Sunday, September 27, 2009

Roi de Saba

Ever since I found David Lebovitz' blog and saw the movie Julie Julia, I have been making chocolate cake after chocolate cake. Anyone who is invited to dinner or who invites me to dinner gets a new version of the Reine de Saba cake (Julia) or the Rags to Riches chocolate cake (David). I have tweaked (not to be confused with tweeted) each recipe more than I care to admit as I get closer and closer to finding my own place in the chocolate cake kingdom.

Last week we were invited to dinner in Los Gatos at the home of our close friends Brian and Thierry. The stars were lined up perfectly that evening as we dined outside in the most beautifully "potscaped" terrace one can imagine. As ivy tendrils swept down across the bench on one side of the table splashes of light illuminated the other and we dined in the quiet harmony of this special garden. The menu demanded the best of the season's bounty and we savored each plate. I wondered what might be for dessert, feeling a bit bad that I hadn't offered to bring anything. I checked the kitchen counters with no clue to be found... Hmm. We cleared the dishes and reseated ourselves. And then, Thierry swept out the door and into our line of vision with the most beautiful chocolate cake that he had made! The Reine de Saba! He said that all my chocolate cakes had inspired him to make his own. With that we devoured the most moist, almond flavored chocolate cake ever! What a generous gift!
I hereby crown him the Roi de Saba!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ease the Pain Caramels

I was in the Hayes Valley in San Francisco with my daughter last week for quick get-away moment together. In some ways, the Hayes reminds me of the Marais in Paris but on a smaller scale. It is still a bit rough around the edges, but there are so many "jewels" emerging along the street. One of them is the chocolatier, Christopher Elbow. We wanted to buy the $75 "sample all of our chocolates" box, but we stopped ourselves at the fleur de sel caramel turtles. I chose dark chocolate and she the milk. Wow! What a find! We bought some of the high percentage chocolate bars to get the real feeling of his chocolate and vowed to return soon.

Camille has returned to Scotland and I have turned to my memories of a great summer together...
Life-- a slow stir, then bubbling to the top in moments that are unforgettable. Our loved ones, near and dear, laughter, tears and talk....It all goes so fast! And then it's time to say goodbye for now... How to ease the pain? Fleur de Sel Caramel Turtles~

Basic Fleur de Sel Caramels
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3-4 quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248F on thermometer, 10-15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1 inch pieces , then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mastering the Art of Living!

Boeuf Bourguignon, Ile flottante, Reine de Saba....oh my! Like many people around the world, I have been inspired by Julia Child. I want to create, I want to learn and I want to Master the Art of French Cooking. Well, it began one Sunday morning. We sat around our old farm table eating breakfast and began discussing dinner. Discussing the next meal while enjoying another is very French, so we felt we were on the right track! We decided to attempt the Boeuf Bourguignon and the Ile Flottante . We read the recipes out loud, reread them to ourselves, and then assigned posts in the kitchen. We were three musketeers, one for all and all for one; but we had high expectations, strong wills, and hot heads! Mind you the oven hadn't even been turned on and we were already on fire! Attitudes had to readjust, temperatures had to be turned down and we all had to remember the purpose of our project. Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia! We worked beautifully for hours making sure that every step was followed to perfection. And then, when it came time to work on the dessert, everyone vanished. It was I who wanted to make the Ile flottante so, here I was faced with the prospect of making one of my favorite desserts alone. I thought the creme Anglaise would be a breeze, but I thought wrong. With two failed attempts I remembered the French saying, "jamais deux sans trois" (third time is a charm!). The third time was a charm and feeling triumphant, I began the meringue. It rose beautifully and with it my spirits! I placed it in the oven and waited. We were closing in on the dinner hour and I felt that the trials were behind me now. I made myself a martini (well, Julia did it!) and waited. The meringue came out beautifully and I sat down to enjoy my drink. When I returned to the kitchen, my smile came crashing down at the sight of the fallen meringue! What had gone wrong? I didn't have time to remake it, so I figured I would serve it anyway, without apology! Our friends arrived, so anxious to partake in this Julia inspired dinner and when it came time for dessert, I served the fallen Ile flottante. I closed my eyes and focused on flavor. It was delicious, not beautiful, but delicious. Our friends were the beautiful ones....they all applauded our efforts and drank up every last drop of the creme anglaise! Who needs perfection when you have great friends?
So, you might ask, why is there a photograph of the Reine de Saba cake?
That is the perfectionist in me. I needed to redeem myself and so I made a different dessert in the cookbook. It was delicious and it left me knowing that inspiration, effort, persistence and patience are major ingredients in the recipe of life.

Fast Asleep

Oh our Lucy Belle, so majestic, so sublime
How could hours have passed so quick
How could it be your time?

Pampered, loved and cared about, to say the very least
Cushioned on your pillow grand
We know that you were pleased.

In final days your appetite was minimal at best,
Roast chicken, steak, fromage du jour
You were the honored guest.
Yes, our Lucy Belle, the memories we shall keep
Devoted love you gave to us
And now you're fast asleep.

Rest, and know how loved you are. Always.