April 2nd, 2014

Coco&Me’s Animal Dome Cakes

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Last Saturday, I skipped work at the market despite it being Mother’s Day weekend which would certainly have been a hands down fantastic cake-sales opportunity. Instead, we held a a joint birthday party for our daughter S with her classmate K.

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We invited all the kids from their class. And for the entertainer, we chose the Animal Man Nick to come give an AMAZING show with his private collection of exotic animals! Nick brought over his red foot tortoise, tarantula (!), giant African land snail, giant black millipede, meerkat, chinchilla (v.cute), tawny owl, emperor scorpion, skunk (!), bearded dragon & to finish the show, a large black snake. Thanks to the show & to K’s mum who was fantastic to be organising the party with, the party was a big hit. Phew…! ^^

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To go with the theme of animal, I made two birthday cakes – a bear & a cat shape – for each of the birthday kids to blow their candles on. I suppose I could have taken the inspiration for my choice of which animal to make from Nick’s exotic animals, but it would’ve been more of a challenge to shape I think & perhaps not so cute or tasty-looking…!? (a bearded dragon shaped cake…?!) Lol!

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

(Chocolate bear.)

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(Chantilly Cat. I studied Hello Kitty for the features.)

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(♥ Together ♥)

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To make the dome shape, I buttered then cling-filmed the inside of a mixing bowl. Next, carefully lined a sheet of genoise sponge (baked in a roulade pan) in the internal wall. After that, just like when assembling lasagne, there are alternate layers of cream, strawberry, sponge. A while of refrigeration later, it is set enough to de-mold out to the plate to then decorate.

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The facial features are made from chocolate. Shapes are piped out on to a baking sheet, then once solid, used the reverse-side (the side that was touching the baking sheet) as the front because it is flatter & matt. These are simply stuck on directly to the cream on the cake.

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The cream is simple chocolate chantilly piped with a closed-star tip.

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A spherical cupcake to take away!

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Don’t know about how it’s done elsewhere, but here in the UK, it seems to be the norm for the invited children go home from the party with a slice of the birthday cake.

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Instead of hastily cutting the large cake during the party, which, not only can it be stressful while entertaining, but can potentially become a messy affair, what with the cream & all, I opted to bake 30 individual cupcakes that is easier to give out. It is also easier for the children to hold.

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- Besides, there was a cake idea I’ve been meaning to try out, & it seemed a good opportunity to invest my time & effort in to it.

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Bear shaped sphere cake - Domed genoise sponge with silicine mould

(… with milk, white & strawberry chocolate features.)

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(Snuggly sitting in a mini-muffin case!)

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(I made thirty!)

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To make the animal cupcakes, I baked semi-sphere sponges using silicone moulds. Using a cupcake corer/ plunger, I cut out two circular discs which was used to form the ears. The cake was again made from genoise, but any sponge recipe will work so long as there is enough flour in it to form the pillar structure to keep it’s domed shape without it deflating. The recipe will have to have enough butter content too so it de-moulds cleanly, but then again, the cake must not be too heavy on butter either, as that leaves the paper cupcake casing with greasy imprints.

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(I stewed down raspberry jam & filled the hole where I cored out the ears.) 

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February 26th, 2014

Last Christmas

www.cocoandme.com_Nuage & Caramel baked selection box - Coco & Me - Coco&Me - blog - marshmellows - cookies - sable - biscuits - gift - Christmas

(Nuage & Caramel‘s gift box full of baked goodies! Beautifully packaged. The logo on the box was silk-screen printed.)

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A couple of days after Christmas last year, Miss C from Lyon, France sent me the most loveliest of email!

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“… I used to read your blog regularly back in the days and then I decided to change occupation. I went to pastry school and then created my own pastry business… I first heard about you through a series of photos that were done of you working from your house (“this is naive” website* I think) and I think that unconsciously influenced my decisions on how to operate my business. I created Nuage & Caramel in Lyon, France, 2 years ago. I started working from home (and I still am) and I have the project of opening my own space in 2014…”

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Miss C asked wether I was working at Broadway Market on the Saturday 27th of December. She had very kindly brought over for me a selection of her goods! But unfortunately, I wasn’t working on that day!! – The market itself was closed for Christmas holiday… So, I decided to pop out to meet her, like a blind-date, in the pub, for a post-Xmas festive bevvy.

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In the pub, we chatted over our G&T. Miss C was a friendly, likeable, bubbly character. A very enthusiastic woman bursting with energy, really REALLY excited about her baking & for her pastry business. I was touched by how honest she can speak about the influences I had on her. I thought about how wonderful & amazing that my blog’s tiny presence on the world-wide-web can create a ripple that resonate in somebody’s decisions…

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Talking about her exciting plans for her new outlet triggered an emotion in me that I can’t quite explain/ put a finger on. Was it jealousy perhaps? No, not jealousy, it’s such a negative word. So maybe it’s envy? A benign kind that is more like in a yearnful way? – In front of me sat a woman so truly enjoying every minute of her baking journey, following where her heart leads & opening her very own shop.

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Miss C asked wether I had any exciting plans going on currently. I fumbled out an explanation that my priority number one is the children for now. I must say, after hearing her talk about her project with such enthusiasm, it desperately felt like I was using “having children” as an excuse, attaching the justification of my lack of career development on them. BUT, I’d like to think that I’m on the right track. I still stand by my firm belief that you get just one-shot at being a mother to these children, whereas for work, well, even if you should fail, you can change job & start anew, no?

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And right now, I have a perfect “work/ family life” balance, which I am grateful for. I can be at home during the weekdays & do school-runs, go to see our child on stage at school assemblies, help out as a volunteer for the class-trip. I can see the children in action on sports day & take lots of pictures of them, capturing the moment. “Children bring joy” sounds very cheesy I know, but when the kids you love give you zillion hugs & kisses, you know that you’ve something valuable to protect that is gazillions better than any job satisfaction.

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For those reasons, all in all, the current work-family balance suits. It’s a balance I’m super-protective about, because I know that if I tip the balance & add more work, it creates stress & dysfunction. Besides, I am fortunate to actually LOVE my work-life too. I still love baking & I still love selling direct to my customers at the market. It’s actually the best part of the job! – I also have a great band of people working near my stall too – chatting & joking around with them all day is like a cherry on top of the cake. ^^ Now…, wrap that all up, & I reckon it’s pretty good going.

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Ofcourse, there’s the cookbook that is always left on the back-burner (I’m still slowly whittling on it though…), & I still dream of opening my very own outlet too. That dream has never really gone away, it’s perhaps the ultimate goal for me. – I joked to Miss.C that perhaps I’d do it when my kids are old enough, like 18. My youngest is almost 6, so…, (finger-counting…) yeah, maybe when I’m like, 50?! Lol… Lol… Lol… … “Watch this space…!?”

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(Image courtesy of Miss C from Nuage & Caramel. – The handmade marshmellows in a cloud shape!!!! Cuteness!!!!)

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* The article on this is naive” is unfortunately gone now…!? But here’s my blog post about it on here

 

January 21st, 2014

Coco&Me crepes dentelles/ gavottes/ paillets feuilletines recipe

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Recently I needed some ‘paillets feuilletines’ for the French dessert I was making. I don’t know about where you live, but here in London, it is not easy to get them off-the-shelf. It is definately not mainstream, & instead it is a specialist baking ingredient. Ofcourse, I could get them online, but they sell them in large packs (all I needed was a tiny amount to cover the side of a cake as decoration), & besides, you’ve got to wait several days to get it delivered! Let alone forking out the shipping fee! (I’m a stingy kind of a gal.)

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Upon research, I realized that crushing up ‘crepes dentelles’ (another name for these is the brand-name called ‘Gavottes’) is a great substitute, or if not the same as the ‘paillets feuilletine’ itself. You won’t believe how happy this realization made me! Because it means that I could make them at home whenever needed, moreover, it’ll be fresher & crunchier! (And quite probably superior than store-bought because it won’t have any substances you won’t normally include in a home-baking situation).

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  • Def: Crepes dentelle is a wonderfully delicate & flaky cookie that is often folded in to a cigar shape. Buttery in flavour, it is made from thin crispy crêpe that is rolled as soon as it is out of the oven. It originates from Quimper, a charming little town with an almost village-like atmosphere, in the cultural heart of Brittany, France. Crepes dentelles are a delight to eat on it’s own or pairing it with cream-based desserts.
  • Def: Paillets Feuilletine is a baking ingredient that is often used as a component in French desserts for it’s crunchy texture. It is used for Praline Feuillete for example, where feuilletines are stirred in to chocolate & praline paste (… think posh version of ‘chocolate cornflake cake’). Pâtissiers will then spread this thinly in a layered cake to add crunch to a moussey cake. Chocolatiers might enrobe feuilletines mixed ganache to make crunchy bonbons.

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So here below is my own recipe for Crepes Dentelles slash home-made Paillets Feuilletines. As with all my recipes, I have left no stone unturned & has lots of notes alongside. It uses basic ingredients, but has a fair amount of variables to consider. And if you are making the cigar shape, you’re most definitely throwing in some burnt fingers in to the bargain too. Discouraging? Sorry, but yeah, I thought it wise to warn you prior…

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Crepes Dentelles/ Paillets Feuilletines Recipe:

(Yields 18 Crepes Dentelles using a 9cm x 16cm template)

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Ingredients:

  • 60g melted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 60g flour
  • about 35 to 40ml of water

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Equipments you’ll need:

  • A stencil template (please read below the method for how to make)
  • Metal spatula
  • Two or more sheets of Silpat

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Method:

