Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Figaroscope Gourmet Award Winners

Each month the Figaroscope, a supplement of the French newspaper Figaro, anonymously surveys bakeries, pâtisseries, pizzerias, crêperies, brasseries, restaurants and bars to test, rate and class the best of Parisian gastronomy. If you've missed it, here in chronological order, are all the winners recently announced by Figaroscope!

The best burgers
What are these burgers really worth with so many price differences? For our test, we took into account three elements: the bread (artisanal and mass-produced), the meat (cooking, texture and flavour) and trimmings (salad, homemade fries or not ...). Of course, the price plays a role. The winner of the test is Scoop (1st arrondissement) beating PDG (6th arrondissement).

The best pain au chocolat
We tested one of children’s favourite pastries in twenty-five addresses in the capital. Pretty to the eye, pleasing to the nose, pleasant in the mouth, trust your first impression when you buy! It was an artisan bakery who won. Winner: the bakery Julien (1st arrondissement).

The best egg mayo
Fans of this bistro appetiser, this survey is for you! Twenty-three excellent addresses were tested on this classic bistro dish, even graduates of Asom - Association for the Protection of the Egg Mayonnaise. The winner is Voltaire (7th arrondissement).

The best baguette
At a time when the trend in baguettes is the "Tradition", we chose to test the ordinary baguette in twenty famous bakeries in Paris, with the help of baker Gontran Cherrier. We are proud to test this ordinary baguette because it is one of the most sold products. The winner is found in Jacques Bazin (12th arrondissement).

The best pizza Margherita
The Margherita pizza is one of the most popular pizzas in France. We tested the twenty best pizzerias in Paris: rive gauche institutions, trattorias in West Paris, and tiny pizzerias in the Martyrs Trudaine-Abbesses area and few extra ones recommended by "pizzavores". Two winners tied for the Napolitan speciality: the Bistrot Napolitan (8th arrondissement) and Pizza Chic (6th arrondissement).

The best wholemeal crepe
Twenty creperies were tested on a best-seller: the wholemeal savoury crepe filled with ham, egg and cheese. The winning creperie the Breizh Café (4th arrondissement), where you can taste "the alternative crepe" is a reflection of a new generation of crêperies, the opposite of rustic Brittany type.

The best flan
Finding a good flan is a challenge. We tested twenty from artisan bakers and patissieries under the supervision of the patissier Christophe Felder. Like a homemade dessert, the flan should be rustic and straightforward. A simple pleasure is to buy it at the right time because bakers are often sold out by the middle of the day. The winner was found at L'Autre Boulange (11th arrondissement).

The best lemon tart
A classic dessert is a favourite of the French. A good enough reason to try out these delicious creations. Twenty addresses and reputed pâtisserie offering lemon tarts all year round were tested with the help of pastry chef Christophe Felder. The winner is Carl Marletti (5th arrondissement).

The best mojito
A cocktail for young people? Not only. This is one of the most requested cocktails in all the bars in the capital no matter what age. All Mojitos are born from the same recipe (rum, sugar, fresh mint, lime, ice and soda water), the mojitos somewhat resemble identical twins: same genetic traits but can be different! Our favourite is from Hotel Costes (1st arrondissement).

The best millefeuille
The millefeuille is one of the classic French pastries. We have made a careful selection to keep only twenty addresses, some of the most famous of the capital. The two winners come from local pâtisseries owned by excellent artisans: Vandermeersch (12th arrondissement) and Pâtisserie de l’Eglise (20th arrondissement).

The best plate of seafood
We tested a standard plate for two, as commonly proposed (with oysters, shrimp, prawns, crab and shellfish ). We've selected a good fifteen seafood oriented establishments, including some iconic brasseries of Paris. The winner is the brasserie Jarrassé in Neuilly.

The best Paris-Brest
If the Paris-Brest is a classic French pastry, which celebrates its hundreth year, it is not so easy to find in the supermarkets! This test has covered ten addresses among the most famous of the capital who make them daily. Result: the winner is sophisticated and tasty (La Pâtisserie des Rêves) and a simple but delicious boulangerie (Boulangerie Bazin).

This article is from Figaro.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chocolate Viennese Cookies


260g/9oz all purpose flour (T45 in France)
30g/1oz unsweetened cocoa powder, better if alkalized
250g/8.5oz soft butter
100g/3.5oz icing sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 egg whites at room temperature


Preheat the oven at 180C/350F.

Whisk flour and cocoa together (sift if necessary), set aside.

Mix together salt and icing sugar, set aside.

