Petits pains au lait au chocolat

Wonderful petits pains made with milk and stuffed with chocolate! And they taste better when an eight year old helps in the process!

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For about 16 petits pains

1- Use the recipe for petits pains au lait (link here).

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2- At the stage where you make the petits pains (after two hours of letting the dough rise), insert a few high quality dark chocolate squares and fold gently. You can make them any shape you want: long, square, half circles, etc.

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3- Let them rise for another hour. Brush with egg yolk and bake as with the plain petits pains for 15 minutes in a 180º c. oven.

Let them cool a little before serving as the chocolate inside will be very hot. They are delicious the next day for breakfast! 

 

 

Petits pains au lait

Little breads made with milk. They taste like a child’s dream…

My aunt used to make them in the summer in Morocco, and they were our goûter (snack) after a day at the beach, with melted salted butter and jam. They can also be made with raisins or chocolate. In the latter case, simply slip a few squares of chocolate inside the dough.

As with all the breads I make, I used my hands to mix and knead the dough. It is a wonderful meditation exercise.

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For about 16 petits pains (half the proportion if you want eight to ten)
1- Start by mixing an envelope of dried baker’s yeast with 25 cl of whole milk. Mix well until the yeast has dissolved. You can heat up the milk slightly in bain-marie if the kitchen is cold as during winter.
2- In a large bowl, mix with your fingers 500 gr of flour (you can use whole or white or a mixture of both), 50 gr of brown sugar (you can replace it with a generous tablespoon of honey), a tablespoon of olive oil (10 cl) and a teaspoon of salt. Mix well running the flour through your fingers to make sure the salt is properly mixed in.
3- Slowly add the milk and yeast mixture and keep kneading until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers. Keep kneading for another 10 to 15 minutes.
4- Shape the dough into a large ball and leave in the big bowl covered with a humid towel. Place in a warm place in the kitchen. I simply leave it under a lamp.
5- Let the dough rise for at least one hour.
6- Take the dough out the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Punch it so that the air comes out and shape it into petits pains. You can make them either long shaped or like little balls. At this point mix in additional ingredients such raisins or chocolate.

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7- Place in a baking pan and cover. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes. (I like to leave it another full hour).
8- Heat up the oven to 180º c and place a container with water inside so that some humidity builds up. Make sure the oven has reached that temperature before placing the petits pains.
9- Brush the petits pains with egg yolk and place the baking pan in the oven. Take out the water container and sprinkle the bottom of the oven with water so as to create some steam.
10- Bake for 15 minutes. Ten minutes into the process open the oven and sprinkle the bottom part of the oven with water to create more steam.

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Take out and enjoy!

Confiture d’abricot et verneine – Apricot and verbena jam

Verveine, known in English as Verbena or Verbena Citronella, is a delicate herb used mainly for tea and as a digestive all around the Mediterranean. It is not readily available in Mexico except if grown in a private garden. So the last time I was in Paris, I bought boxes and boxes of it. I grew up drinking it in the evening, and to this day, I do the same.

Verbena has a lovely minty fragrance and a slightly citrus like taste, making it a wonderful match with many jams such as apricot, peach or raspberries. To use it in jam, the best would be to use loose fresh leaves. But if you do not have any at hand, as in my case, simply prepare a infusion as indicated in this recipe.

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For one kilogram of fresh apricots
1- First, make the verbena infusion. It should be concentrated. Place one teabag in 100 ml of boiling water and let it sit until the water becomes dark gold.

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2- Wash the apricots, cut in half, take out the pits and cut again in quarters if the apricots are large.

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3- In a large cooking pan, place the apricots, the verbena infusion and a mix of 550 gr of white granulated sugar and 250 gr of brown sugar (sugar should total 800 gr).
4- Place on medium heat until it starts to boil. During that time, mix gently so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
5- Bring down the heat to low and let it simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir every five minutes or so during the process, do it gently so as not to break the fruits.
6- You know the jam is done once you place a drop of the liquid on a cold plate and it does not run when you tilt the plate. Once it is done, immediately place the jam in tightly closed glass containers previously sterilized with boiling water.
7- Let it cool down then place in the fridge. The jam is ready 24 hours later.

Enjoy as you would enjoy any jam!

