Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What dreams are made of

It's been snowing in Paris a lot lately. It hasn't snowed this much in Paris since the 80's and airports are canceling flights left and right. Luckily for me, I'm already tucked away in California reaping temperatures that are at least 10-15 degrees Celsius higher than I'm used to. However, a couple weeks ago one of my former classmates and I decided to trek around in the Parisian blizzard to do a mini pastry crawl. The shop that impressed me the most was Philippe Conticini's Patisserie des Reves.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Missing molasses

'Tis the season to be baking holiday treats and I couldn't think of anything more festive to bake than gingerbread cookies. I just love soft and chewy gingerbread cookies! True those flat crispy disks you can get year around at Ikea aren't bad, but they're nothing compared to the soft gingerbread I had in Alsace, or the iced oval shaped cookies in Finland. So on my quest to make gingerbread, I had to find myself some molasses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nutella Whoopie Pies

I've never really put much thought into whoopie pies, why they're popular, or where they get their name. My trusty source Wikipedia states that these desserts come from New England and are a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. According to food historians, Amish women baked these desserts and put them in farmers' lunchboxes. When farmers would find the treats in their lunch, they would shout "Whoopie!" Makes sense. Who wouldn't shout for joy stumbling on one of these cake sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marbré chocolat

The other day I had to make a cake that would travel well. Interestingly enough, there's a category of French desserts that are called 'gâteaux de voyage', or rather traveling cakes. These are generally drier, less complicated cakes that can withstand transport. Some examples of gâteaux de voyage include madeleines, lemon cake, pound cake, fruit cake, almond cakes, and pastries made with puff pastry dough and almond cream such as pithiviers or pain complet.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Could Maoz possibly trump the Ace of Falafels? I think so. To be honest, I didn't have high expectations of this chain that has locations all over the world. We ordered our falafels that took less than ten minutes to make. True they're not as fast as the places on Rue des Rosiers, but we could see that our falafel balls were crisping away in the fryer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

High Tea at the Rotunda

I think all girls have a soft spot for high tea. Maybe it's the childhood tea sets that ingrained this age-old tradition, or the fact that everyone just loves tiny petite-fours and tea cakes. In any case, there's just something regal about having your own brew in a pot with a tiered tray of delectable bites.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I think I've found it. What you ask? Anyone who knows me, knows that I've been missing two things in particular from home: In-N-Out burgers and a good burrito. I know there's no way in hell I'll ever convince In-N-Out to open in a chain in Paris, since as it is they're sprinkled on the West coast of the US.

I've made it a personal mission to hunt down Mexican restaurants in Paris. I've traipsed through many arrondissements in search of the perfect burrito, but have generally been disappointed. They usually end up flat, flavorless, and often too simplistic, like a quesadilla with meat. If you're from California, you know what kind of burritos I'm talking about. The burritos I've had in the Bay Area are hearty. Composed of flour tortillas stuffed to the brim with veggies, beans, rice and meat of your choice, they're often wrapped in foil resembling a Mexican torpedo of sorts.

Well I've found a close runner-up to my pined over Californian burritos in the 2nd arrondissement at a small, new restaurant called Rice and Beans. Round? Check. Hearty? Check. Foil? Check. It was even served with tomatillo salsa, to boot. This is definitely a place I'm going to go to get my Mexican food fix.

Rice and Beans 
22 Rue Greneta
75002 PARIS
Tel: 01 73 70 46 09

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting Finland and Sweden

Nordic countries are beautiful, at least the two that I had the chance to visit in October. However, I highly suggest visiting in the Summer when it's warm. October? Not so warm. In any case I flew into Helsinki to visit some friends with no real idea what Finland was, aside from it being a large Northern European country. To be honest, I didn't visit Sweden much, just Stockholm, but similar to many of the cities I visited in Finland, its astonishingly clean (at least compared to Paris)!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


With the holidays just around the corner, I've been thinking about shedding a few (or 10) pounds before piling on more when I come back to California. That kind of puts baking on the back-burner and bumps jogging up on the queue. I have a friend who is watching her calories, and was thinking of a nice treat I could make that wouldn't tip the scale.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Catering pastries

One of the things I regret about school, and in a sense my stage as well, is that we never really learn the business end behind pastries. Sure, we learn the art and craft of the business, but never how to price or market our goods, or purchasing and managing supply stock. Of course I did learn a little about stocking when studying for the CAP, but I guess profit margins and such just aren't my thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Charlotte Russe

What is a Charlotte Russe? And I'm not talking about the Forever21-ish tween clothing store. I've always thought Charlottes were those desserts where ladyfingers were crammed into a Charlotte mold with other stuff crammed in there too, later to be inverted onto a plate. Well I guess they are too, but molded Charlottes bear no resemblance to those I made in school. Apparently, the entremets we made in school are Charlotte Russes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

S'mores cupcake and mini-mogador

After living and studying in Paris, its a bit hard to appreciate the cupcake craze that's still going on in the US. What is it about cupcakes? They're not that particularly good, nor complicated, and sometimes they're just covered in so much sugary-sweet frosting goop that they really aren't worth the calories. Maybe it's just a reflection of American consumerism? Really, what kid doesn't want their very own individual cupcake? These pastries pretty much negate the whole concept of 'sharing is caring'.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The day I actually had a conversation with CM

The other day I decided to stop by Plaza Athénée to say hello to my former coworkers. After landing in CDG at 6AM and taking a 4 hour nap, I took the metro down to the all-too-familiar Avenue Montaigne. With gifts in tow, I passed through security and made my way down into the pastry lab.

When I was thinking of things to bring back as gifts, I figured I'd bring back some See's Candies Toffee-ettes (though I'm not sure how to say that in French), and some macarons from Paulette Macarons, which un-coincidentally enough partnered with Christophe Michalak to open up a boutique in Beverly Hills and one in San Francisco. I figured it was a good way to score some points and maybe ask for some of the recipes in the lab.

CM came over and began dissecting all of the macarons, commenting on how they were a bit dry. I did explain that they had just endured a trans-Atlantic flight and how I'd just gotten off the plane that morning. After sampling the macarons (note, he did not try the toffee-ettes that everyone said were "super-bon"), he then asked if I was planning to do a stage at the hotel. Why am I not surprised. The sous-chef jumped in and explained that I had been a stagiaire with them for 6 months and recently went back to California to visit. Blasphemy. I think CM then felt a little bad or embarrassed, because he gave me a signed copy of his new book.

My French must be a bit rusty, as I heard the sous-chefs say, "Did you see the new book?" Apparently he meant, "Did you see your picture in the new book?" I flipped through to the end of the book and lo and behold there's a picture of me standing next to another employee and CM. It's not a flattering picture as I'm in my uniform and toque, but hey not many people can say they've got two autographed books by CM and a picture in one!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cream puffs and Gougères

Looking back at all my baking done in California lately, its obvious that choux pastry is my 'go to' when someone asks me to make something. They're relatively easy, fail-proof, and impressive. Plus who doesn't like cream puffs? I think I like cream puffs better than eclairs (though they're essentially the same thing) just because they're bite-sized and cute. Plus, I really don't have a good relationship with fondant.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Escargot and Giveaway Winner Announced

Since being back in California, I've tried to accommodate all of the baking requests I've received. Unfortunately I can't make all those fancy shmancy things that I did when I was back in school or working at the hotel; some tools just can't be found stateside. Even if I could find a high-powered torch like we used at the hotel, or various baking rings, it's hardly worth the effort of buying stuff since I'll be back in Paris soon.

One request was for escargot. No, not those slimy shelled garden friends drenched in yummy garlic parsley butter, but rather a pastry found at La Boulange Bakery in San Francisco. Turns out this 'escargot' is called a raisin custard swirl there.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Awesome Book Giveaway!

I'm always wondering who actually reads my blog and if anyone is getting any entertainment out of it other than myself and a handful of friends. I know you people exist! To commemorate my (almost) 225th post as well as a year anniversary from when I moved to Paris and started pastry school, I've decided to give you, yes YOU something. That's right folks. Who doesn't like free stuff??

