Category Archives: desserts

Summer Resolutions with Lightened Up Flourless Chocolate Fondant

As summer approaches, most of us think of vacation, the sun, the beach or sitting poolsi – wait, that means I need to put on a bikini?  Crap.

If I am being honest, over the last  2 years I have slowly gained some weight since moving to France – guilty.  Nothing crazy but truth be told I have put on about 8-10 pounds.  (Don’t judge me, you try living in the food capital of the world where delicious things surround you daily and not gain a few pounds!)

The past few weeks I have been trying to get back into the habit of being conscious of what it is I am eating, working out more, and taking recipes I love and altering them to their “lighter” versions.  After all, as I said, summer is approaching.

When I was younger I was pretty chubby and then at 19 I said “enough”, mustered up the courage to work hard and lost about 25 pounds.  I was eating well and working out, and I kept it off for 4 years.  Then I moved here…. so I think it is about time to get back on track.

If there is one thing I have learned in my years of eating well, it is that “dieting” does not mean depriving or starving yourself, but making smarter choices and cooking up lighter versions of your favorite foods.  Now I am not saying you can have “lightened up” pasta or cheesecake everyday just because it is a lighter version, but I am saying that these things can be included in your meal rotation.  Oh, an by the way, I have already lost 2 1/2 pounds this week…  🙂

Now, most would say the hardest thing about dieting is missing out on desserts.  So to kick off the “lightened up” posts that will be featured here for a while, I have altered one of my favorite French desserts to a lighter, low fat version:  Fondant au Chocolat – Chocolate Fondant.  (What, you were expecting a salad?  Baby steps, people, baby steps).

This version is flourless and uses low fat/fat free milk and cream, majorly cutting back the calories and fat.  However, it is so packed with delicious, chocolatey goodness that you would never guess  🙂

Lightened Up Flourless Chocolate Fondant                                                  (adapted from Les Desserts Bistrot)

Ingredients:

240 grams of dark chocolate (60-70%), broken into pieces

4 fl. oz. of low fat or fat free heavy cream

4 fl. oz. of 1% or skim milk

50 g of sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

40 grams cocoa powder (optional)

Directions:

Heat cream and milk over medium heat until it just starts to simmer.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and sugar in a small bowl.  Pour cream mixture over egg mixture and stir. (Note – you don’t want to “shock” the eggs with a blast of heat as they can cook, so add a small amount of the hot liquid and slowly stir, then pour the rest in).  Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring for at least 2+ minutes.  DO NOT let the cream mixture boil.  The mixture is ready when it starts to lightly cling to the spatula.

Place the chocolate pieces into a bowl and pour cream mixture over the top. Stir until well combined and chocolate is fully melted.  Pour the batter into a medium sized non-stick pan  or into small individual ramekins/cocottes/etc. (Tip – I prefer the small individual sized servings because pre-portioning helps the urge to eat too much!)

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Just before serving, lightly sprinkle cocoa powder over the top and serve with fat free whipped cream, if desired.  Enjoy!

Bon Ap!

Julie

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A Valentine Dinner

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone 🙂

Now, those of you that know me know I am not much of an ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey over-the-top romantic… but I am, of course , a sucker for a good reason to get cozy and enjoy a great meal with the one you  love.  And since my boy is French and romance tends to be in his nature, I think it is only fair that he deserves a meal to match.

Since living in France I have learned some things about the French culinary world, and have acquired several French cook books.  This four-course meal contains an appetizer of my own creation – Warm Green Bean Salad with Poached Egg, a main dish adapted from Les Secrets de la Mère BrazierChicken à la Crème with Morel Mushrooms served over rice, a salad with cheese and bread, and a dessert adapted from a sweet little book called Les Desserts BistrotVanilla-Spéculoos.

Accompanying the appetizer we had a rosé champagne called Michel Fallet that a friend of mine gave me as a gift.  Her boyfriend’s dad produces the champagne  in the region of Picardy in the small town of Charly-sur Marne.    With the main course we drank a Côtes du Rhone, one of my many favorite kinds of red wines here in France.

In this special “cooking for two” post, you will find the recipes for the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert posted below.

Enjoy !

 

Warm Green Bean Salad with Poached Egg


Ingredients:

1/2 lb. of fresh green beans

4 strips of bacon

2 eggs

1 tblsp. vinegar

butter

salt and pepper

Directions:

Remove the ends of the green beans and discard.

Fry up bacon strips, remove from heat and and let cool.  Crumble bacon into pieces and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch green beans until thoroughly cooked.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan or a frying pan fill with about 2 inches of water + 1 tblsp. of vinegar.  Bring to a simmer.

Gently crack the eggshell and drop the egg in as close to the water as possible.  Immediately, gently fold the white over the yolk.  Repeat with the second egg.  Cook eggs for about 3-4 minutes and remove egg with a slotted spoon.  Set aside.

Drain green beans and combine with about a tablespoon of butter.  Split the green beans evenly on each plate.  Sprinkle with bacon pieces, salt and pepper to taste.  Place the poached egg on top and serve.

 

Chicken à la Crème with Morel Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces (thighs, legs, breasts, etc)

2 1/4 cups crème fraîche (or heavy cream if you cannot find c.f.)

1 – 1 1/2 cups of morel mushrooms

flour

lemon juice

butter (or oil if you prefer)

salt and pepper

Directions:

Salt, pepper, and flour the chicken pieces.  In a large pot, fry the chicken in butter.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with a generous amount of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium heat until cooked through.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and deglaze the pot with the crème fraîche. (Delgaze is to disolve the cooking juices or solid food in a pan by adding liquid and stirring). Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Place the chicken back into the pot, pour in the mushrooms, and bring to a low simmer.  

Remove the chicken and plate as desired (serve over rice or pasta).  Run sauce through a strainer to separate from mushrooms.  Top chicken with mushrooms and pour sauce over everything.

Mère Brazier recommends pairing this dish with either a Beaujolais nouveau wine or a Côtes du Rhone wine.

 

Vanilla-Spéculoos


Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 3/4 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split open and scraped*

6 egg yols + 1 whole egg

1/2 cup sugar

24 spéculoos cookies**

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 250 F

In a small pot, warm cream, milk, and vanilla over low heat.  (Cooking slowly prevents curdling)

Meanwhile, beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and well combined.  Slowly pour and mix hot cream and milk into egg and sugar mixture until well combined.

Pour mixture into 10-12 small oven safe glasses, or 6-7 “cocottes” (see image)

Place glasses/cocottes into a baking tray.  Fill tray half way with water.  If using small glasses, bake for about 40 minutes.  If using cocottes or larger sized glasses, bake for about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes.

Let cool and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Right before serving, crush spéculoos cookies and cover cream mixture.

NOTES:

*If you don’t have or want to buy a vanilla bean, you can use 2 tsps. of vanilla extract.  Add to the sugar and egg mix instead of heating with the cream and milk.

**Spéculoos cookies are very rare in the US, so if you cannot find them you can either use any kind of hard spice cookie.  If you still cannot find spice cookies, you can use cinnamon graham crackers.

Bon Ap!

Julie

Chocolate Almond Crème Fraîche Cake

“Forget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate”

Ohhh chocolate.  We have had a long, long love affair haven’t we?  Confession: I am a  chocoholic.  Not suprised?  Neither am I.

Fact : Chocolate causes certain endocrine glands to secrete hormones that affect your feelings and behavior by making you happy. Therefore, it counteracts depression, in turn reducing the stress of depression. Your stress-free life helps you maintain a youthful disposition, both physically and mentally. (Ok so maybe it isn’t iron clad science, but would I really take my chances?)  Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and while other things are just food, chocolate is chocolate.  I think you get the picture now…

This might be my second  favorite chocolate recipe thus far (1st place still holding strong goes to my Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart :))  During my daily food blog and recipe browsing, I came across a recipe for “Deep Chocolate Sour Cream Cake”.  I immediately clicked the link, already drooling before I even read the post.  “Yea this is a winner” I told myself.  I logged the recipe into my archives as usual and continued browsing.  Yesterday I revisited the recipe and tried to figure out how I could modify it, and hopefully improve it 🙂  I mean, if I am in the culinary capital of the world, I am going to relish in the fact that I can find quality ingredients everywhere!

I decided to instead use a crème fraîche, substituted some of the flour for almond flour and made a few other modifications.  Almond flour is just almonds that have been ground to the point where it slightly resembles sand.  It is commonly used when making Financiers, for example.  If you cant find this at a local store, you can by whole almonds (without the skin) and put the in a food processor or blender until ground as fine as possible.  Plus, almonds and chocolate go great together.

This recipe is definitely one for chocolate lovers and will bring out the gourmande in anybody.  Enjoy!  (Like I need to say that…)

Chocolate Almond Crème Fraîche Cake

Ingredients:

1.5 cups of flour

1/2 cup of almond flour

1 cup of Dutch processed cocoa powder

2 tsp. of baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups of butter (3 sticks or 340g)

2 cups of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 cup of crème fraîche

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease the inside of a cake pan  (10″ round or a small square/rectangle pan).

In a large bowl combine flour, almond powder, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter until creamy with an electric mixer.  Gradually add sugars and beat until well blended.  At medium speed, beat in eggs one at a time until all well blended.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides!

