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Coco&Me » 2006

November 26th, 2006

What my week is like


Note: I seem to be having problems with how this page layout looks in some of the browsers… I know that on Apple’s Safari (1.2.3 v125.9) the left column decides to live underneath the main text at the bottom of the page… If you are experiencing similar or any other layout problems, & using a different browser than mentioned, could you PLEASE email me & let me know of which browser you are using & what version? I would very much appreciate it! Thanks!


Last Saturday:

Beautifully sunny. I wanted to get there early – we always arrive there a bit late than desired (around 9:30) & I fear that I miss out on some of the early customers, the types that seem to have a shopping mission like for a party that night & are looking to buy big cakes.

So the alarm clock goes off at 7am. To my devious pleasure, it was my turn to wake my toddler up – normally it’s the other way around, with him tapping my face continuously & to my annoyance until I wake up from my deepest of sleep that my body needs more of.

The plan was to leave at 8, but it ends up being 8:30. Getting him dressed, brushing his teeth (which is currently a nightmare with tears), getting myself ready, eat a bit of breakfast, loading the goods in to the car… D drives everytime, bless him – he only complained only once within this last year, & that was when he was fed up after a careless car hit his rear lights while stopping at a signal.
Once there at the market (where the stall structure is already up & is supplied with the table), it takes 30 minutes to set up my goods. I had a big puffa coat on, which makes me look like a Michelin Man, a Mini Me version of, but it’s difficult to move my arms efficiently, so for the ‘set up’ I took it off. I was moving around anyway so I didn’t feel too cold.

BUT, from around 12 I started to feel ill. My throat hurt & I was hotting up. Drowsiness & feverishness. I ask for the strongest medicine from the pharmacy. My ears started to ring, & at this point I thought I might faint (which, my close friends & family would tell you is quite commonplace – I’ve fainted in clubs, bars, pubs & on the street… although these were due to alcohol & lack of food in the stomach! Just one glass at the wrong time can do it).

I ask Bart, my stall neighbour on my left to help me with the stall. Such a nice guy. Chef/ owner Rogerio from Armadillo made me hot lemon & honey. But by 3pm I was still not feeling any better & Zita urges me to call D for help. He was at Barbican which is not so far away, so he came to the rescue straight away. He helped me pack up, & we left with still quite a few items left.

By the time we were in the car, I had lost my voice completely – which D jokes is actually rather nice for a change! Pah!

This week, I’d like to write about how my week goes:

Monday & Tuesday & Wednesday:

We go to Mother & Toddler Groups. Monday & Wednesday is to the English one, & on Tuesday it is a Japanese one where we get to sing songs, & do many other Japanesey activities. This way our Kids can experience a Japanese environment to not to forget its language & culture.

Wednesday night:

After my Kid goes to sleep, I do some chocolate work such as tempering & molding the mendiants. I also fiddle about with various bits & bobs like prepare the food trays, get the bags ready, etc. It’s usually 9pm to 11pm.
Thursday afternoon:

We go shopping for the fresh ingredients like raspberries, eggs, butter, cream. I go with my Kid, & it is fun but slightly stressful. He is at a stage where he wants to ‘help‘ me, y’know ‘be mummy’s little helper‘ (which is sweet), but infact I worry that he might knock a glass jar from the shelf. Or start putting all sorts in to the trolly until its madness. There is me shouting his name loud, trying to keep control… So mumsy, I know… I remember wincing at ’em mums when I was young & single, thinking ‘Can’t you control your own kid’ & ‘I’ll never be like that when I become a mother’. *Just wait til you’ve got kids…*
– After that the tart dough is made & clingfilmed for the vital fridge-rest for atleast 6 hours. I also pipe & roll the ganache for the truffles. It is kept in the fridge so that I can temper the chocolate for coating them at night.
Thursday night:

Once D sends our Kid to sleep, the kitchen marathon begins (I find that it really is a sport – my kitchen is designed badly & I end up circling the table in the middle of the room – just like the film ‘Kitchen Stories‘). I roll the tart casings, make the Gateaux Basque dough, prepare the tins for the chocolate cakes, etc.

