Week Four: Carrot cake! (and other less sinful temptations)

It’s February 29th and that means we are officially one month in, that’s 1/6th of the way through The Apple, Carrot, Potato Challenge and, hopefully, at least 1/6th of the way through our surplus. So does our cellar look 18 pounds of potatoes, 10 pounds of carrots and 24 pounds of apples lighter than when we started?

Still a few spuds left!
We’ve had to make fast work of the yellow apples as a good number of them started to turn into applesauce in situ.

As an aid to readers on this side of the pond, I’ve updated the previously-posted recipes, and all future recipes, to include metric units as well.  Particularly pertinent for those Americana classics that bedazzle and intrigue our European counterparts.

Apropos, the recipe you’ve been waiting for (and the rest of the menu this week):

Pie au poulet (chicken pie)

Carrot cake: moist, delicious, American with Cream cheese frosting

Kartoffel-Möhren Gratin (Potato-Carrot Gratin)

Rôti de porc pommes boulangère (pork roast with potatoes)

And just because it was so good :

Cabillaud gratiné à la crème (Cod gratin)

Pie au poulet (chicken pie)

If I were ever to produce a cookbook, I think it would have to be called “Improvisation and Substitution”. Rare is the moment when I have all the ingredients for a recipe and even more rare, the time necessary to follow each step. And fortunately good things still come from improvised recipes with substituted ingredients.

An excellent case in point : Pie au poulet. Directly translated as « chicken pie » (but sounding so much more appetizing in French), my main ingredient was swapped out as Jan was doing the weekly shopping, by turkey. Off to a great start! Then the recipe calls for a double pie crust (top and bottom). But with all those apples (this is no chicken pot pie recipe!) I was certain the bottom crust would end up a soggy wet mess, so I left it out. Then there were the tomatoes. Rather than blanch, peel, cook and smash them as directed I used a can of already blanched, peeled and smashed tomatoes: the horror of foodie purists everywhere. Survival in these difficult times requires fast thinking and often drastic measures. Toddlers are not prone to appreciating the fine nuances of hand-blanched tomatoes, in particular when it’s their mother’s hands doing the blanching.

The original recipe is from the French cookbook Toute la cuisine au fil des saisons.  The cookbook suggests that you should serve this with Pumpkin soup as a starter and a “Charlotte aux noisettes” (a sort of cream trifle with hazelnuts) for dessert. If you’re so inclined, the accompanying wine? Chinon, fairly young.

Pie crust, for one or two crusts according to personal preference. You could use a prepared crust but it’s also remarkably easy to make your own. I used this very simple recipe: 9 Tbsp (125 g) of cold unsalted butter cut into 2 cups (250 g) of flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Make a small well in the center, add ¼ cup (5 cl) of water and a couple of pinches of salt. Work into dough. Knead briefly, form into a ball, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out on a floured surface. Easy as…(oh, never mind)

Chicken breasts (or turkey or another bird of choice), 8 at 3-½ oz (100 g) apiece. That’s 1-½ to 2 lbs of bird cut into sizeable chunks.

Butter, 3-½ Tbsp (50 g)

Egg, 1

Apples, roughly 2 lbs (1 kg)

Tomatoes, 3

Shallots, 4

Garlic, 4 cloves

Flour, about ½ cup (50 g)

Herbs: if you have it a “bouquet garni”, otherwise a mix of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf

Dry white wine, about 1 cup (20 cl)

Chicken bouillon, about ½ cup (10 cl)

Salt and pepper

In the spirit of improvisation, I would say that the essential ingredients for this pie are the poultry pieces, the apples, the tomatoes, probably the crust and of course the wine. If you’ve got these, you can wing it with the rest. If not, scroll down to the next recipe and make a carrot cake instead.

  1. Blanche, peel, chop and crush the tomatoes (or in my case, open the canned ones.) Chop the shallots. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and dust them with flour.
  1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Brown the chicken pieces. Add the shallots and the tomatoes. Let the sauce thicken as it simmers gently uncovered.
  2. Peel and quarter the apples. Peel the garlic.
  3. Place the apples and garlic on top of the chicken-sauce mix. Add the bouquet garni or herbs, salt and pepper, the wine and the bouillon. Mix and let simmer 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 410°F (210°C).
  5. Prepare the bottom pie crust, if using.
  6. Remove the chicken pieces and the apples from the simmering sauce and place them in the pie crust. Remove the bouquet garni (if using).
  7. Turn up the heat on the remaining sauce and reduce it by half. Pour the reduced sauce on top of the chicken and apple pieces.
  8. Divide the egg. Lightly beat the white and the yolk separately.
  9. Brush the egg white onto the border of the lower pie crust. (I just skipped this altogether.)
  10. Cover the pie with the upper crust. Seal the crust carefully around the edges.
  11. Brush the crust with the lightly beaten egg yolk.
  12. Make two small holes in the crust into which you insert rolled up pieces of wax paper to make chimneys.
  13.  Bake 30 minutes.
Pie au poulet, with a sunburn

Pie au poulet (chicken pie)

