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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September 23rd, 2014

Summer holiday 2014 – Japan – PART 3

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(Printout of weekly lunch menu from a primary school in Japan)

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(The reverse side has diagrams of what vegetables are in season with a sentence or two about how they are nutritional. Nice little touch with additional diagrams of what these vegetables’ flowers looks like.)

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(Printout of weekly lunch menu from a Nursery school)

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As I was chatting with my friend T about food, ~ especially about the food culture in UK & about how in general, the people feed their family daily ~ she brought out two printed copies of the lunch menu from her childrens’ schools.

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When I saw this, I was… truly shocked.

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As one expects, obviously, every meal of the week is listed, but it was also boiled down to how many grams of which ingredient has been used in the dishes. Right the way down to how many decimal grams of salt.

~ Astonished? I was. And wait for it, there’s more – every meal had been calculated to let you know the total protein amount, the fat content, & the calorie intake.

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Although it delightfully baffled me as to why the Japanese school provided the menu to such super-precision, I definitely think that it is a positive step toward good-food awareness:

– Because, as a parent, you’re safe in the knowledge that your child is not fed something iffy. You can see that everything is made from scratch, from real ingredients with names you’ve heard of (compared to factory-made product names).

– Having to provide the ingredients list keeps the caterers in check.

– You can make a better judgement of what to make for dinner at home, so that your child has a balanced diet. i.e. if the school served pasta for lunch, you wouldn’t serve pasta for dinner would you?

– The menu also has some information about what vegetables are in season, & how they are beneficial to the body (the lunch menu itself also makes a point of using these seasonal produce). ~ Isn’t this fantastic? Imagine this information sheet stuck on the parent’s fridge. It’ll be a constant reminder about what is in season, & might lead them to buy & cook seasonal stuff more often!

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The Japanese school lunch menu is nothing near what you’d expect to get in England. Y’see, first of all, I don’t even get given menu printouts from my childrens’ school! Perhaps if I asked for it, they’d probably provide (all be it with a quizzing look I bet), but that’s not the point. The fact is, the parents in Japan are fully notified by automated default of what their child eat every-single-lunchtime. I like that, ~ it’s integrating good-food-eating close to everyone’s daily living, stripping away the stigma & the wall to obtaining food information ~ that surely can be a good thing, & must be one of the ways to elevate the standard of cooking.

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So I thought it important to share this with you. Sometimes, it’s only through observing how well it can be done elsewhere, that a change can be made for the better, don’t you think?

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

Above close up translated:

“Cucumber – characterised by crunchy mouthfeel & warty exterior. One of the fresh summer vegetable. “

“Pumpkin – Full of beta-carotene. Maintaining properties for healthy eyes & skin, Builds resistance. Lots of vitamin E & C.”

“The information on which area the ingredients are produced is publicised on the council homepage.”

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

Above left menu translated:

Summer vegetable & fried chicken in vinegar marinade. + Egg & tomato soup. + Bowl of rice. + Carton of milk.

Pumpkin… (green)… 15.00

Aubergine… (green)… 20.00

Chicken… (red)… 40.00

(Thick) Soy sauce… 0.80

Cooking sake… 0.50

Starch… (yellow)… 7.00

Oil… (yellow)… 8.00

Ginger… (green) 0.80

Brown sugar… (yellow)… 2.00

Vinegar… 4.00

(Thick) Soy sauce… 3.50

Cooking sake… 0.80

Mirin… 1.20

Water… 3.50

Egg… (red)… 20.00

Tomato… (green)… 20.00

Onion… (green)… 20.00

Parsley… (green)… 0.60

Salt… 0.50, Pepper… 0.03

(Light) Soy sauce… 3.00

Starch… (yellow)… 0.50

Bonito stock… 2.00

(Cold) Chicken bouillon… 2.00

Water… 100.00

Energy: 664 kcal, Protein: 22g, Fat: 24.2g.

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

On the bottom of the sheet, there was a text that says:

“Food also has a function as a medicine. Please chew well and try not to leave leftovers.”

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Well, I hope you enjoyed reading the last part to my report on Japan!