When moving to France I decided to amp up my France related literature. That includes reading lots about Julia Child, scanning the 2009 Michelin Guide for Paris, and of course packing a book by one of my favorite food bloggers, David Lebovitz. He's a really nice guy. I've met him a couple times and he actually let me pay for one of my books using metro tickets (hey I was a few euros short!). His book, The Sweet Life in Paris, is witty, funny and full of great recipes, my favorite being the madeleines. It was nice to know that someone else could relate to all the administrative and cultural weirdness I was going through. I figure if someone could laugh about how backwards the postal system, bank and bureaucracy is, so could I. I really enjoyed this book. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I want one of you to have a copy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rock Creek

As much as I love to eat and bake, luckily for me that's not all I've been up to back in California (otherwise I'd gain 1000 pounds). Its nice to get out of the kitchen every now and then. I went camping at Rock Creek, in the Sierra National Forest, with some friends and family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pupusas and Plantains

Need I say more? One of my girlfriends has been going on and on about this Pupuseria in Campbell that she always visits every time she's in the South Bay. The other day I decided to stop by to check out this joint.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

German Chocolate Cake

The other day I received a request for German chocolate cake. When I think about any sort of German cake, the only thing that comes to mind is Black Forest Cake. However, kirsch flavored chocolate cake with soaked cherries wasn't what my friend had in mind. She described a chocolate cake with coconut and pecans. Didn't sound German at all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Baking at home

As I mentioned before, baking in California is a lot more difficult than baking in France. Scaling things from imperial system to metric, not having my tools on hand, and different ovens are just some of the few things that have attributed to my baking flops. It's not stopping me from continuing to bake though. Nowadays cookies and cupcakes don't seem that difficult and I'm always looking through my school cookbook for French desserts to make.

For a birthday, I made some pate a choux filled with chocolate pastry cream and chocolate drizzled on top.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

C'est Doux's new look!

This morning I woke up and realized that looking at my blog made me want to puke. Not a good thing. Perhaps it was too much glaring pink viewing it on a 30" monitor, but I decided it was time for change. Why did I ever think pink font was a good idea?!

I'm a writer and a pastry enthusiast, but a graphic/blog designer? That I am not. I've toned down the color a little and removed the cupcake background (I think cupcakes are a passing novelty anyways). It's simple. I'm simple. I like it. But do you like it? Tell me what you think!

Also I'm thinking of doing some sort of baking-related giveaway soon. So check back regularly!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bay Area Eats: Alexander's Steakhouse

I've been hearing about Alexander's in Cupertino since they opened a long while back. My brother has always been ranting and raving about this steakhouse with a Japanese twist that claims to be the only restaurant in California that dry ages their own beef on-site for 28 days. But with their steaks starting around $40, I (or rather my budget) have never got around to checking out the place. However, celebrating a couple birthdays gave enough reason to make a reservation. I apologize for the fuzzy pictures; there wasn't much lighting in the restaurant.

The meal started out with an amuse bouche, which the waiter described as meaning "happy mouth". I didn't feel like correcting him, but found it slightly amusing. I forget what it was, but something with cheese. For starters, we ordered the shishito peppers, hamachi shots and seared scallops. I didn't like the peppers too much. They seemed to lack flavor and felt a bit greasy with the flash frying. The hamachi shots were refreshing and light with a nice truffled ponzu sauce. The scallops were perfectly cooked; my only regret was that there weren't more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last day of work

Though it's almost been a month since I finished work, I haven't shared all the events of my last day at Plaza Athénée. Perhaps I've been repressing the bad memories? Okay well it wasn't all that bad, but maybe I'm just jaded now.

During my six month stage, I witnessed quite a bit of hazing of other staigiares on their last day of work. One girl had raw eggs smashed on her head. The apprentice in the boulangerie had yeast (yes, fresh cake yeast), flour, butter, and egg wash poured all over her. Though my friends from Ferrandi gave me accounts of people being locked in a 'cage', crap dumped over them, and then being hosed down, I didn't really know what to expect.

