Blog

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!

Soda-2

 

 

“Risotto” of Heirloom Einkorn Grain with Scallops

 

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, www.cheznousbistro.com.  Also you must visit www.growseed.org 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 www.growseed.org)

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.

 

Risotto1

Risotto2Risotto3

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.

 

 

The Ultimate Homemade Lemoncello

Once you start making things from scratch for yourself, it starts to be a bit obsessive.  We’ve worked Lemoncello into our repertoire gradually.  A friend who is a flight attendant took up the adorable habit of bringing us bottles of delicious, creamy lemoncello whenever she flew to Italy.  Then another friend decided to hand out little flasks of homemade lemoncello for the holidays one year.  And finally, one of our favorite guests at the restaurant brought in what was clearly the most delicious of all of the lemoncellos we had tasted.  We just had to make it for ourselves and our guests!  And so he generously shared his recipe and came in to make it with us. Try this; it’s so easy, and an excellent way to make friends!!Limoncello

 

Lemoncello

From Tom Koelle

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

 

Yield:  approx. 3 l.

Time:  2-4 weeks

 

8-10 organic lemons, depending on size, scrubbed well

75 cl 190 proof Grain Alcohol

750 g sugar

1 l water

 

  1. Peel the zest off of the lemons in strips using a potato peeler; minimize the amount of pith as much as possible, it makes the lemoncello bitter.
  2. Pour the alcohol over the zest ina 1-2 l wide-mouthed covered glass container.
  3. Let stand 3-7 days.  Keep in a dark place and shake from time to time.
  4. When you’re ready to make the lemoncello, boil the sugar and water and let cool.  Strain the zest and add the syrup to taste to the alcohol/lemon mix.
  5. Age in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks so that the flavors meld.
  6. Bottle and keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

Lemon Peels

We also made the lemoncello using 9 oranges and 2 lemons and it was equally ethereal…

Limoncello2

 

Buttery Breton Sablee Cookies

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

Franck loves to say that I’m living the dream:  “Every American woman wants to be married to a French guy!”  I like to humor him, but I had enough experiences in professional kitchens with French guys way before I even met Franck that for a long time I figured that there was NO WAY I would ever marry one…But one should never generalize, n’est ce pas?  Life is just too crazy.

Being married to a French chef has its benefits, for sure.  When preparing meals at home my strategy is to pull everything out onto the counter and start working through it; making the table empty out and seeing the pot fill up gives me so much satisfaction.  Even better when Franck wanders by, “Do you want me to just chop these up for you?” Ten minutes later and I’m on my way to other things, it’s phenomenal…And there are not too many spouses who will go out and buy lobsters to cook for you at your slightest craving. Roasted with garlic-herb butter, they are the ultimate.  I really can’t complain too much.  It’s a marriage between two food-obsessed people, so what would you expect?

But would I be exaggerating if I said that one of the best things about being with Franck and going to Brittany to see his home was discovering pastries made with salty Breton butter??  Maybe only slightly.

They sell bags of cookies in Brittany that look like dry, hard discs:  no icing, no chocolate, no dusting of sugar over the top, absolutely no hoopla whatsoever.  You might overlook them and go for something with more pizzazz…big mistake. These cookies are the most amazing and delicious cookies in the world!  Called Galettes Bretonnes, they first crumble luxuriously when you bite into them, and then all of that Breton salty butter kicks in and they literally melt in your mouth.  That tingle of salt wakens up your tongue and you just have to reach into the bag and grab another…and another…Are you ready to hop a plane to Brittany with me yet?

You might not have to.  Thanks to one of my all-time favorite pastry muses, Dorie Greenspan, there is a recipe for these Sablées available to us over here on this side of the Atlantic which makes an extremely fine approximation.  I was so excited to try it when I cracked open my copy of her Baking, from My Home to Yours, which is just one of her fabulous books.  They really came out great and made the perfect foil for our Lemon-Lavender Possets at the restaurant. When you go to make them you can find some really fancy, expensive and delicious salted butter to make them with.  Yum.  Either way, the recipe is great, and it is so high at the top of my list of favorites, it was one of the first that I tried using Einkorn flour instead of regular flour.  The results were truly fabulous:  I continue to go on about Einkorn and how deliciously its flavor marries with butter.  Well, the simplicity of this recipe really lets the flour shine.  But of course, there’s enough salty, sweet yumminess even with regular flour, as you would get them in France, so give them a try either way.

