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Category: Bread

Brioche à la fleur d’oranger

“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” Molière

November has been quite a moody month so far, with torrential rain and strong winds. There’s a certain melancholy saying goodbye to the last melons, berries and roses. There’s even a hint of frost in the morning, a gentle reminder that cold winter days are ahead. This is the best time to get cozy with a warm cup of tea sitting by the fireplace. It’s also the most inspiring time to bake. As soon as I feel slightly chilled, I want to prepare something delicious with a mesmerizing aroma filling up the house. I have a special passion for eau de fleur d’oranger (orange blossom water). It’s one of the ingredients I use most in my cooking, especially for waffles, pancakes, madeleines and brioches. The smell is pure comfort, which is exactly what I need right now. So what a better idea than baking a brioche à la fleur d’oranger. My family and I love having goûters with thick slices of brioche with butter and jam, along with hot chocolates for the kids. It’s such a timeless moment of joy. The thicker the slice, the more fun it is. If childhood had a scent, it would be the aroma of orange flower blossoms.

It does take time to prepare a good brioche, but it is so simple to make. I would advise to make this in the evening and let it rise overnight. When you wake up, you’ll just have to knead the dough for a few minutes and let it rise a little longer. Then it’s off to the oven for a brioche bien ‘dorée et gonflée‘ (golden & puffed up)!

Ingredients:
300 g/ 2 cups 3/4 plain flour (sifted)
2 eggs
50 g/ 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pack of baker’s yeast (8 g/ 1 tbsp)
90 g/ 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp butter (cubed, at room temperature)
1 tbsp butter (for lining mould)
1 pinch of salt
90 ml/ 1/3 cup lukewarm milk
30 ml/ 2 tbsp orange blossom water
2 tbsp lukewarm water (to dissolve yeast)
1 egg for glazing
A handful of small sugar grains (to sprinkle on brioche – optional)

Note: I used a traditional brioche mould, but you can really use any types you wish. It can be baked in a deep cake tin or a rectangular tin.

Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with 2 tbsp of lukewarm water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes or until it turns frothy. In a large bowl, mix sifted flour, salt, sugar, yeast and butter. Add eggs and milk gradually and mix well with a big wooden spoon. Start kneading until you get a smooth ball-shaped dough, about 8-10 minutes. Cover bowl with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm room/environment overnight.
The next day: Start kneading the dough on a non floured surface, just to get rid of a few trapped air bubbles, about 1-2 minutes. Line the brioche mould generously with butter and place the dough inside. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise again for 1 to 2 hours (depending on how patient you are!). Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. With the help of a brush, glaze the surface of the brioche with the egg. Sprinkle with sugar grains all over and bake brioche for 30 minutes. If the top starts to brown too much, place a sheet of parchment paper to protect.

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Kouglof

Since I moved to the country, I’ve developed a passion for baking bread. I loved baking cakes in the past, but bread was never my forte. In Paris, I lived in the 7th arrondissement surrounded by ‘maîtres boulangers‘ (baking masters) – all I had to do was run down and follow the scented bread trail. Baking is extremely rewarding, and if ever there was a smell to describe love and family, then freshly baked bread would be it.

I once read a story on Marie-Antoinette and how she introduced an Austrian light tube cake to her friends in Versailles – she was homesick and longed to have her favourite childhood food. This cake was called Kouglof, filled with raisins and crowned with almonds. It became one of the most fashionable cakes in the court of Versailles – everybody could have a little piece of their queen’s history.

I find it very glamorous to bake these old-fashioned cakes – not only for their past and present beauty, but also for the magic of transforming water, flour and yeast into heavenly crusted works of art. Bread baking can hold fears for some people, but once you have understood the purpose of yeast, the basic element of baking, then it will all start to make sense.

Ingredients: (Serves 8)

1st part:

20 g active yeast

70 ml water

100 g plain flour

For the main dough:

450 g plain flour

250 ml lukewarm milk

2 eggs

80 g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

130 g butter

100 g de dried dark raisins

40 ml rhum or kirsch

For the lining of the kouglof mold:

25 g butter

80 g blanched flaked almonds

Soak the raisins in the rum or kirsch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 70 g lukewarm water and yeast and leave to dissolve and froth for 5 minutes. Add the 100 g flour and mix well – knead for 5 minutes, make it to a shape of a ball. Cover the ball with the remaining 450 g of flour, cover for 20 minutes in a warm place. I always place dough (to be risen) in an unheated oven, and I place a small bowl of boiling water – like this the oven will be humid and warm, a perfect environment for rising dough. After 20 minutes, add the eggs, lukewarm milk, sugar, salt and butter.

Start kneading (pulling and pushing) the dough for 15 minutes of more – consider this as a form of exercise for the arms! The dough should become elastic. Add the soaked raising add the rest of the rum or kirsch in the dough.

Spread butter generously around sides and bottom and into crevices of the kouglof mold. Arrange almonds in bottom of mold. Gently shape dough into roll about 10 or 12 inches long and arrange in a circle in mold. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until dough doubles and is level with rim of mold for about 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 180 ° degrees/ 350 F. Place mold on center rack and bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. When ready, take out of oven and place let it cool for 5 minutes. Then un-mold on a plate.

Aux Lyonnais

Our children are very good eaters. We like taking them to restaurants, and despite a few raised eyebrows, it’s always been a real pleasure (apart from the few times when we traumatized the staff!). It’s a priority for us to teach ‘les enfants’ good ‘food culture’ at an early age, and we find that by introducing them to a varied menu, it widens their palate to new horizons. Could that be the secret to no more picky eaters?

