Feb 24, 2010



May I tempt you with a generous slice of what turned out to be an intensely chocolatey cherry cake I made for a recent birthday? I absolutely loved making this as it was a cake for a chocoholic from a chocoholic, and with such similar taste when it comes to desserts between the mr.birthday and myself I knew exactly what he wanted- we literally share a certain telepathy when it comes to sugar coated choices!

I love dusting cakes with cocoa- here it gave an elegant effect over the cherries!
The innards, devine!!

Recipe for Intensely Chocolatey Cherry cake:

200gr dark chocolate, broken down into pieces
200gr butter

200gr sugar
4 eggs
150gr flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cherry jam, heated until liquidy
Chocolate & liquid cream for the ganache, with portions set at 2 parts chocolate: 1 part cream
Cherries- pits removed.

Preheat oven to 180C. Melt the chocolate & butter together, set aside until it cools down a bit. In a bowl beat the sugar and eggs until mixture whitens, then add the melted chocolate/butter. Add the flour, baking powder and salt- mix well until smooth. Transfer batter to cake mould (fill 3/4 up) lined with parchment paper and bake for 25mins (check with a sharp knife and extend time by 10 mins if needed). Remove from oven, let cool and place cake in freezer for 1 hour- this is to allow easier slicing for later step.
Prepare ganache: in a pot, heat the liquid but do not let it burn. Remove from heat, throw in the chocolate, cover with lid for 5 mins. Remove lid and stir until smooth and silky.
Slice cake in half horizontally. On the bottom half, poke layer with a fork and brush over the liquidy cherry jam. Follow with a layer of the ganache and then some cherries. Cover bottom half with the top half, and coat entire cake with chocolate ganache. If you have leftover cherries, use some on top for decoration and optionally you can dust it all with cocoa. Place in fridge for a few hours until set and then enjoy!

Of course- feel free to use other fruits: raspberries, strawberries, etc!

Feb 19, 2010


Yes so my post title might speak volumes to some of you out there- for those who know how therapeutic baking is to fight away stress, and well it just happened to be that I had one of those stressful days and when upon coming back home the eggs, sugar, butter and flour was just calling my name!

The thing is that sometimes in these situations you don't necessarily have all the ingredients at hand and you have to do with what you have. No-fuss baking is what I like to call it. For some reason, apples is something that resides permanently all year long in the kitchen- and although I'm not a huge fan of apple-based desserts, an image I had come accross not too long ago on the Australian Gourmet Traveller website (and just fyi- I dont live in Australia nor am I from there, but when I see their summery dessert features in this cold month of February, it sure makes me want to bring some of their sunshine over to wintery Paris!) caught my attention and it just happened to contain apples.

I skipped the recipe part and just kept the image in my mind, trying to reproduce my own version of what could ressemble what I saw. Okay okay, so mine might not had turned out as beautiful as on Gourmet Traveller, and yes it did not contain raisins or ginger, and it did contain flour even though the original recipe title contains the word "flourless", but the important thing was that everything turned out sweet and lovely and I guess that's what counts, no?

A blend of apples, almonds (another staple ingredient that we have all year round in the kitchen!) and caramel.

Recipe for Apple, Almond & Caramel cake
(for a 20cm diameter round cake mould)

100gr butter
120gr brown sugar + some kept on the side
2 eggs
4 tablespoons caramel syrup
100gr flour
60gr ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 medium sized apples, thinly sliced
Almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 180C. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and caramel syrup and mix. Follow with the flour, ground almonds and baking powder- mix well. Transfer batter to cake mould lined with parchment paper (or greased & floured), arrange the apples on top and drizzle over the apples the melted butter and finish by sprinkling some brown sugar and the chopped almonds. Bake for 60mins.

Feb 16, 2010


Yes call me crazy but until recently I swore I'd never bake cupcakes, because well I had a "thing" against them. Actually two things- first of all I hated the whole buttercream thing- eating a layer of butter mixed with sugar and other stuff grossed me out. And second of all, I didnt want to get excited over cupcake cuteness like the rest of the world.

But then one day everything changed. All because of a friend's birthday for whom I decided to make cupcakes for... and I do admit, they are indeed lots of fun to make. But I haven't sold my soul to buttercream yet... if I am going to make cupcakes again I definately need to find a healthier alternative to buttercream!

here they are- naked chocolate cuppies yet to be dressed!


Gold dusted...

And sprinkled in colours and shapes...

So who knows? Maybe one day I'll be writing up a second post on cupcakes...

Feb 6, 2010


The first time I ever tried a bagel was....
...too long ago to remember, but what I do remember very well is the love story that begun between myself and bagels. But having lived in Europe all my life, bagels are not the easiest thing to find. When I moved to France 10 years ago, I had to hunt down the entire city of Paris to find some- and eventually I did, but they were overpriced (and I mean, ridiculously overpriced!) and I remember I would find them at only one shop in the 7th arrondissement. A few years later, bagels were easier to find as they gradually started to appear on supermarket shelves- but they werent exactly the tastiest ones, that's for sure.

SO what do you do when you dont live in a bagel city like NYC?? Well you just gotta make em!!! As intimidating as they appear to be, I knew that I had to give homemade bagels a try.

I tried two recipes, and I even went out to buy the famous hi-gluten flour that apparently is 'the' secret ingredient for successful bagels (fyi- for anyone living in France, hi-gluten flour is ''farine t80'').

