In the 10 minutes I spent searching on the interwebs, I found an article in the New Times where the author retold a couple of theories on the origin of this little cake.  Some book on the history of pastry; no really, there’s such a book by Pierre Lacam called, “Memorial Historique de la Patisserie” (found one on Amazon for 350,00 €) published in 1890 has one theory.

Lacam wrote that this cake was created by a baker named Lasne.  His bakery was on the Rue St.-Denis near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris.  He wanted to suck up to the bankers so he created this little nibble in the shape of a gold brick.

Nick Malgieri, pastry chef extraordinaire and culinary instructor, believes the nuns of the Order of the Visitation created them and called them visitandines. Both seem plausible and I would happily thank either for their creation.

Regardless of who created them, there’s a couple of details to keep in mind when baking these little “gold bricks”. First off, when cooking the butter melt it on medium-low heat until it starts to smell nutty and the milk solids begin to brown. Watch it like a hawk though as it will go from brown to burnt very quickly. Once it’s the color of a chestnut remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl to stop the cooking. Don’t be timid either and under cook the butter. It needs to achieve the necessary aroma and color for a successful baking outcome.

The second detail is to mix the batter as little as possible. It should be stirred just until blended. If you are over zealous, gluten formation will occur and these little darlings will be tough.

The batter needs some time to rest in the refrigerator. This will allow the flavors to harmonize and the batter will firm up, making it easier to get the batter into molds. I use a pastry bag for this step but a teaspoon would work too in a pinch.  Trust me though the pastry bag is easier.

The classic shape is rectangular (for the gold bar reference) but the batter can also be baked in mini muffins tins. Though I have non-stick molds (which are 1″ x 2″ x 3/8″), I brush each of them with a little melted butter just for removal insurance.

Of course the size of the mold will determine the number that can be made.  With the molds I have I made about 7 dozen.


13 tablespoons or (6 1/2 oz or 187g) unsalted butter, plus enough to butter the molds
1/4 cup or (2 1/4 oz or 63g) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups or (4 1/2 oz or 125g) almond powder
3 1/2 cups or (14 oz or 212g) confectioners’ sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup (6 1/2 oz or 187g) egg whites

Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until it turns brown and has the aroma of toasted nuts. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking and set aside to cool.

In the same pan melt a little more butter.  Brush each mold with some of the melted butter using a small pastry brush. Set aside.

In a medium bowl using a whisk mix together the flour, almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt.  Add the egg whites and mix just until combined. When the brown butter has cooled, add it to the dry ingredients and whisk again, just until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

Fill the batter 3/4 full into prepared financier or muffin molds. Cook in molds at 350°F for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then using the tip of a paring knife carefully remove each “cake” to a rack to cool. They taste their best when served the day they are baked though no one has ever complained when I served them the next day.

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Roasted Pecan Maple Ice cream

Ice cream bases (aka crème anglaise) that I’ve run across use anywhere from 2 to 5 to 8 large egg yolks. Since I’m a fan of anything that Shirley Corriher suggests I decided to follow her recipe in CookWise. It calls for 8 large yolks. Her book is such a wealth of information with another tidbit being the necessity to scald milk but not heavy cream when making crème anglaise. That helps tremendously as ice cold cream speeds up the process of chilling down the finished anglaise.

I continue to use David Lebovitz’s suggestion of starting with room temperature eggs and milk which prevents the need of tempering the eggs in the hot liquid. It works great but you still have to be careful not to go above 175°F on your instant read thermometer otherwise you may scramble the eggs.

Lou Miranda Photography

Lou Miranda Photography

Of course it’s not necessary to steep the pecans in the milk, but I wanted to extract as much flavor from them as possible. You can absolutely skip this step if time or energy does not allow it.  Either way enjoy the ice cream on it’s own or on your favorite crisp.  The one pictured is made with fresh peaches.

