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bleudauvergne

Expat Substitutions, France

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Living abroad always involves a whole slew of gastronomic discoveries and adventures that go along with our day by day learning experiences. It's a known fact that once the glory and exhileration of actually getting to a foreign country subsides, there will be - up days - and down days. Inevitably on the down days we're all faced with the need for some good old down home comfort food, and on the up days we want to share our country's best and brightest dishes, the ones that we really must share to make someone understand how our home country's food is spectacular, beautiful, wonderful, even.

In the eyes of an expat in France, simple things like baking powder, corn meal, even blackeyed peas, flour or bacon can be confusing and upsetting when you've first arrived here. I've been in contact with several eG members who have plans to or have already moved to France. I'd like to start this thread in light of a really super blog entry by eG member David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, where he tackles some of the most pressing issues facing the home baker. His advice can be found here.

I would like to take that topic and expand it with food related experiences and advice from people who have come here to France to live. For 2 weeks or 20 years, exchange student or in exile, from any foreign country, no matter how long or how long you plan to stay here, share with us your discoveries. Some of our French members will also have valuable advice to give and perhaps a story or two about how it might have been the other way around.

Lets not be afraid of bringing up the most mundane examples and advice - I remember that when I first got here, even the most obvious 'duh' things were big discoveries.

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Lets start with one of the most important ones.

Bacon is not bacon in France. What you'll get if you go searching for the actual word 'bacon' is some cured ham, it you're lucky enough to find anyone who knows what it is at all. What the American expat is really looking for is poitrine fumée. I believe this may be known in the British Isles as streaky bacon. This is sold by the slice directly from the smoked side cut from the butcher (that tastes the best and is normally the best price), or at the grocery store, found in two forms. Lardons, which are cubes of this type of bacon are sold sealed packets in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and also sold in slices that looks like the bacon packaging we see at home. This will vary in quality. The Reflets de France brand does a fine pine-smoked thin sliced Poitrine Fumée for grocery store standards, but it is very expensive. You might try picking up a pack and taking it home to compare with quelques tranches fines of your butcher's poitrine fumée.

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When you're cooking with poitrine fumée there are two things to keep in mind. The rind, which is actually the skin, which should be cut off if you're not stewing for hours, and the patch on one end (note along the right end of these slices) where you'll run into the bones. With some practice, you'll come to realize where these are and how to best carve around them.

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Useful info, indeed. I will add that there is a choice between "poitrine fumée" (smoked bacon) and "poitrine salée" or "nature" (with "lardons nature" being available in supermarkets). Poitrine fumée is more readily available. Poitrine salée is closer to the "ventrèche" of Southern France or pancetta of Italy.

"Bacon" in the French sense of the term is, full name, "filet de bacon". It is smoked eye of pork loin, is often wrapped in plastic, and has no trace of streakiness. It is not so popular as it used to be. I always found it uninteresting because of its unfattiness. But when you order something with "bacon" in France, that's often what you'll get.

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"Bacon" in the French sense of the term is, full name, "filet de bacon". It is smoked eye of pork loin, is often wrapped in plastic, and has no trace of streakiness.

I think a similar product might be what we know as Canadian Bacon, ptipois. I have found that here in France, this product is also heavily sugar cured as well.

There are three kinds of poitrine to choose from, one being fumée, the next being salée, very similar to salt pork (perhaps a bit less salty) and then poitrine fraiche, which is the fresh uncured cut. They all have their uses. The poitrine fraiche, for example, can be used in a number of dishes where the smoked or salty taste is undesirable, for example in the Beouf a la Bourguignonne. Many recipes for this dish that have been adapted for the American home kitchen involve the step of reducing the smoke taste and salt content by parboiling bacon or salt pork. Here you can go straight to the unsmoked fresh version which is used to lard the meat. Once you've gotten started in your French kitchen, even when you are preparing French dishes you know well and have cooked before arrival to France, it's always worth a look at a few French cookbooks to make sure you're not 'adapting' something that doesn't need to be adapted!

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"Bacon" in the French sense of the term is, full name, "filet de bacon". It is smoked eye of pork loin, is often wrapped in plastic, and has no trace of streakiness.

I think a similar product might be what we know as Canadian Bacon, ptipois. I have found that here in France, this product is also heavily sugar cured as well.

Yes, Canadian bacon is also sugar-cured, but genuine French-style "filet de bacon" (which is more traditional here) is generally heavily smoked and salted, but not sugar-cured. They are the same cut, but a different product. Actually "french" bacon is getting rare because, since the 1970's, the French have discovered more interesting, non-French types of smoked bacon.

There are three kinds of poitrine to choose from, one being fumée, the next being salée, very similar to salt pork (perhaps a bit less salty) and then poitrine fraiche, which is the fresh uncured cut.  They all have their uses.

Yes, and there is also a fourth type not to forget: poitrine demi-sel, which is brine-cured, unsmoked and undried pork belly, and part of the "petit salé" category. It is more lightly salted than the others but how salty it is depends on how long it has been brined. That's the one you cook with lentils, choucroute, and various regional potées.

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Hey, I think it's a GREAT IDEA to have a thread for this information!

Excellent French-American Baking Reference, What do they call that here?


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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When the going gets tough, the tough get the blackeyed peas and okra. If you don't find them nearby, you need to target your search a bit more carefully. You must go to a shop that sells African dry goods. When Okra is in season, you can sometimes find it fresh supplementing the stock. It is very expensive. If you can make due with canned, the import shops normally have it - look for any derivative of the word gombo (the French word for okra) on the label. They put a slice of tomato in the can or jar, which sometimes takes up as much as 25% of the volume. Buy more than you'll think you need. For collard greens, these are sometimes available under the name of brocoli fresh at the market, described by the vendor as 'brocoli francais'. Don't be fooled, it's the real thing.

gallery_15176_977_62047.jpg

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When one of your recipes from home calls for "heavy cream" in English, look for one of the synonomous terms Crème Fleurette or Crème Fraîche Liquide. It is the same as whole uncultured cream and can be beaten stiff just like heavy cream. You can get it refrigerated in the same section that you find the cultured Crème Fraîche Épaisse which comes in pots, is cultured and slightly fermented, is a whole different animal, and also Crème Fraiche d'Isigny which is liquid but also cultured and slightly thickened and will not be the closest substitute for "Heavy Cream" in an American Recipe. Crème Fraîche Épaisse can be used as a substitute when you have a recipe requiring sour cream, and if your recipe does not involve cooking, such as a dip, you can also use Fromage blanc veloutée as a substitute for sour cream. Various grades of fat content in all of these products are available. Below a certain percentage and the creme will clot and seperate when used in cooking. The red for full fat, green for reduced fat, and blue for skimmed codes in American packaging translate roughly as red=full fat, blue=reduced fat. Skimmed milk products are not differentiated by color from the reduced fat products but can be identified the big '0%' on the label.

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When one of your recipes from home calls for "heavy cream" in English, look for one of the synonomous terms Crème Fleurette or Crème Fraîche Liquide.

Out of curiosity, what is the fat content for the above? Do they come in different fat percentages?


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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They do. The full fat version for the heavy liquid cream is around 30%. The lightened versions have percentages specified on the package. Once you've found the liquid cream, read the packaging for the uses. If a cream is labeled specifically for chantilly, they are authorized to add a certain percentage of stabilizers and sugars. To get pure unsweetened cream, the only ingredient listed can be cream.

Sterilized (not to be confused with pasturized) products are available unrefrigerated, and they normally don't taste the same, although they do maintain all of their nutritional value and the full fat version will perform like any other cream for whipping, sauces, etc. A sterilized product cannot be labelled fraîche, although a pasturized one can. A cream product sold in a store is going to be pasturized. They are not required to mark the label as pasturized. If you do get products au lait cru (can be found at the outdoor markets and certain fromagers), use them right away since they don't keep very long!

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Thanks for the links Lucy and John. I have them bookmarked for future reference. All of this information will definitely come in handy.

