Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tomato Soup Cake

Oh dear, I thought. Another novelty cake. I'm going to go hunt for some funky American ingredient and put it in a cake and then feel bad about all the other ingredients going to waste.

Tomato soup? I ask you, would you want to put it in a cake? But then I tried to convince myself: tomatoes are fruit, after all. Tomato soup mixes sweet, sour, and salty flavors, which in moderation can contribute to a decent cake. So maybe it wouldn't be too bad, if I could find canned tomato soup without basil or garlic.

And in fact I didn't even have to buy the Heinz tomato soup from the "exotic foods" aisle at the big supermarket: the local smaller store had little boxes of it that were just about the right amount: 10.3 oz. instead of 10.7. So I had no excuse but to dig in and make the cake.

Besides the tomato soup, this is just a date-nut spice cake. It's easy to make, and if you can ignore the funny color, it doesn't seem all that odd.

Let me take a detour into chocolate frosting land. See this giant block of chocolate? I went to a pastry supply shop in Paris and got 3 kilos of unsweetened chocolate. Also 3 kilos of semisweet and a kilo of milk--all the fancy Valrhona kind. I don't need to hoard my Baker's chocolate anymore.

But something went wrong--I think the Valrhona is more heat-sensitive than the Baker's stuff--and the frosting went all clumpy and funny. Nonetheless, it was delicious. So was the cake!
That's right: this is a delicious cake. It's moist and tender and spicy and nutty. The bittersweet frosting sets it off. I made this for my German host family, and they loved it. I neglected to tell them the ingredient list...
So, Maida, I take it all back. Sometimes putting weird stuff into a cake can make it better and not just weird. Of course I had to wait for the last (I think!) weird recipe to find this out.

Here's the recipe. Astound your friends and family--and yourself.

Tomato Soup Cake

1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature (unsalted is best here because the soup is salty)
Pinch salt
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1 T. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
2 c. (8 oz.) sifted flour (some whole-wheat is OK here)
1 can (10.75 oz. or however large they are these days) basic tomato soup
1/2 c. (4 oz.) chopped pitted dates
1 c. (4 oz.) walnut halves or pieces

Heat the oven to 375. Butter a 9-inch square pan and coat it with bread crumbs (I used wheat germ).
Cream together the butter, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cocoa powder until fluffy. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating another few minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each. Gradually mix in half the flour, then the tomato soup, then the rest of the flour. Stir in the dates and walnuts.
Pour that into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely in the pan or just for 30 minutes, then unmold onto a serving plate. While the cake is cooling, make the icing:

1/2 c. (4 oz.) cream
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

Heat the cream in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl until it is steaming. Add the unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk chocolate, which should melt from the residual heat. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat it with an electric mixer for a minute or two: if you're smarter/luckier than me, the mixture should become "beautifully smooth/shiny/thick." Pour over the cake and frost the way you like to. Let cool to set, then dig in. Enjoy the Americana.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brownies with Milk Chocolate Icing

What can I say that hasn't been said about Maida Heatter brownies? They are just consistently delicious--whether she has you make them with chocolate or cocoa or both. Nuts, no nuts; frosting, no frosting--I always look forward to baking her brownies. This recipe was no exception.

I got to make a double recipe of these brownies because Julia and Claire had invited a whole posse of friends over to their grandparents' house for a barbecue. Our giant grill lives at that house, and the grandparents were away, and the sun was shining, so we took the opportunity to eat burgers and brownies in the sun. Our family motto: "Give us the flimsiest of excuses, and we will have a food-centered event." I need to work on that one.

There weren't many left after the party because they were good. I adapted the recipe a bit to my own preferences in that I used a one-bowl brownie method (melt together butter and chocolate, add remaining ingredients) rather than the cream-the-butter method that Maida suggested and that tends to result in a cakier brownie. I should probably do a side-by-side comparison someday to see what the real difference is. I used really good chocolate on top from my 2-lb. bag of Valhrona chocolate pieces (which already starred in the marbleized chiffon pie). Since it stands alone, I recommend that you use a chocolate that you enjoy by itself for the "icing" here.
Verdict: I think I enjoyed the Hershey's brownies and the Barron's brownies a bit more, but is a very good straight-ahead brownie that is perfect for a sunny Sunday with a lot of teenaged girls.

