Bastille day is the common name given for the national day of France, which is celebrated on July 14. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille on that date in 1789 and the unity of the French people at the Fete de la Federation in July 1790. Last year, I had given the recipes of some iconic French dishes such as French Onion Soup in my column in t2. This year, we are a couple of days past Bastille Day, but there’s no harm relishing some French fare. So, I will show some popular French deserts which are easy to make at home and extremely delicious. For each dessert there are very few ingredients and they are easily available.
PROFITEROLES WITH CUSTARD CREAM
Profiteroles date back to at least the 16th century. And while they are now considered classic French pastry, they actually had their origins in Italy. When Catherine de Medici of Italy married King Henry XI of France, the queen made sure to bring her chefs with her. A profiterole cream puff is a filled French choux pastry ball with a typically sweet and moist filling of whipped cream, custard, pastry cream or ice cream. The puffs may be garnished with chocolate sauce, caramel, or a dusting of powdered sugar.
For the choux pastry
Water: 1 cup
Plain flour: 1 cup, sifted
Salt: A pinch
For the custard filling
Milk: 250ml (1 cup)
Heavy cream: ¾ cup
Vanilla extract: 1tsp (or ¼tsp vanilla essence)
Egg yolk: 3
Caster sugar: 1/3 cup
Flour: 1/3 cup
For the chocolate sauce
Dark baking chocolate: 115g
Thickened cream: ¼ cup
Honey: 1tbsp, or according to taste
For the choux pastry
Pre-heat oven to 220°C.
Combine water and butter in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. In one go add these ingredients to the water, butter mixture.
Over medium heat stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms into a dough and falls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Now beat in one egg at a time, stirring in each egg until the dough mixture is smooth. (lightly whisk each egg before adding it to the mixture). After the eggs have been mixed in, the dough should be smooth and shiny.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Now pipe balls of dough onto the tray (spaced at least 2 inches apart), using about 2tbsp of dough for each ball; size depends on you.
Place in the oven and at once lower the heat to 195°C. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the pastry puffs up and becomes golden. Each ball should be light and airy.
Remove the tray and turn off the oven.
Slit a small hole in the base of each puff to release steam. Return the tray to the oven for only 2-3 minutes to dry out the puffs. Remove and keep aside.
For the custard filling
Warm the cream, milk and vanilla extract together over medium heat. Do not boil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs, then add the flour.
Over medium heat, gradually add the egg, sugar mixture to the milk and cream mixture. *Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and then place in the fridge until chilled.
Now place the custard into a piping bag and fill each pastry puff ball.
For the chocolate sauce
Over low heat or double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter. Mix in the cream and honey and stir until the sauce thickens and is smooth.
To serve place the balls on a plate and drizzle the sauce over it.
Crème Brulee, also known as as burnt cream or Trinity cream, is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hardened caramelised sugar. It is normally served slightly chilled but the heat from the caramelising process tends to warm the top of the custard, while leaving the centre cool. The custard base is traditionally flavoured with vanilla in French cuisine, but can have other flavourings. It is sometimes garnished with fruits. This recipe has only five ingredients. Get ready to grab yours, crack through the burnt-sugar crust, and scoop up a generous amount of that creamy custard. There won’t be any words, only sound effects.
Heavy whipping cream: 2 cups
Egg yolk: 5 large
Sugar: ½ cup, plus extra for caramelising
Fine sea salt: A pinch
Vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste: 1tsp
Pre-heat oven to 150°C.
In a medium saucepan heat heavy cream over medium heat, stirring frequently until steaming and almost at a simmer, then add vanilla and remove from fire.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 5 egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, and salt until blended.
While whisking constantly, gradually drizzle in the hot cream. Start very slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs.
Stain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a pouring lip. Discard anything left in the sieve. Divide the mixture into 6 (4oz) ramekins and place in a 9”x13” casserole dish.
Now pour boiling hot water in the baking dish about halfway up the sides of the cup.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the centres are nearly set and have a slight wiggle in the middle. Carefully transfer the ramekins from the water bath to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate the Crème Brulee until fully chilled. (2 hours, or up to 3 days)
To caramelise the top
When ready to serve, put 1½tsp to 2tsp sugar on each custard, swirling to spread evenly.
Torch the top, moving in a circular pattern until the whole surface is caramelised to a deep amber colour.
Note: This custard can be made 3 days in advance, covered and refrigerated. However, you’ll have to wait until serving to add the sugar topping and torching it.
This dish was created out of a mistake by a 14-year-old assistant waiter Henry Carpenter in 1895 at the Maitre at Monte Carlo’s Cafe de Paris. He was preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII of England. Now Crepe Suzette is probably the most famous crepe dish in the world.
In a restaurant, a classic Crepe Suzette is often prepared in the chafing dish in full view of the guests. The crepes are served hot with a sauce of sugar, orange juice, butter and the liquor, usually Grand Marnier. Brandy is poured over the sauce and then lit. Crepe Suzettes were made famous in elegant Parisian restaurants at the turn of the 20th century.