Chopped up bits of dark chocolate are a vast improvement over Hershey chocolate chips (rare and expensive) in chocolate chip cookies. I also think the cassonade (in place of brown sugar) contributes a lovely flavour to the dough.

I have used the type 55 flour from Carrefour and Monoprix in place of all-purpose flour in American recipes and it has worked well for me. I have not looked for the type 65 but I'll have to check that out.

Picard sells frozen bagels.

Duck fat makes an excellent substitution for lard when making carnitas.

I'm afraid I have more questions than answers.

Where can you get a tasty version of a hamburger bun? I don't mean the replica of the standard bun that you find in all the grocery stores. That one is nasty.

Why is the mayonnaise different here? It seems too sweet to me. Is there always mustard in it? I miss Hellman's/Best Food mayonnaise.

I use the Kiri-like cheeses for bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, but could you use it to make cheesecake?

Cuts of meat are still confusing to me. Thank goodness I found a good butcher so I just tell him what I'm trying to make and he suggests something.

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Bacon is not bacon in France. 

Ahhh... you now have me yearning for a wonderful warm salade de campagne, with those fabulous lardons!!

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They do.  The full fat version for the heavy liquid cream is around 30%.

Thank you for the reply. Does this mean that the average home cook in France would make their chantilly with 30% fat cream? Somehow, I expected that French home cooks would be using a higher percentage cream than we typically get here (33% in Canada).


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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Picard sells frozen bagels.

I had no idea - thank you mangosteen! Now I can stop boiling baguette dough!

Duck fat makes an excellent substitution for lard when making carnitas.

Yes indeed! Tamales also do very well using duck fat. I also use duck fat in pate brisee from time to time, and in biscuits. My grandmother instructed us to use chicken fat if we could, so now I'm using duck fat every once in a while. I find thet duck fat popcorn is also a wonderful treat.

I'm afraid I have more questions than answers.Where can you get a tasty version of a hamburger bun?  I don't mean the replica of the standard bun that you find in all the grocery stores.  That one is nasty.

What we usually do is get a boule of pain de campagne and slice it thick for the times we do fix American style burgers with the mustard, onions, pickles, etc. at home. Perhaps a fresh roll made with baguette dough would also do the trick. You can ask your boulanger for pate de baguette and if he has some ready he'll sell it to you. They're happy to do this because they sell by weight and it saves him money because it doesn't go through his ovens. You can also use it for home made pizzas.

Why is the mayonnaise different here?  It seems too sweet to me.  Is there always mustard in it?  I miss Hellman's/Best Food mayonnaise.

That's a tough one. Mayo is something I just quit buying when we got here, I now just make a batch whenever I need it. Have you tried the Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marche department store? You might start there to try some imports and see if they taste any closer. Heck, they might even have Hellmans.

I use the Kiri-like cheeses for bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, but could you use it to make cheesecake?
I don't know about that. I have French guests coming this weekend who are passionate about the New York style baked cheesecake - so I'll be making one on Thursday. The recipe I adapted for France cheesecake making uses fresh white cheese from the market. I think that if you were to do a non-cook cheesecake with kiri it might turn out alright. The reason why I'd hesitate to cook with it is that (I might be wrong) the way it molds to the wrapper tells me that the product looks like it was in liquid form when it went into its packaging. If so, it might turn into an oozy goo when cooking, and do something strange like not set properly. However, I've never tried it. If you do try it, mangosteen, please do report how it goes on this thread! Happy peeling! :biggrin:
Cuts of meat are still confusing to me.  Thank goodness I found a good butcher so I just tell him what I'm trying to make and he suggests something.

Isn't it great that you can telll your butcher the name of the dish you're going to prepare and how many people you're serving and he'll just get to work?! I love that! Hold on to your butcher because they're dissapearing fast! I have an Italian friend that actually found an Italian butcher so she's happy.