Here's the recipe. Go have a party.

Brownies with Milk Chocolate Icing

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
3 T. (0.6 oz) cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. (2 oz.) sifted flour
1/2 c. (2 oz.) coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 325. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease or butter the foil.
Maida's brownie method: Melt the chocolate either in a small saucepan or in a little Pyrex cup in the microwave. In an electric mixer, cream the butter with the cocoa powder until soft. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the melted chocolate. On low speed add the flour and beat just enough to mix. Stir in the walnuts.
My brownie method: In a large microwave-safe bowl put the chocolate, butter, and cocoa powder. Microwave 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until everything is mostly melted; stir until it's entirely melted. Stir in the vanilla, then the sugar, then the eggs (one at a time), then the flour, and finally the walnuts.
Either way, pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (you may want to start checking after about 25 minutes or so). While the brownies are baking, get the topping ready:

About 5-6 oz. milk chocolate bars or chips
1/2 c. (2 0z.) finely chopped walnuts

As soon as the brownies are done, cover them with the chocolate and return them to the oven (which you may have turned off) for about 30 seconds--no more. Remove from the oven and use a rubber scraper or offset spatula to smooth out the now-melted chocolate. Sprinkle the chocolate with walnuts and press them down a bit so that they don't fall off. Cool the brownies in the pan and then chill them in the freezer so that the chocolate sets well. Remove from the pan, peel off the foil, and cut into squares--Maida says 16. Enjoy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blackberry with Scotch Cheesecake

Sometimes looking at and baking a recipe can make me feel old. Like this one, for example. I've made it before, and have specific memories associated with making it--when I was a graduate student at UC Davis. In the 80s. I remember this cheesecake being good (my note: "xtra yummy!!")--kind of like my mom's, with the sour cream topping. And I remember buying a bottle of Drambuie to make it with, and discovering that Sami and I both really liked Drambuie.

Well, here it is 2011 and all, and I'm trying out the recipe again--this time with French ingredients and without Drambuie. I considered buying a bottle, but when I went out shopping, the liquor store that sells it was closed for lunch. I considered that A Sign that I probably didn't need to spend 22 Euros for 2-1/2 tablespoons of booze. I'm sure Sami would think it's bad enough that I used some of our precious bourbon.

One of the good and annoying things about this cheesecake is the crust. Good because it's a buttery, crunchy shortbread crust that really sets off the blackberry filling nicely. Annoying because the butter melts and leaks and makes the oven smoke. Maida warned me. I underlined that warning for my future self. And you'll notice that I did wrap my cheesecake pan in foil. I still had a smoky oven. Oh, well. Anyway, wrap your cheesecake pan really well and consider putting it on a lined baking sheet just in case.

The ingredients. I served this to another Franco-American family, and we had a long discussion about the proper cream cheese to use in cheesecake. My friend Amy, who has lived here for more than 15 years, claims that St. Moret shouldn't be a substitute for cream cheese. I've had good luck with it so far, though--except with cream cheese frosting. There's another product called Kiri that works better, but it comes in tiny foil-wrapped squares, and I can't be bothered. And I believe I've mentioned that the real Philadelphia is available and expensive. On the same shopping trip that saved me 22 Euros on the Drambuie, I was saved at least 15 Euros on cream cheese because the cheese shop was closed. I should probably shop more on off hours.

But I went upscale with my cheesecake anyway. See the black specks? I used vanilla bean instead of extract. I got a really good deal on vanilla beans a few weeks back.

And I have to say that the tiny frozen wild blackberries they sell here are really great--not as sour/bitter as some of the berries you might get in the States. Fortunately, the frozen food store was open. Otherwise this would have been a "mixed-red-fruit" cheesecake, which would probably have been good as well.

So to summarize this cheesecake: you've got creamy and crunchy. You have buttery and sweet and tart and rich. No matter how and where you source your ingredients, this is a cheesecake worth making.

Here's the recipe. I highly recommend making this the day before you want to eat it.

