Thursday, November 30

Paris, Je t‘aime…The Sweet Life (part three)

It’s by now already quite some time ago since my trip to Paris. Exactly 25 days. Already way too long…
I told extensive and detailed about it earlier, but I wanted to tell and show you in brief some other sweet (and very tasty) things we did.

Our dinner at Ladurée on the Champs Elyseé for example.
I had the Bonaparte Salad - with Scottish smoked salmon, salmon eggs, blini, olive oil, lemon juice, seaweed tartare and black olives cream…- and it was absolutely amazing.
Simple perfection. Made with only the best ingredients, this was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
But I said that as well about their Ladurée Salad and Club Champs-Elysées. And from seeing the queue of people waiting to be seated and their plates and expressions, I can conclude everything is amazing here!

For dessert we had the Tarte Tatin, the Coupe Fraise-Coquelicot and the Eclatant Fraise Figue.
The Tarte Tatin was without a doubt the best out of these three.
Sadly, I have not even one good picture of the food or our royal seating, as a result of that charming candle light…
So you just have to go and check out yourself if I’ve made you curious…;)

We consumed more for lunch the next day at BE, Boulange épicier, a fusion of a "boulanger" and an "épicier" - baker and grocer.
We read that BE had the best sandwiches of Paris, and since the store is owned by no one less than Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser, this wasn’t so hard to believe.
The wonderful perfumes from freshly made bread welcome you when you step into this beautiful little store packed with goodies and the best products. You can buy your pasta, jams, chocolate, little jars and spreads here, and of course your lunch (!)
Soups, salads, sandwiches, and a whole arrange of desserts: fruit salads, pastries, tartlets and muffins...

We ordered a lentil salad, 2 pesto/mozzarella/tomato/basil sandwiches -which were served onto indeed one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted: It was soft, slightly sweet and a bit brioche-ish. Amazing… - The last sandwich was a larger, sweet raisin pain, with roquefort and pear. Wonderful.

I’m glad we went, but it was a bit disappointed since we expected a real restaurant. BE is a wonderful store, with wonderful food, but more for take-away.


Stop three.
We heard so much about Berthillon and their ice cream in flavours like caramel and chocolat amar, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and just had to go.
So on Saturday morning, after our morning coffee and croissant, we ‘shopped’ ourselves down to Île Saint-Louis - one of the two little islands in Paris, surrounded by the Seine.
We rushed pass the Notre-Dame, with just one intention: Berthillon.
The lack of an immense line was our first hint. When we arrived on 31, Rue St. Louis en l´Ile, we found Berthillon…

Yep. 100% Closed.
I’ll leave it by this. If I start expressing my feelings more, I know I will not stop anymore…

But if we want ice cream, we will get ice cream.
Berthillon drove us straight to their opponent:

Amazing Italian-style ice-cream, with quite a few locations in Paris. (Just look out for a flying little Italian elf and you’ll find Amorino...)
Absolutely delicious. I’m not really an ice cream expert, I almost never eat ice cream, (I prefer something with a bite…) but my sister, who happens to be an ice cream expert, approves it as well.
Very nice is you can choose as many flavours as you want. 20 flavours in just one scoop? No problem. The mango and caffe were my favourites.
(I just discovered their website, click on the flavours and see them in close-up. *drool…*)

The last thing I want to share is this pain au chocolat from Fauchon.
Their macarons couldn’t compare with Hermé’s, (they didn’t even come close…) but their pain au chocolat beats hermé’s easily. It was the best pain au chocolat we ever tasted. Buttery, flaky, as light as air and so chocolaty…*sigh*

This were my Paris highlights part I, II and III. Hope you enjoyed it, - I sure did! - and up to the next trip! ;)

Ladurée Champs Elysées
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
Tel :

73 bd de Courcelles
Tel : 01 46 22 20 20

place de la Madeleine 24-26-30
Tel :

Saturday, November 25

1 + 1 = 3

Sometimes is 1+1=3
These Chocolade Stroopkoeken (chocolate treacle cookies) are a classic example for this. They are not just two crispy chocolaty cookies fused together with some hot, creamy, salted treacle….but they are the best crispy chocolaty cookies fused together with some hot, creamy, salted treacle. They are amazing.
Make a hundred and you still want more, I guarantee.

