Baby Bundt-Shaped Moelleux aux Fruits Rouges

Ever since I tried a version of these moist little cakes, I’ve been thinking about how to make them myself. My first taste of them was not in France though, but from our own French baker here in the Netherlands, Le Fournil de Sébastien. I’m sure you’ve probably heard about his bakeries (he has one in Amsterdam on Olympiaplein and another one in Hilversum on Gijsbrecht van Amstelstraat) if you’re a foodie or Francophile like me. But if you haven’t, you’ll definitely want to stop by. He has the best pain au raisin ever, and my goodness, his baguettes are to die for!
The tender, fruit-filled cakes I bought at his bakery were smaller and rectangular, though, but just as good as mine. Just don’t tell him I said so! I made mine in a bundt-tin, but a muffin tin will work just fine. In that case, I’d probably advise you to bake the cakes just a little shorter. Perhaps start checking for doneness after twenty minutes or so.
These pretty cakes have a dense crumb, are packed with bright summer fruits and have a creamy, sweet texture which is absolutely divine. I’m sure you will love them too.

Moelleux aux fruits rougesMakes 6 tender, fruit-filled cakes

  • 220g all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150gr mixed red fruits (frozen)
  • 150gr Greek yogurt
  • 80 gr butter, melted
  • 130g sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C and generously butter and flour a mini-bundt cake pan. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour, baking powder and frozen fruits. With a standing or hand-held mixer, beat the yogurt, butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in each egg one at a time while the machine is still running. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in to combine. Divide the mixture over the bundt tin and bake the cakes for approximately 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin (on a wire rack) before serving.

 

Dear Bread, I Still Love You

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Ask the average Dutch person what he or she had for breakfast or lunch this morning and they’ll probably mention bread. My husband, for example, is a huge fan of bread, and as a proper Dutchman, cheese. When he was a teen, he could eat up to eight slices of bread as an after dinner ‘snack’, and when he first visited me in the US, the thing he lamented most was the lack of decent bread and cheese. Our wodgy Wonder Bread and plastic-wrapped cheese slices were an absolute horror to him. Only after I moved to the Netherlands did it all become clear to me. Of course, I knew that Holland was a major cheese country, but I had no idea that it was such a major bread country as well. I was astonished at the varieties of bread sold at an average Dutch supermarket. Excluding rolls and sweet bread, there were at least ten different kinds of whole wheat breads and various whites and ryes. Again, we’re not talking about fancy bakeries or delis here, but about your average Dutch supermarket.
The Dutch love affair with bread is also evident in many common sayings: broodnodig (extremely necessary), brood op de plank hebben (to have/earn enough), brood verdienen (earn a living), als warme broodjes over de toonbank vliegen (to sell fast), wiens brood men eet, diens woord men spreekt (whose bread you eat, their word you preach). It’s a love affair that started in 4500 B.C. (when grain was first cultivated near Limburg) and really took off during the Middle Ages (when the first bakers started to set up shop in the cities). Together with the herring industry, the Baltic grain trade, was one of the main pillars of the prosperous Dutch economy during its Golden Age. Many 17th century paintings attest to the love the Dutch had (and still have) for their bread. A fine example is Jan Steen’s ‘The Leiden Baker Arent Oostwaard and His Wife Catharina Keizerswaard’ (1658-1659). In the painting we see a tempting variety of breads, rolls and even pretzels. Doctors of the time also agreed on the health qualities of bread. In his book, Borgerlyke Tafel (Bourgeois Table), published in 1683, physician Stephanus Blankaarts dedicated a whole chapter to bread, calling it ‘koninklijk voedsel’ (royal food) and saying that it deserved an important place in the Dutch diet. In the Netherlands, bread remained the most important food up until the end of the 18th century, when it was replaced by the potato. Today, the Dutch still love their bread, even though it has been the source of heated controversy in recent years.
In case you are reading this, Dr. William Davis (author of the bestselling book ‘Wheat Belly’, who warns against the dangers of wheat and refers to healthy whole grains as ‘incredibly destructive genetic mosnters’), look away now. According the Voorlichtingsbureau Brood (Consumer Information Center for Bread), the Dutch consume an average of 60 kilos of bread per person on a yearly basis. Those statistics haven’t changed in the last 15 years, regardless of the recent ‘low carb’ bandwagon. In fact, in the Dutch ‘Schijf van Vijf’ or ‘Wheel of Five’ (a tool showing what the body needs to stay healthy), bread still plays a prominent role. Bread has carbohydrates, and carbohydrates, we are told, ‘give the body energy and fiber which help us stay full and maintain our weight.’ The Netherlands Nutrition Center Foundation (Voedingscentrum) advises us to eat approximately six slices of bread per day. A bit much, if you ask me. That’s two to three slices more than the average daily consumption. So what about the recent claims that even whole grain wheat products increase blood sugar and make us fat? And that they are addictive, cause digestive and circulatory problems, worsen inflammatory illnesses and lead to premature ageing?
In an article that appeared in October 2012 in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Menno ‘t Hoen warns us against the dangers of whole wheat bread. He tells us that a single slice of bread has a worse effect on our blood sugar levels than a tablespoon of sugar. According to him, if we follow the advice of the Nutrition Center, we will become unhealthy and overweight. Menno, who by the way is a baker, doesn’t say we should give up bread completely, only that it should not have a prominent role in our diet. We should use bread (good, white bread, not whole wheat bread which is meant for pigs) like the French do – as tool to wipe our plates clean after a meal.
Who are we to believe? Again, in this case I think it has a lot to do with common sense and little to do with the ‘latest research’. One thing is certain: the diet industry takes every opportunity to make a profit from our anxieties. Today bread and carbohydrates are the enemy. Oh yes, and sugar. Sugar is the devil. In the 1990s it was fat. How about not labelling foods ‘bad’ and having a little of everything in moderation?
I myself do not eat much bread. Fruit or vegetable smoothies are my usual breakfast and salads with protein, my lunch. But say no to bread? Forget the pleasures of a glazed pain au raisin for breakfast or the sensuality of devouring an entire baguette with rilletes and a bottled of red wine? Haha. Stuff your latest research. I’ll eat bread, sugar, fat and anything I damn well please. Just like my grandparents (who lived a long, healthy life) did in the good ol’ days before all of this foolishness started. Food, to me, will always be pleasure, not the enemy. Bread, I still love you and always will.
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Using Up Every Last Bit

