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Maple Walnut Cream Tart

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I’m pretty sure I won’t need many words to convince you that this dessert is holiday-worthy. It looks spectacular, but tastes even better. The crust and glazed walnuts can be made in advance, and assembling the tart is as quick as whipping a cup of cream, making it perfect for a busy day. Its deep maple flavor makes it addictive, but its light texture won’t make anyone feel guilty for indulging.

What I found most intriguing in this tart is the use of crushed unsalted crackers in the crust. I was doubtful at first, but it turns out that they are indiscernible in the baked result: they only help giving body to the meringue crust. While you can make the crust the day you plan on serving it, it’s even better if you can make it ahead and store it overnight in the fridge. Resting gives it a slightly chewy texture that’s especially delightful against the silky whipped cream.

Makes one 9.5-inch [25-cm] tart

For the crust
½ cup [125 ml] granulated maple sugar
½ cup [125 ml] white sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp [30 ml] dark maple syrup, divided
¾ cup [180 ml] chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup [180 ml] unsalted soda crackers (or unsalted water crackers), crushed
1 tsp [5 ml] baking powder

For the candied nuts
¼ cup [60 ml] dark maple syrup
16 walnut halves

For the whipped topping
1 cup [250 ml] heavy whipping cream
¼ cup [60 ml] dark maple syrup

To serve
Coarse maple sugar (optional)

Preheat oven at 350°F [175°C]. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9.5-inch [25-cm] tart pan (a pan with a removable bottom is ideal).

Combine white and maple sugars in a small bowl. Put egg whites and salt in a large mixing bowl and beat them together at high speed until soft peaks form. Keep whipping and slowly add the sugar mixture, two tablespoons at a time, until all the sugar is fully incorporated and stiff and glossy peaks form. Slowly mix in two tablespoons [30 ml] of maple syrup (do not overbeat!). Using a spatula, fold in the chopped walnuts, crushed crackers and baking powder. Spread the mixture into the prepared tart pan, taking care to make the sides high and the center thinner, so that there is good indentation to hold the maple whipped cream topping.

Bake the shell for 25 to 35 minutes or until the meringue is golden but not brown. Remove from the oven, and cool completely. Refrigerate the shell at least two hours, or preferably overnight.

To make the candied nuts: Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet or a large plate. Put the maple syrup in a non-stick skillet and add the walnut halves, coating them with syrup. Heat up the mixture over medium-high heat, letting the syrup bubble up around the nuts. When the syrup is very sticky and the nuts are coated, take off the heat and lift the nuts out of the pan one at a time to transfer them to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let cool completely (the syrup will harden as the nuts cool), then store in an airtight container. The nuts can be prepared several days in advance.

To serve: Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add ¼ cup [60 ml] maple syrup and whip the cream a bit more. Spread the cream in the meringue crust. Top with the candied walnuts, sprinkle with coarse maple sugar if desired, and serve. You can assemble the tart up to 4 hours ahead and store it in the fridge until service.

Maple Walnut Cream Tart // FoodNouveau.com

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Food 52.

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The Best and Easiest Butterscotch Sauce You’ll Ever Make

The Best (and Easiest) Butterscotch Sauce You’ll Ever Make // FoodNouveau.com

I’m a big fan of caramel, the kind that’s enjoyed from liquid to chewy, depending on the degree it reaches on a candy thermometer. The slightly burnt taste of caramel is unique and intriguing and my favorite way to enjoy it is by making Vanilla Caramels with Fleur de Sel, which are difficult to forget once you’ve had the chance to taste them.

Until recently, I’ll admit I was a bit of a snob regarding butterscotch sauce, which I saw as a cheap and unsubtle version of caramel you bought in jars at the grocery store. I know, that’s terribly judgmental, but let me reassure you, I’ve changed my mind since; in fact, I may have become one of the biggest butterscotch advocates you’ll ever meet. It all started when I wanted to make caramel sauce to give with my Brownies in a Jar so it could turn the dessert into a decadent treat. I did make a regular caramel but I wasn’t satisfied with the results: the taste felt too “adult” for the unpretentious dessert I wanted to make. Because I was using butterscotch chips in the dessert, making a butterscotch sauce was the next logical step. I whipped a batch in a few minutes, not really believing it would be that good considering how fast and easy it was to make. Well, let’s just say I’m eating it by the spoonful now.

