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beurre – La Gourmandista

Cooking in progress...

Etiqueta: beurre

Baking Bread from scratch (Beginner friendly!)

Bread, like most food, may describe in one way or another how people relate to it according to their culture. For example, in Mexico most people will eat a tortilla, if you are in the north it will most probably be a flour tortilla, while in the center or in the south, it will be white corn tortilla, though it can also be of blue corn, and nowadays they have made some with chipotle or poblano added, or using a mixture of corn with cactus -the latter mostly preferred by ladies of all ages because of the lesser caloric intake. In France, like in most European countries, bread is what accompanies a meal. White, majorly, but whole wheat and organic in the poshest bakeries of the Ville Lumière.

When we first arrived here we did not enjoy completely the texture of what is known as a Baguette Tradition. Little by little we not only got used to it, but we learned to enjoy its flavor and textures. Oh, and we also found where the good bread was sold. One of the reasons for choosing to live this culinary adventure was my intention to find the secret to French bread baking. However, and unfortunately, this is not one class I will have for the time-being. It will take place, just not for now. Since the feeling of ‘urgency’, if I may be allowed to use such a term, was a shared with another one of my classmates, we decided to ask a third fellow student who has already gone through the pastry road to show us how to work the dough.

He gladly agreed to show us. We just needed to get our hands on the recipe to avoid making mistakes when measuring ingredients, since bread needs a certain amount of yeast, especially yeast. Got’em. Now we just needed to mix it, wham it, and dry it.

Oh my God! It was like a little piece of heaven. We prepared an insane amount of bread, some were baguettes. Other pieces were pain de mie. We spread butter and ate it as it came out of the oven. It was like a bread feast. We forced ourselves to stop eating it. We sprinkled zaathar to some, oat to some others, a few more were plain. But all of the pieces were equally tasty.

Truly, now my relationship with bread is different, like with most of the food, and although I still can’t bake a perfect brioche, I will keep on trying to nail it -preferably before attending the corresponding class. It’s just pride, I think.

Now, whenever I leave France, another little piece of the Héxagone will inhabit our home thanks to its bread, its home-baked bread. Care for some?

Getting Ready for the Second Round of Exams

As the Intermediate Cuisine term approached its end, some of my friends and I got a little bit anxious about the exams. There was quite a bit of information to retain regarding France and its products, its agriculture, and its preparations. We decided to go through the material before our exam while enjoying a great cheese platter from different corners of the Hégaxone. Unfortunately for us, we did not do as brilliantly as we would have wanted to perform in our written tests. Maybe our foodie study group method was not good enough. However, what we did know was that we had to nail the practical exam if we wanted to pass our Certificate with flying colors. So, without further ado my dear friend Ashley and I decided to cook ourselves our way through the 10 recipes we were going to blindly choose from on exam day.

If I had to summarize the experience in as few sentences as possible, I would say it was an effort that included 2 cooks, 2 critics, 2 chickens, 1 duck, 2 guinea fowls, 2 red mullets, 2 rabbits, 1 monkfish tail, 4 trout, and a rack of lamb, a whole bunch of veggies, herbs, garlic, oil, cheese, cream, and about 1 kilo of butter. It also required 3 grocery shopping trips to the one which very easily became my now favorite market in Paris (Marché de Passy), and about 30 hours of cooking in about a week and a half. Thankfully, neither a lot of burns nor a lot of cuts happened during what I ended up calling our “10-Dish Challenge”, and the best of all is that we got to have two or three spectacular buffets for dinner at home, but we also had a chance to really reflect on what we wanted to achieve with each preparation, and how to plate them.

On a first round, we separately worked the trout and rabbits. However, for the 8 remaining dishes we thought it would be better and way more cost-effective to do some teamwork and treat ourselves after the hard work of each session to a home cooked restaurant quality dinner.

Now we were surely ready for the exam. We knew everything by heart and were sure that the allotted time was enough for us to prepare good food. The best of it all, no one needed neither Tums nor Alka-Seltzer after what might some even would have considered the banquet dinners served at the Très Petit Château.

Butter in Traditional French Cooking: Why is there so much in it?

Until I came to live in France I watched a lot what I ate. Then, I came here and it all changed. Why? Very simple. The products I was used to getting were no longer available. I had to adapt myself to not having things such as nonstick spray to avoid using oil, or 2% milk that would not upset my stomach, or even my delicious manila mangoes… they don’t even know they exist in these latitudes. And I don’t intend to sound like a whiner, it’s just a mere few examples on how diets tend to change also with the rest of our lives when we move to new places. So, instead of having papaya with lime juice and salt for breakfast I quickly (and needless to say, happily) switched to croissants with marmalade or baguette with butter spread and marmalade if no pastries were available.

But after just a few classes at the well-renowned institution teaching me the foundations of the French Culinary Arts, I found I had to embrace using an additional ‘little bit’ of butter. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about desserts, sauces, tarts, fish, or whatever one might feel like having, there’s always a vast potential for that tiny extra ‘noisette de beurre’ to be used in the preparation we shall taste.

The other day, in the middle of a demonstration class I even had the nerve to laugh out loud when the Chef promoted putting what seemed to me as a pound of butter -of course I am exaggerating as much as possible- to the Sole Meunière which tasted delicious and whose recipe requires frying the fish in bubbly melted butter. And, I didn’t mean to be or sound rude at all, but this way of cooking, though it’s quite tasteful and I can’t deny that I am liking every day a bit more, it surely is very different from those health charts we used to have back in grade school or which are distributed by nutritionists when one wants to lose the uncomfortable love handles acquired with age, lack of exercise, and sedentarism… oh, and McDonald’s. Hahaha!

Then again, it may be healthier to have the little extra yellow fat to make food shine or taste better than stopping by the drive-thru.

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