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Lastly, I just want to say, I hope you’re all well & looking after yourselves. Just last weekend, I had a bit of a health scare – I found a lump on my armpit. After a visit to the GP (local doctor), then to a specialist in a big hospital to do a mammogram & a scan, I was cleared, Thank God. It was some sort of skin infection. – In fact, I came home from the hospital with the good result just an hour ago, & maybe that’s why I’m writing this…, so please excuse this melo stuff. It’s just that, on the way home, I couldn’t stop thinking. I couldn’t stop thinking about how keeping good health means everything. How awfully difficult it could’ve been for my family if I was to fall very ill – it’s just beyond words. I was thinking about how I could “up” myself to a healthier lifestyle. I was thinking about how life is so precious & meaningful (lol, I told you this is going to be a bit melodramatic! Oh dear, I better cut this short before the violin starts playing!). So, dearest blog readers, please look after yourselves too, please take care of your body & stay healthy.

“You” mean a lot to yourself & to those around you.

T xx

September 3rd, 2014

Summer holiday 2014 – Japan – PART 2

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One of the places where I just “had” to go to while in Tokyo was a Kitchen Town called Kappabashi. It is a stretch of street approximately 800 metres, & it is lined with just kitchenware shops.

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Knowing I’d be wanting to shop there thoroughly, (& I mean ‘thoroughly’!), I really didn’t like the idea of going there with the children, including Mr.D (sorry). Listening to “Are you done yet?” & “Can we pleeease go now?” while considering which size pan to get is not my idea of a fun shopping experience, nor theirs.

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And besides, it’s such a specialised area, if cooking is not your ‘thing’, that 800 metres will probably be a mere 10 minute stroll for you, whereas mine can easily be 2 hours.

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Luckily for me, Mr.D agreed to take the kids with him to see a friend for lunch & also go get new glasses made for himself. (Glasses in Japan? Yes, it is much cheaper & quicker to make it there compared to in the UK.) – – So yesss! I had freedom! (Lol) In Japan! And the cherry on top was that my childhood friend A came with me to shop there without her children too! A girly outing buying kitchenware…, for me it is the best…

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Let me tell you a tiny little bit about my friend A (& in fact, about her mum too afterwards). We’ve been friends since age 14. And we did teenager-ey things together. ^^ – Sure, we’re actually very different people, we have diffrent friends, we listen to diffrent type of music, & have a different dress sense. But when you share such fond memories, I guess the strong connection transcends the years of  living in a separate country now. I remember, at the time going for sleep-overs, & oh boy, those super-lengthy telephone chats on land-line! Back then, handy little things like mobiles weren’t yet invented, so I’d often be strewn across my parent’s double-bed, casually stretching the telephone coil while talking about God knows what for hours-on-end. Something super-engrossing for teenage ears I guess…!?

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Anyway, I must say a big *hello~* to her mum Mrs.U on here! I recently found out that she has been regularly reading my blog! Isn’t this fantastic!? When I saw Mrs.U during this trip, she told me how she’d been making the french toast from my recipe. She also told me how impressed she was with me, which made me feel very proud & very happy. – Although it kind of made me blush a little. I remember once going for a sleepover to theirs with a peculiar clothes sense…, lol, I think it was a mixture of Grunge & a bit of Camden. Oh, dear teenager, how I envy that beautiful ability to self-believe…

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When I met up with A at Kappabashi, A told me her mum gave her some pocket money that is for me to spend, I was to buy whatever kitchenware I wanted. After a pingpong match of “oh no, I mustn’t” & “oh you have to, I’ve been told to spend it for you”, I did accept. So, here’s pictures of my kitchenware purchases from Kappabashi that Mrs.U has very kindly bought for me. Thank you Mrs.U! (The pictures also contain goods bought from a store called Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku).

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese tamagoyaki maker copper egg omelette traditional

Copper Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) frying pan.

I really wanted this!! I have a teflon one already, but this copper one is the don. You probably already know this, but copper has superior heat conductivity, meaning it gets hot speedily. On top of that, the heat distributes well, so that your food cooks evenly!

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So it’s my first ever copper ware! :) I’m so happy!! :) This pan is for making Japanese omelettes. You make it by frying a thin sheet of egg (just like when making crepe), which you then fold in to three. You then put this to one side of the pan while you make another sheet. When this next sheet is half-cooked, you fold it around the first, & then you repeat this process until you have a thick roll. Basically you end up with sheets of egg stuck together like a log. Think baumkuchen, only it’s rectangular.

