Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pistachio Meringues

These little meringues are the beginning of my holiday baking series here on Chocolate Shavings. Now that the holiday season is upon us - we got our got our first snow this weekend! - it's time to start thinking about all the baking that lies ahead!

These little snow caps are the perfect way to welcome the holidays. They are easy to make and have that perfect crunchy texture. The only trick to preparing them is making sure you leave them to dry out completely in shut-off oven before you package them. Meringues are pretty sensitive to humidity and moisture, so make sure, depending on where you live, that you aren't making these on one of those very humid days. Once the meringues are dry and perfectly crisp, you can package them as you please!

Pistachio Meringues

4 egg whites
1 pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of finely chopped pistachios

Preheat your oven to 200F. Beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy. Add 1/2 of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Add remaining sugar and beat again for a few minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the meringue into a piping bag and carefully pipe little bite-size meringues. Try to keep your piping hand steady and pipe the meringues keeping the piping tip at the center of each meringue. To finish off each meringue, rapidly remove the tip when you are happy with the shape of your meringue, creating a little spike on each meringue. Top each meringue with a pinch of chopped pistachios.

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until meringues are dry and crisp (depending on the humidity levels and the exact size of your meringues, it could take less time). Turn off your oven and leave the meringues to completely dry out over night. Gently detach the meringues from the parchment. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream

Ah scones...! Now those should have been posted here a while ago! Growing up, I was one of those kids that did a lot, a lot of extracurricular activities. One Saturdays, for years, I would have an acting class that took me several hours on weekends as we would put together semi-professional plays twice a year. The classes were on the outskirts of Paris and we would always hit traffic on the way home. My mother and I started this sort of ritual to break the long route to get back to our apartment. We would stop at Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer has since closed in Paris (to my big disappointment) but at the time, it was a real mecca for a some great food finds that just weren't available in Parisian supermarkets. That is where I discovered a lot of 'junk food' - to my great pleasure and the dismay of my mother.

But, there was always one thing we could agree on purchasing... scones! We would get these amazing blueberry scones with some double cream. Every time. And for an afternoon snack on Sunday, we would heat the scones in the oven and serve them with a heaping tablespoon of cream and some chunky blueberry jam.

This is my ode to those long lost days! These scones are, once again, from Good to the Grain. I love them because they really aren't too sweet and have the perfect, perfect texture. Scones are really all about texture. They have to be firm, but not too firm and crumbly without falling apart. These really are best eaten warm, straight out the oven so I would suggest immediately freezing the scones you don't want to eat and re-heating them in the oven before serving.

Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream
Makes large scones 8
Adapted from Good to the Grain

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of barley flour
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt

8 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg

1/2 cup strawberry jam (make sure it's a heaping 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture. Use your hands to rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is in sizes ranging from rice grains to flattened peas. The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of this recipe.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until thoroughly combined. Scrape the buttermilk and egg into the dry mixture, and mix until barely combined.

Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough may be too sticky to handle; if it is, dust it with flour and fold it together a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Flour your hands and pat each piece of dough into a disk about 3/4 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

Cover one disk with the jam. Top the spread with the other disk and press down gently so that the dough settles into the jam. Brush the dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp knife to slice the circle into 8 triangular wedges, like a pie. Carefully place the wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a few inches between them as they will expand.

Bake the scones for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the jam has bubbled over onto the baking sheet. To keep the scones from sticking to the pan, slide a thin spatula underneath them while they’re still warm and move them to a baking rack. The scones are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. Serve with the maple cream

Maple Cream

1 cup of creme fraiche (or sour cream)
3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Whisk the sour cream and maple syrup together and serve alongside the scones.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poached Pears with Chocolate Ganache Puddle

This post will be a short one - I'm writing from New York where I'm taking some time to re-visit some of my favourite food spots. I've also been to a few new places I will be writing about soon. My days at the FCI might be a couple years behind me now, but I always find time to come back to NYC and get re-inspired by some of my favorite eats.

This recipe is really simple to put together but really looks beautiful when served at the table. Poached pears are really an easy way to showcase fruit, and poaching them with some fresh ginger gives the pears a wonderful flavor.

Poached Pears with Chocolate Ganache Puddle
Serves 4

4 Bosc pears
1 piece of fresh ginger, 1/4 inch thick, peeled
1 lemon
2 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Add the water and sugar to a large saucepan on medium heat. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved into the water (you can swirl the pan to help it dissolve). Using a vegetable peeler, peel a couple strips of lemon zest and add to the water. Then, juice 1/2 lemon and add to the water. Add the ginger. While the sugar is dissolving, peel the pears. Be careful to leave the stem intact and to neatly peel the skin around it.

Add the pears to the water mixture and simmer for 15-18 minutes or until the pears are soft but still hold their shape.

