Month: May 2012

La boîte à recettes et autres petites histoires

[The recipe box and other little stories]

1. A feature I’d been wanting to do for ever: a recipe box on the front page of the blog. You can access it by clicking on the link in the navbar above or scrolling to the bottom of any page.

2. In the sidebar and above the header, you’ll now find a small list of the social medias I’m fond of. My facebook page, instagram pictures, and twitter feed. And for inspiration, I’m giving you links to my pinterest and my much loved tumblr.

It looks like this:

3. Speaking of instagram, you can see my latest iphone pictures in the sidebar. Fun times ahead!

Now, I realise my blog has a weird layout that can make navigation somewhat difficult. Is there any tweaks or things that you’d like to see around here?


Réussir le fondant pâtissier blanc, pas à pas – Mastering white pâtissier fondant, step by step

One of the first things you see through a boulangerie-pâtisserie window in France is a herd of glazed éclairs and choux. Pretty in pink, brown, white, and more often than not, green too.

Fondant can be bought in professional shops, most likely in one or seven kilo buckets. But did you know you can make it at home with just two ingredients?

It takes around ten minutes to make a kilo of fondant. So get ready to glaze éclairs like there is no tomorrow, because you’re about to learn how to make fondant pâtissier.
Here I’ve only made 250g because that’s all I needed for a recipe I’m developping for le petit cookbook, but the recipe can easily be doubled as fondant will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a year.

To make 250g of fondant, you’ll need:
250g caster sugar
100g water

As for the equipement, nothing super-fancy: one large pan, a brush, a probe, a stand-mixer (or failing that, hand-beaters). A plastic scraper is handy too!

1. Place the sugar and water in a large pan. Cook the syrup to 114°C over medium heat. The ideal temperature to make fondant is in between 114 and 116°C, so remove from the heat at 114 an the temperature will naturally reach 115-ish. Perfect!

2. While cooking the syrup, brush the sides of your pan with a wet brush to remove any bits of sugar which might caramelise or even worse, crystallise.

3. Fill the sink with 3cm of cold water and dip the bottom of your pan in it to cool the syrup to 75°C.

4. Pour the cooled-down syrup in the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachement.

5. Beat for approximately five minutes, or until thick and white.

6. Transfer to a clean work surface. Work the fondant, first with a scraper and then with the palm of your hand until cold. Don’t hesitate to really push it to remove any lumps. Form a smooth ball.

7. Place in an airtight container. Clingfilm to the touch and close with a lid. Keep in the fridge. Use within a year. Ooh yes!

Now I just have to show you how to glaze éclairs and choux. And perhaps even a millefeuilles! Next time…


Comme la rosée des matins d’été – Confiture de concombre à la vanille

[Not unlike summer morning dew – Cucumber and vanilla jam]

I walked in mud and bought some vintage tupperwares at a vide-grenier. I saw waves bigger than life. I felt them too. And heard the music they make as they crash into the sand.

I painted feathers onto a white porcelain plate. And abstract watercolours too.

And really, there is no feeling that matches creating something with your hands.

I admired raindrops on leaves. Not unlike jewels. Not unlike summer mornings dew.

I made brioche, two loaves of it. One of the quick kind, the other of the twenty-four-hour-slow kind. Both were eaten with cucumber and vanilla jam, generously spread – or perhaps, more accurately: dolloped.

And I remembered how much I love to make jams. Even more so when it takes barely five minutes. The secret is called Confisuc and although I know how to live without it, I must admit it makes things easier.

Grated cucumbers marinated with pectin sugar and more vanilla than you’d think necessary for a couple of hours. On the stove for five minutes. In the fridge for an hour.

And breakfast is served.

Confiture de concombre à la vanille
Adapted from Elle à table n°51

This recipe is seriously easy. “Deux temps, trois mouvements”, as we say in French.

It made me dig through the books at my parents home, looking for the one book you should have if you love jams: Christine Ferber’s Confitures.
And I’ve been reading it. A lot. So expect some breakfast treat around here!

This jam tastes like vanilla with the subtle freshness of cucumber. You should try it, it’s pretty amazing.

Confiture de concombre à la vanille

makes one pot

250g peeled and grated cucumber (from 2 medium cucumbers)
175g jam sugar
seeds from one vanilla pod

Place all the ingredients in a medium pan and stir well. Marinate for two hours.
Over high heat, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until the jam coats the back of a cold metal spoon. Transfer to a clean jar, close the lid and allow the jam to cool upside-down.
Chill and keep in the fridge.


Les vagues

[The waves]

I drove along the coast on Sunday. It was raining. Of the fast windscreen wipers kind. And the wind would push waves on the road.

