p3: Bagels

#24, Bagels

fresh-baked-bagels-4268-lgI’ve been wanting to do a recipe for bagels for quite a while, we’ve been stocking them more often in the pantry again, always a favorite breakfast snack! But there have been two distinct notes of opposition preventing me from doing this: first, of course, find a couple day period to spend making them, a pain when one keeps getting distractions or days that make you just not want to do anything. But the second, and bigger issue, is my recipe book’s requirement for “High Gluten Flour.” And no, this doesn’t mean just bread flour, high-gluten is a step higher than that and apparently instrumental to making those perfectly chewy bagels.

But apparently no one has it in stores, at least not the ones I’ve tried near me, and it is flipping pricey to buy online JUST for a bag of flour. So the thought was doomed, left to be procrastinated on for who knows how long. Thankfully, though, I ended up catching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they made, gasp, bagels! In it they DID use bread flour, or mentioned it was still a viable substitute for their recipe, helping get my brain back on track to the idea of making these holey goodies. Found a recipe online that actually STARTED with the ATK recipe but made his own manipulations to get an end result that was a little more classic and refined [plus without all those extra little odd steps they do in the show, which makes an awesome recipe yes but not a very classic one].

20160217_002101A few notes, this IS one of the bread recipes where, much like pretzels, the proofed dough is dunked into a boiling water solution mixed with baking soda to gelatinize the outer layer for an even thicker and distinct crust after baking. The dough itself is made VERY firm and stiff; it is highly advised you do NOT try to man up to knead it and just use a stand mixer instead. Because even THOSE will be struggling to whip it around. And I mentioned the special ingredient of high gluten flour, but there’s another one: Malt Powder or syrup. Apparently they’re used as the sweet aspect in lots of bagel recipes, both for the yeast to eat and to add an additional edge of flavor to the final product [likely a continued nod to the older times where some bagel makers just used some cheap available leftover materials from their or other beer making]. The powder itself is sort of in the same category as the flour, likely needing to order it, but one can find Barley Malt Syrup rather easily in stores, which I LOVE using by the way. For anyone who’s made beer and had to start out using the syrups and powders alongside the malt, they know the concentrated almost-molassasey goodness that this offers! Need to find some other cool things to mix it into… oh, and fair warning, this mofo is STICKY as all hell. No matter what it will not just fall off anything naturally, so be warned with pouring!

Recipe 20160217_001752 6 cup High Protein/Gluten or Bread Flour
2 ¼ tsp Dry Yeast
1 Tb Kosher Salt
1/3 cup + 1 Tb Barley Malt Syrup or 2/3 cup Barley Malt Powder
2 cup Hot Water [88-100F]
1 Tb Baking Soda
Desired Toppings, if any
Egg White Wash [if topping]


  1. Combine Flour, Yeast, Salt, and Barley Malt Powder [if using] in stand mixer20160217_002316
  2. If using 1/3 cup Barley Malt Syrup, mix with Hot Water to dissolve, slowly streaming into the flour mixture while mixing on low speed [using paddle attachment]20160217_002608
  3. Once all loose flour has come together into a single mass, exchange paddle for dough hook and start beating around the dough on medium speed20160217_002739
  4. Mix for at least 10 minutes, and yes your mixer WILL be working hard to do this, until your sturdy dough is smooth and elastic20160217_004341
  5. Plop this on counter, loosely covering with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let rest at least 5 minutes to relax20160217_011256
  6. Divide into 12 even-sized pieces. Placing a piece between your palm, fingers bent like a claw, and the counter surface [or if it has NO traction like my counter, your other palm], roll the dough rapidly in circles until it forms a smooth boule. It can help to tuck parts of it into the back like with regular boule-making technique at first
  7. Take each ball, gently pushing a hole straight through the center with your finger/thumb, and begin working this hole out to at least 1½” wide by slowly turning and pressing evenly with your thumb [that whole “spinning around your finger” trick probably DOES work, but only if the dough is absolutely perfect to start out with]. Alternately, one can roll the dough into an even log and wrap around your palm, re-connecting the ends into a perfect circle. Good luck20160217_013512
  8. Transfer to cornmeal-dusted pan, cover with plastic and move to refrigerator overnight20160217_115621
  9. The next day, take dough out and prepare your water bath. Combine 1 gallon water, the 1 Tb Malt Syrup, and Baking Soda, bringing to a boil20160217_120518
  10. Dip 3-4 doughnuts into the water at a time, leaving to boil on one side for one minute before turning over for another minute20160217_121003
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack to drip for a bit and then to another cornmeal-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. As this is going, preheat oven to 450F20160217_122514
  12. If sprinkling any toppings [I myself used a Lemon Flake Sea Salt on some], brush the tops and sides of your bagels with Egg Wash [1 tsp of water mixed w/ one egg white vigorously], then sprinkle as generously as desired, patting ingredients down and into it afterwards20160217_124754
  13. Move into oven, baking at least 15-20 minutes, turning 180 degrees halfway through cook time
  14. Once deep golden brown and baked through, remove20160217_124805
  15. Let cool half an hour before use or, if you’re cool, cut open immediately and cover those hot insides with butter and/or a schmear of cream cheese
  16. Enjoy

20160217_154230What Have I Learned This Time?

That I still need more work with shaping, these bagels were a pain trying to keep even and ‘perfect’ looking. At least those rough edges softened up by the final product through proofing and baking, but I may have to try the ‘roll and wrap’ technique for shaping if I ever do this again.

Bagels definitely do NOT need egg wash if there’s no topping; I much prefer their color when baked as-is, the others made me nervous of being in too long.

The benefits of using a slightly damp towel when resting certain doughs; the bagel dough definitely started to get one of those firm skins on parts of it before shaping, which made the process itself that much more difficult. I feel like it developed one rather fast too. Sadly I hadn’t noticed the ‘damp towel’ instruction in the recipe [and it might have just been in another one that I read earlier actually], but it definitely would have helped here.

Any Thoughts?

The end result comes reminiscent of pretzels… not surprising given the similar boil-bath before baking. Big, chewy, and for once with a crunchy exterior when eaten close to fresh, it’s a good version of a bagel. Can’t wait to try one in New York in a month or so to do a proper comparison.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It still thinks I need to work on my massage technique…


p1: Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur

The Dish

b840179a361e48ef94435b49a7c01546I’m no longer allowed to make ANYTHING lamb when my mother is around, since SOMEONE’S sensitive about it being ‘not as old’ as Mutton… doesn’t matter what age it may be, but nooooo more lamb allowed in the house. So for a particular recipe I’ve been gearing to make for a while, I’ve had to wait for that perfect opportunity where 1: the folks are out on vacation, 2: I’ve got enough time in my schedule to plan and set up a night to cook it, and 3: have the opportunity where I can bring in at least a few friends and family member to make it a fun food gathering, as it should be. Yay me I got a perfect evening on the LAST weekend that I had the whole house just to myself.

And what is this dish? Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur. Translated as “Weeping Leg of Lamb Roast,” the whole idea is that it’s indeed just a simple roasted lamb leg… sitting on a rack over a bed of potatoes, so every little ounce of melted fat, dripping juices and other goodies fall onto and absorbs into the delicious tuber as they cook. A full on foray into the indulgence and epitome of a pure meat and potato dish.