My parents look after my child. They tend to get out of the house & go to a shopping centre like Brent Cross, to Activity Centres, or go to a park from the morning. I am very lucky. I know it & I appreciate it. I can bake without interuption. When they return home around 2pm, my Kid is happily napping in the car seat after a good day out, who I then lift out of the car slowly & carry to bed.
– My day is spent whipping up a storm in the kitchen. It’s usually 9am to 12pm (with lunch & dinner breaks inbetween).


Market 9am – 4pm. Most of the time I go straight home, but once in a while I might have friends who would visit me & we have a drink in the local called The Dove which is on the market street. Or visit friends’ place for a bit with D & Junior.

The weekend day. We tend to make the most of it & do family stuff like go to a nice park together… I would prefer to have a Sunday-lie-in but it’s just impossible with our Kid waking us up early & promptly no matter what… *sigh*…

November 19th, 2006

The chocolates & cakes on my stall list


First, about how last Saturday went:

Broadway Market can develop strong blustering gusts like in a wind tunnel. Pleasant in Summer but in Winter it can be bitingly cold.

The market wind is truly nasty. It would blow my stash of empty cake boxes away & would scatter my stall neighbour Kim’s handmade cards & plant holders everywhere every 30 minutes. When the wind is so strong, the stall table would shake magnitude seven, & I hold down on it like I’ve encountered a storm on a sailing journey. Which may sound like an exaggeration, but I remember my Danish stall neighbour’s rack flying off her table & smashing her beautiful plates… But last Saturday, the gust of wind blew the plastic sheet off the roof of my stall…! Thank goodness it wasn’t raining – otherwise it could have ruined all my chocolates & cakes… Sales-wise, it went well, but except for my truffles – I had atleast twenty left. Truly disheartening when this happens, but not so bad an outcome for D & my friends in my neighbourhood…

For this week’s entry, I’ll list the chocolates & cakes I currently sell at the market.

  • Flourless Moist Chocolate Cake: Sold as slices & as whole cake. The ingredients are just butter, sugar, eggs, organic chocolate & a tablespoon of Triple sec (orange liqueur). It’s my ‘best seller’ & it’s the one with many repeat customers.
  • Gateaux Basque: Sold as slices & as whole cake. A very rustic looking French cake with a layer of custard cream & dried prunes baked in to it (in the picture above). The surface has a hand-drawn pattern – done by rubbing egg wash (coloured brown with coffee granules) first & then drawing the pattern with the end of a spoon (hence scoring the coloured egg wash away).
  • Tarte Tatin: Sold as slices & as whole cake. See my earlier entry to read more about it.
  • Poppy seed & Summer Fruit Sponge Cake: Sold as slices & as whole cake. I love the slightly nutty aroma & taste of poppy seeds. The tangy taste of the berries go really well with the sweet sponge. The colour of deep-reds & blues from the berries look great against black-specked sponge.
  • Caramelized Banana Loaf: Sold as slices & as whole. The banana has been cramelized first before being incorporated in tho the cake batter. There are broken up walnuts in it too, it is a really good combo with banana.
  • Luxury Brownies: Chunky squares full of pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, & pecans. Pure luxury. There is a big ‘brownie-battle’ at the market with so many stalls selling it, but I can truly say it is the most chocolatey & most & dense of ’em all!
  • Fresh Berry Tart: Small, medium & large sizes, also in individual heart shapes (pictured above). It has baked almond cream sponge (or frangipane) under the packed layer of fresh fruit like raspberries, blueberries & strawberries. It makes the stall look colourful & it often catches the eyes of the passers-by & hopefully stop them on their track!
  • Pear & Almond Tart: Small, medium & large sizes. Frangipane with sliced pears & almond slices.
  • Lemon Cream Tart: Small, medium & large sizes. Frangipane with lemon cream & white chocolate lettering.
  • Chocolate Tart: Small, medium & large sizes, also in individual heart shapes. Filled with dark ganache infused with cinnamon & raspberry puree layer underneath. Decorative cocoa powder stencil work on top.

