Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sweet Reflection

It has taken me almost a week to write this post. I think everytime I sat down to write it, I had so many thoughts that it was difficult to organize them. Another thought was that writing this post meant that, yes, indeed my time in Paris has come to an end. I have hundreds of photos and just as many memories and stories from my time here. Some of these may surface after I return to the US. But for now............

They say time flies when you are having fun. I've had a lot of fun during my 2 short months here in Paris. Thankfully, thinking back on it, I don't have the feeling of "where did the time go?" As I recount the desserts, the meals, the trips and all the experiences, I feel like I made good use of my time here (though I wish I had managed to take some language courses). I remember my first day in the cafe and feeling overwhelmed and unsure about being able to understand everyone. I boiled over a saucepan of fruit juice I was trying to reduce on the induction cook top. It made a great sticky mess and I was very embarrassed. Not only did I need to learn the language....there were many other things for me to learn as well.

Wednesday was my last day of work at Le Cafe du Commerce. I'm amazed at how much I did, and how many desserts I made. Mostly, I am grateful. I can't say it enough how fortunate I have been to come to Paris, to work with such great people and to make good friends. I am thankful for the kindness that was shown me. This is an experience that will always be with me.

The Wonderful Owners of Le Cafe du Commerce and Me

For my last day, I made one last Tiramisu for the dessert du jour; this one with pears. Business is picking up at the cafe after the summer holiday lull. Working with Mme. Guerraud, we made 50 glasses filled with lady fingers soaked in espresso and Amarreto liqour, topped with a light and fluffy mascarpone mixture, fine diced pears, and a generous dusting of cocoa powder. I hoped with 50 glasses, some would be remaining by the time I returned that evening with friends to have dinner. I asked twice that evening if any was remaining just to make sure, but no they had all been served at lunch. I guess it was good.

Pear Tiramisu

Leaving Paris, is leaving a way of life I have come to know and enjoy in the past two months. Walking to work each day, climbing the stairs to the pastry kitchen each morning, the routines of preparing the regular desserts, having lunch with the staff before the cafe opened. I'll miss the Fruiterie next door. I won't forget the day I dropped my barquette of raspberries and they splattered all over the sidewalk. The man at the counter kindly gave me another one. While I did not develop the taste for strong Camembert and St. Marcellin cheese, I will miss Pate, Rillettes and Cornichons. It will be strange going to the grocery in the US. No more bottles of Creme Anglais, tubs of Taboule, lots of saucisson, and the yogurt aisle alone will be sorely missed. I will really miss Poupart-Picquet, the boulangerie/patisserie on Blvd de Grenelle. The morning I had the still-warm-from-the-oven pain au chocolate is burned into my memory and tastebuds. The list goes on and on.

I remember telling Romain that sometimes I needed to be a little bit American, even though I understood many of the French customs. To my American friends: I may need to act little bit French when I return.

Hanging up my Coat at Le Cafe du Commerce

What is next? is the big question on my mind. I return to Boston in 2 short days, and start school the following week. Prepare for more late night posts from a chocolate covered and overly sugared Jenni. Then challenge now is to make sure the second half of my schooling does not fly by, to look for opportunities to gain more work experience, and really push myself creatively. Oh, and to continue to learn French.

A bientot!

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's not all about Pastry.....

Soy Ginger Glazed Salmon with Oven Roasted Green Beans

My undying love and passion for pastry is obvious, at least I think it is. However my time here in Paris has not just been spent sweating in the pastry kitchen at Cafe du Commerce, I've been doing a little cooking on the side. Ok, a lot of cooking. Several dinner parties have been held at Chez Romain over the past two months, featuring the works of Chef Moi. On nights when I am not going out to dine on yummy French food, I can be found in the tiny apartment kitchen, listening to music from my itunes, and cooking dinner for Romain and myself.

Paris has not just inspired dessert ideas. I visit the grocery store several times a week and also frequent the Fruiterie next to the Cafe. I go on a lot for dessert ideas and end up bookmarking just as many entries for savory meals as I do desserts. I find myself thinking so many ideas/recipes, but just so little time. Some of our dinners here have featured: Quiche Lorraine, Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, Hand made Pizza, Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Carrots, Pan Seared Steaks, Veggie Fajitas, Omlettes with Mushroom, Cheese and Tomato, Cod with Lemon Caper Sauce, Salmon with Creamy Cabbage, Macaroni with Chedder and Gruyere Sauce, Stuffed Zucchini, Carbonnade Flamande, Soy Ginger Glazed Salmon, and lots of refreshing salads, fresh veggies and fruit. Some how I have managed not to gain any extra weight being here.

The Round Zucchini

One day as I was visiting the Monoprix, I saw these funny little round zucchinis. I had never seen them before and immediately I wanted to buy them and make stuffed zucchini for dinner. I bought two along with some mushrooms, spinach, and shallots. At home, I hollowed them out with a spoon, sauteed the shallots, mushrooms, spinach, the interior of the zucchinis and then added some shredded emmenthal, halved cherry tomatoes and some seasonings. I filled each zucchini to the top with the filling, placed them in a baking dish with an inch of water around them and baked them for about 40mins till soft. When I presented them for dinner, Romain asked, "they don't have any meat in them?" He seemed a little unsure about them. We sat down to dinner and he finished his before I finished mine. I guess he liked it.

