Qu’est-ce qui se passe au Texas? I haven’t been writing too many personal blog posts lately! You’ll know fairly soon why…. To recap- I’ve been back in the US since mid-March, about 4 1/2 months now. Just crazy! It seems like it’s been so much longer. I’ve actually wanted to write so many blog posts about this and haven’t. They’ve been started and then dismissed, thinking maybe this is something I didn’t want to share. But it weighs on me almost every day. Re-acclimation is hard. Not as hard as going to a completely new country and starting a life in a new language. But really difficult. The plus about going somewhere new is the intrigue- everything is new and interesting, the culture has it’s quirks that you end up loving, there’s new things to see and do, and the list goes on. Returning? Obviously there’s the highs of seeing friends and family, ugh and my Nut (oh how I missed him!!!!!). And just mention Mexican food! Je l’adore! mais! It’s so easy to fall back as things were. Even though a year has passed, maybe some new restaurants have popped up, road construction has changed the route to work a bit, and there are lots of new people to meet- but otherwise, it’s just as I left it. It’s comforting, easy, but also difficult because I’ve changed so much in the past year.
Here’s the silly thing, what boggled my mind the most on one of the first days coming home? Well besides the sudden change back to my mother tongue? I was super excited to visit Target. Don’t judge! I LOVE Target. But when I got there, the people handing out samples got on my nerves! The sheer amount of choice threw me for a loop and the size of the shampoo bottles… God-send. You mean I don’t have to go to the store every 2-3 weeks to buy shampoo? ahh!!! It was weird little things. I wanted to walk more. I loved my reusable grocery bags that fit in my purse. It seemed that everyone was always wearing workout clothes. Noise levels were louder. But really that lasted just a week before things were back as they were.
But oh do I miss France. The cheese. The people. The pastries. The history. The walking! The language. Nibbling on a baguette.
I was describing to my mom the difference between American and French desserts the other day. Americans, we love simple straightforward things- give me a chocolate chip cookie and I’m happy! The French, they love the surprise, the indulgence when going for a treat. Layers upon layers of flavors. A pocket of something or other hidden inside of something else. A crunch here or there. Differences. I love both. I’ll always be on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, but in my mind I’ll be thinking of an elaborate mousse concoction.
Caught between two worlds. Something that I guess just happens after you’ve lived in another culture and one that you identify with so much. Is it bad? no. But confusing and there’s always a pull to be in one culture or the other.
So I’ve kept busy. Crazy busy. Keep my mind off things busy. I have far too many jobs. Five to be exact.
How is that even possible?! I work my desk job 2.5 days per week, at a cheese shop (yay cheese!) 1 day every weekend or so, and at a bakery Wednesday and Friday. I’m also taking custom orders (I have three this week) and working as needed for catering and such at a B&B (I delivered granola bars for the city mayor’s retreat this morning!!!). My goal is to learn as much as possible, bake a crazy amount, and keep my ears open for ways to return to France long term or short-term. And Jess and Vincent would probably appreciate it if I eventually picked up the four bags of clothes and things I left at their apartment. :-D
Have something you’d like me to talk about on the blog? Let me know! toffeebitsandchocolatechips(at)gmail.com!
Merci a vous et bon fin de semaine!
**Je prends les cours de français aussi maintenant, y compris un classe de littérature. Le professer a leur demandé -on a écrié un poème! – j’ai choisi écrire un poème d’aubergine. hahaha! Pour quoi pas! haha Bien- c’était mon premier mot en francais outre “bonjour” etc. :-D Un petit histoire pour vous. :-D haha
Tips Tips, Tips and Tricks! One tip every Monday!
This week’s tip/trick/handy to know is…. Use that Freezer! Another tip I picked up at my stage at La Fabrique a Gateaux. The pastries we made were composed of several different components that would be assembled to make the final product. We would make each component in bulk, freeze them, and then each night pull out the amount that was needed for the next day, and depending on the product assemble them the night before while they were still frozen or the next morning.
Now- this isn’t exactly how it applies in a home kitchen. Use your freezer to quickly cool something down- for example, making sugar cookies, I will put the cut, ready to bake cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes before sticking them in the oven to help keep their shape. Or if a soft cookie dough needs to chill before being formed, I’ll stick it in the freezer wrapped in plastic and pushed into a rectangle that’s about 1 inch thick and suddenly your hour to two hours turns into 15-20 minutes. Or here’s one more scenario, making cream puffs quickly in the morning, the choux pastry was too hot to fill, popped in the freezer for 5 minutes and they’re good to go! No melted cream! Ah that brings to mind another way you can use the freezer/fridge, cooling down melted butter or chocolate- just be careful to not leave it in too long or you’ll have to start all over- 2 minutes then check it!
