a leap of faith: boiling syrup for an Italian meringue

boiling syrup: a leap of fait

we’ve only just met.
And I’m interested in your hands…
Cold enough? Are they cold enough for a leap of faith?

We’re making the usual small talk:
life, work, sugar and chocolate
How long have you been studying the magic of the desserts
and
Oh yes, I have that cookbook in my kitchen, too
covered in flour, butter, eggs and soup!

At the stove now. Things getting warmer.
Temperatures rising. Clean pan. clean sugar, cold water no stirring.
bring to a boil. Quickly now!
And your hands – are they HOT or COLD?

You see, it matters, don’t you realise?
When you finally take the plunge, you WILL understand
it’s about the temperature and about the timing.
118C is the heat and 118C is the moment

Elsewhere egg whites whisking… Can you hear the mixer?

and I know that we’ve only just met.
but your hands, are they cold enough?
Are they cold enough for a leap of faith?

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everybody loves cupcakes, don’t they?

cucakes in Russia

“Everybody loves cupcakes, don’t they?”. This is the answer I usually give when asked why I was trying to make cupcakes in Russia, and this is what I was telling the group of reporters in front of me at that moment. After a few years cooking my way around the country, the question had become pretty regular.

“Let me get this straight”, one of them suggested, waving her (dessert) fork at me “you came ALL the way to Siberia just to make… cupcakes?”

(Despite the aggressive tone of her question, the look on her face was telling me “this banana cake salted caramel one IS pretty good, though”)

banana caramel cupcake

Well that wasn’t entirely true, of course, I was here to try and achieve much more than that, and cupcakes were just a part of my role as the travelling chef. At the same time, I was hoping to also tap into the cupcake craze that had been sweeping the world the past few years. It was even hitting places like Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, so why couldn’t it succeed in the largest country on the planet?

Like I said, everybody loves cupcakes. Think about it for a moment. It’s like you are able to take a whole cake, just for yourself, without the actual guilt of eating a whole cake by yourself. Some of those cupcakes can be so tiny that they you can even two or three and compare different flavours before you force yourself to stop! Continue Reading

lips as red as sun dried tomato pesto

sun dried tomato pesto

her lips were red.

I mean, full, dark red, just like that sun dried tomato pesto that we were eating. I wondered to myself if there actually WAS a lipstick colour called sun dried tomato pesto or something – that would be funny, you wouldn’t know whether to eat it or wear it!

there’s just a little bit of chilli in there, to give it a bit of heat – can you feel it – I asked her…

I like food that has flavour. This is great focaccia, by the way – soft and lots of taste

she told me. then she continued:

none of this bland stuff they keep feeding me, salads and oil, potatoes and butter, fish and cream. I mean, what is THAT all about?
I can tell you from just one taste what’s going on in this stuff you’ve made, which I’m quite happy to slather over my bread – is IS focaccia, isn’t it?
I can definitely taste pine nuts, toasted, right? There’s olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, cheese – tastes like Pecorino, am I right? Then there’s the chilli you mentioned, definitely more than a little bit, but just the right amount. And you haven’t used completely dried tomatoes, have you, seems to me to be those soft, fluffy “sun-blushed’ ones

This girl was good. Oh yeah, she was very good! How could she have known all that? I mean, OK, it wasn’t an exclusive recipe, pretty straightforward in a way. I made it regularly enough – throw everything in one of those hand blender attachments, whizz it for a minute or two, season to taste and it’s done. But I’d been making it for a long while and almost felt like it was mine, the taste, the texture, the colour. I could make it with my eyes closed. So how had SHE known what I was doing? continue reading to find out how she knew the recipe

that thing you do: a quick breakfast at home

berry tartelette - how do you do that
How do you do that? she asked, that funny look on her face.

Do what?

“That! That thing. you’ve done it again. creating something from nothing, making stuff like this…”

What are you talking about?

“I’ve just been to that fridge, couldn’t have been more than ten minutes ago – it was almost empty”

Well, there were a couple of things in there, you know. I thought we’d grab a quick breakfast at home before heading out.

“I know, but I don’t remember seeing all THIS stuff!”

You’ve just got to look for it and see what you can create. You see, I know how to look for it and make something that should work well together.

(She seemed suitably impressed, or at least my explanation convinced her I didn’t have a secret second fridge hidden away in the back)

I continued, feeling invincible now, i mean – everyone’s got these almond tart shells around – they’ll keep for days – hmmm, they are so good. And I just covered them with a little

white chocolate, you know, that one you nibble all the time when you’re reading?
(Without sharing, I wanted to add). and this is what to do next

can you spare some of that smoked salmon sandwich?

salmon cream cheese sandwich
This was going to be MY smoked salmon sandwich, and no one else’s. He did look hungry when he walked up to me and asked: “brother, are you gonna eat that all by yourself?” He probably hadn’t eaten for days, but he was polite enough and seemed friendly

What was I going to say? I wanted to tell him, Look, I’ve waited a few days to find some free time to grab a fresh loaf of that bread, you now, from that store across town that is so popular they always seem to run out of everything by noon and I never get a chance to get there till later. a little bit on the expensive side for that neighbourhood, but worth the long walk and the waiting in line. You know the one I’m talking about, right?

and then I’ve found a tub of that really god creamy cream cheese, I’ve had it in the fridge at work waiting for a chance to open it up and use it exactly on a sandwich like this one – with the smoked salmon and lemon-orange zest, bit of thyme to help it along the way. Continue Reading

baking is friendship

melting point

 

Baking is friendship…

The set up: how do you solve that question? Transporting FIVE THOUSAND glasses or plastic cups around the city, abroad, or to the planet Mars, each month without damaging the precious contents inside?

Precious contents, you ask? Well, the usual: fresh egg yolks, a little sugar, butter, fresh cream and milk, a HINT of ginger the slightest TOUCH of lemon grass. Like I said, the usual, but for pastry chefs, rather precious…

So, meet our little guinea piggies: from left to right we’ll call them Paul, Alex and Maria (or even, for our Russian friends, Pasha, Sasha and Masha). Continue Reading