How to become a pastry chef? – The checklist

la pâtisserieA story about , , Written on le Tuesday 19 June 2012.

Being a pastry chef is most possibly the best decision I’ve ever taken. Everyday, I have no words to describe the bliss I feel when I’m busy making things. Yes, making. With my hands dirty, and more often than never, with my apron too.

So yes, many say you can judge how good a pastry chef is by the look of his/her apron. In the books, it should be clean at all times.

Well, let me tell you one thing. I strongly think that if you can tell every bits and pieces of mise-en-place that’s been made with just a look at a chef’s apron, then it’s a good thing. Perhaps, it’ll become a joke. But I will know deep-inside that this chef gets things done.
And to me, that’s a very good start. The clean apron will come later, as every move will become smoother, faster and more precise. And if it never comes, you can always change it ten times a day (and I speak from experience on this point).

So today, I’d like to focus on skills and techniques that are the very essence of what makes a good pastry chef, in a kitchen or at home.
Because at the end of the day, I strongly believe it’s not about your position, or whether you trained in the most expensive schools, or simply love to spend your days off making pastries.

It really gets down to passion. A passion with no boundaries.
In fact, I know many passionate people who know more than the head pastry chef next door.

And that’s really the matter. To know, to be curious, to strive to learn always and forever more. To experiment, to fail, to success.

This is the very first step to becoming a pastry chef.

The list is not exhaustive, but should be considered as a checklist. You want to become a pastry chef? Then do some research and learn about:

doughs

- pâte brisée
– pâte sucrée
– pâte à foncer
– pâte feuilletée (perhaps, even inversée)
– pâte feuilletée levée
– pâte à choux
– brioche
– savarin

Is you pâte brisée crisp and flaky? Is your pâte sucrée melt-in-your mouth?
Do you know the difference between pâte brisée and pâte à foncer?

And what about your puff pastry? Is it light and break into million pieces in your hands? Do you know how to caramelise its top?

Are your croissants and pains au chocolat light with even layers and thin membranes? Do you see a honeycomb pattern when you slice into them? As for the technique, do you know a great tip that ensures even laminating?

Are you choux puffs consistent and hollow? Not wet and yet not dry? Can you glaze an éclair, shiny even after a few hours in the fridge, neat around the edges? Do you know that technique for fondant, the one that involves freezing it into small disks then letting it defrost over a choux?

Do you know brioche dough is an emulsion? Do you treat it as such? Can you knead it by hand or in a mixer without over-heating it? And which temperature should the butter be?

Are your savarins and babas light as a feather, with holes just so?

biscuit

- génoise
– pain de Gènes
– dacquois
– joconde
– biscuit cuillère
– macarons
– crème d’amandes

Do you know the difference between a génoise and a pain de Gènes? Is your génoise light and fluffy? Can you tell when it’s just baked, not overly so?

Can your dacquois holds its shape? What’s the purpose of the many different ratios of caster sugar versus icing sugar?

And the biscuit joconde. Why do you have to beat the mixture for so long? Can you spread it thinly enough in an even layer?

Are your biscuits cuillère soft and spongy rather than dry? Is your batter firm enough to keep its shape when piped? Do you always dust it with icing sugar at a 10-minute interval?

Can you tell when a macaron appareil has been macaronné enough? French or Italian meringue? Or even, as I now see it more and more, Swiss meringue? Which syrup temperature is best for the Italian meringue? Can you pipe macarons consistently? Are they shiny with a crisp crust and melt-in-your-mouth inners? Do they have beautiful feet? Do they crack in the oven, and why?

Is your crème d’amandes light and fluffy? Does it split and feel too buttery once baked? Is it too spongey?

chocolaterie

- temper chocolate
– ganache

Can you temper chocolate so that it snaps into shiny shards? Can you do it without a probe? Without a marble? Can you spread it to make décors with just a palette knife?