Now what’s the history of this dish? Truthfully… there really isn’t anything significant that I can find at ALL. The time that sheep became used often for food in France is the time these roast dinners would have popped up. And there’s no real particular region for this either; it’s famous in Bordeaux, grass-eating sheep in northern Normandy form delicious rich flavors, and the particular Buzzfeed list this came from has it under the southern reaches. So no help there. Not to mention it comes in many forms; the whole ‘roasting over potatoes’ thing is really only just one of a few twists to the preparation next to just cooking the lamb on its OWN. It’s not necessarily THE most traditional form of it, though gotta admit it’s one of the most rustically beautiful and delicious.

One interesting thing I’ve found. The French word for leg of lamb, ‘Gigot,’ comes from a root that means ‘fiddle.’ Rather apt considering the shape. But the thing is this word, ‘gigue,’ derives from Middle High GERMAN term ‘gige.’ Potential past influence via European neighbors/invaders? Considering the potatoes… possibly.

A Word On…

20151213_120924Lamb: This is rather simple, we’re just looking for a leg; so long as you’ve found a favorite and reliable butcher/deli, it’s a snap just to order. Though I doubt you’ll be getting a whole leg unless you’re willing to put down a LOT of money [my partial leg at 5+ lbs set me back 60 bucks], so a partial/center cut section of leg is fine. Just make sure there’s a big bone inside for flavor! That and to make some soup afterward.

Flavor Infusion: Garlic and rosemary are the boss here; there may be some use of OTHER herbs a la thyme, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, etc [mixtures known as ‘herbes de provence’], but truly these are the only two used consistently and to the best, most distinctive effect. Plus you just gotta love rosemary [oh how I wish I still had my pot of it…]. But the main consideration here isn’t what aromatics to use, but HOW to use them.

There are two techniques. One of the more classic and sort of ‘fancy,’ or presentable, ways of doing it is to literally push big chunks of garlic and rosemary INTO the lamb, ‘studding’ it with flavor that will then permeate as it cooks. This is what I’m doing as I’ve been really wanting to try it out for meat flavoring, that and the whole compound-butter-under-poultry-skin thing. The second technique is, quite simply, cutting a big bunch of each up [maybe making a paste with some butter/oil] and rubbing it all over the lamb as a seasoning/marinade. This is used quite often too, and I actually wanted to do BOTH to really ensure an awesome flavor all inside and crusted outside… but of course I didn’t properly check my garlic stocks until last minute. Soooooo nowhere near enough, I get to see what JUST studding will do for me.

Roast Time, Lamb: So, interesting, my favorite super-classic-French-food-‘encyclopedia’ states that a roasting temperature of 425F with a time of 20-22 minutes per lb of lamb yields a perfect pink center. But all other recipes seem to hang at 350-400, mostly leaning towards the latter half, stating 18-20 minutes at MOST for the pink insides. By the way, you want the pink… ‘fully’ cooked at brown throughout, that’s just wrong. You ‘well done steak’ people are monsters, you do understand that right? Ahem, anyways, I’m attempting mine at something close to what my book states, 400F with an average of 20 minutes a lb, of course giving the poke test around that time to see if it’s where I want it to be. With luck, it’ll be beautifully golden brown on the outside and tenderly medium-rare inside!

Roast Time, Potatoes: 2 hour maximum, if not a little less. It’s something that needs noting, as some legs of lamb can go for even longer. In which case, you’ll have to roast it in or over another pan before transferring the taters into the oven at the appropriate time. Which has a great benefit in that you can use the other pan, filled with some lamb juices, fat, and hopefully the crusty fond, to make…

Sauce: There’s nothing really traditional ‘have to have’ with gigot d’agneau a la pleureur, but I just don’t see doing a lamb and potato dish without some good sauce. But in these scenarios, one can’t beat a simple pan sauce. That’s when you’ll take your roasting pan with that beautiful fond in it, or a sauté pan that some of the meat has been seared in, put it over a hot stove and add some wine and, preferably, a related broth/stock. This will dissolve all those delicious goodies from the meat that’s sticking to the pan, adding their flavor, and cook down into a perfectly thick and flavorful liquid. From which one can adjust with any number of herbs, spices, or other aromatics. I ended up making my own last-minute kind of pan sauce with some scraps, a ‘recipe’ which I added after the gigot to give an idea on what you yourself can do at home.

Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur
1 Bone-in Leg of Lamb
4 large cloves of Garlic, at least
6-10 Rosemary Sprigs
4-6-ish Russet Potatoes
½ an Onion
Salt and Pepper
1 stick Butter
Pan Sauce [a recipe follows]


  1. Remove Lamb from wrapping, rinsing off thoroughly in sink, drying just as thoroughly with paper towels
  2. Start cleaning the lamb. With a sharp boning knife, or other delicate blade, carefully slice off as much skin, film, and fat from the surface of the meat as possible, still leaving a bit of fatty outside sections for rending and flavor. Reserve for sauce20151213_120834
  3. On the side, cut each clove of Garlic into 4 slivers and break Rosemary stems into 2-3 solid bunches each
  4. Taking your boning, or some other thin sharp, knife, carefully stab around 16 deep slivers into the leg. Into each of these, force one piece of garlic and rosemary, leaving the newly studded meat to rest at least one hour before cooking20151213_125434
  5. Preheat oven to 400F
  6. Thoroughly rub butter all around the lamb, judiciously seasoning the outside with a light crust of salt and pepper20151213_151505
  7. With a mandoline, slice your Potatoes and Onion into 1/8-1/4” rounds. Layer these in roasting pan with dabs of the remaining butter and sprinkles of salt and pepper20151213_151105
  8. If lamb is expected to cook for OVER 2 hours, set it on a rack over a separate roasting pan, preparing to move to potatoes later on in the baking. If UNDER, rest lamb on rack above potatoes and slide into oven now
  9. Roast as directed, 18-ish minutes per pound, until brown and delicious on outside and almost fully cooked, thus nicely pink, inside20151213_165644
  10. Remove lamb, setting to rest on cutting board at least 10 minutes [w/ foil tent over ideally] before cutting. Leave potatoes in oven to cook further as this happens20151213_170520
  11. Cut lamb into slices after removing potatoes, working carefully around the bone
  12. Plate meat and potatoes together, finishing with a prepared Pan Sauce
  13. Enjoy20151213_171010

Andrew’s Substitute Pan Sauce
Leftover Lamb Scraps
Another ½ an Onion
1 cup or more, as needed, Red Wine [preferably French]
1 Sprig Rosemary, Chopped
1 tsp Capers, Chopped
Salt and Pepper


  1. Heat a pan to a high, but NOT scorching/smoking, heat
  2. Throw in Lamb Scraps, the cut off fat and skin, letting it sear and sauté for 5-10 minutes with minimum stirring20151213_152335
  3. Once the stuff is somewhat browned and, more importantly, the pan has started developing a fond, remove almost all the lamb and pour off most of the excess fat. Feel free to leave in any little chunks of meat that may have been attached to the fat20151213_152517
  4. Dice Onion, tossing in to sauté in the rendered lamb fat, 2-4 minutes or until somewhat soft20151213_152855
  5. Deglaze with Wine, adding in the Rosemary and Capers, leaving to boil and reduce until the wine has thickened20151213_153923
  6. Remove from heat, taste, and season with Salt and Pepper as desired
  7. Reserve for lamb

20151213_171144The Verdict

I love it when a lamb comes together [get it!? Like the A-team… yeah I’m not proud of me either]. And darn if this didn’t come out… just like I wanted it to. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, the cook-time estimates I found had it go a BIT beyond what I personally wanted; would much rather prefer having more pink, but it was still there closer to the bone. Besides, the not-so-pink meat was still juicy and tender, and damn if it wasn’t full of flavor. Perfectly rich lamby taste, seasoned good… and I admit I didn’t expect MUCH effect from just the studding-infusion of the garlic and rosemary without also having a rub, but they actually gave a notably gentle aromatic addition to the flavor.

