Thursday, December 28

Great Presents and Late Cookies

Happy 4th Christmas day! ;)
[Sigh] The presents are unwrapped, the family is gone, the Christmas tree has lost most of it’s special-ness, and you’re probably still full from all the loads of food.
Finally, everything is becoming calmer. Now starts a bit of that peacefulness. You survived the big stress and it’s now time to relax… How about some more cookies? Just kidding.

The true Christmas thought isn’t of course about presents or mountains of food, but it is a nice side issue.
It’s far from necessary, but it is a great opportunity to do something extra for your loved ones, pamper them (a bit) with treats you know they would appreciate.
And you can’t believe how incredibly spoiled I got…

Not bad, eh? Thank you Santa(s) for all the beautiful, thoughtful presents! ;)

But it’s clear that these amazing books come with another problem.
In gods name, what should I make first?? It’s already impossible to choose from Hermé’s, how should I ever pick something out of three??
Luckily my vacation isn’t over yet, and as I’m a bit sick and spend most of my time in bed now, I have all the time to read them from cover to cover and amaze myself about their geniusness…

Back to other sugar, back to the Christmas Sugar Cookies! Although Christmas is over and I do think these are really Christmas-y cookies, I wrote down the recipe here below. They are so sweet, buttery and easy that I wouldn’t mind having them, lets say, on a February morning.
And you can make them of course easily less Christmas-y by replacing the cherries for something like chocolate chips! They make a nice present, and they are perfect for making ahead, as you make the dough in advance.

The Plaisir Sucres, Macarons, Croissants, Tarte Tatin, and who knows what more, (unfortunately) have to wait a bit more because first…it’s (almost) time for making the best oliebollen!

=> Haha, mine are way better than these!! ;)

Will be continued...

Christmas Sugar Cookies (makes a hundred!)
(From BBC GoodFood)
- 300g (1 ½ cups) granulated sugar
- 140g (1 stick and 2 Tbsp/½ cup and 2 Tbsp) butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 550g (4 cups) flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 200g (1 cup) glacé cherries, chopped. (bigarreau)

1. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla and milk.
In a new bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Then add a few spoonfuls at a time to the butter mixture, stirring with each addition to combine. Fold the cherries through the dough, and shape into to logs.
Wrap the logs in cling film, freeze one and chill the other for at least 2 hour.

2. Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. (of course if you don’t have three, bake in batches)
Take the chilled logs from the refrigerator, unwrap, let warm up slightly, and use a large knife to slice rounds the thickness of a coin.
Lay the cookies out on the trays and bake for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Repeat this process for the other log in the freezer.
Cool on a wire rack before serving. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Optional: spread the logs with some egg yolk and roll them though the sugar! Extra sugar cookies!

Saturday, December 23

Have yourself a...

I know it’s needless to say, but I’ll do it anyway:
It’s really almost Christmas now!
I hope this info is not new or comes with a shock for you, because otherwise I think it would be smart to make some plans and get going (!)
What are you doing this year with Christmas? A 15 courses menu? (it wouldn’t be a surprise with you foodies!) Eating out in a Michelin worthy restaurant? Nothing? Or like us, having a buffet with all kinds of little snacks and other tasty things?
I’m in charge of the dessert section this year -what else?- and decided to go for a few different sweets and desserts, simply because I couldn’t choose…
One of them is this rich chocolate cake with hazelnuts. This is the kind of cake that gets only better and better the longer you wait…perfect for Christmas!

I’m always careful in the kitchen - did you know 58% of all indoor accidents happens in the kitchen?! - but this time I was extra careful, as I still have last Christmas etched on my memory...
Last year me and my mom were hostesses, so on Christmas morning after breakfast and presents, we got back in the kitchen and prepared the final things for dinner. It was nice, but busy and slightly chaotic, and their was still a lot to do.
I was just making a piecrust: butter, flour and sugar were in the bowl, the hand blender was cheery grunting, and the dough was ready to be made into a bal. I putted down the blender and placed my hands in the bowl.
I wanted to have as well the last bit of dough that was sticking in the blender, so I, clearly without thinking, went for it.
10 minutes later we were, me still in my pj’s, at the first aid post. When my finger touched the blade, the power switched on and -luckily!- only my fingernail didn’t survive. Merry Christmas indeed! ;)

So this year I made sure nothing needed the blender…
I haven’t tasted this cake yet of course, -that would be rude!- so I can’t tell you how it tastes, but judging the ingredients, the look, the soft inside versus the crunchy outside, and the incredible smell, it’s only really promising…

Have a great time, merry Christmas everybody!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake (for 10 till 12 people, adapted from La Dolce Vita)
- 250g (9oz) chocolate (minimum 70%)
-115g (1 stick/½ cup) butter, softened
- 5 eggs, split
- 140g (¾ cup) finely granulated sugar
- 50ml rum/cognac
- 100g fine maizena
- 150g (1 ¼ cups) hazelnuts, roasted

1. Preheat over to 180°C (350°F) and grease and flour a 22cm (9 inch) round cake pan.

2. In a small saucepan, mix the chocolate, broken in little pieces, and the butter over low heat till the chocolate is melted. Take the pan of the fire and let to cool a bit.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together to a thick, creamy mixture. Mix in the chocolate mixture, rum, maizena and hazelnuts until well blended.