Blackberry with Scotch Cheesecake

1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1/4 c. (1.75 oz.) sugar
Generous pinch salt (it's not in the original recipe, but I like a bit of salt in my shortbread)
1/2 c. (4 oz.) cold butter

Heat the oven to 375. In a food processor or just a regular bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter to form very small crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan and press down on them to make an even bottom crust. Wrap the bottom of the springform with a double layer of aluminum foil. Consider putting the springform on a foil-lined baking sheet as well. Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. While the crust is baking, make the filling.

19 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I imagine that some light cream cheese would work here)
1 t. vanilla
2-1/2 T. (1.25 oz.) Drambuie or other whiskey
1/2 t. cinnamon
Grated rind of 1 (organic) lemon or 1/2 (organic) orange
3/4 c. (5 oz.) sugar
3 large eggs
1 T. (0.5 oz.) lemon juice
2 c. (8 oz.) frozen blackberries

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cheese until soft and smooth. Beat in the vanilla, booze, cinnamon, and lemon/orange rind just until mixed, then add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice.
Carefully butter the sides of the springform: I just ran a stick of butter around the warm pan. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Then sprinkle the blackberries over that, pushing down on them so that they are covered. Full disclosure: I didn't push mine down far enough, and they didn't work their way into the cake as they probably should have. Do as Maida says, not as I do.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sides have puffed and browned a bit. Take the cake out of the oven and let sit for 20 minutes (leave the oven on). Make the topping while the cake waits.

2 c. (16 oz.) sour cream (in my case, crème fraîche legère)
1-2 T. sugar (Maida calls for 1 T; for a change, I think a bit more is nice)
1 t. vanilla

Whisk these ingredients together. When the cake has finished its rest, spread the sour cream mixture over it and return it to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil, and let the cake cool completely. Maida wants you to take the sides off the springform before you put the cake in the fridge. I didn't and it was fine.
In any case, let the cake chill at least 4 hours before serving. If you're daring, you can try to slip the cake off the springform bottom; if not, no one will care after they've had a bite of this.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pecan Sour Cream Muffins

I did a lot of baking last weekend. There was Saturday morning breakfast, a Saturday evening dinner party, and a Sunday afternoon barbecue--all great occasions to bake. And then my life got awfully busy with really fun things--outings to Paris and dinners with friends and days that began at 5:30 and ended at 12:30--both AM.

So now, when I should be grading papers and/or doing grocery shopping and/or doing even more baking for our guests, I'm instead trying to catch up on the blog.

Let me just quote Julia on these muffins, if I may: "OMG OMG OMG SOOOOOO delicious!!!" I may have missed a few exclamation points there. She's right--this muffin doesn't look like a whole lot, but it tastes really good.

Like my new silicon muffin cups? Very springy, I think. Kind of a pain to wash, but the muffin pops right out.

This muffin batter goes together more like a cake batter (cream butter and sugar, add eggs, alternate wet and dry ingredients) than like a muffin batter, which can be a downer early on a Saturday morning when you don't really want the noise of a mixer, but I see no other downside.
So here's the recipe. Make these if you want a lot of nutty flavor in the morning.

Pecan Sour Cream Muffins

1/4 c. (2 oz.) butter, room temperature (if you think about it, put the butter out the night before)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
Generous pinch salt
Generous pinch nutmeg (freshly grated!)
2/3 c. (4.5 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 c. (6 oz.) sour cream
1-1/3 c. (5.3 oz.) flour (some whole wheat is fine)
1-1/3 c. (5.5 oz.) toasted chopped pecans
12 toasted pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 450. Line or grease 12 muffin cups. Cream the butter with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Gradually add the sugar and beat another minute or two. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each. On low speed, add the flour in three additions alternating with the sour cream in two additions. Stir in the pecans.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and top with the toasted pecan halves. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins spring back when gently pressed. These will dome up more than your normal muffins, and that's OK.
Devour while warm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marbleized Chiffon Pie

This pie was an adventure in many ways: an adventure in patience, in dishwashing, in pie contests. It was even an adventure for my poor old cookbook, which got a bit of a bath in melted butter...

In fact, I didn't really make this pie. I was on my way home from the store to make it when I saw Julia and her friend Alice coming back as well. The picnic they had planned was cut short due to bad weather and they were at loose ends. So I suggested they bake. "Here's the recipe--go for it!"