**Don’t be fooled! The Freezer is not going to kill your flavor but pack it in. I will throw something that I made in the freezer the day I made it if I know we won’t be eating it for two days. It’s great for planning ahead too. If I’m making a tart, I’ll make smaller tart shells from the left over pieces, bake them off and they’re ready to be filled at a moments notice. Did I make a few too many cupcakes? In the freezer for a last minute birthday party or house guest.
The freezer is your friend!
Have a tip? Let me know in the comments or by email at toffeebitsandchocolatechips (at) gmail.com. I’d love to feature you in an upcoming post!
Our Baking Tip Series continues with a tip from my culinary school friend- Tina! aka Tina Beana!! Miss you and your whisking style! ;-)
Use a spatula or small whisk to mix chocolate ganache! Chocolate ganache is one of the best things in the world. Creamy, chocolaty, and oh just fantastic. You can use it to fill macaroons or sandwich cookies, drizzle on top of cakes or ice cream, as icing on a cake, or use a whole lot of it and fill an entire tart.
There are several different recipes- the easiest to remember is half heavy whipping cream and half chocolate of your choice broken into small pieces. The best way is to do this by weight. For example, 200g heavy whipping cream and 200g bittersweet chocolate.
To make the ganache, heat the cream until just simmering and pour over the pieces of chocolate. I will let mine sit for just a second (about 10 to be more exact) to allow the chocolate to start melting. Then start mixing the two together. There are a couple ways of doing it but the most important thing to remember is to avoid air bubbles! Tina suggests using a spatula because it’s a lot easier to avoid that whipping action that’s so fun to do with a whisk. I like using a small whisk- just no whipping! Move the whisk or spatula in small circles around the parameter of the bowl, moving the bowl as you go. The chocolate and cream will start coming together, first as streaks, it might even look curdled, then as a smooth mass. The important part here is to not overdue it. Once there are no chunks of chocolate left, you’re done!
Now’s the point though where you have to decide what you want to do with your ganache. Use asap if you want a smooth finish, ie if you’re filling a tart like the one above or glazing something. Or stick it in the fridge, or just leave at room temperature, and as it cools, the ganache will thicken enough to use as an icing, filling, or several other things!
Well……………… actually, here’s another tip, let it cool in the fridge, up your cream content a bit (or not!) and whip it! Go for it! For a fantastic, killer, chocolate whipped cream! you heard me! I piped this on top of mini chocolate cheesecakes and then sprinkled grated chocolate on top. To make it even easier, make the chocolate ganache in the bowl you’re going to whip it in. This can be done by hand or in a mixer with a whisk attachment.
Ready for a triple pointer! Add espresso powder to the cream for a chocolate coffee ganache… Pow!
Let me know your great baking tips! I would love to feature them on my blog!
The baking tips series continues! Here’s our next one!
Cracking eggs flat instead of on an edge. Nothing fancy here but it sure makes it easier. I was always in the habit of cracking an egg on the side of a countertop or bowl – tapping several times and then opening up the shell. One good smack on a flat counter top and you’re in business. Less shell. Less work. No timidness here! I learned this at my stage where cracking 18 eggs was the minimum amount and 50 was the norm. I’d watch my chef get into a rhythm, one egg in each hand. Crack! Crack! and then emptied in the bowl. She would usually be done in about 30 seconds or less with 50-odd eggs.
*Want to separate an egg one handed? Essentially after cracking the egg, you slightly crush it (the shell should hold together if you don’t grip too hard because of the membrane) and then using your pinky and thumb pull the egg apart.
A look at some eggs from Texas:
And this super cool idea to use temporary tattoos on eggs from The SoHo blog!
If you’re a baker with an awesome tip, let me know! I would love to feature you in a post!
Want to pump up the volume in your next baking adventure? With a little planning ahead, you can add that POW! that no one will expect!
Tip of the Monday: Infuse cream before whipping it for a burst of flavor! It’s easy! And a great way to add flavor naturally.
Here’s how to do it: The night before pour the amount of whipped cream (+a little extra, just in case) into a bowl or jar. Roughly chop the herb you want to infuse the cream with and stir it in. Let chill over night. The next day strain the cream pressing the herbs into the strainer to further release flavor. Then whip as normal!
What can you use to infuse? Fresh mint or basil from the garden, thyme, oo lemon thyme! I’m sure you could do rose or lavender, large pieces of citrus rind, or even coffee beans! Don’t worry about the color changing. Even with coffee beans, the color will stay white- which just means it’s another great way to surprise your guests with another amazing dessert!
What about something simple in the summer like cut strawberries with mint infused whipped cream and maybe a little cinnamon and raw sugar?