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Et j’ai rencontré une fille en forme de fée – Cookies au chocolat et aux maltesers

[I’ve met a fairy-like girl – Chocolate malted whooper drops]

chocolate malteser drops

Sometimes, our lives get so busy that we forget about how beautiful it is to live; and we can’t even see the lovely things that surround us.
Call it the side effect of our super-exciting way-of-life full of crazy experiments and adventures; I just think it’s sad and find necessary to take a break from time to time to admire all the random petites choses that I usually disregard. It is a fantastic feeling when you realise how so little can make you so happy.

Today, I didn’t have one – but three – of these wonderful moments. The ones that truly matter.
The first one occurred around 4.38am. As I was quietly sleeping, I started hearing what is, to me, a divine sound. Raindrops were softly hitting my window, making for the most superb orchestra concert you could ever dream of. Covered with a huge pile of fluffy duvet covers, I coudn’t imagine a more beautiful place to be.

Then, around 7.50am, as I opened my mailbox, I found a package. It came from my favourite girl. Ever. She’s been my friend for years, introduced me to plastic-bottle-biting and tiny fake pastries. Une fille en forme de fée. She made a small felt pochette [pouch] with apparent stitches. And when I finally got the chance to tell her how happy it made me, we couldn’t help but talk about food. I’m sure they’ll be some good times ahead. I just can’t wait to see her and organise a chic dinner for New Year’s eve. Je t’aime fort mon petit pasteis.

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That last *blissful*moment* is happening right now: a laptop on my legs and a chocolate malted whooper drop in my hand.
When I made Dorie’s recipe, I knew it would be good. I mean, have you ever found Dorie’s recipe to be lacking of anything? I haven’t, and suspect that nobody ever has. She is one of those people who make you feel instantly cosy, whether you’re having tea with her or just reading of her books. That’s why everyone loves her. But more than that, her recipes are terrific and always work. Thank you Dorie for making my day special.

Cookies au chocolat et aux maltesers
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from my home to yours.

Maltesers are the European version of Whoopers and trust me, they’re very yummy. So imagine how wonderful they are when combined with a moist malted chocolate cookie dough and chunks of milk chocolate.

These are some great cookies – or as Dorie calls them -, drops and will make everyone happy. The maltesers had some crunch to an otherwise smooth and fudgy biscuit.
The dough almost has the same texture than frosting and to make things easy, you just have to spoon and drop it onto your lined baking sheet.

I decided to slightly underbake my cookies (10 minutes instead of the suggested 12). Well, the girl likes her dough raw.

Cookies au chocolat et aux maltesers

makes 30 cookies

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ovomaltine powder or any other malted milk powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups maltesers, coarsely chopped
170g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 175º. Set up a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
Beat the sugar with the butter until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then the vanilla.
Beat in half the flour mix, just until incorporated. Then the milk. Then the rest of the flour mix.
Stir in the maltesers and chocolate chunks.
Place heaping tablespoons of the dough on the baking sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Elle découpait tout plein de formes avec ses ciseaux de couture – Petits carrés de gianduja aux trois chocolats

[She was cutting shapes with her couture scissors – Three chocolates gianduja bites]

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If you’re anything like me, you love chocolate. You also love to make chocolates. But knowing how your kitchen, clothes and state of mind will be at the end of the process, you put that chocolate thermometer back in the cupboard and while you’re at it, grab that box full of chocolates from Pierre Hermé Paris.
This is what happens when I, ahem, make chocolates.

Although, given that just the thought of tempering chocolate or precoating ganache slabs, makes you smile from happiness, you find that your way of making chocolates is somewhat frustrating. And you definitely don’t enjoy those delicious Pierre Hermé’s truffles as much as you should.
So, you end up buying tons of books on confections and chocolates; and read them, on your favourite couch with your favourite box of store-bought petits chocolats. At that exact moment, you feel a little better – the 100g of magnesium you’ve just had is starting to do wonders on your mind, and you’re no longer frustrated (just so you remember: you got frustrated in first instance, because the chocolates you’re eating aren’t yours; and by yours, I mean homemade).