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I make tamagoyaki often. I make it sweet by mixing in some sugar, & flavoursome by mixing in some dashi stock & soya sauce. It is a popular fixture for the bento I make for the kids. And I’m in love with the ritual of waking up early to make this, in a strange way it makes me feel like an “old-school Mam-ma” & I sometimes put on a nice apron to go with the occasion. (Does this make any sense?! LOL…Too much time spent in the kitchen makes for one’s madness!) Interestingly, quite often, my current state of being reflects on to the tamagoyaki. This dish needs your patience & full attention to cook each sheet, & so when I’m unhappy it doesn’t turn out well. On the other hand, when it does turn out beautifully, I  breathe a barely audible sigh of relief, revel in my competence & smile at my perfect tamagoyaki.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese cooking pot nabe beautiful silver dented pattern

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese cooking pot nabe beautiful silver dented pattern

Yukihira Nabe hammered pots.

Often used in traditional Japanese cooking, the sides are hammered to strengthen the pot, & create more surface-area to be heated. I also think it’s aesthetically pleasing too! :) And I’m a sucker for wooden handles anyways…!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese Kitchenware silicone cooking chopsticks miso stirrer rice scoop surikogi stick

From left to right:

– Silicone cooking chopsticks x 2 (I never used silicone chopsticks before, but I thought I’d give it a try!)

– Surikogi, a wooden stick used together with a grinding bowl

– Miso stirrer – to blend in miso paste in to your soup without lumps

– Rice scoop x 2 (from Tokyu Hands) which stands up

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese cooking kitchenware - otoshibuta wooden lid pot glove heat

From left to right:

– Super short oven gloves. I thought it’ll be cute to use when you take a dish to the dining table.

Otoshibuta. A lightweight wooden drop-lid. You place this in a pot that is bigger in diameter, so that it directly sits on top of the food. It is mainly used for simmering with less water. As the boiling cooking liquid hits the lid, it then reaches over your ingredient so it cooks evenly. It also holds down the ingredients in place so that it doesn’t dance around & lose it’s shape, which is especially useful when you have delicate potatoes.

The one I’ve got is zig-zaged on the other side to pick up on the scum from the surface of the broth. It’s important if you want the cooking liquid to be clear.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  Japanese Kitchenware bento box items goods chopsticks pouch furoshiki

My new bento-ware! (all from Tokyu Hands)

From top left:

– Bento pouch.

– 2 x silicone dividers used to divide food inside the bento box.

– 2 x wooden bento box. What I like about these is that the insides are carved out, & that there are no hard corners.

– 2 x wooden chopsticks in a portable case.

– Mini ice pack – (Moomin looking a bit cold!)

– Furoshiki – cloth wrap for the bento box.

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August 13th, 2014

Summer holiday 2014 – Japan – PART 1

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Arashiyama view

(Arashiyama, Kyoto)

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Hello~ dear blog readers! Long time no post, apologies! All’s been well our end, & I hope it has been the case on your end too! xx
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This summer we went to Japan for three weeks! It was a special trip for us because we hadn’t been back for more than NINE YEARS (!). – The last time we were there, our son was only ten months old. This time, we were also taking our six year old daughter for her first ever visit. I really wanted to show them how wonderful Japan is, make them fall in love with Japan. So I planned to show them many aspects, & organised our stay in Tokyo (big city), Kyoto (old city) & Norikura (nature).

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Here’s a bit about our trip told through some food pictures!
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In Tokyo, we stayed in a hotel in Shinjuku ward. We chose there mainly because there is a coach straight to it from Narita Airport which made the travelling with big suitcases & jet-lagged children easier.

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The hotel was the perfect choice as Shinjuku is well connected by many train lines, it made travelling around so much easier. We absolutely loved staying there – everything was perfect, including the hotel’s 28th floor swimming pool commanding an impressive view~!

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There were two options for breakfast rooms at the Hyatt Regency. Continental buffet style, & the traditional Japanese style. Both were of amazing standard.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Hyatt Regency Tokyo Hotel Egg Omelette Breakfast Buffet

Continental breakfast : As it’s a buffet style, you walk around choosing what ever you fancy eating. It’s easy to over-eat, going back for seconds (& thirds & fourths… LOL), but then again, breakfast is the most important meal of your day, so it’s alright! – Right?? ^^ – There was an omelette station, where the chef would make one to your order in front of you. I absolutely enjoyed watching how skillfully they make it, I observed at what timing they stop whisking & start tossing it to shape.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japanese breakfast - Onsen tamago egg on rice - yuzu soy sauce - Asagohan - Hyatt Regency Tokyo Hotel

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japanese breakfast - Onsen tamago egg on rice - yuzu soy sauce

Traditional Japanese breakfast: One word: gorgeous!

– On one side of the room, they had the rice cooking in individual earthenware pots. We ate in a serene room, listening to the gentle clatter of the lids as the rice inside reached its boiling point. We slipped an『温泉卵』(onsen tamago) on to our rice, then drizzled yuzu (Japanese citrus) soy sauce on it. Onsen tamago is an egg that’s been slowly poached in the shell. When you gently break it, the yolk is still very runny, & it heavenly oozes over your hot rice. It is a pleasure beyond words. The miso soup was with nameko mushrooms. A mushroom I don’t get to eat in U.K. ~ Happiness. ~

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Leaving the metropolis that is Tokyo, we headed to Kyoto by shinkansen bullet train. In Kyoto, we were lucky to be able to stay at our close friends T & P’s. They’ve been so kind, & so generous to put us up for so many days. xxx Thank you T & P! xxx

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Kyoto is described as a Bon-chi, a basin surrounded by mountains. Every direction you look, there are luscious green mountains & it is so beautiful to be reminded of nature all the time like this. But in the summer, the humid air settles right in to this basin – & it becomes especially HOT. When we were there, it was typically around 36 degrees.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Kyoto - Kiyomizudera - kakigouri - ujikintoki - ochaya

After a sweltering visit to the Kiyomizudera temple, we dropped by a tea-stop, & ate a dessert called『かき氷』(kakigōri), a perfect summer respite of shaved ice with flavoured syrup. Mine was『宇治金時』(ujikintoki), ice with green tea syrup & sweetened red bean paste. D’s was strawberry milk. He didn’t know that they pour condensed milk, & found it too sweet, so couldn’t finish it!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Kyoto - vending machines

Talking about how hot Japan was, I should also tell you about how there were absolutely loads of vending machines in Japan, selling both cold & hot drinks. Sometimes these machines were in front of people’s ordinary houses (I guess they get a cut??). The prices of the drinks were reasonable. A water bottle is around 110 yen (64 pence).

– In the squelching heat, it was handy to have access to cold water readily like this. It’ll be great to have vending machines on the streets like this in the UK too, but I have a feeling that it won’t be possible. It’ll be vandalised sooner or later I’m quite certain… :(

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Kurazushi - Sushi conveyor belt restaurant

For one of the lunches, we went to Kura-zushi, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant! And it was super fun! Most of the plates were 100 yen each, which equates to roughly 60 pence. YES, ONLY 60 PENCE FOR A PLATE OF SUSHI!!! O.M.G.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Kurazushi - Sushi conveyor belt restaurant

As you eat, you deposit the plate in the slot on the end of your table, & it counts how many you’ve amounted so far. Every 5th plate counted, there is an animated game on your touch panel (an iPad that is mounted on the wall). On very rare occasion, you win & get a small prize. (When we were there, the prize was a cute LED yoyo). We all went crazy for this system, kept eating many plates to slot in so that we can do the game. ~ Under the spell of the ploy to sell you more sushi? Oh, most certainly!!! :) But when a plate is 60 pence only, we were happy to go along with it! :) In the end, we ate 56 plates (there were two families), but even so, we only won one prize…!! LOL!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Japan - Kyoto - Hiyashi yama kake soba - cold buckwheat noodle with totoro

Another dish I had in Kyoto:『冷しやまかけ蕎麦』(Hiyashi yama kake soba). Cold buckwheat noodles in cold tsuyu broth, with grated Japanese yam topping. This Japanese yam, when grated is called “tororo”, & it is something I hadn’t had for a loooooooong time. I mean, like years. And Oh Boy, did I missed you tororo!

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Strawberry Banana French pancake

(Needless for a caption! Pancakes~!!! A meal in itself…!?)

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Saying goodbye to old friends in Kyoto was sad, especially because we don’t see them often, but we eventually moved on to Norikura in Nagano prefecture.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Norikura in Nagano prefecture - North Star Lodge - tatami room

We had a totally different experience, staying in a lovely tatami mat room at North Star Lodge. This hotel is very unique, it’s run by an English speaking crowd. Outdoor adventures is their main focal point, especially snowboarding in the winter season. Their living room has table tennis & table football. We had so much fun playing it, we were laughing so hard! ^^

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The breakfast & dinner is included in the stay. And oh boy, the chef there knows how to make good food. We were served locally picked mushrooms & vegetables. Water melon which is a local speciality. Homemade miso that one of the staff’s mother made.

Here, the children experienced Japanese communal baths for their first time. The stay there felt like a holiday within a holiday!! Loved it, the staff there were all friendly & we really felt cared for. I would love to go in the winter next time…

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Norikura in Nagano prefecture - river stream in Summer

(Nature everywhere in Norikura. We climbed mountains, hiked to waterfalls, played in the stream.)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Norikura in Nagano prefecture - Katsu Curry - Abbey Road

(Big lunch at nearby eatery! カツカレー 。Katsu curry. Deep fried pork cutlet with curry & rice.)

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We went back to Tokyo for the final few days of our trip. One of the many places we visited was the Ghibli Museum. It was the number one destination for the kids. They’ve seen most of their movies & love them. The exhibit at the museum was truly magical, we thoroughly enjoyed the visit.  – The cafe restaurant within was also really good too.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  The Straw Hat Cafe at the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo  - 『真っ赤なルバーブのさわやかスカッシュ』Rhubarb puree soda. With a “straw” straw, nice little touch, since the restaurant is called “straw hat”.

『真っ赤なルバーブのさわやかスカッシュ』Rhubarb soda, with a “straw” straw – nice little touch, since the restaurant is called “straw hat”.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  The Straw Hat Cafe at the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo  - 『とり肉と夏野菜をのせた、お日さまごはん』Summer vegetable with teriyaki chicken thigh, alfalfa sprouts, soft boiled egg. On a bed of mixed grain rice. Sesame seed soy dressing.

『とり肉と夏野菜をのせた、お日さまごはん』Summer vegetable with teriyaki chicken thigh, alfalfa sprouts, soft boiled egg. On a bed of mixed grain rice. Sesame seed soy dressing.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  The Straw Hat Cafe at the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo  - 『野っぱらのクリームソーダ』Ice cream float! Cream soda.

『野っぱらのクリームソーダ』Ice cream float! I used to l.o.v.e this soda as a kid! But I remember it used to be green, & had one of those freakishly bright red cherry on top. Blue version is kinda stylish!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me -  The Straw Hat Cafe at the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo  - 『ふぞろいイチゴのショートケーキ』 We finished off the meal with a strawberry cake. The genoise sponge was quite brown – maybe it is using unrefined sugar

『ふぞろいイチゴのショートケーキ』 We finished off the meal with a strawberry cake. The genoise sponge was quite brown – maybe it is using unrefined sugar. ~ It was very very tasty. ~ Strawberry cake is our family’s ultimate choice for cake, I make these for family birthdays, so I’m so happy we ate such an amazing one at such a memorable museum!

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I hope you enjoyed the tiny glimpse in to the food of Japan! In the next blog post, I’ll report about the shopping trip to Kappabashi kitchenware district with my childhood friend A! :) Stay tuned!! ♫

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Hope this post finds you well, T xx

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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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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

(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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(… 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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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 - raspberry jam filling

(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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www.cocoandme.com_Nuage & Caramel baked selection box - Coco & Me - Coco&Me - blog - homemade handmade marshmellows in a cloud shape - cookies - sable - biscuits - gift - Christmas

(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

Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Trocadéro Plaza

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

(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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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment - Hard polycarbonate chocolate mould - 3 dog

(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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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Angelina - famous cake - Paris - Mont Blanc eclair cake window display.

(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

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