Wednesday, August 3, 2011

La Mademoiselle in London

I’ve been living in London on my own for a month and in my humble opinion, I’ve adjusted rather well. The tube is no longer a psychedelic spiderweb I can’t decipher, I can almost always remember which side to look at when crossing the street, and walking is my new cardio... right after shopping.

Without counting my obsession when it comes to trying almost every restaurant in London, my touristing along with my blogging has been dire. My biggest achievement so far has been visiting Hampton Court Palace (which is breathtaking), Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (biggest tourist trap) and pinpointing the biggest mall in Europe where I make sure to spend most of my leisure afternoons in when I don't have class.

With the help of London Select aka my new best friend, I've decided to spice it up.

First stop, breakfast at The Wolseley. The day was simply too hot for me to have porridge as the guide suggested so I settled for a lighter fare of bacon, sausage and eggs and of course, a pain au chocolat that seemed to be made of air.

Never having heard of The Wolseley, I can safely say that the old world ambiance, undeniable chicness that reigned every table and a staff that made it impossible to feel unattended, I will be returning.

Although not on the guide, I had originally planned to see Kate Middleton's dress at Buckingham Palace but tickets are sold out until next week. I caught the change of the guard. When they started playing songs of Phantom of the Opera, I decided once again that London continues to be made of awesome.

Instead of boiling myself alive taking the tube, I opted to stroll down St. James Park and head towards the London Eye which you could easily see at a distance. Without a map, getting there becomes tricky especially if your inner GPS is as bad as mine. After much wandering around and getting on the mini oven that was the tube, I found it.

 The queues weren't too long and I got on the famous London Eye in less than half an hour. I already want to do it again.

Getting to see the city from such heights left me breathless. I couldn't pay attention to my fear of heights or the heat that seeped through the glass. All I could think of is... I am in London. I live in London. I get to work on a professional kitchen, studying p√Ętisserie twice a week. I get inspired by my surroundings that I write on a daily basis. I get to cross the Millennium Bridge that had been featured in so many movies and even in my own incomplete novels. I get to see St. Paul's Cathedral up close, stop dead in my tracks and be mesmerized.

I am lucky. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Japan With Love

When I was a teenager, Japan symbolized an ideal world to me. It was a country where structure and organization thrived. A place where making a living out of drawing manga was not considered insane but feasible. Back then I was 100% sure I would live in a teenie tiny apartment with my friends and we would draw our stories to life. I dreamed of living in Japan, of eating bento boxes underneath cherry blossom trees, of visiting Buddhist temples in hopes that my broken faith could be restored.

I didn't know when or how but I was sure that some day I would visit Japan and be enthralled with all it has to offer.

Then the earthquake and the tsunami happened... I was and still am completely devastated.

Seeing the Japanese hurt, how the death toll rises each day, how family pets now wander aimlessly amidst the destruction of their homes fueled the despair in me that can only be born when one feels truly impotent. I needed to do something above donating. I needed to feel involved.

Thanks to Hannah from Honey & Jam I found "For Japan With Love", the baby of bloggers Ever Ours and Utterly Engaged.

I want to ask you to please consider being a part of this. All donations go to Shelterbox. In case you don't know the who's and what's, here is an explanation taken from their website: "Shelterbox is an international disaster relief charity that delivers emergency shelter, warmth and dignity to people affected by disaster worldwide." 

By giving a small donation you will help make sure that families that have lost everything will at least have a warm place to sleep in. If you want to help Japan's animals please stop by here. There is a list of shelters and/or charities that are focusing their efforts on making sure they're rescued.

Please donate. If you can't, then spread the word. The more people are involved, the bigger our chances are of helping Japan recover.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(Relatively) Wordless Wednesday

I really believe a large, fluffy, merengue-y, and strawberry-kissed cake is the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Experiments & Apple Pie

This blog post is sponsored by the apple explosion at my local supermarket.

Apple pie makes me think of fall and its multicolored leaves and apple orchards. While we don’t really experience fall and I have not gone to any Dominican apple orchards, it just sounds good, doesn’t it?

The only apple pie I had ever tasted was the one that came in an individual bright red package at my local McD’s. Sad, isn’t it?

An experiment to change my otherwise pie-less existence was in order. Badly.

After all, how did a real homemade, juicy apple pie taste like? You know, one with an actual buttery crust instead of a deep-fried one.

