Where is home? – A lot of rye and a little milk chocolate kind of cookies

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 05 February 2014.

rye

That morning, I woke up early and very unusually rested. I think the last time I had felt like this was when I woke up next to him, with his back beautifully tattooed with the shadows of the blinds. Then, we were sleeping on a matter on the floor, in the house he grew up in. North-north of Sweden.

It’s a beautiful feeling. Serenity.
One that we often overlook, wanting for more, running for more, looking for more. When all this time, it was always right there, right then.
And like being tucked up to sleep in a fluffy feather duvet and whispered love words and forever tickles in your neck, it will always feel magical.

rye chocolate chip cookies

Perhaps it’s because I feel like I belong somewhere now. Perhaps it’s because I’ve found a home to return to every night.
He once asked me: “Where is home?” (which will always summon a beautiful Bloc Party song, maybe my very favourite), and I might – in a moment of bloody-mary-infused-mind – have answered: “Home is where you are.”
And well, no matter how silly it was, there was some truth in those words.

From then on, I’ve pledged allegiance to bloody maries.

And chocolate chip cookies. But you knew that already.

chocolate

It always starts with some good chocolate being chopped. I like milk chocolate in my cookies, please don’t be mad at me for it, because I come with a tip.
It won’t change your life, but it will definitely make chopping chocolate blocks easier. Use a bread knife. It’s less messy and so much faster.

And while I’m on the tip section, I should add one that makes portioning cookie dough easy. I used to love my cookies of the roll and slice kind. But that was before. Before I went back to rolling little balls that melt in the oven into crisp edges and chewy centres.

I’ve seen some people using scoops. But you see, I like to keep my dough cold before I bake it. And scooping cold dough doesn’t come first on my achievement list. Instead, I roll it into a rectangle so it chills quicker and more evenly. And then, I just cut it into 24 little squares. A quick trip in my hand and there you have cookie dough balls. One for you, one for me.

cookies

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so in phase with the world. And I wish you the same. One cookie at a time. One kiss at a time. One morning coffee at a time.

rye and chocolate chip cookies pola

A lot of rye and a little milk chocolate kind of cookies
Adapted from my old trusted favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and inspired by Yossy and Alanna.

I had told you I’d make rye and chocolate chip cookies. Of course I got slightly distracted.
You see it started off hen I first saw Yossy’s beautiful cookies. I’ve always loved rye in anything baked, and I thought they would probably taste amazing. And then, a reader suggested that I try Alanna’s; she said she’d made them and everyone loved them.

So instead of using her recipe, I tweaked mine slightly, and decided – why not? – to go for melted butter as Alanna’s words couldn’t leave my mind. And really, it took me longer to scout the shops of the little high-street, which is more of a street than anything else, looking for rye flour, than it did to make those cookies.
I melted butter in the microwave, added the sugars and vanilla (will I ever one day, make something without vanilla?). And then in another bowl, the flours got mixed, along some rye flakes, a good amount of chopped milk chocolate, and of course, more than a sprinkle of flingsalt [flaky salt], which I brought back from Sweden too long ago.
And well, just as I had anticipated, I welcomed the slight nuttiness of rye into my biscuits. Into my kitchen. And perhaps, most importantly, into my mouth.

A lot of rye and a little milk chocolate kind of cookies

makes 24

100g butter
120g light brown sugar
40g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract/paste
one egg
90g rye flour
90g plain flour
120g milk chocolate
, chopped into chunks
30g rye flakes
one tsp flaky seasalt
, crushed
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large heatproof bowl, melt the butter. Add the sugars and vanilla and mix well. When it’s cooled down a bit, whisk in the egg.
In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, and add them to the butter mixture. Stir until it forms a dough.
Scrape it onto a large piece of clingfilm and pat into a 2cm thick rectangle. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour or up to 3 days.
Cut into 24 squares, roughly the same size. Now you can either bake the cookies straight away or freeze the dough for later use. In that case, simply let it thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours before proceeding to the rest.
Roll the little squares of dough into balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure to space them quite a bit, around 8cm apart.
Bake at 170°C for 10-12 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Allow to cool down slightly.

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Bonjour février

la pâtisserie, memories, wordsA story about , , , Written on le Monday 03 February 2014.

[Hello February]

baking

I’ve been catching up on blogs lately. A thing I hadn’t done in a while, and a thing I’ve missed doing. I’ve found some new treasures that will forever remain in my rss feeds. And I’ve read through old favourites, not unlike love letters from my early teen.

