Bonjour Paris: 5 things I love about Paris (Part I)

Paris -view from the eiffel tower

Hello there (or should I say Bonjour!),

Apologies for the absence. I hope you haven’t miss me much.

I’ve been busy after getting back from my travels. I know I should have shared this sooner.

This is my second time to Paris (and it wouldn’t be my last).  Je t’aime Paris.

I love her the first time, maybe more now.

***

Paris bistro

 

The people whom I meet seem to be on two extreme camps when it comes to Paris.  One half of them would be wax-lyrical about Paris – the food, the shopping, the city and anything and everything that they love about the City of Lights. The other half would be say how much they think Paris is overrated and everything they dislike about the city (many of those reasons can be very extreme). I am not sure if it’s just the people I talk to but Paris seem to illicit such a wide spectrum of  intense and extreme emotions.

As for me, you probably would have guessed from my previous blog posts that I belong to the camp who adores Paris. Just to share with you some things I love about this city.

5 things I love about Paris:

Place des Vosges Paris

 

1. J’adore… the architecture and random buildings with rich history and stories that you stumble upon at every turn. It can be an old bookshop where Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce used to frequent (Shakespeare & Company) or the gothic building (Palais de Justice) that has been used as the courthouse during the French Revolution or the blue door that leads to Van Gogh’s home in Paris (54 Rue Lepic) or one of the oldest (and beautiful) squares in Paris, Place des Vosges.

Shakespeare and Company Paris

Gerald Mulot Paris

 

2. J’adore… les jardins (or the gardens)  many of them are so close to the city..like Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. They are beautiful gardens that are big enough for a stroll and probably a good place to rest your tired feet and have some of your takeaway pastries or if you fancy, even a picnic. Angelina is just across the road from Jardin des Tuileries and you can take away some pastries or delicious hot chocolate (if you are there on a cold day). You have to try their Mont Blanc or if they run out of it, the Mont Blanc éclair is delectable too!

Mont blanc eclair Angelina

 

3. J’adore… les gâteaux et pâtisseries (the cakes and pastries, course). Throw in the flakey and buttery croissants, the galaxy of macaron flavours, the chocolates.. Paris is the place to be for all dessert lovers. The Parisians love their sweets and they take pride in making them. There’s so much finesse in all their cakes and pastries. It’s hard for me to pick a clear favourite. I will share my favourite pastry and sweets shops in another post.

eclairs Paris

 

4. J’adoreles arts (the art) that you will find in Paris.  I’m no art history buff but Paris has so much to offer when it comes to art. And I’m not just referring to Musée du Lourve. Musée D’orsay is my favourite and it houses a very well-curated range of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork. Musée de l’Orangerie has some very good pieces, amongst them, Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies) is a piece that has an astounding effect on one.  I guarantee that it will leave you awestruck even if you think you know Monet’s Water Lilies.

Paris 2

 

 

5. J’adore… the long and random (the more random, the better) walks in Paris – the sights and colours, the smells, the sounds. The walks along La Seine is lovely and so is exploration of the Le Marais neighbourhood.  The metro system gets you just about everywhere quite easily and from there you can walk anywhere. It is a walking city and a beautiful walking city that calls out to you to put on some walking shoes and let them take you everywhere.

Paris - Le Marais

Paris 3

Those are just five things I love about Paris. What about you?

x,
Jo

 

 

 

 

 

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Pantry staples: Chocolate coated nuts

chocolate coated nuts cover

 

This post doesn’t have a recipe (not quite anyway) and everyone can make these with some good chocolate and some nicely toasted nuts.

My dad loves both chocolate and nuts. He loves them on their own and perhaps more so when they are together. He has a not-so-secret addiction to the Marks & Spencer’s chocolate coated Brazil nuts. My sister is his regular supplier of these treats and buys them for him by the dozens. You should see how quickly he runs through these (almost like a chocolate nut eating machine, if there’s such a thing) especially while watching soccer matches.

I decided to be nice and add to his supply of late-night snacks. I coated some melted Valrhona dark chocolate over some lightly toasted Brazil nuts. I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate and didn’t bother being too neat about them because I wanted these to be as fuss free as possible.