The sauce is made with just 5 ingredients I’m sure you already have in your pantry and it will take you all of 10 minutes to make it. Don’t skimp on the quality of the vanilla extract you use in the recipe though; it literally makes the sauce. To make it extra special, add the seeds of a short piece of vanilla pod: the addition will transport your taste buds to a warm, exotic island.

There simply is no excuse not to try this amazing butterscotch sauce, but be aware that it’s highly addictive. Once you try it, you’ll be tempted to use it on anything and everything from crepes, waffles and pound cake to ice cream and roasted fruits – heck, I’d even dip cookies in it. Pour it in cute little jars and it makes for a beautiful, delightful and, yes, easy hostess gift.

The Best and Easiest Butterscotch Sauce Ever

Makes 1½ cups sauce (recipe can easily be halved)

See notes for additional information about the ingredients.
½ cup [125 ml / 1 stick] unsalted butter
1 cup [250 ml] packed brown sugar
1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream
½ to 1 tsp [2.5 to 5 ml] sea salt or fleur de sel
2 tsp [10 ml] best-quality pure vanilla extract (such as Nielsen-Massey)
Optional: Seeds scraped from a 1½-inch [4-cm] piece of vanilla bean

Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and ½ tsp [2.5 ml] salt and whisk until the ingredients are well blended. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds, if using, whisking to combine. Taste the sauce; if you feel it still needs a little salt, sprinkle more until you reach a flavor that makes your head spin with delight.

Serve the sauce warm or cool. The sauce does thicken a little as it cools, but it still remains soft enough that you can spoon it straight out of the fridge (very handy for sudden cravings!). Store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: 

  • Butter: Using unsalted butter is preferable because you control how salty your sauce becomes. If you only have semi-salted or salted butter, simply omit the salt, taste the sauce at the end, and adjust the seasoning if it needs it.
  • Best-quality vanilla extract: This is another thing I’m a snob about. You simply should never use cheap, $2 a bottle vanilla extract in any recipe; the taste just doesn’t cut it. Nielsen-Massey vanilla is a gourmet product, but a little goes a long way. For the past few years though, I’ve been making my own vanilla extract: it’s easy, you can refill the bottle endlessly, and it tastes just as good as the expensive stuff. Try it!
  • Salt: Don’t use regular table salt in this recipe. Its harsh taste would be much too strong for the sweet sauce. Any kind of sea salt (flaky or fine) is good, but for the best taste use fleur de sel, which has a deliciously subtle salty flavor that goes perfectly with sweets. Because every salt’s salting power varies widely, always add a little at a time, tasting as you go, to make you don’t ruin your caramel.
  • Lactose-free butterscotch sauce: Because I’m lactose-intolerant, I have tested the recipe both with regular butter and cream and with goats’ milk butter and lactose-free cream. Both results were just as delicious (and showed very little difference in flavor), so feel free to use easier-to-digest substitutes if need be. Goats’ milk butter is fine for me, but I know it does contain some lactose, albeit much less than regular, cows’ milk butter. If you successfully make the sauce with another type of butter or cream (soy, rice, etc.), please let me know, I’ll be curious to try it!

Recipe Credit: Adapted from The Washington Post.

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Brownies in a Jar

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Brownies in a Jar // FoodNouveau.com

Every year, I plan and make an edible present that I give to my clients and friends who live out of town. This tradition started three years ago, a year after I decided to become freelance again. I was so grateful for the clients who had decided to trust me that I felt like I needed to say thank you in something other than words. Given that macarons are what launched Food Nouveau (which I started around the same time as my freelance career), they seemed like the perfect choice. I made a big batch of the dainty Parisian cookie and couriered the precious boxes to my (very happy) clients.

That first year set the bar pretty high, so the second year, I decided to bake a selection of my favorite cookies, and I reinvented the lineup for the third year and shared the recipes during last December’s Cookie Week. This yearly tradition became an opportunity for me to satisfy my love for crafts (which I don’t often get to indulge), as well as to create and assemble a different packaging and holiday card every year to ship the sweets.

