Sunday, 30 September 2012

Chocolate Connoisseur Class at Coco

On Friday night my mum and I became Chocolate Connoisseurs...seriously.  We were very kindly given a voucher for a tasting evening at the gorgeous Coco of Bruntsfield (but at the Broughton Street location).  

The evening was designed to demonstrate the process of making proper chocolate from the cocoa bean right through to it's finished form.  We learnt the history of the cocoa bean, the introduction of cocoa to Europe and the process of industrialisation that makes chocolate what we know it today. 

We started the evening with a warming shot of hot chocolate...the proper stuff...and then went on to sample chocolate in various forms of production.  

I am not a big chocolate lover.  After my evening at Coco I might be converted...unfortunately my conversion will come at a cost.  I can now appreciate why people love GOOD chocolate.  It is smooth, it is silky and it tastes like chocolate (not sugar).  

So good.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Brew Lab Coffee...the coffee house redux

I've been following the progress of artisan coffee enthusiasts Brew Lab on twitter for the last year or so and was temporarily miffed upon hearing that I would stuffing my face with pastries in Paris during the weekend that they opened in Edinburgh.  Two weeks later I have made my inaugural visit and can tell you the wait was well worth it.  

These guys are doing something different and different is good. 

Located on South College Street Brew Lab appears to be an instant success with the university types.  When I visited the place was buzzing with conversation, people catching up over lunch, students clicking away on laptops, and the ever present staff delivering orders to tables.  It was busy, but it felt good.  Exposed brickwork, old features (like an awesome wrought iron litter bin), reclaimed wooden furniture and a floor from an old gym exude a hip, fresh, and social atmosphere. 

I was so happy when I read that Brew Lab wasn't just going to be celebrating amazing coffee, but also the best of Edinburgh with sandwiches made with breads from Le Petit Francais, soups and salads from Union of Genius and cakes from lovecrumbs...celebrating Edinburgh's local producers.

The coffee is single origin and drinks are created through a process I can only describe as alchemy.  

I'll be back.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Edinburgh Cake Ladies...A Taste of Home

On Wednesday night Katey from Edinburgh Eats and I hosted an Edinburgh Cakes Ladies bake night at the lovely Cafe Musa on the Mound.  It was fantastic! The theme this month was A Taste of Home.  We challenged  bakers to recreate a family favourite or something that reminded them of home.  The selection was fantastic and I loved listening to the stories, memories and personalities behind the bakes.  

Apple Creams, Empire Biscuits, White Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake and Cherry Cheesecake

Top Row: Norwegian Success Cake, Date Cake, Chocolate Hazelnut Coffee Creams 
Middle Row: Pumpkin Pie, Fruit Scones, Coconut Lemon Slice
Bottom Row: Mustard and Cheese Scones, Caramel Shortbread, Peanut Krispies

And my Butter Tarts.  Most of you will know that I tried many many many butter tarts when I was visiting my folks this summer, so there wasn't really anything else that screamed "home" to me.  I used a recipe from the Great Canadian Basics Cookbook (well worn, well splattered, well loved), and I just love them.  

Monday, 24 September 2012

Mini Madeleines...inspired by Paris

One of my must visit shops in Paris is the fabulous E.Dehillerin.  This cook shop is a mecca for professional chefs and home cooks alike. I've been daydreaming about my visit for ages...constructing my list of NEEDS and my list of WANTS.  The lists weren't long, and for the most part they were realistic. I was looking for all sorts of things...financiers tins, mini madeleine tins, brioche moulds, tart rings (sans bottom)...and a copper milk pan.  

I had to choose.  It was tough. 

Yesterday I put one of my new purchases to the test and made what seemed like a billion mini madeleines.  I used my basic recipe and added lemon zest, poppy seeds and a lemon glaze.  

I wish the madeleines had browned a bit more...but in time the tin will season and my madeleines will be lovely and golden.  Bite sized madeleines make me happy.  

