Tuscan Lemon Almond Torte

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

Everyone knows how I feel about secret recipes: they’re against my religion!  Enjoying a dish and then requesting the recipe is just the highest compliment you can give.  And some things are just so wonderful, they have to be shared.  I received this incredible recipe from an extremely talented pastry chef with whom I worked in DC at Lespinasse in Torte111996-97, Caroline.  She and I worked the pastry “line” together every night, plating elaborate desserts and enjoying the rush of service together.  I was totally green in the industry, and couldn’t have been placed next to a more perfect person to train me.  She taught me how to use a squeeze bottle of sauce and put it right back where it was, so we wouldn’t waste time looking up to grab it the next time.  Together we perfected spooning identital egg-shaped quenelles of ice cream and sorbet onto a beautiful silver platter quickly enough so that the 7th flavor was plated before the 1st ones started to melt (an order of 4 ice cream & sorbet samplers for one table was a particularly riotous challenge for us).  She, together with our boss Jill Rose, taught me that attention to detail is what changes something good into something great.  These lessons have stayed with me, and I teach them to every student who comes through our kitchen.  These women were talented, and I was so lucky to be in their hands so early in my career.

But the recipes…oh my goodness…the recipes!  We made some amazing stuff in that kitchen:  Lemon-lavender chiboust (the inspiration behind my popular Lemon-Lavender Posset), Ginger Souffles, Coffee macarons.  I gained skills and confidence with every new recipe.  So much of what I learned still peeks its head into something new that I might try today: a variation on a theme, a new twist.  There are some recipes that are so perfect, however, you just don’t want to mess with them at all.  This cake, for me, is perfect.  Caroline actually used to make it at home and bring it in for me; it wasn’t on the menu.  It was just the most divine, sublime, meltingly delicious cake I’d ever had and she would provide me with occasional fixes, taunting me that someday she would share the actual recipe.  It actually came from a fantastic San Francisco restaurant where she had previously worked, called Oliveto.  I don’t know where it was before that, or who exactly had the genius idea to schmear a load of tart and creamy lemon curd on top of a delicious almond cake batter, scatter it with sliced almonds, and then bake everything together into a bubbling, browned, rustic pan of deliciousness.  I just don’t know.  But I thank them with all my heart.  Please enjoy my most favorite cake:


Lemon Curd

You can buy a jar of lemon curd to put on the cake, or you can make a batch yourself.  The only change that I made to the original cake recipe (ah ha!  there’s always something, no??) was to use my own lemon curd recipe, given to me by some very proud and capable English farm women with whom I worked at the Sussex University farm shop when I was a student there.  Betty was so generous to share this gorgeous lemon curd with me:   the winner of the local Women’s Institute award, no less.  Enjoy the rest of the batch on toast, in tartlettes, or just keep making Tuscan Lemon-Almond Tortes, like I do…it keeps well in the fridge or the freezer for many weeks (if it lasts!).

6 oz lemon  juice

zest 3 lemons

2 1/4 c sugar

pinch salt

1/2  lb  butter

4 eggs

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the butter, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest.  Over medium heat, let butter melt and gently bring contents of the pan to a simmer.  Whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl.  When mix is boiling, take off of the heat and drizzle a bit onto the eggs, whisking quickly to avoid scrambling the eggs (a helper can be useful at this point).  Once the eggs are warmed quite well, whisk them back into the pan and return the pan to medium heat.  Whisk constantly until entire mix comes to simmer to sterilize the eggs and thicken the curd.  Take off the heat and strain into a heat-proof container.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate until you’re ready to make the cake.









Tuscan Lemon-Almond Torte 

The rustic look of this cake pleases me just as much as the cake itself.  It’s so unusual, I had to feature it when I first opened my bakery, Cakewalk,  in Lee, MA in 2002.  I just loved the contrast with the highly decorated and precisely-cut and designed things that were typically in a bakery case.  You just schmear the curd on with a spatula, scatter the almonds over, let it bubble and brown in the oven every which way:  each one looks different and irresistible with no fussing over it.  I wasn’t sure if it would hold mass appeal, but I just wanted to see it in the case next to all of the traditional cookies and tartlettes.  And I shouldn’t have doubted:  this cake was a huge seller every day at the bakery from day one. I have made this recipe with good results with Jeanne Sauvage’s gluten free flour blend, as well as with Einkorn flour.  Use the same amount as the cake flour indicated.

Oven 325, makes One 9 inch cake

Line spring form pan:  butter, parchment, butter

1/2  cup almond fl.

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 oz soft butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla ex.

2 eggs

2/3 cup lemon curd

1/3 cup sliced almonds

-Prepare the pan with the parchment liner to prevent sticking.  Preheat the oven and start creaming the butter in the mixer with the flat beater, then add the sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The mixture will get very fluffy, double the volume.   Sift the dry ingredients together.  Add the vanilla to the mixer and then fold in the sifted dry ingredients.  Scrape into the prepared pan and spoon 2/3 cup of lemon curd onto the mix.  Spread out the curd over the top of the batter, leaving about 1/2 in border.  Scatter 1/3 cup sliced almonds over the mix and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a tester is clean (it’s hard to test!  I usually put the tester in at a sharp angle to go underneath the curd as best as I can to see that the batter under the curd is cooked).  The cake will be set in the middle, bubbly and brown.  Take out of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing into it.  It is actually one of those rare cakes that tastes even better after a day or two.













