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About DianaB

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    North Yorkshire, sometimes La Sarthe

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  1. I had really hoped that I would be able to make a positive contribution to this thread after the end of year holidays. I had planned to make the usual fast turnaround chocolate praline clusters, a tiramisu inspired gateau we developed a few years ago and save for this time of year because it is too rich for everyday occasions, some moulded chocolates and an attempt at an 'opera' disguised as a popular chocolate coated bar (eg Mars or similar), a recipe featured on a recent French Bake Off episode. This series has the candidates 'revisit' a classic French patisserie for the first round. Unlike the UK version the expert Chef shows how to make his own 'reinvention' and recipes are published on the web. Baking before our short pre-Christmas trip to Paris seemed fine. I made a couple of batches of passion fruit/milk choc macarons that were well received by my clients, including one lady who declined hers on grounds macarons are too sweet before munching her way through her neighbours portion during our meeting. Needless to say the neighbour, a junior in the company, got her own box to take home. On arriving home after Paris I was able to make the chocolate pralines and these were good. They are simply a roasted hazelnut (almond this year, didn't have hazelnuts and when we got back it was too late to buy more ingredients, anyway the almonds made a great substitute). These se are pressed into a line of praline paste mixed with melted milk chocolate and crunched up crepes dentelles. I pipe this mix onto strips of foil, push the almonds in, roll the foil to form a cylinder and freeze while tempering dark chocolate for the coating. Almond nibs are stirred into the tempered chocolate. I used to dip, then roll in almonds and then dip again. I prefer the one step finish, it results in smaller chocs, more filling to coating and much less mess or waste. Next I retrieve the rolls of praline from the freezer one by one, slice the filling into around 1cm pieces and then dip in the dark choc and nib mix. These are perhaps the easiest chocolates to make and seem to be liked by everyone who tries them. It seemed I was off on a good start. Unfortunately there was no time to make moulded chocolates. The calendar this year meant our annual Paris visit took place 19-23 Dec so there was only 24th to bake etc. The tiramisu based gateaux were ok but the texture of the cream didn't hold as in the past. At least they tasted good but I don't know where I went wrong since this is my recipe and I have followed it with success for years until now. I had another go a couple of days ago, determined that the year should begin with something good even though the end of 2016 was something of a culinary disaster. Same result. I use xanthan to give lasting body to a cream/marscapone/ coffee mix and am wondering if this deteriorates with age. It is stored in its original plastic tub in a cool dark cupboard. No sign of any change but this isn't a product I use very often. I was really looking forward to the Opera bars. I should have known better than to try on finding the scant instructions on the programmes website. They had entirely missed any ingredients or instructions for the cake layers. I have made Mercotte's opera with success many times so decided to use that recipe for my Joconde. I did my best to complete the bars in accordance with the recipe from the programme. Lesson for me:. Never, ever, attempt a recipe from a TV show unless you can find evidence of others who have tried and succeeded! A few weeks earlier I had been inspired by Apple shaped desserts made from apple in various textures. Mine were edible, in fact nice. The problem was the appearance. The young student chef had made beautiful desserts that looked like shiny green apples. Two half domes of Apple puree with an insert of finely chopped uncooked apple frozen in apple juice. Two half spheres are fixed together and if you have any sense you will have made sure the tops would be flat so that the globe would look as it should. I didn't employ sense, the tops of my half spheres were not flat. I attempted to improve them on a heated mettle tray. The half spheres are held together and then dipped in tempered white chocolate, either coloured green or later sprayed green to give the appearance of an apple. As the pictures show I have much to learn! I also have mountains of apples so might try again if I can get beyond the depression that my end of year failures have caused. Fortunately the apples were good to eat. I didn't have enough tempered chocolate to encase all of my Opera bars. I made them far too big and I made a pig's ear of the chocolate coating. My husband is the kindest person possible when I have culinary disasters. He loves Opera cakes, hence my early attempts to master the proper recipe with Mercotte's advice a good while ago. The truth this time is in the fridge. Tomorrow it will most likely be in the bin. I have enjoyed seeing and reading about all of your more successful cooking and baking. I really hope that next time there is a major holiday with good food attached I might be able to share some more successful stuff than those described above. I really need to find my 'baking mojo'! At least bread has performed as expected but I'm aware that has its own topic. Happy 2017 to all eGullet readers.
