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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Find a map and draw a straight line – Chewy flapjacks

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 15 February 2012.

I started collecting objects, to make up for memories I forgot. A blue pool ball, a broken cigarette, a plastic table number.

I read words. Most of the time, at night. Yes, all it took was a few words. Perhaps, a bad google translation too. In fact, some words don’t translate well into French.

But it was cute. And it made me miss him even though I thought he was part of those long gone memories.

And when the world we both knew started to fold itself and disappear, I employed magical thinking.
Of the good kind. Possibly involving flapjacks. Because, let’s face it, they seem to be a bit of a mystery around here these days.

Some people want them crunchy. Most go for chewy. A pinch of flour or not? And what about condensed milk…

Finding a recipe that made everyone happy seemed to be harder than finding a map and drawing a straight line.

Chewy flapjacks

Those are, by no means, the best flapjacks ever. There are in my own world. But then, I wasn’t lucky enough to be brought up on crumpets and marmalade, and had to make the most of croissants and confiture.

They are those flapjacks with a thin crunchy crust and soft chewy – almost – fudgy crumb. If you’re after the crunchiest kind, I would suggest to use a larger pan (so the overall thickness is thinner) and bake them at a slightly higher temperature. Perhaps, 190°C.
Here, I bake them at 180°C. But please, as with all baking, keep in mind that I have a diplodocus of an oven. Non fan-assisted. And with all the heat coming from two gas burners at the bottom. If you have a fan oven, it’s good to reduce the temperature by 20°C (and open a bottle of champagne).

There are two important steps – if they can even be called this way. The first is to line the pan all the way to the top with baking paper. And the second is not to bring the sugar/butter mixture to the boil before adding the oats. You just want the butter and light brown sugar to be happily melted.

Chewy flapjacks

makes 10-12
200g condensed milk
150g butter
85g light brown sugar
60g golden syrup
5g maldon sea salt
320g oats

Preheat the oven to 180°C (see note above). And line a 20x20cm baking pan with baking paper. I like to butter the pan first so the paper nicely sticks to it, without any crease.
In a large pan, place the condensed milk, butter, light brown sugar, golden syrup and salt, and cook over slow heat until the butter has dissolved.
Mix in the oats until nicely coated. Spread into the lined mold, pressing down with the back of a spoon to chase any air. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown.
Allow to cool, then slice into rectangles – trimming the edges, as you do so – with a sharp knife.

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Only in dreams

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Monday 06 February 2012.

A dream crossed of the list. On Saturday night. It was late. Much too late to be awake, really. I was wearing my favourite leopard leggings and a thick wool dress. And snow in my hair.

The thirty minute journey took slightly over two hours; a slid, a splash, and a couple of snowballs, tentatively thrown at me by J. who clearly spent his evening partying and not working.

But nothing can ruin the smell of snow. That scent made of burning firewood and damp earth. Quite indefinable, and yet I’ve just tried.

Some things are will never be different. Now onto the next dream. Cross your fingers for me.

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Bonjour février

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 01 February 2012.

[Hello February]

It seems like those winter days I longed so much for have finally decided to pop by. Yes, it was cold today. Of the frostbites and hot chocolates kind.

I opened the door to a package made of Impossible film. I walked with the only mitten I haven’t lost on one hand. I saw the sun set through the naked trees of the park. I sipped through a hot latte.
And I called it a day.

Right now, I have so much in mind. But mostly three things. Three things I cannot bring myself to say out-loud . Three things of the pinch me awake kind.

The not-so official February dream-list.

1. Driving to the lake district. For a lunch. And a dinner.
2. The last brioche recipe you’ll ever need.
3. And hopefully, the last croissant recipe too!
4. Airports, of all kinds.
5. Writing words onto my squared notebook.
6. Learning how to make the best coffee cup around.
7. Watching snowflakes float in the wind.
8. Bergamots. And laughing, uncontrollably, over them.
9. Looking forward to a daily midnight surprise.
10. Loosing track of time.

What are your dreams for those days made of cosy fireplaces, toasted marshmallows, and hot ciders?

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She fell in love with…

memoriesA story about , Written on le Monday 30 January 2012.

PS. Not of the one thousand and six hundred pounds kind (dreams). More of the tilt my own lens in front of the sensor. And yet, it feels just right.

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Those three words – Gelée d’huile d’olives

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

[Olive oil jelly]

In autumn, with figs, a young brillat-savarin curd, and a warm sponge so full of vanilla seeds it’s almost grey. Perhaps, a few toasted and salted almonds for crunch.

