Foodiva's Kitchen: January 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Quatre-Quarts

Sometimes I do wake up in the mornings and feel like I've just had the most incredible dream.
I've just dreamt my life.
~ Richard Branson 

Helleww......I'm back! After several weeks of wedding-related shenanigans, I'm glad to be wiping the mounting dust off my copy of Dorie's Around My French Table cookbook in order to partake in this week's recipe, a classic French pound cake, or Quatre-Quarts. It's a simple recipe with only four main ingredients, flour, butter, eggs and sugar - used in equal amounts (hence "four-fourths") - and flavored only with a hint of vanilla.

This cake is a great one to bake if you're a rookie in the baking department, it's so easy and quite literally is "a piece of cake", if you'll forgive the pun! The eggs are separated and the whipped egg-whites are then folded into the batter, giving a light and airy-textured cake. By Dorie's reckoning, this is a dry cake compared to American pound cakes, but I thought it was just fine. Or I just may have a propensity for dry, crumbly cakes from having lived in Europe for a bit.

I chose not to dress up the cake and instead sprinkled the top with a mixture of black sesame powder and brown sugar prior to baking it. This gave the resulting cake a slight, pleasant crust from the caramelized sugar and a nutty flavor from the sesame. I loved biting through the crisp top layer into the tender inside of the cake, such an understated but elegant cake. So very French!

Instead of using a round cake pan, I used a heart-shaped mold to bake the batter in. Speaking of hearts, I'd like to share with you some images from my sister's wedding last weekend. Nothing to do with a food blog, of course...but there was a lot of food and feasting involved, I assure you!

The groom saying his wedding vows - just one take and he's part of our clan :).

After the wedding vows, or nikah ceremony

My sister's husband hails from Kosovo, a country only independent in 2008. He was one of the millions of displaced individuals resulting from the war in Kosovo in 1999. At the insistence of his ageing father, he escaped through the mountains, leaving all his family members behind and two weeks later arrived in Switzerland, where he has lived and worked since. And that's where he met my sister. It's hugely ironic that someone who'd come from a war-torn region has ended up with someone who comes from one of the most peaceful countries on earth (Brunei a.k.a. Abode of Peace). Maybe they were brought together for a good reason - to show us that Hope, well it's not just a myth, after all. :)

 Bride and groom getting ready for the wedding reception
Have a blessed marriage, Fidah & Ardian!

Back to the quatre-quarts! See how my online cooking group buddies fared with this recipe here. Better still, get yourself a copy of the book and join us, won't you?

Have a beautiful weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 6, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Bubble-Top Brioches

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.
~ T.S. Eliot

This is it - my first new year post, finally. Nearly a week into January, I'm taking my time to ease into 2012. No need to rush...I'm trying to savor every minute (and that's not even a new year resolution, by the way). What better way to start off with than by baking bread, and Dorie Greenspan's Bubble-Top Brioches at that? After a couple of weeks of missing out on French Fridays with Dorie, I was truly looking forward to baking these beauties!

The dough was soft, buttery and beautiful to work with. Part of the preparation method was to chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours after the first rising, slapping it down every half hour or so until it no longer rises so actively. Then chill it overnight to attain a perfect brioche texture. Call me weird, but that slapping part was probably the most stress-busting fun I've had in a while. The dough was so accommodating to my hard whacks, it kept bouncing gently back. So inspirational, I should carry that resilient attitude inside me throughout the year. For always, even.

Whack the dough down until you leave your mark :)

In the past, I've tried baking several versions of brioches using slightly different techniques of preparing the dough but I must admit, this was the best-textured dough I've ever made. I was worried because it was very soft, almost batter-like to start with, but I simply stuck to Dorie's instructions and suddenly, magic happened! The dough was not even as sticky as I'd anticipated, and sadly for this post, no drama whatsoever was involved in rolling it into 'bubbles'. Pretty easy.

4 to 5 bubble-tops - I was just trying to be clever ( it didn't work!).

Do check out this fab brioche recipe in Dorie's cookbook, Around My French Table. It can be made into brioche loaves too. Hmm...I wonder if any of the Doristas did just that? Find out more about their versions  of this bread here.

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