September 14th, 2015

Coco&Me’s How Best To Whip Egg Whites

How to obtain high volume foam with stability

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

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

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

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

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

(♥ 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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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

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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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

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

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A spherical cupcake to take away!

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

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

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

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

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

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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

(Snuggly sitting in a mini-muffin case!)

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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 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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January 8th, 2013

Galette des Rois 2013

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

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

January 6th, 2012

Galette des Rois 2012

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Homemade Galette des Rois 2012 with leaf pattern - www.cocoandme.com

(Leaf pattern!)

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This year for Epithany, I made Galette des Rois from scratch again. Puff pastry & all. This time, leaf pattern. I think it looks country-esque & more like a pie compared to the swirly patterns on Parisian ones but I was wary of scoring those swirls as it needs to be so precise.

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Anyway, I’m quite pleased with the result, the puff pastry didn’t pull in strange angles & the galette came out almost perfectly circle! Phew!

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The ultimate tip when working with puff is PATIENCE.

Firstly, I know it takes a looong time to make, but the waiting time in the fridge mustn’t be shortened by haste. And after you made it, it also needs a 12 hour rest in the fridge before using it/ rolling it out. It’s all about resting the gluten in the flour, otherwise the pastry will shrink upon baking.

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Then when rolling, if you think that the pastry is getting too soft, you have to put it back in the fridge to cool before approaching it again. – Never let that multitude layers of butter melt, because it’s the butter (actually, it’s the water content in the butter) who does the all-important puffing/ lifting, when it evaporates under the extreme oven heat. This ‘extreme oven heat’ is key too. It needs to be atleast 200 degrees centigrade. Anything less than that, the layers of flour will stick together because of poor evaporation & the whole thing won’t rise like the way you want it to.

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So yes, resting it in fridge & keeping it cool while working. And oh, when rolling out, roll to all directions from the middle outwards (never back & forth), & also turn it over & do a bit of rolling on that side too. Yes, phew!

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(Cooled down sugar syrup (water & sugar 5:5) brushed on surface of just-baked galette for the shiny look! )

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No picture of it cut in to a slice, I’m afraid! We’re gonna eat it later with everyone & try find my fève charms, Lyla & Roger, doing their once-a-year duty of hide & seek!

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September 19th, 2010

Black Forest Gâteaux

Coco&Me - Black Forest Gateaux with recipe - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and MeThis wednesday I made a Black Forest Gâteaux.
Coco&Me - Black Forest Gateaux with recipe - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and MeI arranged the cherries on top to spell number 3, because I baked it to take to a 3 year old’s birthday party.
Coco&Me - Black Forest Gateaux with recipe - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and MeThe cake was constructed with Kirsch-syrup soaked chocolate genoise sponge layers with alternately piped kirsch chantilly cream & whipped chocolate cream. There are also lots of de-stoned black cherries (Kirsch-syrup soaked) hidden inbetween the layers.
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Wh, what? Booze soaked cake for a children’s party?? – Don’t worry – it was for consumption by the mums only. (There was a separate cake for the children, baked by the mum.)
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Actually, I especially made it for the birthday girl’s mum ‘A’, who’d been handing down bags n’ bags full of girl clothes for my daughter S. Literally tonnes of it!! And good stuff too, from the likes of Petit Bateau & Polarn o. Pyret, as well as cute vintage finds. I hardly ever buy new clothes for my daughter other than a few key pieces & some underwear, & that’s all thanks to the generosity of ‘A’!
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Now, why Black Forest Gâteaux. – Well, here’s what it was. The one week prior to the party, my daughter S & myself were outside ‘A”s house, all dolled up, warm Tarte Tatins (there were two) tucked safely in the bottom netting of S’s pram. Just as I was going to ring the doorbell, ‘A’ opens her door. She welcomes us in with a slight puzzled look. Noticing how quiet her house was, I ask “Oh, am I the first to arrive?” – And just at that moment, it struck us both – Yes, I had gotten the dates wrong. The party was on the next week.
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Oh.my.gawd… shame on me. How-do-I-do-this? I’m a fool. ‘A’ insisted on inviting us in regardless. I decided to give the Tarte Tatin to ‘A’ anyway, & keep the other one for taking around to a different friend later. While our daughters played upstairs, we sat on her sofa with a mug of milky tea cupped in our hands. Our conversation was naturally (?) about sweet things (!) & about her new found admiration for M&S Black Forest Gâteaux (all butter, soft & chewy) dessert cookies. “They’re very good, Tamami…” ‘A’ wistfully expressed her review of it with a sigh of yearning. She also shared her realization of how we don’t ever come across a good Black Forest Gâteaux in London – … like, never! And she was so right!
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So, to cut the story short, I made another cake for the correct party date, but this time a Black Forest Gâteaux. Upon research on google images, I realized that the cake seriously suffers on the looks stakes, oooh so ugly & retro in a bad way! I boiled the culprit down to the chocolate flakes patted on to the sides together with all that cream with swirly piping. So I simply avoided that & just had fun with piping simple round blobs. I think it also ties in with everything-else (the sponge & the cherries) that are also round. The simplicity of the look (& flavour) needed the addition of whipped chocolate cream in to the equation, alternating it with the white chantilly cream to step it up.
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The cake went down well with the crowd at the party, & no slices were left after 10 minutes upon serving. But oh, I should also share with you a story of another clumsy slip-up. The birthday children (it was a joint birthday) were celebrating their FOURTH, not third birthday… Ooops…
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I really don’t know what is wrong with me lately. I’ve been making mistakes more than my usual fair. It’s all very minor incidents – like forgetting to take my cake knifes on Saturdays. One time I forgot to sift in the flour to THREE lemon drizzle cakes, & ended up with an oily souffle kind of thing which obviously didn’t make it’s appearance on the stall table. What a waste of ingredient, time & energy… Also, this week, my regular customers might perhaps have noticed that my ‘Luxury Brownies’ looks have changed. Yes, it was because I initially forgot to add the nuts in the batter. When I noticed this halfway through baking, I took the trays out to scatter the nuts on top instead. But guess what guys, it looks so much tastier now! And I realized that with this method, I now have control on the exact distribution of nuts per slice! A mistake turned to better results. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel so down about making mistakes afterall!
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On Friday, ‘A’ popped around with a packet of M&S Black Forest Gâteaux cookies as a thank you pressie to me for the cake. – Yes, the cookies are very good ‘A’… but with 120kcal PER cookie, I think it is e-v-i-l (says Tamami as she sadly reaches for the last cookie in the packet…) ^^

April 16th, 2010

Christian Ward

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Let me tell you about something special that happened last month that made me very very very happy.
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I was given a painting!!!!
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It was from the artist Christian Ward, in return for the wedding cake I had made for him back in mid 2008. The wedding cake was a gift from me to him & his wife A, one of my closest girlfriend. My friendship to Mrs.A go back all the way to our college days. We shared a flat for more than four years I think. And actually, Mrs.A is the one who initially started Coco&Me with me – she’s the one without whom I wouldn’t be doing what I do nowadays. So it was only natural that I make a cake for them as a gift, despite their offer of payment – I mean, how could I charge them when I owe so much to her for changing my life for the better?
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So that was back in 2008. Then just last month, I was told that he’d like to give me one of his paintings & I was like: Oh-My-God! Because I knew Christian Ward does amazing paintings. You’ll see what I mean – just check out his other works on the following gallery websites:
Max Wigram Gallery
Patricia Low Contemporary
The Saatchi Gallery
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I obviously felt as though my cake does not have the same value as his work. It is such a huge honour… Plus I’ve never owned a painting ever before…
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I’ve taken some pictures of it to show you, but perhaps my photos don’t do it justice. The colour is a lot more mysteriously luminous, & has the power to draw you in to the unique world. Me & my other girlfriend’s ‘personal take’ on this is that we think it maybe depicts the after-life, as the cherry blossom could mean ‘transience of life’. Yet it is in full blossom, in the glorious midst of beautiful life. And it has varicolored pools of aura. I find it very calming & spiritually cheering.
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Coco&Me - Christian Ward painting - www.cocoandme.com.Coco&Me - Christian Ward painting - www.cocoandme.com(Close up.)
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I really love the painting. Thank you Christian! It means a lot to me. I sometimes stop in front of the painting, & have a look, have a calm breather, & then go back to my busy day.
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Coco&Me - White chocolate cigarretto wedding cake with chocolate sponge 3 tier with roses - www.cocoandme.com (And here is a picture of the wedding cake I made for them. – Three tier wedding cake with white chocolate cigarette surround. Inside is a dark chocolate sponge cake with raspberry ganache layer.)www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Wedding Cake(Close up.)
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So far I have made four wedding cakes. All of which went to very special people in my life, & I feel so honoured to be part of their special day. One was to a local regular customer, another to a special blog reader, & ofcourse there was one that was for my stall neighbour Ms.S that I documented here on the blog back in 2007. – Ms.S & her family still talk about the wedding cake to this day, so sweet, & makes a point out of always buying cakes from me for family get-togethers!
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PS: You’re all probably wondering what’s gotten in to me, posting stories on here three times in a space of two weeks!! ;-) LOL…!

August 6th, 2009

The cakes that didn’t make it

www.cocoandme.com - rose tart & cherry clafoutis - Coco&Me

(Wine poached pear, sliced then arranged like a rose, above a layer of chocolate ganache – Adapted from a recipe from the book ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Chocolate’ – Picture taken back in Summer 2006)

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Whilst doing the market for 3 years, there’s been variety of cakes & chocolates that have appeared upon my stall table. Most stay popular & remain in the line-up – like my Flourless Chocolate Cake that I have been baking since I started the stall. It’s a pure fixture, that one. I roughly make 4 to 8 of these 8-inch’ers each week, which must mean that I must have made about 800 of them by now?! (crazy number, crazy notion)
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But sadly, some get withdrawn (‘getcha crumbs & get out of ‘ere!’). Mainly because they didn’t sell well enough & I preferred to transfer the time making them to making the more popular ones instead.
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Indeed, there are also other reasons for pulling those products. For instance, cherry clafoutis (de-stoning mass amounts of cherries was cumbersome & it stained my fingers), opera (too time consuming to make all the layers & the costs became too expensive that I had to charge more), & the ‘wine poached pear rose & chocolate ganache tart’ – which got the people oohing as they see it, but only occasionally netted me the crucial sale…! They would say: ‘The tart looks too good to eat’ (they really do say this for real, not kidding!) & opt for safer options like ‘pear & almond tart’ instead. I still love this rose tart to bits though. The pear fruit goes really well with rich chocolate cream. I guess if I know that it can be sold in bucket loads, I would’ve stuck to it.
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www.cocoandme.com - cherry clafoutis, wine poached pear & chocolate tart & pear tart - Coco&Me(Picture of cherry clafoutis, the wine poached pear & chocolate tart & pear tart – picture taken back in Summer 2006)
www.cocoandme.com - cherry clafoutis - Coco&Me(Cherry clafoutis, 8 inch’er – Picture taken back in Summer 2006)
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The tell-tell sign for me to be convinced that they remain in my line-up is obviously its sales numbers, but, also importantly, it is when & if there are specific customers that come back for more of that same product, week after week with great reviews. The ‘Summer Fruit sponge’ (sponge colourfully studded with lots of raspberries, blueberries & blackberries) & the ‘Caramelized Banana Cake’ (whole pieces of bananas were caramelized before incorporated in to the batter) that I had sold for over a year was not the case, it was delicious, & it sold well, but never had the crowd wowing, & eventually I also lost the love for it.
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Whereas this ‘Baked Cheese Cake’ I raved about sometime ago in an earlier post is. Totally is. I really have to let you know the recipe asap & spread this deliciousness! So stay tuned!!

May 15th, 2008

Egg, dairy & nut free chocolate cake Recipe

(& about my Birthday trip to Lewes)

Vegan Chocolate Cake - Egg, dairy & nut free chocolate - with Recipe - Coco&Me

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Hello there everyone! I’ve been away from posting on the blog for sometime haven’t I…? Sorry (tell me you missed me) ^^.

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It’s because I haven’t had any exciting desserts to post about!

Since I gave birth, I’m feeling just plain flabby. I hate hate hate it (I can’t even face looking at the full-length mirror), & so I have been staying away from making & subsequently scoffing sugary desserts. Call me vain, sometimes vanity overrules appetite, even if it’s for my passion for cakes! Hope you understand…
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Wednesday two weeks ago was my birthday (32!), & so in that following weekend, we decided to drive to Lewes (a small town in SE England) to stay over at our friends L & W’s place as a special birthday treat. Loyal blog-readers would know that I tried & miserably failed to reach Lewes last year, but hurray! this time we managed to get there no problem, & in just over 2 hours!
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Our friends L & W has a beautiful daughter who has serious allergy to egg & nuts. If she were to accidentally eat any of these ingredients, it could be life threatening for her. It must be tough for the whole family when you ALWAYS have to check the ingredients list on the back of products, & to tell your toddler that some products are not for her to eat, when other kids can.

