Showing posts with label French pastry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French pastry. Show all posts

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli a la Lucy Burdette


Today's recipe might be a little confusing, because it's obviously Italian and I'm just home from a wonderful trip to France, not Italy. But after spending ten days feasting on amazing pastries like the ones at the left, you can understand that I need to eat homey, plain food for a while to let my system catch up. One of the funny things we noticed about the French (besides the incredible pastries and bread and the smoking--you would not believe how many people smoke!), was the dearth of green vegetables. Even my husband announced one day that in the course of three meals, nothing green had passed his lips.. 

So this soup doesn't have green veggies in it either, but it's relatively low on fat and full of fiber and delicious comfort food for a fall night. Serve it with a green salad and maybe some biscuits or good bread, and you've got supper!

Pasta e Fagioli: Ingredients

2 tablespoons
4-5 slices bacon, chopped
1  sprig rosemary, left intact
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
Coarse salt and pepper
1 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart chicken stock
1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta (I forgot to buy this so you see ziti)
1 chunk Parmesan rind for soup (optional)
Grated Parmesan or Romano, for the table


Brown the bacon. Remove from pan, drain and crumble. Next, add the olive oil to the pan. Over medium heat, saute the bay leaf, rosemary, chopped vegetables, and garlic until soft. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Remove to a large soup pan. 

 Add tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and simmer. Add the beans and the chunk of Parmesan rind if desired and simmer. (The rind is not necessary but it adds flavor and it's fun to come across the gooey, tasty mass at the bottom.) At this point, you may want to refrigerate the soup overnight for more flavor.

Bring the soup back to simmer and cook the ditalini separately until just tender, then add to the pot. Or dish the pasta into bowls and ladle the soup over top. Garnish with the crispy bacon and serve with freshly grated cheese and crusty bread or biscuits and definitely, a green salad. Bon appetit or buon appetito! (You know what I mean:)

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. MURDER WITH GANACHE will be out in February, but you can pre-order it now.

Follow Lucy on Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ooh La La Cream Puffs

Have you met author Heather Blake? I've never seen her without a smile. You might be familiar with some of her books since Heather also writes under the name Heather Webber. She's the author of over a dozen novels. She's a Dr Pepper enthusiast, total homebody who loves to be close to her family, read, watch Reality TV (totally addicted, especially to competition shows), crochet, occasionally leave the house to hike the beautiful mountains in the northeast, bake (mostly cookies) and dreams of owning a house at the base of Mt. Mansfield in Stowe, VT. Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently, she lives in the Cincinnati area with her family and is hard at work on her next book.

Her latest book A Witch Before Dying hits the stores officially on August 7th.

When Darcy is hired by Elodie Keaton to clean up her missing mother’s disorderly home, the Wishcrafter is certainly up for the task. After all, the motto of her Aunt Ve’s personal concierge service As You Wish is “No Job Impossible.” But beneath the piles of old newspapers and knickknacks, Darcy discovers something much more disturbing: Patrice Keaton’s body.

Darcy’s determined to give Elodie peace of mind by investigating her mother’s disappearance and death. Patrice was last seen over a year ago after a fight with her Charmcrafter boyfriend. Was her murder a crime of passion? Or were Patrice’s troubles caused by the Anicula, a wish-granting amulet? Now Darcy has to find not only a killer but also the Anicula— before the power of ultimate wish fulfillment falls into the wrong hands…

Read more about Heather at .

And now -- Heather!

Back in the spring, my daughter came home from school with a specific assignment for her high school French class: She had to make a French recipe.

Of course, I volunteered to help because as I have a French character in my latest mystery series (Pepe, the mouse familiar from my Wishcraft mysteries), I felt as though I was fully qualified.

However, my daughter being the good girl she is opted to do the project on her own, though she graciously allowed me to be her sous chef (I can measure flour like no one’s business).

She pored over various recipes and ended up making something that we’re quite fond of in our family: Cream puffs! Light and crisp pastry shells that have a yummy filling. Fillings can be anything you choose, from savory to sweet. She opted to use our family’s vanilla custard filling for her assignment.

There are many recipes for cream puffs out there—all very similar. Here’s hers:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375˚. In a medium pot, combine the water and the butter and bring it to a boil. Remove it from the heat and dump in the flour, stirring until it’s all combined. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before returning it to the heat (on medium) and stir constantly until a dough ball forms. One at a time, add the eggs, and stir briskly until the dough is nice and smooth (great arm workout!). 

