I’ve slowly been giving up on trying to bake whatever it is I feel like over here. The ingredients just aren’t available, and it is so frustrating. That’s one thing I took for granted in Canada – the assumption that absolutely anything you want is going to be available … somewhere. Here, not as much. Try finding graham wafer crumbs, a really nice baking ingredient for dessert crusts. And yet, just doesn’t exist here. Or, it does, but I have to make an extra trip to the American Store, and that place was just not what I was expecting.
I’d heard about the American Store before, a place where expats can go to find their Kraft Dinner and whatever else they’ve been craving from home. I thought it was only in Nyon, a village about a half hour outside of Geneva (going the opposite direction from me!) so I hadn’t been there yet. Until I discovered that there was another store, right in Geneva. Z and I took an excursion out on the weekend to discover what they had. I was sort of imagining coming home laden with goods from home, lots of baking stuff I couldn’t find anywhere else. It was going to be glorious. What I did find took my breath away.
Or rather, the prices did. A small box of regular Cheerios? 12 francs. Same for a box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal (8 packages in a box). We weren’t even able to get KD, since it was sold out, but if we had, it would have been 4 francs a box. We ended up spending 75 francs on: a box of Cheerios, the oatmeal, a box of graham wafer crackers (which I use a hammer to reduce to crumbs), a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce and two very small bottles of Clamato. Ridiculous.
I think the only option is, if you can’t beat em, join em. For my Christmas get-together, I focused on making foods that come from this area – well, mainly french appetizers. I have two great recipes for savoury cookies that went over like wildfire, and the best thing is I didn’t have to beat myself up to find the ingredients. French cooking is often simple when it comes to ingredients – just take a few quality ingredients and treat them right to make something delicious. Everything is butter-based. I have gone through so much butter in the last few weeks, it kind of terrifies me, kind of excites me. These two recipes are both fairly easy to do. Not quite as easy as drop cookies, but close. And so yummy. Both are found in My French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen, by Clotilde Dusoulier.
Goat Cheese Rosemary Sables
I love these for being rich, dense, with just a hint of that delicious goat cheese flavour. They are tiny, but you don’t need to eat many!
8 oz fresh goat cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tbsp dried
2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In medium bowl, mash the goat cheese with rosemary, salt, honey, pepper, olive oil and egg yolks (I added a healthy sprinkle of ground sage here, too).
Stir in the flour. When most of it is absorbed, turn out the mixture onto a clean work surface and knead gently until it comes together into a smooth ball of dough. Add a little bit more flour if needed.
Divide into 4 equal pieces and roll each into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for one hour. This makes a lot – I usually bake up half of the dough now. The rest of the dough I wrap up tightly and store in the freezer for next time – always great to have some easy to make appies on hand!
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take one log out of the freezer and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough, working in batches.
Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cook completely.
Z went crazy for these. It’s a basic choux pastry, and reminded him of his mother’s cooking growing up – a huge compliment to me, I think. They are a little more work intensive, as they have to be piped onto a cookie sheet, but it’s not so bad. The different flavourings gives greater diversity to your appetizer plate, as well.
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
In medium saucepan, combine butter, salt and milk and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until well blended and smooth. Return the pan to medium-low heat and keep stirring until the dough leaves a thin film at the bottom of the pan, indicating that the excess water has evaporated, about three minutes.
Let cool in the pan, off the heat, for three minutes. Add the pepper and generous sprinkle of nutmeg. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
Divide the dough into three equal parts. Fold the cheese into the first, the parsley into the second and the cumin seeds into the third. Scoop each into a small freezer bag, press the air out and zip or tie shut.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Snip off one corner of one freezer bag to create a small hole and pipe small round mounds of dough onto the parchment paper, about 1 inch in diameter, leaving 1 inch space between them. Repeat with the other two bags.
Bake, without opening oven doors during the first 10 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.