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Sur un petit nuage en chocolat avec Dorie Greenspan – Meringues au chocolat et aux amandes

[On a chocolate cloud nine with Dorie Greenspan – Cocoa and almond meringues]

cocoa and almond meringue

Dorie Greenspan is one of those people you can only admire. Every single of her books exudes her passion for food and people.
She is what I would call a sweet person and if you’re lucky enough to own her latest book, you know what I mean. Indeed, Baking from my home to yours is Dorie’s collection of foolproof and delicious home-baking recipes, which she shares with us with her delightful tone.
When I left a comment on Dorie’s blog I was far from imagining what was about to happen. Not only she did answer but she also offered to meet me.
After a few emails and phone calls, we agreed to meet at Le Café Flore, which is according to an interview I’ve read one of Dorie’s favourite places in Paris.

Obviously I arrived late, having forgotten my wallet in my flat. This got me pretty tense – to say the least.
But as soon as I arrived to the Café and spotted Dorie, the smile she had on her face made me forget my worries. She gave me the sweetest hug ever and we started chatting.
I’m not going to hide from you the fact that we talked mainly about food. But what would you expect?

My internship at Pierre Hermé pastry shop – check.
Glorious pastries – check.
The dinner she had at Pierre’s the night before – check.
Pierre Hermé’s delicious ice creams – check.
Food blogs we love – check.
How popular the eGullet thread on Dorie’s Baking from my home to yours is – check.
Patrick‘s gorgeous pictures – check.
Dorie and Ivonne, Dorie and Brilynncheck.
Opening a bookshop – check.
The new It shop in Paris – check.

As I was sipping my green tea and listening to Dorie, I could not help but think how lucky I was to sit here and be given the best advices one could receive. Dorie is such an inspiration.
Sadly, all good things come to an end; well, at least in appearance. When I left Dorie, I was so cheerful I didn’t dare to take the tube and decided to walk home instead and enjoy sunny (yeah!) Paris.
I was sur un petit nuage avec des étoiles pleins les yeux. What a fantastic goûter!

As soon as I got home in the South of France (told you i was lucky ;), I rushed to the shelves where I keep all my cookbooks, opened Baking from my home to yours and decided to make the cocoa and almond meringues because they reminded me of puffy little chocolate clouds – just the right thing to fit my happy mood!

Meringues au chocolat et aux amandes
When I first got the book, my attention was immediately drawn by these yummy-looking meringues. I just loved they rough yet delicate appearance.
When I made them I could smell a lovely chocolaty perfume filling the house; this was so comforting, even though it’s summer and it’s probably 34°C outside. But then I love chocolate.

These meringues are delicious: a crispy outside hides a chewy nutty and very chocolaty goodness. What’s not to like, really?

Meringues au chocolat et aux amandes

makes 30

1 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 large eggs whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds (well ok I added this)

Preheat the oven to 150°C and line two baking sheets with silicon mats.
Sift the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder and set aside into a bowl.
Whip the egg whites and salt until opaques then add the caster sugar one spoonful at a time until the meringue is thick and glossy. It should be really firm.
Quickly fold in the cocoa mixture then the chocolate chuncks and chopped almonds.
Drop the meringues by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, dust with icing sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 100°C and bake for another hour. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow to cool; then peel off the meringues and store in a airtight metabox.

Deux grains de sucres pour les deux ans de foodbeam – Sablés au thé matcha et cupcakes à la vanille, aux perles du Japon et au thé vert

[Two sugar grains for foodbeam's second birthday - Matcha shortbread and green tea bubble filled vanilla cupcakes]

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Exactly two years ago, something got me totally over-excited. Over the fact that I had just finished my exams, discovered I wasn’t the only person in the world thinking mostly about food and created foodbeam – enough reasons to be thrilled, believe me -, I was about to participate to Is my blog burning? And this got me in the kind of state you don’t want to see me in.
We had to come up with a recipe using any kind of tea. I started thinking; you could have tried to talk to me I wouldn’t have answered. Hey, this is serious; okay!
Then I remembered reading about a kind of green tea that is widely used in pastry. I rushed to my cookbook room (well… to the shelf in my bedroom; but wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a room just for cookbooks?) and found the book I was looking for. The recipe was entitled ‘Big madeleine au thé vert’ and this was illustrated by two mighty-and-very-green-looking madeleines. I had MY tea. Next step was to find it. If you’ve ever been to France you should know that the probability of finding a shop opened on Sunday afternoons is about as high as the chance of bumping into a giant peanut in Greenland (I have to admit that I do have some crazy ideas sometimes). So it was a Sunday afternoon and I needed some matcha green tea. I don’t know why and how, but I did get some. Needless to say (but I say it anyway), I did make a long little happy dance.

From that day, I have been literally obsessed with matcha green tea. I can’t even use it for pastries anymore because I have to get my daily fix, which takes the form of a green tea soy latté, and this uses a lot of this priceless green powder. Some people rely on cocaine, I live on green tea (and I must say I prefer things to be this way than the opposite).

Today though, I decided to sacrifice some of my precious tea. Indeed, today is a special day: foodbeam is turning two.
Two overwhelming years. The last one being particularly intense: a semester in New Zealand, a new domain, a new graphic-design, an internship at Pierre Hermé, a lovely tea-break with Dorie Greenspan… And I really wish that things won’t stop here because, so far, I’ve been enjoying every single second.

As you can imagine, I had a busy day. But I did manage to find some time to bake two of the most wonderful green tea flavoured pastries that I had been wanting to make for ages.
Both of them were a huge success and the recipes went directly into my ‘hit-recipes’ notebook.

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Kelli’s sablés au thé vert (recipe)
When Kelli launched Amaï Tea Sweets, I immediately fell in love with the green tea cookies; secretly hoping that I had the recipe.
So when she posted it last May, I was more than happy. Another dream about to come true!

These shortbreads are simply outstanding. A beautiful shade of green and a satisfying flavour of green tea.
Well, I’m not sure whether I should tell you this or not, but I ate – let’s say – a great quantity of the raw dough. To my defence, I must say that it was so good I’m sure you’d have done the same.

***Edit***
Seems these cookies are everywhere now – Sigrid, Edith, Mae, Inne, Tuki, Veronica, Céline, Maddy, Lisa, Jasmine, Pille and Mandy definitely know what I meant when I said how addictive these are!

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Cheryl’s cupcakes à la vanilla, aux perles du Japon et au thé vert (recipe)
Cheryl cupcakes are always eye-catching; but when I stumbled upon this one I knew I had to make it someday.
And I’m so glad I did: the three components of the cupcakes are real winners.
The vanilla cupcakes (note: I switched the vanilla essence for the seeds of three vanilla beans) are fragrant and have the most perfect crumb ever.
The green tea tapioca would make a perfect dessert on its own (I love the hint of coconut). I’m sure I’ll make this again and again.
The green tea cream cheese frosting is totally lip-smacking.
Can you tell I love these cupcakes?

Thanks everyone for being so inspiring. Every single of your words make me happy. And happy birthday foodbeam!

Never been so *busy*

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Adventures of the sweetest Italian food lover: my great grand-dad Tranquillo – Pesche al vino con vanilla, panna and sablé breton

[Peach with wine, vanilla and crème fraiche]