Though I think I walked away pretty lucky; here's a note to any future stagiaires: do NOT tell them what day you're leaving. Of course this isn't completely avoidable since at least one person (whomever you report to) will know.

My last week started out with a cream puff to the face. Yes one of those lovely mignardises that I painstakingly piped, was smashed in my face by a chef de partie. He's probably the nicest guy I work with and in his words, worse things could/will happen. On my second day, of the last week, I was lucky enough to have chocolate batter (part of our marbled cake) smeared across my face. Well at least it tasted good and I tried to chase the offender down to give him a bisou. The third day we had made some fresh marshmallows and rolled them in sprinkles. They were quite gross and all but two made it into the trash. The other two gooey marshmallows? Smashed into my ears. It took me quite a while to clear my ears of that nasty mess.

On my last day, I tried to avoid any sort of confrontation. I knew that I had to be really careful and watch my back especially nearing the end of the day when we started cleaning. Post-cleaning, no one would try to attack me. While I was washing the sink, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the chefs de partie (cdp) with a bucket of something. I didn't need to know what that something was, so I ran and got the brush to start scrubbing the floors and evade him. Well lucky for me, another apprentice knew that it was the cdp's birthday and decided to smear some roquefort cheese all over his face/glasses. Yours truly was hiding in the ice cream room. The cdp rounded on the apprentice with the bucket containing cherry juice and splashed him. Trying to protect myself, I was wise enough to also mention to the apprentice that it was another girls birthday that weekend. His present for her?  A bottle of egg yolks over her head.

Of course it was impossible for me to escape scathed-free; I ended up getting the rest of the cherry juice poured over my head and the bucket smashed on my head. As I bleached my chef whites, I couldn't help but think about how much I'm going to miss (and not miss at all) Plaza Athénée. It was definitely a good, character building, back-breaking experience.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bay Area Eats: Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill

As I'm back in California for a couple months, I've been hitting up all the normal restaurants that I've been craving as well as some new places. It's hard to find good sushi in Paris. Well let me rephrase, its hard to find reasonably priced good sushi in Paris. One time I actually ordered a spicy tuna roll, and to my horror it was a soy wrapped roll with canned tuna. Gross.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Things from my last week of work

My last week of work, I decided to bring in my camera and start snapping up pictures of the glorious overpriced stuff/crap we make. I figured if anyone wanted to yell at me, I'd be out of there in a week anyways.

Every morning we assemble an array of small cakes, bigger cakes, chocolate mousse, and mignardises. If we're lucky there are only about 200 mignardises to make. On a bad day sometimes 1200.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pate d'amande roses

One of the things I learned back at Ferrandi, which has proved to be very useful is making Pate d'amande roses. Pate d'amande, also known as marzipan or almond paste, is the culinary version of Play-Doh. You can dye it, mold it, roll it and shape it. Though unlike Play-Doh, almond paste actually tastes good.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Beet chocolate cake

Since I mentioned having tried a recipe for chocolate cake with beets in it to one of the chef-de-partie at work, he hasn't forgotten and has asked me when I'm going to bring it into the lab. I don't remember where the original recipe I found was from, but this time I used this Beet Bundt Cake recipe.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picard hamburger = FAIL

So Picard, the frozen food chain, sells some very interesting things. Generally I steer clear of things like fajitas, gazpacho, or sushi that just don't sound promising. Usually Picard is pretty good. For the most part, I haven't come across anything too bad, well at least not until going out on a limb with this hamburger.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bigorneaux is best in Brest

I know I've blogged about Bigorneaux before. Periwinkles (their English name) would probably gross most people out. But if you've got a strong stomach and like things such as escargot or oysters, you might find them quite tasty.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Things I won't miss

With one week of work left, my stage at Plaza Athénée is winding down to a close. The new stagiaires from Ferrandi have started and are getting accustomed to things. Though I think the experience was definitely worthwhile, there are a handful of things I won't miss:

- Making 20+ kilos of dough, icecream, etc.
- Working 7:30 AM to 7:30PM.
- The douchebag apprentice who thinks he's everyone's boss.
- Caramelizing hazelnuts and the burns that come with it.
- Wet socks from the 'floods' when we clean.
- Someone taking a kitchen torch to my butt (no joke).
- Juicing 6 kilos of lemon juice.
- Gross flavored creams/chantilly like rose or violette.
- Dry, cracked and itchy skin due to D10 cleaning agent allergies.