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees.
  2. 2. Melt 60g of butter completely in a mixing bowl.
  3. 3. Put 110g of sugar in the hot melted butter. Stir until the sugar has dissolved & is not grainy.
  4. 4. Whisk in 1 egg white.
  5. 5. Sift in 60g of flour.
  6. 6. Use a whisk to mix in to paste.
  7. 7. Pour in half of the water & mix well. Then pour in the rest gradually to the correct consistency.
  • (Note that here, the final consistency of the batter is very thin & runny like single cream. – This consistency is THE KEY to how smooth your Crepes Dentelles’ surfaces will turn out to be. If too thick, the surface will be rough with air bubbles. If too thin & runny, you will be having trouble containing it within the stenciled shape. I have given you the rough indication of 35 to 40ml of water, but the correct consistency for your batter has to be gaged by your senses, as it is variable.)
  1. 8. Spatula all of the batter in to a piping bag.
  • (It makes the following work much more methodical & a lot less messier.)
  1. 9. Lay the stencil template on the silpat. Hold down to keep it flat & in place. Spread on the batter evenly with the spatula.
  • (There are three things to consider here:
    A: Domestic ovens tends to brown goods unevenly. For example, my oven browns faster from the edges, which makes it difficult to evenly brown my sheet of Crepes Dentelles. So, for ‘even’ browning, the placements of the batter on the silpat has to be considered. The middle of the tray (away from the edges) is best.
    B: Also, please resist the urge to spread too many shapes on one tray. When the time comes to rolling them in to Crepes Dentelle shapes, there is only about 15 seconds to do so before it’s too rigid. About two spreads per tray would be ideal I think.
    C: Spread thin. Please read about this in the notes below under the title ‘Stencil’.)
  • (Please use the stencil even if you are making Paillets Feuilletine, as it’s easier to spread batter thinly & evenly.)
  1. 10. Place the silpat on the baking tray.
  2. 11. Insert this in to the middle-shelf of the pre-heated oven & bake.
  3. 12. In the meantime, while you wait for it to be baked, spread the next batch on another silpat. You can pop it in when the first comes out.
  4. 13. The baking could take anything between 2 to 4 minutes. Best to check wether it is done from 2 minutes onwards. You might also want to turn your baking tray around to brown it evenly.
  • (It is done when there are no white areas. But be careful not to over-bake – it could be that extra 10 seconds more that makes your Crepes Dentelles/ Paillets Feuilletines taste burnt. Use your first batch as an indicator to get familiar with the correct shade of brown.)
  1. 14. If making Paillets Feuilletine, take the baked sheets off the silpat to cool, then crush with your fingers. If making Crepes Dentelles, immediate start rolling it in to shape. – To roll in to round cigar spirals, use a straw or any thin cylindrical rod.
  • (The crepe is only pliable for the window of 15 to 25 seconds.)
  • (I prefer to turn the sheet back to front, & roll the surface that was facing the silpat on the inside. This is because the silpat side is glossy from being baked on the glass-fiber within the silpat. Furthermore, detaching the sheet off the silpat first makes the rolling process easier.)
  1. 15. Continue baking by swapping turns between the two silpats. Just remember to clean off any excess bits on the silpat by wiping with kitchen paper or by scraping with a different spatula.

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(From second batch onwards, remember to clean off any bits on the silpat by wiping with kitchen paper or by scraping with a different spatula.)

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(Spread the batter thin. You can almost see through to the mesh of the silpat!)

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Stencil:

  • - Finding the material: To make the stencil template, first find a plastic sheet that has the desired thickness. The thickness, or should I say ‘thinness’ is vital to get right. If your crepes are too thick, it’ll be chewy. But if it is too thin, it will be too fragile & break apart as you roll. For my crepes, I used a 240 micron (2.4mm) acetate sheet that I purchased from CassArts. Sometimes, there might be something similar around the house that could turn in to a good stencil. The stiff plastic folder sleeves for filing could be a contender. Or maybe you have a see-through plastic gift box that is stiff enough? If push comes to shove, perhaps you can even cut out the side of your cereal box…
  • - Cutting to size: I like to cut mine with lots of ample frame all around so that the batter does not land on the silpat. It keeps the silpat clean & crumb-free for the next batch. The measurement of the rectangle is up to you. FYI, mine is 9cm x 16cm.

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(My spatula is wider than the cutout area.)

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January 5th, 2014

10 hours to explore Paris

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(Pose~!)

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The day after teaching the chocolate workshop, I woke up early & checked out of the hotel. My Eurostar train back to London was at 18:15 that evening, which meant that I had something like 10 hours to explore Paris.

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The early morning métro was super busy with commuters walking super fast, especially at Gare Saint-Lazare (large terminus railway station) where I changed lines. – Is it my imagination or does the Parisians walk much faster than the Brits? Is that the secret to maintaining their trim figure I wonder…?

- Anyway, getting on the métro was a doddle. The system is similar to the tube in London – colour coded lines (also numbered) with the name of the final stop displaying which direction it goes to. And as for buying the fare tickets, Mrs C’s husband had kindly walked me to the nearest station to show me how to use the ticket machine. (Thank you!) :-)

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My first destination was Pâtisserie Carette by Trocadéro in the 16th arrondissement. I decided to go there prior to this trip by doing my research on Trip Advisor on where best to go for breakfast, & I read that the scrambled eggs at Carette was very good. That information coupled with the photograph of ‘French-style’ scrambled eggs… – had me. Because, though I knew of this ‘French-style’ egg cooking method from before, I had never sampled it. And what better way to introduce yourself to a new food than to eat the best from the very beginning? ;-)

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And it certainly did not disappoint my high expectations. It was sublime. French-style scrambled eggs (Oeufs brouillés), as you can see from the picture below, is much moister/ runnier. (And it came in a soup plate!) Oh-my-God, it was so heavenly creamy… Is this probably the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had? Yes… Can I go back to my usual scrambled eggs now that I know better? Er…, no, not anymore. Not now that I have tasted the yummiest way to eat scrambled eggs ever! (… talking of ‘ever’, it was the most expensive scrambled eggs ‘ever’ too…)

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(Carette’s also came with two batons of perfectly flaky puff pastry. Hmm! Only the French…!)

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Another reason why I chose Carette is because it overlooks the iconic Eiffel Tower & I quite liked the idea of starting my Paris trip near it. ~ It seemed fitting! With only a minute’s walk from the pâtisserie to Trocadéro plaza, you get a fantastic view of the Tower that is across the river. A couple asked if I could take their photo, which I did. Then they offered to take mine on my iphone too. Pose~! (the photo is at the top of this article.) Ah, before you mention it, there were several police guards patrolling the plaza which made the place feel safe (& the couple looked like nice people anyway).

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Next stop – Les Halle located in the 1st arrondissement to visit the cluster of  cookware shops. I remember coming here over 7 years ago, visiting the same shops, especially falling in love with MORA. I overspent then & I overspent again this time. Lol… My purse strings loosen when I’m there…

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(MORA. Pastry & chocolate work heaven…)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment

(Just look at the extensive stack of polycarbonate chocolate moulds!!!!!)

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(Hard polycarbonate chocolate mould.)

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Amongst my purchase of a piping tip, cake tin & chocolate scraper, I bought this 3 doggy polycarbonate chocolate mould for 41 euros. Imagine…, white, milk & dark chocolate dogs… Or even strawberry or caramel colour/ flavour…, lining them up like soldiers. The chocolate figure could be solid or it could be hollow like an Easter egg. I could even stuff it with ganache like a bonbon! Or…, ah! What about shoving a strip of paper with a message in the hollow figure, just like a fortune cookie?! That might be quite cute…! – Possibilities,  possibilities…!!

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment - Fèves ceramic ‘beans’ to nestle in the Galette des Rois on Epithany

(My new collection of fèves. The size of each charm is less than 2cms.)

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I also bought 2 assorted bags (9.50 euros a bag) of dinky fèves. – Fèves are ceramic ‘beans’ to nestle in the Galette des Rois on Epithany. The rule goes that the lucky person who finds it in their slice of pie would then become the King for the day! (Check out my Galette des Rois designs from last year!) – - Do I need all these feves? No. But but but… y’know what it’s like, This Girl Can’t Help It…

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After this, I hurried to the Rose Bakery in 9th Arrondissement to meet… guess who?! Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini! Yup, I asked her out for lunch! Yayyy, after all these years, I finally got to meet her! Super exciting! And it was so absolutely lovely chatting with her. There was so much to talk about!! It was non-stop! Lol. In a strange way, it felt like we’ve met before, because we knew so much about each other through our blogs & also through the email exchanges over many years, ever since she mentioned me on her brownie recipe back in 2009. (I also wrote a guest article on her blog last April too) ^^.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Rose Bakery in Paris with Clotilde - mushroom risotto

(Clotilde! ~ Mushroom risotto!)

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After Rose Bakery, my Paris food pilgrimage continued on with my travel bag with chocolate-work equipments from the workshop the day before, & the new purchases from MORA & marrons glacés from G.Detou, plus a signed book from Clotilde that she gave to me (it’s her new French Market one, which now I have two copies of, since I owned one already! By the way, I’ve tried several of her recipes from it & I can vouch for the book! ^^).

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Conveniently on the same street as the Rose Bakery, there is Popelini, a choux à la crème (cream puff) shop. It is a cake shop that was on my list of ‘want to go’ places. Resisting the urge to say: “May I have one of every kind you have, s’il vous plait?”, I picked out the one that is on the left of the picture below. Well, it had the most cream on it didn’t it?! Lol! Happy to report, it was delicious. Wicked in sizing.- Moreishly small, & dainty in a hip sort of way.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Popelini, a choux à la crème (cream puff) shop - Paris

(The choux display in Popelini.)

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Two to three minutes stroll down the same street toward the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette station, is another great cake outlet – Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard -  a mini Le Paris Brest, it's circular shape representative of a wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. - Paris

(Le Paris Brest.)

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I purchased a mini Le Paris Brest, it’s circular shape representative of a wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. It is choux pastry cut horizontally piped with praline cream inside. So pretty… And so perfectly made. Respect. And what is it about these small card plaquettes that make a pastry look so darn special! It sure adds the value-factor don’t cha think?? Although…, from a seller’s point-of-view, I guess it only works when you’re a high-end (& well-known) establishment that people want to parade perhaps? – Like, it’ll totally work to its disadvantage if the establishment were a Lidl (discount supermarket)…, for want of an example. One would be foolish to take around a pack of Lidl branded cakes if in need to up your game to impress.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard -  mendiant tart, tarte - Thin tart shell packed with mixture of dried nuts swimming in good-looking caramel. Very Christmassy. - Paris

(La tarte mendiant. Thin tart shell packed with mixture of dried nuts swimming in good-looking caramel. Very Christmassy.)

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After this, I managed to go to another ‘must-go’ destination on my list. La pâtisserie des rêves par Philippe Conticini near Rue du Bac station in the 7th Arrondissement. I bought the lemon tart that has a ingeniously created meringue top. I knew about it from watching his website video sometime ago! – By the way, I recently heard that La pâtisserie des rêves is opening its London branch this February! Yayyy! Me says I-Can’t-Wait.

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Walking down the same street going south, I found the famous Angelina on the opposite side. It is their new outlet which is take-away only, no tea room. Happily surprised, I, quite naturally, walked in & bought their famous Mont Blanc (6.70 euro) Y’know, to sample ofcourse…, for research… cough cough.

