blood orange, sumac and rosemary cake

blood orange sumac and rosemary layer cake

There are a lot of half-blogged recipes that I’ve been meaning to revisit. Many of them are just drafts, still dangling in the unpublished limbo. They’re often recipes with potential paired with some rather awful flaw that needs remediation, or, in a more vain vein, they simply have some rather awful photos instead.sumac rosemary and almond granolasumac cake layersblood orange and sumac curdcake assembly

Others are actually posted on the blog but were not quite right, or at this point are feeling a bit outdated.

This cake is one of those cases.

It’s a long-awaited return to that rosemary forest cake, to make it an actual rosemary forest cake. It’s been bugging me for a while, and now here is, at least I think, a much more proper rosemary forest cake. layer cake assemblyundecorated sumac rosemary blood orange cakeundecorated sumac rosemary blood orange cakeThe forests that I know tend to be the homogeneous sort of endless conifers stretching over the horizon and where the forest floor, acidified by a mat of pine needles, is fairly unwelcoming to new and diverse growth. It is far from the field of weeds that was the previous rendition.A while ago, Hilda had suggested trying to make a sumac cake (and if you follow her blog, you’ll realize this was in the context of a post about sumac that she had foraged herself). I gave it a try, pairing the sumac with another citrusy flavour frequently paired with rosemary, blood orange. While I liked all the components individually, I didn’t consider how they would come together: as one very acidic cake. The lightly acidic marscapone frosting perhaps didn’t help much either.

I did realize, however, that sumac is a wonderful natural colouring! Previously I’ve usually relied upon hibiscus to boost the colour of curds; but sumac did the trick perfectly, while also producing a delightfully pink sponge cake.

I made a granola and a crumb for vague rock-y-sort-of-outcroppings. I think the granola looked a bit better, but I preferred the taste of the buttery crumble. This garnish, while it seemed a bit out of place, was actually quite a relief as it was sweet and not acidic unlike the rest of the cake!

Anyways, another layer cake for the archives. blood orange, sumac and rosemary cake

sumac and rosemary cake

Makes 3 6″ diameter cakes. 

3 eggs

75 g icing sugar

1 tsp sumac

a generous 1/2 tsp of finely chopped rosemary leaves

55 g flour (part spelt is nice)

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter the cake pans, line with a parchment circle, and butter the parchment.

Whisk the eggs with the icing sugar until smoothly incorporated. Continue to beat until the eggs are very, very thick, holding a nice ribbon, and pale and fluffy. Whisk in the sumac and rosemary.

Sift the dry ingredients over top and fold in, then fold in the milk. Scrape into the prepared pans and bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned on the sides and well set on top.


rosemary and sumac crumb

For a sort of mountainous rosemary forest, you can either use this crumb or the granola that follows. I preferred the  buttery taste of this crumb, but rather appreciated the striated sedimentary look of the granola.

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp brown sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp sumac

1 small sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

4 tbsp flour

3 tbsp rolled oats

2 tsp maple syrup

2-3 tbsp slivered almonds

Mix all the ingredients together and roll into small clumps or for small more “crumb” type, just scatter over a lined baking sheet. Bake at 365F around 15 minutes or until browned.


rosemary and sumac granola

1/2 c rolled oats

1/4 c slivered almonds

1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

2 tsp sumac

1 tbsp brown sugar

pinch salt

1 small sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

1 generous tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 250F. Mix all the ingredients and spread in a thin even layer over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour without stirring and then let cool. Only then, gently disturb the granola to break into large delicate clusters.


blood orange curd

The sumac provides the colour, but the flavour of the blood orange still predominates. It turned out looser than I would have wished–I think 2 eggs + an egg yolk would have been a better amount. 

2 blood oranges, juice (~90 mL) and zest

1 egg + 2 egg yolks

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp dried ground sumac

100 mL heavy cream

Combine the blood orange juice, zest, eggs and sugar in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. As it warms up, add the butter and whisk in. Continue to cook until well thickened (it took around 10-13 minutes). Whisk in the sumac and press through a sieve if it’s gotten a bit too lumpy. Transfer to a bowl and chill completely.