Aside from that, well, it’s been raining. Sometimes with a reason, most of the times, without. I’ve seen the sun rise over a cascade of shadowed roofs, and I never got to see it set. I can’t help but imagine all the pretty colours. I hope I will see them soon. Before it’s dark enough for us to search for the grande Ourse [Great Bear].
I’ve run a lot to catch the last train, to a place I might call home soon. I’ve had dreams made of Sweden and Iceland. We’ll see which one comes first. I got to hold the very first copy of my book. I cried a little. I’ve realised some people are worth much less than the image we have of them.

More than anything, I’ve missed blogging. Yes, I get to do what I love – bake, make, cake – everyday. And it’s pretty amazing.
But damn, I so wish I could have more time to share recipes – little or not – here too. So I’ve decided to make a schedule, something I’ve always run away from when it comes to blogging, but at times, good things come from confronting your fears. Cross your fingers for me!

ten-things-I-want-to-bake

1. Rye and chocolate cookies.
2. A pumpkin pie swirl brioche.
3. Pear and hazelnut muffins. Oh yes, please.
4. A pink pizza.
5. Salted caramel swirl marshmallows.
6. Roasted banana cake. Perhaps, with milk chocolate too. And a confiture de lait [milk jam] frosting.
7. Bake bagels, preferably with some homemade cured salmon.
8. Relive my childhood with a tourteau fromager.
9. Salted liquorish fudge cake. Enough said.
10. Crêpes dentelles.

What’s on your to-bake list?

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Shooting-star wishes

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Monday 06 January 2014.

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Perhaps, it is because I haven’t been writing much, but I had too many pictures to show you, so instead of the usual twelve pictures for the twelve months that have gone by, I’m here with thirty-six. And some little stories. Fingers crossed for an amazing 2014! xx

Things I’ve learnt:
– how to fly fish. Not that I’m amazing at it.
love doesn’t had to be crazy mad. It can be quiet and sound.
– it will always be hard to know what you want. More than it is to get it.
– making shooting-star-wishes still works.
– coffee tastes better when it’s made over a bonfire, in an old cast-iron pot.
– finally nailing the perfect recipe for chestnut ice-cream. Only took me a year!
– being fearless sometimes lead to good things. Pretty fucking amazing in fact. One of those good things is sitting across the room and he’s very gorgeous.
– the world on the other side of puddles has trees.

Pictures I wish I had taken:
– the sunset over the endless road to Kusmark.
– all the hearts – made of chewing-gum, plastic, paper, paint – I’ve seen on the pavement, walking to and from work.
– a decent one of Poupée, the not-so-feral kitty I used to see walking home, almost every night. I haven’t seen her in a while and I miss her cuddles.
– all the burgers we had. Perhaps a project for this year.
– the baby bunnies I saw in Richmond park.

Places I’ve been:
– one too many times on the south bank during the endless summer. We’d always start at that little beer van and stroll our way to London bridge. Stopping at every pub we saw.
– two too many times to the hospital. Once for me. Once for K. Let’s hope we had enough of it last year for it to never happen again.
– back home, in the south of France. It was summer. And we got sunburnt to the point of no return.
– back to another home. In the north of Sweden. We took a plane, and a train, and a ten-hour-car-ride. I fell in love. Not just with the place.
– York. We got lost in tiny streets. Sneaked into a pub with walls who’d make any taxidermist jealous. We ate Yorkshire puddings. And drove by beaches. Walked on them to. I shyly tempted a dip, and the waves made the rest for me.

Things I’ve made… wrong:
– chocolate ice-cream without sugar. It happened. I had lost my sense of smell/taste that week due to the worst cold of the history of colds. And all I could taste was the bitterness.
– macarons that looked like flying-saucer candies.
– when we were making cakes for my book (still can’t believe it, no matter how many times i’ll write it!!) E. who was in charge of making the sticky toffee pudding made it four times. Once he baked it at a too high temperature. The second time he used caster sugar. The third demerara sugar. And finally the fourth: muscovado. All were a hit though.

Moments to remember:
– my dad, waiting at the coach station for Gatwick North, standing up and pushing everyone when he heard the driver call for Gatwick South terminal.
– when we first kissed on that couch, with goblins above our heads.
– when we turned a couch and a bed into a double-ish bed.
– the tears we had laughing.
– that day spent on the island. Diving and taking mostly-horrible pictures.
– when we picked apples and made cider.
– that day we got lost in Richmond park.
– that day we got lost in each other.

