It’s been a minute since I’ve taken the time to write a proper book report over here, but the title I’m going to talk about today is definitely worth the wait.
After more than two years of blood, sweat and (lots of) butter, my friend Mardi is finally birthing her book baby into the world today. In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy is a must-own title for parents who love to cook, parents with young children, people who like simple, mouth-watering recipes, or folks with an affinity for all things French. I bet you know at least two - but maybe even 20 - friends or family members who fall into one of those categories, which means you should probably tell everyone you know to head to their local Indigo to pick up a copy tout de suite.
Designed to prove that cooking French food doesn’t have to be challenging, the result is an approachably elegant collection of recipes tailored for young chefs and their families. The chapters are broken out into the main meals of the day – Breakfast, Lunch, After-School Snacks, Dinner and Dessert – with a few select ones reserved for the Special Occasions section of the book. Perhaps the chapter loaded with the most promise is the Basic Pastry Recipes tucked into the back, where you’ll find a recipe for homemade puff pastry. For real.
While the recipes are truly incredible, one of my favourite parts of the book are the little boxes of bonus information scattered throughout the pages. Denoted by whimsical icons, like a French flag (cultural reflections, historical musings and more), egg timer (tips for timing the components of the recipe properly), whisk (tips for a specific recipe), smiley face (don’t overlook these – they are a gold-mine of tips for cooking with kids) and more, there is so much wisdom to be gleaned from these small crumbs of captivating information.
As you can see, Matthew is as excited about this book as I am.
The first recipe we made from In the French Kitchen with Kids was the very seasonal mixed berry galette. Truth be told, I’m a little preoccupied by galettes this summer, and seeing her sweet version made with berries – something three-year-old Matthew can’t seem to consume enough of – solidified this as a must-make recipe for the two of us.
As expected, the dough came together simply and beautifully, and the filling couldn’t have been easier to make. As Mardi mentions in her side-note, this recipe is an excellent entry-level dessert for the novice baker and one I fully endorse for toddlers. Once they were cool enough to eat, Matthew devoured THREE within hours of baking them. If that isn’t a solid endorsement, I don’t know what it is.
Still on our must-make wish list: fish cakes, croissants and crepes, and almost every one of the tempting breakfast recipes. Oh, and the original French macaron, which is different than the ubiquitous (albeit, more familiar) sweet treat found at bakeries and coffee shops everywhere these days.
Added to all of that are glorious photographs (super cute kids alert!) and an abundance of culinary cheerleading, encouraging you to get your kids into the kitchen with – and even without - you. Congratulations, Mardi!
Mixed Berry Galettes
Galettes were my introduction to the world of pastry and are still one of my favourite things to make. These single-crust pies are so easy that most kids can make them with very little supervision, and the fact that they are supposed to look rustic is a bonus for those who don’t feel confident making a pie crust. The possibilities for filling a fruit galette are endless, but I’ve chosen mixed berries because they bake up so well and are so pretty. Once you’ve made one galette, you’ll be hooked! Note that you need to allow time to make and chill the pastry before assembling and baking the galettes. You can make the pastry the day before if you like.
For the pastry:
- recipe Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (see below)
For the filling:
- 2 cups (200 g) mixed berries (I like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Grated zest from 1 small lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
- Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Vanilla ice cream or Chantilly cream (p. 139)
Make the pastry:
1. Prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe below)
Make the filling:
1. Combine the berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl. Stir to coat the berries thoroughly and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
3. Divide the pastry into eight pieces and roll each piece out to a rough circle about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. If necessary, trim the rolled- out shapes with a pizza cutter so they are more or less round. Place the circles of dough on the parchment-lined baking trays. They should not be touching.
4. Use a 1/4-cup (60 mL) measure to divide the berry mixture evenly between the dough circles. Place the berries in the center of the dough and use the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten them slightly. You should leave a border of about 11/2 inches (4 cm) around the edge.
Assemble the galettes:
1. Working with one circle at a time, fold the uncovered edges of dough up and around the filling, working your way around the circle. You’ll end up with pleated edges that are a little rough and you might need to trim some uneven parts to ensure you don’t end up with a thick area of just crust.
2. Brush the edges of each galette with a little egg wash and sprinkle the pastry with sugar.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the berries are cooked.
4. Remove from the oven and place the galettes on wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or Chantilly cream.
Sweet Shortcut Pastry
Like the savory version of this pastry, this is an extremely versatile tart dough, and you can use it for all sorts of desserts—from simple recipes like the Mixed Berry Galettes (p. 123) or the Mini Jam Tarts (p. 74) to something a little more refined like the Strawberry Tart (p. 129). The possibilities for this are endless.
For the pastry:
- 11/2 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar 1/2 cup (113 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons heavy (35%) cream
- Butter for greasing the pan
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and, using your fingertips, lightly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles large breadcrumbs with some pieces the size of small peas. You can also use a pastry blender for this job.
2. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix the egg into the flour until they are completely combined.
3. Add the cream and mix until the dough is firm enough to form a ball when you press the mixture together with your fingers—it might be a little crumbly, but form the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
4. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour, or up to 3 days, in the fridge. You can also freeze the dough, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before you roll and bake.
Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright© 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.