Saturday, May 29, 2010
Where sweet meets savoury.
First on the salt. Where the rest of us comsume common table salt, the french have Fleur de Sel. You'd wonder what's the big deal about salt. Oh, the french sure have their way of creating heritage and producing exclusivity, even for salt. Fleur de sel ("Flower of salt" in French) is a hand-harvested sea salt, collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Traditional French fleur de sel is collected off the coast of Brittany, most notably in the towns of Guérande. Fleur de Sel de Guérande, which is hand harvested from salt marsh water, it is the most revered. Due to its relative scarcity, Fleur de sel is one of the more expensive salts. It is usually sold in airtight jars as it is slightly damp.
And in the case of salted caramels, the influence came directly from France. When it comes to making salted caramel sauce, using Fleur de sel in a caramel recipe is different from using salted butter. The sea salt doesn’t melt into the caramel, so there are fine grains of salt that add texture and crunch.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Financiers start with a batter made by simply stirring together flour, toasted ground almonds, and powdered sugar with lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla extract and beurre noisette (brown butter). Don't be put off by the term beurre noisette. It's just clarified butter, which has been cooked until the milk solids have turned brown, leaving you with a fantastically rich fragrant nutty flavored butter. It is not hard to make. The other distinct ingredient used to make Financiers is almond flour (meal) which is just blanched almonds that have been finely ground. It has a wonderful sweet flavor and its texture is similar to corn meal. The beurre noisette and almond meal compliment each other perfectly, creating a pastry which is slightly crunchy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside.