East of Paris Bookstore

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easter Baking -- Gerbeaud Bars

Even though I am considering listening to my doctor and moving away from frequent (actually, daily) dessert, in the post-Pascal season I had to try making Gerbeaud bars -- a Hungarian dessert developed by a Swiss baker named Emil Gerbeaud.  Gerbeaud is also a "coffee house" in Budapest.  If you can't get there, visit their luscious website.
The bars are made with layers of a yeast based pastry filled with apricot jam and walnuts and covered in a chocolate glaze.  Rich, mildly crunchy, not too sweet.  Ah, the breakfast of champions!

Here is the recipe from Rick Rogers' Kaffeehaus book.  I made Esterhazy Torte from the recipe in his book and it is one of the most popular posts on this blog.
This recipe consists of three parts -- the filling, the dough, the chocolate glaze.    Also, before embarking on this recipe, you need a few hours ... one for the dough to rest in the refrigerator and one for the dough to rest after the bars are assembled and before baking.  While the whole thing is not difficult, the time element means you have to have the time to make these.  The bars are worth it.  As for the time ... it provides an opportunity to sit quietly with a glass of wine and read a good book or to get on the treadmill and feel virtuous.  Whatever.
3-3/4 teasp. dry yeast
1/2 cup milk (at 105 to 115ºF)
3 egg yolks
1 teasp. vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar [I used 2/3 cup]
1/4 teasp. salt
14 Tsp. (1-3/4 sticks) butter cut into small cubes & chilled

Combine the yeast and warm milk in a measuring cup and let stand for 3 minutes.  Stir with a fork and mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Put the flour, salt and sugar into a mixer bowl.  Add the butter and mix on a low speed, using the paddle blade, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Add the egg and yeast mixture and mix to form a stiff and sticky dough.  Feel free to add a bit more milk of the dough is too stiff to work with.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and knead for 2 to 3 minutes.  Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.  [During this hour, spend 55 minutes reading and sipping wine and the last 5 minutes making the filling.]

1 cup walnuts [ I used 1-1/2 cups]
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup apricot preserves, warmed

Process the walnuts and sugar in a food processor using the metal blade until the nuts are finely chopped.  Warm the preserves in the microwave for a minute or two until they are easy to spread.


Butter and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  

Divide the dough in 3 parts.  Roll out each part into a 13 x 9 inch rectangle.  [I rolled the the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper, which made it easier to transfer each layer into the baking pan.]  After putting the first rectangle of dough into the bottom of the pan, press it into the corners and edges with your fingers.  Next, spread 1/2 of the apricot preserves on the dough and sprinkle on 1/2 of the walnut mixture.  Roll out the next portion of dough and fit it over the pan to cover the the apricot and walnuts.  Spread the remaining apricot preserves on the second layer of dough and sprinkle on the remaining walnut mixture.  Roll out the last portion of dough and transfer to the pan topping the contents.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 1 hour.  The dough will not rise perceptibly, but the yeast is doing something.  [You can use this hour to wash the dishes and then reward yourself with more wine.]

After 1 hour, pierce the top layer of dough all over with a fork, then bake on the center rack of a pre-heated 350º F oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a sharp knife along the edges of the baking pan and invert and unmold the cake.  Cool completely leaving the cake upside-down.

Chocolate Icing:
3-1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate [Semi-sweat chocolate chips work]
1/3 sugar [or less if using semi-sweet chocolate; I skipped the sugar here]
1/4 cup hot water
1 Tsp. butter

Melt chocolate, sugar and water over medium heat storing often until an instant-read thermometer reads 220º F, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in the butter.  Cool the icing until lukewarm; it will be slightly thickened but remain pourable.  Pour the icing over the cake; spread evenly letting any excess icing drip over the sides.  Cool to set the icing.  Then cut into rectangular bars.  Serve at room temperature.  It's OK to serve straight from the refrigerator, but expect the bars to be crunchier than at room temperature.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What We're Reading Now

While on the way to Le Meurice for my over-the-top Paris lunch, I walked by Galignani Bookseller on the Rue de Rivoli.  Galignani bills itself as "The first English bookshop established on the Continent."  In other words, it's been around since 1520 and has a large selection of books from the UK and the US and others parts of the world.  My kind of place:  filled with books and slightly musty.  Their website home page also features an attractive must-see video depicting the ambiance of the shop.

When I was there, I bought two books.  This is smaller than my usual book buying volume because I was also traveling with an iPad loaded with reading material.  As much as I like the iPad, there is still something very satisfying about holding a "real" book, turning its pages, and getting ephemeral whiffs of its paper and ink.