Things I’ve seen in London:
– a giant plug. Somewhere in Soho.
– a bigger than life snowball on Piccadilly circus. It was the most horrendous thing ever, but I fell in love with the very concept of it.
Christmas lights above our heads.
cats at every corner. Gigantic ones, too.
– the sun setting over St Paul. Many times.
– lights from Canary warf reflecting on the Thames. The only thing I ever see from my bedroom. Late at night.
– a fabric baobab. Probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen all year.
– the prettiest shadow. Not unlike a papercutted-truck.

The not-so-official 2014 list.
1. Write here more. And when I say more. I mean MORE!
2. Take pictures of everything. No excuses.
3. And that includes the desserts I make.
4. Be in love for ever.
5. Go to Iceland.
6. And Copenhagen.
7. And of course, go back to Sweden. For a week or fifty-two. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And see northern lights.
8. Make canelés everyday. And éclairs too! (I’m so damn excited about this, but it’s still a secret for now; more to come on it soon!)
9. Celebrate the publication of my little book with champagne!
10. Find something that makes me happier than happy and stick to it.

What are your 2014 must-do’s? Such an exciting year ahead for me.

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Joyeux Noël

memoriesA story about , , Written on le Tuesday 24 December 2013.

christmastree

I was going to tell you how excited I was to have my parents and sister over for Christmas this year. We’d made plans to have lunch at Brasserie Chavot, and stroll in the park, hoping for snow to happen. And take as many pictures as I can fit rolls of film in my bag, and make doughnuts and pancakes.

But you see, their flight has been cancelled. So instead of a Christmas with all the trimmings, we’re going for the trimmings only. Our cupboard is stocked up with wine and smoked salmon. And who knows, we might have snow and pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

To happy accidents! And of course, a wonderful Christmas. Cross your fingers and make wishes, because that how it should be. x

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Un dimanche

wordsA story about , Written on le Sunday 15 December 2013.

[A Sunday]

bonbons

A Sunday happened. As it should be. There was rain. And pizza in the oven. And kisses. And exciting news! And candies. Oh and some coding got done too.

I hope you like it. x

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PS. We picked apples and made cider. Oh and an apple cake too!

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Sunday 20 October 2013.

apple cider cake

One morning, we woke up to lights through the wooden blinds barely covering never-ending windows. Coffee got made. And we sat on the steps overlooking the garden. Early signs of autumn, drawn to the earth in the shape of dew that made our feet wet as we walked to the apple tree.

Apples as white as snow. His dad said they were called Transparentes blanches. And I really wanted to believe him so I proceeded to do so. I picked a few. Held them in my dress. Peeled them and cored them, with a small knife. Sliced them with the very same knife. And layered them with honey. I whisked eggs into butter and sugar. Eggs paler than the milkyway above our heads the night before. And added wholewheat flour and cinnamon just so. The cake went into the oven and we went fly-fishing by the river. We saw grown-up salmons jump, and tiny frogs too. I was taught how to say liten groda and it meant so much more. We picked blueberries, but you already know that.

So yes, we picked apples and made cider. Cider for in a few months. And I made an apple cake. For dinner that night. It came with vanilla ice-cream from a tub. And I remember how we cut into it with a knife.

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J’avais oublié – Kanelbulle

la pâtisserie, memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , , , Written on le Sunday 29 September 2013.

[I had forgotten – Cinnamon buns]

kanelbulle

I had forgotten about the smell of bonfires and forests; coffee made in a cast-iron pot, with as much water as we put ground beans. I had forgotten how blueberries taint your hands; and your lips. And how small they are meant to be.

coffee

I had forgotten how it feels like to gaze at the milky way, when the only lights to be seen are far up in the sky. I had forgotten how to make wishes at every shooting stars we see, and how we can’t help but wish harder for them to happen.

I had forgotten how to dig potatoes with my hands. And pick apples from trees. Carrying them, not unlike treasures, in a made-up bag, more of an upside-down dress, really.

sweden

I had forgotten about standing by the shore – with wet stocks, mud on our rolled up work trousers (of the too-large kind) and blueberry juices on our hands, earth under our nails – for hours, waiting for fish to come. They almost never do, but who cares?

coffee

I had forgotten how to make a cake batter with a wooden spoon. How to knead without a dough hook. How to bake without a timer. And how to eat with our fingers.

But right there, I’ve remembered. The golden trees at dusk. The gumboots we walk into. The smiles we have and what they mean.

It happened one day, of the recent past kind. A distant memory. Or perhaps, just a dream. But really, I have never been more awake. Eyes wide open. And heart too.

kanelbulle pola

Kanelbulle

I made those on our last night in Sweden. We’d planned a roadtrip to the river the next day. Just hours before our flight.
I proved the dough as I slept, and early in the morning, when the fog was still surrounding us and coffee hadn’t been made yet, I baked them. Of course, I forgot to put a timer. But really, that afternoon, when we sat on the ground by the bonfire, waiting patiently for the coffee to bubble into the flames, they made a pretty decent goûter, to the sound of streaming water and jumping salmons; wind in the trees and branches cracking under our feet.

The dough itself is really easy to make. Quite sticky which makes kneading by hand fairly difficult, but please, don’t be tempted to add more flour. Just be patient and make a plastic scraper – or in my case an old cheese slicer – your new best friend to keep your bench clean.

Kanelbulle

makes 10 large buns

for the dough
300 g plain flour
150 g whole-wheat flour
130 g caster sugar
3 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
240 g whole milk
one egg
one egg yolk
125 g butter
, softened

for the cinnamon butter
100 g butter, very soft
100 g caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom

Mix the flours, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. In a jug, combine the milk, egg and yolk. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or – my favourite, when it comes to dough – a fork until it forms a rough dough.

Transfer to a clean work surface and knead until smooth. You could also use a stand-mixer fitted with the dough-hook, and trust me, it would make your life so much easier as it’s quite sticky. If you’re kneading by hand – like I did – expect to be at it for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and just tacky.
At this point, add the butter, rubbing it into the dough, then knead for an extra 5 minutes.

Place the dough into a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Allow to proof at room temperature for a couple of hours, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, get the cinnamon butter ready. Simply cream the butter, sugar and spices for a minute or two and keep at room temperature until needed.

When the dough has proved, punch to deflate, then transfer to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 30x40cm rectangle, approximately 8mm thick.
Spread with the cinnamon butter and roll into a tight log. Cut the log into ten 4cm-wide slices using a sharp knife, and arrange into a large baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cover loosely with buttered clingfilm and proof until doubled in size.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 170°C.
When the buns have proved, bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Allow to cool down slightly, pack your car with rods and gum boots. And please don’t forget that cast-iron pot or the ground coffee.

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Bonjour avril

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Tuesday 09 April 2013.

[Hello April]

baby apple

The not-so-official April day-dream list.

I want café frappés, the best euphemism of a kind that involves milkshakes for breakfast. I want to wear a sequin top and leopard ballerines from dawn till the next. I want a Bloody Mary in my hands and his lips on mine. And I want to see the stars when we look up. I want to see blossoms at every park too. And perhaps, I want a Pimms and lemonade.

constellations

I want to make crazy desserts, after hours. Pete has the best projects ever. I want to walk barefeet on the pavement – still hot from days of sun. I want to listen to the tunes of my teenage dreams. And dance to it too. I want neverending roadtrips from sunrise to sunset. And I want to get lost in the woods.

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Rêveries – Riz au lait à la vanille et plus

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 02 April 2013.

[Daydreams – Vanilla riz au lait and more]

riz au lait

It’s ten am. The wind is howling through the windowsill. And the rain battering against the glass.

Yes, I’ve told you before, it’s my favourite kind of music.

But right now, it’s been going on for so long that I’ve forgotten the words to this permanent darkness. I’ve forgotten the words to the book I’m writing too. It’s just that scary. A fear only falling in love can match.

fog

Of course some things can all make it better. There is Jiro dreams of sushi playing, not unlike the Neverending Story. And there is a pot of riz au lait bubbling up.

In fact, it smells all kinds of wonderful around here.

There is the smell of rain. And vanilla, tonka beans, and cinnamon. And really, even for just a moment, I thought I was in Fouras with my grand-mère. Blame it on the scent of steaming rice; even though deep-down, we all know it’s just my daydreams taking over.

riz au lait bis

Riz au lait à la vanille et plus

I’ve shared this recipe with you before. But I’ve been making it so much over the winter – most of the times without scales and with plain old basmati rice – that it was bound to be seen again.