In winter, with caramelised apples, a white chocolate granita – not unlike snow, crystallised rosemary, and fresh apple bubbles. And maybe, a few baby quenelles of croissant ice-cream. But that’s just a thought.

In spring, with strawberries and a hibiscus sorbet. Or flapjack ice-cream. Oh yes, flapjack ice-cream sounds good.

In summer, with candied tomatoes. And a simple vanilla ice-cream. Or with an apricot roasted in basil syrup, honeyed kataifi, pistachios, and honey ice-cream.

It all started one night, when J. mentioned those three words. Olive. Oil. Jelly.

It was last week. Ever since, I haven’t stopped thinking about all the desserts I could make with it.
I mean, my favourite summer snack is vanilla ice-cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel after all.

So we’ve been working, trying to find out how to turn pungent oil into a clear jelly.

And somehow, I think we’ve gotten there. After many failed experiments.

Gelée d’huile d’olive
It is not perfect, by any means. In fact, I wish it would be slightly clearer. Perhaps, using isomalt instead of sugar for the syrup.
But this will be for another experiment. In the meantime, a wobbly olive oil jelly. A bit too sweet. A bit too cloudy. And yet, terribly good.

Gelée d’huile d’olive

2 1/2 leaves (5g) gelatine
50g water
80g caster sugar
one tsp (10g) glucose syrup
100g extra virgin olive oil

Soak the gelatine leaves into ice-cold water.
In a pan, bring the water, sugar and glucose syrup to the boil. Squeeze the gelatine leaves and whisk in. Then, slowly pour the olive oil, emulsifying with a whisk or an immersion blender as you do so.
Pour into a container or spread onto acetate for a jelly sheet. Chill for a couple of hours. Cut into dice or other…

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Goodbye, hello

memoriesA story about , , Written on le Sunday 08 January 2012.

I walked along the Thames. On the very firt morning of 2011. And saw a balloon floating along. And a French bakery.
I drank lattes. Waiting for them to cool down, with the wind and cold.
I turned the lights off to a kitchen I still miss every now and then.
I walked him home.
We drove to Cornwall. And saw the most beautiful lighthouse. Both wearing our hats against the mist and the fog. I think I left my heart there. Or at least a piece of me.
I crossed London by night. Possibly crying.
I walked through a forest made of white blossoms and mud at my feet.
I started working in another restaurant. And whether I realise or not, it shaped me.
We spent the most perfect day ever. Summer in April. It was almost wordless, but words don’t always matter. I left my pink ballet shoes in the grass and he left his flip-flops. And there we had tickle fights.
I went home. Or at least, that’s what they call it. We had a lunch made of sun sparkling on the sea. A pistachio sponge was served with smoked chocolate and green tea ice cream.
I swam with jellyfish.
I swam even when they were not in the sea.
We ate at Northroad. It was a roller-coaster. But mostly inspiring.
I wrote on stones.
I kissed him goodbye. In the rain. It doesn’t get anymore cliché than this.
I woke up to the most beautiful view of the London skyline line. It felt like walking on a cloud. Right above.
I introduced myself, with a possibly already stained apron and a hat ever too small or large. Why do I always have hat issues?
I woke up to a sunny and quiet Knightsbridge during the riots.
I flew to the smallest airport.
I cooked with my grand-mother. I listened to her stories. I rode my bike through a land I know by heart.
We ate at a restaurant in China Town. He burned my sequined top with his cigarette. And then we sang, mostly off key. He walked me home. We laughed all the way. I said good night over a garbage bin. It can’t get any less cliché than this.
I swam in the sea. Again. I slept a lot too.
I looked up. And wondered what Peterkin custard was.
We kissed. And went for a night-time exploration of London. I took a cab. Then came back.
I wore my leopard leggings. And cat’s eyes. He wore a wool hat. And we stood by a red door. Until the lamp poles went off. He kissed me goodbye in the cab.
I got ill. And lived in a world of hallucinations and dreams and nightmares. I didn’t hear or see when 2011 turned into 2012. But I know for sure it’s going to be fine.

Happy new year! x

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You’re my favourite flavour

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Tuesday 03 January 2012.

One day I will tell you why I’ve been so quiet this past month. Right now, it all gets down to my bed, a virus, a bottle of water, and way too many pills for one girl to take.

In fact, I should probably start with the usual Happy New Year and all the trimmings that come along. I had planned to. Selecting one picture for every month of 2011. It looks pretty.
But I’ve never been good at doing things the right way.

