Tag Archives: baking

Flan Parisian (Vanilla Custard Tart)

It’s a cheese wheel! It’s a moon! It’s a flan Parisian!

Yes, a flan Parisian — not Parisien. Why? Because I’ve Americanized it… err, anglicized it… err, you know, made it less French. Sorta.

It’s not entirely a bad thing — at least not in this case.

While authentic flan Parisien is rich in sweet vanilla and milk, it’s also loaded with cornstarch and has this texture that’s not amazingly appetizing.

The French like it well enough (you can buy it at nearly any coffee shop in Paris), but, unless you plan on building a bouncy ball empire out of rubbery custard, I think this whole chewy flan thing could use a few improvements.

My version of flan Parisian (adapted after following what seemed to be a fairly authentic recipe to the letter and not enjoying the results anymore than I enjoyed flan in Paris) is a little more creamy, a little more eggy, and a little less caramelized on top than the real thing, but, well… I like my version a lot better.

Oh, and I baked it in a fluted tart shell, but gimme a break here — some people don’t bake it in a shell at all!

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Passion Fruit Cupcakes

Before I went to pastry school, I’d never even had passion fruit — it had always kind of intimidated me, to be honest!

I’ll fully admit that this is sort of sad behaviour (especially for someone who considers herself an adventurous foodie…!) but if I pick up a foreign fruit or veggie in the grocery store and I can’t see an obvious way to eat it (like: oh, just slice it and eat it raw… or, clearly you cut away the skin first!) then I tend to put it down and skulk away.

For some reason, I think it’s embarrassing to have to ask someone else, “How do you eat this?” and then I’ve always often forgotten all about it by the time I get home.

Call it culinary pride, or what have you — or maybe lack of culinary confidence! Yeah, that would be more accurate.

Anyways, passion fruit is amazing. I should have gotten around to eating it way earlier in life.

It’s like the lemon of the jungle — very tart and acidic, while also having a very complex and fruity flavour — and, in case you’re wondering, you just crack ’em open and eat the insides (including the seeds)!

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New York City eats and Momofuku Milk Bar, Corn Cookies with Raspberries

On my way to Europe two months ago, I finally had the chance to see New York City!

I had always, always wanted to go to New York — the skyscrapers, the glamour, the grittiness, the culture, the history, the food. Everyone in Vancouver wants to go to New York (okay — probably not everyone, but most of us have “see New York” on our bucket list).

That dreamy yearning to see the sights of an internationally-renowned city, though, is probably a one-way street  — as in, New Yorkers don’t dream of coming out west and visiting Vancouver… probably because we’re just not nearly as cosmopolitan and cool!

Ha!

It’s sad, but true.

Vancouver is “cool” like “your mom thinks you’re special” — or something like that. We have mountains. We have ocean. We have Canadian geese (they’ll bite you).

I mean, the dirty subways, the brilliance of Times Square, the striking ceiling of Grand Central, the harbor wind on my face on the ferry to Liberty Island… it was all as amazing as I thought it would be!

But, of course, it was the eateries and bakeries that had me most starry-eyed.

My partner and I ate at Cafeteria (lovely lemon ricotta pancakes)…!

We indulged at Spot Dessert Bar (a tip courtesy of daisy’s last visit)…!

We grabbed all the goodies we could hold from Momofuku Milk Bar (cookies, pretzel milk, and bagel bombs — oh my)…!

bagelbomb

Going to Milk Bar is what made rushing through New York totally worth it — I’d been enamored from afar with the quirky recipes in Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar cookbook, and now I was actually up close and personal with the chef’s work!

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Tales of Awesome European Food Adventures, Salted Caramel Madeleines

She lives!

I’m back from the abyss — swallowed by the real world for almost 10 whole weeks!

I return with tales of triumph, sugar, and adventure.

Let’s get my timeline straightened out — first, I vanished in order to concentrate on finishing up pastry school and exams. Thankfully, my dedication and efforts paid off, because I graduated at the top of my class. It was pretty great. I was pretty proud. My mom got all misty-eyed. It was a milestone.

So, what did I do next? I did what any overburdened graduate would do — take off, of course!

My partner and I purchased one-way tickets to Russia (he’s got family over there) and figured we’d stay across the ocean for as long as possible (or at least until our life savings ran out).

It was a once-in-a-lifetime gallivant around the old continent — 24 cities in 12 different countries — we lived out of our backpacks, stayed in budget hostels, and indulged only in sight-seeing and dessert.

We landed in St. Petersburg via Moscow and New York — believe it or not, it’s cheaper to fly to Europe from anywhere but Canada — spend a few days there, then headed west and south, through Stockholm, and Copenhagen, and then into Germany.

After seeing Berlin, I insisted that we travel the scenic route though Prague and to get to the one, the only, Sacher Hotel in Vienna. That was a definite high point for me, as a pastry person, to actually eat one the annals of foodie history.

Passing through Vienna was convenient anyways, because, from there, we caught a sleeper train into Venice. From Venice we skipped through Pisa (best pasta of my life, people), then down to Rome.

Oh, Rome, you captured my heart — if you don’t mind the big city noise, then everywhere you walk is beautiful. Ruins here, vespas there, gelato everrrywhere!

Words don’t even describe how good gelato is in Italy. Nothing I’ve ever had in Vancouver even compares.

Alas, we couldn’t stay in Rome forever, so we took a train up to Milan, saw the sights, then traveled all day on local trains to get to Nice — and, again, Nice was amazing!

It was like every time we arrived in a new place, it was even more fascinating and more beautiful than we expected it to be — the blue Mediterrean, the historic center of town, the 25 minute train ride to Monaco… oh, and nevermind gelato — Nice had it’s own award-winning resident ice cream maker to boast about!

From Nice and Monaco we booked it through Marseilles and into Barcelona, where we spent three nights and still didn’t even see half of what there was to see and do there. Barcelona, unlike other European cities, doesn’t have a condensed core that you can walk around and absorb in a day.

Next time I go to Spain, I spend at least two weeks in Barcelona. Minimum.

After Barcelona came Paris — the hub of which so much of my discipline revolves around. All the beautiful food was so overwhelming, though, so I just decided to concentrate on sampling one particular treat: macaron!

I swooned when I saw Ladurée. I squealed like a kid when I saw Pierre HerméI sampled the goods from Lenôtre and Fauchon, too. The French had flavours that were especially creative, too — peach with apricot and saffron, cherry blossom, olive oil and mandarin… heaven!

We left Paris behind (but packed a few macaron to go!) and headed into Brussels.

It was pouring rain when we arrived, so my partner and I plopped ourselves down in the world famous Delirium Cafe and proceeded to have the best beer of our lives. We drank, we chatted with fellow travelers, some new friends treated us to even more beer, we washed it all down with fries and waffles, and I woke up with a massive hangover.

Totally worth it.

From Brussels, we went to Bruges, then Amsterdam, and Mannhiem. We flew out of Frankfurt and landed in Anchorage, Alaska. The last few days of travel seemed to speed by ever faster than before, and, before I knew it, I was back in Vancouver.

I’ve been taking it easy over the last week, just to get my groove back and figure out what to do from here — getting a new job right away would seem like the obvious thing to do at this point, but I’ve got something better in the works.

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Upside-Down Hot Chocolate Pudding

First, a disclaimer: this isn’t really pudding (at least not in the “North American” sense).

This is a British-style pudding — the rich, gooey, and cakey kind.

The way you make this pudding is a little unusual — it starts as a stiff, doughy batter, then gets covered in a thick layer of loose sugar and cocoa powder, then drizzled with fresh coffee, and, as it bakes, it turns “upside-down”!

The moist cake bakes and puffs up and oozes with chocolate, while the bottom remains a sticky chocolate sauce.

It’s been ages since I’ve made this treat at home, but I decide that this Upside-Down Hot Chocolate Pudding was going to be the last dessert I would make for lunch service at school.

How bitter-sweet it was!

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Lemon & Thyme Tea Cookies

Sometimes pastry school doesn’t offer a whole lot of creative freedom.

A lot of pastry student time is taken up by making our daily quota of croissants, baguettes, breads, scones, and muffins, or by glazing chocolate cakes, fruit mousse cakes, or making tiny desserts for stocking the school cafe.

Every so often, though, I’ve got enough time to whip up a batch of these tiny lemony delights!

My excuse is always, “I’m making them to sell in the bake shop!” even though a good handful of these always end up in my stomach.

The flavourful nuances of these delicate, crumbly tea cookies hinges on using a rich, high quality olive oil (preferably extra virgin), fresh thyme, and, of course, beautiful, fresh lemon zest.

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