Dec 15, 2011


You're supposed to remember your "firsts", aren't you? Strangely enough, I have vague memories of the first time I learned how to bike or my first trip on a plane...or anything that's 'supposed to be' significantly important in one's life. However I certainly do recall some of my first baking moments. I knew I always loved food, and before exploring my savory side, my first love was baking- cakes, breads, muffins, pies... all of which represented this delicious sugar-coated world I dreamed to endlessly explore. I'll always remember the first baking recipe I ever tried to make (scones),  the flavour of my first muffins (banana), and without a doubt: I'll definately remember the time I burned a whole tray of chocolate cookies... (as much as I'd like not to remember that one!)
Then there are the first recipes you learn, and for me, one that kicked off my baking experience was what is known in France as a ''quatre-quarts'', which literally means ''four fourths''- producing something similar to a pound cake. The title is self-explanatory that sometimes I feel a quatre-quarts could be the baking for dummies recipe par excellence. One fourth eggs, one fourth butter, one fourth sugar, one fourth flour. This recipe is easier to remember then my own e-mail password- that's how straightforward it is- and made for a totally appropriate first recipe to explore (you didn't think I was making macarons in my mother's womb did you?)

Anyway, so I often go back to the quatre-quarts recipe, to which I make certain adjustments depending on what I'm looking to create. For instance, these wonderful Nutella-Hazelnut Muffins. There's really nothing special about the recipe, but they turned out to be marvelous: one fourth eggs, one fourth butter, one fourth sugar, one fourth flour plus ground hazelnuts and whirls of Nutella...and maybe some cinnamon as well. The only thing that's missing is a cold glass of milk for a totally regressive experience, reminding  one of childhood memories and all the fabulous firsts that were a part of it...

Eggs, sugar (brown & white), cinnamon...and a few more ingredients to complete the batter
First, a dollop of Nutella...

Then some crushed hazelnuts...

Straight out of the oven... and ready to enjoy...

Recipe for Nutella-Hazelnut Muffins:
Based on a quatre-quarts recipe which implies every one egg calls for 50gr/1.75oz sugar, 50gr/1.75oz butter and 50gr/1.75oz flour.

So, we can assume:

2 eggs
100gr / 3.5oz sugar (you can choose to do half brown sugar, half white)
100gr / 3.5oz butter
100gr / 3.5oz flour
50gr / 1.75oz ground hazelnuts
Crushed hazelnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, butter and cinnamon for a good two minutes. Mix in the flour and ground hazelnuts. Pour batter into muffin pans. Onto each muffin, add a spoon of Nutella and swirl into the batter gently. Top off with crushed hazelnuts and bake for 20 minutes. 

Dec 9, 2011


There's a country in Europe that I've always been a fan of when it comes to desserts. Of course, the colourful macarons in France are tres chic and the Italian cannoli may be sinfully creamy and crunchy... but it's hard not to fall in love with the desserts of Austria- and maybe more specifically, the tortes. Classic and true to themselves, Austrian tortes are the most glorious of them all! Sacher torte, Dobos torte, Esterhazy torte...and of course, Linzer torte- the one that I keep coming back to each winter, each year.

Above: my favourite part, making the nutty crust... rich with ground almonds & hazelnuts!

And so the other day, invetably as it was destined to be, I found myself measuring ground nuts, piping jam into tart shells and baking an army of bite size Linzer torte tartlets that then marched under a sweet snowfall of icing sugar.

When I moved to the other side of the ocean, I packed my favourite Linzer torte recipe with me. Scribbled on a piece of paper years ago,  this recipe calls for a rich nutty crust- which is what makes Linzer tarts so charming. So beware of recipes that don't include any sort of nuts- short bread, quick fix crusts don't least not in my kitchen :)

Recipe for Linzer torte (makes large tarts, tarlets or cookies)

200gr (7/8 cup) butter, softened
130gr (5/8 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond essence
70 gr (1/3 cup) ground toasted almonds
70gr (1/3 cup) ground toasted hazelnuts
350gr (3 cups) flour + an extra handful when rolling dough out.
Raspberry jam
Icing sugar

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon and almond essence. Add the ground nuts and continue to mix. Then roll your sleeves up, drop the whisks, add the flour and finish mixing the dough with your hands. It's important to feel the texture and ensure that all ingredients have been well mixed. If the dough feels a little dry, you can add some flour- bit by bit. The dough should be supple with a shiny appearance and should not stick to your hands (but never too dry and certainly not crumbly). Place dough in fridge for one hour, and if possible, even overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C/350F. Roll out the dough on a board dusted with flour.

For tarts: line the moulds with the rolled out dough and pipe out the raspberry jam into the tart mould. With remaining dough, make long strips and place on top of tart in a criss-cross design. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F. Extend baking time by 5-10 minutes if necessary. When tart has cooled, finish off with a dusting of icing sugar.