Place rounded tablespoons of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (which can be lined with parchment if you prefer), 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and golden brown. During the last few minutes of baking, you can poke one or two holes in the dough with a toothpick to let steam escape and prevent puffs from collapsing (she didn’t do this and her puffs were fine). 

After cooling, cut the top part of the puff off (save it!), remove some of the doughy insides (they look like strings), and fill the pastry with your favorite filling. Then replace the top (like a little hat).

***You can adjust the dough amount depending on what size puff you prefer. Small bite-sized puffs are great for appetizers.

Yield depends on size of the puffs. My daughter’s batch made twenty.

Vanilla Custard Filling (can be easily doubled):

1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt
In another small bowl, combine egg yolks, beating gently to combine

On medium heat, warm milk in a pot until you start to see steam rising. Slowly whisk in the sugar, flour, salt mix. Stir until the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Remove a teaspoon of the mix and slowly temper it into the egg yolks, then slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the custard. Continue to cook for another five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Transfer into a bowl and let cool for ten minutes before placing a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the custard (actually touching the custard—this prevents skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cool—a few hours. 

***A quick and easy substitute for vanilla custard is to use instant vanilla pudding.

You can dust the top of your cream puff with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle with chocolate.

Bon appetit!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Perfect Sweet Pie Crust, Pâte Sucrée


"God will not look you over for medals,
degrees, or diplomas, but for scars."
~Elbert Hubbard*
*Thanks to Tom Howe
for the quote

To put it another way: Perfection is overrated. There is no "perfect" pie crust. My own crust--the very crust that looks so beautiful in these photos--ended up tearing in places as I transferred it from parchment paper to pan. To make it whole again, I patched it back together. But that's the beauty of pie crust. Easily fixable. A relief when so many other things in life--bones, hearts, feelings--are not so quick to mend.
But I digress...

This Sweet Pie or Tart Crust is my version of the classic French "sweet dough" or pâte sucrée. It is the perfect complement to my Fresh Strawberry Pie, which I wrote about two weeks ago...
In case you missed that post,click here for the Strawberry Pie recipe.
(The recipe will appear in PDF format.
Just save it or print it.)

As for the crust...
Oh, sure, you can purchase a pre-made pie dough in the refrigerator section of your local grocery. You know the kind I mean, right? Red box. Unroll two layers of dough....There are frozen pie shells in the freezer section, too. But there's a big problem with those pre-made crusts: They're not sweet crusts.
Despite its French pastry roots, this sweet crust is extremely easy to make and really delicious--a tender, sweet, buttery, shortbread-cookie-like moment of bliss. So if you need one (a blissful moment, that is), consider it--and these two final points...

THE TRICK TO ROLLING "PERFECT" PIE DOUGH: I don't know why some cookbooks tell you to roll dough out between pieces of wax paper. I did this on their recommendation, cursing my way to the ultimate solution: Parchment Paper. Wax paper only works if you use flour to prevent sticking--and excess flour will toughen your crust. So take my advice and plop your disc of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper, drop another piece of parchment paper on top, and roll the dough out. Then slip the whole thing onto a cookie sheet, place it in the fridge for a few minutes, and the dough will harden up again. Now you can easily peel away the top layer of parchment paper and transfer the dough to a pie pan.

Blind baking used to freak me out. I thought it would be an extra step and a lot of trouble. It's not. It's incredibly easy, especially if you use this trick: buy flat-bottomed coffee filters. Just drop a paper coffee filter onto the dough, spread 1 cup of dried kidney beans on top of the filter to weight it and bake...(see my recipe for final instructions). Just make sure it's a flat-bottomed coffee filter. The cone shaped coffee filters won't work. (For those of you who don't brew or drink coffee, the shape of the paper filter is dictated by the particular drip coffee maker's basket shape. Look for paper coffee filters in the grocery store aisle where coffees and teas are sold.)
You can't believe I actually got a "coffee" connection in there, can you? Well,'s my recipe for "Pâte Sucrée" aka The "Perfect" Sweet Pie Crust...
"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."
~Julia Child

To get Cleo's recipe for "Pâte Sucrée"
Sweet Pie or Tart Crust
This recipe will appear in PDF format.
You can save it to your computer or print it out.

If you'd like more of my recipes or would like to find out more about the books in my Coffeehouse Mystery series, then click over to my virtual home at

Eat with joy!

~Cleo Coyle
"Where coffee and crime are always brewing...

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