Thursday, July 29, 2010
Thanks to teachings from my sister-in-law Jeanne, I consider myself to be a damn good cookie maker. So much so that my parents have never quite believed that I've made, from scratch, the cookies that I've given them. Well friends, that was in Philadelphia, and sea-level is a whole different animal than living a quarter of a mile up. Sure, it's not the same altitude as Colorado, but it's enough, coupled with a different set of ingredients, to wreck havok on my favorite cookie recipe, iced pumpkin cookies.
This, my friends, is what these cookies look like at sea-level. *These* are delicious in every possible way (especially when served cold and dipped in hot coffee). I fear *these* cookies may not be seen for quite some time...
Things started out fine enough. Above you see our nice little setup including the mixer we brought over with us in February, and our transformer that allows us to use said mixer, as well as countless other appliances with american outlet ends and power efficiences without causing a fire, electocution, or horrendous other maladies...
The batter was made...and tasted just as it did at sea level...
[I may be smiling, but these are not *my* cookies.]
And I put in the first batch. And when they came out, they looked, well, flat. And spongy (not in a good way). And they were difficult to get off the cookie tray. *My* cookies are not flat. *My* cookies are not spongy in the bad way. *My* cookies are not difficult to get off the cookie tray. I tried again, and messed with the temperature and time a little...second batch: horrendous. Completely doughy on the inside. Played with the time and temperature a little more...by the third and fourth batch they were edible, maybe even averagly good, but still not *my* cookies.
And now we get to the icing. I thought that for sure this would be the least of my problems, since it's only confectioners sugar, vanilla, 1 egg, and milk. Well, please say hello to french confectioners sugar which is neither powdery nor light, as I had become accustomed to with American confectioners sugar from Whole Foods. This confectioners sugar (sucre glace) is heavier, grainy-er, and does not dissolve at all into the mixture, causing the cookie to actually be slightly crunchy when it comes to the icing. So now I've got a recipe to re-write. And it needs to take into consideration how fast the cookie rises (since I believe it's safe to say that this batch of cookies collapsed while baking, causing the flatness), different sets of ingredients, and science in general. Luckily I've enlisted the help of my friend Christine, fellow Philadelphian and comic book enthusiast, of Christine and the Big Scary Kitchen. She gave me some tips to change the recipe, and hopefully the next batch will have a tastier result.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Most of the things that I've encountered in France that revolve around eating have been right up my alley - dinners starting at 8:30 PM, taking one's time to eat (as in three or four hours) so that you can actually appreciate the food that is going into your mouth, the social atmosphere of meals - however the one thing that I still don't understand is why the french choose to have espresso after the meal, which is usually in and around the time of 11 PM. After a night with zero sleep thanks to my approximately 11:30 PM espresso following a friend's birthday dinner last night, I began to wonder, do the french actually sleep?
Cut to last week - we were in the Botanic center in St. Genis-Pouilly buying pots and soil, and I came upon a verveine citronnelle (lemon verbena) plant. The smell of it was the *exact* same smell as the lemon italian water ice that we used to subsist off of on the beach in the summer in Margate, NJ. I knew my life would not be complete without this plant. We brought it home, put it in a bigger pot, and wondered what to do with it.
Pic via here.
So, this morning, in my sleep-deprived-over-caffeinated-state, I began searching for recipes of how to actually use this delicious, refreshing, and nostalgia inducing plant in a way to ease my crankyness. Low and behold - french verveine tisane. I've often seen tisane in the Bio and Migros, but was never quite sure if it was tea or something else. It turns out it's something else - more of an herbal infusion lacking the tannins and caffeine. Tisanes claim to do everything from promoting relaxation, helping one fall asleep after a full meal or an overload of caffeine, to curing migraines (depending on the leaves infused). I found that verveine is often used in these tisanes, and decided that since I've got a little plant just begging to be used on the patio, that it was time to experiment. The result was delicious, with a gentle lemon taste, and dare I say relaxing? You can experiment as you wish to your taste, but for my tisane I used approximately 30 fresh verveine leaves infused in a teapot of boiling water, allowing it to steep for 5 minutes. If you don't have a verveine plant, the link listed above also provides recipes for combinations of other fresh and dried herbs, such as rosemary, basil, fennel, dill, mint and lavender. So,after the next dinner outing and late night espresso I will definitely test out the powers of the french tisane and hope it overcomes the caffeine to will me to sleep...
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Sunday - my favorite day of the week here in France, largely because of the Thoiry market and the big lunch with procured market goodies that follows. Today was sunny and about 70-75 degrees, which is perfect market weather. It seems to be a little busier every passing week, and the market has gotten larger in the last few weeks as a result.
[Hooray for the start of fig season!!!]
One of the aspects of french culture that I have embraced head on is buying fresh flowers at the market every week. They just brighten up the house wherever they are placed!
Au revoir for now - off to the new neighbors house for ice cream and then maybe an outdoor movie in Geneva...stay cool East Coast!
Shopping in France is pretty much always an experience, but today at the Botanic center in St. Genis-Pouilly I finally tried on these kick-ass wooden gardening clogs, which I've been told are an artisanal craft of the region...and found out that they are the most uncomfortable things I have ever tried on. So sad because they're so cool looking.
Then at the Carrefour, we found these lovely little shirt designs...
[I think somebody needs a spell checker...]
[I thought we were more known for our cheesesteaks, pretzels, water ice, and battery throwing than our burgeoning trucking idustry..]
Off to bed, Thoiry market in the morning...good night!
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It was hot hot hot and sunny at the flea at Plainpalais yesterday. One of those days where it's just so hot and sunny that you don't even want to search through all of the boxes for that one magical vintage tea cup that you know will change your life. The prices were also a bit higher than normal as it's officially tourist season in the market circles. Despite the heat I was able to come away with some sweet finds like a "milking stool" that I had my eye on for some time before it had disappeared into the flea market vortex (though I'm told it's actually a stool to play the piano with), a set of six Ricard glasses, a vintage cermanic bundt pan, a sweet vintage pitcher, and a tea towel with the recipe for Haggis on it (Burns Night here we come!).
And as per usual, some skateparklove. I heart Geneva.
The other night while having dinner on the patio we heard what sounded like a fan off in the distance, and looked up to see a man flying through the air with nothing more than a sail-type thing above his heard. It was then that we realized that the fan noise we were hearing must have been some sort of engine connected to the chair-sling-like-device that he was sitting on/strapped into...to fly. Through the air. Unassisted. We never saw him land but sure hope he made it home for dinner...
Sunflower update! Remember those sunflowers I showed you a few days ago? Well on a recent bike ride down to the Val Thoiry it appears that they are all open and full of sunflowery gold goodness! Thanks for the tip DDD!
It's cloudy and cool here today, a perfect time to catch up on some posting. We even got a little rain, which is nice because it's rained for all of about a hot second over the last month and a half here. On one of those really hot and sunny days this week I took a bike ride through St. Jean de Gonville. It's a sleepy little town a bit up the mountain from us, and full of beautiful old farmhouses, a boulangerie (of which I saw open for the first time on this day), a church and a hotel.