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(Window display at Angelina.)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Angelina - famous Mont Blanc cake - Paris - sweet meringue base, very flat & small, mountain of lightly sweetened chantilly, & chestnut cream beautifully piped over it.

This Mont Blanc was consumed in the Eurostar, half way inbetween France & England. Yet again, happy to report that this was also amazing. I’m so glad I bought it. I also don’t know of anywhere that sells Mont Blancs here in London, other than in Laduree in Harrods, & I’m never down that end of town. For me, it’s intriguing to sample good cakes, especially those that are their signature ones,  to see what’s so winning about it (or, I sometimes pick out the most obscure item on the menu if it sounded unfamiliar.). - Eating them is like deciphering like a detective, I taste each component separately first, then eat it as a whole to see how it unites. Oh, it’s super fun!

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Angelina’s Mont Blanc is simply a thin sweet-meringue base, mountain of lightly sweetened chantilly, & chestnut cream beautifully piped on it. The chestnut cream was really special. Flavorsome, not too sweet, & also very dense. A lot denser than I thought actually, which by the end, really filled me up. I imagined eating this with their famed hot chocolate in their famed tea room. I reckoned it’ll be too much for me. Though, then again, I guess you’d be spending a long time in the tea room, taking time to eat & drink, soaking in the grand atmosphere…?

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Anyway, back to the story about my trip walking down Rue du Bac. After Angelina, weighed down by even more things to carry – cakes, & then souvenirs for my kids that I bought in Pylones - I walked in to a large Food Hall called La Grande Épicerie de Paris. This again, was only a stones throw away. (The walk down Rue du Bac toward the south is a food dream alley!)

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Thinking ahead to supper-time on the Eurostar heading home, I bought a slice of ‘Le Croque Classic’. An indulgent double-decker sandwich made of bread, turkey, pancetta, cheddar, tomato, cucumber, hard boiled egg, iceberg salad, mayonnaise & worcestershire sauce. 5.90 euros. Not sure why it’s called ‘classic’ (I would’ve thought croque is more like croque monsieur with ham & cheese only? I might be wrong though! ^^), but it was worth every penny & went down well.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Grande Épicerie de Paris - 'Le Croque Classic'. An indulgent looking sandwich made of bread, turkey, pancetta, cheddar, tomato, cucumber, hard boiled egg, iceberg salad, mayonnaise & worcestershire sauce. 5.90 euros. - Paris

(My take-away food to eat aboard the Eurostar.)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - French madam deliberating a panettone loaf in La Grande Épicerie de Paris -  - Paris

(French madam deliberating a panettone loaf in La Grande Épicerie de Paris.)

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I deliberately left pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki for my final destination before boarding the Eurostar as I knew I would be buying the most cakes there. Thinking, oh yeah, I can walk from La Grande Épicerie to his shop on Rue de Vaugirard no problem – wrong. Gah, I was lost. It seemed simple enough on the map, but somehow I walked around a block twice. Not what you want to do when your bag is digging in to the shoulders.

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Nevertheless, I trudged on, only because I’m not in Paris so often am I & if I missed going there now, the next time will probably be way away in the future. Luckily though, after about a troubled 15 minute “Oh dear I’m lost” moment (which felt like at least double its time), I found the pâtisserie. I bought these 3 items: Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, millefeuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(These survived the Eurostar journey!)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(Cross-section picture to just prove to you that I took my time & didn’t wolf it down…!)

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I’m jealous of the perfectly caramelized top on the millefuille. It’s not weeping (wet). Other than the only niggle of the genmai-cha sprinkled on top of the eclair being slightly soggy & had lost it’s crunchy characteristic, all three purchases were ah-mazing. So good. So perfectly balanced. Sadaharu Aoki is my favourite pâtissier… Shame he doesn’t have a London branch… (Or, then again, perhaps that’s a good thing?? My sugar-fueled figure certainly doesn’t need the source of maniacal obsession so close by!)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(This was a freebie gift! Sadaharu Aoki’s ‘Chocoron’. Macaron coated in Domori chocolate. Cute transfer on one side like a chocolate bonbon.)

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Anyway, thank you for reading this rather long post! I hope you enjoyed it! ~ Happy New Year everyone! xx

December 26th, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

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Homer: Now that just leaves little Maggie. Ah, a squeak toy. It says it’s for dogs, but she can’t read.

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VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

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How did you spend your Christmas this year?

Did you get a present that you wanted?

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This year Mr.D gave me a beautiful Marimekko teapot, & I gave him a Hario glass teapot!! – I guess we’ll be drinking a lot of tea from now on! Lol! ^^ As for the children, our boy was given a Hubsan x4 Quadcopter (a dinky remote controlled indoor flyer that RC enthusiasts would nod their approval to), & our girl received a well-made toy accordion which still sounds pleasant to the ear even when played in a muddle (phew!).

Santa (cough cough) gave them each a Mosaic Craft Kit, an attempt for sure to keep the kids busy while the parents have a well deserved rest…

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We ate our Christmas dinner on the 24th, like we always do. And it’s always me that cook. Again this year it was roast duck, brussels sprouts with crisped up bacon, duck-fat roasted root veg (potatoes, parsnip, carrots), home-made gravy sauce. It all went well & got chomped down, which is a delight after 3 hours of cooking in the kitchen.

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The party itself is always the usual fair too – children popping the Christmas crackers throughout the dinner, reading out the silly jokes that fall out, the adults having a vague attempt at guessing the answer whilst sloshing in copious amounts of red wine. Ofcourse, elemental to the cause, we don on the cheap yet colourful paper hats. The dessert was, funnily enough, my usual flourless chocolate cake (that I sell on the stall), simply because I had an order to make 2 of these that very morning, & I decided to make an extra one for us too. (There’s no rest for the wicked…?)

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Today (26th), I write this blog post from bed…! I’ve gotten a terrible cold, I’m feeling terribly woozy. Sore throat, gunky nose. Every year around this time I get ill like this – even after a year of having caught no cold. It’s as if my body reserves all this bad stuff for when I finally find the time to relax… Mr.D has taken the children to the local cinema so the house is quiet right now. Bliss…

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Anyway, dearest people who read this blog, VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! And I wish you the very best for the coming year!  Love, T xx

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December 3rd, 2013

Coco&Me chocolate workshop in Paris!

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Guess what, guess what, guess what!?  

Something really exciting happened & I just have to tell you!

This time last week I was in Paris! No, not as a holiday, but was there to… (ahem!) teach about chocolates…! Yes! It was all expenses paid (Eurostar, over-night hotel stay, plus lesson fee) & so much more…! I know, tell me about it, it’s totally amazing what happened, & I’m totally over-the-moon & thank my lucky stars! ^^

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It was about two months ago I think, I received a message from Mrs C, a long-time blog-reader of mine, that she would like me to do a chocolate workshop for her. It was her 40th birthday this year, & her friends had gotten together to gift her with having a workshop by me! But that she lives in Paris…, so the question arose as to where it’ll be held. Mine? Well…, I have a firm policy not to teach at my family home – which Mrs C totally understood as she herself has a child. In which case, at hers in Paris? Ooooh, Paris? What? Me go to PARIS?! And to top off my already elated ear to ear grin, Mrs C offered to sort out the expenses for the train & the hotel! Oh.My.God!? Seriously!? So at that point I was on the telephone to my Mr D who was at work, asking him for his opinion/ what he thought. Although, to be frank, regardless of Mr D (who did enthusiastically agree also), my mind was already made up on going anyway! I mean, what an opportunity!

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Planning for the workshop was exciting & actually, pretty easy:

  •  I knew I’d definitely be showing how to temper chocolate on a marble slab, plus another tempering method called ‘seeding’ using the microwave. Although I prefer the marble slab method (as you can control the temperature better ~ which is very important when working with chocolate), the seeding method is rather useful when only a small amount is required, for example for piping a little chocolate decoration.
  • And of course the workshop should naturally delve in to how to adapt the tempering technique to actual products. You can use it to enrobe by dipping, & you can use it to mould for hollow & solid shapes.
  • Ganache & it’s wonderful variations must also be included in to the workshop too. Ganache, as most of you will know is double cream & chocolate combined. Simple to say, but the science behind it very complex, & the success lies with how well you emulsify the two entities: cream (fat suspended in liquid) & the chocolate (liquid suspended in fat). – - There’s various ways of flavouring the ganache too. Like brewing tea like Earl Grey with the double cream first to infuse it! Or what about making caramel with water & sugar, then adding that to the cream?  - – You can also control how soft you’d want your ganache by changing the ratio of cream to chocolate!

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So let me tell you about how the first day went.

My day started as I woke up at 5:30am. Outside was pitch black still & I wondered when the last time was that I woke up in the dead of night like this! But the excitement & the anticipation of traveling & giving a lesson blew away any smidgen of sleep in me no problem. Mr D kindly woke up early as well & drove me to a nearby station at 6:40am.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - station platform outside in the dark

(Here comes the train! And no, that’s not me in the picture. I’m not that stocky…!)

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Boarding the 8:30am Eurostar for the 2 hour+ journey, I arrive at Gare du Nord to meet Mrs C. We notice each other straight away (she sent me pictures of herself prior)! We both can not conceal our smiles & grins. Oh how happily bizarre this is! And how great that we managed to pull it off! There’s so much to say, so much to talk about!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - chez casimir in paris gare du nord - Coquilles St.-Jacques

(Coquilles St.-Jacques. Delicious!)

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We talked & walked to the nearby restaurant called Chez Casimir where Mrs C very kindly bought me lunch. Chez Casimir was a quaint & very French place. When we entered just after 12 noon, it was rather empty except for one couple by the window, but by the time our starters came, the place was heaving with locals. Considering it was only a Monday lunchtime, this place was doing very well indeed! (& that is despite it’s rather worn exterior, I might add! Looks can be deceptive… Surely I should know that lesson by now?? LOL)

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Now, let’s skip forwards to later that afternoon for the actual 3 hour lesson/ workshopI explained to Mrs C that we would be working with several recipes in tandem. The reason simply because there is a lot of waiting-time for the ganache to stiffen enough to pipe-able consistency & again more resting time required to then be able to roll them (or cut them) in to shape. - Working with several recipes all at once like this can sound daunting, but I should at this point mention that Mrs C is a very competent baker. And that this workshop is veering toward the advanced level.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(We made all of this in just 3 hours!!!)