  2. Never would have imagined this or your previous confection. Tempted to try at some point over the end of year holidays with butternut squash. Thanks for sharing these adventures.
  3. The Bread Topic (2016-)

    Another topic I have really enjoyed catching up on after some time away. I'm so glad that @Anna N continues to experiment with so many flour types and baking options. So very many beautiful loaves, I would love to sample them all. I continue to bake all of our bread, buying a commercial, even if 'artisan' style bread, would require best part of an hour plus the costs of driving to the nearest town, parking etc. I continue to bake based on Eric Kayser's recipes which suit us. I'm finally happy with our baguettes and our sandwich loaf, each recipe includes sourdough and dried yeast. Not for the purists of course but these recipes take next to no time with a stand mixer and proofing box. We are a household of 2 so we don't need a huge amount of bread and there are never leftovers. @Anna N I can only admire your tenacity in bread making. You share that you live alone yet you produce bread that I'm sure any family would be delighted to enjoy. @liuzhou, it is absolutely fascinating to learn about your cuisine, bread making included, and so a bit about the culinary culture you are a part of. If anyone claims they can't make bread due to limited equipment or ingredients your posts here show that they just need to think a little more. there is so much beautiful and diverse bread written about here, impossible not to be inspired to keep working towards perfection, accepting that perfection in this sense is unique to each of us. I am finally not too disappointed with the finish of my baguettes. For a long time I just couldn't get the slashes right to allow vapour to escape. Perfection? No, but we enjoy this bread.
  4. I have been away from eGullet for a few weeks, floods of work meant that I had to deprive myself of the time spent enjoying this forum. Anyway, ON TOPIC!!! I have just really enjoyed catching up with this thread and the stunning work you have all achieved. @shain, your photos and descriptions of your cuisine touch me profoundly. Many have flavours that were familiar to me in my young years but sadly those who would no doubt have taught me about Ashkenazi cuisine died before that could happen. Memories stick though and on seeing some of your work I can taste those flavours again I was was especially interested in the Kugel discussion. I sometimes buy this when in Paris, those with knowledge of that city might also know of the 'Yellow Shop' in the Marais where many traditional recipes are created every day. Taking the discussion on using pasta in sweet dishes in a slightly different direction I have seen it cropping up from time to time in patisserie shows. Christophe Michelak (Kerry Beal enjoyed his baking at the Plaza Athene in Paris not long back) made a version of rice pudding in which he substituted spaghetti for the rice. Notice words were sad by those who tasted it but their expressions didn't back up those words. I've also seen pasta used in a dessert that serves as a 'trompe l'ceil' in the French Top Chef, again the results were not a great success. Perhaps pasta strips in kugel work because they are not included as a replacement for something else. I need to try making this to understand it better and the discussion that began with @shain's post has inspired me to plan for that. @Kerry Beal's birthday cake looks amazing, such dark but moist looking sponge. My birthday is around the same time as Kerry's, might have to try something along those lines next year. @Anna N's portion looks just right. I love the chocolate screws and bolts that @kriz6912 used to embellish his desserts in October. Everything that @kriz6912 and @teonzo show in this thread seems exceptionally beautiful. Seeing them here is almost as good as trying them, also no calories! The finishes that @rarerollingobject achieves for her cupcakes are also amazing. As many have written you don't need to like eating this type of confection to appreciate the talent and time necessary to achieve each piece. @Shelby's cookies with their spices sound intriguing, being married to a lover of good chillies I think I might be trying something similar. As for me I've done very little baking in the past few months. I managed a Valrhona 3 chocolate layered mousse like I've posted here before but otherwise nothing to report until today. I've made a batch of macaron shells and a passion fruit ganache to fill them with. I made the macaron shells green because the original plan was for a toffee apple filling. I've done that before with success but I couldn't find the recipe this morning. I'm telling myself that it is the taste that counts! The ganache is one of Pierre Hermé's that I know works well. I think there is some green in passion fruits but I doubt anyone would guess the filling from the colour. It has been lovely to see all of your creations in this thread. Next, on to read about your breads.....
