Noix pralinés – Candied walnuts

We have been blessed, deeply blessed, by the presence of a number of mature walnut trees at our home. When we first came to France, the walnut trees were our primary place of residence, so to speak. The children were preschool age, the house just barely habitable, and the trees offered us a place in the shade with a breeze that seemed to never end. We played, read stories, took naps and ate our meals under the walnut trees day after day all summer long.

As international school teachers, we were never around when it was time to gather the walnuts. We flew to other countries at mid August every year to be with our students rather than with the crops in the fields. Still, we always had walnuts to crack, shell and eat thanks to our neighbors who share-cropped the apples and walnuts for us. They took all they wanted and left for us all we could handle when we would return in late spring. That pattern is changing quickly now. The kids are grown, I am retired and its time to collect walnuts again. A good thing it is, as this year’s crop is the most abundant that anyone in the area can remember.

Two milk cows guarding a young walnut tree.

Now, what about those candied walnuts mentioned at the top of this page? So as not to delay any longer, have a look at the video below. Explanation to follow.

Making noix pralinés, candied walnuts.


  • 1 kg walnuts (shelled; preferably halves)
  • 350 g granulated sugar
  • 50 g butter (salted would be fine; would enhance the flavors)
  • 25 g ground cinnamon (I used sticks in the video but you can control your results more easily with ground cinnamon. The sticks may yield more cinnamon oil)
  • 10 g vanilla extract


1. Place a large, heavy duty pot on the stove. Turn heat on medium high. Pour in the sugar and cinnamon. Allow the sugar to begin melting, then add the butter.

2. Closely monitor the melting sugar mixture. Allow it to attain a deep amber, caramel, then add all of the walnuts. Stir with a ladle or wooden spoon. You must work quickly because the mixture will want to harden. Work your mixture on and off of the heat folding the walnut mass over and over trying to avoid breaking the halves as much as possible. Work quickly to cover the surface of all the walnuts.

3. Pour the mixture out onto parchment paper or a silicon mat working quickly to flatten the mass into a single layer. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. It probably won’t be.

4. When the candied walnut mass has cooled to room temperature, gently break the it apart into individual walnut halves or small groups of two or three but not more than that. Done.

Uses of your Noix pralinés.

1. Snack on a few with a cup of coffee or tea. A few! (They pack a caloric punch.

2. Crumble some up to put on top of (or mixed into) vanilla or mocha ice cream.

3. Crumble some up and sprinkle over a main-course salad.

4. Make Christmas gifts of small, ribboned bundles of this delicious nut candy. Guaranteed not to be returned!

Have fun making this with someone you love and have a sweet day.

(Today’s blog was written while zipping across France on the TGV headed home – back to those walnut trees and to my daughter. This batch of noix pralinés was left with my wife to lift her spirits as she is still working à l’étranger.

Kale and Brussels sprout salad

Kale and Brussels sprout salad / Salade de chou frisé et de choux de Bruxelles

I’ve been making this salad for a few years by now after seeing it on a Bon Appétit site. It never fails to receive compliments, and friends often request that I bring it to dinner parties at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a bright, crisp, crunchy salad that contrasts well with braised or grilled meats and cooked vegetables. If you do not enjoy the taste of Brussels sprouts, fear not. Raw, young sprouts do not have the same flavor profile as when cooked.

The salad is not the only handmade thing appearing on today’s blog. I made the salad bowl (top left) for my mother 50 years ago – in 7th grade shop class.

I normally use our food processor to make this salad in order to “be quick about it.” However, today, to honor my daughter (again) who constantly advocates for muscle power in the kitchen instead of electricity whenever possible, I use a chef’s knife for this task and so can you.

Meditation on knife over “robot” (French for food processor). The decision to use no power tools has an immediate impact on one’s environment both internal and external. Yes, it will take longer to make the salad. No, this task is not strenuous (like making mayonnaise or whipped cream by hand can be). But more importantly, your world becomes quieter. If you can “let go” of time for a bit and focus on the simple tasks in your hands, you may discover a sense of peacefulness and the pleasure of your handiwork. To this recipe for working in peace, I added one more element – I turned off the kitchen lights and was able to work easily in the sunlight coming through the windows. A poor man would probably get a chuckle out of all this “talk”. After all, he is not in a position to make such decisions. Oh, just to keep it real and simple: 1) I would suggest to not play music while you work. Sing or hum a tune instead, 2) Enjoy renewed attention to your sense of smell too, the garlic, the lemon and the parmesan cheese when you grate it.

INGREDIENTS (All as fresh as possible. No precise quantities given. Watch the video below and judge how you might do this for yourself or your family.)

  • Kale : strip leaves from stem and chop as desired
  • Brussels sprouts: remove stem and chop as desired
  • Garlic: peel and mince
  • Lemon (zest and juice; one or two according to taste)
  • Parmesan cheese: finely shredded but not powdered (avoid buying pre-shredded)
  • Almonds (toasted and roughly chopped; used sliced almonds here since that’s what was in the cupboard)
  • Olive oil: use your judgement on quantity creating the consistency that you like
  • Salt and pepper (freshly ground; to taste)
9 ingrédients – 2 mains – 1 couteau

Three Kings Muffins

“Three Kings Muffins”? What’s that all about?

This is a multilayered story. First, I want to promote shorter, expressive names for recipes, evocative names. The gourmet trend to include more and more of the ingredients in the names of recipes, leaves names looking too much like the recipes themselves. I’ve done the same, but in the end, it’s less memorable.  Names like “Cordon Bleu”, or “Tiramisu”, or “Hello Dolly Bars”are like the title of a book. They require you to look inside, taste and discover, do a little reading, to learn about the ingredients that make a whole from the parts. If it’s a good book, you’ll remember the title. Second, I like giving names that connect to my Christian tradition whenever possible. It’s a sweet way of weaving my faith into the cultural fabric of life.

