Tag Archives: christmas

What are you looking forward to in 2015?!

I tend to be pretty sceptical about New Year “good” resolutions, you know, stuff that we say we do, and know we won’t. And hell, there’s enough of the “annual objectives” that Boss will announce at the morning meeting on the 5th…this blog is about the good stuff, so here are the top #5 things I’m looking forward to in 2015: namely travels, sporty challenges, baking and knitting home time, soaking up London’s cultural scene and last but not least, making time to attend dear one’s life events, weddings, births, birthdays and anniversaries…

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

1. Discovering two new countries per year (at least) is my aim…2014 most notable ones were an amazing wedding in Tokyo, Japan and an inspiring trip to Myanmar. 2015 will start with a romantic wedding in Guatemala…and let’s see where the wind takes us next but it could be a pretty frosted trip (hint!)…

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Note to self: best photo apps discovered this year were Pro HDR to replicate long exposure shot with a phone camera, and Hyperlapse, the fun, fast forward, lapse-like video app. 

2. Carry on running Europe…2014 was an honest running year, with a very scenic Venice marathon. My heart is more or less set on Vienna for 2015, and I’m hoping for (well errrr soon starting training for) a better time, maybe even a PB!

Note to self: remember to sign up for The Marathon du Medoc in February…looks like so much fun

3. Enjoying London. It’s all well to travel and be out and about all the time, but I feel like I should be spending more time at home. And hell there’s so much going on!!

BB Bakery RouteMap

In 2014 I became a proud V&A member and an Art Fund member so I have quite a few cultural items on the agenda, in particular but not only:

– Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at the Royal Academy of Arts (Jan 15)

Alexander Mc Queen: Savage beauty at the V&A (March 15) – Ok I almost got my V&A membership for this one. I’m not going to hide it, I’m excited. Plus is coincides with the London Fashion weekend

Inventing impressionism at the National Gallery (May 15)

Audrey Hepburn: portrait of an icon at the National Portrait Gallery

The world goes pop at the Tate Modern (Sept 15). They had a pop culture oriented one last year at the Barbican last year, but this looks interesting too

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts (Sept 15)

Note to self: beloved 40 winks people are organising talks in 2015 – must absolutely go

3. I was reading this article the other day, about how easy to embed a little fitness in your everyday life; while for someone who’s already quite fit, the marginal cost of getting fitter gets higher and higher.

Fair point, but I disagree with the way thtey go about it: there should be no need for boot camps and other weight loss gimmicks. It’s being active and having fun that really matters for me.

So for 2015, more activities, but above all more fun please!! A few months ago we started practising acro-rock and roll with Steve and it’s the best use of my Monday night – ever. It’s tough but real fun, cardio, fitness, couple bonding (and some awkwardness) it’s all there.

Note to self: try and go to Pole Dancing more regularly

4. Enjoy home, time together, friends, laughs with loved one. My gran taught me how to knit this Christmas and I can totally see this becoming my winter-warmer (keeps your knees toasty)

Note to self: travel like a Wooly Gangsta

knitting for christmas....

So I wish for 2015 to bring its lot of friendly dinners, weekends with my family and lovely time. In that respect, Christmas was the best reset break to start to 2015 on the right note!! Plus, on the planner we have 6 weddings to attend to in 4 different countries, a couple of big birthday parties, of which, my gran’s 90’s, and a big gathering 10yr anniversary, it’s going to be big (!!) ….

Note to self: hire dresses, since Christiana posted this review, it got me intrigued

Bring it on 2015, I’m ready!!

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[Travelling in my kitchen] to…Alsatian Christmas markets, lots of mulled wine and a “pain d’épices” recipe

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We came back from Myanmar 2 weeks ago and stepping into a full blow Christmassy London right back from the beach slightly startled me! It’s only this weekend when we travelled to Alsace, the French border region with Germany, that the true Christmas spirit hit us. I came back home with lots of baking ideas, and in particular I was keen to improve my “pain d’épice” recipe. (scroll down for the ultimate recipe)

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The Riquewihr Christmas market, kids (and adults’) paradise!

