Recipe studies: Brioche

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Every few weeks or so, we’ll explore another aspect of the science behind brioche; from the study of the impact of the egg to milk ratio in the dough, to techniques and further questions.

Follow the study here or on instagram: #BRIOCHESTUDY.

A list of posts, written or to be published:

  • A brioche study, part one: the approach
  • A brioche study, part two: the method (ingredient list, pastry chef tips and techniques on brioche)
  • A brioche study, recipe: brioche #1, the control
  • A brioche study, recipe: brioche #2, the almost Chavot-brioche
  • A brioche study, recipe: brioche #3, the pain au lait
  • A brioche study, recipe: brioches #4 and #5
  • A brioche study, part three: impact of the egg-to-milk ratio in rich doughs.
  • A brioche study, ressources: Brioche in literature.

Other themes may include: research on flour protein variations, how to knead brioche by hand…

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Morning snow – Fromage blanc cake

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There was a day spent in the garden. A rake in the hands, and dead leaves piled high on a wheelbarrow. That day, the sun was high and warm, just like the two eagles we’d seen earlier, right after sunrise.

The following morning was an entirely different story. A story made of snowflakes and a crackling fireplace. Both lasted all day, for the record.
I baked the sourdough bread that I had left to proof on the porch overnight. And although it turned out to be much too big for my cast-iron pot, it was restlessly devoured while still warm, with only a few slices left for the next day.

I painted too. A dalahäst. Although I still need to draw on top of the watercolours, using ink, just like I always do.
And in the afternoon, when it became clear we wouldn’t leave the house, I whipped egg whites and folded them into fromage blanc, to make the one cake that might have possibly been baked weekly in my kitchen for a little over ten years, which I’ve yet to tell you about.

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fromage blanc cake

fromage blanc cake

Fromage blanc cake

This recipe is a classic case of natural selection.
What started with the words tarte au fromage blanc, hastily written with a not-so-steady hand over twenty years ago has slowly turned into a cake – a term close enough, yet, hardly accurately describes the wonder that it really is.

All it took, really, was to remove the pâte brisée base. And just like that, many childhood memories resurfaced. The tourteau fromagé du Poitou; the burnt crust, the pâte brisée I would leave out in favour of the insane texture of this fresh goat’s cheese “cake”. And perhaps also, the soft cake that came from a cardboard box at the supermarket; halfway between a mousse and a cheesecake.

And maybe that’s what I should call it: Fromage blanc French cheesecake. But then, it’d sound much more flamboyant that what it is.
Because it is not. It’s a plain, slightly sour from the fromage blanc (however, Greek yoghurt makes and excellent substitute) and warm with vanilla (by any mean, please use homemade vanilla sugar) cake.
If eaten piping hot from the oven, it’s the softest thing you’ve ever had. And in the morning, after a night spent on the kitchen counter, it becomes firm and yet delicate; a form, which is without a doubt my favourite.

You could also add the zest from a lemon or an orange. Or fold in a light jam right before you pour the batter into its tin. I often don’t. For the sake of its plain, unpretentious character.

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Fromage blanc cake

Serves 8-10

4 eggs, separated
a pinch of salt
100 g caster sugar
500 g fromage blanc or Greek yoghurt
100 g cornflour or plain flour
30 g vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 175°C (185°C for traditional ovens). Butter and line the bottom of a 22cm cake pan with baking paper, and set aside.

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Add half the sugar and keep on whisking until they reach hard peaks.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the fromage blanc, cornflour and vanilla sugar.
Then, using a rubber spatula, fold in the meringue until barely smooth: it’s absolutely fine to still have bits of egg whites in the finished batter.

Transfer to your prepared tin, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until well-domed and golden-brown. The top might have cracked a little and it should feel firm to the touch.

Allow the cake to cool down to room temperature in its tin, then unmould onto a plate. Serve dusted with icing sugar or with berries, just brought to the boil with a spoonful of caster sugar.

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The macramé coconut bird feeder

We’re in Åsen for the week. With a very limited internet connection, but this kind of thing doesn’t matter when you have for only alarm, the soft light of the sun through a forest of birches, and the mésanges‘ songs .
There are the woodpeckers too, not unlike a ticking clock.

Yes, we’ve seen many birds perched in the trees that line the forest, but mostly blåmeser [blue tits] and talgoxer [great tits].
And I wanted to find a simple way to feed them as I know for the fact that they’ll be heading north soon.

So this morning, I made a quick coconut bird feeder. Kalle was still asleep. And a loaf of sourdough bread was getting brown in the oven, later to be sliced while still warm (a guilty pleasure of mine) for breakfast.
I took the coconut that Kalle sawed last night, and some string we had in the kitchen; and really, I liked the first one I made so much, that I took some pictures to show you.

Notes

Fresh coconut flesh is ok for birds to eat, but please don’t feed them any desiccated coconut as it can be harmful.

After I took the pictures, I asked Kalle to drill a hole at the bottom of the eye-less shell, pictured here, to make sure water would drain in case of rainy weather.

You could make it way fancier, adding more strings and braiding them; but I just wanted to make something easy, fast and durable. However, I’m pretty sure, I might make more macramé holders soon, perhaps for plants.

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coconut nest

Macramé coconut bird feeder

Material:
– a coconut – sawed in half and with holes drilled at the bottom of each half for draining purposes
– kitchen string
– hooks (optional, to attach the coconut bird feeders more easily to branches)

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1. Cut 4 strings, each measuring around 60cm.

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2.Group the string by 2 and make them meet in their centre.

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3. Knot them together tightly.

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4. Separate in four strands again and tie simple knots, around 3-4cm from the centre.

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5. Place on top of one coconut half. And group two strands from different thread together, as shown above. Tie another simple knot, 3-4cm further. And repeat with the remaining strands.

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6. Repeat this process one last time (or more of you have a large coconut) to that the final “line” of knots reaches the rim of the coconut half.

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7. Place your macramé coconut bird feeder upright and pull the strings, trying to centre them. Make a knot. Add a hook.

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8. When the birds will have eaten the coconut flesh, refill the feeder with seeds and grains of your choice.

macrame coconut bird feeder

Which birds do you have in your garden these days? Lots of love, X Fanny.

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