Paul’s baguette makes elegant bread pudding

lemon poopyseed bread pudding made with baguette from Paul The poppyseed baguettes from the Paul boulangerie (see previous post) are a taste treat unto themselves. But like all great French bread, they are best the day they’re baked. We decided that the logical thing to do with stale poppyseed bread would be to make lemon poppyseed bread pudding. The custard does not have any strong additional flavoring (like vanilla extract) and we didn’t make a heavy sweet sauce to go on top. Compared to most American bread pudding recipes, this one is almost austere. The dish is really all about the toasted nuttiness of the poppyseeds, the aromatic freshness of the lemon, and the delicious wheatiness of the bread.

LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD PUDDING


Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients preparing poopyseed baguette for bread pudding

1 tablespoon butter
6 cups (375 grams) 3/4-inch cubes of day-old poppyseed baguette
4 large eggs
1/2 cup (125 grams) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 1/2 cups whole milk
confectioner’s sugar for serving

Directions

1. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Spread bread cubes in it. Add the poppyseeds and crumbs from cutting up the bread.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add milk and mix well. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand, pressing down on bread occasionally, for at least 20 minutes or until bread is saturated.

3. While bread soaks, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Have a large shallow roasting pan ready.

4. Place bread pudding pan inside roasting pan. Add very hot water to come about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. (Do not overfill, as bubbling water can flood the dish.)

5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean, roughly 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

26

11 2014

Paul brings real French bread to Boston

French bread - Nicolas Gautier of Maison Paul Boulangerie, Boston We’ve been known to drive from Boston to Montreal to get our fix of good bread, but even the Quebecois can’t make a baguette like the French can. Neither can we, and we frankly gave up trying years ago. Now we don’t have to. Whenever we get a jones for French bread, Maison Paul is now a 15-minute drive away. The famed French boulangerie began in Croix, near Lille, in the north of France in 1889. Some 125 years later, it has 600 locations around the world, with several spots in the Miami and D.C. metro areas, and now in Boston. On Friday, November 21, Paul started serving at Assembly Row in Somerville. The local flagship is opening in Boston’s Downtown Crossing in January.

French bread loaves baking at Paul in Somerville There are a lot of reasons why Paul’s baguette is so good (and so French, which is sort of the same thing). First, it is made with T65 flour, which is hard to find in the U.S., although King Arthur sells it in three-pound bags for $9.95. T65 is flour made with wheat that retains 65 percent of the chaff and germ. The protein content is rather low for bread flour (about 10-11 percent) but since the dough is proofed under refrigeration for nine hours or more, it develops very complex flavors and a stretchy texture. Second, it’s cooked in steam-injection ovens, which keeps the crumb moist while ensuring a perfect glaze on the skin of the loaf.

MaisonPaul3 Paul uses huge mixers with spinning arms that lift and stretch to mix the dough. But chef baker Nicolas Gautier (above), who will oversee all the Boston bakeries, and Thomas Crombez (a chef baker from Paris shown at right here) gave us a quick lesson in making baguettes by hand. In the tiny kitchen of the Somerville shop, they had us spill 500 grams of flour onto a wooden counter and measure out 300 grams of water. We used a little water to dissolve 10 grams of cake yeast in a cup, and 10 grams of salt in a separate cup. (Put salt and yeast together and the yeast will die.)

French bread dough cut into loaves at Maison Paul in Somerville We made a well in the middle of the flour pile and poured in half the remaining water. We mixed by hand, made another well, and added the rest of the water. When that was absorbed, we made a well in the center again and incorporated the dissolved yeast. As the dough began to develop, hand-blending turned to rough kneading. Finally we added the salty water and kneaded until the loaf was smooth and elastic and had the texture of an earlobe. This dough ball was set aside to proof (rise). It was enough to make almost three baguettes, each about 18 inches long (45cm, to be exact).

Thomas Crombez and Nicolas Gautier remove baguetts from oven at Masion Paul in Somerville The Paul bakeries proof their dough in trays and use an ingenious pneumatic dough divider to measure each baguette to a precise size, producing 10 baguettes per tray. (Before cutting, some trays are covered with poppy seeds on each side.) Each baguette is placed on a rolling cloth, five to an oven, and scored with a sharp knife to create the release points for extra steam. If you want to get fancy, you can use kitchen shears and snip alternating diagonals, then lift and twist the tips to create “ears.” (It’s a good technique for people who like lots of crust.)