Breton-style Buttery Sablées

Makes approx. 24 cookies

2 sticks soft butter

½ c (100 g) sugar

¼ c  (30 g) powdered sugar

½ t (3 g) salt

2  yolks

2 ¼ c (280 g) Einkorn flour  (320 g if using all-purpose flour)

1.  Cream butter with sugars and salt very fluffy.  Add yolks one at a time to make an emulsion, then add the flour.  Mix just to thoroughly combine, scraping down the bowl to make sure there aren’t any stray butter lumps.  Chill dough until firm, then form into rolls about 1 ½” in diameter.  Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and then roll on the counter into the roundest shape you can.  At this point you can freeze the dough, or just chill it well so that it keeps its shape when you slice it.

2.  Heat oven  to 350F.  Pull dough logs out of the fridge and unwrap. Brush lightly with lightly beaten-egg and then roll in either decorating sugar crystals, or I like to use Sugar in the Raw or Demerrara sugar crystals.  The crystals stick to the edges and make a nice sweet crackle and pretty finish to the cookies.  I know I said no hoopla, so you can forget this if you like.  (One suggestion Dorie Greenspan makes in another book is to plop the rounds into the bottoms of muffin pans and bake them.  I’ve only done this once and it’s true that it results in a cookie that very much resembles what you get in France:  tall, toasted brown sides and bottoms.  It’s really up to you.  All are delicious and mouth-watering, and the dough will stay happy in its little logs in the freezer until the day when you just have to have some fresh sablées.)  Use a sharp knife to cut through the dough making just under 1/2 inch-tall  sliced rounds.


3.  Place cookies on a greased or parchment-lined cookie tray, spacing them about 1 ½ inches apart, as they do spread a bit (Einkorn ones spread a bit more).  Bake for about 14-17 minutes until the edges are starting to brown, one cookie lifted with a spatula shows it’s brown on the bottom, and they smell delicious.  (Pastry chefs tend to use all of their senses to verify this kind of thing:  too much wasted time and ingredients if things aren’t baked properly!  Timers are critical, too.  Usually people who say they don’t like to bake, I think, do so because they don’t want to take the chance of putting in the effort and not getting great results.  Totally understandable.  So touch, look, smell and make sure everything’s the way you want it to be at each stage.  Your oven, the thickness of your baking tray, the actual size that your logs ended up being, all of this will affect the baking, so you need to use my guidelines, but verify well for yourself before pulling them out.)

4.  I think that these cookies actually taste best when completely cool, and the butter has set up again so that it melts in your mouth.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t try a warm one if you want to, though!

Warm Dark Chocolate Tart

Le Gavroche’s Warm Dark Chocolate Tart with Einkorn Crust

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

What’s the deal with “secret recipes”?  Not only is the concept morally unsound to me, but it’s completely redundant:  if no one ever shared great recipes, where would we be today?  Isn’t the very root of the word recipe “to receive”??  Also it’s frankly absurd:  if someone really wants your recipe, go ahead and give it to them (now with enough searching you can find anything on the internet, anyway!) Are recipe-hoarders worried that someone is going to make it better? I love the concept coined by Elizabeth Zimmerman in reference to knitting:  every recipe has been “unvented” — someone, somewhere, must have done it before. A recipe request is really the ultimate compliment, so everyone should just take it that way and get over it.

When I have a great recipe, from any source or of my own devising, I can’t help going on about it (just ask anyone who’s ever worked in the kitchen with me!  I’m pretty unsupportable about it.  When something’s bad, I’m the first one to say it, but when it’s good, it’s really good and worth bragging about!).  I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, so when I find a chocolate recipe that even I consider irresistible, then I figure it really must be good.  The Warm Dark Chocolate Tart is my ultimate chocolate recipe, and it was hard-won, making me that much happier to share it.

