My Birthday’s Cake.


Yesterday was my birthday. And I felt great about it. Actually instead of feeling down at the end because I was one year older I felt relaxed and 5 years younger?
I am going to share my secret. My day evolved in different layers. First J. made my breakfast, then he was completly in charge of the kids for the day. I went to the famous Glen Ivy SPA . On the day of your birthday the entrance is free.
And I was so lucky that the weather was warm enough to just relax on long chairs nearby the floating pools while reading my Body and Soul Magazine.
I used the sauna, the steam room, the pools, the Club Mud…For lunch I sat under the palm trees with a delicious Citrus and Shrimp Salad for only $ 14.
At the end of the day ( I stayed from 10.30 am to 3 pm), you take a shower with a complimentary exofoliant and you shower with products from the SPA.
I felt completly relaxed, and quiet.
When I came home J. was working with the kids on some wrapping paper decoration for my gift ( a Cookbook) and then later they bake my birthday cake. A yogurt Cake.
He got the recipe from the famous
Chocolate & Zuchini

Gâteau au Yaourt

– 2 eggs
– 250ml (1 cup) whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt (if you use two 125ml or 4oz tubs, you can use them to measure out the rest of the ingredients)
– 200g (1 cup) sugar (you can use an empty tub of yogurt and measure the equivalent of 2 yogurt tubs if you used the 125ml or 4oz kind)
– 80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (or a bit less than 1 yogurt tub)
– 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 4 yogurt tubs)
– 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste/extract
– 1 tablespoon light rum

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F), line the bottom of a round 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, and rum. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together — don’t overwork the dough. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

I had some frosting left from my Yug Log they used it and decorate with whatever was available in the fridge and the pantry for a festive Birthday’ Cake.
I open other presents from my friends: Japanese lovely blue spoons, thank you Kumi. A lovely blue satin purse for my bag, thank you Joanie and a cute necklage/ earings duo from Stephanie. Thank you all.
It was a wonderfull birthday, may be the best thanks to my husband and my wonderful and my friends. I feel lucky.

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Californian Christmas with a French Twist



I love Christmas holidays: All the anticipation, the expectation, the cookies, the chocolate, the Christmas tree trimming, the lights decoration, the chestnut Stuffed Turkey, the Yug Log ( Buche de Noel), the gifts and my kids’ smile in front of all their presents..
This year we had some cold-cool days before Christmas, so it was nice having some real wooden logs burning in the fireplace, hot cocoa and waqtching some old French Movies.
For Christmas’ Eve we had a small dinner over our home. Nathalie and Jean Marie and their daughter Lili joined us. It was a nice, quiet, and very fun evening as usual when we are spend time with them since we are from the same hometown in France we have so many things and memories in common.
I wanted to cook a Traditional French Christmas Dinner for 4. The kids ate before us a simple but delicious Cheese omelet with French beans.

For the Aperitif, we drank some French Champagne I had some Kir Royal (Champagne with blueberries liquor). With this I served some Goat cheese crostinis ( goat cheese spread on fresh bread, with sea salt, thyme and olive oil, broiled in the oven for 6 minutes. Then we had some Mini Quiches from TJ’s.

Christmas ‘ 08 menu

– Watercress soup served with Crème Fraiche
– Free Range Turkey stuffed with Chestnuts, sausage, liver, herbs and cognac.
– French beans with toasted almonds
– Gratin Dauphinois ( actually it stayed in the oven I forgot to serve it)
– Chestnut cooked in the Turkey gravy
– Belgian Endive salad with Roquefort and walnuts
– French cheeses assortments
– 2 Yog Lugs or Buches de Noel. One with berries and Litchis and the other one with Chestnut and crème de marron a la Vanille .
– Coffee served with homemade Mignardises ( Mendiants, Orangettes and Chocolate Croquants)

Verdict: It was a good meal. Not too heavy. We drank also some delicious Californian and French WinesIt was a wonderful prelude for a long Christmas Day with kids at home in our pajamas!

Tarte aux oignons, herbes, tapenade et Roquefort

Finaly we have been seeing some “Winter” symptoms lately in Southern California. I can’t stand having 85 F during the Holidays Season. It does not make sense to me. So when this is gray, chilly, windy outside I enjoy it!

We will trim our Christmas tree later today, my husband put some of the outside lightnings yesterday afternoon. The houses are pretty big and huge here so it takes some time to put everything together. We may go also for a ride to see all the beautiful Christmas decoration of everyone’s house too tonight.

For last night dinner I had some Pastry Puff in the fridge resting ( Artisan from TJ’s). I looked in my fridge: I had 1 onion, heavy cream, Ricotta cheese, Green and Black Tapenade and some Roquefor cheese rest and Thym herbs.

So I decided to serve this tart for dinner with a Oganic green slad, walnuts, fresh pears with Huile de Noix .

The result: A-M-A-Z- I-N-G… creamy, tasty so delicious. The marriage with the salad/ fruit/ nuts was all perfect… too bad we did not have any wine left… but it was a wonderful satisfiying meal.

Tarte aux oignons, herbes, tapenade and Roquefort – Onion tart with herbs, tapenade spread and Roquefort cheese.

