Monday, September 26, 2016

Belgian Cuisine: La Flamiche aux Poireaux et au Chèvre - Belgian Leek Tart with Goat Cheese

Today’s post is about Flamiche, a traditional Belgian dish. Well, more precisely, a classic from the town of Dinant, a Walloon city and municipality located on the River Meuse in the Belgian province of Namur. The citizens of Dinant love their flamiche, a type of savory tart prepared using 500 grams of Boulette de Romedenne (a pungent local cheese), 250 grams of butter and lots of eggs, 13 eggs for a smaller version (30 cm) and 15 eggs for a larger version (35 cm), to be precise. Flamiches used to be baked in a wood oven and the tiny flames – „flammèches“ – that the charcoal produced may have given rise to the name.

The origins of flamiche are not without contention. Some say it hails from Dinant in southern Belgium, while others claim that it is, in fact, French, from the Picardie region. Legend has it that a farmer’s wife from the small Village of Romedenne is responsible. She was walking down the rue Saint Jacques on her way to market when she slipped on an icy patch and broke all the eggs she was carrying. A quick-thinking baker managed to catch the broken eggs, added cheese and butter and baked the lot on a base of bread dough.

Flamiche is very popular in Dinant, where it is celebrated in an annual festival. Every September, the Confrérie des Quarteniers de la Flamiche Dinantaise - the Brotherhood of the Flamiche (founded in 1956) - organizes an annual flamiche eating competition.

Having defined the term „flamiche“ as a „quiche-like tart“, the „flamiche aux poireaux“ combines the flavors of salty goat cheese and jammy leeks in the form of a leek confit.  And from what I can tell from my research, this is where the difference between a quiche and a flamiche lies. For the flamiche you start off by preparing a leek confit which is nothing more than leeks that have been sliced into thin rounds, placed into a Dutch oven some butter, and left to cook under a tight lid for about half an hour. With the help of moist heat, the leeks soften beautifully and their oniony flavor gives way to something delicate and sweet. For a quiche, you usually do not cook or sauté your veggies before you add them to the eggy custard.

You can also eat the leek confit straight from the pot, it is a delightfully rich, and that's part of its charm. You can also fold it into scrambled eggs or an omelet—anything, really, that involves eggs. You could also use it as a bed for a piece of seared salmon, dab it onto flatbread, or spoon it into baked mushroom caps with some Parmesan or for an easy appetizers slice a baguette, spread it with goat cheese, and pile warm confit on top. Or better yet, put it in a flamiche aux poireaux, or leek tart.

The more I read about flamiche, the more I realized that every flamiche aux poireaux recipe is a little different. Most include leeks, but some also call for onions or bacon or ham. Some have a double crust, like an American apple pie, and though many include cheese or custard, others don't. Every Belgian family, it seems, has its own way of making it. And, of course, I have tried my hand at Julia Child´s famous flamiche - quiche aux poireaux recipe (no cheese in sight) a while ago and loved it too - her recipe can be found on page 151 of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

Today´s version of flamiche is fairly classic. It's not unlike a leek tart, really, but for added interest, it calls for crumbled aged goat cheese into the confit before I pour in the custard. In general, leeks and goat cheese are a great pair—one of those matches made in heaven—but leeks and aged goat cheese are a particularly delicious duo. This tart is amazing with a standard fresh goat cheese, but with an aged one, it is utterly addictive.

Whenever I can, I get goat cheese in Antwerp (Belgium) at the Exotic Market (for more info go here) from a Belgian goat cheese manufacturer called Kempense Geitenkaas Polle (for more info go here) and once I am back home with my loot, I always make sure to bake one of these amazingly delicious flamiche all the while planning my next visit to lovely Belgium....This artisan Belgian goat cheese is fabulous, it adds an enticingly tangy flavor to the flamiche and tucked into leek confit and custard, it is absolutly divine.

Belgian Leek Tart with Goat Cheese - La Flamiche aux Poireaux et aux Chèvre

Ingredients for the Crust (Pâte brisée)
  • about 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) AP (plain) flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 stick (113 grams) butter, unsalted, chilled

Preparation of the Crust
  1. In a small bowl combine ice water and cider vinegar, stir.
  2. Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form. If dough seems dry, add ice water by teaspoonfuls. NOTE: you can also do this by hand.
  3. Gather dough into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes or more.
  4. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  5. Roll dough out on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch (30cm) round. 
  6. Transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) diameter tart pan with removable bottom - I used a French tart pan with high sides - Press the dough onto bottom and up sides. Fold in overhang and press to extend dough 1/2 inch (1 cm) above the sides of your pan. 
  7. Line pan with baking parchment and dried beans or pie weights. 
  8. Bake until dough looks dry and set, about 20 minutes. 
  9. Remove the baking parchment and beans and continue to bake until crust is pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. 
  10. Remove from oven and cool on a rack while preparing the filling.

