Making some New York cheesecake at work, I was reminded of cookies made by Granny Barwick, sage of the back of the box" oatmeal cookies. Just as her perfect cookies started with a recipe from an Oatmeal box, you'll find some good tips on your cream cheese packages.
As with any good New York cheesecake, though, just remember, cheesecake is best baked at about 325 degrees (F) for around 90 minutes. This was a cinch and it was good!
Miche, a bread I've made for years, reminds me of my mother's accounts of growing up in a mountain village in France's Var region. She would often recall the way each family would make a large miche and bake in the communal village oven, loaves that lasted days. My mother said she always liked the bread after a few day's, as it would get crustier. As it staled, it was dipped into a soup, something I do quite often, as it's a handed down memory through her story.
This miche is dedicated to her stories and because she's my mom.
Many years ago when I was a budding pastry cook, I had the task to make a pastry cart for lunch and dinner service. One of my favorite preperations were making tarts. From fresh berries with pastry cream, to baked apple tarts. So I recently made a tart combining some old recipes I'd saved and combined some of the tropical flavors of mango, pineapple, banana with coconut and cocoa nibs. Tarts are simply delicious, not so difficult to prepare and yes delicious!
A few weeks ago, I chatted about bread and writing with baker philosopher, Jean-Philippe de Tonnac. He has been coaching and coaxing me to jot down my dreams, which include bread and writing. He took it a step farther, showing me my path and - more - the cover of my book. Still existing primarily in my head, now I must write it. How could I not at this juncture?
Between two overlapping holidays in the Judeo-Christian calenders, Passover and Easter, I've been baking, and yes I didn't do the right thing. I made hot cross buns a full two weeks before Easter. Then I made challah when matzah, un-leavened bread, was what the lord called for! God forgive me for going off track. But I did follow my passion and spirit, I baked!
The eclair, "choux pastry" filled with cream and glistening with "fondant." It's that quintissential French dessert that can be spectacularly satisfying, or just darn awful. My recent quest for New York's best took me to two boroughs and four pastry shops. Perhaps it's unfair to judge with just a small sample size, but, honestly, first-class eclairs in the Big Apple proved difficult to find.
My quest was inspired by fond memories of the over-the-top eclairs at the former Fauchon, which sadly closed. If only it had waited long enough for New York's renaissance (or return) of French food. Ah, well, here are photos from my journey in one weekend afternoon on the hunt for fabulous eclairs.
Francois Payard: Boutique chic, regal, richly chocolate, Upper eastside. My take? Overkill with its frou-frou luxe decoration. Yes, it's beautiful presentation, but do you have to own a poodle (or be one) to enjoy this place? How about eclairs for your basic bourgeois food,something relative to classic patisserie boulanger?
Next, I meander to a local competitor, Eric Kayser - direct from Paris!
Eric Kayser: The eclair is industrial, not fussy, less chocolate richness and less pure. While light, it was too light. All air, no flavor and lacking in intensity. And the fondant was super sticky.
Back home to my borough and the hustle bustle of industrial Queens. Can I find a great eclair among the least bougeoise Big Apple borough? Maybe. I go to one of the rare upper middle class neighborhoods in Queens, Forest Hills, home to "La Boulangerie."
La Boulangerie: Well, I'm pleased to see it's busy. Someone enjoys it. And it's a cute shop, but the product is far from perfect. The first eclair they offered from the display case looked beaten up. I asked for another. They gave me one straight from a refrigerator.
La Cannelle: Jackson Heights Queens, This out-of-the-way shop is also really busy. I had heard such good things about it. But as was the case before, this was also refrigerator cold, and missed filling of chocolate in the center. Air pocket and chocolate below average, pretty dissapointing.
Mac and cheese. It's a dish that inspires snark from many of us chefs. But honestly, I love it. From it's creation myth - in which Thomas Jefferson brought macaroni and parmigiano cheese back from Europe to create it - up to recent times, where the dish has morphed into multiple variations; the additions including bacon, truffles, alternative cheese to the classic cheddar, mustard, cream and even onions. Not long ago, I had a good batch at SFBI, while taking a course on baguettes. It reminded me that this is comfort food, simple, yet subtle, quite delicious. Here is my latest effort!