May 2009


helsinki

When I want a hint of Scandinavia in my baking, I reach for my Great Scandinavian Baking bible by Beatrice Ojakangas for some inspiration.

I attempted my first Finnish bread a couple of years ago.  It was a nerve-racking event as it was ultimately going to be tasted by someone whose mummo (Finnish grandmother), was an all round cooking star.  Needless to say, the pressure was on.

I heard about a tasty cardamom flavoured bread called Pulla.  Naturally, I had to research this thing called ‘Pulla’ within an inch of its life.  Fortunately, in my efforts, I stumbled across Beatrice Ojakangas.  After my first Pulla attempt when I was told the bread tasted, “just like my mummo used to make”, I knew I had picked the right recipe (thanks, Beatrice!).  Now Pulla is made with some regularity at home.  It certainly is worth the time.

pulla

Here is my adapted recipe of Finnish Pulla.

{ Finnish Pulla }

Makes three small braided loaves

* Ingredients *

1 cup (250ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3.5 g active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (or to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 cups plain flour
1/4 cup (62.5g) butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, beaten
Almond slices, toasted

* Directions *

. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add one teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast foams.
2. Warm milk in a small saucepan until it reaches about 45 degrees then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
3. To the yeast, stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups).
4. Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of the flour and beat well. Add the melted butter and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff (you may not need all 5 cups).
5. Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
7. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled. About 1 hour.
8. Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 30 cm strand. Braid 3 strands into a loaf. Lift the loaves onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.
9. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with almond slices along the centre of the braids.
10. Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom can brown easily.
11. When cooled, drizzle with icing.  Try an orange, coffee or plain icing.  All delicious complements to the cardamom, I promise!

kayser

There are a few Kayser stores in Paris.  During my trip to France last year, the first one I attempted to visit, unfortunately, was closed.  The sign on the door posted an explanation, but I could not decipher whether it was due to renovations underway or closed for the obligatory summer schedule.  (Very limited French!)

I eventually stopped by the Maison Kayser store in the 5th arrondissement.  I was keen to visit the store as Eric Kayser is praised lavishly as one of Europe’s best artisan bakers, thoroughout one of my favourite books, Local Breads by Daniel Leader.

However, I had consumed quite an amount of bread at this stage so upon seeing the selection of breads, sweet breads and pastries, opted for something a little sweeter.  Something a little richer. 

I purchased a croissant.

The Kayser croissant absolutely put my recent croissant effortto utter, and complete shame.  They were plump, soft, tender, rich, and buttery.  Perfect in every way.  No wonder it has been voted one of the best croissants in Paris.

Kayser is a must visit and the croissant a definite must try.

Boulangerie Kayser
8 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris

 

gosselinDuring my visit to Paris last year, I started to believe I could reach a limit on bread consumption.  My clothes were starting to feel a little snug and I thought I should ease up a little.  But then I pondered, “I am not in Paris every day so I must persist.  Eat, sample, trial whatever I need.  Diet later”.

Throughout my all consuming Boulangerie et Pâtisserie week, and despite the amount of bread I had sampled, I was looking forward to the offerings at Gosselin.

At Gosselin, it is all about the baguette.  Plain and simple.  Gosselin has been awarded the ‘Best Baguette in Paris’ so this was not to be missed.

I took a trip to the store on Boulevard Saint-Germain around lunch time.  There were quite a number of tourists and locals snapping up a range of sandwiches served on their famous bread.  Not one to want to miss out, I joined them and opted for the same.

It was delicious.  A far cry from the type of sandwich I would pick up locally in my lunch break.  The French really do know how to eat.

Definitely take a trip by.

Gosselin
258 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75007 Paris

fauchon

Next stop on my Paris Pâtisserie et Boulangerie expedition was Fauchon.  My Francophile friend, C., strongly urged me to include a little wander about Place de la Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement.  She is a true gourmand with impeccable taste, so I knew it was a ‘must visit’.

My partner is not so mad about patisserie as myself, but the mention of cheese, cured meats, and wine and you have his attention.  So we wandered to that gastronomically enriched area to take in the delightful stores.  We perused Hediard, la Maison de la Truffle and Maille for the most fabulous savoury delights.  Then my sugar radar forced me to wander over to Fauchon.  I would have had a serious conflict with Ladurée also in plain view had I not already dropped by the 6th arrondissement boutique.