THEN we get to the potatoes… a bit on the fatty side of the flavor, so a big plus in my books. Flavors have officially soaked in. But it’s when you take a giant scoop of meat, potatoes, and sauce together that it’s best. What starts off as a fancy-like, seemingly classically haute-dish reveals its highly rustic charms as all I wanted to do was shovel more and more of it into my mouth. I just love when I fully enjoy one of these recipes like so. I could and probably should try to talk about other ‘elements’ of it and execution, but this is about all I want to really say.

20151213_170236Primary Pairing – “Koggen”

One of the epitomes of French Meat and Potato dishes, I’ve gotta use a beer sooner or later [I’ll try not to use one in the next meat-potatoes-ish one]. Something dark, malty, and heavy would do the trick, but I feel anything porter/stout-related might be a bit too much. Which is when I happily ran across a beer in a specialty shop known as ‘Koggen.’ One of the few true German-only styles, it’s a wheat-based style which, if I’m correct, can be seen in the lighter hefeweizen or heavier dark versions. The idea of having something simple and German with this very rich, heavy, and gamy meal felt just perfect, hopefully combining in the same way it did so in my Cassoulette adventure.

My Bottle: Apostelbrau Naturally Cloudy Koggen

To continue, upon pouring of the beer I was able to discover the delightfully malt-heavy flavor profile it displayed. Though I didn’t expect it to be REALLY hoppy, the aromatic greens were barely seen at all except for the subtle support structure you knew it had. The drink itself turned out almost dense, concentrated with that sweet, almost caramelly-savory profile which helps cut through and pair with the perfectly golden-roasted game meat. Part of the flavor make me wonder if I remembered it wrong and that the beer was mostly RYE focused vs wheat, but either way it was good, simple, letting the subtle notes of garlic and rosemary shine from the lamb while matching it’s heaviness. Just rustic perfection.

Bordeaux_1680129cSecondary Pairing – Right Bank-based Red Bordeaux

To be more specific, Bordeaux wine from one of the renowned riverside ‘Haut Medoc’ communes. Those are the ones that actually ARE mostly Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated, creating that image of the big, heavy, tannic reds for which the French region is so well known for. These are also the ones that are so famously known as the drink of choice for one of the region’s most famous dishes… which also just happens to be a giant, heavy roasted leg of lamb. Truly it’s evolved as one of the most delightfully perfect dinner pairings in the world. The bodies match, the heavy tannins work with the chewy game meat in encouraging our own salivation to its limit, and the strong acid backbone cuts through the still-present fat character. Not to mention the very spicy, herbaceous, wild eucalyptus and ‘garrigue’ flavors which were made to compliment the meat just like, and next to, the garlic and rosemary we love so much here. For those interested, and able, look for Boreaux wines with the names St Estephe, Pauillac, St Julien, or Margaux on the label. Those are your best bet, though aren’t always perfect. Otherwise, as money for these bottles isn’t always on the easy end, Haut-Medoc or Pessac-Leognan labels will work too.

p2: Tarte Tropezienne

The Sweet

tartSo for this week’s project, I had the mother take a look at my list of things and pick out a few things that sounded good. Which is how I ended up finally doing Baked Camembert, which I’ll be writing about soon, and the one dessert that she made mention of: Tarte Tropezienne. Which, and I’m glad she brought my attention to it considering I forgot, was a perfect sweet project to try considering my recent bread-based interests.

The ‘confection’ itself is basically a large, round Brioche-cake, sliced in half and filled with a particularly unique version of ‘buttercream’ or mousse. As such, with how it looks, Buzzfeed ended up describing it as ‘basically a giant cream puff,’ which is certainly true in one sense but completely off in another, but so can many things be. Either way it seems decadently-simple and sinful in buttery goodness.

Alexandra Micka is the inequitable source for where this pastry comes from. Of Polish origin, this baker move to St. Tropez in Provence during the 1950’s, after which he made the infamous cake in ’55 for the cast of a film production in the area. Obviously they completely adored it, and the name was supposedly suggested by the main actress at the time, Brigitte Bardot, most likely as a nod to the region (though interestingly, the name ends up translating to ‘roof pie’), even though technically it’s not really a tarte even as the French or English may widely define them.

Though that doesn’t make me want to attack it any less, so let’s get to the important parts of this briochy creation!

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It took me a while to whittle down and figure out what bread and ‘cream’ recipes I wanted to use, but there are a few things that helped narrow it down. First and foremost, one of the items I do believe I ran across was a mention that the original brioche recipe used was a ‘milk brioche,’ and despite my complete urge to go for this own really-decadent looking kind from a professional chef, he had absolutely no liquid in it at all besides eggs. So that was out. Afterward, I just had to go for something with a higher proportion of fat, eggs, and sugar, a Middle-Class/Rich-Man’s style, since it’d suit a dessert more and I really want to prove myself after my not-so-great Rich Man’s version that came out a couple months back. Found one that seemed good, was relatable to the one I originally enjoyed, and I even added an extra tablespoon of butter for good measure!

20151004_155203The second and more important part, in my opinion, is the filling… now, this isn’t just some simple frosting, or pastry cream, or anything like that. A few recipes will basically say, or make it look, like a pastry cream that is simply folded with whipped cream like a mousse; similar to what I once made for a Crepe Cake. But if one looks further, or at particular discussions of recipe and history, you might see the mention that the filling is truly a mixture of Pastry Cream, Buttercream, and sometimes also Whipped Cream. The French Wikipedia called for pastry cream + a term that LINKED to crème Chantilly, but translated to cream butter.

My first thought at this was that ‘Oh great, now I have to make pastry cream AND buttercream AND whipped cream and fold them all together.’ Ah, but then I found one article that featured what the actual technique was, calling it ‘German Buttercream,’ or something like that [of course I can’t find the recipe again NOW], or ‘Mousseline.’ Basically after making the pastry cream, instead of just immediately adding 1-2 pats of butter to melt in, one waits until it cools… and then beats in the equivalent of a whole stick, MINIMUM, until incorporated. Basically, it’s a Pastry Butter-Cream? And then of course one folds with whipped cream… you know, to make it ‘lighter.’ I just wanted to attack this head-on, so I found the one recipe that basically called for 3 whole sticks of butter to REALLY get this crossed effect, and it just so happened to be a rather egg-yolk rich cream, because that’s the kind of pastry cream I usually enjoy and felt like making this time.

20151004_134410As you look through other recipes, you’ll see the consistent habit of sprinkling the top of the dough with an even layer of Pearl Sugar, those ubiquitous large crystals so famed in Eastern Europe for those waffles we love so much. As always though, they’re a pain to get a hold of; but luckily for us, it’s highly likely they aren’t REALLY all that classic and traditional, even if the chef was from Poland. It would be more likely that he used large-flake sugar or crushed up some compressed, so simply taking sugar cubes and crushing them up lightly would work just fine. At least that’s what I read in another article, I could be wrong here… it WAS only 60 years ago.

Finally, Orange Blossom Water! It’s the one oddly classic ingredient here, and some recipes won’t make mention and try to substitute it with ‘rum or kirsch,’ despite the fact that kirsch has been stated to not be traditional, especially in the much-further-southern region of origin. Though think of this now, it might not be too impossible… Polish baker, I could see him using Cherry Brandy… but orange blossom water is a DEFINITIE must-do, and you don’t want that delicate flavor to try crossing with other alcohols, especially when it’s so pricey why not just have it shine? As for WHAT it goes in, I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be solely in the bread, custard, or both… recipes differ, so I just went BOTH to really make sure you could taste it! Plus, I’ll admit, I did do ONE thing I’m almost 100% sure isn’t too classic, in that I made a simple orange syrup and then flavored it with more of the orange water, to which I soaked the cut bread with. But I haven’t made any bread/spongecake soaked with syrup yet, I thought it’d be fun… and again, make sure I didn’t screw up with too-light orange flavors. Hopefully it turns out.

Tarte Tropezienne
2½ tsp Dry Yeast
1/3 cup Milk, Warm
2 cups/275g, ish, AP Flour
3 Tb Sugar
2 Eggs + 1 for eggwash
½ tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Orange Blossom Water
1 tsp Vanilla
8 Tb/1 Stick Butter, softened
1-3 Tb Crushed Sugar Cubes/Pearl Sugar
‘Mousseline,’ Recipe Follows
Orange Water Syrup, Recipe Follows


  1. Pour Warm Milk over Yeast, leaving for at least 5 minutes to dissolve and bloom20151004_002208
  2. Once done, combine with Flour, Sugar, Salt, 2 Eggs, Orange Water, Vanilla, and the 2 Eggs in a stand mixer, mixing on Low speed with the paddle attachment until everything is combined into a single ball/mass20151004_002731
  3. Turn up to medium speed, slowly adding in small pats of butter one piece at a time, until fully incorporated and dough stretches from the sides20151004_003136
  4. Switch to a dough hook, start beating at medium-high speed for 5-10 minutes, adding more flour if too sticky, until the dough is smooth and, ideally, pulls away from the sides. It should pass the windowpane test if a small piece is very carefully stretched between fingers20151004_015627
  5. Transfer to an oiled bowl, carefully turning to coat, and cover tightly with plastic
  6. Leave to bulk ferment at room temp for 1 hour, until about doubled in size, then move to fridge for overnight20151004_121711
  7. Transfer onto a lightly floured surface the next day, dusting some more on top. Push down with your fingers to press out any excess gas, folding over if need be
  8. Swiftly but gently roll dough out into a circle-ish form at least 10” diameter20151004_122128
  9. Move onto a parchment-paper lined sheet tray and brush with a light layer of egg wash (the one egg, beaten with a bit of water). Leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour, until soft and hopefully risen a little bit20151004_134925
  10. Preheat oven to 400F
  11. When ready, brush another layer of egg wash over the top, sprinkling with Pearl Sugar or crushed Cube Sugar to create an ideally even coating20151004_140343
  12. Move into oven, immediately reducing the temperature to 350F. Let back 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through, until it’s developed a nice, thorough golden brown color on top and feels cooked when tapped20151004_141644
  13. Remove and let cool on the counter, 20 minutes minimum20151004_202850
  14. Carefully slice, using a bread knife, in half, sawing horizontally along the edge to create a level cut from one side to the other20151004_203112
  15. Remove top, turning over, and brush the Orange Water Syrup over each side, soaking it evenly over the bread
  16. Take the reserved Mousseline and spread in an even, thick layer over the bottom piece, using as much as desired. Conversely, one can also pipe in, starting at the center to practice your motions and leaving the edge for some more attractive work (if the annoying makeshift piping bag will let you of course)20151004_204423-1
  17. Slice in wedges and serve

“Mousseline”/”Pastry Butter-cream Mousse” Filling
2 cups Milk20151004_131532
6 Egg Yolks
¾ cup Sugar
1/3 cup Cornstarch, Sifted
Tsp Salt
1 ½ cups/3 Sticks Butter, softened
1 Tb Orange Blossom Water
1 tsp Vanilla
¾ – 1 cup Heavy Cream


  1. Place Milk in pot over medium heat, leaving to scald/come to a simmer20151004_131616
  2. On the side, combine the Yolks, Sugar, Corn Starch, and Salt, whisking until thoroughly mixed and pale yellow in color20151004_132023
  3. When the milk is ready, remove from the stove and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to temper everything together carefully. Pour back into the pot and move back over heat20151004_132442
  4. Keep, whisking slowly at first while picking up the pace the longer and hotter it gets, making sure to keep it moving so none of it stays on the bottom or sides to scald or overcook, which will happen faster the thicker it gets20151004_133121
  5. As it starts to notably thicken, whisk fast and thorough, removing from the heat when it feels like it’s oneor two steps away from being a heavy cream [it will get to that point from continual cooking and when it cools]20151004_133430
  6. Quickly transfer to a bowl, straining if desired and/or worried about overcooking, and leave to cool on the counter20151004_141913
  7. When it’s down to room temperature, add in the Butter, Orange Water, and Vanilla, whipping it all thoroughly together with a whisk, or even an electric beater, until it’s all combined, ‘fluffy,’ and somewhat resembling buttercream20151004_142047
  8. Now start beating your Heavy Cream, ideally with a hand mixer to have it go faster, until it turns into Whipped Cream, drawing stiff peaks when moved; you’ll need about 1 ½ cups of it total20151004_135951
  9. Fold whipped cream in, 1/3 at a time, to make an aerated and fluffy ‘mousse’ of sorts20151004_155025
  10. Transfer to piping bag for use, storing in fridge if needed20151004_155754

Orange Water Syrup
½ cup Water
¼ cup Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Tb Orange Blossom Water


  1. Combine everything but the Orange Blossom Water in a pan, heat until it comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Remove off to the side
  2. Once cooled, strain and add in the orange blossom water

My Thoughts

Well where to start… obviously it’s not as pretty as the other ones you see online; part of that being the sugar, pearl may not be ‘traditional’ but it gives the best effect. I really should get some soon, if anything to make those amazing Belgian waffles…

That and it’s too wide and thin… well, that was my thought, even after baking. But once it got cut, filled, and sliced into wedges, the inside actually looked a lot thicker than from outside, so on an everyday note I’m rather satisfied, but it’s still not as pretty as preferred. To fix, I should have probably fermented it in a smaller bowl, or folded it over20151004_204532 before rolling, or maybe just cut out the perfect circle from the rolled out dough; it was already at 10” just from the de-gassing stage. Though what I would have really liked to do was a little trick I read from a professional chef’s recipe where the dough is shaped inside of a tart mold rim; that way it stays a perfect circle, at the desired size, even when baking, and rises straight up like a cake! And I have springform pans, rather similar… but much taller circles than the tart pan rim, I was worried it wouldn’t bake right.

Speaking of which, it didn’t really rise while proofing… not much of an issue since it rose in the bake, but something doesn’t feel right, especially since it was still QUITE sticky; I’m positive I should have followed the technique in other recipes where you actually knead the dough to smooth, window-pane consistency first BEFORE adding the butter. That said, it turned out a lot better than the Rich Man’s Brioche I did earlier, was actually bread-like, though truthfully it could still be more Middle-Class level… if anything, I’m considering that I may have cooked it a little longer than I should have, and that’s the only real flaw I’ve found in final texture/flavor, proof-rise or no.