Salade Lyonnaise: Red-Wine Poached Egg & Salad

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

We may not think as often about salad for dinner in the winter.  In summer we love to make large composed salads with hard boiled eggs, a piece of seared fish, boiled small red potatoes.  The lightness and the freshness are perfect for the season.  But what about salad for dinner in the winter?  Why not?  The classic Salade Lyonnaise is delicious, and could easily be a one-dish meal on a cold night.  A balanced combination of hot and cold, rich and light, this salad is a treat either as an appetizer or a main course.  A heavier leafy green is a good base for the salad; the traditional frisee can hold up to the warm bacon and egg, and its bitterness cuts a nice contrast to the heavier ingredients.  If you don’t care for all frisee, you can mix it with some shredded romaine for an equally refreshing base for your lovely red wine poached egg.



Classic French Red Wine Vinaigrette

makes 1 1/2 cups

2 T dijon mustard

1/4 c red wine vinegar

3/4 c oil oil

1 shallot, minced finely

salt, pepper

-Whisk together vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the oil to form an emulsion.  Scrape into a jar or container and store in the refrigerator. This dressing will keep in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Salad Components

Assemble your salad components for the desired number of people:

Frisee or other sturdy salad green

Fresh eggs (preferably organic farm eggs)

enough red wine in a saucepan for the eggs to be completely immersed to poach

Thick bacon strips cut into 1/4 inch batons, sauteed until crispy

Toasted baguette slices to hold the egg

Slices of pancetta, baked in a 300F oven for about 10 mins, until crispy

Bring the wine to simmer, season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf.

Break egg into individual ramekins, swirl the simmering wine in the pan and pour egg in when it’s rotating well.  The wine should never boil with the egg in it.

While the egg is cooking, toss salad with vinaigrette, flip the egg in the wine carefully, poach until desired doneness, approx. 2-3 minutes.  If the white is not cooked, the egg might break when you take it out, but you still want the yolk to be runny.  Put the crouton on the top of the salad, scatter warm bacon around, carefully remove the egg and blot it on a piece of kitchen paper, and place it on top of the crouton.  Top with a slice of crispy pancetta. Can drizzle with red wine reduction if desired.

Vin-01 Vin-02 Vin-03 Vin-04


Breton Buckwheat Galettes


When you hop out of your vehicle and wander through the medieval walls into the center of Saint-Malo, Britttany, it is quickly clear that there is no doubt what you are going to be eating for your next meal:  Galettes & Crepes!  Literally every other storefront is a Creperie and each follow a very similar, carefully honed formula of serving Savory Buckwheat Galettes for your main dish, followed by white-flour Crepes for your sweet finish.  Until I’d been to Brittany, before I met Franck, I’d never tried a Buckwheat Crepe.  In the States we have tended to overlook them and save buckwheat for pancakes (which is a beautiful thing to do, don’t get me wrong).  Buckwheat crepes, or “Galettes” as they’re known in Brittany, however, are something special for many reasons.

creperie (1)

Buckwheat happens to be a really nutritious fruit seed, related to rhubarb & sorrel and not at all related to wheat or other grains in any way.  Known as “farine de sarrasin” in French, it”s high in phytonutrients, minerals, B vitamins, and is a superior source of protein than many grains.  It’s also really satisfying and helps control blood sugar.  The interesting thing about working with buckwheat flour is that since it’s completely gluten-free, it needs to be worked fairly hard.  Originally I thought this must be developing some kind of “gluten-like” strength in the flour.  Franck distinctly remembers the “thwack thwack” of the wooden spoon in the bowl as his grandmother or mother mixed their galette batter hard for quite a long time.  When we (who can’t be bothered to mix many things by hand, actually) put all of the ingredients together in the Kitchen Aid, we let the flat beater work the mix at medium speed for more than five minutes, or the galettes are too fragile.  In fact, before I was focusing on gluten-free cooking and baking, my mother-in-law had instructed me to add a spoonful of wheat flour to the mix, which I think was her way to make it easier for the batter to come together by strengthening it with a little gluten.  In any case, we now make our mix 100% gluten free by using only buckwheat flour, and occasionally a spoonful of gluten-free flour mix just to lighten up the flavor a bit, since buckwheat is strong.  By working it very long and hard either with a wooden spoon or the beater of the mixer, you are actually gelatinizing the starches in the buckwheat which help make the mix hold together better.  After that it’s good (but not essential) to let the mix rest in the fridge to fully hydrate the flour.  The final mix should have the consistency of heavy cream.  It will thicken during the resting time and then you can thin it out with a bit more water before cooking.  Your first galette will be your test for consistency:  a thinner mix allows a lacy, crispy galette which has a toasty, warm buckwheat flavor.  It’s addictive!

BGThe traditional galettes in Brittany are served with a number of savory fillings, making them completely fun and versatile for the cook.  We usually put out a bunch of popular choices, and everyone can customize their meal.  A nice fresh egg cracked over the top is the most classic finish to a true “Galette Complete”, whether you put ham, spinach, cheese, tomato, mushrooms or ratatouille inside.

