Friday, April 29, 2011


In our frenetic world we tend to take things for granted and forget to be thankful for what we have no matter how little or big. We are so trapped in our routine, stressful daily life and modern style of living-induced problems that we have lost the true meaning of life. Our materialistic ways makes us assume that everything is due to us and that it is normal to be able to acquire anything we desire without thinking of the consequences. We never take the time to realize how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live on this wonderful planet and to profit from all the riches it has to offer...

Our relationship with nature has waned so much that it is nearly inexistent and we no longer revere Mother Earth as our so-called primitive ancestors did long before our mind became corrupt by our quest for power and the accumulation of goods. By destroying the link to our surroundings and behaving like mere "parasites" instead of being in harmony with the universe and respecting our environment, we have created our own downfall.

Those folks which we like to consider as "barbarians" and "uncivilized savages" were in fact a lot wiser than us who are supposed to be the illusively titled "evolved homo-sapiens". Let's not forget that they were true ecologists thousands of years ago. We have absolutely not invented this movement at all, all the contrary.

Maple Tartlets Picnik collage 2 bis
"Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence."
- Mourning Dove Salish 1888-1936

In the past, people saw Nature as being a manifestation of the Almighty Power (not necessarily God, but the force behind all things) and therefore admired it and treated it with the utmost respect. The entirety of what graced our globe had its place (nature is very balance focussed), reason for existing and humans didn't try to change this order of things.

In our times society sees things very differently and acts selfishly. After centuries of taking without giving and raping the Earth as if we had the supreme right to pillage everything according to our will, we are starting to understand that we no longer can ransack our "terra firma" without paying the price for our greediness and irresponsability.

"When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money."
- Cree Prophecy

Now that the world is polluted and that Nature is rebelling, we are forced to rethink our behaviour and stop believing that we can act like gods. We have become conscious that nothing is free, that all forms of existence deserve to be considered with deference as we live in a place of great beauty and wonder, and that at the end humanity will not have the last word. Men are doomed to disappear if the continue destroying their patrimony, but earth, just like a phoenix, will always be reborn of its ashes.

We a
re just travellers that have been accepted on board, temporary guests in these bodies and on this planet. We own nothing from birth till death, but owe a lot. Earth will never cease to exist with our without us...


Maple Tartlets Picnik collage 6 bis
Plastic Verrine supplied by (plastic plates & catering supplies).

We live in an era where travelling is easy and export-import represents the base of our economy. We are spoilt with all kinds
of exotic foods that hail from various far away lands. Supermarkets stalls are chock-a-block full of articles which were difficult to find even in the second half of the last century (50's-80's) and we are so accustomed to having effortless access to them that we are rarely aware of how lucky we are...

People are enclined to not care about where their food comes from or to learn more about the origin of the produces they purchase. They are totally detached from reality. It is for that reason that certain children are driven to believe that milk is made by a machine, that they don't recognize common vegetables and fruits or that they cannot associate meat to animals. For example, we all use litres of maple syrup, but how many have much knowledge about this liquid gold? Well, let me enlighten you a little.

Maple syrup is a 100% natural syrup made with the sap of sugar, red, black or Manitoba maple trees from Canada (Quebec, mainly but Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well) and USA (Vermont is the biggest producer, then there is New York, Maine, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Masachusetts and Connecticut). On a smaller scale, maple syrup is also produced in South Korea and Japan.

Its origins can be traced back to the early Amerindians
living in the northeastern part of North America. They were the first to have produced "sweet water" and who recognized its nutritional qualities (a big source of sucrose, potassium, calcium, zinc and manganese). The Europeans settlers were shown how to harvest the sap and adopted this ancestral technique from the Native Americans.

Nowadays, the production methods are basically the same as during the colonization. People start to collect the sap in early spring when it begins to flow. V-shaped incisions are made in the tree trunks and then metal spouts or plastic tubes are placed in the holes to drain out the precious juices into buckets or a large central container to which a few trees are linked. Once the sap has been recuperated it is brought to the sugar shack where it is boiled in a big kettle positioned over an open fire, so that most of the water evaporates in order to obtain a thickish syrup.

MAple Tartlets Picnik collage 4 bis
Maple syrup is graded according to scales based on its density and translucence. In Canada there exists three grades containing several color classes (#1 - Extra Light or AA, Light or A and Medium or B, #2 - Amber or C and #3 - Dark or D) and in the US there are two major grades only, the first one being broken into three sub-categories (Grade A - Light Amber/Fancy, Medium Amber and Dark Amber & Grade B). In order to qualify as maple syrup, this sweet liquid must contain at least 66% sugar. Canada is the largest producer. It makes more than 80 percent of the world's maple syrup, thus producing about 26,500,000 litres every year.

