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Coco&Me » 2007

December 24th, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

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(Christmas Time! I displayed my newly purchased Christmas wreath from Sally Bourne Interiors (I like it because it makes me think of Dragon scales). I also had twigs of Mistletoe on my table, given to me by a neighbouring stall holder.)

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(This week’s star product was definitely the chocolate assortment box! All the boxes sold out by 12:40pm!!! – – The truffle flavours were raspberry, hazelnut crunch, classic & caramel.)

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(My stall & my bump.)
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Saturday 22nd at the market was Madness.

The chocolates were flying off the stall with mesmerizing speed. It was very stressful to keep up with the demand. – Despite pre-filling some of the boxes late Friday night, those filled ones got sold so quick, I was having to fill more boxes while customers waited. Some waited for 20 minutes, while I had to pack the back-orders that kept piling up, & I felt terrible. – And so it was around 12:40pm when I sold-out on them that I finally relaxed, & ripped myself away from the stall table to buy a pain-au-chocolat (from the De Gustibus artisanal bread stall) for breakfast, & pour myself some Rooibos Tea from the thermal flask.
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The second best-seller of the week was the ‘Flour-less Chocolate Cake’. They also quickly disappeared off – & was sold out by 1:30pm. I wish I had made more of these cakes & the chocolate truffles… I could have sold a lot lot more – possibly double as much – the opportunity was there – but as D puts it, I’d be crazy to increase work-load as I was at my limits already (more like ‘past’ my limits actually!).

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Many customers asked questions on how long these cakes last, as they wanted to serve them on the 25th. Three days is a bit of a big gap for leaving cakes around, especially the ones with fresh fruit like raspberries.

– I know this is gonna sound like I’m a dim-wit, but I didn’t know until I started doing a market stall that every year the week-day goes one forward:

ie: If this year’s Saturday is on the 22nd, next year’s will be on the 21st – although there’s the exceptional years when a February has 29 days (leap year), then it jumps two days forward.

Next Christmas (2008) is such a year & will lie on the 20th. FIVE DAYS away from Christmas Day is a huge gap – I do wonder if it’ll dent the sales… We’ll see I guess…
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What are you doing this Christmas? (Or, if you’re reading this post-Xmas, what did you do?) Tell me! I can bet it’ll be better than mine, as…:
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The new UK government guideline suggests pregnant women abstain from consuming alcohol completely – so, for me, this Christmas would be spent sober – while everyone around me would be merrily drinking themselves silly…

When I was pregnant first time round (back in 2003), the guidelines were that women can drink one or two units of alcohol (the equivalent of a single glass of wine) once or twice weekly. But this year’s Christmas, I’ll be pulling the crackers & putting a stupid paper hat on rather straight-headed. Oh Joy…
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Christmas Recipe:

– Combine loads of good wishes,

– whisk together heart full of love & armful of hugs.

– Sprinkle with laughter & garnish with mistletoe.

– Top off with presents.

– Serves everyone!

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Merry Christmas peeps!

Love, t xxx

December 20th, 2007

‘That Gal of the Country’

Coco&Me

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Some traders count their earnings as they go along the day, or, if you’re like me & don’t wanna be seen with wads of cash outside, you count in the safety of your home. Most times, I can’t wait to find out how well (or sometimes, how little) I did, so I count on the night. My toddler boy being at an age where he wants to ‘help’ with everything, sits down with me & straightens the bent notes flat. He also ‘tries’ to separate the coins in to groups, & if asked, he’ll count them in 10’s so that it’s easier for me to count them. I have pondered if I am making a future bank-clerk out of him (yawn), or indeed the opposite: a bank-robber (unlawful & dangerous), but his nursery teacher said sometime ago how he was good at counting with their plastic coins, so I guess it’s good to let him help me for now.
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Last Saturday night’s conversation with him is gonna be a household classic:

me: “Can you pass me that note please?”

boy: “With the gal?” (note: he can’t say ‘girl’.)
me: (laugh) “Gal…! Yes, with the picture of The Queen of this Country!”

boy: “This one? With that Gal of the Country??”
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It was sweetly delivered with a slight cockney (London) accent (think Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady). I hope Ma’am won’t mind. ;-)

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When counting the day’s earnings, now & again, I come across Euro-cents that look like the £1 coin. Soooooo annoying…. This week was a Canadian coin that was the same size as 10 pence coin. Though, I’ve never ever had fake/ counterfeit notes as yet, so I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. A stall near me have just been ‘had’
. with a fake £20 last week – apparently the ‘customer’ bought the cheapest thing on the table with it. Poor guys, a counterfeit note is completely worthless… (Wouldn’t it be great if the Bank of England offered to swap it with a real one when you hand the counterfeit in?)

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Last Saturday at the market, the weather turned out well (phew…), & it was absolutely great with the chocolates – I managed to sell out on ALL the truffles – selling all the boxes I had with me (the boxes have 12 truffles inside), while also selling them individually in bags. Although, as per usual with my ever-optimistic (a.k.a. greedy) sales-forecast, I made too many large cakes, over-ly anticipating that people would be kicking-off with the Christmas dinner parties with friends before going off out-of-town to see their folks for the actual Christmas days.

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So… I had quite a bit of cakes left… What with the day getting shorter & getting darker quicker, the market started to look on the emptier side. The passers-bys were just literally ‘passing-by’, not even glancing at the table.

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While I still had items on the table, my D arrives with our boy at 4.30pm (as promised) to pick me up. But our boy is asleep in his arms. Although it was a terrible thing to do, I made them wait in the French cafe opposite, & I announced “DIS—count….!! End-of-the-day-S.A.L.E—!” until I made another few pounds or so, & gave the left-overs to my stall neighbours & friends, & packed-up asap.
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~Still, despite all those left-overs, I managed to make the best earning of this year, so I ain’t complaining. ;-)
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This coming Saturday is hopefully as good, if not better, what with it gonna be on the 22nd, so close to Christmas. I have several orders too. Although…, looking at the weather forecast, it has two rain-drop sign that I dread with hate hate hate, so it’s gonna be a gamble on how many to bake & make. But, I’m again gonna be forecasting optimistically, so am gonna make more, especially the truffles… Call me mad, D does…

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PS: If you’re in Ldn, come & give me support this 22nd! I need it on a rainy day & plus… I’m not quite sure yet, as I haven’t made my decision, but it may be one of the last few times I do the market before taking a long maternity-break!

December 11th, 2007

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.

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Last Saturday at the market was one of those days when you curse The Great British Weather (anagram= harsh bitter wet heritage) & question why-oh-why we put up with bad weather over here. Throughout the day, it was pretty much raining cats & dogs, the subject of conversation always about how rainy & ‘orrible it is. You can imagine the sales wasn’t great either for any of us – there just wasn’t that many people out there – & to be fair, spending time at an outdoor market in heavy rain wouldn’t be my first choice destination either, if I had the choice that is.
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What’s worse was when the gusty wind kicked off from lunchtime onwards – and together with the merciless downpour, you can just imagine how miserable it was to stand out there.

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My neighbouring stall had a hole in his plastic sheeting that is used for the roof, & despite it being mended by the market boys with some gaffa tape, rain droplets were still seeping from it. And then he had a customer leaning right in to the stall with her umbrella dripping rain water on to the food, possibly sogging it! (I was watching this thinking why does the lady not realize? or maybe she doesn’t care?!) – If it was my stall she did this to, I’d be pointing that out to her pronto. And oh, that plastic sheeting… – it sags & collects the rain water. When the strong wind blows, the big pool of collected water gets swept & deposits on the unsuspecting passersbys, drenching them. You hear shuddering screams throughout the day – poor people… I try to poke the sagged bit of roofing with my cake cooking rack to deposit as much water from it, so at least from my section of the market they are safe.
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Despite this awful weather, a pretty blog reader came-by at the end of the day. It was such a nice surprise! She came from out of London! Thank you! – Funny thing is, I had also received a visit from another pretty blog reader just last week too! Very rare that I get bloggy visits two weeks in a row. It was very nice to meet both of you, it’s great to see who reads my stuff!