I made this tart every day for several months while working in London’s 2-Michelin starred Le Gavroche (twice a day, in fact, since it had to be baked at precisely 12 noon for lunch service and 7pm for dinner service, then presented to our chef, Michel Roux Jr., for approval).  This beautiful and justly renowned restaurant was really the formative place for Franck as he developed his skills as a chef; he spent 5 years there, and I spent one year as pastry chef.  We both consider ourselves lucky, despite the stress of the job itself, to have worked for a chef with such intense energy, talent, charm and intelligence.  The discipline required to succeed at the job, as well as the skill and concentration to master the recipes themselves, have stood us in good stead in our work ever since. Though our chef was from an iconic culinary family, we still managed to speak a similar language of food with him and to develop close working relationships.

When Chef Michel gave me this recipe to produce for the restaurant he couldn’t help praising it himself.  He had developed it while in search of the perfect chocolate tart, something which had been eluding me for some time as well.  Though he is known for his marathon-running, and used his afternoon break during his 15-hr + workday to exercise, Chef Michel has an infamous sweet tooth, and it’s largely why we got along so well.  He loved it when I’d make him some American sweets, especially peanut butter cookies and brownies, and in this way we exchanged recipes (the way that you’re meant to do!).  His decadent tart itself almost feels like the most intensely-flavored and lightest chocolate soufflé you ever tasted, surrounded by a crisp and buttery pastry shell.  Einkorn flour makes an incredibly tender and crisp dough with a delicate, slightly nutty flavor that perfectly complements the chocolate and butter in the recipe.  Just be sure to pre-bake the dough all the way before you add the filling, so that it’s crunchy and delicious the way that Chef Michel intended it to be!

First, make the Pate Sucrée (Sweet Tart Dough).  This recipe can easily be made with regular flour instead of Einkorn, but the nutty taste of Einkorn really makes the most delicious tart dough!

Pate Sucrée

Makes enough for 4 11” tarts (I use fluted pans with a removable base).

3 1/3 c (500 g) Einkorn (or all-purpose) Flour

2 ¼ c   (250 g) sugar

1 t (5 g) salt

3 large eggs

250 g soft butter

  1. Cream the butter, salt and sugar fluffy with the flat beater of a stand mixer or a strong arm with a wooden spatula.  Add the eggs one at a time to create an emulsion.  Add the flour in 3 additions, working gently and mixing minimally to combine with each addition.  Divide finished dough into 4 and pat into flat rounds.  Wrap each separately and freeze for future quick and easy tart-making happiness!

 

Warm Dark Chocolate Tart

Really good dark chocolate is one of the secrets to success with this recipe.  I don’t use chocolate with less than 65% cocoa content, so that the tart isn’t too sweet.

Makes 1 11” tart

8.3 oz (280g) Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped

6 ¼ oz (188g)   sweet butter

2 whole large eggs

3 yolks

½ c (95g) sugar

Pinch salt

  1. Line an 11” fluted tart pan with Pate Sucrée and let chill/rest (I like to do this the day before, but ½ hr of resting is fine, particularly with Einkorn flour which has such low gluten content, it doesn’t tend to shrink when baked).  Preheat oven to 400F, then line pan with parchment paper, baking beans, and pre-bake until fully cooked (lightly browned and doesn’t smell raw).  I like to remove the beans after about 10 minutes so that the base gets nicely cooked through.  When fully baked, perhaps another 8-10 minutes after removing the beans, set base aside and lower oven temperature to 300F in order to bake the complete tart.


  2. Make your chocolate filling:  Place the butter in a saucepan and cover with a heat-proof bowl with the chocolate in it (use a pot and a compatibly-sized heat-proof bowl that fits over it and doesn’t allow the burner flames to scorch the chocolate).  Place over low heat to melt the butter and start melting the chocolate.  When the butter is melted, pour over chocolate to finish melting, and whisk together.  This is my preferred way to melt butter and chocolate (the most heavenly of combinations…if it were a perfume I’d dab it behind my ears!).  If you prefer another way, go for it, just get the job done!