Unfortunately, there exists many deplorable imitations too. Those "Maple-flavored" syrups contain maple, but also other less expensive and unnatural ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup that is perfumed with an industrial aroma. Yuck!

This wonderful gift of nature can be used in a multitude of manners. Most often it is eaten with pancakes, waffles, crumpets, oatmeal (porridge) and French toast, but at the same time, it can be employed in savory dishes (marinade, baked beans or BBQ sauces), as a substitute for sugar (applesauce, candied sweet potatoes, winter squash, pies, breads, cakes, candy, tea, coffee, fudge and milkshakes) or to flavor desserts as well as baked goods (mousse, panna cotta, biscuits, fritters, ice cream and cereals). A very versatile and unique ingredients that tastes heavenly. Its wonderful warm hints of caramel with overtones of toffee make it an exquisite, irresistible and must have item that should be found in any kitchen!

So, when I discovered that the April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge, hosted by Evelyne of the blog "Cheap Ethnic Eatz", was all about maple syrup, I was delighted by the idea. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a "Maple Mousse" in an edible container. That sounded promising even if I must say that I didn't find it to be as adventurous as I would have wished it to be (maybe I have become a blasé "experienced" baker who is in need of riskier and more off the beaten track challenges - I still have to learn a lot, but I feel that I have to take it a step further).

As I didn't have much time left to make anything too elaborated before the deadline, I opted for "Maple Mousse & Mahlab Tartlets". I was sure that the mousse would be the ideal filling for my sweet tartlet shells and that the refined flavor of mahlab (a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern aromatic spice made with the seeds of the St Lucie cherries) would blend perfectly with that of the maple syrup.

As expected, my fuss-free tartlets were to die for. The flaky pastry had an ethereal heady aroma of cherries and almonds, and the airy mousse was delightfully light and pleasa
ntly creamy as well as rich, earthy and smokey tasting. A terrific combo!

Maple Tartlets Picnik collage 1 bis
~ Maple Mousse & Mahlab Tartlets ~
Recipe for the tartlets by myself and the mousse by Webgrrl74 at "Jamie Oliver Is Not My Boyfriend".

Makes 8 tartlets (I divided the mousse ingredients by two and it was just enough for my 8 tartlets).

Ingredients for the "Sweet Crust":
175g (6 oz) Plain flour

3/4 Tsp Mahlab
35g (1 1/4 oz) Castor sugar

1/2 Tsp Sea salt
85g Unsalted butter
1 Egg yolk
2-3 Tbs Cold water

Ingredients for the "Maple Mousse":
1 Cup (240ml/8 fluid oz.) Pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
4 Large egg yolks
1 Package (7g/1 Tbs) Unflavoured gelatine
1 1/2 Cups (360ml/12 fluid oz) Whipping cream (35% fat content)

Method for the "Seet Crust":
1. Place the flour, mahlab, castor sugar, salt and butter into a food processor.
2. Mix at full speed until evenly blended.
3. Combine the egg yolk with the water and add to the mixture.
4. Mix until just combined and a soft dough comes together.

5. Wrap the dough in platic wrap and place for about 10 minutes in the refrigerator.
6. Preheat the oven to 190° C (175° F).
7. Press the pastry evenly into 8 greased tartlet moulds.

8. Prick the bases with a fork.
9. Line with baking paper and add the
weights (or beans).
10. Place the tartlets in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes.
11. Bake blind for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and bake for another 5-6 minutes.
12. Remove from the moulds and let cool on a rack.

Maple Tartlets Picnik collage 3 bis
Method for the "Maple Mousse":
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmerin g water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your tartlet shells.

Wrapped airtight, the dough can be kept in the ref
rigerator for up to 2 days or frozen for a month.
Baked crusts can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for about 1 day.
In the maple mousse recipe, after the gelatine has bloomed (softened) in the cold whipping cream, the gelatine must be heated to melt completely, but never let gelatine b
oil or it will become stringy and unusable.

Serving suggestions:
Serve with whipped cream and accompany with a good coffee, ice coffe or a glass of ice cold milk.