For the crepes
Eggs: 2, large
White flour: 1 cup
Milk: 1 cup
Pure vanilla extract: 1tsp
Sugar: ¼ cup
Salt: A small pinch
For the sauce
Oranges: 2 large
Lemon: 1, for zest
Orange juice: ½ cup
Lemon juice: 2tbsp
Grand Marnier, or orange liquor or cognac: ¼ cup
For making crepes
Place all the ingredients in a glass bowl and blend everything until very smooth. Stain through a fine sieve, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Heat a 6-inch non-stick crepe or omelette pan and grease with a tiny amount of butter. *Pour in about 3 ounces (small ladle) of batter and tip the pan to spread the batter evenly and produce a thin, delicate crepe.
Cook the crepe over medium heat until the bottom is slightly browned, then turn it over and brown the other side slightly. Remove to a plate and repeat. Stack the crepes. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the sauce
Zest an orange and a lemon. Cut the orange into thin segments.
In a large sauté pan, put sugar to make a thin layer across the whole pan. When it melts and starts to caramelise a little add the butter. It will change colour. Then add the lemon juice and the zests of orange and lemon. Continually keep stirring it. Then add the orange juice. Slightly thicken the sauce. Not too much though. It should little be runny.
Take a crepe and fold once and then fold again like triangle. Dip the crepes into the sauce.
Then add the liquor. Tip the pan a little so that the liquor ignites.
Serve as it is or with a dollop of ice cream on it.
Tip: In restaurants, they bring the crepes with the flame to the table. For this you put the liquor in a small ladle. Put over heat and when it becomes hot pour over the crepes in the serving dish. The flame really looks good.
NO BAKE STAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
Cheesecakes are a favourite with Parisians. It is lighter and very versatile. You may use seasonal fruits of your liking and the best part is in this recipe you do not need an oven. It is a great make-ahead cake and perfect for summer. It comes together quickly and tastes amazing. All you need to make this cake is a hand mixer and blender or food processor, a 9-inch springform pan and a sieve for straining.
For the crust
Digestive biscuits: 2 cups, in a blender pulse to fine crumbs
Unsalted butter: 8tbsp
For the cheesecake
Cheese cream: 450g
Granulated sugar: 2/3 cup
Heavy cream: 1 cup
Lemon juice: 2tbsp
Gelatin: 14g (2 packets)
For the topping/decoration
Heavy cream: 1 cup
Caster sugar: 2tbsp
Vanilla extract: ¼tsp
Strawberries: 6-8, halved
Oil the bottom of the pan and sides of the springform pan and line the sides with 1-2 strips of parchment paper.
In a bowl put the biscuit crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter. Stir well. Then press into the bottom of the cake tin going ½ inches up. Refrigerate for 30 minutes for the crumbs to set.
Puree the strawberries in a blender and then sieve through a strainer. Should have about 1½ cups of puree.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and 2/3 cup sugar. Beat on medium speed till fluffy and smooth.
Add 1 cup heavy cream. And beat till everything is well combined and smooth.
Now add the strawberry puree and lemon juice and blend till smooth.
In a shallow heat-safe bowl add ½ cup cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. *Set aside for 5 minutes to allow it to bloom and absorb the water. Microwave gelatin for 30 seconds. Stirring every 10 seconds.
Heat and stir until fully dissolved and liquid looks clear. Then with a mixer on medium-low speed gradually add the gelatin and beat till it is well incorporated.
Transfer the cheese cake mixture over the chilled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6-7 hours or overnight until completely chilled.
For making the topping
Add heavy whipping cream to a large mixing bowl along with sugar and vanilla. Use a hand electric mixer and beat until peaks are forms. Transfer to a piping bag with a large star tip. And pipe puffs around the cheesecake. Decorate with sliced strawberries.
Note: You can add a drop of red food colouring if you like to get the desired colour. Though I have not added.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (EGGLESS)
Chocolate mousse, as well as being delicious, also has a fascinating history. It was first described as “mayonnaise de chocolat” and, more interesting, was invented by the French post-impressionist painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in the late 19th century. Chocolate mousse has now become a true classic, traditional but versatile, and can be served in many different ways. Whether it’s piped into delicate pastry shells or hollowed fruits or elegant glassware, it’s a favourite dessert for countless diners, ranging from those who enjoy simple desserts to “chocoholics”.
Dark chocolate: 200g
Coffee powder: 1tsp
Whipping cream: 1 cup
Mint leaves, icing sugar, or wedges of any fruit you like for decoration
Grate the chocolate or break into fine pieces.
Then add the chocolate in a bowl and place over boiling water to melt the chocolate.
Once the chocolate is melted add coffee powder and butter in it and mix everything well.
Meanwhile, in a blender jar add whipping cream and blend it until soft peaks are formed. Then add some of the chocolate mixture in it and blend again.
Now remove this mixture in a bowl and mix in the remaining chocolate mixture.
To serve the mousse, take a serving glass and fill it with chocolate cream mixture. You can even put a little bit of chocolate shavings on top if you want. Keep in the fridge to set for 30-40 minutes.
Remove and garnish with a mint leaf, icing sugar, fruit wedges, etc.
Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can find her @durribhallakitchen on Instagram, @ Durribhallakitchen on Facebook and Durri Bhalla on YouTube