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

It looks like an early winter for the daring bakers – Ultimate cinnamon buns

cinnamon-bun-large.png

Cinnamon buns are an autumn favourite in my house. Come by, around the end of September, and a wonderfully rich cinnamon aroma will invariably hit you. A lovely family tradition, kept alive by my sister’s unconditional love for cinnamon buns.
On my side, the least I can say, is that I’m definitely not fighting against this ritual. Honestly, cinnamon buns are the perfect treat to warm up a cold autumn day; spicy, sweet and deliciously buttery.

cinnamon-buns-bf-baking.jpg

You can thus imagine how priceless my family’s response was when I told them I had to make cinnamon buns for this month’s daring bakers challenge (Marce, my parents and sister are eternally thankful for your choice).

The experiment
The cinnamon buns are made of three components:
– a mildly rich buttery dough
– a sweet and aromatic cinnamon sugar filling
– a great and dead-easy-to-make vanilla fondant

cinnamon-bun.png

The buttery dough was a delight to work with. Before starting, I intended to follow a regular brioche procedure. Basically, I wanted to mix the dough, place it in a bowl and refrigerate overnight; before proofing and shaping.
However, as soon as I started to work with it, I realised that the extra steps weren’t going to be necessary.
With only one egg and 80g of butter, this dough is less rich and wet than your usual brioche dough (it also contains milk which isn’t used in classic brioche), and thus, very easy to handle, making the whole process a doodle to follow.

This enriched yeasty dough is made of sugar, butter, vanilla, flour, yeast, egg, milk and salt (I diluted fleur de sel in the warm milk).
As you can see, I substituted the lemon zest for vanilla seeds because I couldn’t figure out what role the lemon could play, and thus, preferred to use the floral tones of Tahitian vanilla beans to balance the warmth of the cinnamon sugar.
For this recipe, it is very important that all the ingredients are at room temperature (22°C) before you start.

Here, I used flour type 45, which is quite not the same as bread flour. Though, given that the wheat grains are ground very finely for this type of flour, the gluten is widely available; and the small size of the flour particles ensures a soft and ropy dough.

The yeast isn’t fresh yeast as you might have expected, but instant yeast. I think Peter Reinhart’s choice comes from the fact that instant yeast is easier to find in the US but also more reliable (indeed, fresh yeast is very sensitive to temperature changes, which might results in the death of a great number of cells and thus, in a loss of effectiveness).
I generally prefer to use fresh yeast as, when used properly, it won’t give any yeasty taste to the dough and will result in more puffed breads; however, this time I went along with instant yeast and I was more than happy with the results.

The dough came together very easily; it was slightly soft and sticky at first, but as soon as I started kneading it, it became stronger and smoother. I decided to knead the dough by hand, because I just love to do so but also because the method I use (which is actually Dan Lepard’s) yields to extraordinary results.

The first fermentation was very quick, in an hour, the dough had almost doubled in size indicating that it was ready to be shaped. Actually, a dough should never be left to proof bigger than twice its size or the yeast will start to produce unwanted components, resulting in bitter or acidic aromas – so watch your dough!

At this point, I rolled the dough (note: you should deflate your dough before rolling it or you’ll have troubles – the cinnamon sugar is likely to escape and your rolls won’t be tight) – one cm thick -, and dusted with the cinnamon sugar, which simply is a mix of ground cinnamon and caster sugar.
Once the buns were shaped, they were left to proof and then baked at 175°C for 25 minutes.

The fondant, made of warm milk, icing sugar and vanilla seeds, and drizzled over the warm buns, was smooth and fragrant.

cinnamon-bun-bow.png

Soooo…
These cinnamon buns were an absolute hit and Peter Reinhart’s recipe replaced my old and trusted one, which means a lot.
The dough was soft and aromatic with vanilla and butter. It wasn’t very sweet, but nicely balanced by the sweetness brought by both the cinnamon sugar and fondant.
The cinnamon sugar stayed right inside the buns, making for a tender, syrupy and cinnamon-ish hearts.
A new favourite in my house.

Fanny, ta tarte au citron meringuée est sublime, s’exclama Aïda – Meilleure tarte au citron meringuée du monde entier

[Fanny, your lemon meringue tart is sublime, Aïda said – Best lemon meringue tart in the entire world]

mini-tarte-au-citron.jpg

No need to be from France to know that, here, people rave about la tarte au citron meringuée. A sweet and crisp crust covered with the most luscious and so pleasantly tangy lemon cream, which is topped with a smooth and marshmallow-like meringue.
The description might sound heavenly, but I have to confess that lemon meringue tart clearly isn’t a favourite on my list (oh well, at least until I made this one). My sister, on the other end, must be French-er than I am because to her la tarte au citron meringuée simply equals perfection (ok, this and les plaisirs sucrés). If I’d listen to her, I would be making one tart every single day of the week and this, all year long.
I can so picture her, biting into a generous slice, closing her gorgeous eyes and enjoying – what she calls la meilleure chose au monde entier.