The original recipe is from the French cookbook “Toute la cuisine au fil des saisons”.  The cookbook suggests that you should serve this with Pumpkin soup as a starter and a “Charlotte aux noisettes” (a sort of cream trifle with hazelnuts) for dessert. If you’re so inclined, the accompanying wine? Chinon, fairly young.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Pie crust for one or two crusts according to personal preference, see Note below
  • Chicken breasts or turkey or another bird of choice, 8 at 3-½ oz (100 g) apiece. That’s 1-½ to 2 lbs of bird cut into sizeable chunks.
  • Butter 3-½ Tbsp (50 g)
  • Egg 1
  • Apples roughly 2 lbs (1 kg)
  • Tomatoes 3
  • Shallots 4
  • Garlic 4 cloves
  • Flour about ½ cup (50 g)
  • Herbs: if you have it a “bouquet garni” otherwise a mix of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf
  • Dry white wine about 1 cup (20 cl)
  • Chicken bouillon about ½ cup (10 cl)
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Blanche, peel, chop and crush the tomatoes (or in my case, open the canned ones.) Chop the shallots. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and dust them with flour.
  • Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Brown the chicken pieces. Add the shallots and the tomatoes. Let the sauce thicken as it simmers gently uncovered.
  • Peel and quarter the apples. Peel the garlic.
  • Place the apples and garlic on top of the chicken-sauce mix. Add the bouquet garni or herbs, salt and pepper, the wine and the bouillon. Mix and let simmer 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 410°F (210°C).
  • Prepare the bottom pie crust, if using.
  • Remove the chicken pieces and the apples from the simmering sauce and place them in the pie crust. Remove the bouquet garni (if using).
  • Turn up the heat on the remaining sauce and reduce it by half. Pour the reduced sauce on top of the chicken and apple pieces.
  • Divide the egg. Lightly beat the white and the yolk separately.
  • Brush the egg white onto the border of the lower pie crust.
  • Cover the pie with the upper crust. Seal the crust carefully around the edges.
  • Brush the crust with the lightly beaten egg yolk.
  • Make two small holes in the crust into which you insert rolled up pieces of wax paper to make chimneys. Bake 30 minutes.

Notes

Pie crust: You could use a prepared crust but it’s also remarkably easy to make your own. I used this very simple recipe: 9 Tbsp (125 g) of cold unsalted butter cut into 2 cups (250 g) of flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Make a small well in the center, add ¼ cup (5 cl) of water and a couple of pinches of salt. Work into dough. Knead briefly, form into a ball, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out on a floured surface. Easy as…(oh, never mind)

top

Carrot cake: moist, delicious, American

When would I finally get around to making the carrot’s world-wide claim to fame? There is no denying the fact that people love carrot cake: big people, little people, fat people, thin people, and most especially French people.  Carrot cake (right along with cheesecake) is the American export par excellence. And made with dirty Normand carrots, it was a worthy tribute to the virtues of baking à l’American: 4 eggs, plenty of oil, more sugar than you can ever add to a recipe in good conscience, topped with the requisite cream cheese frosting.

I’ve included this recipe for all you great admirers of carrot cake who are consistently cajoled into paying staggeringly high prices for a slice of some dry imposter at trendy cafes and brasseries across Paris. Wow your colleagues, amaze your friends. This moist delicious cake will knock your socks off.

The original recipe can be found here at simplyrecipes.com.

Flour, 3 cups (375 g) (I used type 55 which I’ve heard is the closest to American flour. The rumor is that these things do make a difference.)

Sugar, 2 cups (450 g) (I got about ¼ of the way through the second cup when my sugar limit kicked in. Nobody seemed to miss the last ¾ cup.)

Salt, 1 tsp

Baking soda, 1 Tbsp (In France, “bicarbonate de sodio”, generally found in the same aisle as the salt.)

Cinnamon, 1 Tbsp

Olive oil or grapeseed oil, or canola oil, or a mix of oil and applesauce, as you deem fit, 1-½ cups (350 ml)

Eggs, 4 large, lightly beaten

Vanilla extract, 1 Tbsp.

Shelled walnuts, 1-½ cups (150 g) (I added somewhere between ½ and 1 cup of walnuts because that’s what we had.)

Shredded coconut, 1-½ cups (90 g) (I used about 1 cup)

Carrots, of course! shredded, 2 cups (We were over-zealous carrot shredders and ended up with 3 cups. I used all of them to compensate for my timidity with the walnuts and the coconut.)

Pineapple, crushed and drained, 1 cup (Interesting fact: crushed pineapple is a delicacy that one does not find on the shelf of a standard French supermarket. I used ½ can of sliced pineapple and then crushed it with a fork, slice by slice.)