– 1 Puff Pastry ( Artisan TJ’s)

– 1 cup heavy Cream

– 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese

-1/2 cup green/ black olive tapenade

– Salt

-pepper

– 1 teaspoon flour

– Roquefort cheese crumble

– Butter

1 onion finaly sliced

Preheat an oven 360 F

Press your puff pastry into a a pan quiche or tart.

In a large pan add butter to brown a little add the onion slices. Cook until translucide. When it is ligthly brown add the flour and mix all together. Then add the heavy cream, salt and pepper.

Transfer this mixture into the puff pastty pan, on the top add tapenade, Ricotta, and Roquefort cheese.

Bake the tart until brown.

On the side:

– Organic green salad

– Walnuts oil

– Walnuts

– Fresh pear sliced

– Salt

-Pepper

One salad/ bowl per person. Spread the salad, top ith walnuts, pears slices, sprinkle pepper and salt then finish with your Walnut oil.

DB’ November Challenge: CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING


For the first time the DB’s Challenge was a perfect timing because I offered to the adults who were attending my kids B’day party.
Usually when I bake a cake through the DB’ challenge the quantity is usually so big that after 1 or 2 bites we are done. This time since I bought ( Yes I bought Vanilla Cupcakes for the 17 kids who attended the party… all of them are twins) for the mothers I offered the Caramel Cake . It was a quiet a success. I was very happy with all the process. The caramel was delicious, the frosting out of this world. The cake itself was a little dry I think. May be I should have left the cake chilled out before cutting it.
I may do again this cake… one day!
CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)

2 each eggs, at room temperature

splash vanilla extract

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350FButter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
CARAMEL SYRUP
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar,sifted4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrupKosher or sea salt to tasteCook butter until brown.
Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)(Optional)
GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels
Ingredients
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
EquipmentA 9-inch square baking pan Candy thermometer ProcedureLine the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane. VariationsFleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane. Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it. Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds. Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

My name is Martha

When we moved to the States in 1993, my eyes caught a Martha Stewart’s magazine at my favorite NYC newstand.
Of course I had NO idea who she was. And that the elegant blond woman on the cover page was Martha Stewart. It was love at first sight.
I liked her ideas, her elegance, her European way of displaying things, why to organize a room.
Then months after months, years after years I devored her magazines, bought her books.
My mother ( who does not speak one work of English) has one in her home : Special issue for the Holidays and I know she is using it for some ideas, every year.
So many books, magazines are out there but Martha Stewart are the best. She is a fine lady.

Today I had some old bananas and I wanted my new White Kitchenaid Hand stand mixer to work a little ( I got it for my Birthday 2 months in advance).
It changed my life. This is so easy to make Creme Chantilly, Brioche, pate a choux…
But I wanted something more American…. I made Martha Stewart Banana Chocolate chunk cookies. They are delicious, perfect with different flavors and texture.. and the coarse sea salt gives a nice quick!

Martha Stewart Banana Chocolate chunk cookies

Ingredients
Makes about 3 dozen
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.
Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Petit Dejeuner Compris – Le Jeu – Breakfast included / Game from Bretzel et Cafe Creme Blog

Petit Dejeuner Compris / The Game

Last September the charming Flo from
invited me and other Bloggers to participate to ” Your favorite Breakfast”, Petit Dejeuner Compris, Le jeu – Game.

Those who know me very well, know that I never, never have the same breakfast everyday. When I travel I love discovering new breakfast types and goodies.

One day I go for toasted baguette butter and coffee, another morning eggs, bacon, hash-potatoes and fresh squeezed orange juice, another one homemade brioche, another one Blueberries/strrawberries/orange and banana smoothies…. the list is long.

For this game I wanted to share a simple one, but delicious

Ricotta cheese with nuts, fresh fruits and dried fruits and Mapple Sirup. The recipe is in the title!

Depending what you have in your pantry and fridge you can be very adventurous and creative.

I love the soft texture of the fresh Ricotta Cheese, the sweetness of the Mapple Sirup and the crunchness of the grappes and nuts! Very yummy and healthy.

Voila

The October DBChallenge – Bake Your Pizzas Like A Real Pizzaiolo

We love Pizzas! The first time I had mine when in Nice South of France, my family was traveling from France to Italy for our summer and the first stop at night was in Nice. We had dinner in a small restaurant on a terrasse. I ordered pizza I was pretty young. 12. When the pizza arrived ( Margarita one) it was huge! My parents were laughing and teasing me that I would never eat the entire pizza on my own. I loved every bite. I ate all the pizza…
Since I have been in love with pizza. When we lived in NYC we had at least one pizza a week. And they were excellent. I remembered ordering one day a Pizza Blanca so delicious with ricotta rich cheese, garlic and olive oil the perfect combination.
But for the DB Challange I wanted all my family to eat. My kids are not into garlic yet. So we made 2 pizzas Tomato/ cheese. And 2 tomato/ cheese/ chicken/olives and on one I added Goat cheese.
I did not toss the dought but my kids help me with the rolling pan. They love doing pizza.
PIZZAS……..
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).Ingredients: 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – Tsp Salt1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
Method:
DAY ONE
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
DAY TWO
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
C’etait delicieux!