Beware though. As soon as the soothing effect of the magnesium wears off, you’ll undergo severe disappointment.
Luckily for you, my years of chocolate-eating experience have taught me a lot about chocolate making. And I have the perfect recipe for the messy and lazy chocolatiers you – ahem, we – are: firm gianduja.

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Gianduja, pronounced jeeon-doo-ya, originates in Italy and more specifically, in Piemonte; which is the place where most of my paternal family comes from.
It is basically a mixture of ground nuts, icing sugar and chocolate. While the usual ratio is 1:1:1, you can tweak it without danger as it’s unlikely to separate or get spoiled. Thank the fat system for that; gianduja is indeed almost entirely made of fat (and sugar) and thus, can’t be referred to as an emulsion. Just pure fat. Who would ever thought that fat could look so sexy?

At this point, you might not see how gianduja can solve all – I do really mean, all – your problems.
Well, if you only gave me the time to explain. Have a chocolate and stop being rude.
Gianduja is yummy. How could nuts, sugar and chocolate, all mixed together, not be yummy? It’s pretty. And chocolaty. But more than that, it’s so easy to make that it’s almost instant reward with no kitchen-cleaning involved.

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Petits carrés de gianduja aux trois chocolats
Adapted from Peter Greweling’s chocolates and confections.

I love to serve these with coffee. They seem to disappear in a matter of seconds.
They’re sweet with a pleasant nutty flavour. But what I always crave about is their melt-in-your-mouth texture.

The process is very simple:
1. you first roast the nuts and grind them with little sugar so they for a paste
2. you mix in the remaining sugar and melted chocolate

Depending on the power of your processor, you might not be able to get a nut paste, but do not worry. Just continue processing until the nuts are very finely ground and have the same appearance as icing sugar. When you’ll add the melted chocolate, it will just form a ‘dough’ that certainly won’t be as smooth as gianduja made with nut paste, but nonetheless delicious.

Thanks to a very low water content, these will keep for months – just put them in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Petits carrés de gianduja aux trois chocolats

make 100 pieces

for the white chocolate gianduja
130g almonds, very lightly toasted
70g icing sugar
130g white chocolate, melted

for the milk chocolate gianduja
130g almonds, very lightly toasted
70g icing sugar
130g milk chocolate, melted

for the dark chocolate gianduja
130g hazelnuts, very lightly toasted
70g icing sugar
130g dark chocolate, melted

Line a 30x30cm pan with cling film.
First, make the white chocolate gianduja: grind the almonds with a teaspoon of icing sugar until liquefied. Add the remaining sugar and chocolate. Mix until it all comes together.
Temper the gianduja by tabling it on a cold surface (marble is great) or just agitate vigorously, until the mixture reaches 27°C.

Spread into the prepared tin and chill while you get on with the milk and dark chocolate giandujas. Just repeat the same operations as for the white chocolate gianduja.

Once set, cut into small squares and serve.

Fanny is baking eight days a week

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Most of my friends spend their weekends partying at night and sleeping during the day. This doesn’t seem to be valid for me though. While I do party with them, I love to wake up early, grab my bike, go to the farmers market, rush back to my apartment and bake like crazy until it’s dark outside.

Trust me, my flatmates love me. On Monday, we celebrated autumn with yummy butternut squash muffins with a frosty top. On Tuesday, a spicy yet comforting black pepper and honey apple tart warmed our days. On Wednesday, I kept complaining about how boring it is to have a cold but still enjoyed a lovely honey, rosemary and gorgonzola loaf cake. On Thursday, we all went out to celebrate the launch of Beaujolais nouveau with some shallot and parsley small bread rolls, which I posted about on Friday. On Saturday, I shared a piece of my memories – and more importantly – some moist coconut balls that look like snow balls. On Sunday, well, I’m going to ask you a favour.

There isn’t one day during which I don’t receive emails from you guys – totally *heart* you by the way. Whether you’re just saying hi, asking questions about a specific recipe/ingredient/pastry, wondering how I learnt to take pictures… These make me happy. I just love to know I’ve helped or inspired you in some ways.
Now it’s your turn to inspire me.

Is there anything that you would like to see on this blog?

