October 5th, 2011

Bunting for the stall

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Just recently I bought this bunting on ebay.

(continues…)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - bunting with woodland animals - small

(‘scuse the harsh shadows… midnight photography…)

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I was on the look out for bunting for ages so I was so happy when I finally found one I liked! I wanted a design that was not too twee or country-chic/ shabby-chic. And I didn’t want to go for the usual tricolour of red, white & blue that I’ve been seeing everywhere.

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This lovely handmade bunting is in an old & rare Cranston print fabric called Bank Holiday. Depicted are dressed up woodland animals enjoying themselves at a country fair.

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Currently on my stall I have a fair bit of ‘animal-theme’ going on! ^^

I have the bird design on the cheesecake & on the chocolate tart (pictures of those can be found here & here.) Then there are bunny shaped biscuits on the large cakes & tarts too (picture of the biscuit can be found here). I also have tiny yellow birds clipped on the cake racks! So having this new animal bunting is just the fitting addition, I think!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - broadway market - stall - animal bunting

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Tamami

(The yellow blobs at the bottom of the picture are the bird clips…)

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Anyway, hope all is well everyone, & I do hope to write another recipe for here soon…!!

Warmest regards, Tamami xx

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…) ^^

May 11th, 2009

Christine Ferber jams

www.cocoandme.com - Christine Ferber jams - Coco&Me

I bought 6 types of jams last weekend. They are made by the French Jam Queen – Christine Ferber. I’ve been a fan of hers for ages. My two books on her I treasure to bits. And oh boy, the jams…, it’s so heavenly I tell you, the jar we had last time was finished in no time – despite me fending off family members – getting seriously upset if they were to dip in their dirty butter knives, which could spoil it. (There is nothing more disheartening to see old toast crumbs & a smears of butter in your jam jar!)
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At 7€50 (around £6.70) for a 220g jar, it certainly is at the highest end of the market. But, its oh-so-loose texture that you’ve never ever encountered before & its bursting fresher-than-fresh fruitiness should convince you that it is one of those purchases that justifies itself, if you weigh out the price tag to the numerous happiness you will get out of it.

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The flavours I got this time are:

  • Gelée de cassis et groseilles d’Alsace (Jelly of blackcurrant & Alsatian red currents)
  • Framboises d’Alsace et kirsch (Alsatian Raspberry with kirsch liquor)
  • Rhubarbe d’Alsace, fraises d’Alsace et fleurs de sureau (Alsatian rhubarb with Alsatian strawberries & elder flowers)
  • Rhubarbe d’Alsace, ananas, mangues et fruits de la passion (Alsatian rhubarb, pineapple, mango & passion fruit)
  • Cassis d’Alsace (Alsatian blackcurrant)
  • Gelée de pommes d’Alsace à la cannelle (Jelly of Alsatian apples with cinnammon)

I was battling with the little French I know to take a wild guess at the flavours written on the jars in the shop – so it’s kind of news to me now that I’ve translated them! ^^ Now I know what they are!! Oooohh, which one shall be my first victim??
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www.cocoandme.com - Christine Ferber jams - Coco&Me

(She is also famous for her tarts!)

www.cocoandme.com - Christine Ferber jams - Coco&Me

(The cute packaging kills me.)

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During our Paris trip, we also went to a cafe/ tea room called Mamie Gâteaux (66 rue du Cherche-Midi 75006 PARIS). I have their Japanese recipe book & I always wanted to go there, so I was so happy to finally go! It was really nice. Loved the decor, the food, the atmosphere, everything. The hot chocolate came in a Café au Lait bowl with mini madeleine! Ahh, Le Paris!
www.cocoandme.com - Mamie Gateaux tea room/ cafe - Coco&Me

October 17th, 2008

Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan Croissant

Coco&Me - Pierre Hermé Ispahan Croissant - www.cocoandme.com

Coco&Me - Pierre Hermé Ispahan Croissant - www.cocoandme.com

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Last Tuesday I read on Dorie’s blog that Pierre Hermé sells croissants with Ispahan flavour. The picture she took of it looked sooo good, sooo drool-manufacturing, I decided to use my ‘wild-card’ & ask my Paris-residing brother to get it for me & bring it to London (I say ‘wild-card’ because I rarely want to ask him – the reason being, A, he is super-busy, & B, he is clueless about cakes!).