The stroopkoek is a typically Dutch product. Only, undeserved, a whole lot less known then it’s brother the stroopwaffle. Although I can appreciate a hot, freshly made stroopwaffle from time to time, (especially with this colder weather) I prefer a stroopkoek. And then of course the version as shown here above: thinner, chocolaty and salted. Heaven.

I got them from Koekje, the cookie-bible I wrote about before. The recipe comes from Kees Raat (kind of logical since it’s a(n incredible) twist on the normal stroopkoek…) but I adjusted it slightly since I didn’t have pepper vinegar or zeeuwse flour (from Zeeland - a part of Holland) and because - let’s face it - I like it always just a bit more salty and chocolaty.

Two thin chocolate biscuits with the best salty caramel-y syrup which will make the cookies deliciously chewy and sticky. What do you want more? Enjoy immediately while the treacle is still hot. Try them and love them…;)

Chocolade Stroopkoeken
- 120g (1 stick/½ cup) butter, softened
- 60g (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
- 60g (1/3 cup) white brown sugar (witte basterdsuiker)
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 200g (1 ½ cup) flour
- 4 big Tbsp cacao powder
- 1 big tsp baking powder
For the syrup:
- 100g (½ cup) stroop (treacle)
- 60g (1/3 cup) white brown sugar
- 60g (½ stick, ¼ cup) butter, softened
- 1 Tbsp sea salt

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flower, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter, the two sugars, vinegar and egg. Add the flower mixture to the sugar mixture and knead it to a ball. Pack in foil and let rest in the fridge for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Get the dough out of the fridge and roll out thinly on a lightly flowered surface. (if it’s too sticky, use some more flower) you can best do this in 3 or 4 times as the dough will break easily.
With a round 10cm (4inches) form, - or a cute small one…- stick out cookies and line them on the baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, until set and down. Let cool completely and make the syrup.

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt treacle with sugar, butter and salt. Stir until well blended and let cool a bit.

2. Ladle syrup on the flat side of a cookies, move it a bit back and forth to even and close with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.
Enjoy immediately or keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, November 22

Going Dutch: Koekje

In Holland there are just a few really good, legendary, patissiers.
Two of them are Cees Holtkamp and Kees Raat.
They are both really different and yet the same;
Cees Holtkamp started in Amsterdam in 1969 and is famous for his simple, straightforward and traditional approach to baking.
Kees Raat opened his ‘Unlimited Delicious’ in Amsterdam 15 years ago and became known for his originality and uniqueness.
These two masters are now combined in one beautiful little book: Koekje. (Cookie)

I can’t believe Koekje wasn’t here earlier - it’s indispensable.
The concept is brilliant; Holtkamp wrote down his (50!) recipes for all the classic Dutch cookies, - such as stroopwafels, Arnhemse Meisjes, Goudse Moppen and Jan Hagel… - and Kees Raat gave each cookie his own, creative twist and came up with 50 brand new cookies as Chocolate Blini’s, Javaanse Jongens and Zeeschuim (!)

Koekje is a clear-cut, beautiful book with on every single page a picture.
I love that I now finally have a book where all the recipes for good Dutch cookies are bound together.
And I’ve discovered so many new, which are in fact old, recipes(!)
Who still knows how a Haarlems Halletje or Nonnenscheetje taste?
And Haagsche Wind??
Haagsche Wind (Wind of the Hague) dates all the way back to 1880. Living in The Hague and never having tried it - how could I not make it?

(Plus it was a wonderful opportunity to use my new pastry bag from la Bovida that I still hadn’t used since my trip to Paris…!)

Haagsche Wind is a sweet little meringue cookie with cute looking almonds on top. It’s one lovely cloudy bite: crunchy on the outside and soft and airy inside.
Meringues are well loved in my family.
I once tried to make meringues, but it didn’t work out so well - this recipe however, is a keeper.

99 recipes left in ‘Koekje’…what will I make next?

Haagsche Wind
- 3 egg whites
- 150g (¾ cup) finely granulated sugar
- 100g (½ cup) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 100g (1 cup) almonds, lightly roasted and roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 120° C (248° F) and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Beat, with an electric mixer, egg whites until frothy. Gradually add granulated sugar and mix until well blended. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar carefully until the mixture is white and glossy.

3. Fill pastry bag (with a 2cm, 1 inch tip) with the mixture and drop little dots on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the roasted almonds and bake for 20 minutes until set. Let cool completely before enjoying and store in an airtight container.

