January 21st, 2014

Coco&Me crepes dentelles/ gavottes/ paillets feuilletines recipe

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Recently I needed some ‘paillets feuilletines’ for the French dessert I was making. I don’t know about where you live, but here in London, it is not easy to get them off-the-shelf. It is definately not mainstream, & instead it is a specialist baking ingredient. Ofcourse, I could get them online, but they sell them in large packs (all I needed was a tiny amount to cover the side of a cake as decoration), & besides, you’ve got to wait several days to get it delivered! Let alone forking out the shipping fee! (I’m a stingy kind of a gal.)

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Upon research, I realized that crushing up ‘crepes dentelles’ (another name for these is the brand-name called ‘Gavottes’) is a great substitute, or if not the same as the ‘paillets feuilletine’ itself. You won’t believe how happy this realization made me! Because it means that I could make them at home whenever needed, moreover, it’ll be fresher & crunchier! (And quite probably superior than store-bought because it won’t have any substances you won’t normally include in a home-baking situation).

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  • Def: Crepes dentelle is a wonderfully delicate & flaky cookie that is often folded in to a cigar shape. Buttery in flavour, it is made from thin crispy crêpe that is rolled as soon as it is out of the oven. It originates from Quimper, a charming little town with an almost village-like atmosphere, in the cultural heart of Brittany, France. Crepes dentelles are a delight to eat on it’s own or pairing it with cream-based desserts.
  • Def: Paillets Feuilletine is a baking ingredient that is often used as a component in French desserts for it’s crunchy texture. It is used for Praline Feuillete for example, where feuilletines are stirred in to chocolate & praline paste (… think posh version of ‘chocolate cornflake cake’). Pâtissiers will then spread this thinly in a layered cake to add crunch to a moussey cake. Chocolatiers might enrobe feuilletines mixed ganache to make crunchy bonbons.

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So here below is my own recipe for Crepes Dentelles slash home-made Paillets Feuilletines. As with all my recipes, I have left no stone unturned & has lots of notes alongside. It uses basic ingredients, but has a fair amount of variables to consider. And if you are making the cigar shape, you’re most definitely throwing in some burnt fingers in to the bargain too. Discouraging? Sorry, but yeah, I thought it wise to warn you prior…

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Crepes Dentelles/ Paillets Feuilletines Recipe:

(Yields 18 Crepes Dentelles using a 9cm x 16cm template)

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Ingredients:

  • 60g melted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 60g flour
  • about 35 to 40ml of water

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Equipments you’ll need:

  • A stencil template (please read below the method for how to make)
  • Metal spatula
  • Two or more sheets of Silpat

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Method:

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees.
  2. 2. Melt 60g of butter completely in a mixing bowl.
  3. 3. Put 110g of sugar in the hot melted butter. Stir until the sugar has dissolved & is not grainy.
  4. 4. Whisk in 1 egg white.
  5. 5. Sift in 60g of flour.
  6. 6. Use a whisk to mix in to paste.
  7. 7. Pour in half of the water & mix well. Then pour in the rest gradually to the correct consistency.
  • (Note that here, the final consistency of the batter is very thin & runny like single cream. – This consistency is THE KEY to how smooth your Crepes Dentelles’ surfaces will turn out to be. If too thick, the surface will be rough with air bubbles. If too thin & runny, you will be having trouble containing it within the stenciled shape. I have given you the rough indication of 35 to 40ml of water, but the correct consistency for your batter has to be gaged by your senses, as it is variable.)
  1. 8. Spatula all of the batter in to a piping bag.
  • (It makes the following work much more methodical & a lot less messier.)
  1. 9. Lay the stencil template on the silpat. Hold down to keep it flat & in place. Spread on the batter evenly with the spatula.
  • (There are three things to consider here:
    A: Domestic ovens tends to brown goods unevenly. For example, my oven browns faster from the edges, which makes it difficult to evenly brown my sheet of Crepes Dentelles. So, for ‘even’ browning, the placements of the batter on the silpat has to be considered. The middle of the tray (away from the edges) is best.
    B: Also, please resist the urge to spread too many shapes on one tray. When the time comes to rolling them in to Crepes Dentelle shapes, there is only about 15 seconds to do so before it’s too rigid. About two spreads per tray would be ideal I think.
    C: Spread thin. Please read about this in the notes below under the title ‘Stencil’.)
  • (Please use the stencil even if you are making Paillets Feuilletine, as it’s easier to spread batter thinly & evenly.)
  1. 10. Place the silpat on the baking tray.
  2. 11. Insert this in to the middle-shelf of the pre-heated oven & bake.
  3. 12. In the meantime, while you wait for it to be baked, spread the next batch on another silpat. You can pop it in when the first comes out.
  4. 13. The baking could take anything between 2 to 4 minutes. Best to check wether it is done from 2 minutes onwards. You might also want to turn your baking tray around to brown it evenly.
  • (It is done when there are no white areas. But be careful not to over-bake – it could be that extra 10 seconds more that makes your Crepes Dentelles/ Paillets Feuilletines taste burnt. Use your first batch as an indicator to get familiar with the correct shade of brown.)
  1. 14. If making Paillets Feuilletine, take the baked sheets off the silpat to cool, then crush with your fingers. If making Crepes Dentelles, immediate start rolling it in to shape. – To roll in to round cigar spirals, use a straw or any thin cylindrical rod.
  • (The crepe is only pliable for the window of 15 to 25 seconds.)
  • (I prefer to turn the sheet back to front, & roll the surface that was facing the silpat on the inside. This is because the silpat side is glossy from being baked on the glass-fiber within the silpat. Furthermore, detaching the sheet off the silpat first makes the rolling process easier.)
  1. 15. Continue baking by swapping turns between the two silpats. Just remember to clean off any excess bits on the silpat by wiping with kitchen paper or by scraping with a different spatula.

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(From second batch onwards, remember to clean off any bits on the silpat by wiping with kitchen paper or by scraping with a different spatula.)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Crepes Dentelles/ Gavottes/ Paillets Feuilletines recipe - with step by step pictures - Broadway Market E8 - Tamami - Cake Stall - London

(Spread the batter thin. You can almost see through to the mesh of the silpat!)

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Stencil:

  • - Finding the material: To make the stencil template, first find a plastic sheet that has the desired thickness. The thickness, or should I say ‘thinness’ is vital to get right. If your crepes are too thick, it’ll be chewy. But if it is too thin, it will be too fragile & break apart as you roll. For my crepes, I used a 240 micron (2.4mm) acetate sheet that I purchased from CassArts. Sometimes, there might be something similar around the house that could turn in to a good stencil. The stiff plastic folder sleeves for filing could be a contender. Or maybe you have a see-through plastic gift box that is stiff enough? If push comes to shove, perhaps you can even cut out the side of your cereal box…
  • - Cutting to size: I like to cut mine with lots of ample frame all around so that the batter does not land on the silpat. It keeps the silpat clean & crumb-free for the next batch. The measurement of the rectangle is up to you. FYI, mine is 9cm x 16cm.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Crepes Dentelles/ Gavottes/ Paillets Feuilletines recipe - with step by step pictures - Broadway Market E8 - Tamami - Cake Stall - London

(My spatula is wider than the cutout area.)

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May 9th, 2013

Coco&Me French Toast Recipe

NB: Please note, this recipe is especially created for when using everyday pre-sliced bread from the supermarket that is not stale.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
(Bite-size French Toast! No need to fuss with knife! ^^)
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Desperately seeking ‘something’
Picture this – bang in the middle of the night, you’re working on the computer. Then the train of concentration loses its steam & thoughts of snacking invade the mind. You ponder what goodies you might’ve lurked in the kitchen cabinets, but a pang of desperation throbs you when the realization of anything everything sweet is missing from your life. Cue the stomach & its whining growl…  
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… This French Toast recipe actually came about at such moment. I desperately wanted a sweet ‘something’ to snack on in the middle of the night. But it needed to be:
  • very quick & simple to make (will not want to wait for my sweet fix)
  • easily can make for just for one person (it’s just me)
  • use ingredients that’s always at hand at home (it needs to be a reliable recipe to fall back on every time)
  • no need to fire up the oven (too fussy)
  • does not use the hand mixer (too noisy at night)
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Hmmm, French Toast! As a mid-night feast! Ah…, yes-yes, ofcourse it’s normally consumed for breakfast or brunch, I know that, but it’s ingredients – eggs, sugar, milk, bread & butter, I always have at home & who cares about formalities when no one is watching in this nocturnal hour? It should be simple enough to put together – just dip the bread in eggy milk then pan-fry it with butter, & hey voila!
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And so my quest starts.
But…, hang on, the first time I made it, it didn’t taste great. The result was unforgivingly too soggy in the middle. Why? Then I analyzed this:
= I’m using cheap thinly-sliced bread from the supermarket & the bread is not stale like it ought to be. 
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Stale? Yes,typically you’re supposed to use stale bread that’s gone a bit tough & lost a bit of moisture. I guess it must be a universal rule for it. I mean, it’s even called ‘pain perdu’ in French, which means “lost bread”, suggesting that the bread in question is of a wasted, or forgotten one.
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But realistically, how often do you have a perfectly stale bread at hand when you need it? I certainly don’t. Besides, the supermarket bread rather goes mouldy than stale when old. And so my solution to this was to… lightly toast the fresh bread (then cooling it) before dipping in the eggy mixture. That should mimic stale bread by taking some of the moisture away!
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To remedy the sogginess, I propose five solutions:
  • Put less milk in.  
  • Cut the bread in to smaller pieces so that it soaks the mixture quicker, & cooks to the core quicker. Smaller is also easier to flip over in the pan without fuzzing the shapes.
  • Fry the bread at very low heat to cook through to the core.
  • Use the lid as you fry so that it steam-cooks the bread. It’ll get fluffier & bouncier.
  • Warm the milk in the microwave prior to combining with egg mixture (I got this idea from the way creme patisserie is made). This in effect will make it quicker to cook as it is already warm when it hits the pan.
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Crust or no crust
When I was a child I used to just tear out & eat just the innards of the bread, which totally annoyed my mother. – Even now at age 37, I secretly still prefer to chop away the crust especially when making sandwiches, but my Mr.D ~ who is German & proper (Lol!) ~ would scorn, which totally makes me feel like a silly child again, so I daren’t do it nowadays. And now that we are supposed to set a good example in front of our children, I can never kiss goodbye to ‘le crust’.
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BUT! French Toast is an exception. This is a sweet dessert! It’s an indulgence. Might as well have it the way we like it huh? :) Besides, jokes apart, I personally think that the egg-sogged crust lends a slight wet cardboard-y texture, & takes half the fun out of eating the main super soft part anyways!
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Aesthetically pleasing French Toast shape? = 8:5 ratio
Upon cutting the bread, call me pedantic or just plain old silly, but I thought to myself: I wonder what the ‘most pleasing rectangle’ is?  
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The answer I settled on was to cut it to the golden ratio, which the special number is approximately 1.618. Meaning, I will cut the length to 1.618 times of the width. Or to round it up simply, the ratio of length to the width will be 8:5. I’m sure the ancient Greeks would approve of this french toast shape! Lol!
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NB: If you cut the toast in to 4, it’s pretty much 8:5 each, so no need to get the ruler out! 
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(Please take this whole measuring thing with a pinch of salt though, it’s all a bit of a pa larva that I’m making here…! You can ofcourse cut it in any way you like!)
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So how long should the bread soak in eggy milk?
Some say over-night, some say 3o seconds & hey pronto. I’m more in the latter camp. I like the idea of this to be a quick dessert that can be made by whim ~ impromptu with things that can be found in your everyday kitchen. Besides, the pre-sliced white bread from the supermarket sucks the mixture up like a kitchen sponge in no time anyways!
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Dressing up the French Toast
Please please try it with plain yogurt on the side. And a drizzle of maple syrup which won’t go amiss. And ah, perhaps even a sprinkle of cinnamon powder! The play between the cold yogurt & the hot french toast is so fine~♪, it’s so good~♫. The slight tang of the yogurt beautifully sets against the sweet toast too. 
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Coco&Me Quick French Toast Recipe
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Ingredients:
  • 2 slices of white bread (preferably thick)
  • 1 egg
  • 15g sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)
  • 60g milk (full fat if you have it) 
  • A knob of salted butter (for the frying pan)
  • Maple syrup (optional)
  • Plain yogurt (optional)
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Method:
  • 1. Toast the bread lightly. (Here, don’t brown it, as you’d have the burn taste coming through the French Toast.)
  • 2. Cut the crust off the bread. Then cut to smaller size. (It’s easier to cut without squishing the ends if you cut the toast when it has cooled down.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 3. In a bowl, whisk 1 egg until it loses its bounce, then add the 15 grams of sugar. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • 4. Measure 60 grams of milk in a mug & microwave until hot.  
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 5. Slowly pour in the hot milk to the eggs, whisking all the time. (The hot milk will not cook the eggs as the sugar will act as a barrier.)
  • 6. Put the toast pieces in the eggy milk. Swish the bowl around to gently coat the toast on both sides. (Don’t handle by hand as the toast is very fragile when soggy, it will lose shape or tear.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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  • 7. Heat the frying pan with medium-low heat. Dissolve the knob of butter. Then align the soaked rectangular bread.  
  • 8. Pop the lid on & lower the heat to minimum.
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  • 9. Wait for about 3 minutes or until the bottom side is nicely browned, then flip to the other side.
  • 10. And fry with the lid on top again.  
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  • 11. When the bread is nicely browned, transfer to a plate & eat it straight away while it is hot! (preferably with a big dollop of plain yogurt & a generous drizzle of maple syrup!)
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Bon Appétit! T xx  
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June 14th, 2012

Coco&Me’s super scones recipe

~ the science of baking the perfect scone ~

 

(I didn’t have time to buy clotted cream on this occasion… but full-on sloshing of jam will just have to do! ^^ Personally, I like to drink cold milk with my scones rather than tea.)

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♡♡♡ It’s recipe time!! ♡♡♡

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This time, I would like to share with you my take on scones. How I think it should taste & how it should look.

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Scones are honest, no-frills things aren’t they, there’s no fancy decorations to hide any flaws. And it’s because of that, that it’s all the more important to execute the baking well. When it comes out of the oven, they all ought to look pretty much uniform, & not collapsed lopsided or look like a collection of rocks. There should definitely be a side ways jaggedy break going through the middle, made from when the dough had risen, hinting at how deliciously soft the inside might be like. (Is there a name for this break? The Japanese call it ‘the wolf’s mouth’!)

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I think it should look unfussy & inviting, perhaps even goes as far as being evocative of the laid-back cream teas served by local ladies in pinnies down in the depths of devonshire countryside.

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Upon creating any of my own recipes, I always set about understanding the ingredients involved & how each plays its part. You know me, I love puzzing up my puzzler when concerned with baking. Afterall “baking is a science” & it’s my firm belief that if you understand the logic, you’re more likely to get a successful result. Not only that, when you vanish the question marks in your head, you would enjoy baking better too! – So here’s what I know about scone science in a Q&A format.

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Q: Why do we rub in the butter to the flour?

We rub in the butter to coat the flour so that it doesn’t soak up the wet ingredients as much as if otherwise. The butter fat acts as a barrier around the flour to stop gluten from developing too much. Gluten in cakes, as we know, creates structure which is important, but it also makes the cake firmer.

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Q: Why do we use cold butter?

Now, this is perhaps ‘the’ crucial part of the recipe. Utilize this bit of info & you will undoubtably bake super scones. People who know how puff pastry works will understand this better I think.

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So you think that it’s the baking powder that is doing all that lifting action right? No siree, there’s a bit more to it. – When the solid bits of butter encased in dough is rapidly heated in the oven, the water contents of the butter evaporates in to air bubbles, & it consequently lifts the gluten structure.

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For this reason, you know not to handle the dough with warm hands so as not to melt the butter prior to baking. And as cumbersome as it may be, we use the back of the fork (or even better with special pastry blenders) to rub in the butter.

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This bit of science also answers why the recipe has a high oven temperature setting. We want the butter to powerfully evaporate in the extreme heat, rather than slowly melt & sink in to the flour & wet it, creating excess gluten.

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Also, here’s a top tip: if you are baking in the summer, it may be an idea to cool your bowl & utensils in the fridge first! And while you are working, you can put an ice pack under the bowl!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - ice pack - scone recipe

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Q: Why do we rest the dough in the fridge?

Part of the reason lies in the above answer = that the butter within has to be kept cold. Another worthy reason is to relax the gluten strands, one, to produce fluffy texture, & second, to avoid shrinking when it bakes (the rested dough is less elastic).

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Q: What does milk do in baking?

Milk has a a particular & richer mouthfeel, what with its certain subtle sweetness, thickness & slight acidity.  The liquidity delvelops gluten when mixed with flour & structures the baked goods. And the natural sugar in milk lactose, aswell as the fat, tenderizes the baked goods & makes for moist texture without it being soggy. Milk in baked goods also extends the shelf-life. And the sugar interacting with protein browns the baked goods more readily too.

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Q: Why does your recipe call for the egg wash to be done twice?

Two egg washes with a rest in the fridge in-between to dry the first wash, will darken the top of the scones better & make the scones aesthetically more pleasing. It also gives it a shiny surface & is very smooth to the touch. I personally think that it helps to make the scone look one-rank up & a little more sophisticated.

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So the key tips to making perfect scones are as follows:

  • Use cold butter.
  • Don’t dawdle. Work efficiently to avoid butter melting in room temperature.
  • Rest the dough in the fridge for more than 30 minutes.
  • Bake at high oven temperature.

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After all the above science-y chalk-talk, I’m probably scaring you away from making these, but please fear not!! Making these scones, you’d never look back to purchase one in the shops! I am so super happy with this recipe! ^^ It is actually super easy, super amazing, super moreish!

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Coco&Me’s super scones recipe

(Yield: It depends on the size of your cutters obviously, but I can make about 7 scones, using my 6.8cm round cutter)

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Ingredients:

90g salted butter ( I like using salted butter. If using unsalted, also add a pinch of salt.)

300g plain flour

15g baking powder

45g caster sugar

125ml cold milk

egg yolk for brushing the top surface

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Method:

  • 1. First thing first, cut 90 grams of butter into tiniest cubes possible & place in a large, deep-walled mixing bowl. Refrigerate this bowl with the butter until needed.
  • 2. Sieve in 300 grams of flour. (If using unsalted butter, add the pinch of salt in this step.)
  • 3. Using the back of the fork (or a special pastry blender if you have one), cut the butter in to the flour. Try to work quickly to avoid the butter from melting. (If you think that the butter is getting soft, place the bowl in the fridge until firm & then work again.Or try my tip & place an ice-pack underneath your bowl.)
  • 4. When the butter lumps are as small as a grain of rice, sieve in 15 grams of baking powder.
  • 5. Next, toss in the 45 grams of sugar.
  • 6. Pour in 125ml of milk & quickly work it in to the flour mixture to form a ball of dough. Here, use a spatula for most of the work, & then your hands at the end only to gather it in to a ball. Next, knead it until it is less bumpy. But also keep in mind to never over-work the dough so as not to produce gluten.
  • 7. Cling film it tightly & refrigerate for more than 30 minutes.
  • 8. After the 30 minutes rest, flour the work surface. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough flat to 2.5 to 3cm height.
  • 9. Then proceed to cut discs out. Very lightly flour the insides of the round cutter, & with equal force from straight above, cut in to the dough. Never twist the cutter or else you will get a lopsided scone.
  • 10. Place the discs on to the baking tray lined with baking sheet. Here, when moving the discs, never ever touch the cut sides.
  • 11. Brush the top surface with loosened egg yolk. Brush to the edges, but be careful not to let the egg wash drool down the sides.
  • 12. Rest it in the fridge again until the egg wash is dry to the touch (approximately 10 minutes).
  • 13. In the meantime, proceed to pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees centigrade.
  • 14. Brush on the egg wash for the second time.
  • 15. Place tray in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes (dependent of size of your scones). Turn the oven sheet half way baking to ensure even heat/ even rise.
  • 16. Best served warm!! xx

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(By the way, it’s best to align the scone discs diagonally on the baking tray. The hot oven air flows better to each & individual discs better than if the discs were horizontally aligned.)

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(Did you know, the proper way to split open the baked scone is not with a knife but by fingers, right where the crack is!)  

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Lastly, scone trivia!

Do you spread the jam above or under the clotted cream? Cornwall has the jam underneath & Devon has theirs above (I’m a jam on top girl by the way).

 

January 22nd, 2012

Tiramisu recipe (+ Ladyfingers recipe)

(Tiramisu in individual cup – with ribbon design stenciled.)

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High time for another recipe! So here goes (…a long one)! ^^

 

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TIRAMISU

Literally meaning ‘pick me up’, this Italian dessert is made by alternately layering coffee-dipped ladyfingers*, mascarpone mixture, & cocoa powder.

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Interestingly, the history of tiramisu doesn’t stretch long. You’d think that such a classic Italian dessert would record back from perhaps generations of family tradition or perhaps it might have been conceptualized soon after when zabaglione was invented all the way back in 1570**. But no, although exact origin is not certain, the earliest tiramisu recipe found*** is from only less than 30 years ago.

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There are many tiramisu recipes out there, but it mainly separates into two camps: raw-egg version or pasteurized egg version. I prefer the pasteurized version – It feels safer that way. I also prefer to use Kahlúa (Mexican coffee flavored rum based liqueur) in the cream mixture as opposed to Marsala wine, as I think it marries the coffee-soaked ladyfingers & the cream better.

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The following recipe will make 4 & a half tea-cups of tiramisu like the picture above. Obviously, you can make it in one big dish if you prefer. And for the ladyfingers, you can ofcourse use store bought instead, but nothing beats homemade on this one! ^^ So let’s first look in to making the ladyfingers!

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First thing we need to do is to prepare the baking surface with guide lines so that you can pipe the ladyfingers straight with the same length & thickness. – If using baking parchment sheet, use pencil & ruler. Just make sure to reverse the paper so you pipe on the surface without pencil-side. – On a Silpat, you can’t draw, so dust icing sugar instead.

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BAKING PAPER vs SILPAT

On a Silpat, the back of the ladyfinger will come out smooth & shiny. It comes out rough on baking paper. It is also easier to remove/ lift off the ladyfingers with silpat’s non-sitck surface compared to having to peel it off on baking paper. Silpat also provides even heat transfer to your baked goods. This is because the glass fibres in it increases the heat transfer. I have experimented on both sheets, & I had to add another 4 minutes to the baking time when using baking paper.

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LADYFINGERS RECIPE:

Makes about 30 to 35 fingers. (Please note: for the tiramisu recipe below, you will only use half as much)

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Ingredients:

3 medium eggs

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

60g icing sugar

45g cornstarch

30g icing sugar

60g plain flour

Icing sugar for dusting the top
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Things you need to prepare beforehand:
Piping bag
Scissors
Small fine-mesh sieve (like a tea-strainer)
Spatula
Hand mixer
Small bowl with water
Chosen baking sheet with guide grid.

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Method:

  1. 1. Start pre-heating the oven to 220°c, as it takes a while to heat up.
  2. 2.Measure/ prepare all ingredients for smooth operation(Separate the 3 eggs to two bowls, the egg yolks in to a small bowl & the whites to normal size bowl). Also have the piping bag & scissors ready.

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com - Ladyfingers / tiramisu recipe

  1. 3. First, let’s make meringue. In a normal sized bowl, whip the 3 egg whites to foamy stage.
  2. 4. Add 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. Keep whisking.

  1. 5. Next gradually add the 60g icing sugar while whisking. Whisk until soft peak stage.
  2. 6. Add 45g cornstarch & give it a final whip until hard peaks form. Leave this bowl aside for now.

  1. 7. Next, quickly go on to the small bowl with the 3 egg yolks. Dump the 30g of icing sugar, then on high speed, whip until it has tripled in volume. It should look paler & fluffier. (To avoid washing-up, just use the same whisk attachment as the one you were using to whip the egg whites!!)
  2. 7. Spatula in the yolk mixture in to the bowl with the meringue. Fold it in roughly. (Not too much because you will be giving it a proper mix in a moment with the flour anyway!)

  1. 8. Sieve in the 60g plain flour.
  2. 9. Gently fold the mixture just until no flour remains to be seen. (Don’t over-mix!!)

  1. 10. Place the mixture in to the piping bag & then snip off the tip so that you have a 1cm piping-hole. (Notice in the picture above that the baking sheet is reversed so we’re not piping directly on pencil marks.)

  1. 10.Slowly & precisely pipe neat lines using the guides on your baking sheet.
    (Tip on piping: Start piping about 1cm inside the guide. Squeeze the batter out until it’s a round blob & until it touches the guides. Keeping the pressure flow, gradually & slowly move the piping bag across to make a line.)
  2. 11. Your piped shapes will have a ‘kink’ sticking out where you lifted the piping bag off. So dab minimal amount of water on to your finger & press the pointy bits down very gently & smooth that bit of surface. (If you don’t do this, you will end up with ladyfingers that have burnt pointy bit.)

  1. 12. Sieve plenty of icing sugar on the shapes. Do this twice. (This way, you get the pearlized look, aswell as help it lift the top surface up & give it ‘feet’ around the sides just like a macaron.)
  2. 13. Bake in the pre-heated oven. Half way through baking, take it out & turn them over so that the underside becomes dry too.

  1. 14. After about 15 minutes, lift one of the biscuits & tap the back, if it sounds hollow it is done. Take it out & let it cool on the baking tray. You can see from the picture it is baked through & is dry all the way to the middle. It’ll have a nice snap.

 

 

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TIRAMISU RECIPE

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Ingredients:

Strong coffee – cold

3g gelatin powder

30g Kahlúa

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

10g Kahlúa

3 egg yolks

80g sugar

250g double cream

250g mascarpone cheese

cocoa powder

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Method:

Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com- creamy tiramisu recipe - homemade - design - individual cups

  1. 1. Make strong coffee & set aside to cool.
  2. 2. Sprinkle 3g of gelatin powder in to 30g of Kahlúa liqueur. Stir it straight away with a spoon. Set this aside. (Top tip to successfully dissolving gelatin is to add powder to liquid, not visa versa)
  3. .

  1. 3. Next, we pasteurize the eggs: In a small mixing bowl, combine 10g Kahlúa, 3 egg yolks & 80g sugar. Put this bowl over a bain marie & bring the mixture temperature to 60°c, whisking all the time. Beat it for 3 minutes. The mixture will be fluffy & have doubled in quantity. (Note: 60°c temperature for 3 minutes destroys salmonella organisms.)
  2. 4. Microwave the Kahlúa-gelatin liquid from step 2 for 20 seconds or until the gelatin granules have dissolved. Set this aside to cool.
  3. .

  1. 5. In a separate bowl, whip the 250g double cream until it forms stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. 6. In another bowl, combine 250g mascapone cheese to the egg-mixture from step 3.

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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com- creamy tiramisu recipe - homemade - design - individual cups

  1. 7. Then fold in the whipped double cream from step 5 & the cooled gelatin from step 2.

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  1. 8. Have the cold coffee liquid in a shallow bowl, & one by one, soak a ladyfinger in cold coffee on both sides for one second each.
  2. 9. Align one layer.

