Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles

Tuiles are cookies that are molded when warm, to resemble roof tiles. The recipe provided this month (you can find it over at Bake My Day) was incredibly easy. I did not alter it in any way, except to use the batter immediately, rather than letting firm up in the fridge. I filled a pastry bag with batter and drizzled it out onto a greased cookie sheet:

These actually do need to be molded directly out of the oven. A cooling period of more than 10 to 15 seconds will result in a cookie too stiff, and likely to crack. I did find that placing the cookies back in the oven for a few seconds increased their malleability, but I would recommend baking only 3 or 4 tuiles at a time.

I chose to pair these cookies with a simple mousse, adapted from the filling for last month's Daring Bakers challenge. Light, easy, and tasty!

Maple Milk Chocolate Mousse

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/3 tsp. pancake or maple syrup (or, substitute corn syrup and a dash of maple extract)
8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

1. Heat 2/3 cup of the heavy cream until boiling.
2. Combine syrup and milk chocolate in a bowl. Pour boiling cream over. Wait 30 seconds, then stir.
3. Add remainder (1 1/3 cups) of the heavy cream. Stir again.
4. Allow mixture to cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then whip using a whisk or electric mixer.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some Books You Might Enjoy

One of my resolutions for 2009 is simply to keep a record of every book I read this year. I like to keep resolutions simple and easy to achieve! These are two recent food-related reads you might want to pick up.

Trail of Crumbs, by Kim Sunée, chronicles the author's abandonment at three years old in Korea, subsequent adoption by American parents, a childhood in New Orleans, and several adult years spent in various European locales. While I felt that Sunée failed to explore the depth of her feelings of being ostracized and homeless, and tended to skimp on dialogue, the images, emotions, and the sense of setting she creates are powerful. Most importantly, the emphasis on food in this memoir is indespensable. Almost every chapter is followed by a recipe. Her Louisiana days are filled with the Cajun masterpieces of her grandfather, school in Sweden evokes memories of warm winter dinners, her accounts of Paris cafes and luxurious, home-cooked meals in Provence define her time in France, and, in exploring her origins, she turns to Korean cuisine, fumbling through recipes with no heritage behind them.

The account ends abruptly, after several romances have died and Sunée feels a new chapter in her life has begun. As the author is only in her thirties, I find this more acceptable and less jarring than some readers. However, if you prefer resolutions, in any sense, this is a decidedly disappointing read.

Another, more inspiring food memoir is Diana Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava. Born to an American mother and a Jordanian father, Abu-Jaber spent her childhood in both countries, and details the influence these experiences, as well as her family members and friends from both cultures, had on her life, gastronomically and otherwise. As with Sunée's memoir, The Language of Baklava is punctuated with recipes, ranging across the culinary spectrum. I found I preferred this book, however, for its sense of family as it relates to food, a concept to which I find it infinitely easier to relate.

As a child, Abu-Jaber bakes with her Jordanian aunts, eats the meat her uncles have slaughtered, visits her midwesternly sensible American grandmother, and marvels at the many delights food has to offer. She battles with her father, whose traditional values and longing for Bedouin culture drive him to uproot Abu-Jaber and her family several times. There is a longing for home, for several cultures at once, for a place to call one's own, here, but unlike Sunée, Abu-Jaber finds peace in this tug-of-war, perhaps because she can concretely identify her roots. She somehow resolves, or at least comes to term with, the struggles of her youth and adolescence.

While the majority of my reading is fiction, I've found that lately I'm craving the truth that accompanies memoirs like these; the contents may be adapted to serve a purpose, but there is undisputable reality in the lives of these authors. Unless you're reading James Frey, I guess.

Anyway, I'll keep you updated on any other food memoirs (or other reads) I discover!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Get Thee to a Creperie

At the (previously reviewed) Paris Creperie, the amply pillowed benches, low prices, and tiny space create an atmosphere that is at once cozy and hip. However, the limited amount of seating does tend to make a casual diner feel rushed, and the turnover rate is high.

Since moving to Somerville, I have twice frequented Mr. Crepe in Davis Square. The first time, I was unimpressed. The prices were higher, the staff less welcoming, and I felt lost in the dining area, vast in comparison to Paris Creperie's.

However, the siren song of the really thin pancakes prevailed, and I returned to Mr. Crepe with a reluctant dining partner.

Reluctant?! You gasp with astonishment. Or, I did. My middle sister Anna is a vegetarian with a love of the familiar. This is a polite way of calling her picky and sheltered, which she is. She's staying with me for the month, an opportunity I intend to exploit to its fullest. I vowed to expand her tastes, at least slightly, by the end of January. We're starting it off small.

To Anna, a savory crepe appeared to be the equivalent of a wrap, which she loathes. I don't blame her, as I've always preferred hearty bread to the soggy timidness of the tortilla's bastard cousin. Sure, the wrap holds fillings in very efficiently, but it performs this duty with very little flavor, and tends to burst after the first bite.

At any rate, I explained to the disinclined herbivore that a crepe is nothing like a wrap. And I pushed her through the door of Mr. Crepe. I was aided in this endeavor by the contrast between the frigid winter air outside, and the invitingly warm pancake scent emanating from within.

We bought three crepes: basil, tomato, spinach and feta cheese (tangy and very filling); brie, apple, grape, and spinach (slightly sweet but surprisingly dinner-like) and one dessert crepe, filled with belgian chocolate, strawberries, bananas, and served with two giant scoops of vanilla ice cream. As soon as we collected the dishes, we realized our mistake. While we consumed the savory crepes, the ice cream accompanying our dessert slowly melted. We eventually elected to switch back and forth!

Mr. Crepe has a large dining area, a paid wireless connection, and bathrooms. They also serve coffee, espresso, ice cream, and soup. Although the selection of crepes is small, there are many options for a vegetarian (which I am, most of the time) and they do allow some customization. The crepes are larger than others I've eaten, which makes the higher prices (from 5 to 9 dollars each) less irritating. Additionally, I revoke my comment about the staff: I spilled some water by the garbage as I was preparing to leave, and the employees graciously declined my offer to clean it up myself.

Yes, something like this happens every time I eat out. Yesterday I dumped a mocha latte all over myself in the hair care aisle of CVS. I had to walk all the way home with my white tights transformed into cow print.

Anyway, I heartily recommend Mr. Crepe!

51 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144
Phone: (617) 623-0661