Dec 15, 2011


You're supposed to remember your "firsts", aren't you? Strangely enough, I have vague memories of the first time I learned how to bike or my first trip on a plane...or anything that's 'supposed to be' significantly important in one's life. However I certainly do recall some of my first baking moments. I knew I always loved food, and before exploring my savory side, my first love was baking- cakes, breads, muffins, pies... all of which represented this delicious sugar-coated world I dreamed to endlessly explore. I'll always remember the first baking recipe I ever tried to make (scones),  the flavour of my first muffins (banana), and without a doubt: I'll definately remember the time I burned a whole tray of chocolate cookies... (as much as I'd like not to remember that one!)
Then there are the first recipes you learn, and for me, one that kicked off my baking experience was what is known in France as a ''quatre-quarts'', which literally means ''four fourths''- producing something similar to a pound cake. The title is self-explanatory that sometimes I feel a quatre-quarts could be the baking for dummies recipe par excellence. One fourth eggs, one fourth butter, one fourth sugar, one fourth flour. This recipe is easier to remember then my own e-mail password- that's how straightforward it is- and made for a totally appropriate first recipe to explore (you didn't think I was making macarons in my mother's womb did you?)

Anyway, so I often go back to the quatre-quarts recipe, to which I make certain adjustments depending on what I'm looking to create. For instance, these wonderful Nutella-Hazelnut Muffins. There's really nothing special about the recipe, but they turned out to be marvelous: one fourth eggs, one fourth butter, one fourth sugar, one fourth flour plus ground hazelnuts and whirls of Nutella...and maybe some cinnamon as well. The only thing that's missing is a cold glass of milk for a totally regressive experience, reminding  one of childhood memories and all the fabulous firsts that were a part of it...

Eggs, sugar (brown & white), cinnamon...and a few more ingredients to complete the batter
First, a dollop of Nutella...

Then some crushed hazelnuts...

Straight out of the oven... and ready to enjoy...

Recipe for Nutella-Hazelnut Muffins:
Based on a quatre-quarts recipe which implies every one egg calls for 50gr/1.75oz sugar, 50gr/1.75oz butter and 50gr/1.75oz flour.

So, we can assume:

2 eggs
100gr / 3.5oz sugar (you can choose to do half brown sugar, half white)
100gr / 3.5oz butter
100gr / 3.5oz flour
50gr / 1.75oz ground hazelnuts
Crushed hazelnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, butter and cinnamon for a good two minutes. Mix in the flour and ground hazelnuts. Pour batter into muffin pans. Onto each muffin, add a spoon of Nutella and swirl into the batter gently. Top off with crushed hazelnuts and bake for 20 minutes. 

Dec 9, 2011


There's a country in Europe that I've always been a fan of when it comes to desserts. Of course, the colourful macarons in France are tres chic and the Italian cannoli may be sinfully creamy and crunchy... but it's hard not to fall in love with the desserts of Austria- and maybe more specifically, the tortes. Classic and true to themselves, Austrian tortes are the most glorious of them all! Sacher torte, Dobos torte, Esterhazy torte...and of course, Linzer torte- the one that I keep coming back to each winter, each year.

Above: my favourite part, making the nutty crust... rich with ground almonds & hazelnuts!

And so the other day, invetably as it was destined to be, I found myself measuring ground nuts, piping jam into tart shells and baking an army of bite size Linzer torte tartlets that then marched under a sweet snowfall of icing sugar.

When I moved to the other side of the ocean, I packed my favourite Linzer torte recipe with me. Scribbled on a piece of paper years ago,  this recipe calls for a rich nutty crust- which is what makes Linzer tarts so charming. So beware of recipes that don't include any sort of nuts- short bread, quick fix crusts don't least not in my kitchen :)

Recipe for Linzer torte (makes large tarts, tarlets or cookies)

200gr (7/8 cup) butter, softened
130gr (5/8 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond essence
70 gr (1/3 cup) ground toasted almonds
70gr (1/3 cup) ground toasted hazelnuts
350gr (3 cups) flour + an extra handful when rolling dough out.
Raspberry jam
Icing sugar

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon and almond essence. Add the ground nuts and continue to mix. Then roll your sleeves up, drop the whisks, add the flour and finish mixing the dough with your hands. It's important to feel the texture and ensure that all ingredients have been well mixed. If the dough feels a little dry, you can add some flour- bit by bit. The dough should be supple with a shiny appearance and should not stick to your hands (but never too dry and certainly not crumbly). Place dough in fridge for one hour, and if possible, even overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C/350F. Roll out the dough on a board dusted with flour.