For a nice juicy steak the way I like it, I get my butcher to cut a thick slab from the aloyeau. They usually cut these steaks rather thin if you just ask them for one, so specify nice and thick.... I cut that in half for two steaks. Similarly, if you order the bavette d'aloyeau which might run cheaper, you'll also get a truly delicious tender steak for pan frying. Just ordering bavette might get you an unpleasant suprise, because most butchers here take great liberty with this cut. One butcher I interviewed for a piece on the Bavette told me that he does 4 types of faux bavette that he uses to fill orders whenever people don't specify the Aloyeau. The reason is that for one animal, you've only got about 8 steaks. He saves them for the people who really love, know, and want them. :wink: You might start watching when in the week your butcher does his carving, it can pay off.

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They do.  The full fat version for the heavy liquid cream is around 30%.

Thank you for the reply. Does this mean that the average home cook in France would make their chantilly with 30% fat cream? Somehow, I expected that French home cooks would be using a higher percentage cream than we typically get here (33% in Canada).

Great question. The answer lies at the source, of course. Check out this link to the authentic recipe for the original whipped cream in the patrimoine section of the Town of Chantilly Website (its down at the bottom). The recipe they endorse calls for crème double, which is cut with milk to varying degrees, depending on the taste of the chef. As for French home cooks, I don't know if they follow the recipe for La véritable crème Chantilly or not. There are lots of recipes out there, for sure. As for 30 vs. 33%, what I should have specified is that 30% is the minimum fat content for a product to be labeled Crème Fraîche Liquide and most grocery store brands hover around that. When you go shopping for cream, also keep in mind that each brand is going to have their own product. Inevitably in addition to the grand distribution products like Danone or Yoplait brands, you can find local creamery's products which will vary in fat content.

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Where can you get a tasty version of a hamburger bun?  I don't mean the replica of the standard bun that you find in all the grocery stores.  That one is nasty.

I would not know and who cares?!... It's so much better with a fresh baguette! :raz:

Why is the mayonnaise different here?  It seems too sweet to me.  Is there always mustard in it?  I miss Hellman's/Best Food mayonnaise.

hmm... I've live in North America for 3 years and all I could find in grocery stores, is this nasty Hellman's... Funny that I prefer the "Maille" mayonnaise, even is, frankly, it's so much better when you make it yourself?

Equivalents to Hellman's would be the mayonnaise sold in "toothpaste tubes", the cheapest available, at the bottom of the shelf at Auchan or alike.

I use the Kiri-like cheeses for bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, but could you use it to make cheesecake?

I'd avoid that. But you can now find "Philadelphia" in France which is clearly creamcheese to me...

Cuts of meat are still confusing to me.  Thank goodness I found a good butcher so I just tell him what I'm trying to make and he suggests something.

I had the same problem on the other side of the pond :wink:

Cheers

- Mike


"Je préfère le vin d'ici à l'au-delà"

Francis Blanche

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Why is the mayonnaise different here?  It seems too sweet to me.  Is there always mustard in it?  I miss Hellman's/Best Food mayonnaise.

hmm... I've live in North America for 3 years and all I could find in grocery stores, is this nasty Hellman's... Funny that I prefer the "Maille" mayonnaise, even is, frankly, it's so much better when you make it yourself?

Equivalents to Hellman's would be the mayonnaise sold in "toothpaste tubes", the cheapest available, at the bottom of the shelf at Auchan or alike.

I use the Kiri-like cheeses for bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, but could you use it to make cheesecake?

I'd avoid that. But you can now find "Philadelphia" in France which is clearly creamcheese to me...

Getting used to cooking in another country is not easy, nor does it happen overnight.

Sometimes, we just want something close to what we had at home. There are plenty of folks who love Hellman's and if that's what Mangosteen's looking for at this point in time, I hope she finds it! Do the tubed mayos on the bottom shelf at Auchun taste like American mayo or were you just kidding? :rolleyes:

Mike, where can Mangosteen find Philadelphia Cream Cheese? Do you know of a source in Paris? We don't have it anywhere here in Lyon that I know of, but if it's available somewhere specific that would be valuable information!