I did the same to some dried apricots and also made some nut clusters using a variety of nuts like almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts. I sprinkled some Murray river’s pink sea salt over them for that bit of saltiness. I would encourage you to do the same for the sea salt just makes it taste better.

I intended these chocolate coated snacks to last him for at least a fortnight but unfortunately, my dearest chocolate and nut eating machine devoured them all in a week!

So yes, this will be a great thing to store away in your pantry for a quick afternoon or after dinner snack for lazy days, provided you don’t have chocolate and nut eating machine like I do.

P.S these would be great to add ice cream!

brazil nuts and sea salt

Recipe: Chocolate coated nuts

Not much of a recipe here. All you need is some good chocolate (you can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate, whichever you prefer) and some nuts. For the nut clusters, you can chop up a variety of nuts and coat them with chocolate as you would with the brazil nuts.

Ingredients:
Brazil nuts
good quality chocolate, chopped

1. Toast nuts lightly in the oven. Let them cool completely while you melt the chocolate.
2. It is best to melt some chopped chocolate over a bain marie.
3. Dip the cooled Brazil nut pieces and remove them with a fork and place them on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Allow them to set before storing them in an air tight container. I keep these in the wine chiller.
chocolate coated nuts and apriocots
chocolate coated nuts 3

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Raspberry and white chocolate swiss roll

raspberry and white chocolate swiss roll1

While I was at spin class last week, the instructor played this song that is not on the usual playlist – “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. It finally dawned on me that September is here.

I love September because it is my birthday month and also the birthday month of my dad, my mother-in-law, my cousins, and my close friends. Yes, I happen to know a lot of Virgos (and they are pretty perfect people in my books).

With all the birthdays in line, I have been baking a lot of chocolate cakes because it seems that Virgos are also chocolate lovers. The biggest one being my dad.

After the intense chocolate bout, all I want is something more delicate in flavour.  As I always have a special soft spot for swiss rolls, I decided to make one with raspberry and white chocolate (yes I know it is still chocolate, yet not quite at the same time).

While a raspberry and chantilly cream swiss roll would have been nice enough, I couldn’t shake off the idea of a white chocolate cream paired with fresh raspberries. I couldn’t be more glad that the idea stuck.

Because I felt like I struck gold with this particular swiss roll.  The result was definitely a whole level up from a more traditional raspberry and chantilly cream roll.

It looks and taste like a dream.  I wish I could explain that better but I don’t think I can without you having tried a slice of this.

You can have a large slice of it with a cup of tea and not feel that it is overly rich, overly indulgent or overly sweet. It ticks all the correct boxes of a lovely dessert in my books.

raspberry and white choc swiss roll3

***

I’ve used a souffle sponge, the same sponge that I made and wrote about in my passion fruit and blackberry swiss roll post. It works like a dream and if you have the fear of rolling up swiss rolls, you should definitely try this recipe out (see, no cracks!).

The crucial point of this recipe is in the sponge.  I can’t emphasize how important it is to use the recommended baking tray size. Not only would the baking time and temperature differ, the difference in thickness of the sponge may cause problems when you roll it up (proportions may not be correct etc.).

Apart from using the correct baking tray, make sure you bake the sponge immediately after you fold in the meringue to allow the sponge to achieve its maximum rise. Once you baked the perfect sponge, you should have no problems in rolling it up. Even if you don’t have the perfect looking roll, I can assure you that the taste would be well worth your effort.

Enjoy the rest of your September. I know I most definitely will.

At the same time, I am hoping that I can fast forward to the end of September because at that time I would not be making desserts but hopefully most definitely enjoying some lovely Parisian desserts, petit fours, and pastries..and ooh some buttery and flaky croissant. Why don’t you wake me up when September ends…

making a roux souffle swiss roll process

folding in the meringue

 

swiss roll2

Raspberry and white chocolate souffle swiss roll
Souffle swiss roll recipe adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida
Makes 1 souffle swiss roll

Ingredients:
Group A:
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Group B:
35g unsalted butter
60g plain flour, sifted twice
60g whole milk

Group C:
3 egg whites
85g caster sugar

Method:
1. Preheat oven 180 degrees celcius. Line a 11″ square cake pan (28cm x 28cm) with baking parchment. If you do not have a pan this size, use a larger tray,and place some oven safe loaf pans to block out the area you do not want to use. Use an aluminum foil to keep to the two parts separated. It is important to bake the sponge cake in the correct size pan.

