It was with great excitement when I passed by a shop on Old Brompton Road a couple weeks ago – there was a big sign on the front announcing the imminent arrival of Aux Merveilleux de Fred to London. And it has indeed recently opened – the weekend before Valentine’s Day too.

This patisserie from Lille specialises in meringues covered in cream and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything else sold there (I lie, they also sell a sweet bread called a cramique). But their meringues! They’re quite simple – little mounds or big cakes constructed of layers of meringue and cream. I first encountered them in Lille, where a long queue out the door of the shop attracted my attention; I did want one then but we hadn’t the time to stand in the queue that day. Here was our chance to finally try their confections.

Meringues

This past Valentine’s Day, I purchased a small box of their smallest (two bite size) meringues for dessert that evening. There were five in total, one of each of their main flavours, and it cost £8.50 (oof). Their texture is fabulous – light crispy meringue and equally light flavored whipped cream.

As you can see, each little mound was also rolled in sprinkles of some kind. From left to right (in the photo above):

  • Le Merveilleux - this seemed to me one of their most famous flavours with chocolate flakes and chocolate whipped cream too.
  • L’incroyable – the cream in this little treat was supposed to be speculoos flavoured but sadly I could not taste it at all. It tasted mainly of the white chocolate flakes on its surface.
  • L’impensable – this coffee flavoured confection was probably my favourite!
  • L’Excentrique – this cherry flavoured one was Blai’s favourite. I would have like more fruity flavour but Blai loved that the meringue flavour came through best because of this reason.
  • Le Magnifique – coated in delicious praline and this was the second favourite for both of us.

That day, there was also a caramel flavoured variety on offer. Ah, another one to sample next time!

Meringues

I’ve only so far had a chance to try their smallest meringue confections (they come in a larger single serving size as well as big cakes) but what we had was delicious.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred
88 Old Brompton Road
London SW7 3LQ

I’ve been watching way too much Food Network UK recently and the one show I constantly drool over is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I love the old school joints that are featured. There’s many a night I’ve wasted in the past reading about barbecue and meat and three and Coney dogs and stacks of pancakes and everything about this show brings it all to life. Of course, it also brings on some massive cravings, like the waffles I needed one recent weekend.  Rather than pair them with something savoury, I wanted sweet waffles and sweet waffles I would have.

Cheap punnets of blueberries at the supermarket also had me remembering a sleepover at a friend’s when I was much younger and still in Canada. We had pancakes for breakfast with her family and her father brought out a little pitcher of homemade blueberry syrup. The recipes online for blueberry syrup are just that – a thick sweet liquid made from cooking blueberries with sugar and water. But those online are strained while that I remember still had plenty of blueberries in it; this would have to be rectified. It was decided – a punnet of blueberries came home with me and I was going to have homemade blueberry syrup with my waffles that Sunday morning.

Waffle with Blueberry Syrup and Yoghurt

Blueberry Syrup for Waffles or Pancakes
serves 2 (on top of waffles and pancakes!)

200g blueberries
3 tbsps sugar
120 ml water

Dump all the ingredients into a small pot and place over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and when the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer together, mashing the blueberries a bit, until thickened. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm over waffles or pancakes. I plopped a dollop of Greek yoghurt on top but it doesn’t really need it. If you like your syrup sweeter, by all means, add more sugar but I like it just like this.

I still have Sweden on the mind! I was thinking the other day of Delicato balls, those rather moreish oaty chocolate balls rolled in dessicated coconut that one can purchase in Ikea (are they still available there?). Turns out they’re very easy to make and go by the name of chokladbollar; if you read about them on Wikipedia, you’ll see that they used to go by a more politically-incorrect moniker. The current word though feels right on the tongue – chok-lad-bol-lar. (I bet I’m saying it incorrectly.)

They’re quite popular in Sweden and especially at children’s parties though I see no reason why adults wouldn’t like them. In addition to the chocolatey sweetness, oatmeal gives these balls a pleasant chew and it’s hard to stop at just one. They’re perfect too with a cup of hot coffee or tea and there’s certainly nothing kiddy about that.

Chokladbollar

Chokladbollar
adapted from this recipe.
makes 15-20.

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsps cold strong coffee
just a little under 1.5 cups of rolled oats
unsweetened, dessicated coconut

In a food processor or mini chopper (that’s what I have), pulse the rolled oats a few times until you end up with a coarse grind but not so fine that you have powder.

Mix together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla and coffee and again mix to incorporate. Add the ground oats and mix thoroughly. Take lumps of the mixture and form into 1 inch diameter balls. Roll in the coconut to coat and place them in a covered container. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Here are the recipes for the sweet treats I made for my Marie Curie tea party. They all have a link to my childhood somehow, well except the cupcakes…those were an experiment!

Kuih Bakar

I definitely wanted to bring a kuih of some sort to the tea party; kuihs are Malaysian and Nyonya cakes, usually very brightly coloured and certainly very different to western-style cakes. Coconut and glutinous rice usually feature heavily. I didn’t want to steam, the cooking method used to make many of these sweets, and instead chose to bake one. Kuih bakar it was going to be, literally meaning roasted cake. Coconut milk and pandan and eggs are used, giving it a flavour similar to that of kaya, a Malaysian coconut jam, another popular sweet spread that I loved as a child. However here flour is used to make it a proper cake.

Kuih Bakar

I used this recipe from My Kitchen Snippets, but used only one 400ml can of coconut milk with water to make up the total volume. The batter is alarmingly thin but fear not, it does set in the oven. It was quite delicious with a firm custard like texture but I don’t think it keeps very well; it became a bit too firm after a spell in the fridge. It’s probably one to make and serve on the same day.

Graham Cracker Toffee

Here’s one that my mother used to make for us when I was in high school. It’s pretty much a tooth-rotter but hey, what’s wrong with a bit of that (followed by lots of tooth brushing) once in a while? I remember that she found the recipe on the side of a box of crackers – the recipe does work with savoury crackers such as saltines or matzo (and the recipe is all over the Internet in all its guises); if you use them, leave out the salt on top. If you’re wondering where I purchased graham crackers in London, look for them in Asian shops – I purchased a Filipino brand.

Graham Cracker Toffee

Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius. Toast two large handfuls of flaked almonds in a dry frying pan; set aside to cool. Line a 36cm x 25cm Swiss roll tray with foil and arrange graham crackers in a single layer on top of it. Put 120g unsalted butter and 120g brown sugar in a heavy saucepan and melt together over medium heat. Let it bubble together for about 5 minutes. Pour over the graham crackers, using a silicone spatula to spread it roughly (it will spread more in the oven). Place the tray in the oven for about 10 minutes – the toffee should be bubbling furiously and make sure you pull it out of the oven before it burns. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before scattering on top about 120g chopped dark chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes before spreading the now melted chocolate evenly over the toffee – top with a bit of fleur de sel (I used a vanilla one) and the toasted almonds. Let cool completely (you can place the tray in the fridge to hasten this) and then snap into presentable chunks.

Mango Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream

OK, here’s something I have to admit – after tasting these, my little experimental cupcakes, I felt that mangoes have no place in baked goods. Perhaps on top of baked goods, yes, but certainly not in the batter/dough itself. That said, some of my colleagues really enjoyed them and perhaps the issue of mangoes-in-baked-goods is quite like Marmite – it must be a love-hate thing.

Mango Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream

Anyway, the cake recipe can be found here at The Baking Stone. I used alphonso mango puree and just straight up all plain flour rather than a mix of white and wholewheat. I also baked the cakes in fairy cake pans so ended up with about 20 cakes altogether rather than 12.

For the lime buttercream, I used 112g of softened unsalted butter and 112g of icing sugar, along with the zest and juice of half a large lime. This was enough for all my cakes. Frost the cakes when they’ve cooled fully.

There was one more sweet cookie that I made for the tea party – lemon blueberry drops.

Lemon Blueberry Drops

However, I feel like I wouldn’t be giving them the respect they deserve by lumping them with the other recipes! It was a recipe my mother made often in Canada and they feature a lot in my memories. I have no idea where she first found the recipe – anyway, I hope to blog them soon!

I came across this post by One Hungry Chef midweek and his recipe for homemade marshmallows looked so easy that I got a sudden need to make them. I was reminded of the light, fluffy guimauve from Pierre Marcolini and hoped to recreate that exact texture and flavour. I liked that his recipe also didn’t include egg whites or corn syrup, the first being an ingredient I think doesn’t belong in marshmallows and the second being one that’s hard to find here in the UK. Never one to leave things alone, I modified the recipe to lie somewhere between One Hungry Chef‘s and Sugar Plum‘s.

Marshmallows

And the tweaked recipe turned out well! The most important thing to have is a candy thermometer as it’s imperative that your sugar syrup gets to the correct temperature. An electric hand mixer or a stand mixer is also useful as it’ll save your poor arm from a long stint at whisking. The texture that resulted from the recipe below was spot on – just perfectly light and the marshmallow just melts in your mouth, a far cry from the uniform cylindrical puffs you get in a bag. I’m keen to try making other flavours too – mint or rose or orange flower immediately come to mind.

Vanilla Marshmallows
makes about 50 (of course, this depends on what size you make them).

400 g sugar
2 tbsps powdered gelatin
300 mL water
a large pinch of salt
2-1/2 tsps vanilla extract
powdered/icing sugar
cornstarch/corn powder

Prepare your marshmallow container – a 20-23cm square pan is good. I just used a baking dish of approximately that size. Mix together equal volumes of icing sugar and cornstarch. Lightly oil your pan and then dust the bottom and sides with this sugar/cornstarch mixture.

In a large heatproof bowl (mine’s Pyrex), pour in 150 mL of the water and then scatter over the powdered gelatin. Set aside.

In a small heavy based pot, pour in the other 150 mL of water and all the sugar. Set over medium heat and whisk together occasionally until the sugar has all melted. Bring the mixture up to 115 Celsius. (This took longer than I expected!) Take off the heat. Pour the syrup over the gelatin in the bowl and stir together well. Add the salt and the vanilla and continue stirring, allowing it to cool a bit.

With a hand mixer (of course, if you have a stand mixer, use it!), beat the syrup at medium/high speed (I switched back and forth between the two) for 12 minutes. After this time, the mixture will have doubled in size, thickened, and be opaque. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top down if needed. Dust the top with more of the sugar/cornstarch mixture and cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Set aside at room temperature for at least 4 hours (or even overnight). Proceed to lick the beaters and the bowl!

Marshmallow Slab

When the marshmallow is set, turn it out onto a chopping board and cut it up into squares. I found kitchen scissors to be the best for the job; you could even use cookie cutters to make shapes. Dust all the cut edges with more of the icing sugar and cornstach mix. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a couple weeks.

Cutting

All you North American’s out there are probably wondering if these marshmallows make good s’mores! If you’re curious, these are graham crackers sandwiching a bit of chocolate bar and a hot toasted marshmallow. Graham crackers aren’t easy to find in the UK but you might be able to happen upon a Filipino brand I’ve seen at an Asian supermarkets. I used a chocolate covered stem ginger biscuit as my base and topped it with a toasted marshmallow (stuck it on a skewer and held it over a gas burner).

Toasted

Only as you can see, the marshmallow didn’t get toasty enough as its delicateness causes it to melt before browning; the toasted flavour is spot on though. I think a small blowtorch is in order!

Or try floating these babies on top of some rich, dark hot chocolate – look at these posts by One Hungry Chef and foodie hunter for inspiration!

I was perusing the Gourmet website last week when I stumbled upon this recipe for a classic dessert from the city of Salzburg. I’d not heard of it before nor had I had anything remotely similar when I visited Salzburg but I was totally game to something involving pretty much a souffle on jam and cream. It sounded light and creamy and fruity and vanilla-y and altogether great. It was only Sunday when I finally got around to making it for dessert and let me tell you, it’s terribly easy for two to finish off what was meant for four.