Buckwheat Crepe (Galette)

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography 

2 c buckwheat flour

1 egg (optional if you want vegan)

1/2 t salt

1 c beer (optional)

4 c water (plus one or two more cups)


In a large mixing bowl or Kitchen Aid bowl, place your ingredients and mix thoroughly for at least 5 minutes.  We like to use a little beer (hard cider would be appropriate to Brittany, too), as this gives even more flavor and lightness to the mix.  Many folks (including my sweet mother-in-law) skip the beer, though, so it’s not essential.  Add water until the mix has the consistency of heavy cream.  As the mixture beats, the buckwheat gelatinizes and the batter gets a satiny sheen to it.  Transfer to a container and let rest in the fridge 30 minutes-a few hours.

Heat a heavy skillet, non-stick pan, or crepe pan over medium heat, then grease with plain oil.  Rub the oil to a thin, even coat with a folded-up paper towel, then ladle the batter into the pan, turning with your wrist as you pour to evenly spread the mix.  This is not easy at first (the mix pours slowly since it’s a bit heavier than a white-flour crepe mix).  Spread with a thin spatula if that helps.  Let the galette set and start to brown, then put about 1/2 t of butter in the pan and flip to cook the other side, about 2 minutes per side.  You can continue to cook galettes in this way, and pile them up on top of one another on a dinner plate.  This can be done in advance, and then you can finish them in the pan later with everyone’s preferred fillings and serve them hot.

For fillings you can slice ham, sauté spinach, sauté mushrooms, slice tomatoes, grate cheddar or swiss cheese.  Grilled sausages are really popular rolled into a fresh, buttery galette, or we like to julienne and sauté root veggies and roll them up as a side dish to fish with a beurre blanc sauce.  Enjoy the chance to get creative with your galettes; if you’re being really classical, though, you won’t put a sweet filling inside (Franck cringes when I spread them with jam, but it’s absolutely delicious.  The French are just so traditional this way, it’s amazing).


For more tips and tricks for making the perfect Galettes, check out this video from our Facebook Live series.

Posted by Chez Nous Bistro on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Franck’s Bouillabaisse

I guess that part of the appeal of cooking and baking is the magic part.  Watching or assisting in transformations is really what it’s all about.  When I was a little girl I would hunt out the tv section of the newspaper to find when Julia Child’s The French Chef was going to be on.  My nana and I were both devoted fans and I can still remember certain episodes so clearly, such a firm impression was made by the impressive transformations on the program.  Shredded potatoes were formed into potato baskets and deep fried into crispy bowls!  Cream, sugar and eggs were set in dishes in the oven and caramelized with a blowtorch afterwards!  I was amazed, my eyes were dazzled, and I really wanted a blowtorch.

Some of the transformations which we enable in the kitchen are less dramatic, of course, but the delicious results speak for themselves.  Bouillabaisse remains one of our favorite dishes, and it’s clearly one of those things that’s better than the sum of its parts.  Delicious fish soup is brought to a boil, then drop in a few chunks of your favorite shellfish, fish, a few boiled potatoes, and let them simmer together until cooked through.  A dollop of spicy garlic mayonnaise and a dried crouton or slice of grilled or toasted bread and voila, you have a bowl of simple ingredients, deliciously transformed.

Bouillabaisse1 Bouillabaisse2 Bouillabaisse3 Bouillabaisse4 Bouillabaisse

There are so many theories as to what a “real” Bouillabaisse is supposed to have in it or NOT have in it – yes shellfish, no shellfish, broth base or thick soup base.  We really can’t speak for everyone’s “classic” or “dream” Bouillabaisse, we can just show you how we like to make ours.  Even Julia Child agreed that Bouillabaisse should have what your taste and budget allow, and that is exactly how we make it.  The classic flavors:  a great fish base, some garlic, onions, olive oil, fennel and saffron are the key to distinguishing Bouillabaisse from another fish stew.  Some like a broth base, while we love to use Franck’s delicious classic Fish Soup as the base.  The first step is to make a fish stock, which is actually not that hard at all.  If you’re not up for it, however, you could purchase the stock or use bottled clam juice if you’re doing a Bouillabaisse that’s going to include shellfish.


Fish Stock (makes enough to freeze in containers for future use)

4 lbs clean fish bones (no gills, eyes, etc.  ask at the fish counter for them to save some for you)

1 onion, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 leek, cleaned well and sliced

10 cloves garlic (can leave whole)

-Sweat the above ingredients until translucent over medium high heat in a large soup casserole and ¼ c olive or plain oil.  Add:

1 bouqet garnie (a bunch of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth:  1 branch fresh thyme, 2 branches fresh parsley, 1 branch rosemary, 2 bay leaves)

2 c white wine

And then cover with water and bring to the boil.  Skim the top of the stock and then turn down the heat and let cook slowly for about 25 minutes.  Strain through a sieve and cool.  You can freeze this until you’re ready to make your fish soup.

French Fisherman’s Soup

This soup is delicious on its own, with the traditional garnishes which are croutons, spicy aioli, and shredded gruyère cheese.  It also makes a wonderful base for a classic Bouillabaisse.

The day before, marinate:

5 lbs mixed fish of choice (cod, sole, halibut, salmon, etc.)

1 large sliced onion

5 cloves chopped garlic

1 diced carrot

1 diced celery stick

1 T ground coriander

1 star anise, ground

2 pinches saffron

1/2 t pepper

½ c olive oil

2 diced fresh tomatoes

The next day,

Separate all of the fish from the vegetables and then sweat the veggies until soft over medium high heat in soup pot with the olive oil.  Add 2 cups white wine, 2 quarts fish stock, 2 diced potatoes.  Bring to simmer and add fish.  When potatoes are soft, the soup is done.  Purée in a blender; adjust seasoning and thickness of desired.