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Saying that my dad talks a lot would be an understatement; he always has something to say. Whether it’s about our new neighbour or a beautiful bug he saw earlier in our garden. Always. A lot.
If you can’t tell straight away that he has some Italian roots you can definitely tell that he’s got Mediterranean blood running in his veins.
Sadly, this doesn’t prevent him from talking the weirdest Italian I’ve ever heard – a mix of actual Italian, Piemontese dialect and patois Niçois. I say ‘sadly’ because whenever we go to Italy he has to talk with everyone. And my mum, sister and I just have to restrain ourselves from laughing because nobody can really understand what he says (Dad if you read this you should know that I am slightly exaggerating as usual).
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However, I don’t really mind my dad’s random ramblings because, from time to time, he tells us the most beautiful stories.
I have the most wonderful recollections of my dad telling me about his dad who escaped the Nazis by wearing a lady outfit and taking the train all the way from Germany to the south of France; or his maternal grand-father who sold ice-cream – including the cherished tutti-frutti flavour – in Cannes.
But one of my favourite memories is about his paternal grand-father. My great grand-father.
Tranquillo Zanotti.
Just his name always made me dream. Tranquillo. Calm.
He embodied what we call in French une force tranquille – a massive and robust yet kind man.

He owned a trattoria around Verbania where dozens of people came daily for his cipolle ripiene, fungi porcini gnocchi, cima di vitello and torta di nocciole. I wish I could have tasted his food because, I don’t know about you, but to me all this sounds like heaven in a plate.
The food he made, with love and passion, was the reason of the success of his trattoria.
But being popular in Italy in the late 20′s wasn’t the best thing that could happen to you. A cugina [cousin], who also had a trattoria (it goes without saying that hers was less liked), motivated by jealousy, gave Tranquillo to Mussolini.
One summer night, a dozen of Mussolini’s personal carabinieri broke into Tranquillo’s trattoria and destroyed everything in the main room. Then they went down to the cave – where all the homemade wine was kept – and pierced the barrels, flooding the entire room. My great grand-father was devastated yet decided to persist. Making wine and food was his passion and nothing would stop him, not even Mussolini.
Eventually, he had to stop for a couple of years when he was sent up North to build protective walls because of the upcoming war.
But as soon as the war was finished he moved to France and opened a small restaurant in Le Cannet. It was called Le Lion D’Or [the golden lion].
Now whenever I think about him, one image immediately comes in my mind: a lion with a golden heart – a strong man with the kindest heart ever.
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Pesche al vino con vanilla, panna and sablé breton
Inspired by Faith Heller Willinger’s Adventures of an Italian Food Lover

As I was reading my way through Faith’s amazing book: Adventures of an Italian food lover, I spotted this recipe which instantly reminded me of Tranquillo’s story.
Not only he was a great cook and wine maker, but he also grew pesche di vigna [peach trees that grow near wines].

The original recipe uses red wine but I am a rosé-wine lover so I just couldn’t help and had to switch the red for a lighter and fruitier rosé.
I also added a touch of vanilla to complement the sweetness of both the wine and peaches.
Lastly, I used flat peaches because they are sweeter and juicier than normal peaches; and given that, in this recipe, the peaches aren’t cooked I thought that using the best peaches available would yield to amazing flavours.
In the end, the recipe is somewhat different than Faith’s but the end result is – I’m sure – just as delicious.

Pesche al vino con vanilla, panna and sablé breton

serves 2

one vanilla bean
120g caster sugar
300ml rosé wine

4 flat peaches or 2 normal white peaches

2 tbsp crème fraiche d’Isigny
2 petits suisses (or 2 tbsp greek yoghurt)
seeds from half a vanilla bean

2 bought or homemade sablés bretons (or shortbread)

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean. Put both the seeds and bean into a pan. Add the sugar and wine.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes (or until the syrup reaches 110°C). It should be quite thick and when picked between your wet fingers (drop a little syrup into a bowl of ice-cold water and catch the ball) it will make a thread.
Pour into a bowl.
Mix the crème fraiche, petits suisses and vanilla seeds and pipe into two 4cm-diameter glasses.
Cut the shortbread into two 4cm-circles. And push on top of the cream mixture.
Finely slice the peaches (I didn’t peel them because mine were organic) and arrange on top of the sablés.
Pipe the syrup and place the glasses in the fridge for at least an hour.

Sunday c’est Hermé – Second week: la folie des macarons

How can someone be ready to work in the macaron team? This is exactly what I asked myself in the RER taking me back home after my first day working with the afternoon team – aka the macaron makers.
Honestly, I was beat and wondered how the guys could be so kind, funny and professional.

I arrived at the Vaugirard shop, well in advance, around 1.30pm to try my best at doing a good first impression.
I did the usual routine – outfit (self-note: I do look hot in my outfit; well I’m just trying to convince myself and eventually that will happen – ok I’m not kidding anyone: this will never happen but you know, one has to make concessions in order to reach one’s dreams), aprons, hand washing, hand-shaking… And then, I entered the macaron universe.

First, we start by making the ganaches and to tell the truth, I was desperate because, by the time I had finished my one and only ganache – Jasmin, all the other team members had already made at least two different batches.
It is now time to sort the baked coques [literally shells, standing for the shell of the macaron] – all the broken ones are put into a bucket, the baking papers are inverted onto racks and the coques are aligned: 12 in the length and 8 in the width. This might sound easy, but it is quite tiring. After a few hours, I felt like I was a macaron-sorting-machine; I couldn’t even tell the differences of size between the different macarons. So weird to see what strange sensations a tired brain can generate!

Then it’s all about the filling and closing. One – or two – pâtissiers pipe the luscious ganaches onto the arranged coques and it’s my job to close them right after the ganache has been piped. Indeed, ganaches tend to solidify quite quickly (except when the oven gets the room so hot that the ganaches are melting – I have a lovely souvenir of a melting olive ganache and me trying to close the macaron; a disaster, I tell you), thus it’s best to close the macarons quickly so the ganache forms a nice little belly. At this point, it was my favourite part. But then came the Ispahan macarons – read: not only you have to close the macaron but you have to place small sticky squares of homemade raspberry gellant (it’s a kind of fruit jelly that relies on agar agar instead of gelatine or pectin as a solidifying agent) on every single coque before you can actually start to close them. The result is beautiful though. Indeed when you bite into the perfectly round and shiny macaron (and gosh knows how much I loooove to do this) you discover a raspberry-ish surprise.

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The addition of little hidden things in the hearts of macarons is Pierre Hermé’s signature: olive oil and vanilla (with two pieces of green olive), Ispahan (raspberry gellant), Mosaic (two griotte halves – hint: this is my personal favourite) and white truffle and hazelnuts (three crushed hazelnuts) just to cite a few. This is, in my opinion a wonderful invention – it places Pierre Hermé’s macarons to another level, a level no one can outdo. While I’m talking about what I love about these macarons I have to tell you that the amount of ganache in each macaron is insane (in a good way) and shows that, here, the focus is on flavours.
Well, it seems I’m (slightly and only slighty) starting to digress, so please let’s go back to the récit of my first day.
Basically when we finished closing the last few macarons (out of approximately 6000-8000) it was already 11pm and I thought I was about to go home. I was wrong; yep, totally wrong – time to clean the laboratoire. This was actually quite enjoyable because I got to clean the fridge and the fact that it didn’t feel that cold in it made me realise how hot I was. Who said making macarons wasn’t a sport?
Speaking of sport (and yes I’m digressing again), if macaron throwing was an Olympic discipline, I would be a serious challenger for the gold medal. Indeed, I did throw macarons all the time during this first day and every time it was totally unwanted. I would bump in the echelle [metallic shelves on which you put the racks of sorted macarons] and a couple of coques would fall on the floor. Alternatively, while throwing the not-perfect coques into the buckets I would send them overboard and they would fall on Loïc (who seems to always be in front of me; and no – sorry – I’m not trying to blame someone else!).
So this was my first day and although it is all true (well slightly exaggerated sometimes, but you know I come from the south of France and we do tend to exaggerate things) I was wrong.
Totally wrong!

Quickly, as I became faster and better, I started enjoying it a lot. And the days after the first one were really far from what I had imagined them to be.
I got to make so many different ganaches, close so many macarons and discover the sweetest people ever, that eventually, when it was time for me to say goodbye I almost cried (hint hint – I am exaggerating but the feelings were there). The whole week seemed like it only lasted a minute and gave me the opportunity to learn how to work fast.
Although I can’t say I am the best macaron maker in the world I did notice an improvement – my moves are now quicker and more confident.

So, yes, you understand I had to reward myself for all the hard work. And what’s better that a selection of the current macaron collection. Hmmm ten different pieces of what is probably referred to as ‘heaven on earth’.
Please do not worry for my stomach – I did not eat them all in one day (though three were enough to finish the gorgeous box). By the way, when you buy the macaron they look far more perfect than the ones below but something unexpected happened in the metro – I dropped my Pierre Hermé bag. I know you’re certainly gasping right now: how could she drop the beautiful laced bag? But sadly it happened and the macarons definitely suffered. They were just as good though ;)

Chocolat amer [bitter chocolate]
Chocolate macaron (the batter contains actual chocolate not cocoa powder) with dark chocolate ganache

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This is always the first sort we make – I guess it’s because of the ganache. Indeed, given that it is made with 70% chocolate that contains a great part of coca butter, the amer ganache tends to solidify really quickly and thus, we need to use it before it’s too hard to pipe.
Tasting notes: at first, you get the intense chocolate taste which is then balanced by the slight bitterness.

Mogador
Macaron with milk chocolate and passion fruit ganache

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Then we make these, also because of the higher coca butter content of the ganache.
Tasting notes: when I first tried it, I was a bit dubious. But then, it quickly became addictive. Now, the Mogador macaron is probably my favourite. The combination of milk chocolate and passion fruit is simply outstanding – I love how the tanginess of the passion fruit enhances the milk chocolate.

Ispahan
Macaron with rose and litchi ganache and squares of raspberry gellant

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Tasting notes: I know most of you won’t believe what I am about to say, but I’m not the biggest fan of the rose and litchi ganache. However, I just love this macaron – maybe not as much as the entremet though; I think the acidic touch brought by the raspberry gellant makes for a perfectly balanced macaron.

Arabesque
Macaron (sprinkled with pistachio) with apricot ganache and a square of pistachio praline

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The apricot ganache, which is the one I made the most, is thickened with dried apricots and contains no cream – a pure delight. And let me say one word about the pistachio praline – it is out of this world. I could eat the whole box of it.
Tasting notes: apricot and praline might sound like an unusual combination but it works. The ganache is thick and creamy yet sharp and the chocolate part of the praline round up the flavours nicely.

Café fort [strong coffee]
Macaron with strong coffee ganache

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Tasting notes: this macaron looks so pretty. I just love the different tones of brown – c’est chic! The flavour is clean and perfectly balanced. A favourite.

Thé au jasmin [jasmine tea]
Macaron with jasmine tea ganache

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Tasting notes: this macaron is very floral and has a distinctive jasmine tea taste.

Caramel au beurre sale [salted caramel]
Macaron with salted caramel crème au beurre [buttercream]

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Tasting notes: one word – delicious! Just the thought of the rich caramely crème au beurre makes me drool.

Rose
Macaron with rose crème au beurre

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Tasting notes: yummy in pink. This macaron is really fragrant and delicate.

Mosaic
Macaron with pistachio and cinnamon ganache, and two griotte halves

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Tasting notes: this is one of my favourites. First it looks pretty. Second it tastes fabulous. The ganache is terrific: I love the hint off cinnamon that enhances the warmth of the pistachio flavour. And the griottes (small cherries) add a balancing sourness.

Olive oil et vanille
Macaron with olive oil and vanilla ganache and two pieces of green olive

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Tasting notes: I am a big fan of the olive oil and vanilla combination, and I’m sure that if you still have some doubts about it this macaron will convince you. I love the roundness of the ganache – slightly bitter because of the olive oil yet sweet.

Next week: Let’s go back, back to… the morning team!