August 29th, 2013

Join me at the Charity Afternoon Tea

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Hello~!!!! How are you doing this summer?? :) Is it hot where you live?

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Here in UK, we’ve been blessed with great weather pretty much all round! :) For example, around the end of July there was a long stretch of heat-wave too! I don’t mind a bit of hot weather but this heat-wave totally baked me in the kitchen on my weekly bake-a-thons. (Baker being baked on bake-a-thon. Possible tongue twister like Peter Piper?! Lol. sorry… feeling silly obviously.) And as for selling cakes in the hot heat, oh-my-god, standing under the plastic tarpaulin roof at my market stall was soooo unbearable. It was like being in a green house!!
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This prolonged hot weather is super unusual in UK weather standards if you ask me! Normally the weather takes a shine on us for about a week, then you abruptly have to wave a involuntarily bye-bye to summer & say a reluctant hello to autumn! Only…, in such summers, what is left is not a tan, but a hardly used sun-protection lotion which gets shelved to dusty oblivion. Disenchanted by the broken promise of summer, you might even imagine the bottle staring back like a Space Odyssey Monolith, ridiculing at the vain hope you’ve once had of using it up.
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But here it is. Hot weather! After one of the wettest winters & coldest springs earlier this year, it’s certainly something to be happy about! :)
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But enough of weather-talk! I actually wanted to let you know about the event that is coming up at the end of September which I really want to convince you to come!
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My dear friends F & S at The Pastry Network are organizing a Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea to raise funds* for an exceptionally wonderful charity called Make-A-Wish.
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Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions, to enrich their human experience with hope, strength & joy.
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This charity makes me think of the famous Japanese idiom ” 病は気から” (yamai-wa-ki-kara), meaning “One’s attitude (spirit) can affect the path of an illness, for better or for worse.” When you feel sad you lose your appetite. When you smile you release endorphins which make you feel good. And when you do turn that frown upside down & have upbeat thoughts, it can physically change your body. I really believe so. 
Moreover, it is not just in physical illness, but when you’re feeling down or when you’re having a hard time, be it at work or in personal life, I faithfully think that actively living your life to make it better eventually makes for positive outlook/ outcome. People who are “trying their best” are shiny & beautiful.
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(Got slightly off on a tangent there… sorry.)
Anyway…,
The Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea will be held at The Park Lane Hotel (nearest station is Green Park), on Monday 30th of September between 3pm to 6pm, & the ticket price is 55 pounds per person.
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Ah yes, 55 pounds may seem a little hefty. BUT here’s what I think about this; 
- there will be an amazing TWENTY-ONE super-chefs from 19 top-notch & famous establishments at our service, making our canapés, chocolates & pastries. You’ve probably heard of them if you’re from this part of the world: Ladurée, William Curley, Wolseley, Delaunay, Koffmann’s… And I would imagine that the chefs will really go out of their way to create the most beautiful stuff, since the place will be swimming with people in the same line of business. To be honest, if you’re any sort of pastry-lover, I really think it’s going to feel like paradise has descended in to one room in Piccadilly. I mean, there’s all these other 5-star establishments such as the Dorchester, Langham & Lanesborough participating too who’re famed for their afternoon tea. Sampling pastries from them all in one time? O.m.g, it’s going to be totally unreal! It’s going to be amazing.
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I should also add that apparently some of the chefs will be holding the trays in the room. SO, which means, we’ll get to talk to them! And on the day, there will be raffle tickets on sale too – of which some of the prizes are:
Koffmann’s dinner voucher
The Delaunay afternoon tea voucher
There will also be a goodie bag from Valrhona, who is one of the sponsors of the event. 
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So come join me on the 30th to hold a bubbly in one hand & mmm… & ahhh… at beautiful food, all in the name of charidy…!! :) (There are only a limited number of tickets so please book well in advance to avoid dissapointment!)
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Date: Monday 30th of September
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Venue: Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX
Ticket Price: £55 per person
Dress Code: Smart Casual (children under 12 years old cannot be accommodated)
To purchase tickets, please visit www.pastry-network.com
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*all of the proceedings go to Make-A-Wish Foundation UK.