The first recipe was off the BBC GoodFood website- which I absolutely love and have tried several recipes before with great success- but Im sorry to say, their bagel recipe is so-so. It was more like a roll-with-a-hole. Here are some pictures:
Shaping the dough:
And here's the test-batch in their water bath:

And then while they're still wet, I sprinkled some with sesame, some with poppy seeds and left some plain

20minutes in the oven, and here is what I got:
VERDICT: Good, but not GREAT

The second recipe however was from Elle a table- and this recipe ladies and gentlemen- produced some fantastic bagels! So fantastic that I am saving the recipe on my laptop, in my recipe notebook, on my cell phone, under my mattress and I'll even try memorizing it if I can!!

bagel recipe #2- the pictures:

I divided the original's recipe quantities by half, which made 6 large bagels and a baby bagel:
By the way- the white stuff on the plain bagels is corn flour. The recipe suggested to sprinkle corn flour on the parchment paper- but as I was half awake making those, I sprinkled the corn flour on the bagel! Aaahh... I call that late-night baking clumsiness!

And this time, significant improvement- they were simply beautiful and tasted just as good as they looked!

For bagel recipe #1 click here

For bagel recipe#2 (the one that worked for me!) click here

And translation for non-French readers for bagel recipe #2 off Elle a Table:
Makes 10 bagels
Mix 750gr flour (T55) + 1 tsp instant yeast + 4 tsps salt
Add 380ml water + 2.5 tbsps liquid honey + 30ml olive oil.
Knead dough for 10 mins, split into 10 equal balls. Form bagel shapes, leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm room on an oiled surface.

Preheat oven to 225C.

Boil bagels for 2mins in a deep pot containing 3 liters boiling water + 1 tbsp potato starch + 1 tbsp brown sugar 'cassonade' + 2 tbsps salt. Remove bagels after their waterbath and place on a baking tray covered with greased parchment paper and sprinkled with cornflour. If you want to add sesame, poppy seeds or whatever else- this is the time to do it!

Reduce oven temperature to 215C and bake for 20-25mins.

Feb 1, 2010


So, I am having fun lately making homemade versions of "supermarket food", such as the Digestive biscuits last time, and now: Nutella! I had been seeing many recipes floating around the blogosphere on how to make the infamous hazelnut spread from scratch and decided it was about time to give it a try.

Because I tend to have a nerd-y attitude when it comes to food, I like to research before taking action. What I noticed was that each "homemade Nutella recipe" called for some common ingredients but also for differing ones: some had butter, others had powdered milk, some used cocoa, some used chocolate instead, so on and so forth. With all these variations, I decided I'd have to figure it out on my own. I studied a Nutella label and tried to use some common sense. As long I wasn't using any palm oil in my recipe (yes, the evil palm oil).

At the end of the day, it all came down to three ingredients for a jar of heaven...

1- you will need hazelnut spread. Pure hazelnut spread, no sugar added. I found mine at Biocoop. You could also find this at Wholefoods or the sorts for those living in the US, UK, etc. 
It's like tahini- but hazelnuts instead of sesame!

2- and you will need unsweetened condensed milk.
Note that unsweetened condensed and evaporated are interchangeable- but cannot be substituted with sweetened condensed milk which has a much thicker consistency. 

3- finally, have some chocolate nearby. I made two versions- one with regular chocolate, and the other experimenting around with a caramel flavour, which gave a nice twist! As long as it's baking chocolate- so if you do go with a flavour twist, chocolates stuffed with oozing caramel or jelly fillings will not work.

And look what we have here...a to-die-for-hazelnut spread. 
Decadent, rich nutty chocolatey goodness that you'd have to hide in a password protected safebox! 

Now for the decisive moment- eat straight out of the jar, spread on fresh baguette, on a crepe...
...or eat straight out of the jar?

Recipe for Homemade Nutella (recommend to also read Notes below):

100gr good quality 50-70% chocolate, chopped
100gr pure hazelnut spread- no sugar added. 
200gr unsweetened condensed milk

Heat unsweetened condensed milk in a pot- just heat it but do not let it boil. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Cover pot with a lid for 5 mins. Remove lid and swirl until smooth consistency is obtained and let cool. Then transfer this to a mixer and add the hazelnut spread- mix until perfectly smooth. Empty into a dry and clean jar and enjoy! 

Of course, if you wish you can add sugar. The above version produces a not-too-sweet result, but I think next time I would want to add 50 to 80gr sugar. Preferably icing (confectioner) sugar to ensure finest/smoothest texture.

Also- the next day I noticed a white grainy texture which turned out to be the condensed milk that somehow solidified in the process. Nothing to panic about, simply use a mixer/blender and puree it once again until smooth. After that, the white grains should not reappear- at least it did not in my case.

I'm no expert on expiry dates, but I'm guessing this should store well for a good 10 days...considering that chocolate, hazelnut paste and condensed milk as individual ingredients don't call for refridgeration and usually have lengthy expiry dates. I would also recommend that once ready, do not store in the fridge- unless you live in a country where it's very hot.

Finally- have fun experimenting: use different chocolate flavours, substitute with almond or walnut paste if you wish, add some liquor, and for a bit of crunch try some chocolate chips or chopped nuts!