Tag Archives: french

Making Madeleines

Making Madeleines

When I hear ‘Madeleine’, my first thought is always Marcel Proust.
But my second, is always butter.

I originally expected that unsalted would be the name of the game here, having spied ‘unsalted’ mentioned in the majority of recipes I’d looked at over the years.

Making Madeleines

I’ve been experimenting with Madeleines for the last month or so, after receiving a Bakers Secret non-stick Madeleine pan from Kitchenware Superstore, and I’ve found I much prefer my Madeleines ‘seasoned’, somewhat, by using melted salted butter over unsalted.

My favourite recipe so far has been Dorie Greenspan’s Madeleine Recipe. I found it super helpful, especially with Dorie’s additional notes on refrigeration (overnight AND in the tray for at least an hour before baking), plus tips on achieving the tell-tale Madeleine ‘hump’ through the use of a pre-heated searing hot baking tray (or baking stone).

Take note and cool your melted butter before you incorporate it. And while you’re at it, spring for the salted like I did.

I used plain (all purpose) cake flour, which has low gluten to keep cakes nice and soft.

Making Madeleines

Suffice it to say I’ve been pretty pleased with my own Madeleine experiments (and J’s definitely enjoyed eating them)!

I’d always assumed Madeleines would be difficult to make and/or destined to fail, but I’ve found that provided you follow the recipe you’re using carefully, you’ll end up with delicious results.

My latest batch (flavoured with vanilla bean and orange zest) was a hit, resulting in 24 Madeleines that were light, sweet and soft, yet sturdily textured bites of golden buttery goodness.

Madeleines are best enjoyed straight out of the oven. Dunking in tea optional, though you may disagree with that if you’re a fan of Swann’s Way.

Making Madeleines

Disclosure: Product provided by PR for review purposes. All opinions provided are my own, and I have received no other compensation for this post.

Bistro Guillaume, Crown Perth

Bistro Guillaume

I’ve been most anxious to visit Bistro Guillaume since it opened in September last year at Crown Perth in Burswood.

My interest in the French classics by chef Guillaume Brahimi all started in 2008, when I had my first glimpse of his two-hatted Sydney restaurant, Guillaume at Bennelong, as I pressed my nose up against the windows of Sydney Opera House.

More recently, I also thoroughly enjoyed watching Guillaume with Maeve O’Meara on the SBS series, French Food Safari.

Bistro Guillaume

On a Sunday late last year, TFP and Jac joined J and I at Crown Perth for a leisurely lunch. We were shown to a window-side table by a Lacoste polo-wearing waiter, with a  perfect view of the recently revamped Crown Metropol pool. Fancy.

Bistro Guillaume

It just wouldn’t be a bistro meal for me without a golden, crusty hunk of baguette to start.

Bistro Guillaume

It’s made even more fantastic with lashings of butter (of course) and fleur de sel.

Bistro Guillaume

If refreshment is what you’re after, you can’t go past the Daily Burst. This zingy pineapple mocktail is sweet, fresh and served ice cold.

Bistro GuillaumeFor my first course, it had to be oysters. Plump Pacific or Sydney rock oysters ($21 half dozen, $42 dozen) were on offer that Sunday, but I only had eyes for the sweet and briny Sydney rocks.

Bistro Guillaume

They were beautiful unadorned, but equally delicious with a drizzle of lemon or shallots with red wine vinegar.

Bistro Guillaume

Jac was very impressed with her choice, the classic Onion soup ($18). Though it’s covered with oozing cheese and topped with a creamy foam, it’s the onion-spiked flavoursome broth that can’t be beat.

Bistro Guillaume

J’s Charcuterie Platter ($26) looks more like a meal than a starter – but we’re all more than happy to lend a hand, helping him take care of the generous servings of pork rillettes, terrine, silky smooth pate, and cured meats on smoky chargrilled bread.