Monday, July 19, 2010

4th of July

Living in Paris as a stagiaire has its downside when it comes to holidays. I really do miss my family and spending the holidays with them, grilling up meats and chowing down buffet style. I've made efforts with my American friends here to celebrate Thanksgiving (even though we had a chicken instead of a turkey), Halloween, and Fourth of July. Well in Paris its doubly difficult, since as a stagiaire at a large hotel,  I don't get French holidays off either!

This Fourth of July I decided to make something I miss a lot from home: Burgers. I even found 'burger sauce' at the grocery store that pretty much looks like Thousand Island. Yes, I know its a sad attempt to recreate an In-n-Out burger, but you have to give me a little credit for trying.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

CAP - Admis

After a long wait and meticulously checking the test website every day, they finally posted the results for my CAP exams. Verdict? Admis - Admitted. However, the website only provided that information and no indication of how well/poorly I did on the exams. How typically French (i.e. useless).

A week later I received a letter in the mail with my grades. I'm not exactly sure how the grading system works, but it appears that the tests each have a different coefficient and are out of 20 points. I guess some are weighted more heavily than others, which makes sense. So here's the breakdown:

Approvision & Gestion Des Stocks: 13.50
Fabrication De Patisseries: 13.00
Francais Et Histoire-Geographie: 14
Mathematiques, Sciences: 19.5
Anglais: 20
Moyenne Generale (Average): 14.4

I don't know about you but 14.4 out of 20, aka 72% is a C to me, and not really a good grade. However, the way the system works here, anything over 16 is excellent, 14-16 is very good, 10-12 is average, and anything under 10 is not passing. Maybe I'm being to hard on myself and forgetting that I took a test in a foreign language taken by students who generally prepare for two years. Well, at least I did justice to my Asian heritage by doing extremely well on the Math and Science portion!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Things I don't understand

Though I've lived in France for almost a year now, there are a lot of things I don't understand here. And I'm not just talking about the language, cultural differences, or why nothing administrative (i.e. health insurance, post office, etc) works in a timely manner.

Living here, I've discovered some things that just don't make any sense. If someone can figure them out, please... enlighten me.

1) Light switches on the outside of bathrooms/toilets.
This just is begging for a practical joke. I see the news headlines now: "Woman slips in tub and dies after 8 year old child turns of light in bathroom."

2) Toilets that are in tiny rooms completely separate from the bathroom with a shower and sink.
Though I've been told its so one person can use the toilet while someone else is taking a shower, it doesn't make sense to me, hygienically. It's not that Americans poop on our hands or anything, but there's just something wrong about not washing your hands before you touch knobs or switches. From a female perspective its even more gross. A friend of mine is a nanny for two kids who says they never wash their hands after using the toilet, and always end up with a tumult of sicknesses (including worms). Perhaps if the sink was in the same room they'd be more likely to wash? Just saying.

3) Doors that lock from the inside with a key.
Another potential practical joke. Maybe I was just a devious child, but by locking yourself inside a place with a key, don't you leave the opportunity wide open for said key to be lost, hidden, or thrown out the window? Fire marshals in the U.S. would have a heyday with this safety hazard.

There are a dozen other things I don't quite get yet, but off the top of my head, these three confuse me the most. Maybe its a European thing and not limited to France. Confused, but not complaining... since at the end of the day, I still live in Paris.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I haven't been posting lately, and quite frankly I don't have a good excuse other than exhaustion. Maybe it's the heat, or work fatigue, or some new form of mono. Who knows. I have one month left in my stage and am looking forward to two months in California to play catch up on US life. Then it'll be back to Paris to maybe do another stage or scope out a potential job opportunity (more on that later).

A few weeks ago I took a mini-break and went to the town of Collioure. The town is in the South of France close to the Spanish border. Aside from being gorgeous, visitors flock to the coastal town as it was made popular by many famous artists such as Picasso and Matisse.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finger vs douille cannelee

So every day I make mignardises, which are bite-sized desserts, sometimes referred to as petits-fours. Our mignardises are choux pastries cut in half and topped off. We make two varieties of these pastries. Creamy ones topped with chocolate decor, and chantilly ones topped with a fruit puree gelee sphere. We make three flavors of each type: caramel, chocolate, vanilla, coconut, violette, and pistachio. Usually we make about 25 of each, totaling 150 choux to cut and fill. You keeping up? Today we had about 185 of each. Yes. That's well over 1100 little pieces of crap to assemble. And a lot of piping.

I'm generally in charge of piping all the chantilly cream for the mignardises, since I've been there the longest and probably make the best looking rosaces (or swirls of chantilly) in the least amount of time. What do we use to make them? Piping bag and a douille cannelee. Whats this fancy sounding thing you ask? Nothing more than a star pastry tip. Yeah I know it doesn't look very dangerous unless you jab it into someones eye.

Well today, in my mad harried state to finish all of the mignardises, I quickly used my finger to pierce the piping bag to pull out the douille. End result? A normal piece of pastry equipment quickly turned into a chinese finger trap. My poor index finger was jammed so far into the pastry tip that i couldn't pull it out without getting jabbed by the pointy teeth. I tried to get a new stagiaire to help me, but she had no idea what to do. The pastry tip was stuck, and hurt like a @#$%! when I pulled at it. A coworker tried to help by saying "okay you're going to scream".. thinking I'd let him rip it off my finger. I don't think he realized it had pierced my skin. Luckily enough for me, today I worked with the nicest chef-de-partie, and he got a knife to bend back the pastry tip teeth to release my finger. Not one of my smartest moves at work.

On a positive note, my finger is still intact, and tomorrow we only have about 500 mignardises to do.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer BBQ

I've yet to go to a BBQ in Paris. I imagine it's quite hard for people to grill outdoors since most live in apartments without terraces. The BBQ's I've seen in my local bricolage aka do-it-yourself store hardly hold a charbroiled flame to our Webers back home. However I have seen disposable BBQs like this. Tempting.

Well summer is here, and I've been craving BBQ, so I did the next best thing to firing up a grill. I slow cooked some pork shoulder, shredded it, and added some BBQ sauce. Perusing the grocery store, I was also able to find coleslaw (kind of shocking isn't it?), and "American Burger Sauce", which upon further inspection looked like thousand island. With a bag of chips, and a salad, these pulled pork sammies made for a perfect summer meal.

For dessert I quickly threw together some banana streusel muffins.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Manifestation and the kid I wanted to kill

On my days off, I like to take the bus around town. It's a nice change from traveling underground all week long. However, today there was a 'manifestation' over by Bastille. What does that mean? To me it meant that all the buses going in that general direction were either canceled or detoured. A normally 30 minute metro ride, or 45 minute bus ride took over 45 minutes 2 buses, a metro ride, and a lot of walking. I did a Google search for what might be going on in the neighborhood, which was useless. I checked the twitter posts of one of my favorite food bloggers and it turns out there's some demonstration going on. A lot of angry people.

Speaking of angry (a perfect segue into my next blog topic), I usually don't get very angry at work. Exhausted, burned, and hungry. Sure. Angry? Not really. I usually don't talk too much about the people I work with either.  This is an exception. Last week marked the return of this 15 year old piece of sh*t stagiaire who came to work with us for a week, about a couple months ago. I'm not sure if he's young, or a bit slow, or just has no respect for anyone. It could be all three. Half the time if he wasn't messing up a recipe he had already attempted twice, he was ignoring his duties and wandering around the lab asking others what they were doing. Also, when cleaning time came around, he'd conveniently disappear or say that he needed to go home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why fondant blows

Last week in preparation for my CAP exams, I decided to make some pate a choux. I knew they'd be on the exam and would likely take the form of eclairs. Whenever I think of eclairs or pain au chocolat, I always think of one of my former classmates and friend who is slightly eponymous and loves writing about her pastry shenanigans as much as I do.