Etant donné la longueur du texte original, je n'ai malheureusement pas p u faire une traduction française de ce billet et je m'en excuse auprès de tous mes amis lecteurs et blogueurs francophones!

C'est pourquoi je vous suggère de vous rendre sur le blog mentionné ci-dessous. Vous y trouverez cette recette de mousse en version française.

Chez Isa de "Les Gourmandises d'Isa" (Canada)

MAple Tartlets Picnik collage 5 bis

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Rambling Epicure
Scone sandwich 2 bis 1
"There is more to sandwiches than two slices of bread."

Please head over to The Rambling Epicure site if you want to read my latest article on sandwiches and discover my recipe for my "Cheddar, Bacon & Egg Scone Sandwich".

Scone sandwich 1bis 1 TRE bis

Friday, April 22, 2011


Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 1 bis
Bamboo plate supplied by (plastic plates & catering supplies).

Book review - Critique De Livre

I am a keen baker and cook, and have been practising my skills for the last thirteen years, yet while I love to be adventurous and try new dishes, there are still a few (many actually) recipes I haven't got around to testing.
.. /// Je suis une passionnée de cuisine et ça fait maintenant à peu près treize ans que j'éguise mes "talents" de cuisinière/boulangère, mais malgré le fait que j'aime les challenges et que je n'ai pas peur de tester de nouveaux plats, il y a encore certaines recettes (un bon nombre, en fait) que je n'ai pas encore eu la possibilité d'essayer...

For example, although I adore cocoa-based treats and have been making my own truffles for a long time now, it wasn't until last week that I prepared my first moulded chocolates. The reason for being a total virgin in that field is because I lack confidence and constantly denigrate my talents, I have always shied away from that exercise as I found it quite intimidating and I believed it was too technical for me. /// Bien que j'adore les gourmandises à base de cacao et que je fabrique mes propres truffes depuis longtemps, je n'ai préparé mes premiers chocolats moulés que dernièrement. Comme je manque de confiance et dénigre constamment mes capacités, j'ai toujours évité d'en faire car cette activité m'intimidait et j'imaginais que c'était trop technique pour moi.

So, I was really excited to get the lovely Easter chocolate box set that my contact at Larousse Cuisine graciously sent me. In that way, I had absolutely no excuse not to tackle chocolate making as I now had a dedicated cookbook written by Rosalba de Magistris (who is a formative chef working at Alain Ducasse's cookery school in Paris), a thermometer and a couple of silicone as well as plastic moulds. /// De ce fait, je fus très contente de recevoir le coffret "L'atelier Chocolats De Pâques" que les Editions Larousse m'ont gentiment fait parvenir. De cette manière je n'avais plus aucune excuse pour le pas me lancer dans la confection de chocolats maison car équipée du livret écrit par Rosalba de Magistris (qui est chef formateur à l'école de cuisine d'Alain Ducasse à Paris), du petit thermomètre, du moule à œuf et des 2 plaques en silicone, j'allais pouvoir me donner à coeur joie.

This miniature and charmingly illustrated book offers 20 recipes for various chocolates and other confections that will please adult and children alike. Whether you like white, milk or dark chocolate, chocolate-oriented sweet courses, cakes or candies you'll find many great ideas in this publication (panna cotta nests, marzipan bites, shells filled with Tiramisù, festive brioche bread, decorated shortbreads, coconut filled delights, praline or meringue chocolates, etc...). /// Ce livre miniature et joliment illustré propose 20 recettes de chocolats et d'autres confiseries qui plairont tout autant aux enfants qu'aux adultes. Que vous appréciez les bouchées au chocolat blanc, au lait ou noir, que vous raffoliez de desserts à base de chocolat, de cakes ou bien de bonbons, vous serez enchantés par les nombreuses idées contenuent dans cette publication (nids en panna cotta, bouchées en pâte d'amandes, tiramisù en coque, brioche de Pâques, petits sablés multicores, chocolats fourrés à la noix de coco, oeufs aux éclats de meringues, bouchées aux pralines, etc...).

In that way, you'll be able to surprise your children, friends and family with memorable and touching chocolaty gifts, serve your guests elaborate desserts, decorate your Easter dinner table with your cute creations, recycle the leftover chocolates that you haven't eaten during the festivities and let your imagination flow. /// Grâce à ce coffret vous pourrez ravir vos enfants, amis et votre famille avec vos cadeaux chocolatés, présenter des desserts raffinés à vos invités, décorer votre table de Pâques avec vos adorables créations, recycler le trop de chocolats que vous n'aurez pa pû finir durant les fêtes et laisser parler votre imagination.

