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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Bonjour avril

memoriesA story about , , , , , , Written on le Monday 23 April 2012.

[Hello April]

My weeks have been made of Sundays lately. And it really feels like walking with my eyes closed and crossing my fingers at every step I take.

Not unlike getting lost. Not unlike falling in love.

And to be honest, it was all making me a bit so-so. A bit outside of me; behind of me, really.

But I wrote into my moleskine. And I painted asparaguses (?) and a lonely beetroot.

And I had a gin and tonic, or two, but who’s counting? And I kissed him back of stairs made of stone.

And I talked to a friend over a glass of wine and a plate of manchego with those capers I’m so deeply fond of.

And I baked a loaf of brioche. And I fried some beignets too. And I’ve started writing the book that will keep me from feeling so-so ever again.

Yes, belated bonjour avril. And bonjour book. I love you already!

No list for this month. It’s a bit too late anyway, May is just around. And hopefully the beautiful days that are usually made of party confettis too.

Oh, just one more thing: I’m dying to try my friend Rachel’s chocolate mousse. One more thing on the to-do. One more gooood thing to be accurate. See you soon!

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The end – Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 18 April 2012.

The end. Of this, that is.

I was writing when the timer went off. Upstairs, sitting cross-legged in front of my laptop.

It wasn’t as cold as the outdoors would suggest. Perhaps, from the oven. Or the sweater he must have draped over me while I was reading words that once were thoughts.

A cake getting plump, the syrup bubbling over. A distant bip. The sound of an opened oven door. The scent of just-brewed coffee and hot chocolate too.

Yes, it was all happening without me.

And before I knew it, we were burning our tongues. One spoon each. One half each. It felt like playing Battleships. With a small cloud of steam for each hit. No miss really.

After a chocolate war he won, we layed on the bed; our heads upside-down, looking at the rain pour. Yes, at times, it all does down to this. I told him I really liked the idea of the cake we just devoured. Those two layers which melt together and yet not quite at the same time.

In fact, as I think about it now, I can’t help but imagine a banana cake in a pool of caramel sauce. Or a chestnut flour cake, with some kind of green tea syrup.

Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake
Adapted from Donna Hay’s Seasons.

As with most recipes I make on rainy days, this cake is almost instant. The syrup gets made in a little over ten seconds. And the cake batter can be made in one bowl (although I would usually advise to mix the powders separately, but, come on, we’re making cake for the sake of it today, not for a dinner party).

We actually made half a batch and it fit perfectly into our 20cm enamel pie dish. But I would understand if you don’t want to use half an egg, and have some leftovers, which we somehow regret now…
In case, you go the half way too, make sure you beat the egg before weighing out 25g (=half egg). And make sure to check your cake after 15 minutes in the oven. As soon as the cake feels baked and the syrup starts bubbling over, it’s ready. Get a spoon. And enjoy.

Coffee and chocolate self-saucing cake

serves 4

for the syrup
90g light brown sugar
25g cacao powder
200g water

for the cake
125g milk
35g butter, melted
one egg
150g plain flour
45g light brown sugar
30g ground almonds
one tbsp instant coffee
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a small pan, bring the water, sugar and cacao to the boil. And pour into a 20cm baking tin.

Whisk the milk, melted butter and egg together. Add the flour, sugar, ground almonds, instant coffee, baking powder and salt, and mix until just combined. Pour over the chocolate sauce. And bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the point of a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Do you have any great recipes for self-saucing cakes?

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Through the wrong end of a telescope

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Wednesday 18 April 2012.

I look through the window. And this is all I see. Rain and trees that snow.

The very spectacle of April happening before my eyes. But no matter how breathless it makes me feel – every single year – I somehow wish for more.
A more I can’t quite define. A more that is so far and unreachable I sometimes wonder if it was real.

I have a cake in the oven. Of the self-saucing kind. It promises all sorts of wonderful.

See you in a bit.

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On thunderstoms and first kisses – Caramelised Jerusalem artichoke velouté

la cuisineA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Saturday 14 April 2012.

It’s been oh-so-quiet around here lately. Perhaps, that’s what happens when I have too much to say, too much to do, too much to look forward to.

But last night, I saw the dark sky turn into fireworks. And I heard the thunder grumble. And I smelled the earth get damp through a window that has been open – if ever so slightly – for weeks now.

And I might have been half-asleep when that happened (so much for non-drowsy cough syrups) but it felt like the most beautiful dream. Only it wasn’t one.

It was there, around me.

Thunderstorms are a thing so rare in London they become treasures you remember like a first kiss.
And while I could tell you about how he made me forget everything I thought I knew, I’m here with a soup instead.

