Recipe: Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

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A super-easy and irresistible dairy-free dessert combining some of my favorite flavors: orange, chocolate and speculoos (aka, Biscoff).

During a recent visit to the library in our small Swiss city, I came across a children’s cookbook from the well-known French chef, Cyril Lignac. I first learned of him from watching the French baking show, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, where he serves as a judge. The cookbook I found has lots of nice recipes, and one that immediately caught my eye was for Verrines au chocolat, spéculoos et oranges.

With a few substitutions, I’ve made Mr. Lignac’s recipe dairy-free. If you don’t feel like baking and need a quick recipe with few ingredients for warmer weather, it’s incredibly easy to throw this together. I’ve tried making it with soy cream and with full-fat coconut milk. My boys liked both versions, but I had a slight preference for the one with soy cream (a thicker, creamier texture).


Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

Adapted from Cyril Lignac and Lets petits chefs: Nouvelle recettes (2010), p. 76-77.

Makes 4 servings
(dairy-free)

3-4 oranges
150 grams (about 1 cup) dairy-free chocolate, chopped or in pieces
200 ml soy cream or full-fat coconut milk
35 grams (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) dairy-free margarine, softened
4 speculoos cookies (I used the ones from Lotus Bakeries)

1. In a small saucepan, mix the soy cream and chocolate together. Melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly until its smooth. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened margarine until completely incorporated. Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until it cools and thickens.

2. When the chocolate mixture is ready, peel the oranges, separate into sections and cut into bite-size pieces (Please note: Mr. Lignac removes all the pith and membrane, which looks better, but I just don’t have the patience!). Place equal amounts of the orange pieces into four glass cups.

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3. Spoon equal portions of the cooled and thickened chocolate mixture over the four glasses of oranges.

4. Crush the four cookies in a plastic bag and sprinkle them evenly over the chocolate mixture in the four glasses. Serve immediately or return them to the fridge and serve the same day.

We’re back from vacation, and I’m ready to hear about your latest recipe recommendations, restaurant experiences and other food allergy updates, etc. I hope you’re all doing well, and thanks for your continued support and advice!

Free From Farmhouse


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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!

Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

We almost always have Lotus spéculos cookies and/or spread (a.k.a. Biscoff) on hand. These cookies are still one of the few allergy-friendly treats I can buy for my son in Switzerland. So when I recently saw a recipe for pear crumble with spéculos cookies in a French-cooking magazine, it didn’t take long for me to try it. I grew up eating fruit crisps (no oats) and crumbles (with oats), and I’m not sure I’ll ever make one again without these cookies!

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For the pears, my favorite vendor at the farmers’ market recommended a Swiss-grown pear, la poire Conférence. This pear is apparently one of the most commonly grown in Europe. It was originally introduced at a “Pear Conference” in 1885—hence its name.

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While my 2-year old loves pears, my 6-year old does not. However, he gladly ate them baked with rhubarb in this crumble. As you can see from the photo above, we’ve been generously topping our crumble with whipped soy cream mixed with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. It’s made with fruit and oats, so I think it’s perfectly suitable for breakfast, right?


Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

Inspired by the “Crumble poíres-spéculos” recipe in Saveurs magazine N°208.

(dairy, egg and nut-free)

Crumble:
3/4 cup spéculos cookies, crushed
1/2 cup oats (I use flocons d’avoine complète)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar

Fruit:
juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
1 1/2 to 2 cups rhubarb, cut into pieces
4 1/2 to 5 cups pears – peeled, cored and cut into pieces
1 packet of vanilla sugar (7 grams) or 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon sugar

For use with a 9×13-inch (22x33cm) baking pan or an oval gratin pan of roughly the same size.

1. Prepare the crumble. Crush the cookies and mix together with the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

2. Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl with the vanilla sugar. Add the cut fruit and stir frequently to keep the pears coated with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

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3. Pour the fruit mixture into the pan, making sure it’s evenly dispersed. Then, sprinkle and spread the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C/350°F until the fruit has softened a bit and the topping is golden brown. I recommend eating the crumble while it’s still warm. Otherwise, try and eat it the same day or shortly thereafter.

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Later today, I’ll be catching a train to Ticino. I’m hoping to discover some new food specialties from Italian-speaking Switzerland. Bon week-end, everyone!

Vermicelles: Sweet Chestnut Noodles

Spring must be arriving soon, as our local roasted chestnut stand finished up its season on Saturday. The stand had been open for business since November, marking the start of colder weather and the holiday season. I love the smell of roasted chestnuts, and even though I have to wait until next year to enjoy them again, the Swiss have another popular use for chestnuts that’s available almost all year long: vermicelles.

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Vermicelles from Wodey-Suchard, Neuchâtel


Roasted Chestnuts

On the last day of roasted chestnut season, my boys and I bought a paper cone filled with the hot, sweet-smelling nuts. After removing the hard outer shell, you’ll find a warm chestnut inside with that distinct, yet mild flavor. The texture can be a bit dry and almost like paste, so a hot drink like mulled wine or tea makes a nice accompaniment. We brought our chestnuts to the park, and I snacked on them while the boys played on the slides.

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Roasted chestnuts at the park

From what I’ve read, Swiss chestnuts are primarily grown in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. During the holiday season, Swiss Christmas markets often have a stand selling marrons chauds (hot roasted chestnuts). Beyond using chestnuts for roasting, they can also be ingredients in other food products, like beer, flour, pasta, jam and vermicelles—a popular Swiss dessert.

