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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I'll be taking a short hiatus for the holidays. There are really two reasons for this: 1) We have a lot of family visiting us here in France for Christmas and New Year's, and although I'm cooking a lot, I just don't have time to blog about it, and 2) My husband and I ordered a brand-new camera for Christmas, and I'm waiting for that to take any pictures of my food. Strasbourg turns out to be a very cloudy place in the winter, and my current camera just can't handle the job of food photography in the current light.

I'm planning a traditional Alsatian dish, Choucroute, for Christmas dinner, so keep an eye out for a post about that adventure when I return after the new year!

I hope that you have a great holiday season!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Carmelized Pear Muffins

A while ago, I ran across this recipe for Carmelized Pear Muffins with Coffee Icing from A Foodie Froggy in Paris and couldn't resist trying them out for one of our dessert and coffee Fridays. I am one of the few people in the world who doesn't like coffee, but the rest of the muffin looked so yummy! I talked them up for days with the college students, and the night I made them, my husband and I duly taste-tested, only to be disappointed by the lack of flavor and dryness. Hmmm...

By that time, it was too late to make anything else, and my husband reminded me that college students will eat anything that's homemade, so I sucked it up and served them anyways. Imagine my surprise when not only did they eat them, but they gave them glowing reviews! I had to test them again, and lo and behold, they had become tasty and moist overnight! The pear and carmel flavor shined through...phew!

As I mentioned, I changed the recipe a little because I don't like coffee. Instead, I made a simple caramel icing based on this recipe from Allrecipes, which contributed to the moistness the next day after being soaked up by the muffin. Since the brown sugar I find here in France is a little different than what I'm used to at home, the mixture tasted a little more like powdered sugar than I would have liked, so I added a squirt of a premade caramel topping they have here for things like flan. I'm sure that if made with normal American-style brown sugar, this would not have needed that extra caramel flavor.

Caramel Icing
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Squeeze of prepackaged caramel topping


1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and mix in 3 tablespoons milk and brown sugar. Boil vigorously for 1 minute.
2. Remove from heat, and beat in 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Cool slightly, and beat in the vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick.

Thanks, Foodie Froggy for a great recipe!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cranberry Sauce Bread

I can't believe how daring I've become with my baking! I've always liked to cook and often add my own twists there, and baking was okay, but I never, never deviate from a recipe when baking. Until now.

Recently, I've been baking a lot (at least once a week) because we host a group of college students studying abroad in France in our home every Friday. I've had to go out on a limb because this has resulted in 14 Fridays that I've needed to come up with something for. And now I'm addicted to baking...who knew?!

Anyways, back to the experiment story. Someone made a big batch of cranberry relish for Thanksgiving and gave us the leftovers. We didn't have enough turkey leftover to warrant so much cranberry relish, so I racked my brain to find a solution...and then I came up with cranberry sauce bread! I've become a big fan of the loaf in my baking pilgrimage, so this seemed so natural. Really, I just substituted the cranberry relish for the bananas in my banana bread recipe and added an orange juice glaze, but this little deviation from a baking recipe has been so liberating for me!

There are some changes I'd make next time, but this won't be anytime soon. Cranberries are very difficult to find in France, so I'll have to wait until I return to the States to make this again, I think. Even so, although the traditional cinnamon/nutmeg spice combo tasted good in this recipe, I was looking for something more. As it was, it tasted like banana bread without the bananas and with the tartness of the cranberries. I wanted something more distinctive, and through some recipes for cranberry bread by Dorie Greenspan, I think I'll add some Chinese five spice instead of cinnamon/nutmeg next time. I might try adding a little more of the cranberry sauce, too, for some added tartness. I was limited since I only had a little less than two cups left, and I wanted to make two loaves (one to eat and one to give to the person who had contributed the cranberry relish to Thanksgiving).

Cranberry Sauce Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup cranberry relish (see below for recipe)
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

5 Tablespoons orange juice
1/8 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degree. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together. Add in the cranberry relish, eggs and vanilla. Add in the flour mixture. Add in the milk as well as the nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let rest in the pan for 10 minutes.

While the loaf is cooling in the pan, boil the orange juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. (I approximated here because I wanted a less sugary and more orangey taste. But the glaze doesn't shine without the sugar. You can play with this to your liking.)

Remove the loaf to a rack or platter and poke the top with a toothpick all over. Spoon the orange glaze over the loaf and let cool completely.

Here is the original cranberry relish recipe. Walnuts were used in this batch, but I think that either walnuts or pecans would be fine. Also, I used the cranberry relish a few days after is was made, so that might make a difference in the consistency and taste. If you are able to, make the cranberry relish ahead of time.

Cranberry Relish

Makes 10-12 servings (if used as relish)

1 bag of cranberries (10-12 ounces, 4 cups), washed
2 small oranges, quartered, seeded (can be peeled or unpeeled)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts--pecans or walnut work well

Put cranberries and oranges in a food processor, chop until in small chunks.
Add sugar, mix well.
Chill at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

(Amount of sugar can be altered to increase or lessen tartness, but wait for the hour in the fridge to test.)



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Little Bites of Strasbourg--Swedish Bombes

One of our favorite recent finds in the Strasbourg Christmas market are Swedish Bombes. I think they're called something a little less PC in France, so I'll stick to the German translation. They're a wonderful concoction of a creamy, fresh marshmallow (think marshmallow mixed with mousse) covered in chocolate and flavored with cinnamon, mint, coconut, rum, coffee, and other yummy flavors. I think this will quickly become our new Achilles heel for the season!

Here's the pretty average picture I got yelled at for taking and in turn made me feel so guilty that I bought some. Sometimes a little uncomfortableness is worth it!

The box of 15 that we started out with, including croquant, rum, coconut, cafe mocha, strawberry, cinnamon and mint:

And the favorite unanimously was the mint:

A view of the creamy inside:

We still have a few leftover, but we'll be going back soon for more!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Bites of Strasbourg

Strasbourg's Christmas market (or the Christkindelsmärik) started on Saturday, and I just can't keep myself away. There are a ton of stalls dedicated to little Christmas tchotchkes and other gifts, but what I'm really attracted to are the food stalls. I love vin chaud, and to buy it on the streets is like manna falling from heaven. But there are all sorts of baked goods, chocolates, and other delectibles to sample.

I'll post some of these throughout the market month as I take my time in discovering the different markets and stalls located throughout the city.

Gingerbread is a main staple of the Christmas season here, and as you can see in this picture, it's a popular item:

And who can resist fresh beignets?

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