DB#28 or Two hearts as one!

Valentino Cake

We didn't have this cake for valentine's. In fact, we're not good at celebrating this date, which means that having been in Paris for St. Valentine's day in the last couple of years has been pure coincidence. But let me tell you that Paris has to be the most perfect place on Earth to be with your half! I've completed the Daring Bakers February's challenge last week, baking 8 beautiful heart-shaped cakes that were served with vanilla flavoured Quark and red-currants. Perfect combination indeed!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Valentino Cake

Chocolate Valentino
Adapted from Chef Wan

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Valentino Cake

My thoughts on the challenge:
- I've halved the recipe, and it worked just fine!
- Not having a mould to bake a heart-shaped cake, I've baked it in my silicone moulds - got 8 individual cakes.
- It's not warm in Lisbon. Not just yet. I really wanted to give it a try at a vanilla ice cream but in the end I couldn't find the time to make it or how to fit the bowl in my freezer. I've served the cakes together with Quark (added a little vanilla sugar) and red currants. Just thought some red was due!!
- My overall opinion about this recipe is really positive: the cake is easy to make and everybody liked it. It's not a cake to bake often but for a special occasion (if chocoholics are involved), I think it can be a nice option.

Thanks Wendy & Dharm for such a LOVEly recipe! ;-) Do check all the Daring Bakers creations: head over to the blogroll!


French mood

French Shallot Tart Tatin

Sometimes an accident is a good thing, even when it means a burning dish. Anyone who cooks regularly knows how things can get out of control in the kitchen, and how sometimes you have to find a way to still manage something for dinner despite overcooked / burned pots. When sisters Tatin came up with their signature dish, an upside-down tart was rather unusual. Originally made of caramelized apples, Tarte Tatin became a classic with many versions, some of them savoury. To keep me into French mood, I made a shallot tart tatin. Voilá!

French Shallot Tart Tatin

French Shallot Tart Tatin
Adapted from Delicious Magazine, February 2009

Serves 6

For the pastry:
125 grs plain flour
60 grs unsalted butter, chopped and cold
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 large egg yolk

For the "topping":
750 grs small medium shallots (about 12-16), unpeeled
125 grs plain flour
50 grs unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

The pastry can be done by hand or using a food processor. (I've done mine by hand, and it was easy) Sift the flour with a good pinch of salt, and mix in the mustard with a fork. Rub the chopped butter with your fingertips, until combined and resembling coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre. Use a knife to mix in the egg yolk until it comes together. Add 2 or 3 Tbsp ice water if it seems too dry. Without kneading, use your hands to press the dough together into a round disc. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.

Boil the shallots in salted water for 5 minutes, to make them easier to peel. Drain and cool, then peel the shallots (leave the root ends). Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 15 minutes or until starting to soft. Mix in the sugar, vinegar and 3 Tbps of water, and stir. Cook over low heat until the liquid has reduced and has become syrupy (about 15 minutes), turning the shallots occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a shallow tin (about 20 cm round) with butter. Place the shallots and any remaining liquid in the tin. Roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a circle slightly larger than the tin. Top with the pastry round, tucking edges into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Remove from the oven. Keep in the tin for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Carefully invert onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with thyme leaves. Serve while warm.


Paris, encore une fois.


Every time I look down on this timeless town,
Whether blue or gray be her skies,
Whether loud be her cheers, or whether soft be her tears,
More and more do I realize that...

I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is here

It's the Doris Day's version, the one Cole Porter preferred (or so it has been said) that is playing in my head over and over whilst I type. I've been to Paris in February, June and September, which pretty much covers every season. Like Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or Patti LuPone and many others non-musicians before me, I love Paris. Even when it drizzles. And trust me, it did.

There's some sort of magic to walk the boulevards in the cold, buy some books and find a warm place to have café au lait et pain aux raisins... Or to cross the Jardin des Tuileries to visit some exhibitions at Jeu de Paume et à l'Hôtel de Sully with a shy sun trying to make it through.


Or just to return to your all favourite bistrot, only to find out that it remains the same. Taking the risk to sound like a broken old record, I love Paris. Specially if my love is there.

Café Constant


February, Paris & Madeleines


It's February, and we're on our way to a few days in freezing Paris, like we did last year. You've probably got it already from last post. Yes, we're heading for Paris again. And again. Casablanca is responsible for the famous "we'll always have Paris" to which I'd only had that we'll always be going back to Paris. Even when it's February, and no one in his/her perfect mind would choose any Central Europe destination. Oh well. The weather forecasts are quite bad - not at all like the sunniest of days we got there last June (photo above) but it's Paris, so we'll find many things to do, eat and see.

In between dreams of macaroons and crème brûlée, I've made madeleines. But not just any madeleines. This is Christian Constant's recipe (and you know how much a like him, don't you?). I've made madeleines for the first time last year when we got back from Paris. Chocolate Madeleines. The recipe is quite easy to follow, I just made 2/3 to fit my pans.


Adapted from Christian Constant, Ma Cuisine au Quotidien

Makes 20-25

2 large eggs
3/4 cup (90 grs) powdered sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 grs) honey
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (135 grs) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp (135 grs) unsalted butter

Cream eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla extract and milk until combined. Sift flour and baking powder, and mix in.

You need "noisette butter" or beurre noisette (literally, "hazelnut butter") for this recipe. It's basically clarified butter with a fragrant nutty flavour. In a saucepan over medium to high heat, brown the butter until golden. Sieve, and set aside to cool. Carefully fold the cooled butter, using a spatula, without whisking. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a mold for madeleines, and sprinkle with flour (use a sieve for better and faster results).

Fill each mold with spoonfuls of batter until 3/4 full. Bake for 4 minutes. Reduce oven to 180ºC (350ºF), and bake another 4 minutes.