Truffles and chocolate

Truffle dinner at Restaurant Julien

This past Tuesday, I was invited to Restaurant Julien for a dinner that centered around the Perigord truffle. It was a media dinner and I was invited because I am now writing for zurbaines, in case you didn’t know that already :) The dinner was fabulous, a preview to what is to come at the Julien as part of the Montreal Highlights Festival. The invited chef, Gaëlle Benoiste‐Pilloire created a 6-courses dinner using truffles. She will be at Restaurant Julien for 3 sold-out nights during the festival, but the truffle dishes will be available à la carte for the duration of the Festival, February 17th to 27th. If you are a truffle lover, hurry up and make some reservations, some of these dishes are well worth it, especially the quail egg with truffle oil accompanied by a fresh truffle and salted butter bite, so simple yet so decadent!

Quail egg with truffle oil accompanied by a fresh truffle and salted butter bite

White bean soup with black truffle

Scallop carpaccio with black truffle oil

Veal blanquette with black truffle

Tarte tatin with vanilla and tryffle ice cream

Chocolate indulgence dishcrawl

6-course of chocolate desserts, need I say more? Saturday afternoon I joined a few other chocolate addicts to indulge in a 6-course chocolate dishcrawl at Le Maître Chocolatier. The desserts were prepared by Nada, owner of Le Maître Chocolatier and pastry chef Jami Liverman. I never thought I would see the day when I would say enough to chocolate but that day came this past Saturday when I had to take the last “course” home. Jamie’s pastries – including his amazingly fudgey brownies – will be available at Le Maître Chocolatier. If you didn’t have the chance to attend this dishcrawl, don’t fret, you can join any of the monthly dishcrawls coming up. I now leave you with some pictures that might induce severe chocolate cravings, you’ve been warned!

1st course: Chocolate fudge with fleur de sel

2nd course:
Triple chocolate caramelized brownie - a Jami Liverman specialty

3rd course:
Chocolate financier with malted mascarpone filling, vanilla crème anglaise and salted caramel

4th course:
Chocolate pot de crème with vanilla ice cream

5th course:
Chocolate shooters! Pure origin 72% dark chocolate from Venezuela and milk chocolate from Madagascar

6th course:
Chocolate heart with fleur de sel and 72% dark chocolate truffle

Restaurant Julien
1191 Union Avenue
514 871 8819

Le Maître Chocolatier
1612 Sherbrooke West
514 544 9475

For more information on Dishcrawl, check out their website here. And for more info on the Montreal Highlights Festival, click here.

2010 dessert roundup: my favourites

It seems only fitting that my last post of 2010 should be about my favourite desserts this year. I have had an amazing year of good eats all over the world, from London to Copenhagen and from Beirut to New York and of course my hometown of Montreal, where we are spoiled when it comes to amazing restaurants. In case you didn’t know by now, I have a very sweet tooth and I always leave room for dessert, no matter how full I am. So here is my roundup of 10 of the best desserts I’ve had in 2010, whether made at home or eaten in a restaurant. Please note that it was too hard for me to list them by order of deliciousness so they are listed in no particular order.

Patrice Demers’s “green” dessert:

2010 was the year I discovered the genius of Patrice Demers, first with his chocolate “pot-de-crème” at Newtown and then with this green dessert at Les 400 coups. I have since made it several times, mainly because I had a craving for it. The first picture is of the green dessert at Les 400 coups and the second one is my take on it at my 3rd annual dessert party.

Momofuku’s apple pie cake truffles:

My mistake was buying only one bag of these, I should’ve bought 10 because I should know by now that anything that comes out of Christina Tosi’s (pastry chef at Momofuku) kitchen is genius!

Beignets with a salted-butter caramel dipping sauce at Le St-Urbain:

Fried dough with salted-butter caramel, nothing more to say here…

Thomas Keller’s chocolate bouchons:

Very similar to his chocolate brownies, these are just as luscious and so chocolatey. If you’re a chocolate lover, then these are a must! They are from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon book but you can also find the recipe here.