4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff (but not dry!) and fold them carefully in the chocolate/hazelnuts mixture.
Scoop this mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 till 40 minutes.

The cake is ready when it’s dry and firm to the touch, but still a bit wet and silky inside. The top is as well cracked, but that’s how it should be.
Let the cake in it’s for until it’s completely cooled, take out on a serving plate and dust with powder sugar.
Optional: serve with a big dot of mascarpone and strong coffee…Yum!

Thursday, December 14


Sinterklaas has left the country, our (gigantic) tree is up, shining and smelling really nice, and I have finally time to spend some time behind the computer and post again.
It has been so busy lately…I’m glad it’s almost vacation - time for Christmas!
(who in the world can do math or French when you know you have to go to school for just one more week?!)

Did you know that Santa Claus is based on our Sinterklaas? Yes - they both refer to Saint Nicolas; a bishop who lived in the third century and became known for his generosity and love for children.
A big difference however, is that Sinterklaas still comes with a boat from Spain, and Santa Claus with a sledge from the North Pole. Sinterklaas comes along with his black ‘pieten’ and Santa Claus has elves…
Here in Holland you see around this time of year a sort of battle between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus, on who’s nicer/better…really strange when you know they are the same person!

Anyway, Saint Nicolas 1 is gone and it’s time for number 2! Christmas!
Time for a lovely, forest-y smelling house, twinkling lights, Christmas songs on the radio, snow (yeah right!), presents under the tree, and…making Christmas cookies!

Making Christmas cookies is such a relaxing, rewarding thing - and it will definitely bring you in the holiday spirit!
It’s easy, they smell amazing, you can make them in every kind of shape or flavour you want, and it’s really fun to decorate them in every possible way…

I made my basic recipe which is perfect and really hard to mess up, and when I was finished I added some of my favourite flavours.
I divided the dough into three, and kneaded into the first ball some salt and pepper, into the second ball some cinnamon and into the third ball some cacao powder…
They all turned out beautiful and perfectly crispy, but the cinnamon version was absolutely my favourite…delicious!

I made a sugar glaze and melted some chocolate, put on a Christmas cd and I got going with a whole load of decorations: candy pens, sprinkles, and lovely little silver, gold, and green sugar balls…
It was really calming (in these 3 hours I almost forgot all the schoolwork I still have to do…) and you will feel so proud and artistic if your cookie turns out good and pretty…
And the ugly, not so arty cookies? Ah…they’ll be quickly gone and forgotten… ;)

Christmas Cookies
- 300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g (½ cup, 1 stick) butter, softened and sliced
- 100g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten with
- 4 Tbsp liquid honey
- 250g (2 cups) confectioner’s sugar
- 4 Tbsp boiling water
- 100g (1 bar) good quality chocolate
- sprinkles, candy pens, sugar balls, etc.

1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, spices and baking powder. Add the butter and sugar, and mix with the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until crumbly. While the mixer is spinning, slowly add the egg/honey mixture. - Don’t pour in at once, otherwise there is a big chance you’re dough will be too sticky! - Pour in until you have a well blended, handable dough.
The dough is now ready. You can just use it like this (and go to step 2) or add some spices/flavours.
This is what I did:
Divide the dough into three and put the three balls into different, small bowls. Add to bowl 1 a good pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Knead this into the dough. Do this as well for bowl 2 and 3, adding 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 tablespoon of cacao powder.

2. Beat each ball down to a disc and wrap into plastic. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Flour your work surface, and take out the first disk of dough.
Roll out thinly, keep flouring (it can be a bit sticky) and cut out the cookies - or if you don’t have cookie cutters, just carve them out with a sharp knife. Transfer to the baking sheet and make a small hole in each cookie so you can hang them in the tree.
Knead the leftovers together, roll out again and cut out more cookies. Do this until you have no more dough left. Do this as well with the other two flavours.
You can also put a bit of chocolate and cinnamon dough together and make fusion cookies! (see the last picture)

4. Bake for about 10 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. But keep checking them during the baking! Let cool completely and make the glaze, or store in an airtight container.

1. Mix the confection’s sugar with the boiling water, adding each spoon of water after the previous one is well blended, until you have a silky, thick glaze.

Melt the chocolate, while stirring, in an heatproof bowl.
Get out a few clean spoons, kitchen paper and the decorations…and get creative! ;)

Thursday, November 30

Paris, Je t‘aime…The Sweet Life (part three)

It’s by now already quite some time ago since my trip to Paris. Exactly 25 days. Already way too long…
I told extensive and detailed about it earlier, but I wanted to tell and show you in brief some other sweet (and very tasty) things we did.