The recipe itself is very versatile. Honey or golden syrup, or even muscovado sugar can be used instead of the caster sugar. And a lot of spices can be added. My favourite combination – right now – is one vanilla pod, two tonka beans, and a cinnamon stick.
Of course, I’ve been adding a few teaspoons of matcha green tea, every now and then, too.

I like to make a double recipe and have a bowlful of steaming riz-au-lait, while I save the rest – in the fridge – for the next day breakfast. And really, you should too.

Riz au lait à la vanille et plus

serves 2
75 g arborio rice
water, to boil the rice
400g milk
one vanilla pod, scraped
2 tonka beans, finely grated
one cinnamon stick
60 g caster sugar

Put the rice and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the temperature and cook, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Drain the rice and set aside.
In the same pan, pour in the milk, sugar and spices. Bring to the boil and stir in the cooked rice.
Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer either into a large bowl or two small ramekins.

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Bonjour mars

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Monday 11 March 2013.

[Hello March]

grand mere

Right now, there is a snowstorm happening behind my window. Not unlike London turned into a snow-dome. I used to love them. And really, not much has changed since.

But if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that by the end of the month, trees will be coated in a snow of blossoms. And days will get longer. And fuller of Pimms and lemonade.
Spring is on the way, or so they say.

We already have rhubarb. Pink and all. And if I close my eyes and go by the calendar, it seems like strawberries are not too far either.

No matter how much I love winter, this one needs to come to an end. It’s been tough. Not enough daylight, not enough mulled wine. And way too many sleepless nights. In fact, I haven’t had flour or sugar in my kitchen cupboard since October. Some things need to change.

coffee

The not-so-official March happy list.

1. Making the best baba in London. With enough Mount Gay extra old to make you tipsy.
2. Day-dreaming about days spent with my grand-mère. I miss her so. Hopefully soon, it won’t be a dream anymore.
3. Only one month-ish until this.
4. An almost magical flan.
5. Getting drunk on coffee.
6. A secret project I’m working on. Cross your fingers.
7. All I can say is that there would be a dessert made of avocado custard, dark-dark chocolate ice-cream, horchata foam and red chilli jam.
8. Yes, it’s a dream come true.
9. Snowstorms. Made of snow. Made of flowers.
10. And perhaps, my hair tied into a top-knot, more often than not.

What are you looking forward to?

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Baity kitchen

to eatA story about , , , Written on le Saturday 16 February 2013.
172 walton street, SW32JL
http://www.baitykitchen.com/

baity-2

I’ve told you about Baity before. Well, mostly about that absolutely adorable guy with the glasses and his Greek iced coffee.

But, really, this place is the dimestore diamond of Chelsea. It’s understated, in the best way possible; especially when all you get around are 12£ lattes (remind me to tell you the story of that Russian café we retreated to, defeated by the winter rain).

There is the back-garden, and the teal chairs and aluminium tables, there are the oreo-filled brownies, and cookies too. There is a counter that will make you hungry even when you’re not. And, yes, there is the Greek iced coffee, one of the many-good-reasons to spend lazy summer afternoons at the terrace.

baity-5

baity-7

baity 4

baity3

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How to become a pastry chef? – The dark side of stainless steel

in the kitchenA story about , Written on le Sunday 10 February 2013.

croissant

I received an email. Of a young pastry chef – L. – who was feeling like she didn’t belong to kitchens. We emailed back and forth. To me, there is nothing more magical than getting to do what I blindly love, and couldn’t even dream of a better place to be than in a too-hot, too-fast, too-stressful kitchen.

But it’s only fair to also talk about the other side.

When a daily job relies on boundary-less passion this much, the fine thread that keeps us going, that stretches far beyond strength we didn’t even know we had, can break.

Yes, we’ve all – one day – lost focus. And this is what I told L.: it’s ok. Because deep-inside, you can’t help but have this unreal lovestruck feeling hitting you every morning as you enter the kitchen.

I didn’t write this with the intention to discourage anyone or to bash any restaurant I’ve been lucky enough to work at (in fact, it’s all been just a dream; and if you don’t feel like it is, then maybe, your restaurant is not the one for you, it won’t mean you don’t belong to kitchens, not just to this one); but more as an encouragement. From me to you: shit happens, more often than not. And yet, I can still see you smile when you think you’re not.