Monday, June 7, 2010

J'ai fini!

Which means "I'm done"! Though I could say je suis fini, though the literal translation in french is "I'm finished" or rather "I'm dead". Surprising how many people make that mistake. I'm not quite dead, but je suis vraiment claque. Which means "I'm really beat."

Enough with the French lessons. This morning started at 6:30 AM, even though I didn't work. But I still worked in a lab at school taking my CAP practical exam. From around 8:00AM until 3:00 PM (with a 30 minute pause for me to stuff my face so I didn't pass out), I had to make croissants, chocolate croissants, chocolate eclairs, an apricot tart with pistachio almond cream, and a charlotte cake layered with biscuit cuillere, vanilla bavarois, pears, and a marzipan topping. The cake had to have a Valentines Day theme, so I just threw together some marzipan roses and cut out some hearts. It was tiring. We had a proctor who helped us along to work faster. Actually now that I think back to it, he mostly yelled at us... telling us to not fall asleep and to hurry up. Best part were the Ferrandi kids who washed our dishes.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to post of the goodies I made today; photographs were strictly prohibited. The proctors and 'jury members' seemed to be amused by an American taking an exam that most French kids have to take. They were pretty nice about the fact that I couldn't quite say something, but could describe it enough to get my point across. The proctor asked me why I was taking the CAP. My response? Because I can.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Holy moly mogador

Whats the heck is a mogador? Good question. Sounds like maybe something from Lord of the Rings? A quick google search says its either a cafe in the East Village of NYC, or an island off of Morocco that France tried to capture several times. Since it's also the name of a cake in my Fench school cookbook, I'm betting it  has more to do with the latter. However, the island's major exports are molasses and sugar, all I can really think of is that maybe this cake is super sweet? How about super deathly rich.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Having a heart to heart with tarts

One of the things I might be tested on during my CAP practical is tarts. I haven't made them since school, since they're not really Plaza Athénée worthy I suppose. So since I had some lemons sitting around, I figured I'd make a lemon meringue tart. Easy enough. To be honest, I was feeling a bit lazy and bought some pre-made tart dough from Picard. I mean everything seems to work out at Picard right people? Wrong.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Picard pick me up

Though it's not cold in Paris right this instant, I can't say the same for a few weeks ago when I went to Picard. It was cold, I was tired from work, and just wanted something warm and filling.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ready to pop a CAP up your....

Okay no. I haven't gotten all Parisian gangster on you. The fact of the matter is that I'm cramming and practicing for my CAP exams. That's "say-ah-pay" or Certificat d'Aptitude Professionnelle for the French. It's pretty much like a vocational GED and will make it easier if I intend on trying to find a baking job out here (which I'm still on the fence about).

What I didn't realize when I signed up, is that its about 14 hours of testing including subjects like French, science, math, 'professional and social life' (whatever the heck that is), gestion of stocks (pretty much pastry theory), and a 7 hour baking exam. Oh, not to mention I have to prepare two essays for history and geography with references. Yes that's two essays in French, that I'll have to talk about/defend in French. Seems a bit masochistic.

Anyways, to prep for the exam, I've also been baking. I made a rustic tart the other day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekend in Alsace

So amidst all my studying, working, and trying to recover from my short trip back to the US, I had a friend from California come visit. I'd never been to the Alsace region of France and got it in my head that it would be a good idea to drive out there from Paris on a Parisian holiday weekend. Though the driving wasn't so bad, it was long and a bit tiring. Next time I think I'll take the train though. We went to Strasbourg and Colmar, which are wondrously picturesque cities, and even crossed the border to visit Freiberg, Germany.  All I have to say is whatever they speak out there (that isn't French).. is a very odd sounding language. German isn't so pretty either. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good 'ole American Recipes

I think because I'm elbow deep in chantilly every week, filling choux pastries, or garnishing some mignardises, I generally jump at the chance to bake some treats that remind me of home.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What I miss from California...

I miss a lot of things from California. Of course the first being my friends and family, but I can't help but miss the wide variety of food we have! Sometimes I even think that I remember the food tasting better than it actually does. Last week I was in California for 3.5 days (to be exact). What do I hit up first? Los Charros Taqueria in Mountain View for a Jumbo burrito and a fish taco of course.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Bear with me folks, I'm lagging behind a bit on my posting. I do have a very good excuse though. I'm jet-lagged after flying back to the U.S. for 3.5 days. It was a suicide mission, but seeing that I was a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding, I think she would have flown to Paris to murder me had I not come. So after leaving Paris on a Wednesday, flying back on a Sunday...and then straight to work afterward, I'm a bit tired. I promise I'll have some tasty bites or work drama to write about soon!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Bruges

You would think that being in Paris would allow me to travel every single weekend around Europe, or at least a different part of France to experience all that it has to offer, but most of the time I'm just tired. The stage is pretty draining, and when I'm not working, I'm trying to recuperate from the previous week.

Fear not, I do get out every now and then and was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to Bruges, Belgium. Now most of you will say, "Bruges?! Where the heck is that?!". Thats what I thought too. Apparently Bruges is this really beautiful medieval city deemed the "Venice of the North" with its array of canals. Plus its the chocolate capital of the world. Chocolate, waffles, fries, mussels, beer... need I say more?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Picard 4

I'm starting to appreciate Picard. Not that I don't like cooking, but some days I'm far too tired to cook. Picard is kind of like cooking, and writing a blog post about it justifies stopping by the shop a little bit more than just plain hunger pains. Plus, as I've previously mentioned, Picard isn't your ordinary Celeste frozen pizza or Hungry Man dinner entree. They sell a wide variety of items from frozen breads, to desserts, to veggies, full entrees and frozen meats. If all you had in your home was a huge freezer, Picard would be heaven.

So I picked up Bouche a la reine (puff pastry with a creamy meat filling), sauteed veggies, and chicken fingers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Asian food in Paris

I've been a bit disappointed by the Asian food in Paris. Like most things, it's alright, but just not the same. Whether its Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese, I keep comparing to restaurants I frequent in California. The Japanese food here, however, is pretty good. Though once I went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered spicy tuna rolls and to my horror discovered they were made with soy paper instead of seaweed, and with cooked tuna instead of raw. Gross.

I've taken to cooking a lot of my favorite dishes at home. One of them is pho. When its cold outside there's nothing quite like a hot bowl of noodle soup. I fill mine with brisket, steak, meatballs, and tons of fresh veggies.

When I was last in California, I also picked up some seaweed, Japanese mayo, bonito flakes, okonomiyaki sauce, and okonomiyaki mix. Making the batter is a just a matter of mixing in water, egg, and julienned cabbage. I like to make mine with bacon or shrimp.

Another Vietnamese dish I really love is banh cuon. It's the Vietnamese version of filled crepes. The batter is made with a mix of cornstarch, rice flour and potato starch, but you can just buy it in a mix at any large Asian store. You mix the powder with water to form a very liquidy batter.

For the filling, I mix about 500 grams of pork, a good handful of re-hydrated black wood wear mushroom, onions, pepper, and a bit of fish sauce. Of course you could probably fill it with anything you like, but mushroom and pork are the traditional filling.

The crepes are cooked quickly in a skillet, flipped out onto a cutting board covered with greased aluminum foil (they're VERY sticky), and while still hot, filled with the pork/mushroom mixture and rolled up into little packages.

Banh cuon is served with bean sprouts, basil, fried shallots, fish dipping sauce (nuoc mam), and sometimes cha lua, which is Vietnamese pork sausage, or what I call Vietnamese "SPAM".