Chocolate Dipped Physalis Berries

 Chocolate Dipped Physalis Berries

Chocolate Dipped Physalis Berries

Just bring out a tray of these chocolate dipped golden berries after a nice evening around a dinner table and you'll get some gasps, oohs, and ahhs!  Not only do these present well, but pop 'em in your mouth and they are ready to set off a mini explosion of sweet ambrosia coated in its bittersweet counterpart.

Some of you may have noticed that I've gone MIA.  I've been at battle up against the French administration and got sucked into its big black hole in search of how to go about getting a driver's license without breaking the bank.  I'm slowly pulling myself out of this administrative conundrum as I don't have much guidance and every French person around me has gone the traditional route in going with an auto-école (the infamous driving school) which of course makes sense since they had to learn how to drive in the first place.  

Being a holder of a foreign license already puts me at an economical advantage since I know how to drive already.  I've applied as a candidat libre (one who is not registered with an auto-école) but its big disadvantage is that I have to process all my requests online and in return it spits out automated responses stating they would get back to me depending on whether or not I have provided all the information correctly.  Turnaround time can be anywhere from a week up to three weeks for your first file to be approved or rejected (as in my case).  I had to tack on an additional few more weeks of waiting time for my file to be approved so that I could finally book a date for the theoretical part of the exam.  If you are registered with an auto-école they direct you through the red tape.

I highly recommend for future candidat libres to start your application process straight away in order to get your file approved and then start preparing for the theoretical part of the exam.   Your file is valid for five years.  

My error was that I did it the other way around so by the time I was ready to take the exam I couldn't.  The time lapse while waiting for my file to be approved didn't help matters.  Whatever I had crammed into my brain certainly didn't stick around long enough to wait for my application to be approved by the police prefecture.

Once you pass the exam which takes a good 3 weeks of cramming—and it's not because I studied and took the exam in French (I get a big pat on the back for that)— you can move on to the practical driving stage where one has to log in a certain number of hours and then ask for a driver's test date.  That request alone takes at least two months and apparently we are supposed to be thankful as our new President Macron actually reduced the waiting time to 2 months for people like me applying as a candidat libre.  Supposingly, if I fail, I would have an eight to nine month waiting period until my next driver's permit test date.  Word around town is that the auto-écoles have a strong hold with the police prefecture so that they receive priority over the dates for the driver's permit test.

A driver's education in Paris is costly.  Driving schools offer packages but usually that alone doesn't get you to pass the exam so they also offer extra hours of class priced per hour or other package priced driving hours on top so one can expect to pay anywhere from 800 euros (if you are lucky) to 2800 euros and more. 

I'm awaiting my driver's test date.  It's been almost two months now and no word yet.  No hurry though as I have yet to start my driving hours either.   Tomorrow will be my first lesson on the streets of Paris!  Will keep you posted...xx- M

 

Chocolate Dipped Physalis Berries

INGREDIENTS//yields 25 pieces

• 25 physalis berries, rinsed and dried
• 50 grams dark chocolate 95%, melted
 

PREPARATION

Peel back the leaves and place them in a bowl then rinse them under water.  
Wipe the berries dry before dipping them into the chocolate.

Prepare a bain-marie: I used a small pot and a ramekin.   Fill the pot with water halfway to the ramekin.   Take the ramekin out while you boil the water. 

Break your chocolate into small bits and place them in the ramekin and place it in the hot water.

Stir the chocolate as it melts so that the chocolate is even and well mixed.


INSTRUCTIONS

Place a piece of parchment paper on your working space.

Take the ramekin out of the pot once the chocolate is melted.

Place it on a clear working space and begin dipping each physalis berry into the chocolate and lay them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Be sure to space them out.

Let the chocolate set on its own or you can place it in the fridge for quicker results.

 

NOTE

I used 95% dark chocolate.  For a sweeter version you can use a chocolate with less cocoa bean.

'Tis the Season for Tarte aux Mirabelles

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At the farmer's market you'll find an abundance of these lttle darlings, mirabelles.  It's the season and they are everywhere.    Apparently the etymology of mirabelle means "wondrous beauty".  

These cherry tomato size plums are flavorful, delicate, and sweet.    They hail from Lorraine, the north-eastern region of France and they are nowhere to be found in the U.S.A. because they have a protected origin designation that makes it impossible to import them.    So, they are banned from the U.S. which is why I was deprived of these wondrous beauties in my youthful years.

These plums don't have a high liquid content so they are perfect for dessert pies and jams.  This is an easy, "impress your Amercian friends and guests"  kind of dessert.

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Tarte aux Mirabelles

INGREDIENTS//Serves 6

Pâte Brisée (pastry crust)
• 220 grams of flour
• 110 grams of unsalted butter, cut up and just out of the fridge
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 50 ml water

Fruit Filling
• 500 grams of ripe mirabelles, halved and destoned
• 1/2 sachet of vanilla sugar (optional)
 

INSTRUCTIONS

To prepare the pastry crust use a medium size mixing bowl and sieve the flour and cinnamon powder into it. 

Then knead in the pieces of butter so that you have pieces that resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

Add some water into the mixture and keep on kneading gently until you can roll the dough into a ball.

On a flat surface add some flour and roll out the ball of dough with a rolling pin to fit a 23 cm (9 inch) tart mould. 

Pat the the pastry into the round mould carefully pressing in the sides.  Cut away any excess dough and use it fill gaps in round.

Wrap the dough lined mould in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Prick the dough all over with the tips of the fork.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and line the dough with some baking sheet paper and baking beans or use rice to weigh down the pastry dough.

Preheat the over to 200°C (390° F) and place the pastry in the oven and pre-bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the baking beans and baking sheet paper and you should have a biscuit like texture.

Once your pastry is pre-baked, starting from the outside of the mould arrange the mirabelles face up and back to back working inwards.

Sprinkle vanilla sugar over it and pop it back in the oven for another 30 minutes at 200° C (390° F).

The mirabelles will have softened and caramelized, and will have a glistening shine.

Cut into equal parts and serve warm or cold.

Beetroot Brownies

Beetroot Brownies

INGREDIENTS//Yields 12 squares

• 1 medium size beetroot (approximately 250 grams), finely grated
• 130 grams dark chocolate, chopped
• 130 grams butter
• 3 tablespoons agave or honey
• 100 grams chestnut flour
• 30 grams cacao powder
• 3 whole eggs, whisked
• A pinch of sea salt
 

INSTRUCTIONS
 

In a medium size pot add some water and boil the beets until soft.  Then use a sieve and drain all the water out.  With the help of a back of a spoon, press into the beets to squeeze out any excess liquids.  Set it aside.

Melt your chocolate and butter in a bain-marie.  Then pour it into a blender, add the beetroot and the agave, and whiz it up.  Set it aside.

In a seperate mixing bowl combine your chestnut flour, cocao powder, and egg.  Mix by hand.

Add a pinch of sea salt and fold in the chocolate beetroot mixture.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and pour in your mix.

Pop it into your pre-heated oven at 160° Celsius and bake for 30 minutes or until you can slide a knife into it and pull it out clean.

 

Dorayaki...Les délices de Tokyo.

 Dorayaki(どら焼き)

Dorayaki(どら焼き)

I just watched Sweet Bean by the Japanese director Naomi Kawase.  In France the title is translated as Les Délices de Tokyo.  It's a beautiful and sad drama film that centers around a middle-aged man and an elderly woman working together in a dorayaki stall.

Dorayaki is like a pancake sandwich with a sweet red bean filling.  It's a rare treat to find it fresh off the grill unless you pass a stall like the one in the movie.  

My family used to receive a box of these on occasion.  In the box, the dorayaki would be individually cellophane-wrapped.  Opening one up was like unwrapping a little gift each time.

There is a scene in the film when the elderly lady is teaching the man how to make the red bean paste filling.  My ears piqued and the drama film quickly turned into a cooking lesson.  I love adzuki beans and they are commonly used in Asia to fill confectionaries such as these dorayakis.

Taking mental notes I knew what were to become of my dried adzuki beans in the pantry.  I couldn't wait to make my own filling for my own dorayaki.  

After the film, I prepared my beans by soaking them in water for use the next morning.  My stewing session the next day took a lot longer than the film lasted and longer than I imagined.  Man, those beans just didn't give.

I prepared the simple pancake batter and after waiting impatiently for the bean paste filling to be ready, finally,  I could make a dorayaki.   And guess what?  I ate it straight off the grill. 

I think my pancakes could have been thinner and moist,  and I could have been less heavy-handed on the filling too.   I'll share the recipe with you another time but try and catch the film if you can.  It may stir you in other ways but it certainly got me moving to make these Japanese delights.  Once I perfect them I'll let you know!

Pumpkin Cookies

 Pumpkin cookies in a  goûter  bag stitched and designed by  Marie-Joelle .

Pumpkin cookies in a goûter bag stitched and designed by Marie-Joelle.

