Fleur de Sel Chocolate Cake

One of my favourite things to do here at work is brainstorm menus, and we do this a lot. The chef and I are always discussing ideas and dishes, and we tend to change the menu a few times a day.

The desserts are of course always exciting to plan. One day last week we came to a stop: we didn't know what to make! After a lot of humming and awing we realized our guests hadn't had a cake in ages, and so I was given the task of making a beautiful cake for dessert.

Challenge accepted.

I very much enjoyed searching through my favourite blogs for the perfect cake and soon found myself on Poires au Chocolat, pouring over Emma's long list of cake recipes.

I have been reading Emma's blog for quite some time now. She just has adds such a lovely and delicate touch to the desserts she creates. I always want to try her recipes, and now that I'm living in this place with a giant and well-equipped kitchen at my disposal, it seems to be the perfect chance!

It was hard to choose a cake, but together the chef and I settled on Emma's Butterfly Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake. I would create a cake just as she had, complete with chocolate butterfly.

And that I did.

In France it is quite difficult to find all the required ingredients but with a trip to the pharmacy for some gelatine, we were able to get by.

This cake is rich and chocolately and salty and sweet.

This cake is pretty and elegant.

This cake is dense and intense.

And oh the salted caramel... I die. Really, it is remarkable.

I would make this cake again just for the caramel. I am seriously having major difficulties restraining myself from dipping my finger into the jar everytime I walk by the fridge. So. good.

You can find Emma's recipe on her blog Poires au Chocolat here: Butterfly Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake


Gazpacho Shots

From the Pyrenees to the Charente

Out of my mountain village and into a countryside chateau.

I recently moved up north to a new location for a little summer work. I'm now living in a gorgeous chateau that overlooks the village of La Rochefoucauld. This huge, old home was beautifully restored by a British couple, who for the past 20 years have been running holiday courses in painting, cooking and French lessons. That's right, painting and cooking: my two favourite things.

Every week new guests arrive and enjoy a holiday filled with canvas and paint in the studio (or French lessons outside, or walking tours) while staying in lovely large rooms and being served delicious 4 course meals.

Living at my place of work means that for the majority of my day I am on the job. But when that job includes a lot of time spent in the kitchen, and a lot of time dining with the guests at the table holding a glass of wine, I can't complain.

I am absolutely relishing in the joy of getting to cook and bake for others everyday, learning new techniques, trying recipes I've been wanting to try for years, and having all the possible ingredients I could imagine right at my fingertips.

Every Friday, the last night before the guests leave, the painters host a little show where they get the chance to display their body of work from their time here. It's great getting to see what everyone has been working on, and it's the perfect excuse to drink champagne ;)

It's also an event that calls for a little aperitif, as it takes place just before dinner, and somehow I have become in charge of preparing a selection of amuse bouche.

Totally okay with that!

I love coming up with new ideas and little treats to make at the end of each week to be enjoyed at the studio with a glass of champagne.

Last Friday I made these gazpacho shots. This cold soup makes a great appetizer for the summer months and is fun served in a shot glass or tiny glass!

Tomorrow is Friday (again already?!) and I'll be making chou pastry puffs filled with rosemary and emmental cheese.

A little inspiration from Spain, a little reminiscing, a little missing the food already

Gazpacho Soup Shots

Makes roughly 10 shots


1 can (400g) tomatoes (peeled and in their juice)
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 cucumber
1 red pepper
2 medium-sized onions
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

Firstly prepare your ingredients: after removing the skins, chop up finely the cucumber, onions, shallot, garlic and red pepper (this one you can leave the skin on).

Put all of these in a bowl along with the spices.

Add half of the canned tomatoes into a blender along with about 1/3 of the ingredients. Blend for a few seconds until everything is pureed. Keep adding the rest of the ingredients and tomatoes bit by bit until everything is well blended together.

Next blend in the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste.

Lastly add the olive oil and blend until well incorporated.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve in shot glasses with toasts.


Apple Tart

Don't you love it when those last minute, spur of the moment desserts turn out so wonderfully? When you throw a bunch of ingredients together in a flurry (with a bit of time dedicated to aesthetic purposes, of course) and they mix and mingle to create something delicious? I do.

Every Tuesday our village has their weekly market where they sell local cheese, cakes, fruits & vegetables, honey, paella (we're really close to the border!) among many other delights. Every few weeks I go up there to the same stall to buy my 5 kg bag of apples. Hey, it's a good deal okay? And yes, I really like apples (my roommate is not such a big fan, and I usually eat most of the bag myself). I would say they're the most versatile fruit. The possibilities with apples are endless!
So during the weekend before my last week of work at the high school my friend hosted a little soiree. They had the dinner planned, but wait, no dessert? Well that simply wouldn't do, so I said I'd make something... and with my 5 kg bag of apples in the corner I quickly decided on an apple tart.

I made it that evening just before we went over for dinner, and the smell that filled the kitchen was incredible. I would make this tart again just for the scent.
I passed the slices around after the main course. They were very well received, and quickly devoured.

It is the simplicity of this tart that makes it so good. Apples and cinnamon are just a match made in heaven.

Apple Tart


1 sheet of puff pastry
3-4 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup apple sauce / apple compote
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F

Lay the sheet of puff pastry over a 23 cm circular baking tray.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and toss the apple slices in it in a large bowl. Next toss them in the flour to coat them evenly.

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Save about 1 tbsp of this mixture, and toss the apples in the rest of it to evenly coat.

Press the pastry into the baking tray so it covers it evenly (it is fine if it hangs over the edge). Spread the base of the pastry with the apple sauce/compote.

Arrange the apple slices around over the pastry until you are happy with the look. Sprinkle the apples with the remaining sugar-spice mixture.

Fold any remaining pastry down along the edges.

Bake at 180C / 350F for 15-25 minutes or until the pastry has lightly browned and the apples are bubbling.