I have now made them twice in seven days. The first one, last week, I took to some friends. I used the recipe, remember, here? From Joytika at Darjeeling Dreams? Yes. Ispahan Cupcakes!
Joytika's recipe is VERY BUTTERY. And it probably would have worked better for me if I had used some excellent quality butter, vs. the kinda greasy own-brand butter I bought from a local grocer who shall go unnamed. (Oops!) But for me personally, I thought it was a little too heavy - the butter flavor sort of overwhelms the delicacy of the lychee and the rose water and for dietary reasons as well, ideally, I thought I would like to go a little lighter. So this weekend, I decided to tweak the recipe a little. I went to James Beard's classic "American Cookery" cookbook and used the "Old Fashioned Six-Layer Cake" but cut the butter slightly, substituted lychee puree and rose water for the milk, and added an extra egg. I separated the eggs and added the beaten eggwhites last. Now this one is growing on me. It is the tiniest bit eggier tasting than I might ideally like, and it's the tiniest bit chewy, like an angel food, but NOT sugary. Very subtle instead, and the local raspberries are like a flavor bomb on top (I even used frozen ones and they were EXCELLENT!). I used Joytika's frosting recipe which I had leftover from last week. It kept it's flavor and texture perfectly. It's quite as buttery as the batter recipe but this time, since the cake is so much lighter, the combination was perfect.
So hmmmm. Not sure I'm done yet. Maybe a pure angel food cake version? With a lighter meringuey frosting? Or something a little closer to the Pierre Herme inspiration. A light sponge with ground almonds perhaps, like a classic Austrian nut torte. (To reference the macaroon?) Or maybe a genoise, which is always dreamy with buttercream.
This might bring some of you to the obvious question: "Why doesn't Mlle P. just go ahead and make the macaroons?????"
Of course my answer is: WRONG QUESTION!!! I don't know, I guess I just wanted a little project, and not quite an obsession. Which I'm guessing a macaroon recipe would really have to become.
I'm in L.A. anyway, and the air is light, and the light is light, and the colors are pale and we are always watching our WAISTLINES!!!!! And any minute now I'll want to go OUTSIDE!!!! So somehow a nice little quick cupcake recipe seems just the right thing.
I'm sorry you can't taste them and tell me which recipe YOU would eat but I would obviously send you any recipe you were interested in .......
Sooooooo the RIGHT question to be asked at this point would be: Which PICTURE do you like best?
And how do you like my Ikea ikat and polka dot cupcake papers? Have you got some like that?
Oh! But I almost forgot!!!!!!! Most important question: How was your Christmas?
Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas! Thanks for coming by Passage Paradis these last 15 months or so! Thanks to the followers who have joined over the year, and to this weeks' newcomers especially, WELCOME. THANKS for lurking!! (Those who must. I too was a lurker once.) Such nice people I have met this year - HUGS AND KISSES to all you geniuses of BLOG!
Hope it's a good one for all of you and that you have much to look forward to and share in 2011.
Maybe I'll get to meet some of you someday - that would be L-O-V-E-L-Y. Until then I'm always happy to read your comments here and it's also QUITE as nice to visit you wherever you happen to be.
No myself, I will not be in England this year, but instead L.A. and actually, the highlight of our Christmas Day may just be MOWING THE LAWN! Because:
1) the rain has stopped, and
2) not EVERYBODY can say that! (You Ozzies excepted! Mowing anyone?)
Well we are feeling a little like this in L.A. this week. (WET!) But maybe not quite so placid!
Martha Stewart Living 6/99; Photo Anita Calero
Isn't it a beautiful image though? I found it while I was looking for a recipe for my Christmas Day dinner. In Martha Stewart Living.
I am not the kind of person who has ever wanted to eat the same thing at every Christmas dinner of my life. I really like to mix it up a bit. Usually on Christmas Eve we like to go out somewhere special with friends, or family, for a very festive dinner. With lots of champagne, hopefully. Christmas Day is quiet and mostly just Mr. Paradis and me, if we are not in England. In the week before, as the shopping gets finished and people leave town and a nice kind of quiet descends, I am tucking up in a comfortable chair with stacks of Marthas on the floor all around me, foraging for exceptional Christmas eats.
Martha Stewart Living 12/00; No photo credit
When I am looking for recipes for the meal, (we have fish since Mr. P. does not eat meat) like a Coulibiac or Seafood Sausages or a Lobster Salad, I will find it in one of my French cookbooks. (Because I'm so curious about those old school tastes.) But for dessert, it is usually Martha. Because sometimes you JUST HAVE TO TRY some of these fabulous things! One year I made the Pistachio Charlotte above. It was beautifully delicious, but it was alot of work. Especially if you try to make the ladyfingers yourself, and hull and toast and de-skin FAR TOO MANY (bloody!) pistachios all by yourself. I would recommend having lots of little elf-ey helpers for this recipe. Or you'll end up swearing like me. And that spoils the Christmas cheer.
Photo: James Scherer; Julia Childs' Menu Cookbook
Another year, I made this Triple Chocolate Bombe, and decorated it like an English pudding with a holly leaf and a dusting of powdered sugar. I can highly recommend this one. The chocolate mousse inside is dense and creamy and the outside cake is like a very luxurious brownie. Heaven on a plate! And really quite easy to throw together once the brownie is baked. Which of course you can do ahead. Julia Child and her assistants tried this recipe something like 12 times in their search for a certain perfection. You can just imagine, huh? Just imagine, how good it MUST be!????
Martha Stewart Living 12/00; Photo: Gentl and Hyers
I haven't made this white chocolate "Birch de Noel" but I have made other Buches. (Well, I mean, ONE!) They are lovely and quite easy really. And how fun are the meringue mushrooms? They really get you into the mood. I made them the night before the main baking action took place.
Martha Stewart Living 12/98-1/99; Photo: Gentl & Hyers
I know that for other people, having the same thing every year is a way to grab Old Father Time by the scruff of his neck as he rushes by in his busy way, and wrestle him down to some safe place where children don't grow up, and friends don't move away, jobs don't disappear and .....you know what I mean.......... But I, just CAN'T. Eat the same "old thing".
I guess since I'm too old to wait up for Father Christmas anymore, or creep downstairs early to see him still at his work.... Since it's not really about that breathless surprise at the opening of the packages under a tree, or the amazement that some white-beard stranger actually brought you EXACTLY WHAT YOU DREAMED OF!!!!! - - - -
At least what I put in my mouth on that day, and what stays with me mostly in memories forever after, (since these recipes are rarely prepared again) is something that is fresh with wonder and delight and the soft shiver of discovery.
Look what I got in the mail last week! Aren't they gorgeous? I can't decide which I love more, the cheery snappy red ones, or the silvery blue, lyrical grey ones. Don't you love how Guillemette makes little windows that reveal beautiful subtle images (in the grey) and punchy graphic elements (red)? These are not your Mother's Christmas cards. I feel they are both extremely of the moment, and very classic and classy at the same time. So, great cards for EVERYBODY on your list.
You might say that I got them a little late for the Christmas Season, but NOT AT ALL!!!! These are the ones that are going to go on the presents that are underneath the tree. To the nearest and dearest ones that I'm going to see this Christmas. I will set aside at least one of each for my ephemera collection and with any luck, there will be one or two left over for some special person to receive next year.
Have you been to Guillemette's Etsy shop lately? Are your thoughts turning already in anticipation (or lousy-weather-induced desperation) to the next season to come? Are you ready already for sunshine, cupcakes, butterflies, and apple pies? What about these lovely ideas that G. also tucked into my lovely package? How clever was she to do so?
Now that we have just passed our Winter Solstice, do you realize, that in no time at all, it will be Valentine's Day?
Can you see him? Her? Between last Wednesday and Saturday, two of these managed to find their ways into our skunk traps. We also managed to lure two skunks. And see them all spirited away fairly unceremoniously by our hopefully trusty "Animal Capture" expert. I'm starting to worry though, because we are being charged per animal, and I don't really want to be buying my whole neighborhood, i.e., HILL, a varmint-free Christmas week. Meanwhile, at 4 a.m. this morning AGAIN, we were woken up by the pungent smell of SKUNK in our house! (Two parts garlic, one part gasoline is the olfactory formula I've settled on, for something I've become far too intimate with.) This has been going on for about two weeks now, every other day. The good news is that we have actually somewhat gotten used to the smell and it does not affect us or the cats violently in any physical way. Also good that we have not planned a Christmas week of non-stop entertaining chez nous.
But we ARE REALLY TIRED of having skunks under our living room floor (Are you listening down there?!) The animal capture man stops working for Christmas on Wednesday. When oh when will we be finally skunk free? Meanwhile for all my sharp and informed French readers out there, since "mouffette" is french for skunk, what does this mean about one of my favorite places in Paris? Rue, or Marche, Mouffetard? Any connection? Do you HAVE skunks in Paris? I'd feel so much better if you say you do!
How many of you got snowed in this weekend, or couldn't travel because of the weather? Closer to home, a once-in-10-years'-rainfall in LA yesterday.
Alot of you asked about the wallpaper. And I had always planned on posting about it, just to show off a little (and pat myself on the back) about the projects that we HAVE managed to accomplish this year. Despite our peripatetic life, and feeling a little chained to the computer sometimes!!!! (Oh but I do love you all so!)
So. Glad to share! The wallpaper! NO. It's not Piet Hein Eek. YES. It is Dutch though.
And ABSOLUTELY YES. OH YOU BLOG WORLD! YOU MADE ME DO IT!!!!!
I found this paper on somebody's blog earlier this spring. Who was it? Step up please! It's actually by Studio Ditte and it was our big splurge from The Collection on the Rue de Poitou in Paris. Pia at The Collection was SO nice and so helpful despite me feeling like my brain was going to explode trying to visualize it, translating metres into feet and inches and Euros into Dollars all from French to English with Mr. Paradis and (deep breaths) trying to figure out repeats and if we were going to have enough since we didn't bring any measurements with us at all!
If you click the Studio Ditte link you'll see that the paper comes in two color choices. The one is mostly white with greys and neutrals and the other has alot of turquoises in it. I love the turquoise but felt it could easily be too much so we decided to live dangerously and buy just one roll of it and all the rest white. It adds a nice irregularity. The room needed a pop of interest in that alcove, and I had always been inclined toward something more girly and silver-y. But as you can imagine, Mr. P. was not so enchanted with that idea. This was actually a GREAT solution because it's not girly but not macho, softens the space and references our deck outside. So it really brought the outside in and unified the whole feel of our house. PLUS Hey! You can remove this wallpaper and use it again! Mr. P. is a little skeptical about that, but it helped to justify the larger chunk of change (more than a couple of cans of paint) that it cost. Putting it up was so much tidier and more fun than painting though. It IS cozy isn't it?
Someone asked about the flowery pillow cases, those are old Ralph Lauren. I spent my last couple years in NYC going around consolidators and buying marked down sets of his flowery sheets cause I knew they wouldn't last forever. And they still won't last forever, sadly!
But can I now move on to the nifty bedskirt that I sewed in the Summer Of 2010? A whole lot of satisfaction in a very simple and easy little project which I made from curtains from my old house. To the right of the bed is the Ikea "Billy" book case with glass doors that I'm now calling my "prop cabinet". I really wanted a shorter one of those stripped steelcase cabinets with a glass front, but the universe did not provide. And I was anxious to "complete" the room.
So there you have it! (Thanks for asking!) My petit coin de Paradis and despite the picture from last week - no, I actually do most of my blogging from the sofa. And the editorial staff....well you can imagine.....
For all the Corner Viewers, I'll do a Christmas Traditions post next week, since it seems it will dovetail with the next theme along. Meanwhile I have four huge baited traps stationed around my house tonight and apparently a couple of skunks having a very noisy romantic life under my living room floor!
Back here with another book post. The book ideas just keep presenting themselves to me, the ones seem to generate yet others.
This week's book is by David Littschwager and Susan Middleton, published by National Geographic already a couple of years ago. But it's one of those perennials, that will never go out of style. In fact this book and its contents will likely seem increasingly precious as the years go on.
The photographers/authors, David Littschwager and Susan Middleton trained early in their careers as assistants to the great Richard Avedon. Here's a little background on how they came to specialize in the portraiture of the natural world. And become champions of bio-diversity. A previous book of theirs on a closely related subject (and obviously dear to my heart) was Remains of a Rainbow about Hawaiian Island flora and fauna.
The photographs in this post are of the denizens of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the world's largest environmentally protected area in the far Northwest reaches of the Hawaiian islands. This article in Hawaiian Airlines' excellent In-flight magazine, Hana Hou, gives the history of how this area became first a protected site, and eventually this year, received designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Access to the area remains limited as it consists primarily of fragile treeless atolls lying in the Pacific Ocean.