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This week is my lucky week. He happened to have traveled to London to see his Phd tutor about his papers. – And so there they were, MY croissants in a cute P.H. bag, with added bonus of twenty macarons (two each of ten kinds). Yessss…

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“Ispahan” is Hermé’s signature flavour, composed of rose, litchi & raspberry (Apparently he came up with this now iconic flavour-combo back in his days as a executive chef at Ladurée – & that the patisserie retains the rights to sell them too).

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This croissant version has rose-flavoured almond cream with a couple of lichis studded inside, & has freeze-dried bits of raspberry scattered on top of the white icing. Unfortunately mine wasn’t with pink icing like Dorie’s… (I want cute-sy PINK P.H.!) But regardless of the icing-colour, the taste was superb, with a mixed sensation of buttery almond cream & pastry together with the tangy raspberry bits & fruity lichis that refreshes the palate.

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Humpf… Why can’t we buy beautiful croissants like these in London?! Or, even better, why doesn’t Pierre Hermé open a shop here in London??

February 1st, 2008

Children’s Birthday Cake – Trains – with Banana Cake Recipe!

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

I baked this set of trains for my kid’s best friend’s 4th birthday!

I kept the icing simple with just three colours & as minimal as I can allow it. I stayed away from using sugary gum drops & other store-bought sweets because: One, as a parent I wouldn’t want my 4 year old introduced to those things yet, & Two, icing them is so much cheaper! :)

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

Handmade paper flags glued to cocktail sticks:

I decided it’s better if the flags were not white. It will be lost in the background, & the coloured flags would add the much needed extra colourfulness that my minimal-icing-ideology doesn’t provide. – But on the other hand, I made more work for myself & D (he helped), as I couldn’t just ‘stamp’ letters on to dark coloured paper (I don’t have white ink), & had to cut each letter out & glue them!

Each child received one train each. It was easily distributed since there was no cutting slices involved. The flags were popular (“I’ve got K!” & so on). Everyone took it home with them!
Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

(At every children’s birthday party we go to, there’ll always be another kid who’d be blowing the candles too! :)
Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

(For the cake board base: I cut cardboard to size & covered it with white baking paper.)

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - Trains - with Banana Cake Recipe! - NORDICWARE

(Nordicware Train Cake Pan purchased from Lakeland)

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Am I turning in to a right old woman or what?

Because when D spotted the Nordicware Train Cake Pan in the shop, I was soooo happy – like, deliriously, over the moon style! It’s really difficult to find Nordicware here in the UK, & this particular train cake pan had been on my wish-list for over a year. I once spent a whole night trawling the internet to see if anyone sells this in this country but to no avail…

BUT…! Out-of-the-blue, there it was in front of my eyes… SO, readers, hopefully you can understand my cake-fanaticism, & picture me enthusiastically charging my way to the cash-till in nano-second-flat, flared nostrils, seeing nothing but red until I successfully purchased it, until “It-Is-Mine!” (followed by manic laughter – Dr Evil style…)
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This purchase came at the perfect timing too, as the following week I was to make a birthday cake for my son’s best friend. Like always, I test-baked several days before the real bake-day, to remove any uncertainties that could potentially ruin the result. The lessons learnt from the test-bake was valuable:

  • The cake batter must be piped (not dolloped in), so that the batter reaches all intricate detail of this cake pan.
  • Batter must be pasted/ pushed to all the sides with a spatula to avoid ugly air-holes appearing on the train surfaces.
  • Batter must be to the fullest brim to perfectly imprint the cake design.
  • Must use more colours than just white for the icing, unless it’s a snowy scene you’re trying to create.
  • It is best to pipe extra details like ‘grills’ & ‘windows’ or even abstract polka-dots, rather than faithfully outlining/ following the grooves of the cake.
  • Mustn’t pipe too much icing on it because the cake would become too sweet – & I can imagine the parents getting worried about too much sugar consumption! (especially if it’s artificially coloured!)

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After consideration, I decided it should be a banana cake. A boring sponge won’t do (it’ll taste too normal unless there’s a delicious filling layer), nor it shouldn’t be chocolate coloured (the imprinted design wouldn’t be as visible). D suggested ‘marbled cake’ but that’ll just be ‘too busy’ with the intricate designs. – But a banana cake on the other-hand I thought, is gorgeously moist, popular with everyone & should get a nod of approval from the parents as it sounds natural & it uses less refined sugar.

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So here is the recipe for my banana cake. It is a ‘Pâte à biscuit’ sponge method. (whereby the egg is separated – yolk goes in with the sugar, & the whites are whisked to a meringue, before being combined.)
I also added the recipe for the royal icing at the end.

Both recipes are easy-peasy to make!

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MOIST BANANA CAKE RECIPE:

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Ingredients:

(quantities to fill the Nordicware train pan)

200g Ripe bananas
100g Sugar
5 x Egg yolk
5 x Egg whites
100g Sugar (to whisk in to the whites)
150g Plain flour
75g Almond powder
75g Butter
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Prepare in advance the following:

  • Butter the mould (here, it is best to use a pastry brush & slightly melted butter to really get to every intricate details & grooves). And finely flour the mould by sifting it.
  • Melt 75g of butter. Set aside until needed.
  • Pre-sift the plain flour & the almond powder.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

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Method:

  • 1. Slice the 200g of ripe bananas, place them in a mixing bowl & use the electric whisk to purée it.
  • 2. Add the 100g of sugar & whisk it together.
  • 3. Combine the 5 x egg yolks. Then set aside.
  • 4. In another bowl, whisk the 5 x egg whites to a stiff meringue with 100g of sugar.
  • 5. Combine 1/4 of the meringue in to your egg-mixture from step 3.
  • 6. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour & almond powder) in. Combine with spatula.
  • 7. Pour in the 75g of melted butter & combine with spatula.
  • 8. Fold in the rest of the meringue.
  • 9. Put the batter in to a disposable piping bag.
  • 10. Snip the end so that you get a 3mm opening, & start to pipe it in to the intricate details.
  • 11. Then snip a wider opening (say about 1cm), & pipe the rest in.
  • 12. Place in the pre-heated oven of 180 degrees, for approximately 18 minutes. – When time is up, check if it is done by skewering the middle of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean & is warm to the touch, it is done.
  • 13. Take it out of the oven. Place a cake-cooling-rack on top. Grip both cake pan & rack, then reverse it so that the train-mould is on top. Take the cake pan off. The cakes should come out easily. (It is best to cool it right side up, to flatten the bottom of the cakes.)
  • 14. Once the cake has cooled, proceed to make the royal icing.

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ROYAL ICING RECIPE:

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Ingredients:

1 x egg white

125 to 150g of icing sugar

Food colouring

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Method:

  • 1. Whisk the egg white with a table spoon (not with electric mixer as it’ll become ‘too’ foamy) for about 5 minutes.
  • 2. Mix 125g of icing sugar in to the whisked egg whites. This will give you the basic white icing. Experiment with the fluidity depending on wether you want to cover a large surface or wether you would like it to pipe patterns. If you want it to be thicker for piping patterns, gradually mix in more icing sugar. (In my case, I used 150g of sugar in the end, but it’s best to be your own judge here.)
  • 3. If you would like it coloured, add food colouring drop-at-a-time.
  • 4. Put the icing in a piping bag, snip the end off (say 2mm for pattern piping) & pipe away!

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Tip:

If you want several colours to work with, just divide your white icing at step 2 in to however-many-bowls, & then colour each bowl differently.

If the royal icing becomes hard while you’re working, add a few droplets of water to loosen it.

If artificial food colouring worries you, try to find ‘natural’ food colouring in the shops, or you can alternatively try: matcha powder for green, & cocoa powder or instant coffee for brown. (If you know of any other ways to colour naturally, please please let me know!)

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    Happy Baking!

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    January 6th, 2008

    Galette des Rois 2008

    Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

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    January the 6th is an important date for anyone who’s knee-deep in Cake-love. Y’see, it’s a special date to consume a particular cake called the Galette des Roisa super delicious French cake made simply with flakey puff pastry & frangipane filling (almond cream & custard cream mix of 2:1 ratio).

    (Note: some pâtisseries just use almond cream filling, & some pâtisseries sell other flavoured fillings as well as the ‘classic’ version. Ie: Hermé’s got several types, one of which is filled with his famous signature combo, the ‘Ispahan’, which is, rose-flavored almond cream, lychees & raspberries.)

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    ‘Scuse the pun, but the “charming” factor that gets everyone raving is that the galette hides a ‘fève’, a small ceramic (sometimes porcelain or plastic) charm. The lucky person who stumbles upon the fève in their slice is crowned the King or the Queen of the day, & get to wear the golden crown supplied. He/ she can also get to choose who can become their fellow King or Queen to enjoy such privilege together.

    - I guess you can take this to your advantage & choose someone you fancy as a flirting tool! – That is if you’re single & available though! I guess I’d probably have to choose my D. – Then again… if George Clooney was attending the same party… … [!!] No, no, do not worry! (cough cough…).
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    Of course, I ‘should’ mention that the date means a lot more than a cake-eating fest!

    January the 6th (or the first Sunday of January) is a Holy date called the Epiphany, commemorating the Twelfth Night when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Christ, thus by so doing revealing Jesus to the world as the Lord & the King (The term Epiphany means ‘to make known’).
    - Although, I think nowadays many people attach no particular religious significance to the date, but just enjoy the culinary tradition of it alone. (- a bit like the modern day Christmas, non?)

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    Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

    (Medium size, measuring around 9 inch diameter was £11.00. Their large-size costs £14.00. The crown is white & gold, the traditional colour of Epiphany.)

    Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

    (The fève, front & back view. The cake came with a note on which printed the following words: “BEWARE OF THE CHARM – Make sure you look out for our royal charm, hidden somewhere in this Galette des Rois, please don’t chip your tooth on it or swallow it. Whoever finds the charm in their slice is crowned King or Queen for the day, traditionally they also have to buy the next Galette.”)

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    My Galette des Rois 2008 was purchased from the pâtisserie PAUL.

    I guess if I was living in Paris I would have ordered mine from the likes of Hermé, or other super-artisanal pâtisseries, that are less ubiquitous. But this is London, & the only place I knew that would sell the Galette des Rois was this PAUL & Maison Blanc.

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    In Hampstead, North London, these two chains exist opposite each other. In comparison, MB’s one looked rather sluggishly made, with the sides of the galette sloping outwards like a splat. PAUL’s was straighter & glossier, although the top surface was bubbled-up & uneven, the pattern poorly executed & was barely visible – definately not picture-perfect either. BUT, again, “this is London”, this is what had to do.

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    Of course I could have made one myself. But y’know, dare I admit, I felt like hibernating. I know, I know, straight from my motivational blurb on my previous post about experimenting, it’s a bit embarrassing.

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    But on this occasion, it turned out beautifully to my favor, because I re-realized that there’s nothing like the excitement that you get from especially travelling to “buy” a cake that you know will be delicious. And especially with this cake, I won’t know where & what design the fève might be!

    (- Also, I often find that baking my own cake puts me off eating it slightly, because I know how much sugar & butter went in to it, which is… ‘a lot’!!)

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    After purchasing the galette, when we were browsing in Waterstones Bookstore, I had the most wonderful experience of noticing that I received a straight-from-the-oven galette. The base of my cake box was hot to the touch, & the gorgeous smell of super-freshly baked pastry filled the air, the buttery-ness almost too over-powering. [!!] I urged D that we gotta go home a.s.a.p.! This baby’s too delicious to wait around!

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    And guys. yes, it truly was heavenly delicious! The puff pastry had a glossy top, was delicately flaky, & was not too sweet, slightly salty even – it went well with the moist & sweet almond frangipane inside. After having a small bite, I decided to pour myself some Nilgiri tea. I know, I know I should stay away from caffeine, but I also knew the combo with the Nilgiri would work great to refresh the palette from the rich buttery-ness. A sip now & again between my bites. I just had to. A ‘erbal just wouldn’t be up to this job!
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    PS: Gentle reminder.

    Have you tidied away your Christmas decoration? Apparently “Twelfth Night is when all Christmas Decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home.” [!!]

    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!

    January 6th, 2007

    Marrons Glacés

    Marrons glacés

    (Marrons glacés from La Maison du Chocolat)

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    Available in shops from November to March, these glazed/ candied chestnuts are seriously ‘the’ most luxurious sweetmeats around. Upon reading up on it in D’s old copy of Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s greatest cookery encyclopedia, it says:… Chestnuts that have been poached in syrup and then glazed… Marrons Glacés were created during the reign of Louis XIV and are today manufactured chiefly at Privas, in the Ardèche…’

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    Ardèche, is in the South of France. It is the epicentre of the chestnuts, more than 50% of chestnuts in France are cultivated there. They do a chestnut festival in Autumn to celebrate it & many local restaurants will include a chestnut-based dish on their menu. One day I’d like to go & get stuffed on chestnuts… (although before this, I’m dying to go to a village in Alsace called Niedermorschwihr, where my heroine patissier Christine Ferber has her shop ‘Au Relais des Trois Épis’. – I’m currently working on persuading D to the trip – who says he is slightly tired of cakes right now…).
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    Concerning the origins that Larousse mentions – I have also read elsewhere that apparently a candied chestnut confection was served 150 years earlier in Piedmont, a northwestern area of Italy close to the border of Switzerland & France. – The origins of foods, just like the Tarte Tatin I wrote about, could sometimes have several versions to it, it seems.
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    Marrons glacés are a labour of love – it involves 16 different processes & is painstakingly time consuming. No wonder it is expensive (£1.85 each), but oh boy, it’s worth it.