Saturday, 22 September 2012

L'As du Fallafel, Paris...falafel at its best

L'As du Fallafel is widely recognised as one of the (if not THE) most popular Falafel joints in Paris.  Mum and I first survived the crowds lining the streets of the Marais on a Sunday to feast on a gigantic  pita stuffed with falafel and toppings ages ago...and have agreed that a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without hungrily devouring a L'As du Fallafel falafel.  

This is not the place you want to go to if you are impatient.  Located on the Rue de Rosiers, the cue outside the take-out window is often long and although the service is very quick it can be difficult for even the most seasoned cuer to stand patiently while watching falafel after falafel walk by.  There is a reasonably large seating area inside the restaurant where, for a couple extra euros, you can sit, relax, soak in the atmos and devour you falafel slightly more daintily.  

The falafel gods must have been smiling down on us when we trekked over to the Marais last Sunday.  The sun was shining and there were very few people out and about (yet). We visited a few must stop shops (Marriage Freres for tea) and the slightly hidden Musee Congnacq-Jay before wandering along the Rue de Rosiers.  

We arrived at around 12:30 and although we weren't starving we agreed that it was almost time to eat and that we should take advantage of the uncharacteristically short cue.  A millisecond after that decision was made mum turned to me and said...or we could sit inside.  I didn't have to think about it.  

Any internet search for Paris Falafel will return reviews and posts about L'As du Fallafel.  They will tell you all about the falafel and the toppings and the other items on the menu.  They will tell you that for 5 euros your falafel will be filling enough to get you thorough your afternoon walking around Paris.  

What I'll tell you is that it is worth the extra couple of euros to sit inside.  There aren't many places to perch outside to eat your falafel (if you can hold off long enough to walk 5 mins there is a sweet little square off the Rue de la Verrerie between the Rue Moussy and Rue de Vieille du Temple) and finding a public toilette in Paris is like Russian Roulette.  Sitting inside means resting your feet for 30 mins, not spilling your falafel on your clothes or on the street, and you can make a quick toilet break (if only to wash your hands of the tahini sauce).  

Oh, and why do I love this falafel? comes topped with huge chunks of grilled aubergine.  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Colorova Patisserie...hip pastries in Paris

I took a little jaunt over to Paris for a long weekend break this past weekend.  4 whole days of wandering the streets and stuffing my face with any pastries I could get my hot little hands on (these hands are made for eating...not making...pastry).  I was in heaven.  Armed with Amy Thomas's "Paris my Sweet" and recommendations from David Lebovitz's blog I couldn't go wrong.  Our days were planned around breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks to maximise the patisserie stops, I gorged myself on croissants, macarons and madeleines.  I devoured a perfectly formed Paris Brest.  I ohhed and ahhed my way around the 1st-11th arrondissements.  

My favourite stop was recommended by the lovely Rachel Khoo of Little Paris Kitchen fame, Colorova Patisserie a stone throws away from Au Bon Marche Department Store.  

We arrived around 2:30 looking forward to sitting down to a tart and a cup of tea.  The place was pretty full but the staff kindly sat us at a table for 4 (there were only 2 of us).  It was comfy and in full view of one of the two pastry counters! 

Everything was very clean, very stylised and very hip... three green SMEG.  Although it was the middle of the afternoon there was still a great variety of pastries to choose from, even though we seemed to be the only party only ordering sweets, and a large selection of Lov Teas to choose from (Scandinavian inspired Organic teas...very clean and very fresh).  

Most of our fellow diners seemed to be finishing lunch and from what I spied the savoury dishes looked perfectly put together.  We overheard customers reserving tables for Sunday brunch only to be told that the tables were fully booked.  

I had to restrain myself from devouring this small strawberry and pistachio tart (adorned with gold leaf) accompanied by a mint green tea.  The pastry was crisp and not too thick, slathered with a strawberry jam and topped with sweetened little strawberries and a flourish of pistachio cream.  

My mum chose the raspberry and mascarpone tart and a pot of Ginger and Lemon tea.  I have been assured that the pastry was equally as crisp and the filling totally exquisite.  

Colorova is a lovely patisserie and something completely different from the numerous patisseries found in more touristy areas.   If you are in Paris and thinking about checking it out, they offer pastries and cakes to carry out but I would recommend making a reservation and relaxing over tarts and tea for an hour or so.  

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Road Tripping for Cake...Afternoon Tea in the Scottish Borders

Yesterday a handful of the Edinburgh Cake Ladies took to the road in search of cake.  2 cars of giddy ladies headed south into the Scottish Borders to Cammerlaws Farm where we were warmly welcomed by fellow cake lady Pam and her mum, Anne.  

photo courtesy of Alison
Pam and Anne have been thinking about opening up their farm house for Afternoon Tea and decided to road test it on some Cake Ladies...make sense.  

We were welcomed with a glass of prosecco and nibbles in the sitting room where we gabbed away until it was time for the main event.  In the dining room we were met with the most glorious site...cake stands piled high with dainty tea time treats PLUS 3 whole cakes on the side board! 

A selection of savouries including ham, cheese and celery, and cucumber sandwiches along with a cute little croissant filled with ham and camembert.  The scones were perfect, and the raspberry jam (award winning) and clotted cream were plentiful (very important).  I am ashamed to say I couldn't finish all my sweets, but the choux buns (filled with honeycomb cream), the shortbread and brownies were delicious, and I have it on good authority (David ate the leftovers I brought home) the meringues and rocky road were perfect.  

Before we tucked into the 3 large cakes on the side board we had a little walk around the farm (mainly to oooh and ahhhh over the newly born calves) to take in the countryside and make a bit of room for those cakes.  A Victoria Sponge, Maple and Pecan Tart and a lovely Clementine Cake were waiting for us when we returned from our walk.  More tea, more chat and more perfect. 

The day ran so smoothly you would have thought that Pam and Anne had been hosting tea parties on a regular basis.  Afternoon Tea at Cammerlaws Farm gets two sticky thumbs-up from me.  

For more information check out the Cammerlaws Farm Facebook page.  

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sweet Honey Buns...using New Zealand Manuka Honey

I was really happy to be asked to try some of the New Zealand Honey Co.'s new Manuka Honey Range.  Firstly, because I'm always happy to try new things and secondly, because my meagre grocery budget can't really stretch to much more than the basics or value range honey.

The lovely people at New Zealand Honey Co. sent me 2 jars of their new flavoured Manuka Honey Range.  Their arrival co-incided perfectly with my in-laws' recent visit...posh honey with their breakfasts! It was like I planned it. We all eagerly devoured the ginger flavoured honey smeared on thick slices of toast and drizzled over oatmeal or thick greek yoghurt with fruit. It was perfectly sweet with actual bits of ginger sprinkled though out.

While they were tucking into the jar of ginger honey I sneaked the second jar...lemon...into the cupboard reserving it for something special.

I've been thinking about this special bake for a while.  In reality it isn't that special at all...but it involves an enriched dough and a honey you make up your mind.  

If you've been reading for a while you will know that I love yeasted bakes...buns buns and more buns! I can't really get enough of them.  Recently I have been obsessed with cardamom and everything Scandi but since my visit to Canada I've been dreaming of honey buns.  

In my mind honey buns are just enriched dough flavoured with honey and brushed with a sweet glaze.  Plain and simple.  I used a recipe from Pastry Affair to get the quantity of ingredients right, but then adapted the recipe to suit my normal method of making an enriched dough (plus I use easy blend yeast which really makes life so much simpler).  

These buns are great. They are soft and sweet and oh so moorish slathered with unsalted butter.  They are delicious on the day they are baked and also freeze well (defrost over night under a cake dome or upturned bowl).  The lemon flavour was not as strong as I would have liked it to be but I'm sure that is a result of being in a baked good.  The honey on its own straight from the jar is perfectly lemony.  

I like these Manuka Honeys from the New Zealand Honey Co.  They are creamy and smooth and the added flavours compliment the sweet honey well.  I would love to say that I'll never buy budget brand again, but based on the speed we devoured the jar of ginger honey I don't think I could afford to keep us in Manuka Honey in my weekly shop.  I would, however, recommend it as a great breakfast treat for visiting guests, family and in-laws.  

New Zealand Co.'s new Manuka "Plus" Range is available in UK Morrisons stores at a RRP of £9.99