Asperges au safran et au chutney de mangue – Saffron asparagus with mango chutney

A delicious side dish with asparagus cooked in saffron scented water topped with mango chutney. I served it with warm boiled eggs on a bed of baby arugula. Perfect for a warm summer’s lunch.

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1- Wash and cut the asparagus at about a third of its length.
2- Boil water and add a generous amount of saffron liquid (recipe here ). Place the asparagus gently and let it cook until it is al dente.

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3- Take the asparagus out of the boiling water and place them in a sieve to get rid of the excess water.

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To serve simply place it on a plate and top with mango chutney (recipe here). It can accompany any dish that does not have many spices since the chutney provides a lot of taste, such as eggs as here or broiled fish. Enjoy! 

Pain au raisin – raisin bread

I love making bread. This time it came out really nice and I am so glad.

I started making bread when I lived in India as it was hard to find bread aside from sliced toast, and of course, as every one, I made Naan and other Indian breads at home. But I wanted the feel of a baguette, still my favourite breakfast with salted butter and homemade jam. So I started making my own bread. It took some time and some calibrating depending on if it was monsoon season or not. Actually during the monsoon, the bread came out almost perfect since the humidity and the heat greatly helped make the dough rise and the bread always came out soft on the inside and with a deliciously crispy crust.

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Since I moved to Mexico I have had trouble making bread. It either came out too dry, or the dough did not rise, or something or the other went wrong. I thought it may be the yeast. So the last time I was in Paris I bought several boxes of baker’s yeast and… it seems  that this time it worked or maybe it was just that I did something right!

Here a nice and easy recipe that anyone can do. You do not need a kneading machine, or a bread machine, or any kind of machine. As with most everything I cook, I use my hands and kneading becomes a meditation experience.

I have included all the stages commonly associated with bread-making (le pétrissage, la levée, le façonnage et la cuisson) and a few tips. I hope it will convince you to try.

Stage zero: getting the ingredients ready
1- In a small bowl mix one cup of tepid water with one envelope of rising baker’s yeast. Mix with a spoon until the yeast is completely diluted. Set aside.
2- In a larger bowl place three cups of flour (white or whole or mixed – you can vary the kind of flour and adjust as you see fit) and one teaspoon of sea salt (gros sel). Mix well by hand letting the flour and the salt run through your fingers (the salt can have a contrary effect on the yeast so make sure the salt is mixed thoroughly with the flour). Add one tablespoon of olive oil and mix again by hand.

Stage one: Le pétrissage – kneading
1- In the larger bowl, slowly add the cup of tepid water and knead the dough as you go along. Bring the knead from the sides to the middle gently for at least 10 minutes.
2- Then start kneading inside the bowl. Make sure you insert pockets of air as you work the dough so that it may rise faster. Knead for at least 15 minutes. (If you feel it is too dry, add a little bit of water. If you feel it is too wet, just add a bit of flour.)

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Stage two: La levée – raising
1- Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl covered with a cotton clothe made humid with warm water. Place it in a warm place in the kitchen, the higher the temperature the better. (I generally place it under a lamp, it works.)
2- Leave the dough to rise for at least an hour. It should double in volume.

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Stage three: Le façonnage – shaping
1- After one hour, knead the dough on a floured surface making sure you create air pockets as you knead. The best way is simply to fold the dough.
2- At this point start adding the raisins (or other dry ingredients) a little at the time and keep folding the dough.
3- Arrange the dough in the shape you desire: baguette, little baguettes, round shaped, etc.
4- With a sharp knife, make some indentations on the top of the dough.
5- Let it rest for another 30 minutes to an hour.

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Stage four: La cuisson – baking
1- At least 15 minutes before you start baking the bread, heat up the oven to 250º C. Place a deep baking dish filled with water at the bottom of the oven . This will insure that the air in the oven is not too dry.
2- Place the dough in the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 250º c. (You may want to splash a little bit of water at the bottom of the oven to create some steam just before you insert the dough for baking.)
3- Then lower the temperature to 210º c. and continue baking the bread for 15 minutes.
4- Finally, lower the temperature to 190º c. and let it bake for 5 to 10 minutes. This last stage is important as it will enable the bread to remain soft on the inside with a nice and crispy crust.
5- Once out of the oven, let it cool on a rack. It is important so that the bread does not “sweat.”

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Enjoy immediately with salty butter or any way you want.