Bistro Guillaume

TFP’s eyes light up as she samples her dish, generously studded with glossy chunks of a whole marron and cherry tomatoes that glisten like jewels on top of avocado cream ($30).

Bistro Guillaume

If seafood is your thing, you won’t be stuck for choice at Bistro Guillaume. I had a bit of a chuckle at the Anglicised menu, which I noticed after Jac ordered the Mussels Marinieres ($30).

Bistro Guillaume

This classic dish (which you probably also know as Moules Marinieres) is served with crisp and hot french fries, which are just perfect for dipping into the delicious leek and white wine sauce.

Bistro Guillaume

J’s John Dory with beurre noisette, capers and lemon ($38) is simply adorned, but packs a punch in terms of flavour. The John Dory is perfectly cooked, with firm yet tender white flesh that’s enhanced even more by the tang of the capers and lemon.

Naturally, J is intent on mopping up every drop of beurre noisette (browned butter, which, when translated literally means hazelnut butter). Jac’s spare french fries are just the thing to take care of it.

Bistro Guillaume

Before we’d even been seated, TFP and I had already known that we wanted to try one of Guillaume’s signature dishes for two, the roasted whole Liveringa organic chicken served with Paris mash and tarragon jus ($75).

Bistro Guillaume

Luckily for the two hungry sisters, the golden roasted chicken is helpfully chopped ‘Chinese style’ into eight, making it easy to tuck in.

The chicken is wonderfully tender, and flavoured with fragrant tarragon.

Bistro Guillaume

It needs nothing more than a drizzle of amber-coloured jus and a generous dollop of super creamy Paris mash. In my head I’m visualising Guillaume in the kitchen, telling his Commis, ‘more butter, more butter‘ while they whip it to smooth creamy perfection.

It only takes a brief moment for all of us to decide on dessert after the plates are cleared away. Jac decides she won’t order a dish of her own, wisely opting to sample from ours instead.

Bistro Guillaume

The tart du jour is TFP’s choice. Today’s offering – chocolate and pear ($17) - reminds me of another French classic, Pears Belle Helene, a dessert which makes good use of the fantastic combination of creamy chocolate and sweet poached pear. This takes the classic combination and encases it in crisp pate brisee (shortcrust pastry).

Bistro Guillaume

The profiteroles ($18) were calling to me. There were crispy and light, and filled with generous scoops of creamy vanilla bean ice cream.

bistro-guillaume-profiteroles

And topped with a creamy and rich warm chocolate sauce. I loved watching the sauce being drizzled over the profiteroles – and our lovely waiter was only to happy to oblige by moving slowly as I snapped away.

When I started post-processing the photos of our dessert for this post, I realised I had only one choice.
Animated GIFs! ;)

bistro-guillaume-souffle

J’s fantastic chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream ($22) was completely mesmerising . It was fun to watch as the waiter plunged a quenelle of pale green pistachio ice cream into the warm souffle.

bistro-guillaume-66

I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Bistro Guillaume, and loved the green-themed interiors even more.

Note to future self: lime green + marble counter tops = cool.

Bistro Guillaume on Urbanspoon

Mon Ami Gabi, Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

View from our balcony

Early mornings in Las Vegas are surprisingly serene. The morning air is cool and calm, minus the haze of tourist bus exhaust and cigarette smoke. It’s filled only with the quiet sounds of music playing from restaurants, as they serve breakfast to the rare early birds and night owls, making their way back to their suites after a night out.

Mornings in Vegas were one of my favourite times of day by far, as they were the perfect time for a spot of exploring without hearing the incessant snapping of wads of coupons in the sweaty palms of street vendors.

