Tuesday, April 1, 2014

J'Adore

Things I'm loving this week: 

I had my very first Apple Pan experience this week. Once you get past the fact that there is no wait list or host and you are on your own to to grab a seat amidst a group of hungry waiting customers lining the plaid wallpapered walls like vultures - you are overcome with nostalgia and it's clear why so many Angelenos treasure this place. The staff running around in paper hats. The sodas served in paper cones. The way the server pours your ketchup for you when your french fries arrive. The homemade pies. The Hickory Burger and Banana Cream Pie hit the spot. It was pure retro diner gloriousness from start to finish.  



Strawberry Season is officially HERE!! We celebrated this week by having a strawberry tasting at home this past Friday night, for dessert. I picked up all three varieties that Harry's Berries offered at the Santa Monica Farmers Market: Gaviotas, Seascapes, & the much sought after Mara Des Bois Strawberries. With a range of acid and sweetness it was the perfect trio - this was a great way to taste the nuances between each variety and a supremely fun way to enjoy all the options at your local farmers market. 

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. I'll be dreaming of Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat for weeks to come. Everything about the confectionery shop was perfection from the powder blue uniforms to the pink boxes each treat was packaged in. I would expect nothing less from Mr. Anderson - the film was packed with whimsy and fun - a real treat. Thanks to Fox Searchlight and Wes Anderson, there is a video of how to make the Courtesan au Chocolate and an official recipe!






Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat


The exact recipe for the Courtesan au chocolat has never been published or publicly disclosed as per the conditions of Herr Mendl’s will. However, the following has been collated and adapted from a several “pirate” sources in the Nebelsbad archives (including a 1963 recipe from the kitchen of the Grand Budapest Hotel using powdered eggs that was printed in the Lutz Daily Fact).
THE PASTRY
Make a choux pastry of flour, water, butter and eggs. Though correct proportions may vary depending on one’s elevation and humidity, we recommend:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup fresh water
1/4 lb (1 stick) butter
4 eggs beaten in a bowl
A pinch of salt
A larger pinch of sugar

Bring the water, butter salt and sugar to a boil. Remove from the fire and quickly mix in the sifted flour. Return to heat for a few minutes, stirring, and cook until the dough forms a single lump. Allow to cool just enough to keep the eggs from cooking and stir in very gradually with a strong wooden spoon.
Cover your tray in parchment and pipe the dough into spoon size dollops. You will need small, medium, and large size pastry balls (large tablespoon, teaspoon and hazelnut size dollops) to make a courtesan. Bake in the oven at 350F(180 C) for about 25-35 minutes. The smaller pastries are best put on a separate tray as they will cook more quickly.


Remove from the oven and discreetly make a small piercing in the choux to allow the steam to escape.

THE FILLING
Once cooled, the large and medium choux should be filled with a crème pâtissière of chocolate, egg yolks, and sugar.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Several large pieces semi-sweet chocolate
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 spoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon flour
Cornstarch to thicken

Heat the milk gently and add chocolate, stirring to melt into a rich, almost-steaming chocolate milk. Whisk egg yolks, flour, sugar, cocoa and a few spoons of cornstarch into a smooth mixture. Add half of the hot chocolate milk to the bowl, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Then add this mixture back into the rest of the hot milk, stirring over gentle heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens to a custard. Remove from heat and chill.
ASSEMBLAGE
Once cooled, spoon the chocolate crème into a pastry bag and pipe into the large and medium pastry balls.
Prepare sugar icing of confectioner’s sugar, a dash of vanilla and enough milk to achieve the desired consistency. Separate into 3 small bowls and add food coloring to each - one pink, on lavender, one pale green. Reserve a small amount of white icing.
To assemble a Courtesan, dip a large ball of filled pastry in the pink icing (to the midline) and place icing side up on a small tray. Repeat with a medium pastry into the lavender icing, and place it, iced side up, atop the first ball. Press it gently so it sticks in place. Repeat with the smallest pastry in the green icing. Decorate with filigree of white icing as desired. Place a cocoa bean atop the tower as a garnish.
Serve fresh.

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