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I hand over my hand-written recipe for Earl Grey Ganache Truffles. We infused the double cream with Earl Grey. Then re-heat it to pour it over chocolate to make ganache. I explain amongst other things that we exercise creativity & taste preference by deciding how much cream to chocolate ratio you use to determine softness, & how much dark to milk chocolate ratio you use to determine the sweetness.

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Whilst the Earl Grey ganache is cooling to correct consistency, we move on to make Caramel Ganache Bonbons. For this ganache, we first make caramel with water & sugar. Made with simple ingredients but tricky to successfully stir lump-free if you don’t know how. When medium-light amber in colour, we poured in the double cream that’s been warmed in another pot in tandem. It’s always a bit of a wow moment as the cream ‘fiercely erupts’ to threefold all of a sudden. I hold it as one of the little pleasures in the kitchen. This hot cream then gets sieved over the solid chocolate to form the final ganache.

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At this point in the lesson, I was hoping for the Earl Grey ganache to be pipe-able, but oh dear, it’s too soft still… Gah… Okay-okay, er… so yes…, let’s pipe design on the chocolate mould!

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We melted 50 grams of white chocolate by the seeding method, which is the one of the two tempering technique that I wanted to show. We both took turns to pipe a simple design on the heart shaped chocolate mould I brought with me. – At which moment…, I felt a little proud. The very mould was what I purchased in MORA (a professional cookware shop in Paris) over 7 years ago. Who would have thought that I would be bringing it back to Paris, this time to use it to teach with!? :-)

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Leaving the decorated mould aside to dry, we got back to the Earl Grey, now pipe-able. We practiced piping as systematic as possible, spherical & all of equal size/ weight, because the uniformity of shape effects the final beauty of the product. Where as the caramel ganache, we simply cut in to squares.

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Time for tempering dark chocolate on the marble slab. Thermometer probe on the ready, we start with melted chocolate in the bowl. Pour two thirds or so on the slab & I showed how to use two metal spatulas to slosh the chocolate on the surface. Spread wide, then bring in from the edges to form a mound, & then repeat the process to keep the temperature of the chocolate uniform. (the edges cool faster than the middle.) When it cools to 29 degrees, we then put this chocolate back in to the original bowl to combine with the hotter non-marbled lot to bring the overall temperature up to 31 to 32 degrees. Et voila.

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Or so it should have been… My nerves got the better of me it seems, as the chocolate was not tempered perfectly. It wasn’t bad, still had it’s sheen, & it hardened readily, but not super shiny as I’d hoped to show. ~ What a downer. ~ I’m so sorry Mrs C… But being a saintly angel that she is, she told me not to worry, it wouldn’t have happened if I were using my own equipment & was in my own kitchen. Bless her. Really, thank you for being so forgiving…

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We trudged on regardless, & coated the truffles & the bonbons, which has its plentiful set of techniques to master, & of which I am not going to be writing about here in fear of being long-winded. Oh yeah, before all of that, we poured the tempered chocolate in to the heart shape mould & tipped most of it back in the bowl again to to leave a film of chocolate to form a hollow shape. I explained that if you stick both sides together it becomes a case like an Easter egg.

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Also, did I mention that along side all of above, we made Caramelized Chocolate Almonds? It’s a rather moreish & beautiful snack made by coating the whole almonds in caramel until it’s all sugared up, then coating it with tempered chocolate by constantly turning it in the bowl like a cement mixer! Another fascinatingly different way of coating with the chocolate other than dipping like truffles!

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At that…, we finally finished our lesson. And phew, oh boy, on later thought, now that I write about all that we did, I realize it was rather a lot…!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(By the end the work top was a mess! But Mrs C still smiles!)

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That evening, I was invited back to Mrs C’s & had a lovely supper. Mrs C, her husband E & myself had the most pleasant time, chatting, chatting, chatting! Mostly about food, … of course. Helped by the excellent wine, relaxed & relieved after having had a good workshop, I can tell you that I slept soundly that night in the hotel. And you Mrs C, you must’ve been really knackered too, no?!

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Mrs C, you have been more than accommodating for me. It felt like it was more than ‘just’ a workshop & I can honestly say that this is definitely the highlight of this year by far for me. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Me, bebé & mum Mrs C.)  

cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Ooh, bebé! I Love~!)

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Ps: In the next post, I’ll write about how the following day went in my Paris trip! ‘Til then! Best, Tamami xoxo

August 29th, 2013

Join me at the Charity Afternoon Tea

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Hello~!!!! How are you doing this summer?? :) Is it hot where you live?

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Here in UK, we’ve been blessed with great weather pretty much all round! :) For example, around the end of July there was a long stretch of heat-wave too! I don’t mind a bit of hot weather but this heat-wave totally baked me in the kitchen on my weekly bake-a-thons. (Baker being baked on bake-a-thon. Possible tongue twister like Peter Piper?! Lol. sorry… feeling silly obviously.) And as for selling cakes in the hot heat, oh-my-god, standing under the plastic tarpaulin roof at my market stall was soooo unbearable. It was like being in a green house!!
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This prolonged hot weather is super unusual in UK weather standards if you ask me! Normally the weather takes a shine on us for about a week, then you abruptly have to wave a involuntarily bye-bye to summer & say a reluctant hello to autumn! Only…, in such summers, what is left is not a tan, but a hardly used sun-protection lotion which gets shelved to dusty oblivion. Disenchanted by the broken promise of summer, you might even imagine the bottle staring back like a Space Odyssey Monolith, ridiculing at the vain hope you’ve once had of using it up.
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But here it is. Hot weather! After one of the wettest winters & coldest springs earlier this year, it’s certainly something to be happy about! :)
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But enough of weather-talk! I actually wanted to let you know about the event that is coming up at the end of September which I really want to convince you to come!
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My dear friends F & S at The Pastry Network are organizing a Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea to raise funds* for an exceptionally wonderful charity called Make-A-Wish.
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Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions, to enrich their human experience with hope, strength & joy.
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This charity makes me think of the famous Japanese idiom “ 病は気から” (yamai-wa-ki-kara), meaning “One’s attitude (spirit) can affect the path of an illness, for better or for worse.” When you feel sad you lose your appetite. When you smile you release endorphins which make you feel good. And when you do turn that frown upside down & have upbeat thoughts, it can physically change your body. I really believe so. 
Moreover, it is not just in physical illness, but when you’re feeling down or when you’re having a hard time, be it at work or in personal life, I faithfully think that actively living your life to make it better eventually makes for positive outlook/ outcome. People who are “trying their best” are shiny & beautiful.
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(Got slightly off on a tangent there… sorry.)
Anyway…,
The Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea will be held at The Park Lane Hotel (nearest station is Green Park), on Monday 30th of September between 3pm to 6pm, & the ticket price is 55 pounds per person.
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Ah yes, 55 pounds may seem a little hefty. BUT here’s what I think about this; 
- there will be an amazing TWENTY-ONE super-chefs from 19 top-notch & famous establishments at our service, making our canapés, chocolates & pastries. You’ve probably heard of them if you’re from this part of the world: Ladurée, William Curley, Wolseley, Delaunay, Koffmann’s… And I would imagine that the chefs will really go out of their way to create the most beautiful stuff, since the place will be swimming with people in the same line of business. To be honest, if you’re any sort of pastry-lover, I really think it’s going to feel like paradise has descended in to one room in Piccadilly. I mean, there’s all these other 5-star establishments such as the Dorchester, Langham & Lanesborough participating too who’re famed for their afternoon tea. Sampling pastries from them all in one time? O.m.g, it’s going to be totally unreal! It’s going to be amazing.
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I should also add that apparently some of the chefs will be holding the trays in the room. SO, which means, we’ll get to talk to them! And on the day, there will be raffle tickets on sale too – of which some of the prizes are:
Koffmann’s dinner voucher
The Delaunay afternoon tea voucher
There will also be a goodie bag from Valrhona, who is one of the sponsors of the event. 
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So come join me on the 30th to hold a bubbly in one hand & mmm… & ahhh… at beautiful food, all in the name of charidy…!! :) (There are only a limited number of tickets so please book well in advance to avoid dissapointment!)
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Date: Monday 30th of September
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Venue: Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX
Ticket Price: £55 per person
Dress Code: Smart Casual (children under 12 years old cannot be accommodated)
To purchase tickets, please visit www.pastry-network.com
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*all of the proceedings go to Make-A-Wish Foundation UK.

July 9th, 2013

My kitchenware purchases 2012/13

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Marbleized splatter enamelware -  blue marble flat salad plate & red marble muffin tin. From Labour & Wait www.labourandwait.co.uk/‎
(Marbleized splatter enamelware -  blue marble flat salad plate & red marble muffin tin. From Labour & Wait. Now one of many enamel goods I already have. I love enamelware…!)

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Hello!!!! Hello!!!! Hello~!!!! 
How have you all been??? Tell me! I hope you’ve all been good!!!
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Me? Well, I can report to you that I’ve been alright y’know, I’m still my happy self. ^^  Although, I must admit, last week was a hard week for me, a few minor things has happened that upset me, I had to deal with a nasty character, but it’s nothing I want to discuss about in detail here. Besides, don’t worry, it was nothing too major nor dramatic that it changes me. Although…, what it did do however is, it made me all the more aware that I have a loving family, some true friends (& trusty blog readers!^^) & earn an honest living out of work I still love doing. That I am on a good track, that I am lucky.
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Though, talking about awareness of one’s status, recently, I’m also feeling much aware that every day seems to just meld in to one another without much distinction, … if that makes any sense (?) lol…, like how the cycle of everyday affairs is a given. It’s a ‘set’ that has to be done: Wake up, get the kids ready to go to school, make the beds, tidy the house, make the dinner, do the washing, then devote Thursday, Friday & Saturday to my market-work, etc, etc…
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Oh, but don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Far from it, I actually find comfort & peace in this secure situation, it”s rather cushy n’ snug isn’t it, although to some, it may come across as mundane & monotonous!
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Then…, perhaps it came from a counteraction to feeling monotonized, & in need for fun spontaneity, I suggested to Mr.D who just turned 49 last week, that for his next birthday ~ the big five-oh ~ I could perhaps take him on a holiday to somewhere very very special. Somewhere unusual from our daily lives. I was thinking somewhere where the stars are beautiful. Like Chile, as he is very much in to star-gazing. (He can’t stop watching DVDs about it). Then he says the one place he’d love to go to is the Himalayas. HIMALAYAS!? Like Tibet or Bhutan!? Wow! Now ‘THAT’ is very special. ^^ The very thought that this time next year we might be somewhere so extremely different from here excites me. So since then, I’ve been researching about how to travel there already. On the off chance, has any of the readers here been to the Himalayas?? If you have, I would greatly appreciate to know how you did it please!
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ANYWAY! Sorry, I suppose this is some sort of a food blog, so here’s some pictures of kitcheney things I bought within the last year! I hope you like them as much as I do! T xx