Vijzelgracht 15
1017 HM Amsterdam

Unlimited Delicious
Haarlemmerstraat 122
1013 EX Amsterdam

Tuesday, November 14


My new camera is driving me nuts.
It’s so pretty and I really love it but I’m beginning to get a little desperate.
It doesn’t matter what I do - all my pictures are either too light or too dark and too blurry or too dim. I really hope it’s just a temporary problem and I just haven’t figured out the light focus or something like that…

So under the impression that at least one of my 158 photo’s was good, and without further checking, I started tasting and…
all the cashew-caramel cookies disappeared quickly.
And this was the best picture in the bunch.
I’m sorry I can’t let you better see how incredibly delicious these cookies were…

Because they weren’t just good.
They were really, really good.
I know it’s a bit strange, but you make me most of the time happier with a good spoon of cookie dough then the cookie itself…
Well, these nut cookies are like the best cookie dough ever.
They are chewy, not too sweet, and the cashews are lovely caramelized in the oven. They have a good bite, a delicious sugary bottom and an amazing soft caramel swirl on top…oftewel; echte door-etertjes! (so it’s really hard to stop eating these…!)

I found the recipe online at but I made some big changes in the process so I typed out what I’ve done here below.
If you want to check out the original recipe; click here

I don’t have a decent electric mixer to grind cashews with, only a puree mixer with a sharp blade which will make the nuts fly and spring everywhere (I have btw a rather horrific Christmas story about this blade - but that maybe for later…) so I just chopped 1 cup finely and kept the rest in big chunks. This worked out really well as I may say so.
For some reason I wanted to add pear as well. Don’t ask me why, I just had a feeling. It turned out to be a wrong feeling; there was absolutely no trace of pear in these cookies. Not that's incredibly terrible, I think they are pretty perfect just like this…
I kept the pear in the recipe what so ever - who knows how they would turn out without it??

Cashew Cookies (makes 24)
- 200g (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 350g (3 cups) roasted, salted cashews
- 4 Tbsp sunflower oil
- 115g (1 stick, ½ cup) butter, softened
- 115g (¾ cup) packed light-brown sugar
- 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 pear
- 24 cubes soft caramel candy (200g, 7 ounces)
- 65ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. (350°F)
Mix flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Finely chop 1 cup cashews and transfer them to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter and sugars and mix on medium speed until fluffy. (about 2 minutes)
Mix in egg, vanilla and oil. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Wash and dry the pear and thinly slice it with a cheese-slicer. Chop these slices into even smaller bits and mix it in with the reserved, roughly chopped cashews.

2. Shape dough into 4cm (1 1/2-inch) balls; space 5cm (2 inches) apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 6 minutes and gently flatten with a spatula. Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool completely.

3. For the caramel, melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies and let set. Store the cookies in an airtight box in single layers.

Tuesday, November 7

No Fuss, No Worries: Only Cake

I’d forgotten the power of a good basic cake.
Like a Pavlov reaction, I thought instinctively of the margarine, soppy, flavourless version that you can buy at the store. The one that doesn’t even deserve the name cake and will keep till end 2010...
What was I thinking??

Pound cake is the best. Or more precisely; Madeira cake is the best.
And this version is even better; it’s so easy, has a lovely lemony twist and a divine sugar topping that really gives the extra touch.
A crunchy layer with a big crack down the middle, covering a soft and slightly moist, amazing cake that will melt deliciously in your mouth…

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, i.e. my first cookbook. My collection has, as you might have noticed, grown considerably since then but it still has a special spot with me.
I made this cake from it quite some time ago on request. I was actually already forgotten it but (luckily) came across the pictures when I sorted out my files. This is a wonderful cake, even the best in its sort I think.
Well, try and judge yourself…

Cake (for 8 to 10 slices)
- 240g (2sticks/1cup) soft butter
- 200g (1cup) finely granulated sugar, plus more for topping
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 3 eggs
- 210g (1 ¾ cups) self raising flour +
- 90g (¾ cup) all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 170°C (330°F) and butter and line a cake form with parchment paper.

2. Stir butter and sugar until creamy and add lemon zest.
Mix in one egg, then one tablespoon of flour, then an egg again…and so on.
Add the rest of the flour, mix well, and add the lemon juice. stir until well combined.