Our dinner at Ladurée on the Champs Elyseé for example.
I had the Bonaparte Salad - with Scottish smoked salmon, salmon eggs, blini, olive oil, lemon juice, seaweed tartare and black olives cream…- and it was absolutely amazing.
Simple perfection. Made with only the best ingredients, this was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
But I said that as well about their Ladurée Salad and Club Champs-Elysées. And from seeing the queue of people waiting to be seated and their plates and expressions, I can conclude everything is amazing here!

For dessert we had the Tarte Tatin, the Coupe Fraise-Coquelicot and the Eclatant Fraise Figue.
The Tarte Tatin was without a doubt the best out of these three.
Sadly, I have not even one good picture of the food or our royal seating, as a result of that charming candle light…
So you just have to go and check out yourself if I’ve made you curious…;)

We consumed more for lunch the next day at BE, Boulange épicier, a fusion of a "boulanger" and an "épicier" - baker and grocer.
We read that BE had the best sandwiches of Paris, and since the store is owned by no one less than Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser, this wasn’t so hard to believe.
The wonderful perfumes from freshly made bread welcome you when you step into this beautiful little store packed with goodies and the best products. You can buy your pasta, jams, chocolate, little jars and spreads here, and of course your lunch (!)
Soups, salads, sandwiches, and a whole arrange of desserts: fruit salads, pastries, tartlets and muffins...

We ordered a lentil salad, 2 pesto/mozzarella/tomato/basil sandwiches -which were served onto indeed one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted: It was soft, slightly sweet and a bit brioche-ish. Amazing… - The last sandwich was a larger, sweet raisin pain, with roquefort and pear. Wonderful.

I’m glad we went, but it was a bit disappointed since we expected a real restaurant. BE is a wonderful store, with wonderful food, but more for take-away.


Stop three.
We heard so much about Berthillon and their ice cream in flavours like caramel and chocolat amar, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and just had to go.
So on Saturday morning, after our morning coffee and croissant, we ‘shopped’ ourselves down to Île Saint-Louis - one of the two little islands in Paris, surrounded by the Seine.
We rushed pass the Notre-Dame, with just one intention: Berthillon.
The lack of an immense line was our first hint. When we arrived on 31, Rue St. Louis en l´Ile, we found Berthillon…

Yep. 100% Closed.
I’ll leave it by this. If I start expressing my feelings more, I know I will not stop anymore…

But if we want ice cream, we will get ice cream.
Berthillon drove us straight to their opponent:

Amazing Italian-style ice-cream, with quite a few locations in Paris. (Just look out for a flying little Italian elf and you’ll find Amorino...)
Absolutely delicious. I’m not really an ice cream expert, I almost never eat ice cream, (I prefer something with a bite…) but my sister, who happens to be an ice cream expert, approves it as well.
Very nice is you can choose as many flavours as you want. 20 flavours in just one scoop? No problem. The mango and caffe were my favourites.
(I just discovered their website, click on the flavours and see them in close-up. *drool…*)

The last thing I want to share is this pain au chocolat from Fauchon.
Their macarons couldn’t compare with Hermé’s, (they didn’t even come close…) but their pain au chocolat beats hermé’s easily. It was the best pain au chocolat we ever tasted. Buttery, flaky, as light as air and so chocolaty…*sigh*

This were my Paris highlights part I, II and III. Hope you enjoyed it, - I sure did! - and up to the next trip! ;)

Ladurée Champs Elysées
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
Tel :

73 bd de Courcelles
Tel : 01 46 22 20 20

place de la Madeleine 24-26-30
Tel :

Saturday, November 25

1 + 1 = 3

Sometimes is 1+1=3
These Chocolade Stroopkoeken (chocolate treacle cookies) are a classic example for this. They are not just two crispy chocolaty cookies fused together with some hot, creamy, salted treacle….but they are the best crispy chocolaty cookies fused together with some hot, creamy, salted treacle. They are amazing.
Make a hundred and you still want more, I guarantee.

The stroopkoek is a typically Dutch product. Only, undeserved, a whole lot less known then it’s brother the stroopwaffle. Although I can appreciate a hot, freshly made stroopwaffle from time to time, (especially with this colder weather) I prefer a stroopkoek. And then of course the version as shown here above: thinner, chocolaty and salted. Heaven.

I got them from Koekje, the cookie-bible I wrote about before. The recipe comes from Kees Raat (kind of logical since it’s a(n incredible) twist on the normal stroopkoek…) but I adjusted it slightly since I didn’t have pepper vinegar or zeeuwse flour (from Zeeland - a part of Holland) and because - let’s face it - I like it always just a bit more salty and chocolaty.