July 9th, 2013

My kitchenware purchases 2012/13

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Marbleized splatter enamelware -  blue marble flat salad plate & red marble muffin tin. From Labour & Wait www.labourandwait.co.uk/‎
(Marbleized splatter enamelware –  blue marble flat salad plate & red marble muffin tin. From Labour & Wait. Now one of many enamel goods I already have. I love enamelware…!)

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Hello!!!! Hello!!!! Hello~!!!! 
How have you all been??? Tell me! I hope you’ve all been good!!!
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Me? Well, I can report to you that I’ve been alright y’know, I’m still my happy self. ^^  Although, I must admit, last week was a hard week for me, a few minor things has happened that upset me, I had to deal with a nasty character, but it’s nothing I want to discuss about in detail here. Besides, don’t worry, it was nothing too major nor dramatic that it changes me. Although…, what it did do however is, it made me all the more aware that I have a loving family, some true friends (& trusty blog readers!^^) & earn an honest living out of work I still love doing. That I am on a good track, that I am lucky.
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Though, talking about awareness of one’s status, recently, I’m also feeling much aware that every day seems to just meld in to one another without much distinction, … if that makes any sense (?) lol…, like how the cycle of everyday affairs is a given. It’s a ‘set’ that has to be done: Wake up, get the kids ready to go to school, make the beds, tidy the house, make the dinner, do the washing, then devote Thursday, Friday & Saturday to my market-work, etc, etc…
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Oh, but don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Far from it, I actually find comfort & peace in this secure situation, it”s rather cushy n’ snug isn’t it, although to some, it may come across as mundane & monotonous!
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Then…, perhaps it came from a counteraction to feeling monotonized, & in need for fun spontaneity, I suggested to Mr.D who just turned 49 last week, that for his next birthday ~ the big five-oh ~ I could perhaps take him on a holiday to somewhere very very special. Somewhere unusual from our daily lives. I was thinking somewhere where the stars are beautiful. Like Chile, as he is very much in to star-gazing. (He can’t stop watching DVDs about it). Then he says the one place he’d love to go to is the Himalayas. HIMALAYAS!? Like Tibet or Bhutan!? Wow! Now ‘THAT’ is very special. ^^ The very thought that this time next year we might be somewhere so extremely different from here excites me. So since then, I’ve been researching about how to travel there already. On the off chance, has any of the readers here been to the Himalayas?? If you have, I would greatly appreciate to know how you did it please!
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ANYWAY! Sorry, I suppose this is some sort of a food blog, so here’s some pictures of kitcheney things I bought within the last year! I hope you like them as much as I do! T xx