Makes about 1 quart

For crème anglaise:
1 cup (about 3 1/2 oz) pecan halves
1 cup (8 oz) pure maple syrup
1 3/4 cups (14 oz) whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
8 large (about 5 oz or 145 grams) egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
Pinch kosher or sea salt

Place an oven rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F

Place pecan halves in a heavy duty skillet (I used cast iron) and roast for about 15 minutes. While the pecans are in the oven pour  maple syrup in a medium heavy-duty saucepan, place on medium heat and reduce to 3/4 cup.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Pour syrup into a heat proof liquid measuring cup to ensure that it’s at the correct amount. Add or subtract maple syrup as needed to equal 3/4 cup. Set aside.

In the same saucepan add the milk and toasted pecans. Set back on medium heat and bring just to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and allow the pecans to steep in the milk for at least an hour.  Pour mixture over a sieve reserving both the pecans and the milk. Measure the milk to equal 1 1/2 cups adding a little more or less as necessary.  Place the sieve over a large bowl and set bowl in an ice bath.

Return the pecans to the skillet and place back in the oven, stirring occasionally until they become dry, about 30 minutes.

Return the milk to the saucepan and add the salt.  In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Pour the mixture into the pan of milk and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula until the anglaise thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Pour the anglaise through the sieve into the bowl set over the ice bath.  Add the cream, maple syrup, and vanilla to the anglaise, stirring to combine and to cool the liquid.  When cool, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the anglaise and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours or preferably up to 12 hours.

Churn the cold anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Add half the chopped maple glazed pecans in the last few minutes or wait and sprinkle them over the top just before serving. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze.

Caramelized Maple Pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Coarse salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
generous 2 cups (about 7 oz) pecans (those that were steeped in the ice cream base and dried, plus another 3 1/2 oz)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in maple syrup, cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer (mixture will be frothy), about 3 minutes. Add pecans and toss to coat using a rubber spatula. Cook, stirring, until sauce is syrupy and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.

Transfer pecan mixture to a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, and spread into a single layer. Bake until pecans are caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack. Stir, and let stand until cool and hardened, about 30 minutes.  Chop into pieces.

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Salad Niçoise

This is a salad that I have enjoyed repeatedly during my travels in Provence.  It is the epitome of summer in the south of France when the herbs from the garden or market are abundant.   The potatoes, lettuces and green beans (haricots verts) are tender and the tomatoes are juicy and ripe having been kissed by the Mediterranean sun.

Nicoise Salade

According to some purists, seared tuna is never served on a classic salade Nicoise.  It’s only canned tuna and purchase the best you can afford.  If you are serving  tuna, including anchovies is also a no no according to some.  Though I have seen both on salads in Provence.  Also, from what I have been told the classic version would only be drizzled with Provençal olive oil not combined with vinegar.

When it comes to cooking, I have never been one to follow the rules exactly and since I am not in Provence, I do not have to follow the rules of appellation d’origine contrôlée or (AOC.)  Therefore, if you have some seared tuna in the fridge or have cucumbers, but not red onions or want to add tuna and also anchovies, by all means do so.

Zest of one lemon, preferably organic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 – 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk lemon juice, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, tarragon, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle in oil and whisk to emulsify.  Taste with a piece of lettuce to determine balance of acidity.  Set aside.

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved or quartered (set aside until ready to assemble the salad)
12 small new red potatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter, about 1 ¼ pounds total), scrubbed
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed
2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
¼ – 1/2 cup niçoise olives
2 to 3 cans of tuna, best quality available
12 anchovies, preferably salt packed and the best quality available
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped, preferably salt packed

Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes, depending on their size. When cool enough to handle cut potatoes in half or quarters and transfer them to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Toss warm potatoes with ¼ cup vinaigrette; set aside.

