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Pain au chocolat - delicious flaky french bread filled with melted chocolate

Beyond the Baguette: Our Five Favorite French Breads Plus The Best Pain Au Chocolate Recipe Ever!

A recent New York Times article brought to light very distressing news to us. Forget the economy, global warming, and politics, the world is facing a…French bread CRISIS!  The article stated that, “the average Frenchman these days eats only half a baguette a day compared with almost a whole baguette in 1970 and more than three in 1900.”

Mon dieu!

The icon of French breads, a crusty baguette.

Simply perfect: the icon of French breads, a crusty baguette.

Take heart, baguette lovers, help is on the way! To counteract this unacceptable situation, the Observatoire du Pain, a lobby for bakers and millers, has started a campaign to promote the consumption of one of France’s most iconic food staples, French bread.

And because there’s nothing that we love more than a good food cause, we’re joining the cause, and giving French bread some love and attention. Here’s our list of Five Favorite French Breads plus, a delicious Pain Au Chocolat recipe to try your bread-baking hand at home.

Tackling the French bread crisis, one baguette at a time!

OUR FAVORITE TYPES OF FRENCH BREAD

  1. The Baguette: the ultimate classic, this flute of crusty bread should practically be stamped on your passport when you enter the country.  A traditional baguette or “baguette de tradition” must, by French law, have the following ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. Perfect in it’s simplicity! Don’t feel like baking? Try our frozen, ready-for-the-oven artisan baguettes by Bridor! Click here
  2. The Brioche: a mixture between bread a pastry, brioche is made with a super buttery dough, braided into the classic shape. But it’s the addition of sugar and eggs which makes this a sweet treat as well, perfect to make French toast (see below), or to eat with a cup of tea or coffee. Oh la la!
  3. Le Pain Perdu: Also known as the world-famous, USA-favorite, French toast! The name, pain perdu, means “lost bread”, so named (some say) because it was made using leftover, stale bread.  Well,  if stale bread dipped in eggs and fried turned into French toast, then not all is lost!
  4. Beignets: Probably just as much a tradition in New Orleans as in Paris, this doughnut is actually a deep-fried bread dough.  There are several variations of this, but the most well-known, at least in America, is the one popularized by New Orlean’s famed restaurant, Café du Monde. Theirs is fried in cottonseed oil and then liberally covered in delicious powdered sugar.
  5. Pain au Chocolat: last, but absolutely not all least, our favorite (and featured) type of French bread! The French call it “pain” (bread), but Pain a Chocolat is really a buttery and flaky croissant, filled with gooey melted luscious chocolate. Oh, oui!  We found the greatest recipe for a homemade Pain au Chocolat, by our featured blogger, Alexandra from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker. It might take a few tries to get it right, but the results are completely worth it, we swear!
Pain au chocolat - delicious flaky french bread filled with melted chocolate

Pain au chocolat – delicious flaky croissants filled with melted chocolate! Ph: Brighteyedbaker.com

 

Pain Au Chocolat by BrightEyedBaker.com

Prep Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 12

Serving Size: 1 Croissant

Chillier afternoons calls for a hot cup of tea and a sweet treat. Try this sophisticated chocolate-filled French croissant, the traditional and delicious Pain Au Chocolat, and be immediately transported to belle Paris!

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 11 tablespoons butter, divided
  • generous 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • generous 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of stand mixer, dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter and combine with milk to cool quickly. Place another 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) out to soften.
  2. Add the melted butter, milk, bread flour, granulated sugar, and salt, to the yeast/water mixture. Mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes. If the dough seems tough, add another tablespoon melted butter. Change attachment to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for another two minutes. At this point the dough should be soft and supple.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle, 10" x 15". Cover again with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes.
  5. Take the softened stick of butter and rub onto the rectangle of dough (Your hands will get very buttery). Rub on as much butter as possible, and then, with the shorter side facing you, fold into thirds, like you would a letter. Roll again into a 10" x 15" rectangle and fold into thirds once more. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
  6. Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll again into a 10" x 15" rectangle. Rub the remaining butter onto the dough, fold into thirds, roll out once more (10" x 15"), and fold once more.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut the folded dough into 12 rectangles, using 4 slices in the longer direction and 3 slices in the shorter direction.
  8. One rectangle at a time, with the shorter end facing you, place about 10 chocolate chips halfway along the rectangle. Fold the end closer to you over these chocolate chips, and repeat on the other side, adding chocolate chips to the other half and folding over the first half. Press end into dough to form a seam.
  9. Repeat the above process for each rectangle of dough. Place each pain au chocolat seam-side down on a lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
  10. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine egg and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl to form egg wash. Brush over each pain au chocolat. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.
  11. Enjoy warm from the oven, or store in refrigerator and microwave each pain au chocolat for 25-30 seconds when ready to eat.

