Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
Published: Apr 15, 2015
Category: Food and Wine
READER MAIL: “The pineapple recipe — great launch for whadawegot improvising. Got a grocery-store pineapple (which I never buy because I remember eating sun-warmed, macheted pineapple in a Hawaiian field). Threw in rum, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla bean — whatever I had on hand. House smelled divine and the dessert was spectacular.”
“Real French people don’t bake.”
So says Dorie Greenspan at the start of “Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere,” and she ought to know. She splits her time between Connecticut, New York City and Paris. She’s collaborated with noted chefs, among them Pierre Hermé, who wrote Paris Patisseries: History, Shops, Recipes. That book is 160 pages of food porn. As I noted in my drooling appreciation, “There’s not a single shot of a cook whipping batter or pouring chocolate.” And why not? Because when the French want a great dessert, they buy it.
So what’s with Dorie Greenspan’s 460-page Valentine to French baking?
Let’s translate that first sentence from English back into English. As follows: At home, the French bake simple, familiar recipes that have pleased their loved ones, sometimes generations of loved ones. They like simple desserts, expertly prepared. And they are not inclined to share them.
Dorie Greenspan is the proverbial force of nature, and she pried recipes from French friends and hosts. There are cakes, simple and fancy. Tarts. Cookies. Fruits. Frozen desserts. And more. Are her recipes simple? They don’t seem so — baking requires a baker who’s precise about measurements and cooking times. Greenspan is meticulous; because she holds your hand as she leads you through a recipe, she’s not laconic.
It may seem as if there are so many steps you’ll be in the kitchen all day. Not so. My wife, a gifted baker, made the Marquise au Chocolat (scroll down for the recipe). She was finished in 30 minutes. The outcome was, as we say when we don’t like to share, “too good for company.”
Don’t be afraid. Consider that the type is bigger than you’re used to (thanks, Dorie). Note that she wanders and editorializes, educating and charming you (thanks again). My advice: try a few recipes, doing exactly what she tells you to. Et voilà! [To buy the hardcover of “Baking Chez Moi” from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]
LAURENT’S SLOW-ROASTED SPICED PINEAPPLE
Laurent Tavernier isn’t even my hair stylist, but he knows that I love food, and so whenever I’m in the salon for a cut, he takes time to chat with me about what he’s made over the weekend. When he gave me this recipe, I didn’t wait for the weekend to try it. The dessert is simple enough: a slow-roasted ripe pineapple with a thick aromatic sauce. As it roasts, it’s basted with orange juice, booze, jelly and a mix of spices until it is fork-tender and almost confited, or candied.
How much juice? “Oh, about this much,” Laurent said, making finger measurements that wavered. How much booze? “About the same amount.” And what kind? “Whatever you’ve got.” And the jelly? “Oh, you know, apple or quince or apricot or, no matter.” (Two tries later, Laurent told me that I should use a whole jar of jelly.) And the spices? “Again, whatever you’ve got—even a hot pepper!”
I’ve given you a real recipe (kind of), but my inclination is to tell you to take a leaf from Laurent’s book and let inspiration and whatever you’ve got in the cupboard guide you. Having made this so many times with so many combinations, I can now say with confidence what Laurent told me when he first described the dish, “You’ll love it.”
In the United States, where pineapples are much larger than in France, I figure one for six to eight people, usually eight. If you’d like, you can roast two pineapples at a time—the syrup multiplies easily.
1 ripe pineapple
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
1/2 cup Cognac, brandy, Scotch, Grand Marnier, bourbon, rum or other liquor (or an equal amount of orange juice)
1 jar (about 12 ounces) apple or quince jelly, apricot jam or orange marmalade
1 moist, fragrant vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
Whole spices, lightly bruised, such as a few each of star anise, cardamom, coriander, pink peppercorns, allspice or cloves (no more than 3); fresh ginger slices; a cinnamon stick (broken); a small hot pepper (just 1 or a piece of 1); and/or black peppercorns (just a few)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Stand it upright and, using a sturdy knife, peel it by cutting between the fruit and the skin, following the contours of the pineapple. With the tip of a paring knife, remove the “eyes” (the tough dark spots). Cutting from top to bottom, quarter the pineapple and then cut away the core. Place the pineapple in a baking dish or small roasting pan that holds it snugly while still leaving you enough room to turn and baste the fruit.
Whisk the juice, liquor and jelly, jam, or marmalade together. Don’t worry about fully incorporating the jelly — it will melt in the oven — you just want to break it up. Pour the mixture over the pineapple, toss in the vanilla bean, if you’re using it, and scatter over the spices. Bake the pineapple for about 2 hours, basting and turning it in the syrup every 20 minutes or so, until it is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. The fruit should have absorbed enough of the syrup to seem candied. Allow the pineapple to cool until it is comfortably warm or reaches room temperature. Laurent strains the syrup and discards the spices, making the dish more elegant, but I leave them in because I love the way they look speckling the sauce; if you’re going to strain the syrup, do it while it’s hot — it’s easier.
The temperature you serve this at is, like so much of this recipe, up to you—warm or room temperature is best, but chilled is also good.
Sprinkle these over a fruit tart, ice cream or mousse.
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 (packed) cup light brown sugar (lump-free)
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I recommend Valrhona)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 1/2 tablespoons cool unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Toss the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt together in a bowl. Drop in the butter, reach in with your hands, and start rubbing and squeezing the ingredients together until you’ve got a rocky-road mix and you no longer see butter. Cover and chill the streusel for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the crumbs out onto the baking sheet and, using your fingers, rub the streusel so that you don’t have any (or at least not many) large lumps.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, mixing, stirring and turning the streusel twice, until the crumbs have separated into small grains. The crumbs will look sandy and you’ll have a few pebbly pieces here and there. Let the crumbs cool on the baking sheet — when they’re completely cool, they’ll be completely crisp and ready to have fun with.
I keep my crumbs in a tightly covered container on the counter, but they can be refrigerated or frozen.
MARQUISE AU CHOCOLAT
Makes 8 to 10 servings
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were good times for French pastry chefs. Kings still reigned, aristocrats were scattered around the country, and everyone with a title who could afford sugar and a chef wanted special sweets. It’s likely that the Marquise au Chocolat comes from this period. A frozen chocolate mousse, it starts off as a simple sweet, but in the hands of someone’s chef, it could become baroque. Even at home, the possibilities for getting fancy with this sweet are just about limitless.
Traditionally, the marquise is packed into a loaf pan, frozen, and then sliced just before serving. This is exceedingly practical, since you can make the dessert weeks ahead; use what you need and keep the rest in the freezer for the next dinner party. The mousse also lends itself to being made in mini loaf pans or even small ramekins — when unmolded, these look very professional.
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
13 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 very fresh large-egg yolks, preferably organic, at room temperature The yolks in this recipe are not cooked, so it’s important to use very fresh eggs, preferably organic and/or from a trusted local source.
1/3 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon fleur de sel or a pinch of fine sea salt
1½ cups very cold heavy cream
Line an 8½-×-4½-inch or 9-×-5-inch loaf pan with plastic film, leaving some overhang to make unmolding easier.
Put a large heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Drop in the pieces of butter, cover with the chocolate, and heat slowly, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have melted; don’t let the chocolate get too hot. When the chocolate and butter have melted, you should have a thick, velvety mixture. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let cool for 15 minutes.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the salt at medium speed until the mixture pales and thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Turn the yolk mixture out onto the chocolate and butter and, with a flexible spatula or a whisk, gently fold together. Don’t worry about being thorough now; you’re going to fold again soon.
Wipe out the mixer (or mixing) bowl and pour in the heavy cream. Whip the cream until it shows the first sign of thickening, then slowly and steadily add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat until the cream holds firm peaks. Spoon it onto the chocolate and very gently fold it in.
Spoon the mousse into the prepared pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top. Fold the edges of the plastic film over the mousse and then wrap the pan in more plastic film. Freeze the marquise for at least 6 hours. (The marquise can be frozen for up to 1 month.)
To unmold, unwrap the pan, pull the edges of the plastic film away from the marquise and tug on the plastic to release the marquise. If the marquise is recalcitrant, dip the bottom of the pan in hot water for about 15 seconds, then try again. Turn the marquise over onto a platter or cutting board and serve immediately. (If it’s more convenient for you, you can unmold the marquise and return it to the freezer for a few hours before serving.)
Serving: The best way to slice the marquise is to use dental floss or a warm knife — run a long-bladed knife under hot water and wipe it dry. Cut the marquise into slices that are a scant 1 inch thick. If you can serve the slices on cold plates, so much the better.
Traditionally the marquise is served with vanilla crème anglaise, a lovely match. If you’re rushed for time, you can serve it with faux crème anglaise: melted premium-quality vanilla ice cream. It is also good with whipped cream or crème fraîche.
Storing: Wrapped airtight, the marquise will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.