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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Dessert- Lemon Curd and Vanilla Cheesecake with Summer Berries and Lavender Syrup

Ahh cheesecake. Quite honestly I'm not sure why but I have never been much of a fan. I  tend to find it heavy, rich and sometimes boring. Yet, I have recently been persuaded to think otherwise. 

Cheesecake has taken over Paris like a storm (like an El Nino winter in San Francisco when the streets are flooded with heavy obnoxious rain for weeks upon weeks as the sky is blanketed with clouds or a Maui tropical storm that leaves everyone in the hotel lobby for hours upon hours waiting until it passes,  tapping their feet, jumping over rain puddles filled with ribbeting frogs. 

This cheesecake storm is a good kind of storm ie., is the new Parisian thing. I'm not talking about a cheesecake which is heavy, overly cooked or a overly sweet. The cheesecake I am talking about is a soft, light and ever so delicate dessert which is made of a lovely mix of cream cheese, mascarpone and fromage blanc (a heavy almost yogurt like cheese). 

Paris is the epitome of perfection and as such so is their version of cheesecake! If you find yourself in the city of lights and lucky enough to be staying in a rented apartment, go ahead and head to the Sunday market at Bastille, grab yourself the ingredients, pick up your lavender while jibber jabbering with the bearded baret wearing french man selling soaps and lavender and head home to bake this. Or if you're in a hotel then head to Rose Bakery to try their cheesecake, La Laiterie in the 7eme or pretty much any nice restaurant in town to try the Parisian version of cheesecake.

Bon appetit :) xx

Lemon Curd and Vanilla Cheesecake with Summer Berries and Homemade Lavender Syrup 
A nice twist on a traditional cheesecake 
Makes 10 Servings
  • Crust  
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Speculoos (a delicious ginger/ cinnamon cookie) or graham crackers if you can't find speculoos
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Filling
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 pound Fromage Blanc
  • 1 1/2 cups mascarpone (3/4 pound), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup of lemon curd
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Lavender Syrup
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender flowers
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
1.     In a food processor or even a mini coffee grinder grind up the cookies or speculoos. Add the flour, sugar and butter and pulse. Beat the egg with the vanilla and add it to the processor. Pulse until it just begins to come together. 
2.     Scrape the dough into a round. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins
3.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Push the crust onto a 9inch cake pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan and build it up 1inch on the sides of the pan (this is important to avoid the filling from leaking out the sides). Prick the crust with a fork and freeze it for 10 minutes until firm. Bake the crust for 15 mins or until just golden brown in the oven. Transfer to let it cool. 
4.     Make your lemon curd and lavender syrup (In a saucepan, fully cover the lavender w/ about 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture over moderately high heat for 1-5 minutes. Now cover, remove the flowers from the heat and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes). Strain and discard the flowers. Next in a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the remaining 3 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stir it once or twice to fully dissolve the sugar. Continue to simmer the syrup, without touching it, until it reaches 280° on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage), about 4 minutes. Slowly and carefully pour in the strained lavender water, stirring constantly over moderate heat until smooth. Let the lavender syrup cool to room temperature, transfer to a small pitcher and serve.
5.     Turn down the oven to 325. In a large bowl using a mixer beat the cream cheese with the fromage blanc, mascarpone and sugar on a medium to high speed until light and fluffy about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, scrape one vanilla bean into the mixture and beat until all is well blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. 
6.     Pour the filling mixture on top of the baked crust. After pouring in half of the filling drizzle in some of the lemon curd and swirl with a spoon. Bake in the center of the oven for around 40 minutes until lightly browned on top and still a bit jiggly in the center. Transfer to a rack to let it cool. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge over night
7.     Heat some blackberry jam in the fridge. If you can mix a Tbls of blackberry jam and some clémentine jam and a Tbls of the lemon curd. Spread this over the top of the cheesecake. Now top with a spiral pattern of blackberries and fresh raspberries. 
8.     Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it, then un click the pan and remove the cake from its molding. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with the lavender syrup!

Lavender leaves

Swirls of fresh lemon curd to add brightness and acidity to the cake

Cheesecake alongside a nice holiday Pumpkin Pie

And a holiday homemade Tarte tatin
The table

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brunch Recipe- Potato Latkes לאַטקעס (Pancakes) With Smoked Salmon and Lime Creme fraiche

There is nothing like the comforting feeling of eating piping hot potato latkes. Their savory and naturally crispy texture and hearty consistency really creates the perfect flavor contrast. I have loads of memories of my dad frying up a good dozen or so of these Sunday mornings, as I sat on cross legged on the kitchen counter, tearing up every so often from the sliced onion (he made his with an onion + potato mixture which is also great) and watching him serve them with huge bratwurst sausages for a nice Sunday morning German breakfast. 

My mom would even make these for holidays sometimes. She would wake up early, turn buena vista social club on a bit too loud in the background and cook them up serving them alongside a nice huge chunky homemade apple sauce. Yummmm...

