Friday 29 January 2010
As I was diligently peeling a stampede of organic lemons to turn them into neat candied squares – a pretty lengthy task if you consider all the steps involved – the pungent scent brought down memories of a now long-gone day.
As Guillaume wakes up – or more accurately, as I push the snooze button of our alarm clock every two minutes, giving him a repeat-hug to gently get him to emerge from his dreamless sleep – I suddenly realise that today is my much-longed-for day-off.
After more minutes that I will dare to divulge, Guillaume slowly walks to the bathroom, and I can’t resist to fall back asleep with the soothing sound of falling waters tickling my ears.
It’s now almost eleven aye-emm, and after a quick bath – my very own luxury – I hop onto the bus towards High Street Kensington. Read: towards Whole Foods.
On my way back, white flakes begin to fill the skies. By the time I reach the door to our flat, the streets, trees, and sadly for my tendency not to resist to any slippery surface, the sidewalks are coated with thick snow.
It’s damn cold outside, and the heat I find at home feels unbearable.
Until I look through the window only to mentally record the image I see. A white cocoon surrounded my fog clouds.
It’s pretty much one of the most comforting sensation ever. As if I was contemplating my own daily world from above; except it’s now all-quiet, almost like a nature morte.
With such an astounding cosiness, a couple of things were bound to happen. A feel-happy movie, a trip to my very favourite blogs, a nap – taken from the warmth of my thick couette.
The last thing involved flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, a good dose of lemon, butter, and cream. Also known as cake weekend, this loaf will keep – in the fridge, well-wrapped in cling film – for days.
Oh, and did I mention how easy it is to put together, how pretty it is to look at, and how down-to-the-last-crumb delicious it is to eat?
It is also a damn good reason to use my absolute pâtisserie tour-de-main [process] crush. The one trick you won’t be able to live without.
If you want a life lived in the shadows of neatly cracked cakes, please avoid eye contact with the following lines.
The secret is to pipe a line of butter on the top of your unbaked loaf. Simply cream a couple of tablespoons of butter, and using a piping bag – or as I do, a paper cornet (another playground love, which I should definitely make you discover laterish) – pipe a thin line across the length of the cake.
Bake and allow your eyes to sparkle.
But more than this, this promenade into the past allowed me to discover what pushes me to make a recipe in particular.
I think it says a lot about the pastry chef – not to mention the person – you are. The way you combine coincidences, accidents, facts into a delicious pâtisserie.
And I strongly hope my recipes come across just how people see me. Refreshing, sophisticated yet with an edge, and fun.
This means a lot to me since I have just realised that I am now ready to write a pastry book. It’s always been a dream, a long-term goal, and possibly the one thing – except for my passion – that got me into those not-so-hot pieds-de-poules pants.
Until today, I had never felt the need to write a cookbook. I kept telling myself I had to wait until I would master an actual knowledge on French pâtisserie, and also, until I had a good unexplored book material.
So when the idea came to me on my way to work, I was thrilled.
A book I would have loved to read a couple of years earlier, when I hadn’t yet entered a professional pastry kitchen. And actually, a book I would still love to read now.
It’s still the very beginning of the process, and even though I keep my fingers crossed to the point my joints hurt, the book will possibly never be printed. But I like to challenge myself.
So well, let’s forget about this all, and please go make a cup of your favourite tea – although I couldn’t recommend anything more than a delicate cup of green tea – to sip through the savouring of a thick slice of weekend lemon cake topped with a large spoonful of clementine confit and a dollop of crème fraiche.
Cake weekend au citron et confit de clémentines à la vanille
I feel like I’ve already talked way too much today, so I will now simply urge you to make this. Weekend or not.
Just make sure you fold the flour very delicately into the batter, not to loose any of the air (incorporated in the eggs right at the beginning by much whipping) that gives the loaf cake such a light texture.
Same goes for the fats (both cream and butter; that’s actually the difference between a cake and a weekend cake).
What I usually do is to incorporate vigorously a small amount of batter (around one cup) into the melted – yet not hot – fats, then pour this mixture back into the batter, folding very gently.
As for the confit, you simply need to briefly blanch the whole clémentines a couple of times, before cooling them in ice-cold water. This allows to 1) get rid of the skin’s bitterness, and 2) keep the bright orange colour.
Then proceed as detailed below!
You can certainly make it in advance as it will keep for 5 days in the frigde.
Cake weekend au citron et confit de clémentines à la vanille
makes one loaf cake
for the lemon weekend cake
250g caster sugar
zest from 2 fat organic lemons
200g plain flour
one tsp baking powder
150g double cream
50g butter, melted
softened butter, extra for piping
Preheat the oven to 150°C (EDIT: as a sweet reader and friend pointed to me, this might be a little low for non-fan assisted ovens. Mine tends to be one of the most efficient ovens I’ve ever had, hence the low temp; in case yours is on the slow side, I suggest you turn the thermostat up to 170°C for better results). Butter and flour a loaf tin.
Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl, and whip until thick and doubled in size. In an another bowl, mix the flour, lemon zest and baking powder. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Then pour a little of this onto the cream and melted butter, mix well, and transfer back to the main batter mix. Fold in gently.
Pour into the prepared tin, pipe a line of butter across the cake; and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean.
for the clémentines confit
350g clémentines, around 3 to 4
half a vanilla pod
20g cornflour diluted in 40g cold water
bring a large pan of water to the boil. Plunge the clémentines in it and simmer for 3 minutes. Sieve, placing the fruits in an ice-cold water bath as you do so. Repeat one more time. Then chill the clémentines until cold enough to handle.
Slice very finely, and place in a pan along with the sugar, vanilla pod and seeds, and water. Simmer for 30 minutes or until reduced and almost candied. Then vigourously fold in the cornflour mixture. Allow to boil for a couple of minutes, and transfer to a bowl.
a generous dollop of crème fraiche for each serving
Place a slice of cake cut in half lenghtwise in a plate. Top with both a spoonful of confit and a dollop of crème fraiche.