As a reminiscence of cold winter nights and unspoken words. As a celebration of the smell of rain, which we might disregard now that pims-and-lemonade days are ahead of us.

As my winter comes to an end – for good this time – so many other things do too. Bruises on my legs and cuts on my fingers; journeys over the Thames, late at night…

But I have the feeling you’re going to see a lot more of me these days.

To new beginnings!

Just peel a handful (300g) of Jerusalem artichokes and gently fry them in butter – or even better, goose fat – until golden brown. Deglaze with 300g of chicken stock and 300g of whole milk. Simmer until tender. And blitz until smooth smooth smooth. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Serve piping hot. Preferably with a drizzle of truffle oil, more-than-a-drizzle of crème fraiche, and some butter-toasted croutons.

And in front of you will stand a bowl of the soup that is not just a soup; but a concentrate of winter, and kisses under the rain, and goodbyes that makes your perfect eye-lined eyes get a little more grungy.

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Bonjour mars, au revoir mars

la pâtisserie, memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 28 March 2012.

[Hello March, goodbye March]

I’ve felt raindrops running through my hair; and my dress too. I’ve made a cake. And another one too.

I’ve seen blossoms on every tree. I’ve walked in empty avenues, with my eyes closed and his hand on mine. I’ve had dreams I never knew I had.

I’ve lied in the grass, under a sun that felt like vanilla ice-lollies and pims and kisses of the French kind. I’ve listened to the trees hum until the sky turned pink.

I’ve barely slept, at least at night. And I’ve cried a little. At times with a reason, most of the times without.

Perhaps that’s the very essence of spring. Not unlike erasing a chalk board and making wishes for every flower that blooms.

A spring that’s going to be full of surprises.

And taming fears. And rhubarb.

Because let’s face it, only so many things taste as good as rhubarb does.

The not-so official rhubarb favourites.

1. One pot rhubarb cordial, compote, and sauce.
2. Rhubarb curd.
3. A rhubarb ice-cream, made of chunky rhubarb compote and cream. It doesn’t get any easier. Oh yes, don’t forget to churn.
4. The prettiest milkshake.
5. Rhubarb and custard kinda soufflé.
6. A tart with orange blossom custard and stewed rhubarb. With its juices, of course.
7. Inside a madeleine. Or on top of a chewy meringue cloud.
8. A crumble, with fennel too.
9. Wine-stewed rhubarb. To try with rosé or champagne, perhaps.
10. On a cake, with a custard glaze. Or maybe, in a doughnut would be even better.

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She fell in love with…

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 06 March 2012.

A rainbow kind of sky, as seen from my bike. It was so beautiful it made me question my love for dawn over sunset.

Ohhh such important matters…

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Fields of frost – Éclairs au chocolat, presque comme chez Fauchon

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 28 February 2012.

[Chocolate eclairs, almost like Fauchon’s]

When trees are shaped like hearts; and breakfast means just-brewed coffee slash bike ride slash jonchée eaten as soon as I’ve taken my gum boots off.

And we run barefoot in fields of frost. And the grass glows to the moonlight in a way only gems can. With la grande ourse [the great bear] and a feral cat as our only companions for this aimless journey.

We breathe the cold air and feel alive. We kiss and feel warmer. It’s the very instant that matters.

Yes, at times, it’s ok to loose track. Of time, of purpose…
Days are long. And nights too.

Crossing off to-dos like there is no tomorrow, because, after all, holidays are made of no-tomorrows.

Today, we made éclairs, à la Fauchon. It was fun, and messy. The kitchen ended up looking à la Fauchon too. Stripped with white and black fondants.

It’s fine, really. It is.

We licked our fingers. And ate an éclair, of the à la minute kind. Then scrubbed the counter until it no longer felt sticky. Just our mouths did. And that is a good sign, by all accounts.

Éclairs au chocolat
Inspired by Fauchon.

If you can make choux paste and crème pâtissière, then it really all gets down to glazing an éclair with fondant, then piping straight lines of a coloured fondant. This can be made with either a piping bag or a paper cornet (the latter being my favourite, some things will never change, trust me).

The only trick to know is to make sure both fondant have the same temperature and texture.
For the chocolate fondant, I simply added a bit of cacao powder until it looked dark enough. Then mixed in 30°B syrup until the texture seemed just right.

I guess it’s a bit of a trial and error at first. But it’s ok. We love sticky fingers around here.

And since I’m at it, fondant is a kind of crystallised sugar that can be found in fancy shops. In case it’s nowhere to be found, try mixing icing sugar and a tiny bit of water…

Both the choux paste and crème pâtissière can be made in advance. Since the paste is frozen, you can make it up to a week before. And the cream can stay in the fridge for a couple of days.
However, once the éclairs are filled, they’re best eaten in the day.

Éclairs au chocolat

makes 12 éclair
for the choux paste
one recipe of choux paste
one egg
, for eggwash
butter, to grease the baking tray

Make the choux paste according to the recipe.
Pipe it onto a baking tray lined with baking paper into logs using a 15mm nozzle; then freeze. Cut into 13cm-long éclairs and arrange on a buttered tray. And bake until golden brown (tips on how to bake choux paste here).

for the crème pâtissière

250g milk
100g cream
2 egg yolks
30g caster sugar
15g cornflour
100g dark chocolate

Bring the milk and cream to the boil. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour. Pour the boiling liquids over the yolks, whisking as you go. Then place back into the pan and cook – whisking at all times – until boiling.
Transfer to a bowl and add the chocolate. Handblend and clingfilm to the touch. Chill.

Using a small nozzle, fill the eclairs. And set aside.

for the glaze
cacao powder
30°B syrup
(100g caster sugar + 100g water, brought to the boil, then chilled)

Melt the fondant over a bain-marie or in the microwave. Divide into two heatproof bowls. Add cacao powder to colour one of the batches into a dark brown fondant.

Reheat both fondant over a bain-marie or in the microwave, until it reaches 30-35°C. Adding a little syrup to make it runny enough. Then using a small spatula or your finger, glaze the top of the éclair.
Immediately pipe straight lines of dark fondant, making sure the tip of your bag or cornet is cut small enough (perhaps 2mm, the fondant will spread). Then run your finger along the éclair to clean up it sides and twirl the end of the piped lines.

Repeat with the remaining éclairs. They will keep in the fridge overnight, although they’re best eaten on the same day.

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The daily fix

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Monday 27 February 2012.

I wake up to the shy sound of a detuned French radio. And leave a half-drank latte – stay put – on the kitchen table. Off on my favourite hollandais bike.

It rattles, unexpectedly. And the brake feels ever too fierce.

But it takes me to the market. And the little fort by the beach; the one at the end of the stony trail.

I could spend hours there. Especially when the sun turns the sky into a rainbow.

Yes, I’m in Fouras.
And really, how could I be there and not tell you about les jonchées (although, I have before; and not just once)? I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. I’m still addicted.

Perhaps more than ever.

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Oops #1

la pâtisserieA story about , , Written on le Friday 24 February 2012.

Three cuts and eight eggs on the floor later, the cake came out of the oven. As a reminder that heatproof means heatproof, and not just a random glass bowl.

You see disasters happen in my kitchen too. Most likely even more than in yours. Oh well, oops!

PS. My grand-mother nows calls me Hiroshima… Just to give you a hint of the extent of that glass bowl explosion.

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A bicyclette

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Thursday 23 February 2012.

[On a bicycle]

I’ve been riding my bicycle through the beach, and putting tray after tray of madeleines in the oven. It smells lovely around here. Of warm butter and vanilla.

You should come.

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There are only so many things I know

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Monday 20 February 2012.

Yes, there are only so many things I know.

Making wishes, of the fairylike kind. The taste of his lips; and the feeling in my stomach that it’s all just like a dream.
The smell of fresh yeast when brioche is being made.

The beauty of fireflies around me. Being lost in the fog.

The flavour of roasted rhubarb and melting vanilla ice-cream. Crab hunting on a deserted beach, not unlike a treasure hunt. The smell of rain. And its music too.

The sea-mist that hits our faces.

Holding a piping bag in my hands. The fireworks I felt when he held me close. Dreaming up desserts made of avocado.

For the unknown, I rely on magic and coffee. Oh and spending time with my grand-mother.
The most beautiful person in my world. And she knows it all.

See you in a week or so London.

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PS. I felt like cake; made one and ate a slice.

la pâtisserie, memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Friday 17 February 2012.

A friend, of the dear-to-my-heart kind, made this cake today. A few thousands of kilometres away. And I did too. In ten minutes, from cupboards to oven*.

It was eaten on the couch. To the sound of summertime sadness**. And raindrops started hitting the kitchen window. And that cup of coffee was slightly too hot to be drank. And, really, I was just missing one thing

But for once, I will have to be patient. Some things are bound to happen.

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* It helps that this cake only calls for chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. An almost instant bliss!

** I finally got to hear what the planet seems to be talking about these days. And as much as I wanted not to like it, some of the songs grew on me.

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