  3. Meanwhile, make your sabayon (fluffy eggs and sugar mixture.) Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (if doing by hand, get a pot of water simmering on the stove and a heat-proof bowl that fits over it and doesn’t allow the burner flames to scorch it, either.  Also have a nice sized whisk and a glass of water handy.  It’s hard work, but worth it for this amazing tart!).  Add the sugar and begin to whisk on high speed.  This is where a blow-torch comes in handy!  Warm the bowl with the torch, moving it constantly so as not to cook the eggs.  When the bowl feels warm to the touch after removing the flame, then allow egg mixture to whisk itself cold. (If doing by hand, take the bowl off of the water pan when the mixture is warm to the touch, then whisk it until cold, approximately tripled in volume and super-fluffy) A good, strong sabayon is the secret to the texture of this tart and the heat is what makes that strength.  If you don’t have a blowtorch, place your eggs (whole, in shells!) in hot water for a few minutes before cracking them to warm them, or start with room-temperature eggs.

  4. Combine your gorgeous, fluffy sabayon with the chocolate and butter.  Fold together (don’t stir!  Keep all that beautiful air in!) until just combined.  Gently pour into baked tart shell and place immediately in the 300F oven.  Bake for 10 minutes.  The surface will look dry and not starting to crack or soufflé (remove from oven at the first sign of this).  Tart can be cut with a hot, clean knife when still warm, or you can make the tart ahead, chill it, and cut it easily with that same warm, clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe between cuts if you don’t have a blowtorch!).  Then just heat slices for 4 minutes in a hot 375-400 oven. Though the texture is light, the flavor is really rich, so I like to serve the tart with some fresh berries, berry sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.

 

 

Blueberry-Lemon Scones: a recipe with photos

Fruit, Oat & Einkorn Scones

Makes 16 scones

Adapted from Linda Rondinone, Block Island, RI

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

In an industry which specializes in hot and crazy, you have to be pretty selective about your jobs.  It’s rare to stumble into a dream job: a kitchen with a window and a decent amount of work space, some amount of freedom to make what you want and a generous budget for ingredients, enough help to make it possible to do something above and beyond within a reasonable amount of hours…for a decent wage and lovely bosses! I had the good fortune to enjoy a few dream jobs before we created our own “chez nous,” more or less just the way that we wanted it to be.  So I couldn’t have been happier or more appreciative during the summer of 2000, to find myself working at the Atlantic Inn on Block Island for owners Brad and Anne Marthens and chef Ed Moon.

My job came with an assistant, a breakfast baker who wanted to do more on the dessert side, and in exchange for me making breakfast on her days off, she would apprentice with me on plated desserts and French baking techniques.  Linda became much more than an assistant, a great friend, a kindred spirit and a lively personality to work with every day.  (I’m fond of saying that there aren’t too many people that you wish to see at 5am every day, and Linda’s obsession with baking makes her just as happy and energetic to be up early and working as I am!).  After my sunrise-lit stroll up the hill to the elegant Victorian Inn, we’d spend our days baking and trading recipes, trying new things and becoming close friends.  While I was able to help her work croissants and pain au chocolat into the breakfast repertoire at the Inn, she introduced me to some fantastic American-style breakfast pastries which later became best-sellers when I eventually opened a bakery:  sticky buns, cinnamon buns, and the most addictive, buttery scones I’d ever tasted.

My chef in pastry school in London was adamant about spending some time on English pastries, including my beloved English scones.  He rightly stated that if you’re going to work in the industry as a pastry chef, you could easily end up at a job where you had to make scones every day, so “you’d jolly well better know how to do them correctly!”  Later, during my internship at the Churchill Intercontinental Hotel not far from the school, the daily scone-making task quickly fell to me, in fact, thanks to his effective teaching.

I love to make scones of every kind and every day, but for my own personal snacking it doesn’t get any better than Linda’s scones.  They don’t need jam or butter, they are sweet and satisfying just the way they are.  I’m happy to say that they are just as delicious or more made with Einkorn flour, but wheat flour works perfectly well.  I’ve done many variations:  blueberry-lemon, cranberry-orange, candied ginger, apple & cinnamon, banana-chocolate chip.  You can put the fruit of your choice and make the glaze to compliment it (a plain glaze with some buttermilk & powdered sugar is nice when you want something neutral).  This is one of the few places where baking intersects with cooking in the sense that you can go off on your own a bit, so enjoy it!

