Oh... Hello! Yes, I'm still here. I'm sorry I didn't write sooner. I've just been so busy reading sewing blogs and smiling.
You see, these Belgian sewing blogs are filled with kind words about a project me and two of my dearest friends have been working on for the past couple of months. Now, before you think I'm throwing the whole focus of this blog around - les filles de madeleine did, after all, also teach me how to sew - let me just say that this project of ours isn't concerned with sewing. Not at all. It's very much about butter, sugar, chocolate and coffee. Trust me.
My friends and I share a dream. A simple one, really. To one day have the best cake and coffee bar in the country. A few months ago, we started to transform that dream into an ambition and called it BAKABAR. In the future, I hope, we'll make it a reality. For now, though, we're happy to just test the waters. Sharon from Zonen09 gave us the perfect opportunity to do so. (She also gave us permission to use all of these beautiful photographs by Silvie Bonne, so big whoop for Sharon! Clicking on any of the images will redirect you to her flickr page.)
Last weekend, Sharon presented her very first - and very cool - fabric collection to a public of about 100 creative women. We were to provide them with good coffee and delicious treats in the vein of an English afternoon tea.
It was so easy working with Sharon. She knew exactly what she wanted, and what she wanted was very much in line with what we like to do: homemade pies and cakes, perhaps a little rustic, made with simple, seasonal products. No crazy flavors. No fluorescent cake decorations. There had to be macarons and meringues with edible flowers, but everything else was up to us. As long as there was plenty to go 'round and enough variation.
Did we succeed in all of these things... Oh my...
It took a while for us to decide on what we would make, but we ended up with about 20 different desserts, neatly divided between Claudia and myself, while Wouter took care of all things coffee (and tea). I tried to put a few family recipes in the mix - my mom's chocolate gateau was a must - as well as some of the things we learned in baking class - the perfect puff pastry - and a couple of recipes I'd been experimenting with the weeks before. There were fresh and fruity desserts, like raspberry cheesecake tartlets and a blueberry and peach galette; sophisticated desserts, like salted caramel macarons and the edible flower meringues Claudia made; classic desserts, like crumble and carrot cake (both by Claudia); chocolaty desserts, like my mom's gateau and dark chocolate ganache tartlets; and even glutenfree desserts, like this almond cherry clafoutis. We had a pretty balanced buffet of desserts and, obviously, we had enough for everyone.
The biggest challenge, of course, was not to figure out what to make. It was to get everything done. I started preparing about a week before the event. The first thing I did, was make all of the different pastry doughs I needed: shortcrust pastry, butter pastry and puff pastry... all into the freezer. Next were the shells for my macarons. As long as you don't fill them and you keep the shells airtight - I put them in Tupperware boxes and wrapped those in cellophane -, they stay crisp for quite some time. I also took a little time in the evening to make lemon curd. Luckily, lemon curd is quick and easy to make. I could still get some sleep.
There wasn't that much time for sleep the day before the event, though. While I was very well prepared - as in: typed out all of my recipes and arranged them by oven temperature and waiting times - I got delayed almost immediately. Rolling out pastry for 60 tartlets and blind baking all of them took so much more time than I'd expected. Yet, against all expectations - my own, mostly -, I didn't panic. Not a single time. Not when I dropped a tartlet and it crumbled to pieces, not when I realized I'd be working until deep into the night and not even when, the morning of the event, I noticed that the filling for my pink macarons wasn't working as well as I'd expected. I simply took a step back, sighed once and whipped up an alternative. Literally.
Looking back, I don't think I've ever been this focused while baking. It was incredibly tiring, of course, but only afterwards. While I was creaming butter and sugar and brushing egg wash on galettes and scones, it was mostly a lot of fun. It was even more fun to present everything to so many enthusiastic women. I am still amazed by the reactions we got during the event as well as afterwards. My friends and I have been texting back and forth all week to share our impressions, but in the end, there are no words to describe how good this feels and how thankful we are to Sharon for making this happen.
I'm already looking forward to the next time we get to test some waters. (Although I should probably clean up my kitchen first.)
If you're interested in seeing more of these cakes and perhaps even making them yourself, keep an eye on the blog. I'll be sharing some of the recipes later on.