Two thin chocolate biscuits with the best salty caramel-y syrup which will make the cookies deliciously chewy and sticky. What do you want more? Enjoy immediately while the treacle is still hot. Try them and love them…;)

Chocolade Stroopkoeken
- 120g (1 stick/½ cup) butter, softened
- 60g (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
- 60g (1/3 cup) white brown sugar (witte basterdsuiker)
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 200g (1 ½ cup) flour
- 4 big Tbsp cacao powder
- 1 big tsp baking powder
For the syrup:
- 100g (½ cup) stroop (treacle)
- 60g (1/3 cup) white brown sugar
- 60g (½ stick, ¼ cup) butter, softened
- 1 Tbsp sea salt

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flower, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter, the two sugars, vinegar and egg. Add the flower mixture to the sugar mixture and knead it to a ball. Pack in foil and let rest in the fridge for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Get the dough out of the fridge and roll out thinly on a lightly flowered surface. (if it’s too sticky, use some more flower) you can best do this in 3 or 4 times as the dough will break easily.
With a round 10cm (4inches) form, - or a cute small one…- stick out cookies and line them on the baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, until set and down. Let cool completely and make the syrup.

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt treacle with sugar, butter and salt. Stir until well blended and let cool a bit.

2. Ladle syrup on the flat side of a cookies, move it a bit back and forth to even and close with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.
Enjoy immediately or keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, November 22

Going Dutch: Koekje

In Holland there are just a few really good, legendary, patissiers.
Two of them are Cees Holtkamp and Kees Raat.
They are both really different and yet the same;
Cees Holtkamp started in Amsterdam in 1969 and is famous for his simple, straightforward and traditional approach to baking.
Kees Raat opened his ‘Unlimited Delicious’ in Amsterdam 15 years ago and became known for his originality and uniqueness.
These two masters are now combined in one beautiful little book: Koekje. (Cookie)

I can’t believe Koekje wasn’t here earlier - it’s indispensable.
The concept is brilliant; Holtkamp wrote down his (50!) recipes for all the classic Dutch cookies, - such as stroopwafels, Arnhemse Meisjes, Goudse Moppen and Jan Hagel… - and Kees Raat gave each cookie his own, creative twist and came up with 50 brand new cookies as Chocolate Blini’s, Javaanse Jongens and Zeeschuim (!)

Koekje is a clear-cut, beautiful book with on every single page a picture.
I love that I now finally have a book where all the recipes for good Dutch cookies are bound together.
And I’ve discovered so many new, which are in fact old, recipes(!)
Who still knows how a Haarlems Halletje or Nonnenscheetje taste?
And Haagsche Wind??
Haagsche Wind (Wind of the Hague) dates all the way back to 1880. Living in The Hague and never having tried it - how could I not make it?

(Plus it was a wonderful opportunity to use my new pastry bag from la Bovida that I still hadn’t used since my trip to Paris…!)

Haagsche Wind is a sweet little meringue cookie with cute looking almonds on top. It’s one lovely cloudy bite: crunchy on the outside and soft and airy inside.
Meringues are well loved in my family.
I once tried to make meringues, but it didn’t work out so well - this recipe however, is a keeper.

99 recipes left in ‘Koekje’…what will I make next?

Haagsche Wind
- 3 egg whites
- 150g (¾ cup) finely granulated sugar
- 100g (½ cup) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 100g (1 cup) almonds, lightly roasted and roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 120° C (248° F) and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Beat, with an electric mixer, egg whites until frothy. Gradually add granulated sugar and mix until well blended. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar carefully until the mixture is white and glossy.

3. Fill pastry bag (with a 2cm, 1 inch tip) with the mixture and drop little dots on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the roasted almonds and bake for 20 minutes until set. Let cool completely before enjoying and store in an airtight container.

Vijzelgracht 15
1017 HM Amsterdam

Unlimited Delicious
Haarlemmerstraat 122
1013 EX Amsterdam

Tuesday, November 14


My new camera is driving me nuts.
It’s so pretty and I really love it but I’m beginning to get a little desperate.
It doesn’t matter what I do - all my pictures are either too light or too dark and too blurry or too dim. I really hope it’s just a temporary problem and I just haven’t figured out the light focus or something like that…

So under the impression that at least one of my 158 photo’s was good, and without further checking, I started tasting and…
all the cashew-caramel cookies disappeared quickly.
And this was the best picture in the bunch.
I’m sorry I can’t let you better see how incredibly delicious these cookies were…

Because they weren’t just good.
They were really, really good.
I know it’s a bit strange, but you make me most of the time happier with a good spoon of cookie dough then the cookie itself…
Well, these nut cookies are like the best cookie dough ever.
They are chewy, not too sweet, and the cashews are lovely caramelized in the oven. They have a good bite, a delicious sugary bottom and an amazing soft caramel swirl on top…oftewel; echte door-etertjes! (so it’s really hard to stop eating these…!)

