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Tag Archives: Chocolate

A new dessert and pain d’épices

Our new signature dessert is about chocolate and “espuma”, along with a carrousel of other  flavors and textures that I subtly weaved in and change with the seasons. Our most current version is made with apricots and cinnamon basil. It looks like this :

One additional flavor stands out this month : the “pain d’épices”. A loose English translation would be gingerbread, a literal one would be spiced bread. It is a cake or a bread made with honey and different spices like cinnamon, cardamom, anise, cloves, ginger, etc. The variety of interpretations of what it is pertains to its multiple origins. Some say it comes from China, where a similar bread, called Mi-Kong, was baked during the Middle Ages. A similar recipe is also found in Egypt, Greece, Germany (called lebkuchen), and later in France – Dijon, and Reims. And of course each place uses its own spices and types of flour. That leaves us with endless possibilities to explore which version will be our personal favorite.

I mainly remember pain d’épices as a treat that I would get at my grand-parent’s home and that – surprisingly – I did not always enjoy. To my defense, this kind of “bread” could easily be too dry or not sweet enough to a child’s taste. But mixed used as an accent and mixed with other flavors and textures, its own becomes much more interesting.

 I would like to share my home recipe of the pain d’épices:

 You will need :

300g of honey (I like to use clover honey)

100g of butter

250g flour

50g  almond meal

10g baking powder

1/2 of a teaspoon of each one of these spices : powdered ginger, cinnamon, green anise, nutmeg

2 eggs

a pinch of salt

Steps :

Preheat oven at 335 F. Butter a deep loaf pan.

Place the butter and honey in a bowl then melt them in the microwave (until butter is completely melted, but not boiling).

Sift the flour, then mix in the other dry ingredients.

Add the melted butter and honey, then add the eggs and mix until you obtain a homogenous batter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the oven, first for 10 minutes at 325, then for approximately 30 minutes at 305.

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Fine chocolate, excellence and a little bit of history

For as long as I can remember, chocolate has always been a special reward for me – from little treats when I was a kid to the mastery of the precise and demanding confectionary art. During my childhood in Moulins, the highest form of  brownie point my parents could bestow on me was a box of chocolates called “Palets d’Or”.

Palets d'OrMoulinsThe shop that sells them is one of the most famous chocolatiers in the region and boasts a noteworthy historical background. The Palet d’Or was created in the late nineteenth century by Bernard Serardy, a Master Chocolate maker who pioneered the use of golden leaves as an ornament for the candy. Palets d’Or were offered as gifts at every social occasion and became so notorious that the pupils from Moulins’ School of Fine Arts, under the orders of Italian painter Galfione, turned the little shop into a golden sweet box with incredibly beautiful moldings and a stunning painted ceiling. If you are traveling to central France, this boutique is well-worth a stopoff.

On my (rare) days off nowadays, I like to pull out my molds and fiddle with ganache. Even though the process takes some time and requires a great deal of precision, I find it to be a relaxing, creative activity that provides a great space for self-expression. The ganache – the real star of the candy – is where I am looking for an unique combination or an unexpected surprise. In my latest batch I have played with the subtle tanginess of yuzu, the surprising intense association between white truffle and cacao, the enticing ylang-ylang and the sweet and warm comfort of the crème de marron (chesnut cream), among others.

Chocolate is notoriously fickle when it comes to melting it down for dipping and candy making. If you miss a step it can go from silky to chalky within a couple of minutes. To avoid that, chocolate needs to be tempered. Tempering involves melting and heating it to about 110°, letting it cool to below 80°, and then bringing it back up and holding it around 90° (those temperatures are only valid for dark chocolate).  It can then be used for preparing the molds, as tempered chocolate coats things evenly, has a glossy look once it hardens, and snaps cleanly in the mouth. It also melts smoothly on the tongue. Untempered chocolate looks dull and often presents gray streaks and a grainy texture.

For chocolate amateurs who are not ready for the whole adventure, I am including here a recipe for ganache that can then be dipped in cocoa powder to make delicious chocolate truffles.

250 g of 70% dark chocolate
250 g (about 1 cup) of 35% whipping cream
100 g cocoa powder

- Cut the chocolate into small pieces
- Heat the cream until boiling
- Pour over chocolate, wait for 2 minutes and mix gently with hand
mixer for about 2 minutes.
- Allow mixture to cool until set
- Scoop into desired portions and dust with cocoa powder.
- Store in a lidded container until ready to serve
(If kept at a cool temperature they will last for a few days.)

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