In the bowl of a standup mixer fitted with the paddle attachment put in the soft butter and start at medium speed until fluffy. Add salt and sugar mixture and keep mixing until it is a smooth consistency. Whisk egg whites lightly and add to the mixer. Keep mixing until well incorporated, stop and scrape a few times to make sure there's no chunks of unmixed butter at the bottom of the bowl. Stop and gradually start incorporating the flour and cocoa mix by hand, with a spatula. Mix until well incorporated but avoid overworking the dough.

Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a star tip; fill it with the mixture (not all at once or it'll be hard to squeeze) and pipe on a tray lined with baking paper. Classic shape is a "W". To pipe rosettes keep the tip above the paper at about 1 cm and turn your hand as you pipe. When the desired amount of dough has been piped stop squeezing the bag and keep twisting until dough naturally detaches from the piped cookie.

Bake immediately for 10 minutes then transfer baked cookies on a cooling rack.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Candlemas (La Fête de la Chandeleur)

The French holiday, La Fête de la Chandeleur, or Candlemas, is celebrated on February 2nd, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Originally a Pagan festival honoring the Roman god named Pan, revelers paraded with torches through the streets. In 472, the Pope decided to Christianize the holiday; it would mark the date that it is thought that Jesus would have been presented at the Temple for consecration. It is said at this occasion there was a meeting of Jesus, his parents Mary and Joseph, and those he would be presented to. For this reason, the festival is also called "Hypapante", in Greek ("The Meeting"). Since the festival was celebrated with a candlelit procession at mass, the holiday was also called "Candlemas."
Since the holiday commemorates Mary having offered a sacrifice as part of her purification ritual after the birth of her son, it is dedicated to her and some people refer to the holiday as "The Purification."

This holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière, or crêpe day.

Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:

À la Chandeleur, l'hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens

À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost

Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour

Crepes Recipe

This sublime French crepe recipe is guaranteed to please all!
Served with Nutella, or sweet fresh fruits… ice-cream, whipped cream… chocolate sauce.
We 'll all scream for more!

You can make these crepes in any basic frying pan. 7 or 8 inches works best. Or, better yet, with a handy crepe maker.
The basic batter recipe is just below, but if you want to skip right to the fillings, go ahead!

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (for about 15 crepes):
2 cups Flour
2 1/2 cups Whole Milk
4 Eggs
2 tbsp. Butter (melted)
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Vanilla Stalk or Few Drops Vanilla Extract (optional)
Vegetable Oil (for pan)

How to Prepare Batter:

1. Sift flour and mix with salt in a bowl.
2. Make a well and pour in eggs. Stir well.
3. Slowly pour in milk while stirring. Keep stirring batter until small bubbles form on the surface.
4. Stir in Butter.

NB: The batter does not need to stand before using it. However, if you do let it stand, you will most likely want to add 1 tbsp. of water before cooking with it. General rule of thumb: if it seems thicker than cream, add a little more water, and/or a little more milk.

How to Prepare the Crepes:

1. Pour a little vegetable oil on a folded paper towel, and wipe the pan evenly. Keep paper towel at hand while preparing crepes, in case you want to give it another wipe.
2. Pour in 2 - 3 tbsp. of batter and quickly move the pan around, so that batter spreads evenly, covering the whole surface with a thin layer.
3. Let it cook for about 1 minute. Then, flip with a metal spatula, and cook other side for about 30 seconds.

Repeat these steps until you are out of batter, stacking cooked crepes on a plate. Yum!

Make your own Nutella it’s that simple and so good…

Try something new…Make your Own Nutella...
Nutella is a Chocolate-hazelnut spread. The kind of thing to me, which is like peanut butter or macaroni cheese to an American. I grew up on Nutella - spread on tartines, on crepes, with a spoon in front of the TV.

Here is my very personal recipe…

Yields about 1 1/2 cups - that is if you refrain from eating it while making it.

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces good milk chocolate, chopped and melted - I used milk chocolate chips

To toast and peel the hazelnuts, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the hazelnuts in one layer on a baking sheet for 15 minutes, until they are golden. Wrap them in a clean dish towel and rub continuously for a few minutes to remove the skin. You won't be able to remove everything but that's ok. Let the hazelnuts cool down before you grind them. Grind the hazelnuts well in a food processor to make a paste - my tiny food processor made me a paste with very tiny morsels (like big sand particles) and it's the best I could do, but it was fine. Add the oil, the sugar, the cocoa powder, and vanilla and continue processing. I microwave the chocolate chips on low power in small increments of 30 seconds, stirring before I would put it back in the microwave.
I transfer the hazelnut paste to the bowl of my processor, and then pour the chocolate, and pulse for a minute to blend it. I recommend straining the mix if you can still see large nut pieces; I did not because it was fine enough. Pour into a jar and let cool and thicken.
The spread will keep for about a month at room temperature (be sure the jar lid closes tightly there).
I recommend using whenever by itself, on crepes, on tartines, on muffins... You name it!