I found the recipe online at but I made some big changes in the process so I typed out what I’ve done here below.
If you want to check out the original recipe; click here

I don’t have a decent electric mixer to grind cashews with, only a puree mixer with a sharp blade which will make the nuts fly and spring everywhere (I have btw a rather horrific Christmas story about this blade - but that maybe for later…) so I just chopped 1 cup finely and kept the rest in big chunks. This worked out really well as I may say so.
For some reason I wanted to add pear as well. Don’t ask me why, I just had a feeling. It turned out to be a wrong feeling; there was absolutely no trace of pear in these cookies. Not that's incredibly terrible, I think they are pretty perfect just like this…
I kept the pear in the recipe what so ever - who knows how they would turn out without it??

Cashew Cookies (makes 24)
- 200g (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 350g (3 cups) roasted, salted cashews
- 4 Tbsp sunflower oil
- 115g (1 stick, ½ cup) butter, softened
- 115g (¾ cup) packed light-brown sugar
- 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 pear
- 24 cubes soft caramel candy (200g, 7 ounces)
- 65ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. (350°F)
Mix flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Finely chop 1 cup cashews and transfer them to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter and sugars and mix on medium speed until fluffy. (about 2 minutes)
Mix in egg, vanilla and oil. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Wash and dry the pear and thinly slice it with a cheese-slicer. Chop these slices into even smaller bits and mix it in with the reserved, roughly chopped cashews.

2. Shape dough into 4cm (1 1/2-inch) balls; space 5cm (2 inches) apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 6 minutes and gently flatten with a spatula. Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool completely.

3. For the caramel, melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies and let set. Store the cookies in an airtight box in single layers.

Tuesday, November 7

No Fuss, No Worries: Only Cake

I’d forgotten the power of a good basic cake.
Like a Pavlov reaction, I thought instinctively of the margarine, soppy, flavourless version that you can buy at the store. The one that doesn’t even deserve the name cake and will keep till end 2010...
What was I thinking??

Pound cake is the best. Or more precisely; Madeira cake is the best.
And this version is even better; it’s so easy, has a lovely lemony twist and a divine sugar topping that really gives the extra touch.
A crunchy layer with a big crack down the middle, covering a soft and slightly moist, amazing cake that will melt deliciously in your mouth…

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, i.e. my first cookbook. My collection has, as you might have noticed, grown considerably since then but it still has a special spot with me.
I made this cake from it quite some time ago on request. I was actually already forgotten it but (luckily) came across the pictures when I sorted out my files. This is a wonderful cake, even the best in its sort I think.
Well, try and judge yourself…

Cake (for 8 to 10 slices)
- 240g (2sticks/1cup) soft butter
- 200g (1cup) finely granulated sugar, plus more for topping
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 3 eggs
- 210g (1 ¾ cups) self raising flour +
- 90g (¾ cup) all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 170°C (330°F) and butter and line a cake form with parchment paper.

2. Stir butter and sugar until creamy and add lemon zest.
Mix in one egg, then one tablespoon of flour, then an egg again…and so on.
Add the rest of the flour, mix well, and add the lemon juice. stir until well combined.

3. Pour the batter in the prepared form and sprinkle generously with sugar (about 2 Tbsp) Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely, then invert onto a serving plate.

Thursday, November 2

Paris, Je t’aime: A little Investigation… (part two)

If I were a cookie, I would be a macaron. No question.
The flavour, the texture, the colours, the shape -
it’s just the best cookie.
The taste of the crunchy and slightly chewy outside, and soft and smooth inside…:it’s heaven between 2 little shells.

Making good macarons - not to be confused with the coconut macaroon - is however difficult and a real art. You can find in almost every sweet cookbook a macaron recipe and on Google more than 28.000 hits will appear on your screen from recipe sites and fellow bloggers, but the recipe for the perfect macaron is, and will probably always be, a question for us humble human beings.

The basic macaron is made of almond flour, icing- and granulated sugar and egg-whites but what amount or what the masters include extra? Perhaps Pierre spits for his final touch 3 times in the batter or David Holder gives each macaron a little blessing before he let them enter the shops... Who knows. (note: if you do know - please send me a mail!)

Macarons don’t exist here in Holland. The average Dutchman does not know what it is - and doesn’t care - and considers a bought slagroomtaart (cream cake) as a true delicacy. Well, bon appetite - Grrr…
That’s another reason why I’m so delighted about Paris. Everywhere you look are little (and large famous ones…!) bakery’s, patisseries and chocolatiers with the most beautiful display windows, loaded with freshly baked goods.
You name it; croissants, pain au chocolat, millefeuilles, éclairs, madeleines and of course…macarons (!) In every thinkable colour and flavour, beautifully lined up, waiting to be bought.
What do you think about marron et thé vert matcha or perhaps a huile d'olive et vanille macaron?

Time for a little comparing examination (!)
I wish I could have sampled from every shop I came across, including Maison du Chocolat and Laduree but it was just too much. Very unexpected and kind of new for me, but there was just too much good food.
I’m still bummed about that last one. Especially because now I read EVERYWHERE that Laduree has the best macarons…
Well, nothing to do about it; I just HAVE to go back - o boy, what a pity…;)

So I stayed with Fauchon and Hermé.
I lost my heart to Fauchon when I was ten. It was my first time in Paris and I sat in the beautifully decorated tearoom behind my chocolate tasting plate, all feeling special. Such an experience for a little girl.
And Hermé; do I have to explain?? I was just dying to go to Hermé - I read so much about him and his incredible creations and his latest book PH10 is standing so high on my wish-list…(hint!)