May it be a recipeone you’re too scared to try or one you dearly love and would want to share, a topic – like Erin who’d like to hear more about my culinary endeavours in France or food photography… Actually, anything will do. Just tell me what makes you happy, what inspires you, what your fears are. This way, you’ll contribute to foodbeam and I’ll be able to give you some of the tips I’ve learnt either from experience, my internship or my classes.
I so can’t wait to see what you come up with! This is going to be great fun.

La pluie elle aime ça – Billes de noix de coco

[She likes rain – Coconut balls]

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It’s November 2. I’m behind the window, watching the rain that pours on my grandparents beautiful garden. Every drop that reaches the earth, bounces on the perfectly-red leaves, making a loud noise.
Rain makes me happy. I know I could be playing outdoor, but right now, nothing feels as comforting as being where I am. It’s still pretty early and my grand-mother is preparing the breakfast table while my grand-father has gone to the boulangerie to get une baguette bien cuite for lunch.
Today, I’m turning sept ans et demi [7 1/2]. Et ça c’est important.

As I’m lost in my thoughts, I realise that grand-mère has been calling me for the last couple of seconds. Time for breakfast.
I sit at the table facing my bowl of hot chocolate and a plate full of homemade bread pudding topped with a generous spoonful of yogurt. Both of my grand-parents sip their strong coffee and start spreading butter on their tartines.

Hmmm, ça sent bon. Je peux goûter [Hmmm, it smells lovely. Can I have a sip]?
Oui si tu veux, mais c’est assez fort [Yes sure. It’s strong though].
She hands me her brown pyrex cup. Fais attention il est chaud [Watch out, it’s hot]. It is indeed. Warm and strong. Baah, c’est amer [Baah, this is bitter].
I decide that coffee is not for me and that I shall never drink some again. I just stick to my sweet and milky hot chocolat chaud. The bread pudding is soft and melts like butter in my mouth. La bouche pleine.
Qu’est ce qu’on va faire aujourd’hui [What are we going to do today]? Rochefort. Youpi!

A couple of hours, after lunch, we all head to Rochefort. The rain is still pouring but jumping in water pools is just too funny. As we reach the place principale, I spot a lovely pâtisserie. In the beautifully decorated window, some bright white balls stand out. Boules de neige.

A little more than 15 years later, those memories feel real again. I am biting into some homemade coconut balls and they took me years behind. Funny how food can act as a time-travel machine.

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Coconut balls
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s coconut domes.

When I read Dorie’s article on serious eats, I knew I had to try my hands at coconut domes – or more accurately in my case – balls.
Her description of those treats reminded me of the ones I had eaten I Rochefort. The exterior is slightly crunchy, but not browned; while the interior is moist.
The recipe, which originally comes from Pierre Hermé, insists on soaking the coconut into the milk mixture overnight. Please do not skip this step as it ensures soft and chewy bites of sweetness.

The ballad of an easy rider – Petits pains aux échalottes et au persil

[Shallots and parsley small breads]

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As you might have not guessed from yesterday non-post, I’m not ill anymore. I did spend most of the day sleeping, but the evening was put to use for some beaujolais nouveau celebration.
And what’s better with some really bad wine that some equally good bread.

I used my favourite bread recipe, which I tweaked in order to get some soft and flavourful small breads.

I divided the dough into 6 small balls, got on with one of them, while I put the other to rest, covered with a cloth.

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The ball is then flattened with the palm of my hands. In the centre of that disk of lovely elastic dough, I placed a teaspoon of a mix of:
– butter
– cooked shallots
– chopped parsley
– salt and freshly ground white pepper

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I really enjoyed closing the ball; it’s like a nest of pure yumminess.

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There you go. I told you it was going to be quick and easy.

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The final step consists in shaping the ball again so they’re all round and smooth. Proof the breads until they have doubled in size and bake as explained in the simple white bread recipe (just dust some flour on the breads before they go into the oven).

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I definitely took the easy-way here, but please, people, I urge you to do the same. I know I’ve already praised Dan Lepard’s white bread last week. But well, it’s that good. And the addition of perfumed butter is fantastic. Fragrant, moist innards. Soft crumb. Crisp golden crust.
Be an easy rider. Make these petits pains.