home - about - journal - london favourites - portfolio - press - contact

From grunge to Hello Kitty, from flat bread with grainy bits (yuck) to luscious brioche de Nanterre


If you see me now you could never guess I used to be grunge when I was fifteen. Kurt Cobain was my absolute hero, I worn torn pants (you know the kind of pants that you’ve been wearing so often that the bottom starts to hale holes) and smoky eyes were a *must*. This was, as you could imagine, much to the despair of my mum.
And then, I started getting the meaning of cute and I was obsessed with pink and hello kitty.

This period also seems to match with the switch from ‘I’ll never use yeast, it is stinky and never works with me‘ to ‘yeast is my best friend‘ (yeasts being the sweetest little bugs, I had to love them).
From that time – where I learnt how to use yeast properly (no you can’t just put the granulated sort directly in the flour without soaking it in warm water first; hmmm you should have tasted my first bread, which was flat with grainy bits of dry yeast – a pure delight!), I have been a yeast lover; my current obsession being brioches.

Armed with my brand new shiny and gorgeous ice-blue kitchenaid (can you tell from the adjectives I used how much I love it?) stand-mixer, I am finally ready to explore the brioche making. And this is not the easiest one. I did find a great recipe, but I can’t wait to try my hands at Melissa’s, who is – as always – a fantastic source of inspiration.

Brioche Nanterre
This recipe from Pierre Hermé (adapted from the Cook’s Book, p.520) is a delight. Sadly I made the mistake of putting the whole dough into one pan while it says 1/4 dough so the cooked texture wasn’t as ropy as I expected it to be.
However I’m sure that if you closely follow the recipe (self-note: this includes reading it carefully) you’ll get a gorgeous brioche with a soft
mie [crumb]. I am positive about it because the uncooked dough’s texture was perfect – with my little sister we had a hard time restraining ourselves from eating it raw. Yes, it was this good!

Note – The recipe suggests crumbling the fresh yeast directly into the flour. The yeast has to be crumbled very finely. It works but if you’re not confident – like me the first time I tried this recipe you can either:
– place the crumbled fresh yeast into a small bowl with two tblsp of warm water (just add a bit more flour because the dough will be stickier) OR
– use instant yeast (7g)

Brioche Nanterre

makes 4 brioches

500g strong white flour
12.5g fresh yeast
50g caster sugar (fanny: this gives a brioche that is not sweet nor savoury, so if like me you like your brioche on the sweet side, I recommend you use 85 to 100g)
7 eggs
1 tsp salt
400g unsalted butter, at room temperature

for the glaze
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp caster sugar

Pour the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Ass the crumbled fresh yeast and sugar. Mix on medium speed and add four eggs. Mix again then add the 3 remaining eggs, one at a time.
Once the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, add the salt and the butter cut into small pieces. The dough is ready when it comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl again.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Lift the sticky dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough with your fist and put it back into the bowl. Cover with cling film again and place in the fridge for 1 1/4 hours. Press down the dough to check if it has risen agan, then remove it to the work surface and gently punch down to deflate.

Butter four 18 x 9cm loaf tins. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, then divide each portion into four. Roll each piece of dough into a ball on a non-floured surface. Set four balls closely side by side into a tin. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Leave at room temperature until it has doubled in size. Brush with glaze (just mix everything).
Using a pair of scissors, cut a cross in each ball. Bake into the oven, preheated to 180°C for 25 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Juste pour le plaisir… – Plaisir sucré et Pierre Hermé

[Just for enjoyment…]


Well I know I’m already a week behind my schedules: right now I should be thinking about the write-up about my week at the macaron team or even the tons of articles – that are photo-ready – I have to put online.
However today was a really nice day at the laboratoire and I am so excited that I wanted to share with you.

The first thing is that being back in the morning team is so relaxing – everything goes slowlier than in the macaron team and you can take your time to put together the most wonderful entremets ever to be made.
Then, to my surprise, while I was weighing ingredients for a creme au beurre, I saw a familiar silhouette dans mon coin d’oeil – was it Pierre Hermé? At that exact moment I thought I was just really tired but then he arrived, wearing his perfectly white pâtissier outfit.
I was sooo excited. He is the kindest and most down-to-earth person I’ve ever met and needless to say, he is a genius. We all had breakfast together: the usual bread, butter and strawberry jam plus three luscious cakes from Christine Ferber’s pâtisserie.
I also had half a Tango tart (parmesan, raspberry and red pepper) – it was delicious and the parmesan goes so well with the raspberry.
I also learnt that one of the guy I work with has been in New Zealand. And he appears to be the guy who makes the dough, which is the poste I really want to go. So I’m sure we’ll have a good time – talking about doughs and nz!
And to round-up this awesome day, Marc-Antoine (yep the guy who told me I look gross in my outfit, or well that I looked better when I am wearing proper clothes) told me that I am a nice person who is motivated and very kind. I just blushed and said Merci.

So you know, I had to celebrate; and I did. I bought a Plaisir Sucré (one of my favourite pastries ever). And ok, I’m not going to lie to you, I also bought a Tango tart, a Plenitude entremet and a box of Sablés au chocolat et à la fleur de sel.

Sunday… well Saturday c’est Hermé – First week: Ispahan, Emotions, Sensations & baked treats

Just one week after I arrived from New Zealand I’m already off to Paris for the long awaited internship at Pierre Hermé.
After waking up at 4.30, I head towards the 15° arrondissement shop, enter the apparently empty shop sur la pointe des pieds. Where is everyone? Luckily I quickly stumble onto Sebastien, the morning team head chef, who gives me the locker keys. I can finally go downstairs and get changed.
Hmmmmm the pâtissier outfit! While I was over-excited when I bought it because it represented the first step towards my dream, this outfit is anything but dreamy. Think oversized jacket, high-waist pied-de-poule pants and Pierre Hermé baseball cap; the most fashionable item being the shoes – white sabots.
Honestly, who could look good wearing that? Well ok, some girls do but I don’t. And just in case I still had some hopes, one of the guys said ‘oh mais fanny vous etes beaucoup plus belle comme ca, vraiment’ [fanny you look way better with these clothes on] when he saw me leaving the building wearing my normal everyday clothes. He looked shocked, trust me!

Once this first step is checked and I’ve understood how pointless it is to look at myself in the mirror, I can actually go upstairs and meet the chefs. Before that, I have to put an apron – well two actually: a cotton one and a plastic one; but this is only an anticipatory action as I know I tend to get quite dirty (and this is a total euphemism) when I cook.
Then I arrive in the laboratoire, wash my hands and shake everyone’s hands. At this point, I am completely lost. Who is who? Hmmm names, so many different names. Luckily, I’m quite good with names so after a few minutes I am familiar with everyone just like we’ve known each others for years. That’s totally not true though, and the use of vous is here to remind it.

Indeed saying vous instead of tu is like the first basic rule in the pastry shop survival guide.

The second one being to say chaud [litteraly: hot] whenever you’re carrying something (usually really heavy) and not necessarily hot, as the term suggests, and you don’t want anyone to get in the way. Basically, chefs say chaud not to be gross and say ‘dégage’ although the meanings of both words are really close. Once this rule is mastered, you have to start applying it. And believe me it feels quite weird to yell chaud every other minute. Though, it appears to be quite useful because you don’t want to spill 118°C sugar syrup on your boss, do you? Well some of you might – sometimes, but please before doing so you should strongly consider a career change and/or an escape from your country, a face makeover and a name change.

By now it’s just after 6am and I am awake (holly jetlag). Like not just awake – I am widely concentrated on everyone’s moves and there are many many moves. In the morning team, everyone is here to produce all the cakes, entremets, emotions, yeasty treats… with the most dedicated passion.
The variety of tasks makes for the most interesting job. While every member of the team is responsible of a specific area, I wander from poste to poste to help the chef do the tasks they can’t do because of their super-extra-busy schedules.

Thus in one week I got to do many different things: from sorting almonds to prepare candied lemon peels.

I started by weighing the ingredients for the crème onctueuse au chocolat. This was straightforward and was the perfect task to give me confidence on the first day.
However, I was quite – and happily – surprised when the manager told me to go with Simon to decorate the Ispahan entremets.
The Ispahan entremets are definitely one of the it-pastries at Pierre Hermé, so I was really excited to know that I was about to decorate them.ispahan1.png
This part was overwhelming – first I had to arrange raspberries on the rose-flavoured buttercream, fill with chopped and fragrant litchis, and then decorate the top macaron by piping a drop of glucose on rose petals and then sticking them, along with some raspberries, on the macaron.

Assembling the Emotions was also a great job. Emotions are Pierre Hermé’s signature desserts presented in glasses and eaten with a spoon – well unless you like to lick your fingers!
I had the chance to make both Emotions Mosaic (griotte jelly, pistachio jelly, pistachio mascarpone cream) and Celeste (rhubarb compote, fresh strawberries, passion fruit and mascarpone mousse, passion fruit marshmallows).emotion11.png
These are entertaining to make (basically I piped a fixed quantity of jelly with a piston into glasses – see Sensations below for more details) and are really yummy. I must say I have a weak spot for the passion fruit guimauves, even though it was a really-teeny (don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I am not) pain when I had to separate hundreds of them and roll them in icing sugar.emotion2.png

As you might imagine I was happy to get to make so many different things and I was really proud when they actually let me make a whole batch of Sensation Celeste. Sensations are glasses filled with different jellies and generally topped with a macaron.
First, I had to make the rhubarb compote: gelatine, rhubarb purée, lemon juice and sugar, pour a fixed quantity of it into small glasses with a piston, and allow to set before doing the same with both strawberry and passion fruit jellies.

On the same note, I also piped some banana and strawberry jelly into small round shapes for the entremet Désiré, which is totally delicious by the say.desiree.png

However, I couldn’t do just what I had to and couldn’t restrain myself from peeking here and there. Anna, who I didn’t really get to work with, is responsible for all the treats that have to go through the oven step. Hence, she makes all the brioches, croissants and other yeasty treats. But she also makes the cannelés and millefeuilles.
The cannelés are probably the best ones I’ve ever had: fresh, soft and fragrant.canneles1.png

As for the millefeuille I picked a Mosaic millefeuille because I love the pistachio-cherry combination. This was a real winner: the slight tanginess of the griottes nicely balances the creaminess of the pistachio cream. I can’t wait to work in the dough team because their feuilletage is excellent! Hopefully in two weeks…millefeuille-mosaic.png

Next week: c’est la folie des macarons [it’s all about macarons].

The (sweet) garlic-y escape – Petits pains à l’ail et au persil

[Garlic and parsley small breads]

Inspired by Anne and adaptated from The Cook’s Book (p.458)

Well, I know I said I would update foodbeam more often but it seems I’m so busy at the moment that I barely have time to eat; thus you can imagine how much time I spend cooking – definitely not a lot.
Soooo how a foodaholic (who said greedy?) like me can almost stop cooking/baking? There are multiple answers; but in my case the answer is: an internship at Pierre Hermé’s pastry shop.
Don’t get me wrong! I do love every single second I spend in the laboratoire. Actually, I do even enjoy waking up at 4.30am. It’s just that the French saying metro-boulot-dodo makes full sense to me now.
Indeed, I feel like I am this saying.
I wake up – take the RER and tube to Pierre Hermé’s Vaugirard pastry shop – work – go back to my flat (ideally located in the first arrondissement) – sleep for a couple of hours – check my emails and feeds – go to bed – wake up – take the RER…
However over the last two days, I was put in the afternoon team (yep, the *macarons* one), which means I didn’t start working until 2pm. So guess how I spent my morning?
That’s where we come to the main subject of this article: a yummy and fragrant garlic bread.

A little more than a week ago, I spotted a lovely bread at Beau à la louche – one of my favourite French blogs; it was a beautifully folded bread in which you find pesto between each layer of dough. Simple, effective, gorgeous.
So I decided to make it, only I replaced the pesto with some herbed butter. And as you can imagine it was delicious.

bread dough
1.gifThe first step is to make the dough and beurre persillé (see recipes below).

bread dough
2.gifThen you roll the dough into a rectangle just over 5mm thick.

bread dough
3.gifYou can now spread a third of the herbed butter over the rolled dough.

4.gifAnd fold in three ( like a business letter).

5.gifTop with a third of butter and fold again in three – still in the width (so that the length of your bread remains the same between the forth and fifth steps).

6.gifSpread the remaining butter and fold in two (in the length).

7.gifDo the same with the other three balls of dough.


Pains à l’ail et au persil
This bread is really fragrant. The beurre persillé [litteraly parlsey-ish butter] difuses through the bread; keeping ot moist and flavourful.
This bread is lovely served with a salad made of roasted/grilled mediterannean vegetables.

Pains à l’ail et au persil

makes 4 small individual breads

for the bread dough
7g fresh yeast, crumbled
240ml warm water
350g strong flour
1 tsp fine sea salt

Whisk the fresh yeast and water in a bowl until the yeast has completely dissolved. In another bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then slowly mix in the wet ingredients. Mix thorougly to make a soft dough. Leave for 10 minutes before starting to knead.
Then knead the dough for approximately ten minutes until it forms a soft and smooth ball.
Place the dough back in a bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rise at room temperature for 1h30. Deflate by gently punching the dough.
Divide the dough into four pieces and proceed with the filling and folding.
Pre-heat the oven to 230°C while you leave the bread on a lined baking sheet to rise for 45 minutes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown.

for the herbed butter
a large bunch of parsley, very finely chopped
6 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
75g butter, at room temperature

Mix everything with a wooden spoon until smooth. Divide into four equal portions if making individual breads.