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Une délicieuse bûche de Noël – Vanille, marron glacé et macaron moelleux à la châtaigne

[A delicious Christmas log – Vanilla, candied chestnuts and fluffy chestnut macaron]

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We all know one of those people who dream about Christmas all year long and when it’s finally time to celebrate – around mid-October (because, yes, these people start to act much earlier than others) -, spend days and nights thinking about the dinner, the presents, the decoration…Well, I am one of these people.
Hi, my name is Fanny and I am a Christmasholic.

It usually starts from the 26th of December, occasionally from the 27th.
I know and feel it’s not sensible, but can’t help.
Without I even notice it, I’m already in the mood for next Christmas.
Whether it’s about the tree ornaments, the Christmas cards or the menu, I can’t stop my brain coming up with tons of ideas.
Thus, I keep hundreds (and I’m only slightly exaggerating) of Moleskine notebooks to write down every single one of these ideas.

When Christmas finally – and actually – arrives, I just have to leaf through these paper treasures to set all the variables of the equation:
ax + by + cz = BCPE
(BCPE standing for Best Christmas Party Ever)

A week ago, while searching for some inspiration for la bûche I remembered les petites notes griffonées sur un coin de feuille.
It reads – une délicieuse bûche de Noël: vanille, marron glacé et macaron à la châtaigne.

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PS – I would understand now if you consider me a chestnut aficionado.

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Bûche à la vanille et au marron glacé sur un macaron à la châtaigne
This bûche is made of a candied chestnut mousse encased in a vanilla mousse and wrapped in a stripped joconde.Regarding the joconde biscuit, the result didn’t turn out as beautiful as expected. I guess the use of my father’s glue comb (self-note: buy a set of decorating combs!) has something to do with the almost disaster.

Both the mousses are delicious and complementary: the chestnut mousse is rich and sweet while the vanilla one is slightly tangy and more firm making for a balanced and delicate pudding.

The macaron is probably the best part of the bûche: satisfyingly sweet with caramel undertones and a pleasant chestnut flavour; definitely the real winner of the unforgettable Christmas Eve dinner.
Culinary speaking I’m not sure it would qualify as macaron though. Dacquoise would probably be more accurate, but the chewy texture, shiny crust and little ‘feet’ exude the macaron-attitude.

Macaron à la châtaigne

170g ground almonds
140g icing sugar
60g flour
4 large egg whites
100g light muscovado sugar
60g caster sugar
70g cooked chestnuts, in small pieces

Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Line a 30 x 40cm pan with baking paper.
Blitz the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor. Mix in the flour.
Whip the egg whites until stiff, add the sugars and continue whipping until they form firm peaks.
Pour over the almond mixture and incorporate gently. Mix in the cooked chestnut bits and pour the batter into the lined pan.
Bake for 18 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Note – you could also pipe the batter into small rounds for a macaron-look.

Happy Christmas

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Just in time to wish you a lovely christmas; may all your dreams come true.

I think mine have been fulfilled already: a beautiful family, delicious good news and a scrumptious Christmas eve dinner.

The dinner was indeed a delight.
flocon.giftoast de pomme de terre à la crème fraiche d’Isigny et aux œufs de lompes [fried potato slices topped with crème fraiche and lump eggs]
flocon.gifbubble and squeek in a spoon with alumettes de bacon
flocon.giffourchettes de saumon et concombre avec crème fraiche citronnée [salmon and cucumber topped with a lemony crème fraiche]

flocon.gifdinde aux chanterelles avec une timbale de riz [turkey with chanterelles]

flocon.gifbûche au marron glacé et à la vanille [chesnut and vanilla bûche]

Fétichiste, moi? – Emotion infiniment vanille

[Fetishist, me? – Emotion infiniment vanille]

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Inspired by Pierre Hermé and adapted from:
Lisa Yockelson’s babas, Damien Pignolet’s chiboust and Bill Granger’s panacotta

Since I saw a television program about vanilla the other day, my dormant love for this delicate spice has been stimulated and definitely awaken.

There must be something unique about this plump, dark and oily pod; which makes it a fetish for every food lover.
Pierre Hermé says nothing less than ‘j’aime la vanille pour la pureté de son goût’ and it shows: November’s fetish collection was all about vanilla; from macarons to tartes, from éclairs to émotions.
Mais pourquoi faire simple quand on peut atteindre la perfection?
Because perfection there is: Pierre Hermé created a blend of three different vanilla types to achieve the perfect ‘goût vanille maison’.

Les vanilles

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beloved Bourbon vanilla beans

heart.pngLa vanille du Mexique – Vanilla planifolia
It seems logical to start with mexican vanilla as it’s considered to be the ‘mother of all vanillas’.
Indeed, the first vanilla crops were found in Mexico where the Aztec would call it tlixochtitl – black flower.
Back to the kitchen, Mexican vanilla is creamy and sweet with woody undertones and has lots of seeds; which makes it perfect for uncooked puddings: from blanc-manger to ice creams.

heart.pngLa vanille de Madagascar – Vanilla bourbon (though, scientifically Vanilla bourbon is the same specie as Vanilla planifolia)
This one is perhaps the most sold over the world.
I guess its strong and rich vanilla flavour and its fat pod are the reasons for this success.
I am myself a self-proclaimed addict of bourbon vanilla – I throw it in nearly everything and the results are always lovely. Especially with baked goods; while with other vanillas the flavours can be altered by high temperatures, the strength of bourbon beans makes for a beautifully perfumed cake/bread…

heart.pngLa vanille de Tahiti – Vanilla tahitensis
I have a strange relationship with Tahitian vanilla – although it’s very different from the two species mentioned above I really like it.
Do you think the fact that my mother was born in Papeete has got something to do with it?
The pods are short and very plump (due to high water content – almost 35%) and have a pleasing floral and fruity fragrance. In few words: perfect with fruits – as part of a glaze brushed over the juicy berries of a tart or in syrup poured over a freshly-baked baba to serve with a dollop of whipped cream and caramelised pineapple slices.

Emotion infiniment vanille
This recipe is inspired by Pierre Hermé’s Emotion created for the Fetish Infiniment Vanille collection (14-26 nov. 2006).
As I had no recipe for it, I went ‘par-ci et par-là’ and came up with somewhat a recipe.
Yes, I know the actual Emotion has mascarpone in it – but I ran out of mascarpone so I went for the chiboust option and I’m glad I did as it brings creaminess to the whole thing.

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It entremet is basically made of three layers (from top):
– Bourbon vanilla chiboust
– Bourbon vanilla baba infused with Tahitian vanilla syrup
– light Mexican vanilla ‘gelée’
It’s not as time-consuming as the lengthy recipe suggests. You just need to prep up the things:
1. make the babas
2. while the babas are baking, make the vanilla syrup
3. make the vanilla gelée
4. make the crème patissière
5. make the Italian meringue and fold into the crème pâtissière to get a light yet creamy chiboust
6. ‘montage de l’Emotion’ = place each baba over the light vanilla gelée and top witn pipped chiboust

Emotion infiniment vanille

serves 6 (makes 6 x 170ml glasses)

1. for the baba
5g dried yeast
30ml tepid water (35°C)
1/4 tsp + 40g sugar extra
40g butter, melted and cooled down a little
1 egg
25g sugar
seeds from half a Bourbon vanilla pod
250g flour

Mix the yeast, water and 1/4 tsp of sugar. Stir well and let stand until the yeast swells.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg with the remaining sugar and vanilla. Mix in the melted butter. Combine the flour, a little at a time (fanny: more flour can be added if necessary) until you get a soft dough (fanny: it shouldn’t be sticky though).
Knead for 5 minutes and transfer to a well buttered bowl; loosely cover with foil and let the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour.
When doubled in size, lightly press the dough with the palm of your hand.
Butter and flour the inside of six cooking rings (of the same diameter as the glasses in which you’re going to serve your Emotions) or line them with baking paper.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and form each piece into a ball. Place a ball of dough at the bottom of each cooking ring; repeat with the remaining balls.
Allow to rise for another hour and preheat the oven to 180°C.
Bake the babas into preheated oven for 20 minutes or until puffy and golden. Transfer to a wire rack, unmould and place them in a deep baking dish and drench with vanilla syrup (fanny: try to coat them evenly).

2. for the vanilla syrup
240ml water
200g sugar
half a Tahitian vanilla pod

Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Slice the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds. Mix both the sliced pod and the seed to the syrup and simmer for 3 minutes until thickened but not coloured.

3. for the vanilla gelée
250ml semi-skimmed milk
40g sugar
2 leaves gelatine
seeds from half a Mexican vanilla pod
180ml single cream

Place the milk, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat, then bring to the boil before removing from the heat.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Squeeze out the excess water and drop the gelatine into the hot milk mixture and whisk until dissolved.
Add the cream and whisk until smooth.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and divide between six glasses (capacity of 170ml) and chill for at least three hours.

