Strawberry Jam

It starts with a promise…StrawberryFlower…Then slowly you watch them grow, get ready, blush a little….FreshStrawberries…then you say to yourself : maybe it’s time….StrawberriesEt voila!Strawberry Jam

Now from step three to step four, all you need to know is this :

Ingredients :

1000 grams of Strawberries (a little more than two pounds)

700 g sugar

juice of one lemon

a third of a lemon’s zest

Steps :

Clean and hull the strawberries; cut them in halves.

In a bowl, mix the strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

The next day, separate the fruit from the syrup.

Bring the syrup to a boil and add the strawberries for 5 minutes. Remove the strawberries and let them drain.

Boil the syrup again for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the strawberries for another 5 minutes and repeat the process one more time.

The fruit should have been in boiling syrup for 15 minutes.

At this point your jam is ready to be transferred to jars. You can use a hand blender (only a couple of pulses) to puree some of the jam. I like to leave some fruits intact.

Bon appétit !

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Sweet times and a chocolate dessert

Simple and intriguing. Sweet, bitter, solid, liquid, dark, light, brown and white. Earliest usage discovered so far : since 1100 BC in Honduras, only since the 16th century in Europe. It has been utilized as a medicine, a drink, solid food, and as a currency.

Surely you have guessed by now that I am writing about chocolate. Oh do I love chocolate in every form! Chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, chocolate souffle, hot chocolate drinks…what did I forget? If anything, my favorite restaurants are the ones where the chocolate dessert is at its best. By the way, if there is a chocolate dessert on the menu, I will order that first and make sure everything else is light enough not to spoil my appetite.

As most chocolate aficionados, I have tried dozens of recipes. If you are looking for sources of inspiration, you might like these two books : “The Essence of Chocolate” and “Chocolate desserts by Pierre Herme”. My favorite chocolate dessert recipes are those which mix crunchy and gooey textures and which are best eaten lukewarm.

Here is a “chocolate fondant” or “chocolate lava cake” recipe that I love to share because it is so easy to make and so rewarding. The most important thing here is timing. Once you know how much time it needs to be baked, at what temperature, and in what mold, your fondant will always be perfect.

I have tried two versions of it : just chocolate, or chocolate and a seasonal fruit. It worked really well with figs. What would be your choice of fruit?You can always change your mind and decide that half of the ramequins will have figs on them and half will be traditional chocolate lava cakes.If I was to ask myself how inspiration comes for a meal or a dish, nine times out of ten the response would be “memories”. For this chocolate dessert what first came to mind was an other type of lava formation and this Summer’s sweet moments spent with family.

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Banana and Apricot Sorbets

Bananas – everyone in this household relishes them. In fact, we hardly ever come back from our weekly grocery shopping without having a cluster in our bags.  So we decided to educate ourselves and “googled” the word banana. Here are some interesting facts we gathered :

  • The word “banana is derived from the Arab word “banan” which means finger.
  • Bananas were first found in the region of Malaysia. It was Alexander the Great who brought bananas back with him to the western world.
  • They contain Vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and fiber.
  • Bananas also contain three natural sugars, sucrose, fructose and glucose along with fiber. A banana thus gives an instant and substantial boost of energy.
  • They are harvested green because they keep ripening even after they are picked.

With all this in mind, we were even more motivated to start our afternoon ritual of cooking together with one of our favorite desserts this summer : banana sorbets. It is unctuous, fresh, keeps the fresh fruit’s taste almost unchanged. Perfect ending for a substantial meal. Of course, if you are up for a more sweets, you can always add some chocolate, honey, berry treats. Banana sorbet is the perfect occasion to let your imagination flow.

Making these sorbets was so fast and easy that we had plenty of time left to whip up another similar dessert. Our next favorite flavor is apricot. Since we are at the peak of apricot season – and it lasts about a month each year! – those orange little jewels are so ripe and sweet these days that we barely need half the amount of sugar to prepare our frozen treats. It is also a good occasion to freeze some for our winter cravings… The principle for making sorbets is fairly simple : we make a fruit puree  (with fresh bananas, and roasted apricots) and add some sugar and fruit juice. Then the ice cream machine does the rest.

As for eating : while the adults in this family like them well frozen, some smaller more sensitive teeth prefer them to melt a little.

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Peach, Prune and Ginger Clafoutis

Cherries are among my very favorite fruits in summer. Something about their crunchiness, their color, their smell, and also the fact that you can eat them straight one after the other, in oblivious bliss, until you discover the mountain of pits lying on the plate. I tend to buy humongous amounts of these juicy jewels each time I go to the market. I gorge on them raw and I use the rest to bake. As it turns out, there are now two of us in this home who share the same passion for cherries.

As I was preparing to bake a cherry “clafoutis”, which is a classic French dessert, I started leafing through various recipes in my books. The bowl of cherries was sitting next to me and Loulou, who was drawing a “portrait” of her papa. Long story short, the cherries were gone before I knew it and my cherry clafoutis plans disappeared with the fruit. That’s when the plums and peaches lying in the basket drew my attention. Time to be creative and come up with a variation on the traditional recipe!

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Chocolate Pear Cake

Tomorrow is C.’s birthday. Chocolate – we can’t go wrong, warmth, magnesium …a little sugar, but high cocoa percentage. Loulou is helping, “maman je peux t’aider?” (can I help you maman?) she says as soon as she sees the chocolate chip jar on the table? Of course you can taste some, we have to make sure we are using the proper ingredients. Approval. “Can I have some more please?” this time in English. That is the beauty of expatriation. Your children speak more languages than you, with a better accent. They can correct you even at two.

A couple of pears are sitting on the counter top. They remind me of my favorite pastry at the boulangerie across the street from my parent’s place. They sell the most exquisite chocolate-pear tart. Pear, chocolate, chocolate, pear. Feels like we are on the right track. As we are looking into one of my favorite pastry books, we come across the “delice de chocolat”, a moist chocolate cake, to eat lukewarm, to serve with an apricot sauce. Getting closer.

Instead of the apricot, why not pears, apricots are still a little sour these days? Also, we tried a gluten-free version of the recipe.

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Boysenberry Amandines

This morning and for the first time this year, Loulou and I saw Boysenberries at the market. I know only one boysenberry tree and it is in Macedonia, near the Prespa Lake. Memories, memories. Running around the tree, climbing, eating, eating, eating. This tree was sooo generous. So much to eat. It was the last village before Albania. Could not go further, perfect place to stop. So my cousins and I would climb there, seat for a while until all our clothes were stained and our cravings satisfied.

I haven’t eaten boysenberries that often. After moving to France, I could only go there every so often. So here they are, just in front of me in a basket at the market four blocks from home. Loulou saw me grabbing the first basket as if it was the last one available, and I would never see another one again. She was intrigued right away “I want one please…”. Then we took an other one, and an other one, and an other one…and it would not be reasonable to go for more.

It is fresh and crunchy, flavorful and colorful. What else can one wish for?

Boysenberries are fragile, so we treated them as little gems. Small portions of a “moelleux” dessert. We ate it lukewarm with some creme anglaise and tea. A little bit of Macedonia, France and England mixed together…

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