God-damn though was this thing rich!! Choosing the really eggy pastry cream recipe woulda been great if it was on its own, it tasted fantastic btw, but I probably should have gone a lighter version… and it was really cool trying out the buttercream-like technique, and that also was really good, but I think next time I’m gonna lean more towards the lower-butter recipes! Even after folding with the whipped cream, fatty enough as THAT was, put that between brioche bread and all you get is a mass of heavy fat and sugar; really good tasting, delicious mass, but believe me when I say a single slice will do you well for the night! I’m sure the tartes that are more well-done than mine are probably not so overwhelming, but I understand why I’ve seen quite a few that add strawberries and pistachios, to help cut through and then add texture (even with crunchy sugar, overwhelmingly one-note soft) in a tasty fashion.

There’s probably more to say, and done in a better and concise fashion, but I’m drawling out now… that frosting bread be weighing me down!

Possible Pairings

iD2fkPrWith how rich and heavy this turned out, I don’t even think I want to think about dessert wine, or anything thick and sweet to drink with it. That said, one of the ‘classic’ pairings often mentioned to enjoy with it is a little dessert wine called Monbazillac, a smaller sub region very close to the oh-so-famous Sauternes in Bordeaux, the latter known for its rich, honeyed, and devilishly complex dessert wines based off Semillon and Sauvignon. Though, THAT is rather expensive, and even the really aged ones stay thick. Dessert wines from nearby regions however, such as Monbazillac, come in at some rather great price deals for the consumer, and usually end up a lighter-bodied and definitely reduced in sweetness, usually a nice simple sweet drink to enjoy chilled without much thought. So it really would fit this particular purpose quite well, especially if you made a better and more ideal tarte than I did!

Though really, at the end of the day: we need liquor. Non-sweet, cuttingly dry and high in spirit to help cut through all of that fatty, creamy texture and flavor. If Kirsch was actually used, as so many recipes keep saying even though, again, it’s not really regionally sound, it’d be the perfect pairing. Otherwise, a young Cognac, that hasn’t developed all that really deep and thick texture and ‘sweetness’ that the older ones have, would be great; though Armagnac would probably be better regionally, and the simpleness of the tarte would let the complexities of it shine, though its extra roughness in texture could overshadow that as well.

Or you could just make a Sidecar with Lemon Juice, Cognac, and Grand Marnier to bring out the orange notes in the dessert and still have that brandy flavor and aspect; and shaking these with ice will help lighten all the heaviness while still cutting through the custard some.

Project 4: Experimenting in the Shadows of Mount Blumenthal

A6-HESTON-BLUMENTHALs I was going through college, I developed a rapt fascination for a chef by the name of Heston Blumenthal; not many but the most intense foodies in the US know about him, but almost everyone in the UK is familiar with this British celebrity chef, who’s had multiple ‘mini-series’ revolve around him making fantastical dinners or developing new foods and menus to help others. It’s okay if you don’t know about him, but you need to learn; seriously, after reading this, go look him up, do your best to find some episodes of his ‘Feasts’ or something online, and glory in the wonder that is one of the forefront culinary thinkers in the Molecular Gastronomy(though don’t use that term, most chefs hate it)/Extreme Modern cooking. As much as I admire and respect so many chefs throughout the country and world, Heston became my true idol, the one guy that I will always talk about with such intense acclaim and worship, no matter how depressed I get comparing how little I’ve done in my culinary explorations to the intense focus and work people like him have naturally done. But that’s another story and issue altogether.


In front of the Hinds Head, the bar right across the street and also owned by Heston. Only pic we had all together before heading into dinner!

His restaurant, Fat Duck, has placed within the top 3 restaurants in a row, if not been placed at the top, at least five different times I believe; and of course it’s 3-michelin star. Nowadays other new restaurants that go to these certain ‘extreme’ lengths of service and dish creation have upseated it, but I would still choose Fat Duck any day as the one I’d go to if given the chance. I say ‘would’ because, well… I actually did. As insane as it still feels, I was lucky enough to fall into a certain set of circumstances that allowed me to actually eat a coursed out meal at my Idol’s restaurant, and with five of my precious family members no less. I won’t go into detail, but I can safely say this was an experience and memory that I myself will cherish for the rest of my life. God, me and my cousin still talk about it just between the two of us, not to mention sharing the story with others.

20150813_003825But to get to the reason for my next ‘project,’ I swear I’m not just trying to brag here, there’s a point! For, on top of just being there, we actually ended up going during the same week as my birthday, cuz that’s how it worked out. And unbeknownst of me, making me feel extra guilty but also extra blessed, my mom called the place one day and got a couple ‘surprises’ for me as a gift. One of them was a copy of ‘The Fat Duck Cookbook,’ his penultimate masterpiece with so many intense and detailed recipes along with pages and pages of talk on the science of things and his trip through figuring out many of these dishes. There are actually two copies, the ‘smaller’ one, which I believe is about the size of an encyclopedia, and the ‘Big Fat Duck’ book; I ended up getting the latter. Which made the travel back to the hotel quite laborious… well that and the empty bottles of wine I requested to keep as part of my collection. I was getting souvenirs dammit!! Did I get anything from England? No, of course not… but the restaurant needed all-important mementos!

Sadly, I haven’t actually gotten much of a chance to really TRY making any of the things in here; I mean, most of this isn’t things that one can just ‘bust out’ on a random weekend or weekday night. A lot of this requires special equipment, unique ingredients or chemicals, long and very-specific preparation procedures, or a combination of all that. And that can just be for a COMPONENT of a dish.


Gotta tease you with a couple pictures at least! For instance, the legendary “Sound of the Sea,” complete w/ headphones inside conch shells that played, well, sounds of the sea

When starting this blog, I HAD toyed with the idea of diving headlong into trying to put together some of these dishes, one at a time and likely with long breaks in between, if I got around to it. Though with how schedule has gone, and again some of the VERY special things needed for some of these, very unlikely. But… a recent search for a certain kind of ice cream recipe brought me back to opening up this book. And I just don’t think I can forgive myself for not at least ATTEMPTING some of the various recipes found in here. So I thought hey, why the hell not? Let’s do it.

Now, will I get through most of the recipes in here? Oh hell no. I don’t think I’ll ever even try to put together one of the ‘complete dishes,’ just don’t have the time and resources to do that accurately. Most of this will likely be me playing around with different ‘components;’ so, making a specific caramel, an ice cream, cooking preparation for fish or lamb, garnishes, etc. I’ll try to do a few different ones in each post.

Will I even make it past the first post I’m already working on? Who knows. Will I at least be doing everything to perfection? Again, hell no, and for once I don’t feel bad about that. I’ll do what I can, but there will be plenty of occasions where I’ll have to develop my own methods, or find decent ingredient substitutions, in order to make something even close to this at home. At the end of the day, I’m still a home cook, and don’t have the money or time to get a lot of these things just to make something ONCE. Besides, I’m not looking for complete reproduction(there are plenty of blogs that have already done that, trust me); for me, it’s more about finding ways and reasons to explore some cool methods and ideas that I normally haven’t done on a frequent basis, a general honoring of this book, this man, my family and the memories they’ve given me.

With that said, let’s see how these specific posts will end up breaking down:


My personal favorite of the night, “Botrytis Cinerea”

No particular title or focus on the introductory section, for one because I just feel like ‘getting into it’ with these, and secondly since some of these articles will feature a few different component recipes, some which may be related to each other and some which will come from all over the damn book. Like with my Bread Project, gonna take a more casual tone with whatever I feel like talking about before getting into details.