Christophe Michalak’s chocolate moelleux with cappuccino mousse:

(Photo: Andrea D. Donida, my dessert-loving friend)

I tasted these at Michalak’s book launch in Montreal this past November. Michalak is one of the best pastry chefs in the world. There was a huge buffet of delicious desserts at his book launch but these stood out as my favourites. Even though I had already had way too much sugar that night, I just had to have seconds of this one. 

Choux pralinés and éclairs from Pâtisserie de la gare:

Definitely the best éclairs I’ve ever had! I’ve tasted the chocolate, espresso and caramel/raspberry versions and they are all out of this world! So good that I decided they would be the ones to make the desserts for the Dishcrawl event I helped organize. The picture of the praline choux à la crème was taken at the Michalak event but was (and is) made by Pâtisserie de la gare, whose pastry chef worked with Michalak in Paris for 5 years.

François Payard's verrine du japonais:

From their description: “Layers of hazelnut dacquoise, milk chocolate mousse, yuzu citrus crémeux, milk chocolate chantilly and dark chocolate glaze”. I had my first one of these back in April and had to go back and have another one on my recent trip to New York. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had!

My Kugelhopf’s tahini date shortbread:

Voted “best cookies in the world” first by me, then by my dessert party guests. Easy to make and seriously addictive, I have made these a few times since reading Kerrin’s post in October. I am still awed by how good they taste every time I bake a new batch (and almost burn my tongue with that first cookie because I’m too impatient to let it cool)

Cannelle et Vanille candied kumquats and pistachio financiers:

2010 will also be the year when I came to the conclusion that financiers are my favourite things to bake. They are easy to make, the combination of flavours are endless and they are absolutely delicious. My favourite combination so far has been the candied kumquats and pistachio one from Cannelle et Vanille.

Homemade panettone:

(Photo: Andrea D. Donida)

This is a once-a-year event only (around the holidays) and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time: the 19th anniversary dinner of Buonanotte. Every single food blogger in Montreal was talking about this panettone for days after we tasted it. This is a world away from the panettones you can purchase at your local supermarket. My wish for 2011 is that they decide to start selling it!

Bonus number 11: My birthday dessert at Eleven Madison Park:

This dessert concluded an unforgettable birthday lunch at EMP this past November. Chocolate composition with variations (dehydrated chocolate mousse, chocolate honeycomb, etc.) with milk - absolutely delicious!

This year is also the year I started to blog. The response has been great and I have met so many amazing people who are just as passionate about food as I am. I want to thank you all for reading, tweeting, sharing, commenting, etc. Have a very sweet 2011!

My 3rd annual dessert party, or how to bake 11 desserts in 2 days

Kreavie chestnut bites, mini canellés and lavender/pear mini financiers

This past Sunday was my 3rd annual dessert party. It all started 3 years ago when I decided to throw a party sometime between my birthday in November and the Christmas holidays. It has since become a tradition… I ended up making so many desserts that first year that everyone took a tupperware home. So the year after, I made a lot on purpose and prepared some nice gift boxes that my guests filled up and took home with a nice card as their Christmas gifts. I did the same this year as well. I love the idea of giving sweet treats as a holiday gift and this for me, is the perfect occasion to do so…

Key lime squares

"Green" dessert

All year long I go through hundreds of food and baking posts and I come across so many recipes I’d love to make but don’t always have time for. I bookmark them all and they come in handy when it’s time to pick a menu. I also often include some of my favourite recipes from that year. To be able to pull off a multi-dessert party, you must be very well organized so here below are some tips I’ve gathered with experience :)

Honey and pine nut tartelettes and Tahini date shortbread cookies

Pick your recipes – I spend weeks doing this, mostly because I can’t decide on what to make and also because this is my favorite thing to do! Look through those cookbooks or favorite blogs and pick the recipes you want to make. When choosing, try and pick various recipes in terms of types of desserts (pies, cakes, mousses, cookies, verrines, etc.) and flavours (chocolate, fruit, spices, etc). Prep time is also crucial when picking recipes, you have to have some recipes that are ok if done a couple of days ahead because you absolutely cannot make everything the same day! You may also want to include some true and tested recipes in there if you are not too confident about baking something for the very first time. In my 11 desserts, I only had 3 that I had made before; the rest were all new recipes. I always try new recipes when throwing a party, which might not always be the wisest choice!