At Fauchon, you are immediately impressed by the slick, modern presentation of the store.  There are no simple éclairs here!  The most vibrant decorations adorned these Pâte à choux treats.

Fauchon is also known for their madeleines.  I adore these little buttery cakes, so purchased a ‘souvenir’ tin full to take home with me.  With our taste and visual sensors surely heightened at this stage, we purchased a little snack to satisfy our developing hunger.  We then took a wander along the river to wrap up our day.  Paris, je t’aime.

Fauchon
24-30 place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris

poilaneThe bread at Poilâne is distinctive.  Big, round loaves of sourdough are boldly stamped and proudly displayed like little pieces of artwork.  In the tiny 6th arrondissement store I visited on a recent trip to Paris, this ‘artwork’ was more than prominent.

I purchased some beautiful sourdough – for which Poilâne is famous – to do a little taste testing.  With one bite, you understand why.  Thick crusted and chewy.  Flavourful and delicious.  This family run business certainly produces some exceptionally tasting bread.  This bread was one of the culinary highlights of my trip. 

With my purchase, I was given some little butter cookie ‘samples’ to nibble.  A lovely sweet finish to a perfect savoury bread.

Poilâne
8 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris 75006

le-boulanger-de-monge 

When sightseeing in Paris last year, my partner and I decided to combine a trip to the markets at Rue Mouffetard with a visit to le Boulanger de Monge.  It was not hard to find this little bakery.  It was the store with the line of customers out the door.

I wanted to familiarise myself with the offerings so took a wander by the window.  In full view of passersby and customers, staff were weighting and shaping great volumes of bread dough.  The speed with which they handled this task was astonishing.  It was a rare sight having this activity so upfront.

I wandered to the back of the line, and once inside, in shaky French unconfidently declared, “Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plaît”. After a few other dialogue exchanges – including a number of agreeable nods from me – I whipped the baguette offered to me under arm and proceeded with my partner to the markets.  We were off to find accompaniments. 

In the little narrow street of the markets there were a host of vendors selling beautiful fruits, flowers, cheeses, meats.  We both noticed this grand chicken rotisserie outside Pascal Gosnet.  We were instantly sold.  After the purchase of half a chicken and a few potatoes (soaked in chicken fat!) later, we then walked to Le Jardin des Plantes– a stunningly beautiful botanical garden in Paris – to find a quiet spot to eat.

The bread was impressive. The flavour was rich and complex, and it was almost nutty.  Le Boulanger de Monge only use 100% wheat flour and it showed.  The bread was earthy with a slightly off-white colour.  It was delicious by itself sans butter or any condiment.

I was amazed how each Boulangerie, with such a simple set of strict ingredients, can produce such unique bread full of depth. In this case I guess that is why Le Boulanger de Monge had a string of customers out the door.  I am sure most locals visit every few days for their daily bread supplies.  What a life!

While munching on our purchases at Le Jardin des Plantes we noticed a group of girls going from person to person. They reached us and said something in French I could not decipher (I probably should have lengthened my enrolment duration at Alliance Francaise!). They quickly switched to English (merci), and we found out that one girl was about to be married.  They were selling homemade crepes to raise money.  Well, despite my fill of bread, chicken and potatoes, how could I not support this girl taking her next step in life?

I selected Nutella as my topping of choice for the crepe. Typically I am strictly a lemon/sugar girl but thought a change would be good. The crepes were lovely, and it was so special to enjoy a homemade version of such a French specialty.  I am not sure if this is a tradition in France, but it was lovely experience.

Le Boulanger de Monge
123 rue Monge, 75006 Paris

dmblgit_blue-apr-2009A big thank you to Gine of i dolci fanno felici for hosting the April 2009 Edition of DMBLGiT (Does My Blog Look Good in This?) event.

Thank you also to the other judges this month – Marija from Palachinka, Ash from Butterflyfoodie, Celine from Have cake will travel and Y from Lemonpi.

My lavender macarons with lavender cream were awarded Overall 2nd Place.

There were many beautiful images in the running this month, and I am humbled to have won an award with so  many good-looking entries submitted.  Thank you!

(Make sure to check out all the other winners and entries.)

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