Instead, I’m here to share what’s been keeping me going through my hibernation. A hibernation made of pillows and fever-nightmares. Of wool blankets and dreams that felt so real I didn’t want to wake up.

Yes, I’ve been sleeping. Through Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday. I missed a night of drunken fireworks. But it’s ok, because a week before, as I was walking home after work, I had my very own.

In a street so quiet, except for the rain. But really, who consider raindrops a noise? Under the light.

I’ve told you before, I’m sure there is a hidden world behind puddles.

My last touch with the outer world.

Yes, after Into the wild, let me introduce Off the wild. Where more hours are spent asleep than awake* and the only food worth eating is a cherry compote that might not taste like my grand-mère’s, but is decent enough.

Without the occasional cherry stone, of course.

I’ve been reading too. Dan’s latest book. And a few online favourites, both old and new. Gelato al limon, Poppies in October, À boire et à manger, Je veux être bonne

* An upside-down, inside-out version of my usual everyday. Perhaps, I have fallen in a puddle…
** A totally random post. But I thought the compote jar looked pretty. And I started drawing, for the first time in days. And then, somehow, I had to write. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Oh well, this is what temperature does to you.
At least, tell me what’s your very favourite compote flavour?

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On breakfast for dinner – Bacon and egg sandwich

la cuisine, memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 07 December 2011.

When home means finally-untangled hair, the sound of waves that won’t quit our minds – oh and of the shower he’s into two-open-doors away while this song is playing on repeat, only rain hitting the skylight is missing for the orchestra.

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Too large a cotton t-shirt. And a pair of knickers. With matching wool socks. Of course.

Oh yes, when home means all of that, it seems to me the situation kind of calls for breakfast for dinner. Preferably involving bacon, and perhaps an egg or two. Or even better, an egg with two yolks.

Like a happy surprise that, all of a sudden, makes up for the so-very recent past.

Slice two English muffins in half. Heat a spoonful of butter in a pan. And crack two eggs open. Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Plenty of it. Add a couple of slices of smoked bacon along the side.
Toast the muffins until just golden brown.
Pile the bacon and eggs on the muffins. Squeeze a little brown sauce or ketchup on top. And close. Eat, possibly sat on the floor or wrapped in a wool blanket. Go to bed, hoping for rain – or more.

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She fell in love with…

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 07 December 2011.

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Bonjour décembre

memoriesA story about , , Written on le Tuesday 06 December 2011.

[Hello December]

December is made for kissing in the mist, warm nights of magic rush and cold pink dawn, foreseen epiphanies, and perhaps, most importantly, mulled wine.

A short welcome to this new month, because – believe me or not – some things are better left unsaid.

Yes, at times, silence is golden.
So are the blurred roads – barely lit by street poles – that will lead us to Cornish lands for one night of endless lingering.

What will you enjoy in silence?

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La vanille

la pâtisserie, le marchéA story about , , , , , , Written on le Thursday 17 November 2011.

It’s hard to play favourite with vanilla.

Tahitian vanilla (or for the geeks out there, and that includes me, Vanilla tahitensis) is a bit of a outsider – considered its the only vanilla to contain heliotropin – with its floral burst and nutty undertones.
Due to very volatile components, the flavour can be strong at first only to melt into a kind of happy pot-pourri.

Both Mexican and Bourbon vanilla are Vanilla planifolia. Only the killing method of the beans changes, resulting in either moist or ever-so woody texture.
And also very sublte variations in flavour.

Mexican pods are killed on the ground, under the heat of a noon-kind-of sun. They have a distinct earthiness to them. And caramel notes.

Madagascar beans, also known as Bourbon, keep some moisture after a quick blanching. And if you’re looking for the vanilla flavour of your childhood, then they are your new best friends.

Now, what is your favourite vanilla?

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On my side of the world, I like to use a combination of Bourbon and Tahiti vanilla. Somewhere along the lines of six Madagascar beans for three Tahitian ones.

Which is actually the very fundamental of my nine-pod vanilla ice-cream. So speckled with seeds it has the tint of the golden hour.

Cooking does feel like magic at times. Most of the time, in fact.

But when you sink a few used vanilla pods into a sugar syrup, close your eyes and fast-forward to two days later only to discover jewels, it really is. Magic.

Or science.

I’ve found the recipe in Thierry Marx’s dessert book, which I can’t wait to explore.

In a large pan, bring 250g of water and 500g of caster sugar to the boil. Pour into a deep plastic container and allow to cool.
Trim a couple of used vanilla pods and push them into the syrup. Forget about it for two days or more. Gently pat dry with a cloth. Use as decoration or as a stirrer for your favourite cup of tea.