For tarts: line the moulds with the rolled out dough and pipe out the raspberry jam into the tart mould. With remaining dough, make long strips and place on top of tart in a criss-cross design. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F. Extend baking time by 5-10 minutes if necessary. When tart has cooled, finish off with a dusting of icing sugar.

For cookies: cut out the dough with a cookie cutter and transfer cookies to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes at 180C/350F. While the cookies cool, heat the raspberry jam in a small saucepan until it becomes of a thicker consistency. Split the cookies into two batches. Pipe out raspberry jam on one batch and sprinkle icing sugar on the second batch. Then assemble each cookie by sandwiching them up together (the side with the icing sugar on top). 

*If you don't have both almonds & hazelnuts, you can also use just almonds or just hazelnuts (total should be 2/3 of whatever nut you choose).

Dec 4, 2011


For some flavour, I added cinnamon and coffee into the heavy cream for a subtle twist to
classic chocolate truffles. 

Lately, I've been going through a holiday baking frenzy (like I do every year!) Each day, the sun sets earlier and the air feels chillier and I realize I'm spending more time in the kitchen cooking up some sweet treats. Unfortunately, I haven't been good at posting my recent baking sessions- which have included everything from utterly soft pumpkin cookies to a luscious walnut & cranberry spice cake to ever so classic gingerbread cookies... all devoured away without a trace here on my blog!

Typically, I make my truffles using 60% or semi-sweet chocolate but this time, for a smoother taste,           I decided to use 2/3 part 60% and 1/3 milk chocolate. It was just the right balance of cocoa bitterness and a sweet dreamy creamy texture!

But to make up for that, here are some lavish homemade chocolate truffles and biscotti fit for this festive holiday season. Both are incredibly versatile staple recipes that I've had for quite some time- so they work great as is or lend themselves to a range of flavours!

There's nothing easier to make then chocolate truffles, all you need is two ingredients: chocolate & cream!

Don't chew on truffles! Just let them melt in your mouth...mmm  mmm mmm... 

I used a basic biscotti recipe and made one batch with almonds and chopped toffee & chocolate and a second batch with cocoa, almonds & cranberries.  
Biscotti are baked twice: first as a log, then sliced diagonally and baked again for a shorter period of time.

Chocolate Truffles:
Portions are 1 part good quality chocolate, 1/2 part heavy whipping cream.
+ Unsweetened cocoa to roll truffles in.
+ Optionally, any of your favourite flavours (coffee, liquor, spices, etc) and feel free to roll truffles in chopped nuts, coconut...

Place chopped chocolate (or chocolate morsels) in a heat proof bowl. In a pot, heat the heavy cream but do not allow to boil. Transfer the cream on the chocolate, stir until all chocolate has melted and mixture is perfectly smooth. Allow mixture to cool in fridge for at least two hours. Shape truffles into bite sized balls and roll in unsweetened cocoa. Place truffles one last time in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. They can be made the day before serving and stay well in the fridge for a good week at least.

Biscotti (base recipe):
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional (but recommended): a dash of a strong liquor such as rum, bourbon, etc.

And don't forget to add flavours! Anything from vanilla, cocoa, coconut, etc... and chopped almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, dried fruits, etc.
If flavours are wet ingredients (ex: caramel): add them along with the eggs
If the flavours are dry ingredients (ex: cinnamon) add them along with the flour.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, butter and liquor. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and continue to mix the dough well. Add your choice of chopped nuts or dried fruits and mix the dough one last time. Shape biscotti dough into a log, flatten gently and place on a baking tray (lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350F for 40 minutes. Take out and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Slice log diagonally, transfer biscotti (flat side facing up) onto baking tray again and bake for 15 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy on its own or dunked into a delicious cup of coffee!