August 2nd, 2016

I cut my hair!

www.cocoandme.com - Tamami with new shorthair cut! - Coco&Me blog

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So!
Yesterday my lovely hairdresser friend Ms.M cut my hair short for me! Thank you so much Ms.M!
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This is in preparation for the chemo. In the hope of keeping as much hair as possible I’ll be wearing a ‘cold-cap’ which cools the scalp during chemotherapy to reduce the amount of drugs reaching the hair follicles. I’ll be wearing it before during & after the treatment & apparently it’s better to have short hair for it. Also, if hair does fall out it’ll be less dramatic when it’s shorter hair…!
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Hairdresser Ms.M chopped off 40cm!
I decided to send the chopped off hair to a hair-donation charity called The Little Princess Trust. It’s a children’s cancer charity that supply real hair wigs to children suffering with cancer.
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Initially I was thinking of selling my hair but Ms.C’s comment on this blog about her teenage daughter donating her hair so willingly without wanting anything in return has inspired me to do the same. I also can not shake off a scene I saw of a little girl with bad hair loss innocently playing by the toys at the Great Ormond Street Hospital that I visited 2 weeks ago for my genetics test. Maybe my un-dyed Japanese hair can be of use to someone somewhere. Maybe in this way I can repay, even a little bit in a roundabout way towards the kindness given to me by so many people.
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Today is going to be a busy day.
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At 11 I will be getting my heart scanned. Apparently the treatments are quite harsh for the heart & so they want to see it beforehand I suppose. Then at 11.45 I’ll meet the oncologist. 1.30pm I’ll be admitted to the hospital to fit the portacath which was supposed to be done last Thursday but was prosponed because the anaesthetist was suddenly unavailable at the last minute! They say the surgery will be at 4pm. By around 7pm I should be fully awake & ready to be discharged. Mr.D will come collect me after his work & we’ll go home by cab…
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Next biggie date is going to be the chemo starting this Thursday…!

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So far this illness thing is believe it or not keeping me very busy! One would think that quitting work will bring about easy-going bliss
but oh no-no it’s appointments after appointments to keep up with! On top of the appointments – I’ve been super busy reading up on breast cancer. Knowledge is power right? The more I know the better. I feel less scared & I feel more in control of the situation, I’m never going to let it get on top of me! Graaah! :)
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T xx

July 27th, 2016

Update:

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I just want to quickly update you.
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I’m just so relieved & happy! (within the given situation…!)
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Yesterday, I was given a piece of good news I had been praying & praying & praying for.

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My breast cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else!!!!
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And this is for sure with complete certainty after the CT scan & whole body bone scan!
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I’m SO relieved…
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Now that the diagnostic stuff is over, it’s all a matter of onwards & upwards with treatments.
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The ‘next-to-do’ is to go in to hospital again tomorrow to implant a device called a ‘port’ under the skin on my upper chest, which connects to a large vein near the heart. This will be used as the access point for pumping in the upcoming chemo meds. I was a bit surprised that it’ll be another general anaesthetic op, & that there will be a noticeable bump but this is like nothing for me & I welcome every step that needs to be taken to get better!
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Huh, tubed up with implanted access port… I also already had two lots of radioactive dye injected too. I feel like a robot in the making! Tamami ver.1.2…?? Lol… Lol… Lol… due for completion in December 2017…!?
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t xx

July 8th, 2016

Bye bye Broadway market

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It pains me to write this.
I don’t even know how to start, as I had no idea that I was to write this message. So I guess I’ll cut straight to the point.
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I have bad news.
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Just last week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
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I can just imagine that this news must come as a shock to you, as it obviously did with me and my family..

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I have a lump on my right breast, I had it checked out by mammogram, ultrasound scan, biopsy and a MRI scan. (In fact, I had the first three of these tests done twice! – I’ll tell you more about it in another post.) On the first day of the tests already, the consultant told me that I have breast cancer. The consultant was confident that it hadn’t spread to the nearby lymph nodes though, to which words I will hang on to.

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So please don’t worry for me. The tumour is actually not big either and is treatable, and the prospect is very good. The surgery is already scheduled for next Monday! Which is a huge relief as I can’t wait to get rid of it!

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Nevertheless, this turn of events has changed certain things.

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I am disappointed to say the least to tell you that I will no longer do the market.
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The most sensible thing for me to do is take better care of myself. This means, live with less stress, live life slowly and have time to cook well, eat well, and spend quality time with my family. The last thing I want is to push my body to tiredness while I go through the expected treatments ahead.
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This unexpected news comes actually comes at the worst possible timing.
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I was in the middle of planning a Coco&Me outlet…!
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My good friend Ms.V asked me to move in to her shop in St Paul’s and co-exist. In 2 to 3 months from now, I would have had my cakes across 4 metres of window display – in the middle of the city, literally a few minutes walk from the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. My cakes would have been available all week. It would have been the perfect next phase for Coco&Me, which I’m sure would have opened many new amazing opportunities. I am in shock myself to change my plans with the shop like this. I am also very sorry to Ms.V for suddenly exiting on her.
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I am so gutted that I am posting this sad news today. The next post on this blog would have been about the most happy announcement of Coco&Me shop opening. I wrote a draft-version of that happy news ages ago, and I couldn’t wait to roll out the news to the whole world. – The only reason why I hadn’t told you any sooner was because I was awaiting signing.
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To my dearest customers who have supported me during all those years at the marketthank you for being so kind to me, and I am so sorry that I had to disappear from the scene so abruptly like this. Many of you have purchased cakes and chocolates frequently, and I loved that it was like a routine to see you every week. I loved chatting to you all, and I loved that we’d notice each other missing if that routine is broken even by a week.
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I hope you understand and agree that I have taken the right course of action to solely concentrate on getting better, rather than juggling it with work. It would be impossible to do it hand-in-hand anyway as I will be going to radiotherapy and possibly chemotherapy everyday for a while. I have enjoyed my time at Broadway Market with you tremendously over the almost 11 years that I was there. It has been such a big part of my life!! I am already missing you all! But like I said before, please don’t worry for me, you know that I’m a trouper right? :-) I can put up hell of a fight! Grahh~!
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To my dearest blog-readersas for this blog, I will continue to write, so no worries there! :)
I have always felt comfort from the great support you have given me with the comments you leave! How can I give up on that! ;-)
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Add to that, I am thinking of using this blog as a food diary to motivate me to eat well. Some of you might be surprised as to why I am revealing my illness so frankly, but, like I wrote ages ago here, I hate keeping secrets, or to cherry-pick who to tell, as once, I had an experience of a good friend doing that to me and I was hurt when she said it’s because she didn’t want to ‘jinx’ it! Besides, breast cancer isn’t a taboo to tell. Hopefully, by documenting mine on the world-wide-web, I can ramp up awareness and more women check themselves regularly? 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. I never knew that for example, and I wished somebody told me before, then I would’ve checked myself more regularly!
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Those who know me know that I eat healthily despite my job surrounded by cakes and chocolates, but ever since I have been diagnosed, I have been eating strictly healthily to give myself the best possible chance. I can document that too, and share my knowledge on my food choices.
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Again, thank you to all those who have supported my Coco&Me stall for all those years!!!!
I have enjoyed my time at Broadway Market absolutely tremendously over the almost 11 years (!) that I was there. :) And I will miss it dearly (I already do!) as it has been such a big part of my life!
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With love, t xxx

February 29th, 2016

Japanese kitchenware!

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Firstly, I was going to write ‘Happy New Year to you all~!‘ but it’s just so late for me to post this, it’s too silly right? But I do want to squeeze in a cheeky blog post before it’s March atleast, so here it is, on a leap day of all days!

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But seriously, can you believe that it’s almost March…??
Can I ask, how have you been doing so far this year? Have you acted upon your new year’s resolution? (that is, of course, if you’ve made one?)
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My new year’s resolution this year is to get fitter (cliché! I know! Lol…), so I have joined a local fitness club!
I must say, I’m pretty chuffed with myself for actually ‘really’ signing up to it! Y’see, normally I slack on these types of actions until the very decision get dusted under the carpet… (of shame…)
But! But! But! Not in 2016! No, this time I’m doing it, & to prove a point, I have so far been to pilate classes twice a week since the beginning of January already! Yay to me! ^^
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Anyway, as promised in my last post, here’s pictures of the kitchenware I purchased during my Japan trip! 
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1. Japanese fish scaler.
The phrase “… the scales won’t fly everywhere!” on the packet was the clincher for me! Try as I may, to my annoyance, the pesky scales ‘ping’ away high, so hopefully with this promising tool those days will be over…?!
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Japanese cfish scale remover kitchen tool / kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
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2. Cabbage shredder.
I l.o.v.e eating shredded cabbage! I will happily tuck in to a big mound of it, no problem! I love it even better when it has a guilty squeeze of ‘Kewpie’ mayonnaise on it…, &, &, oh,,,, whilst on the guilt trip, I might as well give in & accompany the cabbage with a calorific deep fried ‘tonkatsu’ (Japanese breaded & fried pork cutlet)… hmm…, writing this paragraph makes my craving go unmanageably wild… (cue the sound of stomach rumble.)
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Japanese cabbage shredder kitchen tool / kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
Anyway, whenever I have tried to cut the shredded cabbage manually with my knife, it is always on the thick side…, but… hopefully no more with this handy gadget! Airily fine shredded-cabbage-heaven is on the horizon…?
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3. Stainless steel water flask. 
Lol, this one, I had no intention of purchasing. It was meant to be one of those items that you pick up off the shelf to have a briefest of looks, & then put down, y’know, as you do when browsing a shop. Then…, I made the fateful action of having a peek inside…
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Japanese water flask with a smiley opening - www.cocoandme.comcocoandme_flaskwithsmile
Gahhhhh! Cuuuute… It’s got me~!
I imagined how every sip taken from this bottle will make me smile… like forever… & ever.** – SO it was off to the till with an item I had no intention of buying… I think it was helped by the ‘I’m on holiday, I might not come across this EVER again’ feeling. Do you ever get that? There’s something about being on holiday that makes one’s purse-strings loosen, don’t you think??
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4. Bento-ware
For the past two years I’ve been making packed lunches for my children to take to school – because they are not much of a fan of english school dinners. To make their bento, I have to wake up an hour before everyone else in the house, but I never really find it boring or tiring. I keep my interest up by having inspiring tools. Well that’s the excuse for these purchases anyway! Lol! ^^
So I bought:
– A set of plastic toothpicks in shape of stalks. If you pierce mini-tomatoes on the ends, it’ll look like cherries! Fun! ^^
– Two ‘furoshiki’ style cloth bags for transporting the lunchboxes. You tie the two ends in to a knot to close the bag! Simple & beautiful.
– Seaweed punchers. You can punch out cute facial features from a sheet of ’nori’ seaweed sheet & stick it on to ‘onigiri’ rice balls! My almost-teenage son wouldn’t dare be seen with such cuteness at his secondary school, so I’ll use these only for my seven year old daughter…
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Japanese bentoware / kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
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5. Stainless steel lunch box from Seagull
I’ve been lusting after a stainless steel lunch box for a while! Apparently theses are leak-proof. Super cool. ^^
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Seagull bento box / lunch box/ kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
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6. SpreadTHAT Self Melting Butter Knife with serrated edge
Made from thermal conductive titanium, this modern looking knife transmits the warmth of your hands to heat the knife itself! It makes spreading the straight-from-the-fridge cold butter effortless. I’ll enjoy using this! ^^
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Spread That butter knife/ kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
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7. Traditional “Jyu-bako”

And then, saving the best ’til the very last… – my best friend A surprised me with this beautiful present for Christmas!!! Wow…, I now own MY VERY OWN jyu-bako… I feel so grown up & proper…! ^^ Thank you Mrs.A!

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Japanese jyu-bako/ lacquered three-tier box kitchenware - www.cocoandme.com
It is a lacquered three-tier box called a “Jyu-bako”. It is traditionally used as a special food container on New Years Day, or on special occasions during the year, for example Japanese people might use it for ‘ohanami’ = which translates to ‘flower-watching’. Japanese people picnic feast under the cherry blossom tree in Spring.
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Talking of cherry blossoms, just last Saturday, I noticed that there were petals drifting in the air in front of my stall. For the initial second, I thought it was sprinkling snow because it was so c.o.l.d. that day, that it wouldn’t be so surprising that it did! Instead, it was nature’s gentle reminder that Spring is around the corner.
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Anyway, for now, best of days to you all,
T xx
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December 24th, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

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Merry Christmas to you~!!!!!!
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I hope this post finds you well! I wonder how you are spending your Christmas? (Or, if you’re reading this post-Xmas, I wonder how you’ve spent the day?)
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By the way, guess what, I’m currently in Tokyo!!!!!! :) The last time I’ve spent Christmas in Japan was…, I reckon something like over 25 years ago??? My gosh, this number kinda is freaks me out…

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So I write this years Christmas message to you on my iPhone, having just finished the Christmas Eve dinner with my parents. And I am rather un-elegantly rolled out on the sofa with an inflated tummy. Feeling quite uncomfortable right now actually…
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Tomorrow we are visiting my childhood friend A’s place for another Christmas do. Amongst other presents, I’m taking two boxes of Christmas crackers that I’ve brought over from London, which should hopefully be a ‘cracker’ with her crowd as it’s super-uncommon/ unknown here in Japan.  :)

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Anyway, it’s a short message this time to you, but stay tuned, I’ll hopefully post something new next month, as I’ve loads of kitchenware that I’ve bought which I want to show you!!!!!

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Til then, with happy festive thoughts beaming your way, T xx

September 14th, 2015

Coco&Me’s How Best To Whip Egg Whites

How to obtain high volume foam with stability

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me

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Getting the most out of your ingredients is, I think, one of the most delightful things to do as a baker or a cook. It brings out the best results (in our case, a fine & moist sponge that has high volume!) & because you know how to best approach the ingredients, you can progress with the baking in a relaxed, untroubled manner.
– I also think we can get a lot more out of the ingredients when we treat it with respect & use it to its full potential. By proceeding with respect & gratitude to our foodstuff for being available to us, the sense of pleasure from cooking with it & then eating it is tenfold.
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In terms of baking, whipping the egg whites is an essential technique.
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There are actually 3 distinct methods to whip ~ French, Swiss, & Italian way. Each are suited for different desserts. For example, the French meringue method is often used for sponge baking. The Swiss & the Italian method on the other hand are often used in cold mousses & cremes because the heat-process kills off bacteria, & makes it safer to incorporate.
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The French meringue technique is by far the most widely used in home baking, so for this post I would like to focus on that & tell you everything I know to make foam that is fine & stable.
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Fine foam = results in fine structured sponge (as opposed to course textured) that has a tender mouthfeel.
Stable foam = will not deflate so readily. Particularly vital for retaining the volume of the foam when folding in to the batter. It will also give you a bigger & fluffier sponge.
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So, below, I have written the ‘how-to’ in steps (in bold letters) with the reasoning behind each (in regular letters). It gets a bit too science-y, but hopefully I have managed to get it across well enough! Happy reading~! xx
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Coco&Me’s How Best To Whip Egg Whites
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1. 
Start with eggs straight from the fridge.
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I know some say use room temperature, & some say no, use refrigerated. ~ So here is the logic to both:
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The room temperature egg white is indeed easier to whip. It will trap the air easier because the surface tension is weaker. (= surface tension is the elastic tendency of liquids which makes them acquire the least surface area possible). But the downside is that the foam is less stable/ easier to deflate because it is not as viscous/ thick.
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Whereas, for the cold whites, although it takes longer to whip (because it is thicker), the foam will come out stable. You will be able to create a much finer foam too, as, when you whip the stable foam, you are successfully splitting it to smaller multiples without it deflating.
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= Using cold refrigerated egg whites wins the competition.
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Some patissiers even go as far as putting the egg whites in the freezer until it is 1~4 degrees centigrade so that they have the added effect of having a head-start.
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2. 
Separate the egg whites in to a dry clean bowl that is not plastic. – Make sure you don’t have any broken yolk residue. 
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The reason for both has to do with lipids (another word for ‘fats’.) The fats contained in the yolk & any trace amount of oil on the surface of your mixing bowl has the negative effect on the foaming properties. 
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To explain why, I first need to tell you about what happens when you whisk:
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When you whisk the egg whites ~ which is made of about 90% water &10% protein ~ the tangly globular balls of protein uncurls. This is a process called denaturation, & as it uncurls, it exposes it’s long strands of amino acids. These amino acids has two distinct ends; the water-loving ‘hydrophilic’ & the water-repelling ‘hydrophobic’.
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As the 10% protein uncurls in the 90% water, it aligns itself inbetween the water & the air, because of the hydrophilic/ hydrophobic nature. – Meaning, it immerses the hydrophilic end to the water, & sticks the hydrophobic end to the air.
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Upon whisking air in to the egg whites, all the while, the uncurled strands get busy to attach to it & consequently traps the whisked in air within its new tangle. This tangle is now a network which crosslinks & holds its shape, stabilising the foam.
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It’s a little difficult to grasp in words, so have a look at my diagram below:
Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
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Getting back to why lipids (such as fats from yolk & the grease from the bowl) inhibits the foaming properties is because it interferes with the protein that want to make a stable network. Namely, the air bubble & the lipids are in competition for the water-repelling hydrophobic protein.  
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As for why plastic bowls are not a good idea to use is because plastic is a porous material, & sometimes it can have residues of fats from the last use, even if you think you have washed it well.
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3.
Firstly, on the lowest speed, loosen it up. 
The egg whites has two parts ~ the thick viscous portion that used to surround the yolk & then the other part which is watery. It is best to first whisk those two parts together to blend it. This is because the watery part gets foamy quicker as it has less surface tension (same explanation as in step 1). When the two parts are blended, they foam at equal speed.
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(First on lowest speed!)
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4.
When most of the liquid has turned fluffy white, & the foam starts to cling to your whisk, put in the first 1/3 of the sugar. Then turn the speed to high. 
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Ready for the first sugar to be poured in!)
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The timing at which you add sugar is very important. If too early, the foam will not stabilise & will be syrupy. And if too late, the water within will leak. To figure the timing for sugar, it’s best to understand the role of sugar in egg whites.
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Sugar is hygroscopic (= it attracts & holds water molecules from the surrounding environment).
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When you add sugar, the water content of the egg whites is withheld. The water becomes viscous/ thick & elastic. This thickened water has a stabling effect on the protein structure & holds the air bubbles in place.
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This viscous water greatly helps when the cake is in the oven, as, the water is so thick, it is difficult for it to readily escape as vapour. As a result, it holds the air bubbles in place while the cake structure is stiffening its shape around it.
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Which is all great news, but on the other hand, it is important to know that sugar has a negative effect on the foaming properties & results in reduced volume. If the water is too viscous, it is difficult to form the bubbles inside.
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This is why sugar has to be introduced in stages, with the right timing. The egg white has to be foamed enough to accept the inclusion.
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5.
The timing for the next sugar is when the volume has massed, & the foam is starting to get evenly fine. Put in half of the rest of sugar. The speed of the hand mixer should remain on high.
At this point, think about how your whisk is mixing it. The ideal way is for the whisk to incorporate as much air, right? So, if the whole whisk-head is submerged completely in the whites, it’s not catching in any air.
– Also, rotate your bowl so that you are whisking from every angle, & from every nook so that it foams uniformly.
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(The foam’s evenly fine! Next sugar please~! Whizzing on high.)
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6.
When you feel the foam is getting heavier & you can see stroke patterns, put in the rest of the sugar. – Nearer the end, when you think it has reached maximum volume, lower the hand mixer speed to low.

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue

(Soon as you can make strokes in the whites, put the last lot of sugar in.)

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Done? Wait… there’s one last step…)
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7. 
As a last step, whiz your mixer around the outskirt edges & tighten the foam to make sure that the foam is of equal fine-ness all over. 
In culinary terms this is called ‘serrer’. Foam on the outskirts tend to be less whisked. Because of that it tends to have a larger air bubble. In baking, it is best to have uniformly sized foam, as the larger air bubble will absorb the nearest smaller ones & become bigger (=’Coalescence’), giving you an unevenly textured sponge. 
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Don’t forget the edges~! Above picture is an example of how the edges have bigger bubbles, so make sure you whisk these big bubbles too!)
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Note A:
The ratio of whites to sugar:
When the amount of sugar is more than half of the whites, it is recommended to add sugar in 5 stages, not 3. This is because you’ll want to give each sugar inclusion a chance to melt before the next. – On the other hand, if the amount of sugar is less than 1/3 of the whites, the foam will be unstable & would not keep shape so well. The bubble will collapse too soon as it bakes & the sponge will come out too dense. I often hear of ladies with health conscience cutting back on sugar in the recipe, but I don’t recommend messing with it. But then again, so long as they don’t blame the recipe itself, it’s their cup-of-tea in the end I suppose…, right?
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Note B:
About adding a pinch of Cream of Tartar & lemon juice or vinegar:
It’s all about the science-y pH balance…
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The pH is measured between 0 to 14. 0 being ultimate acidic, 14 being ultimate alkaline. Lucky number pH 7 sits in the middle at neutral.
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Our egg whites in question is sitting around pH 8 to 10 (Actually, more precisely speaking, fresh egg is pH 8, & older egg is at pH 10 as the acidity escapes from the pores of the egg shell during storage). Meaning, it is slightly on the alkaline side of the scale.
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Lemon juice & vinegar is very acidic. They sit on a pH 2. Cream of tartar is at pH 4. Each number on the scale is 10 times more either way each time, so you can just imagine how super acidic these are.
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In terms of whipping egg whites for baking, the protein strands (as explained in Step 1) react better when it is near pH 4 to 6. From this you can understand that when you add lemon juice/ vinegar/ cream of tartar,  you are readjusting the pH so that your egg proteins have a better chance. Note of warning though – too much added will have an inhibiting effect on foaming.
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When I bake, I personally don’t bother with lemon juice/ vinegar/ cream of tartar. I like preciseness, so when a recipe calls for a ‘pinch’, it is too vague for me. But, if you are to use any of these ingredients, I would suggest that cream of tartar is probably the best option of the lot, as it is the least acidic at pH 4.
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Note C:
Should sugar be added in the middle or the side of the bowl?
Quite some years ago, I came across somebody’s food blog, boasting about how adding from the side of the bowl was her idea, & how the method caught on. “…as dumping sugar in the centre would deflate the foamy whites.” Firstly I should point out, that that is wrong. Please pour in the sugar in a slow steady stream in the centre. If whipped correctly at each stage, the weight of a bit of sugar will not deflate any foam. The major problem when adding from the side of bowl is, it is a lot more difficult to get your whisk to, & because of that, you might have granular bits that hasn’t been incorporated sitting on the side, which would make your whites syrupy.
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Lastly, my personal take:
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Here is what I believe makes a baker create the best foam. And that is… ‘Imagination’. ‘Observation’. ‘Taking pleasure’. ‘Repetition’. 
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In this particular case with whipping the finest foam, imagine how the actual air can be best incorporated.
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For example:
After reading my guide above, you now know that sugar makes the foam stable, but at the same time, if too much too soon, it inhibits it, right? So observe the foam you’re whipping, & imagine the bubbles forming. Do you think your protein network is tangling well? Imagine the new air bubbles created – popPOPpop! Oh you need more sugar? OKAY! Let’s pour more sugar in! Let’s trap the next batch of air!
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When the whisking is done, feel the pleasure in how the bowl has gotten heavy with so much air inside. You’d be really amazed with the difference in weight. Take pleasure in the confirming moment that ‘air’ is actually ‘heavy’. Smile at how well you’ve managed this task!
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Every week, I whisk about 25 egg whites in one go for the 6 flourless chocolate cakes for my cake stall. I make this in a huge huge bowl. When I succeed with whisking the best foam, I notice that my cakes are taller, & it looks good. I also get a bigger yield from it which could mean a sale or no sale for me! ^^
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Ofcourse, like anybody, my skills were not good in the beginning, but over the years, I’ve gotten better. Good enough to now be able to write this ‘how to’ article. With baking, practising, practising, practising is the only way to success. Like learning a piano perhaps or riding a bike, you’ve got to practise it repetitively to get better. You can’t expect it to be amazingly perfect the first time round. No one is a superman or a superwoman!
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June 4th, 2015

10 years at Broadway Market

fruit tart with thank you message - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market London E8
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“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein
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Dearest readers,
“Time” is a funny notion don’t y’think – sometimes it stretches & drags, sometimes it flies by so quick you’re left wondering where on earth it’s gone…
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I started my stall at Broadway Market exactly 10 years ago today on Saturday 4th June in 2005. At the time I was 29 years old, my son was only 1 & a half.
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Would I have believed you if you’d told me at the time that I’d still be doing my stall throughout my 30s?
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During those years, I gave birth to my daughter – she is now already 7. I worked at the market when I was pregnant with her. She is a child who felt the whirls of the kitchen hand-mixer while in side my stomach. And withstood the cold in the winter as I stood behind the stall.
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I remember that the first 6 months after her birth I took time off work.
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<< The market organisers kept my stall space for me while I took the break, which I am grateful for. The market where I am is very considerate like this, & supports a small scale business like mine. The reason why I love Broadway Market is because it has the spirit & the soul at it’s core, & is not crazily money driven like some others. – A small-scale seller like myself would certainly not have continued for 10 years otherwise. >>
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I still vividly remember, at the end of the first day back at the market, I held my baby daughter in my arms, & walked through the adjoining London Fields Park to join my son who was playing in the playground at the far end. It was a beautiful evening, the late summer sun was still high. I eskimo-kissed my daughter (=nose to nose rub) as we walked. She beamed back a happy smile. It was the longest I had ever been away from her since she was born, & as I eskimo-kissed, I felt the most fully charged kind of love. It mushies up my heart whenever I think back.
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Both children never really complained about me working. They’d question it, yes, but they understand when I explain to them that the more effort in making the cakes to sell, the more money we’d have to spend on ourselves with lovely food & lovely toys (^^). My cake selling business is a simple logic to understand don’t you think? The more you try, the more reward you receive.
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Ofcourse, I have always set a limit to how much I do ‘try’.
I have always fiercely protected this balance of family-life / work ratio. Because it’s a careful balance ~ as soon as one fares heavier, it won’t work. I’d be stressed to fit it all in & that would resonate to everyone around me. (And I’m not easy to be around when I’m stressed out! ^^) I appreciate that I can work from home (except Saturdays on the market). I have never missed school events like Sports Day & parent participation hours, & I would want to keep it that way.
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In 10 years many many things happen. Certain memories never leave my mind. I’d like to share with you the following two events, which, even though it happened many moons ago, has stayed with me:
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There was once a young man who worked in a nearby cafe. I never really knew him well enough, I think the longest conversation I ever had with him was 10 minutes at best. We’d just chit-chat about nothings, but both of us being Asian, we got on well. He was a troubled man though. On a sudden occasion, he ran under my stall table & cried. Alarmed & worried, I peered in under the table but he would not talk. My white table cloth drapes over the sides & it shielded him from the outside world well, so I let him be there. Except, he wailed loudly. It was mid-day, I had customer after customer buying cakes. People were confused but I just lightly shook my head & gave a concerning grin, which stopped them from asking any questions. Soon he stormed out to run to elsewhere. The following Saturday when I saw him again, he said he was okay. And ever since, he seemed just that, ‘okay’, but about a year later, he decided to end his life. I feel sorry that I didn’t act upon his cry of help, perhaps I could’ve helped him. – Now & again, I find myself suddenly thinking of him.
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In March 2011, there was the big earthquake & tsunami in Japan. It happened on a Friday. It was 2:46pm in Japan, but was 5:46am in UK. My parents woke me up & the whole family hit the telly to fathom what was going on. We were all so shook up. But Friday being my baking day, I set to work, though half-heartedly. I had the BBC live news on all the time on my laptop & tears would uncontrollably roll down. I was baking, which seems to me such a peaceful act to do & yet images of complete disaster was repeatedly running the screen. Sandwiched between the two distinctly different realities I wondered what I could do. I would donate, yes, so I looked online but the Red Cross had not yet set a page. Probably too busy dealing with the situation on hand, I thought. So I set up a donation page myself & put up a post on this blog. It raised $3699 (around £2400). Donations up to $100 from people I did not know were coming in. I also had a collection box on the stall for over a course of several months which raised £272. Some customers would put a £20 note in to it. The generosity of everyone who donated was so overwhelming. – The day after the earthquake, I was at the market. First thing in the morning, the only other Japanese woman (from the Italian cheese stall) & I hugged & cried together.
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Blog:
In October 2006, over a year after starting the stall, I stated writing this blog. Although I have been writing it sporadically, I have been lucky to have some people read it over the years, which I am most grateful for.
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Moreover, several readers have made their way especially to the depths of East London to see me at the market. Recently, there was a family from Belgium who kindly said that my Paris trip report was useful. And just last Saturday, there were 2 senior ladies from the WI. (WI is Britain’s largest women’s organisation). My recipe for scones which I had published on this blog was what brought them to see me at the market! :) How happy these visits make me feel…!!!
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Also, thanks to Mrs.C who have been reading my blog, I have been invited to Paris to do a chocolate workshop too! How special was that…!!!
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I turned 39 over a month ago. Age never really bothered me before, I always held the stance that it is just a number, it’s actually about how “you” carry your life. A person that has confidence will shine a lot brighter & is a lot more attractive & will murk anyone’s guess of your real age. But somehow, what with 40 being around the corner & it coinciding with the 10th year at the market, I do, on this occasion, feel a little stirred to analyze my standpoint.
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I am not sure of what’s going to happen in the future. Circumstances have changed slightly this year, which has tipped the balance slightly. Currently I am testing wether the new way of things are feasible or not.
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I can say, the 10 years that has passed was busy but truly fulfilling. The time I spent went by quickly, but was thick & dense with many things that happened.
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After all these years though, I am still where I started, at Broadway Market. Perhaps the only tell-tell sign that the time had passed is that my son is now tall as I am. And that the two sisters who used to come to buy cakes with their pocket money are now proper adults! Otherwise I remained the same. It just goes to show that I have been comfortably happy in what I do there.
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I have many people to thank for making my 10 years at Broadway Market a comfortable stay. Mr.D for driving, & my parents for looking after the children. Mrs.A for starting the business with me in the first place. Broadway Market for being an easy market to be in. The customers who take their chance with their money & buy my cakes, & the loyal regulars that keep coming back, who have been my supporting spine. There are other market stall holders that I have become friends with too, without whom it would be unthinkable to keep at this for so long – especially Mrs.S who I wish was my real mother. Then of course I must thank the blog readers, especially to the ones that have been leaving amazing comments that keep me going strong!
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You are all people who I rely on to give me great deal of support & comfort. *Thank you.*
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Tamami xoxo