For cookies: cut out the dough with a cookie cutter and transfer cookies to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes at 180C/350F. While the cookies cool, heat the raspberry jam in a small saucepan until it becomes of a thicker consistency. Split the cookies into two batches. Pipe out raspberry jam on one batch and sprinkle icing sugar on the second batch. Then assemble each cookie by sandwiching them up together (the side with the icing sugar on top). 

*If you don't have both almonds & hazelnuts, you can also use just almonds or just hazelnuts (total should be 2/3 of whatever nut you choose).

Dec 4, 2011


For some flavour, I added cinnamon and coffee into the heavy cream for a subtle twist to
classic chocolate truffles. 

Lately, I've been going through a holiday baking frenzy (like I do every year!) Each day, the sun sets earlier and the air feels chillier and I realize I'm spending more time in the kitchen cooking up some sweet treats. Unfortunately, I haven't been good at posting my recent baking sessions- which have included everything from utterly soft pumpkin cookies to a luscious walnut & cranberry spice cake to ever so classic gingerbread cookies... all devoured away without a trace here on my blog!

Typically, I make my truffles using 60% or semi-sweet chocolate but this time, for a smoother taste,           I decided to use 2/3 part 60% and 1/3 milk chocolate. It was just the right balance of cocoa bitterness and a sweet dreamy creamy texture!

But to make up for that, here are some lavish homemade chocolate truffles and biscotti fit for this festive holiday season. Both are incredibly versatile staple recipes that I've had for quite some time- so they work great as is or lend themselves to a range of flavours!

There's nothing easier to make then chocolate truffles, all you need is two ingredients: chocolate & cream!

Don't chew on truffles! Just let them melt in your mouth...mmm  mmm mmm... 

I used a basic biscotti recipe and made one batch with almonds and chopped toffee & chocolate and a second batch with cocoa, almonds & cranberries.  
Biscotti are baked twice: first as a log, then sliced diagonally and baked again for a shorter period of time.

Chocolate Truffles:
Portions are 1 part good quality chocolate, 1/2 part heavy whipping cream.
+ Unsweetened cocoa to roll truffles in.
+ Optionally, any of your favourite flavours (coffee, liquor, spices, etc) and feel free to roll truffles in chopped nuts, coconut...

Place chopped chocolate (or chocolate morsels) in a heat proof bowl. In a pot, heat the heavy cream but do not allow to boil. Transfer the cream on the chocolate, stir until all chocolate has melted and mixture is perfectly smooth. Allow mixture to cool in fridge for at least two hours. Shape truffles into bite sized balls and roll in unsweetened cocoa. Place truffles one last time in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. They can be made the day before serving and stay well in the fridge for a good week at least.

Biscotti (base recipe):
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional (but recommended): a dash of a strong liquor such as rum, bourbon, etc.

And don't forget to add flavours! Anything from vanilla, cocoa, coconut, etc... and chopped almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, dried fruits, etc.
If flavours are wet ingredients (ex: caramel): add them along with the eggs
If the flavours are dry ingredients (ex: cinnamon) add them along with the flour.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, butter and liquor. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and continue to mix the dough well. Add your choice of chopped nuts or dried fruits and mix the dough one last time. Shape biscotti dough into a log, flatten gently and place on a baking tray (lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350F for 40 minutes. Take out and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Slice log diagonally, transfer biscotti (flat side facing up) onto baking tray again and bake for 15 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy on its own or dunked into a delicious cup of coffee!

Jul 21, 2011


What is more appropriate then biting through a crostini (aaah.. those Italians strike again!) and sipping on a glass of wine under the sun? At this time of the year, I find crostinis to be perfect to nibble on and absolutely love that with just a few slices of bread, the range of flavours you can mix and match are quite endless.. from savoury to sweet. I know I have some personal favourites: anything with roasted eggplants usually is right up my alley. I'm also very much of a cheese based crostini person- especially if you top it off with loads of arugula. But what I'm really loving right now is fennel. It's an ingredient I usually associate with fish dishes, but in the summer I fall in love with it's crunchy texture and how it smells so refreshing with that distinctive anise-liquorice scent.

That's why here I've used it in combination with goat cheese, roasted tomatoes and lots of dill & olive oil.

I like to roast my tomatoes until they're slightly burnt on the edges. It gives them that je-ne-sais-quoi...

These ''little bites'' were a pleasure to enjoy. And most certainly simple to make. Here's how:

Recipe for Goat Cheese, Fennel & Roasted Tomato Crostini, ready in a snap!:

Your favourite choice of bread- sliced. French baguette, ciabatta, sourdough bread... pretty much anything goes!
Goat cheese (soft)
Tomatoes, cut into quarters & roasted
Fennel, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Grill your slices of bread and drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil. In the meantime, heat some olive oil in a pan and saute the chopped fennel for 2-3 minutes. Then add the roasted tomatoes, add lots of dill, season with salt & pepper and mix everything gently. Add slices of goat cheese on the grilled bread slices, spread lightly, drizzle some olive oil and grill in the oven for two minutes. Finally, top off with a generous chunk of the fennel-tomato mixture. Bite in, enjoy!