French bread shows perfect crumb at Maison Paul in Somerville We then rolled the baguettes into preheated ovens (250°C, or 480°F) and cooked them for 22 minutes (21 minutes for loaves cut with ears to avoid burning the tips). To confirm that they’re done, Gautier explained, turn a loaf over and tap the bottom. It should sound hollow. Crombez carefully sliced a loaf in half lengthwise so we could see the honeycomb texture of the crumb—and observe that it gummed up if you don’t wait for the bread to cool a little before cutting. It was perfect, even before he brought out some French butter.

We brought several loaves home, enjoyed one with beef stew, gave some away, and found ourselves with leftover poppyseed baguettes. See our next post for our take on Lemon Poppyseed Bread Pudding.

21

11 2014

It’s always Thanksgiving at Hart’s

Hart's Turkey Farm story in Boston Globe The motto at Hart’s Turkey Farm is that “every day is Thanksgiving” at this family-dining fixture in Meredith, New Hampshire, on the west side of Lake Winnipesaukee. Truth is, the busiest days of the fall season are already over — the place was jammed over Columbus Day weekend. But they’re gearing up for the onslaught of diners (probably around 1,600) on Thanksgiving Day.

On a busy day, Hart’s serves more than a ton of turkey and 40 gallons of gravy. Most diners choose the turkey plate with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a choice of vegetable and potato. It is available in three serving sizes with either all white meat, or a mixture of white and dark meat. The jumbo plate can even be ordered with a spare plate for sharing.

We had fun writing about the Granite State fixture for the Boston Globe and hope you click your way over to read all about it. If you’re planning on visiting on Thanksgiving Day, be prepared for a wait of around 45 minutes. You can sit outdoors in the tented beer garden, watching TV until you’re called–almost just like home.

19

11 2014

Yucatan tortilla soup goes bright with limes

tortilla soup with lime We thought we might be done adding versions of tortilla soup to our repertoire after our encounter with Loteria Grill at LAX, but then Cancun’s tourism office sent us a batch of recipes that included a classic sopa de lima, or “lime soup” and we headed back into the kitchen to perfect our own version of this chicken tortilla soup with a heavy dose of vegetables and tart lime juice. It’s definitely Mexican comfort food, but with a Yucatecan accent. We tweaked the traditional recipe to trim some of the fat and emphasize the fresh flavors.

SOPA DE LIMA YUCATECA
Serves 6-8

In the traditional preparation of this dish, the tortilla strips are fried in vegetable oil until brown. We prefer the cleaner corn flavor you get by toasting them in the oven, which also saves a lot of calories. The recipe calls for Mexican oregano (also known as marjoram), but Italian oregano can be substituted for a more herbaceous flavor.

Ingredients

8 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 large serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 green onions, finely chopped
3 limes, juiced (about 1/3 cup)
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions

1. Set oven to 375°F. Cut the tortillas into 1/4-inch strips. Place on narrow mesh cooling racks and set racks in middle of preheated oven. Bake 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove immediately and turn out on counter to cool. Depending on oven and rack size, you may have to toast chips in batches. Set toasted chips aside.

2. Place oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion, celery, carrot, and serrano pepper. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf and Mexican oregano and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomato and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomato is softened and has released its liquid and the mixture is nearly dry (4 to 5 minutes).

3. Add the chicken stock and chicken breasts and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until the chicken is just cooked through (12-15 minutes). Remove chicken from the soup and set aside until cool enough to handle. Allow soup to continue simmering.

4. When the chicken has cooled a bit, shred into bite-size pieces and return to the pot along with the green onions and lime juice. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through and the soup is piping hot. Season the soup to taste with salt and ladle the soup into wide soup bowls, with a handful of tortilla strips added to each bowl. Garnish with the avocado and cilantro and serve immediately.

11

11 2014

Summit cocktail gives Cognac real sass

Yoann Saillard mixes Cognac Summit cocktails I was surprised to learn at the Camus Cognac House that the French are rather tepid Cognac drinkers. Sales in France account for only a paltry 3 percent of the brand’s market. (America, by the way, is the leader, followed by Russia and Asia.)

Perhaps that Gallic lack of enthusiasm spurred the Cognac trade association to assemble mixologists to devise new cognac cocktails that might give the storied brandy a modern edge. One such concoction, the Cognac Summit, appears to have caught on and a great place to try it is at the Bar Louise at the Hôtel François Premier Cognac Centre. It occupies a gorgeous, newly renovated old building right in the heart of town.

