There was the noise our feet made on the ground. There was the darkness. And yet, our world felt like millions of shooting stars were falling around us. On us too. There was a make-believe hanami. Who said trees don’t blossom in winter?
I could have turned this into a follow-up of a favourite feature: how to become a pastry chef? – the days off. But I guess you somehow get it. As a chef, days off are unusual enough. And when they happen, so does a concentrate of life. Sleep, eat, drink, be merry. Fall in love or not. Kiss or more. And at times, recipe organising needs to happen too.
That’s what I’ve been doing today. I cooked some leftover rice with a little milk, a little honey and a lot of vanilla. Breakfast. At twelve pm. I watched the boats go by as I was gazing through the windows. Now, this miniature world has turned black and dotted with lights that I like to imagine as millions of fireflies.
And yet, I’m only on letter B. Of the second notebook. I have thirteen. Yes, I have a French-press-ful of coffee brewing as I’m writing this. And yes, I’m kind of procrastinating right now.
Chef or not, how do you organise your recipes? A favourite software, app, notebook?
On my side, I usually have two moleskines for every job I take.
A plain squared one for mise-en-place lists, notes, ideas, recipe development.
And a repertoire one for finalised recipes.
They’re all a bit messy, with doodles and more traces of chocolate than I’d like to admit. They weigh a ton. But really they’re a treasure.
To make it more workflow-friendly, I’ve started transferring the recipes into an excel spreadsheet. It takes forever but I know I will love it when it’s done.
Aaaah, the life of a pastry chef.
PS. would you be interested in a “How to become a pastry chef? – Organising recipes” article? Please say yes as I need a serious incentive to go through the thousands of scribbles I have in my notebooks?
There was that night made of champagne, flickering candles, crisps and smoked salmon sandwiches, the last of the foie gras smothered onto big fat chunky pieces of baguette, an endless game of trivial pursuit where – as it turned out – the one person who refused to play (my father, apparently stuck to his mots croisés) became the one who knew all the answers, our joker as we called him whenever we got clueless about a question.
Yes, there was no electricity in the house. But we had us. And a dark Christmas tree. And some apple cake.
Something I’d thrown together with things we had.
Too-much-butter, as my mum always buys when she knows I’m coming.
A lot of sugar.
A touch of honey from this beekeeper my grand-mother became very fond of.
And winter apples from M. Riouet’s orchard. And really, I say orchard when it’s more of a tree, but I can’t help it, his potager is the enchanted forest I grew up in.
This cake was meant to be nothing but rustic. A mere snack after a day spent with Bruno and his goats in the mountains.
And yet, that night, this very cake turned into dessert. Of the fancy, champagne-glass matching, kind.
Gâteau aux pommes et au cidre, un peu comme une tarte tatin
While I wouldn’t necessarily force you to have this cake as a dessert, I must say it makes a pretty decent contender. Especially with a scoop of yoghurt ice-cream or a big fat dollop of crème fraiche.
But the way I see it is much more homely. The kind of cakes that’s eaten still warm from the oven, with fingers – but I guess it’s sort of useless for me to remind you how I like to eat my cake – and a side made of tea in a pot. I think a light infusion of tilleul would do wonders here.
It’s really quite simple to make. Slice three apples thinly, a knife and your hand are enough, but you can go with the mandolin too, although I didn’t. Layer them at the bottom of your tin and drizzle with honey. Top with the batter and bake. Oh, and eat too!
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter a 24cm cake tin, line with baking paper and set aside.
Thinly slice 3 apples and layer at the bottom of the prepared tin. Drizzle with honey and pack tightly with your hands.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
In the meantime, chop the remaining apples into 2cm chunks.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Then, alternatively add the dry ingredients and cider to the butter mixture in three times, starting with the flour.
Finish the batter by gently folding in the apple chunks.
Pour onto the sliced apples and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a plate and peel off the baking paper if necessary.
I’ve been trapped into a world made of stainless-steel and ovens going off. A happy – and at times, not so – merry-go-round of services, and gin and tonics. Of course there was an occasional bloody mary too.
And really, I hadn’t realised how long I’d gone for. Not unlike when Sookie spends a day in the land of fairies, only to realise years have gone by in her world.
Yes it’s been too long. So long in fact, that I don’t know where to start. But before I tell you about that apple cake we ate in one day, and that kiss he gave me by a home-alone Christmas tree, and all the trimmings that made 2012 pretty exciting, I’m going to show you a picture.
It was the day before Christmas. And really if it wasn’t for the ice made of lightbulbs that rimmed the houses, I’d have thought we were in early autumn.
No crisp winds. No snow under our feets.
But there was a fireplace and the stories we were told. And a capon bigger than our cat (a rare occurrence I must admit). And most importantly, the people I’m madly in love with.
I hope you had a lovely Christmas. I’ll talk to you very very very soon. x