2. Whisk together group A ingredients and set aside.

3. Group b ingredients: Place unsalted butter in a small saucepan and heat gently until melted. Then add sifted flour to melted butter and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir it until it is cooked through (just like a roux). It should come away from the sides of the pot and form a ‘dough’. Transfer the flour and butter mixture into a mixing bowl. Then add group A ingredients gradually, whisking to combine until you get smooth batter.

4. Next, add the milk, a little at a time, stir to incorporate.

5. Using a sieve, strain the above batter to remove any lumps, and set aside.

6. Prepare a meringue with Group C ingredients: Whisk egg whites in a grease-free bowl until soft peaks.Gradually add in the sugar and whisk at high speed until stiff peaks.

7. Add in a scoop of the meringue into the already strained batter and whisk. Then add in the remaining meringue in 2-3 additions and fold gently with a spatula until mixture is just incorporated.

8. Pour batter gently onto the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small palette knife. Bake for about 20 minutes until it springs back to touch. The top should be golden brown.

9. When the souffle sponge is out of the oven, cover the pan with cling wrap immediately. You want to cover it when it is still hot so the steam will keep the cake moist and pliable, making it easy to roll without cracking.

10. Allow the sponge to cool down entirely before assembling it.

White chocolate cream
Enough to fill one souffle swiss roll

Ingredients:
80g white chocolate, chopped (I use Callebaut 28% white chocolate)
160ml whipping cream, whipped
1/2 vanilla bean, beans scrapped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
1.Stir white chocolate over the top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. In a separate bowl, place cream in a grease-free bowl. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into cream. Add in vanilla extract. Whisk at high speed until firm peaks are form.
3. Whisk in about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the melted white chocolate (making sure chocolate is cool or it will melt the cream). Then fold in the cream gently in two additions. Use immediately or cling wrap it and chill it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble:

Slightly less than half of a punnet of fresh raspberries

1. Turn out the cooled sponge onto a new piece of baking parchment. Trim the sides with a small serrated knife to neaten it.

2. Spread the white chocolate cream onto the sponge as evenly as you can using a palette knife, leaving a margin along all four sides.

3. Slice the raspberries into halves but keep a few of them whole to decorate.

4. Sprinkle the halved raspberries all over the sponge. Gently roll up the sponge starting from the end nearest to you. You should try to roll it quite tightly to get a nice swirl when you cut it. Chill the swiss rolls slightly before you trim off the two ends to achieve a neat finish. Decorate it with piped white chocolate cream and whole raspberries.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

raspberry and white chocolate swiss roll

swiss roll rolling up

raspberry and white choc swiss roll 4

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Pantry staples: Caramelised onion jam

onion jam homemade

I don’t know about you but I love having a pantry of staples so that on lazy days when I don’t feel like cooking, I would pick out these “ready-made” items and literally throw together a meal in minutes.

There are countless ways of eating it. I love it on my cheeseboard, next to my bleu d’Auvergne cheese. I like adding it in my  grilled cheddar sandwich or in a burger right on top of the patty.

They make an incredible addition to my rice pilaf (which I cook far too often and I’m always looking for new ingredients to throw in it).  Occasionally, I love adding some caramelised onions to my salads together with some roasted butternut pumpkin and crumbled feta.

onion jam and goats cheese crostini

 

 

My favourite way of eating the caramelised onion jam is with some feta or goat’s cheese on top of a toasted baguette slice. It works well as a quick appetiser to put together or as a quick lunch.

DSC_5375

I will share with you a few of my favourite pantry staples over the next few posts. Perhaps it will give you some inspiration for  your kitchen.

What is your favourite way of eating caramelised onions? Do share!

 

Homemade caramelised onion jam
Makes 1 jar (approximately 350g)

Ingredients:
1-2 tbsp olive oil
6 medium red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 glass of red wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:
1. Add oil to a frying pan and when the pan is hot enough, add in the chopped garlic and saute them. Add in the sliced onions and salt and sweat them at medium heat.
2. Turn the heat to low and allow the onions to slowly caramelize its own sugar, giving the onions a stir occasionally. The onions should be soft, brown, and almost sticky. This takes about 30 minutes.
3. Turn up the heat and add in the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and red wine for a few minutes until the onion mixture is bubbling furiously. This is to cook the red wine away.
4. Turn the heat back down and continue to cook the onions until they are sticky, glazed and the juice is thick and syrupy. Should take about 10-15 minutes more.
5. Allow the onions to cool slightly before filling a sterilized jam jar and sealing it tight. Keeps in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks.