I came home from work with a bunch of fresh pumpkin slices and quickly divvied it up and made some soup out of it along with a batch of these home baked pumpkin cookies.   I didn't have to labour over deseeding, peeling, and chopping up the pumpkin so it was a time-saver. 

Goûter in France is snack time.  You cannot deny the kids this rite since it's considered a light meal, usually a piece of baguette with marmalade or chocolate spread or better yet,  a fresh pain au chocolat right from the bakery.  Although nowadays it seems to be easily replaced by store bought cookies and cake. 

The kids stay through the primary school after-school program so they have to pack their own snacks.  Thanks to our friend and neighbor, Marie-Joelle, who has handmade this cute goûter bag as seen in the photo, it has made each night before bedtime cheerful; that is, the kids look forward to filling their personalized goûter bags up with a couple of treats.  This week it's clementines and pumpkin cookies!

Pumpkin Cookies

INGREDIENTS//Yields 28-32 cookies

• 320 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 113 grams butter, softened
• 300 grams granulated brown sugar
• 225 grams pumpkin purée
• 25 grams pumpkin seeds


INSTRUCTIONS

Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.  Then add your spices: ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Set it aside.

In a seperate large mixing bowl, mix the sugar and butter together until creamy and add in the pumpkin purée.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients in three parts and mix well.

Put it in the refigerator fo 30 minutes or you can drop spoonfuls of the mix onto the baking sheet straight away (I like to roll my cookie dough into balls so I put the mix in the fridge to harden up).

Drop some pumpkin seeds on each cookie and press them into the dough.

Pre-heat your oven to 175° celsius.  Bake for 15-18 minutess until golden.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Granola Crust

It's my party!  FotoFeedMe is officially one year old.  Can't believe I haven't skipped a beat since last December! I've been pretty obsessed about styling, photographing, and cooking up a storm and what better way than to share them with you on this blog. 

Thanks everyone for keeping me company through this insatiable and experimental journey.  There are terrific days, blah days, sunny days, dreary days, healthy and not so healthy days, freezing your butt off days—on top of that there are mindless tasks and chores to do or on the To Do list/lists.  No matter what, sprucing up my food has been a delight for me and I hope it brings you some cheer too.   

Pumpkin Cheesecake With Granola Crust

INGREDIENTS//6 muffin size cakes

• 200 grams kefir cream cheese or regular cream cheese
• 120 grams pumpkin, purée
• 60 grams brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• pinch of nutmeg

FOR GRANOLA CRUST

• 100 grams plain granola, blended
• 25 grams butter, melted
 

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare the crust first.  In a small pot, melt your butter on low heat.

Preheat your oven to 175° C or 350°F.

Blend your granola and transfer it into a small bowl. 

Add the melted butter and stir.

In your muffin mold, fill the bottom with the granola mix and press down on it with your fingers.

Put it in the oven for 10 minutes.  Take it out and let it cool.

Prepare the pumpkin cheesecake filling.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all your ingredients and beat until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 165°C or 325°F.

Fill your granola crusted muffin molds three quarters full and place it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Allow it to cool and then place it in the refigerator for at least a few hours or overnight before serving.


NOTE

I used my kefir cream cheese in this recipe which brought a citrusy taste to this cake.  It was almost as if I added lemon juice or something of that nature.  It slightly overpowered the pumpkin flavor of this cake but nevertheless, it was still delish!

 

 

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake and Cashew Frosting

I don't know if it's the sudden change in weather from cold to freezing—ahem, it snowed on Monday—or the nerves on edge leading up to America's election day that I suddenly find myself in a state of shock today realizing that President Obama is about to hand over the keys of the White House to Donald Trump.

I've been baking up a storm and you can call it comfort food or not.  Either way, my apartment smells like carrots and spices and it calms my senses.  I posted a carrot cake recipe last week too.  Here's another to consider, it's gluten-free and just as moist and tasty.  I don't build walls between gluten and gluten-free food camps (I am not allergic to gluten!).   I just like a varied and moderate diet and love to experiment with ingredients. 

I have used chestnut flour as an alternative to all-purpose wheat flour.  It has a similar starchiness to that of traditional flour and has a sweeter and slightly nuttier flavor to it. 

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake and Cashew Frosting

INGREDIENTS//YIeilds 10 muffin size cakes

• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
•  3/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 cup chestnut flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder (use a brand that uses cornstarch not wheat flour for gluten-free option)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cup carrot, finely grated
• 1 tablespoon flax seed (optional)
•  1/2 pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, chopped (optional)

Cashew Frosting

• 1 cup raw cashews, soaked
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1/2 cup almond milk
 

PREPARATION
Soak the cashew nuts in a glass bowl and cover overnight.


INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients.

Then add in the chestnut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Stir in the carrots and then fold in your flax seeds and nuts (optional).

Preheat oven to 350°F (175° C).

I used a muffin tray on this particular day but it's perfect in a loaf mold too (fills one 9.6 x 4 inch mold).

Pour the batter a little more than halfway into your mold.

Bake for 30 minutes or until you can poke a skewer in the carrot cake to see if it comes out clean.

While your muffins are in the oven, you can prepare the dairy-free frosting.

Cashew Frosting

Drain and rinse your soaked cashews. 

Place in a processor along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  You can add a little bit of water if needed.

Once the carrot cake is cooled, you can frost them.

 

Moist Carrot Cake

 Baked and styled by Mila and Viktor.

Baked and styled by Mila and Viktor.

This is one of those cakes that doesn't last very long in our household.  It is easily eaten for breakfast, snack time, and for dessert. 

My kids are starting to get their hands involved, not only on the cooking front but on styling ideas and taking pictures of food.  This is their first project together from beginning to end.  It was an all day affair which kept them busy.  I turned a blind eye to my messy kitchen and devoured one of the most delish carrot cakes ever.

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Moist Carrot Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or Brazil nuts (optional)

 

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Then gradually mix in the flour.  Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Stir in the carrots and then fold in your nuts (optional).

Preheat oven to 350°F (175° C).

Pour the batter a little more than halfway into a loaf pan or a round baking pan.   I have a silicone loaf pan so I don't need to grease my mold.

Bake for 40 minutes and check by inserting a knife to see if it pulls out cleanly.

I use a 9.6 x 4 inch mold.  I get two carrot loaves out of this recipe.

 

Heart Shaped White Chocolate with Black Sesame Filling

This is a simple and fun recipe to make with kids by converting a chocolate bar into fun heart shaped chocolates.  

My kids and I paired white chocolate with black sesame filling and loved the black grit that's left behind in the teeth.

We love wrapping them up in transparent bags tied with a pretty ribbon around it and offering it to friends.

White Chocolate with Black Sesame Filling
 

INGREDIENTS

• 1 bar white chocolate
• black sesame paste

INSTRUCTIONS

If you have a double boiler, go ahead and melt your white chocolate.  I don't have one so I use a heat-proof mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water to melt my chocolate.  Make sure the bowl fits snugly and doesn't touch the bottom of the saucepan. 

Fill each heart shaped mold a little less than halfway with the melted chocolate. 

Use the back of the teaspoon to coat the sides of the mold with chocolate.   Finish up coating the bottom and sides of the heart molds and then place it in the refigerator for 10-15 minutes.

After the chocolate has hardened into place, fill the center with the black sesame paste.  Be careful not to overfill.

Cover the filling with the rest of the melted white chocolate and place it back in the fridge for another round of 10-15 minutes.

When hardened up, pop the chocolates out of the mold.  Let it sit at room temperature before serving.

 

 


 

Steamed Pandan Cake

So this is what I've done with the pandan extract from last week's post, I have steamed a cake that has come out nice, spongy, and green with a taste of pandan.  Coconut is a popular match to this particular pandan flavor, so sprinkle some dried, shredded coconut over it toasted or not and have yourself a tea break.

.

Steamed Pandan Cake

INGREDIENTS

• 2 eggs
• 100 grams brown sugar
• 2 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, unrefined (virgin)
• 1/2 cup almond milk (non-sweetened)
• 3 tablespoon pandan extract (home made)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 200 grams flour

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine your eggs, brown sugar, and coconut oil.  Mix together.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Add the pandan extract in the almond milk, and keep mixing until everything is combined smoothly.

Sift the flour and then fold it into the mixture.

Pour the batter into individual cupcake molds, ramakans, or whatever mold you like that fits in your steamer basket and cover.   Place in a pot filled with an inch or two of boiling water making sure the bottom layer of the bamboo steamer basket doesn't touch the water.   Steam for 12 minutes or until you can slide a knife through the center to see if it comes out clean so that you know it's cooked through.