“Fine, Tim, fine. Still, what’s with the three kings thing?” Well, It’s all about the recipe, so here goes:

  1. The recipe begins with Magnolia’s “Sour Cream Breakfast Buns.”
  2. Modifications begin here, using three flours instead of one (thus three kings):
    1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
    2. 1 cup oat flour
    3. 1 cup Spelt

  1. Three treasures were placed inside as gifts (not in the original plan):
    1. 1 cup apples (surplus from a previous recipe)
    2. 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (surplus from a previous recipe)
    3. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (surplus … you get the picture)
  2. A star was placed in the center –
    1. 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese filling (surplus… etc.)

As you can see, I couldn’t include all of these items in a name. So I had to come up with something. Kind of like Cisco (a.k.a. Vibe on The Flash), I get to name things. With three flours, three “gifts” inside, plus a star…

The Vibe says, “It’s Three Kings Muffins.”

What did the process look like? Hmmmm.


  1. Lightly oil and flour muffin tins – I do like the convenience of Baker’s Joy.
  2. Fill muffin tins 1/2 way – NOT 2/3.
  3. Dab 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese filling and push down with thumb


  1. Cover with topping (as per Magnolia recipe)
  2. Add a THIN dab of butter (as per YUMDOM requirements!)
  3. Bake

Magnolia recipe estimates 18 muffins. This actual recipe yielded 24 muffins.

Then enjoy.


Then enjoy giving some to friends.

gifted muffins

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a sweet day!

# 91 Raspberry-Almond Linzer Cookies with Cream Cheese Filling

“These cookies were another big Christmastime favorite at the bakery. They require a few steps but are really not difficult to make and are quite festive.”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks.


The Magnolia cookies call for hazelnuts, but I didn’t trust the ones I had on hand, so I substituted with almond flour.

Long time no see! Well, today is not a day of regrets but of Thanksgiving. Actually, Thanksgiving IS just around the corner, but I was thinking about these cookies. They turned out to raves among my colleagues. So, we were all thankful for that.

OK. As happens so often these days, I made some detours in the recipe of the cookbook – but not too much.

Detour #1 : As stated in the caption to the photo above, I replaced crushed hazelnuts with almond powder/flour. I think the hazelnuts were well past their best days. They didn’t smell right. I had TONS of almond flour and sliced almonds on hand so I went with them. As it turns out, the almonds may be the more traditional ingredient. (I’ll need to research that more thoroughly. Or if you know about this, leave me a note.)

Detour #2: Raspberry things. Firstly, I used raspberry jam WITH seeds, not seedless. I am a fan of St. Dalfour all natural jams. Sooooo…  Then I added a fresh raspberry in the well in the middle of the cookie. Cool! Wouldn’t you agree?

10544011_0_640x640  and    dreamstime_10126186

Detour #3: This was the “I hadn’t seen this done before” part. I made up one batch of Magnolia’s cream cheese filling (leaving out the egg), and spread a layer of that on the cookie before adding the raspberry jam. It went like this (see photos below):





We had a sweet day. I hope you did too.

Merry Christmas !! #51, Hello Dolly Bars and #52 Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies

#51 Hello Dolly Bars? From Maria Howard of Peculiar, Missouri. You just dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.

#52 “Allysa developed this variation on the traditional blondie. If you’re a peanut butter lover, you’ll be crazy about these!”

Clockwise from the top: Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies, Hello Dolly Bars, Fudge with Texas Pecans, Orange Cranberry Bread

Chezbonneau is in Texas for the Christmas and New Years holiday celebration, spending lots of wonderful time with the family. Although this is a time of year for lots of baking, M. le Patissier is not in his own kitchen, and certainly not in a normal routine. That said, some fun progress has been made – and enjoyed!

The plate of goodies above were the last pieces of the Chezbonneau contribution to the family Christmas Eve gathering. The Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies had to wait for a trip to the US of A since I have been unable to find Heath Bars in Qatar. I’ll be bringing a small bag of those toffee goodies back with me for a repeat. Of the four pictured sweets, these blondies were the biggest hit.

DETOUR: Very slight detour. When it came time to make the blondies, I didn’t have any peanuts, but I did have crunchy (instead of smooth) peanut butter – best substitute possible if you need one. The crunch peanut butter just added a flavor and texture punch from down below.

The Hello Dolly Bars tasted wonderful but didn’t “look” as inviting as the blondies. I know that I can improve on these – details below.

EMBARRASSING GOOF: When it came time to bake the Hello Dolly Bars, I couldn’t get to the recipe. I am in a place with Internet access that is virtually nil, and I was relying for the online cookbook. Well………. (here it comes), I left out the butter from the batter. I CONFESS – I was sure there needed to be butter in that batter, but not REALLY sure, even though I couldn’t believe..blah, blah, blah. I had jotted down “butter” in an earlier “connected moment” but didn’t write quantity or “how” it needed to be added. I didn’t believe it would work without butter (melted; into the mix), but I forged ahead without it. It ALMOST worked, and here’s how/why —————

I added extra condensed milk on top – a sort of “trickle down economics” approach to needed moisture. I won’t know what the Hello Dolly Bars “should” have looked and tasted like until I do them again – with the butter. But the result of these bars was “pretty darn good”, a favorite of some that Christmas Eve day. The only disconcerting element was the very bottom of the graham cracker bar. It remained dry, as with a dusting of cracker crumbs. But hey! They’re all gone!