Do you know how to make a simple ganache? And how each ingredient works towards a smooth supple ganache?

creams

- crème pâtissière
– crème mousseline
– crème diplomate
– crème Chiboust
– crème anglaise
– bavarois
– sabayon
– crémeux
– crème au beurre

Is your crème pâtissière super-smooth, not grainy? How do you do, just bring it to the boil or let it bubble for a few minutes to relax? Do you just pour the hot liquid over the egg mixture and let the magic happen?

Does your crème mousseline feel light? Does it split? And do you know what to do in case it does? Do you add the butter to the crème pâtissière, or the crème pâtissière to the butter? What about that story that says half of the butter should be incorporated into the hot pastry cream?

Do you know the right temperature to fold your whipped cream into the crème pâtissière to make a crème diplomate? How much gelatine is just enough to set it?

When making a Chiboust, hould you use a whisk or a maryse when folding the Italian meringue into the hot crème pâtissière? In fact, how hot should the pastry cream be when you do so?

Is you crème anglaise eggy? Is it smooth and just thick enough?

As for the bavarois, two things: how whipped your cream should be? How hot your anglaise or fruit purée?

Is your sabayon thick and glossy?

What is a crémeux: lemon, chocolate or other fruits? Does it hold its shape and yet melts in your mouth? Is it set just enough or could you kill someone with it?

Is your crème au beurre made with Swiss or Italian meringue? Which temperature do you need the meringue to be at before incorporating the butter? And how cold the butter should be? Why does it split? What to do if it splits?

quenelles

Can you make the perfect quenelle with one spoon? Always the same size, with a pointy tip and a round back?

other techniques

How to whisk, mix, combine, fold? Spread with a palette knife or an off-set palette knife? How to tell when a sponge is baked? How to whisk egg whites, fast or slow? And cream? Until which point for a mousse, a Chantilly?

How to glaze an entremet, with no air bubbles and a shiny glaze?

How, how, how… This is what should go through your mind every single second of every single day.

I’ll try and make step-by-steps for each and every of the above items, but in the meantime, get your aprons out, find recipes and compare them to each other, and get dirty.
Yes, definitely get dirty!

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Les abricots

la pâtisserie, le marchéA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 19 June 2012.

Yesterday, we found a basket on our fence. The third this week. It’s made of osier and hung by a metal hook.

Inside, we could see apricots. And at times, cherries.

Most of the fruits have been eaten already. Fresh, torn in halves, with their juices running on our fingers. Really, why mess with perfection?

But we have still a few kilograms of apricots left. Golden plump jewels. I’ve made an upside-down apricot and camomile cake. It was all sorts of wonderful. A crumb loaded with camomile leaves. The juices of the apricots turning into compote with the heat.

The recipe will be in the book of course, as most things that happen in my kitchen right now. Really I can’t wait to tell you more about all those words I write and all those cakes I bake. It should be all sorts of wonderful too!

But in the meantime, I have a question or two. What are your favourite recipes with apricots?

I have some gathered some notes already, in case you have more apricots that you can possibly eat (is there such thing?).

apricot crème crûlée tart.
baked apricots with limoncello, from the ever-gorgeous what katie ate.
apricot and chocolate baby clafoutis.
apricot tart with brown sugar and cinnamon pastry, from BBC goodfood.
grilled apricots with honey and olive oil, on Taylor’s beautiful blog.
apricot and matcha tiramisu, on – need I say more – my friend’s, Keiko, blog: nordljus which has been an absolute favourite for years.
– and her roasted apricots with camomile too, a recipe I remember dreaming over six years ago now.
rosemary and apricot tarte tatin.

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“Busy”, for ever and more

memoriesA story about , , Written on le Sunday 10 June 2012.

Trying to finish the book keeps me busy. But I have the feeling, someone – not to name anyone, Lukie – is going to keep me even busier.

She/he’s the tiniest thing I’ve ever held in my arms and I can’t seem to get enough of her/him*. See you soon. x

* don’t judge, it’s really hard to tell!