Mmmm....Toasty Brown...

It’s a fabulously easy recipe though like many souffle recipes, it can go horribly wrong, especially if you decide to open the oven door to take a peek! (Don’t do it unless you like collapsed souffles!) If you’re feeling confident, I reckon it’ll be a lovely end (and it looks quite spectacular) to a Christmas lunch or New Year’s Eve dinner.

Anyway, I’ll see you all on the other side of Christmas Day – I hope it’s great for you and your loved ones. Happy holidays!

Salzburger Nockerl
adapted from Gourmet
serves 4

1/4 cup (63 mL) double cream
1/4 cup (63 mL) lingonberry preserves (or redcurrant or blueberry)
5 egg whites (from large eggs), at room temperature
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (112 g) caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until they reach the soft peak stage. Continue beating, adding the caster sugar a bit at a time, until they form stiff peaks and they look smooth and glossy. Fold in the flour.

In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks and vanilla. Carefully fold this mixture into the beaten egg whites.

In a 9″ pie dish (or something similar) pour the double cream into the base, twirling the pan to have the cream cover the bottom evenly. Drop small dollops of the jam onto the cream – it won’t cover the entire base but that’s ok.

Cream and Jam Base

Spoon the egg mixture on top – traditionally, three or four peaks (supposedly representing the mountains surrounding Salzburg) are made…but it’s perfectly ok to just spoon it on!

Ready for the Oven

Bake for 15 minutes or a little longer if you prefer your souffles a little more solid. I baked mine for about 18 minutes altogether. Let it rest out of the oven for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top if you like and serve.

Dulce de leche. Do those words make you drool yet? Thick, brown, sticky, caramelised condensed milk is all that it is and it’s awfully easy to make. I finally got around to making some when I saw tins of condensed milk at my local budget supermarket (Netto, if you must know). I bought three, as I estimated that was what my largest pot could hold, brought them home and then nervously watched them all night. And that’s without even boiling them yet!

You see, I had read a few horror stories online about how unopened tins exploded while being boiled, spattering hot brown goo all over kitchen and ceiling. Of course, I started to wonder how exactly did that goo escape? Through a small puncture or were there sharp metal shards all over the place?! Upon careful rereading, the exploding only happened when the boiling water evaporated enough to expose the tins to air, whereby the risk of their exploding increases exponentially. Other techniques for making dulce de leche involve pouring the condensed milk into a pan and then baking it slowly in the oven. Nah, I was going to risk it.

The next day, while watching the men’s Wimbledon finals (which incidentally, lasted longer than the boiling!), I placed the three tins on their sides into my stockpot and covered them with lots of cold water; they were covered by at least an inch or two. If your tins have paper labels, remove them; mine had the labels printed directly onto the tin, something I’d not come across before. The pot was set to boil for three and a half hours. Every half hour or so, I would top up the pot with boiling water direct from my electric kettle. Do make sure the tins are always covered! I checked on mine nervously every five minutes at the beginning but then realised that half hour checks were going to be ok.

After they’ve finished their 3.5 hour stint in water, turn off the heat and let the tins cool in the water. Don’t be hasty and open the tins while they’re hot as they’re still likely to spray molten goo all over you and your kitchen. When we finally opened a tin, this was what greeted us:

Dulce de Leche

Oh yeah. Thick, sticky, caramelly goodness. It’s very thick and we tasted first on teaspoons. It’s sweet and slightly milky and gosh, it’s hard to describe it but you ought to try making it too since it’s so easy! I like my caramel with a bit of salt and so we next had some on crackers; salt and caramel are just perfect bedfellows.

The best part of boiling directly in the tin is that you can take those unopened tins and put them straight back into your storecupboard. I’ve read that the sugars might crystallise a bit but it’s supposedly a good thing as you get a bit of crunch.

Now I still have 2.5 tins of dulce de leche left… what shall I do with them?!


Oh, and if you’re reading this in time, tomorrow (Saturday, 12 July 2008) is the Korean Food Festival at the Fountain Pub in New Malden. More info over at London Korean Links.

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