The books I bought for airplane reading were Jennifer Kloester's long and detailed biography of Georgette Heyer and Sarah Bradford's short and breezy biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

For me the length of each book was just right. The arc of Elizabeth's reign started shortly before I was born, so reading the book was like reviewing highlights of world events during my lifetime.  It was perfect for the first half of my flight home -- nothing new, nothing heavy, just a fast trip down memory lane.

The Heyer book was dense with information about one of my favorite writers.  Back in the day ... I spent many enjoyable hours reading most of Georgette Heyer's books.  And, from time to time, I enjoy reading them again.  Georgette Heyer wrote elegant and witty romances and mysteries. Her period pieces are charming and often comedic.  I loved them in my youth and still do.  So, while reading the biography, I learned when and where she wrote each of her books, which enabled me to recall and enjoy them once more.  This is a book to savor and read slowly with lots of pauses to dream about her characters, stately homes, and Regency fashions.

P.S.  These books are available for purchase via my "bookshop"' at Amazon, which appears at the top of my blog page.  ;-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blessed Pascha

Christ is Risen!  
Христос Боскресе!

Once again, here is my favorite Serbian song for this wondrous holy day:

This year I did not attempt to decorate and dye eggs, mostly because my mother does it so much better than I can.  Egg decorating for easter is a centuries old Slavic tradition both for those of the Orthodox and non-Orthodox faiths.  Here is a video showing how this tradition thrives today in Texas with the Wends:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Meurice Hotel Lunch -- Oh La La!

June 7, 2012:  This is a second attempt at this post ... for reasons completely unknown, the entire post -- both photos and scintillatingly witty commentary -- disappeared about a month ago.  The experience kept me from blogging .... My excuse is that the vitrual "dog ate my homework"  and I could not bring myself to redo it.  All of us who work with computers know the feeling.  Then, after a few inquires from friends who actually read my blog, well, I'm back.

While spending time in Paris recently, I decided to lunch at the "restaurant gastronomique" of the Meurice Hotel.  I'd spent the morning on an epic walk ending at the Galignani bookstore on the Rue de Rivoli.  Then, books in hand and looking slightly disheveled -- more like a graduate student than a lady who lunches, I walked the short distance to the Meurice, also on the Rue de Rivoli.

There are a lot of stereotypes about the French, especially about rudeness.  But, I must say that I do not encounter it.  This visit to the Meurice is just another example.  Even though the hostess gave me a "look" (I had no reservation and I did look less than chic), once I made clear which of the hotel restaurants I preferred, no problem.  That's because the French take their meals seriously and they take money seriously -- restaurants gastronomiques have prices that are "astronomique."  They placed me at a lovely table with a view of everyone and everything [including an older man with his two nieces -- not DSK] and the waiters and waitresses could not have been more attentive.

So, even with the Euro then being higher than it is today, I proceeded to indulge in the multi course prix fixe menu.  For translation purposes, in France, the menu is called a "carte" while a set meal consisting of a number of courses is called the "menu."  The first course is called the entrée, the main course (which we call an entree) is called the "plat."

Anyway, my caloric indulgence started with a lollipop shaped bit of goat cheese and a small tomato dried to a crisp like a merangue.
This was followed by a beef consommé with a touch of shredded daikon radish and ginger ... simply amazingly delicious.
Along side there were breads and the yellowest butter I have ever seen -- one cube salted, one cube unsalted.
But, back to the main show ... after the soup came transparent langoustines with sliced turnip dotted with an unsweetened crème anglaise and decorated with gelatin.
A vegetable course followed -- fresh aromatic peas, tiny gnocchi and fancy foam ( at bit on the salty side).
The main course was some kind of fish -- good but it took at bit of adjustment for me to eat it.
Then, when I got a good look at its teeth, I stopped feeling sorry for it.

Finally, there was the multivariate desert ... oh la la!  A dried slice of pineapple so thin you could read through it, a very tart strawberry mousse, a mango meringue with tiny balls of ice cream topped with gold leaf, and a sublime crème brûlée, served rolled in a chocolate crust and decorated with gold leaf.   

For the record, I did not eat the gold decorations since I prefer my gold in jewelry not in food!

Finally, there came coffee with thin sheets of cardamom flavored chocolate.  Heaven!
All the above photos were taken using my iPhone.  It seemed more discrete than using a larger camera.  And, yes, I did have a fabulous glass or two of Chassagne-Montrachet (a white wine from Burgundy), one was in France after all.

I left the restaurant heavier in weight and considerably lighter in my wallet.  But, so worth the sacrifice.  I should have walked back to my hotel to burn off some of the calories, but a taxi was so much nicer.

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