January 7th, 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

Outdoor ice skating at The botanic garden - Park Planten un Blomen (plants and flowers) - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(We did outdoor ice skating at the botanic garden, Park Planten un Blomen in Hamburg!)

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Walking in the winter forest. In Hamburg, Germany  - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com (And went for a walk in the beautiful forest where our favourite friend Mr.A lives. The temperature was below freezing but nevertheless really enjoyable. The air we breathed was crisp, & the frosty grass made a crunchy sound with every footstep we made. This was a sharp contrast to the ears in the noiseless calm of the well-established forest.)

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How are you all?

Did you have a nice Christmas?

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This winter holiday, we traveled to Hamburg in Germany again to see Mr.D’s folks. Spending Christmas there is always super nice. It is an abundance of good food, good laughs with good company, followed by a good rest ~ what Christmas should be about, right? ^^ And to top it all off, we even had a sprinkling of snow at the end of our trip too!

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Just like last time, we stayed at one of his sister’s, at Ms.S’s, who I really enjoy talking with.

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Ms.S & I share similar preferences for types of food we eat, & we both have a large appetite for knowledge of food. In fact, she herself is a Macrobiotic eater (has been for many moons before Madonna made it fashionable!) & currently organises workshops & teaches macrobiotic practices. It was a pleasure to be at hers for eight days & to eat her home cooking. I found it educational to see that she uses rice malt syrup for sweetener, which I am a big fan of now. And I got to know how to cook the most perfect brown rice like she does:

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How to cook short-grain brown rice Ms.S’s way:

(Pressure cooker version)

1. Measure the rice in cups.

2. Gently wash in cold water until the water runs clear.

3. Put in 1.5 times water to the cup.

4. If possible, allow to soak for 1 to 12 hours.

5. In a pressure pot, bring to a boil & when bubbles appear, add a pinch of salt per cup. 

6. Close & lock the lid. When the pressure valve is showing a single red ring, adjust the flame to low. (note: the pot should boil softly to himself, not hiss.)

7. If the rice has been soaked, cook for 40 to 45 minutes. If not, first bring it slowly to a boil (20 minutes) & let the pressure cooking commence a few minutes longer than specified.

8. When ready, turn the heat off & let the pressure drop naturally.

9. Open the lid. Gently mix the hot rice from bottom to top with a wooden spatula to ventilate.

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After dinner one night, I had a strong pang for something sweet. So I decided to make an impromptu Japanese snack with the leftover brown rice. It’s a fairly simple recipe – You shape the rice into mini discs, pan fry them in oil at high heat, & when done, coat it in a sweet soy sauce & syrup marinade. Then eat it while still hot! – The rice cake is deliciously crispy & crunchy on the outside but still soft on the inside. I also love the combination of saltiness of the soy sauce & the sweetness from the rice malt syrup.

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How to cook Coco&Me’s impromptu Japanese brown rice cake:

1. Mix in some flour into the leftover rice (by roughly at 1:15 ratio of flour to rice). Combine until no visible traces of the flour.

2. Next, have ready a marinade of soy sauce & rice malt syrup (or use granulated sugar). Try a 1:1 ratio, but you can exercise your own sweet preference here.

4. Plop a spoonful of the rice mixture between two pieces of cling film. Pat it to 3mm thickness or thereabouts. (Be careful not to make the rice too mushy when you press down!)

5. Pan fry at high heat with a generous amount of neutrally flavoured oil. It’s ready when it’s crunchy.

(Note: I’ve only made this with short-grain rice so I don’t know how it’ll turn out if you use other types.)

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For a night though, we stayed at our best friend Mr.A‘s forest house, who always makes sure to make time to see us when we’re in Germany, of which we are so grateful for. Eating dinner at his is always a special pleasure – especially because we eat with a full set of vintage Rosenthal crockery of same design. (Such a stark contrast to my precariously stuffed mishmash collection of crocks…!) – In the evening, he barbecue-grilled some pork neck fillets for us outside in sub-zero. Was it this I wonder, that made it the most soft & the most succulent pork I’ve ever had? (It really was – I was raving on about it.) It’s tenderness reminded me of the ‘low temperature oven steak’ (oven roasting the meat for 5 hours at 80 degrees) that a friend of ours, Mr.T, cooked for us some time ago.

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Two more pics to share:

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HABA Nutcracker toy with a bowl of walnuts & hazelnuts - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

One of the things I noticed in every German homes I visited is that there’s always a large bowl of walnuts & hazelnuts still in it’s shell for easy picking during the day. What a great idea! So soon as we came back to the UK, I copied. This is my small version in the bowl Ms.S gave me this Christmas. The HABA toy on the right is a nutcracker tool – I think someone in Mr.D’s family gave it to us when our son was born? My memory escapes me on this one, oops…

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Gluhwein at a Christmas Market in Hamburg, Germany  - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Germany, & there are loads of stalls popping up for the festive season. Walking in to a Christmas Market in the evening, choosing the most attractive looking Glühwein stall out of many, then finding a space by the counter to perch against is all part of the festive fun. Standing in the cold, cheeks getting glowy pink, cupping a hot mug with gloved hands, sipping a sweet Glühwein… Ahhh, Christmassy heaven! Not bad…, not bad at all! :) :)

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I hope that this post finds you well, & I wish you a happy, healthy & prosperous year ahead.

 

Tamami xoxo

December 2nd, 2014

A day in a life of this market stall holder

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Seven am. I always set this time.
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That’s the time when the alarm tone from my iPhone goes off, but five hours of sleep isn’t enough (I typically finish work around 2am on Friday nights) so almost every time I struggle to wake. Every morning I hit the snooze button & sleep for ten more minutes. That ten minutes feels so prescious somehow… 
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It is around ten past eight that we leave our kids to the grandparents & make our trip to the market. As Mr D drives, he sticks his hands out of the window & manually pulls out the radio antenna on the car roof. We start to listen to the Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio. The witty light hearted talk makes us smile & it’s a great way to start the day. After a while though, we think that the adverts inbetween are so frequent & obtrusive (why are radio adverts so shouty & the jingles so horrible?) that we switchover to BBC Radio Four in the meantime. I love it that there are no advert breaks on this one. Its pure solidness on this station, tackling a more serious subject matter. Sometimes we forget to go back to Absolute if the subject interests us.
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When we do arrive at the market, around ten to nine-ish, Mr D does several rounds of carrying the large cake trays from the car to my stall while I spread the table cloth amongst other tasks. I am so happy that he’s doing this – the cakes are actually rather heavy – & coming to think of it, it would be wouldn’t it when on a typical week I use about 5kg of butter, 5kg of sugar, 4 kg of chocolate, 1.5kg of almond powder, 1.5kg of cream cheese, 1kg of cream, & amongst other bits n’ bobs.
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By the time we arrive at my pitch, my neighbouring stall holders are already there – the French cheese boys, Miss.K from the next stall, Mr.R the meat seller, Mr.H the honey-man, Mr.M the artist who sells his prints. We all greet with a smiley hello & whilst setting up, we touch-base with how our week’s been folding out. 
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In the morning, Mr.M the artist bought two large tarts. Mrs.S the ladybird book seller bought another, & Ms.I, the gloves n’ bags seller followed suit with yet another large tart. Selling to fellow holders (especially in such a succession!) is a rather affirming moment, & it feels great. We all burst out in a guffawing laughter about how, having a stall near me is a curse or a blessing! Over the years, they come to me for their cake needs, & I am ever so grateful. 
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Despite the great start to the day, my spirits started to dampen as it began to rain. The damp air melts away the icing sugar that is sifted over the fruit tart & it doesn’t look so good anymore. And, when it rains so early on in the day, I worry that people would change their mind about coming to an outdoor market like ours. 
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Notably, in the mornings, I see the local customers out shopping before the maddening crowd descends on to the market later on in the day. They also know that they get first dibs with cake choices too, especially the large whole cakes which I only bake a limited number of. 
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One by one, the regulars start to drop in. 
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Always first is the shop owner who’d been purchasing a slice of ‘flourless chocolate cake’ from me the past nine years. Yes-yes, I didn’t type it wrong, nine years, & that is every single week without fail! As much as it is a ritual for her, it is a ritual for me to sell to her. 
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The ‘flourless chocolate cake’ has its own fans. There are two more notable customers who buy whole 8 inch ones at the pace of once-every-two-weeks. I’m guessing these men have also been purchasing like this for the past four years or so? – One of them, a man who, I guess is slightly younger than my dad, drops by. This week is the ‘no purchase’ week. Regardless, he stops by & makes a point of saying hello to me which I appreciate. The subject we talk about is always sports & fitness. The man is a rigourous excerciser and goes to those super tough spinning classes (fitness-cycling to pumpy music) too. When we talk, he gives me great advice on my fitness quests & how to stay motivated. 