Bring soup to boil and add boiled potatoes, mix of fish/shellfish that you prefer.  Serve with garlic crostini and rouille (spicy garlic mayonaisse).


This magic sauce gives a creamy kick to the final dish.  It also is amazing on sandwiches or as a dip for any kind of fritter, crab cake, whatever you’re in the mood for.


½ c store-bought or homemade mayonnaise

½ clove crushed garlic

Juice of ½ lemon

½ t chili paste, harissa, hot sauce

Pinch toasted and crushed saffron


Chez Nous’ Blog is an On-line, In-progress Cookbook! Check it out!

Don’t miss our blog, where we are posting popular and requested recipes, along with some great food photography from our friend Greg Nesbit.  Maybe someday this will become a book, but right now we’d like to share our tried-and-true recipes with you!

Chez Nous Cookbook.indd

Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

If they say that music tames the savage beast, my research reveals that Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte tames the savage restaurant guest.  Imagine one of those normally-really-quiet Berkshire winter evenings: I have my knitting ready to keep me occupied, one server on, Franck and maybe one helper in the kitchen, and we’re ready to be extremely bored.  Imagine our surprise as the restaurant starts to fill up.  At first we’re happy, then we start to be doubtful, and ultimately it starts to get kind of ugly.  All twenty tables full in three different dining rooms, and just two of us to take care of them.  Those last folks seated weren’t too lucky.  By the time I pant up to their table to ask if I could help them, the response: “Some service would be nice.” Ugh.  Can this be salvaged or is it hopeless?

This night happened in the early days of Chez Nous, but of course I’ll never forget it.  By the time that (now smiling, well-fed, and hugging me) gentleman left he was actually proposing that we go into business together (I’m really not joking), to make and distribute this cake.  It’s really that good.Praline Crunch Torte

Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte

I’m going to give you here the complete recipe, with all of the components, for this torte. It is a French-style “entrement” which just means a mousse torte with different components/textures layered into it.  Don’t be intimidated:  the cake can be done in multiple steps, over a few days, if necessary.  It’s actually better to do it in stages.  It can also be done in a modified way.  For one thing, I love to make the crunchy center with praline paste, but everyone (except for Franck, we’ll forgive him, he’s French) loves it with (the much easier-to-find and cheaper) peanut butter instead.  Also, it doesn’t have to have a crunch center.  Instead, you can put two layers of cake.  The glaze is also optional.  I love it for the shiny finish and fudgy flavor that it gives the final product.  But at home, a slice of this cake with a drizzle of chocolate sauce would not only be perfectly acceptable, it will render you beloved by everyone present for a long, long time.

For the Mousse: -the mousse is the one part of the recipe which can’t be made ahead.  Go ahead and make everything else in advance and then the day you want to put it all together, make the mousse.  All of the other components need to be in place before the mousse gets poured over them and chilled to set.

4 oz.           dark chocolate, melted

1 1/2 c     heavy cream whip

3         yolks

1            egg                          

1/3 c    sugar

1/3 t     plain gelatine powder bloomed in 2 T cold water

Praline Crunch Torte1 Praline Crunch Torte2 Praline Crunch Torte3 Praline Crunch Torte4 Praline Crunch Torte5

This classic chocolate mousse works well because it is light, delicious, and can be cleanly sliced as part of a cake.  The first step is to get your chocolate melting over gently simmering water, so that you don’t over-heat your chocolate (it gets grainy).  The second step is to softly whip your cream.  By this I mean soft peaks.  If you over-whip the cream, you will need to mix it too hard to incorporate it into the mousse and you will lose lovely, precious volume and the texture will be much denser.  Stop when it’s nicely and gently holding peaks, then put it aside until it’s time to combine everything.  You will finally need to make a “pate a bombe,” which is a sabayon, or cooked sugar (soft ball, 248F) poured onto whipping eggs/yolks, and then whipped until cool.  Usually this at least triples the volume of the eggs and makes them very stable for mixing into your mousse, as well as sterilizing them by getting them quite hot.

To make the pate a bombe, I thoroughly clean a small saucepan and leave a little water in the bottom to dissolve the sugar.  I put the yolks and eggs in the Kitchenaid fitted with the whisk attachment.  Let them go on very high speed to start getting fluffy while the sugar cooks.  Soft-ball sugar can be measured with a thermometer, or by plopping a drop of it into cold water and feeling the texture.  Either way, you must go quite quickly about measuring, since it changes temperature fast.  Too hot and it will solidify before it incorporates into the eggs, making candy blobs around the mixer and not getting in the recipe.  Too cool and it won’t sterilize your eggs or get them as stable.  When the right temperature is reached, carefully pour the sugar syrup into the still-turning Kitchenaid, drizzling down the side of the bowl so that the beater doesn’t whip the hot sugar out into your face, please!  Then let the mixer beat the mixture on high speed until it is cool.  Put the little bit of gelatine into the hot sauce pan for it to melt.  Pour this onto the pate a bombe when it’s completely whipped.  Fold in thoroughly and quickly.