An update on the home-made vanilla extract. The jar has been refilled twice. And emptied – every time – in shot glasses, preferably at the very first minutes of dawn. After a night made of laughs, indie music and kisses.

It’s certainly not the best way to use it but damn, it tastes that good.

One time, if I remember right, we even hollowed a watermelon and poured the whole jar inside. Straws were a must back then. And it was deliciously boozy.

Last week, we faced a sad moment when we came to the realisation it was time to clean the jar and start some new extract. Eight weeks to go before we can sing off-key again.

Because the simplest things don’t always seem like it…

To remove the seeds from a vanilla pods, I flatten the bean with a small knife, then slice lengthway and scrape away.

Don’t forget to keep the used beans. Blend them with caster sugar for instant vanilla sugar, or stick them in your home-made vanilla extract, or candy them as above…

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Copeaux de chocolat

la pâtisserie, le kitchenwareA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 10 November 2011.

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Bonjour novembre

la pâtisserie, memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 01 November 2011.

[Hello November]

Is it just me, or do you also feel like that – more than any other month – tarts belong to November?

It usually happens without a warning. And without a calendar.

A day or so after waiting on the sidewalk – jumping, whistling, screaming – for a cab to have its light on. Oh yes, it is indeed the thirty-first of October, with its thrills taken onto the streets.

Doughs are made; in a music that goes along the lines of pâte brisée, pâte sucrée, pâte feuilletée. Wrapped in clingfilm, and kept in the fridge or in the freezer.

Then they get rolled. And topped with those autumn fruits that taste like nights by the fireplace.

The unofficial November tart-list.

1. Pecan tart. In fact, as I’m writing this, I have this one in the oven. Without the addition of chocolate chips.
2. The perfect tarte tatin. Possibly with a lot of butter and sugar. And maldon sea salt, just so.
3. Pumpkin pie. Because, I can’t really stay away from it.
4. A caramelised garlic focaccia.
5. Christophe Felder‘s chocolate clafoutis. Certainly not a tart, but we’ll pretend it is for the sake of winter leggings and furry boots.
6. A Japanese cheesecake. With matcha.
7. Quiche, and its mushrooms, lard crust and emmental by the kilogram.
8. Triple chocolate tart. Yes, I’m that much of a chocolate lover.
9. An eggless stabiliser-less ice-cream base recipe. Oooh well, I hear tarts and ice-cream belong to each other.
10. Cloud-shaped choux. Because pastry + filling = tart-ish. Noooow, I’m the tart right?

And because no matter how deep we are in the tart-making, we all need a reliable pâte brisée recipe. Mine comes from my grand-mother.

A treasure, by any mean.

Pâte brisée de grand-mère

makes 900g of dough

In a large bowl, combine 500g of plain flour with a heaped teaspoon of salt. Rub in 250g of cold butter until sandy. Mix in 2 egg yolks and enough cold water to bind the flour into a dough (around 70 to 90g). Work until just smooth. Divide into two balls. Clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

For a sweet pâte brisée, simply add 40g of caster sugar and the seeds from one vanilla pod.

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Leggings en laine

memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 27 October 2011.

[Wool leggings]

My day started like this. Warm wool leggings, cushy slippers, and a cup of coffee of the burn-your-tongue kind. Only to end up, pretty much the same and with a good read included.

Like a surprise waiting for me on the sofa as I entered our flat after the usual dinner service.

Hope you had a day as lovely as mine! Any surprises?

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Sur un nuage

le kitchenware, memoriesA story about , , Written on le Tuesday 25 October 2011.

[On a cloud]

For days when the sky feels like a cloud, of the gigantic kind. And our homes are made warm with gas ovens.

I’ve yet found what dough will become a cloud in my kitchen. Perhaps, my very favourite matcha shortbreads. Or the cinnamon cookies that made my childhood a forever-Christmas.

Thank you Nikole for making such beautiful objects that – waiting to be used – sit on my bedside table, as a collection of treasures.

What is your favourite cut-out cookie recipe?

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How to become a pastry chef?

in the kitchenA story about Written on le Wednesday 19 October 2011.

I’m currently writing a series of posts on how to become a pastry chef.

What it involves on a day to day basis, what we do – whether we work in restaurants, pâtisseries, hotels, or even caterers, which paths we took to reach our dreams

So if you have any questions that need answering, please ask away in the comment section!

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