Jul 17, 2011


It's hot, very hot right now. Summer has kicked in full mode and although I absolutely love cooking and spending time in the kitchen, in this sizzling heat the only thing I want cooking is food and not myself! So something quick, easy and most importantly- something that bursts with flavours- is just what I'm looking for. And I happen to be in the mood for a dish that involves some type of seafood and that can all be prepared in one large pan... in less then fifteen minutes. Am I asking for too much? Does that sound too good to be true? I guess not... and the proof are these prawns and calamari rings in a luscious orange-whiskey sauce. I stumbled accross this recipe in a cookbook by one of my favourite chefs Gordon Ramsay, and then improvised at home. Top them off with lots of herby cilantro goodness, enjoy with a glass of white wine and you're set! By the way, talking about wines, I must say that year after year I am consistently impressed with the quality of white wines from New Zealand.  The Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs in particular. If you're usually sipping on a Chardonnay from France or a Pinot Grigio from Italy, try something different next time (hint hint: from New Zealand)- you'll be pleasantly surprised!
These lovely prawns will turn pink once cooked!

Freshly squeezed oranges will add that lovely citrusy fruity flavour to the dish (I even like to include a bit of the pulp)
You can make this with just prawns...or just calamari...but it's always nice to have a bit of both!
Just before serving, I like to add sprinkle even more chopped cilantro- in addition to what was used while cooking this dish!

Recipe for Orange-Whiskey Prawns & Calamari (makes 2-3 servings):

300 gr / 10 oz prawns
300 gr / 10 oz calamari rings
1 large orange, juice of
A generous dash of whiskey
Handful of cilantro, fresh & chopped
Garlic, chopped
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

In a large pan, add the olive oil and garlic and place on a stove on medium/high heat. If you're a garlic lover like me, then go crazy and include lots of it! Add the prawns and calamari, cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then add the orange juice, reduce heat to medium and cook for another 2 minutes. Now it's time for the whiskey- when adding this, remove the pan from the heat just to be on the safe side (you don't want big flames all of a sudden!) I like the whiskey flavour to really come through- but it's best to taste and add more as you go to adjust to your personal preference. Continue to cook for just a few more minutes until the sauce has reduced and finish off with the chopped cilantro, salt & pepper. Enjoy quickly while it's still hot!

Jul 6, 2011


Wow it has been almost a year since I haven't posted anything on here! What a long silence...but let me explain because a LOT has happened in between. First of all, I've made a big the other side of the pond- or should I say- the Atlantic ocean! Yes, I've left Paris and am now living in the U.S on the East Coast, minutes from amazing New York City. With that said, let me wish my fellow Americans a belated happy Fourth of July!

The fireworks last night were magical to watch, and I'm lucky enough to live seconds away from the Hudson river, so had the night to enjoy bursts of colourful and animated sparks in full glory. Having now been here for almost a full year, I get the impression that there's almost always a reason to celebrate something in this city with fireworks or a parade. It's entertaining indeed!
So yes, this big move pretty much explains my silence... settling in, getting all the paperwork done, adjusting to a new culture, fast paced lifestyle, eating my way through NYC and discovering everything else this amazing city has to offer, and in between travelling to new places (Mexico City, Sao Paulo) and more familiar places (Paris, Nice & Montreal)...but most importantly, trying to adjust to a new oven, stove, measuring things in cups and setting my oven to fahrenheit temperatures was alone a daunting you get the picture, I've been busy!
Oh, and how can I forget! I've also had some of my recipes published in a lovely cook book, alongside other talented bloggers, appropriately entitled "Foodies of the World", you can click here to check it out! Hurrah for me, yay!
So it was just a matter of time (a long time I admit) to get back on Swirl & Scramble...and looks like the time has come.
To mark this return, what better then a delicious recipe that is not only easy peasy to make, but adds a sweet note to these wonderful summer days... mini-angel cakes drizzled with a lemon-honey syrup (feel free to add champagne if you're feeling naughty), topped off with a rich mascarpone based frosting and slices of ripe apricots and crushed pistachios... how does that sound?

Here's my advice: use your favourite, trusted, tried and proven angel cake recipe. Make it big, make them bite size small. Cut some lemons in half, squeeze them with your hands in a deep pan, add lots of honey and boil until transformed into a luscious rich syrup. Poke your angel cakes with a fork, drizzle with the lemon & honey syrup...and drizzle some more!
Mix some mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar and honey in a bowl. Don't feel guilty if you're not being precise, it's okay to eyeball measurements sometimes! Test the sweetness and consistency along the way...sometimes it's nice to be spontaneous. For a posh twist, sprinkle some edible gold dust for a glistening frosting.
Top off the angel cakes with a generous layer of the mascarpone frosting, add juicy wedges of ripe apricots and finish off with crushed pistachios...

And for the final step... bite in for goodness sake! Indulge, sit under the sun, and eat every bite of this fluffy creamy fruity treat. Enjoy, and don't feel the least bit guilty!

Happy to be back...and I promise to share more kitchen adventures soon!