Their first obstacle: the crumb crust. Maida has two pages of directions on making the perfect crumb crust, and while it does in fact turn out perfect, it's rather a fussy process. I had to intervene a few times and "translate" the instructions into "regular" English. The girls did an excellent job, especially since I had improvised a crust based on shortbread cookies rather than the peanut butter cookies Maida calls for--I was bringing the pie to a "nut-free" event.

Apparently the pie is based on a recipe that used to be on the big Hershey bar. "Why did they stop?" I'll tell you why: it involves custard and gelatin and egg whites and whipped cream and melted chocolate. You mess up any of those steps and your pie takes a dive.

Also, have you counted the number of bowls that involves? I didn't have that many in my tiny kitchen and had to do some improvisation.

The girls were troupers through all this, though. They scalded milk until it had "wrinkled granny skin"; they dissolved gelatin (agar-agar for the vegetarian) and took the custard's temperature and whipped egg whites and carefully melted chocolate.

And finally they carefully folded in the melted chocolate and put the pie in the fridge for the next day: the "Pies and Squres" event.

The event was sponsored by the American section of the international school the girls attend--it involved square dancing and a pie contest. Julia and I decided to attend with another mom: we both enjoy pie and we both enjoy square dancing. What could go wrong?

Well, it turned out that this event was primarily for primary school students. Julia was a good sport about it and we had some fun klutzing our way through some primitive dance moves. We also tried many delicious pies. I'm pretty sure we didn't vote for our own, and I'm pretty sure that the Oreo cheesecake won. Julia blamed it on the less sophisticated taste of the primary-schoolers. But I think this pie just isn't all that.
It is light and fluffy, and that texture is nicely offset by the crumb crust. But it's really sweet and deadly rich--I feel a bit ill just thinking about that. And the agar/gelatin didn't set up as well as I might have hoped--gelatin custard desserts (Bavarian creams) are one of the trickiest things around to get right, I believe. So while Julia and her friend probably learned some really good baking skills, I hope that the next time I send them baking, it will give them a better payoff and me fewer dishes to wash. Oh, and I want to win that pie contest next year.

Here's the recipe. If you like rich and sweet and have lots of bowls in your kitchen, this is the one for you.

Marbleized Chiffon Pie

10 oz. cookies of your choice: Maida wants you to make your own peanut butter cookies. I used shortbread. Maybe chocolate wafers or pecan sandies?
6 T. (3 oz.) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 325. Line a deep 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil. Crush the cookies with a food processor or rolling pin and mix with the butter. Carefully press into the pan with your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the oven door, and let the crust cool in the oven. Put it in the freezer until it is fully chilled. Then remove the crust with the foil, carefully peel off the foil, and put the crust back in the pan. Keep chilling until you're ready to use it.

8 oz. (good) milk chocolate
1/4 c. (2 oz) cold water
1 envelope gelatin
2/3 c. (5.3 oz.) milk
2 large eggs, separated
5 T. (2.1 oz.) sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. (8 oz.) whipping cream
Pinch salt

Melt the chocolate carefully, in the microwave (30-second intervals) or in a double boiler. Set aside to cool a bit. Soften the gelatin in the cold water. Scald the milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave. If you've scalded it in the saucepan, pour it back into the measuring cup for a bit. In a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with 3 T. sugar until thick and pale. Gradually add the hot milk to the egg yolks. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring and scraping with the whisk or a rubber spatula, until the custard is thickened and the temperature has reached 180 degrees. Take off the heat and add the gelatin; stir until that has melted. Then add the vanilla, pour (better: strain) the custard into a medium ("rather large") mixing bowl and set aside for a bit.
In another bowl, whip the cream until it holds a shape but isn't too stiff. In yet another bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to hold a shape. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 T. sugar and beat until they hold a firm shape.
OK, now you need another, very large bowl. Put ice and water in it, then set the bowl with the custard into that. Stir the custard until it cools and begins to thicken. Maida would now like you to fold half of the custard into the cream and half into the egg whites and then fold it all together. What we did was pour the custard onto the cream, poured the egg whites atop that, and then carefully folded that all together. However you do it, be careful to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Now pour in the chocolate and give it just two or three turns: you should still see streaks. Pour that into the chilled crust. Mine all fit into the crust, but if yours doesn't, Maida recommends chilling the filling in the crust for a bit and then piling more atop. Let chill at least 3-4 hours. Spend that time washing dishes.