Whip the cream and fold into the curd.



270 g mascarpone

4 tsp sugar

2 tbsp milk, or as needed to loosen up the cheese

1 capful of rum and/or a bit of Triple Sec (to reinforce the orange motif)

zest of 1 blood orange

100 mL heavy cream

Cream the mascarpone with all the ingredients except the heavy cream until light and incorporated.

Whip the cream to nice peaks and fold into the mascarpone.



Fill a pastry bag with a bit of the mascarpone. Pipe a ring over two layers of cake. Fill the centre with some of the lightened blood orange curd.

Put one layer on top of the other, and then place the final cake layer on top. Cover everything with the remaining mascarpone. Put a few pieces of rosemary onto the top and scatter with some granola and/or crumb.


tarte tartiflette



tarte tartiflette

I recently spent some time in Saskatoon. It was a bit like revisiting an old album (or for a less poetic example, rewatching the first season of Digimon on Youtube) where you discover that you remember so much. There is so much familiar, and maybe it’s a particular exchange (and if we’re talking English-dubbed Digimon, almost certainly some terrible puns) or a particular street or shop, but some of it is in fact crystalline in its clarity. And some of it was not even the recall of memories that had been slightly out of reach–I realised a number of childhood memories that I had falsely attributed to Victoria were in fact Saskatoon. Despite the drastically different location–one on an island, and one in the prairies–there is something similar about the feeling between the two cities, perhaps to do with the size and the people and this trajectory of gentle growth. It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but there is also the architecture of a smaller downtown packed with beautiful older buildings.






As for the baking. Well. Many things, such as funerals and the like, are not often particularly cheerful–though they can be many other things, such as cathartic, releasing, memorable, and reminiscent. However, bookending anything not particularly cheerful with visits to bakeries and a box of pastries tends to be, if not positive, at the very least not a negative development.

It was in one sort of situation or another that we found ourselves at Little Bird Patisserie. In a word it was incredible; while we didn’t arrive in time for a famed cruffin, the croissants were spectacular, crisp, light, flaky, well-browned, and perhaps what made them stand out the most–well-salted.

t was a bit of a fantasy shop for me actually; apparently they serve afternoon tea, a creative and rotating array of pastries savoury and sweet, and of course a fantastic croissant.






But anyways, after recovering from all the croissant-induced satiety and gaiety, there was also their “tartiflette“. It essentially sang of smokey cured meat, aged cheese, all nestled between packed layers of thinly sliced potatoes under a crisp, deep brown crust. And so while the croissants are something I hope to (re)visit someday, for the moment the tartiflette took priority.

Looking into the namesake a bit, tartiflette, it turns out, is a gratin-type dish, completely different from the tart.  It does retain the same sort of spirited mishmash of rich and winter-y ingredients and intense carbohydrate piling.

In making this tart, I used what meat and cheese I had in the fridge. As I had hard cheeses, and because conceptualizing putting together the tart wasn’t clicking otherwise, I made a very thick and rich bechamel (more along the lines of a suspension of milk in melted cheese than the converse). Onions, shallots and cured meat was cooked together until the onions were softened and sweet. All of this was layered with parboiled potatoes.

On the potatoes front, I imagine this working just perfectly with waxy small red potatoes (and the skins would look so pretty as well). I used the small, wrinkled, and fervently sprouting kennebecs leftover from the summer however. They’re starchier, but still worked nicely. Not having any fresh herbs was a bit of shock, so I used a tad bit of dried thyme–and wish that I had not been so worried and just went for it.






It was a good tart–especially eaten warm, it is rich and heavy. The bottom crust stayed flaky and didn’t become at all sodden, and the thin spread of bechamel overtop crisped up beautifully.

