Archive | February, 2013

The most chocolatey white and dark chocolate cookies for when it’s stormy and you want a chocolate hug

22 Feb

These cookies are an adaptation of the ‘Double Death by Chocolate Cookies‘ recipe from my bible, being The Great British Bake Off, How to turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers of course.

I made these cookies for Valentines day (a request haha!) However I was majorly craving them last night during one of Nice’s storms. I love them! The weather here is great, it hardly ever rains but when it does, it usually involves a storm. Films, tea and chocolate cookies are perfect for eating in bed, listening to the storm outside.

I modified this recipe from the Bake Off book as I had no cocoa powder. Instead, I melted some dark chocolate and reduced the amount of soft butter, I also added some extra flour to balance out the wet/dryness of the mixture. I also added quite a few more white and dark chocolate pieces to the cookies because I just love chocolate.

The first time I made these cookies I used the cheapest dark chocolate from Carrefour – they came out ok, however the high sugar content in the chocolate made them a little too sweet and not ‘chocolately’ enough. As a result, use dark chocolate of more than 70% cocoa solids, it is really really worth the extra few centimes/pence (even if you are a student!)

Makes 14 large, gooey cookies        IMG_20130221_225053

Ingredients:
175g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking powder
95g golden caster sugar
100g very soft unsalted butter
1 large egg at room temperature
25g good quality dark chocolate, melted
100g good quality white chocolate, broken into chunks (personally, the chunkier, the better)
150g good quality dark chocolate, broken into chunks

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the melted chocolate and soft butter together then add to the dry ingredients.
2. Beat the egg until frothy then add to the dry ingredients along with your chocolate chunks. Mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and drop it onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Repeat with all the mixture allowing space between each blob for the cookies to spread when cooking.
4. Bake for approximately 12 minutes. They should be firm but not hard, they carry on cooking for a while and harden up after you take them out of the oven, burnt cookies is not a good look, you want soft, chewy ones!

Leave to cool then eat

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Aix-en-Provence, more markets!

20 Feb

It is the February ‘half term’ for French schools at the moment (you know you’ve grown up when you are the teacher on holiday and not the pupil…) and myself and four other language assistants decided to do a bit of exploring in our local area. With cheap train tickets and hostels, why not!

We decided to pay a visit to Aix-en-Provence, a small-ish town located 45 minutes north of Marseille.

IMG_20130219_193148And they are such contrasts. Whilst Marseille is HUGE, rather rough and run-down, although not without it’s gritty, urban charm, Aix is a picturesque, quite upmarket town with it’s typical Provençal old town area filled with fountains, squares (and in France you cannot have a square without about 10 cafes!) and narrow streets filled with chic boutiques.

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What I liked about it the most however, was the trendy feel to it. This is due to the immense student (and of course French Hipsters) population o

f the town, which is great – 2.50 Euro glasses of wine with free tapas is just what I needed after less student-friendly and more touristy prices of Nice!

 

 

We had a lovely meal in a cool yet good value bar/restaurant/vintage shop in the old town. You cannot go wrong with a salade de chevre chaud.

And of course, my love of artisan produce was satisfied with a market that spread itself all over the old town, you can see from the pictures what a choice there was!

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Nutella, crêpes, emmental and ham – Shrove Tuesday the French way

13 Feb

France has its ‘pancake day’ on the 2nd of February, known as the Fête de la Chandeleur.

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Unbeknownst to me, the 12th of February mardi gras doesn’t involve pancakes. It literally means ‘fat Tuesday’, yet it does not involve pancakes and their delicious if a little naughty (when else do we have ice cream and chocolate for dinner?!) toppings… hmm.

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I wish I had known about the Fête de la Chandeleur earlier, as I then would have had two excuses to eat pancakes all day. Oh well, I suppose I had my fair share of them last night (and this morning…)

For our pancake party, everyone brought a batter ingredient and a topping. We had such a great selection from French classics such as Nutella and banana crepes as well as emmental and ham. We also had Speculoos spread and banana (cinnamon coffee biscuits in a spread… the French love it!) to melted Lindt chocolate and strawberries topped with ice cream, Greek yogurt and fresh rhubarb and raspberry compote, to British classics such as lemon and sugar. And of course, fluffy American pancakes with butter and maple syrup!