Make an ice bath. Return water to boil and add the green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes or better yet taste one to see if it’s perfectly cooked. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans in about 3 tablespoons vinaigrette. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Toss lettuce with ¼ cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter or individual salad plates. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

Arrange the tomato-onion mixture on the salad greens, along with the beans, and reserved potatoes.  Next arrange the hard-boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies.  (Oftentimes the anchovies are draped on top of the eggs.) Drizzle eggs with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing, sprinkle entire salad with capers (if using), and serve immediately.

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Roasted White Chocolate and Sour Cherry Blondie on Rosemary Shortbread

All this craziness started because I read David Lebovitz’s blog about roasting white chocolate. Of course, I had been storing 11 pounds of the premium coverture for too many months and had yet to bake with it. When I saw David’s post, I thought why not roast it all and maybe it would give me inspiration to then use it.  Well, there the container of roasted chocolate sat staring at me until I had a weekend free to experiment.

I made my first batch of blondies or as some would call them “bars” using the chocolate, toasted pistachios and semi-sweet chocolate chips folded into the batter.  The pistachios were lost and the chips were too sweet for my taste.  Mind you, no one complained but I felt there was something missing, some je ne sais quoi.

White chocolate and macadamia nuts are also a classic pairing.  Rosemary in shortbread is delicious. And, it was just sour cherry season and I had dried a few. Why not put them all together with the rosemary adding a savory component and the bittersweet chocolate and sour cherries countering the sweetness of the white chocolate. I haven’t yet tried it but I bet you could leave out the shortbread and they would still be delicious.

Rosemary Shortbread Dough
8 tablespoons (4 oz, 112 g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup (2 ounces, 55 g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon (1/4 ounce, 5 g) finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ¾ ounces, 160g) unbleached all-purpose flour

The dough needs time to rest in the refrigerator so preheat the oven accordingly to 375°F.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar for 3 – 4 minutes, or until pail and creamy.

Add the flour and mix until crumbly. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and shake to distribute evenly. With your fingertips press into an even layer. Prick the dough with a few times with a fork. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 8 hours.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool.

1 cup (4 ½ oz, 135 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 ounces premium roasted white chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons (2 ½ oz, 70 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs (3 1/2 ounces)
1 cup (7 oz, 200 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (2 ¼ oz, 65 g) macadamia nuts, toasted lightly and chopped coarse
Generous 1/3 cup (2 oz, 55 g) chopped dried sour cherries
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz, 75 g) bittersweet chocolate chips

When ready to finish the blondies, preheat oven to 350°F. If not using the shortbread crust, butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, extending the ends over on two sides.

Measure  flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt white chocolate and butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove the bowl or top of double boiler from heat. Cool chocolate mixture to room temperature.

In a large bowl with a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla until thickened and pale. Reduce the speed and stir in the cooled white chocolate. Stir the flour mixture into chocolate mixture until batter is just combined. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, and cherries. Spread batter evenly in over cooled shortbread or into prepared pan if not including the shortbread.

Bake blondies in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into 32 squares or 16 or 8 squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 5 days.

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Crème Fraîche-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I made a pint of crème fraîche the other day to serve with a rhubarb tart. The tart made it to a friend’s dinner party however, I left the crème fraîche in the fridge. I thought, what the heck I’m I going to do with all this deliciousness because of course the tart was long gone?

Then I remembered that my baking buddies were going to be testing pie recipes soon, so I re-purposed  the creamy goodness in this ice cream. I knew the tartness of the crème fraîche would cut some of the sweetness of the pies.

Also recently, I was reading an article (it may have been by David Lebovitz) that questioned the need to heat milk and then temper the eggs into the hot liquid. Why not just start with cool/cold milk and cold eggs.

Slowly heat them together until thickened.  Voila! you’re done. This method worked beautifully. I also poured the ice cream base in the bowl that had held the crème fraîche thereby saving me from having to wash at least two bowls.


1 plump vanilla bean, organic if possible
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, organic if possible
¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
5 large egg yolks (freeze the whites for say…angel food cake)
2 cups (16 ounces) crème fraîche*

Prepare an ice bath and grab a fine mesh strainer.