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I made the mistake of boasting to the family about my son’s wonderful strawberry toothpaste, that it is the only one my son likes. Their daughter wanted to try, & we were about to let her, when our friend spotted that the toothpaste has horse chestnut listed in its ingredients… It was a total shock, & then horror moment for me – that a toothpaste had nuts as an ingredient, & that I could have made their little girl very ill.

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It didn’t occur to me that a non-food product could also be dangerous for her. I was then told that even a small amount of nut-oil that happened to be hidden in the hand moisturizer that her mummy was using would swell up the little girl’s hands by contact.
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So it is no surprise that her house is a ‘egg & nut free haven’. And that we were treated to foods under that rule.

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Soon as we arrived, L made us beautiful lunch – & while we were eating it in their country-side garden, L had a chocolate cake baking in the oven. The delicious smell wafted & lingered in the air. Ahhh…, I love home-baking. Nothing like the excitement of straight-from-the-oven cake for dessert. But when L told me it’s Vegan, & that it uses vegetable oil & vinegar as replacements to butter & eggs, I felt a little wary & my excitement deflated. I felt deprived of “the real thing”. Butter & eggs gives cakes flavour, so replacing them didn’t sound at-all apetizing.

(The science: Mixture of vinegar & the bicarbonate of soda creates carbon dioxide gas & raises the cake as it tries to escape out. (you can inflate a balloon this way!) And as for the inclusion of vegetable oil: it is 100% fat in replacement of the fat from the butter that you would’ve used. Butter has atleast 80% milk fat.)

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BUT to my surprise, it was totally TASTY! It was super moist & airy too. And you know what? I can even go as far as to say that I rate the “moist-ness” better than any other chocolate cake I’ve tasted in years (except for my very own ‘Moist Chocolate Cake’ from my stall ofcourse! ^^). And that is a big statement coming from a cake-fanatic like myself. I must say though, that it lacks in the depth of chocolate flavour, but eating it with the ganache filling sorts that problem out.
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So here is the recipe that I scribbled from L’s copy of “Allergy-free Cookbook” by Alice Sherwood. (The recipe book gets a big thumbs up from L who says every recipe in it is really good.) I took the liberty of changing the measurements around a bit to make it slightly more chocolatey, & less oily. I replaced the castor sugar it suggests to light brown sugar for the molasses flavour. Oh, & converted the there-abouts ‘tablespoon & teaspoon’ measurements to proper & precise grams n’ milliletres!

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The book gives you a choice of either spreading chocolate ganache cream or chocolate buttercream (both dairy-free). Both cream recipes are at the end of this post. The chocolate buttercream was a bit too sweet for me, but it was popular with children. The amount of sugar together with the sugary cake scares the heck out of me though… – I suggest if you’re going to serve this cake to grown-ups, go for the ganache.
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Please bare in mind though that if you’re going for the ganache option, nut-free chocolate may be hard to obtain. Most Confectioners use nuts in many of their products, & they might be using the same production-line to make products without nuts in the ingredients. This is where the problem for people with nut-allergy lies. Pretty much all the chocolate bars on the market may have traces of nut, or nut-oil.

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Thankfully there is a UK-based company Kinnerton who produces guaranteed nut-free chocolate products. It is apparently sold in selected Sainsbury, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons & Waitrose stores. Or you can buy in bulk directly from them too. Kinnerton has really gone the extra mile to manufacture nut-free products by allocating nut-free zones, as well as following strict safety measures to keep it nut-free. Read all about how they did it on their website.
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There are a few moderations I’ve made to the recipe:

  • Vinegar is to be added as the very last ingredient. – It’s to delay it reacting with the soda. You should get the maximum rising-power out of it that way.
  • I’ve included cherries & jam. – Our friend L spread fruit jam in-between the layers & mixed cherries in to the cake, which I thought really made this extra special.
  • I propose using apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar as the book suggests. – Apparently the concentration of acidity is stronger, & without any scientific background, I’m hoping it’ll react even more with the soda & produce a fluffier sponge. – It’ll add a tiny bit more flavour to the cake too. And did you know that cider vinegar is good for treating sore throat? – Hey! A cake that’s good for illness? Now we’re talking!!
  • And optionally, you can add a splash of Kirsch cherry liquor in to the ganache to add to the cherry theme!

