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!


Chocolate, Chai, Caramel

Bonjour mes amis! All everyone seems to talk about right now is vacation. And all these talk of vacation is making me look forward to my imminent trip back to Auckland even more! I will be there for a couple of weeks before commencing my internship at a hotel in Champs Elysees in late September. It has been a little more than a year since I've left, and I cannot begin to list all the things I've missed about NZ. The flights will be about 26 hours each way - which I am not too happy about. But the thought of seeing all my friends, going to gigs and eating all the delicious foods I've missed will definitely get me through them no problem.

Two of the faces I simply cannot wait to see again are those of Rosie and Sarah from The Bread and Butter Letter. They have been very supportive with my baking even since the Teacups' Cake Stall days, that when I needed inspiration for my next cake they were an easy email away. To my delight, they proposed a pair of their new super-cute geometric earrings for me to muse upon. Though their triangle-shaped earrings gave me an indication of what form the cakes are going to take, I had no idea what kind of flavors they could possibly have. So I decided to play a little game:

Triangles have three sides, so I will choose three flavors. To narrow it down even more, I chose elements that begin with the third letter of the alphabet: "C". So dear friends, behold the Chocolate, Chai and Caramel cake!

My White Chocolate, Chai Tea and Caramel Pyramid Cake

A pair of cakes to go with the earrings

Yes, that is a gooey caramel center

With this cake I really wanted to experiment more with white chocolate. It was a huge learning experience trying to get the tempered triangle pieces to stick together neatly. A really fun part was when I got to spray cocoa butter at my chocolate pyramids with my newly-acquired paint sprayer for a velvet effect. 
I think the end result looks pretty neat.

Here's the recipe if you're curious..


A floral wedding dessert

Hello valued readers! It is August and officially vacation season in France. Many of my favourite boulangeries and patisseries are shut down for the summer. Therefore, if there's ever a time to be self-sufficient sweets-wise, it is now! 

Before I came to Paris to study cuisine and patisserie, I was a music student in Auckland majoring in Jazz. What I loved most about composing and soloing, is the freedom and virtually limitless possibilities that it afforded me. However, though complete creative free-range is all good and well, it can make it more difficult to focus your ideas. Therefore, I would often look to specific scenes/objects/emotions and other genres of music for inspiration. 

In creating and designing my own cakes, I feel as though the same process could be employed. After favorable results and feedback from last week's lipstick-inspired cake, I decided to ask one of my favourite bloggers Natalie Smith who blogs for the Simon James Concept Store, to suggest an object from which I could base my next pastry. I was a little nervous to be honest, but I knew that opening this up to suggestion would force me to think outside of the box.

Before long, my next delicious mission was set for me:
"A dessert with a wedding focus and inspired by one of the Curio Noir candles."

So I jumped online to the Simon James Concept Store and scoped out their Curio Noir candles. I was quickly drawn to the Curio Glass Vetyver - which has notes of orange flower and jasmine along with vetyver and cypress. The choice was easy as I am absolutely obsessed with floral flavours. I would sooner leave Pierre Hermé with a box full of rose and jasmine macarons than anything else! 

And this is what I came up with!

Orange Flower and Jasmine Cake

I incorporated orange flower water lightly into the chiboust cream which has a meringue-like melt-in-your-mouth quality. I chose to make a rich "crème brulée" by infusing jasmine tea into the cream. The two main components are separated by the subtle nuances of the caramelized pear center. The cake is enrobed by an apricot and vanilla glaze which is totally OUT OF THIS WORLD GOOD. It was probably my weekend's proudest moment to have adapted this Adriano Zumbo glaze recipe. 

The cube is placed on a square of almond and cinnamon streusel for crumbliness and textural contrast. I topped the cake with a caramel-dipped hazelnut. The reason being because to me, not only does it resemble a burning flame of a candle, it also brings the "glass" element into the dessert. The cake is finished with rose petals for a romantic wedding feel. I am very happy overall with this cake - which I find to be the most flavorfully successful dessert I have created to date :)

I am glad to be able to share the recipe for this heavenly dessert with you!