Gâteau de Crêpes

This incredible cake was a truly a Father’s Day tribute. I made it for my husband to celebrate what an amazing dad he is to our kids. ❤ We enjoyed it after spending the day at a gorgeous New York State Park, Planting Fields Arboretum.

Making a crêpe cake was also a memorial to my dad. When I was growing up, my dad made crêpes on Sundays for breakfast and he taught me how to make them. When my family brought me to college in Boston, we went downtown to a beautiful Williams-Sonoma and my dad selected crêpe pans to give me as a “going away to school gift.” I treasure them.

I also built the cake on a special cake plate that once belonged to my French grandparents. ❤

I’ve wanted to make a crêpe cake for quite some time. My food-blog friends Suzanne and Mimi inspired me to finally make this fabulous dessert. Thanks, ladies! 🙂 This recipe is from the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen.com. The original recipe adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. I omitted the Kirsch, made the crepes in advance, and increased the sugar in the filling.

I’m sharing this special dessert at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #178. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 12

For the Crêpe Batter:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For Assembly:

  • vegetable oil, such as canola or corn
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more ( I used 4 T in the cream plus 2 T for brûlée)
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional (if not doing brûlée)

The day before serving, make the crêpe batter and the pastry cream.

To Make the Batter:

  1. In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside.
  2. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter.
  4. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To Make the Pastry Cream:

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
  4. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl.
  6. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

To Make the Crêpes & Assemble the Cake (the next day):

  1. Bring the batter to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil (I used a brush), then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe with your fingers or a thin metal spatula. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds.
  4. Flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes. (I made 22 crêpes.) Note: I tightly wrapped the crêpes in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for several hours before assembling the cake.
  5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more.
  6. Whip the heavy cream with the 1-4 T sugar and the Kirsch, if using. It won’t hold peaks.
  7. Fold it into the pastry cream.
  8. Lay 1 crêpe on a cake plate.
  9. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup).
  10. Cover with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (or 22!), with the best-looking crêpe on top.
  11. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crêpe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

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Butternut Squash Bread Soup (Panade de Butternut)

This dish could have fed an army. It was GIGANTIC.  I would describe it as French onion soup meets oozy casserole. Full-flavored, cheese-covered comfort food. The thinly sliced butternut squash and fresh herbs layered into the bread, caramelized onions, and cheese added a little bit of excitement as well as color and nutrition. 😉

This recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Lebovitz stated that this is one of those dishes that improves as it sits… thank goodness! We had lots of leftovers. 🙂 I added additional homemade stock to the leftovers, before reheating, just to make it a little bit soupier.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled (4 thinly sliced & 4 whole)
  • 2 T mixed fresh thyme and sage
  • 2-pound (900 g) loaf firm-textured sourdough bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts (2 l) warm chicken or turkey stock, plus additional stock for serving, as desired
  • 2-pound butternut squash or other winter squash such as Kabocha, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated Comte, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz /45 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onions, 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
  3. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Put the slices of bread on baking sheets in a single layer and toast in the oven, turning the slices over midway, until both sides are dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  5. When cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the bread with the whole garlic cloves.
  6. Slice the peeled and seeded squash into 1/8-inch slices. (I used a mandoline.)
  7. When the onions are done, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any of the flavorful brown bits. Cook for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed.
  8. Add 2 cups of the stock to the onions and cook until the stock is mostly absorbed 10 to 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock and heat until the stock is hot. Remove from heat.
  9. To assemble the Panade, cover the bottom of a 3 to 4 quart (3-4 l), 3+inch (8 cm) deep, baking dish with a layer of bread, breaking any pieces so they fit in a single layer, but keeping them as large as possible.
  10. Ladle about half of the onions and some of the stock over the bread, and then cover with half of the squash slices. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and half of the remaining herbs.
  11. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (40 g) of the Comte.
  12. Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.
  13. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup (40 g) of Comte over the squash layer.
  14. Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread.
  15. Press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together.
  16. Top with remaining 1 cup (90 g) Comte, and the Parmesan.
  17. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges. Don’t press it down on the surface or some cheese may stick to the foil during baking.
  18. Set the baking dish on a parchment paper or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills.
  19. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the Panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it is very well browned and crisp on top.
  20. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Spoon portions into shallow soup bowls, making sure each serving is topped with crusty topping.

I’m bringing my dinner-party ready comfort food to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #164 this week, hosted by Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

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French Apple Cake

I’ve had baking a French Apple Cake on my bucket list for a long time. A celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert was my excuse! ❤ This version was custardy and absolutely wonderful. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream but it could also served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

This recipe was adapted from Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhotse, a top editor of Louis Vuitton City Guides (and a restaurant critic for the Paris edition), published in Around my French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, via Epicurious.com.

Greenspan emphasized the importance of using diverse fruit in the cake to include crisp, soft, sweet, and tart apples for the best result. I used a combination of Fuji, Granny Smith, Envy, and Opal apples. I also increased the vanilla, and substituted apple cider for the rum. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or fresh apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • whipped cream of ice cream, for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
  4. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy.
  6. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend.
  7. Whisk in the rum/apple cider and vanilla.
  8. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
  9. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  10. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
  11. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.)
  13. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
  14. To Serve: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Note: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (The flavor may even improve with time!) The cake is too moist to cover completely; leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

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Crème Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crème brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❤

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Baked Rice with Chicken & Mushrooms

I’m home with my kids for their second consecutive snow day today! 🙂 It seems like the perfect time to share one of my new favorite comfort food dishes- baked rice. It’s a full-flavored, complete meal in one pot. Delicious.

This version was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. This dish was different that others that I’ve made in the past because after the rice is baked, it is garnished with a sautéed vegetable topping. Loved it. I used cremini instead of trumpet mushrooms, and increased the amount of mushrooms, garlic, and peas. We ate it with roasted broccoli on the side. It would also be wonderful with a green salad.

I’m bringing this dish to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #158 this week, co-hosted by Ai @Ai Made it For You and Petra @Food Eat Love. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 10), cut into 2-inch chunks
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large sprig thyme, plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups white Basmati rice, soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained
  • 20 ounces king trumpet mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, or a mixture of mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 cups hot chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or smashed to a paste with a little salt
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  1. Put chicken pieces in a 9×13-inch pyrex baking dish and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Pour olive oil into a 4-quart enamelware Dutch oven or similar heavy pot and set over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes, then season with salt.
  4. Add chicken, thyme sprig and bay leaf, and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
  5. Add wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add rice and a large handful of mushrooms and stir to combine. (Reserve most of the mushrooms for garnish.)
  7. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Check broth for seasoning and adjust.
  8. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  9. Transfer pot to oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Finally, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
  11. While rice is baking, sauté remaining mushrooms: Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, rapidly stirring, until they have softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  12. Add peas, if using, and heat through.
  13. Turn off heat, then add reserved chopped thyme, the garlic and the parsley. Toss to coat well.
  14. Fluff rice, then top with sautéed mushrooms and serve.

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated Comté cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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Cauliflower Gratin

My husband refused to let me simply roast the special heads of cauliflower we received in our CSA share. When he agreed to eat this indulgent cheesy cauliflower celebration as a main dish, we struck a deal. I added a little bit of pasta to make it more substantial.

We enjoyed this dish with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, as well as Toscano kale and watermelon radish greens sautéed with garlic, onions and leeks on the side. It truly was a CSA box feast. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten. I used one and a half heads of my small CSA cauliflower, about two pounds total. The original recipe called for three pounds, so I added pasta to the gratin. I also drizzled olive oil over the top of the dish instead of butter.

Cheesy deliciousness. 🙂

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets (I used 2 pounds of cauliflower supplemented with 1 cup orecchiette pasta)
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
  3. Cook the pasta, if using, about 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.
  6. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.
  7. Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish or another equivalently sized baking dish.
  8. Place the drained cauliflower on top (and the pasta, if using) and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
  9. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on top.
  10. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the gratin.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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