Place your melted chocolate, your semi-whipped cream, and your pate a bombe all on a table in front of you and get ready to combine.  (*also your prepared ring should be next to you with your cake layer and crunch inside)  Quickly fold 1/3 of the cream into the chocolate, then all of the pate a bombe, and then the rest of the cream.  Work gently and quickly to make a light, fluffy mousse.  (see below for the rest of the assembly instructions)

Chocolate Cake Layers: (can be made with gluten-free, einkorn or regular flour, same quantity of each) (can also be made ahead of time and frozen, with the layers individually wrapped – wonderful!)

-This recipe will make more layers than you need, but they freeze wonderfully, tightly wrapped in plastic, and can be pulled out to make different tortes with different fillings, or just to eat on their own!

-Butter and flour, or line with parchment circles, 3X 8″ cake pans

2 c sugar

1 3/4 c  flour

75g/5 T cocoa

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 t salt

2 eggs

1 c boiling water

1 c milk

1/2 c canola, or other plain oil

-Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar.  Stir in the eggs, milk, and oil.  Make a smooth paste, then add the boiling water.  Divide evenly between the pans and bake at 325F until a tester comes out clean, about 25 mins.

Chocolate Glaze

 Boil: 1/2 c milk

Pour over:

1/3 lb. pate a glacer (a pastry product which is a kind of baking chocolate.  Substitute more dark chocolate instead if you can’t get it)

2 oz  dark chocolate

-Whisk until smooth and set aside.  Reheat about 1/2 c to cover the cake.  This topping keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge and makes an amazing hot fudge sauce.

Praline Crunch

175g/3/4 lb. praline paste or peanut butter

375 g corn flakes

75 g/2 1/2 oz. white chocolate

-melt the white chocolate in a metal mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water (not too hot or the chocolate will get grainy).  Stir in the praline paste until smooth, then fold in the flakes.  This mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.  Pull out to come to room temperature before using, and don’t eat it all before it makes it into the torte!  It’s like a grown-up candy bar!)


Slice a 1/2 inch disc of cake and place at the bottom of a 9″ ring mold or spring form pan.  Cover the cake with about 3/4 inch of praline crunch.  Set aside.  Make the mousse and pour directly on top of the crunch and around the sides.  Put in the fridge to set.  (overnight is fine now, or the torte freezes perfectly at this point for up to 2 weeks, well-wrapped.)  Melt the chocolate glaze and pour over the tart, spreading quickly with an offset spatula.  Let set in fridge again, then unmold with a blowtorch or a warm cloth and slice with a hot, clean knife.


How to bake delicious desserts with gluten-free flours: the ultimate brownies!

If someone said even just 3 years ago that I would be baking with gluten-free flours now, I would have been completely incredulous.  King Arthur and I have been intimate friends for a long, long time (I always loved getting to ask for “Sir Galahad” and “Sir Lancelot” when placing my orders!).  I can’t even imagine how many 50-pound sacks of flour I’ve poured my way through since I began my career in pastry in 1996.  Every time I tasted something gluten-free it tasted terrible, and then when I decided that I’d had enough of wheat myself, I was completely despondent.  How would I exist without eating all of my lovely pastries???  Einkorn flour seemed like a good solution, and it really is for me since I don’t have a gluten allergy.  For many of our guests, however, it isn’t an option.  Einkorn does have gluten and it’s hard to know if you’re going to be able to tolerate it or not without trying it for yourself; it’s also not exactly readily available so many folks’ first chance to try it is dining at Chez Nous.  With all of the effort that we’ve been doing to make our food as gluten-free as possible, we just can’t substitute Einkorn flour in the desserts across the board.  In order to really satisfy our guests’ needs, as well as my own pastry cravings in my now-wheatless life, I  needed to get rid of my fears and prejudices (and my easy-to-make-gluten-free desserts like custards, flourless chocolate cake, etc.) and GO FOR IT!

Throwing away food is really not what you want to be doing when you cook or bake for a living.  Margins are tight and never mind the waste of TIME and the frustration!  But there I was, throwing away batches of cookie dough and cake layers, struggling with BAD online recipes and BAD advice and some very BAD-tasting flours.  It really took almost a year for me to get into the gluten-free groove and I’m really, really, really happy to say that I’m there.  I don’t have to depend on other people’s (maybe not-so-good) recipes using gluten-free flours, I can use my own recipes, and there isn’t a week that goes by these days that I don’t try another recipe from my repertoire with new flours and have an incredibly satisfying result.  On our current menu, only one dessert isn’t available gluten-free (the crumble), and the tart dough, madeleine dough, etc. are all based on my original, much-loved & hard-won, recipes.  So much for any hope of me on a diet!!  I can happily remain wheat-free myself and sample away at my own desserts whenever I want to…

The pleasure of hearing, as I do all of the time, a grateful guest enjoying a dessert who doesn’t often have a piece of really good tart or cake or a cookie ever since discovering a gluten intolerance, really is what it’s all about, actually.  There are a lot of products out there, and actually some are very good now (some breads and pastas, and one “lavash” so far we’ve found and enjoy), but for pastries it’s still kind of the Wild West. And in restaurants it can be very hard to find something interesting that’s gluten-free for sure.  I love being able to offer people with gluten intolerance so many choices and I stand by them all as indistinguishable from their gluten-full counterparts.

