Fall in Paris

Greetings from Paris everyone! I was going to write about how crazy cold it has been here but today, it was once again above 70F so summer has returned. I think my lesson about Fall in Paris is that it is unpredictable! Just a week ago, I was begging to turn the heater on and today I went out walking in a sundress! Oh how the weather has changed. The fall leaves are looking beautiful and giant piles of leaves have been accumulating all over the city. I’ve been happy and busy. Again, I do go to school and midterms season is here! I’ve avoided the worst of the exams but I still have my fair share of work. I last posted two weeks ago and while I’ve been out and about, it’s mostly been about getting more comfortable walking around Paris and feeling at home in the city. However, adventures continue to abound!

A Beautiful Bloom for the Jardin des Plantes

On Thursday after my last post, I finally made it to L’Orangerie! This museum was originally a greenhouse for orange trees, which were grown to feed the French public and monarchial obsession with oranges. It was later converted into a multi-use building and was proposed as an annex to the Musée du Luxembourg. It now houses the large panels of Claude Monet’s “The Waterlilies” and has space downstairs for temporary exhibitions. The chief draw for me was Monet’s work and it was incredible to view. When I went, there weren’t many people around and I was able to bask in the sheer immensity of the work. You really feel sucked into the pond where Monet painted. After seeing the real deal in Giverny, I have to applaud Monet’s skill in capturing their beauty for posterity. I also enjoyed wandering around downstairs where there were two temporary exhibitions. The visit did not take long, maybe an hour and a half total. I would recommend this to museum weary travelers to Paris or just students in need of a break! I know I needed one.

Inside La Felicita

Later that evening, I made my way to the hottest spot for drinks in town at La Felicita. I was able to enjoy a relatively cheap beer and got dinner as well. La Felicita appears to be a converted warehouse or some large space. It’s very cozy and the ambiance was amazing! It was wonderful to get to go and hang out with my friend. It felt almost like pre-Covid with the exception of the checking of the sanitary pass at the door. Hopefully, I’ll find some more great spots for drinks on the cheap in the future! I can’t spend all my money in France on happy hours!

Beautiful fall blooms at the marché on Saturday

The following weekend, I was able to enjoy some time for myself. M was traveling so I invited a friend over for brunch and we made American style pancakes! It was delicious and very fun to do on a weekend. That same day, I went to an Ethiopian restaurant with other friends and had a delicious traditional meal. I was the newbie to Ethiopian food in the group and had to learn to use my hands and the bread to scoop up dinner. It took some time but I eventually found success! I’ve found that in Paris, most of the cheaper or more accessible restaurants for my budget tend to be non-French food. I’ve had excellent Chinese, Korean, and Ethiopian food so far and I’m looking forward to trying many other new restaurants. On Monday, I was able to bake some cookies again! I found enough stuff to make my famous chocolate chip cookies and went for it! I was over the moon that the cookies turned out well and have added pictures below. It was the confidence boost that I needed and it helped me get through the rest of a crazy week! Our heating system was down for three days and I had to make due with no heating or hot water just as the Paris weather turned freezing cold! M and I made it through together and I’m very happy to be enjoying my heating when needed. With the weather turning nice again, M and I had a bit of a laugh over the trials and tribulations of the previous week.

Chocolate Chip Cookies! My sustenance through our heating troubles!

On Saturday the 16th, I finally made it to the Jardin des Plantes for a nice walk! I had been planning on going earlier in the week but the heater troubles kept me at home. I had a lovely walk in the sun and got to see all sorts of different plants. It was mind-boggling that this lovely garden was in the middle of Paris. When I walked in, it felt like a different world. The sun was out and I took advantage by slowly making my way through the different gardens. I loved the Alpine garden but the garden for the school of biology was pretty neat as well. It just seemed amazing that the garden was still in bloom in October. Of course, the roses had been cut back and were ready for winter but there was plenty of beauty all around.

A California Brown Bear sculpture at the Jardin des Plantes

After my time in the Jardin des Plantes, I walked over to the nearby Paris Mosque. I had stopped by on my Paris bike tour but was so entranced by the sweets that I had to come back. The mint tea is incredible and so are the Arabic desserts that they have available for dining in or takeaway. The price for tea is 2 euros and each of the little cakes are 2 euros. I thought it was a great deal and a real treat on a Saturday. Of course, the mosque’s restaurant and tea house are the hottest spots in Paris on a Saturday so it was tough to get a seat but once I did, I was able to enjoy a lovely repast that fueled my walk home! And that’s been the biggest things I’ve done these past two weeks. I’m trying to balance my obsessive desire to see every inch of Paris and also focus on my studies. I’m excited for fall break in just a few weeks and can’t wait to share my new adventures with you guys after the break. Until then, happy travels!

Mini-Pecan Pies

These are so good that one did not even make it to the plate for a photo. The day after I baked these, they were GONE! They are so good and I cannot wait to share the recipe! I found these after searching around for fall desserts on the New York Times Cooking App and came across these darlings! On their app, they’re called Pecan Tassies and are meant to be similar to a bite-size cookie. I ended up modifying the recipe slightly and making them much larger for a more satisfying bite and now I’m calling them mini-pecan pies! I love pecan pie and it’s one of my favorite foods that we have around the holidays. It’s also the favorite pie of my father whose birthday falls around Thanksgiving time. This year, I wanted to make these for our scaled down gathering and they have already been a big hit with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to make these for my whole family over the holidays!

I made a couple of modifications to the original recipe that really make all the difference. My recipe makes about ten cupcake sized pecan pies which I baked in a single muffin tin using reusable muffin liners. You can also make these in a mini-muffin pan that produces quite a few more so it’s your choice. The baking time doesn’t vary so you can’t go wrong either way. The dough that holds the pecan pie goo is quite soft and should be handled as quickly as possible so it doesn’t get tough or melt all over your hands. I added a tablespoon of maple sugar to my recipe which more than the two teaspoons of sugar from the original recipe but the addition makes the mini pies truly delectable. If you don’t have maple sugar, you can use regular granulated sugar or look for some maple sugar in stores. In my post “Maple Shortbread Cookies” I also include instructions for how to make maple sugar from maple syrup which you can always do as long as you have Grade A maple syrup around. The pecan pie goo is delicious but make sure your butter is truly melted before you mix it. When I was making my mini pies, I didn’t melt it as well as I should have and ended up with butter chunks that I slowly had to melt while trying not to cook the egg that I had already beaten in! As long as your butter and cream cheese are close to room temperature, it’s a super easy and quick recipe to whip together. Happy baking!

Mini-Pecan Pie Recipe

For the Crust

  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 123 grams (4 oz) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar (or granulated sugar if that’s all you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 128 grams (1 full cup) All Purpose flour

For the Filling

  • 1 large egg
  • 78 grams (1/4 cup) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 66 grams (2/3 cup) pecan halves, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a dozen non stick muffin cups.
  2. Make the dough. Beat together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and salt until creamy. Beat in the flour until the dough just comes together. Portion out the dough and press into a cup shape in the muffin tin.
  3. Make the filling by whisking together all the ingredients except the pecans.
  4. Sprinkle the pecans inside the crust in each of the cups before you add in the filling to evenly distribute the pecans. You’ll use 2 or more tablespoons per crust.
  5. Bake until the filling is set and the crust is brown 20-27 minutes (the original recipe went to 25 but I needed two extra minutes so go to 27 if your oven takes its time when baking stuff)
  6. Remove the tin from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the pies from the muffin tin and let cool on the wire rack. Once cooled, eat with a little whipped cream on top for a truly decadent mouthful!

Baked Apple Cider Muffins

Wow these were amazing! I got this recipe from the New York Times Cooking app and had been wanting to make it for a while! I had some leftover apple cider from a trip to the orchard a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try! These were delicious! They are the same as the apple cider donuts traditionally sold by apple orchards but even better! I liked them more because I felt that they didn’t get soggy after a day or two of sitting around and they were a joy to eat! They had the same texture as a donut but without all the fat and grease from being deep-fried! The original recipe is for baked donuts but the only thing that makes them donuts is being baked in a donut pan. Because I am a college student and not a professional baker, I do not have a donut pan. However, I have multiple muffin pans that I put to great use as part of this recipe! It has been tasted and approved by my boyfriend so I feel very good about putting this recipe out for the world to see!

There isn’t a lot of technique involved with the recipe but there are a few tricks to know about the butter and eggs used in this recipe. For butter, most recipes call for softened or room temperature butter. It is ALWAYS better to leave butter out overnight to soften but I have found that the microwave works out just fine in a pinch. I microwave butter for thirty second intervals and keep a close eye on the butter. Once it is easy to leave an indent in the butter, it doesn’t need to be microwaved anymore and has reached the softened or room temperature stage. Another trick with temperature is with eggs. I leave my eggs in the fridge most of the time because I’m never sure when I’ll use them next. This recipe calls specifically for room temperature eggs as do many recipes with an end product that is moist but strong. An easy trick for getting eggs closer to room temperature is to boil some water. Let it cool and then pour it over the eggs. The temperature of the water will gently heat the eggs without cooking them completely. This is an easy trick that can help you stick to your recipe and get great end results. I used both of these tricks while making these muffins because they were a spur of the moment decision! I hope that you are able to be equally spontaneous in your creation of baked goods and I wish you luck with these! Happy baking!

Baked Apple Cider Muffins

For the Muffins

  • 225 grams (1 3/4 cup) All Purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 140 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 165 grams (3/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 120milliliters (1/2 cup) apple cider

For the Topping

  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • To coat: 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a muffin sheet and a half. This recipe made me about 15 muffins so be prepared to move to the second pan.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a separate and larger bowl, cream together the butter and two sugars. Beat until light and fluffy
  4. Once fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are fully mixed in. Then add the vanilla extract and mix until smooth.
  5. In two additions, add the flour mixture, stirring in between additions. Gently pour in apple cider and stir until the batter becomes smooth and consistent.
  6. Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared cups and bake 23-27 minutes. Time will vary based on the heat and strength of your oven. Check for done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin and if it comes out clean, then it’s done!
  7. While muffins are baking, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon and melt the butter. Keep the cinnamon-sugar and butter separate.
  8. Once the muffins are done, let sit in the pan for five minutes. Once cool enough to touch, dip in butter then roll in cinnamon sugar. If you’re an enthusiast with the sugar, you may need to make more. If so, use the same amounts as before and store whatever you don’t use as long as it hasn’t touched butter.
  9. Enjoy your muffins right away or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Gluten-Free Maple Pecan Shortbread

Oh my gosh is it shortbread??? Again?? When does the obsession with shortbread end you may ask??? My answer at the moment is never!!! As a kid, I really hated the short texture in cookies where they just crumbled apart in my hands. I always preferred my cookies soft and honestly, I still like my chocolate chip cookies a little under baked so that they stay soft for days! However, I think shortbread reminds me so much of the Great British Baking Show and I refuse to watch the newest season without my mother present, so I’m compensating by making as much shortbread as humanly possible. Shortbread is also a celebration of simplicity with a huge flavor packed inside each cookie! I never appreciated nuance in my cookie but I’m really starting to, especially with the quantity of cookies that I’ve been making lately!

I actually made this recipe about a week before I choose to post about it because I wanted some time to experiment with the recipe a little bit. This recipe is originally from King Arthur Flour where it was credited to Alyssa Rimmer of Simply Quinoa! So you can thank Ms. Rimmer for the original recipe and myself for a few modifications. When I made it the first time, it was really heavy on the cinnamon and pecan but lighter on the maple. I had chosen these cookies for their maple flavoring and was disappointed when they didn’t deliver as much punch as hoped for in the maple department. As much as I complained about it not going as perfectly as I wanted, my boyfriend still taste-tested as many as he could get his hands on! So obviously, there are fans of the original recipe but I’ll be putting my variations next to the recipe below. I replaced the confectioners sugar with maple sugar and doubled the amount of salt. I thought it was missing salt from the original recipe but a doubled amount may be too salty for some. These are also a super quick cookie to throw together, so the opportunities to modify the recipe just a tad to your taste are only limited by your quantities of the ingredients! Let me know what you think of recipe or any of the modifications in the comments below! Happy baking!

Gluten-Free Maple Pecan Shortbread Recipe

  • 96 grams (1 cup) almond flour
  • 43 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 21 grams (3 tablespoons) confectioners or powdered sugar (For extra maple, use maple sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (I used 1/4 teaspoon and was happier with that in the extra maple cookies)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract (use regular if that’s what you have and it’s not super important if it’s gluten-free)
  • 35 grams (1/3 cup) chopped pecans
  1. Mix everything but the pecans in a bowl and mix until the dough comes together. Add the pecans and stir to combine.
  2. Using plastic wrap shape dough into a log. Wrap and roll on a counter to round it. Chill for at least 1 hour or until firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Remove the dough form plastic wrap and slice into 1/4″ rounds and place on the sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Maple Shortbread Cookies

I am so excited to finally have maple shortbread cookies that have worked! For several weeks, I’ve been baking and baking trying to find a good maple shortbread recipe. I’ve never been the biggest fan of shortbread but I’ve recently become absolutely obsessed with the crumbly crunch of these cookies. They remind me a lot of the Great British Baking Show because they seem so quintessentially British. For several weeks, I’ve been trying recipes with various levels of success. I’ve added maple syrup to several recipes to try and emulate that maple flavor without much success. Using maple syrup as a sweetener in a recipe is a lot like using molasses in the way that it adds the moisture and causes the cookies to spread. Maple syrup isn’t a good sweetener for shortbread because it adds a moistness to the cookie that is great for a cake but not so great for a cookie that you want to be very short or crisp. Below is a photo from one of my early experiments. The cookies were delicious but they definitely were not shortbread. They were a joy to eat but not quite what I was aiming for so I decided to try again with a recipe from King Arthur’s Flour.

When I was researching maple shortbread recipes, I came across quite a few that used maple sugar, something that I had never heard off. I looked it up online and even on Amazon, a one pound bag of the stuff sells for around $8!!!! That’s more than I pay for a five pound bag of flour!!! I kept digging and found out exactly what maple sugar is which is the crystallized sugar granules from maple syrup! Being an adventurous baker, I set out to make my own maple sugar from syrup and it turned out really well! You definitely need a candy thermometer to check temperatures but equipped properly, you can have a good quantity of maple sugar in minutes. The process is dangerously simple; you heat the maple syrup in a pot until it reaches about 50-60 degrees above its boiling point. From there, you beat it (by hand or with a stand mixer which is easier) until it crystallizes. Because I have a bit more experience and I can be a little reckless, I decided to do this and came up with about a fourth a cup of maple sugar! I would NOT recommend an amateur baker doing this but it can be done in a pinch if needed. Buying it is definitely easier and safer! If you feel that you have enough experience, look up instructions online and enjoy! I thought it was very fun!

This recipe is adapted from one from King Arthur Flour that actually makes maple shortbread sandwich cookies. My goal was to try and get the maple shortbread nailed before I started doing more complex stuff so my recipe only includes the shortbread dough. I used two different techniques for rolling out the dough. One was a traditional roll and cut out with cookie cutter while the other was using a cookie stamp. My mother gave me a beautiful pinecone cookie stamp for Christmas this past year and I’ve been dying to use it. This recipe gave me a great opportunity to try it and I think it came out very well for a first attempt! Either method you choose to use, I would roll to dough out to about 1/4 of an inch thick. I think it makes for a more satisfying cookie and it holds the shape much better. I hope you enjoy baking these as much as I did!

Maple Shortbread Cookie Recipe

  • 113 grams (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 39 grams (1/4 cup) maple sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple flavor)
  • 131 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) All Purpose flour
  1. Beat together the butter, salt, sugars, and vanilla extract/maple flavor.
  2. Add flour and mix until the dough comes together.
  3. Wrap in cling wrap and chill for thirty minutes if using a cookie cutter. Chill for 2 hours if using a cookie stamp.
  4. Preheat oven to 300F and line a cookie sheet
  5. Cookie Cutters: If using, roll dough out to 1/4″ thick and flour the cutter. Cut out cookies and place on lined sheet.
  6. Cookie Stamps: If using, remove tablespoon scoops from the chilled dough and roll into a ball. Lightly flour both the dough ball and the cookie stamp. Place the dough ball on flour and press down with the cookie stamp. Gently peel the cookie out of the stamp and place on lined sheet.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of the cookie or until the cookies just begin to brown.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheet.
  9. Once cooled, eat and enjoy!

A comment made by my boyfriend is that the texture is similar to pie crust. If I end up using it as piecrust, I’ll let you know how it goes! The recipe can also be easily doubled for more cookies. They store well in an air tighter container for several days and the dough/cookie can be frozen.

Brown Sugar and Maple Cookies

So these were made on the same week as my catastrophic blue soup. It was a week that felt like nothing would go right for me in the kitchen but I kept going! These cookies were absolutely scrumptious and if they had stayed in my kitchen, I may have devoured the lot. These cookies are warm and inviting with a little glaze on top to tickle the tastebuds. It hasn’t really felt like fall much here in Baltimore with the heat, but compared to CA it’s a veritable igloo over here! This recipe is from the Los Angeles Times Food section from about a month ago that I saved until I needed a little dose of fall.

So even though they turned out delicious in the end, there were some technical issues to be aware of as you try this recipe! I did not have enough butter on hand when I was making the recipe and substituted in some margarine which worked well. However, I did microwave the butter briefly because I hadn’t left it out long enough to soften. The microwaving made the margarine too soft and while I was able to mix the cookies up just fine, the batter was much softer than I would have liked. Before I scooped it, I froze the dough for twenty minutes which is good practice whenever you have really slack or soft cookie dough. Once baked, the cookies tasted fine but went soft pretty quickly. This recipe calls for a glaze which can add moisture to the cookies. If you prefer crunchier cookies, bake for an addition minute or two but watch carefully. The high sugar content from the brown sugar and maple syrup means that these cookies can catch or burn in the oven really quickly. A note on the glaze, mine wasn’t particularly white colored but to make a more solid glaze, you can add teaspoons of powdered sugar until it reaches the appropriate consistency and color that you prefer. I hope you enjoy and be sure to check out the Lost Angeles Times Food section on Sundays; it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the newspaper and the writers work really hard on perfecting these recipes!

Brown Sugar and Maple Cookie Recipe

For the Cookie:

  • 240 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 213 grams (1 cup) packed dark brown sugar (light is fine as well)
  • 78 grams (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 cup packed powdered sugar
  1. Heat the oven to 375F and line 3 cookie sheets (I used two and rotated their use but they are supposed to cook a little extra on the sheets once out of the oven so try to have 3)
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the syrup and beat until incorporated then beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well-blended.
  4. Add flour mix and fold in gently until no trace of flour remains. If your dough seems really slack at this point, freeze for 10-20 minutes or until it hardens enough to scoop
  5. Using a tablespoon measuring tool or a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop dough onto the sheets with at least 2 inches of space around each cookie. They will spread in the oven.
  6. Bake each sheet for 12 minutes or until golden dark brown. Cool completely on the cookie sheets on wire racks.
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the glaze ingredients. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Once cookies are completely cool, drizzle the glaze on top. Try to wait to eat them until the glaze hardens on the cookies.