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - eBay purchase! Vintage chopping board from Germany. Wooden Mr & Mrs Onion heads crying.
eBay purchase! Vintage chopping board from Germany. Wooden Mr & Mrs Onion heads crying.
Usually my own policy when buying on eBay is to buy from the UK only, one, because the expensive overseas shipping fee outweighs the value of the item, & two, because having that personal limit stops me from buying willy-nilly (& I will). But, in this case, I decided to buy it regardless because I had a fond memory of seeing these many years ago, hanging on Mr.D’s late father’s kitchen wall!
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Beautifully grained wooden pedestals, from around the 1930's. Cakes look instantly classy when displayed on these!
Beautifully grained wooden pedestals, from the 1930′s. Cakes look instantly classy when displayed on these!
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com Coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Tamami - Glazed tartan stoneware dinner plate by ANTA of Scotland. Rare & collectible. the tartan is an early, orIginal design by Annie Stewart, co-founder of ANTA. Handmade and decorated in the Highlands.
Glazed tartan stoneware dinner plate by ANTA of Scotland. The tartan is an early, orIginal design by Annie Stewart, co-founder of ANTA. Handmade & decorated in the Highlands.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - Vintage Royal Worcester bread plate with animal pattern.
Vintage Royal Worcester bread plate with animal pattern. I’ve never seen this design before! I would love to know the name of the collection, but it doesn’t say it on the back other than Royal Worcester…
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - bread plate is from Alfred Meakin Studio. The design is called Little Green Apples
Again, another design I haven’t seen before. This bread plate is from Alfred Meakin Studio. The design is called Little Green Apples.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - vegetable sun-drying net basket
And this is my current craze! (Lol! How boring am I??) It’s a vegetable sun-drying net basket!
You can put deseeded tomatoes, peppers, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, daikon radishes…, all-sorts, you’d be surprised with the variety of foods that can be sun-dried. And if you’ve been lucky with hot weather, the veggies shrivel & dry in no time, & what you’d end up with are foods that has boosted nutrients & condensed umami flavour. It can also be preserved a lot longer, although I often just semi-dry them & have it for dinner that same day as drying.
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Now what else… Oh yeah, I also bought an OXO mandoline slicer in white (Don’t worry, I also have a cut-resistant glove!!). It’s a superb product, especially when you want to create beautiful apple galettes with uniform super-duper thin apple slices, but otherwise I don’t use it often, & is boxed up. At the end of the day, it’s quicker to cut foods yourself by knife, &, no matter how I try, I end up with the the end piece left over.
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Then I also bought my now 7th (!) hand mixer. This time, it’s a James Martin by Wahl hand mixer (300 Watt). I’m super happy with this one. It’s on the bigger & heavier side, but it is powerful (meaning it cuts the time in whipping eggs!) &, despite this, is quieter than the other models I have used in the past. I also like that the whisk attachment is ever so slightly longer than the other models’ too! ^^
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May 9th, 2013

Coco&Me French Toast Recipe

NB: Please note, this recipe is especially created for when using everyday pre-sliced bread from the supermarket that is not stale.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
(Bite-size French Toast! No need to fuss with knife! ^^)
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Desperately seeking ‘something’
Picture this – bang in the middle of the night, you’re working on the computer. Then the train of concentration loses its steam & thoughts of snacking invade the mind. You ponder what goodies you might’ve lurked in the kitchen cabinets, but a pang of desperation throbs you when the realization of anything everything sweet is missing from your life. Cue the stomach & its whining growl…  
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… This French Toast recipe actually came about at such moment. I desperately wanted a sweet ‘something’ to snack on in the middle of the night. But it needed to be:
  • very quick & simple to make (will not want to wait for my sweet fix)
  • easily can make for just for one person (it’s just me)
  • use ingredients that’s always at hand at home (it needs to be a reliable recipe to fall back on every time)
  • no need to fire up the oven (too fussy)
  • does not use the hand mixer (too noisy at night)
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Hmmm, French Toast! As a mid-night feast! Ah…, yes-yes, ofcourse it’s normally consumed for breakfast or brunch, I know that, but it’s ingredients – eggs, sugar, milk, bread & butter, I always have at home & who cares about formalities when no one is watching in this nocturnal hour? It should be simple enough to put together – just dip the bread in eggy milk then pan-fry it with butter, & hey voila!
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And so my quest starts.
But…, hang on, the first time I made it, it didn’t taste great. The result was unforgivingly too soggy in the middle. Why? Then I analyzed this:
= I’m using cheap thinly-sliced bread from the supermarket & the bread is not stale like it ought to be. 
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Stale? Yes,typically you’re supposed to use stale bread that’s gone a bit tough & lost a bit of moisture. I guess it must be a universal rule for it. I mean, it’s even called ‘pain perdu’ in French, which means “lost bread”, suggesting that the bread in question is of a wasted, or forgotten one.
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But realistically, how often do you have a perfectly stale bread at hand when you need it? I certainly don’t. Besides, the supermarket bread rather goes mouldy than stale when old. And so my solution to this was to… lightly toast the fresh bread (then cooling it) before dipping in the eggy mixture. That should mimic stale bread by taking some of the moisture away!
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To remedy the sogginess, I propose five solutions:
  • Put less milk in.  
  • Cut the bread in to smaller pieces so that it soaks the mixture quicker, & cooks to the core quicker. Smaller is also easier to flip over in the pan without fuzzing the shapes.
  • Fry the bread at very low heat to cook through to the core.
  • Use the lid as you fry so that it steam-cooks the bread. It’ll get fluffier & bouncier.
  • Warm the milk in the microwave prior to combining with egg mixture (I got this idea from the way creme patisserie is made). This in effect will make it quicker to cook as it is already warm when it hits the pan.
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Crust or no crust
When I was a child I used to just tear out & eat just the innards of the bread, which totally annoyed my mother. – Even now at age 37, I secretly still prefer to chop away the crust especially when making sandwiches, but my Mr.D ~ who is German & proper (Lol!) ~ would scorn, which totally makes me feel like a silly child again, so I daren’t do it nowadays. And now that we are supposed to set a good example in front of our children, I can never kiss goodbye to ‘le crust’.
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BUT! French Toast is an exception. This is a sweet dessert! It’s an indulgence. Might as well have it the way we like it huh? :) Besides, jokes apart, I personally think that the egg-sogged crust lends a slight wet cardboard-y texture, & takes half the fun out of eating the main super soft part anyways!
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Aesthetically pleasing French Toast shape? = 8:5 ratio
Upon cutting the bread, call me pedantic or just plain old silly, but I thought to myself: I wonder what the ‘most pleasing rectangle’ is?  
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The answer I settled on was to cut it to the golden ratio, which the special number is approximately 1.618. Meaning, I will cut the length to 1.618 times of the width. Or to round it up simply, the ratio of length to the width will be 8:5. I’m sure the ancient Greeks would approve of this french toast shape! Lol!
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NB: If you cut the toast in to 4, it’s pretty much 8:5 each, so no need to get the ruler out! 
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(Please take this whole measuring thing with a pinch of salt though, it’s all a bit of a pa larva that I’m making here…! You can ofcourse cut it in any way you like!)
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So how long should the bread soak in eggy milk?
Some say over-night, some say 3o seconds & hey pronto. I’m more in the latter camp. I like the idea of this to be a quick dessert that can be made by whim ~ impromptu with things that can be found in your everyday kitchen. Besides, the pre-sliced white bread from the supermarket sucks the mixture up like a kitchen sponge in no time anyways!
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Dressing up the French Toast
Please please try it with plain yogurt on the side. And a drizzle of maple syrup which won’t go amiss. And ah, perhaps even a sprinkle of cinnamon powder! The play between the cold yogurt & the hot french toast is so fine~♪, it’s so good~♫. The slight tang of the yogurt beautifully sets against the sweet toast too. 
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Coco&Me Quick French Toast Recipe
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Ingredients:
  • 2 slices of white bread (preferably thick)
  • 1 egg
  • 15g sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)
  • 60g milk (full fat if you have it) 
  • A knob of salted butter (for the frying pan)
  • Maple syrup (optional)
  • Plain yogurt (optional)
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Method:
  • 1. Toast the bread lightly. (Here, don’t brown it, as you’d have the burn taste coming through the French Toast.)
  • 2. Cut the crust off the bread. Then cut to smaller size. (It’s easier to cut without squishing the ends if you cut the toast when it has cooled down.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 3. In a bowl, whisk 1 egg until it loses its bounce, then add the 15 grams of sugar. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • 4. Measure 60 grams of milk in a mug & microwave until hot.  
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 5. Slowly pour in the hot milk to the eggs, whisking all the time. (The hot milk will not cook the eggs as the sugar will act as a barrier.)
  • 6. Put the toast pieces in the eggy milk. Swish the bowl around to gently coat the toast on both sides. (Don’t handle by hand as the toast is very fragile when soggy, it will lose shape or tear.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 7. Heat the frying pan with medium-low heat. Dissolve the knob of butter. Then align the soaked rectangular bread.  
  • 8. Pop the lid on & lower the heat to minimum.
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 9. Wait for about 3 minutes or until the bottom side is nicely browned, then flip to the other side.
  • 10. And fry with the lid on top again.  
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 11. When the bread is nicely browned, transfer to a plate & eat it straight away while it is hot! (preferably with a big dollop of plain yogurt & a generous drizzle of maple syrup!)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
Bon Appétit! T xx  
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April 23rd, 2013

Link to Chocolate & Zucchini!

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Hello! I’ve had the pleasure of answering to a Q&A at lovely Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog! Check it out! ^^
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This is a bit of a happy moment for me actually, because it was encountering her blog all those years ago (like over 10 years ago??) that inspired me to do my own eventually. And so to think that there’s something about me on HER blog makes me feel proud. :-)
(Actually, she’s also mentioned me before on her post about brownies back in 2009.)
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I still remember the time when I first got ‘in’ to her blog: I was a graphic designer back then, feeling bored stiff with having to design uncreative stuff for cooperate clients, which, after graduating an uber-creative college, was a ‘real-life-ain’t so-fun’ dumbing-down moment.
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Back then, I was often browsing her image gallery & using her pictures as a wallpaper for my office computer screen!
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Several years later when I did start blogging, you know what I did immediately? I wrote in her comments section to tell her about my blog! And she then wrote a comment in my first ever post! :-) Sweet!
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Anyway, the Q&A is about how I cook at home for (& with) the kids. Hope you enjoy it!
T xx

April 10th, 2013

Sunshine?

(pic taken end of March)
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Hello~! How’s things?
We’re now in April, & I write this on, believe it or not, a sunny day!
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And it is so unbelievably quiet in the house, it is just me & the humming of my laptop. The kids are out for the day to their friends’. And I thought I’ll steal a moment to write to you here. Despite the sun, outside is still a bit nippy, & it feels similarly cold in the house too, as the Edwardian house of ours never gets really warm. My father says we ought to change to those double-glazed type windows, but we love our old sash windows, & we can’t bear the thought of stripping away the original features, so I suppose there’s no point in complaining?
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Instead, I have a hot mug of tea by my side as I write. I’m recently playing with the way I make tea, after reading about how Joël Robuchon makes his, I had to try it – milk (preferably room temperature) in the (pre-warmed) cup first, then pour brewed tea on top. Although I see that there seems to be a bit of a debate to which goes first, at the end of the day, I think there is no right or wrong answer (do as you please, I say!). I think ‘milk-in-first’ (MIF as some call this),  seem to make the milk & tea become ‘one’ better, & that the milk smells less dairy-like. This probably has to do with how MIF version doesn’t break the proteins in the milk as opposed to MIA (Milk-in-after). I’ll try the MIF method for a while I think! ^^
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Things at the market for me is good, good, then bad, good, super-good, good, bad, super-bad, good. (Lol!) The weather has been truly atrocious. So cold & so windy. It’s been snowing a fair amount too. On one of the Saturdays there, I have possibly & probably done the worst-ever too. And that’s something of a record after seven years of trading…!
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At times like that, I wished to be not doing this anymore.
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But, there are customers of whom I am blessed to have, especially the dearest ‘regulars’ & locals who visit my stall & drop their money my way. I think some of them are doing so out of a support-consciousness, to keep me & this cake stall going. I feel so, & that’s why I feel blessed. (And actually I know so, as one of them actually told me! ^^) When customers come & tell me that they make a point of purchasing cakes from me every-time/ every year there is a celebration or a cake-need, & when literally dozens of people come up & say they have been missing my cakes in the beginning of the year (I took the whole of January off), I think to myself, maybe…, maybe I can carry on pushing the boat out a little longer… So thank you Broadway Market goers…!
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(Pic from last month. My daughter S’s birthday cake. Every year it is the same – Japanese strawberry shortcake!)
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - cookie cutters from Weitz, Hamburg
(Newly purchased cookie cutters from Hamburg trip last week. I can’t wait to try them all! Perhaps I can use the carrot cookie on top of my carrot cake? It’ll be a great alternative to those marzipan carrot shapes that I absolutely detest!)
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I’ve recently been playing around with apple-desserts, so next time I write to you, it will hopefully be a recipe! ;) Stay tuned! ;)
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HAPPY DAYS TO YOU ALL, T xx

January 8th, 2013

Galette des Rois 2013

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Hi!!! Happy New Year~!!!!!!

How was your winter holiday? Did you get a good rest? Hopefully all charged up, ready for the new year? ;-) And how did your first week of 2013 pan out? Back to school or work already?
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For me, soon as entering the year, all I think about is the Galette des Rois for Epithany (which was the 6th January).
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But this year, I missed the date. The 6th landed on a Sunday this year & I just couldn’t find the time. It proved to be too much of a challenge to fit a task such as classic-puff-pastry-making when the kids are around…
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I mean, how can I work on a pastry that requires so much attention when interruptions aplenty!
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The kitchen is a highway of coming ins & outs, “S” to show me a drawing or “I” to ask me to solve a quiz. Sometimes it could be a “come upstairs & look at my lego model”, or it might be the little one forever pulling the hem of my skirt as I move around in the kitchen. Running around the central kitchen-island playing chase might be an option for them too… It’s simply impossible to do anything that remotely needs concentration…! So, at times like that, I put my hand up & resign, I let go of any baking desires & join in with running around playing chase too. Might as well, hey.
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Anyway, so here’s my Galette des Rois, that was not made on Epithany day, but on the following day.
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This year I made three.
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(The swirly pattern!!)
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Shame about the unsightly middle, but atleast it came out circle & relatively flat! To etch the swirls, I used the edge of a round cake card to depress an impression, & then use that as the guideline to score with a scalpel knife. When scoring, I always apply same pressure & “try” to cut less then 1mm deep. (… notice “try”. It’s su~per difficult!!!) Lastly I brushed cooled down sugar syrup on just-baked hot galette to make the surface shiny & appetizing. The momentary sizzling sound as the syrup initially hits the hot pastry is one of my favourite sounds in the kitchen.
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(The ladder pattern!) 
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Grr, there’s a crack in the design…! Humph. But I think the colour is the best out of the three. I dissolved coffee granules in the egg wash to make it dark – this technique is the same as when egg-washing the Gateau Basque. Also, have you noticed that the edges are scalloped? Well, instead of cutting around the pastry with a knife like usual, I used the tart tin edges like a cutter!!! There’s a couple of advantage point to my technique other than aesthetics – as you press the tin down to cut off the excess pastry, it seals the two sheets of pastry tighter together. You can also use the scallop shape as a guide for when crimping the sides.
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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Galette des Rois 2013 - girl face design pattern scored/ drawn on to - homemade classic puff pastry - Pate Feuilletee Clasique - www.cocoandme.com
(My original design! My daughter S with a flower cheek!) 
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Out of pure luck, the etching came out in a painterly brush-strokey feel, which worked quite well with the design I think. I’m happy with this one, but how I wish I didn’t brush the sugar-syrup on the surface at the end…! The face looks too shiny, as if you slathered sun-oil on a sunny holiday…! Lol! Definitely not a winter look! (…unless the girl was lucky & went somewhere hot for the winter hols I guess…!)
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Anyway, hope all is well with you guys! Chao for now! 
T xx

December 25th, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

(Last year I posted a picture of the Grinch for Christmas, so I’ve decided to stick to the cartoon theme again & this year share my love for Peanuts with you! ♥♥)

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(I love Snoopy, but I love Lucy the most. Why? She’s rather persnickety don’t you think? I like that. I’m a fuss-pot too!)

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Hello~!!! Dearest blog readers!!!

 I’m back blogging!!! I’m so sorry I haven’t written in a long while…! It’s been ages, hope you haven’t forgotten me?? :)
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So, how have you all been? And how did 2012 pan out for you?
For me, well…, it’s been a mixed bag of highs & lows - it’s been a little too rainy this year, & having the Olympics in town was not atall helpful as everyone had initially hoped. (read a Guardian website article about it here) On top of that, what with the lo~ng recession we’re in, I can honestly say, it’s been a hard year…
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But. But but but. Here’s the bigger picture. Everyone around me has stayed healthy. And I’m still in a job that I love doing. There hasn’t been any major upsets either this year… – Now, I reckon that’s pretty good going actually, doncha think? :)
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Anyway! What am I writing about! It’s Christmas! No serious talk on a day like this, right!? That, I will leave ’til another post! And, ah, lol, no worries folks, I shan’t make it too long til I write next this time, as I am now in my one month+ break, I will have proper time to write to you! (My next trading date is FEBRUARY 2ND. Please note!)
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So in the meantime, here’s a silly Christmas poem that might amuse you when drinking your schnapps…
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It’s Christmas!

People have been discovering

On a Christmas Morning

That the curse of Christmas

That’s causing the most fuss

Has been unanimously concluded

To be “Batteries not included”

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And if you like Snoopy, here’s a youtube link to an episode called “A Charlie Brown Christmas (The Meaning of Christmas) that’s rather enjoyable to watch post-stuffed-with-dinner! :)

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My dearest blog readers,

may this lovely Christmas season bring you delights in all possible forms. May you receive love in abundance & joy that lasts throughout. Merry Christmas wishes to you & your loved ones.

With pixelated hugs from Tamami xx

September 25th, 2012

About Lanzarote + book/ podcasts to recommend

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This summer, we went on holiday to Lanzarote!

The last time we had a major holiday like this was over 7 years ago (!) to Japan, so it was a biggy for us.

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - landscape -

The landscape was breathtakingly extraordinary. Everywhere you look, it is typically red, ochre & black. Lanzarote has around 300 volcano peaks which makes for the most surreal scenery.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilling chicken over volcanic heat -

At the Timanfaya National Park (Fire Mountain), we ate chicken that’s been grilled over the volcanic heat from below! (but the chicken was tough…)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - restaurant -

Our favourite restaurant was Casa Torano in the tiny fishing village called El Golfo. We went there twice on our holiday. In the evening, we happily sat there & watched the sun set behind the undisrupted view of the Earth’s horizon. We also saw that the horizon is slightly curved. – It’s obvious, yes I know that Mr.Galileo said Earth is indeed round, but it was a rare view for us! It was a reaffirming & humbling experience.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - ocean horizon curve -

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At the restaurant, we ate amazing seafood:

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried sardines -

(Must squeeze lemon over deep fried seafood! Because it cuts the grease & helps in digestion as it emulsifies the fats so that they don’t sit in the stomach! Also, squeezing Lemon (extremely alkaline) over fried seafood (extremely acidic) bring the body into perfect PH balance!)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried baby octopus -www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilled octopus -

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Unfortunately, there were no exceptional sweet desserts to report back to you from this holiday… Dessert-wise, we just ate a lot of juicy watermelon back at our rented apartment. It was a perfect way to rehydrate our skin & body after a day out in the sun (watermelon is about 92% water). Watermelon also contains lycopene, which is a nutritional protection against skin damage from the harmful rays of the sun too! Double perfect.

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Finally, let me share with you my holiday book of choice. It is the ‘Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet’ (~What to eat, what to avoid, and what to stop worrying about~) by Monica Reinagel. It’s a book packed with useful information & I loooove the book. In fact I’m a big fan of the author. I also listen to her podcast shows religiously! I first got to know about the Nutrition Diva via Clotilde’s chocolate & zucchini, when Clotilde posted about the food podcasts she listens to. If listening to podcasts is your thing, check her list out.

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And while I’m writing about podcasts, the only other one I listen to is ‘Crimes Against Food’, hosted by Gloria Lindh & Mia Steele. It’s two girls from Yorkshire talking (hilariously) about the worst food crimes. ~ I smile & giggle along with them when I listen, & it makes me happy. :)  :)  :)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - Nutrition Diva's secrets for a healthy diet book -

(Reading on Famara Beach.) 

September 10th, 2012

Window of opportunities

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When I set about blogging back in 2006, I wonder, would I have ever known of how well that decision to write would turn out to be?
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Looking back, I suppose I could have not blogged at-all, considering I have never been a confident writer to start with.
(…I have a dismal history of getting a rather discreditable grade E for English at GCSE school… Lol! Now laughable, but not so at the time! Add to that shame, I got a grade F for French… Wouldn’t it be funny if I had studied German & then get a grade G? I could have accomplished a hat-trick of obtaining lowly grades in alphabetical sequence! It’ll atleast make a mildly good story to tell in a pub…)
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Anyway, through this blog, I’ve made new friends & have met lots of interesting people. This blog has been a window to opportunities.
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In fact, unimaginable opportunities have been thrown my way this year - new business proposition from amazing team of people with renowned backgrounds, offer to become an instructor for a regular chocolate-making workshop, & even an (albeit very initial) enquiry about own TV show (!?) Ha ha, yeah, I know, the last one’s especially surprising/ crazy/ amazing/ bizarre/ humbling/ exciting, right!? Although let me point out once again that it was just purely an enquiry in their initial/ ideas stage. So nothing has come of it! And I never followed it up. Still, nice to be asked though, huh?
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Another opportunity I get is to be invited to food related events. This Summer, I went to three.
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La Maison du Chocolat:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection - CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - piping bag pattern on surface
(the pattern was made by dipping piping-tip.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - chocolate tree
(La Maison du Chocolat CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau, with the 2012 chocolate tree inbetween them.)
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One was an invite to check out the 2012 Christmas collection at La Maison du Chocolat. Dearest readers, I know you’ll totally be on my side here when I say, “who can resist”, right? Who am I to turn down an offer to sample chocolates from one of world’s finest chocolate shop?
→  →  →  From the first bite, the very enchantment restored the faith in me that THIS is what real chocolate is about. And so, quite naturally, as you can expect from yours truly, I took on the occasion & ate through a many bonbons. All the while, I listened to chef chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau explaining each of the flavours of these refined morsels. Delectable. Delightful. Perfection. Bliss. Paradise. Need I say more?
→  →  →  Meeting the head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau was an amazing experience too. I explained to him that my first ever experience of eating macarons was from La Maison du Chocolat back in 2004 & that it was a life changing experience by no means an exaggeration. I was ‘in’ to only chocolates back then, but it was the awe-inspiring deliciousness of their chocolate macarons that made me start to bake on a serious level. Inspired & obsessed, I experimented numerous times to re-create macarons at home. As you might know, macarons are notoriously diffcult to make, & it certainly was not a wise choice for first baking project. At first, I simply couldn’t get it right – mine cracked & there were no jaggedy ‘feet’ that is the must feature of any good macaron. When I did finally get it right, by the end of it I was hooked on the joys of baking & here I am today, baking professionally for 7 years.
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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011):
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011): - preview screening - flim - Ferran Adrià
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As some of you may already know, I finally started to twitter this year. And it was through twitter that I was invited by Artificial Eye (a film distributer) to a preview screening of the El Bulli docu film. I’ve been curious about this Ferran Adrià fellow & his restaurant from some time ago, & so I went.
→  →  →  What did I think of the film? Well… let’s first say that I ought to leave personal tastes aside. Because ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ & you have to respect that. The food’s not my cup-of-tea, I’d salivate over homey & soul-warming foods ten-fold, but it doesn’t stop me from greatly respecting Ferran’s quest for new-worldly, artistic, conceptual cuisine.
→  →  →  Y’see, there, it’s not just fine-dining, but I would rather coin it as “fine-art-dining”. It’s so concept-led, going to his restaurant must have been like participating in a fine-art exhibition! When you hear that there used to be 2 million people applying for the 8,000 bookings available in a year, I do think it’s a little silly & faddish though. But I guess you have to understand that these people who can afford to splash a small fortune to getting there & paying for the 30-course menu are after ‘the experience’ & ‘status’ of having eaten there, so that they can get the badge & form an opinion, & that’s fine for them.
→  →  →  This fly-on-the-wall docu film lets us observe what a year at El Bulli was like (it’s closed down now). And it is a precious record of the phenomenon that was El Bulli. If you want to witness something that will surely be talked about in food history, this film will be right up your alley & I will recommend it. Despite being a success already, the man clearly still has the passion & the burning ambition to better himself (& others). And people with dreams & ambitions gets my vote, fully.
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Pastry Network:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü
(pic with Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü, with the new recipe book out next month.)
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My friends F & S organize a gathering group called Pastry Network, of which I am now also a member. Once-a-month, pastry chefs meet to exchange information as well as make friends with people who you have a common ground. I have great admiration for F & S to take time out of their very busy schedule to organize such group. It is clear that they are passionate about pastry. They pass on their knowledge freely, & I think it is a sign of a great person & teacher.
So far this year, they have organized head baker of The Berkeley Hotel to talk about ‘What it take to make fantastic bread’, & on a different month, member chefs brought in their favourite cookbooks to share.
→  →  →  This month, we heard Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of guest speak about Gü’s branding & product development. Despite that I won’t ever go down the same road, it was nevertheless a priceless opportunity to learn the inside story of how a successful company like Gü operates. And the talk left me with great respect for their dedication to create delicious gourmet products that’s now sold in all major supermarkets, a feat in a market which is otherwise saturated with inferior quality desserts.
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PS: Dearest readers, especially the readers who have been taking their time to write a comment, I’d like to say… THANK YOU very much! Did you know that YOU make this blog happen with me? Without your encouragement, & without the knowledge that I am being listened to, understood, I don’t think I could have achieved half as much & have quit this ages ago. And that is the truth. So thank you!!!

Warmest regards, Tamami xx

June 14th, 2012

Coco&Me’s super scones recipe

~ the science of baking the perfect scone ~

 

(I didn’t have time to buy clotted cream on this occasion… but full-on sloshing of jam will just have to do! ^^ Personally, I like to drink cold milk with my scones rather than tea.)

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♡♡♡ It’s recipe time!! ♡♡♡

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This time, I would like to share with you my take on scones. How I think it should taste & how it should look.

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Scones are honest, no-frills things aren’t they, there’s no fancy decorations to hide any flaws. And it’s because of that, that it’s all the more important to execute the baking well. When it comes out of the oven, they all ought to look pretty much uniform, & not collapsed lopsided or look like a collection of rocks. There should definitely be a side ways jaggedy break going through the middle, made from when the dough had risen, hinting at how deliciously soft the inside might be like. (Is there a name for this break? The Japanese call it ‘the wolf’s mouth’!)

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I think it should look unfussy & inviting, perhaps even goes as far as being evocative of the laid-back cream teas served by local ladies in pinnies down in the depths of devonshire countryside.

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Upon creating any of my own recipes, I always set about understanding the ingredients involved & how each plays its part. You know me, I love puzzing up my puzzler when concerned with baking. Afterall “baking is a science” & it’s my firm belief that if you understand the logic, you’re more likely to get a successful result. Not only that, when you vanish the question marks in your head, you would enjoy baking better too! – So here’s what I know about scone science in a Q&A format.

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Q: Why do we rub in the butter to the flour?

We rub in the butter to coat the flour so that it doesn’t soak up the wet ingredients as much as if otherwise. The butter fat acts as a barrier around the flour to stop gluten from developing too much. Gluten in cakes, as we know, creates structure which is important, but it also makes the cake firmer.

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Q: Why do we use cold butter?

Now, this is perhaps ‘the’ crucial part of the recipe. Utilize this bit of info & you will undoubtably bake super scones. People who know how puff pastry works will understand this better I think.

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So you think that it’s the baking powder that is doing all that lifting action right? No siree, there’s a bit more to it. – When the solid bits of butter encased in dough is rapidly heated in the oven, the water contents of the butter evaporates in to air bubbles, & it consequently lifts the gluten structure.

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For this reason, you know not to handle the dough with warm hands so as not to melt the butter prior to baking. And as cumbersome as it may be, we use the back of the fork (or even better with special pastry blenders) to rub in the butter.

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This bit of science also answers why the recipe has a high oven temperature setting. We want the butter to powerfully evaporate in the extreme heat, rather than slowly melt & sink in to the flour & wet it, creating excess gluten.

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Also, here’s a top tip: if you are baking in the summer, it may be an idea to cool your bowl & utensils in the fridge first! And while you are working, you can put an ice pack under the bowl!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - ice pack - scone recipe

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Q: Why do we rest the dough in the fridge?

Part of the reason lies in the above answer = that the butter within has to be kept cold. Another worthy reason is to relax the gluten strands, one, to produce fluffy texture, & second, to avoid shrinking when it bakes (the rested dough is less elastic).

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Q: What does milk do in baking?

Milk has a a particular & richer mouthfeel, what with its certain subtle sweetness, thickness & slight acidity.  The liquidity delvelops gluten when mixed with flour & structures the baked goods. And the natural sugar in milk lactose, aswell as the fat, tenderizes the baked goods & makes for moist texture without it being soggy. Milk in baked goods also extends the shelf-life. And the sugar interacting with protein browns the baked goods more readily too.

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Q: Why does your recipe call for the egg wash to be done twice?

Two egg washes with a rest in the fridge in-between to dry the first wash, will darken the top of the scones better & make the scones aesthetically more pleasing. It also gives it a shiny surface & is very smooth to the touch. I personally think that it helps to make the scone look one-rank up & a little more sophisticated.

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So the key tips to making perfect scones are as follows:

  • Use cold butter.
  • Don’t dawdle. Work efficiently to avoid butter melting in room temperature.
  • Rest the dough in the fridge for more than 30 minutes.
  • Bake at high oven temperature.

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After all the above science-y chalk-talk, I’m probably scaring you away from making these, but please fear not!! Making these scones, you’d never look back to purchase one in the shops! I am so super happy with this recipe! ^^ It is actually super easy, super amazing, super moreish!

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Coco&Me’s super scones recipe

(Yield: It depends on the size of your cutters obviously, but I can make about 7 scones, using my 6.8cm round cutter)

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Ingredients:

90g salted butter ( I like using salted butter. If using unsalted, also add a pinch of salt.)