To make the ganache: finely chop the chocolate and add to a heat-proof bowl. Place the cream in a little pot and bring to a strong simmer. Right before the cream starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate and cream form a homogeneous mixture. Fold in the vanilla extract. To plate, add a couple ladles of chocolate sauce to each serving plate and place a well drained poached pear at the center of each chocolate puddle.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grilled Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Avocado and Almonds

This weekend, we prepared the perfect, perfect lunch. It started with this fresh, colorful salad and ended with a ginger-poached pear with chocolate ganache (recipe to be posted very soon). This salad was our way of holding on to the lightness of summer dishes a little while longer. The mix of ingredients would indeed make this the perfect picnic salad for a warm August day, but worked wonders for a light lunch on a crisp November day. The ingredients are simple: grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds and avocado but a few simple techniques really bring this salad over the top. Firstly, we marinated the chicken overnight with plenty of garlic, lemon and herbs. This might seem like a lengthy process but it only takes a few minutes to do and ensures that the chicken stays moist and flavorful. When you're ready to make the salad, all you have to do is grill the chicken. Another simple, but essential element is to toast the slivered almonds. When toasted, the almonds release all of their natural oils and they really take on a whole new dimension of flavor. Again, this is a simple step that only take a few minutes, but in a simple salad like this one, these little tricks really make a difference. This is really what Chocolate Shavings is about. It's about those little steps that take a dish from ordinary to over the top.

For all of us busy professionals, this salad can be a bit of a life saver as well. In our house, when we take the time to marinate and grill chicken, we also add a couple extra chicken breasts to have as leftovers. If you have some leftover chicken, almonds and mandarin oranges, you have a second meal ready in minutes the next day. I don't know about you, but Mondays are usually my real busy day of the week. I'm still in leisure weekend mode and tend to have some trouble giving the week a proper jump start. Having an easy meal to put together on Monday is the easiest way I've found to ensure that I can get organized for the rest of the week to come. I always leave more complex recipes for later in the week, when I'm a little less frazzled. Warm up some pita bread in the oven and toss the chicken, oranges and almonds together. Add a good dollop of Greek Yogurt with a good squirt of lemon, and toss everything in the pita bread. Add anything else that might fit nicely from your fridge- like a couple halved cherry tomatoes, some feta cheese or some diced cucumber. I've never been a big fan of real leftovers. The idea of heating up yesterday's meal doesn't usually get me very excited about dinner. However, making yesterday's meal into a new tasty dish - that I like!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Avocado and Almonds
Serves 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 small cans of mandarin oranges
1 avocado
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
4 large Romaine leaves, cut into thin slices

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and oregano until well combined. Add the crushed garlic. Place the chicken breasts into a ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the chicken in the bag. Tightly close the bag and shake to make sure the marinade is well distributed. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight.

Set a pan on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken breast to the pan, discarding any leftover marinade. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Leave untouched for about 4 minutes, turn over and season again. Cook for another 4 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove from the heat and reserve.

In a large pan on medium heat, add the slivered almonds in one layer. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to do this in batches. Stir frequently and cook the almonds until they are just golden brown. Keep a constant eye on the pan as the almonds will quickly go from golden brown to burnt. Remove from the heat and reserve.

In your serving bowl, add the chopped romaine. Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the salad. Cut the avocado into bite-size cubes and add them in. Drain the mandarin oranges and add them in. Add the vinaigrette a few minutes before serving and top with the almonds.


2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl whisk together the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Once the mixture is homogeneous, add the olive oil and whisk until smooth. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Tart

I was in Toronto for Canadian Thanksgiving this year, and since I wasn't in my own apartment I knew there would be very little cooking on my part this year. I was invited to one of my friends' home for Thanksgiving dinner and was asked to bring dessert. I was looking for the perfect treat to finish off a copious Thanksgiving meal when I stumbled upon a beautiful chocolate pecan tart from Wanda's Pie in the Sky, a Toronto-staple for all things sweet.

This tart had to be the best pecan tart I had ever had. Growing up in France, enjoying a pecan tart wasn't part of my culinary traditions, nor was celebrating Thanksgiving - of course! I've embraced new traditions since moving to this side of the world but tended to find the pecan tarts I had tasted to be far too sweet for my liking. This tart was different. The cocoa crust was a nice touch and the filling for the tart was not too sweet and wonderfully rustic with Jackson Pollock-inspired drips of chocolate ganache to finish off the tart. After everyone raved about how good this tart was, I knew I had to get my hands on the recipe and try it at home. Thankfully the Wanda's Pie in Sky cookbook gives the recipe and the tart tastes just as delicious as it does from the store.

For my American readers, this would make the perfect Thanksgiving dessert - trust me. This pecan tart is worth every second it takes to make it! The recipe is made to be a full-size tart. I made individual tartlets by adjusting the baking times.

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Click here for this recipe as well as other delicious Kitchen Aid sponsored treats!
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