Split the vanilla bean from end to end, open it up and scrap the seeds from the pod with the back of a paring knife. Place the seeds and pod in a medium saucepan along with the milk, sugar, and salt. Heat and stir just until the sugar melts. Remove from heat and allow the vanilla bean to steep until liquid is cool to the touch.

Whisk the egg yolks into the cooled steeped milk and return the mixture to medium heat. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. If using an instant read thermometer as a guide it should read no hotter than 170°F (any hotter and the threat of scrambled eggs increases dramatically).

Remove from heat and whisk in the crème fraîche. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir to cool over the ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  It can stand on it’s own or serve with your favorite fruit pie or tart.

*Crème Fraîche
1 pint heavy cream, pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Combine the cream and buttermilk. Pour into a clean glass or non-reactive bowl.  Partially cover with a clean dishtowel and let stand at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees) for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened.

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Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb was still available at the Farmer’s Market last week.  Actually, it’s still available in my garden. I’ve tested this recipe four times and since practice makes perfect, it’s time I got this recipe posted before the season is over for another year.

IMG_20150711_125545-4 (1)

Tart Dough, Pâte Sucrée
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) sugar
1/4 teaspoon koaher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Frangipane (Almond Cream):
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (4 ounces/112 grams) almond flour*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg, preferably organic
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of one lemon

To Finish:
About 15 stalks of rhubarb, cleaned of leaves and washed

For the tart dough:
In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cream. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Toss the pieces of butter evenly over the flour. Pulse until the mixture looks crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of peas. Don’t over-process or your crust will be tough. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse just until the dough comes together.

The dough should begin to hold together. Stop before it forms a ball around the blade. Turn the dough out onto a counter. With the palm of your hand smear the dough away from you. Using a bench scraper, fold it back onto itself and smear again until the mixture is combined. Flattened and form it into a rectangle, wrap with the plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 10 minutes or until it becomes malleable for easier rolling. Lightly dust a smooth surface as well as a rolling pin. Roll out a 10 x 13-inch rectangle of dough. Use your bench scraper and flip the dough over on occasion to prevent it from sticking. The trick is to work quickly so that the butter does not start to melt. Once rolled out to the correct size carefully place it in the tart pan. Fold the overhang back into the pan and pinch to form a ¼-inch rise above the pan. Return the tart shell to the refrigerator or freezer for at least 1/2 hour.

When ready to blind bake the tart dough preheat the oven to 400ºF.  After the oven has pre-heated, remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and place it on a sheet pan. Line it with parchment paper and pie weights. Bake for about 15 minutes or until it just begins to brown. Take out of the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper and set on a cooling rack. While the tart shell is cooling make the frangipane.

For the frangipane:
In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade whiz the butter and sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Note that if you make the frangipane soon after making the dough there’s no need to wash the processor bowl before making it.

Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.  Add the flour and cornstarch, process again and then add the egg.  Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is is smooth and fully combined.

Add the almond and vanilla extracts, salt, zest and process just to blend. Scrape the frangipane into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until ready to use.

To finish the tart:
Set the cooled tart shell on a sheet pan. With and off-set spatula, spread the frangipane evenly in the cooled tart shell.  Cut the rhubarb to fit the size of the tart. Bake at 375ºF for about 1/2 hour or until the rhubarb can be easily pierced with a knife and frangipane is puffed and golden brown.  Allow to cool before serving.

*If you are unable to find almond flour is can easily be made. In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, combine the 4 ounces of blanched almonds with 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Pulse until the almonds are finely ground.  Be careful not process so long that it becomes oily. Proceed with recipe above where the butter and sugar are combined.

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Tarte citron et de fromage blanc (Lemon and fresh cheese Tart)

Besides a sauce pan, colander, cheesecloth, spatula, and tart pan, you know the usual; there are what some would consider “specialty” equipment items that are needed for this recipe. One is a calibrated thermometer and the other is a kitchen scale – one that can weigh in ounces and grams. My theory is to always invest in quality tools and they should last you a lifetime. They will also make your baking life much easier.