And of course, it was also the perfect time to enjoy my favourite meal of the day, breakfast, before the desert heat really took hold.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

We met J’s parents for breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, which is located at The Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. You’ll know you’ve found the right hotel when you spot the Eiffel Tower ;)

The service was friendly and super efficient – from the wait staff to the bus boys and bar staff. It’s definitely worth asking for a seat on the outdoor patio, if tables are available (or you’re willing to wait), as it’s a really lovely spot. Perfect for watching the hustle and bustle on the strip in the comfort of Mon Ami Gabi’s shady surrounds.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

J and his Dad both decided on the eggs benedict special of the day, featuring thinly sliced, tender medium-rare London Broil steak beneath two poached eggs and a spicy hollandaise sauce.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

We all looked on with baited breath as they cut through their poached eggs…

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

I definitely recall a whoop of joy as the eggs oozed ribbons of silky yolk.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

J’s Mum couldn’t go past the crepe special of the day, which came with Calvados glazed apples and chantilly cream.

Evidence of the deliciousness here is limited to this one photo. This golden crepe and the spicy apples were gone in a flash. Partly due to the fact that a certain daughter-in-law to be was more than happy to “help” finish them :)

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

One of my greatest joys during my visit to the States was the abundance of waffles on almost every breakfast menu.

Here at Mon Ami Gabi, the waffles on offer were light and fluffy on the inside, with a pleasing crunchy exterior. Fantastic when doused liberally with fresh blueberry syrup and lashings of chantilly cream.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

Getting ready for a wedding is hungry work – so I also ordered a side of breakfast potatoes and crispy bacon. And at $4.95 and $3.95 respectively, these sides were infinitely more satisfying than any other happy meal I could buy for the same price!

Actually, our breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi was so satisfying that we returned later that night  for dinner, on our last night on the town with our friends and J’s brother.

Whether it’s eggs, waffles or steak that takes your fancy, Mon Ami Gabi is a great spot to visit for breakfast. You’ll find it all – even at breakfast time – as bistro classics including French onion soup, Croque Madame and Steak Frites are available from 7.00am!

Mon Ami Gabi on Urbanspoon

Other highlights from our last day as non-married people…

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

Mini Tabasco vs. Splenda. I’d never seen these individual serving sizes of Tabasco! Cute.

Caesar's Palace

I think we may have walked past The Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace at least five or six times that day, organising last minute things. Who knew it was so difficult to find a medium, white men’s dress shirt? Not me. Or J. Yeesh.

Zoltar!

In between our errands, I did find time to get my fortune “told” by Zoltar …

Here’s what he said – I thought it was pretty good! :)

Thanks, Zoltar!

Sweet treats from Maison Saint-Honoré

Sweet treats from Maison Saint Honore

A quick update, to bring you the perfect Canele: with a sweet burnished exterior that’s chewy and slightly crisp – thanks to the addition of beeswax. The centres are soft and yielding; delicately vanilla fragranced and almost custardy, with just a tiny kick of rum.

Sweet treats from Maison Saint Honore

And two crisp little macarons – honey and thyme; striped with green and a classic salted caramel. Maison Saint-Honoré uses an interesting butter cream filling, that’s different to others I’ve sampled. It’s a little more solid than creamy in this chilly weather, but still carries the flavours beautifully.

Although honey and thyme are perfect partners, I found the savouriness of the thyme a little unsettling! I think the salted caramel is really more of a “me” flavour. But with so many others to sample, I think I’d be tempted to stray from my favourites in search of other interesting delights.

Maison Saint-Honoré  on Urbanspoon

For more information, visit the Maison Saint-Honoré website!

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Cafe Cre Asion, Sydney CBD

During our chat with chef Josh from Cafe Ish the day before, he happened to mention a little cafe on Alberta Street which sells fantastic macarons. It’s tucked away right between office buildings, he said. You should check it out.

We were walking back to our hotel, following our very successful breakfast outing to Bourke Street Bakery, when we realised a minor deviation past Alberta Street was entirely possible.

The menu at Cre Asion changes regularly, and the boxed options provide macaron fans with the option of trying them all!