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All mornings should be like this – Custard-filled cornbread

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Friday 08 June 2012.

Yesterday, two am.

Tonight, we ate al fresco. In our garden. Who said you’re not allowed to play make-believe anymore?

I made dessert. One strawberry tart, only it’s so much more. Black olives, vanilla, and olive oil shortbread. White chocolate crémeux. Strawberries from the little patch that somehow resisted the month of May; or perhaps, I should say the month of rain. Strawberry coulis and jam, just so. I topped it with borage flowers, and basil blossoms. And it was pretty amazing.

One massive pistachio and cherry cake. So simple. And yet, the hint of cinnamon in the hidden white chocolate mousse felt just right. We had a slice each. And then a second.

By that time, mosquitos began dancing around us, making our heads spin. By that time, stars started to fill the sky, not unlike light through a moth-eaten blanket.

After dinner, I read. A lot. But most of all, I found this.

“She made some of her “griddles trimmed with lace,” as only Barbara’s griddles were trimmed; the brown lightness running out at the edges into crisp filigree. And another time it was the flaky spider-cake, turned just as it blushed golden-tawny over the coals; and then it was breakfast potato, beaten almost frothy with one white-of-egg, a pretty good bit of butter, a few spoonfuls of top-of-the-milk, and seasoned plentifully with salt, and delicately with pepper,—the oven doing the rest, and turning it into a snowy soufflé.”

And for it I have to thank Jess, and Molly. And Marion too.

This morning, eight am.

I woke up with the sun through curtains so light they seemed to glow. I buttered a 24cm-wide cake tin and turn the oven on.

Coarse polenta got mixed with flour, sugar, and a lot of milk. And cream was poured with no other explanation than this cornbread I’d read about yesterday.

I didn’t grow up on cornbread. But cornbread grew up on me.
It might have been because of that guy with deep-blue eyes and the cutest American accent ever. He would make me peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and halve strawberries into salads. We had matching front teeth, of the large kind – yes, I do believe that I only fall in love with boys who have two large front teeth, just like mine; but we’re not here to talk about genetics.

This very cornbread can’t wait.

While it was in the oven, I rolled green tea puff pastry and made vanilla crème diplomate. I wrote a little too. And after an hour had passed, I took the glorious bubbling cake out from the oven and let it cool while coffee was being made.

I had a slice, still warm, with plenty of runny honey. And trust me, I think all mornings should be like this.

Custard-filled cornbread
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life.

I did not know what to expect from this cake. Sure, knowing both Molly and Jess, I knew it’d be good. Sure I had a picture in front of my very eyes. And yet, it always feels like magic to me when a batter separates into layers.

When it was baked, I could barely wait to slice it. And the cream was still on the slightly runny gooey side. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Now, a few hours later, it’s firmed up into a silky custard (yes, I totally had a pre-lunch slice).

The edges remind me of canelés. The bottom is rich with corn. And the top feels like a pillow of creamy custard.

Custard-filled cornbread

makes one 24cm cake

50g butter
140g flour
120g polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a fat pinch salt
2 eggs
45g caster sugar
480g whole milk
50g butter, melted
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
240g double cream

Butter a 24cm-wide cake tin, preheat the oven to 170°C, and place the tin in the oven to warm up.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt. In a jug, whisk the eggs and sugar, add the milk, butter, vinegar and vanilla extract.
Slowly pour the wet ingredients over the flour, and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter in the hot tin, then slowly pour the cream in the centre of the batter. Bake for one hour. Allow to cool for 30 minutes or longer, and servee in thick slices with syrup or honey.

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PS. Guess who’s back?

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Thursday 07 June 2012.

The reinette seems to like Anna-Sarah’s potager a little too much. She found it in the fennels today and to be honest, we couldn’t be happier.

My days are like no other at the moment. I bake in the morning. And write recipes in the afternoon. With breaks spent in the garden, with a glass of fizzy water of the ice-cold kind and a frog to look at.

