Sugarplums

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The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

I would love to have visions of dancing sugar-plums in my head, but I don’t know what they look like! And of course, there’s really no such thing, from a fruit standpoint. Ages ago I came across a recipe for Sugarplums on the Food Network website, and I was intrigued.

Turns out there have been candies/confections called Sugarplums around for a long time, and they’re all similar to this recipe, with nuts and dried fruits, rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to make!

Best of all, I had 7-year old help with these!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Swedish pearl sugar

Weigh out the Brazilnuts and all of the dried fruit, then place it all in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until on the coarse side, but not too coarse. You need all of it to stick together.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the powdered sugar with the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, anise seeds, and fennel seeds. Give it all a stir and set aside.

When you are ready to finish the Sugarplums, have the nut-fruit mixture and two latex gloves handy. Place the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack.

Continue with the remaining fruit and nut mixture. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums, until everyone starts sampling them.

These are really sweet. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, because you need the dried fruits, the powdered sugar, and the stickiness of the honey. Definitely make these for your favorite sweets lover!

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

Back when I followed the recipe for a chocolate and nutella spread that was supposedly “better than Nutella,” I made three suggestions for utilizing the spread. One was to mix it with whipped cream and create a chocolate hazelnut mousse.

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So that’s just what I did. I’ve actually done it with real Nutella. It takes a little coaxing, but eventually the whipped cream and Nutella will blend into a wonderful mousse-like texture.

It’s so easy. The most important thing is to warm the Nutella to room temperature first.

Pour 2 cups of whipping cream into a large bowl. Whip the cream, using an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form.

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Place about 6 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl.

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Add a few tablespoons of the whipped cream, and gently beat the two together until the spread softens.

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Then gently fold the remaining whipped cream in to the Nutella, taking your time.

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Save about 4 tablespoons of whipped cream for a topping, if desired.

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Place in 4 serving glasses.

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If you don’t mind deflating the mousse a bit, you can use your electric mixer to get a smoother blend.

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The mousse can be served immediately; it doesn’t require chilling.

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Serve with a dollop of the extra whipped cream, or marscapone or creme fraiche.

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Chocolate curls would be pretty too!

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Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, I enjoyed my mousse with a glass of sherry!

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Enjoy!

Crêpes

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I’ve had a love affair with crêpes since I was a little girl, which is when I learned how to make them. I would make a “stack,” sprinkle a little white sugar on them, and eat them just like that for breakfast.

My first introduction to crêpes was when my mother made Crêpes Suzette. My French friend Stéphane from My French Heaven gave me some interesting factoids about this fabulous, flaming dessert and crêpes in general!

♥ Crèpes Suzette is a recent thing: In the early 1900’s, Edward VI was having crêpes in a restaurant on the riviera. The chef had flambéed Grand Marnier with them. Edward asked the waitress what it was but she didn’t have a name for the dish. So the king asked what her name was, which was Suzette. They have been called crêpes Suzette ever since.

♥ As for savory crêpes, they are an ancient specialty from Bretagne. They are made with black wheat and are called galettes. Only the sweet ones can be called crêpes.

A galette with ham and egg

A galette with ham and egg

♥ You eat crêpes with apple cider always as they produce a lot of apples there (Bretagne is close to Normandy).

♥ The restaurants where they serve crêpes only are called crêperies. The best ones have a chef who is a Maître Crêpier.

Photo from retagne by Stephane Gabart

Photo from Bretagne by Stephane Gabart

After seeing the above photo, I put Bretagne on my travel bucket list. Besides, I want to one day try the real deal in a crêperie.

There are many different recipes for crêpe batter, and I’m sure they’re all good. The only rule in making the batter for crêpes, to me, is the consistency. Once you have that, you get proper crêpes. If the batter is too thick, you get pancakes, if it’s too thin, you get mush.

Here is a basic recipe for crêpes, whether you’re going to use them in a sweet or savory manner:

Crêpes
Makes about 20

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons oil*
Couple pinches of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

Whisk together the egg, milk, and salt together well in a medium bowl. Gradually add the flour, whisking gently but not over-whisking, until it is all incorporated and there are no flour lumps.

Set the bowl aside for at least 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t thicken. If it does, add a tiny bit of milk or even water to get the consistency back to where it should be.

To prepare to make the crêpes, have a well-seasoned crêpe pan on hand. Mine has angled sides and an 8″ flat bottom, made from steel. I’ve had it for 42 years. I know this, because my mother sent me off to college with the same pan!

Also have on hand some butter, the batter and large spoon (about 1/4 cup capacity is perfect), a spatula, and a plate on which to place the cooked crêpes. I always use a very sturdy but thin, flat spatula to help lift the thin pancakes.

Heat a little dab of butter over medium-high heat in the crêpe pan. I personally prefer butter because of the flavor. You might have to start with about a teaspoon of butter, and subsequently use about 1/2 teaspoon per crêpe.

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Before starting, give the crêpe batter a whisk. Now is the time to test its thickness. Add a little liquid if necessary.

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When the butter is hot, add a full spoonful, or approximately 1/4 cup of batter, to the pan. With the other hand, turn and tilt the pan until the crêpe batter has covered the whole bottom of the pan. Cook for no more than 30 seconds, then turn over gently with the spatula and cook for no more than 10 seconds. Place immediately on the plate by sliding or flipping over.

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The cooked crêpe should be lightly golden, especially on the first side, but not browned. Adjust your burner setting accordingly, keeping in mind that if the heat is too low, the batter will just sit there and nothing will happen.

The pan has to be hot enough to “grab” the batter. If the pan is too hot, it will cause the batter to become bubbly and you probably won’t be able to spread it around. Sometimes the first crêpe is a dud because you must test the heat of the pan, and the batter.

Continue with the remaining batter.

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These crêpes will hold well for a day or two, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Then you can use them as you want. They must be brought to room temperature first, or they will not roll or fold without breaking. Even a little
heating in the microwave will help make them more malleable.

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Besides some sugar, crêpes are also good with a little jam and some berries!

* When I make savory or sweet crêpes I use olive oil, but if you prefer, you can use a flavorless oil. Also, if you want a sweeter dessert crêpe, you can add a little sugar to the batter.