Alsace is a culturaly quite peculiar French region. First, it benefits from a central European position and Strasbourg, its capital, currently host the European parliament. But also because during centuries of history, Alsace has bounced back between several national allegiances; most recently in the 20th century, Alsace moved from French to German and back again a couple of times between the 3 main pan European wars. As a result maybe, the local culture is very strong, with French, German, Austrian, Swiss influences (but not only), that can be witnessed today in the architecture, literature, and the cuisine of course!

The Christmas markets (“Christkindelsmärik”) are traditional in the region and if big cities like Strasbourg offer large markets, we were expertly guided toward smaller but super cute villages. In particular, village of Riquewihr, nested in the vineyards, hosts a seasonal market where we sampled (very) large quantities of regional food in random order until we could not walk anymore. Ohhh you need to try some choucroute! oh and my dear you can’t leave without trying this kouglof, surely.. how about that Munster super smelly cheese? a piece of Flàmmeküeche maybe? oh and the smell of roasted chesnuts

The “pain d’épice” is a cake that was introduced in Eastern France in 1596 according to the legend but I personally doubt that spices like cinnamon, ginger or vanilla could have been available at that time so I guess it was more like a strongly honey flavoured cake.

Last year I used Anne-Sophie’s recipe from her amazing Fashion Cooking blog, which was really good. But with all that extensive tasting this weekend, and talking to local producers, I wanted to step up the game, revisit my proportions, add candied orange peel and maybe ginger too.

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Hot mulled wine with Mirabelle liquor…mmm and I didn’t feel cold anymore!!
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The little village of Riquewihr, nested in the vineyards (notoriously producing top quality Riesling wine), features a truly beautiful market with lots of regional products

One obvious but important note is that up to 40% of the pain d’épice is made of honey, depending on the baker and the recipe. The quality of the input is crucial as it’s what gives most of the taste. So off I was to A.Gold, my favourite honey provider in London. Especially because those guys sell the postcode urban honey which is not only delicious but also helps our city’s green life. One day I’ll have my own hive I promise, but this will be for another post 😉

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* Ingredients:

The base of any of those cakes should be made of flour (about 40-45%), a mix of honey and sugar (same, 40-45%) and the rest made of the “liquids” (milk or water and eggs). Butter is optional but adds softness. And then the complements, nuts, candied oranges, spices etc.

– 175gr honey (choose one with a strong taste you like)
– 250gr flour: mixed 50/50 white flour and wholemeal or rye
– 25gr full fat milk
– 2 eggs
– 50gr butter
– 75gr brown sugar
– 10gr baker’s yeast + 1 ts baking powder
– spices: 2 ts of cinnamon, 1 star anise, 1 ts ginger, a few cloves, cardamom, grated nutmeg, a vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)
– a grated orange peel
– 75gr candied orange / lemon peels and / or candied ginger
– pearl sugar for topping

 * Instructions

Heat gently the milk, sugar, butter and spices, cast aside for a while. The longer it will infuse the stronger the spice taste will be (30min minimum recommended). Add the honey and stir on the hob at minimum heat (we’re not making caramel here!).  Take off the star anis, cloves, cardamon seeds and vanilla pod if needed. Make sure it’s not too hot and stir the yeast in.

Pre-heat the oven at 180.

In a large pot, add the flour in a little well shape and pour the liquid and start mixing in. Incorporate the dried fruits and the eggs and mix well again.

Pour in a cake tin and sprinkle with pearl sugar.  Bake for 1h at 175 degrees.

I wanted to complement my Christmas hampers so had to use individual paper cups (I recycled the individual panettone ones that I had never used). On the market a baker recommended to serve it slightly warm, with a scoop of home-made vanilla ice-cream….got us mouthwatering.

Note that for individual tins I had to reduce the cooking time to 40min.

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Next year I will try to steal my friend’s Kouglof / Gugelhupf recipe and try this little beauty at home. It’s a sort of fruity brioche baked in a hollow ceramic mould…yuummm

kaysersberg village alsace christmas market

Bake your way through the festive season

Coming from a bakers family, the only food I was truly missing in London was great bread, available daily and conveniently.
During the course of 2013, I started baking my own sourdough bread at home and I’m pretty proud of my regular no-knead loaf, super easy and hassle-free. (thanks loads to the guys from the E5 bakery for having set me up on the right direction!)

About a month ago I hosted my parents for a weekend at home and had baked Dan Lepard’s raisin and rye crown bread for breakfast; they liked it so much that mom set me on a mission to bake a good fruit loaf to toast her home made foie-gras on Christmas eve. I wanted something spicy and fruity that would keep a real sourdough bread texture and taste. Our foie gras being already layered with candied cranberry, I didn’t want to bake something overly sweet. Also, most recipes call in for the addition of nuts but mom though it would add a “crunchy” distraction and preferred a fruit-only loaf.

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After having tested a few options at home, I crossed the channel with my (4kg) Dutch oven and 2 types of sourdough starters; and off I was, in for a good backing lesson on the field. For a start, I just could NOT find the same flour as in London easily available. Bread is made of almost only flour and water, and ingredients are absolutely essential to the taste and texture. If the internet is global and gives is the impression we can follow any recipe from any and all blogs across the planet, reality sometimes makes a humble check-in. Products are not only different, but also, the water tastes different, the bacteria present in the air is different, the humidity is different, and my parents’ big countryside house is much cooler than our central London apartment, messing up all proofing times.

I ended up abandoning the idea of a rye bread for I couldn’t find the right supply on time for Christmas; and remixed several inspirations I took from my go-to baking blogs. I started with a test-run and made the raisin loaf from you can do it at home blog. Tasty enough! (under the dog’s surveillance) so I braced myself up, and started scratching my head in search for a fig adaptation.

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Ingredients:

– Starter 135gr (100% hydration)
– White flour 85% – 216gr – the white flour I found at the supermarket did not contain enough gluten so I had to increase the whole wheat % to avoid ending up with an unmanageably wet dough. Any unbleached white flour should do, ideally with as close as you can get to 12-13% proteins.
– Whole wheat flour 15% – 38gr plus dusting
– Water 67% – 171gr
– Salt – 7gr
– Cinnamon – a teaspoon
– Mixed spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg mix)
–  Chopped dried figs 33% – 85gr

Directions:

Add the lukewarm water to the starter and dilute for a few seconds
Add both flours, mix well and knead until the gluten develops. you should now be handling a relatively wet ball of dough.
Let it autolyse for 15/30min.

Add the salt + figs and spices, and again knead until the fruit is well incorporated.

Let it rest for 1/2h in a greased bowl (adapt the timing depending on your temperature)
fold gently and let proof in the banetton overnight.

In the morning, slash it the way you like and pre-heat the oven at 225C or maximum temperature. Bake it for 40 minutes in a Dutch oven, take off the lid and bake it for another 10min at 200C.

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Christmas in Normandy

Merry Christmas one and y’all! 🎅🎄

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I come from a French Normans family and this is where I traditionally spend Christmas. The whole period is a culinary feast and each family has their own tradition (or should I say obsessions?), mostly revolving around food; mine this year was a perfect fruit loaf quest that I will describe in another post.

I have been eagerly looking forward to the holiday for several weeks as usual, the bubbly Champagne, the roasted chestnuts, the smell of the decorated tree and the glitter in my grand-parents eyes. And I got just that, wonderful family-time 🌟💝

Continue reading Christmas in Normandy

Season’s greetings!!

Tonight mulled wine is spreading a spiced scent around the house, raisin bread is baking in the oven and I’m wondering what size of tree to choose… Christmas approaching, marking the end of that depressing post summer autumn season very rightly named “fall” (mostly rain fall in London actually…). It’s the search for the perfect wooly hat, the guilt-free hot chocolate with marshmallows, the ginger-man baking and the feeling of excitement….love all of that!!!

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