“Bretzel” rolls

Posted in Life, Recipes, Techniques on November 9th, 2010 by Natacha – 5 Comments

I am from Alsace, the land of Bretzels and Beer…I decided to attempt to make some “Bretzel” rolls from scratch and they were delicious ! We ate them on a cold day as a side for a French style chili con carne !

for the dough:

1 ½ cups warm water (110°F or comfortably warm to the touch)

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (1 package) – not quick rise yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for the poaching & glazing:

1/4 cup baking soda

large saucepan of water

1 egg, lightly beaten

Sea salt

  1. for the dough: Combine the water and the yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and let rest 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients (sugar, flour, salt, butter) and mix with the dough hook until thoroughly combined, the dough comes together and is rather silky – but not sticky – to the touch.
  3. first rise: Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
  4. Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Line two sheet pans with silicone mats (parchment would work fine)
  6. shaping: Cut the dough into 18 pieces, roughly 2 ounces each. (Or really any size you wish, keeping in mind that you’re going to have to poach them in the baking soda solution so they need to fit into your pan. A large slim baguette would be wonderful but how are you going to poach the thing?)
  7. To shape, take a piece of dough and start forming a nice round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the center and pinching to seal.  By doing this, you’re creating a smooth skin around the dough ball.
  8. Place, pinched side down, on a counter and lightly cupping your hand around the dough ball, rotate your hand in small circles lightly rolling the ball around the palm of your hand.  This takes some practice.
  9. Space evenly on the prepared sheet pans, pinched seam side down, leaving at least 1” between each roll.
  10. second rise: Cover with a tea towel or a light film of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes until doubled.
  11. Preheat oven to 425°F and place oven racks on the lowest and middle positions.
  12. poaching: In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil.
  13. Add the baking soda and lower heat to a simmer.
  14. Carefully slip the rolls into the poaching liquid, seam side down.
  15. Poach for 30 seconds then carefully turn the roll over in the liquid.
  16. Poach other side for 30 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared sheet pans, seam side down.
  17. Repeat with the remaining rolls, leaving at least 1” between rolls for baking.
  18. glaze: With a pastry brush, glaze each roll completely with the lightly beaten egg making sure to coat all sides completely.
  19. Top each roll with a sprinkle of sea salt
  20. With a sharp straight edged knife, cut a slash or “X” in the top of each roll.
  21. bake: Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking – top to bottom, front to back – for even browning.
  22. Cool completely (try to resist snatching one or two while warm.  I double dog dare you.)
  23. Rolls are best eaten on day of baking (most especially when warm with a little butter) but they store pretty well in the freezer, tightly wrapped.  Reheat in a damp paper towel for 30 seconds in the microwave.

For the French style chili, i did not use a specific recipe, I started searing the meat (grass fed beef fajita strips)in canola oil then added  a mirepoix (onions,celery and carrots), one cup of  beef broth, homemade organic tomato puree, presoaked kidney beans and adjusted seasoning with salt, pepper and chili powder and let simmer for a couple hours.

"Bretzel" rolls

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Life, Techniques on November 8th, 2010 by Natacha – 1 Comment

What are three year old boys into those days ? Answer : The Pixar movie “cars”

I like challenges and when my son requested a Lightning McQueen cake for his birthday – I knew this was one! It took me a couple month to decide : Fondant or Buttercream icing ?

I haven’t done enough fondant work at this point so the choice was quickly made.

The cake was basic yellow cake and the frosting butter + confectioner’s sugar + food coloring.

To go along I made some chocolate chips cupcakes with raspberry frosting and chocolate mousse frosting with red cars in tinted chocolate.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

Cars cupcakes

Happy Halloween !

Posted in Cakes/Cupcakes/cookies, Life, Techniques on November 1st, 2010 by Natacha – 2 Comments

I hope everyone had a great Halloween ! Even I had fun baking this display !

Ghosts were made out of a lollipop covered in fondant, eyes/cobwebs made in dark chocolate, chocolate chip cupcakes and Vanilla buttercream frosting and sugar cookies frosted with tinted royal icing !

Up for a challenge : Gougere

Posted in Recipes, Techniques on September 13th, 2010 by Natacha – Comments Off on Up for a challenge : Gougere

My coworker threw me a new challenge, to recreate a dish he had in a french restaurant called Maxim’s.

So for tonight’s dinner i tried to make a gougere (even though it is going to kill my postbaby weight loss).

My mom served us this dish and we loved it, there was never enough of it.

The dough “pate a choux” can be used for many basics of French cooking such as eclairs, petits choux, gougeres etc…But i must warn you it is a workout just making the dough because you have to stir it by hand with a wooden spoon.

Here’s thee recipe I used :

  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 2/3-cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere (replace with sugar if making sweet choux)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Prepare your oven : Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Always add an additional 5 minutes when you think your oven is at

In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a rolling boil and immediately
remove it from heat.  Immediately add the salt & all the flour while
continuously stirring with a wooden spoon until blended and a thick paste
forms in the shape of a ball.

Return the pan to a medium-low heat for about one minute or until the pastry
leaves the side of the pan. This helps remove any additional moisture. Be
sure to keep stirring.

Remove the paste from the heat; transfer it to a mixing bowl and using a
wooden spoon, stir in the eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth and
glossy.  Blend in the cheese until it is completely incorporated into the
dough. The consistency should be stiff but still allow you to dollop it from
a spoon.

With the help of a ziploc bag filled with dough (cut one corner with scissors) form a ring of dough.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes until the ring puffs up and they are golden in color.
Once golden, turn off the oven and let the Gougere sit for 10 to 12 minutes (in the oven) so that it does not deflate after you take it out…If it deflates, you might not have cooked it long enough OR there was still moisture in the dough…

You can make individual dollops to serve this as an appetizer or make a french meal out of it by serving a cheese and ham bechamel sauce and a side of salad.

You can also put grated cheese on top before baking (which i forgot this time)..Oupps….

Gougere ready to be stuffed !

Next time I want to make a Roquefort and leek sauce to stuff it in order to add some fiber to this meal…

Don’t hesitate to send me your food challenges via email :

Kitchen’s closed !

Posted in Life, Techniques on September 9th, 2010 by Natacha – 1 Comment

We spent the weekend in New Jersey at my in-laws since we had to lay tile on the kitchen wall to make  a backsplash. It was really needed with all the cooking I have been doing lately.

We had a great dinner there ! My father-in-law grilled some steaks and he has been perfecting his technique to achieve great success, grill marks and all…No need to go to steakhouses anymore !

Check out those grill marks !

Those were NY strip steaks and they were good !

Especially served with simple sweet corn and my favorite horseradish sauce.

I hope you're hungry!

“How to” sear fish…

Posted in Techniques on September 1st, 2010 by Natacha – Comments Off on “How to” sear fish…

Basically the trick to get nicely colored fish filet/steak is to sear it in a little bit of oil on a super mega crazy hot pan. I recently learnt that to check you just dip one end of the fish in the oil and if it makes noise (like a “pscchhhh”), the pan is hot enough and than means you can lay the whole filet in the pan.

For white fish/scallops i like to use  flour. Rinse the fish (bacteria often grows on the surface), remove water with paper towel and then dip in a plate full of flour before searing.

Then once your filet is in the pan-do not touch it-, watch it and when it starts to look cooked up to the middle of the steak, flip it and then turn off the heat – this will guarantee a nice raw-ish middle with perfect caramelization achieved.

Seared yellowfin tuna steak