Please don't shy away from simple examples in this thread - I am thankful for the questions and the solutions! I for example had no idea that Picard offered bagels.

Another question: Does anyone know what I should look for when looking for a Dill like a Klaussen? Most of the pickles I find here are either much more sour or have lots of sugar in them. Cornichon "style American" has translated in France to mean sugary, but I'm craving the good substantial crisp salty unsweetened dills of home.

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I find this thread really interesting since I had exactly the same problem, the other way round...

I'm happy to learn that Picard has bagels. This is one thing that is not easy to find in France... And I enjoy one from time to time. Fwiw, I find Picard quite nice.

Re. mayos, I was just kidding... though I guess that they'd be pretty similar. In all fairness, I found Hellman's to be pretty bland. Kinda "grease it up" tool rather than anything adding taste.. but that may just be me... Whenever I wanted mayo, I just made it myself.

I have bought Philadelphia cream cheese at my local Auchan, in Alsace. I am not sure they carry it regularly since I just don't eat much of it anyway. I'll check it next time I'm there. It is definitely available in all grocery shops in Germany, fwiw...

Now that I think about it, they may well have sourced them in Germany since you find other german stuff there like "Tresana" (cheese to spread on bread, kinda between "petit suisse" and Kiri...) there too.

Your Dill like a Klausseen is a good question... again, funnily, I avoided these in the US and Canada, wanting my good old sour, small, cornichons! I have no idea where to find the "real american" ones in France!

I am sorry I cannot contribute more on this, since I'm back on "french" stuff...


"Je préfère le vin d'ici à l'au-delà"

Francis Blanche

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Re. mayos, I was just kidding... though I guess that they'd be pretty similar. In all fairness, I found Hellman's to be pretty bland. Kinda "grease it up" tool rather than anything adding taste.. but that may just be me... Whenever I wanted mayo, I just made it myself.

Funny you would say this, since it's exactly my problem. I grew up on Hellman's and French mayonnaise is too strongly flavoured. I don't want mustard in my salmon or egg salad. It just doesn't seem right. I have never made mayonnaise myself since it seems kind of intimidating but maybe I should give it a try.

You can actually find both Hellman's and Philadelphia cream cheese at the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet in Paris, but this is a pretty unusual and expensive resource. It's nice to hear about substitutes that are available throughout France.

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Re. mayos, I was just kidding... though I guess that they'd be pretty similar. In all fairness, I found Hellman's to be pretty bland. Kinda "grease it up" tool rather than anything adding taste.. but that may just be me... Whenever I wanted mayo, I just made it myself.

Funny you would say this, since it's exactly my problem. I grew up on Hellman's and French mayonnaise is too strongly flavoured. I don't want mustard in my salmon or egg salad. It just doesn't seem right. I have never made mayonnaise myself since it seems kind of intimidating but maybe I should give it a try.

You can actually find both Hellman's and Philadelphia cream cheese at the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet in Paris, but this is a pretty unusual and expensive resource. It's nice to hear about substitutes that are available throughout France.

now that i'm back in North America for a spell i can get Hellmann's all right -- but i *really* miss those little jars of Maille mayo in the refrigerated section. i virtually stopped whipping up mayonnaise from scratch when that stuff came on the market... not sugary like the non-refrigerated product, nice and mustardy... mmm

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So there are two solutions - you can make mayonnaise. It may not taste exactly like Hellmans. But it will taste like mayonnaise. Coming from someone who gew up on Hellmans and was flabbergasted with joy the first time I prepared mayonnaise at home, I can promise that. Or you can try the chilled Maille product in the refrigerated section and see if it tastes closer to what you were looking for.

Here are a couple of links to threads where you can learn to make mayonnaise. I am lazy and do it with the blender. (now that I have an immersion blender I rarely ever even use the blender with the blades on the bottom - thank you, kind angel who introduced me to this valuable tool!).

