Inspiration comes in many forms.
Even though I haven’t stopped cooking, baking and Challah making over the last year and four months (that’s how long it has been since my last blog post) I seemed to have lost the inspiration and desire to blog about it. My day job and other aspects of my life seemed to have taken over and I just couldn’t fathom the idea of sitting down at the computer to write another post, which would use the little energy that I had on something that I just didn’t understand the purpose of.
I have now come to realise that I am actually missing writing my thoughts and feelings down about one of my true loves, food! And that just posting pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is not always as satisfying. It took me a while to figure this out and needed a couple of inspirational conversations and a present to make me realise that I wanted to start this again. I have come to appreciate blogging about food gives me a sense of relief and is my form of escapism. It gives me a chance to say things that would otherwise sound odd if not in a conversation about food, though I have plenty of those!
Inspiration one, the conversation: As I have mentioned in previous posts I am very conscious about my weight having struggled with it for most of my life. Currently, thankfully I am in a good place with it. I think one of the barriers for writing this blog has been that I was worried that if I write only about bread and baking that I would be constantly eating it and then the weight would creep back on (which it did at one point). After many a conversation with my brilliant and sensible dietician, she helped me understand that baking and cooking is as integral to who I am as my love of shoes and my job is and that I shouldn’t shy away from it, that I should embrace the joy of writing the blog. I also accepted that the blog doesn’t just need to be about bread and baking and doesn’t need to be all that regular, but rather about the foods I am generally making and can be written when I feel like it.
Inspiration two, the present: Recently I was given an incredible present by my lovely French friends, Laduree of Paris’s recipe book. These recipes are works of art and reminds you that the French have total ownership over patisserie. The book itself is also exquisite – I photocopy the recipes as the book is not coming anywhere near the kitchen! One of these friends had her birthday this weekend, and I thought what better opportunity to have my first try of one of these delectable recipes than for her birthday celebrations. It then dawned on me that this can be the focus of my comeback blog!
I also met Richard Barr – Great British Bake Off finalist (see picture) this week and will allow him some credit as well in giving me some inspiration to get this blog up and running again!
So here I am back writing my blog, and what a liberating feeling it is to know I am writing it because I want to have a record of my experience in the kitchen and share it with anyone that wishes to read it.
Now, there are chocolate tarts and then there are French chocolate tarts or as they call them ‘Tarte Tout Chocolat’. I have made many a thing with chocolate, but I have never encountered a recipe or a final dish like this. Every element of this desert had chocolate it in, from the pastry to the flourless cake and the ganache. As this tart was going to be served for my friend’s birthday celebrations, my other friend came to help me make it, we certainly bonded over this experience. We were lucky that we only made one error that thankfully we picked up on before it was too late, but it meant that the pastry had to be re-made. The lesson I learnt was that if you photocopy a recipe, make sure you photocopy the whole page, as otherwise as in my case you end up putting too many eggs in your pastry. I must admit, I did originally blame the French and their translation skills for not writing the correct amounts, but then I sheepishly had to take that back when I realised that I just didn’t know how to photocopy correctly!
This tart had three stages, the chocolate pastry which once done correctly was a perfect balance of a sweet short crust pastry with a hint of chocolate. The second stage was to make a flourless chocolate cake, which was almost like making a chocolate mousse, but instead of it setting it in the fridge it was cooked in the oven. The third stage was making the ganache which had to be done once both the pastry and flourless cake was cool as the moment the ganche was ready the tart had to be assembled. I have made ganche a few times before, but I found this time was a bit more of a delicate procedure. Simple ganache is when you boil cream and pur it over chocolate and mix it till it melts, this recipe called for butter to be added as well. It needed patience to ensure that once the chocolate was dissolved into the hot cream that the added fat (in this case margarine – I was making it dairy free) also dissolved. There was a point when my friend and I were concerned that it wouldn’t dissolve but it proved us wrong, you just need some patience.
The assembly of the tart was possibly the best part. You go from having three separate components to having one mind-blowing desert. The pleasure of putting a thin layer of ganache on top of the blind baked pastry, then placing the flourless cake on top and finally pouring over the rest of the ganache was so satisfying. We then had some fun grating chocolate on top of the tart, and I think we can say we were very proud of our professional and French looking Tarte Tout Chocolat.
When I make deserts, and especially complicated and time consuming ones, I often make more than one to make it more worthwhile. This time I ended up making three. My colleagues seemed very pleased to help me quality control two of the tarts to ensure that it was acceptable to serve my friend on her birthday. I was lucky to receive some lovely feedback from them. However, I think the best compliment I received was from my father. My dear father likes to ‘constructively criticise’ my cooking and baking. He is also someone who likes to eat chocolate but not really partial to a chocolate desert, so when he told me it was amazing and it was like eating real chocolate I knew that it was indeed a success!