I tested the fromage blanc recipe at least a 1/2 dozen times sometimes with cream and other times without, adding more or less vinegar, as well as adding salt or eliminating salt.  The recipe below is the result of all the testing and what I consider just the right amount of creaminess and salinity.

For the tart shell, I also tested several dough recipes. So far this one from BakeWise seems to hold up the best after baking, especially if transporting. Be sure that the prepared tart shell is well chilled and that the oven is preheated. Otherwise, when it starts to bake the butter melts out before the dough sets.

David Schmit was the photographer.  Check out his work at David Paul Schmit Photography.

061215_GreatBowls_B6566 (1)For the tart dough:
Pâte Sablée* (adapted from BakeWise, by Shirley Corriher)

1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon cold water (original recipe suggested apple cider vinegar), plus additional cold water if needed
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons (184 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups (187 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (38 g) confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl beat together the egg yolk, cream, and water. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Cut the butter into pieces, set them on a plate, and place in the refrigerator as well, until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor using the metal “S” blade, pour in the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.

Scatter the pieces of butter on top of the flour mixture. Pulse until each piece of butter is about the size of a pea. Don’t get caught up that every piece has to be exactly the size of a pea.  It’s okay that some are larger or smaller in size.

Remove the lid and pour the egg mixture over the flour/butter mixture. (I found that when pouring the egg mixture while the motor is running, the liquid tends to collect under the blade.) Pulse until the dough just begins to come together. Remove the lid and (being careful of the blade) press a bit of the dough with your fingers to determine if it will stick together.  If not, sprinkle a teaspoon of cold water over the mixture, return the lid and pulse again to further combine the dough.

When the dough comes together remove it from the processor bowl onto a clean counter. With the palm of your hand smear the dough away from you to incorporate. With a bench knife gather up the pieces and smear again until incorporated. This simple technique is called fraisage.  It allows the dough to come together without using an excessive amount of liquid. Once the dough is in one mass form it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

When ready to finish making the tart preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough into a circle about 13-inches in diameter. Line a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan with it. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell all over with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes or until the dough is firm. Remove from the refrigerator, line with parchment paper, add pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check for doneness and continue until the crust is beginning to brown.

For the filling:
1 pound (500 g) fromage blanc* or ricotta cheese, drained
1/3 cup (1 dl) heavy cream or crème fraiche
3 large eggs, room temperature and separated
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons (40 g) corn starch
zest of 2 lemons, organic if possible
¼ teaspoon pure lemon extract
pinch of kosher salt

About 10 minutes prior to the tart shell having finished baking, using the metal “S” blade, mix together in the bowl of a food processor the drained cheese, cream, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, zest, extract, and salt. Set aside.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites (either with the whisk attachment using a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or like I do with a balloon whisk and a copper bowl) with a pinch of salt to the soft-peak stage.  With a large spatula quickly stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it.  Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites. (Don’t dilly-dally when folding as you don’t want to deflate the air that you just beat into the egg whites.)

As soon at the tart shell is out of the oven and the weights are removed, pour the filling into the shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Let the tart cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.  I imagine it would be great with sliced seasonal fruit.

For the fromage blanc:

1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1 pint heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar, separated, preferably organic
pinch of kosher salt

Line a colander with 4 single layers of cheesecloth.  Place over a large bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan add the milk and cream.  Slowly bring the mixture up to 190°F stirring constantly.  Once the mixture has reached the temperature remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Almost immediately, the curds should begin to separate from the whey. If the curds seem slow to separate, stir in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth lined colander.  Sprinkle with salt and carefully mix into the cheese. Bring the four corners of the cheesecloth over the handle of a wooden spoon and tie off to create a bundle thus allowing the cheese to drain.  Draining for about an hour should result in a pound of cheese. Reserve some of the whey so that if the final weight of the cheese does not equal a pound, add enough whey back in to do so.