Jack does a class in the eG Culinary Insitute that includes mayonnaise called Non Stock Based Sauces. Otherwise I can reccomend Julia Child's blender mayo recipe, which I still use even though now I never measure my ingredients. I covered my recipe which evolved from that once with instructions, Here, and in that thread there are more recipes. There must be a million ways to do mayo. Once you have mayo, you can branch into rouille to serve on toast with fish soup, aioli (garlic mayo), which really takes a sandwich to the next level, etc. If you ever have a chance while in France to go out and have a Pierrade, or what they're now sometimes calling a grillade, where you're given meats to cook on a stone, you'll get lots of fun sauces based on mayo. Herbs, even blending in different kinds of greens, mixes of spice, etc. This is the base for super dips and sauces of all kinds. Then of course there is the American hot dip that includes shrimp, mayo, lots of cheese, etc. and that many French people tasted and begun rambling that they think that this must have been invented somewhere in France because it is so good. Here are also some threads that discuss Mayo in the cooking forum, Here, and Here.

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I am making a pie crust tomorrow and the recipe calls for vegetable shorting in addition to butter, any ideas of what this would be in France? It's a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours, which is being discussed HERE in the pastry forum.


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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I am making a pie crust tomorrow and the recipe calls for vegetable shorting in addition to butter, any ideas of what this would be in France?

Don't know for sure, but think I've seen shorting in the dairy case at the larger markets. Unfortunately I can't remember the name. I'll look next time, but that will be too late.

Actually, I normally just ignore the shorting & use all butter. I never could figure out why the combination and good old pate brisee seems to work.

It may not taste exactly like Hellmans.

Hellmans doesn't taste like Helmans either. We bought some today. ('foreign' section at a HyperU) When we tried it, it just didn't taste like USA Hellmans. Think it was made in the UK so maybe they altered the taste to suit the British pallet.

If I want good stuff I, like you, make it myself.

As for 30 vs. 33%, what I should have specified is that 30% is the minimum fat content for a product to be labeled Crème Fraîche Liquide and most grocery store brands hover around that.

I use creme entier which is always 35%. It whips well & does all the things heavy cream is supposed to do. If I'm using where there are no other strong flavors I'll just add a sachet of sucre vanille to kill the slight 'boiled' taste from the pasteurization.

I find creme fraiche to be a bit too sour for some applications.

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I am making a pie crust tomorrow and the recipe calls for vegetable shorting in addition to butter, any ideas of what this would be in France?  It's a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours, which is being discussed HERE in the pastry forum.

Just use some vegetable, sunflower-oil-based margarine like Fruit d'or.

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Ahh. Baking and pastry. Actually Felice, when it comes to baking, if I am making anything involving flour here in France, especially something like a pie crust, I look for a recipe that was created using French flour. Even if you do find a facsimile of shortening, you might not be able to get a good result using French flour using the American recipe because French flours and American flours are different due to completely different milling methods. I have found that American crust recipes made with French flour tend to melt and lose shape, for example, a pie crust sliding down the sides and into the bottom of the pie plate. If you increase the amount of flour, according to Julia Child's approximatations found in the annex at the front of her first volume of Mastering the Art, you can still end up with a rather brittle result. If you really are set on using the American recipe, remember that the closest to All Purpose American flour is type 55. But if this pie needs to look good, you might want to consider the flour differences. I would do a search on a basic Pate Brisee or Sablee if you are doing a sweet crust, and use a French recipe. The filling will work no matter where the recipe comes from. But really, the crust is another story. :smile:

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      I have seen referenced in several places on the internet, including Wikipedia, a stat about escoffier recommending 40 minutes for scrambled eggs in a Bain Marie. I cant find where this number is from. On Wikipedia it refers to the book I currently own, the "Escoffier le guide culinaire" with forward by Heston Blumenthal by h. L. Cracknell...specificly page 157 for the 40 minute cooking time of scrambled eggs but it's not in my book on that page! Even tho there is the recipe for scrambled eggs on that page... I've seen the 1903 first edition online.. And it's not in there either.... Where is this number from?? Id like to know in case there is some even more complete book or something out there that I'm missing. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you. 
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