  5. Valrhona White Chocolate

    Thats why I stock up in their sales! I know they supply other countries but not sure which. Many thanks @pastrygirl for your advice. I had some real disasters with a Callebaut white but I should perhaps try again, I'm not sure it was Zephyr. I use their dark chocolate more than any other but mistakes can be expensive so I've stuck with Ivoire for white lately. Might see if I can amend the order to include a bag of Opalys...
  6. Glad to read that your Magimix arrived safely and in working order! I accept what has been said in this thread about the limitations of home use equipment when compared to professional machines but want to let you know that I've had a Magimix for almost ten years now, it gets used at least two or three times each week and, so far, it remains undamaged. I bought the Magimix for making pistachio puree, that requires the motor to run for long periods and the brand was recommended to me specifically because it could cope with such use. Of course a machine produced for professional use should be better but I just wanted to say that you might be able to keep churning out your refreshing mixes with what you have for a while.
  7. I've used Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate as a base for various ganache recipes for some time after failing to create a good ganache with other white chocolate including Callebaut, a brand I otherwise like. Valrhona is expensive compared to other brands available here in England but Vente Privée offers it at a good discount several times each year. There is a Valrhona sale this week: https://secure.uk.vente-privee.com/ns/en-gb/operation/57934/classic/3642874/catalog That link is to the English site but I know the company operates in other countries. You need to become a member to buy from the site, not sure why but it is free and you aren't obliged to buy anything. I've already placed an order, popular products sell out fast. Since ordering I have read various posts in the Pastry and Baking thread that have left me wondering if I should be using Opalys as my white chocolate rather than Ivoire. Do any of you have experience of both variants of Valrhona's white chocolate? I would be grateful for any advice you can provide on using them in baking or chocolate making.
  8. How strange, the bit about illegal tomatoes. Is there a reason? Soon after moving to this house 26 years ago our then neighbour, an elderly very 'correct' lady (also very kind once she accepted that we weren't planning to cause what she considered damage to the house, once her parent's home) saw me gardening at the front of the house. She asked what I was doing. I responded, sowing carrot seeds. I got a horrified look followed by "we don't grow vegetables in our front gardens in this village". I think of her everytime I plant anything edible at the front.
  9. Just found out that a member of eGullet, @Cia has begun to post his short videos on Italian culinary culture on YouTube. Only one to date but I know there are more in the pipeline. While made by an Italian based in Italy the narrative is in English. Here's the first instalment:
  10. After following along the painstaking journey towards completion of this book I was delighted to come across this topic and learn that it is now on sale. If the book explains things even half as clearly as @gfron1 kindly did for me here on eGullet when I wanted to learn how to make pâte de fruits I'm sure it will become indispensable to many. During childhood late summers were characterised by collecting wild blackberries and similar but more recently my interest in what wild places might offer us to eat was awakened when living in France. There it was (is) common go see cars parked next to a verge with a healthy stock of dandelion leaves or nettles. In Autumn every pharmacy will show a sign inviting people to bring in their foraged mushrooms for identification. Pity this service service isn't common in England, I would really like a definitive ID of those mushrooms that just keep coming in our garden (photo on gardening thread). We are just back from Paris where some of the summer displays along the riverside are still in place. These included raised beds filled with plants that can be foraged for food, each clearly labelled. First time I've seen nettles as a part of a plant display but they were huge and very beautiful, probably the soil was much better than anything they grow on in the wild. I really enjoyed the nettles video and will certainly subscribe on YouTube. Very best wishes for every success with your book.