Would you like to know some of my gluten-free dessert recipes?  I’m happy to share them, and I’ll start here, first with the blend of flours that I’ve been substituting in most (not all, unfortunately…the concept of “all-purpose” is out the window with the wheat) of my recipes with great success. It’s courtesy of Jeanne Sauvage, a wonderful gluten-free cookbook author, and it is an excellent blend.  It’s not nutritious by any stretch; I’m sure it’s as high-glycemic as wheat recipes are, and we’re working with other things that are definitely healthier in some recipes.  However, if you’re in the mood for a brownie, or a Madeleine, or a really nice piece of cake, then usually you’re looking for a treat and not for your daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.  If you’re going to have something, at least have something real.   Like my Nana always said (as we clambered and begged to eat her delicious home-made desserts for breakfast) “It’s just good wholesome ingredients” and made with love (and no wheat).

Jeanne Sauvage’s Gluten-free Flour Blend:

Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in a cool, dark place, or in fridge for long-term storage).  1 C of this mix equals 140g. Use this mix cup-for-cup or gram-for-gram in all of your recipes:

1 1/4 C (170 g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205 g) white rice flour
1 C (120 g) tapioca flour
1 C (165 g) sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour or under the brand name, Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

It’s really worth reading the link provided, and understanding the work and thinking that Jeanne went through to develop this great blend.  She also has some recipes, but so far I don’t love them all, so I am going to continue to adapt my own recipes using her flour mix, starting here with two of my favorites, Orange-Almond Cake & Brownies!


My Best Brownies- Now Gluten Free

I’ve been making these brownies for literally two decades.  They truly are my ultimate, as they are for many people.  The original recipe appeared in Gourmet magazine in the early 90’s and I’ve seen it reproduced, credited or uncredited as such, many times.  Again, I knew that it would work great with Jeanne’s flour blend, since it has very little flour and lots and lots of chocolate and butter, as any self-respecting brownie should.

Triple-Chocolate Fudge Brownies- makes 1 9X13 inch pan

1 lb                  dark, bittersweet chocolate

12 oz                butter

3 c                   sugar

2 c                   Jeanne’s gluten-free flour blend

2 t                    salt

150 g               chocolate chips

8                      eggs

1 T + 1 t           vanilla

-Line your pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil for quick and easy brownie removal.  I use a little spray grease just to hold the paper down to the bottom of the pan.  Also preheat your oven to 325F.

First, melt the chocolate with butter.  I have my efficient way that I like to do this with a metal bowl holding the chocolate placed over a wide pan (wide enough to hold the bowl up so the chocolate is nicely nested and won’t get burned or scorched by the fire nipping up at the uncovered part of the bowl, and the bottom never touches the hot contents of the pan below) with the butter in it.  As the butter melts, the chocolate will begin to melt, and pouring the hot butter over the chocolate will finish the job.  Some people like to use a microwave for this, but I find it tedious to have to keep taking the bowl out and stirring, putting it back, etc.  I try to teach people to bake in a way which will make them love baking and not find it tedious!  If you have an actual double-boiler, by all means use it!  Just put the butter in the pan instead of water (Why waste energy heating water when you can get a head-start and melt the butter instead?  You’ll still get the intoxicating experience of smelling chocolate and butter together when you stir them in a minute….see below…).

Mix togther the chocolate and butter and breathe in deeply.  I believe that the smell of these two ingredients together is one of the best smells in the world, so I can be seen embarassing myself regularly at work as I inhale the scent every time I make a recipe calling for chocolate and butter melted together.  I’m such a pastry geek.

Anyway, now you’re ready to add the sugar and vanilla to the bowl.  Add eggs gradually.  Then add the sifted flour mix and salt.  I like to sprinkle the top with chocolate chips just to take these up a notch.  Of course you can fold them in if you like, or stir in some nuts if you’re one of these slightly odd people who want to desecrate their brownies with ingredients other than chocolate and butter and sugar…go ahead…

Most importantly, don’t overbake your brownies!  Pop the pan in the oven and set for 10 minutes.  Turn the pan for even baking and set the timer for 10 more minutes.  Times are tricky, since every oven is different, but when you test them at 20 minutes (I always test brownies with a thin knife or cake tester.  Even after baking for so long, it’s the only way that I can tell they’re perfectly cooked) you should have WET CRUMBS clinging to the tester.  Not liquid batter, wet crumbs, please.  A clean knife means they’re overcooked.  Sorry.  They still taste good, of course.

If you know your oven runs hot then set that 2nd timer for 8 minutes, or whatever makes sense.  The barely-cooked-ness is part of what makes this brownie so fantastic.  The other things is the chocolate that you use.  Really good chocolate really gets to shine in this recipe.

I usually chill the brownies before attempting to unmold them and cut them.  They keep very well, especially wrapped in the freezer.

Orange Almond Cake

Orange Almond Cake (GF)

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

Orange Almond Cake

This moist, flavorful, and versatile cake has been one of my favorites since my sous-pastry chef shared it with me many years ago at Lespinasse.  I’ve used it in countless wedding cakes, as a stand-alone tea cake, and as a component in mousse tortes or as a shortcake.  I knew it would easily adapt to gluten-free flour, as it doesn’t have a large amount of flour to begin with, due to the large amount of almond paste in the recipe.  It is just as fabulous, and you could never tell, thanks to Jeanne’s blend, that it is gluten-free *

* If you’re not interested in gluten-free baking, the original recipe called for the same amount of cake flour, so go ahead and change it back!