I can’t promise I’ll post any recipes in the next week or so, but I might have something in my little notebook that you’ll like for sure.

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Une reinette

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 06 June 2012.

[A tree frog]

At times, the tiniest things can make our day.

Puces des sables [sand fleas] jumping from one castle to another. Clouds made of clay (at Anna-Sarah’s shop where I’m writing from almost daily). A frog found in the leaves of a framboisier.

We placed it in a cup, released it by the small water brook that flows behind the shop, and called it a day.

A wonderful, almost magical kind of day.

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Bonjour juin

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Friday 01 June 2012.

[Hello June]

May has been a little crazy. Of the runs in the park slash flight to France slash rosé et mauresque with Anna-Sarah (every single night) slash book writing slash turning my kitchen into a mess to the point of no return slash painting on porcelain plates kind.

The sky back home hasn’t been as blue as I remember it. But it’s ok. I know June will bring days at the beach and watercolours painted in the garden.
Yes, it promises all kinds of good.

The not so official June happy-list.

1. Finishing the manuscript for le petit cookbook. Yaay!
2. True Blood!!!!!* That’s all I have to say. And really, I can’t wait.
3. Cherries picked straight from a tree. And making a clafoutis too.
4. Days at the beach.
5. Painting too many illustrations** for the book.
6. And perhaps a photoshoot too with a photographer I love.
7. Finding an exciting job for when I’ll finally call London home again (ooh I so can’t wait to work in a kitchen again).
8. Kissing, of the French kind.
9. A slice of party cake. And fraisier too.
10. Taking part of this awesome project. I’m thrilled. Beyond words.

* Insert super-excited – almost squeaky – voice here.
** I could never paint enough. The most relaxing thing in my life. Not unlike kneading brioche dough by hand.

What’s your all kinds of good? Anything new and exciting?

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La boîte à recettes et autres petites histoires

wordsA story about , , Written on le Wednesday 30 May 2012.

[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?

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

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 29 May 2012.

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…

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She fell in love with…

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Monday 28 May 2012.

And I can’t wait to see it grow.

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

la pâtisserie, le marchéA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Thursday 24 May 2012.

[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.

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Les vagues

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 22 May 2012.

[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.

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Surprise, surprise – Madeleines aux framboises

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Saturday 19 May 2012.

[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.

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Oops #3

to shopA story about , , , , , , Written on le Saturday 12 May 2012.

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!

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

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , Written on le Thursday 10 May 2012.

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
100g 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.

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

la cuisineA story about , , , , , , , Written on le Friday 04 May 2012.

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?

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Everyday magic

la pâtisserieA story about , Written on le Monday 30 April 2012.

I made scones today. Twice, because two seems to be a trending number these days. Same recipe, except for five extra grams of milk.

And somehow, no matter how long I have been a pastry chef for, I’m still amazed by how details matter. In those moments, pastry feels like a celebration of the ordinary. All those things we take for granted, all those things we often overlook are in fact what we should care the most about.
His lips brushing my cheek, the dance of falling blossoms, that instant when the sky slowly turns pink, the wishes we make for every blown dandelion.

And this is what gets me going really. The everyday magic.

Scones are all of that. The way they bond with clotted cream and jam as if they’d always been kindred spirits.

Yes, definitely everyday magic to me.

What’s your favourite topping for scones?

Now, don’t judge, but I’m partial to a thick layer of wholegrain mustard and a rustic brunoise of green apple. See you later with the recipe and tips to make the best scones ever!

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Oops #2

le kitchenwareA story about , Written on le Monday 30 April 2012.

I don’t know what just happened on ebay, but I seem to be the newest owner of - not one but – two Le Creuset cocottes. I guess the advices my friend Richard gave me on how to win a bid kind of worked!

Oh and by the way, if you want to save me from a life made of misery and every-single-day-pasta, please go over there and outbid me on that one.

Please. Thank you. From me and my bank account.

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