The carrot cake couple is next. It’s always a slice or two of carrot cake for them. Although once, they took a whole one all-the-way to Italy! In their hand-luggage, being careful to keep it upright. :)
I joked “hello stranger!” to them with a cheeky wink as I hadn’t seen them for a while. It happens they were on holiday! Lucky them…! 
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After that, it’s Mr.Xmas, who is so tall that he has to crouch slightly to peer through the bunting that is hung on my stall. Why’s he called Mr.Xmas? It’s because he is the only customer who gives me a Christmas card! Two years in a row now! What a sweet guy. – Almost every week he drops by. I used to ask “The usual?” which are two fruit tarts, but now, after 3 years (?) of the same selection, he also buys a slice of carrot cake.
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As I was cutting a whole chocolate cake in to slices for the biker who wanted to fit it in to two tupperwares, a lovely blog reader Mrs.R dropped by too. Her opening line to me was “I came from Manchester to this market to see you!”. Woooooowza! Thank you!!! Afterwards, my stall neighbours all clammer to find out. They simply can’t believe how a small-scale cake-seller like myself can receive visitors coming from all over the place, & to be honest, me too, it’s such a wonderful wonder.  
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Around four pm, it starts to get dark & the kebab shop opposite turn their shop sign lighting on. It’s using strip lights so it gives off a bluish white hue. The cheese stall behind me has their own lighting using tungsten light bulbs, & it’s a warm yellow hue. Both sources of lighting shed enough brightness on to my stall, & standing between the two is sufficient to see me through until the 5pm closing time, by which time it is completely dark.
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Pretty much bang on four thirty pm, I consider an end-of-day sale depending on how much cakes/ truffles I have left. I would obviously like to say to you that I sell out every single week but the truth is, some weeks are great & some weeks not. That is the name of the game. It could be that the weather was not great, or that it is a week before people’s payday.
– Having a sale brings a different type of crowd. And a crowd it is at times! It’s a speed-talk of “Yes, who’s next please?! Yes, you’ll be next.” as people clammer in front of the stall. Psychology seems to go that if there’s a crowd, it is more desirable. The people attract more people.
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By five pm, I have packed up & it is leaving time. If I have any cake bits left, I give them to nearby stall holders. Mr.R the meat seller gives me steaks in return & Ms.V from the fish stall gives me beautiful salmon. The cheese boys give me good discounts in their shop too, so in a way, it’s not all wasted. 
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Mr.D comes to collect me, sometimes with the children. They all help with carrying the bags to the car. And in the car, we talk catch-up with how our day had been. How the kids did at the Japanese Saturday School, how Mr.D did with his swimming & how I did at the market. I tell them about special blog visitors, & about some friends if they have visited. 
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If there is no Arsenal match on, we manage to get home before six. But no rest for the wicked as one says (but what have I done?), & I get back in to the kitchen to cook dinner. Saturday night’s menu is often Mr.R or Ms.V’s exchanged goods, with Japanese rice & a few veggies on the side. 
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For the rest of the evening, I just plonk myself on the sofa like a sack of potato. Full from dinner, in the comfort of home, with no more immediate duties to do, I finally relax. I desperately mean to stay awake & make use of the time, like watch a film for once, or read an article I’ve been meaning to read, but it’s not ever like that. Given a chance, my body says sleep! & so I end up napping on the sofa… After a while, I make my way upstairs to bed. On my way though, I pass the kitchen & I remembered that I bought a jar of English honey from Mr.H. It’s the same brand as the spoonful he kindly gave me when I was suffering from a cold the other week. – With a sleepy mind, I think to myself ‘tomorrow morning I will have honey on toast’.
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October 21st, 2014

Two pictures

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Two pictures to share with you:
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an alternative design for an apple galette. Chain link pattern on round puff pastry. Caramelised apple sauce. Tamami. www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me

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Sometime ago, I was playing around with an alternative design for an apple galette.

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The recipe goes something like this:

1. Peel Granny Smith apples & thinly slice with a mandolin.

2. The raw apple slices are too brittle to loop in to pattern, so blanche them for 1 minute, then dunk in cold water to stop it from cooking further. (This method also stops them from oxidising & turning brown!)

3. The chain design only works with similarly large slices, so to use up the unused end scraps of apple, make a caramelised apple mix which will go in-between the apple chain & the puff pastry base.

4. Use an apple corer to cut a circle in the centre of the apple slices, then loop them up to make a chain pattern.

5. Then assemble that on puff & caramel mix, & bake…

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… The recipe itself was a definite success, super moreish, the caramel layer really made it special together with the flakey puff pastry. But the chain design was too fiddly to say the least. Perhaps I’ll ditch the pattern idea & go for a more universal look after-all, like how others do it, layering the slices like roof tiles, so that I can share the recipe properly with you one day…?

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Gifts from Paris - Chocolon (chocolate covered macaron) from Sadaharu Aoki Paris and Mendiants Chocolate bar from Alain Ducasse. www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me

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Last Saturday I had a surprise visit from Mrs.C & her husband Mr.E from Paris! :) :) :) It was a super happy moment. :) :) :) Smiles (Mrs. C), smiles (Mr.E), smiles (Me) !  It was really great to catch up on each other’s news! The extra surprise was that they’d brought with them a gift for me too! Wow… thank you… It was chocolate-coated macarons from my favourite Japanese patissier Sadaharu Aoki, & a mendiant chocolate bar from the one & only Alain Ducasse! I own cookbooks by both of these men* & absolutely respect them, so believe me when I say that these sweet things are highly valued by me & will be truly enjoyed, ~ slowly…, not a single crumb will be wronged by landing anywhere other than in my mouth.

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In fact, why not try one now as I write. Oooooh… (fingers dancing over the macarons), let’s see…, the…, yes, the mac with the red top. Ah! Raspberry! Or should I say ‘framboise’ since it’s from France. ~ (sigh) I needs me a trip to Paris again .Yep… (scoff), yep… (munch).

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* Here’s a confession ~ I’ve not counted (& I dare not want to ~ it’ll be a bad reality check of my spendings), but I think I have around 150 food-related books in my bookshelf… When I’m ‘in’ to something, I like to get ‘in’ to it knee-deep obviously. Lol… Recently I’m ‘in’ to dropping in to the local Oxfam Bookstore (a charity second-hand bookstore here in UK) to check their latest offerings. Last time I was in there, I bought a signed Raymond Blanc book from 1991 for £5. The pictures are a little dated, but every single one a fantastic, no-nonsense recipe. I’m learning a lot from it, currently cooking from the vegetable section. I also plan on making the pumpkin soup from this book for Halloween! ^^

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