Calculate your quantities – Once your recipes are chosen, print them out. Then go through the ingredients list of each carefully. Add up the most popular ingredients (flour, eggs, sugar, butter) to come up with a total needed then list the least common ones (dates, nuts, fruits, etc). Check your list twice, you don’t want to run out of sugar when in the middle of a recipe!

Go shopping – Do this a few days ahead so that you’ll have everything handy when you’re ready to start. I shopped for everything on the Wednesday before the party then came home and got everything organized .

Make a schedule – Decide what dessert you will be making when. Start with a couple of days before the party since you really can’t do a lot much earlier than that (unless you’re making things like ice cream, macarons or truffles, which can be made a few days ahead). Don’t forget to include preparation in your schedule, for example, you can pre-chop all the chocolate needed for your recipes, toast and chop any nuts needed, confit fruit since that can be done a few days ahead, etc. These steps will help you save some valuable time.

Start baking! – I started prepping on Friday night and made 2 desserts that night (the cookies and the chocolate/yogurt cream for the “green”) then made a few more on Saturday and prepared some things for Sunday. On Sunday, I baked the cannelés and financiers dough (which needed to rest in the fridge for 24 hours) and made a few more things, but was done early enough to tidy up and decorate the apartment before everyone showed up. I assembled some desserts at the last minute (assembling the “green” verrines, icing the cupcakes, dusting the cake with cocoa and plating it, etc.) and when everyone got here, everything was on the table and I was ready to party!

Be flexible – If you find yourself short on time (or just plain tired), then eliminate something. You’re probably making too many anyway so one less dessert won’t be missed by anyone (don’t tell anyone, but I decided to eliminate one at the last minute!) You can also supplement your homemade desserts with store bought ones. I bought some chestnut bites from Kreavie because they are absolutely delicious and I wanted to share them with everyone!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you prepare 11 desserts in 2 days, and have fun doing it!

Chocolate & chestnut truffle torte

Orange and olive oil cake

This was my menu for this year’s party. All the recipes just happened to be from my favourite baking blogs, except for the green, which is from genius Montreal pastry chef Patrice Demers and one of the best desserts I’ve had this year. Click on the titles to get to the recipes.

Tahini date shortbread cookies – Best. Cookies. Ever. Period. (My Kugelhopf)

Tortine alla nutella – Nutella cupcakes, need I say more? (Bell’Alimento)

Key lime squares

Cannelés – I had a little trouble with the baking temperature and time but the last batch was awesome! (Christelle is Flabbergasting)

Orange and olive oil cake  - One of the party’s favourites! (Christelle is Flabbergasting)

Chocolate & chestnut truffle torte – Dense, chocolatey and amazing! (Goodfood)

Honey and pine nut tart – These were a great hit! (Tartelette)

Milk chocolate peanut bars – In his words: “Peanuts, chocolate AND bananas” and you get to brûlé the bananas! (Zen Can Cook)

Sticky toffee pudding – Sticky, sweet, full of butter and so good! (Donna Hay)

Green – One of my favourite desserts these days! (Patrice Demers)

Lavender/apricots financiers – I love financiers and this was my first time baking with lavender, a success! Since it’s not apricot season, I replaced them with pear and it was great! (Tartelette)

Happy holidays everyone! I wish you lots of good foods and sweet treats in the new year. May your plate always be full and your table always be surrounded with loved ones….