In a small bowl, combine vanilla and crème fraîche.  Add to butter mixture until well combined.

Add flour mixture in batches to butter mixture at low speed until just combined.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 – 15 minutes.  Let cake cool in pan 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and serve warm or let cool completely. (I can never wait!)

Cut into slices and serve dusted with cocoa powder.  (You could also serve with vanilla ice cream, crème anglaise, whipped cream, or whatever you desire!  Make up your own :))

Bon Ap!

Julie.

Marbré

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Marbré is a French marbled cake that is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  The combination of both the plain and chocolate batters form a beautiful marble-like pattern, giving the cake its name.  Marbré is dense and full of flavor, sweetened just enough to call it a cake, but light enough for those without a major sweet tooth.  This is another of Mamine’s recipes she has shared with me and is the first time I have made it.  I will definitely be making this one again!

Note: For the sugar and flour I have included the measurements in grams, because the conversion to the US system was not exact, but close.  So if you have a scale, use that instead.  If not, don’t worry!  It will still work just fine!

Marbré

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (or 1 1/2 sticks) of butter, room temperature

~ 1 cup of sugar, a little less, (200g)

4 eggs, whites and yolks separated

1/2 cup of milk

~ 3 cups of flour + a little extra (340g)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tblsp. unsweetened cocao powder

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly butter and flour cake pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, butter, vanilla, and sugar together on high until fully combined.  Add milk and stir.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites on high until white and fluffy, they will slightly stiff.  Set aside.

Slowly add flour and baking powder to yolk, butter, and sugar mixture.  Beat on low then high until well combined.  Fold in egg whites until well combined.

Pour HALF of the batter into the cake pan.  To the remaining half, add the cocoa powder and stir until combined.  Pour over the first layer in the cake pan.

Down the middle of the pan, from one end of the to the other, carefully dip a spoon into batter, lift upwards and pull forward.  Do so until you reach the end of the pan.  Now, on either of the sides, do the same thing in the other direction.  This give the cake its marbled effect.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.  Lower the heat to 300 F and let bake for 40 – 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 – 10 minutes.  Gently remove from pan and let cool.

Slice and Serve!

Slice and Serve!

Bon Ap!

Julie

Mamine’s 80th Birthday (and my 5 course meal)

Mamine's 80

Mamine's 80

Today was Mamine’s 80th birthday!  What a day!   I decided to make a 5 course meal her and guests.  The menu I made was as follows:

Appetizers:  Champagne, Caprese Salad Skewers, and Saucisson (dried salami)

Caprese Salad Skewers

Caprese Salad Skewers

Second Course:  Cold Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Italian Dressing

Main Course:  Roasted Garlic Pesto over Penne with Chicken and Red Peppers

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Red Peppers

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Red Peppers

Fourth Course:  Cheese Plate and Bread


Dessert:  Sautéed Peach Halves over Vanilla Ice Cream

Sautéed Peach Halve over Vanilla

Sautéed Peach Half over Vanilla

In this post I have included the recipes for the Caprese Salad Skewers, the Roasted Garlic Pesto, and the Peach Halves over Vanilla Ice Cream.  I am in love with Caprese Salads, and this appetizer gives the original salad a fun little twist.  The pesto is my own take on the classic pesto recipe, and I have to say it is really delicious!  Roasting the garlic gives this irresistible pesto its fabulous flavor and fragrant aroma!  And the dessert, is elegant and simple, and absolutely amazing.  Enjoy!

Caprese Salad Skewers

Ingredients:

1 package of small wooden or plastic skewers

1 carton of cherry tomatoes

2 balls of fresh Mozzarella

fresh basil leaves

balsamic vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Chop Mozzarella into large pieces.  On each skewer, place one tomato, a folded leaf of basil, and one piece of mozzarella.

Arrange skewers on a platter.  Drizzle a light amount of balsamic vinegar over skewers.  Do the same with the oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold.

Roasted Garlic Pesto

Ingredients:

1 whole garlic bulb for roasting plus olive oil and salt (directions follow – 6 cloves will be used in the Pesto)

4 cups of fresh basil leaves

1 cup of parsley

1 cup of pine nuts, toasted and cooled

1 cup of Gruyère cheese

salt and pepper

1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut pf top of garlic bulb, exposing the tops of the cloves.  Lightly drizzle olive oil over top.  Sprinkle with salt.  Wrap bulb in tin foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, over medium high heat toast pine nuts with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Nuts will lightly brown as cooked.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Set aside.

IMG_3262

Once garlic is done, remove from oven and let cool.  Remove 6 cloves from the head and set bulb aside.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except for the 1 cup of olive oil.  Process for a few seconds.  Add olive oil and continue to process until well mixed.  You want the pesto to be thick in consistency.

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Serve with your favorite pasta!  Pesto will keep in the fridge for several days to a week  in an airtight container.

Sautéed Peach Halves over Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients:

4 yellow peaches

sugar

2 tblsp. butter

Directions:

Cut peaches in half, remove pits.  Over medium heat, melt butter in a pan.  Lightly sprinkle peach halves with sugar.  Face down, hear peaches for 5 minutes or until warm and slightly tender to the touch.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.  (I love this dessert!  And so will you!!)

Bon Ap!

Julie.


Tarte au Fromage

IMG_3071

This classic tarte is light, airy, and exceptionally mouthwatering.  Tarte au Fromage is the French version of cheesecake.  In the United States, we think of cheesecake as sweet, rich, and heavy.  In France, it is a delicate tarte, both in texture and flavor.

My Mamine has been making this recipe her entire life.  I remember eating it as a child when we would visit her and my family in France.  Yesterday, for the first time, Mamine showed me how to make the tarte.  The recipe is written on a very old and worn recipe card.  She tells me because she knows it by heart she hasn’t used the card in so long she is surprised she still has it .  Lucky for me!

My grandmother directed me as I made the tarte and I have to say it was a lot of fun to share this experience with her.  I hope you love this tarte as much as I do.  I am honored to have been given permission to share it. 🙂

(NOTE – the recipe in French calls for fromage blanc which is similar to our cottage cheese.  I recommend getting small curd and pulsing in the blender a few times to smoothen the cheese.  You may find fromage blanc in some specialty food stores, though I have not come across it in the past.)

Tarte au Fromage

Ingredients:

1 package of dough for crust

2 cups of small curd cottage cheese, blended

2 tbsp. sour cream

3 lg. eggs, separated

1/2 cup natural yogurt

2/3 cup of granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1-2 tsp. lemon juice

1 packet of Dr. Oetker pudding mix, original cream flavor

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat egg whites on medium, then high, with a pinch of salt until fluffy, white, and foamy.  Set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.  Continuing blending, add yogurt, vanilla, lemon juice, and pudding mix.  Beat for 2-3 minutes.  Pour mixture into a large bowl.

To the bowl, add cottage cheese, and whisk together.  Gently fold in egg whites.

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Over a round pie pan, lay parchment paper over the top.  Lay pie crust over parchment paper.  With a fork, lightly poke holes in the dough to release the air.  Slowly pour pie mixture over dough.

IMG_3059

Bake in the oven at 400 F for 5 minutes.  Lower heat to 300 F and cook for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and gently remove from pan.  Remove parchment paper and let cool.  Serve at room temperature.  You are going to love this!!

IMG_3062

Bon Ap!

Julie

Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Whipped Cream

chocolate-truffle-tart-slice

For anyone who has ever tasted a chocolate truffle, you know just how heavenly it tastes as it melts in your mouth.  This tart is just like that, times ten.  As you may know, I am a serious chocoholic.  This tart is so rich, so smooth, and so unbelievably chocolaty that I cannot get enough of it.  If you want to wow your guests at a party or just share it with friends, this recipe is a promised knock-out.  The best part, it’s not too hard to make!

Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart

Ingredients:

Crust

1 1/2 cups of finely ground chocolate graham crackers

3/4 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1/2 lb. of dark chocolate (I use Ghiradelli’s dark chocolate chips)

3/4 stick of unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup of heavy cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

unsweetened cocoa powder for garnish

Whipped Cream

2 cups of heavy cream

4 tbs. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Crust

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Lightly butter an 8 inch round pie dish.

In a medium sized bowl, combine ground graham crackers and cooled, melted butter.  Press evenly into pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 15 minutes.

chocolate-truffle-tart-crust

Filling (make while crust cools)

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over low heat.  (If you do not have one do not fret!  You can use a regular pot, fill about an inch of water in it, and top with a stainless steel bowl.  Place ingredients in the bowl.  Don’t have that either?  That’s ok!  You can microwave the ingredients in 1-2 minute increments on 50% power, stirring after each time.)

chocolate-truffle-tart-chips1chocolate-truffle-tart-melted

Remove and let cool about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl.  Stir in chocolate mixture.

Pour filling into cooled crust and tap lightly to eliminate bubbles.

chocolate-truffle-tart

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  The center will tremble slightly when shaken.  It will continue to set as it cools.

chocolate-truffle-tart-cooked

Cool for 2 hours.  Refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours.

Whipped Cream

In a medium sized bowl whisk on high speed heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.

Cut tart into slices.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder and top with a dollop of whipped cream.  Enjoy!!

Bon Ap!

Julie