tarte-au-citron-slice.jpg

While it’s generally not my thing to make pastries I don’t actually like, here, I had to. Honestly. Aïda had been asking for a lemon meringue tart for years, yet, I had never made one.
Picking the recipe was a matter of seconds. Pierre Hermé, again? Well, I have to admit – not without shame – that I love his genuine pastries more than ever, and that if there was just me, I would be making Pierre Hermé’s recipes only. Somehow, foodbeam would no longer be called foodbeam, more like pierrebeam and well, to be honest, it doesn’t sound half as good. Therefore, I might as well stick to my original plans, which were to cook from as many of my cookbooks as possible. Meanwhile (read: as long as Pierre Hermé cookbooks will sit on my shelves), you’ll have to bear with me and my addiction (read: making Pierre Hermé’s gorgeous pastries).

tarte-au-citron.jpg

Meilleure tarte au citron meringuée du monde entier
Adapted from Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan’s recipes

This tart simply is the best ever, no less.
The pâte sucrée crust is exactly perfect: buttery, crisp and fragrant with a hint of vanilla. The lemon cream, despite containing 300g butter and 200g sugar doesn’t feel heavy; it’s more like a fluffy and very aromatic and tangy cream. My favourite part is the meringue; which is a melt-in-your-mouth pillow of goodness.

I won’t lie to you: this tart is time-consuming. However, it is totally worth it. Just one bite will instantly reward you.

Meilleure tarte au citron meringuée du monde entier

makes one 20cm tart & four 8cm tartlets

one baked 20cm and four 8cm tart crusts

for the lemon cream
200 sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
130ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

for the Italian meringue
2 egg whites
35g caster suga
5g dehydrated egg whites (optional)
50g water
150g sugar

First thing: fill the sink with 3-4cm of cold water.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my kitchenaid stand mixer) that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 85°C, stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time.
As soon as it reaches 85°C, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 60°C. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition (at this point, I like to use my kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, hence the use of the kitchenaid bowl…).

When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight.

The next day (or later, as the cream can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days), whisk the cream to loosen it and pipe it into the tart shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before starting with the meringue.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at slow speed until the foam throughout, add the sugar, gradually increase the speed to fast, and beat to soft peaks. Turn the machine to slow as you complete the sugar syrup.
Bring the sugar and water to 115°C.
Beating the egg whites at moderate speed, pour the boiling syrup into them. Increase the speed to high, and beat until the bowl is no longer hot (it should still feel slightly warm). Pipe the meringue onto the lemon cream and caramelise using a blow torch.

Réussir la pâte sucrée, pas à pas – Mastering pâte sucrée, step by step

I’m not sure I should tell you this, but there are many things I take for granted; at least in the pastry realm.
Indeed, I tend to think that every single person on earth knows how to make a Forêt Noire from scratch or that Ispahans are referred to as easy-peasy. It seems I’m that much into pâtisserie that I assume everyone is to and honestly, I thought it was the case; this until I found my mum storing some store-bought pâte sable in the fridge.

‘Maman, tu pourrais quand même la faire toi-même; c’est tellement meilleur!’ [Mum, you could make your own; it’s so much better!], I said and then what she answered made me realise that some people do see pâtisserie as the very-complicated-and-not-enjoyable part of gastronomy.
‘Oh mais non, la pâte sablée, c’est tellement difficile à faire.’ [Pâte sablée is way too difficult to make.]

I realise that some pastries are time-consuming and require some advanced skills, but pâte sucrée… No way! Once you get the few basic principles, you’ll produce a flawless and consistent (not to mention lick-your-fingers delicious) pâte sucrée.

The few basic principles as said above are:
1. Do not overwork the dough or the gluten will develop and you’ll get a chewy and elastic crust (while, what you want is a crisp one).
2. Do not overwork
the dough or the butter will melt and your crust will be greasy.
See, just a few principles to respect and now, you’re ready.

making pate sucree - step 1
I can’t stress enough on the importance of mise-en-place. Getting all your ingredients ready before actually starting makes you save time and teach you to be organised.
Here you’ll need:
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
500g flour (ordinary type 55 will do wonders)
1 tsp fleur de sel

making pate sucree - step 2
Start by creaming the butter until soft and smooth (I use my kitchenaid stand mixer with the paddle attachment just because I’m still excited by the fact that I got one for my birthday, but mixing by hand is just as easy).

making pate sucree - step 3
Then, mix in the icing sugar, ground almonds and vanilla seeds.

making pate sucree - step 4
Beat in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.

making pate sucree - step 5
Remove from the mixer.

making pate sucree - step 6
Mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated. Do not overwork! The dough should be crumbly, lumpy… Definitely not what you would expect from a French pâtisserie standard.

making pate sucree - step 7
Form three balls (each weighing approx. 365g) , gently press them down and wrap them tightly in cling film. Refrigerate overnight.
At this step, the pastry can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or it can be frozen for a month (you’ll just need to thaw the pastry in your fridge the day before you want to use it).

making pate sucree - step 8
Roll the dough between two layers of baking paper. Cut into a disk 5cm larger that your tin (ie. if you’re making mini-tarts and using 8cm cercles, you’ll need to cut your abaisse into a 13cm disk).
Refrigerate the disk for at least 2 hours.

making pate sucree - step 9
You can now start lining (foncer in French) a buttered cercle à tarte. The butter helps the dough to slide on the sides of the cercle.
I will try to make a video about fonçage so you can see how you need to proceed, as it can be quite tricky sometimes. Basically, you need to pinch the dough between your right finger and push it down using the sides. Keep doing this, until the full cercle is lined and check if the dough forms a 90° angle (if not, push it towards the bottom a little more).
Chill for an hour.

making pate sucree - step 10
It’s now time to bake the crust. Pre-heat your oven to 175°C.
Take the lined cercle out of the fridge, cover the base and side of the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans or rice (baking weighs are to heavy for this fragile pastry).
Bake for 17 to 25 minutes (depending on the size of your crust. Remove the dried beans/rice and baking paper and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely coloured.

Can you guess what’s coming next?

lemon meringue tart

Un monde où tout était vert – Vacances dans les Alpilles et cake sucré et moelleux aux courgettes et au ras-el-hanout

[A world in which everything looks green – Holidays in the Alpilles and courgette loaf cake]

courgette-cake-baked.png

As I spent the last two days trying to survive without the internet, I discovered there were other many means to maintain my high-procrastination policy. The 614 tv-channels clearly weren’t enough and I found myself confronted with my laptop, finally looking at all the pictures that needed to be classified. Far too many, trust me.

That’s when I suddenly – and providentially – stumbled upon a folder containing exactly two hundred photos (notice how obsessed I am with numbers), which were taken during the one-week holidays I spent with my family.

lavande.jpg

It’s amazing how places like les Alpilles can be such an inspiration: the landscapes, the food, the farmer’s market, the light… Everything just fitted.

We started our journey in Eygalières, a small village located just a few kilometres away from St Rémy, which is known for it’s gorgeous Wednesday morning market.
However, things didn’t go as smoothly as that; on the way to Eygalière, one of the tires of our 1977-camper van (number alert!) exploded, which forced us to stay of the side of the road for more than two hours. Luckily, forecasting that trouble-free holidays weren’t an option in my family, I had packed Heidi’s lovely courgette loaf cake with us.

road-side.png

As expected, the market was beautiful; definitely comforting after everything that had happened.

nougat.png

While we were staying at Eygalière, we did a one-day escapade to les Baux en Provence; certainly touristy, nonetheless gorgeous.

les-beaux.png

We, then, headed towards Nyons, where we had an olive oil tasting. Nyons, is a small town, mainly known because it’s where the only AOC olive oil is produced (*edit* – thanks to Rosa, I now know that Nice also has its own AOC olive oil; can’t believe I see myself as the ultimate french riviera girl and didn’t even know this).

olive-oil.png

Next town was Forcalquier where we found lovely brocanteurs and farmer’s market. I had a coup de foudre for a set of porcelaine measuring cups, which sadly happened to be far too expensive – I still think about them and wish I had gotten them.
ps. My totally adorable sister Aïda is the one who took the gorgeous cloche [bell] picture; new packed-with-talent girl on her way!

brocante.png

And well, she already hates loves salad (ever heard about how salad likeness affects a person’s photography skills?)…

aida.png

Cake sucré et moelleux aux courgettes et au ras-el-hanout
Adapted from Heidi’s 101 cookbooks.

courgette-cake-baked-large.png

I remember the first time I came across a recipe for courgette cake – it was in Nigella’s How to be a domestic goddess. I could even tell you the exact name of the cake: Flora’s courgette cake, and give an outline of Nigella’s write up about it. I wasn’t shocked, but my interest was definitely tingled.
Then, I stopped thinking about it…only until I discovered Heidi’s version of it.

Rich with nuts and deeply aromatic with the use of ras-el-hanout, this cake was lovely.
Funnily enough, in France, un cake is a cake (English word this time) cooked in a loaf pan – is that what the Americans call bread? Oh well, I’ll just stick to the French I learnt; so sweetly old-fashioned.

I made the cake using white flour only, and leaving out the poppy seeds and ginger. As for the spicy touch, I used one tablespoon of ras-el-hanout, which gave the cake a great depth. Hmmm ras-el-hanout in cakes!

Inspire me

winter.png

There you’ll find a collection of what inspires me and makes me happy. Hope you’ll feel the same about it.

xxx
– fanny