Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sweet Paris: Tarte aux Pommes and Chocolat Chaud


I'm in love. With anything French. I love the language, I love the country, I love the films, and of course the food. I have a nice collection of French-themed cookbooks in my arsenal. You really can't have enough. I believe that. Most recently, I received a copy of Sweet Paris, a book focusing on the sweeter side of the capital city. It's published by Hardie Grant Books, but distributed here in the US by Rizzoli.


The book only contains about 2 dozen recipes, so beware of that if purchasing yourself a copy. Also, the recipes are mainly written using weights and not volumes. I love this, but it's important to note for others who may not own a kitchen scale. It's not as intensive recipe-wise as other books may be. Where Sweet Paris shines is in offering a beautiful tour of the highlights in Parisian sweets. Discussions range from chocolate bars and bonbons to madeleines and financiers and all the way to ice cream, gelato and sorbet. A myriad of Parisian desserts are defined along with lovely photographs. A select few of these special treats are included as recipes in the book.


I believe this book is more of a collectors piece as opposed to a traditional cookbook. You will find recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth, but even more so it may satisfy your longings for Paris (or spark them into an actual trip). The photographs are really beautiful. I can picture myself eating my way through Paris as I peruse them.


The recipes themselves cover quite a nice range of French desserts. The book begins with a recipe for chocolate truffles and ends with one for pastry crust, two very French traditions. In between, you will find everything from eclairs to brioche to chocolate mousse. It's a nice selection, but not overwhelming. The book is a bit expensive considering the lack of recipes, but you can find some great deals online! It's perhaps more of a coffee table book with recipes than a straightforward cookbook.


I made a couple treats from the book. Both were lovely. I had trouble deciding which to share, so I'm including both. First up is the Traditional Tarte aux Pommes, or apple tart. It is simple and sometimes rustic, but it is an excellent treat for family or guests. The lovely arrangement of apple slices make it incredibly eye-appealing as well. An almond frangipane filling adds another layer of flavor. My only issues with the actual recipe were that I had to make a few adjustments for the recipe to work.


I added a bit of water to the crust for it to actually come together. I only needed half as many apples as the recipe suggested. The tart baked nearly twice as long as it was supposed to. I required less of the glaze as well. I have included my own adjustments to the recipe below.


The second recipe I will be sharing is so quick and simple that I couldn't imagine leaving it out. It's also absolute perfection on a cold winter's day. I'm talking about Chocolat Chaud, or hot chocolate. I made some adjustments to this recipe too, mainly because of what I had on hand. I used low-fat milk and heavy cream instead of whole milk and light cream, but made some adjustments to the quantities to allow for a similar fat content (used less cream and more milk).


I also flip-flopped the amounts for the bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate, but only because of what I had in my pantry. I am writing the recipe, for the most part, as it appears in the book. Feel free to make adjustments as you need to, just as I did. It's pretty hard to screw this one up! It's so rich and delicious that it's hard to resist. You will never make hot chocolate any other way after you've tried this!


Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart
(Adapted from Sweet Paris)

Pâte Sucrée:
200 g (7 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
75 g (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
Pinch sea salt
90 g (3 oz) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 T. cold water

Frangipane Filling:
100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
50 g (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
100 g (3 1/2 oz) ground almonds or almond meal
2 large eggs

Apple Filling:
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
25 g (.9 oz) melted butter
1/2 egg, beaten

Glaze:
2 T. apricot jam
1 T. water

To make the pâte sucrée: Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg yolks and pulse again until combined. While the food processor is running, slowly add the water until the mixture just comes together.

Remove the dough to a work surface and knead gently to bring it together into a smooth ball. Shape the pastry into a flat disc and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (alternatively, it can be frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator when needed).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the chilled pastry until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and then gently unfold it over a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Gently fit the pastry into the pan against the sides and trim away excess dough. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place the crust in the fridge for at least 2 hours to stop shrinkage when baking.

Remove from the fridge, line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked beans or rice. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, cool on a rack, and then refrigerate.

For the frangipane filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand if you're feeling adventurous), combine the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Then add the ground almonds and mix until smooth. Finally add the eggs and combine well. Spoon the frangipane filling into the tart shell, smoothing it out evenly.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Starting from the outside, arrange the apple slices in a spiral pattern, overlapping one another until the entire surface is covered. Bake for 5 minutes and then brush the top with the melted butter. Continue to bake for about 45 minutes longer until the filling begins to brown. Then lightly brush the top with the beaten egg and return to the oven for another 5 minutes (giving you a total of about 55 minutes baking time).

To make the glaze, heat the apricot jam and water in a small pan and strain into a bowl. Remove the tart from the oven and, while still warm, use a pastry brush to coat the apples with the warm glaze. Serve either hot or cold plain, with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.


Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate)
Serves 4
(Adapted from Sweet Paris)

600 ml (20 fl oz) whole milk
250 ml (9 fl oz) light cream
2 T. light brown sugar
Pinch sea salt
150 g (5 1/2 oz) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
100 g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, finely chopped
300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) heavy cream, whipped, to serve (optional)

Add the milk, cream, brown sugar, and salt to a large saucepan. Warm over medium heat and bring to a simmer, but don't boil.

Remove from the heat and add the chocolates, stirring until they melt and the mixture becomes smooth. At this point, start whisking the mixture for a couple minutes until the chocolate is smooth and a little frothy.

Return to the heat and bring it back to a simmer, but not a boil. Pour the mixture into cups and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

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