 

3 cups (430 g) Einkorn (or AP) flour

1 ½ c (138 g) quick-cooking oats

2/3 c (138 g)  sugar

1 T + 1 t (20 g) baking powder

¾ t (4 g) salt

2 sticks + 1 T cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 ½ c buttermilk, cold & well-shaken

1 ½ c wild Blueberries ( I prefer to use frozen berries here, as they keep the dough cold for longer while you’re working with it!)

 

-Preheat oven to 375F

-Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

-Work in stand mixer with flat beater, or in a large mixing bowl by hand.  Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl and whisk to combine well.  Add the cold butter and cut in until mixture resembles very coarse meal with only a few larger butter lumps (sometimes I use my fingers to flatten the cubes slightly, just don’t handle too much or you’ll warm up the butter with your fingers and your dough will be soft and harder to work with).

– Add the buttermilk all at once and mix a few times with a spatula or dough scraper.  Before dry ingredients are completely combined, add the fruit.  Finish the mixing all together (this way you avoid over-mixing), then scrape out onto a floured board or table.

– Working quickly, divide the mix into two equal masses and pat out (use flour as necessary to keep from sticking…this is messy!) into circles about 8 inches diameter and 1 1/2  inches high.  Cut each into 8 wedges and use a bench scraper or flat spatula to move onto the lined sheet trays, leaving at least 1 ½ inches between scones (they grow!).  Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely browned on the bottom (use a spatula to lift a middle one up to check).

-Meanwhile, make your glaze:

1 ½ c powdered sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

-Mix together and put aside until scones come out of the oven.  Add splash (literally) of water if it’s not a brush-able consistency.  Brush quickly onto warm scones to get a shiny, transparent glaze.

Scones keep at room temperature for a day, or can be frozen for up to 3 weeks, well-wrapped.

To improve your scone (& biscuit) making in general:  Pre-weigh dry ingredients and cube butter and store in the fridge the night before to make early morning scone satisfaction easy!

-Get trays lined and small equipment (spatulas, etc.) ready before you start, so you can work quickly while the dough is cold.  The warmer it gets, the messier the whole job becomes.

– Let cut scones rest on their trays in the fridge if possible, 10 or 15 minutes.  This allows for the grain to absorb the moisture more completely and the scones hold their shape better.  They’re still beautiful and delicious if you miss this step, but it’s nice if you can do it.

 

 

 

A Creamy Crab Gratin…

It really is hard to articulate exactly how incredibly intensely we worked in the kitchen at Le Gavroche in London.  At the time, it was kind of surreal to be constantly running, never having a sense of control over the job in front of you, never having had enough sleep that wasn’t ridden with dreams reenacting the job that you did or didn’t get done to your satisfaction during the day before.  There were about 16 of us in the kitchen, I never picked up my head long enough to get an exact count, and people did come and go at an alarming rate, but there was only one among us who seemingly had everything down.  Franck ran, sang, chatted and cooked all at the same time in that kitchen.  The chef would arrive, all of us with our heads down to our tables working at top speed, or slipping along the kitchen with something in our hands shouting “Chaud derrier!  Hot behind!” to no one in particular, even if what we were carrying happened to be cold.  And during this frantic prep time, only one person would be working away, chattering about this and that, making jokes, and that person was of course Franck. He had worked in this grueling kitchen already for 4 years, and been promoted sous-chef upon his re-appearance there in 1998, when he arrived from the States with me in tow to work as pastry chef.  The chef would lament, loudly, “ONE voice!  Why is it that I constantly only hear one voice in this place!” For anyone who knows Franck’s booming voice, you can understand what Chef Michel was remarking; there was only one person who could claim to really have his job down in that kitchen and to be loving every minute of it.

It was the kind of place where to not hear anything about your work was a good thing.  No comment meant that you were doing things properly, doing actually a good job though that was impossible to imagine.  I’d try to slide around and not be noticed as much as possible.  The fact that I was the then-girlfriend of the sous chef didn’t provide me any advantage, but my determination to get through the visa and the job alive definitely did, and hearing that voice on the other side of the kitchen provided a small degree of comfort.