 

cooking onions 1

cooking onions

Onion jam crostini

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Vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting

vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate frosting

 

Christmas arrived early this year along with these cupcakes.

Don’t you think they look festive with its contrasting soft cream and ruby red colour?

Its flavour is redolent of everything that is Christmas; you can taste Christmas in a single bite. White chocolate…red currants…and cake!

I stumbled upon some fresh red currants at the supermarket and I just bought them feeling excited yet not knowing what I would do with them.

Since I always associated white chocolate with red currants, I decided to go with these cupcakes. I like the extreme tartness of red currants (yes, I have an unusually high tolerance for all things sour) but others might not think so. The sweetness of the white chocolate balance off the sourness of the red currants.

I always believe in using quality chocolate especially when you are making a simple chocolate dessert – like a chocolate cake or chocolate mousse. There is no place where bad chocolate can hide. I think this is even more so in the case of white chocolate.

I know some people would say that they don’t like white chocolate because it is too sweet. It is true even for myself; white chocolate would not be my first choice if you ask me to pick a chocolate.

Nevertheless, I find that it works beautifully in baking like in this cream cheese and mascarpone frosting or a white chocolate ganache with raspberries.

While white chocolate does not have cacao mass like milk or dark chocolate,  it is made with cocoa butter (a derivative from making cocoa powder)  which makes it extremely creamy and melt in the mouth. A good white chocolate should contain a good amount of cocoa butter without addition of other fats like palm oil. I like to use Valrhona Ivoire which contains 35% of cocoa butter.

Now for these cupcakes, I use Magnolia bakery’s vanilla cupcake recipe but adapted it slightly. I have added the scrapped seeds from half a vanilla bean for that extra bit of luscious vanilla.

Now, if are wishing and hoping for Christmas to come a tad sooner, why not make a batch of these cupcakes? You can have your little own Christmas in September…

 

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 3

 

Recipe: Vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting
Makes 12 regular cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery cupcakes

Ingredients:
110g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scrapped (optional)
118ml full cream milk
155g all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. Start by creaming the butter with a paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Add in the caster sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, as well as the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Add in the scrapped vanilla bean seeds, if using.

4. Add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. With each addition, beat at low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the batter in the bowl every once in a while to make sure that the ingredients are well-combined.

5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners filling them about 2/3 full.

6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 170 degrees celcius oven. The cupcakes should be golden brown and it should spring back to touch, or until a cake tester inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.

7. Allow the  cupcakes to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes before removing them onto a cooling rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them.

White chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting
Enough to frost 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
125g cream cheese, room temperature
50g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
90g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
40g icing/confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
65g white chocolate, chopped (I use valrhona Ivoire 35% white chocolate)

Method:
1. To make the frosting, begin by melting the white chocolate. You can do this over a bain marie (over a pot of simmering water) or in the microwave. If you are using the microwave, please be very careful. Do this  in 5-10 second intervals, stirring after every interval until it has melted. Be careful not to overheat it as it will become grainy and unusable. White chocolate burns quickly than milk or dark chocolate!

2. Beat the cream cheese with a paddle attachment until soft and creamy on medium speed. Then add in the mascarpone cheese and butter and cream till well-incoporated.

3. Add in the sifted confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and beat at low speed until combined.

4. Add in the melted white chocolate, slightly cooled and mix until well-combined.

5. Fill the frosting in a piping bag with a piping tip (I used a closed star tip and wilton 1M) to pipe my cupcakes.  Top the cupcakes with a stalk of red currants.

*Storage: Keep these cupcakes in the refrigerator once they are frosted. Bring them to room temperature before serving. They can be kept for a few days but of course, they taste the best once they are made.

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 2

vanilla cupacakes with white chocolate cream cheese and mascarpone frosting 1

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipe | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments