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Fun, food, fashion, fitness, flirt, finance
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 21:24

Indigo Recipe Test: The Fearless Baker

Have you ever wished you could have someone by your side to help you in the kitchen? Not just another pair of hands, though that is always much appreciated. But a culinary fairy godmother. Someone who could tell you when to stop mixing; add more liquid; mince more finely; or that you're doing just fine? I do. That's why I was intrigued when Emily Luchetti's latest book, The Fearless Baker, came across my desk. It's the first beginner cookbook I've seen that not only has tips from the author/expert, but also has questions from the novice point of view. What a fantastic idea for a cookbook!
Note: the conversation bubbles in the margins. EL=Emily Luchetti. FB=Fearless (novice) Baker.
Everyone assumes that the best person to give advice is the expert cook – and while I certainly agree that a professional cook/baker will have the knowledge, I don't think they understand all the hurdles and questions that beleaguer beginners. Given the choice between having an Iron Chef in the kitchen or my Aunt Mary, I pick my aunt. Why? Because she's going to patiently explain and answer every question I have. And not a single one of them will seem strange to her because she's been at the exact place I was albeit several decades ago.

The 175 recipes that comprise the book are divided into 6 chapters, covering the basics and just a little beyond. Including cookies, cakes, pies, fruit, no oven required, best dessert sauces and breakfast. Alright, tips and thoughtful page layout aside, how do the recipes actually rate? The proof is in the pudding, or in our case the apple-cinnamon scones.
Following the success of our first taste test (butter tarts), I decided to gather the troops at for another highly scientific round of baking and taste testing. Below are the results and recipe.
The next time you are tempted to grab a scone at Starbucks on the way to work consider making your own instead. Seriously, they're not at all that difficult and they taste better and fresher than anything you could buy. One of the best parts is that you can make the dough the night before, put it in the fridge, and before you take your shower put them in the oven. Brush on the glaze and there you go!
The trick to light and fluffy scones is to mix the ingredients together until they're barely combined. And I mean just that. Contrary to most recipes and our natural inclination to be thorough, in this case you still want vislble streaks (but not clumps) of flour.
Apple-Cinnamon Scones

Makes 12 scones

Baking or cookie sheet
Parchment paper
1 medium apple
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon plus large pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Peel the apple and core it from the top by cutting off the sides and removing the rectangular piece of core. Cut into small (1/4-inch) pieces. In a small bowl, whisk the cream with the egg and vanilla extract and then stir in the apple pieces.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

4. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to the bowl with the flour and, using your fingers, a fork, or a pastry blender, break up the butter until it's about the size and thickness of cornflakes and is mixed with the dry ingredients. Add the apples and cream and stir until combined.

5. Turn the dough out onto on a floured work surface. Sprinkle with flour and press into an evenly thick 8-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges (I did squares) and arrange on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and pinch cinnamon and sprinkle on the scones.

6. Bake the scones until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Excerpted from the book “The Fearless Baker” by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss. Copyright © 2011 by Sweet Queen LLC.  Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. Photographs © Eva Quan. 

All test recipes are made by Eva Quan in a tres bijou (read: cramped) home kitchen. All errors and culinary mis-steps are generally her own. 

More Indigo Test Recipes

Cook This Now

The World Needs More Butter Tarts

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 06 February 2012 18:17

Beatrice Peltre's La Tartine Gourmand

The first time you pick up Beatrice Peltre’s La Tartine Gourmand: Recipes for an Inspired Life, I’m willing to bet that the adjectives that spring to mind are: "lovely," "elegant," or "delightful."

Boston resident and French expat, Beatrice Peltre, is an award-winning master of French cuisine, as well as an accomplished photographer and food stylist – and it shows.

See for yourself:


Some cooks need photos with their recipes, and some don't.  If you're the kind of cook that does, you'll no doubt be entirely impressed, as well as inspired, with the quality of Beatrice Peltre's shots.  The Indigo Blog is pleased to share this piece from Beatrice herself, on her journey with food that led to this cookbook’s creation.


I grew up in rural France, in a family in love with food. It's assuredly one of our favorite topics of conversation whenever we meet. My mother, grandmothers and aunts all kept vegetable gardens with orchards, so as a young child I spent a lot of time helping them there, during les grandes vacances (summer vacation), when fruit and vegetables were plentiful. My mother always cooked every one of our meals; so somehow, I took for granted that this was what was supposed to be. We always sat down to eat together at every meal, the way the French like to. My education and willingness to cook, share, and make people happy with pretty delicious foods started there.

By my mother's side, I learned to cook very early in age. And because of it, naturally, I became obsessed with food. If I wanted to eat well, the way I was used to, I had to learn to cook.

A lot of my friends in college, and other people that I've met over the years, always thought that my love for food meant I should become a chef. But somehow I knew that it was not what I was cut out for, even if I sometimes dreamed of running a lovely restaurant where simple homemade foods—like hearty soups, vegetable tarts, tartines and humble desserts (hello mousse au chocolat, iles flottantes and apricot tarts!)— would be served. Instead, I kept buying food magazines and cookbooks, and prepared meals for my friends and family.

I have lived in the United States and New Zealand, and I travel a lot. In every place I visit I always ask what people like to eat. I didn't know when I was younger, but it's this lifestyle that shaped my type of cooking: a blend of my French roots with inspiration drawn from the various places I have visited, and the many different types of cuisines I sampled.

I love anything organic. I love healthy foods. I love colorful pretty foods—those that you want to eat with your eyes first. I love to style food.  Vegetables, grains, and fruit are favorites.