Ingredients for the Leek Confit
  • 1/2 stick (55 grams) butter, unsalted
  • 4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation of the Leek Confit
  1. Melt butter in pot over medium-low heat. 
  2. Add leeks and stir to coat. 
  3. Stir in water and salt. 
  4. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. 
  5. Cook until the leeks are tender, stirring often, about 20 minutes. 
  6. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Set aside until cooled.

Ingredients for the Filling
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk (I use 3.5%)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) cream (I use 20%)
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic
  • 1 egg yolk (L), free range or organic NOTE: if your pre-backed flamiche shell has cracked during baking, use a bit of the left-over egg white to brush over the cracks and "seal" them
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (150 grams) crumbled aged goat cheese or use fresh goat cheese, rind trimmed
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) Leek Confit, cooled 

Preparation of the Filling
  1. Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl to blend.
  2. Scatter some of the cheese over the bottom of the warm crust.
  3. Then spread leek confit over and scatter the remaining cheese overthe leek confit.
  4. Pour the eggy mixture over.
  5. Bake until the filling has puffed, is golden in spots, and the center looks set, about 40 to 45 minutes. 
  6. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool slightly.
  7. Remove the baking pan. 
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature (whichever you prefer).

The leek confit and goat cheese set in an egg and cream mixture makes for a luxurious yet simple meal. I usually serve a slice of this rich, lovely tart with fresh seasonal fruits such as some glorious figs and grapes, as I am addicted to the combination of sweet and salty flavors but you could easily opt to serve this tart with a green or mixed green salad.

Such wonderful flavors and textures. Sometimes I use aged goat cheese and other times I opt for fresh soft goat cheese. Both turn out beautifully and delicious, so if you prefer more mild flavors just use fresh instead of aged. But whichever cheese you choose, do make a note to try this recipe soon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Autumnal Baking & Triple Chocolate Cookies

The weather has cooled, the garden is turning golden and there is the smell of chocolate cookies emerging from my kitchen - as much as I hesitate to admit it, autumn is upon us.

To start off my autumnal baking season, I like to make a foolproof cookie recipe that even the youngest bakers in your house can embrace and help with. With this recipe you are looking for cookies that bake only very slightly crisp around the edges and chewy and soft within. The trick is not to over-bake them. They should still be soft when you remove them from the oven.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

  • 250g unsalted butter, well softened
  • 150g soft light brown sugar (I like to use "Tate& Lyle Light Soft Brown Sugar")
  • 150g superfine (caster) baking sugar
  • 2 eggs (L), organic or free range
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 350 g white spelt flour (or use all purpose aka plain flour)
  • 60g Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g high quality milk chocolate, in chunks (try to get "dark" milk chocolate with at least 50% cocoa solids)
  • 100g high quality dark chocolate, in chunks
  • 100g high quality white chocolate, in chunks (try to use one with hints of vanilla and not overly sweet)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F),
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  3. In the large bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until soft and creamy.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, mix lightly with a fork then, with the beater still turning, add to the butter and sugar.
  5. Mix in the vanilla extract and salt
  6. In a large bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda and, lowering the speed of the mixer, fold into the batter.
  7. Add all the chocolate chunks – the milk chocolate, dark and white chocolate and try to combine thoroughly, until you have got a thick, sticky dough, but do not overmix.
  8. Spoon mounds of the cookie dough on to the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between them.
  9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the cookies are still soft in the middle and the chocolate chunks molten and gooey. NOTE: they will be really soft at this point, but will firm up as they cool, so leave them undisturbed on their baking sheets for three or four minutes to settle, then transfer to a cooling rack until they are at room temperature. They are best eaten warm, but they will keep for several days in a cookie tin. But no batch has ever been known to last till the next day in our house and, inevitably, most times they will be eaten as soon as they are cool enough not to burn fingers.

The combination of white sugar and soft brown sugar is a common one: the former adds some crunch, the latter a caramel flavor. I prefer to use super fine baking sugar (caster sugar) and soft light brown sugar rather than granulated because I like a cookie with less of a crunchy edge, if you prefer a cookie with crispier edges, than, by all means, use a granulated sugar with larger grains.

As far as the flour is concerned, while I like to use white spelt flour here, you can use all purpose flour aka plain flour in these cookies.

Chilling the dough before use is fairly standard. Texture wise I like to chill my cookie dough overnight, the increased firmness of the cookies is very noticeable, as is the more complex, almost caramelly flavor.

Go for good quality chocolate too – suitable for baking - this will ensure that not only will you end up with less sweeter, great tasting cookies, but also cookies with delightful chunks of chcolate that melt into the cookies while baking. And some uneven chunks created by chopping your own chocolate gives a better result than even little chocolate chips. I went with a combination of white, milk and dark chocolate here but use whatever you prefer - all dark, half milk half dark or whatever strikes your fancy.