  11. Another really interesting informative report, almost like being on the course alongside you. Any chance of a couple of photos of the things you make? I would love to see the turned vegetables in particular. If you decide to offer your own course on preparing and cooking artichokes I will certainly sign up! I would also love to try your petits pois paysanne, I've never managed to get this right at home. Looking forward to the next instalment!
  12. A few weeks ago we visited a couple of food related companies close to where we live. I'm sure I've read other posts about Wensleydale cheese but not certain of the thread, hence starting a new topic. Perhaps others might have visited different food production companies? The Wensleydale creamery almost disappeared a few years ago, the popularity of Wallace and Gromit films has helped the new owners make a real success of what might otherwise have been a risky venture. We first visited years ago, just after the place was in new ownership. I recall a much smaller scale operation where visitors could really get close to the cheese making process. The venture has grown hugely, as have hygiene regulations. Now visitors can only see the production area through a glass partition, the photos I took through the less than clear glass are blurred and hard to make out so not used here. There is a small 'museum' display, also a shop, coffee place and restaurant. Below, some bits and pieces from the museum: Pride of place of course for Wallace and Gromit: The shop is now much larger than I remember, when we walked through before visiting the rest of the place there were few people around, should have taken a photo then. When we returned it was packed and this was the best I could do without including other visitors: The shop is layed out for efficiency,, visitors enter at the right and work their way round to exit left. Hand sanitation on entry and tasting plates arranged all around the central u shaped counter. They had bits and pieces of overpriced herbs, coffee etc also for sale in here. We also visited a local brewery, Black Sheep. I'm sure I took photos but no idea what happened to them. We enjoyed coffee and scones at the end of both visits. One day I'll get a decent photo, in focus without shadows... Looking forward to any reports after your visits to commercial food production companies! (Edited to try to get photos where they should be)
  13. Every year we get a few mushrooms popping up in our garden, earlier in the year we had some small specimens that I know not to use in cooking but more recently we've had kilos of these larger specimens. We've been rounding them up and disposing of them but I would love to know if they are edible. Any ideas? Some garden creatures obviously love them, tops will often have bites missing. This one looks to have perhaps already served as an 'entrée' for something.
  14. I'm really enjoying this topic, Chris you are living a dream that I will never have the courage to realise. Having spent a great deal of time with friends who spent their professional lives building up restaurants and selling them on I am well aware that I don't have the physical strength or the determination to make a career out of cooking. Also pleased that you finally found a cooking school, sounds like your experiences are similar to those of day release students here in England. Day release being a working environment for 4 days each week and one at college (alternanance in France?). Students usually detest the college day, they are obliged to do subjects unrelated to their chosen profession: basic skills and 'general studies' in particular. Years ago when my husband was an apprentice his cohort seems to have forced more than one 'general studies' tutor into retirement, things turned around when a new staff member gave the class cameras and told them to go oiut and record their lives, they were then shown how to make photographic prints etc. This was well received by the young apprentices who resented spending their evening at college on irrelevant material. They were fed I understand, chips (fries) were served in carved squares of amalgamated potato and fat left over from lunch. Another option for you might have been to approach https://www.afpa.fr/formation-qualifiante/cuisinier. This organisation helps adults who want to change career but are over Apprentice age. A Photographer from the town where I lived enrolled on their horlogerie programme, spent a year at Besançon and now earns his living through his new skills. Not sure about costs but I can't imagine fees will be anything like the Cordon Bleu or similar. There are also the http://www.compagnons-du-devoir.com/plus-de-22ans. Offering retraining and support for adults.
  15. Looks good, different to the Valrhona version. We are (very slowly) creating a cooking/gardening etc blog, I'll post my version of the three layer mousse creation on that next time I get chance to make one and remember to take pictures...