Orange-Almond Cake

preheat oven 325F

line 2 8″ cake pans with parchment

5 oz  almond paste

2/3 c  sugar

zest 1  orange

3   eggs

4  oz  soft butter

1/2 c   Jeanne’s gluten free blend

3/4 t   baking powder

pinch salt

I use a stand mixer with a flat beater for this recipe.  You can do it by hand, or even in a food processor, but the secret is to blend the sugar, almond paste, and butter really well and get them super fluffy together, so the stand mixer is ideal.

Orange Almond Cake 1

Place the sugar and almond paste in the bowl and mix to crumble up the almond paste.  Add in the soft butter, and the orange zest.  When smooth, start adding in the eggs one at a time, very gradually.  By the time you finish the mix should have doubled in volume and smell fabulous.

Orange Almond Cake 3

Fold in the dry ingredients; I like to sift them through a strainer over the bowl to make sure there’s no lumps anywhere.

Orange Almond Cake 4

Spread into prepared pans and bake about 18 mins, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Orange Almond Cake 5

Let cool completely.  You can freeze the layers, wrapped separately.

To serve, a beautiful and simple way to enjoy the cake is to whip some fresh cream with a dash of vanilla and a tiny touch of sugar, and mix some seasonal berries with a bit of sugar and splash of booze:  I use Raspberry liqueur or Grand Marnier often.  A perfect seasonal and make-ahead dessert!


Einkorn Sourdough Bread

We aren’t the first, and we certainly won’t be the last, to be amazed by the fantastic results that a home baker can get by baking bread in a Dutch oven placed inside your regular oven.  We were, however, perhaps the most disappointed when we finally tried this incredibly easy and satisfying way to make real bread at home, only to be told about a month later that in fact, we needed to eliminate bread (and lots of other stuff) from our diets due to Franck’s high blood sugar!  What??!!!  Just when we had mastered this phenomenal technique and were enjoying artisanal-style bread made at home for the first time?

We attacked this injustice head-on: we educated ourselves about grains and blood and sugar and all that good stuff, and started using Einkorn flour, which is naturally low-glycemic, low-gluten, and high protein, instead of wheat in many recipes, from pasta, to cookies, to pizza dough.  Bread, of course, was the last frontier, since the flour is so low-gluten.  We were pretty doubtful that we could make anything that would hold together enough and not crumble to bits.  There are, however, a few ways to develop gluten for bread-baking.  One is the long knead, of course, and that can be really sticky with doughs for artisanal loaves which have more humidity than a typical bread dough that will “clean the sides of the bowl” the way you might be used to.  The other thing that allows gluten to develop to make a nice, chewy, silky bread, is TIME.  What a beautiful thing!  This bread-making technique, famously called the “NO-knead Bread” by Jim Leahy of Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC, uses only time to develop the bread’s structure (and, a happy correlary-effect, flavor!) before you heat a Dutch oven in your regular oven, and then pop the sticky bread dough into that after about 24 hrs of resting/rising.  We made an Einkorn sourdough using a grated potato, a cup of Einkorn flour, and a tablespoon of honey, left out on the counter partially-covered for about a week until it’s all bubbly and sour, and we use about a 1/2 cup of this per loaf, instead of any yeast.  If you don’t have sourdough starter, however, you can just use a 1/4 t of dry yeast in your mix.  Either way, get ready to try the easiest bread you’ll ever make, which also happens to be full of great flavor and nutrition. Soda-1

Einkorn “No-knead” Bread

About 18-24 hrs ahead of time:

Stir in a mixing bowl:

3 1/2 c Einkorn flour (500g)

1 c water (240 g)

2 t salt (10g)

1/2 c sourdough starter made with Einkorn flour OR 1/4 t dry yeast

Stir together the above ingredients and cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave overnight IN THE FRIDGE (this advise came to us via Michael Pollan’s great book, “Cooked.”  The original recipe advised to leave out on the counter. Pollan goes in-depth, and even though he says that Einkorn can’t make big, nice bread HE’S WRONG!  Using his advise, we adapted the original technique.  Leave the bread in the fridge until morning, and slow and improve the quality of the fermentation).  Usually after about 18 hours this mix is happy and bubbly and ready to be stirred down, but you can leave it longer.  The longer the better for the bread’s development, for sure, so don’t worry if you can’t get to it at any exact moment of the day (I told you this was easy…).

The next morning, we pull the dough out of the fridge and give it a stir with another 1/2 c of Einkorn flour; this is also Pollan’s tip, and it’s fantastic, give the bacteria you’ve just multiplied some food (all of this also comes from Chad Robertson’s great book “Tartine Bread” btw…that’s who Pollan baked with), and it will activate more and make the bread lighter.  Now you can leave the dough on the counter until you’re about 2 hrs away from when you’d like to bake it.  After that time, we give it another 1/2 c or so of flour (same idea as before), line a cloth napkin or kitchen towel in a bowl and dust it extremely generously with either more flour, or cornmeal, or whatever you like to use, so that the dough doesn’t stick to the towel.  Leave lightly covered again for about 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.  When you’re about 45 minutes away from wanting to bake the bread, turn on your oven to 450F.  Place a 4-5 qt Dutch oven or other heavy pan with a cover, in the oven to heat up.  When you’re ready to go, carefully and bravely plop the bread dough out of the towel and into the super-hot pan.  Quickly put the heavy lid on the pan, close the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake the bread to get a nice color and crispy crust, until it’s cooked.  In our oven this takes about another 20-25 minutes, but every oven is different.  If you have a probe thermometer, take an internal temperature of at least 180F to make sure that the bread is cooked.   Cool thoroughly on a rack and enjoy!