And then there is the chocolate truffles & molded bonbons, sold in bags or in a box selection):

    • Caramel Truffle: tempered dark chocolate coating. Caramel liquid & chocolate is mixed to make the ganache.
    • Earl Grey Truffle: tempered milk chocolate coating.
    • Raspberry Truffle: tempered white chocolate coating.
    • Classic Vanilla Pod Truffle: first coated with tempered dark chocolate & then dipped in cocoa.
    • Hazelnut Crunch Truffle: Gianduja (chocolate containing about 50% hazelnut & almond paste) ganache mixture, coated in tempered dark chocolate & then covered in caramelized hazelnut nibs.
    • Mendiants: White, milk & dark. Molded chocolate discs with nuts & dried fruit, or with candied orange discs.
    • Molded chocolate shapes: White, milk & dark or a marble effect. Rabbits, cats & heart shapes.

    As you can tell, I make quite a fair bit. I get asked numerous times about how long it takes to make them, & the answer is…

    = I spend at least twenty hours during the week (on Thursday evenings & about fifteen hours on Fridays) & then about seven hours on Saturday to sell it.

    At the end of Saturday, it feels like I put my body & soul in to it. But without question, it is never a chore. I enjoy it (except for the washing up part!) & my effort is rewarded. I love being ‘my own boss’ & make what ever I want to make. I love selling directly to the consumer & enjoy chatting to them (except for when some bloke really haggle at the end of the day, to the point of disrespect – ‘cos it’s what you do at a market innit?‘).

    So anyway, hop down to the market & sample some of the items! Come on, I know you have a sweet tooth in you!!

November 12th, 2006

Chocolat Chaud (real hot chocolate)


Last Saturday:

Chilly winter weather is here to stay. The morning started off with just 4 degrees. My mother bought black fingerless gloves for me, true market trader stylee, & despite my low reservation with it in the trend-o-meter rating, I must admit it was a welcome piece of garment! Just goes to show, ‘mother knows best’ right? – – – – – The trade went smoothly enough. My truffles went quickly. Huge help came from two girls looking for something to take to a dinner party & bought a huge quantity of the caramel ganache truffles coated in tempered dark chocolate. – – – – – One bit of sad news of the day was that a local couple who had been buying my Tarte Tatin every morning say they are moving from the area, & next week they will buy my Tarte for the last time… – – – – – One bit of bizarre moment was when the girl with a Halloween mask & orange bucket asking around for treats was still loitering the market four hours later & I realized that, hey, that ain’t an innocent Halloween anymore, it’s ‘begging’!

This week’s entry is about my ideas & plans for the stall that I am always conjuring up, but never have enough time to fully develop:

There is the Jam making – I have 41 empty jars waiting to be filled… The labels are designed & I have done numerous product tests to perfect the technique. So far I have only made & sold three jars (Strawberry jam with a tablespoon of Kirsch cherry liqueur). But when it comes to actually making more, I have no time to spare & it’s always on the back burner… Or maybe my fire for it has watered down now that I have satisfied ‘the need to know’, like ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt‘.

I have 2kg of Pecan Nuts that need to be used. My plan was to make Pecan Tart or Tartlette aux noix with it but I haven’t found the time to test bake. I know it’s right for the season we’re in, so I better get going…

Another plan is to serve Hot Chocolate (in French they say Chocolat Chaud – somehow French language sound so beautiful…). I know some people think it’s a sweet drink for children, but This drink is thick, rich & truly the ‘food of the Gods’ (which is the translation of the Latin name for Cacao).