For my comparing, I got from both a chocolate and a coffee macaron -
Fauchon (below) and Pierre Hermé (above), and the 2 flavours; coffee (left) and chocolate (right)

The results:
*drum roll….*
It wasn‘t very difficult:

Fauchon’s macarons are fine. Great even if you haven’t tasted the perfect one. They have a very soft (in my opinion too soft…) centre but a good, strong chocolate/coffee flavour. They are chewy, have in proportions very thick shells and little filling and chewing is not really required with these macarons.
Hermé’s macarons are simply heaven. Compacter, a good bite and an explosion of flavour. And as you see on the picture a perfect, thick ganache centre, which will soften and melts deliciously in your mouth…
Easy calling: Hermé is the winner(!)
*yeeh, yeeh! Applause, applause…*

Wow, now I haven’t even written something about his almighty shop or my other purchases(!)
See here two wonders of the master Pierre Hermé;

The Plaisir Sucre - From bottom to top: hazelnut dacquoise, milk chocolate-hazelnut spread, a layer of chocolate ganache, a dark chocolate sheet, another layer of chocolate ganache, a chocolate sheet, chocolate mousse, and one last chocolate sheet…

And the Surprise Ball - I’m not 100% sure what was inside here but I think…- a chocolate biscuit layer, chocolate ganache, a chocolate sheet, more ganache, mascarpone and caramel, covered with a thick chocolate layer…

I was speechless - how does he come up with it??
It was just perfect. Heaven. Al the flavours 'fit' with each other.
And so is his entire shop - everything looks incredible and is made with such care, love and preciseness.
Well, I definitely know what I want for Christmas this year…

Pierre Hermé
rue Bonaparte 72
Tel: 01 43 54 47 77

Rue de Vaugirard 185

place de la Madeleine 24-26-30
Tel :

Sunday, October 29

Paris, Je t’aime…(part one)

I’m back from Paris. And I’m not really liking it. Sure it’s nice to be in my own home again, but what I already knew has been confirmed once again; Paris is the best, most beautiful city in the world.

We stayed our 3 full-planned, beloved days at Hotel Chopin, a charming little hotel located in the small passage Jouffroy, right near the Grands Boulevards. Lovely decorated, welcoming classical music playing in the hallways and great service. I really recommend Hotel Chopin for a short stay in Paris.

Although I didn’t think the whole multiple pages long - ok, actually multiple novels long - list to-do could all have been visited, we yet succeeded to do almost everything that stood on the priority list…

One thing I really wanted to do, was to visit L’as du Falafel.
When I read about it on David Lebovitz’s site, I immediately started to crave. And I can tell you; it is really so good. My saliva production is running up by just seeing the pictures...
Imagine a fresh, soft pita crammed with the best, delicious, hot and crispy chick-pea balls, a generous amount of delicious marinated red and white cabbage, soft aubergine, some fresh slices of cucumber, hummus and the best garlic sauce that isn’t too strong, over dominated or thick at all. That’s L’as du Falafel. There’s no doubt; L’as du Falafel is toujours imite jamais egale. (always imitated, never equalled)

Some other tasty goings were Laduree, Fauchon and the master Pierre Hermé. (but I will come back to these later - they really deserve their own post…)

Another culinary highlight was going to G. Detou and La Grande Epicerie.
G. Detou is a beautiful, little, old and dusty epicerie with the most diverged professional baking supplies. And what about some caramels au beurre sale from Bretagne, or the best blue pigment? (I have a fabulous chocolate layer cake with blue frosting in mind for it’s first project…)
La Grande Epicerie Paris is a gigantic, wonderful culinary shopping Walhalla. I could spend a whole day just looking at everything, walking a bit among the display-windows with fresh pasta and little anti-pasta bites, the bread section, tea and coffee, and the stock of mysterious little pots and jars. Even the meat section looks good and appealing here. So you can understand I couldn’t leave without a little extra something. I got a package of super cute little purple and pink biscuits, that look a bit like mini macarons and I found coloured sugar that I can’t wait to use…

Of course this trip wasn’t just one big eat feast - but it was indeed quite close to it… - I still have a few withdraw symptoms left from all the sugar and chocolate and I can really use a little break and give my body a little peace for a while. But just a little while of course… ;)

L'As du Falafel
34, rue des Rosiers (Marais)
Tel: 01 48 87 63 60
Closed Friday evening and Saturday for Sabbat