1 c. (8 oz.) whipping cream
2 T. sugar--powdered or regular
1/2 t. vanilla
More milk chocolate

Whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread or pipe atop the chiffon filling. With a vegetable peeler, scrape chocolate curls on top of the cream. Serve as soon as you can, preferably after a light meal and a marathon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake

So this past week, Maida and I had a conversation. It went something like this:

"Maria! You need to bake something!'
"I don't know, Maida. It seems like overkill. We still have some fruit bars and zwieback lying around."
"But Maria, you have the day off and a pound of butter in the fridge! You should really bake something!"
"Yeah, but it's just going to sit around. I don't have anyone to give anything away to, and Julia is giving up sweets for Lent."
"All the more reason to bake today, Mardi Gras! You should make Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake. It is moist, keeps well, is easy to make, and especially delicious."
"'s true that I have nothing to do today. And that recipe does look good. If it keeps well, we can maybe get through a half recipe..."

Strangely enough, I had all the necessary ingredients right there. Bit of trivia: I read or heard somewhere that Hemmingway's favorite drink in Paris was Rhum St. James. I just bought it because it was cheap. Come to think of it, that's probably why he did as well.

Half a recipe is perfect for a loaf pan; the whole recipe would have been a Bundt.

As Maida promised, this was really easy to make--it's just a standard butter cake with a lot of additions.

And there it is, golden brown and delicious, soaked in rum syrup.

Funny story--this cake was gone within 48 hours. I swear it wasn't me! I think it was all Sami ate for two days. He called it the "rum-soaked deliciousness". Even Claire the Raisin Hater didn't mind it. Maida was right. Once again.

Therefore I'm giving you the original recipe for the full Bundt pan. Even if you think you won't eat it, you probably will. And after all, it keeps well.

Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake

1 c. (5 oz.) raisins (use a mix of dark and golden if you have them)
1/3 c. (2.7 oz.) dark rum
2-1/4 c. (8.5 oz.) walnuts (Maida says this is also good with almonds, if you prefer)
1 cup (8 oz.) butter, room temperature
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
finely grated rind of 2 (organic) lemons
finely grated rind of 2 (organic) oranges
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
2-1/2 c. (10 oz.) flour (I used some whole wheat, as usual)
1 c. (8 oz.) buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with some milk)

If you're good at planning ahead, put the raisins and rum in a jar and let sit overnight, giving it a shake whenever you think about it. If you're like me, put them in a microwave-safe dish and zap for about 30 seconds, or until steamy. Let sit for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Put about 3/4 cup or about 1.5 oz. walnuts in your food processor and process until quite fine. Butter a Bundt or other fancy tube pan heavily and coat as best you can with the walnuts. Any leftover walnuts can stay at the bottom of the pan. Chop the remaining walnuts into medium-sized pieces--6 to 8 pulses in the food processor.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange and lemon rinds, and vanilla until light and fluffy--a minute or two. Gradually add the sugar and beat for another minute or two. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. At low speed mix in the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions. Take the bowl from the mixer and add the rum-raisins (don't drink that rum--put it in the cake batter!) and the walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted gently comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. While the cake is cooling, make the rum syrup:

1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/4 c. (2 oz.) water
1/4 c. (2 oz.) orange juice
3 T. (1.5 oz.) lemon or lime juice
1/4 c. (2 oz.) dark rum

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, stir together the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and let boil without stirring for 2 minutes. Take off the heat. (By the way, you've just made simple syrup, the basis of many a cocktail. Actually, come to think of it, this rum syrup over ice would make a lovely cocktail...) Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and rum.
Unmold the cake onto a cake platter and then brush it with the syrup. It's a lot of syrup, but the cake will eventually end up soaking it all in. I got impatient and just carefully poured on the syrup, and that seemed to work well. Let cool and enjoy the rum-soaked deliciousness.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I am going to have to challenge this recipe on several fronts. Here it is in a book of American Desserts, but it is neither a dessert nor particularly American. Of course, a lot of the muffins and such in the book are not desserts either, so OK. And of course, the US is a melting pot of cultures, so a lot of the desserts in the book have an antecedent in other countries.

Still, zwieback? In the US, you can only find the stuff in the baby food aisle as a food "for teething babies". We usually had a box in our pantry because Mom used zwieback for crumb crusts (try it some time: it gives you a more neutral crunch than a graham cracker crust would).
Here in France, however, zwieback (biscottes) reigns. In the US there is a full grocery store aisle devoted to breakfast cereal; in France, there is one devoted to crunchy dried bread products. I'm not sure if these products are meant to substitute for or supplement fresh bread, but my guess is that people buy them for le goûter.

Ah, le goûter. As the British have their afternoon tea and the Germans have Kaffee und Kuchen, this is an afternoon snack ritual. Unlike the above, however, there is nothing really cozy about this afternoon snack, which according to my dictionary consists of "bread, butter, chocolate, and a drink". French kids have a long day at school--9 to 5--and don't usually sit down to dinner before 8 (despite this 35-hour work week, most working people don't come home before 7). Therefore, they require sustenance to get through the piles of homework that await them.
Since Mom may also be at work, since there may not be a bakery nearby, biscottes are a popular bread substitute. You can eat them as a tartine with butter and jam (as above) or with Nutella. One of my market vendors tells me that applesauce and biscottes is a classic goûter. My Franco-American kids tend to buy sandwiches or reheat leftovers for their afternoon snack, but I decided to make them the classic French snack.

It's a rather long process, this zwieback thing. Make dough, let it rise. Cut into rolls, let them rise. Bake and cool. Slice and bake again. Let me just say that they weren't finished when the girls came home from school. However, the rolls were. They were a big hit with Julia, who begged me not to toast all of them. Which reminded me of something her father said many, many years ago when I was trying out a recipe for rusks. Sami looked upon them in horror and asked, "You did THAT to perfectly good rolls??" I guess that zwieback were not a happy part of his childhood.
Finally the zwieback were done--on a Saturday. Of course I timed it to be finished when the girls needed no after-school snack. I put some sugar and coconut on some to try and duplicate a favorite German treat--not worth it. The verdict: I love them. I can't stop eating them. They taste just like the kind from the bright yellow box. I bet they'd make a fabulous cheesecake crust.
The rest of the family--not so much. "They're too crunchy! You can't even get your teeth through them!" And so my adventure in French culture through an American dessert book was not an unqualified success. No problem--I've got a big bowl of applesauce and a large container of zwieback in the kitchen, and I'm sure to have several happy afternoons with them.

Here's the recipe. Make them if you'd like something crunchy, toasty, not too sweet.


4 c. (20 oz.) unsifted flour (I used some whole wheat flour)
1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1 t. salt
3/4 t. nutmeg
1-1/4 c. (10 oz.) milk
4 T. (2 oz.) melted butter
1 egg

In a large bowl (you can do this in a mixer with a dough hook, in a food processor, or by hand), whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Add the milk, butter, and egg, and stir until the dough holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and stretchy. Return to the bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in volume.
Punch the dough down and turn it out back onto your floured surface. Roll into a cylinder of sorts and cut that into 12 even pieces. Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment. Form each piece of dough into a ball by pulling the sides out and then tucking them under. Put the balls on the baking sheets, cover with tea towels, and let rise again for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
When you're ready to bake, heat the oven to 400. Bake the rolls at 400 for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 350 and give them 15 more minutes.
Let the rolls cool; do yourself a favor and eat one hot from the oven. You can let them sit out on the counter overnight if you want, or you could refrigerate or freeze them. Anyway, you want them pretty cool or even cold to slice them well.
When you're ready for the second baking, heat the oven to 300 (if you have convection or if your oven runs hot, I really recommend something more like 250). Slice the rolls horizontally into rounds (the French way) or vertically into slices (the American/German way); either way, the slices should be about 1/2 inch thick. Put the slices on parchment- or foil-lined baking sheets. Bake them until they are golden and hard to the touch. Maida doesn't give a baking time, so let me suggest giving them 15 minutes, then turning them over and giving them another 10 minutes or so. That was plenty for mine; your results may vary depending on your oven.
Let cool and then store airtight. Consider making some applesauce. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my kitchen for a cup of tea and a little zwieback.