However, it did end up a bit more like a scalloped potatoes tart than I would have hoped. I did identify a number of changes I would make to remedy this. First, I should have sliced the potatoes more thinly; really, I sliced them approximately scalloped-potatoes-type thickness. This would result in more thin layers and less of a “chunky” texture. Further, along with more layers, I would have spread out the bechamel more thinly. Finally, I also would have liked a greater herby presence–so if you have fresh thyme, put in plenty, and maybe even some parsley stems.


tarte tartiflette

Makes 1 large rectangular tart (roughly 26 x 15 cm). Inspired by the tartiflette at Little Bird Patisserie and then by this tartiflette recipe in the Guardian by Felicity Cloake.


166 g cold butter

200 g whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp kosher salt

40-50 mL cold water

Cut the butter into thin pieces.

Mix together the flour and salt on the countertop. Add the butter, turning to coat both sides with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten the butter into the flour. Use a bench scraper to “fold” the butter flour mixture in half on top of itself. Repeat these steps until the butter forms many thin flakes. Make a well in the centre and add the water, working the dough in the same manner by turning it over onto itself until a cohesive pastry is formed. Wrap and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line a large rectangular pan (26 x 15 cm). Blind bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove the baking weight and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is a bit browned.



600 g small potatos

1 onion

1/2 shallot

50 g coppa (as I had some very discounted old coppa…otherwise, smokey bacon or lardons)

1 tbsp butter

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the washed potatoes. Parboil until just tender. Drain, cover in cold water, and set aside to cool.

Thinly slice the onion and finely mince the shallot. Take the coppa or bacon and cut into small strips or pieces. Melt the butter in a pan over medium, add the onions and shallots and cook until very soft and the onions smell cooked. Add the coppa or bacon and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are a bit sweet. Set aside.

Return to the cooled potatoes, drying them off and slicing very thinly.



1 tbsp butter

1/8 tsp dry thyme

1 1/2 tsp flour

150 mL half-and-half or milk…I used primarily half-and-half

1 bay leaf

black pepper

30 g gruyere

80 g aged white cheddar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the thyme, add the flour and whisk until thick and cooked. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half or milk until smooth. Add the bay leaf and let sit over a gentle heat (steaming, not simmering) for around 10 minutes.

While the bay leaf infuses, roughly grate the cheeses. Remove the bay leaf and add the cheese a handful at a time to the sauce, whisking until melted before the next handful. Add a bit of black pepper.





onion, shallot and copa mixture


Preheat the oven to 375F.

Arrange a single layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the tart. Spread half of the onion mixture and a generous third of the bechamel over top. Repeat. Finally, set down a last layer of potatoes and spread with the scant remaining bechamel. A tiny sprinkle of salt over the potato layers may have some merit.

Bake for around 40 minutes or until a bit bubbly and deeply golden. Let cool on a wire rack–some time is required to allow the filling to set a bit, but it is best warm. Store in the fridge, but before eating, do warm it up in the oven. I insist.

black tea and caramel buckwheat pear loaf

Pears are a gorgeous fruit. I find they are set apart from apples because they poach wonderfully and retain a bit more of their texture, and quite a bit more of their composure. (Last time I poached apples, I looked away for a bit too long and they disintegrated into a pulpy and emotional mess.)

This is the sort of poached pear cake I’ve seen in various places, on the cover of a cookbook and on a blog or two. It looks quite stunning–in this version, the pears are poached in black tea, set in a rather strongly-flavoured buckwheat cake and served with a black tea and poaching liquid caramel. All in all, it was quite alright, but the black tea motif was difficult to actually identify. salted carameldrizzling caramel over poached pear cakeslice of poached pear cakeThe buckwheat cake is dense and very buckwheat-y. I made it not very sweet at all, so the caramel, rather than being cloying (though it will become cloying if you eat enough!) is a pleasant source of additional sweetness.

However, structurally, the loaf wasn’t particularly impressive. This cake would make for a rather poor brick, and is not recommended for construction of any sort, having a hidden weak centre. The pears shrunk a bit during baking–as you can see in the pictures, they’ve hunched down in their respective little loaf hollows with a fair amount of wiggle room. They also didn’t cling to the surrounding loaf. I suppose I wasn’t really expecting them too anyways, but they may have had the pears been drier. As a result of this, it was also a bit difficult to keep the pear slice as part of the loaf slice without the two falling apart. (Cake slices are not recommended for use as shingles).