Baked, Stuffed Zucchini

And then back to pastry.......

Quentin left for vacation last week, and Mme Guerraud returned this week. I've been having a wonderful time working with Marie in the pastry kitchen. We made some nice desserts this week for the dessert du jour. On Wednesday we served Chocolate Glace Croquante. It was a recipe Quentin and I had tested, but did not win approval for from Olivier. When I told Marie about it, she wanted to try it out. It is a simple recipe that makes a frozen, mousse like chocolate ice cream, but without the ice cream maker. The Croquante, or crunch, comes from pepites (bits of chocolate), or from crumbled up cookies that are stirred in before it is frozen. We decided on cookies, and I made an espresso shortbread cookie exactly for this purpose.

Espresso Shortbread Cookies

The recipe starts with cooking egg yolks and sugar over a bain-marie, the egg mixture is then cooled and melted chocolate is stirred in. Then whipped cream is folded in. The crushed cookies are added last. We piped the mousse like mixture into small custard dishes and placed them in the freezer to set overnight. The next day the dessert was like a light, creamy and very rich ice cream, punctuated with bits of buttery, espresso flavored cookie bits and small flecks of dark chocolate. It was very good.

Chocolate Glace Croquante
(Crunchy Chocolate Ice cream)

Although it was my last Friday at the cafe, (my final work day is next Wednesday), I am very much looking forward to this weekend. Tomorrow morning Romain and I are headed to Reims. If you don't understand the significance of this trip, go take a look at the label on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Reims, along with being a historic city in France, is the capital of the Champagne region, and the hometown of many Champagne Houses....Veuve being one of them. So far we have visits scheduled for Veuve Clicquot, Tattinger and possibly Ruinart. I can't think of a better way to spend one of my last weekends in France.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Moelleux Remix

Orange Moelleux Test 1

Look out Mayonnaise, I might have a new summer obsession; but if you have taken the time and tried the Moelleux au Chocolate recipe, (as I have suggested) you might understand why I am so taken with this dessert. The cafe staff seems to be just as charmed because it was requested by Olivier (Quentin's supervisor) as the dessert du jour for yesterday.

When I arrived in the kitchen yesterday, Quentin was busy slicing orange supremes.
"Q'est que c'est pour.....?" I asked. He then explained that Olivier wanted us to put slices of orange in the middle of the Moelleux before we baked them. We tested one out and were satisfied with the results. Apparently Olivier was also; Quentin said his only word when tasting the "test" Moelleux, was WOW. We then prepared a nice Creme Anglaise and an Orange sauce to serve with the Moelleux. Adding orange slices to the Moelluex got me thinking about other additions I could make. Cherries? Spices? Caramel? Not only is this recipe simple and amazingly delicious, but it's turning out to be quite versatile also. I hope you are not tired of hearing about the Moelleux because chances are, it will be back again, just in a different form.

My time is slowly winding down at the Cafe. My flight to Boston leaves Paris on September 2nd. I will work for the Cafe for another week or two and then take a few days to enjoy some time to myself in the city before I have to say goodbye. A few more patisseries and chocolate shops I need to visit. Surprisingly, I have not been back to Pierre Herme since I've been here this summer, and I love his Macarons. I'm sure there are some new and inventive flavors to be discovered. I might just have to take a trip there this weekend. So no worries, there are still a few more blog posts to be written from Paris.

Orange Supreme Moelleux

P.S. the link for the recipe is Here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Building of a Tart

Start of the Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart

People often ask me what my favorite dessert to make is. I actually have to stop and think about it. There are so many choices, but I suppose I would have to say Tarts. I love the simplicity of them, but also the flexibility. Tarts allow for almost unlimited flavor combinations and can be made as a large tart to be cut into many servings, or my favorite- little individual sized ones.

This week I was searching for more ideas for the daily dessert du jour at the cafe. I scanned a few of my favorite blogs for inspiration, while running a mental cross check with ingredients available to me at the cafe. We have made a few tarts so far, but they have been rather standard. Apricot tart, Pear Tartlette, and Flan Patisserier. So when I found the recipe for the Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart on Tartine Gourmand's Blog, I decided this would be a good way to change up the tart for the dessert du jour.

Chocolate Pate Sucree

The Baked Shells

A Little Bit of Custard

I made a few changes to the recipe to suit my tastes and needs. The original Chocolate Pate Sucrée was gluten free, so for anyone with a Gluten intolerance wanting a chocolate crust, I highly recommend Tartine's recipe. When it was presented to the chef at the cafe for tasting, it received immediate approval for dessert du jour. To add a little color, I stuck a piece of Valrhona Dark Chocolate into the custard and sprinkled some chopped pistachios on top. Voila!
I think it may be my new favorite tart.

My Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

French Holiday

It is August now, the month when Paris beomes nothing but tourist because the majority of French people take their summer holiday and escape the city. I too have taken some holiday his week as well and am visiting the lovely nothern city of Lille. I am without my computer, but of course not without my camera. I will return next week with photos and stories to share.

A bientot