Monday, February 22, 2021

Crêpes S’il Vous Plait

The French Crêpe ~ Impressive, delicate, yet durable
Thick or thin, small to large, every country has a version of the pancake. The most elegant and glamorous of them all is the French Crêpe. These lacy, pliable rounds are delicate yet durable, easy to make and impressive to serve. They can be an appetizer, main course or dessert. They are a magical way to re-create leftovers into an impressive dish.

 
The marvelous fact about crêpes is that they are a perfect cook-ahead food. They keep in the fridge separated by wax paper and wrapped in plastic for 2 days and when frozen, they keep for 2 months. Thaw frozen crêpes totally and they are ready to be filled, sauced, heated if called for and served. *It is not advised to freeze filled crêpes. Best of all, you cook the crêpes when you want, at your leisure, with no one breathing over your shoulder!

To make a thin and delicate crêpe you need a good pan. It must be heavy enough to distribute the heat evenly, hold the heat and light enough to handle with ease. The many choices may seem bewildering, but any well-made crêpe pan will do the job. There are essentially two kinds of crêpe cookers. The first is the conventional skillet type, in this category are classic stainless steel pans, copper, non-stick and electric ones. The second is a bottom-dip pan where the pan is first heated, dipped in a bowl of batter then inverted over a heating element or flame. Once you have chosen a pan, follow the manufacturer's directions for seasoning the pan or preparation if any is required. Practice with your new pan. The better you know your equipment the more useful it becomes.

Assemble your mise en place; a shallow bowl of batter for the bottom-dip method, a ladle or small pitcher for the skillet type pan. Have oil, a pastry brush, cooling rack or cotton tea towel and wax paper squares to place between finished, cooled crêpes.

Follow any of the ‘Basic Folding Techniques' below, roll or fold crêpes so the best side, the one cooked first, shows. For the performing cook, a 'finishing pan' will be needed to flambé food. The finishing pan is large, flat, beautiful and heat proof. To flambé, gently warm the spirit to be burned, so the alcohol will ignite easily but be certain that it does not come to a boil or all the alcohol will be cooked off and there will not be any flames to dazzle your guests. Never pour the spirit directly from the bottle into flaming sauce. The fire can follow the spirit into the bottle and cause more of a spectacle than you bargained for!

SECRETS TO SUCCESS
  • Let the batter stand for an hour or more after you have mixed it, before frying the crêpe. As it stands, the starch in the flour absorbs liquid, making more tender crêpes. Batters that sit will thicken slightly; dilute them with a little water to the consistency of heavy cream.
  • Always have your crêpe pan heated to a point where a small amount of water dropped on the pan will bounce and dance about. If the pan is either too hot or too cool, the batter will not adhere.
  • Grease the pan well with coconut or avocado oil between crêpes.
  • Remove pan from heat to add the batter. Pour 1½-2 oz. batter directly into the center of the pan, and then quickly roll the pan about so that the batter covers the bottom. If the batter is too thick add a teaspoon of water at a time. If crêpes have a ‘lacey’ look, add more flour.
  • Cook briefly until crêpe starts to brown on bottom. It is not necessary, but you can turn over and cook a few seconds on the other side, or slip it under a broiler for a moment. Slide onto a tea towel or cooling rack. Continue until all batter is used.
  • Cool and use immediately, or stack with wax paper between each crêpe. Wrap well and refrigerate for later use or freeze wrapped in plastic.
Crêpes offer infinite opportunities for improvisation; in the crêpe batter, the fillings, toppings, sauces and folding techniques you use. Sophisticated diners and kids alike will love the elegant yet simple crêpe!

BASIC FOLDING TECHNIQUES

CRÊPE ROLLS- spread filling on each crêpe and roll tightly from one side, to form a cigar shape.
CORNUCOPIAS- cut the crêpes in half. Place filling to one side and roll into a cone shape.
CLASSIC FOLD OR ENVELOPE- place filling in the center and fold the two sides over the center.
CRÊPE POCKETS- begin with ‘Classic/Envelope Fold’ then tuck the two open ends into the crêpe.
TRIANGLE FOLD- spread filling on half and fold in half to cover, then fold in half again to form a triangle.
DOUBLE STUFFED TRIANGLE- place filling on one quarter and fold in half, place more filling over the previously filled quarter and then fold in half again to form a double stuffed triangle.
STACKED OR LAYERED CRÊPES- place filling on one crêpe then top with a second, place filing on that one, add another and proceed to desired height. Serve by cutting in wedges.

Basic Folds - left to right ... Rolls, Cornucopias, Envelope, Pocket, Triangles

BASIC CRÊPES                    Yield: about 12 crêpes
This recipe can be varied to suit the filling. For example, if you are serving a curry inside the crêpe you can add a touch of curry powder to the batter. Flavorful chicken or beef stock can be added for all or part of the milk. 
 
2 large eggs
1¼ cup milk
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Beat eggs well, add milk, flour and salt. Beat to a smooth batter then blend in melted butter. Let batter stand for 1 hour for more perfect crêpes. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success' above.

Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream and Maple Syrup

DESSERT CRÊPES           Yield: about 12 crêpes
If you are using fruit or berries inside the crêpes, add a bit of orange zest to the batter and 1-3 Tbsp. liqueur as part of the liquid.
 
1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpes’ (recipe above)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Let batter stand for 1 hour. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success’ above.
 

CHOCOLATE CRÊPES    Yield: about 12 crêpes 
I have used this recipe for years, from the Food Network~Laura Calder’s ‘French Food at Home’. Stuff these crêpes simply with sweetened whipped cream and fresh summer berries or sliced bananas. Serve with ‘Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce’ (recipe below).

1 Tbsp. butter
1½ oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup milk
2 eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan combine butter, chocolate and milk and heat to melt. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add vanilla stir, then add flour. Beat in chocolate mixture. Let batter stand for 1 hour. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success’ above.
 
CRÊPES NEPTUNE                  Yield: 12 crêpes – 12 appetizers
One of my signature recipes... The addition of minced dill and lemon zest to this crêpe batter is a delicious alternative for seafood fillings. Scallops, lobster or salmon also work well in this recipe.

1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter (recipe above)
1½ Tbsp. minced baby dill weed
Zest of 1-2 lemons
2 Tbsp. butter
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, cut in quarters
½ cup dry Sherry, divided
1½ Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
8 oz. crab meat
8 oz. shrimp meat
1½ cups Béchamel sauce, divided
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 lemon twists and sprigs of baby dill for garnish

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in minced dill weed and lemon zest. Let batter stand for 1 hour.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan. Add scallions and mushrooms, sauté but do not brown. Add ¼ cup Sherry and thyme, simmer over medium heat until reduced by one third. Add crab, shrimp and 1 cup Béchamel sauce. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate.

Cook the crêpes. Divide seafood filling between 12 crêpes, roll each tightly into a ‘Crêpe Roll’ and place in a baking dish seam sides down. Thin remaining ½ cup Béchamel sauce with Sherry to desired consistency, drizzle over rolled crêpes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot through and lightly browned. Garnish with a lemon twist and a sprig of dill.

FRESH MUSHROOM CRÊPES           Yield: 8 crêpes – 4 servings
Crimini mushrooms are also known as brown or Italian. They are young Portobello mushrooms with a hearty, earthy flavor, tan to dark brown with smooth tops.

1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter (recipe above)
1½ Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or sage
3 cups sliced fresh crimini mushrooms
¼ cup scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup thick Béchamel sauce
½ cup grated medium Cheddar cheese
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. grated Gruyère cheese
Sprigs of thyme for garnish

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in minced fresh thyme. Let batter stand for 1 hour.
Sauté mushrooms and scallions in butter until tender. Stir in Béchamel and cheddar cheese, add wine. Spoon mixture into crêpes then use the ‘Triangle Fold’. Sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and broil for 2 minutes. Garnish with sprig of thyme.

HAZELNUT STACKED CRÊPES WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE       Yield: 6 servings
Crunchy, caramelized hazelnuts layered between delicate crêpes, served with a rich chocolate sauce… an elegant dessert!

10-12 ‘Dessert or Chocolate Crêpes’ (recipes above)
8 oz. hazelnuts
2 tsp. avocado oil
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
 
Coarsely chop hazelnuts and heat in oil. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and stir until well caramelized. ‘Stack Crêpes’ with caramelized nuts between each crêpe. Distribute nuts to the edge and lightly press down each crêpe before adding the next layer. Drizzle a small amount of sauce over the stack. Cut crêpe stack into 6 wedges and serve with warm ‘Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce’.

Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce         Yield: about 1 1/4 cup
This sauce when served warm is a decadent, liquid ganache.

¾ cup whipping cream
9 oz. top quality dark chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tsp. instant Espresso powder
3 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur

Combine cream and chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir frequently until chocolate is melted. Dissolve Espresso powder in liqueur and add to chocolate mixture until well combined.Drizzle over dessert crêpes, cake or ice cream

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!
 
Photos by Sally Rae
Recipes by Sally Rae
Chocolate Crêpe Recipe by Laura Calder

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Meatless Monday 'Burger'

There are numerous reasons why people choose to reduce their meat intake or omit it totally from their diet. My Meatless Monday journey began with health and gut issues and changing to a Paleo Diet Plan. So I have created a few plant based options to trade off with through the week.

'Beyond Meat' Burgers (and other meat alternatives) are now available at fast food restaurants and in grocery store meat departments. This plant based meat replacement is getting a lot of press recently. One review I read on 'Beyond Meat' mentioned, "although they are plant based and an alternative to eating carbon producing beef, these burgers are still a processed food." For anyone eating Paleo or any other restricted diet, read labels ... the ingredient list is not the best option. 'Vegan' burgers of past and present have main ingredients of lentils and/or soy, nuts and vegetables. Again, not suitable for the Paleo Diet. The version I have offered in my recipe below omits lentils and soy to keep it Paleo compliant.

Sliced - minced in food processor - finely diced by hand

My 'Meatless Burger Patties' have an egg for binding the ingredients together and coconut flour to absorb liquid. Even so, they are delicate and crumble easily. It is important to finely dice all the vegetables and handle the patties gently. Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet, when totally cooled they can be frozen between squares of parchment or wax paper, so you can remove only the amount you need for a meal.  

The frozen patties can be reheated either on a preheated BBQ grill, a small bake sheet in the oven or in a non stick pan.

Meatless Monday 'Burger' Patties       Yield: 10 patties
These patties are delicate and crumble easily. Handle gently and you have a delicious, Paleo friendly, meat-free burger. 
Combine and cook off most of the liquid
 

1-1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil 
1 large onion - 1 heaping cup finely diced
12 oz. mushrooms - 3 cups finely diced
1 large carrot - 2/3 cup coarsely grated
1-2 stalks celery - 1/2 cup finely diced
2-3 large cloves garlic - minced 
1 cup coarsely grated butternut squash
2 tsp. coconut flour
1 tsp. dried sweet marjoram 
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper 
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. coconut aminos *see Chef's Note
2 oz. - heaping 1/2 cup activated pecans, finely chopped
 
Line a bakesheet with parchment paper, set aside.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add remaining 1/2 Tbsp. oil plus the mushrooms, carrot, celery, garlic and squash, stir to combine and cook until slightly softened, stirring often. Rub the sweet marjoram and oregano in your palm and sprinkle over the vegetable mixture with the salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and the mixture has cooked off most of the mushroom liquid. Remove from heat, transfer to a large plate and set in the fridge to cool completely. 
 
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl whisk together the egg and coconut aminos. Working quickly, sprinkle in the coconut flour and whisk until there are no lumps, the mixture will thicken. Stir in the pecans then fold in the cooled vegetable mixture, mix well to combine.

 Gently form and pat into a patty form
Onto the prepared bakesheet, divide the mixture into 10 portions using a 1/3 cup measure or two #30 scoops for each patty. Be sure to leave space between them. Gently form and pat the mixture into a patty form. If you have them, use an egg ring to get a consistent, nice round patty.

Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 40 minutes or until slightly browned and crispy on the edges. These patties freeze well, cool completely before freezing. Handle the patties gently, when totally cooled they can be frozen between squares of parchment or wax paper, so you can remove only the amount you need for a meal.
 
To reheat a frozen patty: spray the shiny side of a piece of tin foil with non stick spray or avocado oil. Place the prepared tin foil on a preheated BBQ grill, gently place the frozen patties on the foil to heat through. Or line a bake sheet with parchment paper and bake the frozen patties in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes. For crispy edges, fry in a non stick pan with coconut or avocado oil be very gentle when turning the patty. 
 