G. Detou
58, rue Tiquetonne
Tel: 01 42 36 54 67

La Grande Epicerie Paris
38, Rue de Sèvres
Tel : 01 44 39 83 47

Wednesday, October 25

A Great Weekend

My little half-sister Katoo is the ultimate chocolate monster. She’s almost 4 now and this weekend she came to visit her two big sisters in the city. These two days were way too short and we had, as always, a wonderful time. We absolutely spoiled her to dead now we had the opportunity, we got her some little girly presents, we watched Cinderella, went out to the bakery, danced, watched some more Cinderella and of course devoured a whole lot of chocolate…

That’s why I made these cupcakes. It’s clear it can’t get more chocolaty or sweeter than this; these cupcakes contain melted chocolate, cacao powder and chocolate chunks, along with the best chocolate frosting and some Smarties on top.
And they tasted absolutely great.
Sweet, brownie-y, and perfectly between dry and moist. They are also very nice without the frosting but that first bite in a frosted one, when your teeth go through the glaze, then the dry, crumbly top and finally threw a delicious moist inside…
Well, nothing will beat that.
And I’m happy I wasn’t the only one who liked them…

A weekend with cheery Tootje is always a pleasure, but this weekend turned out to be even better when Saturday morning the bell rang and my brand new camera had finally arrived(!)

It’s the Olympus E500 and it’s without a doubt the best toy ever!
I’m now like an annoying paparazzi photographer, walking through the house going click, click, click
And the quality of my pictures - every shot looks like it popped right out a professional photographer catalogue(!)
I love it! Can’t wait to get going and discover all it’s features…=)

Oh yes, one last thing about the cupcakes -
Make sure you buy enough Smarties if you have a specific colour in mind; my plan was to decorate them only with pink Smarties - well, every package contained about 3 pink ones…

A little Smarties fact to end with; Did you know 17 thousand Smarties are eaten every minute in the UK?
You sure can decorate a whole lot of cupcakes with that…(!)
Enjoy! ;)

Chocolaty Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 24 cupcakes)
- 150g (5,4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
- 250g (1 cup/2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
- 350g (1 3/4 cups) sugar
- 5 eggs
- 120g (1 cup) flour
- 4 Tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 150g (5,4 ounces) chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate, cut into little pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare 24 cupcake cups on a baking sheet.

2. In a large saucepan, melt chocolate and butter while stirring. Add sugar, stir until blend completely, and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. In another bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

4. With an electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and make sure each one is completely absorbed before adding the next.

5. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and mix well. Scoop into the prepared cupcake cups - this is easy with a ladle - and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Store in an airtight container or continue with the frosting.

Chocolate frosting (enough for 24 cupcakes)
- 250g (9 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 250ml (1 cup) heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tbsp butter, room temperature
- 300g (2 cups, packed) powdered sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Reduce heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for one minute, then stir to combine. Add butter and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Sift powdered sugar into the mixture and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Continue to beat until light and creamy. This frosting can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Before piping on the cupcakes, let stand for a few minutes or pop it for 20 sec. in the microwave.

4. Fill pastry bag with the scoopable frosting and pipe onto the cupcakes. Decorate with smarties/m&m’s before the frosting is completely hard. Store in an airtight container.
These cupcakes will stay for an surprisingly long time good - even on the 5th day they taste heavenly…

Tuesday, October 17

Autumn Weather…Time for Cookies

Summer is definitely over. And it happened so quickly;
The streets are rainy and the trees transformed from green to all shades of yellow, orange and red. It’s still dark outside when I wake up in the morning, I need a scarf on when I go to school and I hate that the wind has become so cold and raw…
The plus side however, is that it’s time for candles, tea, electric blankets and wearing comfy ski socks again(!) (and almost time for oliebollen!)

In the summer nothing beats a fresh, sour apple, but with this weather I prefer baking; the wonderful perfumes filling the house, the apples becoming all soft and oozy in the oven, their hotness and perfectly sweetness…

These Apple Cookies are great and have al the above.
They are granola-y and hearty, with delicious crispy edges and a soft apple-ish inside.
I start with the edges, slowly nibble them off, work my way in, and finish with one soft and gooey last bite…
These cookies are robust, sweet and spicy, and really substantial - great for those chilly days…

Apple Cookies (makes about 30)
- 240ml (1 cup) apple juice
- 200g (1 cup) currants
- (250) 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 225g (1 cup/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 300g (2 cups) dark-brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 250g (2 1/2 cups) rolled oats
- 5 crisp and tart apples, I used granny smith
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat cider in a small saucepan to a simmer. Place currants in a bowl and pour the warm cider over them. Let plump at least for 10 minutes.

2. Mix in a small bowl together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg, and continue beating until well blended.

4. Add the dry ingredients, beating until just combined. Add the currants with half of the cider and oats until just combined. Using the largest holes on a box grater, shred 2 apples directly into the dough, rotating to avoid seeds and core. Stir well to combine.

5. Using two spoons, scoop out cookies and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Using a sharp knife, slice 2 or 3 apples very thinly. Remove core with a cookie cutter or with a knife (you can make all sorts of fun figures…) Place a thinly sliced apple ring on top of each cookie and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar, if desired. Bake in the heated oven until dark brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Can be stored for 3 days - but be warned, they will soften and soften and...