When it’s cold like this, hot chocolate is bound to go down well. So what’s stopping me?
1. I need to purchase a drinks dispenser. We’re talking £500.00 just for this.
2. I have no electricity. I need to buy a portable generator – The cheapest I have found is £60.00 on ebay UK – which is probably the wrong model for my type of usage. Apparently they are noisy & I have no idea how to use it. And it’s operated by fuel?? Wouldn’t that be smelly for my chocolates & cakes?
3. I need to source cheap & good looking cups. Would I also need get lids too? Or can I get away with serving the drink without the lid…
I wonder what price people would pay for a cup of takeaway hot chocolate? £1.50? £2.00? I don’t think no more than that. And besides how many cups would I need to sell before I see the returns?

Since I will never be able to serve this drink on my stall, please make & drink this at home instead!

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Chocolat Chaud Recipe:

I have a fantastic recipe for Hot Chocolate. It is dark, rich & thick, it is like drinking liquid ganache, & is for adult consumption. Ideally be served in a cup, not mug, or a nice porcelain demitasse cup. Rule of thumb is 1:5 ratio of chocolate & milk+cream liquid. You can vary the thickness of your drink by how much double cream you put in it, in substitute of milk.

(for one cup)

18g Dark fine chocolate (button form or chopped from a block for quicker melt)

72g Whole (full fat) milk

18g Double cream

1. Simmer milk & cream in a pot.

2. Pour (1) over the chocolate in a bowl.

3. Whisk & melt the chocolate.

4. Return the mixture to the pot & heat.

5. Whisk until preferred consistency.
6. Strain the liquid (with a tea strainer) in to a pre-warmed cup.

You can infuse the milk (step 1) with spice such as: cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg, vanilla pod, cloves, chilli… Or what about a dash of Triple sec (means ‘Triple distilled’ orange liqueur) like Cointreau? Experiment & create the original cuppa.

… For super indulgence, if you have raspberries, you can place a couple in the drink to fall to the bottom of the cup for a nice surprise at the end!

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November 6th, 2006

The people at the Market


Last Saturday’s trade:

Business felt slow – there just wasn’t as many people – the man from the French cafe opposite my stall says it is because of the school half term. I had tonnes left still at 2pm. In the end I stayed til 5pm. But every cloud has a silver lining, I sold everything without giving any ‘end-of-day-discount’ except for two slices of cake, so I was tired but smiling. Sometimes I wish I was selling non-food products like clothes that can be brought back again to sell the next week – but all my items are freshly made – I need to sell them on the day, otherwise it’s a loss (well… not a complete loss… it just goes in to my stomach that evening!)

This week’s post is about the people I meet at the market who have become special in my heart:

A few stalls to my left, there is the ‘Ladybird Lady‘ who sells secondhand Ladybird books & other little found gems. She would source cooking books, children’s books & cake plates I might like & would just give them to me. Not only that, she would buy cakes from my stall when I’m having a bad day, & would genuinely worry for me if I was not there one week. Her daughter is getting married next year & I will be making her wedding cake (chocolate of course!). It’s such an honour to be able to make a cake for such an important occasion in someone’s life.

Next to the Ladybird Lady is a stylish Danish lady who sells vintage Danish items. In principle, I try not to buy from the market for myself so as not to spend the money I worked so hard to earn. But, that said, there are some items that you just fall in love with at first sight, it ‘rocks your boat’ & you just have to get. You just know that if you don’t, you’d be thinking about it all week, & you’ll be getting it the next week anyway. – So I bought a plate by a famous artist/ painter/ ceramist by Bjørn Wiinblad (who was a chief designer for Rosenthal), the title of the plate is ‘tea for two‘, perfect for serving biscuits on. (I have my eyes on another item by him, which is a set of wall plaques depicting a couple’s journey through January to December, first meeting during snow sledging, falling in love & then finally the woman giving birth. A bit too girly? I especially like December plaque because that’s the month I had my child too!).

Then there is Richard the farmer meat seller two stalls to my left. We once exchanged cake to steak meat – which I cooked as ‘Steak au Poivre‘ as recommended by the French guy Bruno from the cheese stall behind me.