Also, please excuse my French – ahem – naughty words. Just consider it a warm-up to the world you’ll soon be breathing.


beetroot

At times, you’ll wonder why the fuck you’re doing this.

It will be a morning.

You’re setting up your section. Just like any other day. You slept for three hours. Just like any other day. You go in the veg/dairy/you-name-it-fridge and it’s world war seven in there. Just like any other day. You can’t overlook anything. Call it perfectionism, OCD, or care. And really, you don’t have the time. You never have the time, but you make it. Fridge is spotless again. Your never-ending mise-en-place list gets longer. Just like any other day. You have to call every supplier for second deliveries, as a d*ck put through the orders the night before. Just like any other day. Your chef casually rolls in. Just like any other day.

Except it’s not any other day.

Somehow you can’t take it anymore. You will cry. You will swear. You will become bitter.

And you will hate it.
For a second.

Because then, when the check machine starts its merry-go-round, you’re trapped. Willingly or not, desserts are gonna have to leave this pass.

And yes, some merry-go-rounds are scarier, harder, faster than others, but close your eyes and hold tight.

Sometimes, you will feel like it’s unfair. How you’re the first one in and the last out. And no-one seems to give a damn. How you’re the only one to clean the oven or the dry stores. Or worst, doing the stocktake or HACCP.
And really, you can take anything. The fights, the bollockings, the one-too-many joke.

But injustice? No.
And really, you have no choice but keep it quiet. Some things will never be different.

All the time, you will be tired. In fact, you don’t even want to do the maths. But I’ll do it for you.

You wake up at five thirty. Or at least, the first of your many alarms will go off.
You’re at the restaurant by seven. Get changed. Ironed jacket, ironed apron. Need I mention the trousers? One torchon hanging from your hips and another one neatly folded behind your back.

At ten past seven, you’re in the kitchen. A quick look at your mise-en-place list. First delivery comes in and disappears in an army of plastic crates hidden in the fridge. Coffee gets made. And also seems to disappear in a storm.

There is the prep. And the problems. Freezer stopped working. Or perhaps it’s the fridge, or the mixer. Five trays of bread-rolls got burnt. The dairy hasn’t arrived yet and it’s ten. Shit happens. More often than not.

Service happens too. It wakes you up. Makes you feel alive. Makes you connect as a team. As a family. Kitchen is cleaned down. Ready for another service.

You send the last desserts. It’s already half-past midnight.

Hot soapy water, more paper roll than you should use. Sanitiser. Then the floor. You scrub, you squeegee, you mop, you dry. Your turn the lights off. Together.

You get changed. Except this time, forget the iron. Jeans need washing and that t-shirt is more than just wrinkled.
You’re home by late one if you’re lucky. More two.
You stick whites in the machine. Laundry powder. Softener. 60°C. You shower and fall asleep with wet hair. It’s two thirty and your alarm goes off in three hours.

Have a good night.

At least, you have days off to look forward to. Except, you can forget about those too. Someone calls in sick. Someone walks out. Someone is on holidays. Someone, you, need to wake up.

Once a month, you’ll get paid. Don’t make a mistake. No, don’t. Never calculate your hourly wage. Under legal. Not that you care really. Because sooner or later you’ll find the answer to the question that’s been haunting you all day.

Why the fuck are you doing this? You can’t stay away. You learn. You grow up. Perhaps too fast. You love what you do.

I tend to sugar-coat almonds. Not words. You will feel broken. Once in a while. Kitchens are raw. Concentrates of life lessons.
Of course, there is this side. There will always be this side.

But just like there is a hidden world behind puddles, there is also one behind stainless steel. And it’s wonderful, and addictive, and you’ll never get enough of it.

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Goodbye, hello

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 07 February 2013.

jan

feb

mar

april

may

june

july

aug

sept

oct

nov

dec

I didn’t take enough pictures. At least not with my favourite camera. In fact, I think I had forgotten how to see the beauty in the unexpected. Some things can’t be forgotten, they say.
I rode my bike through a rainbow of sunsets. Most often than not, with a baguette and a bottle of wine cosily snuggled into the wicker basket. We cooked and ate and drank and laughed. Nothing could ever make me change my mind about her – my grand-mère. I love her. So. So. Much.
I walked in the desert streets of London. At night. Possibly crying. It seems to be a classic. I walked through the very same streets, same early hours of the morning, except there was snow. And people. A lot of them. Getting home that night was on the fun side. If only it weren’t for the following one hour of sleep.
I didn’t sleep a lot. For the record. Perhaps a broken one.
I ate out a lot. For the record. Perhaps a broken one. In fact, definitely a broken one. There was a rhubarb Eton mess, and a demerara sugar soda bread. And figs and basil combined.
I fell in love.
And witnessed the April snow. Two things I can never get enough of.
I left London under a sky made on Union Jacks and the pre-requisite Pimms and lemonade. We had mint tea too. And dim sum. Oh and a rhubarb tart from Yauatcha. I guess, I could add rhubarb to the list of things I can never get enough of.
And then came the south of France. And really, there is no better season down there than late spring. We slept on a canal boat, and drank wine until fireflies stopped their dance. We watched the sun se from that rock we love. And ate sushi, because that’s what we do. We sat at a café terrace and ordered tomato juice. All day long. I wrote a book. And I still do. Because I’m scared as I’ve never been before.
We sat on pebbles. Many times. With a picnic. And the sea. Or the river.
I held Lukie into my arms. And when I saw her again, months later, nothing had changed.
I came back to London and had my desserts on a menu. It was grand.
It took me eight month to realise that – indeed – some things are best left unsaid.
I learnt how to make Greek coffee. And mornings turned magical.
I watched Ben cook at a market stall. And later, I was lucky enough to watch him do his thing on a daily basis. It was magical-er.
I made bread. For what felt like the first time. Yes, because this time, it wasn’t at home. One of them had red wine inside, and I think people liked it. Thank you Ben. For everything.
I drank eggnog lattes. Enough to make it a proper December.
I’ve kissed him. Under mistletoe, under a bridge, under a wool blanket. He tied a golden ribbon in my hair. And his hat had a fluffy pom-pom. We made quite a pair. We walked onto clouds made of dead leaves. And pretended it wasn’t cold. No, not at all.
He made me hot chocolates. With a dash of bourbon. And I made cakes. With mulled wine.
I made mince pies too. And I packed them into a box and sent them away. It felt scary. I had named them: wild turkey in a pear tree.
We opened our eyes to a bigger-than-life snow globe. It’s London by night. And it’s wonderful.
I arrived in France just in time for Christmas. There was a tree. And my parents. And my sister. And foie-gras. And no electricity. But, we had champagne.

It’s probably to late for that. But I’ll close my eyes and make a wish. For 2013. And perhaps, more realistically, for February.

year iphone

The not-so-official February wish-list.

1. See more of this.
2. Carry my camera in my so-not-Mary-Poppins bag. And get on with the shoulder pain.
3. The watercolours we paint together.
4. Make a foie-gras brioche feuilletée. With duck fat instead of butter, it goes without saying.
5. Feeling so exhausted I can’t stand. Falling asleep in seconds. Dreading the five am alarm.
6. The cosiness of a freshly-made bed. And the hot water-bottle that goes along.
7. Never-ending dinner parties turned late-morning chats.
8. Reading more of this.
9. And this too.
10. Make a rhubarb something – anything really.

I know wishes shouldn’t be said outloud, but well, what are your let’s-not-call-them-wishes-then for the month ahead?

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Western sous la neige

memoriesA story about , Written on le Monday 21 January 2013.

[Western under the snow]

under the snow tree

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?

But mostly, there was us.

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Not just a Sunday afternoon

la pâtisserie, memoriesA story about , Written on le Sunday 13 January 2013.

sunday morning

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?

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But we had us – Un gâteau aux pommes et au cidre, un peu comme une tarte tatin

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Monday 07 January 2013.

[A cider and apple cake, not unlike a tatin tart]

apple cake

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.

apple cake sliced

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!

Gâteau aux pommes et au cidre

serves 8-10

6 apples, peeled and cored
100g runny honey
180g butter
300g demerara sugar
2 eggs
245g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp maldon sea salt
180g apple cider
(or juice)

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.

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And all the trimmings

memoriesA story about , , Written on le Saturday 05 January 2013.

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.

bonnes fetes

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

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Note #2 – On heart-shaped dreams

inspirationA story about , , , Written on le Saturday 27 October 2012.

“I am just a dreamer, and but you are such just a dream.”
— Neil Young

That moment when I’m going all tumblr-ish on you. Yes, it’s time for it.

PS. And the worst part is: it’s not over.
PS bis. You can thank the amazing type-writer.

PS (the last one). What’s your all-time favourite love/dream quote/poems/line?