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Marrons chauds: roasted chestnut stand, Neuchâtel


Chestnut Vermicelles

Before moving to Switzerland, I associated the word vermicelles with a thinner version of spaghetti tossed with tomato sauce, for example. Here in Switzerland, however, it can have an entirely different meaning—except the shape remains the same.

I noticed these noodle-like desserts in the grocery stores almost immediately after we moved here. You can find them as part of layered whipped cream desserts, little tarts or larger cakes. For some reason, I always imagined them being coffee-flavored though. Right before Christmas, I figured out that vermicelles were actually made of pureed roasted chestnuts, and these desserts always contain dairy. If a milk product isn’t mixed in with the chestnuts, then of course it’s in the whipped cream.

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Vermicelles at the grocery store

Finally in November of last year, I purchased my first vermicelles from our local patisserie, and now I’m a fan. The combination of chestnut and whipped cream with pastry was sweet and nutty and smooth. After trying to make my own marron purree—which was a ton of work and not properly executed—I was thrilled to find a tube of ready-made vermicelles at Coop, made by Hero, that’s dairy and egg-free.

I had leftover puff pastry from last week’s gâteau aux noisettes, so I made two little round circles and baked them for about 25-30 minutes. After they cooled, I squirted out a nest of vermicelles on top. Honestly, this took a long time because I wasn’t using the tube properly. Thankfully, this video helped me figure out how to do it! I topped it all off with some soy whipped cream mixed with vanilla sugar and powdered sugar and some mini-chocolate chips from Enjoy Life.

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Vermicelles sans milk and eggs

Unfortunately, our little guy was sick with a stomach bug when I made vermicelles, so he didn’t have an appetite for anything—even dessert! I’ll likely be making them again soon. It’s so nice having a quick and allergy-friendly way to do it.

Reinventing Celery Root Rémoulade

Whenever I’ve cooked with celery root before (a.k.a. celeriac), it’s because there were a few leftover in our weekly box of seasonal vegetables from a local farm. Typically, I would boil or roast them and then puree until smooth. Until recently, I had never really sought out this root vegetable before.

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Then, a few weeks ago, I saw a recipe from Migros’ cuisine de saison for a salad with céleri-rave. After finally discovering the benefits of soy cream, I decided to try it out as a replacement for cream in the recipe. And, it certainly helped that I found pre-grated celery root, also at Migros, so I could just dump it in a bowl and mix in the other ingredients. Couldn’t be easier!

I only recently learned about Céleri Rémoulade, a French celery root salad typically made with mayonnaise. All these celery root salads remind me of cole slaw in the United States, made with cabbage and carrots. While I’m not a big fan of cole slaw, I really like the reinvented rémoulade recipe below. The result is crunchy, light and fresh—and without mayonnaise, so my husband will actually eat it! The boys were skeptical at first, but the apple helps make it more appealing.


Celery Root Salad

Recipe adapted from cuisine de saison.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dressing:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons soy cream

Salad:
400 grams grated celery root
2 unpeeled apples, grated
1-2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

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1. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small frying pan over high heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat right away, once they become fragrant, and then let them cool. Coarsely chop the seeds.

2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients: lemon juice, olive oil and soy cream. Add some salt and pepper.

3. Put the grated celery root into the large bowl and mix it right away with the dressing.

4. Grate the apples directly into the same bowl and toss immediately with the celery root and the dressing to keep them from turning brown.

5. Finally, mix in the pumpkin seeds and parsley and serve. Best when it’s fresh, eat this salad the same day you prepared it.

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Do you have any good allergy-friendly recipes for celery root? Just this morning I came across a 19th century Swiss recipe for frog soup made with celery root… Please share your recipes or suggestions in a comment below. Thanks!

Free From Farmhouse

Crêpes for Chandeleur

I love food traditions tied to holidays. First, we made steamed chicken buns for Chinese New Year. Then on Sunday, I was happy to recognize another holiday that I only recently learned about: la Chandeleur—a wonderful excuse to eat too many crêpes! 

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Chandeleur, also known as Candlemas in English, is celebrated 40 days after Christmas on the second day of February. Along with the strong link to Christianity, the celebration of Chandeleur has connections to pagan and Roman traditions. Long ago, making crêpes helped use up surplus flour, and the round pancakes loosely resemble the shape and color of the sun—fitting for the celebration of light and the coming of spring.

In Switzerland, I’ve been hearing that Chandeleur isn’t celebrated as much as in France. At the same time, I’ve been reading about Chandeleur-related events at various locations around us in Suisse-Romande, so it does exist in some forms here.

On Sunday, we made dairy-free and egg-free crêpes for a special Chandeleur lunch. I used a different recipe this time, but it didn’t measure up to my favorite vegan crêpe recipe from VeganYumYum. Next time, I want to use sarrasin or buckwheat flour to try making vegan galettes—a special crêpe from Brittany, France.

For my homemade crêpes, our toppings included lingonberry jam, maple syrup, Véron molasses spread and my latest discovery… Whipped soy cream! I did a ridiculous little dance in the kitchen after I tasted it (really) because it was so close to the real thing. A little vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, and soy cream whipped together with my immersion blender, and I had faux chantilly cream for our thin little pancakes.

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After eating way too many crêpes, we took the funicular up and walked in the woods above our small Swiss city. Without any snow, it’s already starting to feel like spring. Of course that could change any day now, but we’re enjoying the mild winter while we still can.

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While we’ve lost the tradition of hot wings and nachos for the Super Bowl here in Switzerland, we’ve gained Chandeleur and crêpes. And, be prepared to see soy whipped cream making many future appearances on this blog!