Of all our kids, our little boy Hudson is particularly keen on food. He has been to many restaurants in his life, and ever since he was a baby, he loved eating, especially what we were eating. As a matter of fact, Hudson was nearly born in a restaurant. As I was finishing a superb meal at ‘Aux Lyonnais’ (32, rue St Marc 75002), I started having heavy contractions and had to rush off to the clinic. From that day on, whenever I go back to ‘Aux Lyonnais’ with Hudson, he is referred to as ‘le bébé Lyonnais’! Needless to say, ‘Aux Lyonnais’ became his favourite restaurant at age… three.

Lyon’s gastronomy excellence can be explained by the fact that it’s close to regions providing the best food in France – the chicken from Bresse, beef from Charolais, fruits from the Drome, ‘cochonailles’ (sausages, pâtés, ham…) from the Monts du Lyonnais, and amazing cheeses like Rocamadour and St Marcellin from the Dauphiné. With all these products, the kitchen’s are naturally blessed.

Yesterday, I was going through some old photos and stumbled across Hudson’s picture taken at ‘Aux Lyonnais’. It inspired me to cook a Lyonnais style meatloaf and a smashing pink praline tart with an île flottante – all inspired from my son’s favourite restaurant of course. You can have a full-on experience and do them all. It might look like a bit of a project at first, but with a well planned cooking schedule, the results will be very satisfying!

The lyonnais meatloaf is originally made with a typical Lyonnais pistachio cervelat sausage, but as it is not always easy to find in stores or supermarkets, I chose to make it with minced pork (taken from good quality pork sausages). The ‘brioche’ is a bread bun made with egg, milk, butter and yeast.

The pink praline tart is such a delight to make. Pink pralines are old-fashioned candies – you’ll need almonds, water, sugar and red food colouring. They are so delicious, vintage-looking and pretty in pink. You’ll be using these candies by crushing them in your food processor or with a mortar and pestle, to make the praline tart. They can be easily stored in a glass jar. This recipe (see below) is a simplified version – I was very happy with the result. Save a few pralines to drizzle on the ‘oeufs à la neige’. You can also buy pink pralines at selected fine stores.

Ingredients:

Brioche:

250 grs plain flour
110 grs butter (room temperature cut in cubes)
3 eggs
7 grs dry baking yeast
3 tbsp warm milk
3 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar, beaten
1 egg yolk, beaten, for glaze

In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, water and milk. Mix well. Incorporate salt and eggs, mix well and add butter. Knead continuously for 15 minutes. When the dough is elastic, shape into a ball, leave in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Flatten the dough slightly and place the pork meat filling in the center. Press the edges and seal. Place in a lightly buttered loaf tin and cover with a clean cloth. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven 180° degrees celsius. Brush the brioche with the egg yolk and bake for 35–40 minutes until risen and golden brown. Let it cool for 15 minutes place on a wire rack. Serve with a warm potato salad.

For the ‘meatloaf’ filling:

4 skinned good quality sausages
A large handful of good-quality pistachio nuts
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
30 ml white wine (optional)
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Slice onion, mince the garlic. Slice the sausages and squeeze out the pork meat. In a saucepan, fry the onion until soft (4 min) in 1 tbsp butter, add the garlic, thyme and sausage meat for 8 minutes until cooked and semi-golden. Deglaze with the white wine, add salt and pepper. Set aside, add the pistachios, mix well and leave to cool.

Warm potato salad:

4 large potatoes (peeled and cut in 4)
2 shallots (sliced finely)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp grain mustard
salt and pepper
A dash of chopped parsley

Boil potatoes till tender. In a large bowl, make a vinaigrette by mixing the shallots, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slice the potatoes and add to the vinaigrette. Mix gently and add parsley.

Pink praline tart:

80 almonds
160 grs sugar
140 grs water
3 drops red food colouring
100 ml crème fraîche
Shortcrust pastry (bough from store) or homemade (see recipe below)

Step 1: Make the pink pralines – simple version

On a medium heat, mix almonds, water, sugar and red food colouring in a pan. Do not stir until the water starts to boil, then you can start swirling the pan gently. When the liquid starts to thicken (after approx 5 minutes), stir continuously until you feel a caramel texture. Take away from heat on/off and stir until the sugar crystallizes. Put almonds on parchment paper and let them cool. This process can take up to 12-15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven 180° degrees celsius. Roll out pastry on a floured surface and line the tart baking pan (I use a small 20 cm pan), and place parchment paper with marbles (or any oven-proof weights). Pre-bake your shortcrust pastry approx 15 minutes. Set aside

In a food processor, smash pink pralines into chunky bits. In a pan, add pralines and crème fraîche, boil gently for 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and pour in the pastry shell. Leave to cool and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Easy shortcrust pastry

125 grs plain flour
60 ml water
90 grs butter
1/4 tsp salt

Mix water with salt in a large bowl. Slice butter into cubes. Mix all ingredients together, ‘working’ the dough 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for at leat an hour.

Ile flottante:

3 eggs yolks
175 ml milk
1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
75 grs sugar

For egg whites:
3 egg whites
40 grs caster sugar (for egg whites)
1/4 tsp salt

Separate egg whites and egg yolks. In a saucepan, add milk, sugar and vanilla – bring to a gentle boil. Take off the heat and whisk in the egg yolks. Bring back to the low heat, and whisk for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Set aside and leave to cool.
In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites, when the mixture starts to set, gradually add sugar and salt, and continue to whisk until firm peaks appear. Place bowl in a microwave for 40 seconds on a low setting. This will firm up the egg whites. Should you not have a microwave, you can place large spoonfuls of required egg whites in boiling water for 30 seconds.
Pour custard into bowls, and shape round large balls (with a large slotted spoon) of egg-whites to place on custard. Drizzle with crushed pink pralines. Serve with a slice of pink praline tart.