Testing, testing….

We had a new oven installed this week – the old one died and we were completely sans oven for almost two weeks.

In the first two days with the new one, we’d already had two roast dinners. Of course this calls for a baking test too – first up: double choc chip cookies.

I had been watching Ina Garten on the Barefoot Contessa and saw her make these yummy double chocolate almond cookies with Kathleen King, so I decided to give them a bash. Except, because it was a late, spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn’t have almonds on hand so was going to substitute them with walnuts. Except, again, I then got impatient and wanted to get this mixture into the oven without taking the time to shell the walnuts!

So here are my double choc chip cookies, no almond. I also used only 1/3 of the original recipe (with the exception of the egg) because I didn’t want 52 cookies in the house!





Oven duly tested, it heats up quickly and runs a little hot. However, I think more testing is in order.

We have guests coming for dinner later this week and I am going to actually make a savoury dish. What a shock! TC usually does all that, but we have decided that we will do an entree, main, cheeseboard and then some small individual sweet pastries from the local patisserie to accompany coffee. That leaves me free to actually cook an entree while TC does the main.  I have chosen my dish and most of it can be made a day ahead… I’ll have to do a practice run early in the week too  I think. Stand by for that one.

Ready to enjoy

Ready to enjoy

Ahhhh, where’s my cup of tea…..

Bon appétit, à bientot!

Brown velvet is for cupcakes, red is for wine


Of course inspired by the usual red velvet cake in general, and by the recipe posted just recently by my lovely blogging-friend The Cooking Chook  in particular, I decided to make a batch of chocolate cupcakes. I particularly liked the sound of the white chocolate, cream cheese icing, so, with my devil-may-care bravado I threw away the red colouring and went for it to make brown velvet cupcakes.

The other thing I did was scale down the recipe. I know you are asking why, why why? Well two reasons, the first and most important being that the philadelphia cream cheese seems to only come in a 150g tub in my particular supermarket. This means scaling down the amount of icing I will have in a 250:150 ratio, or in other words in a 5:3 ratio… all of which means since I’ll only have 3/5 of the amount of philly, I’d better only make 3/5 of the amount of cake to go under the icing! The second reason is that TC and I don’t need any more cake, really. For the sake of our waistlines, less is better. Hmm, I could freeze the extras & take them to French class… there’s a thought.

Back to the scaling. Did you know Excel is very handy for this? Yes, the mathsy nerd in me comes out at times like this – as well as the sciency nerd who likes to be accurate – and using Excel is the quickest way to apply a formula to a list of things. Perfect for a recipe, haha!

I bet you are just dying to know what formula I used aren’t you? If you really want, I’ll tell you at the end.

So, with newly scaled quantities in hand, Chookie’s recipe and instructions (and some adaptations because you can’t actually get 1.2 eggs even if you tried really hard) off I set to bake some lovely cupcakes. IMG_3731

First mishap, dropped a bit of flour on the floor. OK… on with the show… next mishap, knocked a container out of the cupboard and voila, sweetener tabs all over the floor. Thankfully I had only cleaned and mopped the floor yesterday, otherwise all that flour and sweetener may have stuck to some greasy, unidentifiable spots on the floor. As it was, it was quick to clean up & power forward.

The next step involved combining all my dry ingredients, measuring out the butter, sugar and milk (for the buttermilk) and then letting the butter, milk and eggs sit for a while to come to room temperature. By this time I have decided it’s wine o’clock – it is Saturday night after all – so a glass of red is perfect for this waiting period. I did briefly hope that wouldn’t mean more mishaps to come. Ok, I know I have committed a writing crime and switched tenses mid-paragraph, but this post is now written in real-time and we are up to date. I’ll pour the 2nd glass of red while I check on the butter and eggs…

Melting chocolate is fun, I follow the rest of the directions and before I know it I have some icing. Oops, one more change, I decided to add 1/3 cup icing sugar, just because I like things sweet. IMG_3739 brown velvet cupcake

Put it all together…

… and voila, brown velvet cupcakes with white chocolate, cream cheese icing. Not bad at all, TC likes them too! IMG_3740

I have already frozen some, so will let you know if our fellow French students and teacher like them on Tuesday. If they last that long.

White on Brown Velvet Chocolate Cupcakes

1.5 cups sifted plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1.5 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

70g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1/2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp baking soda

White chocolate cream cheese frosting

150g cream cheese, at room temperature

70g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

110g white cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa, set aside. Cream butter and sugar until pale & smooth. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time & continue beating. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture & 1/3 of the buttermilk, mix and repeat until all of the ingredients are combined. In a glass, combine the vinegar and baking soda, quickly add to the cake batter & stir through. Divide mixture between prepared cupcake papers. Bake for 20 min, checking after 15 minutes & remove when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over gently boiling water, stirring with a metal spoon. When melted, set aside.

Whip butter until pale & smooth, set aside.

Combine cream cheese, salt and vanilla and icing sugar, beat for about 3 minutes until smooth & light. Slowly add the while chocolate, mixing to combine. Add the butter, 1/3 at a time & mix until combined.

Ice the cupcakes and enjoy!

Ok, the Excel formula because I knew someone was busting to know… with the quantity of each ingredient in column B (numbers only, descriptions in column C) enter in cell A1 “=B1*3/5, enter, then use the fill handle to drag down for the entire list of ingredients, then round to practical amounts.

Don’t eat that! Ooh, too late

Oops – we think we made a faux pas at Christmas!

We have a lovely dog across the road who regularly comes over for pats when we see her in the street. She is a lovely german sheperd and lives with her owner,  to whom we greet with “bonjour” whenever we see him.

In the spirit of Christmas we left a small gift on his doorstep on Christmas eve since he wasn’t home. It was just a little parcel of doggie treats, beautifully wrapped in xmas paper, tied with a bow and with a mini koala keyring attached for the neighbour. We wrote on the card “Pour le chien” along with our Christmas wishes to the neighbour. Obvious, right?  Right???

On Christmas night he came over and spoke a lot of very fast French to us. Eventually we got that he found a gift and wanted to know if it was from us (yes) then thanked us warmly for “les chocolats”.


Oh dear.

Our French failed us.  We managed to reply that he was welcome, it was nothing and please have a lovely Christmas… then we closed the door and looked at each other with horror – what have we done? He must think Australian chocolates taste pretty bad… like dog-food perhaps?!?  Doggie neighbour

Here’s to a deliciously hot chocolate aroma coming from my oven right now…
Oooohhh, this recipe from the fabulous Stéphane Gabart over at My French Heaven was easy, and most importantly delicious!! Moist, almost gooey, perfect on the outside…… Its now on my regular list.  Tres bon!

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How far do you go for sweet things?

Right now I am enjoying the fruits of the labour of one Monsieur Eric Maury, talented chocolatier and pâtissier with a little shop tucked away in the lakeside village of Marseillan, France. So far I have tasted his to-die-for tarte tartin, grand marnier chou, pistache macaron and his delicious and oh so chocolatey “tarte tentation” – yes, the temptation tart.

If you find yourself in the region, I highly recommend collecting a sample for yourself!

La Bonbonnière,  9 rue Emile Zola 34340 MarseillanImageImage