Friday, May 23, 2008


I'd like to think of myself as a pretty good cook. I'm not sure I'd be able to put dinner on the table every night like my mom used to do, but I have a decent sized repertoire of memorized recipes and can even improvise with mostly edible results. I enjoy cooking as a hobby and have a weakness for buying tools, gadgets and decorations for the kitchen. Living in the world capital of cuisine, this both poses a problem and is a continuous source of amusement. On the one hand, I want to buy (at a great detriment to my bank account) every single utensil, pan and serving dish I come across. On the other hand, finding great ingredients, new recipe ideas and some expert local help is a breeze.

Just yesterday I learned how to make five new delicious French desserts. My visiting DC friend is herself a bit of a foodie, with an exceptional weakness for baking, so I readily accepted her suggestion that we take a cooking class together while she is in town. We were not disappointed. The menu included pears simmered in red wine, vanilla-flavored raspberry crème brulée, gâteau au chocolat, almond paste tarts and the classic French madelines. After our gracious and patient chef walked us through the recipes, he poured us some white wine as we proceeded to devour each of them in succession. Except the madelines. Apparently four is the maximum number of desserts that can be consumed in less than thirty minutes.

When you see cakes and tarts and various other French desserts in a restaurant or a pâtisserie, it's easy to think that the chef slaved over them for hours. More than once I've found myself thinking that I could never do what I've seen done by the experts. It looks like it would be so complicated! But the wonderful truth is that they're not difficult to make at all. The sweets we created needed only a few ingredients and took mere minutes to prepare. I'm looking forward to getting the recipes by email so I can try them myself at home. What a good excuse to go out and buy that tart pan I've had my eyes on...

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