Swiss Bread Recipe: Grappe de Miche

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The Swiss bake their bread in all different sizes and shapes, and in Suisse-Romande, there’s a loaf resembling a cluster of grapes—Grappe de Miches. Last weekend, when our small Swiss city celebrated the grape harvest with its annual te des vendanges (wine festival). I noticed two boulangeries with these festive loaves prominently displayed in their windows.

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With the start of October and cooler temperatures on the way, I will start baking again in earnest. This grape-inspired loaf seemed like a good way to kick of the season!


Grappe de Miche

Inspired by the  “Pain blanc en couronne” from Supertoinette.

(dairy, egg, nut and soy-free)

500 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
7 grams of dry active yeast
300 ml of water, very warm
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (plus about 1 tsp. more)

1. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a separate container, add the yeast to the warmed water and set aside for a few minutes to let it dissolve. Stir until it’s completely absorbed in the water.

3. Pour the yeast mixture and the sunflower oil into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir together until a dough forms. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it become smooth and elastic.

4. Add about 1 teaspoon of oil to a large bowl, and turn the kneaded dough in the oil mixture. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour, until it’s doubled in size.

5. Next, divide the dough into about 13 pieces. Form 10 round buns of equal proportions as the “grapes.” Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, as shown below, leaving a little room between the buns. Next prepare the decorations (I used a maple leaf cookie cutter and made a small grapevine) and place them on top. Finally, using the remaining dough to make a stem. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.

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6. Sprinkle the loaf generously with flour and bake at approximately 30 minutes at 200ºC/400ºF.

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7. When the top of the loaf is nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, then it’s done. We like eating this when it’s still warm, but the buns can be kept for a day or two, if they’re tightly wrapped in plastic.

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My 3-year old and I had a picnic yesterday with sandwiches made from our Grappe de Miche, while my 7-year old hiked along the lake with his school. I hope you have a wonderful first weekend of October. Bon week-end, all!

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Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!


Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients


Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).

Ingredients:

400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Instructions:

1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

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The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!

Recipe: Reine-Claude Coffee Cake

Reine Claude

What are Reine-Claudes? Maybe you know them as Greengages? Now after two years of living in French-speaking Switzerland, I finally discovered these little green plums with a sweet fresh flavor. Typically grown in southern France, we see Reine-Claudes at our farmers’ market and all the local grocery stores. Their size can vary, but most often they’re smaller than purple plums (pruneaux) and slightly larger than the yellow-hued Mirabelles.

Reine Claudes market

Reine Claude
Named after a 16th century French queen, these special Reine-Claudes have a distinct flavor and are really best eaten raw. Even so, I’m not a huge fan of plums—although I’m slowly acquiring a taste for them. Generally, I prefer them baked in a cake or tart.

Over the last few weeks of summer vacation (my son’s school year started on Monday already!?), I’ve been perfecting my recipe for a cake with Reine-Claudes. When I served my second test-cake to my father-in-law last week, he suggested calling it a coffee cake, given it’s overall appearance and texture. I agreed with him, and since I’m usually downing a large cup of coffee (or several) when eating cake, it seemed like a good name for my new recipe. I had lots of coffee cake growing up in Minnesota, and this one reminds me of one my mother used to make with a cinnamon-streusel topping—except it’s made without dairy and contains French plums befitting a queen!


Reine-Claude Coffee Cake

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Purple Plum Torte, a recipe adapted from Marian Burros’ Famous Purple Plum Torte from Elegant but Easy and The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

Tools:
A 9-inch round cake tin or springform pan
Parchment paper and/or dairy-free margarine for greasing the pan

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lemon

Topping:
About 8 Reine-Claudes (Greengages), pitted and halved
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons sliced almonds (optional)

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla sugar and margarine. Add one egg at a time, and combine until the mixture is smooth. Then stir in the lemon zest.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring together gently until combined, but do not overbeat. Put the cake batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly.

4. Place the Reine-Claudes face down and evenly dispersed on top of the cake batter. Then, sprinkle the lemon juice over the plums and the cake batter.

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5. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the top of the cake. Finally, sprinkle on the sliced almonds.

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6. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 180ºC/350ºF until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Best served warm, but also very good the next day!

Reine Claude Cake

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We’ve had a cool and rainy Swiss summer, so I’m hoping for a warm autumn season. Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the final weeks of summer.

Recipe: Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Petits Pains

Every year on August 1, Switzerland celebrates Swiss National Day. Here in Suisse romande, we know this holiday as Fête nationale or 1er août. Given the Swiss affinity for bread, it’s not surprising that there’s a special bun prepared for the holiday. Known as August-weggen (German), Pain du 1er août (French) or Panino del 1° agosto (Italian), the small and large versions are cut and baked to look like there’s a Swiss cross on top. They’re typically decorated with a small paper version of the red and white Swiss flag.

This year marks our first time celebrating Fête Nationale in Switzerland. Our first year here, we arrived one day after the celebration on Saturday, August 2, 2012. Now I understand why everything was so quiet the morning we drove from the airport in Zurich to our new home! The Swiss were sleeping in after a day of local celebrations and feasting—traditionally an outdoor brunch at a local farm—and watching fireworks late into the evening.

Instead of heading to a farm for a local brunch on Friday—which would undoubtedly have tables heaped with delicious Swiss cheeses and other milk and egg-filled dishes—we’re choosing to have our own picnic and bonfire at a local park. We’ll be roasting cervalas, often referred to as the Swiss national sausage, as well as marshmallows, to give our celebration an American twist. I’ll also be serving my own version of Petits Pains du 1er août, but mine will be made without dairy.


Rütli Meadow: The Birthplace of Switzerland

To give you some background, Swiss National Day commemorates the founding of Switzerland in 1291. The story goes that the leaders of three cantons—Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri—came together at the Rütli Meadow to form a strategic alliance. The pact made by these three original cantons ultimately led to the formation of Switzerland and the 26 cantons we know today (there’s a great video from Swissinfo.ch with some beautiful images of Rütli and more detailed info about its history).

We visited the Rütli Meadow earlier this month when we stayed a few nights in Brunnen (as an aside, we had a pleasant stay at the Hotel Schmid & Alfa, which has a few apartments with kitchens, so we could make our own meals). From Brunnen, we took a 10-minute ferry ride across Lake Lucerne to Rütli. During our visit to this historic site with incredible views, only a few other families crossed our path. We had a peaceful time exploring the pristine meadow, seeing happy Swiss cows and having a snack at the picnic area (that’s shown in the video above). If you’re in the vicinity, it’s certainly worth a stop.

Rutli Meadow

The view from Rütli Meadow

Swiss National Day started in 1891, but it became a federal holiday over a century later in 1994. Also, the Swiss didn’t start making Pain du 1er août until 1959, when it was invented by the Swiss national association for bakers and confectioners. The small version of the buns are very similar to Petits Pains au Lait, except they have a patriotic shape cut into the top.

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Pain du 1er août in a Suisse romande bakery window

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Pain du 1er août (even a chocolate version) at the supermarket


Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Recipe adapted from one of my favorite Suisse romande bloggers, Delimoon

(dairy/nut-free, can be made without egg)

Makes 8 rolls

500 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml soy or rice milk,
very warm
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
1 egg,
beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled)

1. Whisk together the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add the softened margarine. Set aside.

2. Add yeast to the warmed soy or rice milk, along with a pinch of sugar. Gently stir and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture begins to foam slightly.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and margarine. Stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, stopping when it becomes smooth and elastic.

4. Let the dough rise for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into round buns and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 minutes.

5. With a pastry brush, gently brush on the egg wash (or melted margarine). Then, using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, make cuts into the dough that resemble the cross on the Swiss flag.

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6. Bake the buns for 20-30 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and tap the bottoms. If they sound hollow, then they’re done. Place on a wire rack to cool.

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Happy Swiss National Day! We’re looking forward to a 3-day weekend. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Bon week-end, all!

Recipe: Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes

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My oldest son—who doesn’t have food allergies, had previously stopped eating the vegan pancakes I made for his brother. He claimed to no longer like ANY pancakes. Thankfully, he’s changed his mind in the last few weeks. With a new ingredient, I’ve developed a recipe that both my sons really like: Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes sans dairy, eggs and nuts.


MozzaRisella Vegan Cheese

While I don’t usually share recipes that call for specific brands of food products, I make an exception when I find something really great, especially if it could be helpful to others living with food allergies. My latest discovery here in Switzerland is MozzaRisella—a vegan cheese made from germinated brown rice. I’ve seen it in our small Swiss city at several bio (organic) shops, and I know you can also find it in the UK.

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We started buying MozzaRisella to make dairy-free pizza for our son. Compared to the frozen pizza with fake cheese we tried last summer in the US, the homemade pizza with MozzaRisella is so much better. This product even tastes good uncooked and straight from the package. My boys and I were sampling pieces last night when I was making pizza again, and my 3-year old with food allergies kept asking for more.

In addition to pizza, we also tried using MozzaRisella for nachos. I would have never considered this before, but we recently had nachos with mozzarella at our local Swiss-Mexican restaurant. We hadn’t made nachos for years, but during the World Cup, we ate dairy-free nachos with black beans and corn and topped with cilantro and thinly sliced radishes. Not as good as ones made with real cheese, but still an excellent alternative.

The Italian company that makes MozzaRisella also makes CreamyRisella, but I didn’t start buying this other product right away. Then, The Kitchn posted their easy recipe for Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes, and I wondered about using the CreamyRisella as a substitute for the ricotta. It worked from the start, and with a few other modifications, I now have a pancake that even my oldest son will eat. On Sunday, I served them for brunch with fresh raspberries and a side of bacon.


Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes

Serves 3-4 people

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with 1 tablespoon flax meal
1 package of CreamyRisella (200 grams)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup soy or rice milk (I’ve been using Alnatura’s Soja Drink-Vanille from Migros)

1. In a large bowl, stir together the zest of the 2 lemons and the lemon juice with the flax meal and set aside for a few minutes.

2. Then, add the next five ingredients to the flax meal mixture and whisk together until smooth: CreamyRisella, oil, sugar, cider vinegar and vanilla sugar.

3. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Next, gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in about 2 batches, alternating with the soy or rice milk. Do not overbeat.

4. Using a measuring cup, pour pancake batter on a medium-high heated skillet. Flip the pancake once air bubbles throughout the pancake begin to burst. Cook about 1-3 minutes on each side, until light golden brown, and serve warm.

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Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, nor did I receive any compensation. The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own.

What’s your favorite vegan cheese? Have you tried MozzaRisella? I’m curious to hear about other vegan cheeses in Switzerland and beyond. Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!

Recipe: Salade Estivale for Summertime

The signs of summer are apparent here in Switzerland. Outdoor music festival season started locally with Festi’neuch. Swiss summer trail racing is also underway, and I’ll be attempting my first one next weekend. Most importantly, my son’s summer vacation from school starts in one week. And in terms of food, I’ve noticed restaurants around town are advertising their summertime salads or salades estivales.

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My research indicates there’s no set rule for making a Swiss salade estivale, other than it should contain some sort of fresh summertime vegetables. Since I’m always trying to get my boys to eat more vegetables, we’ll be making lots of salads again during our summer vacation. The first Swiss salad recipe I’ve been making this summer is appropriately named Salade estivale, which I came across a while back in one of my Suisse romande cookbooks.

With seven vegetables to choose from in this salad, my boys tend to pick out the ones they like and leave the rest, but I still try to see it as progress. I was reminded this week by registered dietician Julia Marriott of Alimentary Bites that when it comes to serving vegetables to picky eaters, “perseverance and patience” are the only way. As with many salad recipes, the directions below serve as a guide, so feel free to swap in your favorite vegetables or mess with the quantities a bit, depending on the preferences in your household.


Salade Estivale

Adapted from Les recettes de Grand-Mère, Tome 4. Published in 2010 by the Association Alzheimer Suisse, Yverdon-les-Bains.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Salad:
1 cup kohlrabi, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup potatoes or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup green beans, chopped
1 cup red pepper, diced
1 cup peas, frozen

Dressing:
4 tablespoons colza/canola/rapeseed oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tarragon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a sealed jar and shake vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Cook the vegetables. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook kohlrabi, carrots and potatoes together until fork tender, about 5-10 minutes. While these vegetables are cooking, use a steamer basket to steam the corn, green beans, red pepper and peas, just until tender. Do not overcook.

3. Put all the warmed vegetables in a large bowl and toss gently with the desired amount of dressing. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and serve immediately, while still warm.

Salade Estival Sign

 I’m always grateful for the good advice and support of other food allergy parents. Many thanks to you all, and bon week-end!

Recipe: Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

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In our corner of Suisse-Romande, there seems to be a local version of the famous French cake—Gâteau St. Honoré. Named after the seventh-century patron saint of bakers, a Parisian pastry chef developed the cake in the 1840s. I first learned about it last month, when the boys and I were walking by my favorite local bakery. The sign out front read “St-honoré aux Framboises,” so I quick popped inside to inquire about the raspberry cake.

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Inside the bakery, the lady behind the counter pointed to what looked like a cream pie topped with a crown of whipped cream and glazed raspberries in the middle. Typically, I avoid custard-like desserts and glazed fruit. I don’t like making them, and I’m not a fan of eating them either. I would much rather have a big piece of Bundt cake or a sweet yeasted bread—and hopefully made with some type of chocolate.

Still, I was intrigued to learn more about it, especially given the saintly name. So, I picked up a small gâteau and my oldest son and I shared it after dinner. It was much better than I thought, with the flavors of the different sweet and tart components, along with an almost savory pastry shell, blending together with each bite.

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I must mention, however, that some of the Swiss-French Gâteaux St. Honoré differ tremendously from the traditional version of the cake. A true St. Honoré has a ring of cream puffs on top. The French cake is especially popular in May, and particularly on May 16, the day St. Honoré reportedly died.


Allergy-Friendly Shortcuts

One of the reasons I felt more compelled to try making something like this at home was my other recent discovery: Bird’s Custard Powder from the UK. Unlike traditional custard, filled with dairy and eggs, this powder helps to thicken a non-dairy milk into a suitable substitute. To be honest, it took me 3 tries to get it right, with the first two batches going down the drain.

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Despite all the shortcuts I’ve taken for this Swiss-French Gâteau St. Honoré, like store-bought puff pastry and custard powder, this recipe still takes time. I even bought a pastry bag! I typically avoid recipes with lots of complicated and time-consuming steps, but I had to give this a try. Maybe I’ll make it again next May because the boys liked it so much. I’ll need a full year just to practice my custard and piping techniques!


Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

(dairy/egg-free)

What you’ll need:
Puff pastry, store-bought and pre-made
Custard, chilled (I used Bird’s Custard Powder and followed the directions on the can)
Fresh raspberries
Raspberry jam
Whipped cream, dairy-free (I used soy cream)
Small pie or tart pan
Parchment paper

1. Buy pre-made puff pastry and pre-bake the pastry shells in the desired pans, lined with parchment paper and following the directions on the package.

2. Make custard filling. Use your favorite dairy/egg-free custard recipe, but if you don’t have one, I recommend giving Bird’s Custard Powder a try if you can find it. Cool the custard.

3. Gently warm some raspberry jam on the stove until it thins out a bit. Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Cool and gently coat the raspberries in the jam glaze.

4. Fill the cooled pastry shells with custard. Top with the glazed raspberries.

5. Using a pastry bag, pipe whipped dairy-free cream around the edges of the pastry.

6. Store in the refrigerator or eat them all at once!

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If you have any dairy/egg-free custard advice, please leave a comment below!

And, have you been watching the World Cup? Switzerland vs. France tonight, so we’ll be tuning in. Bon week-end, everyone!

Recipe: Handmade Brioche à Tête

Brioche à Tête

I recently purchased a pan for making mini-Brioche à Tête. Traditionally made with lots of dairy and eggs, these little French pastries have fluted edges and a little dough ball baked on top (a.k.a. the tête or head). It’s been over a year now since my son’s successful food challenge for baked egg, so I decided it was time to finally tackle making a dairy-free version of Brioche à Tête at home. While not a typically Swiss recipe, you can easily find these at bakeries all over Suisse romande.

Store window Brioche à Tête

Brioche à tête may seem like a challenging pastry to make at home, but I’ve tailored a recipe to meet our family’s needs—including an option for overnight preparation. We’ve been eating them all week for breakfast, served warm and slathered with apricot, ginger or raspberry jam. I wish we could use real butter instead of margarine, but I hope my version comes close to the real thing—just with more streamlined instructions and without the dairy. Please note: As you may know, I don’t use an electronic mixer. All the ingredients are mixed by hand.


