I haven’t been hanging out with my laptop much lately. You see, I’ve been sort of busy doing this. And some unexpected things. Of the good kind.
Like a lunch at Mauro Colagreco‘s Mirazur – which you will certainly hear of next week – and the less-than-occasional dip in the waves. The skinny way. Or so they say.
There is one thing that couldn’t wait for my return to the island made of clouds and possible rain. An insider told me it’s been freezing, and although I really don’t want to believe him, he might be right.
After all, we had our London summer a month ago now. And if it’s anything like it’s been last year, that’s pretty much all we are going to get.
I, however, didn’t come here tonight to talk about the weather.
My plan was more about chocolate. And perhaps, a bit more chocolate.
In fact, let’s say it out-loud. It’s all about double chocolate.
As a reminder that choux aren’t only good when sucre casson is sprinkled on them. You could also slice the naked choux (and back we are at the skinny dipping thing), fill them with your favourite ice-cream.
It’s needless to say that I highly recommend a creamy chocolate ice-cream. And please don’t bother making a nice scoop. Spoon the ice-cream straight into the choux. Place the lid back on.
And drizzle a warm chocolate sauce on top. I was told that David’s is rather excellent. But on my side of the world, we just brought some milk to the boil and poured it over chopped dark chocolate until it seemed right.
Instant profiteroles. Not so pretty. But if that makes you feel any better, eating them is not pretty either. Let’s note it makes quite a decent dessert-fix though.
I could tell you how my dad would take me to the boulangerie after school, as I was smaller than the smallest tree of your garden. In fact, I could barely walk. But making my way to the bottom of the crumpled paper bag handed to me by the lady at the counter seemed easy.
That paper bag could hold a dozen of chouquettes. Or as I would call them, chouchou. Possibly, a made-up word from my dad.
Oh yes, I could tell you how my hands would be sticky. And my mouth most likely surrounded by pearls of sugar.
But instead, I will tell you about what happened a few days ago.
I brought milk and butter to a rolling boil. With a pinch of salt, just so; because, that’s the way to go. I added a good amount of flour. Off the heat, it goes without saying (and yet, here I am). I placed the pan back over the gas and mixed it with a wooden spoon until it was just dry enough. I transferred it to the bowl of my stand-mixer; although arms and a spoon would do a fine job too. And add the eggs, one at a time. Until it was just wet enough. I piped. Without a nozzle, because they all seem to be in London. And I am not. I brushed eggwash. I scored the top with a fork. Dipped in the remaining egg. I sprinkledsucre casson [pearl sugar]. I baked. And poured us a glass of white wine. Or perhaps it was a rosé.
And then, we ate them. Slightly warm. And guess what? Sticky hands and sugar around the mouth are a must.
Just like they used to be. Just like they always will.
Which reminded me about this sentence from one of my very favourite books: la contemplation de l’éternité dans le mouvement même de la vie [the contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life].
Chouquettes I think there are roughly as many pâte à choux recipes as there are pastry chefs. I remember a place where a mixture of milk and water was used. Sometimes, they would add a pinch of baking powder. Or some sugar.
My recipe possibly originated from the one we used at school. Except, it called for water only. And perhaps, a touch more flour and less butter. As I went by, I switched the water for milk. Full-fat, please. Added an extra knob of butter. A pinch of salt. And reduced the flour to 150g.
As for the baking method, it’s the one Pascal Lac taught me. A foolproof method that worked even in the most sophisticated English ovens. Or failing that, the most plastic toy-ovens at home.
Basically, you preheat the oven to 250˚C. Quickly get the trays inside. And just as the oven records 250˚C again (the temperature will drop slightly as you open the door), turn the oven off. For 15 to 18 minutes, until the temperature reaches 160-180˚C; at which point, the choux should be puffed up and yet still pale in colour. Then, oven set on 170˚C, without fan, dry them for 10 to 15 minutes, until nice and golden; and making sure you keep the door slightly open with a wooden spoon to let any steam escape.
However, feel free to bake them all the way at 200˚C if that works better for you. But I’m warning you: an oven has never failed me with this technique.
Just a note on the eggs. I usually use around 4 eggs and a half. So what I do is to incorporate the first four eggs, then whisk the last one, add a little of this to the dough and keep the rest for a made-up eggwash!
makes 40 small choux (roughly the size of a golf ball*)
a pinch of salt
150g plain flour
4 to 5 eggs, see note above q.s. pearl sugar
Preheat the oven to 250˚C, and lightly butter two baking trays.
Place the milk, butter, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over low heat – you want the butter to be fully melted before the milk boils. Take the pan off the heat and add the flour all at once, mixing as you go until combined.
Return to the heat. And using a wooden spoon, mix until a thin crust appears at the bottom of the pan. This shows that the dough is dry enough. It should not be sticky.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand-mixer and allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Then using the paddle attachment, add the eggs one at a time on medium speed until fully incorporated.
Scrape into a piping bag, fitted with a 12mm nozzle. And pipe little balls, around 3cm wide and 2cm high.
Brush with eggwash, making sure to smooth the tops. Then, dip a fork into the eggwash and score the top of the choux.
Sprinkle with pearl sugar.
Place the trays in the oven. As fast as you can. Really. Trust me, oven temperatures drop so damn fast. Then keep an eye on your thermometer and the second it says 250˚C again, turn the oven off.
After 15 to 18 minutes (see note above), turn the oven back on to 170˚C, without a fan. After a few minutes, keep the oven door slightly open by sliding the handle of a wooden spoon inside.
The choux are ready when golden-brown and not too moist inside**.
* Disclaimer: I have never played golf in my life. Even though I must admit, I really wanted too as a child. So much in fact, it’s now affecting me as I’m using a golf ball as a unit!
** Even now, I always test them (and by test, I really mean eat one) every two minutes past 10 minutes at 170˚C.
It seems I’ve been kept busy by the sound of pebbles rolling under the waves. In my records, it’s an all-good kind of thing.
I’ve been reading this (otherwise known as my new favourite food magazine) and that (please do check the amazing feature by my friend Emilie). And also a good old classic made special by the tinted glass of sunglasses and the breeze felt through a bikini.
Almost a year ago, a boy-friend – at times with a dash, most of the time, without – gave me two Japanese manuals.
A textbook and a workbook. They were both in one of those Muji clear pockets I love so much. With a pen and a highlighter. Perhaps it was yellow, or it might have been pink.
Almost a year later, the manuals have stayed in their wraps. And I know that one day, I will speak Japanese. When it’s time. When it’s right.
In the meantime, I can learn to cook like one. Or at least, pretend to.
This monster above was the very first of a somewhat successful batch of ice-cream mochi. It was white, but oozing green; reminding me of that slimy ghost of a movie I used to enjoy as a child.
And trust me, it might look easy when you see people – who seem to have more than two hands – wrapping the mochi paste around ice-cream. But when you’re too impatient to wait for it to cool down, then it oozes. A lot.
Luckily the next few mochi turned much better.
And excuse me for the analogy, but it’s a bit like crêpes. The first one always ends up being wasted – or in my case, eaten over the stove – most likely, by someone who is not cooking them; and no, I won’t name anyone here – while the pan gets piping hot again.
Monster-story aside, I’m quite excited with the prospect of home-made mochi. This time, I encased some green tea ice-cream that I had made a few days earlier, but really, you could use anything from chocolate mousse to fresh fruits.
I’m actually looking forward to making – and eating – a mochi version of the choux à la crème I grew up on.
Yes, I foresee soft crème patissiere wrapped in a chewy chocolate mochi dough. Or a matcha mousse around a couple of fresh raspberries.
Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha
Adapted from Clotilde.
For me, making ice-cream mochi was really an excuse to get my fingers used to the process of wrapping something in a sticky dough made of glutinous rice flour, sugar and water.
Ice-cream seemed great because it’s round and hard, and thus, I thought it would make the whole process easier.
I was wrong. I made a mess. And five mochi.
But it tasted divine. Mostly because of the matcha ice-cream that I made adapting my very favourite vanilla egg-less ice-cream recipe.
I wish I could share it, but since I used some atomised glucose and a pinch of super neutrose – and I doubt you have this in your kitchen – I need to work on a stabiliser-free recipe.
Just milk, cream, sugar and no eggs (don’t ask me why, I always find traditional ice-creams way too eggy).
But please, feel free to experiment with store-bought or homemade ice-creams. I’ve found that the easiest technique for me was to flatten the dough when it was still hot. And wait for it to cool down slightly before encasing the very frozen scoop of ice-cream, pinching the dough together to seal, then cut the overlap with scissors.
Perhaps not the most conventional way, but certainly the most effective not to have a thick layer of dough at the bottom of the mochi.
Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha
for 6 mochi q.s. ice-cream
100g glutinous rice flour (mochiko)
50g caster sugar
q.s. shredded coconut
Cover a plastic lid with clingfilm and place it in your freezer. Make six scoops of ice-cream and drop them onto the prepared lid. Put back in the freezer to harden.
In a heatproof bowl, combine the rice flour, caster sugar and water. Mix until smooth. Cover with clingfilm and microwave for one minute. Stir and repeat one or two time until thick and slightly translucent.
Fill a baking tray with cornstarch. Transfer the very hot and sticky mixture onto the cornstarch, and dust it with some more. Flatten using the palm of your hands.
Using a scrapper or a knife, cut into six equals pieces.
Flatten each to a 8mm thick disk. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until barely warm.
Working quickly, wrap a piece of dough around the very frozen and hard ball of ice-cream, pinching the extremities of the dough together to seal the ice-cream inside. Cut the overlapping bit and roll in cornstarch or in shredded coconut.
Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure you place the finished mochi back into the freezer as you do so.
Allow the mochi to sit outside for 15 minutes before eating.
So apparently, May started a week ago. I would love to say that I remember how beautiful the golden hour of the very fist day of the month; but the truth is I don’t.
What I know, though, is how amazing the days to come are going to be. A flight to France – the first in a long time, mornings at home and afternoons at the beach. Cooking for my family, and for friends. Drinking pastis on the small square of my favourite village – the one that holds my childhood memories and now my very best friend, Anna-Sarah. Milking goats on the smallest organic farm of the mountains. Hugging my sister, and parents.
Oh yes, the month of May is going to be a good one. Even though it will really start for me in a week, somewhere in between London and Nice. Up in the air.
And because, these upcoming seven days are going to go in a flash, you should know I have many things on the way. Ice-cream mochis, a dinner at Northroad and Ducasse, a cheesecake, some tiramisu pancakes, and too many other things.