Friday, January 29, 2010

Last Night's Cooking Class at La Cuisine Paris

I have to write about the cooking class I gave last night at cooking school La Cuisine Paris, where I work part-time. It was a group of ten people from the Czech Republic, all expatriated to France.

I've only met one other Czech in my entire life, when I first arrived in Paris and we were both struggling to learn how to conjugate the subjunctive.... Anyway, she was friendly, dynamic, open & fun. So was the group of Czechs last night. Are they all like that??!! (Kidding!) Last night's group was also keenly eager to work, participate, & get "it" done. The "it" was last night's menu consisting of:

Velouté de courgette au lait de coco /
Cream of zucchini soup with coconut milk

Daurade grillé, confit de fenouil d'anis et de vanille, confit de pomme de terre et sauce à l'orange "fondu" à l'huile d'olive
Pan seared sea bream, fennel "confit" with anise & vanilla bean, potato "confit" & "melted" orange juice-olive oil sauce

Fondant au chocolate aux épices d'hiver
Molten chocolate cake with warm winter spices

Keep in mind it was a two hour class, including the dégustation (tasting). After having given several two-hour classes over the past year, I can say that teaching & preparing all of this within two hours is ambitious. But guess what. That's what we pretty much did. The old "work hard, play hard" spirit was alive & kicking in this group. The first hour and a half was spent concentrating on the tasks at hand....and the last half hour was spent enjoying the fruits of labor when everyone could sit down and taste each dish, with a glass of white wine in hand.

What a pleasure working with people so eager & interested. The same is true of another class the day before - a group from the American Women's Club. If you haven't checked out La Cuisine Paris yet, I hope you do. It's a different kind of school. In a Cheers kind of way. "Where everybody knows your name" other words, the welcome is warm, it feels like home, and "Ted" and "Diane", alias Olivier & Jane, are there to take care of your needs, with total sincerity and a smile on their face. Bravo to them for doing a lot of things right with their cooking school. Makes me happy to be in this line of work. C'est tout...that's all I wanted to say today. expecting something else?!

89, boulevard Saint Michel


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Making Croissants! Video & Recipe

I was asked by Gillian, of, if we could make croissants together. I liked the idea. Croissants are a weakness of mine. In fact, when we first moved to Paris, I romantically thought I'd be eating croissants everyday. But in reality, I only eat them from time to time actually (they are very rich!). When I do indulge, however, I completely enjoy each and every mouthful. Usually, my croissant indulgence is on a Sunday morning which tends to be fairly typical for french people, or so I've been told.

Eating croissants is one thing. Making them is another! They're a bit of work. I hadn't made them in years. After all, in France, a great croissant is just a street corner away! However, Gillian's reason for wanting to learn how to make croissants got me thinking. She's leaving Paris shortly....and she wanted to take this back home with her as a souvenir that could be enjoyed anytime she wanted!

And then I realized, I, too, should be making croissants more often. Not only will we leave some day, some unknown day, but I should be practicing the technique because it takes a little practice to get it just right. And finally, there's perhaps nothing better than to taste deliciously warm, freshly made croissants straight from the oven.

Last Sunday was the day we set aside for making croissants and we made lots of minis. Despite our love for croissants, we could not possibly eat all of the ones we made. So, we hit the streets of the 1st arrondissement to say bonne année (Happy New Year) and to share the little, warm flaky treats. We met some friendly people along the way. Turned out to be a fun little adventure!

Here's a brief video demonstrating the general technique behind making a croissant, edited by Gillian herself (one of her many talents). I hope you enjoy seeing people's reactions as much as we did. Additionally, I've provided a recipe that I am using and have interpreted, thanks to my time at Ecole Ferrandi. Happy Croissant making & sharing, to everyone!


For 20 - 25 croissants:

500 g flour
12 g salt
50 g sugar
16 g fresh baker's yeast
276g water
25 g powdered milk
150g butter

  1. Make the détrempe: flour in bowl, mix in powdered milk; make fountain & add in the center of it the yeast, sugar and salt. Add water and mix. Gradually turn onto table and work only until smooth. Takes just a few minutes. Wrap with plastic wrap & let rise in a proofing oven or on the counter, until doubled in size.
  2. Punch down the détrempe; re-wrap with film & let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll out the détrempe and add the big block of butter in the middle. Fold over the flaps to enclose the butter inside. Let dough rest in fridge 20-30 minutes. Proceed to next step.
  4. Do a "double turn", called "un tour double" in french. Roll out dough the length of a long rolling pin. Fold the 2 ends in, and then fold the whole thing in half.
  5. Do a "single turn", or "tour simple" in french. Roll out dough the length of long rolling pin. Fold it into thirds. Let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Roll dough out to a thickness of around 2mm (very thin). Cut rolled dough into large rectangles & then cut each rectangle into triangles. Roll into a croissant shape, starting from base of triangle, rolling toward the tip. Let rise at room temp (or proofing oven) until puffy (around 20-30 minutes).
  7. Brush with egg wash.
  8. Bake approximately 15 minutes at 205C.
It makes more than the quantity indicated, if you them mini-sized like we did!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Tasting - Part 1

I was thrilled to be invited by Discover Paris! to a chocolate truffle tasting this past weekend. The people behind Discover Paris are Tom Reeves & Monique Wells, recent publishers of the book, Paris Insights - An Anthology.

They wanted to research different truffle makers for their upcoming February newsletter, just in time for Valentine's Day. I was more than happy to participate in such a difficult assignment!

Here's how it worked:

1) Discover Paris! collected "truffe nature" samples from five different chocolate shops in Paris. These are natural truffles, without any added flavorings such as alcohol, nuts, etc.

2) They assembled a few people around their table, including Pastry Chef Alison Johnson (of 1 Michelin star restaurant Jean), Michel Cloes (President of Chef Culinary Network), and myself.

3) The truffles arrived at the table, one at a time, identified only as Truffle A or Truffle B, C, etc. We privately commented on each truffle and rated it on appearance, touch, smell, taste, and mouth feel. We then compared notes & talked about our impressions. Finally, the scores were tallied up and a winner was announced.

Here are the truffles we tasted:

Truffle A

Truffle B

Truffle C

Truffle D

Truffle E

Unfortunately, I can't disclose the conclusions yet, because in all fairness, it is Discover Paris! who deserves those honors! However, I can share a few thoughts:
  1. Side-be-side comparisons have a way of highlighting a flaw that might otherwise be less noticeable. It is perhaps for this reason that a well known chocolatier disappointed me so much. Either that, or they've changed their recipe (admittedly it's been 2 years ago since I last bought from them...).
  2. No matter how many different people you have tasting something, everyone is going to have their own opinion!! That's the nature of something like cooking or pastry or chocolate making....these are highly subjective professions!
  3. Despite these differences, a trend could be found.
  4. There was a surprise entry in this turned out to be quite the highlight of the event for me!
Well, that's all I can say for the moment. Look for Part 2 of this posting in early February. Until then, I wonder if you have any preliminary conclusions based on the photos alone? If so, please do share.

Thanks again, Discover Paris!, for hosting such an insightful & delicious event!

/ dma

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year & Best of 2009

Is it 2010 already? How did that happen? was a year that started off as a lamb (for me), ended as a lion. What an incredible year of ups & downs, and downs & ups!

For the new year, I wish simply to extend my warmest wishes to you. May we all share in the warmth of family, the bonds of old friends, and the kindness of strangers. May we find ourselves in good health, spirit, and outlook. May we take one step at a time, and even take a few big leaps along the way! May we grasp the best of life, each day. Have a great year!

I haven't reflected back yet on what has actually happened in my personal world, or what may come next for the new year...I still want to do that. However, today I did take the time to look back on 2009 through the lens of my camera. And here are my favorite food memories of the year! Never mind the odd non-food image...I can somehow relate it back to food!

Happy 2010.

And Best of 2009:

Spinach Falafel balls with a harissa mayo-yogurt sauce. This may be my favorite.

Taking a bite of one...sooo good.

My little creation: Tartelette au Rose (hibiscus infused apple, shaped like a rose), inspired by a romamtic & seductive photograph by Diana Liu at Galerie Sponte for its art opening in June.

Influence of Robuchon: eggplant, anchovy, roasted red pepper...the Med on a plate

Spring rolls with dipping sauce...fresh, tangy & lite

Warmed Vichyssoise (potatoe-leek soup) with a skewer of roasted vegetables & shrimp tandoori

Little gift packages of apple & cherry pâte de fruit that I created to sell in the shop that never got set up!! They still made nice gifts... (and I'd be happy to sell them, if anyone is interested!)

Crowd pleasing Shrimp masala with roasted eggplant & zuchinni

Freshly made "Everything bagel" with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, salmon eggs

done at a filming studio of my recipe (

At the same studio, the filming of my cheesecake & cherry sauce recipes

A personal favorite: a rhubarb & strawberry "cage" with the "cage"technique borrowed from
my friend Laura at

A reminder to stop & smell the roses...especially when they are this beautiful!

Adventure in the Sahara dessert of Morocco

For the love of french cheese, Langres in this case...

For the fresh produce that I love to work with, segments of orange in this case. I used a lot of fresh oranges in 2009. I could eat them every day...

And avocados from the vegetable vendor down the street who consistently sells the best, perfectly ripe avocados...ever. I also used a lot of avocados in 2009. Often with those oranges...

A reminder of spring - with fresh fava beans & peas

The OFF4 Festival in Deauville - exceptional.

The Himalayas in Nepal

At 5800 m (19,000 ft)

Seared scallops, braised brussel sprout leaves, purée of navet

And last, but not least, I could not end the year without a few pictures of this:

Macarons, anyone?