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Goat or Cow’s Milk, Caramel Chocolate Truffles

IMG_0045 (1)For the first batch of these decedent chocolates, I made them with Kalona SuperNatural cream and butter.  But then, I came across a can of goat’s milk and butter from my caramel-making.  Finding these these ingredients inspired me to delve into another experiment.  I figured if Goat’s Milk Caramels are delicious why not truffles as well.  Low and behold they are luscious with just a bit of tang.

It’s important to have all the ingredients at the ready as the caramelized sugar will continue to cook even when off the heat.  It waits for no one and will quickly go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds.  But with the ingredients at hand, all that is needed is to do is pour in the cream and add the butter to stop the cooking process.

As far as which chocolate to use, seek out such brands such as Callebaut, Ghirardilli, Scharffen Berger, or Valrhona.  I used Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate disks. If you’ve ever considered enjoying a side by side taste test, here’s a perfect opportunity to hone in on which one(s) you like best.

I’ve also crossed the line whereby I now caramelize sugar without the addition of water.  There’s no going back as it takes considerably less time than if water is added as it must evaporate before the sugar will caramelize. If you are not ready to venture into this territory by all means add a bit of water to the sugar, say 2 tablespoons. This will give additional security and control of the caramelization process.

If using goat’s milk and butter:
12 ounces canned goat’s milk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 g) goat butter
7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate, 64%, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 120 g) granulated sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup give or take (100 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour the goat’s milk into a small saucepan.  Place the pan on medium heat and reduce the milk to 1/2 cup (4 ounces).  It should take about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it.  Trust me, it will boil over if left unattended.

As it’s reducing, check for volume by pouring the milk into a glass measuring cup. If it’s not quite 4 ounces, pour the milk back into the saucepan to reduce a bit more.  Once it measures 4 ounces in the liquid measuring cup, set aside.  (This mixture is in place of the cream.) From here continue with the method given below the next list of ingredients.

If using cow’s cream and butter:
7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate, such as 64%, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 120 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water, optional*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 g) unsalted butter
Pinch fine salt
1/2 cup (12 cl or 125 milliliters) whipping cream
1/2 cup give or take (100 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the  chop the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set aside.

If NOT using water:
Place a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat and carefully sprinkle about 1/3 of the sugar across the bottom of the pan. As the sugar melts, swirl the pan so that it starts to melt evenly. Add another 1/3 of the sugar and continue swirling the pan to melt the sugar, then add the remaining sugar and keep swirling.

If using water:
Off heat, in a medium heavy bottom saucepan and add the sugar and water.  Stir the water into the sugar until it resembles wet sand.  Place the pan on medium-low heat and continue stirring until the sugar melts.  Once it melts stop your stirring.  It’s okay to swirl the pan but you don’t want the sugar to splatter on the sides of the pan.  If that happens take a pastry brush dipped in water and wash the sugar back into the pan.

As the sugar melts it will caramelize, have a toasty aroma and look like the color of a copper penny. Once this occurs quickly pour in the cream, salt and butter. Be careful as the cream will bubble up and create quite a bit of steam. Stir with a heat proof spatula until the caramel as completely re-melted. Then pour it directly onto the chocolate and allow the caramel to melt the chocolate.  After it has cooled a bit stir the mixture to melt the chocolate completely. Refrigerate until the mixture becomes firm to the touch.

After the chocolate has set-up, scoop out portions with a small spoon or tiny spring loaded scoop to make small balls. (They don’t have to be perfectly round as they should resemble the other kind of truffles that are found buried under oak or hazelnut trees.) Place them on a parchment lined pan or plate and return them to the refrigerator until they are again firm.

After they are firm roll them in cocoa powder.  Allow them to come to room temperature and enjoy by themselves or with a glass of port.

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