Though there was little or no praise at Le Gavroche, when Franck’s birthday came around the Chef offered a generous gift for all of his hard work:  dinner for two at any Michelin-starred restaurant in London.  We chose Nobu.  It was the Chef’s favorite restaurant, and we were dying to go.  We entered the sleek, bright dining room tentatively and sat down for our meal at Nobu. We’d attempted to look as presentable as possible that night, but always alas had the feeling that we were on the wrong side of things, that we didn’t really belong at a table being served, and our minds couldn’t help reflecting on the hell that we knew the chefs in the kitchen at Nobu were going through at that moment to deliver our perfect dinners.  The hostess, however, didn’t have any idea that we were imposters, posing as deserving patrons in a gorgeous restaurant.  She treated us as warmly and helpfully as any real guests and suggested the best ways to approach the fantastic menu.  Half of our choices were made already, however, by Chef Michel’s recommendations.  First thing we knew we had to try:  the Crab Gratin.

 

From there it went on and on, Yellowtail Sashimi, Black Cod with Miso, the sushi – oh! the sushi — these dishes are iconic now and for good reason.  But you can’t imagine how good they tasted to two people as tired and hungry for some pampering as we were that night.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we play homage to it now on our menu with our variation on that delicious, creamy Crab Gratin:

Crab Gratin

Thanks have to go out to one of my pastry muses, in fact, the wonderful Rose Levy Berenbaum, who published Nobu’s recipe as a tart filling in  “The Pie and Pastry Bible,” and gave us a way to attempt a replica of this rich and delicious dish.

  • 1 lb Atlantic lump crab or Jonah crab meat, picked through for bits of shell
  • ½ c mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ T Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ c very finely chopped parsley
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • ½ red pepper, finely diced
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 ½ T lumpfish caviar
  1. Fold everything together and taste for seasoning.
  2. Sweat 2 leeks, finely sliced, in canola oil until melted, deglaze with splash of white wine, salt and pepper.
  3. Line gratin pan base with the leeks, top with the crab mixture and bake until browned and bubbling.

Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine…a Recipe

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

We make braised short ribs year-round here at the restaurant.  We have to; people just love them.  With olives and  peppers in the summer, with Ponzu Sauce in the fall,  it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, short ribs never seem to lose their appeal.

Short RibsH1

With our seasonal menu, we get to play on themes and variations constantly. In the winter, a classic preparation of short ribs in red wine, similar to a Boeuf Bourguignon, is usually the way to go.  Hearty and luscious, the tender short ribs and their rich red wine sauce goes a long way towards warming up a long, cold winter night.  Getting a good sear on the meat (hot pan, don’t crowd it too much, then remove the meat and much of the fat before continuing with the recipe) contributes so much to their flavor.  A splash of deep red-wine reduction finishes the sauce.

Braised Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine

Serves 4

4X 14 oz piece short ribs of beef (cut with 3 bones in each)

1-2 qt stock (we use house-made veal demi-glaze)

4 T  canola, or other plain, oil

-Season shortribs with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large, shallow pan and sear over high heat to brown on all sides. Make sure that you get a nice brown color everywhere; this is key to the flavor of the final dish. Don’t put too many pieces in at once or they will steam instead of brown.  When browned, remove the meat, remove the excess fat (pour off into a cup) then sauté the following vegetables in the same pan:

Short Ribs11 onion

1 carrot

1 stick celery

4 cloves garlic

2 juniper berry, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 branch thyme

1 branch rosemary

salt

pepper

splash of cognac or brandy

-When the vegetables are nicely browned, deglaze with 1 750 ml bottle red wine.  Return beef to pan and flambe with the spash of brandy,and then add the stock.  Make sure that the meat is completely covered with liquid, and cover it well by either cooking in a dutch oven or using a sheet of cooking parchment pressed down over the top of the beef to keep it submerged.  Slowly simmer over low heat or in a low oven until meat is tender, about 2 hrs.   Finish with red wine reduction to taste and some seasonal vegetables.

Short Ribs2 Short Ribs3 Short Ribs4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make red wine reduction, reduce to syrup:

1 750 ml bottle red wine

2 c port

1 c sugar

Winter vegetables: Caramelized pearl onion, carrot, mushroom, celery, rutabega

Short RibsH2