Macarons $2.70 each, top to bottom, left to right:
Raspberry Lychee, Dear Chris, Caramel, Yuzu

At this point I hear you asking – what flavour is ‘Dear Chris’ supposed to be? The chef behind Cafe Cre Asion, Yu Sasaki, worked with Christine Manfield of Universal in Darlinghurst. Dear Chris is a hazelnut macaron with a chocolate ganache, dedicated to Christine! 

One of the well known desserts on her menu is based around the Golden Gaytime, which the Dear Chris draws inspiration from - the deliciously retro, chocolate nut Streets ice cream, which also happens to be my all time favourite deli ice cream.

The gold leaf flecked Yuzu was my favourite of the bunch, and I thought the macaron shells were executed perfectly, with a light slightly crisp finish.

In my opinion, the best macarons are also a little chewy on the inside, with a slightly moist texture that comes from the fine almond meal used in the tant pour tant (macaron shell batter).

Cre Asion’s macarons featured well flavoured fillings, beautifully fragrant and piped generously between two sets of prettily ruffled ‘feet’. 

The Yuzu filling here was curd-like in texture, inspiring me to think outside the square the next time I get a lemon/passionfruit/citrus curd craving!

TFP decided to pick another macaron – this one was blood orange flavoured. I loved the orange gel gummi-centre, a great contrasting texture to the creamy and smooth flavoured curd which held everything together.

The macarons we tried were fantastic – I loved the unusual flavours, and thought the Asian spin which chef Yu Sasaki brings to the (macaron) party. I just wished we had time to try them all…

Café Cre Asion on Urbanspoon

Ptite-Ardoise-1

Dinner at P’tite Ardoise Bistro, Highgate

Sorry – these photos were taken with my iPhone. I was sans-camera on Friday night!

Chicken and Mushroom Terrine with rosemary and poached quince

We visited P’tite Ardoise Bistro this week for dinner as an early birthday celebration for J. The restaurant is located in the block of shops on the corner of Beaufort and Brisbane Streets in Highgate, in the same space as the former Beaufort Street Steakhouse.

Though the steakhouse is no longer, this new bistro still caters to the carnivores out there, serving up a range of bistro classics including filet mignon and steak avec pomme sautees aux herbes (steak with sauteed herb potatoes).

The menu consists of daily specials and the classic menu, which also happens to include escargots (snails).

Confession time. I have a phobia of snails. Yes, I know. Weird and or irrational. I am so incredibly grossed out by them that I can’t even step on them (with my foot enclosed in a sturdy shoe). Due to this phobia, snails were out of the question for me. I’m sorry to admit this, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever come around to the idea (knowingly).

Luckily for me, there were a number of other delicious sounding options on the menus. We opted to share the Chicken and Mushroom Terrine (daily menu, $16.00), which was fragrant with fresh rosemary and served with sweet poached quince pieces, redcurrant (I think) jelly, and cornichons.

The chicken was enhanced by the rosemary and mushroom, both of which added a delicate but flavourful savouryness to the terrine. We both loved the tender pieces of quince, which had a lovely slightly gritty texture (like that of a pear), and a spiciness from the cinnamon used in the poaching liquid. We enjoyed the terrine with our fresh bread ($3.50 per person, your choice of fresh baguettes, multigrain rolls, olive bread or rye rolls).

Pork Trotter stuffed with Veal and Mushrooms with Celeriac Puree and Chaterelle Sauce

I was very excited to see pig trotters on the daily menu. I could hear my love of secondary cuts of meat calling. Once I saw the Pork Trotter Stuffed with Veal and Mushrooms ($35.00) on the menu, I knew what I had to have. The trotter had been poached until tender, boned, and finally stuffed with a flavourful forcemeat of veal and finely chopped mushrooms. It was tender, meaty and utterly delicious.

The creamy and sweet celeriac puree was a rich but delicious partner, and was a treat scooped up with the sticky chanterelle sauce. The fresh chanterelles were fantastic – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten them fresh before, and I was very glad to have the opportunity!

Casserole of the day – fresh seafood with saffron sauce

J decided to have the casserole of the day, which was seafood with saffron sauce. The casserole arrived in an individually-sized Le Creuset French oven. Opening the lid revealed a mix of fresh mussels, chunks of Barramundi, prawns, scallops. The seafood partnered with sweet soft onion slivers, saffron and the generous sprinkling of herbs (parsley and chervil, I think) created the most amazing scent.

Sampling a few bites made me instantly wish I had the physical capacity to eat more than one dinner.

All main meals at P’tite Ardoise also come with a mix of fresh seasonal vegetables, a welcome addition to the rich dishes we chose. On Friday this included cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and zucchini, which had been lightly blanched and tossed with a touch of butter.

The service at P’tite Ardoise is worthy of a mention at this point. Our friendly waitperson Sebastien must have noticed the telltale signs of food coma all over our faces. After he cleared our dishes, he offered to give us a few moments before bringing us the dessert menu.

 Creme Brulee

Bravely (or stupidly), we carried on. I couldn’t go past the Creme Brulee ($12.00) – one of my all time favourites. It came with a cute, buttery shortbread Eiffel Tower which was dredged with crunchy sugar crystals.

 I loved cracking my spoon through the caramelised sugar crust. The creme itself was subtly sweet, extremely rich and generously flecked with vanilla. It was magnificent!

Ile Flottante (‘floating island’) ($12.00)

The staff noticed the rustle of wrapping paper before our entree arrived, and Sebastien enquired which of us was celebrating our birthday. J’s floating island arrived with a song and ‘happy birthday’ written in ganache :)

Served cold, the fluffy light meringue sat over a pool of sweet vanilla flavoured custard. A scattering of crisply caramelised almond flakes over the top of the ‘island’ completed the dish. I especially enjoyed the savoury biscuitty flavour the almonds added to this.

We had a lovely night, enjoying the attentive and friendly service and the homey atmosphere of the surroundings. I particularly enjoyed that our table was in a room off to the side of the main dining room – where most of the groups of four or more diners were seated. It meant that it was possible to enjoy a conversation without struggling to hear over the crowd or the distraction of other diners.

To end the meal, we were presented with complimentary Carambar Caramels and asked to provide any feedback (if we wished) on the paper rings which previously held our napkins. I’m not sure if this will be an ongoing part of the meal, or if it’s just something the team are doing during the early stages of business, but I was really pleased to be given an opportunity to provide feedback – I think it’s great that the team at P’tite Ardoise are genuinely interested in hearing what customers have to say.

If this meal was anything to go by, I’m sure all the feedback will be as glowing as ours was! :)

 Note: P’tite Ardoise does not have a liquor licence at present. BYO welcome – corkage for our table was $5.00. We enjoyed a bottle of Thorn Clarke 2008 Shotfire Quartage with our meal. Yum.

P'tite Ardoise Bistro on Urbanspoon

Macaron-9

Chocolate peanut butter macarons

This isn’t the first time I’ve made macarons. After two previous attempts, I think I’ve finally worked out the necessary technique. The recipe I’ve been using comes from Jose Marechal’s excellent book, Secrets of Macarons, which provides an in-depth step-by-step guide to making these sweet treats for the home cook. I definitely recommend checking this out if you’re keen to get started on making your own macarons.

Macaron shells waiting to be baked (after 30 minute resting/drying time)

Chocolate peanut butter macarons

Using chocolate macaron recipe by Jose Marechal

Ingredients

  • 180g almond meal
  • 200g pure icing sugar (not icing mixture)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 75ml water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 160g of egg whites, divided into two equal portions (80g each) – you’ll need between 4-6 eggs, depending on the size you’re using
  • food colouring (optional), in red and green, or brown
  • Peanut butter of your choice (I used Kraft chunky peanut butter)
Equipment and other useful bits 
  • Electronic scales (a worthwhile investment if you decide you like making macarons!)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Food processor
  • Electric mixer (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer with the standard bowl)
  • a large metal, glass or ceramic mixing bowl (you’ll need two if you are using a hand mixer … no plastic as you’ll be using this with sugar syrup)
  • a small saucepan
  • a pastry brush
  • a glass of water
  • silicon-coated baking paper (such as Glad Bake, or identical supermarket-brand versions)
  • a large sieve (or fine mesh colander, if you’re totally lazy like me)
  • two spatulas (you’ll probably only need one…)
  • a pastry bag with 8mm – 1cm pastry tip (I use disposable bags from Wilton, with a plastic tip)
  • a permanent marker
  • 3 – 4 baking sheets
Method
  1. Using a shot glass, bottle top or any other circular template, trace out circles on to some paper (which fits your tray) using your permanent marker. It’s best to create staggered rows to avoid any conjoined twin macarons. I just trace out one piece of paper, then use this as a template beneath a fresh sheet, rather than tracing several pieces. (You can also save the circle template for later)
  2. Process the almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa until combined and fine – it should resemble a finely grained powder once it’s ready. You may need to do this in batches to ensure consistent texture. I find tapping the bowl regularly and scraping down the sides helpful. Sift into the large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. Measure the caster sugar and water, adding to the saucepan. I like to do this right on the scale, pressing tare as I go. Easier that way. Place pan on the stove, and bring to the boil using the candy thermometer. You’ll need to make sure it doesn’t touch the base of the pan – this can completely stuff up your temperature reading. Don’t let it boil above 115c/240F. Turn it down to simmer if you need to. Try not to agitate or mix the syrup, to avoid crystallisation. You can also brush down the sides of the pan with your pastry brush and water occasionally to avoid this happening.
  4. Beat half your egg whites (80g) until they reach a soft peak stage. Increase the speed once your syrup reaches 105c/220F. Your egg whites should be coming along to firm peaks by now.
  5. When your syrup reaches 115c/240F, remove from the heat. Pour into egg whites in a thin stream, while mix continues to beat. Keep beating for a further 10 minutes or so, until the mixture cools.
  6. Grab your bowl of processed almond meal etc, and add the remaining egg white (80g), mixing well with a spatula. Don’t worry about being to rough with the mix at this stage. You won’t hurt it. Add a little food colouring at this stage if you’re using it.
  7. Your meringue mix should be cool by now. Using the spatula, scoop out about a third of the meringue, adding it to the almond meal and egg white mix. Combine the two mixes well, you’ll need a bit of elbow grease to get them properly combined.
  8. Now incorporate another third of the meringue mix into the almond mix. More gently this time, using a folding action. The mixture will loosen after this next bit. Add the rest of the meringue and continue to mix, until the batter is uniform in colour and texture. It should be quite sticky, thick and definitely not runny.
  9. Prepare your piping bag, and fill with the mix. Be sure to get rid of as much extra air as you can while you fill – big air bubbles from your piping bag can lead to craters in your macarons.
  10. Take a piece of clean baking paper and lay it over your template, and on a baking tray. Pipe even rounds within each circle.
  11. Tap the finished tray on a bench (you can be pretty vigorous here), and let it sit in room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This step is very important to ensure your macarons stay pretty. They’ll crack if not rested long enough and they won’t form the distinctive ‘feet’ – the frilly bubbled edge around good macarons. You’ll know you’ve got it right when you can gently touch the surface of your macarons without leaving a mark.
  12. While you pipe your trays, preheat your over to 150c (300F).
  13. Bake macarons for 12 – 15 minutes (depending on size). Mine took 14 minutes.
  14. Dampen a bench top or table surface. Once the macarons are done, transfer macarons on the baking paper directly on to the dampened surface – this will make them easier to remove.
  15. Take cooled shells and match them in pairs according to size/shape. Spread/pipe with peanut butter of your choice, and sandwich!
My macarons getting the damp bench top treatment
Perfect feet!
And that’s it. You’re finally done.
Now make yourself a cup of tea (or coffee) and enjoy!