My stall neighbour to my right is Kim who sells her handmade bags & cards (I buy my girlfriends bags & birthday cards from her which are always popular with them). Whenever we both get a moment of free time we chat all sorts. It was through Kim’s kindness & her partner’s willingness that I had the chance to do work experience in a pastry department at a five-star hotel over the Summer this year. – Just think of what your ‘dream‘ work experience would be, & that’s what I did! A chance to see how the top professionals go about using their just refurbished high-tech kitchen (they had two ovens the size of an American-fridge, & a shock-freezer room bigger than the size of an average living room). I saw to what extent they would cream the butter before incorporating the sugar. I got to get hands on experience creating beautiful & delicate French pastry. But ah, & also how seriously cold the pastry department was kept at (very low temperature for optimum condition to work the dough & the crèmes, & to do chocolate art.- I wore short sleeve chef jacket & I was shivering all the time…).

My fix(es) of coffee are from the French Cafe L’eau à la Bouche opposite me – they would use proper porcelain cup & saucer for me to take to my stall table – because I don’t like sipping from plastic lids if I can avoid it. Drinking good coffee with a proper cup, such little luxuries bring happiness to my day there.

Our market manager Louise is like a mother figure to all – she was so kind to me when my money till was stolen (I was stupid to have had a till on the table in the first place)… I was so shook up when I realized it was gone… The market boys took control & looked after my stall while I had the sinful ciggie (that I quit five years ago) with Louise to calm myself…

Down the other end of the market, there is my friend Zita who sells fashionable clothes. Our sons are good buddies & they have the greatest fun scooting fast with their Like-A-Bikes’.

Then there are the customers who will hang around & chat with me & keep me entertained. That’s the coolest thing about the market – people are so much more at ease & enjoy shopping & approach the seller to find out more about what they are buying! – There is also a sense of community with so many locals using the market too. Regular faces showing up just to give me a feedback on their last week’s purchase from my stall. – Another aspect is the exchanging of the regular ‘hello’s & the typical market banter with other stall holders. It makes me think I’m in Eastenders drama.

– And when my friends would journey to come to see me at the stall, well it completes the icing on the cake.

October 29th, 2006

About chocolates (with ganache truffles recipe)

chocolate jars

First, a quick report on last Saturday’s trade:
Broadway Market being outdoor, weather plays an inevitable part in the sales & general foot count. Rain is my enemy & whenever I checked the weather forecast during the week, it had the ‘double raindrop with dark clouds’ symbol for Saturday. So not expecting great number of customers to show up, I made considerably less…

On Saturday morning, it was raining & was piercingly cold when I was loading the car. It was to be expected but the thought of bad prospects of sales gave me a mild depression anyhow… But by the time we were in the market unloading, the rain had stopped & soon as my table was set up, three large fruit tarts got sold to one couple organising a big celebration. That’s my stall rent sorted easy! And no more large fruit tarts to flog. That set my happy mode for the day, & I managed to sell all my stuff except for five truffles which I gave away to my stall neighbour.

– In the end, it didn’t rain again until four o’clock! Damn you, weather forecast…! I could have made more & sold more…

Anyway, for this entry I ought to start writing about my favourite subject; my absolute devotion to chocolate, that is to fine & honest chocolate, not to the usual suspects lining up the shelves in corner shops.

Chocolate is my first love before pastry, & the initial intentions of the Coco&Me stall was to sell just chocolates.

The stall name itself is a play with the word ‘cocoa’, & was the idea that came out with my good friend Ari. It makes me smile when I look back at the list of candidate names we came up with at the time; there was choko, choco, choco&co, cocoa&jo… Coco&co was the major candidate, but the name was already taken by a business some where obscure in England. Hence, a slight variation of it ‘Coco&Me’ was born. We thought ‘Me’ sounded more personal & friendlier anyway.
Now I’m just glad the name is something that doesn’t especially tie me down to solely selling chocolate, because as for the Summer I am a 100% cakes stall (I can not sell chocolates in the Summer because they melt from 19 degrees temperature, & it is virtually impossible to try to temper it in a hot kitchen!).