Dairy-Free
Brioche à Tête

Recipe adapted from Saveur, Issue #109.

(Dairy/nut-free with baked egg)

Makes 6 rolls.

Dough:
2 1/2 tablespoons warmed rice milk
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

Egg wash:

1 egg, beaten

1. Add a pinch of the sugar and all the yeast to the warmed rice milk. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. During this time, whisk together the remaining sugar, flour and salt in a separate bowl.

2. Whisk the yeast mixture into a large bowl with the 2 eggs. Then, add the flour mixture and dairy-free margarine. Stir together to form a dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Please note: The dough will be soft, but do not add any extra flour. Let the dough rise, covered in a bowl, for approximately 2 hours. (After this first rise, you could put the dough into the fridge and pick up with the next step in the morning, so you can serve warm brioche for breakfast).

3. Punch down the dough and divide into 6 equal pieces. Form the brioches into the desired shape, and I recommend using Saveur’s photos as a guide. Place in a pan greased with dairy-free margarine and let rise for another hour.

First rise, Brioche à Tête

4. After the second rise has finished, use a pastry brush to apply a light coating of the egg wash to the tops of the brioche. Please note: Rising may lesson the indentation for the têtes. You may need to do a little re-shaping, to make sure they retain their têtes while in the oven.

Second rise, Brioche à Tête

5. Heat oven to 190°C/375°F. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Let stand in the molds for about 10 minutes and then remove from the pan onto a cooling rack. Best served warm.

Baked Brioche à Tête

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If you try making Brioche à Tête, please let me know how they turn out. I love being able to make these at home for my family, since the dairy-filled versions at the bakeries just aren’t safe for my son right now. Bon week-end, everyone!

Food Challenge Success: Almonds

An amazing thing happened last week. My nearly 3-year old son ate almonds for the first time during his food challenge at the hospital. He started with a small dose of ground almonds mixed in applesauce. In all, he had five increasing doses—a total of 28 grams of ground almonds (more than a 1/4 cup). Thankfully, he had absolutely no reaction.

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With this test behind us, our allergist said we could start feeding my son almonds at home and should continue to do so regularly in order to build his tolerance. I was thrilled to start making one of my favorite almond recipes again—Scandinavian Almond Cake.


Avoiding Almonds

To give you some background, we started avoiding almonds for my son, along with peanuts, other tree nuts and sesame, after he had a positive blood test for peanuts back in the United States in the spring of 2012. Then, he had a positive skin prick test in December 2012 specifically for almonds, so we continued to avoid them, while also getting the go-ahead from our allergist to start introducing other tree nuts at home, like hazelnuts and pistachios. Even though he had never experienced an allergic reaction to almonds, we made sure he didn’t eat any food that contained them as intended or unintended ingredients.

Why did we wait to schedule an oral food challenge for almonds? In comparison to milk and eggs, almonds were easier to avoid and a lesser priority in terms of daily nutrition. For these reasons, and in consultation with our allergist, we focused his first two food challenges on baked eggs and cold cow’s milk. They were conducted at a local hospital and under the supervision of our son’s pediatric allergist and other medical staff. With these behind us, it was finally time to try out almonds, and thankfully, he had a great result.

Was my son ever really allergic to almonds? I can’t help but ask myself this question. We will never know for sure. Even though he had a positive skin prick test, these results are not always accurate. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), apparently 50-60 percent of these skin tests have “false-positive” results. In other words, you can eat the food without a reaction, even though you have a positive test. From what I’ve heard and read, food challenges serve as the best indicator of whether a person is truly allergic to a particular food.

While it bothers me to think we could have unnecessarily avoided almonds because he was never really allergic, I understand how we got to this point, and I’m just so grateful for the result. People typically hold onto their tree nut allergies for life. While he hasn’t tried every single tree nut out there yet, we can say confidently now that he doesn’t have any (known) tree nut allergies. He’s already been so lucky.

Furthermore, there’s a good chance my son could outgrow his egg and milk allergies in the coming years. With this most recent food challenge for almonds completed, it brings us another step closer to my goal. I’ll continue to be cautiously optimistic. In the meantime, I’ll just keep making and eating cake!


Recipe: Scandinavian Almond Cake

My dear mother introduced me to Scandinavian Almond Cake years ago. It’s a sweet cake that doesn’t need any icing. Just a dusting of powdered sugar and some almonds, served alongside a strong cup of coffee. Here in Switzerland, it reminds me of the almond-topped Financier cakes I see in the bakery windows around our neighborhood. I had a bottle of almond extract left in my cupboard from the United States that hadn’t yet expired, so I made this cake last weekend to celebrate the happy news about my son’s food challenge. We ate it up!

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(Dairy-free with baked egg, but can be made without eggs.)

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (or one tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
2/3 cup rice milk
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled

1. Grease an almond cake pan or another loaf pan. If using a non-stick pan, also dust the greased pan lightly with flour.

2. Whisk together the first four ingredients: sugar, egg (or egg substitute) and rice milk. Then, whisk in the flour and baking powder—just enough to make a smooth batter.

3. Add the melted and cooled margarine. Stir, just until blended—do not overbeat.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 180ºC/350ºF for about 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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5. Cool cake for about 10 minutes, loosen it gently from the pan and invert onto a cooling rack.

Optional: Before serving, dust with powdered sugar and sliced almonds.

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Tomorrow marks the last day of Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 11-17). According to FARE, 1 in 13 children has a food allergy in the United States—about 2 students in every classroom. If you’re wondering how to get involved, there’s still time to participate! Bon week-end, everyone.

Recipe: Mocha-Cardamom Snack Cake

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Ever since our winter vacation back in February, when we drove across the border to do some exploring in France, I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate cake flavored with coffee and cardamom. I discovered this wonderful combination at a French chocolate shop in Morteau: Chocolaterie Klaus. After baking many test cakes, I’ve found an easy recipe to share that’s dairy, egg and nut-free.

I’m trying very hard not to eat cake for my second breakfast this morning…


The French Village of Lods

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When we originally planned our little excursion to France, the intent was to visit Lods. This small village alongside the Doubs river has been designated as one of the France’s Plus Beaux Villages (most beautiful villages). In all, 157 villages have this title and receive support from a nonprofit association working to maintain the character of these historic places.

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While we enjoyed walking through this quiet town, I didn’t find many options for a fancy French pastry. Instead, I bought some treats in Morteau, a larger town on the border with Switzerland. From what we’ve heard, it’s a common stop for Swiss residents seeking cheaper groceries in France.


Chocolaterie Klaus

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As we drove through Morteau on the way back to Switzerland, I spotted a “chocolaterie” sign and requested my husband take a quick turn. Soon after, we arrived at Chocolaterie Klaus. I ran into the small factory store, while my youngest napped in the back seat.

Inside, I found piles of delicious chocolate bars with small dishes of broken pieces to sample. While they had the typical flavor combinations, I saw some new ones too, like grapefruit and piment d’Espelette—a chili pepper grown in Spain and France. I bought some cookies and caramels, and two bars of chocolate, including a milk chocolate one with coffee and cardamom.

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Inspired by this chocolate bar, I began experimenting to create an allergy-friendly chocolate cake with the same flavors of coffee and cardamom. After several attempts, I found a quick recipe from my favorite ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook. My mother’s recent visit included a delivery of allergy-friendly mini-chocolate chips from Enjoy Life, so I had everything I needed to make a safe cake for my son (dairy/egg/nut-free). This recipe is incredibly fast and easy—and similar to the one for Crazy Cake. My 6-year old enjoyed helping to mix all the ingredients in the pan.


Mocha-Cardamom Snack Cake

Adapted from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook, 7th edition (1991).

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dry ingredients:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
1 cup strong coffee
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used dark rum instead)

Topping (added before baking):
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini chips)

Use an ungreased square pan, 8×8 inches or about 20×20 cm.

1. Sift dry ingredients directly into the square pan, and stir together with a fork.

2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and use the fork to combine them, just until blended.

3. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the cake batter.

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4. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C/350°F until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Cool on a wire rack in the pan. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired.

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In the United States, May is Food Allergy Action Month. Check out FARE’s calendar of activities which have the purpose to:

“go beyond raising awareness in order to inspire action so that we can improve understanding of the disease, advance the search for a cure, create safer environments and help people live well with food allergies.”

Bon week-end, everyone!