Notes

Prep time includes resting and rising time for the dough.

http://www.gourmetfoodstore.com/gourmet-food-blog/our-five-favorite-french-breads/

A bite of autumn...Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spice Bread

A Preview Of Fall: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing Spice Bread

Summer is still in full swing, but doesn’t it feel like we’re getting whiffs of fall here and there? Maybe it’s the back to school sales, or the “clearance” signs popping up on beach towels and umbrellas. Whatever the reason, there’s definitely signs that fall is just around the corner.  And to give you a preview of what’s to come, we’re giving you a taste of autumn with a new favorite recipe:  Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Icing Spice Bread, by Faith Gorsky of AnEdibleMosaic.com.

A bite of autumn...Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spice Bread

A bite of autumn…Photo by: Faith Grosky

A Fortunate Find

We stumbled across this amazing recipe the way we usually do, by salivating over delicious-looking pictures on Pinterest and the web. The first thing that immediately called out to us was the perfect-looking cream cheese icing at the top of the loaf of the beautifully shaped mini loaf. It just looked so, so, perfect, we had to absolutely try it out and share it with you.

Aromas of Fall And Sinful Cream Cheese Icing

The ingredients of this Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Icing Spice Bread are all evocative of fall, from the spicy aromas of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, to the warm comfort of vanilla, to the muted orange reminiscent of fallen leaves. And, one might even fantasize that the layer of white cream cheese icing is a harbinger of the snows of winter? This is definitely a seasonal recipe, ideal to practice now and perfect for autumn afternoons with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

warm tea and pumpkin cream cheese icing spice bread

A steaming mug of tea and a slice of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing Spice Bread…heavenly fall!

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing Spice Bread by AnEdibleMosaic.com

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 3 Mini Loafs

Ingredients

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • Butter, to grease the pans

Instructions

  1. For the Cheese Batter: Use a handheld electric mixer to beat together all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. For the Pumpkin Spice Batter: Preheat oven to 350F; lightly grease 3 mini loaf pans with butter.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, then stir in the pumpkin, canola oil, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to over-mix. Divide the pumpkin batter between the 3 loaf pans, then pour the cheese batter on top.
  4. Bake until golden around the edges, about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then remove from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
http://www.gourmetfoodstore.com/gourmet-food-blog/pumpkin-cream-cheese-icing-bread/

Baking The Season

So while we’re fully enjoying the last stretch of summer, we’re also enjoying the taste of what’s to come, and preparing for a new, exciting culinary season! Thank you, Faith, for sharing your wonderful recipe with us! Let us know what you think of this recipe in the comments.

About Our Feature Recipe

Faith Gorsky is a food blogger who calls upstate New York home, although she has travelled extensively and declares Damascus, Syria, her favorite city. Her book, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair, is a smorgasbord of flavorful exotic middle eastern recipes, all imparted with a young, modern point of view. You can find all of her fabulous recipes on her blog – www.anediblemosaic.com


Interested in sharing your recipes with us? Just send us an email to recipes@gourmetfoodstore.com

Decoding A Superfood: The Health Benefits Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tiny but powerful, the olive is full of health properties.

Tiny but powerful! The might olive is chock-full of healthy properties.

At Gourmet Food Store we concentrate mostly on the sensory aspects of food: how it tastes, of course, but also how it feels and looks. We love food because it tastes amazing, but we can’t forget that it’s also meant to nourish our bodies, fuel them, and keep them in tip-top condition. Sometimes, these foods not only are good for you, they also TASTE good! And that is the case of todays’ feature ingredient, that precious, versatile golden liquid, ubiquitous in modern cooking: olive oil. This delicious liquid is what we call a “superfood”. Superfoods are nutrition powerhouses; nourishing the body, giving it tons of energy, but also helping it fight a myriad of diseases and infections.

New health properties of this olive oil are discovered every day, but we rounded up what we thought were the most noteworthy. Find out how olive oil can reduce your risk of heart attack, stave off memory loss, help you lower your cholesterol, and more!  Read on, and next time you drizzle olive oil on your salad, you can pat yourself in the back!

Extra virgin olive oil, health in a bottle.

Two tablespoons a day, keeps the doctor away! Extra virgin olive oil, health in a bottle.

TOP FIVE HEALTH BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL

Cholesterol Buster
Olive oil is one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats, which play a huge role in bringing down levels of “bad cholesterol” – called Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL. This is the nasty type of cholesterol, the one that causes plaque and blocks arteries. Replacing unhealthy fats with olive oil has been shown to markedly reduce the incidence of LDL, and therefore reducing your chance of cardiovascular diseases.

Blood Pressure Dropper
Several long-range medical studies in Spain and Greece (where olive oil is massively consumed by all age groups) have demonstrated that increased olive oil intakes reduced the incidence of hypertension in both men and women. This is attributed mostly to the polyphenols in olive oil and it’s high oleic content.

Cancer Fighter
A Greek study in 2011 reviewed 19 studies published between 1990 and 2011, to determine what the incidence of cancer was in those patients who followed olive-oil rich diets. The study included a whopping total of 36,000 participants. The results were mind-boggling: those patients with higher olive oil consumption had a lower risk of developing almost ANY type of cancer, and particularly low chances of getting breast and digestive cancer. You can read the full study here: http://www.lipidworld.com/content/10/1/127

Antioxidant Booster
Oxidation is basically aging, the breaking down of red blood cells by free radicals, and antioxidants help prevent that cell breakdown. Antioxidants slow that oxidation process, as they help the body fend off heart disease and memory loss as it ages. Those little polyphenol compounds found in olive oil we’ve been telling you about? Yep, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants!

Antioxidant Booster
Several studies are now proving that monounsaturated acids, found in high levels in olive oil, are closely associated with improved cognitive function and memory. What does this mean, in layman’s terms? The healthy fats in olive oil help prevent memory loss (the ones that comes with age at least), and also decrease the incidence of age-related brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to Harvard University Epidemiologist, Olivia Okereke, “Substituting the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory”.

THE DOS & DON’TS OF OLIVE OIL

What kind should I buy?
Extra virgin olive oil (EEOV) has HIGHEST levels of polyphenols, while processed olive oil has none. So always buy high quality extra virgin.

How do I use it?
Keep in mind that high heat cooking will reduce/destroy the polyphenol content of your olive oil, so you’ll lose the health benefits. Try to use it raw when possible.

How do I store it?
Direct light will reduce polyphenol levels in olive oil, so make sure you look for opaque containers, and not clear glass ones.

How much should I use?
While there’s no magic formula as to how much olive oil you should eat, studies seem to indicate that 2 tablespoons a day should be enough to garner its health benefits.

Sources:

Oliveoilsource.com
Oliveoiltimes.com
Helpingyoucare.com
Lipidworld.com/content/10/1/127

 

appetizer-thumb

Summer’s Little Helpers: Take A Bite Into Dufour Pastry Kitchens Gourmet Frozen Appetizers

appetizers

The summer heat can keep even the most dedicated of bakers as far, far away from a hot, stuffy kitchen as possible. Who wants to be laboring by the oven when the sun shines and the day beckons us to join in all sorts of outdoor activities, like beach days, lounging by the pool, or hanging out with friends on the patio?

With that in mind, today we’re featuring one of our little (bite-size would be more accurate) gourmet summer secrets! For easy, lazy summer entertaining: Dufour Pastry Kitchens Frozen Appetizers.

Dufour has been producing superb pastry products since 1984. All of their products are lovingly made by hand, and based on their famous all-butter pastry, which has earned a sterling reputation amongst top chefs and caterers, including Wyle Dufresne and Serena Bass, and which blows any dough made with vegetable oil out of the water. Crisp, airy, wonderfully buttery, you would never know it was ever in the freezer.

These flavorful and sophisticated frozen appetizers, full of flavor and style, are ready after just 15 minutes in the oven. The ideal bite for backyard bashes!

Here’s a selection our favorite, “summer-ready” appetizers from Dufour Pastry Kitchens.

Summer by the Sea: Lobster In Coconut Sauce Mini Tartlets

Nothing says “summer” like lobster! If you want to enjoy just a taste of this sea delicacy, without the time and money investment, these tartlets are just the thing. Generous chunks of fresh Maine lobster are cooked in a rich wine reduction, then paired with spicy Jalapeno pepper, buttery Serrano ham, and finished off with toasted coconut for tropical flavor.

Lobster In Coconut Sauce Mini Tartlets

Mediterranean Escape: Spanakopita Frozen Appetizers

These traditional Middle Eastern pastry triangles are plump with a winning combination of ricotta and Feta cheeses, spinach and fresh parsley and dill, all contained in Dufour’s signature flaky butter crust. Flavorful without being overly heavy, perfect with a nice cold glass of white wine

 Spanakopita Frozen Appetizers.

Vacation Blend: Crispy Pomegranate Cigar with Roasted Red Peppers

Delicious ruby pomegranate mixed with earthy toasted walnuts, intense Kalamata olives and just the right amount of mint, all rolled in crispy feuille dough into fanciful cigar shapes. Great on its own, or paired with a savory dip, the fun shape also brings an extra layer of dimension to your table.

Crispy Pomegranate Cigar appetizer

Picnic Favorite: Warm Potato Salad in Hickory Smoked Tart Shell

With this sophisticated twist on the classic picnic side-dish, Dufour has elevated the dowdy potato salad to great new heights. Tiny, perfect squares of rustic potatoes mixed with a superb super-secret gourmet mayonnaise recipe, all in an amazing, bite-size buttery tart shell with a hint of hickory smoke.

Potato Salad in Hickory Smoked Tart Shell

And this is just a small sample of our favorites, check out Dufour’s full selection of gourmet frozen appetizers here!

Charcuterie Platter

Easy Eating In The Outdoors: The Perfect Charcuterie Platter

For summer entertaining, follow our series of posts with tips and ideas for eating in the outdoors. Next up: The Perfect Charcuterie Platter

Charcuterie Platter

Charcuterie Platter by Profiteroles & Ponytails

A Bit About Charcuterie

Charcuterie is the art of preserving meats, developed in the days before refrigeration. It didn’t start as gourmet endeavor, but rather as a necessity – to make perishable meat last longer.  Charcuterie methods involve several techniques like curing and smoking, all methods successfully preserving the meat (and also successfully making them delicious!). Even after the invention of refrigerators, charcuterie is still alive and well, simply because charcuterie items are, well, delectable!

The charcuterie platter

Also known colloquially as a “meat platter”, a charcuterie assortment is easy to make, and perfect for spring and summer outdoor parties, precisely because the meat doesn’t require refrigeration.  You can set up well in advance, and leave it outside. It’s easy to eat, can serve as an appetizer, snack, or a full meal (depending on the quantities), and it really can be served at any time of day, with some cool beers and chilled wine.  Below we give you the basic of a charcuterie selection.

Sausage & Salami

We suggest something with some dimension, like Spanish Chorizo Cantimpalo. It’s made from pork, and cured with sweet paprika de la Vera (see the box for serving tips).  Another one to try: Sopressata. It’s from the Veneto region of Italy, and made out of pork, cured using delicious red Burgundy wine. It’s mild and perfect for all palates.

Serving Tip: For sausages and salamis, make sure to remove the casing before serving/eating. To do this, simple cut off one end, then score (with light pressure, don’t cut it open) the sausage or salami down to the end with a knife. Then start from the top; pull on the (now) loose casing and peel.

Gourmet Ham

Prosciutto di Parma from Italy and Jamon Serrano from Spain are both classic selections. Another staple on the meat platter is dark and delicious Beef Bresaola. However, if the occasion calls for an extra punch of sophistication, wow your guests with rare Pata Negra Iberico Ham. This ham is made from Spanish black-hoofed pigs that have been fed exclusively a natural diet of acorns, which makes the mouthwatering ham sublimely fatty, smooth, and rich. Definitely the way to go for a special occasion!

Deli Meat Sampler

A selection of charcuterie – from top left: cheese with olives and peppers, pate, apples and figs, terrine, Jamon Serrano, Bresaola, Iberico and Prosciutto di Parma from here

Pate & Terrine

Here’s a chance to create flavor and texture contrast to the other more robust, saltier meats.  Select a pate made out of smoked salmon or vegetables. These fresh flavors will give your guests’ palates a nice break from all the meat.

Cheese

Pick at least three different types of firm or semi-firm cheeses – they’ll withstand the outdoors better. Our suggestions: a classic oil-rubbed Spanish Manchego sliced thinly, a Gruyere or Swiss-type cheese, and something classic, like an aged cheddar (which goes great with beer).

Bread and Accoutrements

We reached out to Barbara Drysdale of cooking blog Profiteroles and Ponytails, for some suggestions about the perfect additions to a charcuterie platter. She suggests cornichons or gherkins, as a “way to add a bit of acidity to the platter”, and also a good Dijon mustard, some nuts (she has a great recipe for paprika-smoked almonds on her blog!). Finally, and most importantly, bread, bread, and more bread! Set out a pretty basket with an assortment of rustic breads of different textures and flavors, they’ll go perfectly with any the meats. You’ll also need some pretty butter knives or spreaders for the pate and the sides.

Set everything on a large, gorgeous wooden board, have the wines and beers chilling, and you’re ready for summer!

Products from this post:

Prosciutto Di Parma

Prosciutto Di Parma

Chorizo Cantimpalo

Chorizo Cantimpalo

Sopressata Salami

Sopressata Salami

Beef Bresaola

Beef Bresaola