Perfect for beginners and amateurs confectioners! /// Parfait pour les débutants et amateurs chocolatiers!


Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 5 bis
As I'm a big fan of praline paste and wanted to create my own shaped chocolate tidbits, I opted for making Rosalba's "Praline Chocolates". Being the squirrel that I am, my pantry contains tons of quality Swiss dark chocolate that I maniacally stock as if I were awaiting my building block to be taken by siege, I decided to sacrifice a few grams precious war provisions and substitute it for the milk chocolate her recipe calls for. I didn't use couverture chocolate either since I would not even know where to buy in Geneva (unlike, France, England or the US we have no stores specialised in bakery items and everything you find is basic, like a relic of the 60's and so outdated).

Anyway, the result was highly satisfying and my chocolates turned out really pretty. Tempering the chocolate was easy peasy as the whole process was straight-forward, fuss-free and rapid. I had lots of fun playing around in my kitchen and imagining that I was an artisan "chocolatier". As a matter of fact, this experience was so positive that I am considering purchasing material on the internet in order to learn more about this art and expand my knowledge...

The dainty "Praline Chocolates" I put together were shiny, very enjoyable and had
a pleasant creamy as well as melt-in-the-mouth texture. The nutty and caramelly flavors blended perfectly well with the intense and slight bitter taste of my 60% cocoa chocolate.


Like any other Christian country, Switzerland has many great celebrations at this moment of the year (though nobody should forget that before it was Christianized, Easter was a Pagan festival celebrating the spring equinox) even if my country is not only politically neutral, but it is also confessionally neutral, and nowadays most people are not too observant and care more for the festivities than for the religious obsevances. I find that it is something good since that leaves us the choice to follow whichever path we desire (I have no oficial religion myself), but unfortunately, as a result, Easter has become a shallow commemoration which is now extremely commercial and totally deprived of any meaning (stores already start selling decorations as well as candies way already in February)...

Anyway, it didn't stop me from loving Easter when I was a kid as I considered it to a kind of second Xmas. You see, where I live it is the custom to offer children chocolate bunnies of all shapes and flavors, colored sugar eggs, a bit of money and spring-themed stuffed toys, whereas adults generally receive chocolate boxes, bottles of wine or flowers. It is also the tradition for Close-knit families to gather on Easter Sunday and spend some time together around a lovely meal comprising of asparagus (white, green or wild), dandelion salad, eggs (hard-boiled or mimosa), lamb (leg, shoulder or fillet), young goat, fish (smoked or fresh salmon), meat terrines ("Pâtés en Croûte"), cheeses of all sorts, "Chocolate Mousse", "Floating Islands", "Rice Tart", "Rhubarb Tart", "Meringues" or "Salée A La Crème" (and much more depending on the canton where you live - I am only describing what I have experienced in Vaud and Geneva so bear with me if I have forgotten something. I am in no way trying to pass for the leading authority on that subject...).

When I was small, my parents and I had the habit of reuniting with the rest of our Swiss relatives from Vaud and my grandparents' home was the nevralgic center of all our activities. Regardless of the weather which could prove to be quite fierce (April showers/soakers & strong and piercing Northern wind) depending on how early Easter was, after lunch we would go out for a walk around the fields and then we would stop somewhere in order to roll my granny's herb/flower stenciled eggs down the meadow's banks. Me and my second cousins had a blast doing that. We ran around the place like Tasmanian devils, screamed similarly to howler monkeys and frantically tumbled on the lush grass. Those were happy days of insouciance. Oh, how I miss that and mourns the times when my grandparents were still alive and the family was not in war...

Then, after having dirtied our clothes, spent all our energy running after one another, having got a suntan, enjoyed the birds' frantic tweets and admired the joyously green landscapes, we headed back to my Mémé and Pépé's house. Our stomachs were beginning to rumble, so my grandfather and grandmother usually got busy in the kitchen. Since we had tons of cracked as well as exploded eggs left from the rolling and we had already eaten a banquet a few hours before, it was a custom for us to eat an evening dinner consisting of a delightfully palatable, refined, yet humble dandelion (hand picked by my grandfather) salad with speck (Swiss smoked bacon), hard-boiled egg, chopped onion and peppery vinaigrette. To conclude our meal, my grandmother treated us to a comforting mug of chicory café au lait (coffee milk). Just heavenly!

Those are truely precious memories. I am so glad that I have been able to experience these idyllic times and get a glimpse of how life in the countryside was in the past, before the frenzy of our modern world took over the normal course of things...


If you are looking for other Easter menu ideas, please have a look at my extensive list of festive dishes. I hope you'll find something interesting and that it will help you have a more stress-free holiday...

Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 6 bis
Bamboo plate supplied by (plastic plates & catering supplies).

~ Praliné Chocolate ~

Recipe adapted from "Chocolats De Pâques" by Rosalba de Magistris.

Makes 16 mini chocolates.

200g Milk or dark chocolate (couverture, preferably)
1 Tbs Praline paste (recipe here, use 100g hazelnuts and 100g almonds)

1. Put 2/3 of the chocolate in a bowl and make it melt over a casserole using the bain-marie method (the bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan).
2. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate has completely melted.
3. Measure the temperature. It should reach 45° C (108 ° F) for dark chocolate and 40°-45° C (104°-108° F) for milk chocolate.
4 . Remove the bowl from the bain-marie and add the 1/3 of the chocolate that is left.
5. Place the bowl containing the melted chocolate into another bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes. Stir with a spatula to cool.
6. Measure the temperature again. It should reach 27 °C (81° F) for dark chocolate and 23°-25° C (73°-77° F) for milk chocolate.
7 . As soon as the chocolate has reached the desired temperature, put the bowl back over the bain-marie in order to make the temperature rise again and reach 32° C (90° F) for dark chocolate and 29°-30° C (84°-86° F) for milk chocolate. Stir gently with a spatula and incorporate the praline paste.
8. Pour the chocolate into the moulds and gently tap to release any trapped air bubbles.
9. Place the moulds in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, then using a scraper carefully scrape the excess chocolate from the top of the moulds.
10. Once again, place the moulds in the refrigerator and leave them there for about 1 hour.
11. Delicately, unmolds the chocolates.

Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 3 bis
Couverture chocolate is the only chocolate that can be tempered as it's made specially for that purpose, but you can use any cooking chocolate as long as you chop it finely before you melt it (follow the same method as described previously).
You can also omit using praline paste and incorporate spices (cinnamon, cloves, coriand
er, curry, tonka, etc...) or finely chopped dried/candied fruits (apricots, cranberries, candied ginger, etc...) instead.
The chocolates can be kept for a week in an air-tight box, in a cool place.
There are a multitude of elegant ways to serve those chocolates (in boxes, jars, crystal/glass bowls, on large serving platters…).

Serving suggestions:
Do you really need me to tell you how to eat those chocolates? No! I thought so...
Just don't overstuff yourself or you'll feel queasy!


Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 2 bis
~ Chocolats Au Praliné ~
Recette adaptée de "Chocolats De Pâques" par Rosalba de Magistris.

Pour 16 petits chocolats.

200g de Chocolat au lait ou noir (de couverture, de préférence)
1 CS de Pralin (recette, utiliser 100g de noisettes et 100g d'amandes)

1. Mettre les 2/3 du chocolat dans une jatte et le faire fondre dans une casserole au bain-marie en veillant à ce que la jatte ne touche pas le fond de la casserole.
2. Remuer avec une spatule et faire fondre le chocolat complètement.
3. Mesurer la température. Elle devrait atteindre les 45° C pour du chocolat noir et 40-45° C pour le chocolat au lait.
4 . Retirer aussitôt le chocolat du bain-marie et ajouter les 1/3 de chocolat restants.
5. Placer dans un bol rempli d’eau froide et de glaçons, puis remuer sans arrêt avec la spatule pour faire refroidir le chocolat.
6. Contrôler de nouveau la température du chocolat (elle doit atteindre 27 °C pour le chocolat noir et entre 23° C et 25° C pour le chocolat au lait).
7 . Dès que le chocolat a atteint cette température, remettre la jatte dans le bain-marie pour faire remonter la température. Elle doit atteindre les 32° C pour le chocolat noir et 29°-30° C pour le chocolat au lait. Remuer doucement le chocolat avec la spatule et incorporer le pralin.
8. Couler le chocolat dans les moules en silicone et les tapoter sur le plan de travail afin d'enlever les bulles d'air.
9. Mettre les moules au réfrigérateur pendant 10 minutes, puis nettoyer les bords à l'aide d'une spatule en râclant l'excédant de chocolat.
10. Remettre les moules au réfrigérateur pendant 1 heure.
11. Démouler délicatement les chocolats.

Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 4 bis
Seul le chocolat de couverture, spécialement conçu pour être travaillé en pâtisserie, peut être tempéré, mais il vous est aussi possible d'utiliser du chocolat pâtissier en tablette (il vous faudra le hacher) et de procéder sans problème de la même manière.
Au lieu d'incorporer le praliné, vous pouvez ajouter des épices (cannelle, coriandre, tonka, curry, girofle, etc...) ou des fruits secs/confits hachés finement (abricots, cranberries, gingembre confit, etc...).
Les chocolat se gardent pendant une semaine dans une boite hermétique placée dans un lieu frais.
Il existe une multitude de façon de présenter ces petits chocolats (dans des boîtes, bocaux, bols en verre/cristal, sur une assiette…).

Idées de présentation:
Est-il vraiment nécessaire que je vous dise comment manger ces chocolats? Non! C'est bien ce que je pensais....
Par contre n'en abusez pas autrement vous vous sentirez quelaue peu nauséeux!

Easter Chocolates Picnik collage 7 bis

Friday, April 15, 2011


Biscotti Picnik collage 1 bis
"Biscotti" (pronounced "bee-scoat-tee") are relatively new to me. Actually, a few years ago (about 6 years ago) I had no clue what they were. That is quite understandable if you consider the fact that I've lived all my life in Switzerland and never travelled to Italy (I passed through that country when going to Greece, but I doubt that this can qualify for holidays) nor to America where this speciality is widespread...

I was introduced to these Italian cookies when I received James McNair and Andrew Moore's "Afternoon Delights" for my birthday in 2003. It was love at first sight. The very second I lay my eyes on the picture that illustrated their "Almond Biscotti" recipe I knew that I had to bake them immediately in order to satisfy my curiosity. Since then I have not seized being a big fan of this crispy treat.

Before I moved away from home and started cooking for myself, I had never really tasted any Italian pastry apart from "Amaretti Macaroons" and knew absolutely nothing about "Biscotti". Here in Switzerland, the only biscuits that can be compared to them are oven-dried brioche slices called "Zwiebacks".
Although they taste more like sweet bread than cookies and are far from being as sweet or having an identical shape, I always enjoyed eating those delicious rusks.

The reason why I like "Biscotti" so much is because they remind me of "Zwiebacks" and bring back memories of my Vaudois Pépé & Mémé (grandpa & grandma) whom I lost long ago - my granny died at the age of 92 in 1992 and my granddad passed away at the age of 98
in 1998.

I will never forget the times my parents and I visited my grandparents in Champvent. Since we had no car, getting there was a real journey and it was so exciting for the kid I was. After having rode on the InterCity for a good 45 minutes we then arrived in the little city of Yverdon-les-Bains where we hopped on the cute scenic Yverdon-Sainte-Croix train which I was really fond of the bumpity bump sound that the wheels made and adored it's haunting hoots. This filled me with intense pleasure and send shivers down my spine. As it rushed speedily through the lush countryside (it was going so fast that we had to hold on tight to the bars), went through thick and dark forests and stopped in dainty stations, I could not have been a more happier girl. I felt like an adventurer on a mission in a far away land. This feeling grew even stronger when we stepped out of the train in the middle of nowhere in Essert-sous-Champvent. Our trip hadn't ended exactly. This location was situated at least 20 minutes by foot from our destination which meant that we still had to take a 2 kilometers hike through the fields in order to arrive in the village and finally step a foot in my grandparents' house.

In the good old days (in the 90's - that makes me sound old, I know...), Switzerland was a safe place to live and nobody used to lock themselves in (it is still quite secure, but not as much as before - now we have our share of extreme violence too). In the rural areas people even left their front door wide open during the summer. So, to enter my grandparents house there was no need to ring the doorbell or knock. We simply stepped in the corridor and were immediately welcomed by an ethereal smell of food and went straight to the kitchen where my grandmother, who was a brilliant cook, was preparing our 100% homemade lunch which generally consisted of a seasonal soup (onion soup, nettle soup, potato soup, etc...), a salad (homegrown lettuce or hand-picked dandelion leaves), either a stew ("Lapin A La Crème"/Rabbit in Sour Cream & Mustard Sauce - the rabbits were raised and butchered by my grandfather) a "rôti" (roast) or a "bouilli" (beef from which bouillon or soup has been made) and meringues with thick golden cream scraped from the top of the milk basin (until the 90's my grandparents bought all their cheese, milk and butter from the village dairy - just like in the past), canned sour cherries and Kirsch (I had that too and loved it eventhough I was a child. As you can see it didn't turn me into an alcoholic or kill me...).

After lunch both my grandparents had the habit of napping for about one hour after each meal (was it the key to their longevity?) and then getting on with their daily chores (housework and taking care of the garden). Generally, while they were working, we went out for long walks around the area which is considered to be Vaud's "granary" and abound in walking excursions as well as picturesque villages with Medieval manor houses and castles. The rustic Gros-de-Vaud landscapes are delightfully pastoral, so soft and inviting.

Biscotti Picnik collage 4 bis
When we came back, we were always greeted by either a "Salée A La Crème" or a "Gâteau" (people in Vaud commonly use the term "Gâteaux" to describe "Tarts") made with homegrown fruits (berries of all kinds - check out my "Blackberry Tart", apples and rhubarb - not a fruit, I know). Our little trip had made us extremely hungry, so those freshly baked and mindblowingly ambrosial delicacies were accepted with much enthusiasm. My grandmother's pastries were some of the best I have ever eaten. My Mémé was an extraordinary homecook and baker who made amazing dishes from scratch, prepared to most gorgeous family-style "Cuisine Bourgeoise" (pronounce "kwee zeen boor jwaz" - it refers to plain, but good down-to-earth cuisine), taught my 20 years old mother the basics of cooking/baking and showed her how to put a meal together.

My grandmother might not have been a woman who expressed her feelings, but she was always generous when it came to filling our stomachs. I cannot recall having ever starved while staying at my gradparents' home. I guess it was her way of showing that she cared for us. As we all know, "love goes through the stomach"...

Sometimes, if I was craving more food in the afternoon, my grandmother gave me a few "Zwiebacks" to nibble on. Those were generally eaten for breakfast in place of bread, but as a child I preferred to snack on them.
Since then, that item is closely linked to that period of my life.

So, in addition to awaking memories of my Mémé, "Biscotti" are nooks which also remind me of the Renaissance. I like to imagine that noble women and men dressed fashionably with romantic-looking custumes made of rich fabrics (silk, velvet and muslim) sat on their terrasses overlooking the fluid green hills of Tuscany and chattered courteously while dipping their crunchy crullers in Vin Santo. Just like the scene in a Botticelli fresco!


"Biscotti" are also known as "Cantuccini" or "Biscotti Di Prato". They are supposed to hail from the city of Prato in Italy (similar cookies exist in France - "Croquignole" - and Spain - "Carquinyoli" -) and their name comes from the Medieval latin word "biscoctus" meaning "twice-baked/cooked". It seems that hundreds of years before being consumed by sailors and adventurers in the 15th century (both Marco Polo and Columbus are supposed to have brought "Biscotti" with them on their journeys), they were already being eaten by the Roman Legions. They were enjoyed by travellers of all kinds is because they had good keeping properties (they lasted for a long while without going bad).

At the origin, those crullers were flavored with aniseeds, but nowadays, many sweet and savory variants exist (chocolate, candied fruits, pumpkin, raisins/currants, dried cranberries, cheese, olives, herbs, nuts of all kinds, different types of flour, etc...). "Biscotti" are very popular in their country of birth, but are also much appreciated by cookie lovers all over Europe and the USA. Recently, they have become very trendy and it is not difficult to buy them from bakers, coffee shops or supermarkets anymore. Although they are all generally rocklike in texture, it is to be said that some of them vary in rigidity. The Italian "Biscotti" are harder and denser than their American cousins which are lighter are more tender, thus still being appropriate for dipping.

The recipe I have decided to publish today was adapted
from "The Cookies Companion" by King Arthur Flour. Having not tested that many different "Biscotti" as I tend to use the same recipe over and over and being somebody who is an amateur of spices, I thought that a little change in the routine might be good, so it is all naturally that I was drawn towards KAF's "Italian-Style Cinnamon And Raisin Biscotti".

Despite the fact that one has to have healthy teeth to bite into this confection and feels a little like a horse champing on dry bread when masticating on it, it is nonethelss terribly addictive. The dreamlike aromas of cinnamon and vanilla blend perfectly well with the molassy flavor of the rasins, thus making those lightly sweet "Biscotti" extremely palatable.

A fabulous breakfast, teatime or evening treat that must be on every Easter table, especially if they are dunked into warm melted chocolate!

Biscotti Picnik collage 7 bis
~ Italian-Style Cinnamon & Raisin Biscotti ~
Recipe adapted from
"The Cookies Companion" by King Arthur Flour.

Makes about 14-16 biscotti.

2 Large eggs

2/3 Cup (143g) Castor sugar

1/2 Tsp Baking powder
3/4 Tsp Fine sea salt
1 Tsp Pure bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

2 Tsp Ground cinnamon
1 Cup (160g) Raisins
2 Cups (255g) Unbleached all purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180° C (350°F) and lightly grease a baking sheet (or line with parchment or a silicon mat).
2. In a medium bowl, mix the cinnamon, raisins and flour together. Set aside
3. Combine the eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is light in color and falls back into the bowl in ribbons if you lift up the beater blade.
4. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and gradually add in the flour. M
ix just until the flour is fully incorporated.
5. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and shape it into a flat loaf (14 inches/35cm long and 2.5 inches/6cm large).

Biscotti Picnik collage 2 bis
6.Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170° C (325° F).
7. Allow the baked loaf to cool for about 15 minutes.
8. Mist the loaf lightly with water and let it rest for another 5 minutes (this will help to prevent it from cracking/crumbling when slicing).
9. Once the loaf has rested, transfer it to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to slice the biscotti (diagonally to produce long biscotti or horizentally if you want smaller biscotti).
10. Return the slices to the baking sheet (standing up) and bake for an additional 20 – 25 minutes.
11. Transfer the slices to a wire rack and let cool completely.

You can replace the raisins by other dried fruits or nuts (chopped coarsely).
If you wish, subsitute the cinnamon with any other spice of your choice.

Serving suggestions:
Eat for breakfast, teatime or as an in-between snack and accompany with a good capuccino, espresso, a small glass of Vin Santo or Porto.
You can also dunk them in melted chocolate.


Biscotti Picnik collage 6 bis
~ Biscotti Italiens A La Cannelle Et Aux Raisins Secs ~
Recette adaptée du livre "The Cookies Companion" par King Arthur Flour.

Pour 14-16 biscotti.

2 Gros oeufs

143g Sucre cristallisé
1/2 CC de Poudre à lever
3/4 CC de Sel de mer fin
1 CC de Pâte de vanille pure (ou d'extrait de vanille pure)
2 CC de Cannelle en poudre
160g de Raisins secs
255g de Farine blanche


1. Préchauffer le four à 180° C et recouvrir une plaque de cuisson avec du papier sulfurisé ou avec un silpat.
2. Dans un bol moyen, mélanger ensemble la cannelle, les raisins et la farine. Mettre de côté.
3. Dans le bol d'un robot électrique réunir les oeufs, le sucre, la poudre à lever, le sel et la vanille. Battre à vitesse moyenne afin que le mélange soit pâle et retombe en rubans si on soulève le batteur.
4. Réduire la vitesse et ajouter la farine petit à petit. Mélanger (pas trop) jusqu'à ce que la farine soit complètement incorporée.

5. Mettre la pâte sur la plaque de cuisson et former en un rectangle de 35cm long et de 6cm de large.
6. Cuire pendant 25 minutes, puis sortir du four et réduire la température à 170° C.

Biscotti Picnik collage 5 bis
7. Laisser le "pain" refroidir pendant environ 15 minutes.
8. Pulvériser de l'eau et le laisser reposer encore pendant 5 minutes supplémentaires (cela empêche le "pain" de craquer et de s'émietter pendant la découpe).
9. Une fois ce temps de repos respecté, placer le "pain" sur une planche à découper et couper en tranches avec un couteau bien éguisé (en diagonal pour obtenir des biscotti longs ou tel un cake/horizentalement si on désire des tranches plus courtes).
10. Placer les tranches sur la plaque (debout et pas couchées) et cuire pendant encore 20 – 25 minutes.
11. Faire refroidir complètement les tranches sur une grille métallique.

Vous pouvez remplacer les raisins par d'autres fruits secs ou des noix (coupés en morceaux grossiers).
Si vous le désirez, il vous est possible de remplacer la cannelle par l'épice (en poudre) de votre choix.

Idées de présentation:
Servir ces biscotti pour le déjeuner, à l'heure du thé ou comme en-cas et accompagner d'un capuccino, d'un espresso, d'un petit verre de Vin Santo ou de Porto.
Il vous est aussi possible de les tremper dans du chocolat fondu encore tiède.

Biscotti Picnik collage 3 bis