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - eBay purchase! Vintage chopping board from Germany. Wooden Mr & Mrs Onion heads crying.
eBay purchase! Vintage chopping board from Germany. Wooden Mr & Mrs Onion heads crying.
Usually my own policy when buying on eBay is to buy from the UK only, one, because the expensive overseas shipping fee outweighs the value of the item, & two, because having that personal limit stops me from buying willy-nilly (& I will). But, in this case, I decided to buy it regardless because I had a fond memory of seeing these many years ago, hanging on Mr.D’s late father’s kitchen wall!
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Beautifully grained wooden pedestals, from around the 1930's. Cakes look instantly classy when displayed on these!
Beautifully grained wooden pedestals, from the 1930’s. Cakes look instantly classy when displayed on these!
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com Coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Tamami - Glazed tartan stoneware dinner plate by ANTA of Scotland. Rare & collectible. the tartan is an early, orIginal design by Annie Stewart, co-founder of ANTA. Handmade and decorated in the Highlands.
Glazed tartan stoneware dinner plate by ANTA of Scotland. The tartan is an early, orIginal design by Annie Stewart, co-founder of ANTA. Handmade & decorated in the Highlands.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - Vintage Royal Worcester bread plate with animal pattern.
Vintage Royal Worcester bread plate with animal pattern. I’ve never seen this design before! I would love to know the name of the collection, but it doesn’t say it on the back other than Royal Worcester…
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - bread plate is from Alfred Meakin Studio. The design is called Little Green Apples
Again, another design I haven’t seen before. This bread plate is from Alfred Meakin Studio. The design is called Little Green Apples.
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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - coco and me - broadway market - Tamami - cake stall - vegetable sun-drying net basket
And this is my current craze! (Lol! How boring am I??) It’s a vegetable sun-drying net basket!
You can put deseeded tomatoes, peppers, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, daikon radishes…, all-sorts, you’d be surprised with the variety of foods that can be sun-dried. And if you’ve been lucky with hot weather, the veggies shrivel & dry in no time, & what you’d end up with are foods that has boosted nutrients & condensed umami flavour. It can also be preserved a lot longer, although I often just semi-dry them & have it for dinner that same day as drying.
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Now what else… Oh yeah, I also bought an OXO mandoline slicer in white (Don’t worry, I also have a cut-resistant glove!!). It’s a superb product, especially when you want to create beautiful apple galettes with uniform super-duper thin apple slices, but otherwise I don’t use it often, & is boxed up. At the end of the day, it’s quicker to cut foods yourself by knife, &, no matter how I try, I end up with the the end piece left over.
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Then I also bought my now 7th (!) hand mixer. This time, it’s a James Martin by Wahl hand mixer (300 Watt). I’m super happy with this one. It’s on the bigger & heavier side, but it is powerful (meaning it cuts the time in whipping eggs!) &, despite this, is quieter than the other models I have used in the past. I also like that the whisk attachment is ever so slightly longer than the other models’ too! ^^
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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.
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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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.  
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
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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!)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Quick french toast recipe with process pictures
Bon Appétit! T xx  
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April 23rd, 2013

Link to Chocolate & Zucchini!

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Hello! I’ve had the pleasure of answering to a Q&A at lovely Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog! Check it out! ^^
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This is a bit of a happy moment for me actually, because it was encountering her blog all those years ago (like over 10 years ago??) that inspired me to do my own eventually. And so to think that there’s something about me on HER blog makes me feel proud. :-)
(Actually, she’s also mentioned me before on her post about brownies back in 2009.)
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I still remember the time when I first got ‘in’ to her blog: I was a graphic designer back then, feeling bored stiff with having to design uncreative stuff for cooperate clients, which, after graduating an uber-creative college, was a ‘real-life-ain’t so-fun’ dumbing-down moment.
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Back then, I was often browsing her image gallery & using her pictures as a wallpaper for my office computer screen!
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Several years later when I did start blogging, you know what I did immediately? I wrote in her comments section to tell her about my blog! And she then wrote a comment in my first ever post! :-) Sweet!
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Anyway, the Q&A is about how I cook at home for (& with) the kids. Hope you enjoy it!
T xx

April 10th, 2013

Sunshine?

(pic taken end of March)
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Hello~! How’s things?
We’re now in April, & I write this on, believe it or not, a sunny day!
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And it is so unbelievably quiet in the house, it is just me & the humming of my laptop. The kids are out for the day to their friends’. And I thought I’ll steal a moment to write to you here. Despite the sun, outside is still a bit nippy, & it feels similarly cold in the house too, as the Edwardian house of ours never gets really warm. My father says we ought to change to those double-glazed type windows, but we love our old sash windows, & we can’t bear the thought of stripping away the original features, so I suppose there’s no point in complaining?
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Instead, I have a hot mug of tea by my side as I write. I’m recently playing with the way I make tea, after reading about how Joël Robuchon makes his, I had to try it – milk (preferably room temperature) in the (pre-warmed) cup first, then pour brewed tea on top. Although I see that there seems to be a bit of a debate to which goes first, at the end of the day, I think there is no right or wrong answer (do as you please, I say!). I think ‘milk-in-first’ (MIF as some call this),  seem to make the milk & tea become ‘one’ better, & that the milk smells less dairy-like. This probably has to do with how MIF version doesn’t break the proteins in the milk as opposed to MIA (Milk-in-after). I’ll try the MIF method for a while I think! ^^
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Things at the market for me is good, good, then bad, good, super-good, good, bad, super-bad, good. (Lol!) The weather has been truly atrocious. So cold & so windy. It’s been snowing a fair amount too. On one of the Saturdays there, I have possibly & probably done the worst-ever too. And that’s something of a record after seven years of trading…!
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At times like that, I wished to be not doing this anymore.
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But, there are customers of whom I am blessed to have, especially the dearest ‘regulars’ & locals who visit my stall & drop their money my way. I think some of them are doing so out of a support-consciousness, to keep me & this cake stall going. I feel so, & that’s why I feel blessed. (And actually I know so, as one of them actually told me! ^^) When customers come & tell me that they make a point of purchasing cakes from me every-time/ every year there is a celebration or a cake-need, & when literally dozens of people come up & say they have been missing my cakes in the beginning of the year (I took the whole of January off), I think to myself, maybe…, maybe I can carry on pushing the boat out a little longer… So thank you Broadway Market goers…!
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(Pic from last month. My daughter S’s birthday cake. Every year it is the same – Japanese strawberry shortcake!)
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - cookie cutters from Weitz, Hamburg
(Newly purchased cookie cutters from Hamburg trip last week. I can’t wait to try them all! Perhaps I can use the carrot cookie on top of my carrot cake? It’ll be a great alternative to those marzipan carrot shapes that I absolutely detest!)
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I’ve recently been playing around with apple-desserts, so next time I write to you, it will hopefully be a recipe! ;) Stay tuned! ;)
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HAPPY DAYS TO YOU ALL, T xx

January 8th, 2013

Galette des Rois 2013

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

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

December 25th, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

(Last year I posted a picture of the Grinch for Christmas, so I’ve decided to stick to the cartoon theme again & this year share my love for Peanuts with you! ♥♥)

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(I love Snoopy, but I love Lucy the most. Why? She’s rather persnickety don’t you think? I like that. I’m a fuss-pot too!)

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Hello~!!! Dearest blog readers!!!

 I’m back blogging!!! I’m so sorry I haven’t written in a long while…! It’s been ages, hope you haven’t forgotten me?? :)
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So, how have you all been? And how did 2012 pan out for you?
For me, well…, it’s been a mixed bag of highs & lows – it’s been a little too rainy this year, & having the Olympics in town was not atall helpful as everyone had initially hoped. (read a Guardian website article about it here) On top of that, what with the lo~ng recession we’re in, I can honestly say, it’s been a hard year…
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But. But but but. Here’s the bigger picture. Everyone around me has stayed healthy. And I’m still in a job that I love doing. There hasn’t been any major upsets either this year… – Now, I reckon that’s pretty good going actually, doncha think? :)
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Anyway! What am I writing about! It’s Christmas! No serious talk on a day like this, right!? That, I will leave ’til another post! And, ah, lol, no worries folks, I shan’t make it too long til I write next this time, as I am now in my one month+ break, I will have proper time to write to you! (My next trading date is FEBRUARY 2ND. Please note!)
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So in the meantime, here’s a silly Christmas poem that might amuse you when drinking your schnapps…
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It’s Christmas!

People have been discovering

On a Christmas Morning

That the curse of Christmas

That’s causing the most fuss

Has been unanimously concluded

To be “Batteries not included”

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And if you like Snoopy, here’s a youtube link to an episode called “A Charlie Brown Christmas (The Meaning of Christmas) that’s rather enjoyable to watch post-stuffed-with-dinner! :)

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My dearest blog readers,

may this lovely Christmas season bring you delights in all possible forms. May you receive love in abundance & joy that lasts throughout. Merry Christmas wishes to you & your loved ones.

With pixelated hugs from Tamami xx

September 25th, 2012

About Lanzarote + book/ podcasts to recommend

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This summer, we went on holiday to Lanzarote!

The last time we had a major holiday like this was over 7 years ago (!) to Japan, so it was a biggy for us.

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - landscape -

The landscape was breathtakingly extraordinary. Everywhere you look, it is typically red, ochre & black. Lanzarote has around 300 volcano peaks which makes for the most surreal scenery.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilling chicken over volcanic heat -

At the Timanfaya National Park (Fire Mountain), we ate chicken that’s been grilled over the volcanic heat from below! (but the chicken was tough…)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - restaurant -

Our favourite restaurant was Casa Torano in the tiny fishing village called El Golfo. We went there twice on our holiday. In the evening, we happily sat there & watched the sun set behind the undisrupted view of the Earth’s horizon. We also saw that the horizon is slightly curved. – It’s obvious, yes I know that Mr.Galileo said Earth is indeed round, but it was a rare view for us! It was a reaffirming & humbling experience.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - ocean horizon curve -

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At the restaurant, we ate amazing seafood:

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried sardines -

(Must squeeze lemon over deep fried seafood! Because it cuts the grease & helps in digestion as it emulsifies the fats so that they don’t sit in the stomach! Also, squeezing Lemon (extremely alkaline) over fried seafood (extremely acidic) bring the body into perfect PH balance!)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried baby octopus -www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilled octopus -

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Unfortunately, there were no exceptional sweet desserts to report back to you from this holiday… Dessert-wise, we just ate a lot of juicy watermelon back at our rented apartment. It was a perfect way to rehydrate our skin & body after a day out in the sun (watermelon is about 92% water). Watermelon also contains lycopene, which is a nutritional protection against skin damage from the harmful rays of the sun too! Double perfect.

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Finally, let me share with you my holiday book of choice. It is the ‘Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet’ (~What to eat, what to avoid, and what to stop worrying about~) by Monica Reinagel. It’s a book packed with useful information & I loooove the book. In fact I’m a big fan of the author. I also listen to her podcast shows religiously! I first got to know about the Nutrition Diva via Clotilde’s chocolate & zucchini, when Clotilde posted about the food podcasts she listens to. If listening to podcasts is your thing, check her list out.

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And while I’m writing about podcasts, the only other one I listen to is ‘Crimes Against Food’, hosted by Gloria Lindh & Mia Steele. It’s two girls from Yorkshire talking (hilariously) about the worst food crimes. ~ I smile & giggle along with them when I listen, & it makes me happy. :)  :)  :)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - Nutrition Diva's secrets for a healthy diet book -

(Reading on Famara Beach.) 

September 10th, 2012

Window of opportunities

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When I set about blogging back in 2006, I wonder, would I have ever known of how well that decision to write would turn out to be?
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Looking back, I suppose I could have not blogged at-all, considering I have never been a confident writer to start with.
(…I have a dismal history of getting a rather discreditable grade E for English at GCSE school… Lol! Now laughable, but not so at the time! Add to that shame, I got a grade F for French… Wouldn’t it be funny if I had studied German & then get a grade G? I could have accomplished a hat-trick of obtaining lowly grades in alphabetical sequence! It’ll atleast make a mildly good story to tell in a pub…)
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Anyway, through this blog, I’ve made new friends & have met lots of interesting people. This blog has been a window to opportunities.
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In fact, unimaginable opportunities have been thrown my way this year – new business proposition from amazing team of people with renowned backgrounds, offer to become an instructor for a regular chocolate-making workshop, & even an (albeit very initial) enquiry about own TV show (!?) Ha ha, yeah, I know, the last one’s especially surprising/ crazy/ amazing/ bizarre/ humbling/ exciting, right!? Although let me point out once again that it was just purely an enquiry in their initial/ ideas stage. So nothing has come of it! And I never followed it up. Still, nice to be asked though, huh?
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Another opportunity I get is to be invited to food related events. This Summer, I went to three.
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La Maison du Chocolat:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection - CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - piping bag pattern on surface
(the pattern was made by dipping piping-tip.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - chocolate tree
(La Maison du Chocolat CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau, with the 2012 chocolate tree inbetween them.)
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One was an invite to check out the 2012 Christmas collection at La Maison du Chocolat. Dearest readers, I know you’ll totally be on my side here when I say, “who can resist”, right? Who am I to turn down an offer to sample chocolates from one of world’s finest chocolate shop?
→  →  →  From the first bite, the very enchantment restored the faith in me that THIS is what real chocolate is about. And so, quite naturally, as you can expect from yours truly, I took on the occasion & ate through a many bonbons. All the while, I listened to chef chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau explaining each of the flavours of these refined morsels. Delectable. Delightful. Perfection. Bliss. Paradise. Need I say more?
→  →  →  Meeting the head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau was an amazing experience too. I explained to him that my first ever experience of eating macarons was from La Maison du Chocolat back in 2004 & that it was a life changing experience by no means an exaggeration. I was ‘in’ to only chocolates back then, but it was the awe-inspiring deliciousness of their chocolate macarons that made me start to bake on a serious level. Inspired & obsessed, I experimented numerous times to re-create macarons at home. As you might know, macarons are notoriously diffcult to make, & it certainly was not a wise choice for first baking project. At first, I simply couldn’t get it right – mine cracked & there were no jaggedy ‘feet’ that is the must feature of any good macaron. When I did finally get it right, by the end of it I was hooked on the joys of baking & here I am today, baking professionally for 7 years.
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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011):
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011): - preview screening - flim - Ferran Adrià
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As some of you may already know, I finally started to twitter this year. And it was through twitter that I was invited by Artificial Eye (a film distributer) to a preview screening of the El Bulli docu film. I’ve been curious about this Ferran Adrià fellow & his restaurant from some time ago, & so I went.
→  →  →  What did I think of the film? Well… let’s first say that I ought to leave personal tastes aside. Because ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ & you have to respect that. The food’s not my cup-of-tea, I’d salivate over homey & soul-warming foods ten-fold, but it doesn’t stop me from greatly respecting Ferran’s quest for new-worldly, artistic, conceptual cuisine.
→  →  →  Y’see, there, it’s not just fine-dining, but I would rather coin it as “fine-art-dining”. It’s so concept-led, going to his restaurant must have been like participating in a fine-art exhibition! When you hear that there used to be 2 million people applying for the 8,000 bookings available in a year, I do think it’s a little silly & faddish though. But I guess you have to understand that these people who can afford to splash a small fortune to getting there & paying for the 30-course menu are after ‘the experience’ & ‘status’ of having eaten there, so that they can get the badge & form an opinion, & that’s fine for them.
→  →  →  This fly-on-the-wall docu film lets us observe what a year at El Bulli was like (it’s closed down now). And it is a precious record of the phenomenon that was El Bulli. If you want to witness something that will surely be talked about in food history, this film will be right up your alley & I will recommend it. Despite being a success already, the man clearly still has the passion & the burning ambition to better himself (& others). And people with dreams & ambitions gets my vote, fully.
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Pastry Network:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü
(pic with Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü, with the new recipe book out next month.)
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My friends F & S organize a gathering group called Pastry Network, of which I am now also a member. Once-a-month, pastry chefs meet to exchange information as well as make friends with people who you have a common ground. I have great admiration for F & S to take time out of their very busy schedule to organize such group. It is clear that they are passionate about pastry. They pass on their knowledge freely, & I think it is a sign of a great person & teacher.
So far this year, they have organized head baker of The Berkeley Hotel to talk about ‘What it take to make fantastic bread’, & on a different month, member chefs brought in their favourite cookbooks to share.
→  →  →  This month, we heard Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of guest speak about Gü’s branding & product development. Despite that I won’t ever go down the same road, it was nevertheless a priceless opportunity to learn the inside story of how a successful company like Gü operates. And the talk left me with great respect for their dedication to create delicious gourmet products that’s now sold in all major supermarkets, a feat in a market which is otherwise saturated with inferior quality desserts.
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PS: Dearest readers, especially the readers who have been taking their time to write a comment, I’d like to say… THANK YOU very much! Did you know that YOU make this blog happen with me? Without your encouragement, & without the knowledge that I am being listened to, understood, I don’t think I could have achieved half as much & have quit this ages ago. And that is the truth. So thank you!!!

Warmest regards, Tamami xx

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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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - super scones recipe with step by step pictures

(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).

 

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