I stopped. And my cheeks turned pink. And my glasses got covered in mist.

On this little animated gif, they might not look big, but trust me, the waves were at least two-metres high.

PS. Thank you so much for all the sweet words about le petit cookbook! I’m getting more and more excited with every word I write. And a bit stressed too! I mean, it’s not like the deadline is in a week… Oooops.


Surprise, surprise – Madeleines aux framboises

[Raspberry madeleines]

This morning, the sky turned black, of the bruised kind. And then, clouds started to grumble, roar really. For minutes. And before we knew it – {insert French accent here} surprise, surprise {end of French accent} – rain was pouring down in the kitchen window.

I had chocolate lava cakes in the oven. Madeleine batter in the fridge. And a fraisier – just assembled – on the counter.

Writing a book is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. Every morning, I wake up to the biggest cup of latte you could dream of. Straight from a French press.

I then write a mise-en-place list, not unlike the ones I used to write at the restaurant. And then, things gets crossed off as I take out tray after tray from the oven.

The deadline is sooner than later. And recipes get tested many times before I write them down. First on paper, then on my laptop.
A chapter was sent already. And I’m almost there on two others. It promises all kind of good things.

Walks through a forest where rain comes from trees, chasing crabs on a desert beach, biking on pebbly roads, days made of glitters and more… Oh yes, so much more.

And somehow I just got sidetracked here. Let’s go back to the moment when raindrops started hitting the kitchen window.

I rushed to the garden, barefeet. The grass felt so fresh I could have stayed there forever. But the very first raspberries had to be picked before the rainstorm. And so they got picked. One, two, three… seven.

It might not be much, but it’s still terribly early for raspberries.

I ate two. The other five got baked inside the madeleines I made for the-book-with-no-name. Let’s call it le petit cookbookfor now.
And even though the recipe is going to be included (in a somewhat different form, surprise surprise) – it’s that good! – I could not resist writing about it here too. Trust me, it’s been hard baking so much (around eight to ten things a day!!!) and not talk about everything I make here.

Hope to see you sooooon. Miss you for ever and more.

Madeleines aux framboises

If there was only one thing to be said about madeleines, it would be along the lines of: heat shock.

Yes, really, when making madeleines, the heat shock is pretty much all that matters. For this, I chill my batter for at least three hours (two are ok-ish too, so go ahead, I’ll close my eyes and pretend nothing ever happened). And I preheat my oven to 220°C for a good half-an-hour before reducing to 180°C.

If you know this, then madeleines will be yours in a few hours. To eat still warm, it goes without saying!

Madeleines aux framboises

makes 14 madeleines

80g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
100g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream the butter with a tablespoon of the sugar and the vanilla extract. In another bowl, whisk the remaining sugar with the eggs and the pinch of salt until light and fluffy.
Gently fold in the flour and baking powder until just combined.
Scoop out a third of the batter into the butter and mix vigourously. Transfer back into the remaining batter and fold very gently.
Scrape the batter into a plastic piping bag and chill for at least three hours.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Butter and flour a madeleine tin.
Pipe the batter three-quarters of the way up the prepare molds. Stick one raspberry in each. Reduce the oven to 180°C and bake for 14 minutes or until the edges are a deep-golden brown and the bump just begins to get brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and unmould.


Oops #3

As off today, I’m out-of-office-ish.

You see, I’ve walked under a sky made of Union Jack buntings. I’ve sipped through golden glasses of mint tea, served just like under that Moroccan tent I slept in years and years ago. I’ve eaten dim sum and soft shell crab with almonds toasted just so. And roasted chilli peppers too, a whole handful of it.

I also dropped by that little shop in the Carnaby neighbourhood. The one with neons that look like cameras. And cameras that look like neons.

So yes, I’m going to be “busy”. I’ll be back soon to share what my new bling-bling toy captured though!

Oh and since we’re talking about being “busy”, I thought I would share that picture my little sister (a #loveofmylife hashtag seems appropriate here) took last year when we were in Cornwall. By that lighthouse we fell in love with. One day under the mist, the other under a sky so blue it made her eyes look pale as diamonds.

What’s the reason you’re currently out-of-office-ish? Oh well, whatever it is, I guess a cheeky-smile ooops fits right in!


Not unlike living in cotton – Scones, scones, scones…

So it seems I’ve told you I’d see you soon with tips for the perfect scones. Apparently, soon can hold different meanings.

A birthday to the sound of drum n’ bass, and glow-sticks around my wrists. Days on a bed that has become my work place, writing the book I should tell you more about. Mess in my kitchen, cakes on the counter, and bread in the oven. It smells like a bakery around here these days. A surprise I can’t say too much about, but it should involve beach and pastis on a café terrasse.