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    Here is a rough description of how the chestnuts turn in to Marrons glacés:

    First, the chestnuts are washed & sorted to eliminate those that are not perfectly round or has deep grooves. Then it is boiled to so that it is easier to peel the shell & the inner skin by hand. It is sorted again. Finally, the chestnuts go under a repeated process of being cooked for two days in a rich vanilla syrup (which gets concentrated as time passes). Eventually the flavour seeps into the very heart of the chestnut. Here is a link to a recipe.

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    This week:

    Since I decided that my stall will open from 27th this year, I had the most mellow week. Which is a relief because I am still feeling bloated from all the eating I’ve done over the festive season, & am feeling unhelplessly lethargic.
    In fact, this is part of the reason why I am not operating the stall til late January, because I think people would generally be staying away from chocolates & cakes post-Christmas eat-fest, & going on a mass-diet. So it’ll start on the 27th, that’s when I’ll be deviously counting on people putting down their salad forks & give up their dieting!!

    December 30th, 2006

    2007′s around the corner!

    beardpapa_creampuff.jpg

    (Beard Papa’s cream puff)

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    Dearest readers, has 2006 treated you well?

    The end of the year always makes me review how the year has been, & I can honestly say, it went by like a storm, fast n’ furious. 2006 was full of excitement & activity to a point of not having much energy left. I have been getting little sleep or rest because I’m busy until late every night & get woken up early every morning. A far cry from the old days…, when I used to sleep til 12 noon easy on weekends. Working & being a mum ain’t plain sailing. That said, doing something I am passionate about is so satisfying that I never find it a chore. And most importantly, my son is growing up well & there really is nothing major to complain.
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    This year, the stall operation has become much smoother. I now use disposable cardboard food trays for transporting my produce from kitchen to market. It is something like 70p per tray & so I’m throwing away five to six pounds every week, but atleast I don’t need to wash them at the end of a tired Saturday like I used to. And the speed of me doing these cakes & chocolates has trippled it seems, as I have more practical experience under my belt.
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    It was also a year of good girlfriends leaving London… Lisa, Layla, Nikki – three of ‘em! *sigh…* But I mustn’t forget that it was also a year of meeting great new people too. The kindness I came across this year from some of these people still glow warmth in to my heart.
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    This week I am in relax-mode since the market is not open. Drinking pink champagne, wine, beer & Otima 20 year old Tawny Port (which was seriously delicious) over the Christmas celebration that stretched several days. I also had the treat of going out in to town while my parents looked after our son. We first spent money like water on Winter Sales shopping, then ate Dim Sum for lunch. A de rigueur visit to La Maison du Chocolat, & then crossing the road to check out the sales shelves at Fortnum & Mason.

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    Just before we went in to cinema to see the new James Bond movie (thumbs up to gorgeous Daniel Craig!), we bought the Beard Papa‘s Cream Puff (freshly made choux pastry with whipped cream custard piped inside)… Oh boy,,, it was de-licious!

    I love the fact that they bake the choux pastry several times daily on premises (the ovens were just behind the counter on view), & once an order is taken, they pipe the freshly made cream & do a little dusting of icing sugar all in front of you! How wonderfully fresh is that!
    It was soo cheap too – 10 cream puffs for 11 pounds (I think it was £1.30 for one). My only quarm is that the shop name works out odd in English (the shop is Japanese y’see), & the supposed ‘vanilla’ custard cream was seriously lacking in the ‘vanilla’ front. I only saw a dozen black specks of vanilla seeds in it – basically non-existant (I would have put in a lot lot more). Maybe this is what explains the low price since vanilla is an expensive ingredient afterall. – Despite this minor detail, the cream puff was crispy n’ creamy & I finished mine in nano second flat! And I can seriously reccomend you get one next time you’re in town, it’s opposite Uniqlo on Oxford Street, London. – Beard Papa, respect.

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    *Happy New Year 2007*

    Wishing you peace, love, health & happiness,

    t xxx