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Vegan Chocolate Cake - Egg, dairy & nut free chocolate - with Recipe - Coco&Me

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Egg, dairy & nut free chocolate cake Recipe:

(serves 10-12)

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Ingredients for the sponge:

  • 330g of plain flour
  • 400g of light brown sugar
  • 12g of Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 65g of nut-free cocoa powder

    (Note: check the back ingredients list to make sure it is nut-free. Cocoa powder is often made in chocolate factories that also handle nut products.)

  • 2g of salt
  • 450ml of unsweetened soya milk
  • 90ml of corn or other nut-free vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing

    (Note: don’t use olive oil as its flavour is too distinct)

  • 23ml of white vinegar
  • 7ml of vanilla extract
  • A large tin/ jar of pitted cherries
  • Fruit jam of your choice (cherry, apricot, strawberry, raspberry, etc)

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You’ll need:

  • 2 x 20cm (8 inch) round baking tins

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Method for the cake sponge:

  • 1. Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4).
  • 2. Grease both tins with oil. (No need to line it with grease-proof paper. The oil on the tin & the oil from the cake is sufficient enough lubricant for de-moulding the cakes.)
  • 3. Sift together the dry ingredients in to a bowl: flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder & salt. (The light brown sugar tends to clump, so please don’t skip sifting!)
  • 4. Mix together the wet ingredients in another bowl: soya milk, oil, & vanilla extract.
  • 5. Mix wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
  • 6. Stir in the cider vinegar.
  • 7. Divide mixture in to two greased tins.
  • 8. Spread evenly.
  • 9. Evenly scatter the cherries on top of the batter. Here make sure you don’t place any cherries in the centre – this way you’d be able to cut a clean slice with a straight angle when serving.
  • 10. Bake for 40 minutes, until it rises, & is firm to the touch.
  • 11. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, & then turn out on to a wire cooling rack ( – I like to cool it upside down, so that the domed top becomes flat surface perfect for icing). Cool completely.
  • 12. Make the dairy-free ganache or the chocolate buttercream using the recipe below.
  • 13. Place one sponge upside down on the stand/ platter on which you’re going to present on.
  • 14. Slather jam of your choice.
  • 15. Use spatula to spread 5mm thickness or so of the ganache/ buttercream.
  • 16. Pop the other sponge on top.
  • 17. Artfully (painterly) slather the rest of the ganache/ buttercream on the top & the sides.

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Ingredients & method for the dairy-free ganache:

  • 150ml soya cream (in place of double cream)
  • Nut-free & dairy-free dark chocolate 200g
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 7ml Kirsch cherry liquor
    Method:
    Bring soya cream & sugar to simmering point & pour over the finely chopped chocolate. Mix gently with spatula (If the chocolate has not fully melted, zap it in the microwave 10 seconds at a time until melted). – Use immediately.

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Ingredients & method for the dairy-free chocolate buttercream:

  • 175g dairy-free spread
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 90g of nut-free cocoa powder
  • 10g of vanilla extract
    Method:
    Cream the dairy-free spread to thoroughly soft. Add vanilla extract & mix. Slowly & gradually add icing sugar & cocoa powder until creamy and smooth in texture. Use immediately.

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coffee mugs  - lewes park - Coco&Me

(In Lewes, we visited Southover Grange gardens. I was extremely happy to get a proper porcelain mug (& not the usual paper throw-aways with plastic lids) for my Rooibos tea from their kiosk! And how wonderful that everyone dutifully returns it to the kiosk when they finish! (if this was a park in London, more than half would probably disappear I’m sure…) – It reminds me of drinking Glühwein from a porcelain mug at a German Xmas market, but only you’d have to pay extra first, & you’d get a little money back if you return the mug!)

Lewes park - Coco&Me

(From left: Me, L, cutie girl I, W, & my boy upside down. And in the right picture, my daughter S asleep.)

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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