300g plain flour

15g baking powder

45g caster sugar

125ml cold milk

egg yolk for brushing the top surface

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Method:

  • 1. First thing first, cut 90 grams of butter into tiniest cubes possible & place in a large, deep-walled mixing bowl. Refrigerate this bowl with the butter until needed.
  • 2. Sieve in 300 grams of flour. (If using unsalted butter, add the pinch of salt in this step.)
  • 3. Using the back of the fork (or a special pastry blender if you have one), cut the butter in to the flour. Try to work quickly to avoid the butter from melting. (If you think that the butter is getting soft, place the bowl in the fridge until firm & then work again.Or try my tip & place an ice-pack underneath your bowl.)
  • 4. When the butter lumps are as small as a grain of rice, sieve in 15 grams of baking powder.
  • 5. Next, toss in the 45 grams of sugar.
  • 6. Pour in 125ml of milk & quickly work it in to the flour mixture to form a ball of dough. Here, use a spatula for most of the work, & then your hands at the end only to gather it in to a ball. Next, knead it until it is less bumpy. But also keep in mind to never over-work the dough so as not to produce gluten.
  • 7. Cling film it tightly & refrigerate for more than 30 minutes.
  • 8. After the 30 minutes rest, flour the work surface. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough flat to 2.5 to 3cm height.
  • 9. Then proceed to cut discs out. Very lightly flour the insides of the round cutter, & with equal force from straight above, cut in to the dough. Never twist the cutter or else you will get a lopsided scone.
  • 10. Place the discs on to the baking tray lined with baking sheet. Here, when moving the discs, never ever touch the cut sides.
  • 11. Brush the top surface with loosened egg yolk. Brush to the edges, but be careful not to let the egg wash drool down the sides.
  • 12. Rest it in the fridge again until the egg wash is dry to the touch (approximately 10 minutes).
  • 13. In the meantime, proceed to pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees centigrade.
  • 14. Brush on the egg wash for the second time.
  • 15. Place tray in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes (dependent of size of your scones). Turn the oven sheet half way baking to ensure even heat/ even rise.
  • 16. Best served warm!! xx

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - super scones recipe with step by step pictures

(By the way, it’s best to align the scone discs diagonally on the baking tray. The hot oven air flows better to each & individual discs better than if the discs were horizontally aligned.)

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(Did you know, the proper way to split open the baked scone is not with a knife but by fingers, right where the crack is!)  

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Lastly, scone trivia!

Do you spread the jam above or under the clotted cream? Cornwall has the jam underneath & Devon has theirs above (I’m a jam on top girl by the way).

 

May 9th, 2012

Coco&Me stall images

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - heart tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - lemon tarts fruit tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - fruit tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - sign - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - strawberry cupcake - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - flourless chocolate cake - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - fruit tart lemon tart - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - chocolate cake cheese cake - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

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So sorry that I’m posting events in such a non-chronological way, but here are some pictures that photographer Andy Andrews took back in July 2011.

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I’ve known Andy from about 6, 7 years ago. We used to take our children to the same playgroup run by the local church! He’s taken these for an image library – so if there’s any of you out there who want to use these, please contact him for usage rights! :)

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April 30th, 2012

Calorie marathon visit

Last week, I visited my head pastry chef friend F at his new workplace. - Head chef M kindly let me stick around before, during & after the lunch service.
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First, before the lunch service started, I enjoyed a bit of cheese tasting as I listened to the Maitre d’ explain the week’s cheese selection to the waiters.
- Then back in the kitchen, I ate this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
(wild raspberry & strawberry with some sort of foam (!)(I have a bad memory…) with piatachio syrup. Plus freeze dried strawberry sprinkles.)
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and this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
(Caramelized banana tatin with (was it) rosemary icecream, banana chip & crumble.)
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and this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
and this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
(hm! pork belly…!! My favourite.)
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and this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
(Beetroot cured mackerel… perfectly executed!)
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and this…
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
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… and EVEN MORE as chefs kept handing me more things to try. Left, right & centre. Was I in food heaven? You kidding me? Yeah, no question. Like ice-creams, quails egg that was poached in a very unusual way I never heard of, a slice of beautiful terrine, cut-offs of Sachertorte, & some more that I can’t remember…, oh yeah, a beautifully presented mango parfait that I just couldn’t finish… There was even a glass of wine on offer (that I didn’t take up).
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Whilst I was there, I ate something like 1 starter, 3 main courses & 4 desserts in just one lunchtime…!!! Needless to say, I was full after eating 2 or 3 days worth of calories. Lol!!
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Thank you chefs!!!! xxx
IT WAS ALL SERIOUSLY AMAZING.
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com
(So beautiful…)
Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com

April 17th, 2012

First ever Coco&Me baking lesson!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - baking course London - Z & Tamami

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Hello~hello~hello~ dearest readers!!!!! So sorry for not writing often on this blog…! Hope you’ve all been well. Is life treating you sweetly? And I wonder, are you looking after yourself well?

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I’ve been ultra busy with God-knows-what, just a bit of everything mounting to one big busy-ness I guess, I feel my mind’s cluttered up that, if I was to compare this situation to a computer, it’s overloaded & hence the system is running slowly. Basically not achieving as much output as I ought to. Does this make sense??? Lol. Sometimes I don’t know anymore.

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Anyway, the idea is to do ‘one-thing-at-a-time’ isn’t it? So here’s a write up about what happened (ahem,) all the way back in December 2011.

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Actually, no, it was October 2011, I received a special message through this blog by F, a guy wanting to organize a one-off baking lesson as a Christmas gift for his girlfriend Z. And that he wants it to be a surprise for her. (Ladies, one-two-three! “Ahhhhhh…!” How sweet!)

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On first reaction, Hm, I thought. Not sure.

I mean, I can’t even strike up a courage to go to cinemas alone, so how would I feel going to a strangers’ house? But the message read that they are regular customers of mine at the market. I thought back to all the customers that I can remember & I couldn’t think of any weirdos…

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I emailed back hinting that it would be best if he could come to the stall so that we could discuss it further. (Although the actual secret intention was to see who this F was!)

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It turned out he can’t until November as he has to be out of town. – Hm… decisions… Oh, go-on, let’s do it then. Perhaps there must’ve been something in the waters that day, (or maybe I glimpsed a Nike ‘Just do it’ logo!?) but I thought yeah, new experience, new opportunity & all that. Just do it? Yes, I’ll do it! My heart was pounding as I wrote back to confirm, because I was still totally not sure, but I thought (sorry F) I could always call it off if I didn’t like the look of F when he comes to the stall in November.

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Come November, F dropped by my stall. Turns out he is a charming, likable bloke. With great relief, I chatted with him about our surprise plan. He then came back to my stall with the unknowing girlfriend Z to pretend to browse the cakes. The real intention to secretly introduce her to me. Did I do well with my poker face F?? Lol! :)

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December. Knowing who they were was a huge plus. On the baking day itself, I was not as nervous as I’d thought I’d be. Giddy, oh yes, but in an excited way. With a small suitcase full of ingredients, pots n’ pans, & with a heart pounding fast like a small animal, I rang their door bell. F opens & signals me to quietly go to the living room. I hear Z in the other room asking who’d come. She definitely senses something is up. Aw, I hope she likes this surprise… What if she hates this or hates me? Even worse not recognize me!?

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Very pretty girl Z peers in to the living room. One look at me &… big big smiles & little shrieks. So natural, so sweet. I instantly knew that we’d get on absolutely finely.

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F & I spilled the beans of our secret. How F had been planning months ahead, how F took Z to my stall… The surprised look on Z…, & her smiles & laughter as she listened, so adorable.

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So! It’s a 3 hour baking course, I explain. We’ll be making tarte tatin, chocolate truffles, creme caramel & homemade vanilla extract!

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Like a team-work, we peeled braeburn apples, cored them, arranged them in the caramel/vanilla pan… On went the sheet of puff pastry, not forgetting to tuck in the edges… 40 minutes in the oven. Hey presto, tarte tatin.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Tarte tatin - upsidedown apple cake pie - creme caramel - vanilla - baking course

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Following that, we made ganache for the truffles. This was in tandem with making vanilla extract as the ganache needs to cool before piping, then more cooling after that so that it is firm enough to roll, coat in melted chocolate & finally rolled in cocoa powder. – Finally it was on to making the Creme caramel which was a doddle, & we finished almost exactly 3 hours of lesson time.

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Like I said, we had this amazing team-work thing going on, & I felt that it was rather more like two girl friends having fun baking & chatting. Sure, I’d be peppering in baking tricks & know-hows, & answering baking questions, but it certainly didn’t feel like a strict teaching setup. And I much prefer it that way.

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Thank you F for setting up this most amazing, valuable experience. I’m really glad I said yes. And thank you Z, I’m so happy that my first ever baking student was you! ♥

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - baking course - eating in kitchen

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March 12th, 2012

One year on

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Yesterday was exactly one year on from the big earthquake & the subsequent tsunami that struck North East of Japan.

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I pray for the 15,854 people that didn’t make it that day, the 3,155 people that are still missing, & offer my heart to their families & friends who are still coming to terms with their grief. Not only that, my heart cry for the poor residents of the affected areas going through such a tough, tough time. There are more than 330,000 people living in temporary accommodation (including those staying with family & friends or in hotels), many of them unsure of what the future will be like.

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Living is extra difficult after the triple meltdown at Fukushima plant. As well as the debris, the soil within large vicinity has been polluted & the current news/ debate in Japan is where to dispose the millions of tonnes of polluted soil that’s been scraped up. Understandably no town wants to agree to placing the temporary storage facility the government is proposing.

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The discharged nuclear pollutants has also plagued the residents with health fears. And worries are abound, especially for the children, as to how this would affect them if atall eventually.

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Ever since when the disaster struck last year, I have a small donation box on my stall table at the market. I would like to take this opportunity to report to you that this little box has so far raised £365.53. Isn’t it amazing!? Thank you Broadway Market goers!!! The generosity you have shown is truly touching… I have been donating this money in batches to Red Cross Japan. - Yes, in recent days the donation amount has been really low (2 weeks ago, it only collected 50p…!) but every little counts as they say! ^^ Arigatō.

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Ps: The Japanese government has designed a campaign to express gratitude for its support for the Japan Earthquake. As part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival on Sunday March 18th in London, Japanese performers including maiko, geisha & traditional instrument performers will take part in the ARIGATO parade. – There is also “Tasting Japan” experience at Westfield Stratford with Japanese food & alcohol!

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