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Time to forgive the winter – Apple, cinnamon and walnut strudel

strudel

I believe in traditions. Mostly, when the air starts to get crisp and the sunsets early.

We have breakfast for dinner. We take pictures out of the doors. We continue knitting a scarf, which was first started a couple of years ago. We roast pumpkins. We have hot chocolate on the patio, cosily wrapped in a blanket. We read written words.

And we make apple strudel.

I believe in traditions that will make our hearts warmer when the temperatures go down.
They surround us with comfort and love.

And this is why I love autumn and winter so much. However, it’s been slightly harder for me this year to find my way through golden leaves and acorns on the pavement.

park pentax

But as a reminder of why things have to be as such, Anna-Sarah came over and we made a delicious apple, cinnamon and walnut strudel.

Just like we did the year before.

strudel large

And quite instantly, the whole process of peeling apples, sprinkling them over the stretched dough followed by generous handfuls of cinnamon and walnuts tamed my fear of cold nights.

strudel step by step

This time, the cake that so gloriously calls for frosty winds and an amber-brown cup of tea was ready just before the sun went down. And made the perfect end to an otherwise delicious dinner.

tree pola

A couple of days later, I travelled from one home to another. Landing in London was tougher than I expected. If autumn was just on its way back in France, here things were somewhat different.

And by different, I really mean one thing: rain.

puddle pentax

So I decided to make it happen. Armed with a thick wool-scarf and some mitten, I made a pact with myself.

A pact that smelled like grass after a misty day.
A pact that smelled like a piping-hot latte by the Serpentine.

book writing

Apple, cinnamon and walnut strudel
Adapted from Claire Clark’s Indulge.

I remember the first time we made this recipe. A perfect day for baking, with rain, wind and even a power-cut.
A year later, it has become our love letter to autumn.

And honestly, who could blame us? Warm and deeply-flavoured, this cake makes for the most comforting thing to eat, let alone to make.
The process involves a lot of dough-stretching, which should not scare you as Claire’s dough is a delight to work with. We always do this in a four-hand style, but I’m pretty confident you could pull this off with just a pair.

That night, we served it with a slightly salty caramel sauce. This one. And it worked perfectly as the filling is not too sweet .

Apple, cinnamon and walnut strudel

serves ten

for the dough
300g white flour (preferably strong)
one tsp salt
125g water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
one egg yolk
100g butter, melted to brush the dough

In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all the ingredients and knead for eight minutes. Dust your work plan with a little flour and transfer the dough on it. Kneading until it’s no longer sticky. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, you can prepare the filling.

for the filling
100g breadcrumbs
100g butter
1kg apples
150g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
a handful of walnuts

Start by frying the breadcrumbs in a skillet with the butter until light brown, then set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the thinly sliced apples along with the caster sugar and cinnamon.

for the montage
Preheat the oven to 220°C
Cover a table with a cotton cloth, and dust the surface with flour. Place the dough in the centre and roll into a 30cm-wide square. Now is the fun part. Using the palms of your hands, stretch the dough from underneath it until it’s paper-thin. Simply work from the centre to the edges, and don’t worry if you don’t manage to get the edge thin enough as you can just trim them later.
Gently brush using the melted butter; then sprinkle the fried breadcrumbs on one half of the dough. Now, spread the apple mixture and sprinkle with walnuts. Fold the uncovered dough over the apples, then roll the whole thing into a long, as compact as you can.
Transfer the roll to a baking sheet lined with paper and brush with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until olden brown.

Encore un tout petit peu, et ce sera un autre jour – Tarte meringuée et gâteau de voyage au citron

[Just a bit longer and it will be another day – Lemon meringue tart and lemon cake]

lemon tree

If at times, nature compels us to slow down, I must admit I was slightly surprised when I saw the first lemons on my parents’ tree.

Lemons in september feels like eating strawberries around Christmas time for me.

But well, the little guys were hanging out in the tree and my sister’s favourite dessert in the whole entire huge universe is lemon meringue tart.

So I took this as an opportunity to remind you how lovely Pierre Hermé’s recipe is. This time around I just changed the crust for my new go-to recipe which seems to be easier to work with – which in my world means no shrinkage during baking (the one thing I dread the most in pastry).

lemon meringue tart pentax

Basically, you can make the dough and lemon crémeux a day – or three – in advance, and when you’re ready for THE tart, simply bake blind the shell and fill it with the smooth and tangy cream.

Whip up a nice and soft meringue italienne, pile it on the tart and burn with a châlumeau [blow-torch] or failing that the grill of your oven (something I’ve realised I’m not good with, burnt tart anyone?).

And trust me when I tell you I’m doing you a favour by writing down the ingredient list so you can just print it, go shopping and come back at home only to make the most delicious lemon tart you could ever dream of.

lemon meringue tart recipe

When it comes to the dough, the process is exactly the same as the one I described over there. Except thet ingredient list is different: less butter, more almonds and a tad more icing sugar make for the most perfect dough ever. Easy to work with, it will have a very deep aroma when baked. Just make sure you don’t get it out from the oven before it has the nicest shade of golden-brown.

As with most doughs, this recipe will yield to more than what you actually need for one tart. But I suggest you divide it into 3 to 4 pieces and wrap them in clingfilm. Then you can freeze them for as long as a month or two, and go back to your freezer every time you will need some.

Recipes: Lemon meringue tart & pâte sucrée (just for the process, using the ingredients above, please try this new recipe and tell me what you think).

Quite evidently, we also made cake. This cake to be precise. Because it is the best lemon cake. Because it’s soft and fragrant. Because it will keep for days. And mostly, because we need no excuse to make – and more generally, eat – cake.

lemon cake pentax

This time, I used T110, which is a fine semi-whole wheat flour. I’m not sure it’s widely available outside of France, but I suggest you try making a tant-pour-tant using plain and whole-wheat flours.
What I love about this flour is the lovely aromas – deep and hearthy – that balances the tanginess of the cake and the sweetness of the soaking syrup.

As a matter of fact, I first intended to top the cake with a thick citrus and earl grey glaze, but ran out of icing sugar so syrup it became.
Whether you want to go for a glaze or a syrup, you simply need to heat the lemon juice to 70°C, infuse it with the tea for two or three minutes, then pour onto the icing sugar slowly.

I drenched the cake with it as soon as I got it out of its tin and it created the most perfect layer of fresh lemon flavour.

lemon cake recipe

Recipe: Lemon cake.

And since this post is too long already, maybe I should add a couple of things.

ONE. I would love to hear your suggestions for upcoming articles.
What would you like to see on foodbeam? Is there a specific French technique you would love to learn?

TWO. I’m thinking of putting a F.A.Q. post together. I find them so fun to do. So anything you’d like to ask!

THREE. I hope you don’t mind my current REmakes of old recipes. To be honest, I really enjoy writing them (and photographing them with my pentax ME). To me, it’s all about: 1) highlighting some of the very best pastries around and 2) showing you new techniques/ingredients.

OK, I’m done now. So do ask your questions in the comments below and tell me what you want to see here! x

empty plate

I’m moving past the feeling – On brownies 2.0 and autumnal desserts

brownies

It seems we made brownies. Yes those brownies.

In between sleeping on the beach, sipping through Pastis glasses, finding a name for the small pâtisserie I will own – one day – in France, buying heaps of vintage things at a vide-grenier, and spending time with my favourite person in the world – namely, my sister.

And well, the brownies are as good as ever. So please, if you haven’t done so yet, run to your kitchen and make a batch.
And keep in mind you can switch caster sugar for demerara or light brown. As delicious, and perhaps even better.

brownies recipe card

Now, I’m rushing to pack my suitcase as I’m heading on the west side.

But stay still, I have two recipes with apple coming – as in terrine of baked apple, some crisp cinnamon crumble, and an apple and walnut strudel – and one with white chocolate.

strudel

Who said autumn is just around the corner? I do think it’s time to forgive the winter. Soon.

Always and forever more – An attempt at riz-au-lait ice-cream

Today, I could tell you a long story.

From the day I ate riz-au-lait for the first time in years, to the moment I thought it could make a pretty good ice-cream.
From the point I actually boiled some viallone nano rice in full-fat milk with a plump bean of vanilla, to the time I realised it would probably end up in a disaster.

riz au lait ice-cream

But to avoid unnecessary pain, let me just sum up the facts for you.

I knew I wanted to make riz-au-lait ice-cream.
I knew the rice grains would freeze to solid pieces.
I knew it would make the tasting sort of awkward.

I just didn’t expect it to taste so good.

riz au lait ice-cream spoon large

So after sharing the tub with a friend (somewhat embarassed because what we were eating – using the biggest spoons we could find – felt like uncooked rice in the most delicious rice pudding flavoured ice-cream), I went the easy way and cooked more rice – still in full-fat milk.

This time, I strained it. And made a – smooth – ice-cream out of it. And served it with a terrine of baked apple, some crisp cinnamon crumble, and a touch of caramel foam.

terrine pomme au four

The plate ended up empty. Mostly because of this face. Rather evidently, I also took some pictures of the moment just before he grabbed his spoon. So I might write up about this sometime soon; when summer will be over.

Le jour le plus froid du monde – Pop corn panna cotta

[The coldest day in history – Pop corn panna cotta]

corn panna cotta

Some people might tell you that all you need in a kitchen are a good knife, a pan, and a wooden spoon.

Although I do love the concept of minimalism – especially when applied to cooking – I must inform you, for the sake of your sanity, that those people are either a) liars, b) buying take-aways or c) psychiatrically disordered.

Today, I intended to make a corn panna cotta with some caramelised pop corn and a lovely salted caramel sauce.

corn

Estimated time: half an hour. Estimated number of servings: three.
Actual time: one hour and a half. Actual number of servings: one.
Efficiency: nil.

Here is what happened. I put the cream, milk, sugar and corn into a pan, and gently simmered.
In the meantime, I popped some corn. Kept it warm. In another pan, I caramelised some sugar to coat the pop corn. So far everything seemed safe. And quiet.

corn panna cotta top detail

Until, I started pureeing the panna cotta mixture.

And there, I’m saying it: a good hand-blender is fundamental.

After having splashed half of my kitchen with something that seemed to be more of a runny scrambled egg than a silky panna cotta and not feeling my hand anymore due to the highly vibrant nature of the little bastard blender, I started considering a strainer as my ultimate dream.

I turn the cupboards upside-down only to realise I have probably lost my dream somewhere in between Notting Hill and Clapham.
At this point, I started considering a tea strainer as my new dream. Or perhaps nightmare would have been more accurate.

corn panna cotta spoon

So I started filtering, one teaspoon at a time. Halfway through, I stopped for a little yoga pose. While I’m at it, I find the tree posture extremely useful when I don’t have barbiturates on hands.

In case you want to laugh as hard as I screamed, here is a little picture to show you the mess.

mess

But you know what. It was totally worth it. Especially since today is the coldest day in history.

corn panna cotta top

Pop corn panna cotta
Inspired by David Everitt-Matthias.

Don’t let all my rambling fool you. This was totally worth the time. And according to my estimations, it could be made really quickly if you the lucky owner of both a blender and a fine mesh sieve not the size of a dinette [play house].
The panna cotta is smooth and deeply flavoured with the nuttiness of fresh corn; altogether well complemented by the slight bitterness of the caramelised pop corn and the lovely saltiness of the sauce.

If you’ve never made caramel-coated nuts – or in this case corn – please be careful not to burn yourself during the separating action. In case you don’t feel confident enough, just spread it as thinly as you can with a wooden spoon, then later when it’s set, simply chop it with a good knife.

You will end up with more pop corn and sauce than you need. For the pop corn, I’m pretty sure you’ll make good use of it. But regarding the sauce, it will keep for one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

And just a short note on the eating: make sure you taste all three components at the same time. Because, well, the panna cotta does taste like corn, except sweet and delicious, but corn nonetheless. You might be surprised.

Pop corn panna cotta

serves two

for the panna cotta
one gelatine leaf
150g fresh corn kernels, from one fat cob
150g milk
100g double cream
25g caster sugar

Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water.
Place the remaining ingredients in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Mix in the soaked gelatine and blitz using a hand blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, then divide into two 6cm wide rings.
Allow to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

for the caramelise pop corn
one tbsp vegetable oil
a small handful of popping corn
200g caster sugar

Heat the oil in a pan and add the corn kernels. Cover with a lid and when the corn starts popping, give it a ood shake. Remove from the heat when you can’t hear any popping noise. And set aside while you make the caramel.

Place the sugar in a pan to slowly caramelise. It’s ok if it forms some lumps, as they will eventually melt as it gets hotter. When the caramel has a light amber colour, mix in the popped corn with a wooden spoon to coat them evenly. Transfer them to a silicon mat and wait for a minute before separating them (or if you don’t feel confident enough, read note above).
Allow to cool fully.

for the salted caramel sauce
200g caster sugar
100g double cream
100g butter
seeds from one vanilla bean
2g Maldon sea salt

Caramelise the sugar over medium heat, then deglaze with the butter, and then the cream, a tablespoon at a time. Mix in the vanilla seeds and salt, and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment. Allow to cool.

for the montage
Using a small blowtorch, heat the sides of the rings so to unmould the panna cotta. Place it in a plate.
With a teaspoon, drop a walnut-size ball of caramel, then starting from the centre give it a nice shape to follow the rim of your plate. Scatter with caramelised pop corn. And serve.