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The left-overs from the market were served the following day to the guests at my son’s 4th birthday party, so rest-assured, none of it was left at the end!
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So, two more Saturdays til Xmas! I’m now taking PRE-ORDERS for cakes & chocolates, & will be making & baking super-woman-stylee.. If it’s anything like last year, I’ll be baking several dozens of ‘Flour-less Chocolate Cakes’ & putting together many boxes of chocolate truffles.
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Please Note:

the market is not in operation on 29th. (22nd will be my last work day of the year!)

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November 21st, 2007

‘I’m eating for two’

Yes!
I am expecting –
childing –
got a bun in the oven.
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The oven’s been ‘on’ for 20 weeks now, exactly half-way of the 40 week pregnancy period. The bump is getting bigger by the day. I can feel kicks & movements already too!
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My my, it is soooo very exciting, & it feels just right. I feel blessed that a life has decided to come & be my baby. Day by day, I strongly feel maternal toward her. Yes, ‘her’. Just found out yesterday that ‘it’ is a girl!!! ;-) :-)
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I love her so much already it’s amazing. I think it’s because I experienced a near-miscarriage with this pregnancy in week 7, for 3-days thinking I did lose the baby, that I feel so precious about this life.

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Those 3 days…, is still quite raw for me. I will never forget the moment when the (young) doctor at the emergency room telling me that it IS a miscarriage.

I will never forget the shock & anger of having to wait ’til Tuesday for a scan as it’s a bank holiday weekend… (A miscarriage is not deemed an emergency, since once it starts, it can not be stopped).
I will never forget the moment when I decided to sell cakes anyhow the following day (there were so many baked cakes – was I to throw it away? Spend the whole of Saturday sobbing in my bed?). I preferred the idea of being busy & not think of it.
I will never forget the tears D tried to wipe without me seeing. Sitting on the street curb after the market had finished, our son in-between us, merrily eating a white chocolate ice-cream.
I will never forget gulping in the urge to cry, waiting for a scan at the doctors after 3 days.

I will never forget the surprise & the super-joy of finding out the baby was in fact absolutely fine & healthy. (it was the inside of my stomach bleeding, not the baby).
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So anyway, this winter, you’re gonna see me down at the market with ridiculously over-sized winter-coat that belongs to D, since my coats don’t zip-up no more. And oh, I’ll be wearing tights, leggings, knee-length-socks & then trousers too, – I’m sure I will look like I’ve put a fat-suit on… totally not on-trend, especially down the trendsy Hackney vibe with skinny young girls strutting the latest fashion, but oh well, c’est la vie…!

November 12th, 2007

Gâteau Basque with crème patissière

Coco&Me - Gâteau Basque(Picture taken at the stall table. – The patterned background?? I recently started to use woven wooden placemats bought from Ikea & baking paper on top to display my cakes, instead of cake cooling racks!)

Coco&Me - Gâteau Basque

(Gâteau Basque is a shallow cake with yummy custard cream centre (or sometimes cherry jam filling)! I put dried prunes in there too.)

Coco&Me - Gâteau Basque

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Here’s another cake recipe from my stall table. It’s called Gâteau Basque, & yup, as you’ve guessed, its origins are from Basque Country, a cultural region in the western Pyrenees mountains that spans the border between France & Spain. .
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Gâteau Basque dates from the 17th century, & its precise origins are found in the small spa town of Cambo-les-Bains, where they hold annual Gâteau Basque festival in September. Upon researching on this, I came across the existence of the Gâteau Basque Museum in the town of Sare (that is officially recognised as ‘most beautiful villages of France’) where I very much want to go to one day! (hint hint, D?)
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There’s two ways of filling the middle layer:
One is to use the renowned black cherry jam (confiture de cerise noire), from the nearby town of Itxassou (where the cherry festival takes place in June). Or another, which is to thickly slab Crème patissière/ pastry cream (Click here to read my recipe!).
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I fill mine with Crème patissière, & neatly lay dried prunes. Mainly because I love Crème patissière over jam, & I think the intensely condensed flavour of the dried prunes act as a welcome accent when munched with Crème patissière & the buttery biscuit-y cake.
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Like I say, I make this for the market, & the reception I get is always very good. Most of the time, people don’t know of the cake, but on mention of custard cream middle, the British public (who grew up on custard at school & at homes) identify with the flavour involved, & make a nano-second decision to give it a try.

– There’s these two ladies who buy a slice of Gâteau Basque from me almost every week. If I didn’t have it at the table, because I was feeling slack (!) or wanting to concentrate the time on another product instead, they have been disappointed in the past. I often picture them in my mind when I’m rolling out the dough, wondering whether they be there that week.
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Tips on making this cake:
It’s not a quick cake to make. The actual dough is a doddle, since it all happens in one mixing bowl, & there’s no sense of urgency as it’s not like there’s meringues deflating away because you’re working slow.

But it does need to rest for 2 hours minimum. (I make mine Thursday night, & roll it out on Friday.) You’d then need to make the crème pat, assemble, & finally into the oven for a whole hour! Not to forget the time it takes to cool the cake down before demolding it out of the tin!
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Gâteau Basque recipe:
(to make a 10 inch cake. You’d be able to get 8 – 10 substantial slices out of it)
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Ingredients for the dough:
200g butter
200g sugar
65g whole eggs
30g egg yolks
20ml rum
1g baking powder
335g plain flour (sifted)
approximately 100g of dried prunes
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Ingredients for the Crème patissière (to make 325g):
250ml fresh milk (full fat)
vanilla pod
3 egg yolks (free-range or organic)
75g sugar (castor or granulated)
25g plain flour (sifted)
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Ingredients for the Coffee Dorure (egg wash):
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
half teaspoon of coffee granule
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The method:

  • 1. Place the room temperature 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. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved in the mixture.
  • 4. Add the eggs & egg yolks in stages (so that the mixture doesn’t ‘seperate’).
  • 5. Pour the rum in & mix it all up.
  • 6. Sift in the baking powder & the plain flour.
  • 7. Use your spatula & mix it all in.
  • 8. When mixed, make one big ball of it & cling-film it air-tight.
  • 9. Refrigerate the dough for at-least two hours minimum, so that the dough has it’s ‘rest’ to let the gluten relax, it would become easier to roll it out later.

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  • 11. Assembly time!! Get the dough out of the fridge, take roughly 2/3 of it & roll it in to a rough circular shape. You’re going to line the bottom & the sides with it. So make sure your circle is bigger than the tin base, plus not forgetting to include the width for the sides all around too.
  • 12. Butter & flour the mold.
  • 13. Lift the sheet of dough from step (11) using your rolling pin, & lower it in to the mold. Make sure you thumb it in to the corners.
  • 14. Neatly spatula in the Crème patissière layer inside. (Some pastry chefs would use piping bags for this procedure to be super neat!) Make sure the top is level.
  • 15. Flatten the prunes using the side of your knife & cut them in half.
  • 16. Neatly space them out on top of the Crème.
  • 17. Take the rest of the dough you have left over. You are now going to make the ‘lid’. Roll a circular disc that is just bigger than your mold. Using the rolling pin, lift the circular sheet of dough, & carefully lay it on top of the Crème.
  • 18. Using your thumb, push the edges of the ‘lid’ all around to seal it to the sides.
  • 19. Use knife & cut away the ‘overhang’, so that the top surface is flat.

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  • 20. Make the coffee dorure (egg wash). Put all coffee dorure ingredients in a small bowl & mix until the coffee granules have melted, & has given lovely dark colour to the liquid.

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  • 21. PRE-HEAT THE OVEN TO 180 DEGREES.

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  • 22. Apply a thin layer of coffee dorure to the gâteau surface. Use a brush or your hand.
  • 23. Using the other end of the spoon (or any other instrument of your choice), draw any pattern you like.My tip here is to keep the design fairly simple. I like my pattern to be symmetrical, so that each slice you cut look pretty much the same.
  • 24. Poke a small hole in the middle as a air vent, to avoid the Gâteau Basque from forming cracks on the surface.
  • 25. Pop it in the oven for 1 hour. Do check how it is browning on top now & again. If you think it is browning too much, make a loose lid with aluminium foil to deflect direct heat to the top surface.
  • 26. When time is up, take off the foil if you were using one, & leave it aside in the mold until cool.
  • 27. De-mold by carefully inverting.
  • 28. Eat within the next 2 days. Bon Appétit!

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(ps: I plan to photograph each step & put it up on this blog in the near future… promise!!!)

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