3. Pour the batter in the prepared form and sprinkle generously with sugar (about 2 Tbsp) Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely, then invert onto a serving plate.

Thursday, November 2

Paris, Je t’aime: A little Investigation… (part two)

If I were a cookie, I would be a macaron. No question.
The flavour, the texture, the colours, the shape -
it’s just the best cookie.
The taste of the crunchy and slightly chewy outside, and soft and smooth inside…:it’s heaven between 2 little shells.

Making good macarons - not to be confused with the coconut macaroon - is however difficult and a real art. You can find in almost every sweet cookbook a macaron recipe and on Google more than 28.000 hits will appear on your screen from recipe sites and fellow bloggers, but the recipe for the perfect macaron is, and will probably always be, a question for us humble human beings.

The basic macaron is made of almond flour, icing- and granulated sugar and egg-whites but what amount or what the masters include extra? Perhaps Pierre spits for his final touch 3 times in the batter or David Holder gives each macaron a little blessing before he let them enter the shops... Who knows. (note: if you do know - please send me a mail!)

Macarons don’t exist here in Holland. The average Dutchman does not know what it is - and doesn’t care - and considers a bought slagroomtaart (cream cake) as a true delicacy. Well, bon appetite - Grrr…
That’s another reason why I’m so delighted about Paris. Everywhere you look are little (and large famous ones…!) bakery’s, patisseries and chocolatiers with the most beautiful display windows, loaded with freshly baked goods.
You name it; croissants, pain au chocolat, millefeuilles, éclairs, madeleines and of course…macarons (!) In every thinkable colour and flavour, beautifully lined up, waiting to be bought.
What do you think about marron et thé vert matcha or perhaps a huile d'olive et vanille macaron?

Time for a little comparing examination (!)
I wish I could have sampled from every shop I came across, including Maison du Chocolat and Laduree but it was just too much. Very unexpected and kind of new for me, but there was just too much good food.
I’m still bummed about that last one. Especially because now I read EVERYWHERE that Laduree has the best macarons…
Well, nothing to do about it; I just HAVE to go back - o boy, what a pity…;)

So I stayed with Fauchon and Hermé.
I lost my heart to Fauchon when I was ten. It was my first time in Paris and I sat in the beautifully decorated tearoom behind my chocolate tasting plate, all feeling special. Such an experience for a little girl.
And Hermé; do I have to explain?? I was just dying to go to Hermé - I read so much about him and his incredible creations and his latest book PH10 is standing so high on my wish-list…(hint!)

For my comparing, I got from both a chocolate and a coffee macaron -
Fauchon (below) and Pierre Hermé (above), and the 2 flavours; coffee (left) and chocolate (right)

The results:
*drum roll….*
It wasn‘t very difficult:

Fauchon’s macarons are fine. Great even if you haven’t tasted the perfect one. They have a very soft (in my opinion too soft…) centre but a good, strong chocolate/coffee flavour. They are chewy, have in proportions very thick shells and little filling and chewing is not really required with these macarons.
Hermé’s macarons are simply heaven. Compacter, a good bite and an explosion of flavour. And as you see on the picture a perfect, thick ganache centre, which will soften and melts deliciously in your mouth…
Easy calling: Hermé is the winner(!)
*yeeh, yeeh! Applause, applause…*

Wow, now I haven’t even written something about his almighty shop or my other purchases(!)
See here two wonders of the master Pierre Hermé;

The Plaisir Sucre - From bottom to top: hazelnut dacquoise, milk chocolate-hazelnut spread, a layer of chocolate ganache, a dark chocolate sheet, another layer of chocolate ganache, a chocolate sheet, chocolate mousse, and one last chocolate sheet…

And the Surprise Ball - I’m not 100% sure what was inside here but I think…- a chocolate biscuit layer, chocolate ganache, a chocolate sheet, more ganache, mascarpone and caramel, covered with a thick chocolate layer…

I was speechless - how does he come up with it??
It was just perfect. Heaven. Al the flavours 'fit' with each other.
And so is his entire shop - everything looks incredible and is made with such care, love and preciseness.
Well, I definitely know what I want for Christmas this year…

Pierre Hermé
rue Bonaparte 72
Tel: 01 43 54 47 77

Rue de Vaugirard 185

place de la Madeleine 24-26-30
Tel :