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Brownies in a Jar // FoodNouveau.com

This year, because I was over eight months pregnant at the beginning of December, I didn’t see myself baking for hours on end, so I decided to hop on the “in a jar” bandwagon to gift what may very well be my favorite dessert: brownies. I used the proportions provided in Ricardo Magazine and personalized the recipe to my liking (adding pecans and butterscotch chips along the way). I also made an incredibly delightful butterscotch sauce to be drizzled on top of the brownies—for extra decadence—and provided more toppings to make the dessert gift- and holiday-worthy.

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Brownies in a Jar // FoodNouveau.com

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Help Me Discover the Best Kitchen Apps (and Win a Nexus 7 Tablet!)

Your New Best Friend in the Kitchen: Win a Nexus 7 Tablet // FoodNouveau.com

If you spied on me while I’m cooking in the kitchen, you’d likely see this scene: lots and lots of dirty dishes, food on the ground, a mountain of ingredients piled on the kitchen island, a corner of the butcher block kept clean for chopping – and a tablet set precariously on top of it all. Whether I use it to watch TV shows while I’m cooking or do a quick search for an ingredient substitution, my tablet is my best friend in the kitchen.

Up to now, the tablet I’ve been using is an iPad Mini, but recently Staples.ca have generously offered me the chance to test drive a brand new Nexus 7 tablet, which is Google’s latest and greatest release in the tablet world. While I’m still on the learning curve of using Android, I’m loving the way Google’s suite of tools (Gmail, Drive, Maps, etc.) is integrated into the operating system because they’re such an important part of my daily life, both as a freelancer and a food blogger. Also, I’m charmed by the tablet’s form factor: it’s as tall as my iPad Mini but a little narrower, which allows me to hold it comfortably with one hand. It also makes for a gorgeous wide-screen display once turned to the side. And speaking of gorgeous, the quality of the display is breathtaking: the colors are popping and the pixels are simply unnoticeable. Finally, the back of the tablet is covered in a matte black anti-scratch and anti-slip material, which allows me to use it without a protective case or cover, making it slimmer and lighter to carry.

While I’m still browsing through the Google Play store to discover Android apps that will make my life easier in the kitchen, I’m hoping you’ll help me through that process because guess what? I’m giving away one nifty Nexus 7 tablet to a lucky Canadian Food Nouveau reader, thanks to Staples.ca! Yes, you got that right: the winner of the tablet will be picked from the entries on this post, which makes your chances of winning incredibly high. Christmas has come early this year!

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below. There are several ways to enter the giveaway, so make sure to use as many as you like to increase your chances to win!

Important notes:

  • The giveaway is open to Canadian readers only (sorry US and worldwide friends!);
  • The lucky winner gets an ASUS Nexus 7 16 GB tablet (a $250 value!), which will be shipped directly by Staples.ca;
  • The giveaway period ends on December 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM (Eastern time).

Best of luck to all!

Many thanks to Staples.ca for making this giveaway possible!

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Kale, Sausage, and White Beans Soup

Kale, Sausage, and White Beans Soup // FoodNouveau.com

I’m in a bit of a food-hoarding mood these days, preparing for the upcoming baby. It seems like all moms I’ve ever chatted with have told me that freezing meals in the last few weeks before delivery was the best thing they did, so I’ve been flipping through our “Favorite Recipes” binder to pick dishes that can withstand freezing and still taste as delicious and satisfying once reheated. This is one such soup. Not only is it hearty enough to make a meal, but also its flavor is balanced and elegant so you could even serve it to company for a holiday lunch. Make a pot for a crowd, or split it in portions for many delectable meals to come.

Serves 6 to 8.

2 lbs [907 g] veal or Italian sausage
2 tbsp [30 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp [5 ml] chili pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, trimmed, chopped in small pieces
6 cups chicken stock
1 13.5 oz [398 ml] can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup [250 ml] cooked barley (or rice, or orzo)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Take the sausage meat out of the casings. Pinch off little sections of meat and roll them into mini-meatballs. That’ll make lots of meatballs, but that’s exactly what you want!

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the sausage meatballs until they are brown all over, about 7 minutes (work in batches, if necessary). Use a slotted spoon to take the meatballs out of the skillet and into a plate. Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes to the pot and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped kale and sauté until the kale is slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and cannellini beans, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cooked barley, mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle into bowls and serve sprinkled with shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Recipe Credit: Inspired by a recipe by Bev Cooks.

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau