July 25th, 2007

Sadaharu Aoki – fruit tart

Coco&Me

My brother came back from Paris again, & as per usual, brought home 2 huge boxes full of cakes from Sadaharu Aoki! One of which caught my eye was this dinky fruit tart, with a petite pink macaron sitting pretty in the middle. Coco&MeThe picture on the right is the cake card with nutty chocolate cream smeared in the middle, which I realized that it was acting as a ‘glue’ to stop the pastry from slipping on the card. Technique to be noted!

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Taste verdict? Delicious. A big tick all round.
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Recently, at the market, something delightful happens. For two weeks in a row, I have had several Coco&Me blog readers come to visit my stall – one was all the way from Kent!
We had a bit of a chat – found out she found my blog after googling for a recipe for brownies. The cute lady then bought the said brownies plus some of the other cakes too. Dear lady, a small message to you – thank you for coming by, it made my day, & I really hope those brownies are up to your expectations…

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On a down note, the market itself has been so so lately – the weather’s been rainy, tinkering on between cloudy or downright pouring, & what with outdoor venue’s dependant on the outcome of weather, I’m not making fantastic sales.

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It’s such a down-er, that. Some weeks, I make a mistake of making too much – even if I had kept closely with the BBC weather site all week, trying to guess how much foot-count the market expects that Saturday…

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For two weeks in a row, I had some cakes left – say another 50 pounds or so worth. That’s when I debate wether to start shouting “cakes sale!!!” & “end-of-day discount on cakes!!!” But last week, when I did this, I felt embarrassed as I felt the attention of the people sitting at the cafe (directly looking on to my stall), & could clearly feel that they were amusing themselves on account of me. The more I shouted discount, & when no successful transaction was made, I felt under pressure…

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Therefore, soon as I sold my last cake with a stupid price tag, I fled the scene, a little disheartened. – It’s so difficult to gage how many cakes to make… Sometimes I have market days when I sell out before 3pm, but then there are days when things aren’t rosey. On a positive side, good days feel fantastic instead I guess, & my partner D’s happy when he finally gets his mitts on the left overs at home!

July 16th, 2007

Would Voldemort prefer rich tea or custard creams?

harry.jpg(Am I wrong or are these book covers pretty bad??)

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(Note: this post would only interest Harry Potter fans.)

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A bit of light-entertainment this week:

In the run up to the highly anticipated last-ever Harry Potter novel coming out, there sure is a H.Potter fever in the air. I’m getting my copy sent to me via amazon – so come the morning of July 21st (release date), no doubt I’ll be waking up early to run downstairs, in my PJ’s, to see if the parcel has arrived, maybe a bit like a little kid on Xmas day. Oh! Can’t wait!

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I found a hilarious online discussion on the UK amazon site, titled ‘Would Voldemort prefer rich tea or custard creams?‘. The very idea of Voldy relaxing with milky tea & biscuits (is he a dunker?) had me in stitches. Anyway, the discussion goes on for 11 pages, so I just copy & paste the first page of it, to give you a taster. Get ya self tea & several biccies & enjoy reading!
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Mr. Derri P. H. Stephens says:
I think Voldemort would be the kind of gut who eats custard creams, and he is deffinately a dunker.
And believe there is some evidence in CoS that proves he would rather a Maryland cookie to a Jammy dodger.
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John Goddard says:Rich Tea biscuits are a creation of pure evil. They hold out the expectation of a biscuit, but deliver a dry and shrivelled result. Surely Voldermort would therefore keep the custard creams for himself and provide Rich Tea biscuits for the death eaters…
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Daniel Roach says:

Voldemort is the personification of pure evil. It would therefore lead us to believe that although custard creams do have all the qualities of a biscuit a dark lord would indeed be suited to, they do not hold a candle to thier darker cousins…… the bourbon cream. Rich and pure in flavour, yet with a vile after-taste and disapointing air of being a factory staff room biscuit, the bourbon cream by name gives itself an air of elegance which would be apt as Voldemort hails from pure blood, tho is by muggle born. The bitter aftertaste can also pay dues to Voldemorts bitter and twisted persona, whilst the bourbon cream also holds rank as the darkest of the biscuit family.
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Anna Leeming says:
I agree with this. Rich Tea are not the kind of biscuit a Dark Lord would eat – after all, they are very bad for dipping (see Peter Kay at the MEN) – and he would be more likely to provide them for the less worthy of his followers while indulging in something which involves far more chocolate.