What I’m Doing Wrong

Basically listing and discussing any particular different that I’ll have to undergo, whether it’s having to use a regular apple instead of the listed British variety, rig up my own ‘sous vide’ technique, or if I actually decide to blatantly change up certain flavors/ingredients, likely due to cheapness.

Cool Science-y Stuff

Some of the cool facts that pertain to the particular ingredients and techniques used that Heston discusses in the book; there is no way I am going to list EVERYTHING pertaining to a recipe, or even get into the detail his book likely does, but there are some fun facts that are nice to discuss.

Truthfully, I’m not actually sure how much detail I’ll ever get into with this, or even if I’ll include it with every, or any, post I might do on this project. Right now my brain is heavily debating if I even want to put the effort into trying to write and blog about these specific excursions, or if I just want to enjoy them purely on my own whenever it is I can get to attempting something. We’ll see what ends up happening.


Complete with pictures and ingredient lists! My plan is to just write down what I’M making, but I guess I should also include () next to any ingredient, and potentially directions, that I made changes to shouldn’t I?


My reaction, how it actually turned out, how exactly I might adjust things to fix problems or suit my particular tastes in the future, and other things that I may want to ramble on about.


Only a starting glance at the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party,” an iconic meal originally featured in one of Heston’s most famous Feasts.


Hah, I’m teasing with the idea of adding a ‘Will Heston be proud of this?’ section, but I’m pretty damn sure I know how they’ll all end up!! No need to push myself further into depression right?

Well, we’ll see how this particular one ends up going about. Maybe I’ll also sneak into stores and steal recipes out of his ‘feast’ books to try too… I feel like some of them might be do-able at home.

p3: Brioche Mini-Loaves, 2 Types

#13, Rich & Poor Brioche Loaves

No bread recipe, or any kind of recipe for that matter, is ever completely consistent; even the most stringently-traditional and stuck-to formulae can and have been made with slight differences throughout the years. Well, except for maybe poundcake… I mean come on it’s all the same weight and measure, so simple!

But anyways, by now no one can really expect there to be ONE recipe for any style of bread; plenty of cooks have made their own adjustments in preferred amounts of flour, water, yeast, butter, etc. That’s not taking into account the different KINDS and strains of these ingredients used, using water vs milk vs buttermilk, butter vs margarine vs oil, and all different changes that can be made and yet yield a final product that holds the same proper name and category. So by now, when you see two different recipes for one thing, you don’t bat much of an eyelash.

briocheThus led to my intrigue months back when I first looked at the Brioche section, only to find that it has been categorized into 3 different ‘types,’ based purely on the amount of certain ingredients used (obviously this isn’t counting the many breads in the same style or derived from brioche, often mixed with dried fruit, nuts, meat+cheese, or other tasty goodies). These different ‘styles,’ so named historically for the type of people who could actually afford to make, or have it made, for them, are logically called thus: Poor Man’s Brioche, Middle-Class Brioche, and Rich Man’s Brioche. The moment I flipped through these sections of the book, I knew that one of the weeks I just HAD to make two of these and document the actual results and differences. And here I am, coming up to a weekend without any set culinary plans, still not in the mood for a hearth bread or something fancy, I’d say it’s about time to put these recipes to use.

To do this, I simply plan to make a couple mini-loaves of each recipe to preserve similar baking conditions. And because they look so adorable!!! Plus, despite the tradition to make ‘brioche a tete’ which I so want to follow, basically a specially high-angled and large-fluted cupcake molded bread with a cute extra ball of bread on top like a cherry, it’s a shape often reserved just for the Rich and sometimes Middle Class varieties. You know, since it’s so fancy and all that.

But I love sliced cuts of brioche, especially for French Toast or just awesome sandwiches, so loaves it is!

Poor and Rich Man’s Brioche

Rich Ingredients
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
½ Tb/0.17oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 ½ Large/4.15oz Eggs, beaten
1¼ Tb/0.65oz Sugar
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
1 cup/8oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash

Poor Ingredients
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
1 tsp/0.11oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 Large/3.3oz Eggs, beaten
1 Tb/0.5oz Sugar
5/8 tsp/0.16oz Salt
¼ cup/2oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash


  1. Combine ¼ cup of Flour, the Dry Yeast, and the Milk in mixer bowl; cover w/ plastic and let the sponge sit about 20 minutes (30-45 for Poor Man’s) until it’s bubbly and risen20150801_223724
  2. Move to stand mixer with paddle attachment and add in the Eggs, beating on low until smooth20150801_224201
  3. Mix together and add in the remaining flour, Sugar, and Salt, mixing on medium until everthing is fully incorporated and moistened20150801_224550
  4. Let sit 5 minutes to let gluten rest20150801_225431
  5. Add in ¼ of the Butter, beating on medium speed until evenly distributed. Continue adding remaining butter, ¼ at a time, until all has been fully incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed20150801_230106
  6. For Rich Man’s: continue mixing on medium speed 2-6 minutes, until ‘smooth and soft,’ scraping down as needed20150801_231127
  7. Cover baking sheet w/ parchment paper, misting w/ spray oil, and dump dough in middle. Spread out in a small rectangle, spray w/ more oil, cover plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator to sit overnight or a minimum of 4 hours20150802_135715
  8. For Poor Man’s: transfer dough to counter or switch to dough hook, kneading about 10 minutes until ‘smooth and soft’ while not too sticky to work with, or clears from the side and bottom of the pan20150802_140213
  9. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, cover w/ plastic and bulk ferment up to 90 minutes or until double in size20150802_153022
  10. When either dough is ready, remove onto counter, cutting in half or whatever sizes desired for loaf pans20150802_143511
  11. Working on a lightly floured surface while it’s still cold (for Rich Man’s, Poor can just be turned as-is onto clean work surface), roll into a Loaf shape as discussed Here.20150802_144105
  12. Lightly spray oil your mini-loaf pans and move dough inside, misting the top w/ more oil before cover w/ plastic wrap20150802_153405
  13. Proof 1 ½ – 2 hours for Rich dough and 1 hour for Poor, until the dough fills the pans (well, as much as you can get them to)20150802_161553
  14. 15-30 minutes before baking, thoroughly brush the exposed tops and sides of each dough w/ egg wash. Turn oven to 375F while you’re at it
  15. Place in oven and bake 20-45 minutes, depending, until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped20150802_171839
  16. Remove onto cooling rack for up to a couple hours, or slice when hot to enjoy with extra butter or whatever form one desires

What Have I Learned This Time?

Not from the book or the process of making brioche, but just out of curiosity for this one aspect of bread making I had been wondering about for quite a while. Why is it that ALL the recipes advocate solely cooling, I mean the bread tastes SO good hot right out of the oven? Is there a reason for it?

20150802_173711Well, there is. Apart from the POSSIBILITY of needing the time for the carry-over heat to cook it fully, thus if one cut in immediately part of the bread would still be gummy (though I call bull, since if it’s baked properly this shouldn’t be an issue at all), the main consideration is a process called Starch Retrogradation. These deals both with the water content moving back evenly from the center of the loaf and towards the crust (sort of like why one rests meats on the counter 5+ minutes before slicing), along with the starch’s texture/properties and proteins setting up, developing its ideal crumb after that 1-2 hour cooling period. Cutting this early allows a lot of the steam to escape and can potentially interrupt this whole process.