4. for the crème pâtissière
250ml milk
half a Bourbon vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
40g sugar
20g cornflour

Put the milk into a saucepan, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean and ass to the pan along with the pod. Bring to the boil and set aside.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until white and fluffy; mix in the corn flour.
Return the milk to the boil and beat into the egg mixture. Put this back into the pan and place over moderate heat.
Bring it to the boil, stirring constantly – until thick.
Place the crème into a bowl and mixing from time to time, bring it to room temperature.

5. for the vanilla chiboust
100g + 20g white sugar
50ml water
120ml egg whites (fanny: I used the three whites left after having made the crème pâtissière)
pinch of salt
1 quantity of crème pâtissière (see above)

In a sauce pan, place 100g of the sugar and water and bring to the boil.
When the temperature of the sugar syrup reached 110°C begin to beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff then add the remaining sugar.
As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 120°C (fanny: I usually spot this stage without a thermometer – the bubbles are smaller and the steam has disappeared), immediately add it to the meringue while beating continuously until the mixture cools down to room temperature.
Fold into the crème pâtissière and refrigerate for half an hour.

6. Montage des Emotions
For each glass, place a disk of soaked baba over the vanilla gelée, pressing down slightly in order to make it fit.
Place the chiboust in a piping bag (with a 1cm nozzle) and pipe it to cover the baba.
Chill for at least an hour.

Un trésor de pâtisserie – La Bonbonnière by Enri Lopez

[A treasured pâtisserie – La Bonbonnière by Enri Lopez]

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Corsica

Toulouse is a lovely city with hundreds of tiny streets you discover one day after another.
It’s like walking in a labyrinthe [labyrinth].

Last year, as I was discovering the hidden treasures my new student hometown, I spotted a lovely boutique which had the most beautiful and attractive front-window you could ever dream of – colourful, elegant and very delicious.
To tell the truth, the real thing that caught my eyes was a mighty macarons croquenbouche.
I had to enter. And I did.

I will always remember that day. There were so many different patisseries I stayed in the shop – unsure about what to choose – for more than half an hour.
From that special day, I’ve been visiting La Bonbonnière every other week and always have a nice talk with the lovely lady that sells heaven in a box.

Corsica

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This is a ‘Christmas special’. Every year, from November, the pastry chef makes this delicate entremet:
– mousse aux marrons avec des éclats de marron confits [chestnut mousse with candied chestnut chunks]
– bavaroise au whisky [whisky bavaroise]
– dacquoise aux amandes [almond dacquoise]

Macarons à la vanille

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These macarons have a fine vanilla flavour and are speckled with loads of vanilla seeds from Mexico.

Gauguin

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This is the first entremet I tried from La Bonbonnière and I am SO in love with it.
It might be the nostalgia of the first bite or the delicious combination of Manjari milk chocolate and cinnamon, but Gauguin embodies paradise – if paradise there is.

Provence

I was first attracted by this entremet because of its beauty. Imagine a shiny white glaze freckled with vanilla seeds.
Inside that stunning carapace sit:
– almond bavaroise
– diced pear
– pear bavaroise
– almond dacquoise

La Bonbonnière
41 r Tourneurs
31000 Toulouse
Tel.: 00 335 61 21 66 04

Menu for Hope III

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It seems time has been going faster than I expected and before I even got a chance to say ‘I’m late’, I was actually running late.
Such a shame I haven’t been able to participate to Menu For Hope.Menu For Hope is a wonderful event – created by the lovely Pim over at Chez Pim – and enables food (and wine) bloggers to raise money for a great cause.
Last year, 17 000$ were raised and given to UNICEF.

“This year, Menu for Hope III raises funds to support the UN World Food Programme, which provides hunger relief for needy people worldwide. To us Food Bloggers, food is a joy. On our blogs, we celebrate food as a delight or even an indulgence. Unfortunately, for many others who share our world do not share that privilege. For them, food is a matter of survival. This “Menu for Hope” is our small way to help.” says Pim.

To tell the truth I have high expectations about 2006 fundraising as the raised sum reaches 15 000$ at the moment I write this post but also because this year prizes look wonderful.

I did spot a few favourites:
– a photography lesson with Heidi of 101 cookbooks [UW 10]
– lovely amai tea sweet cookies [EU 31]
– a dinner for four at Iggy’s in Singapore [AP 01]
– a cute tea set [AP 42]
– the chance to visit Paris sweetest places with the funniest guy best chocolate expert you could ever dream of [EU 08]

How can you get a chance to win one of these fabulous prizes?

1. Go to the donation page at http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhopeIII

2. Make a donation, each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Do tell us how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.

3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 for the result of the raffle.