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  1. 10. Layer mascapone mixture to half way.
  2. 11. Sieve cocoa powder.

 

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  1. 12. Run your finger around the cup to remove excess cocoa powder.
  2. 13. Then repeat by placing another layer of coffee soaked ladyfingers, after that, cream – this time all the way to the top. Finally run your finger around the rim again to tidy up.
  3. 14. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

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  1. 15. Sieve cocoa powder. (use a stencil to customize the top if you like!)
  2. 17. Finally, use fingertip to go around the glass rim to tidy up the cocoa powder.
  3. 18. Serve cold. Buon Appetito!!

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* Ladyfingers are also called ‘savoiardi’ (=from Savoy) in Italian, ‘biscuits à la cuillère’ or ‘boudoirs’ in French, ’lange vingers’ (=long fingers) in Dutch, ‘Löffelbiskuit’ (=spoon biscuit) in German. ** Detailed instruction of ‘Zambaione’ was mentioned in a cookbook called ‘Opera’ by Bartolomeo Scappi in 1570. *** Book titled I Dolci del Veneto (The Desserts of Veneto) by Giovanni Capnist in 1983. In here, it says “(Tiramisu is) a recent recipe with infinite variations from the town of Treviso” & is a “discovery of restaurants more than family tradition.”

May 29th, 2011

How to make Hello Kitty & Pokémon cookies

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Backtracking humongously here, but here are some pictures from before Easter.

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There are seven Japanese mums at my son’s school, & we all got together to raise funds for the Japan earthquake & tsunami relief. We did a sushi & cake sale in the school yard, & I of-course contributed by baking cookies & cakes.

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Upon setting about doing this, I had a clear criteria to solve. Perhaps it’s the old graphic designer in me, but I love brainstorming. So here’s what I considered:

~ I knew I wanted a Japanese theme to them. ~ It had to appeal to primary school children & their mums. ~ It also must be time & cost effective for maximum return. (The going-rate for cake spendage is 20p to a £1 at a standard school cake sale, so for the pricing to be set so low, the cost of ingredients must stay minimal…) ~ And most importantly, explicitly with NO nuts as the school has a nut-free policy.

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After a quick sesh with my thinking cap on, I figured the best way is to bake cookies but also add value to them by imprinting famous childrens characters. Hello Kitty to appeal to girls, & Pikachu (Pokémon) for boys. As for the cookie recipe, I used the tried & tested Nontan one that I wrote about previously on this blog.

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To imprint the characters, here’s what I did:

  • 1. I found a line drawing that I like on the web.
  • 2. Then printed it out b&w to a size that I want.
  • 3. Layer a clear acetate sheet on top of print, secure the corners with sellotape.
  • 4. Using a thin black permanent marker pen, copy the design on to acetate. (Non-permanent will smudge as you do your cut out work.)
  • 5. Place acetate on cutting board, & carefully cut out the black lines. – The important thing to remember when cutting a stencil is that if there is a ‘perfect’ continual line, you have to break it to avoid cutting out the inside. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but think of the inner circle in letter ‘O’ for example. - And if you look at the bow on the kitty cookie below, you’d see that there I left gaps in the line to hold the inside.
  • 6. When you have finished making the stencil, place it on cut-out cookie dough & dust cocoa powder gently & most importantly faintly to avoid smudges. Carefully remove the stencil sheet off, then bake as per usual.

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(I used my tart tin as a cookie mold to get the fluted rim.)

(Pre-packaged in a bag for quick sale. Small handmade Japan flag sticker for added touch & charity feel. Lucky that the Japan flag is just a red circle! I wouldn’t have done this if the flag design was complicated! ie; U.S.A!)

(Cookie came big in five inch diameter! But was sold only for a pound! Bargain!! If at my market, I would’ve sold them at £1.50 I reckon!)

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I made about 55 of these, & they sold within 7 minutes. I didn’t anticipate that most mums would be buying more than one each. ~ I should’ve made more…!!? ^^

April 4th, 2011

Children’s story book with honey buzz buzz cake recipe

(plus a general update at the end)

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Please note:

I am not going to be at the market on the 9TH & THE 30TH OF APRIL! I’m sorry for the inconvenience it may have caused to your plans… Sorry.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe with step by step process pictures

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Hello everyone!

I’m going to share with you today a cake recipe that is not mine, but from one of my family’s favourite & thumbed through Japanese children’s story book we have at home.

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If you’re a seasoned reader of this blog, you’d know that this is the second time that I’ve written about a recipe from a children’s book (read the first one here). I love collecting (good) recipe books to add to my huge library of anything baking related, & that obsession extends to the choice of books I buy for my children! Biased I know (!), but why not? ^^ I would love for my children to like baking as much as I do. And in fact, let me tell you, my son’s first ever cinema film was Pixar’s Ratatouille back in 2007, because I wanted food to be part of his milestone experience. Although… then again, maybe the truth was that we went because I myself simply couldn’t wait ’til it came out on DVD…? ;) Lol.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Kuma kun no hachimitsu bun bun keiki children's recipe book- Boy bear's honey buzz buzz cake book

The book title is “クマくんのはちみつぶんぶんケーキ” (Kuma-kun no hachimitsu buun buun keiki) which translates to something like “Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake”. It is published in 1994, & is written by Machiko Yagyu.

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The story is about a bear who wants to make the honey buzz buzz cake (what a great name!), so helps out at Mrs.Bee’s to get some honey for it. On return home, he meets a family of pigs & he invites them around for a cake party. Here, there is the highlight joke of the book, when the piglets can’t say part of the cake name “buun buun” (Japanese way of saying buzz buzz), & says “buu buu” (Japanese way of saying oink oink). If you’re a Japanese kid, it is the most hilarious bit I assure you.

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www.cocoandme.com  - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe book - sample page

(the illustrated recipe page.)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe book - sample page

(Boy bear with his bee & piggie friends have a tea party outside with pink tablecloth. – For my cake picture at the top of this post, I followed Boy bear’s choice with pink tablecloth! But I’d like to think I’m one up on him for the beehive-like hexagon design! )

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Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake is delightfully homesome. There is one caution though – as it bakes in the oven, the aroma of honey will waft tantalizingly, teasing us in to a drool monster by the time it is ready. And if you only knew how scrumptious it really is, it’s hard not to dig in as soon as it is out of the oven. Trust a honey-lovin’ bear to know a seriously good honey cake I say!

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Combined with the ease of the recipe, I have made this cake a number of times without fail, even with the children! – - Although, as you can see from the chaotic pictures below, at times there were too many hands wanting to do the same thing, & it does get messy… When baking with children, best to take a deep breath & not be too fussy I suppose, so long as they’ve washed their hands! – (I’m a hygiene freak!)

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About the science behind the recipe:

Honey has the ability to attract & hold moisture (hygroscopy). This makes the cake moist. Honey is also relatively acidic, & together with the sour cream which is also an acidic ingredient, it tenderizes the gluten formed in the batter.

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The bicarbonate of soda in the recipe reacts to the acidic ingredients & produces carbon dioxide gas which lifts the cake upwards as it tries to escape. During the time in the oven, the flour gluten structures ‘pillars’ that hold the cake in it’s risen height. A noteworthy point here though is that the bicarbonate of soda starts doing it’s magic at 80 degrees+ (wiki), so you’d think that you would have time to prepare leisurely, but as the recipe also calls for baking powder which reacts straight away from when in contact with moisture (the batter), you will be required to work quick once the BP is mixed in.

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You might have noticed that the oven temperature is set at 140 degrees compared to the usual 180. That’s because honey caramelizes at a lower temperature than sugar, & it browns more than baked cakes made with granular sugar. The lower oven temperature will prevent the cake from over-browning.

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For this cake recipe, I recommend using ‘clear’ honey with all-round taste, & NOT any of the more distinctive bold flavoured ones. I once tried baking this cake with eucalyptus honey, & it was not good. If this cake recipe works for you, perhaps next time play around with different honeys – the amount of fructose honey has is different in every one of them & subsequently the sweetness too will differ.

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One last point – don’t feed honey to children under the age of one – honey has high fructose content, & the botulinum spores in it may be hazardous.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Honey buzz buzz cake - recipe step by step process

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“Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake” Recipe:

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Ingredients:

  • 140g of unsalted butter
  • 140cc/ml of clear honey
  • 140g of sour cream (or if not, double cream apparently, but I have to admit I never tried)
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • 200g of plain flour
  • 7g of baking powder
  • 2g of bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g plus of almond flakes
  • Icing sugar to dust the top

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Prepare:

  • an 8 inch (20cm) spring-form cake tin. Butter the sides & the bottom, then line it with baking paper.
  • preheat the oven to 140 degrees.

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Method:

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  • 1. Cube the unsalted butter & microwave until soft. (I recommend microwaving in 10 second increments & checking that you haven’t over-melted it. Here, ‘soft’ is when you can easily dip your finger in to it & it feels soft like mayonnaise.
  • 2. Whisk the butter to incorporate air. Do it until the butter is lighter in colour.
  • 3. Add 140cc of clear honey. Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 4. Add 140 grams of sour cream (or double cream). Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 5. Add 2 medium sized eggs. Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 6. Sift the dry ingredients in. 200 grams of plain flour, 7 grams of baking powder & 2 grams of bicarbonate of soda.
  • 7. Fold it in.
  • 8. Pour the batter in to the cake tin & spread it out nicely.
  • 9. Sprinkle 25 grams of flaked almonds.
  • 10. Sieve icing sugar on top. Here, sieve more than you think it requires!)
  • 11. Place in pre-heated oven of 140 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until your cake-skewer comes out clean.

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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Honey Buzz Buzz Cake recipe with step by step process pictures

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A little update on how things are doing:

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Exactly a week after the Japan earthquake & tsunami, my daughter S turned three. That Sunday, we celebrated with a small party. The birthday cake was our family’s one & only option for birthdays, which is the genoise cake with cream & strawberry. It was put together very quickly on that Sunday morning, while chaotically tidying the house before the guests arrive. You could probably tell the stress on my face in the first picture on the left! Lol!

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Last week, there was a little incident when our son ‘I’ turned out to be a bit of a fundraiser himself. He handed out ten of the Japan charity badges to his class-mates without my knowing, & asked them to bring one pound each. He meant well I know, but asking for money from children is not good, so I emailed the parents to tell them what happened & tried to recover the badges. Nice thing about it was that most parents just donated money instead of returning, & so in the end, my son raised eleven pounds! – Upon this incident, I realized that our son is perhaps just as affected by the news of Japan as I am…, & wanted to help. Perhaps I ought to have been a bit more careful when watching the news on telly…

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There’s two bits of news:

One: all donations from the badge sales & from the donation box on my stall will go to THE RED CROSS from now on. They are doing such a fantastic job out there. Subsequently, I am now going to shut down the fundraising page I set up 3 weeks ago on First Giving for the Save The Children charity. May I take this final opportunity to thank once again to those of you who have donated! Thank you!! xoxo You are all very special people…! I love you!

The total fund raised is… (drum rolls please…!!) a whopping 3,699 dollars! Woohoo! Yay, baby!!!

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Two: As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I will not be at the market on the 9th & the 30th of April. The first one because I can’t get child-care, & the second date, because it is my 35th birthday!!! ^^ Also, it’s because the day before, the 29th is the Royal wedding, & my road is doing a street party & I’m not one to miss it! ^^

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October 12th, 2010

Cake pan size conversion ~ The formula ~

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One of the many baking questions I get asked is how to scale a cake recipe to fit another size or shaped pan.
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There is an universal formula you can use:
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(volume of the preferred tin) ÷ (volume of the original tin)
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For this, you need to find out the volume of the two tins.
The formulas to work out the volume of a pan according to shapes are the following:
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ROUND
(3.14 x half the diameter x half the diameter x height)
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SQUARE or RECTANGLE
(length x width x height)
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NOVELTY CAKE TIN
First work out the volume of tin by weighing how much water goes in. Water is 1g = 1 cm³
(The mass of 1 cubic centimetre water at 3.98°c equal to a gram. (it’s the temperature at which it is at maximal density roughly). So we can use that number you’ve weighed as the measure of volume.
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MULTI-CAVITY TIN (like a muffin pan)
Again, work out the volume by pouring water in one cavity, & multiply that with how many cavities there are. Weigh it in grams, & use that number as the volume.

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Here are two examples:

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To convert from an 8″ ROUND cake tin (with 2″ height) to 10″ ROUND cake tin (with 3″ height) you’d do this:
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(3.14 x half the diameter x half the diameter x height) ÷ (3.14 x half the diameter x half the diameter x height)

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(3.14 x 5 x 5 x 3) ÷ (3.14 x 4 x 4 x 2) = 2.34375
So here we now know that we need to multiply the recipe by 2.4 times.
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But if the height of the pans are the same, use this simpler formula:
(dimension of preferred tin ÷ dimension of original tin) x (dimension of preferred tin ÷ dimension of original tin)
For example,
(10÷8) × (10÷8) = 1.25 x 1.25 = 1.5625
So here we now know that we need to multiply the recipe by 1.6 times.
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To convert an 8″ ROUND cake tin A to 10″ SQUARE cake tin B (when height is the same):
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(length x width) ÷ (3.14 x half the diameter of A x half the diameter of A)

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(10 x 10 ) ÷ (3.14 x 4 x 4) = 1.99
So here we now know that we need to multiply the recipe by 1.99 times. (I like to round it to 2)
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Please note:

- If both tins in question are of same height, you don’t need to measure the height for each.
- The examples are in inches, but of-course the same formula works in centimeters too!
- When I get long answers like 1.5625, I personally like to round it UP to 1.6.
- Although the oven temperature should remain the same for both occasions, the baking-time will change.
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It’s all probably elementary bit of maths for you all, but for me it certainly isn’t! There is a reason why I’m a baker & not a mathematician…

June 24th, 2010

Stupendously easy homemade butter & fun buttermilk pancake recipe

Coco&Me - Homemade butter in a shape of a bear (molded)  - www.cocoandme.com(Bear cub – Homemade butter cut out with cookie cutter.)
Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - heart motif - www.cocoandme.com(Heart shape buttermilk pancake)
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About time for some recipes from yours truly. xx
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First, I would like to write about how easy it is to make butter in your very own home. Not just any butter, but a deliciously creamy one, quite unlike any that you’ve had before, I promise. And all from JUST one ingredient; double cream (& salt to taste), which you JUST over-whip until the liquid has separated & leaves you with the semi-solid, which is the butter (more precisely, butterfat). Stupendously easy right? Told you!! ^^
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And here’s the revelation. The left over liquid is, guess what? Buttermilk!!!! So don’t throw it away because we are using it for our pancakes later.

Coco&Me - Homemade butter & buttermilk  pancake recipe - www.cocoandme.com(Buttermilk extracted from double cream!!)
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Here’s what you’ll need to make butter:

  • Double cream
  • Mixing bowl & hand-mixer (or Food processor)
  • Salt (try adding 0.5% of total butter to start with, & add more if you prefer)
  • .
    And to make it:

  • 1. Start whisking the double cream in a deep-walled mixing bowl. (… deep walled bowl is better as the liquid will spit like mad!)
  • 2. At first it will look like chantilly cream you’d use for cake decorating. Continue whisking.
  • 3. A while later it’ll start to curdle (looking like cottage cheese). Soon after, it will start oozing liquid.
  • 4. Whisk until it has broken in to two components, solid & liquid. The solid is very fresh butter & liquid, buttermilk.
  • 5. Collect the buttermilk for later use. Then whip the butter more to extract as much liquid.
  • 6. Weigh how heavy your lump of butter is, and calculate how much salt you’d like to incorporate.
  • 7. Vigorously work in the salt to the butter to ensure even distribution.
  • Coco&Me - Homemade butter & buttermilk pancake recipe - www.cocoandme.com
    To store, you can just scoop it in a Tupperware & refrigerate, or, if you like, you can roll it to 1.5cm thickness or more in-between greaseproof paper like the picture below, then freeze it for a while (1-2 hours) to make it hard to cut shapes using cookie cutters!!! (… it is best to use simple shapes that don’t have intricate corners. Also, you might want to use a cooks’ blow torch to ease them out of the mold.)
    Coco&Me - Homemade butter & buttermilk pancake recipe - www.cocoandme.com
    Guide notes:

  • The double cream has to be fresh, not UHT or vegetable oil substitute.
  • Some recipes will say to ‘wash the butter’ at the end. It is done to wash out any residual buttermilk so that the butter keeps for longer. I have skipped this step because it’s an extra work that takes the fun away, but please feel free to do so.
  • Make sure to salt the butter AFTER you have collected the buttermilk. You wouldn’t want to flavour the buttermilk right?
  • Butter yield: From 600ml of double cream, I ended up with 324g of butter & 235ml of buttermilk.
  • This butter has a ‘cleaner’ note to the taste than shop-bought ones. And perhaps less yellow.
  • The science: Cream contains tiny globules of butterfat surrounded by membranes. By agitating the cream by whipping, the membranes of these globules break & the loosened butterfat chain together to form a solid mass = butter. For more information, please check out this website.
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    Next, let’s make some fun looking pancakes!
    In the recipe below, I have used silicone egg rings to make shapely pancakes. And also had some fun drawing on them. Ofcourse, you can approach this the usual/ easier/ quicker way by just freehand scooping & pouring! – And as for the recipe itself, it produces very moist pancakes that is very (very) moreish, I can assure you it’ll disappear from your plate in nooooo time… Ever since I made this recipe, we always have buttermilk in our fridge for a quick fix up!
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    Buttermilk pancake recipe:
    .
    Ingredients:

  • Plain flour… 120g
  • Sugar… 40g
  • Baking powder… 5g
  • Baking soda… 3g
  • Egg… 1
  • Buttermilk… 200ml
  • Vanilla extract… a dash
  • Melted salted butter… 40g
  • Cocoa powder… roughly a teaspoon
  • You’ll need the following things:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Silicone egg rings
  • See-through lid that covers your frying pan
  • Optional: Maple syrup or icing sugar to serve
  • .
    Method:

  • 1. First we prepare two separate bowls of ingredients;
    - – a: sifted dry ingredients: flour, baking powder & baking soda.
    - – b: mixed wet ingredients: egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract, but minus the melted salted butter which we will incorporate in step 3.
  • 2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients & GRADUALLY pour in the wet ingredients, whisking all the time.
  • 3. When you have whisked the batter until it is not clumpy, pour in the melted butter & whisk it in.
  • 4. Next, pour some of the mixture in another small bowl, then add cocoa powder to colour it brown.
  • 5. Put the cocoa batter in a piping bag.
  • 6. Heat the pan on low.
  • 7. Grease the pan thinly with melted salted butter. (…using folded kitchen paper to smear it across is my choice of method.)
  • 8. Place the silicone egg ring on the pan.
  • 9. Pipe a simple design quickly using your cocoa batter.
  • 10. When the cocoa design has dried, pour the pancake batter in the egg-ring (…here, make sure it is just under half the height of your mold, as anything higher, the batter will flood out when frying).
  • 11. Place the lid on (…a glass lid would be best so that you can keep an eye on how the pancakes are doing).
  • 12. Wait until you start to see bubbles appear on the surface & the edges slightly cooked.
  • 13. Flip the pancake with the egg-ring still attached (…I find that flipping together with the mold ‘spill-free’).
  • 14. Fry until it browns (about under a minute).
  • Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - www.cocoandme.com
    Guide notes:

  • This recipe does not work with milk as substitute for buttermilk. I tried & it came out edible, but not nearly as tasty as the proper buttermilk version. – I also did a test-run with milk that has been soured with lemon. It was much better than the ‘milk-only’ version, but nothing beats the real thing.
  • If you are using the silicone mold straight again, just give it a quick wipe with the kitchen towel to get rid of any residue.
  • Use the batter straight away. Never rest it. The reason for this has to do with the two leavening agents in this recipe:
    - Baking powder reacts to moisture & enlarges the carbon dioxide (air) within the batter. It expands upwards.
    - As for the baking soda, which expands sideways, primarily reacts with acidic components (such as buttermilk) to give off carbon dioxide that expand under temperature. For both agents, the reaction is immediate after being incorporated, so please don’t rest the batter or the carbon dioxide will start to dissipate, & it won’t rise so well.
    - Another point worth mentioning about these leavening agents is that you should not use aged stuff that’s been lying around in your store cupboard, as it won’t be as reactive, it’ll have a bitter taste, & you’d get a disappointing result.
  • I like using salted butter for this recipe. Salt is known for enhancing the flavours of the other ingredients, especially sweetness. I also like to grease the pan with the salted butter.
  • Silicone molds are the best. I tried metallic shapes such as standard cookie cutters, greasing the sides with butter then flouring, but the pancake sticks now & again & it does not give you consistent results. Also, complicated shapes should be avoided as they are finickity.
  • .
    Some more designs:
    .
    This one is an evolving message on a pancake as they eat! The surprise is right at the bottom!
    Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - hidden message - www.cocoandme.comCoco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - hidden message - www.cocoandme.com(… With car-shaped butter!) You have to pipe the letters mirrored – which can get confusing!! (notice the ‘Y’ in ‘today’?)
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    And there’s the three bears:Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - bear motif - www.cocoandme.com.
    This one, I used my stencil to dust a bit of icing.Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - icing pattern - www.cocoandme.comCoco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - icing pattern - www.cocoandme.com.
    More playing around…
    Coco&Me - Buttermilk Pancake recipe with step-by-step pictures of the process - heart & star motif - www.cocoandme.com.
    And finally, a picture of a squirrel butter, which ends my longest ever recipe post!!!!Coco&Me - Homemade butter in a shape of a squirrel (molded)  - www.cocoandme.com

    January 15th, 2010

    Coco&Me Baked Cheesecake Recipe

    (with step-by-step with pictures)

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    www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Baked Cheese cake biscuit base recipe with making process pictures/ images - with embossed pattern of unicorn & squirrel(…with unicorn pattern embossed)

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    www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Baked Cheese cake biscuit base recipe with making process pictures/ images - with embossed pattern of unicorn & squirrel(It is ultra c r e a m y & the texture is melt-in-your mouth like a soufflé!)

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    x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x .

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    This must be one of the most easiest of cake recipes!

    • It doesn’t involve separating eggs.
    • Nor whisking any time-delicate meringues, so you can take as much time leisurely making it.
    • There’s minimal washing-up to do too, as all the mixing happens in one bowl.
    • As for the biscuit base, you can further avoid washing-up by simply massaging the store-bought biscuits & butter in a food bag! Of course you can do it the usual way by using bare hands, but do it my way, you’d also avoid getting unpleasant biscuit-mash in your nails & your fingers buttery.^^ On that same note, I also suggest cling-filming the 3 middle fingers when pressing down the biscuit to the base.
    • There is no adventurous water-bath method to contend! (Some cheesecake recipes use the water-bath method to cook it gently so that it doesn’t crack, but I for one have a long hate-relationship with the method ever since the water seeped in to my cakes via the removable bottom in many occasions in the past…)

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    The texture of the cheesecake is creeeeeamy! I managed this by tweaking the balance of the ingredients so that it uses tons of double cream/ sour cream/ cream cheese, but as little as possible of flour (… flour creates the ‘structural pillar’ that holds the cake in the inflated spongier shape – please read my blog-entry on flour for explanation of this).
    .

    I sell my cheesecakes down at the market. And I’m happy to say that it’s been a hit no problem. It’ll always definitely be in my line-up because it has acquired a bit of a following ^^

    - Like the lady who said: “I used to buy your flour-less chocolate cake all the time, but now I converted to always buying the cheesecake!” And the spectacled-man who’d get disappointed if it’s sold-out. There’s also my favorite tomato-seller girl who’ve been buying the whole cake for 4 weeks in a row, but says she never gets to eat as much as she’d like to because her boyfriend & her family loves it too!

    .

    The pattern:

    When I first started selling the cheesecake, it had no pattern on top. Although I was perfectly confident with the taste, I felt the presentation needed ‘Something’. Y’know, that ‘Something special’ for the wow factor & for the customer to justify their purchase. For a long while I was thinking of a solution to this; & I was enquiring around to see if I could get an iron stamp that I could heat & emboss/ burn a pattern with. But, one, it is difficult to get hold of, & secondly it’s never in a pretty pattern!

    - So next I thought what about stenciling with cocoa powder? But maybe not. It’ll be too smudgy…

    - Then it occurred to me while I was embossing my chocolate bird tart. Ah! Just invert it! Cocoa powder & cookie cutter! Simply dab cocoa powder on the blunt end of the cookie cutter, then tap off the excess & stamp the cake!
    .

    www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Baked Cheese cake biscuit base recipe with making process pictures/ images - with embossed pattern of unicorn & squirrel(I get asked A LOT at the market on how I do it!)

    www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Baked Cheese cake biscuit base recipe with making process pictures/ images - with embossed pattern of unicorn & squirrel(My favorite stamp! – I love unicorns…)
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    Note:

    • I mixed together oat biscuits to the plain digestives to add interest in flavour. It also gives you a different sort of crunch compared to the pap the digestives can become.
    • Resting the pressed biscuit base in the refrigerator while you make the filling firms the butter within.
    • Sour cream tenderizes the cake, as well as enhancing the tang of the cream cheese.
    • Excessively tapping away the air bubbles is the key to avoiding cracks on the surface that is the oh-so-common pitfall of baking a cheesecake.
    • Lining the sides of the pan with baking paper also helps to avoid cracked surface. The common problem with the cheesecake is that it tends to stick to the side of the pan, but as it cools it tries to pull away from the wall. This tension ends up with a cracked surface. Whereas if you line it with baking paper, the paper will agreeably pull away with the cake too…
    • The only down-side about this cake (if there is one) is that you have to keep your mitts off & leave it to mature over-night!

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    So here it is! (Finally!) My baked cheesecake recipe.

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    x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x . x x .

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    The Baked Cheesecake Recipe:

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    Ingredients:

    For the biscuit base:

        70g Oat biscuits

    (…Obviously it depends on brands, but for me it was 4 ½ biscuits)

        85g Digestive biscuits

    (…Obviously it depends on brands, but for me it was 5 ½ biscuits)

        70g unsalted butter


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    For the filling:

        70g unsalted butter

     

        90g castor sugar

     

        330g cream cheese

     

        90 ml sour cream

     

        100g whole eggs (approximately 2 eggs)

     

        100 ml double cream

     

        25g flour

     

      12 ml lemon juice

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    Method:

    • 1. First begin by greasing a 8″ round spring-form cake pan with butter. Then line both the base & the sides with greaseproof baking paper.
    • 2. Now on to making the biscuit base. First measure your biscuits (70 grams Oat biscuits + 85 grams Digestive) in a food bag.
    • 3. Crush them by hand or bash it with wooden rolling pin. Leave some chunky for interesting texture.
    • 4. Melt 70 grams of butter. Put it in the food bag.
    • 5. Massage the food bag to combine.
    • 6. Empty the mixture in a greased & lined pan.
    • 7. Press the biscuit mixture firmly to the base. I like to do the edges & work to the middle. (Optional: cling-film the three middle fingers for hygiene & to avoid buttery fingers!)
    • 8. Refrigerate the pressed biscuit base while you make the filling.
    • 9. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade.
    • 10. Next, in a mixing bowl whisk the 70 grams of butter until very soft & creamy.
    • 11. Add in the 90 grams of sugar. Whisk & combine.
    • 12. Add 330 grams of cream cheese. Whisk & combine.
    • 13. Add 90ml of sour cream. Whisk & combine.
    • 14. Add 100 grams of whole eggs. Whisk & combine.
    • 15. Add 100ml double cream. Whisk & combine.
    • 16. Add 25 grams of flour. Whisk & combine.
    • 17. Add 12ml Lemon juice. Whisk & combine.
    • 18. TAP the bowl MULTIPLE times on the work surface to let the air bubble out. (take your time doing this as this is the key to avoiding cracked surface!)
    • 19. Slowly pour the mix in to the cake pan. Tap it some more on the work surface.
    • 20. Place the pan on top of a baking tray, & pop it in the oven. (You need the baking tray to collect the small amount of butter that seeps out from the bottom of the cake pan)
    • 21. Bake for 30 minutes first.
    • 22. Have a look. If it looks like it is starting to brown too much on top, cover loosely with foil.
    • 23. Bake for another 10 minutes.
    • 24. Skewer test. I like it when it isn’t thoroughly cooked. (But obviously not raw!) If there’s a tiny bit of curdle on the skewer still, it’s fine, take it out.
    • 25. Leave aside – still in the cake tin – overnight to mature.

    www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Baked Cheese cake biscuit base recipe with making process pictures/ images - with embossed pattern of unicorn & squirrel

    July 17th, 2008

    The results of the vanilla extract experiment

    Coco&Me - vanilla exract experiment - recipe

    (Got a white edding pen & wrote direct on the bottles instead of sticking paper labels!)

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    Hello, hows things? Hope life is treating you sweet.

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    Thought I’d let you know of how my homemade vanilla extract turned out after the 5 week+ of brewing. – As you know, I made 3 samples – with vodka, rum & brandy – & I can say that the best one was… drum-roll please… with Vodka!! Ta-da〜!

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    The clear vodka now coloured rich auburn brown, has the most heady scent of vanilla. Bliss. It’s a “happy-moment”. You know that the vanilla has been fully extracted. It has a slightly syrupy density, & when you shake the bottle then pour, you’d get loads of specks of vanilla beans. Gorgeous.

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    The other two, the rum & the brandy versions, well, forget ‘em really… The distinct flavour of the alcohol drowned the delicate vanilla scent. Quite disappointing & pointless. Despite this, I think I’ll use the rum for making “rum-soaked raisin chocolate truffles” that I used to make for the market sometime ago. Just chop raisins up & soak them in rum overnight before mixing it into ganache with some of the rum liquid you used to soak with. Slightly boozy & definately heavenly.

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    As for the brandy version, well…, if anyone has a good idea on how to use that up, please let me know!
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    x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

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    - Since the last time I posted on this blog, I’ve been busy with perfecting my triple lemon drizzle cake, like changing ingredients here & there. I’ve made it 6 times now, & finally “got it right”. It’s soooo amazingly tasty, I’m thinking of adding it to the stall cake-line-up come from this September. I’m now in a process of writing about it for this blog, which is taking ages, because I want to explain about why it uses sour cream, etc…

    - I also made a “3-tier wedding cake with chocolate swirly sticks” for my best friend recently, which I will also post about in the near future if & when the wedding photographer gives me some nice pictures of it.
    - SO, ’til the next time, see y’all! ^^

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    May 31st, 2008

    Homemade vanilla extract Recipe

    Homemade vanilla extract Recipe - Coco&Me(I made three bottles – with vodka, brandy & rum to experiment. In 5 weeks time I’ll know which one came out best!)
    Homemade vanilla extract Recipe

    (I used clear glass jars despite the “instructable” suggesting to use dark glass to protect the extract from direct sun exposure. I’ll put them in a dark cupboard instead!)
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    Do you have half-consumed bottles of vodka (or brandy or rum) sitting in your cupboard that’s been long forgotten about? Well, here’s an idea. You can infuse them with vanilla pods to concoct yourself a superior homemade vanilla extract.
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    Y’see, now that I’m walking around the house with a baby sling instead of partying like an animal (!?), I decided that I might aswell turn these forgotten alcoholic beverages to good use, by baking it in to cakes & stuff. Much more useful – having a boozy vanilla extract instead…
    .

    The supermarket price VS the cost to home-make:

    A bottle of bog standard vanilla extract off the supermarket shelf can be pricey at around £4.00 for a measly 100ml. As for purchasing just ONE pod, it ranges from £1.44 for the cheapest to an extortionate £2.26.

    .

    I figured out that this project could turn out a tad expensive. The recipe requires 30g of pods (8 to 10 pods) to 250ml. Thats hell-of-a-lot of pods… If you buy pods off-the-shelf for this, it’s like over 14 pounds for the pods, then you gotta think of how much the alcohol would cost on top of that!

    .
    Luckily, my homemade brew costs a lot less in comparison, as my vanilla pods are cheap (I got mine from a wholesaler at £75 for 1kg), & as for the alcohol, I worked out that it costs just over £1 for 100ml. To make a 250ml, it’ll probably cost me just under 3 pounds.
    .
    For the recipe, I followed the “instructable” & its author’s website it links to. (“Instructable” is a website where passionate people share what they do & how they do it, & learn from others. – I love whiling away my time browsing the often bizarre & original food ‘instructables’. The recent ‘I-wish-I-came-up-with-that-idea’ I found was to use a playdough extruder to make long square rods of cookie dough to make pixel patterned cookies!!)
    .
    The instructable goes to great lengths to document the recipe for vanilla extract, & I’m not even gonna try to emulate.

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    But here’s the RECIPE, nut-shell version:

    Homemade vanilla extract Recipe

    • 1. Sterilize the bottle(s) by boiling them for 10 minutes.
    • 2. Work out how many pods you need. It’s 30 grams (8-10 beans) per 250 ml of 40% alcohol.
    • 3. Split the pod lengthways, scrape the beans & put both pod-skin & beans in to the bottle. Here, it’s best to chop the pod-skin in to fourths so it stays submerged in the alcohol.
    • 4. Fill with alcohol (vodka most recommended, else, brandy or rum).
    • 5. Tightly shut the lid & vigorously shake the bottle.
    • 6. Shake everyday for the first week. And in weeks 2, 3 & 4, shake the bottle a few times a week.
    • 7. Week 5: Ta-daaa! You’re now a proud owner of alot of vanilla extract!

    Note: Shake the bottle if you want the seeds/ beans in your recipe. And top-up with more alcohol if the pod-skin gets exposed. After 6 months you can take the pod-skins out as the extraction has finished by then.

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    UPDATE 17.07.08

    using vodka for the extraction was best. The rum/ brandy, the distinct smell of the alcohol overpowered the delicate vanilla scent.

    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…
    .

    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!
    .

    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.
    .

    So it is no surprise that her house is a ‘egg & nut free haven’. And that we were treated to foods under that rule.

    .

    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.)

    .

    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.
    .

    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!

    .

    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.
    .

    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.

    .

    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.
    .

    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

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

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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)

    .

    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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    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

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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.

    .

    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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    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

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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.)

    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)

    .
    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!)

    .

    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.

    .

    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:

    .

    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
    .

    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.

    .

    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:

    .

    Ingredients:

    1 x egg white

    125 to 150g of icing sugar

    Food colouring

    .

    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!

    .

    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!)

      .

      Happy Baking!

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      January 17th, 2008

      The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe
      (with photographs of the process)

      Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe (with photographs of the process)(It’s the most creamiest, & yet most delicate Crème Caramel I’ve ever tasted in my life!)

      Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe(I didn’t have molds that were all the same, so I used my collection of Japanese tea cups instead! – The two illustrated ones are from my childhood. And the one with the writing is a soba (buckwheat noodle) sauce dish that my parents brought over from Japan over 25 years ago!)

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      .
      Since my last post:

      I’ve been naughty of late. My sweet tooth never stops craving, it’s just terrible. My nearby convenience store’s got a “buy two tubs for a fiver” deal for big tubs of Häagen-Dazs (Praline & Cookie’s n’ Cream’s my favourite – what’s yours?). And I’ve been tucking in to them with a big tablespoon (no dilly-dallying with a wee teaspoon I say!), late at night, wrapped up in my blanket, fireplace on, surfing the web endlessly with the other hand, quite meaninglessly whiling away my time, browsing from a web link to another link…

      .

      But, now that the cheap ice cream deal is over…, I decided I must start making my own desserts again that I can stick my sweet tooth in to!

      .

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      So, here is the ULTIMATE recipe for Crème Caramel that I have been indulging in lately.
      .

      I call it ‘Ultimate’ because, I can honestly say it really is the most creamiest, & yet most delicate Crème Caramel I’ve ever tasted in my life! Every luscious spoon sends blissful melt-down of your surroundings, & before you know it, it’s gone… – & you curse yourself for not making more… Yup, ladies & gents, it’s THAT good.
      .

      It is dead-easy to make too if you follow certain steps. Crème Caramel in basic terms is literally just a three-step method: mix, sieve & water bath, with the most simplest of ingredients (eggs, sugar, milk & cream optional). The most important trick to keep in mind is to try NOT TO incorporate AIR, as the final silky texture will suffer greatly.
      .

      In this special recipe, I did not use any egg-whites, as per normal Crème Caramel recipes. It relies on just egg-yolks to set the liquids. This is what makes this that extra rich & thick in flavour, yet delicate, as well as the softest you’ll ever ever taste. Despite no egg-whites, it keeps its shape very well, so long as you refrigerate it for a good 4 hours.
      (Note: Although, if you’re using a very big mold, it maybe better to look for a recipe that uses whole eggs &/or gelatine that will help to hold its shape better.)

      .

      Please keep in mind the quantity of ingredients listed below makes roughly 6 to 8 individual Crème Caramels. It’s all dependent on the size of your chosen molds. The best way to know how many this quantity will make is to measure 700ml of water & fill the molds to see how many it fills.

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      .

      THE ULTIMATE CREME CARAMEL RECIPE

      .
      Ingredients
      For Caramel:

      40 cc Water
      80g Sugar
      20cc Water

      For the Crème:

      250cc Double cream
      250cc Milk
      4 x Egg yolks
      60g Sugar (granulated or castor)
      A few drops of Vanilla essence OR half a vanilla pod, split length way

      .
      Prepare this before you begin:

      • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, as cold egg won’t mix well with the milk.
      • Butter inside the individual molds so that the Creme Caramel de-molds smoothly.
      • Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees.

      .
      METHOD:
      .
      First make the caramel.

      • 1. First stir the sugar & 40cc of water to a syrup in a small thick bottomed pan. Then cook on medium heat so that the whole base of the pan is equally heated. During this time do not stir too much.
      • 2. Once it starts to colour, stir with a wooden spoon. The colour will start to darken – & once you reach ‘a step or two before’ your desired darkness, take it off the heat & SLOWLY pour & stir in the 20cc of water to stop it colouring any further.
      • 3. Immediately pour the caramel in to your molds before it becomes too thick to handle.
      • 4. Make sure the bottom is completely covered by tilting the mold around.

      Caramel Tip:
      - Never let the caramel darken too much, it’ll taste too bitter. The caramel suddenly turns
      from sugar liquid to dark & bitter in a split second, so I advise you take it off the heat (in step 2) while it is slightly lighter still. It’ll darken ultra-quickly while you’re stirring more water in to it anyway.
      - Never leave it cooking alone. It is dangerously hot.
      - Never ever pour the water in to it in one go. It is highly dangerous as it will foam up like mad & increase in volume & splutter.

      .

      Next, make the Crème:

      • 5. Heat the milk & the double cream in a pan – (with half a vanilla pod if you’re using it instead of vanilla essence).

      Tip: Here, never let it reach the boil. Or more precisely, never let it go over 60 degrees as the milk will form a skin on the surface. – At 60 degrees the protein coagulates when exposed to air. So skimming & throwing away this skin means you are throwing away the delicious proteins & fat molecules.

      .

      • 6. While the milk mixture is heating, GENTLY whisk the egg yolks in a mixing bowl.
      • 7. Then mix in the sugar GENTLY.

      Tip:
      - Always mix the sugar into the eggs straight away. Don’t leave the sugar lying around with the egg as the sugar will absorb moisture from your egg & leave dry gravelly bits.
      - Always stir the sugar in SLOWLY. Do it as if you’re cutting it up, rather than whisking it, as if you’re scraping the sugar against the bowl. Crème Caramel is a dish that purely uses the solidifying power of the egg as it heats, so the finer you ‘cut’ the egg yolk up, & incorporate it in to the mixture, the better the overall texture.
      - DO NOT INCORPORATE AIR whilst mixing. This is the most vital trick to make your final Creme Caramel smooth.

      .

      • 8. Pour & mix the hot milk/ cream liquid in to your egg bowl. Add vanilla essence if you are using it instead of vanilla pod.

      Tip: Pour in a small amount first & mix, & then pour some more. Let the egg mixture get used to the hot liquid little by little. Never pour the hot liquid in to it in one go. You have to be cautious as eggs solidify at 60-70 degrees, although the sugar should act as a good blanket.

      .

      • 9. Lay a few layers of kitchen paper or a cloth inside a roasting pan, & place your molds.
      • 10. Use a sieve & slowly pour the mixture in to the molds.
      • 11. Remove air bubbles by tapping mold lightly on your work-table, &/ or by spoon. Lightly dabbing the bubble with kitchen towel also works well.
      • 12. Lid each mold tightly with aluminium foil.

      Tip:
      - Laying some kitchen paper stops directly heating your Crème Caramel from the bottom.
      - The temperature of the Crème mixture should still be warm (if it is cold, it’ll take longer to bake in the oven).
      - Sieving the Crème mixture gets rid of air bubbles, aswell as the chalaza (the ropey strands of egg white).
      - Lidding the molds with foil prevents the top surface from drying under direct oven heat.

      .

      • 13. Boil lots of water in the kettle. And pop the roasting pan with the prepared molds in to the pre-heated oven. Keep the door ajar to pour the hot water in the pan, half to two-thirds up.

      Tip: It’s best to pour the hot water in to your water-bath when the pan is already on the oven shelf. This way, it is less likely for the water to accidentally make way in to your molds while transfering from work-table to oven.

      .

      • 14. Bake for 20 minutes at 160 degrees, & then 10 minutes at 170 degrees without the lid. After the baking time, remove from the oven. Check if baked thoroughly by gently shaking it sideways. If it wobbles too much & creases form in the middle, put it back in the oven for another 3 minutes & check again (crease form when the sides are cooked, but not the middle). ‘Bouncy’ & ‘springy’ wobble is cooked.
      • 15. Take it out of the water bath, & leave aside to cool. Once cool, refrigerate for a good 4 hours before serving so that it sets fully.
      • 16. To demold, run the edge of the knife around the rim. Place inverted plate on it. Hold both mold & plate firmly together, then flip it so that the mold is on top. Gently shake up & down. It should smoothly come out. Let the caramel sauce pool around the set Crème.
      • Bon Appétit!

      .
      Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe - with photos of process
      .
      Suggestions on alternative flavours:
      You can ‘flavour’ the milk at step 5 with ‘coffee’ & ‘tea’.
      You can also use honey instead of sugar too.
      Or why not add brandy or rum? Or what about green tea, or chocolate flavour?

      .

      October 27th, 2007

      Crème patissière (pastry cream) recipe

      .

      I’m pretty certain you’ve all come across Crème patissière before. Pronounced “Krehm pah-tee-see-ehr”, it is also known as pastry cream, & confectioners’ custard. It’s that flour-based custard cream that’s used to fill desserts such as eclairs, tarts, & mille-feuille.

      .

      It is the basic of crèmes, & is the most widely used cream type when it comes to pastry making as it is used as a base foundation to make other types of creams such as Crème diplomate, Crème mousseline, Crème chiboust & Crème frangipane.

      .

      I make between 650g to just over 1kg of Crème patissière every week to fill the inside layer of ‘Gateaux Basque with prunes’, & also to mix some with Crème d’amandes (almond cream) to end up with Crème frangipane, which, once baked in the tart case becomes the foundation for my fresh fruit tarts.

      .

      So here’s the recipe below. Sorry if the recipe reads long – I tried to explain why every step is done in that way, … because, knowing the ‘whys’ of how things work, is one step closer to getting a good result!
      .

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      Crème patissière (pastry cream) recipe:
      .

      Ingredients (to make 650g):

      500ml fresh milk (full fat)
      1 x vanilla pod
      6 egg yolks (free-range or organic)
      150g sugar (castor or granulated)
      50g plain flour (sifted)

      .

      … ice cubes
      … cling-filmed tray/ vat (cling-film the bottom & the sides with one sheet). Keep it cool in the fridge until needed.

      OR

      … stainless steel mixing bowl
      .

      • 1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolk. (Refer to paragraph at the end about what to do with the left-over egg whites)
      • 2. Add the sugar in one go. Whisk straight-away & thoroughly until the sugar dissolves. The golden rule here is to never leave a mound of sugar lying around in the egg yolk. Sugar has the same tendency as salt, it absorbs moisture, so if you don’t whisk it together at first instance, it’ll suck moisture from the yolk. Bits of yolk would dry, & leave orange ‘granules’ in your crème.
      • 3. Sift the flour in, & fold it in until the flour just disappears. Never over-mix the flour, as it will produce gluten, which will give your crème a tough texture. (If you want to read more about flour & gluten, click here.) – - – - – - – - Here, flour also acts as a heat-shield to protect your eggs from cooking like omelette when you add the hot milk later on. – - – - – - – - Some Crème patissière recipes call for cornstarch instead of flour, or sometimes ask you to use both. It produces slight difference. Cornstarch gives you a ‘clearer’ crème, whilst flour results in a more ‘milky’ look. The texture is also slightly different too – cornstarch one is a little ‘jelly-like’ & ‘bouncy-er’. If you are using your Crème patissière as a base to create other crèmes, then it is best to stick to just flour.
      • 4. Flatten the vanilla pod with the side of your knife (so that it is easier to cut), & cut it in half, lengthways. De-seed. The use of vanilla in Crème patissière is important as it keeps the ‘eggy’ smell down. If you are using vanilla essence instead of pod, add the essence right at the end, after the Crème patissière has cooled down.
      • 5. Place the seeds & the pod-skin in the cold milk. … Boiling milk with the vanilla is the best way to enhance the vanilla flavour to its fullest.
      • 6. Heat the milk in a pan over the hob (the size of the pan must be big enough to be used to cook the crème at a later stage).
      • 7. Let it reach just before the boiling stage.
      • 8. Pour small amount of the hot milk (roughly 1/4) in to the egg mixture in the mixing bowl. Whisk & mix. Pour the rest in. Whisk & mix. … It is best to start off mixing with small amount of hot milk, because you’d have better control over the mixture & make sure you won’t be left with lumps.
      • 9. Sieve all of it back to the pan. … Sieving gets rid of the vanilla pod-skin.
      • 10. Put it over high-heat, & whisk ‘all the time’. … The key word here is high-heat. Cooking over weak heat takes too long, & it’ll produce gluten that would toughen your crème, as opposed to the smooth texture you are after. So, always whisk, energetically, to ensure that the crème doesn’t get burnt on the bottom & sides of the pot.
      • 11. After it reaches boiling point (bubbling on the surface), keep cooking for another 2 minutes. You want to cook the flour thoroughly.
      • 12. Pour the hot mixture in to the cold cling-filmed tray. And use the the ice & water method, called an ‘ice bath’, whereby you place your tray in a bigger tray that is filled with ice & water. … Ideally, it shouldn’t be over 1cm deep, so that it cools quickly. – - – - – Not only is this important so as to stop its cooking process, it is vital to cool it ’til below the ‘temperature danger zone’ (between 5 degrees and 60 degrees) where most bacteria grow most rapidly to dangerous levels, some doubling in number within twenty minutes. – - – - If you don’t have a tray & using a bowl instead, use stainless-steel. And use the ‘ice bath’ method with another larger bowl.
      • 13. Cling-film the top surface. The film should lie right on the surface. This is to stop the top surface from forming a skin.
      • 14. Once mostly cool, place the crème in the fridge until needed. Make sure your fridge is set below 5 degrees. If not sure, best to buy a fridge thermometer.
      • 15. Blend well with spatula before using.

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      .

      Suggestions for left-over egg whites:

      make meringues, macarons, add one whole egg to make fried egg (or indeed what about a yolk-less fried egg?), or you can freeze it until you need it! To freeze, spoon egg whites in each section of a ice cube tray & pop it in the freezer. Then remove the egg white cubes in a freezer zip-lock bag, label it with the date & store.

      June 18th, 2007

      Pâte Sucrée (sweet pastry dough) recipe

      Coco&Me - picture from the stall

      (The other week, a photographer called Gideon came by my stall to take some pictures for a picture library. What was really nice was that he has sent me the pictures, like he promised to! – So refreshing, coz I’ve had so many photographers promising to send me a print, but then never do so… – Here’s one that I especially liked!)

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      x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x …

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      This week, it’s about the tart dough I make every week.
      .
      Like all the recipes on my blog, it’s tried & tested – I can confidently say that it works & it’s the best. It’s actually tasty & flavourful, you can happily eat it on its own, – not like a bland tart casing that gets forked to the side of the plate with dissapointment.
      .
      (O.M.G, I’ve come across sooo many unappetizing tart cases in cafes & restaurants, you wonder why you’ve bothered paying your hard-earned money for such a boring tart!

      .

      And has anyone noticed that many of these establishments are now using ‘ready-made’ empty tartelette shells they buy in bulk from the catering wholesalers? When I was in Bond Street a couple of weeks ago, I had the time to wonder in to a reputable department store there, & as I do, I check their basement cafe, hoping for quality inspiration, & was bitterly dissapointed that the fruit tarts they had on display were using the ‘ready-made tart shells’! With a more than worthy price tag nevertheless! The cheek! £3.75 for a factory made, poorly made, puny fruit tart anyone?

      .

      It reminds me a bit of that chef off the telly who keeps using ready-made sponge flan bases from the supermarket in his desserts – honestly, why use inferior products with additives & god knows what else in it, & spoil the taste of the dessert you’ve been slaving on?? It really angers me when I see such products advocated. I think the guy is missing the point of “fine pastry making”…)

      .

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      Pâte Sucrée:

      Pronounced “paht sou-kray”, the texture of pâte sucrée is crisp & crumbly like cookies such as shortbread. The taste is buttery rich, but not overly sweet like what the name suggests. It can be used to make sweet tarts & as a thin sheet under mousse. The left over can become delicious cookies that children would love cutting shapes from. Pâte sucrée is known as a ‘short’ dough, because of its high fat content to flour.

      .

      Please note, my recipe is a little different compared to the classic Pâte Sucrée recipes around, as it uses some almond powder in it. I think that’s what makes this pastry dough especially flavourful!

      .

      Pâte Sucrée Recipe:

      (To make enough dough for a 8 inch/ 20cm tart)

      Ingredients:

      Unsalted butter at room temperature … 55 grams
      Castor sugar … 32 grams
      Eggs … 20 grams
      Almond powder … 15 grams
      Plain flour … 100 grams

      .

      • 1. Place the room teperature butter in a deep mixing bowl (so that it doesn’t spit everywhere when you’re whisking).
      • 2. Cream the butter using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat it till it is ‘creamy’ soft, smooth & light from incorporating the air.
      • 3. Mix in the sugar.
      • 4. Add the eggs bit by bit & whisk it all in.
      • 5. Then mix in the almond powder.
      • 6. Next, in goes the flour. Using a spatula, mix it all in by pushing it against the bowl. Or do what I do, which is to wear food gloves & get in there with your hands. It’s so much quicker to do it like that when you have a large quantity like I do.
      • 7. Pat it in to one big mound, & clingfilm it tight.
      • 8. Refrigerate overnight.
      • 9. When time has come for you to roll it, first prepare a lightly floured clean surface (I use a lightly floured silpat).
      • 10. Get your chunk of chilled pastry dough in the middle.
      • 11. Lightly flour the rolling pin & roll firmly in one direction only, then turn it 90 degrees and roll again. Repeat until desired thickness. Never ‘stretch’ it by hand as this would cause the tart to shrink in the oven!
      • 12. Once the pastry circle is larger than the size of the tin, roll the sheet of pastry around your rolling pin & lift it up.
      • 13. Gently lower it on to your tin. Unroll.
      • 14. Using your fingertips, take the edge of the pastry & ease it in to the sides.
      • 15. Roll the rolling pin across the top to cut the excess pastry off.
      • 16. Put the tin in the refrigerator to rest for atleast 30 minutes before baking.

      .

      x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x … x …

      .

      Top Tips:

      • Do not over mix. It produces gluten & make the dough tougher.
      • Try to work quickly, minimizing the amount you’re handling it.
      • Work in a cool room. You don’t want the butter to melt in the dough.
      • I wear food gloves. Not only is it hygienic, my warm hands won’t be in contact with the dough.
      • Pick the surface with fork if you’re blind baking.
      • Be absolutely precise with the measurements. if not, you’d either end up with sticky wet dough, or a crumbly dry dough! I always use a digital scale.
      • If the dough becomes too soft while you are rolling, re-chill for a while until it’s manageable again. Adding more flour to it to make it firm is a definate no-no. It’ll unbalance the carefully considered measurements.
      • And remember, prepare in advance! You need to rest the dough in the fridge for a whole night to let the gluten relax. It’s to make the dough workable & to prevent shrinkage. And when you’ve rolled it on to a tart tin, you need to put the tins back in the fridge for 30 minutes atleast – again to prevent shrinkage.

      .

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      May 13th, 2007

      Coco&Me Wedding Cake 01 (with recipe)

      cocome_weddingcake01.jpg

      (Three tiered chocolate butter cake with raspberry ganache layer. Coated in pâte à glacer, & decorated with couverture slabs)

      cocome_weddingcake02.jpg(I wish I could show you what the inside looks like… Obviously, I can’t cut in to it… Now I know I should’ve taken a picture of a slice when I did the test-bake…!)

      .
      Last Thursday I made a 3-tier wedding cake for Sue’s daughter Hannah. Sue has a stall close to mine, & she is one special lady, always looking out for me, buying cakes from my stall when times are tough on a rainy day, & always when she has guests that weekend. She would also bring me all sorts of “finds” that I might like (& I do!) from car boot sales & fairs. Cake plates, vintage cadbury’s toy car, chocolate moulds, vintage childrens books for my boy, beautiful vintage cake pillars… I really like her. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because she gives me things! It’s because she is a warm person, & I think it’s important to have nice people like her around you, to remind you to mellow out & breathe a bit, because there’ll be someone there for you. And so I was honoured to be asked to make the wedding cake for her daughter. I’m happy that my first-ever wedding cake (which means so much to me) goes to such a good home!
      .

      Yesterday Sue & Hannah gave me the most wonderful gift. The cake stand that Hannah used for her wedding! I couldn’t believe it. The stand had been in their family for a very long time apparently, & it was Hannah’s strong wishes that it be used for her wedding cake. To give me such a special stand that means so much to them… I was honoured, & moved.

      .

      Do you remember I did a test-bake of it earlier this year? (check this link out to read a post from that time). Well, finally it was the time to do it – & the good thing is, I was not nervous about it atall, thanks to that test-bake. I knew exactly what to do, how long it’ll take, & importantly, how delicious it tastes. I tell ya, it’s just miles better than the traditional fruit cake kind (yuk, I never liked ‘em) with overly thick icing that sticks to the back of the teeth.

      .

      Here is the recipe for the Coco&Me Wedding Cake. (although unfortunately, I do not have the ‘process pictures of it as I promised to do – Sorry guys, maybe next time – I just did not have the time nor the will to tinker with a camera on a big baking mission like this – especially when I had the pressure of meeting the deadline of 7pm handover!)
      .

      For bakers who would rather not have the trouble of tempering your own chocolate slabs, I think a good alternative is to use store-bought chocolate thins such as ‘Jules Destrooper Chocolate Thins’ or anything rectangular!

      .

      Some top tips when baking:

      - Please read through the recipe thoroughy beforehand. That way there’ll be no surprises!
      - If you do not have a 6 inch tin, do what I did – bake in a smallest that you do have (I had a 7 inch one) & cut a 6 inch cake out of it! Just remember to increase the recipe abit to compensate for it!
      - And if you want to know about how to successfully whip egg whites, or how best to cream the butter, click this link for a thorough write up about it.
      - Always buy some extra eggs! Just incase you brake one by mistake…
      - Make sure your eggs are also at room temperature. Adding ‘straight out of the fridge’ cold yolk &/or cold meringue in to your cake mix would seize it up!

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      Feeds: 25 to 30 people
      Difficulty: Intermediate, if you substitute the chocolate slabs with something else such as store-bought chocolate thins.
      Time to make: 3 to 5 hours (it depends on how competent you are at baking!)

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      CHOCOLATE SLAB RECIPE:
      Before you bake the sponges, make enough chocolate rectangles, clingfilm them & store in the refrigiator. I used over 60 slabs for the decoration. But I made alot more to make sure I had enough to hand ‘just incase’. The measurement was 3cm x 8.5cm.

      .

      To make the slabs:

      1. Temper 1kg white couverture.
      2. Pour it on to a big sheet of clingfilm that’s crease-free, layed out on your table. Spatula the chocolate surface to 3 or 4mm thickness.
      3. When semi-set, use a sharp knife & a clean ruler to cut to size.

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      THE CHOCOLATE SPONGE RECIPE:

      .

      Ingredients:

      450g unsalted Butter – room temperature
      450g dark Chocolate – melted
      160g castor sugar (for step 3 in the recipe)
      23 egg yolks
      225g almond powder
      egg whites 23 eggs worth
      300g castor sugar for mixing with the egg whites to make meringue

      450g plain flour
      .

      You will need the following items:

      6inch (15.2cm) round springform baking tin
      8inch (20.3cm) round springform baking tin
      10inch (25.4cm) round springform baking tin
      Cake cards for the three sizes – It has to be thin, not drums.
      18 x thin wooden BBQ skewers cut precisely to 8.5cm high
      2 x extra large mixing bowl
      3 x cake racks
      A long piece of clean string for tying around each tier to support the slabs while it sets

      .

      And prepare these before your baking frenzy:

      Pre-sift the flour.
      Have the chocolates melted in a seperate bowl.
      Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

      Butter the baking tins. Sift flour in to it so that it sticks to the bottom & the sides. Tap out excess flour, & store the prepared tins in the refrigiator until needed.
      .

      Method:

      1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the room temperature butter.
      2. Pour in the melted chocolate. Constantly whisk while doing so.
      3. Whisk in the sugar.
      4. Whisk in the egg yolks.
      5. Whisk in the almond powder.
      6. In a seperate bowl, make stiff meringue (To read up on how to obtain a perfectly whisked up meringue, click here).
      7. Fold half of the meringue in to the cake mixture from step 5.
      8. Sift in all of the flour & fold.
      9. Next fold in the rest of the meringue.
      10. Divide the cake batter in to the three cake tins.
      11. In to the 180 degree oven it goes. (Pre-heated ofcourse!)
      12. The ‘bake time’ for each size tin will be different. Because of this, you’ll be taking the tins out at different times. Please use the following as a guide, but please also do a ‘skewer test’ (inserting a skewer in the centre to see if it comes out clean).

      6 inch = take out after 30 minutes

      8 inch = take out after 50 minutes

      10 inch = take out after 1 hour

      13. When baked, take the tin sides off & cool them completely.

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      RASPBERRY GANACHE FILLING RECIPE:

      .

      80g unsalted butter (room temperature)
      1000g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solid, in button form for quick melt, or finely chopped from a bar – although bear in mind that chopping it up takes more time to do than you think)
      800g fresh double cream
      200g raspberry jam

      .

      1. Boil the cream in a pot.

      2. Pour hot cream over the chocolate & the jam in a mixing bowl.

      3. Leave to stand for 10 seconds. Then use your spatula to mix it in slowly from the centre, incorporating more cream from the sides as you do it.

      4. Mix in the butter. Mix until it dissolves (if you still have lumps left, give it a 5 second wiz in the microwave).

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      Pâte à Glacer (coating chocolate) Recipe:

      .

      2kg White couverture chocolate
      160g pure vegetable oil

      .

      1. Melt chocolate in a mixing bowl.

      2. Add oil. Mix together.
      3. Place the mixing bowl in a ice filled water bath & keep stiring the chocolate/ oil mix with your spatula. Make sure you stir from the bottom of the bowl, where it is most cold. Keep stiring til it thickens.
      4. Place the bowl in a hot-water bath for a very few seconds to bring the temperature up again.

      5. Now it is tempered for coating the sponge.
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      CAKE ASSEMBLY:

      .

      1. Cut cake in to two horizontally, & sandwich 5mm layer of the raspberry ganache.

      2. Put the sandwiched sponge on a cut-to-size cake card.
      3. Place the first sponge to be coated on a cooling rack, on top of a clingfilmed tray.

      4. Pour some pâte à glacer over the cake. Smooth it down the sides, to cover it completely.

      5. Sit down. Get comfortable. Take your time sticking one slab at a time to the side of the cake. Make sure to overlap each one slightly. Once you’ve stuck it all on, tie a string around it to support them. Now is your chance to really make sure each slab is straight. When you’re happy, pour more pâte à glacer in the centre of the sponge & let it fall down to all the sides. This would help fill any gaps inbetween the sponge & the slabs.

      6. Repeat these steps for the other two tiers. Note, you can re-use the pâte à glacer that had fallen to the tray again to cover the next sponge.

      7. Once you’ve done all three, next skewer some wooden sticks in to the bottom two layers. These would act as plinths to hold the weight of the next tier up. More skewers mean more stability, but also means lots of holes on your slice. Placing nearer the outskirt also gives you stability, but make sure it is not visible when assembled. Place one in the middle, & then symmetrically skewer in a circle.
      8. Finally tower up your tiers & et voila! Phew… sit back, you can relax now, & enjoy the monumental view, possibly with a beer because you deserve it!
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      March 29th, 2007

      Parisien Macarons (with tried recipe & process photos!)

      handmade macarons made by Coco&Me - sold at Broadway Market, East London

      (The paper discs make the display colourful despite it being only two types of Macarons!)

      .

      Macarons. Macarons. The Heavenly Macarons.

      .

      They are what dessert foodie’s Heaven is made out of. Delectable morsels that have a smooth domed surface, which encases a texture that can only be described as soft, gooey, slightly chewy… Mmmm… Which you’d be munching slowly… savoring every bite… with the ganache chocolate centre combining in your mouth… Mmmm… But then… will be finished before you know it! Ahh… Just imagine Homer Simpson’s drooling passion for his Donuts – that same passion applies to me about Macarons…

      .

      I sell pink Macarons (with raspberry jam + ganache centre) & chocolate Macarons (with dark ganache centre) at my stall. I would love to sell many different coloured ones, as one of the attractions of these morsels is the array of colours it could come in, irresistably displayed like cute buttons. But work-time-wise, I am at my limit. I already make more than ten types of cakes every week, & chocolate truffles, etc, on top of that… Pink & chocolate colours are by far the most popular at the market it seems, so I’ll stick to those colours for now!
      .
      So without further ado, here is the recipe(s) for Macarons.
      I’d be explaining the base recipe which you’d use to create any colour Macaron you’d like. And then I’ll also list the ingredients list for Chocolate Macarons, which requires you to swap some of your almond powder with cocoa powder.
      .
      Warning:
      … … This dessert is very difficult to master. A perfect Macaron MUST have ‘THE FOOT’ which is the raggedness around the edges. It mustn’t come out cracked. It must be round. Each Macaron must be of same size.
      … … So I’m afraid it’s all about trials & tribulations! I’m yet to meet anyone who’d made it perfectly from their first go. It took me numerous attempts with recipes from many sources to get it looking alright enough for me to sell. To have to try again & again til perfection is a test of endurance for your love of Macarons. Just remember, every single step in the recipe is important, otherwise, sorry to say, you’re doomed for failure.
      … … Also, please remember that everyone’s oven is different. Is it fan or convection, is it pretty old & not precise with temperature, does it have heat spots… (I have a heat spot on the right for example). Every oven has it’s own knack. So I recommend the use of an oven thermometer! This little biscuit requires preciseness.
      .
      Although despite these warnings, please don’t be intimidated by its complexities. Try! & besides, you’d always be able to eat them test batches for yourself, right!? (Like I do). Surely no harm done… ;-)
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      Macarons Recipe:
      Makes approximately 16 sides (but all dependent on how big you pipe it)
      .
      Ingredients:

      • 50g Almond powder
      • 90g Icing sugar
      • Liquid food colouring (optional)
      • (and for the meringue the following:)
      • 60g Egg whites (about 2-3 eggs worth), at room temperature
      • 30g Icing sugar
      • For the centre: jam, buttercream, or ganache (5:4 ratio of cream & chocolate. Read below for the recipe)

      .
      Prepare:
      a. Sift almond powder & the icing sugar TWICE. It’s your chance to get rid of the not-so-fine almond powders.
      b. Line baking tray with cut-to-size baking paper (or prefably a silpat if you’ve got one). Place this tray on top of another tray (Doubling up the tray delays the heat cooking the Macaron from the bottom. This insures that the outer surface is dried up first before the inside starts to lift it up. This is what makes that all important ‘foot’ & the smooth surface that is not cracked).
      c. Have a piping bag ready.
      .
      Method:

      • 1. Whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks.
      • 2. (Optional) Add food colouring (Literally droplet at a time, as these droplets paint the whites unapetizingly vivid if you’re too generous. But also remember that the colour intensity will be slightly less once you incorporate the dry ingredints later!). Mix it in to the whites.
      • 3. Deposit the pre-sifted dry ingredients (almond powder & icing sugar) in to the white in one go.
      • 4. Use the spatula to fold it in. Once all the dry ingredients has been incorporated & dissapeared, you must check wether you’ve reached perfect consistency. Test by lifting up the dough with your spatula – HOW DOES THE DOUGH FALL? If it is not falling down in ‘GENTLE’ continuous ribbons, try mixing it a tiny bit more. The technique for mixing at this point is to “fold & press” your spatula against the side of the bowl to deflate the air out of the whites. Do this til you’ve passed this vital ‘dough fall’ test. But just remember, don’t over mix it either… (This folding process is called ‘macaronage’. This is the most tricky bit of Macaron making. I find that you can only know how much one should fold by practising again & again…)
      • 5. Spatula the mixture in to a piping bag. (tip: having the bag over something like a juice decanter like the picture below is much easier than the professional way!)
      • 6. (skip this if you’re using silpat) Scrape the left over mixture from the now empty mixing bowl & smear it under all four corners of the baking paper. It’ll act as a glue to stick the paper to the tray.
      • 7. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on to the baking paper. Make sure to leave atleast 2cm around it as it will spread later.
      • 8. Once all piped, drop the tray horizontally on to your work surface to knock some air bubbles out & to spread the dough out a bit. (If you’re doing this at night, & you’re worried you’d wake your kid upstairs (for example), layer some kitchen towels on the work surface to dumb the sound!)
      • 9. Leave it aside for 20-30 minutes. This is to dry the surface of your macarons. After the time is up, check how dry it is by gently touching the surface. Does the dough stick back? Leave it aside for another 10 minutes. Once it’s not sticky, proceed to the next step.
      • 10. Prepare your oven shelves – you’d want to place your trays on middle shelf. I’d like to cover the shelf above it with foil so that there’s no direct heat hitting my Macarons & discolouring it brown.
      • 11. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees.
      • 12. Pop your trays in. (Make sure they are doubled up!!) Sit by your oven with your oven gloves.
      • 13. Once ‘the foot’ graciously appears (it’s usually after 4 – 5 minutes), & has reached it’s maximum height, open the oven & quickly but safely take the bottom tray away (meaning don’t double it up anymore). Place the macarons tray back in the oven.
      • 14. Change the temperature dial to 170 degrees.
      • 15. Bake it for another 5 – 7 minutes. If the colour of the surface is starting to brown, turn the oven off, keep the door shut, & bake it with the remaining confined temperature.
      • 16. Leave aside to cool together with the hot baking tray.
      • 17. Once cooled, you’d have to remove it off the baking paper. To do this, you dab water on the baking paper under each Macaron & wait a few seconds. The paper should peel off easily without giving. Just do this process slowly & patiently – these Macarons are delicate stuff (if you’re using silpat, just use a knife & slide them off). Now, you can either go to the next step, or decide to store these discs in a consealed tupperware – it’ll keep for several days.
      • 18. Pair up the Macarons.
      • 19. Pipe the ganache centre mixture (Please read the ganache recipe below) or any other mixture of your choice & sandwich the Macarons together.
      • 20. Place in a tupperware & store it in a refrigerator.
      • 21. Best eaten the next day!
        .Step by step photo of the Macaron making process
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        1:1 Ganache centre recipe:
        .
        Ingredients:
        50g of fresh double cream
        40g of dark chocolate
        1. Have the chocolate ready in a mixing bowl.
        2. Heat cream in a smallest saucepan you have. Bring it to simmering point
        3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.4. Leave to stand for 10 seconds. Then use your spatula to mix it in – SLOWLY – from the centre, incorporating more cream from the sides as you do it.
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        Chocolate Macaron Recipe:..Ingredients:
        45g Almond powder
        90g Icing sugar
        5g Cocoa powder
        Red liquid food colouring
        (and for the meringue the following:)
        60g Egg whites (about 2-3 eggs worth), at room temperature
        30g Icing sugar.Method:
        Please follow the basic recipe above. The red food colour will add that extra richness to the chocolate colour. To make green tea Macarons, you can user the same measurements as this – just swap cocoa to green tea powder, and omit the red colour.
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        “AHHH. Donuts Macarons… What can’t they do.” – adaptation quote from Homer Simpson…!
        .Update 20.06.07

        ps: Which is the correct way to spell – macaron or macaroon? The original french version is ‘macaron’. But the english version seems to be ‘macaroon’… Pronounced with the ‘oo’ too. But doesn’t that point toward the American Coconut Macaroons…, not the French kind? If anybody knows, please advise me!!

      January 22nd, 2007

      About sugar (& with vanilla sugar recipe)

      Home made vanilla sugar with vanilla pod

      (Home made vanilla sugar)

      .
      Sugar is a staple in everyones kitchen, & is used extensively in confectionery. Obviously it is sweet, but it’s more than that – it provides moisture, tenderness, enhances other flavours, provides stability in meringues, can caramelize, can even be bitter & increases shelf-life (A good example is jam. High percentage of sugar prolongs shelf life as it inhibits the bacteria to grow). But did you know that there are dozens of varieties of it available? It’s a minefield. It can be mystifyingly confusing… Before my obsession with baking I don’t think I ever used anything other than white refined granulated sugar!
      .

      So here is a list of some of the sugars. I think it’ll help understand why your recipe is calling for a particular type, & have confidence in switching it when you want to have a more caramelly flavour for example:

      • Granulated ::::: Very versatile, all-purpose sugar but one-dimensional in flavour. No aroma, so it’s great when you just want to have the ‘sweetness’ & pronounce the flavour of the other ingredients such as chocolate in a chocolate cake. – If a recipe doesn’t specify which sugar type to use, it’ll be safe to use granulated.
      • Castor ::::: Selectively sieved from the granulated sugar. It’s known as caster sugar because it is suitable for placing in a ‘caster’, a perforated jar or a bottle, similar to a flour dredger.
      • Icing ::::: It rapidly dissolves even in cold water. A must when you make meringue for macaron. Also great for dusting it on top of your finished product. It is made by grinding sugar to a very fine powder. A small amount of anti-caking agent (for example 3% cornstarch) is often already added to it to prevent clumping.
      • Preserving sugar ::::: Often used for jam making, it has the largest crystals that dissolves slowly which makes it less likely to burn the sugar as it does not settle in the bottom of the pan. It also reduces the need for stirring. Less froth is also produced resulting in a clearer preserve.
      • ‘Golden’ caster or granulated sugars ::::: Molasses is ‘painted’ to the white sugars to add the light golden colour & aroma. Slightly more flavourful than the white.
      • Demerara::::: Free-flowing crunchy crystals. Also good for sweetening beverages such as coffee.
      • Light/ Dark Brown ::::: Based on caster sugar. The molasses is ‘painted’ to give it colour & give depthy, fudgy flavour. (In some cases ‘food colour’ is painted on instead of molasses, to recreate the delicious brown look.) It’s moist, & it gives extra tenderness to the cake. Make sure to not let it dry out & it’ll be hard like a rock.

      All of the above can be substituted with each other in principal. They come from the same stage of sugar process, & some are just that they are various crystal sizes depending on what you’d like to use it for.

      The confusing part is… some of these can come as refined (bleached, refined white sugar which is pure sucrose/ carbohydrate), partly refined, or unrefined (typically 50% less processed than refined. It retains some of the natural properties, making it wholesome & healthy). It could be under naming such as ‘natural’ or some brands call theirs differently. You really have to study the package before purchase.

      • Light/ dark Muscovado::::: Unrefined natural sugar. Strong tasting natural molasses flavour. Brown & sticky. More unprocessed than Turbinado Sugar.
      • Turbinado::::: Unrefined. Similar in appearance to brown sugar with molasses flavour but paler & course granulation. Often used in tea. This sugar can’t always be substituted in recipes. Its moisture content varies considerably which can affect a recipe. You’d have to carefully adjust other ingredients such as the liquids.
      • Unrefined Soft Light/ Dark Brown::::: Distinctive caramel taste. Light & dark soft brown sugars can be replaced with one another only in small quantities. If you do, the cake will not turn out like you wanted it to, because the flavour & moistness is different between the two.
      • Molasses ::::: Dark syrup extracted during sugar manufacturing. Only a little is needed as it is very concentrated. Not as sweet as sugar. Replace no more than half the sugar called for in a recipe with molasses.

      The following are the natural sweeteners:

      • Honey ::::: Distinctive flavour that varies depending on which flower nector the bees have been gathering. Generally, honey can be used in place of granulated sugar, it’ll make the cakes moist & dense. But watch out, it is 25 – 50% sweeter than sugar & tend to brown faster. So experiment with using less of it, it is said that you should use the amount of honey that is equivalent to ½ the amount of specified sugar, reduce liquid ingredients by ½, & reduce the oven temperature by 25 ¼ F.
      • Maple syrup ::::: Could be made from the maple tree sap, or artificially made with maple flavouring. Look for the word ‘pure’ when choosing. It has fewer calories & higher concentration of minerals than honey. Keep refrigerated and consume within 6 to 8 months.

      And then for sweetening the chocolate ganache:

      • Invert sugar & Glucose Syrup ::::: It is highly effective in preventing crystallization, & so makes the mixture smoother with better viscosity. It is not as distinctively sweet or flavourful like the other sugars which is great when you rather want to pronouce the flavour of the chocolate itself. But inverted sugar is almost impossible to get if you are a home-user (it only comes in big multi-kilogram tubs) so try honey as a substitute.
      • Trimoline ::::: It is produced from beets. It emulsifies the fat, & prevents recystallization of sugars. It smoothes the texture & increases shelf life by retaining moisture. It has a sweetening power of 128%.

      .

      History:
      Sweet tasting liquid from the Sugar cane (a tropical grass) was first discovered on the islands of the Pacific Ocean some 20,00 years ago (!) but the process of making sugar by evaporating its juice developed in India around 500 BC. It is from then on that the technology for sugar production slowly spread around the world, although for many hundreds of years, sugar was a highly prized and expensive ‘spice’ that was used only in the homes of nobility and royalty, just like the history of chocolate.
      .
      I recently came across the most insightful historic literature of how sugar was refined & then manufactured into loaf sugar back in 1876 London (loaf sugar was refined white sugar moulded into cone-shaped loaves – which then got cut up either by the retailer or at home using a cleaver & then pounded to powder). I love the way it’s written. Its not just an account of what it was like, but more like a good novel. It describes one of the workers as a creature with chest all grizzly-haired, calls it the ‘Sugar Ogre’ in waiting for juvenile delinquents. – It’s a bit long, but persist. I found that it was worth reading.
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      .

      Home-made Vanilla Sugar Recipe:
      Vanilla sugar is simply castor sugar with vanilla. There are no set rules of how to make it. If you want, you can change the ratio of sugar/ vanilla according to wether you’d like the aroma to be intense or subtle. And you can keep replenishing more sugar in to the same jar & the pod would sufficiently flavour the sugar.

      .
      Ingredients:
      200g Granulated or castor sugar (any amount is okay – it just lessens or increases the aroma of vanilla, thats all)
      1 x Fresh or used vanilla pod (There are two ways to go about it. To use pod skin & seeds, or just pod skin after you’ve used the seeds for other baking requirements)
      Container with tightly fitting lid (I find it is pretty when white sugar has dark specks of pure vanilla seeds, so I recommend a clear glass jar!)

      .
      1. Chop the vanilla pod – for example, in half. If you’re using fresh pods, de-seed & then chop.
      2. Place both sugar & vanilla pod (& seeds) in the jar & mix well, distributing the vanilla beans in the sugar.
      3. Tightly seal with lid & store in a cool place. The sugar would be gorgeously scented in 1 to 2 weeks. It will keep indefinately without refrigeration.

      .
      Uses:
      Use the vanilla sugar in baked goods & desserts that calls for both sugar & vanilla. Or sprinkle over home-made sponge cakes, biscuits, fresh fruit, custards, crème brûlée, crumbles, favourite breakfast cereal, hot coffee, milkshakes, yoghurt, buttered toast etc.

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      This week:
      I have been busy in the evenings making Chocolate Valentines Hearts for the oh-so-busy Valentine season that’s creeping it’s way.
      And my son has started nursery on Wednesday! A milestone. A bit of a tear jerker. It’s 1pm til 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. You’d think that it’ll give me more me-time, but it takes me 30 minutes to walk there, so by the time I walk him & go back home, it’ll only give me 1½ hours at home before I go & pick him up…!

      December 3rd, 2006

      About eggs & how to whip egg whites

      eggs.jpg

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      Last Saturday:
      I have been slightly unwell all week & tired, so I made considerably less. No Tarte Tatins, Chocolate Tarts & no Gateaux Basques, & generally less quantities of everything. Actually I was thinking of not trading atall. But the customers would not trust me if I was unreliable. Next time they need a cake or some chocolates, they would not bother checking my stall out & buy elsewhere, right?
      - Making less turned out to be a good decision anyway, as formidable amount of rain bucketed down until lunch time, & business was slow.
      .
      This week’s entry is about eggs.
      Prior to any cake recipes added to this blog, I’d like to throw in my two cents’ worth on the subject of basic ingredients such as eggs, butter, flour & sugar. The reason being… Before attempts are made at baking, it’s best to have knowledge of the ingredients & know how to handle them to get a good result. There is nothing more irritating than ending up with a bad turn out & not knowing why it happened (or blame me for it!).
      So lets start with the subject of ‘eggs’:

      • BUY ‘free range eggs‘. It may command more than double the price of standard eggs, but the hens are bred on better diet & the egg has stronger shell, firmer & strong yellow yolk – much tastier & it is worth the extra cost. It is approx. 17 pence per egg… … … Or better still, buy ‘organic eggs’ approx. 24 pence per egg. (if you’re financially privilaged). Organic eggs are laid by healthy hens who have outdoor access. Their diet is organic – no pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Not fed any antibiotics, hormones or meat by-products (= parts of slaughtered animals, not including meat) to fatten them up or make them grow bigger… … … NEVER BUY ‘caged eggs’, ‘regular/ standard eggs’ approx. 7 pence per egg. These are ‘battery farmed’ chickens’, stuck in a small cage all day long, in artificially lit shed. Their diet contains antibiotics, hormones & other chemicals… … … If money is tight, buy ‘barn laid eggs’ approx. 13 pence per egg. Much more humane than ‘caged’, as they are in pens (although the hens are always kept indoors), & can be more ‘chicken-like’, spread their wings & socialize.
      • Use Medium size eggs. Most cake recipes assume that an egg is approx. 50g (yolk 20g, whites 30g). using ‘large’ or ‘extra large’ would give you more whites than what the recipe calls for.
      • Store eggs in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge.
      • During baking, one of the basic and common cake procedure is to mix sugar in to the yolk. Here, always whisk in the sugar straight away. Never leave the sugar standing in the yolk. This is because the sugar (just like salt) would soak up the water from the yolk & you’d end up with solidified yellow bits.
      • Some eggs can have salmonella, on the shell as well as inside the egg. Eggs must be handled carefully both when it is still in its shell & once it is cracked open. – Please remember to: Keep eggs away from other foods. Always wash your hands, equipments & work surfaces after handling eggs to avoid cross-contamination. Do not use dirty or damaged eggs. And keep in mind that thoroughly cooking eggs properly kills bacteria.

      .

      When I was new to all this baking, I had a hard time figuring out how best to beat the egg whites. I was full of questions such as ‘exactly at what timing do you incorporate the sugar?’. It’s plain obvious that correctly whipped egg whites are the core to any successful foam based cake. Getting it right is essential.
      .

      How to whip or beat egg whites:
      1. Put aside the precisely measured sugar ready in another bowl.

      2. Get a squeaky clean bowl & whisk. Any traces of grease would prevent the egg whites from foaming well. (Also, don’t use plastic bowls. They can harbour traces of grease. Instead use glass or stainless steel)
      3. Crack the egg whites in to the bowl. Make sure there aren’t any trace of egg yolk. Yolk contains fat & it’ll prevent the egg whites from foaming well.

      4. Start whisking the egg whites on medium speed.

      5. Once the liquid has turned to foam (a cross between bubble-bath & a cappucino froth), pour 1/3 of your sugar from the side of the bowl – never centre as that would squash the foam. Turn the speed to High.
      6. When the foam becomes finer, & you see fluffy peaks forming (like Summer clouds), add the second 1/3 of the sugar.

      7. The last 1/3 should be incorporated when: the foam is shiny, you start to feel the resistence, & see defining peaks.
      8. Just before you finish, rotate the whisk slowly around the bowl – this makes sure that all the foam is of equal size.

      9. Fold in the foam to the cake batter straight away. It is deflating as we speak…

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