One night of magic rush

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 22 June 2011.

I had forgotten how purposeless words can hold a special meaning. Just like driving endlessly on the smallest roads, with no possibility whatsoever to get lost since we have no destination.

And it feels like a moment outside of time. Where the only music is the sound of our hearts and the dreams we had.

Dreams made of sun and freshly-picked cherries. Dreams of walking next to her and belonging to someone who lives so very far away.

Now back in London, dreams have turned into wishes. Of the crossed-fingers kind. Just so.
It might be grey and, at times, wet; but deep-inside I know.

That everything is going to be fine. That, somehow, time won’t be counted in seconds but in heartbeats.

So much for the fear of time running-out. At least until the loud noise I’ve come not to hear anymore wakes me up in the morning. The morning of the shortest night of the year.








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Le Mirazur

to eatA story about , , , , Written on le Monday 20 June 2011.

When the view from our table looked like sun sparkles, green leaves and just enough coral to guess the town of Menton, we really didn’t think that things were about to get better.
And yet, we knew. Because of all the beautiful words we’d read about Mauro Colagreco. Because – and it sometimes doesn’t mean much – he was awarded with a Michelin star. Because we could see the plates coming from the kitchen to the tables.

We drove to the Mirazur on a bright day of late May.
As chefs, we’re busy thinking about mise-en-place, ordering, paperwork, and more. But then, when the apron is not fitted on our waist and we’re wearing our favourite tropeziennes instead of the usual crocs, the plates seem effortless.

Like a magic trick.
It suddenly feels like art. And it might be cliché to say so, but it’s true. If a painting can create an emotion, a well-constructed plate does it too. In fact, even more so that I can relate to it and connect.

We had the menu Découverte, a beautiful ribambelle of plates built around the vegetables and fruits of the gorgeous garden en contrebas [below] and the fish and meat from the local area.

Now, I’m no restaurant critic and I usually leave it to Felix or A.A. whose words, by the way, are some of the most genuine and fresh I’ve read.

So today, I’ll just share my memories – that some call pictures – with just one thought in mind: when will I be able to go back?

And yes, that dessert spoke to me in a way no dessert plate ever had. It might have been the matcha. Or the hint of smokiness from the chocolate cream.
In fact, I am more than ever planning on experimenting with the éponge, a Ferran’s avant-garde cake baked in the microvawe, pushing the boundaries of traditionnal sponges.

For the record, here are the notes from what I will remember as the best lunch I’ve ever had.

chips riz encre de seiche, saumon basilic [squid ink crip with salmon and basil]
canard fumé, purée mangue [smoked duck, mango purée]
bouchée mozzarella fumée [smoked mozzarella bites] 

pain du partage [pull apart bread, which reminded me of a brioche, in a savoury kind of way. served with the most amazing olive oil flavoured with lemon and ginger]

huitre froide, poire, fleur de bourrache [cold oyster, pear in three forms, borrage flowers]

oeuf poché, céleri-rave, émulsion d’anguille fumée [poached egg with a celeriac purée and an emulsion of smoked eel]

salade de haricots et courgettes avec vinaigrette échalotes, pistache et cerises fraiches [bean and courgette salad, shallot and pistachio vinaigrette, fresh cherries]

morilles, émulsion persil, quinoa, mousse parmesan [morrels, parsley emulsion, quinoa and parmesan mousse]

bonite, purée angélique, jardinière de légumes: radis courgettes navet, quenelle mandarine-carotte [skipjack tuna (?), angelica purée, little glazed root vegetables, mandarin and carrot quenelle]
poitrine de porc, purée prune, émulsion lavande, echalotte confites [pork belly, plum purée, lavender emulsion, confit shallots]

pré-dessert, cannelloni cerise, glace pistache, infusion hibiscus [cherry cannelloni, pistachio ice-cream, hibiscus cold broth]

éponge menthe du jardin, crémeux chocolat fumé, meringue chocolat, éclats sucre chocolat fumé, glace matcha, foam ortie [mint sponge, smoked chocolate crémeux, chocolate meringue, matcha ice-cream, nettle foam]

That day, I felt lucky and grateful. For eating a pork belly that tasted just like it always should. For celebrating a birthday with the people I love the most. For meeting Mauro. And his – very young – pastry chef Yann. And, really, for being. Period.

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Les pieds dans l’eau

memoriesA story about , , , , , Written on le Thursday 16 June 2011.

A hard week ahead.
For gold of the world, I wouldn’t change
A thing. You’re my diamond.

And yes, it is totally alright to make cheesy words feel ok by writing a haiku.

The treasure of my life is going to have a tough day and week. But I’m rather confident she will work her magic and turn the world upside-down.
Just like she did to mine.

I love you my little monkey. Vas-y les pieds dans l’eau!

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On water and flour – Cong you bing or green onion pancakes

la cuisineA story about , , , , Written on le Tuesday 14 June 2011.

There is something about flour bond with water. Something that possibly goes back to those afternoons spent sat on the kitchen counter, watching my grand-mother making pâte brisée [shortcrust pastry], which I would – of course – nibble on.

Of the unbaked kind.

So the prospect of mixing flour and water to a dough, then sprinkled with a generous handful of chopped spring onions – and a pinch of Maldon sea salt – felt like music to me.

Of the indie kind.

I followed this recipe. For those of you who prefer to use scales – and may the gods of pastry bless you for that – I’ve written the quantities I’ve used below.

The resulting pancakes are chewy and yet flaky. And the drawing above should have given you a hint, but they’re rather delicious when served with a drizzle – or more – of Sriracha sauce.

Of the hot kind.

Chinese spring onion pancakes

Makes eight pancakes, or four huge ones.

Mix 315g of plain flour with 180g of warm water, and knead until smooth. Brush with a little vegetable oil, cover with clingfilm and allow to rest for half-an-hour.
Cut the dough into four. Lightly oil your work surface and roll out one of the balls of dough into a thin rectangle at least 30x35cm.
Finely chop a bunch of spring onions and sprinkle on top of the dough along with a pinch of Maldon sea salt.
Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly, then cut in two. Coil each part into a bundle.
And finally roll out the snail into a flat circle.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a frying pan and cook the pancake for two mintes on each side.
Cut into wedges and serve with a dipping sauce. And when I say dipping sauce, I really mean Sriracha.

Now, what’s your favourite use for Sriracha? And have you tried making your own?

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Bonjour juin

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , Written on le Thursday 02 June 2011.

[Hello June]

More than ever, this year, june feels like a new start. A kiss goodbye under the rain. Metaphorically and literally.
Also the first time I won’t be able to wish my grand-father his birthday.

May has been lovely. And way too fast.

I still have to tell you about France. And everything that happened there. From our days at the beach to the most perfect lunch; from feeling the water on our skins to the 180 pictures we took.

But before that, we have to celebrate. Celebrate the month that will bring us summer – this time of the year onto which we look back as an old album of happy memories.

The not so official June happy-list.

1. Crumpets for breakfast.
2. Looking at the images from my holidays in France.
3. Looking forward.
4. The scent of my sister’s skin.
5. Witnessing cherry trees turning into red jewels.
6. Three months – already! – of what I will consider the most challenging restaurant experience of my life.
7. The morning emails from my parents.
8. Pimms and lemonade.
9. Late night dinners at home, with friends.
10. Strawberries. Of the English kind.

Oh yes, I can foresee the happy future of those beautiful strawberries. More to come soon.

What will your month of June look like? Or at least, what do you want it to look like?

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Skinny dipping – Double chocolate profiteroles

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , Written on le Saturday 28 May 2011.

I haven’t been hanging out with my laptop much lately. You see, I’ve been sort of busy doing this. And some unexpected things. Of the good kind.

Like a lunch at Mauro Colagreco‘s Mirazur – which you will certainly hear of next week – and the less-than-occasional dip in the waves. The skinny way. Or so they say.

There is one thing that couldn’t wait for my return to the island made of clouds and possible rain. An insider told me it’s been freezing, and although I really don’t want to believe him, he might be right.
After all, we had our London summer a month ago now. And if it’s anything like it’s been last year, that’s pretty much all we are going to get.

I, however, didn’t come here tonight to talk about the weather.

My plan was more about chocolate. And perhaps, a bit more chocolate.
In fact, let’s say it out-loud. It’s all about double chocolate.

As a reminder that choux aren’t only good when sucre casson is sprinkled on them. You could also slice the naked choux (and back we are at the skinny dipping thing), fill them with your favourite ice-cream.

It’s needless to say that I highly recommend a creamy chocolate ice-cream. And please don’t bother making a nice scoop. Spoon the ice-cream straight into the choux. Place the lid back on.

And drizzle a warm chocolate sauce on top. I was told that David’s is rather excellent. But on my side of the world, we just brought some milk to the boil and poured it over chopped dark chocolate until it seemed right.

Instant profiteroles. Not so pretty. But if that makes you feel any better, eating them is not pretty either. Let’s note it makes quite a decent dessert-fix though.

Recipe: Pâte à choux [Choux paste]

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Comptine d’un autre été – Des chouquettes

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 25 May 2011.

[Lullaby from another summer – Sugar choux puffs]

I could tell you how my dad would take me to the boulangerie after school, as I was smaller than the smallest tree of your garden. In fact, I could barely walk. But making my way to the bottom of the crumpled paper bag handed to me by the lady at the counter seemed easy.

That paper bag could hold a dozen of chouquettes. Or as I would call them, chouchou. Possibly, a made-up word from my dad.

Oh yes, I could tell you how my hands would be sticky. And my mouth most likely surrounded by pearls of sugar.

But instead, I will tell you about what happened a few days ago.

I brought milk and butter to a rolling boil. With a pinch of salt, just so; because, that’s the way to go. I added a good amount of flour. Off the heat, it goes without saying (and yet, here I am). I placed the pan back over the gas and mixed it with a wooden spoon until it was just dry enough.
I transferred it to the bowl of my stand-mixer; although arms and a spoon would do a fine job too. And add the eggs, one at a time. Until it was just wet enough.
I piped. Without a nozzle, because they all seem to be in London. And I am not.
I brushed eggwash. I scored the top with a fork. Dipped in the remaining egg.
I sprinkled sucre casson [pearl sugar].
I baked. And poured us a glass of white wine. Or perhaps it was a rosé.

And then, we ate them. Slightly warm. And guess what? Sticky hands and sugar around the mouth are a must.

Just like they used to be. Just like they always will.
Which reminded me about this sentence from one of my very favourite books: la contemplation de l’éternité dans le mouvement même de la vie [the contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life].

Chouquettes
I think there are roughly as many pâte à choux recipes as there are pastry chefs. I remember a place where a mixture of milk and water was used. Sometimes, they would add a pinch of baking powder. Or some sugar.

My recipe possibly originated from the one we used at school. Except, it called for water only. And perhaps, a touch more flour and less butter.
As I went by, I switched the water for milk. Full-fat, please. Added an extra knob of butter. A pinch of salt. And reduced the flour to 150g.

As for the baking method, it’s the one Pascal Lac taught me. A foolproof method that worked even in the most sophisticated English ovens. Or failing that, the most platic toy-ovens at home.

Basically, you preheat the oven to 250˚C. Quickly get the trays inside. And just as the oven records 250˚C again (the temperature will drop slightly as you open the door), turn the oven off. For 15 to 18 minutes, until the temperature reaches 160-180˚C; at which point, the choux should be puffed up and yet still pale in colour. Then, oven set on 170˚C, without fan, dry them for 10 to 15 minutes, until nice and golden; and making sure you keep the door slightly open with a wooden spoon to let any steam escape.
However, feel free to bake them all the way at 200˚C if that works better for you. But I’m warning you: an oven has never failed me with this technique.

Just a note on the eggs. I usually use around 4 eggs and a half. So what I do is to incoporate the first four eggs, then whisk the last one, add a little of this to the dough and keep the rest for a made-up eggwash!

Chouquettes

makes 40 small choux (roughly the size of a golf ball*)

250g milk
100g butter
a pinch of salt

150g plain flour

4 to 5 eggs, see note above
q.s. pearl sugar

Preheat the oven to 250˚C, and lightly butter two baking trays.

Place the milk, butter, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over low heat – you want the butter to be fully melted before the milk boils. Take the pan off the heat and add the flour all at once, mixing as you go until combined.
Return to the heat. And using a wooden spoon, mix until a thin crust appears at the bottom of the pan. This shows that the dough is dry enough. It should not be sticky.

Transfer to the bowl of a stand-mixer and allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Then using the paddle attachment, add the eggs one at a time on medium speed until fully incorporated.
Scrape into a piping bag, fitted with a 12mm nozzle. And pipe little balls, around 3cm wide and 2cm high.

Brush with eggwash, making sure to smooth the tops. Then, dip a fork into the eggwash and scrore the top of the choux.

Sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Place the trays in the oven. As fast as you can. Really. Trust me, oven temperatures drop so damn fast. Then keep an eye on your thermometre and the second it says 250˚C again, turn the oven off.
After 15 to 18 minutes (see note above), turn the oven back on to 170˚C, without a fan. After a few minutes, keep the oven door slightly open by sliding the handle of a wooden spoon inside.

The choux are ready when golden-brown and not too moist inside**.

* Disclaimer: I have never played golf in my life. Even though I must admit, I really wanted too as a child. So much in fact, it’s now affecting me as I’m using a golf ball as a unit!

** Even now, I always test them (and by test, I really mean eat one) every two minutes past 10 minutes at 170˚C.

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Drink me

les drinksA story about , , , , Written on le Sunday 22 May 2011.

Sundays in France are made for: mornings in the kitchen and afternoons in the garden. With a possible visit to the vide-grenier [garage sale] and a few drinks at a café.

We started early today. With pancakes and enough lattes to keep us awake for the day. Fast-forward to the vide-grenier where I found a set of cute glasses with a straw.

They reminded me of the drink-me potion Heston Blumenthal made for his Alice in Wonderland party. And I’m more than excited to think about everything I’m going to be doing with them.

As soon as I got home after the aforementionned drinks at a café, Aïda begged for a strawberry and banana milkshake.

She’d started making one only to realise we had no vanilla ice-cream in the house.

So I made a milkshake after my own heart. Fruits, milk and ice. Shaped in cubes.
You might call it a smoothie. And it’s a pretty good one.

I don’t think you need any kind of recipe for it. Or one that calls for…

Hull a handful of strawberries and place them in a blender. Add a banana, in rough hand-cut pieces. A punnet of ice cubes. And a dash of milk. Blitz until smooth.

Add a straw and feel like how being en vacances [on holiday] should feel like.

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Les vacances

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Saturday 21 May 2011.

[Holidays]

It seems I’ve been kept busy by the sound of pebbles rolling under the waves. In my records, it’s an all-good kind of thing.

I’ve been reading this (otherwise known as my new favourite food magazine) and that (please do check the amazing feature by my friend Emilie). And also a good old classic made special by the tinted glass of sunglasses and the breeze felt through a bikini.

See you soon. x

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Where the wild things are – Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha

la pâtisserieA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 19 May 2011.

[Matcha ice-cream mochi]

Almost a year ago, a boy-friend – at times with a dash, most of the time, without – gave me two Japanese manuals.
A textbook and a workbook. They were both in one of those Muji clear pockets I love so much. With a pen and a highlighter. Perhaps it was yellow, or it might have been pink.

Almost a year later, the manuals have stayed in their wraps. And I know that one day, I will speak Japanese. When it’s time. When it’s right.

In the meantime, I can learn to cook like one. Or at least, pretend to.

This monster above was the very first of a somewhat successful batch of ice-cream mochi. It was white, but oozing green; reminding me of that slimy ghost of a movie I used to enjoy as a child.

And trust me, it might look easy when you see people – who seem to have more than two hands – wrapping the mochi paste around ice-cream. But when you’re too impatient to wait for it to cool down, then it oozes. A lot.

Luckily the next few mochi turned much better.
And excuse me for the analogy, but it’s a bit like crêpes. The first one always ends up being wasted - or in my case, eaten over the stove – most likely, by someone who is not cooking them; and no, I won’t name anyone here – while the pan gets piping hot again.

Monster-story aside, I’m quite excited with the prospect of home-made mochi. This time, I encased some green tea ice-cream that I had made a few days earlier, but really, you could use anything from chocolate mousse to fresh fruits.
I’m actually looking forward to making – and eating – a mochi version of the choux à la crème I grew up on.

Yes, I foresee soft crème patissiere wrapped in a chewy chocolate mochi dough. Or a matcha mousse around a couple of fresh raspberries.

Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha
Adapted from Clotilde.

For me, making ice-cream mochi was really an excuse to get my fingers used to the process of wrapping something in a sticky dough made of glutinous rice flour, sugar and water.
Ice-cream seemed great because it’s round and hard, and thus, I thought it would make the whole process easier.

I was wrong. I made a mess. And five mochi.

But it tasted divine. Mostly because of the matcha ice-cream that I made adapting my very favourite vanilla egg-less ice-cream recipe.
I wish I could share it, but since I used some atomised glucose and a pinch of super neutrose – and I doubt you have this in your kitchen – I need to work on a stabiliser-free recipe.

Just milk, cream, sugar and no eggs (don’t ask me why, I always find traditional ice-creams way too eggy).

But please, feel free to experiment with store-bought or homemade ice-creams. I’ve found that the easiest technique for me was to flatten the dough when it was still hot. And wait for it to cool down slightly before encasing the very frozen scoop of ice-cream, pinching the dough together to seal, then cut the overlap with scissors.

Perhaps not the most conventional way, but certainly the most effective not to have a thick layer of dough at the bottom of the mochi.

Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha

for 6 mochi
q.s. ice-cream

100g glutinous rice flour (mochiko)
50g caster sugar
180g water

q.s. cornflour
q.s. shredded coconut

Cover a plastic lid with clingfilm and place it in your freezer. Make six scoops of ice-cream and drop them onto the prepared lid. Put back in the freezer to harden.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the rice flour, caster sugar and water. Mix until smooth. Cover with clingfilm and microwave for one minute. Stir and repeat one or two time until thick and slightly translucent.

Fill a baking tray with cornstarch. Transfer the very hot and sticky mixture onto the cornstarch, and dust it with some more. Flatten using the palm of your hands.

Using a scrapper or a knife, cut into six equals pieces.

Flatten each to a 8mm thick disk. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until barely warm.

Working quickly, wrap a piece of dough around the very frozen and hard ball of ice-cream, pinching the extremities of the dough together to seal the ice-cream inside. Cut the overlapping bit and roll in cornstarch or in shredded coconut.

Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure you place the finished mochi back into the freezer as you do so.

Allow the mochi to sit outside for 15 minutes before eating.

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Bonjour mai

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , Written on le Sunday 08 May 2011.

[Hello May]

So apparently, May started a week ago. I would love to say that I remember how beautiful the golden hour of the very fist day of the month; but the truth is I don’t.

What I know, though, is how amazing the days to come are going to be. A flight to France – the first in a long time, mornings at home and afternoons at the beach. Cooking for my family, and for friends. Drinking pastis on the small square of my favourite village – the one that holds my childhood memories and now my very best friend, Anna-Sarah. Milking goats on the smallest organic farm of the mountains. Hugging my sister, and parents.

Oh yes, the month of May is going to be a good one. Even though it will really start for me in a week, somewhere in between London and Nice. Up in the air.

And because, these upcoming seven days are going to go in a flash, you should know I have many things on the way. Ice-cream mochis, a dinner at Northroad and Ducasse, a cheesecake, some tiramisu pancakes, and too many other things.

What are your plans for this month?

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Au menu, aujourd’hui – Le thé matcha

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , Written on le Friday 29 April 2011.

[On the menu today – Matcha green tea]

On a summer day of two-thousand and five, I remember driving on those small roads in between Biot and Valbonne. With something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue*.

I remember the tiny black metal box. Mariage Frère.

I remember the even smaller packet of green powder.

On a spring day of two-thousand and eleven, I have matcha ice-cream in my freezer. Of the homemade kind. With lots of full-fat milk and cream, just so.

So what should I make? And perhaps, most importantly, what is your favourite green tea recipe?

View the results

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* Old, the seemingly supportive boyfriend; new, being a blogger; borrowed, a Leica camera; and blue, a top.

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NOPI

to eatA story about , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 27 April 2011.
21 warwick street, W1B 5NE
http://www.nopi-restaurant.com/

The perfect day needs no more than a person I love as much as he finds me annoying, and enough drinks and food to keep us going – let’s be honest, mostly drinks.

It might get even perfect-er with the addition of bright-green grass to lay on, and a sun just warm enough for our skin to feel the heat.

But this is – obviously – optional. From my records, the perfect day can also be spent in bed or at the pub, drawing on each other with felt-tip pens until the sun goes down.

The perfect day will lead to the perfect night. But because the perfect day feels like it lasts for years – or at least, that’s how you want it to feel – let’s not rush things.

What happens in between the perfect day and the perfect night is up to you, really. On our side of the world, we got lost somewhere. Past Mayfair, and before Chinatown.

We stumbled upon NOPI, the new-ish restaurant by Yotam Ottolenghi – a place I had been wanting to try for quite some time now. And even though it was really just a few minutes away from our starting point we made sure to take as many detours as humanly possible, wearing flip-flops and making fun at each other.

There we shared a few plates of good food. A few glasses of the cheapest white wine on the menu. A plate – each – of something sweet for an ending. Of the perfect day, that is.

I made sure to photograph everything that was standing in front of our eyes – a delicious confit artichokes served with goat cheese and a sprinkle of broad beans; some perfectly chargrilled octopus that was as octopus should be – all the time – ; and twice-cooked baby chicken that had a lovely smokiness from the chilli oil.

Scared my memory would fail me after being drunk on happiness all day.

Turns out it didn’t. And it’s probably for the best since the pictures came out as grey as grey can be.

Not even close to reality. Or perhaps a reality I do not want to see.

In all measures, I advise to end your day at NOPI. Sit downstairs on the communal table overlooking the kitchen, visit the bathroom to recreate the mirror room of your childhood visits to the park. Just don’t bring a camera along, or do – but don’t forget the batteries. And just because I plate desserts all day – almost every day – do try the pineapple galette. Even if just for the pandan.

And for the record, 60£ for two not-so-hungry stomachs and a bottle of wine does feel like the perfect start to your perfect night.

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Neige d’avril et petit-déjeuner au lit – Une brioche en cinq minutes

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 19 April 2011.

[On April snow and breakfast in bed – A five-minute brioche]

When I mentioned the five-minute brioche, I forgot to say it’s more of a five-minute and five-day brioche.

Five days where the blossoms turned into snow. Five days where I got less sleep than what a normal night means to you. Five days where everytime I came home, I opened the fridge to imagine that bubbly dough turn into brioche.

And then on the night before the fifth day, I set my alarm to eight am; two hours later than a day on. Still dizzy from a sleep overdose, I walked to the kitchen. Fleurer le marbre [sprinkle the marble with flour]. Couper la pate [cut the dough]. Bouler [make balls]. Faire pointer [proof]. Et se recoucher [and go back to bed].

This, my friends, is the recipe for happiness. Especially, if I then braid my hair and spend the day with someone I love.

A couple of hours later, we slowly emerged from that broken night – or more accurately, morning nap; a concept that I should put to practice more often.

The loaf went in the oven. And then got sliced, topped with the strawberry jam he made last week – with the somewhat bland berries I was a little too excited with at the market – and then eaten in bed, with the necessary dose of good tunes and the occasional sun peaking through the window.

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It felt like a Sunday. With all the trimmings, bar the messy kitchen. And, no matter how much I love to get my hands dirty by kneading the hell out of a sticky dough until it becomes smooth, it seemed appropriate to take a shortcut this time.

Even more so that this brioche proved the die-hard French that I am wrong.

First came Dan. And his focaccia. Almost no-knead. And almost more delicious than any bread I’ve ever tasted. Then came the no-knead bread that got everyone crazy. And now, Zoë.

So as much as it hurts me to say it, it is possible to make brioche in a matter of seconds. In one bowl. With one wooden spoon.

Brioche en cinq minutes
Adapted from Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg’s Five minute bread.

I once read somewhere that in order to make a good brioche you need time. I think it was actually mentioned as part of the ingredient list, which I thought was clever as I remembered the hours spent kneading – by hand – a three-kg batch at school.

And while I love the process, I must admit it does feel good to – every now and then – take the easy option. It says five minutes. But it really is less than that.

Butter gets melted. And mixed with water, eggs, honey, and salt. No sugar. Just honey, which being inverted sugar – kind of natural trimoline – helps the brioche to stay moist after baking.

Flour and yeast get incorporated. And the dough is left outside to proof. Only to be, later, chilled; for a day or two. Or in my case, five.

And if there is ever a good moment for confessing such a thing, it shall be now: I leave all of my doughs to proof in a microwave. Basically, place a bowl of water in the microwave and ‘cook/bake’ (which word should I use?) for a minute or two, just to create enough steam. Quickly switch the bowl of water for the bowl of dough. And home Panem prover you have!

This does not decrease the proving time, but creates the perfect conditions for your yeast – and by consequence, you – to be happy.

And for the record, I only made a quarter of a recipe. But only because I didn’t have enough honey in my cupboards. A morally despicable fact that got fixed. As soon as I bit into a slice of warm brioche.