Potato "Latkes" Pancakes 
ribbons of smoked salmon, soft scrambled eggs, red onions, dill, capers and lime crème fraiche 
A great brunch item for a chic Sunday brunch at home
Makes 10 Servings

  • 6 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Pinch of Sea Salt and fresh grounds of pepper
  • 1 small red onion chopped into a fine dice (almost a burnoise cut)
  • 1/4 bunch of chopped fresh dill
  • handfull of capers
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche with squeeze of lime and zest of 1 lime
  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 500 g of Smoked Salmon
  1. Set aside 4 very small bowls for your condiments which will help with organization during plating.
  2. Chop the onion into the fine dice (burnoise ideal) and set aside in the bowl. Empty the capers into a bowl
  3. Wash and chop the dill and set aside
  4. Squeeze the lime into the creme fraiche and zest 1 lime into the mixture, stir well and reserve
  5. Peel apart the salmon with your hands and leave it in small chunks whole
  6. Next peel each potato and place whole in a bowl. Grate the potatoes with a large box cheese grater over a bowl being careful with your fingers when peeling! 
  7. Take a clean dish rag and wrap the rag tightly around the grated potatoes and wring over the sink removing the excess water which the potatoes will naturally release. * This is a necessary step to keep the potatoes from being water dredged when cooking!
  8. Set aside 6 sheets of paper towels over a cookie sheet to absorb the oil after cooking
  9. When ready to cook heat a frying pan over medium high heat and add a tbls of butter and a tbls of oil oil
  10. Scoop out a 2 tbls size small handful of potato and place it into the hot pan. Flip after 3 minutes and fry on the other side until you have a nice light golden brown. Place the cooked latkes on the paper towel. Repeat until you have about 25 small latkes or potato pancakes (these should be little small portions). While still hot add a dash of salt and pepper.
  11. While the potatoes are cooking scramble your eggs gently with salt, pepper, a spoonful of creme fraiche and milk. Cook over very low heat until cooked thoroughly. Set aside and cover with foil to keep warm.
  12. Now it is time to plate! 
  13. Place 3 potato laktes on each plate. Top with smoked salmon forming a ribbon shape as you place it on the potato and adding a bit of height. Top with a small spoonful of soft scrambled eggs, red onion, capers, dill and a little spoonful of lime creme fraiche. Repeat with each pancake. Serve immediately while hot
  14. If you choose to make these in advance you can keep them in a warm oven for up to 30 mins on 90 celcius or 200 fahrenheit. Careful b/c the oven can remove the pancakes crunchy bite. These are really best served hot!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Paired with Small Producer Champagne

I flew home for the first time in nearly a year from Paris to San Francisco, California. Landing I almost shed a little tear glaring down at the Golden Gate bridge, the open Pacific ocean and the bay. I giggled a bit as the captain told us in french to look over to the right of the plane to see the glorious golden structure. He then immediately translated this little phrase into english. With a nice french accent he said "everyone look to the left and take a look at the GG Bridge". With this little comment he left half of the plane puzzled, staring blankly to the left of the plane directly at a grayish quite bla-zay rain cloud floating next to us. I giggled because I understood his mistake and even though it was certainly not a HUGE achievement to have mastered the words "droite" et "gauche" in french I was secretly proud of myself for catching it.

Anyway, a year away from San Francisco will really help you realize how truly amazing of a city it is. I mean what can beat morning beach runs at Chrissy field with a very cute floppy eared pup, the comfort of watching fog roll over the Golden Gate and trickle into the city, time with family and long lost friends and of course food (ie creative, amazing and avant garde creations exploding out of San Francisco's seams).

Yeah, I guess you could say I liked my visit to 'ol San Francisco and was sad to leave (even though Paris is certainly not a bad place to be coming back to). I really enjoyed every minute.

While in SF I had a fabulous multi-course Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

The feast consisted of:

ARTICHOKE PORCINI MUSHROOMS SOUP- served with pan fried slices of artichoke, mushroom and quail and finished with truffle salt. (recipe thanks to the 1 Michelin Star Hostellerie La Briquerterie and my friend the head chef Michael Nizzero)

2 TURKEYS (smoked and oven roasted)

SWEET POTATOES with ginger, pecans and brown sugar

MASHED POTATOES- with butter and creme fraiche

CRANBERRIES with orange peel, zest and walnuts


BRUSSEL SPROUTS with pancetta and onions



All of this of course was paired with some glorious Champagne. The 2006 Milleseme from Huot et Fils, The 2005 Milleseme from Christophe Mignon and the Cuvee D'Or from Vilmart Champagne.

After 3 attempts I finally found seasonal fresh Cepe Mushrooms or Porcini at the Ferry Building. Expensive but $23 worth was more than worth it for this soup!

Presentation with this one is great. A few hand peeled and trimmed artichokes, browned with a bit of butter along with a few slices of porcini pan fried as well.

The final soup. If you can get your hands on some fresh or even dried cepe these seasonal mushrooms in this soup are so fragrant and delicious.  The milk and cream combination adds the perfect smoothness to this dish. Finishing it with a few slivers of the lightly browned artichoke, mushrooms and pieces of quail was also the perfect touch. Also, a little sprinkle of white truffle sea salt certainly didn't hurt :)

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