This is truly a wonderful recipe to get you baking this autumn. No apples, pears, plums or pumkin purée involved not even those warm spices like cardamom or cinnamon but there are lots of comforting and beloved flavors like real vanilla, mildly sweet and nutty spelt flourmilk chocolate, creamy white chocolate with hints of vanilla and the pronounced, bold taste of dark chocolate. And is there any better accompaniment to these lovely homemade treats than a cold glass of whole milk for the kids and some tea and coffee for the grown-ups?! Maybe a really good book...Besides, I cannot think of a nicer way to refuel mid-morning or teatime than with one (or more) of these.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Use of my fotos // Verwendung meiner Fotos

Dear readers:

I often receive requests to use my photographs.

Therefore I would like to lay down the following rules:
  1. You can only use any of my photo(s) if you have requested to do so and received my express permission.
  2. Once you have received permission to use one or more photo(s), I will send the photo(s) to you in JPG format, not raw format.
  3. Once you have received permission to use one or more of my photos and have paid the fees charged, you are required to ensure that my authorship is clearly marked.
  4. Photos that feature another person or property from third parties, will required the permission of said third parties in addition to my express permission.
Andrea Mohr
Liebe Leser,

immer wieder erreichen mich Anfragen nach der Verwendung meiner Fotos.

Deshalb möchte ich hier noch einmal etwas Grundsätzliches dazu sagen:
  1. Die Verwendung meiner Fotos ist im Einzelfall und ausschließlich nach Rückfrage möglich.
  2. Für die Verwendung schicke ich ein Foto ohne Wasserzeichen und in Originalauflösung im jpg-Format. Ich fotografiere nicht im raw-Format!
  3. Bei Verwendung eines Fotos muss die zweifelsfreie Zuordnung zum Bildhersteller, also mir, gewährleistet werden.
  4. Bei Fotos, auf denen Personen und/oder Eigentum Dritter abgebildet sind, ist in der Regel ausschließlich eine redaktionelle Nutzung möglich.

Andrea Mohr

Monday, September 5, 2016

A last Hurrah to Summer Berries, a Recipe for Redcurrant Traybake & Lion´s Espresso

We are still trying to hold onto summer, not really wanting to let go yet…it has been an unusually rainy and cool summer around here and we are still longing for warm, sunny days, even as we are approaching fall and even though I have spotted lots of fall produce already at the farmers´ market.

There is pumpkins and the first crops of fall apples making an appeacance but for now they happily share their shelf space with quite a bit of late summer produce like berries. Redcurrants still being my favorite late summer berry crop.

So, it was a rather informal Kaffee und Kuchen (or coffee and cake) sort of afternoon the other day and I happily baked a rather rustic and weekend kind of traybake (or sheet cake) for my family. Besides,  I was just looking for a good excuse to post pictures of this lovely bag of espresso beans that one of our daughter gifted me for my birthday in August – Lion´s Coffee I call it - wonder what inspired her to buy this particular bag...

So not only did the colors of  my Redcurrant Traybake match the package of  the Café Royal - Sir Edward - Italian Dark Roast - but this is also my go-to recipe for using up those last berries of the season, be they redcurrants, as featured here, or blueberries that we harvest at a nearby blueberry farm up until the second week of September. Traybake recipe are such simple, no-fuss cakes that can be cut into squares or bars to feed a crowd

Redcurrant Traybake 

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
  • 1 ¼ cups AP (plain) flour
  • ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic
  • ½ cup milk, room temperature (I use 3.5%)
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar, for sprinkling NOTE: demerara sugar is a type of cane sugar with a fairly large grain and a pale amber color
  • a bit confectioners´ sugar for dusting (optional)
  • soflty whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

  1. Grease a rectangular baking pan (approx 20cm x 30cm or 8in x 12in) with a little butter, and line the base and sides with baking parchment. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 180° C (356°F). 
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the plain flour with the baking powder and sea salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter, sugar, Cognac or brandy and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. 
  5. Add the egg to the butter mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add half the flour mixture and beat until just combined. 
  7. Pour in the milk and continue beating, scraping down the bowl as necessary. 
  8. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  9. Scrape the dough into the baking pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. 
  10. Scatter on the redcurrants or other berries in an even layer.
  11. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  13. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving, 
  14. Dust lightly with confectioners´ sugar and serve with softly whipped cream or a bit of crème fraîche if you like.

This is a deliciously moist, versatile cake that can be served with coffee/tea or as a dessert with whipped cream or crème fraîche, or enjoy it for breakfast - there are berries involved after all. Traybakes also make excellent after-school snacks, and are perfect for school bake sales. As far as this recipe is concerned,  I love the crunchiness from the Demerara sugar that is such a nice contrast to the pleasant dampness of this cake. And the redcurrants add a very enjoyable tartness here.

So, let us hold on to summer and enjoy those warm rays of sunshine (finally) for just another little while and ponder the autumn days to come later on. For now, I still enjoy the taste of late summer berries in my cake...