Strawberry Hazelnut Cream Tart

July 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’m sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in Paris, eight floors above the street, below, just steps away from the Saint Michel fountain, where crowds of tourists are still applauding two men performing some sort of bizarre sequence of body movements, which, in my opinion, hardly qualify as art or as acrobatic contortions. Horns are blaring, and I’m sure in some parts of the city — perhaps even a couple blocks away — parties are well under way for Bastille Day. I walked around about a four-block radius of my hotel and then retreated to my sanctuary of a hotel room.

Lately, I’ve been longing to be home, or at least somewhere I can call home for a couple of weeks, dreaming about having a kitchen again and starting each morning with a bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup and a cup of fresh coffee. Craving strange and random things that I certainly never thought would be at the top of my list — non-fat milk, whole grains, avocado, and curry. Homey, healthy, and flavors with a kick. Believe it or not, one cannot eat croissants forever, though I have certainly put it to the test.

Thankfully, it will be exactly one day until I have a kitchen again — though it still could not be farther from home —, as I have a growing list of desserts, and surprisingly savory dinner items, to make. In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share something I made in the days leading up to this trip (read, almost two months ago). Fresh California strawberries sit atop a thick layer of vanilla pastry cream. The crust is crunchy, and just slightly overbaked to the point that it’s crystallized and caramelizing. Before filling the tart, I dipped a knife and a couple of spoons in a jar of hazelnut jam that my mom picked up at a local bakery, and spread the crust with nutty goodness. This tart disappeared in a flash, I think because it became of a favorite breakfast item of my dad’s.

Wake up and smell the world

March 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

My kitchen at home has a huge slab of black granite as a counter top. I used to stand on the wooden kiddy chairs, the kind of chairs that came with the kid table set, don an apron decorated with circus animals and grate huge pieces of dark chocolate into warm milk. I liked the way the darkness swirled with the white of the milk, some of the chocolate dissolving in the liquid and some staying as thin shavings. But most of all, I liked eating the concoction with a spoon at the end of the day. I didn’t know then that I had discovered chocolate ganache all on my own. Chocolate ganache remained that fantastical element that always topped my mother’s flour less chocolate torte, so rich that my childhood palette required an extraordinary amount of vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment. Now, I don’t have that granite counter top, I have four square feet of tabletop in a dormitory kitchen. I don’t have unlimited access to the crystallized ginger and bacon-infused chocolate of San Francisco specialty grocery stores, the crates of blackberries and stalks of rhubarb picked from my grandparents’ backyard in late August or the assurance that there will always be butter and eggs in the refrigerator and sugar and flour in the cupboards. But it always amazes me what you can make from almost nothing, how a couple simple ingredients can create a cake that is much more than a sum of its parts. So here goes nothing: welcome to college dormitory baking.

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