I dedicated the whole day yesterday to making kouign-amann (pronounced ‘queen-a-mahn’). This delectable pastry is a French specialty, more specifically, from Brittany. I knew it had to be a tough cookie to crack because of it’s many delicate, flaky layers. I came across a detailed step by step version of how to make kouign-amann in the 04/14 edition of the ‘Bon Appétit’ magazine. They had it down as a project and a project it is, given the amount of time you have to put in. It’s been at the back of my mind ever since and a recent article in the New Yorker about pastries made me want to dive into this project head long.
As far as food trends go, coconut oil has been in the news for only a little while now. It has been touted as a miracle worker – good for your skin, hair and health too. I find it slightly amusing because where my family comes from, coconut oil is a commonplace ingredient. It is used not only in cooking but also as a natural moisturiser. As kids, we were forced to slather ourselves in the oil from head to toe, including our hair, before every shower.
I am happy that with the newfound glory of coconut oil, I can find it in any ordinary supermarket. If you have ever wondered what to use this very nutty flavoured oil for, then make this chocolate cake and you’ll be hooked. Did I already mention that it is also great for your skin and hair?
Plantain fritters definitely fall in my category of comfort foods. It brings back memories of those far and few train journeys of my childhood from our hometown on the Southeastern coast of India to my father’s village in Kerala, on the Southwestern coast. The monotony of the more than 30-hour train journey was broken as soon as we entered the lush green coastal landscape of Palghat – the first stop in Kerala. This is where you would hear cries of ‘pazham pori, pazham pori’ from vendors selling steaming hot plantain fritters wrapped in plaintain leaves. My father who otherwise was strict about not feeding us kids anything that was not home made, would give in to our sullen looks and we would all look on in anticipation as he purchased a few of those golden nuggets. Big chunks of plantain fritters and greasy palms were the one saving grace of that otherwise never ending journey!
The first time I ever made a tarte tatin was during my one-month cooking course in Dublin. We made it from scratch including the pastry. Flipping the tart out of the pan onto a plate was quite an anxious moment. I remember we did it in turns with everybody standing around the person whose turn it was, cheering them on. We were a small close-knit group of just 7 people so it wasn’t nerve-wracking to have people around you while you were hoping that it didn’t turn out into a major fiasco.
It was simply the best tarte tatin we’d ever tasted – flaky pastry topped with sweet golden caramelised apples, simply heaven! Although I’ve made an upside down cake a couple of times since then, I’ve never tried my hand at a tarte tatin since that very first attempt.
I’d actually made these tarts to use up some of the rich ripe early summer strawberries from the in-laws’ garden a while ago. It never made it here mainly because I was pretty annoyed with the pastry shells that shrank on baking (again!) and wanted to get it absolutely right the next time. Of course, I never got around to making these tarts again and they did actually taste great with a filling of creamy creme patissiere topped with luscious deep red strawberries.
So as the last few days of summer go by, I found myself reminisicing of the fun we had with all those strawberries and since this one’s quite a handy recipe for a make ahead dessert, I thought why not share it here. To make it even better, the original Michel Roux Jr. recipe calls for the use of a variety of fruits. So you see, you can make these tarts any time of the year with whatever fruit you have handy!