Young mixologist Yoann Saillard (above) hails from Normandy and knows that region’s signature Calvados apple brandy well. But he has become a big fan of Cognac. “It’s a most interesting spirit,” he said. “It has all the complexity of wine. Lots of people drink it on its own.” Saillard, however, is a showman at heart and mixing cocktails is his thing. For the Cognac Summit he prefers VSOP, which has at least four years of aging. “This cocktail respects the Cognac,” he told me as he sliced ginger and limes and muddled them with the spirit in a chilled water glass. “All the flavors are equal.”

The resulting drink is refreshing and bright, with a peppery sass from the ginger, a fruity tartness from the lime, and bubbly effervescence from the soda. Here is Saillard’s version of the simple, soon-to-be classic Cognac Summit. He uses Fever-Tree Sparkling Lemon but Sprite makes a good substitute here in the U.S.

Cognac Summit cocktailCOGNAC SUMMIT

Makes one serving

Ingredients

3-4 large slices of fresh ginger
slice of lime
1 shot (40 ml) Cognac
sparkling lemon soda
cucumber peel for garnish.

Directions

Muddle the lime, ginger, and Cognac in a chilled water glass.

Add ice to fill.

Top with lemon drink.

Garnish with cucumber peel and serve with a straw.

03

11 2014

Learning to blend Cognac at Camus

Cognac grape vines “You cannot make a mistake,” Frederic Dezauzier assured my small group as we filed into a blending workshop at the Camus Cognac house. We must have looked intimidated by the sparkling clean room and the array of beakers and flasks waiting for us on an orderly workbench. I pushed memories of high school chemistry class out of my mind and concentrated on the four small glasses of amber liquid at each work station. “The best cognac is the cognac you prefer,” the former cellar master and global brand ambassador told us with a smile.

Founded in 1863, Camus is the largest Cognac house still in family hands. On a quick tour en route to the blending room, I learned that Ugni-Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche are the three white grapes (above) most commonly used in making Cognac and that they grow in the abundantly sunny rolling hills surrounding the town of Cognac here in the Poitou-Charentes region of southwestern France. cognac copper alembics at Camus To intensify the grape flavor, wine from the grapes is double distilled in traditional red copper alembics (right). Each distillation concentrates the flavors into only one-third of the original volume of liquid.

Although it’s often said that wine is made in the vineyard, Cognac is truly a product of the blending room. Each bottle has a mix of different grapes and different vintages artfully combined by a cellar master with a refined sense of smell and taste and years of experience. Nothing to be intimidated about here.

Frederic Dezauzier in blending room at Camus For our workshop, Dezauzier (left) had selected four XO Cognacs from grapes grown in four of the six zones strictly delimited for Cognac production. Together they make up the Cognac AOC, which stands for appelation d’orgine contrôlée, or “controlled area of origin.” Each distillate had been aged from 6 to 18 years and I felt a little more confident knowing that we had such good spirits to start with.

Dezauzier instructed us to first sniff and then sip each of our choices and to compare them to each other as we made our way down the line of glasses. Each was surprisingly different and Dezauzier described them with unpretentious good humor. The slightly salty yet sweet Fins Bois, he said, “was like a teenager, very enthusiastic and with a good body.” The delicate Borderies had a feminine quality and a floral hint of violets. More acid than the first two, Petite Champagne required longer aging to smooth out its masculine cedar aroma, which Dezauzier likened to a cigar box. Dezauzier was careful to be impartial, but I sensed that his heart belonged to the spicy Grande Champagne, which had been aged the longest and was redolent of cinnamon, dried fruit, and toasted almond.

labeling my own cognac blendIn the end I decided on a little gender blending. I took my beaker to the large barrels in one corner of the room and released the spigot to mix 200 ml of Petite Champagne with 300 ml of Borderies. Using a funnel, I poured my blend into my bottle. Each formula was duly noted in the Camus record book. I’ve yet to taste my bottle (which fortunately survived the flight home in my checked luggage), but I may have to amend Dezauzier’s pronouncement: The best cognac may be the one you make yourself.

For information on tours, tastings, and the Master Blender Workshop see www.camus.fr.

31

10 2014

Chocolate around the clock in Madrid

late-night chocolate in Madrid
Chocolate seems to have its “day” several times a year, with October 28 being named as National Chocolate Day, courtesy of the National Confectioners Association (“Making Life Sweeter Since 1884”).

