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Durum atta flour

My mother always made pancakes using a mix of half atta flour and half all-purpose. Much more flavorful, and tasty, than their pale all-white-flour cousins!

Dec 02, 2010
lavagirl in Home Cooking

Making Marrons Glacés

Well, I made a batch using souschef's method! Cooking them in hot-but-not-boiling water was a great tip. And using my stainless steel vegetable steamer made lifting them in and out of the syrup easy.

Interesting: All the recipes I have come across for marrons glacés recommend increasing the concentration of the sugar syrup over the course of the candying process, but they differ in the concentration that they recommend. Some recipes suggest boiling to 220, 224, and finally 228 degrees F; others have you add sugar. (As someone mentioned above, the temperature to which you boil a syrup, past 212 that is, corresponds to a specific concentration of sugar.) The candying recipe that souschef links to opts for adding sugar, but the final concentration is less than that of other recipes (I say this because after finishing the process, I boiled the syrup to 228, and it took me a little while to get it there). I don't have an opinion about whether a lower or higher concentration is better, but I note the difference.

The results were good—certainly tasty and presentable. I plan to experiment with the process, however, because I would prefer them to be (i) a bit less sweet, (ii) firmer, and (iii) with a clear, less noticeable glaze, instead of the slightly milky-white icing sugar glaze that I ended up with.

I'm not sure how to make them less sweet (I found the chestnut flavor overwhelmed by the sugar flavor); two obvious possibilities are to soak them for a shorter period of time, and to use a slightly less concentrated sugar solution. As for firmness, I will first of all try to find marroni next time (I made this batch with the common ones), and second of all experiment with cooking them somewhat less (I cooked them for two hours, and they didn't have that nice firm texture that store-bought ones usually have). I think I will also bother to wrap them individually in tulle or cheesecloth—too many simply broke into several parts, with no agitation at all. Finally, I think I'll experiment with a lighter glaze—either made with a lower concentration of icing sugar, or with a stronger sugar syrup. (I used 1/2 cup of syrup and 100g of icing sugar.)

I found an old recipe from 1919, which I'm going to try next. Anyone know where to find marroni in Manhattan? (I assume many places have them, but if someone knows, that would be helpful!)

Nov 30, 2010
lavagirl in Home Cooking

Making Marrons Glacés

Thank you, souschef, for those detailed instructions and tips. Very helpful! The marrons in your photo look lovely.

I'm attempting to make them using your method—currently on day 3—and I'll be sure to report how they turn out. I'm using a stainless steamer instead of a pasta insert, but it works well (I'm doing a smaller batch) . So far the only issue I have is that they are so completely cooked that a third of them fell apart (well, into two or three pieces) on their own, without any agitation. I never got to the point at which an inserted toothpick didn't make a piece of chestnut fall apart: first the toothpick would crack it, so to speak, and then the toothpick would simply make the piece crumble. I cooked them over two hours, as you did, searching for the point at which the toothpick would meet no resistance. My other half, whose love of chestnuts and marrons glacés is intense and long-standing, thinks they are too soft. He thinks one should be able to take a bite of a marron glacé without the rest of it crumbling in one's hand, and he is skeptical that mine will meet that test.

A question: in your experience, is it necessary to cook them to this crumbly stage? Do they become firmer as they absorb the syrup? Do they turn out poorly if cooked just until they are reasonably soft (they reached the point at which I'd call them "thoroughly cooked" after 30-45 minutes.)

Since I've started this process, I came across the description of the process that Clement Faugier uses:

CF manages to candy them in 48-72 hours. If they can do it, why can't we? CF says the temperature oscillates, but I'm guessing that there's more low-temperature cooking and less room-temperature steeping than in the recipe you linked to. I'm wondering if cooking them at a very, very low temperature for, say, 12 hours at a time, followed by 12 hours of steeping, for a few days, would do the trick. I happen to have a single induction burner that's very handy for these things, and I could put it on the lowest setting and leave it there for several hours at a time. (Also, I love those tulle pouches they use—notice how they're long and skinny, and hold about ten at a time!


Another difference is that CF uses some amount of glucose syrup in addition to sugar; since I have that here (from a bout of nougat making), I'd like to experiment with that as well.

Let me know if you have any further thoughts or discoveries, and I'll do the same.

Nov 26, 2010
lavagirl in Home Cooking

Summer '09 Restaurant Week - plans, reviews

Went to Devi last night, unfortunately not having realized that their restaurant week deal is no deal at all. (You can always get an appetizer, a main, and a dessert for $35.) They added a few special dishes to the RW menu in order to distinguish it, but that just left us frustrated: we wanted the paneer that was on the RW menu, but didn't want either of the RW desserts. They wouldn't give us the paneer à la carte.

The saag paneer was absolutely delicious (fresh, bright flavors, and not too oily or creamy), and the sweet and sour eggplant was pretty good, though overly sweet for my tastes. The manchurian cauliflower was good, though not spectacular. The pappadum paratha was terrible, tough and dry, and a huge rip-off at $9. (Why is a pappadum paratha so much more than others? Each pappadum costs, like, five cents. I got it because it sounded interesting and unusual.) I didn't like the Emperor's morsel dessert. What was underneath the warm and salty cream did not taste like bread pudding: it tasted like a piece of deep-fried but soggy toast.

Overall it was disappointing, in part because I had high expectations. The food came out very quickly, which means everything was prepared in advance. There's a wide variation in the value of the dishes (the sides and vegetarian main courses are a great deal, but the appetizers and the pappadum paratha seem vastly overpriced for the deliciousness that you get). I'd go back for some of the better dishes, but would order carefully. The more adventurous dishes seemed to be the less successful. I loved his first cookbook, but wasn't too impressed with most of the food we had.

Jul 27, 2009
lavagirl in Manhattan

What to order at Otto

I went recently and really enjoyed the mushroom and tallegio pizza (other items weren't quite as memorable). i wanted to try the gelato, but didn't have room left—i've been meaning to go back for wine and dessert.

Jul 27, 2009
lavagirl in Manhattan

Dirt Candy - new veg restaurant in EV

I've been there twice, and really liked it. I'd go again. I liked the tofu with green ragout the most—the sauce was delicious, the vegetables perfectly cooked—but I also greatly enjoyed the greek salad, the pappardelle, the hush puppies, and the ricotta fritters. the portobello mousse wasn't my personal favorite, but it is striking, creative, and well done.

i thought the food overall was exciting, bold, and fun. plus they pour *very* generous half-glasses of wine, so you can try several, and the service is very friendly.

Jun 06, 2009
lavagirl in Manhattan

A Sweet Vegetarian Harvest at Dirt Candy

I really liked it. Especially the crispy tofu.

Jun 06, 2009
lavagirl in Features

So-so RW meal at Upstairs on the Square

The salad was the best part of the meal, by far. It was very good: asparagus, pea tendrils (tender, sweet and very pretty), potatoes, gribiche. My risotto was uninspiring—a subtle lemon flavor would have been nice, but the preserved lemons added too much lemon flavor and bitterness. I mean, it was all right, but I could have made it at home. My friend said the fish was good. The desserts were disappointing; the chocolate pound cake was pretty dry, and the rice pudding very rice-y and on the solid side. I love dessert, but found myself totally uninterested in these. The service was good, and I like the atmosphere in the club room. I enjoyed my glass of Chardonnay. Overall, I didn't think it was worth the $55. If I go again, it will be for the atmosphere, not the food.

Mar 18, 2008
lavagirl in Greater Boston Area

Three Days in Paris

Well, a few of my favorites:

-Taillevent (of the grand restaurants, I've also tried Le Cinq, and while that was also fabulous, and the food was every so slightly better than it was at Taillevent, Taillevent was the ultimate in intimate, exquisite service, impeccable food, and a lush, hushed atmosphere)
-L'As du Falafel, in the Marais (best falafel I've ever had)
-Pozetto's gelato, also in the Marais
-Pierre Hermé (superbly expensive, but incredible--the best macaroons I had)
-If you like tea, go to Mariage Frères and buy the "Éléphant Blanc" and "Capetown" teas, both of which are fabulous. If you go to the store in the Marais, you can sniff every tea.
-Morning coffee and croissants at Ma Bourgogne, overlooking Place des Vosges, as the sun rises over the square and floods the tables of the café with light
-Across the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg, on the rue de Médicis, there is a small square stall that sells crêpe sandwiches. They are really good. I recommend getting one with tomatoes, feta, an egg, and herbs. Eat it in the gardens, next to the boat pond.
-For a fabulous picnic, buy a fresh baguette (always ask for an "artisanal" or "traditional" baguette, or else you'll get the vastly inferior mass-produced version), a fresh piece of cheese, fresh tomatoes, avocado or whatever it is you like, a piece of fresh fruit, a pastry from corner bakery, and a bottle of wine.


You won't want to leave, believe me. When I was there for five weeks last summer, I thought I would at least get around to making a day trip or two...but I didn't! The time flew by, and by the last week and a half I didn't want to spare a day in the city.

Mar 06, 2008
lavagirl in France

Who Makes Trader Joe's Food?

There are certain products that I always buy at TJs: goat cheese, mascarpone, soy milk, tortillas, crackers, etc. And there are certain things I always buy at Whole Foods: olives, Italian and French cheeses, most fruits and vegetables, etc. As a grad student on a budget, I love TJs low prices.

But I do think that Whole Foods is a better company to support, so when I can find similar products for similar prices at the two stores, I buy them at Whole Foods. This usually includes yogurt, milk, oils, bulk foods, sparkling water, etc. Yes, Whole Foods can be very expensive, but I don't think that's a reason to dislike it or hold a grudge against it (as one of my good friends does). Whole Foods treats its workers well, sources sustainably-produced products, and makes a concerted effort to recycle food and packaging from its stores. It may not be perfect, but at least it tries. As far as I know, Trader Joe's also provides pretty good benefits for its workers, but makes no effort to support sustainable production methods and recycles very little, creating huge amounts of trash.

(This may not be the case in every store, but here in Cambridge, MA I know people who have worked at both places.)

Mar 06, 2008
lavagirl in Features