CHEF'S NOTE:*Coconut Aminos; also called Coconut Sauce or Coconut Nectar, is a Paleo and Whole30 compliant alternative for soy sauce. 
Sally Rae's Meatless Monday 'Burger' Patties
Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!
 
Photos by Sally Rae
Recipe by Sally Rae 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

New Olson Masks for 2021

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had a safe, quiet holiday. I really enjoyed mine, with extra time to sew and increase my Olson Hospital Face Mask collections. As a followup to my previous post...

The last of some original & beginning of some new fabrics
I have a few new fabrics, a beautiful collection of new batiks and used up some of the original prints. As always, I produce limited numbers ... 2-4 masks ... from each fabric pattern. I also still have the optional N95 'Filti' fabric filters available. From what is happening out in the world, it looks like we may be wearing masks for a good part of this coming year!!

If you wish to expand your mask 'wardrobe' or know of anyone who would be interested in purchasing a mask, please forward this information to your friends and family...  

2021 Stock ... mens' collection on left - some new fabrics center 2 rows - batik collection on right

My 100% cotton masks are washable and can be reused, no more garbage from disposable masks ... and the 'Filti' filter fabric is sanitized in a 150°F oven, instructions from the CDC included. The masks are 2 layer quilt cotton with the following features; a filter pocket, removable nose wire, ear loops or head string and are custom fit to your face.

Thank you and may 2021 bring more joy, love and health to our world!
Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!
 
'Designer' Olson Hospital Face Masks by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Safe and Healthy Holiday Season

There must be something here that I can eat!!
With the shortest day of light behind us now, I look forward to longer, light filled days. Dealing with Covid19 through the majority of 2020, has been a challenging experience for most of us. We cannot let our guard down with this virus! The holiday season will look very different this year for all of us.

I am fortunate to live on an acreage with a large vegetable garden and walking trails through the woods. Our temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing in the next few days. Today was time to pull more winter carrots from the garden and put extra mulch on the carrots, strawberries, garlic, cabbage and kale. As I pulled up 2 small rows of carrots I found a climbing cutworm in the soil. The chickens will be put to work to clean up that raised bed in the Spring after all the carrots, beets and kale are out. I pulled a one gallon pail, five pounds of assorted carrots including my first try of Kyoto Red Carrots, a Japanese sweet red carrot from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

Dec. 20th, 2020 ~ 5 pounds of fresh garden carrots
They say the bright red color becomes much darker when grown in winter, so I only pulled a few for comparison sake.

Until next year ...  have a safe holiday season.

From my home to yours ... Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Bon Appétit 

... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, December 13, 2020

New Belgian Callebaut 'Callets'

Bags of Belgian Callebaut 'Callets'
Chocolate plays a large part in most of our holidays. Whether it is Valentines Day hearts, Easter bunnies or eggs, Halloween goodies or Christmas Truffles ... chocolate plays a major role in our gift giving celebrations.

Once a year I make an assortment of handmade Belgian truffles and chocolates. My annual chocolate ritual began in 1990, shortly after moving to Denman Island. We could not find a local chocolatier to our liking, so I started to experiment and develop an assortment of our favorites.

Denman Christmas Craft Faire 2010
Production was too much for just us, so the 'extras' were used for gift giving... and from there demand grew and grew! In 1994 my boxed collection of truffles and chocolates debuted in the Denman Island Christmas Craft Faire and was sold out the first day. I began increasing the size of my recipes and had to buy a small used fridge just for my 'chocolate season'. In 2010, I filmed a small video on YouTube of the Denman Christmas Craft Faire including a glimpse of my chocolates. Back then, I was producing the maximum amount for one person to accomplish while also working in Courtenay, growing a garden and running a household. 

11 pound slabs of Belgian Callebaut
Until this year, I was buying the imported Belgian Callebaut Chocolate in eleven pound slabs from a wholesale distributor in Victoria. Covid has brought many changes to the food supply chain and for some reason my supplier was now selling a different brand, not Callebaut chocolate. In my frantic search for Belgian Callebaut, I found an online Canadian company called Vanilla Food Company where I was able to order and have my Belgian Callebaut delivered. One difference is I am no longer purchasing the chocolate by the slab, they are now in big bags and in 'callet' or chips form. Last year I found these same Callebaut callets at The Bulk Barn in Courtenay of course at a much higher price than buying the large bags. I have not checked if they are available there this year.

from Callebaut 'Callets' to handmade truffles

These callets are a time saver, no more taking the time and energy to break down and chop the chocolate slabs for ganache and dipping. Just scoop from a bag and temper! And it is a little too convenient to scoop a little bowlful for snacking!! Our house smells like chocolate for a shorter period of time these days but those days are cherished. I'm proud of my truffles ... plus the knowledge and experience I've gained over 40 years of working with food as a professional ... and the 30,000+ individual handmade chocolates I've made so far on Denman alone!

I have purchased other professional baking supplies from Vanilla Food Company in the past. If you are looking for a high grade food coloring I would suggest their 'AmeriColor' Soft Gel Paste Food Color. I searched the web for this product and was very happy to find it available through a Canadian company, paid for in Canadian dollars!!

AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color

It is an easy to use gel format that will not weep, separate or harden. It is able to withstand the freeze/thaw cycle without colors bleeding. It will not break down even the most delicate icings. A very small amount is needed for intense color that will not impart a bitter taste. The bottles are a convenient squeeze, with a re-closable lid. Mix and measure one drop at a time for color that is consistent from batch to batch. They are available as individual colors or in kits of assorted 6-12 colors. 

Here is a basic ganache recipe for chocolate truffles, it is dense and easier for beginners to work with...

Chocolate Truffles      Yield: 40 truffles
The ultimate chocolate indulgence! A truffle filling in its simplest form consists of chocolate and whipping cream... termed 'ganache'. *Tempering chocolate is to heat and cool chocolate to stabilize it for making confections. The chocolate hardens with a smooth, glossy, crisp finish.

1 cup whipping cream
14 oz. top quality dark chocolate, callets or very finely chopped
2 Tbsp. liqueur (for alcohol free truffles use; coffee OR flavored syrups)
1½ lb. dark, milk OR white top quality chocolate for dipping, callets or coarsely chopped
Garnish: crystallized edible flowers, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, threads or swirls of chocolate

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, scald the cream. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the finely chopped chocolate until completely melted. (If you are using syrup, add it to the cream before scalding.) Cool 5 minutes stirring once or twice to be sure all the chocolate has melted to a smooth ganache then add the liqueur. Pour into a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Form the ganache into tablespoon sized balls, roll between your palms until round, place on the bake sheet, cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight until firm. If the ganache is too soft, spoon them out but do not form them, place them in the fridge and then form. 
Special Truffle Assortment

Meanwhile,temper’ the dipping chocolate: Start by chopping the chocolate very finely. Throughout the tempering process, be careful that no moisture gets into or condenses on the chocolate or it will become impossible to work with. Place the chopped chocolate in the top of a dry double boiler over hot, but not simmering water. (NEVER use a microwave for this.)

Stir as it melts. A chopstick or silicone spatula can be used for this process. Heat the chocolate to 104°F. Remove from the bottom of the double boiler. Cover the bottom so the escaping steam does not condense on the chocolate.

Cool to 80°F stirring occasionally. Return the top of the double boiler with chocolate to the bottom and bring the chocolate back up to 89°F. The chocolate is now tempered and ready to use for glazing, drizzling or dipping.

Line a bake sheet with parchment or wax paper. Dip each ball into the tempered chocolate, tap to remove the excess chocolate and to prevent a ‘garden slug foot’. Invert the dipped chocolate onto the lined bake sheet. Allow the dipped truffles to set up or harden without touching or your fingerprints will blemish them.

To garnish; drizzle threads or swirls of different colored chocolate for each variety if you are making multiple flavors so you can tell them apart. If using crystallized flowers or nuts they should be placed while the chocolate is still soft. For cocoa, allow the chocolate to cool completely then roll in cocoa. I use cotton gloves (available from Pharmacies) to handle the chocolates once they are set. Put each chocolate into a 'paper bonbon cup’ and box to store. 

**These truffles can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the box in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then with tin foil. To defrost, remove to the fridge and defrost in the plastic and foil wrapping.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae
Denman Island Craft Faire 2010 Video by Sally Rae
Truffle Recipe by Sally Rae