But well, today is quiet. The clouds deaden everything we hear. And they muffle everything we see too. Not unlike living in cotton.

A perfect day to make scones. In fact, I have some in the oven right now. Getting golden-brown just so. The mascarpone is ready to be spread. And a jar of home-made cherry jam from last summer has been opened. It’s really more of a runny compote, but damn, it tastes of wild patches of sunflowers and bike rides by the ocean and sunsets made of rainbows.

I have the feeling my goûter is going to be pretty amazing.

I know many of you are on the quest for the perfect scone. I’ve been there too.

After years of research, I’ve come up with a go-to recipe. If you have a favourite too, just go for it, but try to follow the tips I’m giving just below. And you’ll see, your scones will have never looked that pretty!

1. Use cold butter, cut into smal cubes. This will prevent the butter from melting as you work it into the flour and will thus give that flaky texture we all love.

2. Mix until the dough feels JUST smooth. Undermixing will give a patchy scone, looking a bit rough. It will still taste great though. However, if you overmix, the scone will turn out very cakey.

3. After rolling, chill the dough for half an hour. Wrapped in cling-film and placed on a tray, with the bottom side still at the bottom (and I can’t stress this enough).

4. Flour your cutter. Dip your cutter into flour, then tap off the excess on your work surface. This prevents the dough from sticking to the cutter, and the cutter from squishing the dough. It makes for the neatest edges ever.

5. Place the scones upside-down on the baking tray, bottom-side up this time. Once you’ve cut the scones, the bottom side will always looks flatter and smoother. Trust me.

6. Glaze twice. With egg yolk only. And make sure to wait at least 10-15 minutes in between the two egg-washes. Over the years, I’ve found that egg yolk only gives the best results. Shiny and golden-brown.

7. Allow to cool down before eating. Because no-one likes a doughy scone.

Scones, scones, scones

This recipe might just be one amongst millions, but it’s my favourite. For the smooth and flaky little clouds – that some call scones – it makes.

I don’t have much to say about it, other than I can make it with my eyes closed, knowing I will have a perfect tea-time. Talk about instant gratification!
Butter gets worked into flour and baking powder. With a touch of sugar and salt too for good measure. Then milk and cream are added. Et voilà!

Scones, scones, scones

makes 7-8 scones

250g plain flour
40g caster sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50g butter
, cubed
100g whole milk
60g whipping cream

one egg yolk, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, and work it into the flour until the mixture ressembles corse sand.
Mix in the milk and cream, and knead until just smooth. The dough should be very soft but not too sticky.
Roll to 3cm thick onto a lightly floured work surface, then wrap in cling-film and chill on a tray for half an hour.

Cut using a 6/7cm-wide round cutter, then flip upside-down onto the prepared baking tray. Brush the top with egg yolk and allow to dry for 10-15 minutes. Brush again with yolk and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool on a wire rack, and serve with a topping of your choice.


On clouds blanketing everything we see – Roast chicken and root vegs

An hour ago, I took a whole – 1,5kg kind of whole – chicken out from the oven. Just for myself.

You see it started this morning when I first opened my curtains to a day where clouds blanket everything we see. I french-pressed more coffee than you could imagine and toasted some left-over baguette.

And the day went by. Word after word, coffee mug after coffee mug. I could hear the klaxons from trains passing by in the far.

It’s funny how those days when there is no rain but it feels like it can be productive. In a slow peaceful way. And also, how they invariably call for roast chicken, with plenty of root vegetables around.

So this is what I did. I cut thick slab of butter and pushed them under the skin. I cut some carrots, and potatoes, and onions into thick chunks. I cut the top of a whole garlic head. I stuffed the chicken with the onion skins and half a lemon, just because I seem to have plenty in my fridge right now. I drizzled with some good olive oil and rubbed it onto the skin of the chicken and on the vegs. I sprinkled with lots and lots of Maldon sea salt; and some freshly-ground black pepper too. I poured one cup of water at the bottom of the pan.
And I waited for one hour and a half, while the oven (190°C) would fill the house with a scent that no matter in the world I’ll be, will always remind me of Sunday lunches at home. I drew some vegetables, they’re right here, above. I cut into the tigh, and clear juices ran. I scooped the vegs on a plate. And a big fat breast too. All that was missing was the sauce at the bottom of the pan.

I hadn’t planned to write about this. But somehow it felt right to tell you that it’s ok to roast a chicken whether you’re on your own or not. I mean, who wants to miss out on crispy salty chicken skin?

And you’ll have lunch for the days to come. And really, it made you feel warm inside-out.

Now, tell me all about the much decadent/generous/luxurious treat you make even if you’re eating alone?