My dishes don't need to be complicated, mind you—although I also enjoy the process of preparing something that pushes my cooking skills. I prefer to put emphasis on quality and build a recipe from that viewpoint. 

When I started my food blog, I didn't have a particular intention. I thought it would be nice to have a log of my experiences with cooking and food since it was obviously my favorite activity. So I began. And as I did, I quickly realized that I not only loved to cook, but I really enjoyed writing, styling and photographing food.

I worked hard at it. But in a way, it felt easy, because my drive to keep going really came from my passion for creating, styling and photographing food. I was truly lucky to receive wonderful feedback from my readers. They motivated me, too, to keep going. I favored quality to quantity. My blog had become my creative space.

I've always wanted to write a cookbook, but I didn't know what to do to make it happen. When my publisher approached me, I appreciated that they came to me because they liked my vision. At the time, I already had a book agent with whom I had written a book proposal. The timing was right, even if when it all happened, I had just found out that I was pregnant. I didn't really know how I was going to manage to write a book (I had never done this before) and be a mother—I had everything to learn.

But I said yes. Signed a book deal. And it's been an amazingly enriching experience.

Of course, it was hard at times. What process isn't? But to keep me focused, I liked to remind myself of what my dear husband once told me: "Béa, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it." Nibbling dark chocolate as I worked always helped too.

With my book, I truly wanted to inspire people to cook. A tentative title for the book was actually Inspired to Cook. I wanted to share stories about my journey with food, and with Lulu (because it was obvious that after she was born, my life changed) and Philip, and the importance that food has in our lives. I wanted a book that was going to translate what my readers find in my blog—with the same aesthetics and the same voice—but fit for a book. There needed to be a lot of visuals because it's a strong element of what I do. I was lucky because my publisher really included me in the decision making process for the entire design of the book. It was a work that came out of great collaboration.

The book offers all of that, with recipes that translate my vision: Every day French food made beautiful—the foods I like to eat; traditional French recipes with a twist—because I love to revisit old favorites and cook them with my favorite ingredients and my taste; and recipes inspired from my travels too.

The process was long. Educational. But I am really pleased with the way the book came out. It was truly worth the wait.


For a closer look at Beatrice’s work, please visit

Thanks to Random House of Canada and Roost Books for their assistance with this blog, as well as Beatrice herself – we wish her well with her first book.




Published in Lifestyle
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 10:00

Two Recipes from The Art of French Baking

What is it about baking that perennially enchants and inspires, even among people with little enthusiasm for cooking?  While I find both equally rewarding (in that way most men enjoy performing specialized tasks with tools), I know a surprising amount of people who will take making dessert over dinner any day of the week.

Some of these people have suggested to me that the simple answer is that baking is something people choose to do, it’s a luxury, where cooking is tied to necessity. Food is a need, and that food needs to be prepared, every day.  Cake is not a requirement, but it certainly brings no small amount of joy – to my life, anyway.

Few nations have a better reputation for fine desserts than France, land of the pâtisserie, crème brûlée and soufflés, so bakers everywhere should celebrate the recent arrival of The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot.  Mathiot, author of what’s considered the French cooking bible I Know How to Cook, is an icon in her native land whose works have only recently started appearing in English translation.  With over 300 recipes divided into categories like small cakes, pudding, icings and tarts, The Art of French Baking is sure to give you the necessary tools to create treats to delight family and friends.   Check out two recipes from the book below.

Alsace Tart
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling timealsace tart resize
Cooking time: 30 - 40 minutes
Serves 6

1 quantity Basic Pie Dough (*see below)
1 pound 2 ounces apricots or apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
½ cup superfine sugar
Scant ½ cup crème fraîche  

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8-inch tart pan. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch and use it to line the tart pan. Trim the edges of the dough. Arrange the fruit on the pastry. In a bowl, beat the flour, eggs, sugar, and crème fraîche until just smooth. Pour over the fruit and bake for 30 - 40 minutes.  

Note: To make a Rhubarb Tart, replace the apricots or apples with 1 pounds 2 ounces rhubarb cut into 1 ¼ inch slices. Coat with the custard mixture and bake. Sprinkle with extra sugar to taste.

Pâte Brisée (Basic Pie Dough)
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes, if baking blind
Enough for a 9-inch pie shell

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, such as sunflower or canola
½ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced, plus extra for greasing
1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Put the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil, salt, and butter. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Moisten with water to bring the dough together. Briefly knead the dough by hand; the more quickly this is done, the better the pastry will be. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Bring it back to room temperature before rolling out. On a lightly floured counter, roll it out to a circle ¼ inch thick and use to line a greased 9-inch tart pan, preferably one with a removable bottom. The pastry may also be used to line small round or boat-shape molds (barquettes). 

To bake the pastry shell, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill the pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then gently remove the paper and weight and return the pastry shell to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, until it is light golden brown and cooked throughout.

Note: Keep the ingredients and utensils as cool as possible. This will help the pastry to retain a short, crumbly texture. Any leftover pastry can be frozen. Basic pie dough can be used for pastries, such as Saint-Honoré (p.148) or Alsace Tart (p.184).

Crème Prise en Pots (Small custard pots)
Preparation time: 15 minutescustard pots resize
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 6 

2 ¼ cups whole milk
2/3 cup superfine sugar
Vanilla extract, coffee extract, liqueur, or other flavoring, to taste
4 eggs, lightly beaten 


Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the milk, sugar, and chosen flavoring in a pan. Bring to a boil over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the eggs, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Pour the custard into 6 individual ramekins. Place the dishes in a roasting pan filled halfway with hot water and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Be careful that the water does not boil. 

Recipes, images and video courtesy of Phaidon Press.



Published in Lifestyle
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