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Yum Yum Yum!

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Tartiflette – discovering even more warming mountain food!

11 Feb

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Second trip to the ski resort of Isola 2000, second helping of tasty, rich warming melted cheese and potato variation.

It may not be the healthiest,  the amount of reblochon, camembert, and… tartiflette,  an Alpine cheese that is traditionlly used only in this dish of potatoes, onions, creme fraiche and lardons  Basically a more rustic, hearty dauphinoise.

 

We had a spinach salad with it to justify eating the whole bowls worth. I dread to think how much saturated fat I consumed but you know,  sometimes it’s the only thing that cuts it up on the mountain in -8C conditions, along with a few glasses of vin chaud of course!

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My ‘Couldn’t wait until pancake day oaty-cinnamony healthy pancakes’

7 Feb

I recently realised that I only knew when Valentine’s day was by the association of that it is two days after pancake day…

hmmm

I would imagine it is generally the other way round.

I love pancakes, traditional French crepes with Nutella and banana have become a little bit of a too common occurrence for breakfast recently.

I equally love an American-style buttermilk stack slathered with butter, maple syrup and scattered with blueberries. Oh I wish there was America’s IHOP (International House of Pancakes) in Europe. My dear old Nan thought it was a chain of Chinese restaurants when confronted with them in the States!

Anyway, I thought of making a bit of a healthier pancake for breakfast this week (an excuse to practice for next week no?) So I went about making American-style ones with made with 50/50 flour and rolled oats to give them a bit more fibre. They are surprisingly filling, and give off a more of a rich, nutty taste, perfect with honey and bananas! IMG_20130125_080905

Serves 2 for a big breakfast!

Ingredients:
130g plain flour
80g rolled oats (I used Quakers porridge oats – yes, it’s really popular here in France!)
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
300ml milk
1 large egg
1tsp cinnamon

To serve:
Chopped banana & honey

Method:
1. Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat. Mix dry ingredients together and then the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
Slowly combine the wet to the dry ingredients.
2. When the frying pan is heated up, drop a tiny bit of butter onto the pan and gently tilt the pan so the surface is completely greased.
3. Use 2-3 tbsp of the mixture for each pancake. Drop onto the pan and flip when bubbles form on the surface.

Serve warm with juice and coffee, and read the paper whilst you’re at it!

 

Simple pleasures – Sunday morning croissants & hot chocolate à la français/Phoebe

3 Feb

During my walk home from the nightbus after a night out in Cannes, I found myself walking past my local boulangerie. Late night to the early hours of the morning is when all croissboulangeries make their masses of breads and pastries. The smell of fresh bread is infamously amazing, however the wafts of baking croissants I believe is even better. I went to bed adamant to treat myself to a croissant in the morning. I also realised that I am actually quite obsessed with food – who plans their breakfast so determinedly (I even checked to see if I had apricot jam…) at 4am whilst knackered and (slightly) under the influence of alcohol?!

True to late night determination, two fresh, buttery croissants made their way to  my apartment. As it’s a Sunday, I thought why not go all out and have a typical French, tasty yet not so healthy accompaniment – hot chocolate in a bowl, the only way to drink it (if you are a French child, but oh well.)

As an adult, I did make myself a bit more of a ‘grown-up’ hot chocolate in a bowl. The addition of a shot of coffee makes masses of difference in my opinion. It takes away some of the sicklyness that can come from a big bowl of milky hot chocolate, plus gives you a bit of a (much needed) caffeine buzz.

Just what I needed!

My version of chocolate chaud calls for:
A china, heat proof smallish bowl that can easlily be drunk from.
About 250ml milk (if you are going really authentic then use UHT – although the French stuff doesn’t have quite the same strong taste as the UHT milk in the UK.)
1 tbsp hot chocolate powder (Poulain is a popular French brand that is the best – far better than any supermarket hot chocolate in the UK, I always bring a pot back with me!)
Shot of espresso or 2tsp instant coffee granules

1. In your bowl, mix the coffee and hot chocolate powder with a few tbsp milk to form a paste, add the rest of the milk then pop in the microwave for 1min. Stir to ensure everything is well mixed and cook for a further 40seconds.
Serve with warm croissants and jam.