Saturday, 23 July 2016

Lemon Cream Tart with Berries (and a little about San Francisco!)

What is your favourite part about traveling and visiting a new city? What do you usually do first? Do you like travelling by yourself or with others? Which city is your favourite?

Because of grad school (hello, traveling for conferences) and my inability to save money paired with the desire to spend it at not-so-opportune times (hello, crazy exchange rates), I got to visit a few different cities in the last little while. Grad school conferences led me to New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong. My own wanderlust (a word I am still undecided on because I feel like it is so overused by every stationary company that loves to have it on a journal cover, etched in a matte gold colour) led me to New York twice, Seattle, San Francisco, and Paris.

I have loved every city I have visited and am terrible at picking favourites. You’re talking to the girl  who still needs a minimum of ten minutes at her favourite café to pick what she wants from a menu she knows way too well. Being decisive is a quality I really lack, some would say. It would be easier to tell you which places are on my to-visit list. I really want to go to any city where I can bury myself with copious amounts of flaky buttery biscuits, creamed corn, and fried chicken. But that city must also have really good coffee…and avocado toast because deep down, I am basic af. Do not forget that I will need to try to take a photo of my avo toast and coffee combo and hashtag it with #morningslikethese and #liveauthentic – because I got some serious priorities.

When I visit a (new) city, I usually create a simple list of the cafes and bakeries I want to visit on the trip. I also have to pack enough dresses so that everyday I wear a different dress because once again, I have priorities. But that’s about it. Oh wait, I also have to rant a little about how my cellphone service provider is overcharging me for the amount of data that will prove to be insufficient. Yup.

I visited San Francisco during the Christmas holidays last year. Even though SF was even more rainy than Vancouver (how?!) I still had a wonderful time. I met some of the coolest people (hi, Elle, Jenn, Susannah, Dafna, Michelle, and Ashley!) and had some of the most wonderful food. Some highlights for me included:

After my trip I told myself I would attempt to make the Rebel Within muffin at home (which has not happened yet) and make Tartine’s lemon tart because I have never had a lemon tart quite like it. Tartine’s lemon curd is more like a lemon cream and I am pretty sure it is what dreams are made of. Luckily, Tartine’s lemon cream recipe can be found on the internet (yay!) so it made recreating it easy peasy. This lemon cream is incredibly easy to make and after you try it, you will want to take a ladle and ladle it on to everything.  Will you judge me if I followed up that last sentence with ‘been there, done that’?

Lemon Cream Tart with Berries
Yields one 9-inch tart

Pâte Sablée
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to overmix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed (watch out for the edges of the tart pan!). Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 410F or until the crust is golden brown (approximately 15 minutes). Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. Let cool completely before filling with lemon cream.

White Chocolate Coating (Optional, but so delicious!)
3/4 cup white chocolate

Using a double boiler method or carefully with a microwave, melt half a cup of white chocolate. Using a pastry brush, brush a thin coat of white chocolate onto baked and cooled tart shell. Let chocolate cool completely before filling with lemon cream.

Tartine Lemon Cream
Recipe from Tartine Bakery
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. two large lemons)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

Create a double boiler with a  heavy-bottomed saucepan and glass bowl. Place over medium heat, and bring the water to a simmer. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

Combine lemon juice, three large eggs plus an egg yolk, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a glass bowl. Whisk until the mixture becomes very thick. Be sure to never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without whisking. We do not want sweet scrambled eggs!

After 10 - 12 minutes, remove the bowl from over the water and let cool on a wire rack for 15 - 20 minutes

Using a blender, blend a cup of unsalted butter a few cubes at a time into the lemon curd. Blend well after each addition of butter and make sure the cubes are fully incorporated before adding the next few pieces. The cream will start to turn pale yellow and have a nice creamy and viscous (I love that word!) consistency.

Once the butter has been fully incorporated, cover the surface of the lemon cream with a layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours before serving.

To assemble, transfer lemon cream into baked pie shell. Decorate with berries.

Serve chilled.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Lemon Cake with Lavender Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Usually I like to keep my blog, this little space of the internet, pretty light and whimsical. I talk about hilarious cake catastrophes and cookie meltdowns, but lately I found it hard to be really happy go lucky. Lately I have felt like all my emotions have been quite fleeting, momentary, ephemeral - both positive ones and negative ones, but especially the positive. It has been difficult to really pinpoint what it is that is making me feel this way but I did figure out that if I kept myself busy enough with work or see enough people my mind gets distracted enough to not feel that way for a few moments.

One of my favourite blogs to read and look for inspiration is my friend Thalia's blog, Butter and Brioche. Thalia not only has inspiring photos and recipes, but her writing...her writing is really special. In a recent post, Thalia mentioned a quote - “perhaps if I make myself write, I shall find out what’s wrong with me.” About a month or so ago, I bought a new mini journal that I keep with me in my purse wherever I go. I usually start my mornings with it, jotting down some stuff here and there while I drink my morning coffee. It has been quite helpful; it helps render things like feelings from being completely intangible to something more concrete. To something that is easier to process.

So does any of this rambling have anything to do with this cake? Not really. I really contemplated talking about this here. I decided to do it purely out of selfish reasons. Perhaps writing about it here gives me an extra outlet for my thoughts to figure themselves out. 

I made this lemon cake with lavender swiss meringue buttercream a week or so back. Maybe two. You might notice that the way the flowers are arranged on the cake is a little bit different from how I usually decorate my cakes. I have always been enamoured of the flower arrangements done by the florists of Celsia Floral. Through a different project, I was able to work with Eriko of Celsia Floral and have a custom cake topper made for my cake. I told Eriko she could make whatever she thinks would suit my cake, with only a small request of pastels and cream-coloured roses. I love Eriko's creation so much. I love how it is both such a bold statement but done so with an oh so delicate arrangement. I love every single detail. 

This is a cake of simple and delicate flavours - an uncomplicated lemon cake flavoured with lemon three ways - juice, zest, and pure lemon extract. It is then topped with a light floral buttercream. I opted for a swiss meringue buttercream even though I feel like it requires a bit more effort. A Swiss meringue buttercream is a lighter and less sweet version of its traditional American counterpart. Swiss meringue buttercream is lightened up with the use of egg whites along with butter and sugar. Lavender can be a bit tricky. Too much of it and your buttercream will taste like soap. I like to add the lavender in small increments and taste it along the way. 

There are so many ways one can decorate this cake. Before I received the cake topper, I started decorating the cake with fresh lavender stems. I had them arranged along the base of the cake and intended to have candied lemon slices on the top. A simple cream-coloured rose or two on the side would be lovely as well. 

Lemon Cake with Lavender Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Yields: Three layer 6 inch cake

Lemon Cake
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 salt
150 ml whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Optional (for extra lemon-y flavour): 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three cake pans and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub together the zest of one lemon with one cup of sugar, until sugar is fragrant. This step is optional but gives the cake an extra lemon-y boost. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter with the lemon-sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat mixture until it is well-incorporated. If you are adding the lemon extract, add it at this stage. 

Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk. Give the mixture a light mix before adding the remainder of the dry and wet ingredients. Mix until no more of the flour can be seen. 

Divide the mixture evenly among the three prepared cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes. You can test for doneness by gently pressing your finger on the cake - it should spring back up. Let the cake layers cool completely before layering.

Lavender Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Base Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe adapted from Linda Lomelino
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon finely ground culinary lavender 

Place egg whites and sugar into a stainless steel or glass bowl, and place the bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Continuously whisk the egg whites and sugar together until sugar has melted.

Remove bowl from heat and beat mixture on high until the egg white and sugar mixture is white and fluffy. 

Once the mixture has cooled a bit, start adding butter gradually. This is the part where you have to trust that the buttercream will turn out. It might look kind of lumpy and not buttercream-esque, but just keep on mixing and keep on believin'. I believe in you. 

Cake Topper || Arranged by Eriko of Celsia Floral

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Paris, I'm so in love with you.

Hi! Or should I say Bonjour? I intended to be super productive in May and create a lot of blog content but then life happened. I ended up being occupied by falling in love with Paris, falling in love in Paris, and falling for everything Paris had to offer. I don't think I have ever been so smitten by a city before. 

Like most of my trips, I spent a large majority of my time there trying out coffee shops and eating all the pastries that my body could handle. This trip was a very last-minute kind of trip but good thing I've always kept a little (or not so little) list of bakeries and cafes of Paris in the back of my head. I wrote down all the places I wanted to visit and I accumulated about thirty or so places. Unfortunately I did not get to go to all thirty but I did try enough places that I was able to find a favourite coffeeshop and go back a few times before my nine days in the city were up.

I'm too sure how to organize these photos (as with most of my blog posts haha!) but here are some highlights for me.

Within an hour of arriving in Paris and settling in the cutest Airbnb apartment in the Le Marais area, I sauntered off to my first coffee shop, Fondation Cafe. The cafe was a eight minute walk from the apartment and while I was walking there, I was being all panicky about having to order in French. I have some basic French knowledge but the fact I had to actually say words out loud made me decide that I would just point at things on the menu when I got there. When I stepped in I was taken aback by how cute the cafe was. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon so the cafe was not that busy. I walked up to the counter knowing what I wanted to order but when the barista started speaking to me in French, I forgot what words were. "Ummm...can I talk to you in English instead?" Everyone was super nice (and spoke English!!) and I successfully got a granola and yogurt bowl and a noisette. (Thank you so much for making my first Paris coffee experience the complete opposite of intimidating, Adam :)) I ended up coming back to Fondation a few more times over the nine days and I think it's my favourite place of the trip.

My first stop: granola and a noisette from Fondation

Pastries from Du Pain et des Idées that I brought over to Boot Cafe; Petit choux pastries from Odette

One of my favourite pastries from the trip, the Ispahan croissant from Pierre Hermé; A lovely morning of tea and cake at Lily of the Valley (they have the most beautiful decor)

A café crème and a noisette from Fondation

Matcha bowl and granola bowl from Season; Tartine avocat and granola from Fondation (again)

A delicious flat white from KB Cafeshop in South Pigalle. They were super nice about still making a coffee for me even the store was technically closed. Thank you! 

Kinda life changing avocado toast from Ob-la-di in North Marais.

My favourite brunch was from Holybelly. Go early to avoid the line up. I went at 8:50am on a terribly rainy Monday morning and the place was full by 9:15am (they open at 9:00am!). Here is an order of the sweet stack and an order of the savoury stack. Seriously though. Best. Pancakes. Ever. They also make good coffee!

A matcha croissant from Sadaharu Aoki. I'm pretty sure everyone passing by on the street was harsh judging me for holding a cut open croissant and trying to take a photo of it, ha!

Paris, à bientôt! But seriously. See you really soon. I'm completely head over heels.