As a side-note, I do think this recipe could take more butter. Possibly twice more. Possibly because I’m French. Possibly something I will try and report. Which will also allow me to show you how to bouler une pâte [shape the dough into a ball], because – let’s be honest – I’m not sure it translate into words.

Brioche en cinq minutes

makes four loaves

350g butter, melted and cooled down
350g water
20g salt
8 eggs
170g clear honey
1kg strong flour
15g instant yeast

one egg, beaten, for the eggwash

In a bowl, combine the melted butter, water, salt, eggs, and honey. Add the flour and yeast. And mix using a wooden spoon until smooth.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow to rest at room temperature for a little over 2h (or feel bad-ass and stick it in a turned-off microwave – make sure you read the note above beforehand though).

Transfer the cloth-covered bowl to the fridge and chilled for at least 24h or up to five days.

On the day you’re ready to bake, generously butter a loaf tin and cut 450g off your dough. Then using a scraper – or a knife – divide into four bits. Have some flour handy and gently pat each piece into it. Putting the flour side up – and sticky side down – shape it into a ball using the palm of one of your hands.

Place the four balls into the prepared tin and allow to proof for 1h30.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Brush the top of the dough with the eggwash and bake for 40 to 50min, or until golden brown. Unmould and allow to cool on a wire rack, or not.

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Brew

to eatA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 13 April 2011.
45 northcote road, SW11 1NJ


Possibly on of the few reasons I love Clapham Junction, this café makes the best breakfast. All day long.

And this is worth more than words can say.
At least, from where I stand, it is.

You know that kind of place that makes your days better. That makes you forget about traffic and grey buildings. Yes, the kind of place that feeds you and gives you warm blankets when you’re cold.

Some would call it comfort food.

I will only say that I could go there everyday. The latte is amazing. The smoothies too. And the food, perfect.

And just for the record, they don’t do cards. So have plenty of banknotes ready. Because you’ll need them, and trust me, you’ll want to need them.




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Au menu aujourd’hui – Les (pas si) classiques de mon enfance

la pâtisserieA story about , , Written on le Thursday 07 April 2011.

[On the menu today – The (not so) classics of my childhood]

Childhood memories are – more often than not – strongly related to food.

The slice of store-bought chocolate marble cakeSavane, for those of you who grew up in France – that would leave in your pocket in the morning only to be eaten as a mid-afternoon snack when reduced to a mess of crumbs.

The brioche your mom would make over and over in an attempt to turn a hard yeasty bread into a soft chewy treat.

The tiramisu you would make on Sundays, which you still remember the recipe you once scribbled on a piece of paper: 500g de marscarpone, cinq oeufs et 100g de sucre. It was certainly not the best, but sure tasted like it twenty years ago. At least to you.

Today, I feel like revisiting those fond bites. But really, what should I make?

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Bonjour avril

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Friday 01 April 2011.

[Hello April]

Last night, I might not have been there when the flap clock on my wall roared and clicked – just like the train-station departures board of my grand-mother’s village – but I could feel that April was around the corner.

I’m not going to lie. March went down faster than expected. And with barely no time to focus on what makes me feel alive.

So for this month, I have some plans. Mostly fun ones. Because, everything will be fine.

April is for settling into a new routine, walks in the park, baking at home, drinks at the pub, kissing my favourite lips goodbye, saying hello to new faces, slowing down, collecting blossoms to dry them in between two pages of a book, coffee with a friend, and celebrating with cheap wine.

Hopefully, I will find – if not, make – time, to share those ideas I have when most of you are asleep. And yes, it does include the dream-at-night lover who is practising his best sleep moves – right now – next to me.

What are your plans for the upcoming days?

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Eglantine

le marchéA story about , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 29 March 2011.

[Rosehip]

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over the fact it took me twenty-five years to realise that the églantine [rosehip] I use on a daily basis at the restaurant is the gratte-cul [itchy-bum] of my childhood; the one thing my dad used to tease me with when we went to the mountains with the hopes – most of the time, fulfilled – that our baskets would be full of chanterelles, sanguins, trompettes des morts, and other mushrooms by the end of day.

Thank you David!

And for the record, we – French – call it gratte-cul because it supposedly makes your skin very itchy; which I can’t confirm. For the sake of my epidermis.

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