Now, on the cake side of things, it was actually surprisingly fun to eat a slice of cake with a thick slab of poached pear in the middle.

Does the black tea flavour or poaching liquid flavour come out in the caramel? I can’t tell, which I’m pretty sure means no, it doesn’t. It might be a bit more bitter though, which to me is a rather nice thing. Next time I would use spice-poached pears and a spice-infused caramel instead–perhaps some stronger flavours would come out tea and caramel buckwheat pear loaf 

black tea and cardamom poached pears

~ 3 c water, or enough water to partially fill the saucepan you use

1 tsp black tea leaves

3 green cardamom pods, cracked

1/4 c granulated sugar

3 pears

Heat the water in a saucepan just big enough to fit the three pears. Put the black tea in a tea ball, and add this to the water, along with the cardamom and sugar.

Peel the pears and place into the simmering water. Cover and let simmer gently–I went a wrote an essay, okay, so just a paragraph of an essay, during this time–for a while. Check the pears with a knife, it should be tender all the way through. Remove the tea ball (if it seems as though it is getting too strong, you may want to remove the tea earlier). Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid.


buckwheat loaf

Vaguely based off of nothing in particular.

75 g soft butter

75 g granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp lemon zest

80 g buckwheat flour

125 g all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

100 mL thick Greek yoghurt

150 mL milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with a parchment sling and butter any unlined surfaces.

Cream butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla, lemon zest, and cardamom.

Separately, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the yoghurt and milk.

Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined.

Slice the bottom off of each of the poached pears so that they can stand up. Place them in the loaf pan. Carefully spoon the cake batter around the pears and evenly spread it out.

Bake the loaf until an inserted skewer is removed clean. It would go faster if your pears are at room temperature instead of cold, like mine were.


black tea caramel glaze

Adapted from Dash of Texas. Makes a generous amount of glaze–more than you’ll use! I  put in 1/4 tsp salt. At first I thought I put in too much, but then I liked it with the cake. I would recommend putting in a bit less if you’ll be eating it with other things, and then sprinkle some addition flaky salt overtop if necessary.

80 mL heavy cream

1 black tea bag

1/4 c granulated sugar

2 tbsp pear poaching liquid

2 tbsp butter (~28 g)

kosher salt, I put in around 1/4 tsp

Heat the cream until scalded. Put in the tea bag and set aside to let it steep 20 minutes or so. Squeeze the tea bag to remove any excess cream. Pass the cream through a strainer and measure out 60 mL (1/4 c) that will be used for the caramel. I had just enough.

Place the sugar in a small saucepan and start it off with the poaching liquid, heating over medium-high heat until bubbling. Continue to cook until the sugar is a nice amber colour. Add the butter and whisk in, then remove from the heat and add the cream slowly, whisking constantly. Lastly, whisk in a bit of salt.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool before using.


When you’re ready to serve the cake, drizzle the top with caramel. Slice into thick pieces and serve with additional glaze if desired.

windfall tarte tatin

Urban gardens and community orchards are never quite how I envision they should be–something like an orchard out of a juice commercial on television, laden with ripe fruit. The reality is that most ripe apples are out of reach, the remainder are green, mainly nibbled and even more loll at the foot of the trunk, hidden in the grass or nearby bushes.

What make these orchards different is the closeness. The fruit, though sometimes it may be difficult to nice, is quite abruptly there. It is a closeness that extends not only to hidden strawberries and dry saskatoon berries, but to the  hail-pockmarked and bruised apples littering the ground. It’s probably only something I started appreciating recently when a lady who works at a community orchard passed us a bag full of windfall apples she had collected from the ground this past fall.I decided on a tarte tatin, where a deep golden brown caramel will camouflage even the most thoroughly bruised apple. Besides, the apples had retained sufficient structural integrity to destine them for more than apple sauce.

Beyond the practical aspects, I also wanted to make something very very much about the apples. While I intended to, in some manner or another, transform the apples (or at the very least, well trim the apples), these were not trivial apples. Apples are never trivial, but these ones in particular, after being collected and given to us, deserved to be heard. Or, at the very least, tasted.This is tarte tatin the way my (Chinese) grandpa taught me to make it (except with a lot less butter). It is simple and intuitive, because there is little that can go terribly wrong with butter and sugar and apples. For a while it was always the dessert of choice either of us would make. A few slices would be traded back and forth, accompanied by some comments on the crust, the caramelization, the crispness, and form.

The comments we made were never with the strict intention and purpose of improvement. The method was always so vague and lacked the systematic nature of a protocol that would have allowed for rigour and evaluation. These days I notice that I’ve probably developed sufficient common sense that this tarte tatin, completely out of the blue and with little reference beyond my vague memories of previous days, turned out just fine.

The key, I believe, is attaining proper caramelization. I wouldn’t worry about burning; the addition of the apples provides sufficient moisture to prevent the bottom from scorching, so the caramel can be as deep as you like. In the past I also used to partially cook the apples on the stovetop. I decided that wasn’t necessary, and this time just layered the apples in, threw the pastry overtop, and set it immediately in the oven. Perhaps it took longer, but by the time the pastry was browned, the apples were tender but not overcooked.

Do enjoy, particularly if a sudden windfall (of apples) comes your way.windfall tarte tatin


~3 tbsp butter

~3/4 c sugar

pastry, of any sort; I made a batch like what I made here, scaled to 1 stick of butter

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Melt the butter in a cast iron pan, sprinkle the sugar overtop, and cook until it forms a deep caramel. Arrange the apple slices overtop.

Roll out the pastry and tuck over the apples. Bake the tarte tatin for around half an hour or until the pastry is browned and the apples below are cooked through.

apricot and cardamom scones

apricot cardamom spelt scone with butterdried apricots soaked in teadried apricots soaked in earl grey teabutter rubbed into flourcutting out a sconeunbaked scones

I’m very indecisive when it comes to scones.

Should they be finely textured and tender? Or biscuity, the fluffy and flaky sort? Maybe they should they be flaky and crisp? Or more solid, reminiscent of a soda bread?

These are all acceptable scones to me. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to achieve each particular type specifically–instead I make a scone and decide, post-baking, how they turned out. I’m conveniently open-minded to most of the results.apricot cardamom spelt sconesapricot cardamom spelt scones piled in bowlThese scones are midway between the finely textured and tender, with a bit of biscuity crispness without much flake. They are also the first decent scone to star on the blog. It’s a heartening development for the future of scones, though on the biscuit-side, things are still quite dismal.

Exercise caution with the quanitities in this recipe. I’ve made the original recipe these scones are based on a couple times and found the dough too wet. This adaptation was no exception, and the issue was exacerbated by the tea-soaked apricots. As a result, the final flour quantities are an estimated approximation of how much flour I ended up using–so use some of that scone common sense (the sort of common sense I lack) and adjust as necessary.

And so yes, some more scones. apricot cardamom spelt scone broken in halfapricot and cardamom spelt scones

Adapted from this scone recipe (which is really good, by the way). Makes 8 large scones. 

1 c dried apricots, sliced

very strong and hot earl grey tea

180 g all purpose flour

105 g spelt flour

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 c heavy cream

3 eggs

120 g cold butter, cut into small pieces

a bit of egg and sugar for the top of the scones

Pour the hot tea over the apricots and allow to sit for 20 minutes to allow the apricots to plump. Drain and let the apricots cool to room temperature. (The leftover apricot-infused earl grey tea tastes very nice!)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Whisk together the flours, spices, salt, sugar and baking powder. Separately, whisk together the egg and cream. Toss the butter in the flour mixture and rub into the flour until it forms a variety of pea-sized crumbs. Add the apricots and mix until the apricots are just coated with flour. Then add the cream and egg mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Turn out onto a flour surface, knead a couple of times, and then pat out until around 3/4″ tall. Cut out scones with a round cutter or glass. Set on a parchment lined baking tray, and reroll the scraps as necessary to produce additional scones.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through (if you have a scraggly scone made from the last scraps of dough pressed together, this one can be cut in half to confirm the scones are cooked through). Let cool on a wire rack, and eat still a bit warm with butter.

orange cardamom eccles cakes

I was so happy when Lina of Lin’s Recipes, and commenced her return to blogging with a recipe challenge. Her previous challenges have been plenty of fun, a chance to learn, and an exciting way to bring other food bloggers together. This challenge is being hosted by Freda of Aromatic Essence!

For this challenge I made Eccles cakes, little pastries stuffed with currants, excitingly something I had wanted to try making for a while.The history of Eccles cakes, as was spelled out from a couple of sources (the Salford government, Salford tourism, and a purveyor of Eccles cakes) goes that it picked up its name in the town of Eccles, though the exact origin of the original recipe is more debatable. At one point it was apparently banned (during Cromwell’s time), but now happily retains the charm of an old classic pastry.For this version I supplemented the currants (obviously soaked in rum) with candied orange peel and plenty of ground cardamom. I think the pastries would be delicious with any sort of dried fruit–maybe apricots–and even nuts–apricot and walnut?–and various spices, such as nutmeg and allspice I saw in another variation. The filling on its own was quite glorious, a sludge of squidgy dried fruit and candied peel held together by buttery and sugary mass.Then what was especially charming about these cakes was the leaky filling, which created a mass of dark sugary shards on the pan and caramel-glossed bottoms. Do try to seal a bit better than me to keep some of that buttery and sugary mixture inside the pastries, but a bit of leakage does seem to have its benefits!

I just made the usual semi-rough puff pastry, but any sort of pie crust or puff pastry would do the trick.Thanks to Lina for the challenge…and sorry for such a late submission as well! There are other exciting recipes that have been linked up, which can be checked out hereorange cardamom eccles cakes

Makes 12 Eccles cakes. Adapted from Delia Smith and BBC Good Food

candied orange

1 navel orange

10 green cardamom pods


Cut the peel from the orange, including the rind and pith. Slice and then cut crosswise into small pieces. Place in a small saucepan and add enough water to generously cover. Add the cardamom pods, cracking them open, and a scoop of sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until pith is translucent and tender. Drain, remove cardamom pods, and set aside.


spelt pastry

190 g cold butter

100 g spelt flour

175 g a.p. flour

1/2 tsp salt

50-100 mL cold water

Cut the butter into slices. Mix together the flours and salt on the counter. Place the butter on top and turn to coat. Press into the flour in thinner flakes. Fold the flour mixture over onto itself and continue to flatten the butter into thinner flakes. Make a well in the centre and add water, mixing until a cohesive dough is formed. Wrap and chill completely.


filling & assembly

150 g dried currants

4 capfuls dark rum, divided

33 g butter

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch salt

100 g brown sugar

Place the dried currants in a bowl with 2 capfuls of rum and enough boiling water to barely cover. Allow to sit and soak until plumped–as mine were quite dried out, I became impatient and then simmered them a bit on the stovetop. Drain.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the spices and cook briefly until fragrant, then add the remaining two caps of dark rum and simmer to boil off the alcohol. Mix in the salt, brown sugar, currants, and 3/4 of the orange peel. Set aside and let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Thinly roll out the pastry, working with one half at a time. Cut out 12-cm diametre circles. Gather up the scraps and re-roll. In total, I ended up with 12 rounds, but probably could have ended up with 14 had I rolled the pastry a bit thinner.

Place 1 generously heaping tbsp on top of each round. Bring up the edges and pinch together, then flip over so the seam is on the bottom. Patting the cake in one’s hands, shape into a fairly flat circle. Place on a baking pan. Cut 2-3 slits into the top of each cake.

Cover and chill briefly to ensure the pastry is cold before baking. Brush each with a bit of egg white and bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned on top.

chestnut éclairs with speculoos craquelin: a collab with the writographer

The Cousin, impeccable speller (she is particularly precise with the accent aigu) and avid writer, has been one of the few recurring characters on tentimestea, having witnessed and aided in all sorts of strange baking experiences from disaster cake to vaguely okay cake. Over the winter break we once again tried our hand at baking something and these éclairs were the result.

That’s not all though. The Cousin and I both also share some involvement, in some capacity or another, with various forms of social media. In fact, The Cousin recently began her own blog, and thus as a more formal introduction, please meet The Writographer. She kindly complied with my request for her to write a guest post. Quite flatteringly, as I said that she could write about anything she pleased, The Cousin seemed to have found our baking session itself worthy of the blog post–sufficiently such that we have a play-by-play capture. As a writer and photographer, partial photo credit also belongs to her for this post! 

Do take it from here cousin. Greetings readers of tentimestea.

This is The Cousin and today I will be doing a blog entry for my cousin since she is feeling so tired and barely has enough energy to do the actually baking.

While visiting my cousin over the holidays, I was reminding her that she hasn’t been baking much recently. So we agreed that we could bake something together and that I would be allowed to write something for her blog.

To decide what to make we headed to our good friend Google Images and started looking at photographs of amazing desserts, all of which my cousin either called ‘too complicated’, ‘too long’ or just replied by saying ‘no’. After a few minutes of searching, my cousin finally decides to bring up the fact that she’s been thinking of making éclairs. I searched for some images of éclairs, and as expected because of the complexity, they were all shut down and we settled on making bubble éclairs. After a lengthy debate about flavours, my cousin decided we’d do a chestnut pastry cream and perhaps a matcha one, depending on our laziness (although I prefer matcha over nuts). (tentimestea note: It was a one-sided debate. I can be a bit authoritarian when it comes to this sort of thing.)After agreeing on what to bake, we decided to play some games with each other. The first game was the board game called Codenames. A brief summary of this game is that someone gives their teammates hints so the others can guess the codename of the undercover agent before the other team finds their agents. We played on the same team and my cousin is definitely better than I am because all of my hints sucked. After a few rounds of that game, we decided to play Monopoly. Summary is that this game is the longest game ever which encourages people to make money. We only played for an hour and my cousin had the most money but half of her properties had been mortgaged (and I owned Boardwalk, so I’m happy). (tentimestea note: 1. The Cousin could have nothing but the Boardwalk and still be happy. And she did very well at Codenames too!)The next day during our baking session, our first goal was to try and complete a culinary crossword in a magazine. Once we failed at getting anywhere near the end of the puzzle, we decided that we’d actually try and get some baking done. My cousin, who is a super organized person (except when it comes to her room), made a list of everything that we have to do for the éclairs:

  1. Cream puff cookies (really, she’s just adding extra work for us)
  2. Pastry creams (originally chestnut and possibly matcha if we get the chance)
  3. Choux pastry (I do not have any interesting side notes for this one)

To start off on the cream puffs, my cousin started making a list of the ingredients that we’d need. When she listed white pepper and I admitted that I had absolutely no idea what that was, my cousin got me to try white pepper vs. black pepper. In the end, my mouth tasted like pepper, I had coughing fits and I still could not tell the difference between the two different types peppers. (tentimestea note: Curiously enough, I distinctly recall that the Cousin coughed only once.) After we had finished the cream puffs, we started on the pastry cream. My cousin had to get the chestnut purée out of the fridge and all of a sudden, she gasped, and dropped it onto the  floor. She informed me that it was moldy and she couldn’t look at it, as she went to the other side of the room to hide from it. When I looked at the tin of purée, it was indeed covered in mold. I told my cousin that I didn’t want to look or touch that tin and that she was going to have to throw it away. My cousin heroically grabbed a towel, picked up the tin and threw it in the garbage, warning me to not look inside the garbage if I had something to throw away. I tried to convince my cousin after that the moldy chestnut purée was some sort of sign that we should just use a matcha pastry cream. However, she told me that because of the spices in the rest of the recipe, we had to make a chestnut pastry cream, despite my complaints that I dislike nuts of any kind. As my cousin opened a new tin of purée I looked up online wether chestnuts are nuts or fruits (they are nuts and fun fact, coconuts are fruits). (tentimestea note: I’m still deciding whether or not to feel embarrassed that the majority of this post details the moldy puree.) 

As nothing interesting has happened in the kitchen since the moldy purée, as entertainment, my cousin and I decided to listen to Spotify while she baked and I worked on this blog post for her.Oh, The Cousin. Tell me, what did the éclairs taste like? I suppose I will tell you instead: they were quite good! The whole wheat choux was once again lovely in flavour and warmly coloured. The cookie crust on top, flavoured to be a speculoos craquelin, was sugary and crisp, thicker than I expected, but so perfectly reminiscent of melon pan. The chestnut pastry cream had a smooth, silky texture, and the little bit of rum and caramel made it quite nice. It was, however, very runny! It was quite unpipeable, so any piping detail had to come from the generous amounts of whipped cream.

The éclairs are generously sized, though the bubble shape means that each can be divided into three portions quite easily. Next time I would make smaller bubbles or just make cream puffs (which would be delightful with the craquelin). Something to watch out for: the rounds should be touching when they are piped, but if they are too close, they may turn out a bit more oblong. So long as they touch edges, that should be sufficient. The craquelin can also be cut smaller than expected–the craquelin should not overlap between each mound of choux, especially as too much in the joint between the bubbles can make them more prone to coming apart (though into cream puffs!).

I think the cousin enjoyed them even though they were chestnut, not matcha.

chestnut éclairs with speculoos craquelin

Makes 6 very generously sized éclairs. Alternatively, would make around 18 rather nice cream puffs. The bubble éclair shape is inspired by Dorie Greenspan and her book Baking with Dorie.

whole wheat choux

A riff on the whole wheat and brown butter choux that I adored from last time. I made 6 oversized éclairs. I would suggest piping mounds that are smaller–maybe 2-3 cm in diameter instead of 3-4 cm for more reasonably sized éclairs. 

65 g butter

150 g water

1 tbsp sugar

pinch salt

80 g whole wheat flour

around 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the butter in a saucepan and cook, stirring, until the butter solids and browned and fragrant. Add the water, sugar and salt (add carefully to avoid any splashing or spitting of the butter). Return to the heat and bring to a boil. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a cohesive ball. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, until the consistency is one such that the batter drops from the spoon.

Transfer into a piping bag.

Pipe 4-3 cm mounds. Top each with a round of frozen craquelin (see below).

Bake around 25 minutes or until well browned. Cut a small slit in the bottom and allow the steam to escape, and let cool on a wire rack.


speculoos craquelin

Adapted from the cream puff cookie topping from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.

85 g brown sugar

75 g whole wheat flour

a pinch or sprinkle each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove white pepper & nutmeg

50 g butter

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a cohesive dough. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a quarter sheet pan, place the dough on top, and cover with a second sheet of parchment. Roll out very thinly until the dough roughly fills the parchment paper in some sort of oval-type shape (1/16″). Slide onto the pan and then freeze until firm.

Cut out rounds around 3-4 cm in diameter (match to the size of the choux mounds).


chestnut and caramel pastry cream

Makes an excessive quantity of pastry cream. The pastry cream itself was too loose. I’ve been making very eggy pastry creams lately so this one has less egg. 

140 g chestnut puree

270 g milk

50 g heavy cream

4-cm length of vanilla bean

2 eggs

25 g sugar

27 g cornstarch

pinch salt

15 g rum caramel (something made previously and lying around…recipe to be linked in future)

Press the chestnut puree through a fine sieve. Set aside.

Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Heat the milk mixture until steaming.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in the steaming milk, then return to the saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, over a medium heat until well-thickened and the starch tastes cooked.

Add one large spoonful of the pastry cream at a time to the chestnut puree and mix until smoothly incorporated. Lastly, mix in the caramel to sweeten to taste.



heavy cream

Whip the cream until stiff and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

Slice each éclair in half. Dollop a generous spoonful of chestnut pastry cream into the bottom of the éclair. Pipe a generous amount of whipped cream over top, then cover with the top half of the éclair.