The day before Epiphany-Galette part 1

By | Epiphany, Galette des Rois, Step-by-step | 4 Comments

If you follow this blog you will know that I have written about galette des rois before. So instead of recounting the history of this cake, this post is a practical how to make one, no need to buy the book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with RecipesIf you have the book the recipe is p 64.

First you need puff pastry. You’re probably tempted to buy it, thinking it was too hard to make, well don’t and you’re wrong. Puff pastry is simple it just take time and while you are waiting for the pastry you can make the filling, which must be made in advance and then go back to checking your Twitter feed.

You need a cool kitchen and a set of scales. Mix 250g / 83/4 oz flour with 1 teaspoon fine sea salt. Now weigh out the same amount of unsalted butter, then take about 30g / 1oz of the butter and rub it into the flour until mealy. Take 150ml / 2/3 cup of ice water, the advantage of living in Toronto in the winter, is that the water straight from the tap is ice cold, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the water and pour it over the flour mixture. Stir with a fork until the liquid is mixed in, then tip the mixture onto a cool surface.
Don’t be tempted to add more water even though it looks like you haven’t added enough.

Knead it,  gathering up all the flour until, it forms a ball. Do this gently and it will come together in a couple of minutes. It should look something like this.


Cut a cross in the top of the dough, then wrap and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.


Meanwhile,  attack the butter. place it between two sheets of parchment or was paper and beat it with a rolling pin, good for working out stress, until the butter is pliable. Shape it into a rough 15cm / 6in square. The reason for doing this is twofold: to shape the butter and have it the same consistency as the dough. Test the dough and the butter by pushing your finger into them, they should have the same consistency. If necessary, place the dough back into the refrigerator.


Rolling between the cross, roll out 4 flaps of dough, leaving the centre four times as thick as the flaps. Try to roll a rough square about 30cm / 12 in. Place the butter on top of the thicker dough centre, so it sits as a diamond on the square dough.

Now fold over the flaps to enclose the dough and to make four layers on top of the butter and a square about 30cm / 12 in.

Tap the pastry square firmly with your rolling pin to seal the edges and flatten slightly.


Roll into a rectangle about 45×15 cm / 18×6 in trying to keep the edges of the pastry as straight as you can. Now fold the pastry into three, from the short end, as you would fold a letter, then turn the pastry 90 degrees so the open end is towards you. Tap the pastry with the rolling pin to seal and flatten.


Roll out again into a rectangle and fold into three. Press two fingers into the pastry to indicate that you have given it two turns. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


While you are waiting you can make the filling for the galette. It is a frangipane, a rich almond filling that needs to be refrigerated overnight to firm up.

You need 100g / 31/2oz each of unsalted butter, caster (superfine) sugar and ground almonds, a pinch of fine sea salt, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon aged rum or Cognac. Place the butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until well mixed. Add the almonds, and flour and process to blend. Whisk the eggs, then set aside two tablespoons of egg mixture (this will be for the egg wash so cover ad refrigerate). Add the rum to the remaining egg mixture and pour over the almond mixture. Process until well mixed. It will resemble a batter, turn into a bowl, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take your pastry out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature and roll it into a rectangle again, fold it and turn at as before, so giving it another two turns. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The puff pastry needs two more rollings before using. You could continue the rolling after letting it rest at least one hour, in the refrigerator, but you would have had to make the filling the day before.

So check back tomorrow (Epiphany) for part 2.

Tarte Tatin

By | Cooking, Recipes | 3 Comments
Here is a dessert to chase away the winter blahs – tart tatin.
The choice of apples is crucial, I’ve been using Ida Reds, which have great flavour and hold their shape. In Paris I use Reinettes. Eschew the common Granny Smith, MacIntosh and Red Delicious and if you can’t find Idas, try Northern Spy, or ask your supplier to recommend an apple with good flavour that won’t turn to mush when cooked for a long time.
The first step is to make the pastry. Use a food processor – pulse 125 g (4 1/2 oz) of flour with a pinch of salt, then add 75 g (2 1/2 oz) of fat, half butter and half lard if you have it. My lard supplies are low so I’ve been using all butter. Dice the cold fat, add it to the flour and pulse until granular, then tip everything into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix with a fork. Squeeze some of the mixture, if it holds together its fine, if not add a little more cold water. My flour is very dry so I’ve been adding an extra teaspoon. Don’t add too much water (your pastry will shrink), then mix with your hand until the dough until it comes together, this takes a minute or two. Form it into disk and refrigerate.
Now for the apples, you’ll need about 6 medium or 8 small apples. Peel, halve them and remove the core with a melon baller and then trim out the rest of the core with a knife. You must pack them in the pan as they will shrink as they cook. I don’t have a tatin dish, so I use my cast iron frying pan, 23 cm (9 in) diameter. Melt 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of butter in the pan, sprinkle over 250 g (8 3/4 oz) of sugar and then add the apples. Place them cut side up and overlapping as in the photo. The heat should be about medium so the sugar and butter bubble up around the apples. They are going to take 30 to 45 minutes to cook so roll the pastry into a circle a smidge bigger than the the frying pan, and refrigerate it.
Now you must be patient. You can just let the apples cook and sink into their caramel, butter bath, shaking the pan from time to time to detach the apples from the bottom of the pan and ensure the caramel cooks evenly. However, as I am type-A and like to fiddle, I carefully reverse the apples in the caramel so the half that has been sitting out of the pan is submerged. Cook until the caramel is well coloured, check the caramel by dipping in a small spoon, and the apples are soft. Crank the oven to 220C (425F).
Remove the pan from the heat and put it on a baking sheet, it will be easier to manoeuvre in and out of the oven. Wait until the caramel stops bubbling, then place the pastry circle on top, pushing down on the edges so it  covers the apples like this.

Now bake it for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned. Remove it from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to detach the pastry and the apples from the sides and wait 10 minutes.  To pass the time, line a flat pan with parchment paper.

Now don’t think too much about the next step – just do it. Place the pan with parchment paper, paper side down on top of the frying pan. Flip the frying pan over onto the pan and then use the pan to centre the tart on the paper. Slowly lift the frying pan off the tart.

Usually all the apples drop onto the tart, if not, you can place them on the tart, and scrape any remaining caramel from the pan onto the tart too. I also like to scoop up the extra caramel from the parchment paper back onto the tart. And that’s it. The apples and the caramel infuse each other with their flavour, and the colour, well it’s fabulous.

Serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche.

Alive in Vancouver

By | PR | 2 Comments

Well I am still alive but I’ve been too exhausted to blog, sorry. My body still hasn’t decided what time zone it is in. My return to Toronto from Paris was only three days before I set off for the west coast. That was not enough time for my body. I am still waking up in the middle of the night craving cafe au lait and a freshly baked croissant. Despite a wacky body clock, my Seattle was visit was great. I met some serious dedicated foodies at Microsoft; one was fellow Aussie from Sydney. They were all keen on fat and we had a passionate discussion about butter. I discovered a good choice of butters in The Creamery at Pike Place market from France, Ireland and Vermont. As I still had a three-day stop in Vancouver before returning to Toronto, I only bought the Kerry gold. Sunday morning before leaving for Vancouver, I enjoyed two thick slices of toast thickly spread with this Irish gold, and reluctantly left the rest for my friends.
During my stay with my friends, I replaced the skinny milk in their fridge with whole milk and convinced them to cook their eggs in butter. One family at a time is my motto.
The flight from Seattle to Vancouver, a mere 35 minutes was spectacular, clear skies and a wonderful view over the snow-capped mountains.