Let it cool.   Generously sprinkle some grated cococnut over it and serve.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies

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Fortunately, I don't have celiac disease, and I am not gluten intolerant, or anything of that sort; but I do like to experiment with different kinds of nutritional therapy and ingredients.  I choose a varied and moderate regimen when it comes to food, and since it seems impossible for my family to avoid glutttonous, glutinous treats, on occasion I try to make snack time gluten-free and homemade.  Le goûter in France takes place right around 4:30 p.m., when pre-school and primary school lets out, a.k.a. snack time and the witching hour—we all know what a pack of hungry wolves look like.   Usually you'll see the parents waiting around for their kids with a pack of biscuits, a fresh pain au chocolat straight from the bakery, or other viennoiserie in hand.   Traditionally, it would be a tartine: a slice of bread topped with confiture and butter or a piece of chocolate.  Oldies are goodies for sure—just the other day I saw a bakery offering mini brioches stuffed with a chocolate bar.  Trust me, I was tempted to reenact a childhood experience I missed out on.  It's on my radar for the next time.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies

INGREDIENTS//Yields 18

•  3/4 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (my mix: 1/2 cup rice & millet flour, 1/4 cup oat flour)
•  1 teaspoon baking powder
•  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
•  1/2 teaspoon salt
•  1/2 cup packed brown sugar (2/3 cup if you prefer sweeter)
•  113 grams butter, softened (1/2 cup or 1 stick)
•  1 egg
•  1 1/2 cups oats
•  1/3 cup raisins (optional)
•  1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (optional- hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the first six ingredients.

Add the softened butter and combine it with the ingredients.

Stir in the egg and mix until creamy.

Gradually stir in your oats: alternate between your oats, raisins, and nuts.

Pre-heat over to 190° Celcius (375° F).

Roll your dough into two inch balls.  Place it on your baking sheet leaving about two to three inches apart.

Bake for 8 minutes or until the edges have turned golden brown. 

Let it cool a little before removing from baking sheet.   Then let it cool down completely.

NOTE

Do not overbake your cookies otherwise they will be crunchy.  These cookies come out thin.  The dough spreads out in the oven.  Mine turn out crispy along the edges, sticky and chewy throughout the cookie. 

 

 

 

Cannelés Bordelais

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I have a deep affection for this sweet pastry.  It was introduced to me when I arrived in France 10 years ago at a dinner in my friend's apartment.  We didn't speak much of each other's languages at the time but I figured I should be the one making the effort since I was living in her country.   Mainly I was impressed by her incredible patience in listening to my very broken French and with her subtle corrections—which proves she was actually listening to me—encouraging me to carry on as if I was fluent as a singing bird (mind you, wine was involved).   Then she won me over as she came out with a beautiful plate of cannelés bordelais.  I bit into one and fell in love.  I never had anything like this texture.  A thick caramelized chewy crust with a soft, moist custard center.  I had to know how to make it.   The next time I saw Sandrine—my quintessential French friend, with her Jean Seberg styled crop and pretty make-up free face—she gifted me the recipe and the particular mold the cannéles are baked in.  It was the perfect, thoughtful gift with a French touch.  I am sharing a song by Étienne Daho, another cultural lesson well learned by her.  So when you take out your tray of baked cannelés to Étienne Daho's whispery voice in the back, top it off with a "voilà" and suddenly we feel so à la française!

Cannelés Bordelais

PREPARATION TIME

15 minutes plus an hour of refigeration time, even overnite if you want to prepare ahead.

BAKE TIME

1 hour

INGREDIENTS//yields 16

• 1/2 liter whole milk (2cups)
• 1/2 stick vanilla (slit lengthwise)
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 whole eggs
• 250 grams powdered sugar (2 cups)
• 100 grams flour (3/4 cup)
• 50 grams butter (3.6 tablespoons)
• 1 tablespoon rhum

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the milk and infuse the vanilla stick in the hot milk.  Once it starts to boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot.  Set it aside to cool. 

Melt the butter and let it cool. 

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar.

In a separate bowl,  whisk the eggs together (the whole eggs and the egg yolks).  Then add it to the sugar and flour mix.  You can stir by hand or by mixer until its consistency becomes slightly thick and smooth. 

Take the vanilla stick out of the cooled down milk and add it to the flour, sugar, and egg combination.  Continue to stir everything together.

Add the butter, and continue to mix in the rhum.

Let the batter sit an hour in the fridge or even overnight.  You will find that the batter settles a bit at the bottom after refigerating.  Just stir it gently and then fill the cannelés mold up half way.  Place in oven for an hour at 350° F or 180° C.   I usually check the crust while it's in the oven.  I like it when the crust gets more than golden brown.  When it's done, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Voilà!