So the recipe is set up for making a double-layer carrot cake, which I fully intended to do. But then I realized that I don’t have two identical cake pans… oh the horror! In the end I used a bundt pan (that’s a pan with a hole in the middle) and it worked out great. You could also make these into cupcakes. Just reduce the cooking time and take them out when the toothpick comes out clean.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch (22 cm) cake pans, or one bundt pan or a muffin tin or whatever baking form you have on hand.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. (Sifting always sounds like such a good idea but somehow, in our kitchen, it always ends in disaster. This time, the sifter refused to sift. I gave up after a good college try and sifted the rest with a fine strainer. After the cake was baking away in the oven and it came time to clean up, I started to shake out the faulty sifter and found easily a ½ cup of flour still in it. A bit of panic but nothing to be done. In the end, the cake turned out great so there you have it, even flour is optional!)
  3. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Gently stir in walnuts, coconut, carrot and pineapple.
  4. Pour into pan(s).
I’ll resist the temptation to describe what this looks like, those of you who change diapers regularly already know…
  1. Bake 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  2. Cool on a cake rack
  3. Once the cake(s) are fully cooled you can frost them with the elusive heroine of American baking: Cream cheese frosting.

Carrot cake: moist, delicious, American

Carrot cake (right along with cheesecake) is the American export par excellence. And made with dirty Normand carrots, it was a worthy tribute to the virtues of baking à l’American: 4 eggs, plenty of oil, more sugar than you can ever add to a recipe in good conscience, topped with the requisite cream cheese frosting.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Flour 3 cups (375 g)
  • Sugar 2 cups (450 g)
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Baking soda 1 Tbsp
  • Cinnamon 1 Tbsp
  • Olive oil or grapeseed oil or canola oil, or a mix of oil and applesauce, as you deem fit, 1-½ cups (350 ml)
  • Eggs 4 large, lightly beaten
  • Vanilla extract 1 Tbsp.
  • Shelled walnuts 1-½ cups (150 g)
  • Shredded coconut 1-½ cups (90 g)
  • Carrots of course! shredded, 2 cups
  • Pineapple crushed and drained, 1 cup, see Note below

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch (22 cm) cake pans, or one bundt pan or a muffin tin or whatever baking form you have on hand.
  • Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  • Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well.
  • Gently stir in walnuts, coconut, carrot and pineapple.
  • Pour into pan(s). (See note below)
  • Bake 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on a cake rack.
  • Once the cake(s) are fully cooled you can frost them with the elusive heroine of American baking: cream cheese frosting.

Notes

Pineapple : Interesting fact: crushed pineapple is a delicacy that one does not find on the shelf of a standard French supermarket. I used ½ can of sliced pineapple and then crushed it with a fork, slice by slice.
Pan(s) : The recipe is set up for making a double-layer carrot cake, which I fully intended to do. But then I realized that I don’t have two identical cake pans… oh the horror! In the end I used a bundt pan (that’s a pan with a hole in the middle) and it worked out great. You could also make these into cupcakes. Just reduce the cooking time and take them out when the toothpick comes out clean.

Cream cheese frosting

(Enough for the double-layer cake. For a single cake, half the recipe. Or make it all and eat the rest on a baguette for tomorrow’s breakfast.):

Cream cheese, 8 oz (225 g), at room temperature (a newcomer on the French cheese scene, one can now find Philadelphia cream cheese in most supermarkets. In a pinch, you could attempt to substitute another soft cheese like goat cheese or St. Moret, but that wouldn’t be very American.)

Butter, unsalted, 6 Tbsp (85 g), at room temperature

Confectioner’s sugar, 2-1/2 cups (300 g) (Sucre glace)

Vanilla extract, 1 tsp

Lemon juice, 2 Tbsp

  1. Cream the cream cheese and the butter. Sift in the sugar and beat until the lumps are gone. Stir in the vanilla extract and the lemon juice. If the mixture is too runny, add some more sugar. You can also refrigerate the frosting for a half hour before using to make it a bit thicker.
  2. Frost cake(s) when cool.
  3. Serve to admiring guests. On their insistence, open an American bakery in France spotlighting Chez Maureen’s Carrot cake. Set mercilessly high prices. Insist your recipe is a family secret. Make millions. Retire at 35. Write a food blog.

Cream cheese frosting

Enough for the double-layer cake. For a single cake, half the recipe. Or make it all and eat the rest on a baguette for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Cream cheese 8 oz (225 g), at room temperature
  • Butter unsalted, 6 Tbsp (85 g), at room temperature
  • Confectioner’s sugar 2-1/2 cups (300 g)
  • Vanilla extract 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice 2 Tbsp

Instructions

  • Cream the cream cheese and the butter.
  • Sift in the sugar and beat until the lumps are gone.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract and the lemon juice. If the mixture is too runny, add some more sugar. You can also refrigerate the frosting for a half hour before using to make it a bit thicker.
  • Frost cake(s) when cool.

top

Keep on top of your surplus by signing up to receive post notifications by email. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Coming soon…

Kartoffel-Möhren Gratin (Potato-Carrot Gratin)

Rôti de porc pommes boulangère (pork roast with potatoes)

Cabillaud gratiné à la crème (Cod gratin)

Please share your recipe ideas, suggestions and kitchen-tested testimonials below!

2 Comments

  1. I testify! Moist, delicious and American frosting with the real stuff. Thanks Maureen, c’était un régal! I’m going to attempt too 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating