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Menu for Hope IV. Calling all foodbloggers from Europe – Appel à tous les blogueurs culinaires d’Europe

Foodbeam. Just in a glance, you’re likely to think ‘wow that girl loves her cake’. Well, I have to admit I do. To me, nothing feels as great as making pâtisserie. Call it an addiction, a passion or whatever, that’s the way it is.

However, as it may not look like, my meals aren’t made of cakes, cookies, entremets and tarts. Nope.
I guess that, as most foodbloggers, I cook/bake more for my blog than for me. Some vegetables, grains, bread, fruits and sometimes, a slice of cake will totally make it for me. But foodbeam? No way. One greedy little blog.

Baking, may it be my absolute passion, is a luxury. And I feel grateful to be able to live up to my dreams. Yet, I realise that many people’s dreams is not to bake. What they dream about is food.

This year, I am proud to be a host for Menu for Hope.
Menu for Hope, a raffle created by Pim, has been running for three years (fourth edition this year!) and raises money for the UN World Food Programme. This time, we’re supporting a specific school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.
Last year, a fantastic $60,000 was raised and we’re hoping it gets bigger this year.

What can you do?

If you have a foodblog or a food-related website and wish to donate a prize, contact a host in your area:
UK
Johanna of The Passionate Cook

US: West Coast
Bee of Rasa Malaysia

US: Central
Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen

US: East Coast
Adam Kuban of Slice NY

Canada
Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess

Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand
Helen of Grab Your Fork

If you are in Europe (except UK residents), contact me at:
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If you are a reader, stay tuned as the hosts will list the gorgeous and lovely things offered all around the world. You’ll be able to buy raffle tickets for those terrific prizes while supporting children in need.
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Menu for Hope est une loterie organisée par Pim pour la quatrième année. Tous les fonds collectés sont reversés au Programme Alimentaire Mondial des Nations Unies. Cette année l’aide ira aux cantines scolaires du Lesotho, Afrique, afin d’encourager les enfants à aller à l’école.
La campagne de l’an passé a récolté plus de 60000$ et nous espérons faire encore mieux cette année.

Que pouvez-vous faire ?

Si vous avez un blog ou un site en relation avec le monde culinaire et souhaitez donner un prix pour la loterie, vous pouvez contacter un des blogueurs suivants en fonction du pays dans lequel vous vivez actuellement:
Royaume Uni
Johanna of The Passionate Cook

Côte ouest des Etats-Unis
Bee of Rasa Malaysia

Centre des Etats-Unis
Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen

Côte est des Etats-Unis
Adam Kuban of Slice NY

Canada
Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess

Asie, Océnie
Helen of Grab Your Fork

Si vous habitez en Europe (sauf Royaume Uni), envoyez-moi un email à:
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Si vous êtes un lecteur, tenez-vous au courant car les blogueurs ci-dessus publieront la liste de tous les prix offerts. Vous pourrez alors acheter des tickets de loterie afin de remporter un ou plusieurs prix tout en soutenant les enfants qui en ont besoin.

Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened – Gelée au caramel au beurre salé comme dans un rêve

[Dreamy salted butter caramel jelly]

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Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way you expect them to.
It can be either sad.
One day you know you’re in love – you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams*; and the second after, you learn he’s leaving for another country.
Or happy.
One day, you’re making what you think is going to be one layer of creamy-and-sweet-yet-slightly-salty-and-deeply-caramely jelly; and when you open the fridge door, have the surprise to find a multi-layered jelly.
The top layer is amber-brown and has a dense almost fudgy texture and a wonderful butterscotch taste; while the bottom layer, creamy-white, is more like a flan with a subtle caramel flavour.

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While you enjoy your last spoonful of it, you realise you didn’t write down the quantities you used to produce such a sleek and delicious gelée.
Some sugar.
Some salted butter from Normandie.
Some double cream.
Some milk.
Some gelatine (and then she pretends she’s a vegetarian!).

Three lessons. Never kiss a boy goodbye at the airport in the middle of the night, buy yourself a ticket and make his country become your home. Never forget to write down what you put in a pan, even if you think it’s just food-for-you and not for the blog. Never cry because it’s over, instead smile because it happened.
While I can’t say with certainty that following these three rules will make your life perfect, I am sure it can make it better.

But well, you know me. I’m somewhat, ahem, stubborn. I tried to make that gelée again. And again. And again. Three times actually.
Basically, I put some sugar (70g) in a pan and cooked it until amber-brown; threw in a spoonful of salted butter (25g); pour some cream (120g) onto the bubbling mixture; melted two soaked gelatine leaves with a little milk, which I added to the caramel sauce with some more milk (200g) and divided into two ramekins.
You can try. At your own risks though. I never got the same wonderful result. Actually, that’d be great if you tried, because I’ve run out of cream, which makes my quest even more difficult.

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At least, I have precious memories so that I remember. The boy. And the jelly. Just like I would never know again the things that I’ve already missed.

* Yeah, Dr Seuss totally is my heroe.

Lundi. Des patates – Pain moelleux aux pommes de terre

[Potatoes on Monday* – Tender potato bread]

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Ever since those two weeks, which I restlessly spent mostly mixing flour, butter and yeast or shaping croissants and brioches, I’ve been a bread-making addict.
It seems to have that double-effect-factor. The act of making the dough come together in a nice smooth ball certainly is relaxing, but the greatest part is the facial expressions of both my parents and sister when they bite into a warm slice of freshly baked homemade bread. And trust me, this is just priceless, and makes you forget that a couple of hours before your hands were stuck in a sticky mess.

As you may have noticed, my go-to recipe comes from Dan Lepard. It’s simple and reliable, and the end-result – a loaf of fluffy white bread – tastes terrific. I usually make at least one batch a week: for lunchbox sandwiches or just to dip in my usual dinner soup.
However, I’m always happy to find new recipes, especially when it comes to bread. For this month’s daring bakers challenge, Tanna gave me the opportunity to try out a lovely potato bread.

The experiment
This tender potato bread is made of:
– boiled potatoes
cooking water from the potatoes
– active dry yeast
– white flour
whole wheat flour
salt
butter

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This soft bread is made special with the addition of cooked potatoes and their cooking liquid. The amount of potato you use will have a direct impact on the stickiness of the dough. Thus, Tanna suggested to add from 230 to 450g of potatoes (weighed raw), depending on how confident you feel.
I went for middle-ness and decided to peel and chop 4 medium sized potatoes, for a total weight of 320g.

It all starts by boiling them in one litre of water until tender and cooked through. I did not add salt to the water as it’s known to slow down the yeast fermentation – which I don’t want.
The cooking liquid is then measured and only 750ml is kept.
Given that I was looking for some interesting texture, I placed both the potatoes and water in a bowl, and mashed with my forks until few lumps remained.

Once this mixture reaches 32°C, which is the optimal yeast fermentation temperature (lower when using fresh yeast as it’s more sensitive to temperature changes), you can mix in the active dry yeast.
Adding the yeast to warm liquid is essential in the case of active dry yeast. However, any other type of yeasts will benefit from this step as it allows the cells to wake up steadily. Being spanked isn’t an option for your mornings, is it? So expect the same for your loved yeast cells.

The yeast/water mixture is left for ten minutes at room temperature. the cells will find all they need to start working efficiently: warmness and fermentable sugars. The presence of mashed potatoes and their cooking water also plays a great role in waking-up the yeast. Indeed, potato starch is degraded more rapidly than wheat starch. Hence, the initial growth will be quick and significant, making for a great production of carbon dioxide = bubbles!

Once the yeasts have had plenty of time to get moist and fluffy, 130g of whole wheat flour is added along with 250g of plain flour. Here, the whole wheat flour is mostly used for flavour and texture, and is in my opinion a great add-on.
It’s briefly mixed, just until soggy and lumpy, and then left for a couple of minutes. At this point, the dough has the perfect consistency for adding salt and butter, which enhances the softness of the dough.

Another 250g of plain flour is then added. The dough will be very sticky but you still have 500g of flour to add. How, you may ask. Just don’t dump it directly onto your dough, but generously flour (= 250g) a surface and start kneading.
Given that I like wet doughs as they make fantastic breads, but hate to have my hands covered with so much dough lumps that I can’t move my fingers anymore, I came up with a great method for kneading wet doughs.
Wet your hands. Dip them in the nearest flour bag. Yes, it’s that easy!
Now, it’s time to stretch and fold for 10 minutes, incorporating flour and air as you go. The dough will start to feel firmer. However, if it ever happens to start sticking again, adding more flour and getting your hands clean-wet-and-flour-covered will work like charm.
At the end of the process, I suggest that you keep at least 60g of flour for the next steps.

The first fermentation was fast. I mean really fast. In an hour, I had created a monster. All bubbly and ropy and sticky.
I put the dough back on my marble with the remaining flour and gently pressed it down to get the air out. Do not worry if it’s gooey. It should. Just handle it as you can and place it – or like me, throw it – in a pan for proofing.
The baking is long and barely bearable as the bread fills your house with warming potato and golden-crust (or more accurately Maillard-generated) aromas.

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Soooo…
This bread was soft and fragrant and I’m sure I’ll make it again. Although the dough is quite sticky, it’s funny to work with.
I was pleased to see how fast it was to make. Potatoes do really have an amazing impact on yeasts’ growth, not to mention the pleasing flavour they bring.

* The title refers to a French song much loved by children, which sounds like:
Lundi, des patates.
Mardi, des patates.

Dimanche, des patates aussi.

Harder better faster stronger – Une mousse aux chataîgnes to die for

[A to-die-for chestnut mousse]

chestnut mousse

Before I can start with this, I need you to complete a little homework. Basically, I want you to rush to the nearest French supermarket (never told you it was going to be easy) with a spoon in your hand and a thick scarf in your bag. Once you’ve arrived, try to locate the yogurt aisle. It will get colder and colder as you move forwards. It’s time to use your scarf – how handy is that? Roll it around your neck and stop for a second to experience a feeling of intense cosiness.
Ok, by now you should have reached what appears to be meters of yogurts and other yummy things. Find the Marronsuiss’. Tear one pot apart, open it and dig your spoon into it. Make sure you notice how fluffy it is. Let it melt in your mouth.

I really can’t believe I asked you to eat processed food. Me. The, ahem, organic-agriculture-fanatic-and-animal-supporter. But well, that was necessary. I needed you to taste Marronsuiss’ before you start judging me about what follow.

chestnut mousse

See, when we were younger, my little sister and I used to fight for Marronsuiss’. It was nasty. Bites, hair pulling, among other too-cruel-to-tell-you-about things.
It’s crazy how such a feathery and chestnut-flavoured mousse can generate so much conflicts? However, knowing that you’ve done your homework, I have the feeling that you understand.

Here, I whipped up the harder-better-faster-stronger* version of Marronsuiss’.
* It just means terrific, really.

chestnut mousse

Mousse aux châtaignes
Adapted from Saveur magazine.

This delicate chestnut mousse, while tasting pretty much the same than its industrial twin, has the advantage that it doesn’t contain stabiliser and other creepy ingredients that the food industry likes to put in our plates from timt to time.
It’s texture is airy and it has a lovely chestnut flavour. Perfect for holidays, or in my opinion, for everyday.

Remember that gelatine has to be soaked for at least 20 minutes in cold water before being used.
You can fold in some roughly chopped candied chestnuts, just make sure you decrease the sugar quantity accordingly.

Mousse aux châtaignes

serves 8

4 gelatine leaves
350ml whipping cream
250g cooked chestnuts, pureed
80g caster sugar
2tbsp water
3 egg whites

Put the gelatine leaves in a bowl, cover wit cold water and allow to soften for at least 20 minutes.
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and refrigerate until needed.
In a pan, combine the sugar and water and bring to the boil. Meanwhile start whipping the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 110°C, pour it over the egg whites and mix until the bowl is barely warm to touch.
Drain the gelatine leaves and melt in a pan set over low heat. Incoporate to the pureed chestnuts.
Fold in the whipped cream and egg whites. Divide between 8 ramekins and chill for at 6 hours. Serve.

On missing Pierre Hermé Paris

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Shortly after I received an email from Anna – the girl who used to bake all the viennoiseries, tart crusts and cannelés, and turned out to be a lovely friend -, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about the overwhelming ten weeks I spent at Pierre Hermé Paris.
This is the place I want to be right now. The place I miss the most I the entire world (hopefully, I might be able to go back; cross your fingers for me).

I’m afraid you won’t hear more for today. Just my endless love for pâtisserie, and more specifically Pierre Hermé’s. It’s funny how, more than two months after it finished, I still have some automated reactions:
– I tend to use vous a lot, even when talking to people my age
– I shout chaud! when walking behind someone
– I hate it when my flatmates put knives in the sink. “Didn’t you learn that any sharp tool should be washed immediately to avoid unnecessary cuts?”
The list could just go on and on, but well, I need some sleep. And just to tease you: what baked good exactly weighs 180g before going into the oven? Hmmmm hint hint. The next Pierre Hermé write-up totally will be about that.