pig

When it comes to strange food preferences, I am probably a downright wuss. While I do enjoy a piece of fried blood sausage and can admit that as a child, one of my favorite treats was a steamy bowl of tripe soup, I still have a lot to discover.
I have great admiration for people who are fearless when it comes to food. In fact, it’s something I’m striving to become – a fearless omnivore.
I remember my late uncle telling us about how delicious bulls’ testicles and scrambled eggs were for breakfast. He talked about the dish with such joy and hated the fact that testicles weren’t as readily available then as they were while he was growing up. My father adores stewed tongue. It is the dish he requests on birthdays and on other special occasions. Tongue was as much a treat to him as a bottle of fine wine is to me. But oh that smell! Sour, pungent and thick enough to stick around the house long after the meal was cooked and eaten. Disgusting you say? What’s so disgusting about using up every last bit of the animals we slaughter for food?
Much to my joy, the French pretty much adhere to this principle. Just walk around a market in France or have a good look at the meat section at a supermarket and you’ll see what I mean. They’re not picky. Everything has a use and everything gets eaten. Take andouillettes, for example, a food that many non-French fear. Some, who have naively ordered andouillette at a restaurant, recall the traumatising experience of that first cut into what seemed to be a simple sausage. Not surprising, since the malodorous sausage’s main ingredient is chitterlings, or pork intestines. While it’s true that the smell of andouillettes isn’t exactly that of freshly-baked apple pie, (it’s often described as ‘very offensive’ and said to ‘genuinely stink of shit’) to many French, the andouillette is considered one of the most loved charcuteries. Authentic cuisine du terroir. And who are we to think we know better? What if we’re the ones missing out?
I can’t help but wonder why and when we all suddenly developed such picky eating habits. Why is one part of the animal better than the other or more acceptable to eat? Nobody blinks an eye when someone eats chicken breast, but oh boy if you happen to enjoy a soup made with its feet! And why do people who repulse at the horrors of foie gras still hop on over to their local supermarket to stock up on ridiculously cheap trays of mass-produced meat? Talk about horror!
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our eating habits. Eat meat? Go ‘head to tail’. I’m on a mission to become a totally liberated omnivore. I might just walk up to my butcher sometime in the near future and order a whole pig’s head. It’s never too late to try my hand at making fromage de tête– I hear it’s a lovely appetizer.

Bon Appétit!

Tartelettes au Citron Meringuée

A few years ago I had what was probably the best French lemon meringue pie ever. After spending the morning driving around the Opal Coast of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, we finally decided on a place to stop for lunch: Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. But choosing a restaurant proved to be no easy task. Kirstie wanted crêpes, I wanted seafood, and Hans just wanted to make sure we had a nice table, good food and great wine. After a lot of debate and a few rounds through the town centeer, we finally agreed on a cozy, little crêperie. At first, I wasn’t so sure about our choice, but I was persuaded by the fact that there was a seafood salad on the menu, which turned out to be absolutely delicious. Plump mussels, prawns, cuttlefish, smoked salmon, samphire and a little mound of caviar. Hans chose the carbonade flamande, and because there were no sweet crêpes at that moment (major disappointment), Kirstie settled for the waffles with Nutella. Everyone was happy.
When dessert time rolled around, the waiter told us that we could either choose from the menu or come and have a look inside at some of the pastries they had on offer. And how beautiful they were!  Edible works of art created out of chocolate, cream, gleaming fruits and custard! Plus, tartelettes of every kind, truffles and eclairs! How could I possibly choose?
I finally decided on a lemon meringue pie. The best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever had. I knew it was a recipe I had to recreate, and I dare say that the results were pretty close to what my taste buds remembered. The only difference was that my pie wasn’t enjoyed at a fabulous French beach town. But hey, if I close my eyes…

Tartelettes au Citron Meringuée

lemon pie

Makes 4 tartelette-sized pies

For the crust:

  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 75g cold butter, cubed
  • 2 tbsps raw cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt

Knead all of the ingredients, either by hand or with the help of a kitchen machine. Form the dough into a fat disk and chill for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm, put the tartelette moulds upside down on the dough and cut out a slightly bigger circle around them. Press the dough onto the buttered and floured moulds and prick the whole surface of the dough with a fork.
Line the dough with a small piece of baking paper and weigh that down with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, make the filling…

You will need:

  • 90g butter
  • juice of two lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 150g caster sugar

Melt the butter together with the lemon juice. Beat the eggs, egg yolk and the sugar. Add the melted butter and lemon very slowly to this mixture, whisking constantly as you go as to avoid curdling. Put the mixture back on the stove and allow it to cook slowly over a moderate heat for about 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently while it cooks. Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it is ready to be poured into the prepared shells.
Cook the lemon pies for approximately ten minutes at 200°C.

To make the meringue you will need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 75g icing sugar

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with half the sugar until almost stiff. Add in the rest of the sugar and whisk until the egg whites are firm and satiny. Put this into a piping bag and pipe evenly over the pies. Brown the meringue using a torch or by placing the pies under a hot grill for a minute or two.
Allow the pies to cool and refrigerate before eating.

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