***There are lots of great ways to make this bread even more nutritious:  Make Sprouted Einkorn Bread: Take a cup of whole Einkorn berries the day before and rinse them and drain them.  Leave on the counter for the time that the dough is rising and they will sprout!  This releases lots of enzymes and nutrition in the grain.  Pulse the grains to a mush in the food processor and stir them into the dough when you stir it down, and voila, sprouted grain bread (and again be grateful that you don’t need to knead this sticky mess!).

You can also stir 1/3 c of either ground flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, into the dough for a great new flavor and extra nutrition, maple syrup or molasses if you want a little sweetness!




“Risotto” of Heirloom Einkorn Grain with Scallops

Posted by Chez Nous Bistro on Wednesday, May 6, 2020

It doesn’t matter how much time we spend working on a new menu, making sure it’s clearly and correctly written, people often don’t seem interested in reading what is actually written down when they order!   We have been serving the rare, ancient grain Einkorn here at the restaurant for almost 2 years, and yet almost every evening, when I go over to check on guests at the table, they are exclaiming over the dish, loving the grain, and asking, “What is this? Is it rice?  Is it barley?”

No, my friends, it is exactly what it says on the menu: it’s Einkorn!  It’s rare, it’s delicious, it’s an ancient, “gluten-safe,”* cousin of wheat that is full of protein, vitamins and minerals and doesn’t spike your blood sugar!  So many recent articles about cooking with and eating more whole grains neglect to mention Einkorn, the one that we consider to be the most interesting and versatile of all.

We started using Einkorn after reading about it in the book “Wheat Belly” on the recommendation of our nutritionist.  We were asking her about wheat and gluten intolerances; we wanted to know more about them and how to restructure our cooking and baking to be more nutritious.  After many years working as chefs in professional kitchens, and eating really poor, inconsistent diets, going all day mostly on adrenaline, we had decided it was time to change things around before we ended up sick ourselves.

The research on Einkorn really is exciting: unlike modern wheat, it has never been hybridized, so it is considered a pure form of the grain.  It is also a powerful free radical scavenger, high in protein, lutein, thiamin, trace and essential minerals, fiber and B vitamins.  And Einkorn makes so many dishes better (in our humble opinion) than their wheat-counterparts:  Tabouli, couscous, pizza dough, pasta, we have been enjoying all of these dishes using Einkorn instead of wheat.  Even risotto, which certainly, by definition, should be made with rice, tastes better and has more texture with Einkorn.  And we both have found since we’ve dramatically reduced our intake of wheat, we are feeling the benefits of a more varied and healthy diet, more satisfied and less tired, and enjoying lots more nutrient-rich foods: veggies, beans, grains, and Einkorn!

I guess I should just be glad that the guests at our restaurant trust us enough to order dishes with ingredients they’ve never heard of and stop complaining about it.  And it’s just so much fun to see folks happily discovering something totally new and really delicious.

So let me give you an example of a fantastic way to enjoy this very special grain.  I’ll just share with you our recipe for a delicious “risotto” made with whole, nutritious, locally and organically grown Einkorn.

*For lots more recipes with Einkorn and how it’s “gluten-safe,” or gluten-free recipes, I  will direct you to my blog on our website,  Also you must visit for lots more information from the grower, Eli Rogosa, and to order whole Einkorn grain on-line to make this delicious recipe.  Let’s create a movement to find local growers to produce the grain, and local markets that can carry it too!

Einkorn “Risotto” with Caramelized Garlic & Oven-Roasted Tomatoes topped with Pan-Seared Scallops and Pesto

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

Serves 6-8 as a main course

1 ½ c Einkorn grain, soaked overnight & well-drained (available at

1 medium onion, diced

2 bay leaves

½ c white wine

Approx. 1 ½ qt vegetable stock (or water, or chicken stock)Risotto with wine

Sauté the onion in 3 T olive oil until translucent, then toss the Einkorn in and sauté one more minute.  Add the bay leaves and the white wine to deglaze, then pour in enough stock to cover the grain completely, bring to boil and then reduce to slow simmer.  Cook slowly approx. 45 mins until the grain is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid.  Add more stock if necessary, and season with 1 ½ t salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.  When fully cooked, finish the risotto with the following:

½ c grated Parmesan cheese,

¼ c caramelized garlic puree (recipe follows)

1 ½ c oven dried tomatoes (recipe follows)

½ lb fresh spinach (can sauté on the side, or wilt into the hot risotto)


Top with either pan-seared scallops, grilled salmon, or seasonal vegetables and serve.




Caramelized Garlic:

Separate the cloves of 1 head of garlic and toss in 1 T olive oil, ¼ t salt and pepper.  Roast in a 250F oven until caramel colored, about ½ hr.  When cool, puree in a small food chopped and reserve in the fridge, up to one week.


Oven-dried Tomatoes:

2 pts cherry or grape tomatoes

1 T Herbes de Provence

¾ t salt

Fresh pepper

2 ½ T olive oil


Slice the tomatoes in half.  Toss all of the ingredients together and spread flat on a baking tray (or two).  Bake about one hr. at 250F until dry but not too browned.  Store in the fridge up to 3 days.