Saturday, February 6, 2010

snow picnic IV

As soon as I started this project I knew I wanted to make île flottante-- they are actually a pretty homey french dessert, but I had always thought of them as elegant. The îles are meringue "islands" floating in a crème anglaise and garnished with some sort of caramel. You can make them by poaching the meringues in milk or by baking them in the oven. I tried both ways as poaching just sounded more authentic to me and baking sounded like it would look prettier. The poached ones looked gross and the baked ones actually tasted indistinguishable. They don't get crunchy at all in this preparation. The crème anglaise I used is actually melted dairy free coconut milk ice cream, which originally I did because I can't handle all the cream in a real crème anglaise, (lactose intolerant) but it was actually so good that I think I may try and work out a coconut milk crème anglaise recipe. I drizzled my île with salt caramel that I had in the fridge, but I think I crunchy praline may have been better for a little texture in retrospect.

My next snow dessert is pistachio torrone. Torrone is one of those things that you love or hate- I love it. And it worked with my color palette brilliantly. It is actually surprisingly easy to make from scratch-- it does require some basic candy making techniques but as long as you follow a good recipe you'll be fine. The image after the little stack of torrone is a still from Christmas in Connecticut.

When the now defunct Gourmet :( published their vintage cookie recipes two(?) years ago I obsessively downloaded all of them. There is very little that I enjoy more than researching and testing vintage recipes and cookbooks. The Navettes Sucrées immediately grabbed my attention and I have since made them a couple of times. They are easy and tasty- don't be put off by the old fashioned style of recipe writing. It's a buttery cookie with a kind of crispy sugar carapace (I love that word...) They have since taken the recipe off the website, but since it was initially available without subscription I think it's ok to post it below.

Navettes Sucrées (Sugar Shuttles)
December 1951
Sugar Shuttles

“Sugar shuttles?” we asked ourselves. It seemed too early to be a reference to space travel. But we dug a little and found that these cigar-shaped cookies resemble the device that holds the thread on a loom or sewing machine. In any case, they’re a real taste of the past—crisp and shaggy on the outside with a cakelike crumb. This is one old-fashioned cookie that’s ready for a comeback.

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft butter
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup soft butter, 2 egg yolks, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and knead until the dough is well blended. Chill it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Divide the dough into portions the size of a small walnut. Roll each piece of dough with the palm of the hand on a lightly floured board to give it the shape of a small sewing-machine shuttle. Dip each in egg white and roll in granulated sugar. Bake on a lightly buttered baking sheet in a moderate oven (350° F.) for about 8 minutes, or until the little cookies are lightly browned.

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