A tea party

Can you believe there's only 1 day left until Christmas? In this fast-paced world, time seems to only accelerate with each passing year! But for me, being back in Jakarta after a brief stint in Auckland and Sydney, I am relieved to finally be able to empty my suitcase and relax with the family.

Recently, I received a large folder of pictures in my inbox of my high tea fundraiser in Auckland taken by power couple Clint and Jo Chang. To give you international folks a snapshot of the lovely event, a blog post was no doubt in order. So let's look through the pictures and recount a beautiful summer afternoon of tea and cakes in Auckland's Grey Lynn.

Out of a desire to share the delicious foods I have been posting on this blog with readers and friends who have shown great support for my sweet endeavors, a tea party seemed like a fun way to share the love. The profits of the event has gone towards the production and pressing of my band Teacups' final record, as because of me being away in Paris this past year, we were unable to perform any gigs and therefore have no money. With the help of the ever resourceful Sarah Firmston from Bread and Butter Letter, we were able to attain a few sponsorships which helped the event to take shape and materialize. 



It sure is good to be back in the southern hemisphere; about to have me a summer Christmas like I'm used to. To me, December means lazy days at the beach, long lunches with friends and super cold bottles of summer cider. 

Some friends and I enjoying lunch at The Oyster Inn in Waiheke Island.

To mark the start of the summer season, a friend had asked me to create a simple raspberry tart to be featured on the Glassons blog. I wanted the tart to be fresh, simple and feature the freshness of this season's latest harvest. 

After coming across reasonably priced punnets of plump red raspberries, I decided to have a little play with Pierre Hermé's classic flavor combination, the Ispahan. It must have been a moment of divine inspiration when Monsieur Hermé had the idea to combine lychee, rose and raspberries together. The trio of aromas just blends and blooms together so nicely on the palate, you should really give him a well deserved pat on the back next time you see him.


La Mûre Noire

On my way home from the gym, I walk past a really great fruit shop which always has amazing local and fresh produce on display. Sometimes I like to pick up a "barquette" of blackberries or some mandarins to nibble on as I walk home for my post-gym hunger pangs and for a little antioxidant and vitamin fix. As I approached my apartment one night, I had the idea to combine the two fruits into a delicious dessert. So I got out a pen and paper and went on to design a cake which I think will be worth sweating on the treadmill for. 

La Mûre Noire

I hid a tab of dark chocolate and orange cremeux inside a tart blackberry mousse, and covered the cake with blackberry 'ganache'. I also had the idea of using chocolate covered cereal balls (Crispearls) to recreate the drupelets of the blackberry before I placed the cake on a disc of sablé breton with candied orange peel. The cake is then garnished with a fresh blackberry round up the look. 

I am pretty proud of this latest cake, even though it would mean I might need an extra long session at the gym tomorrow!


My Lavender Opéra

I can't believe it's November already! It's less than two months till Christmas and two weeks until I pack up and leave this beautiful city of love. I have about 30kg of cookbooks that I have accumulated this past year that I am currently a little stressed about shipping.. I know I have been imprudent about my book hoarding but I really couldn't help myself! The latest addition to my collection is the "La pâtisserie des rêves" cookbook by "Philippe Conticini". I've always loved the Japan-influenced design of the pastries from La Pâtisserie des Rêves (translation: "The pastry shop of dreams"! Cute right?) for their subtle whimsicality.

I've had several friends ask me about the steps I take to design and create my own cakes. I think it is really important to read as many books/magazines as you can! You could even start a Pinterest account and pin everything that catches your eye. I think once you've decided your aesthetic and figured out what it is about a particular thing that you like, it is really easy to start to create your own products. 

For this latest cake, I've decided to approach one of the French patisserie staples; the "Opera" and give it my own twist. The classic gateau Opera was invented by Maison Dalloyau 1955. It is composed of 3 layers of joconde biscuit which are imbibed with coffee syrup, 2 layers of coffee buttercream and a layer of dark chocolate ganache. I think this cake is perfect, simple and super delicious. You would find this cake in any pastry shop around the world. To be honest, I wouldn't change a thing. But for me, the concept of a "Lavender Opera" became too hard to ignore.

Opéra - Création Dalloyau 1955

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you would know that I am rather fascinated by floral flavors. I think a subtle floral element can really pique the eater's curiosity and has the potential to turn the act of eating into an experience. So for the past few weeks, I've been trying to think up ways to work lavender into a cake. Lavender has a strong aroma that can easily overpower any other flavors that it is paired with. However, I then had the idea of using earl grey tea to balance it out. In my mind the fragrant bergamot will hold its own against the lavender while also providing a nice foundation of which the lavender can really shine. 

So here is my floral interpretation of the French classic:

For my cake, I used 2 layers of joconde biscuit which I imbibed with earl grey syrup, a layer of chocolate financier, 2 layers of earl grey mascarpone cream and a gorgeous layer of lavender infused ganache. I gave the cake a light spraying of cocoa butter, a sprinkling of dried flowers and candied violets to finish. I gotta say, I'm pretty proud of this one :)

Are you feeling a little skeptical about lavender in a cake? Why don't you try the recipe and see if you like it? I sure did!


The cherry on top

Ok, I know it's not exactly cherry season right now.. But I came across some really amazing cherry cake moulds. I knew I had to get them right away and recreate the cutest cake ever.

So dear friends and readers, I present to you my interpretation of Josep Maria Rodriguez Guerola's "La Cirera"which I read about on So Good Magazine,

The Cherry and Lime Cake

I used frozen sour cherries (griottes) for this recipe because not only they are cheaper, they taste just as good and they come already pitted! I made a lime cream and berry compote insert to place inside the cherry mousse, and placed the fruit shaped cake atop a platform of chocolate financier and berry/white chocolate crumble. The cake is finished by a good spraying of red cocoa butter, a chocolate stem and a touch of gold leaf for good measure. 

The lime, cherry and chocolate combination is nothing short of a triumph for the taste buds! This cake has a lot of components and takes a bit of time to complete, but the end result will no doubt impress and surprise the any dessert lover. 

If you have a free weekend and would like a dessert project that would put your baking skills to the test, then feel free to read on, my ambitious friends..


Rosewater and sour cherry cheesecake

I don't know why I've never made cheesecakes before. I'm sure you'll agree that the combination of tangy cream cheese, sour fruits and a rich biscuit base create nothing less than a symphony in the mouth. On my recent trip back to Auckland, I was pleasantly surprised by the new bakeries and cafes that have popped up around town. One that I have been raving about to everyone I've met ever since is "Little Bird Organics" on New North Road. They like to call themselves an "unbakery" because not only is everything in the cafe organic, it is also completely raw! I have to be honest, at the beginning, I was a little cynical. Just how can you have a raw bakery? Even the concept is oxymoronic! So of course I made the trip out to Kingsland to taste test their creations and feed my curiosity. I purchased some delicious coconut macaroons, some organic white tea and a raspberry mini cheesecake. The mini cake was the triumph of the day as it reminded me of how simple and delicious cheesecakes can be. The experience has been playing so much in my mind ever since, that I knew I had to try to make my own when I got back to Paris. 

I then remembered that Natalie Smith had asked me to base a cake on another object after I had done the "candle cake" for Curio Noir for the Simon James Design blog. My muse this time is the bow ring by London-based fine jewelry designer Jessica McCormack. I tried to think about the kind of flavors that can be associated with diamond rings, and couldn't really come up with anything that wasn't so farfetched. So I did a little research and found out that these bow rings were inspired by the 1983 collection by French fashion house YSL. 

The dresses featured huge pink bows which combined playful femininity and classic symbolism. So from this, a flavor profile slowly started to come together.

I knew I wanted to use rosewater to symbolize the classic and romantic nuances of the ring's design. I paired it with a compote of French sour cherries "Griottines" - a very traditional french ingredient, which will emphasize the origins of the ring's muse YSL. For the base, I used girly pink ladyfinger biscuits from "Massion Fossier" called "Biscuits Roses de Reims" which I ground up into a fine powder. I moulded the whole thing in an adorable bow-shaped PVC cake mould. For the decoration, I went with a simple rose petal and a sugar diamond to give it a bit of regal quality. 

Mini cheesecakes and mini "Biscuits Roses de Reims"

I think this cake would be perfect served in a wedding banquet, especially if the bride herself was wearing the ring that the cake is based on. Don't you think it'd be a great idea for the guests to be able to experience the piece of jewelry that holds a special significance to the happy couple? I think I may be onto something here.

So here's the recipe. You can use any cake moulds for this cheesecake. This recipe will make 6 mini cakes or a 6 or 7 inch round cake.


Autumn fruit tarts

It's hard to believe autumn has fallen upon us yet again (pun intended - sorry). The changing of seasons is always very exciting for me, as fresh produce I've missed start to appear again in the marketplaces. Right now, the stores are abundant with fall favourites such as plums, figs and passionfruit that  I am just filled with ideas for autumnal desserts!

This morning's market haul includes fresh plums, figs and amazing red "William" pears - all fresh, local and cheap as chips!

I knew straight away that I wanted to make these fruits into tarts because I wanted to display and preserve their beautiful natural colours. So here are what I've managed to bake up this fine Sunday afternoon:

Fresh fig tart with spiced pear 

Red plum tart with hazelnut frangipane

These tarts are super delicious and easy to make! The tartness of the fruits (pun again?! I am on fire!) are balanced well by the fragrant and rich hazelnut frangipane, whilst the crunchiness from the tart base and roasted nuts makes for no lack of textural contrast. I absolutely adore figs - they have a unique flavour and photograph so beautifully. It really is a shame they are not available in New Zealand! 

So without further ado, it's recipe time!


French market at my house

I am currently writing this post on the plane back to Paris after spending three glorious weeks in my hometown Auckland...

The view from my kitchen..

Martin iPhoning

It's been wonderful catching up with all the friends I've missed dearly, all brimming with curious and probing questions on the year I've been away. I've also had the pleasure of meeting many new people through my blog, of whom are all very humble and talented on their own rights. I am also very grateful to have had the opportunity to be featured on the media on my few weeks back at home!

Natalie Smith of "Eat Here Now" and "Magic Surrounds" fame, very kindly wrote an article about this blog and my everyday life in Paris for the September issue of New Zealand food magazine "Taste". And I am also very excited about the new hits my blog have been getting from its feature on Metro magazine's blog "Metro Eats" written by my dear friend Jeremy Olds. Jeremy wrote about the happenings of the weekend's past where I had hosted a French-market breakfast for a few close friends in my humble abode.


Honey, I'm home.

Kia ora! I have been livin' it up back home in Auckland for two and a half weeks. Spring has just sprung, and though weather is still pretty lousy, but I have been spoilt by the warmth of lovely old friends. Waking up to the sound of the waves and the view of the sea is something I've taken for granted before I'd left for the city life in Paris. I am so happy to be home, and for now, I don't even want to think about going back! As clichéd as it is, I have to say, there really is no place like home.

On the first weekend that I was back, one of my good friends' Hongi, was to celebrate her 22nd birthday. I thought it would be great to make her a birthday cake and a macaron tower to mark the momentous occasion. She was pretty excited when I told her of my plans, saying she had never been made a birthday cake before, let alone a macaron tower! So that night, I put on my apron and brought my long-dormant home kitchen to life once again. 

I started by making four batches of macarons for the tower. To fill the cone, I needed about 90 macarons, but I made 120 so I could choose the best 90 and have plenty left to nibble on. I had let Hongi choose the flavours, and she went with rose petal, vanilla bean, salted caramel and pistachio. I thought those were a wonderful selection of classic french flavours, and the colours would work beautifully together. 

Pink macaron shells piped and ready for the oven

Paired macaron shells ready to be filled!

Vanilla bean and white chocolate ganache

I love the black vanilla bean specks!

My favourite part...

After all the macarons were filled, I sealed them in an airtight container and left them in the fridge overnight to mature. This is an important step as the filling will soften the inner shells and fuse them together to create the lovely chewy texture we've come to love of these treats.

The next morning I started work on the birthday cake. Inspired by the "momofuku birthday cake" I decided to surprise Hongi with a funfetti cake. I couldn't wait to see her expression when she cuts into the cake and reveals the colourful surprise inside! I achieved this by stirring in sprinkles into the cake batter before baking. I frosted the cake with a not-so-sweet italian meringue buttercream which I coloured pink for extra cuteness. 

Cake sandwich!

The surprise is slowly hidden..

A simple border to perk up the cake..

A sprinkling of sprinkles on top..

And the birthday cake is done!

The cake was finished just in time for the party in Auckland city, I was a little nervous of how I would transport the monster of a cake safely 22km away by car. So I sat with it on the cake stand on my lap and made my boy Martin drive like a grandma. 

When we got to the venue, all that was left for me to do was assemble the macaron tower!

Putting on finishing touches surrounded by hungry eyes..

C'est fini!

A light circling of ribbon to discourage degustation prior to cake-cutting.


My ultimate strawberry tart

We are in the middle of a HEATWAVE! It was 37 degrees C today, and as I write this post at 11pm at night, it is still 30 degrees outside. There is no air conditioning in my apartment, and baking wasn't exactly the best way to keep the place cool. But I wasn't about to step outside and sweat under the hot sun either. So the lesser of the two evils was chosen, and I set out to make something delicious and summery to make me appreciate this weather a little more.

My sister Tania had stayed for a week on her way back to New York from Jakarta. When we were strolling on Rue de la Convention a couple of days ago, when we were pleasantly surprised by a small fruit shop that had stayed open during the French summer exodus. In the quaint and quiet shop, Tania commented on how ripe and red the strawberries looked and implored that we purchase some. So today, to be at home with a large punnet of gorgeous red strawberries on an idle afternoon, making strawberry tarts seemed to be the way to go.

However, it has to be said that working with tart dough in this kind of weather can be tricky! The high ambient temperature means that the dough can soften up and stick to the counter upon rolling. But this problem could be avoided by working very swiftly and line the tart rings as quickly as possible before the whole thing turns into a sticky mess. For my tarts, I decided to use a chocolate "pâte sablée" recipe by Pierre Herme for the tart shells. They were filled with delicious pistachio cream and jellied strawberry puree before topping them off with fresh strawberries. There is a little surprise in the center as well.. You'll see what I mean soon!