Monday, October 16

Make you Banana Pancakes...

Scrambled eggs with white beans in tomato sauce, a few slices of buttered toast, a croissant, or a big delicious tower of pancakes…
The possibilities are endless and it’s the most important meal of the day…
Although I’m always quite satisfied with my coffee, yoghurt and freshly squeezed orange juice, this morning it was time for a change.
It was time for pancakes.

I've always loved Jack Johnson’s song Banana Pancakes, and every time I hear it I just start craving for banana pancakes…
So of course I made banana pancakes.
Banana pancakes with buttermilk and a drizzly of honey to be exact.

I’ve eaten pannenkoeken, - A pannenkoek is the Dutch version of a pancake; larger and thinner and served with sugar and treacle… - crepes and blini, but I’d never ever eaten pancakes. let stand for breakfast.
I got my recipe from America’s absolute Baking Queen, Martha Stewart, and I served them with a big dot of crème fraîche and honey instead of maple syrup. This was a lovely - and quite heavy - breakfast that I really enjoyed…

I had a bit of trouble at first with the recipe. or not with the recipe, but jut with pancakes in general; some of my first batch got really messy and burned a bit because I left the heat on too high - luckily I figured it out after a bit of practise and after this I made absolutely beautiful perfect golden-brown pancakes…

They were soft and sweet, had crispy edges and a luscious fluffy and oozy centre from the hot and slightly melted banana slices. Drenched in the honey this big golden-brown heap was a wonderful festive way to start my day…

Banana pancakes (makes 12)
- 120g (1 cup) whole-wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp light-brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 240ml (1 cup) buttermilk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 11/2 Tbsp butter, melted
- vegetable oil
- 2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
- crème fraîche, maple syrup (or honey) and chopped walnuts, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 135°C (250°F). In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Whisk in buttermilk, egg, and melted butter until batter is well combined and free of lumps.

2. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, swirl oil to coat bottom of pan. Working in batches, add batter in 1/4-cup portions. - I got 3 pancakes per time - Top with banana slices, dividing evenly. Cook until golden brown and tiny air bubbles form evenly on top, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat if browning too quickly. Flip pancakes, and continue cooking until slightly puffed, 2 to 5 minutes.
Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook remaining pancakes.

3. Serve pancakes with crème fraîche, honey (or maple syrup) and some chopped walnuts.

Wednesday, October 11

Wednesday Baking IV: No Baking

If you are a regular reader, you’ve already read about my beloved Wednesday Baking.
Clearly, this was too good to be true - schoolwork is really kicking in (and piling up ridiculous quickly…) and my new school period starts already next week.
From now on my Wednesday morning will be spend with maths, physics and chemistry. Great. Definitely an improvement…(!)

My plan was to make something really spectacular, over-the-top and impressive for this last Wednesday Baking.
Something like a 20layercake or perhaps try to make my favourite macarons…
well, this plan failed rather badly as I - strangely - wasn’t at all in the baking mood. I just wanted to spend this last free morning in my pj’s curled upon the couch. Eat far too much kruidnootjes, spoon away something sweet and watch many, many Friends episodes…

Friends is the best. I even dare to say me and my sister are the biggest Friends fans ever - we have watched every episode approxiately a hundred times (and I can watch them at least another 100 times…) and just like baking, this is one of my favourite, most relaxing things to do.
The last few weeks however, I hadn’t have the time (or peace) to just sit down, do nothing and watch. You can understand this morning was really needed, and I happily relived Ross and Rachel’s drama story…

So this Wednesday Baking Day was really No Baking Day - just something easy, quick, really satisfying and with a good sugar kick was needed today.
The answer was Chocolate Mousse

Intensely chocolate flavoured, exactly sweet enough and delightfully fluffy, this recipe was great. Pillowy, velvety and melting wonderfully on your tongue, this was exactly what I needed.
My homework will just have to wait a little bit longer…;)

Chocolate and a big pile of friends episodes….
Could this BE any better? ;)

Bitter Chocolate Mousse (makes 8)
- 250g (9oz) good quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 30ml honey liqueur (or brandy)
- 25g (1oz/2 Tbsp) butter, cut into pieces
- 4 eggs, separated
- 90ml (6 Tbsp) whipping cream
- 45g (3 Tbsp) sugar
- whipped cream, some chopped hazelnuts and cocoa powder to decorate.

1. Place the chocolate and 4 tablespoons (60ml) of water in a medium saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the liqueur and butter.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs yolks until thick and creamy, then slowly beat into the melted chocolate until well blended. Set aside.

3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form and stir a spoonful into the chocolate to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream.

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Sprinkle over the sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.

5. Using a large metal spoon, stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, and then gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined.
Gently spoon into 8 individual cups and chill for at least 2 hours until set and chilled.

6. Scoop a big spoon whipped cream (beaten with a tablespoon of sugar) on top, sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on top and lightly dust with cacao powder.