Thus so many bakers heavily stress and push you to walk away from the bread once out of the oven, hit family members’ hands with spoon, etc, as they advocate how much better the bread will be. But I call bulls#^*! on that, because I don’t care what anyone says, there is no time that bread will ever taste that good hot compared to right out of the oven. Tell me how you can reproduce that flavor and experience, because it’s good toasted or warmed up in an oven but it’s not THAT good. That said, I’ll never eat all of the bread while it’s warm, so from now on I plan on making sure I take some proper steps so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds. Besides just making sure I can make at least two different loaves/boules/whatever for my adventures, I’ll likely just always have one smaller, mini version of the bread that I myself can enjoy hot out of the oven while the bulk of the rest cools slowly over the hours. Not only does this mean I get to experience the majority of my bread in the ‘ideal’ state for proper judgment, but also that I don’t gorge myself on half of it right after it comes out of the oven… cuz you know I do that, and if you were a real person you would too.


Any Thoughts?

Holy! No wonder it’s a ‘Rich Man’s’ dough, trying to shape that bastard after it chilled overnight felt like I was working with pure butter! Though I’m not sure it should have… truthfully I think I may have under ‘kneaded’ it, but I blame the recipe for that. Seriously, the rich man recipe never directs one to change between paddle and dough hook, likely because it’s so soft after the butter, but next time I think I’m going to. I really could NOT tell if it was truly the ‘soft and smooth’ texture the recipe desired, unlike the Poor Man where it’s very easy to see after kneading, and I think having that dough-hook-element will really help me to identify. But despite the soft bready interior, I’m sure it was under-beaten, cuz the crust just felt TOO flaky, like when you try eating a pie dough right after it’s been baked. Needed some more dough-like gluten development to help it smooth out. Also, think a little lower temperature would have been better, seems to need a longer, slower bake for that highly fat-slathered gluten to get cooked and set.

That said, clear difference between the two, but not necessarily better vs worse! First off, I can’t believe this is a ‘poor man’s’ bread, it’s so rich and good… but I guess it’d be more a special occasion thing anyway. Once cooled, I could confirm that this really is THE style most often seen sold in stores.And I see what the author means as to its strength in using for wrapping things and multiple other dough applications; it’s a very soft and easy-to-shape, handle-able dough, yet not sticky at all. I can’t wait to use this or the Middle Class dough in the future for a fun tart or something.

But damn that super soft, buttery texture of the rich version. It may need a more delicate hand to cut, maybe it’ll be easier to handle when done perfectly and cooled (it was, and in fact it became a little more difficult to tell the difference between the two, besides that not-so-satisfying too-flaky crust), but I can’t even think of things I wanna do with it besides shove it in my mouth. I’m sure there’s stuff, but the brain is rather tunnel-visioned at the moment. Either way, two great enriched breads that I will thoroughly enjoy over the next day or two, if it lasts that long.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Apparently I’m a man of the people, as the high-class snobs have briefly turned their nose up at me. Still led to a pretty hot, buttery three-way at the end of the day!

p2: Nougat de Montélimar

The Sweet

Mnougatsom just came back from a business trip to Italy, thought it’d be fun to make some sort of Italianish-French, or at least European, treat as a welcome home gift! And she loves almonds. My first thoughts were Macarons, but since, as with most of my inspirations for what and when to do these recipes has been lately, it was rather last-minute, I couldn’t quite prepare the proper ingredients and recipe in time. That said, my plan for doing a ‘double post’ a-la my Duck yielded to a surprising and craving revelation; see, I was going to stuff the macaron with the French Almond Nougat, which I had thought was that marzipan-y almond paste snack you see all over each country. To my surprise did I find out it was actual nougat, which until now I hadn’t realized is what one of my favorite Christmas-time recipes for Divinity basically was. It would NOT have made a good delicate macaron filling, but damn is it good, has almonds, and is a candy seen in one form or another throughout Europe, especially the Mediterranean.

Nougat on its own has a few interesting points in its history that stood out; did you know that the confection itself, basically the original mixture of heavily whipped egg whites with cooked sugar, started in the Middle East? Which I can sort of see, I can imagine some of the finer cultures, known for many of their sugar/honey sweets mixed with nuts and sesame, mixing big pots of cooked sweet stuff with the nut of choice to be served for royalty. What’s rather cool, in my opinion, was the candy, and as such interest and technique, spread with the Phoenicians, known as tradesmen who traveled all through the Mediterranean. These were the same people who originally spread wine and grape vines to Europe, and now apparently candies.

Then there’s the name; originally, this kind of treat was named ‘Halau,’ a derivative of their word for ‘sweet,’ and further proof it was probably one of, if not THE, first candy techniques ever developed; at least in the Middle East. Nougat came from the Latin term ‘Nux,’ which meant Walnut, a popular and mostly used ingredient at the time. It was only in the 1700’s when a certain agronomist planted Almond trees in France, apparently FOR nougat, that the Nougat de Montelimar was born.

The candy itself is made very much like Marshmallows, but without the Gelatin. Egg whites are beaten until stiff, have a lot of super-hot sugar added in, and continued to whip until it cools down and starts to get hard, in which one adds in nuts and transfers to a pan to set up, to which it gets hard and can be cut in big slices, bite-sized squares, or whatever. Montelimar style, as compared to Italian Torrone or US Divinity, is distinctive in using Honey as a major sugar and flavor source, and sometimes incorporates Pistachios.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Now, there are two main styles of ‘nougat’ here; there’s a softer, chewier version, sometimes first, but easily breakable that’s often simply termed nougat or nougat de montelimar. And then there’s ‘Nougatine,’ a much harder, cracking version that’s made with caramelized sugar; before I heard the name distinction, I was much debating if I should make it classically hard or soft, but since the latter isn’t pure ‘nougat,’ as I like to seek, it can be held off for another personal fun time.

20150725_104557Another intriguing requirement for this particular candy, in order to fit the regional designations that allow business to certify it as ‘de Montelimar’ Nougat, is Ratios. Not only does it have to use those certain ingredients mentioned, they have to be put in to a certain amount so as to characteristically fit the required bill. If I remember correctly, Honey had to compose 25% of the candy, and 30% had to be the nuts; either 28% Almonds and 2% Pistachio, or all of it Almond, but nothing else. I can’t say the recipe that I chose to base my own off of got these exactly right, though it seemed very close; besides, not many others were that close either, and some of the ones that really talked about it would then include all these other practices that just seem blah to me.

For instance, the use of corn syrup or glucose in with the cooked sugar. Hey, I get the use of that for candies nowadays, the stability is awesome, especially for home use. But this should be a TRADITIONAL recipe, a treat indicative to something made for at least a couple centuries on bright spring days after the honey. This was kept simple, made in an old pot with just a giant mound of sugar, cooked carefully in the way it should have been. So a recipe that only used sugar next to the honey was the way to go.

20150725_215630I did make some adjustments however; firstly, the recipe itself called for just cooking the sugar on its own, dry… which is possible to melt properly in a pan without immediately caramelizing brown, but oh so damn difficult. Better to just add some water and let it dissolve first; we need this clear at the hard ball stage of 285F to get the perfect texture, otherwise it’ll just get too damn tough. That and of course mess with the flavor.

Secondarily, this popular recipe had us start out cooking the honey and sugar separately, as all good recipes do, but then added the hot honey into the sugar to cook them both up to the 285F range together. At first, this seems harmless, rather logical; you know you can make a caramel out of pure honey too right? The issue is, when one cooks honey up to that range, it starts to brown and oxidize/caramelize/other-stuff a LOT sooner, and this reaction apparently speeds up when it’s mixed with regular sugar; or only happens when mixed with regular sugar, can’t remember. Either way, if one did this it would end up creating a nougat that’s distinctly darkened in color, not to mention would skew the final flavors. I don’t like that, so I decided to follow the lead of other recipes which, instead, heated the honey itself to 250F, add that into the whipped egg whites alone first, and then the sugar later. Not only to we preserve this amazing honey flavor without changing the color, but it helps to sort of ‘prime’ the egg whites for the much-hotter sugar syrup.

Speaking of sugar some more, this recipe also had the technique where, along with the nuts and vanilla, one dumps in some powdered sugar at the very end to mix in. God I debated whether or not to do this so long, because on the one hand I know that is not a really ‘traditional’ step, it can’t be. That said, making any kind of changes to sugar content can really mess up what I wanted to make. Luckily, I found an excerpt that explained the results of this, basically the sugar would get in and interrupt the long ‘strands’ of sugar to create a candy that broke easier, almost make it ‘softer’ in a certain sense. I actually preferred the idea of a nougat that would bend more, be chewy. Then I realized that of course it shouldn’t really affect it, since the sugar ‘requirement’ for the exact texture result would be all in the cooked; any powdered sugar added last-minute wouldn’t try ‘bolster’ this. So yah, doy me. And end of the day, another step bites the dust.

Of course I had to get pistachios in here; we had a large handful in the pantry that had still to be consumed, so it was the perfect recipe to toss them in. No I did not measure, but at the end of the day, unless REALLY trying to following the ratios, which one can figure I also had to not be too hung over for once just to make sure I make a proper nougat, having more or less nuts just determines how much more or less crunchy things one has in their whipped-egg-sugar-treat.

One final note, this one of warning. Candy making IS quite the bitch; recipes are simple, but getting the timing an temperatures right takes a lot of focus and staying in the kitchen the whole time, not to mention knowing what you’re doing the whole time. But if anything, you want the right equipment; do not, and I stress do NOT, attempt something like this, at least on your first time, without a decent stand mixer. Hand mixers don’t cover ground properly, whisking by hand is going to hurt like hell and be all but impossible to keep up the speed needed, and both cases take away the use of one hand for most of it, not good.

Now, I’ll say right now I had some not-so-idealistic results in my final candy, so the recipe that follows has been adjusted to something that should have a much better chance of success.

Nougat de Montélimar
500 grams Almonds
50 grams Pistachios
200 grams Honey
275 grams Sugar
2-3 Tb Water
2 Large Egg Whites
1 tsp Vanilla


  1. Pop Almonds and Pistachios in 400F oven for up to 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove, placing back in a warmed oven when close to fabrication20150725_215658
  2. Prepare desired pan, spraying it evenly with oil before pressing in a lay of Wax paper
  3. Place Honey in one saucepot and the Sugar+Water mixture in another with candy or other suitable thermometers, turning heat to medium/medium-high20150725_220135
  4. Stir often in both until they start to boil; start stirring constantly in honey and remove spoon completely in sugar, brushing the sides of the pan down with cold water if crystals start forming on the sides20150725_220452
  5. Place Egg Whites in stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn on high, looking to beat to stiff peaks right before the first addition20150725_220522
  6. Once honey has reached 250F, remove and quickly, yet gradually, pour into the egg whites while the machine whips on medium-high. Once half has been added you can start adding in faster20150725_220827
  7. Whip fast until smooth and seems fully incorporated, and turn mixer down to medium speed to ‘stand by’ for the next addition20150725_221311
  8. Watching it carefully the whole time, remove sugar once it has reached 285F, immediately transferring over to mixer to pour a slow, steady stream into egg whites, beating them on high once more20150725_221537
  9. Once every bit of sugar has been added, continue beating egg whites on high speed for a MINIMUM of 6-8 minutes, likely much longer, until the nougat has almost very noticeably cooled and started to get notably thick in the stand mixer20150725_222248
  10. Very quickly add in the Vanilla and nuts, mixing in thoroughly; at this point one may need to fold in by spatula or try to quick transfer to the paddle attachment20150725_222422
  11. Using a rubber spatula that has gotten a quick spray of oil, quickly pour and scoop nougat out and into your prepared pan20150725_222449
  12. Cover with wax paper and attempt to smooth the top out with a rolling pin or other handy item
  13. Let sit at least 3 hours or overnight20150726_150710
  14. Once set, remove onto cutting board and cut into desired sized chunks
  15. Wrap in wax paper or melted chocolate for longer-term storage, or just shove into your mouth and enjoy


My Thoughts

Okay, the flavor is awesome, and I heavily worry about my daily calorie intake as I work my hardest not to keep eating these nutty-sweet sugar bombs. I absolutely love that you can actually taste the honey, that little undercurrent of distinctively floral-sweet flavor we know and love beneath full-roasted almonds. Sort of makes me want to experiment with getting a really good honey, those ones that taste like different things like molasses or lilac or marshmallow, and seeing what I can create with it.

I did make a boo-boo though. And know, I’m not just talking about the fact that I think I over-toasted the almonds; I mean, not burnt, they were AWESOME, right before that edge of too-dark, me and my mom love them. But I’m sure this recipe wants them still white in the middle, just lightly toasted for some aroma. To be fair, I did turn the oven off at the right time, it just didn’t cool down as fast as I expected… should have taken the nuts out for some time between.

20150726_150137No, my nougat ended up quite sticky, barely firm at all, as you can see in the pic to the right; I had to set it in the fridge for a few hours just to make sure I got a more decent chance at cutting it smooth. And I know where I screwed up. First was when I added the honey in earlier; I still stand behind the reason for it, but I completely looked over the fact that by doing that, I was taking just over half of the sugar source that was going to get cooked to 285F and then mixing it in at a much cooler, softer stage, thus it didn’t have quite near as much hard sugar to form that firm density later. In retrospect, I should have reduced the honey, at least by a little, and added more regular sugar.

Secondly, and I think the true culprit to costing me what would have at least been a really SOFT, but still handle-able, nougat: I under-beat the bastard. After adding in my sugar (which by the way I’ve realized I really need to begin with MORE sugar that what recipes call for, I always lose some that end up hardening up inside/on-the-lip of the pan or the sides of the bowl before integrating), I only whipped until it was notably cooler but still warm, like 8 minutes. I was afraid that if I kept going until really thick, I might not have been able to mix the nuts in well, plus I know how much of a bitch transfer would have been. And if anything, I figured it’ be BETTER to under-beat; less air bubbles, more thick sugar stuff. But it did not occur to me that, despite how much whipping and beating it had taken so far, that ideal sugar-egg-white structure still needed time to develop to a certain stiffness, probably also to stretch those sugar strands thin so they set up in a more fragile and not-bendy thing. Or something like that.

-Sigh- Oh darn, always hope my attempt for these posts can be perfect, but I’m too damn lazy to make a second batch right afterwards. Maybe on the holidays…

P20150728_115524ossible Pairings

Not sure about you, but I just want something honeyed with this; maybe a really good, sweet glass of mead if I can find it. And my first thought towards regional pairings were fully negative, as many of the famous southern France dessert wines are quite port-like, darker renditions; but there IS the Muscat Beaumes de Venice, either in Rhone or Roussillon I forget, which is always nice and classically sweet, nectar-y, perfect for this!

Or some super-nutty, aromatic liqueur like Frangelico, served ice cold. Come to think of it, we got a bottle of special Pistachio-Liqueur in the basement… maybe it’s time we crack it…