Why, I should just make it!  

I have a blog now so this is all for the sake of research. Right.

I went through every foodie blog I could ever think of trying to find that ‘perfect’ apple pie recipe, preferably, one that didn’t use vegetable shortening. Overall, my top requirement was that it didn’t look that hard. I found my match at Simply Recipes. Elise even has a step-by-step process on how to make that perfect crust, which is great because I am a ridiculously visual person. This meant that the pie was going to be easy to make, right? I have blog support and pictures. There is no way would be hard, right?

Yeah… it’s not so easy.

It takes a lot time and a nearly inhuman amount of patience with your rolling pin to get that crust just right or, in my case, make it large and round enough to fit my pie plate.

It’s worth the effort though.

When I opened that oven door, what I saw and smelled left me breathless. A golden brown pie that sighed through its slits, its filling bubbling as the harmonious scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice filled my kitchen.

Then I took that first bite. Oh my Oprah. Such velvety apples, such a buttery crust.

Yes. It was definitely worth it.

Old Fashioned Apple Pie
adapted from Simply Recipes
serves 8

Crust Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

Filling Ingredients
2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 pounds of 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices of peeled and cored good cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Pippin, Golden Delicious (I used Granny Smith cause they are really tart)
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg Wash
1 large egg yolk

1 Tbsp cream

FOR THE CRUST: In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Once it is combined add the pieces of butter and pulse 6 to 8 times. The mix should look like coarse meal with small pea-size pieces of butter. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, pulsing until mixture begins to clump together. Test with your fingers to see if it holds together. If it does, it’s ready. If it doesn’t, add a bit more water, and pulse once again.

Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape the dough into 2 discs. Be careful not to over-knead it. The dough should have tiny pieces of butter in it. These pieces of butter are essential for the crust to be flaky. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 15 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat to 375°F. Position rack at the bottom.

Place the apple pieces in a large bowl. In it, mix sugar, flour and spices. To mix in the apples so they are well-coated use your hands, add the brandy and the vanilla extract.

Remove one disk of the crust from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk so when you use the rolling pin it doesn’t stick. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below using a metal spatula. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Spoon in apple filling, making a small mountain of apples in the center.
Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently turn over onto the top of the apples in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.

FOR THE EGG WASH: Stir yolk and cream in small bowl to blend. Brush over top of pie.

Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake pie until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, anywhere from an additional 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of apples you are using. Transfer to rack; let stand 1 hour. Serve pie warm or at room temperature. Extra points if you use vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Month of Firsts & Maple Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious. All which I idiotically ignored.

October has been a month of firsts for us here at Mademoiselle Fraise. By us I mean me, myself and I.

First, the blog received a beautiful, flawless, perfect, and completely adorable makeover by Jessica at The Frilly Coconut.  It's everything I wanted it to be and more. The charming simplicity of the design, the harmony of the colors and those cute little dancing hearts make this little corner of the web seem more like home to me.

Second, I became an official member of The Daring Bakers. Whee! That means that once a month I will partake in baking challenges and post said results here. I know. Too much awesomeness. I can't handle it either.

However, being overwhelmed by all this awesomeness is possible. I didn't read the rules as thoroughly as I had thought and, since we are celebrating firsts, I committed my first offense on my first challenge.

Irony. Not a fan at the moment.

The word challenge was not used loosely in this particular scenario.

Fried donuts don't like me. The scalding oil in particular. Baking them seemed to me like the safer, saner choice.

I found this recipe in Handle the Heat. Tessa made it look so easy [and it was] that when this challenge popped up I immediately thought of this recipe. This is the part where you realize that I wasn't aware that you needed to use the recipes that were already provided.

Oops. Oh well.

All in all, I would say, October was a really great month for firsts.

Maple Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

Yield: 6 doughnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 6 oz container of non fat organic vanilla bean yogurt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cinnamon and sugar together in a dish. In a bowl whisk together all the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl stir together oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, egg and yogurt.

Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the hole. Gently fold everything together until combined. The batter will be thick.

Scoop batter into a piping bag or ziploc bag, snip a bottom corner with scissors, and squeeze out the batter evenly into a doughnut pan. 

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a few moments and then flip over onto a cooling rack while still warm.

Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter over your doughnuts and then dip each doughnut in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Serve immediately after coating with cinnamon sugar mixture for best texture.