Pouring chocolate in MadridTruthfully, we think chocolate is worthy of international celebration. Our favorite place for hot chocolate, especially during what Spaniards call the “madrugada” (between midnight and dawn) is Madrid’s Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo San Ginés 5; tel 91-365-6546; www.chocolateriasangines.com). Here’s what we have to say about it in our new edition of Frommer’s Spain:

“At some point, all of Madrid comes into Chocolatería San Ginés for a cup of the almost fudgy hot chocolate and the fried dough sticks known as churros. When the music stops in the wee hours of the morning, disco queens from Joy Eslava next door pop in for a cup [see above], and later on, before they head to the office, bankers in three-piece suits order breakfast. There’s sugar spilled everywhere on the tables, yet the marble counters are an impeccable tableau of cups lined up with the handles all facing at the same angle and a tiny spoon on each saucer. Dipping the sugar-dusted churros into the hot chocolate is de rigeur, and, yes, it’s OK to have the snack in the afternoon.”

FYI, Chocolatería San Ginés closes briefly in the early morning for cleaning. Cash only.

28

10 2014

TWL: Prosecco lifestyle at Villa Sandi

prosecco villa sandi Villa Sandi (Via Erizzo 112, Crocetta del Montello; +39-0423-665-033; www.villasandi.it) is one of the most striking producers of both Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOCG wines. The winery’s headquarters and cellars sit amid formal gardens in a verdant landscape. The property resembles a fairytale version of how a distinguished Italian winery should look.

prosecco villa sandi Nestled into the hills of the Marca Trevigiana about 25 kilometers northwest of Treviso, the estate borders the Piave river. The cellars once had a passageway that led to the riverbank, which Italian soldiers used to move surreptitiously during World War I. The villa itself, pictured above, is a splendid example of Palladian architecture built in 1622. It is a real period piece, with several rooms maintained in high 17th-century style, complete with Murano glass chandeliers and furniture with intricate marquetry. Not surprisingly, Villa Sandi serves as a venue for a number of important wine events in northern Italy, including courses for sommeliers and a regular lecture series.

prosecco villa sandi The cellars are somewhat newer than the villa. The oldest section dates from about 1700, and the full 1.5km extent of the passageways was finished in the 20th century. The cellar walls are all lined with brick and the barrels sit on beds of gravel to ensure good drainage and air circulation. Tours of the villa and cellars can be arranged Mondays-Saturdays by calling the main number (+39-0423-665-033) or by email to info@villasandi.it. Tours are available in Italian or English.

prosecco villa sandi Villa Sandi is owned by the Moretti Polegato family, and the aristocratic Giancarlo Moretti Polegato serves as the company’s president. (His brother, Mario, is the founder and president of Geox shoes, in case you were wondering how well the family manages.) For travelers who wish to stay in the immediate area, the winery also owns a rustic country house, Locanda Sandi, about 10km away (Loc. Zecchei, Via Tessere 1, Valdobbiadene; +39-0423-976-239; www.locandasandi.it). There are just six simply-finished rooms. The one single room costs €60, the five double rooms are €85 each. The Locanda also has a superb restaurant that seats 70, with an additional 100 seats on the outdoor terrace in the summer. Open Friday-Tuesday for lunch and dinner, it serves traditional local dishes of the Veneto—and the wines of Villa Sandi. Figure on €25 per person for a modest three-course meal with wine.

Villa Sandi Prosecco

prosecco villa sandi Villa Sandi straddles the Valdobbiadene DOCG region and the Montello and Piave DOC wine regions. Moreover, the company owns 4 hectares in the highly prized Cartizze cru of Valdobbiadene. To give an idea of the significance of that plot, Cartizze has only a total of 107 hectares divided among 140 producers. Although the company makes a number of still wines, the core of its production consists of Prosecco, including nine different spumantes and two frizzantes. Just to confuse things, Villa Sandi also makes a limited number of sparkling wines from chardonnay and pinot nero using the “classico” method (i.e., in-bottle secondary fermentation in the manner of Champagne).

prosecco villa sandi I can’t say I tasted them all, but I was struck by the complexity and depth of the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato, and the sheer quaffability of the Prosecco DOC Treviso. Judging by the smile on his face when we sat down to lunch, Giancarlo was pretty happy with the Millesimato as well.