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Mary -Ann says:
You`re all way out. It`s got to be a Jacobs cracker, a nice piece of stilton , & a glass of unicorns blood !!!

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Harry C. Young says:
I would think he liked ginger newts because he disasscociates himself with anything muggle.

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D. Halliwell says:That is so funny John… i have had to pick myself off the floor i was laughing so much…nice one

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Alice says:
This is a really crummy thread, it takes the biscuit in my opinion!
Maybe Voldy would like cockroach clusters!
Hmmmm, we never see Voldy eat, except snake venom from Nagini milked by the fair hand of Wormtail!

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Weasley Fan says:
I don’t think Voldemort would like any biscuit with a soft centre! He seems more of a Hobnob guy to me. I can just see him sitting there with a steaming mug of Unicorn’s blood, wearing his fluffy Dementor slippers! :o )

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P. M. Fernandez says:
Nobody in their right mind could possibly prefer Rich Tea to anything!
Voldemort is not in his right mind.
Therefore he prefers Rich Tea.

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Amber R. Wahidi says:
What if he doesn’t see the point in eating. Senses all not in tack. Taste not being there.

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Ms. V. Lovatt says:
Voldemort seems like a luxury biscuit nibbler to me. The sort of twisted evil person that dunks ‘n’ munches his way through an entire packet of Cadburys Double Chocolate Cookies without offering you a single one, leaving you to lick your fingers and hoover up the crumbs when he’s not looking. I should imagine the biscuits are accompanied by a lovely cup of milky Camp coffee to dunk the biccies in. He probably has Pettigrew go fetch him some from the local Happy Shopper, lest he intergrate with the lowly Muggles. “Wanna biccie, wanna wanna wanna biccie NOW!!!!” (oh, hold on, thats Terry Pratchett)

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Mevance says:
lol @ biscuits I like a wee rich tea biscuit does this make me a death eater/slytherin?

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Emily says:
Oh Mr Derri P.H. Stephens..how you mock me! I stated I believe Voldermort would prefer rich teas to custard creams because:
1. I believe he is a ‘man’ (if indeed a man can be a man with a broken soul) with traditional tastes.
2. He does not have a lot of time to eat (his days are full of killing people, cursing people, planning evil things, etc) and anything other than a rich tea is likely to stick in his teeth and cause him to have to use a large amount of energy picking bits out of his teeth (the oats from hobnobs, the jam from the dodgers).
3. He is a man who ‘the whole’ is very important too (other than with regards to his soul)and a custard cream has a tendency to break in two.
4. He has long straggely fingers with very long nails that I feel would find it difficult to pick up and handle a custard cream – a rich tea is a easier biscuit to pick up for those with floppy fingers.
5. There are many varieties of custard cream (e.g. tesco, tesco value, asda, sainsbury’s, morrisons, happy shopper, etc) and so you never know quite what you’re going to get… whereas a rich tea is just a rich tea…Voldermort would hate to not know what was coming and what to expect…he is a man who likes to be ready…he likes to always be one step ahead.
6. Voldermort would sound like a pansy if he asked for a ‘custard cream’ whereas a ‘Rich tea’ is quite a masculine choice I feel.
And finally….
7. Voldermort has a new body now which he needs to take care of…as far as I’m aware custard creams are not sold in 25% less fat versions whereas Rich teas are…Voldermort needs to remember his new figure when he is making his biscuit choices. It would be no good if in the middle of the final duel with Harry, he died just because he couldn’t run away fast enough due to the consumption of two too many full fat custard creams!!So there we have it…Voldermort would prefer a rich tea to a custard cream.

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Googleplex says:
No….He’ll find all those special, vintage or relegiously special buiscuit, then eat them quickly, not favouring the taste by purpose- in front of whoever they are most important to…

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Emily says:
Yes but other biscuits have a tendency to ‘crumb’ whereas the grain of a rich tea is as such that it only causes a light powdering when first bitten in to….Voldermort would not look so ‘frightening’ and intimidating with a big bit of hobnob oat, digestive crumb, smudged custard, etc, on his lip!!.

Mevance says:
In reply to J. Vaidya I agree it would be a religious biscuit for voldermort. The only thing however I can think of is a bun a hot cross one.

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Ms. V. Lovatt says:
What about a Cow biscuit? Not too bad on the crumb front, just that weird biscuit sludge you get at the bottom of your cup of tea. But he could vanish that with a flick of his wand, I’m sure. They are also pretty old skool, a way for Voldemort to sit and relax, reminiscing about zee good old days. Although the cup of milky tea could spoil his image. (but the mug could have an evil slogan printed on it- something like “I enjoy killing people” or “This mug belongs to a violent wizard with psychotic tendencies” that sort of thing to balance it out.)

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Mevance says:
A cow biscuit..? I don’t remember them…I hav however consumed a fair few NICE biscuits in my time… mmmmm coconutty. I think Voldy would have a mug with ‘muggle free zone’ written on it

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Emily says:

Interesting suggestion…on a wizard version of a cow biscuit, would the cow move around the biscuit, often leaving the frame of the biscuit?

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Googleplex says:
he probably has some sort of weak side, so he might like those soft gingerbread biscuits you get in m&s with the thick icing- but he would change it so it looked like his sign- so that he can explain it away if any death eater (or JKR) walks in…

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Emily says:
And perhaps whilst sat by the light of his wand and the flickering of the fire in the hearth, with his mug of tea and evening biscuit, his ‘slippered’ feet would be those big gorilla feet slippers or perhaps Homer Simpson slippers?

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Emily says:
And perhaps he would appear to be reading ‘101 ways to kill someone with your eyes closed’ but inside the book he would have the latest copy of the Daily ‘Wizard’ Star hidden…checking out the hot witches on page 3 or ‘Woman’s Weekly’ which he has a subscription to for the knitting patterns???

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(Wanna read more? Read the rest at this link!) Credit to all these witty comment writers!!

July 10th, 2007

Children’s Birthday Cake – in shape of a fish!

Coco&Me birthday cake - fish

(Last Summer I was asked by my good friends N + C to make a birthday cake for their children! I jumped at the chance as it was the perfect opportunity to make this elaborate cake I’d been wanting to try!)

Coco&Me birthday cake - fish(stencil planning how the sponge sheet should be cut)

Coco&Me

(ps: Next time, I’ll make all the letter white! Dark choc is not that visible against the colourful fruit… By the way, can you see that the letter Y’s broken? I had to make it from X & N because I didn’t have any more Y’s… And, have you noticed that the A from ALICE is a bit wierd? Yes, it’s V upside down…)

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For this week’s blog post, blast from the past, I’ve uploaded some piccies from almost a year ago. It’s a wopping A2 size genoise sponge cake with fresh fruit topping! I took the idea from a recipe book called ‘Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes: Unwrapped – From the Cacao Pod to Muffins, Mousses and Moles

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The book suggests making chocolate sponge with cocoa powder, & honeyed greek yogurt for a health-concious spread, but I decided I prefer the simplicity of a classic genoise with light chantilly cream (whipped double cream), just like the strawberry cake I loved as a child in Japan (苺のショートケーキ).

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From this week I’ve taken on another job title – ‘english teacher’. Yep, me. English teacher. Can you believe it? Laughable right? I’m far from perfect in English (as you can tell from my awful writing on this blog), yet, I’ll be teaching to a Japanese lady every Monday from now on (that is, until she decides to run away)! Today was the first lesson, an hour & a half long, while my boy is at nursery. Went well I think, a big relief. So handy too – making a bit of extra dough (£10 per hour) that could go toward that evening’s dinner!
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I’ve been taking on other extra curriculum activities these days too. Last week I squeezed in baking another wedding cake, & I have promised another customer to provide serious amounts of cakes for a large scale party this August. Talking of things to do, this reminds me, I mustn’t forget that I’ve also been meaning to take process photographs of Pâte sucrée for the blog post from a couple of weeks ago

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July 2nd, 2007

I have a dream

hwcafe.jpg(Housing Works Used Book Cafe in New York is operated by volunteers, & the profits are used exclusively to help the homeless & people with HIV/AIDS. The welcoming environment has towering bookcases with new, rare, & dog-eared books. There’s plenty of comfy places to sit, & it has brilliant cafe serving drinks, cakes, snacks, & warm food. Good cause, good design.)

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Let me share with you today my friends, my dream.

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I have a dream that one day I own my very own shop. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with ever since my passion for chocolates & pastry became obsession.

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Exact ideas of it keeps changing, no, more like evolving.

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First it was a 100% chocolate shop selling my handmade bonbons/ truffles alongside the best & largest collection of chocolate bars from around the world lining one wall. I thought of tricks like “Top 10 Bars of the Month” & “Coco&Me Reccommendation” panels just like what you’d see done in large bookstores, & to make brands compete. I imagined it as the ultimate hub for serious chocolate lovers in London where they don’t have to sift through inferior brands to find the gems. – The working kitchen would be visible from the shop so that the customers understand straight away that the bonbons by the counter are all properly handmade. There’ll be me, moulding chocolate shapes in this kitchen, & I could organise demonstrations & workshops to be held there too. – The shop will also have a small cafe area to serve the best hot chocolate in town, & plated desserts such as warm chocolate souffle served with cacao nib clotted cream ice cream. – The shop decor would be :: clean but warm & comfy like visiting grandma’s old kitchen, slightly scandinavian in design, lots of quality wooden furniture, with original shaker stove with it’s black pipe work dominant.
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As my passion for pastry became too prominent for me not to ignore, the shop idea evolved to also serving cakes, etc. I would display the cakes just like I do at the market – on one long table. In the ideal world, I would live above the shop a-la “Chocolat” the movie. No wasting time with commuting in to work, & I’d also be able to be around to see my kid grow while I work.
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Then my fascination tentacles started to touch the subject of Tea & Coffee that I’d want to serve in my cafe. First off, I bought two dozen tea types from Whittards online (darjeeling, kenya, keemun, assam, lapsang souchong, white tea, etc). As I go through my stock of teas that will last me for many years to come, I read up several books on tea (about origins, how to pour the best cuppa, & how to appreciate each flavour).

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Next, I wanted to learn how to do latte-art, so I bought this fantastic book from amazon.co.jp called 女性トップバリスタが教えるエスプレッソ&コーヒー which has a teaching DVD of a barista showing you how to draw with the milk foam, aswell as the correct way of making different types of coffee with different equipments (ie: filter, syphon, etc). I really think that if a cafe served their cappuccino like the pictures below, you’ll be the talk of town for sure!

latteart.jpg(This latte art design is called rosetta)

kikicoffee.jpg(Any Miyazaki fans recognise this? Yup, this most amazing art is ‘Kiki’ (Japanese animation character), drawn with a tip with melted chocolate. – It’s to be found at the cafe of Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan. They also draw other famous Ghibli characters on your coffee, such as Nausicaä, Raputa & Totoro!)

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Anyway, to cut this rather long blog-post short, I’ll fast forward away all the other ideas I’ve been pondering on, & write about my most recent idea for my shop.

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The idea came when I saw an article on Housing Works Used Book Cafe in New York (see picture of cafe at the top of this post). First off, I fell in love. It’s the sort of place I would L.O.V.E to go to – even on my own. And that’s mighty special because I’m a sort of person that just CAN NOT go places alone because I’d be too conscious with the other people in the room, I just won’t be comfortable.
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When I found out about the HW cafe, I felt instantly that this was the ‘plus alpha’ that I was looking for. Y’know, that ‘something’ that makes a place special. I can imagine running a small patisserie in a used book shop. I love books, I wanna be surrounded by books, & the more I think about it, I really think that secondhand books are the way to go, what with today’s consumers are so much more conscious in terms of recycling!
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Currently, I’m pondering wether it should primarily be a “library” with a purchase option, if the customer decided to buy the book instead of borrowing it. I think I prefer it that way. Yess, a library with a very tasty patisserie/ cafe/ tea room! - I love that the Housing Works’ profits goes to a worthy cause, I myself personally donate to three organizations every month since 2 years ago, & I’ll want to duplicate their ethos & put the profits from the library part to a charity too.
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To be honest, there’s so much I want to do – I want to serve full english breakfast in the morning, I wanna do ‘afternoon tea sets’, I want to serve alchohol & open late in the evening, like til 2am. I’d organise events & workshops. I’m imagining the cafe to be a self-service style – they get a tray & I serve them from behind the counter. Easy style. It’ll be a quiet, cozy place with varied selection of books, where there’ll be comfy armchairs & proper desks to work on. Oh, & most importantly, clean bathrooms!

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Reality check:

I know that now is not the right time to make this a reality. Right now, I have a much more important project at hand: being a mummy to my little kiddo. I’m up to my neck with life as is now, so how could I possibly add any more projects?! I don’t know anything about running a proper business, & I certainly haven’t a budget for it! And so even though today & tomorrow, it won’t happen, I will like to think that I’m in the ‘process’ toward it. So with this faith, let me ponder away til then & keep on dreaming!