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Thursday, 25 March 2010

12 hours in Paris: The Sugar-High Tour/ 12時間限定:甘いパリ Part 2

..After our break, we crossed over to Ile de la Cité, and stopped at Notre Dame Cathedral.  The beautiful rose window was shining brilliantly - There was a perfect sun at that moment.

We then walked over to Pain du Sucre.  This is a place  that was opened by the two chef/ pâtissiers who used to work for Pierre Ganière.
I picked up some macarons for my friend in London, bought a couple for myself too, and chose a mousse cake for take-away.  I am normally not a huge fan of mousses, but their cakes all looked very interesting.

(Right photo - baba au rhum with a syringe with rhum syrup..!)
What amused us was the store staff.  He was first just normal "Parisien" guy - basically, not overly service-oriented.  However, when he noticed that we were carrying a bag from Carl Marletti, he said "Oh, are you having a gastronomic tour in Paris?  It is really a nice shop there, isn't it?" and his attitude changed- became so much more friendly and smiling.  We were proud to be considered "fellow foodies"!

After this, we went to MORA, where they sell all sorts of cooking utensils.  I got a few odds and ends, baking tins and a cutter, etc, while it rained like crazy outside.  We could even hear the thunder rolling.

After a brief stop at Starbucks (increasing in Paris.. where we had the mousse cake- which was VERY nice), we headed over to our final destination, Terminus Nord.  It is a brasserie located very conveniently in front of Gare du Nord.  We had booked a table from London, and got a comfortable seat before the restaurant started getting busy.  We ordered a seafood platter- which looked like this..

To be quite honest, the best, or the only good thing on the platter was the oysters (other shellfish was over-boiled and too chewy).  I think we'll go back, since the atmosphere and the service were good, but we'll just order oysters and not other seafood next time.  Well, it still looked quite picturesque, I guess.
Since we only ordered the platter, we felt like we had a rather light dinner.. and justified our total calorie intake of the day.  Or not.

So we went back to London, full and tired and happy, on the Eurostar.. after a busy, but a sugar and excitement filled 12 hours in Paris!!
I'd do it again with a different theme next time - like a salon de thé tour, or a boulangerie tour.. ;)









12 hours in Paris: The Sugar-High Tour/ 12時間限定:甘いパリ Part 1

We made a day trip to Paris.  Our Eurostar from London departed at 5.15, and arrived Paris at 8.50.  Since our train back to London was leaving Paris at 9.15pm, we literally had 12 hours in Paris.  So, how did we spend our precious 12 hours in Paris?  We had  Le tour gourmand et sucré..  not for the faint hearted!

We began at Plaza Athenée, one of Paris's most prestigious hotels. Our aim was their breakfast.  Although we had to get up at 4am, catching the earliest Eurostar makes it possible to take breakfast in Paris.

The above photo is their bread basket- all baked under the direction of Christophe Michalak, the winner of the world pâtisserie competition in 2005.  The viennoiseries were especially good.  Buttery and rich, but flaky and light.  I felt like I could eat these forever..
However, we were a little let-down with coffee: when will French people stop using UHT milk for their cafe creme??  (however, the coffee itself was very good!)

What I loved as much as the viennoseries and the grandeur of the room, was the friendly service.  Staff were not snobbish or arrogant at all.  One gentleman even gave us two breakfast-size jars of honey, saying they were the best honey in the world, that we should take them back home.  I thought it was really sweet!

We then headed over to the 7th - and went to a newly opened patisserie, run by Philippe Conticini.
It is called "La Pâtisserie des Rêves", and it really was a beautiful shop.  I loved the display, even though it was a bit too modern and designed in a way - it was like a jewellery shop, where you see most of the creations through glass cases.  Well, the pastries were as beautiful as jewellery.

We purchased a madeleine (hint of lemon and lots of vanilla) and tarte tatin (apple & pear), which were both good.  Then, after a brief stop at the Grande Epicerie at Bon Marche, we moved on to our next destination, Carl Marletti.

The Eiffel Tower window display was beautiful, and the pastries were too...  As the staff explained the numerous patisseries displayed in front of us, of course I felt like buying all of them!  However I decided to be realistic, and chose just two: Praline Millefeuille and Lemon Tart.

We were lucky that the rain stopped soon after we left Carl Marletti.  We took a long walk along rue Mouffetard, where there are countless restaurants and food shops, and by the time we got to the Seine, the sun was shining brightly.
We took a break at a small park, and enjoyed our Millefeuille and Lemon Tart - in a civilised way.  Yes, I brought some napkins, bottles of water, wet tissue and forks...
(to be continued)


ロンドン- パリ間は2時間半ちょっと。5時15分の列車でロンドンを発ち、パリに到着したのは8時50分でした。パリから戻る列車は夜の9時15分発だったので、約12時間のパリ滞在です。









Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Polvorons/ スペインの焼き菓子 ポルヴォロン

I baked some polvorons today.  Polvorons have long been one of my all time favourite cookies.  However, I have only ever found a proper recipe in one book, and have never seen it in others despite searching.
So, I was pretty excited when I found polvorons in Barcelona, when we visited in December last year.  Finally, a traditional, REAL polvoron!!  It came in a pretty paper wrapping, and melted in your mouth, leaving a distinctive, roasted almond flavour.

I used to make them in a ball, of about 1.5cm thickness, but decided to copy the ones I saw in Spain- so here is what I did.  I wish I had a round cutter, as the ones we found were round, but I only have a fluted one so had to make due with that.

The result was SOOO GOOD that I had to debate with myself whether to keep the recipe secret - but I think it is TOO GOOD to keep to myself, so here it is.

Plain Flour 125g
Ground Almond 25g
Icing sugar 50g
Butter (room temperature) 55g
Shortening 25g
Cinnamon 1g
Salt 1g
Icing sugar for decoration
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c.  Mix flour and ground almond, and spread on a baking tray.  Bake the mixture in the oven until it is slightly coloured.  Mix the flour occasionally.  Leave it to cool.
  2. Sieve the icing sugar, so that there are no lumps.  
  3. Once the flour mixture is cool, mix with rest of ingredients on a surface or in a large bowl, using a plastic card.  It is crumbly, but gently put together the dough to form a ball.
  4. Roll out the dough (tricky) to about 8mm thickness.  Using 5cm ring cutter, cut the dough out, and gently place it on a buttered baking tray (or tray lined with a baking sheet).  Pre-heat the oven to 140c.
  5. Bake the cookies for 30min.  While the cookies are still hot, dust abundantly with icing sugar.  Leave them to cool.
I used Flora White as shortening, following my friend Surbhy's advice, and it worked well.  I think it had better texture than other vegetable fats I have used in the past.  If you prefer, you can use only butter, but you will not get the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth texture with just butter.  It is so light, and I can assure you that the texture is like nothing  you have had before.  Roasted ground almond also gives such a nice aroma- so nutty and deep.  Since you thickly dust with icing sugar, I recommend espresso (with no sugar!) to go with this wonderful petit-four.  Hope you enjoy!





薄力粉 125g
アーモンドプードル 25g
粉砂糖 50g
バター (無塩、常温)* 55g
シナモン 1g
食塩 ひとつまみ*


  1. オーブンを200度に余熱する。小麦粉とアーモンドプードルをあわせてふるい、オーブントレイに広げて、少し色づくまで焼く。ときどき混ぜて、色づきを均等にする。オーブンから出したら、冷ましておく。
  2. 粉砂糖をふるい、ダマをなくす。
  3. 小麦粉とアーモンドプードルが十分に冷めたら、大きなボウルか麺台で、残りの材料と混ぜる。ぽろぽろとしてまとめにくいが、一つの塊にまとめる。
  4. オーブントレイに、バターを塗るか、ベーキングシートを敷き、オーブンを140度に余熱する。麺台の上に生地を出し、麺棒を使って8mmほどの厚さに伸す。5cmの型を使って型抜きし、トレイに少し感覚をあけて並べる。
  5. オーブンで約30分、少し色づくまで焼く。焼きあがったら、まだ温かいうちに粉砂糖を茶漉しなどを通してたっぷりとふり、そのまま冷ます。
ショートニングは、製菓用のものを使うといいと思います。イギリスでは、友人のSurbhyのすすめにしたがって、Flora White というものを使いました。アメリカのクリスコというショートニングを使ったこともあります。

Monday, 15 March 2010

(Japanese style)Fruit cake/ 日本式?フルーツケーキ

I baked three tins of fruit cake last week.  This one has been "matured" for about 6 days now, and the recipe book says I can keep it for 2-3 weeks.

The recipe is from a Japanese cake book, and the pastry chef who wrote it once commented that this is a "Japanese style butter cake" - which has a light, fluffy, soft texture, rather than moist and dense texture of traditional butter cakes (and let me add this - I DO like the traditional, rather heavy fruit cakes too).

When I made this cake for the first time, it was slightly shocking, as the outcome really was so different from the "normal" butter cakes that I have been baking.  The instructions are very different - for example, you need to mix the dough well, even after adding the flour, which is unusual for butter cake recipes.

The flavour is very nice. The author tells you to soak raisins in rum for a week, and dried prunes in hot tea.  Together with these, roasted chopped walnuts, dried apricots and candied orange peel (home-made!) are mixed.  When the cake is baked, it is brushed with lots of rum-syrup (I used an aged Nicaraguan rum called "Abuelo"), to keep the cake moist and to add flavour.  It's not for kids..

So, what happened to the two other cakes?  They should be on their way to my sister's flat by now.. the reason why I chose a long shelf-life cake.  I hope my family enjoys the British-born fruit cake a la Japonaise.







Thursday, 11 March 2010

Love for rhubarb continued/ ルバーブ熱愛続行

I know I have already written about my love for rhubarb.
Well, I just can't get enough of it.  So, here it comes again.

I think what I love the most about rhubarb is its appearance.  It is a deep ruby when fresh, and when cooked, it becomes slightly pink.  What other food has such colour?

So, this time, I first made some compote..
I cooked rhubarb with sugar (about 30-40g sugar for 100g rhubarb - only when it's the forced rhubarb that has rather mild acidity.  Increase to 50-60g for summer rhubarb) in a 160c oven for about 30min.  Make sure that you use a non-reactive baking tray/ dish.  You can add bit of grated ginger, or grated orange rind and a squeeze of orange juice, which both add nice flavour.  Leave it to cool.

This compote is quick and easy to make, and it's a perfect accompaniment to a quick dessert.  Here is what I did:
Whisk 30g mascarpone cheese, 40g fromage frais and 2 table spoons of sugar together.  Spoon the rhubarb compote into a glass (I used wine glasses- simply because I don't have nice dessert glasses), top with the mascarpone cream, sprinkle some crushed amaretti biscuits if you have some.  I used some of the streusel left-over from the muffins.
It's also nice served with yoghurt, or even just creme fraiche.

With the remaining rhubarb, I made some jam.. same as in the previous post.  I think I'd like to try making a flan with rhubarb, before the season is over..


この深いルビー色(写真だとなんだかカニカマみたいですが 笑)も綺麗だし、調理したあとのピンク色も可愛い。





Sunday, 7 March 2010

Blueberry muffins/ ブルーベリー・マフィン

A few months ago, I had the occasion to have a drink with several pastry chefs.  One of them, who is an executive pastry chef at a famous five-star hotel said "I always make my muffins with vegetable oil.  Not butter".  Then a heated discussion took place: whether you should use oil or butter, and how the fat/ oil changes the flavour and texture.
There was only one way to find out for myself  - so I baked muffins.
I found a recipe that uses a combination of strong flour and plain flour, with vegetable oil.  To this I added blueberries and lemon, and topped with some streusel to add a bit of texture.
The result was.. interesting.  I mean, good-interesting.
I normally bake muffins with butter and plain flour.  This gives a flaky texture, cake-like quality and wonderful aroma.
This time, with the mixed flours and vegetable oil, the muffins had a more bouncy texture.  Although you lose the flavour of butter, I think the kick from lemon worked pretty well.  Also it was soft and moist- even when it cooled off.

Overall, I think I like it, although I cannot say whether I like it "better than" using butter.  The good thing is that you can make the muffins when you want to (i.e. no need to keep the butter at room temperature), and the recipe is quick to make.  Also, it tastes less rich, and less cake-like, so it made me feel healthier and therefore more suitable for "breakfast".  However, butter-based muffins have a rich aroma and flavour, which is perfect for an indulgent weekend breakfast.

Anyway, my husband and I enjoyed the muffins.  Juicy sweet blueberries, nice light crunchy topping, and refreshing flavour and acidity from the lemon.  Yum.

I would have shared the recipe if I thought it excellent - but I think I want to tweak it a bit.  So, perhaps after an experiment or two, the recipe will be posted here..