In very very basic terms there are two types of chocolates in this world:

  • Cheapo chocolates using vegetable fat (a substitute to cocoa butter to reduce costs) & poor percentage of cocoa solid content. It uses artificial flavourings & preservatives to make up for poor quality starting ingredients. It might use a chemical substitute called Vanillin instead of Vanilla, which has a cheap ‘candy’ like metallic after taste.
  • Fine chocolates using cocoa butter (the cacao bean’s natural fat) & high quality natural ingredients. Good chocolate should only contain cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar & sometimes real vanilla & soya lecithin as an emulsifier.

On my stall I have four big jars of fine chocolate buttons. I sell them by weight from 50 grams upwards. I scoop them out on demand in to a transparent satchel bag & tie it with colourful Mulberry paper string.

Currently the jars contains the following:

  • White: El Rey ICOA. The only white made with undeodorized cacao butter (deodorization is a chemical process that strips flavour). It is buttery smooth, & it isn’t cloyingly sweet like any other whites around either (others use more sugar) I truly think it is the best white the industry offers (although based on looks only, I like the Green&Blacks’ white bar with vanilla seeds – black specks on densely cream coloured chocolate looks rather lush). The ICOA is the best seller out of the four, & is very popular with the parents with small children. (By the way did you know that white chocolate is actually not really classified as ‘chocolate’? It is because it contains only cocoa butter & no cocoa solids!)
  • Milk: El Rey Caoba 41%. It is one of the darkest milks around (the usual milk chocolate has around 35% cocoa content).
  • Dark: Organic Noir Selection Belcolade 53%. It has a perfect balance between bitterness & sweetness. It is important to have ‘organic’ on my stall. It attracts so much more interests!
  • Dark: El Rey Gran Saman 70%. For the true chocoholics. Deep & intense chocolate with slight berry flavour.

You’ve probably noticed that I am El Rey-ed out in my selection. It’s plainly because my main chocolate supplier doesn’t sell any other brands that are just as worthy, & I don’t want to buy different brands from different suppliers as it’ll incur additional shipping costs for them. Besides, aesthetically I like it that all the buttons are the same size! It looks good when customers want a mixed bag.

On the subject of selection, I must let you know of the existence of a treasure cove for chocolate lovers called In’t Veld Schokoladen. It stocks chocolate bars from most of the best fine chocolate brands! Probably the best chocolate shop in Germany in terms of the huge selection on offer. That said, my less-chocolate-aware partner had a ‘bitter’ experience in their cafe when he asked the man about the wonderful hot chocolate they served… D asked them “what do you put in your hot chocolate? Is it cocoa powder and milk…” when the cafe man snapped on my poor guy & scoffed at the mere thought of using anything other than real chocolate! Maybe he was having a bad hair day… But what is all this snobbery surrounding fine chocolates about hey?!

If the subject of fine chocolate interests you, there are some specialized websites like seventypercent.com, where I swotted up & gained knowledge on the last two years. Through what they had organized during the National Chocolate Week, I have been to talks & seminars & even a factory tour at L’artisan du Chocolat, which was insightful as to how ‘fine chocolate’ can be made at a huge production like theirs. I also bought two fresh cocoa pods from their shop in Sloane Square for £7 each. One for consumption (the white pulp was sweet, the beans were acrid) & one for drying whole (which I have as a display on my stall).

Working with chocolate is initially all about trials & tribulations. Tempering (a specific method of melting the chocolate so that the end result is shiny with a crisp snap) really is tricky to master. It’s another whole new chapter if I was to write about it, so maybe that’s for future posting.

But instead, maybe I can share a recipe for a basic ganache (‘ganache‘ is a french term referring to the blended mixture of chocolate & cream) & how to make rolled truffles which does not require you to temper if you coat it with cocoa powder. Also from this I can briefly discuss how to easily make varieties of flavoured truffles with it. Please click HERE to view the recipe on another page.

I know, it was a long entry again… But… but, I really can go on forever about chocolates…! Thank you for reading til the end. Please leave a comment if you’d like to, & I’ll be hoping that you’d come back for my next installment next week!

t xx

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