25

10 2014

Harvesting sea salt on France’s Île de Ré

sea salt Sea salt may be hot, but it’s hardly new. Since the 12th century, the “sauniers” on the Île de Ré have been literally raking it in. These days about 85 members of the Cooperative of the Sauniers of Île de Ré use the same traditional methods to harvest more than 2,600 tons of salt each summer. With its long, sunny days and mild breezes, this island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle has the perfect conditions for salt production, according to Hervé Rault, who learned the craft from his grandfather. Rault (pictured above) also has a steady job maintaining the dikes and marshes, but harvesting salt is his passion. “I do this after my other work,” he says, “just for fun.

coarse sea salt The whole process takes only two or three days, he explains as he leads a small group on a tour of his salt marsh plot. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Rault begins by opening a small stone dam to allow sea water to enter a reservoir big enough to hold about a three weeks’ supply. From there, water is pumped into a second reservoir until it is filled to about 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). To speed evaporation, the water circulates constantly and is eventually pumped into a third reservoir. By this point, the ever-diminishing water is only about 1 cm (0.4 inches) deep.

sea salt Rault uses a very long-handled wooden rake to bend into the harvest. He pushes away the shallow water to uncover the coarse gray grains that have formed on the clay bottom. Then he quickly grabs a shorter-handled rake with drain holes to pull them into little piles along the shore. The coarse salt is the bulk of the harvest. Like all sauniers, Rault keeps an eye out for finer grains that form on the surface of the water so that he can gently skim them off with a fine-mesh basket on a long pole.

 Île de Ré sea salt Rault recommends using the coarse salt for cooking while reserving the more delicate fleur de sel for use on the table. The natural Île de Ré salt has a pronounced minerality and the suggestion of a slightly toasted flavor. It definitely brings out the sweetness of the luscious melons and tomatoes that are happily in season during the salt harvest. Sea salt is sold all over the Île de Ré. The sauniers cooperative (Route de la Prée, outside the village of Ars-en-Ré) sells both gray salt and fleur de sel direct to the public along with a “pebble” of gray salt ready to be added to one liter (just over a quart) of cooking water.

20

10 2014

TWL: Prosecco over the line in Friuli

San Simone welcome2 The most rarefied Prosecco may come from the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, as suggested in an earlier post but some superb examples also come from the plains and river valleys eastward toward Pordenone in Friuli. It may be an entirely different political region from the Veneto, yet it’s less than 40 km (25 miles) from Conegliano.

Maglio 1Driving east on the A28, it’s even worth taking a 15-minute detour to the village of Francenigo to see the historic power-hammer smithy — the Maglio di Francenigo — that’s one of the last touchstones of the agricultural heritage. The Pessot family started making tools to till the fields and vineyards, using water power from a falls on the Livenza River to raise and lower the power hammer on the anvil. The smithy was converted into a museum in 2000, and during the summer tourist season, someone is usually around on weekends to demonstrate the forge and mill-wheel powered hammer. During my visit, it was the august 74-year-old Beppe Pessot, who started work at the smithy at age 14, and is seen here at the forge. Nowadays the museum makes a few fireplace tools and other simple fabrications for sale as souvenirs.

Prosecco at San Simone di Brisotto

Seeing the industrial roots of farming in this bucolic landscape was a reminder that however idyllic and rustic the vineyards and farms might seem, there’s a lot of hard and dirty work behind that green facade. My visit to Francenigo was a stopover en route to a glamorous Prosecco house, San Simone di Brisotto (Via Prata 30, Porcia; +39 0434-578-633, www.sansimone.it). Located at the far western edge of DOC Friuli Grave and in the heart of the Prosecco DOC region, San Simone can (and does) make a number of excellent DOC wines. They also manage to make those wines in about as green a fashion as possible. (Antifungals and sulfur have their place in even organic practices.) San Simone is operated by three siblings—Chiara, Anna, and Antonio—who represent the family’s fourth generation in the business. (Anna Brisotto is at the top of this post at the entrance to the estate.)

millesimato bottle2 San Simone makes four different Prosecco DOC frizzante wines (lower alcohol, less carbonation) as well as brut and extra brut versions of Prosecco DOC spumantes, and a Millesimato (single vineyard) brut Prosecco DOC (Perlae Naonis) that is one of the most complex examples of Prosecco DOC brut that I drank during my travels in the region. It was creamy on the palate (great mouth feel), fruity on the nose, with just a hint of toasted almonds in the aftertaste. The acidity gave the wine a real freshness yet enabled it to hold up to a small feast prepared by the winery’s cook staff.

That included, as pictured below, some frico (Montasio cheese grilled until crisp), a fresh asparagus salad with quail eggs, a shrimp risotto, and cheese ravioli in a Prosecco sauce.

san simone food

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10 2014