A tragic Postscript to the work carried out on the region and presented in the book, is the story of this Shedbird "chick" who came into the world early in the photographers' visit and grew to not-quite-full maturity during their stay. He sadly passed away suddenly one day, and this is what a member of the team found when she decided to do a necropsy:
The fledgling, not even fully grown,
had a gut so over-full of the items above, that it could no longer accommodate real food. It died ultimately of starvation.
Over my house the sky was filled with stars. The sky was perfectly clear. I wish I could say I was deliriously happy the whole time. But part of the weekend, I was a bit grouchy. My mood had nothing to do with Christmas shopping.
My new favorite website. Serendipity. It is French. Some Americans get very bored with (my) Francophilia. I say, if Americans could figure out how to make beds like this, (and deliver them to my doorstep YESTERDAY!) there would be no such word! Till that day comes......I PRONOUNCE MYSELF: UNABASHED. AND UNREQUITED.
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYBODY AND.........YOU KNOW THE REST.............
So you're thinking you have just about two and half weeks. To literally, WRAP IT ALL UP!
Struggling a little? Wish you could be more creative? Thinking you ought to be green? Or socially responsible?
Want to SKIP THE PAPER AND RIBBONS PART?! Want to skip getting into your car and going to the mall? Chicas, Chollos, I give you OPTIONS! All the following non-gift gift ideas come to you via Change.org. I would suggest that the "non-gift"ones be more geared towards adults on your list, whereas yes, the others (pictured) have a whole lot of cute-and-cuddlyness going on for the kiddos (or the inner kiddo) whose faces you love.
My first, suggestion, (since I did grow up in Michigan traipsing through forests, seeking out the south side of many a tree) is that you buy someone you love a forest of oversized pine trees. Why don't cha? Then take this loved person to visit them. FREQUENTLY. Remember it's all about experiences making us happier than things. Yes?
OR NOT? If your loving one is not really the outdoorsy type, or is feeling poorly lately, or IS the outdoorsy type, but has recently injured or overextended some body part or other.....Buy that one a soft landing. (Paper also available in similar designs as per Jeska at Lobster and Swan. All made by St. Judes, a small fabric manufacturer in the North of England).
LOVING AN ANIMAL LOVER who lives in a small apartment and can't take care of a pet? True Love means never having to say you're sorry. For the animal lover in your life, here's a universe of ways of giving without that will leave a smile on your recipient's face.
OR NOT: House of Harriet has two sides: an edgy spiky side, and a cozy comfy side. If your animal lover's tiny apartment needs a little warming up for the holidays and he/she might rather express their BEAST-O-FILIA in more totemic terms, these Christmas ornaments can be found at Etsy (via Fiona at Cafe Cartolina who always finds the best things)!
They are not quite diamonds, but can we agree that these make great gifts appropriate equally for girlfriends AND grannies. They have that simple timeless appeal of "Delft". And have the instant effect of making a house a home.
IS YOUR LOVED ONE PASSIONATE ABOUT THE EARTH as much as they are about what they put in the mouths of yours, mine and ours? Want to give a gift that keeps on giving? This one's for sure. Your gift recipient is could well be saying your name with praise for Thanksgivings and Christmases to come. You can make it all possible without once setting foot in the kitchen! And you won't sprain your back carrying "Le Creuset" home!
OR, OR MAYBE NOT: Because - back in the material world....one that's actually mostly mohair.... (andmostly for laughs...... don't tell me you've seen these already! Cause I hadn't!) are lurking these marvelous characters ( found last weekon Bobbi's blog The Lazy Designer):
Whendi's Bears (well these are Whendi's Dogs, it seems the bears are already sold out!) is where you'll find them.
FOR GROWNUPS ONLY (who might not want to leave your Holiday feast ALONE), these are not childrens' toys, but really, artworks. Can you stand how original and irresistible they are? And great company too, tucked into a handbag, under your arm, or in the bottom of a comfy chair. These are the kinds of "cuddly toys" that do NOT denote immaturity. In fact, they are almost urbane. And o.k., I'm making this gift suggestion not for other people. I'm telling you, you need to buy this gift FOR YOU! Don't you?
MY FINAL NON-GIFTGIFT SUGGESTION (guess the last one was one too!):
Not to be a downer, but there are shocking things going on in the world and in America that we never might have imagined a scant time ago. If you think maybe you want to love someone as you love yourself, or are loving someone who loves Nicholas Kristof, here is a way to truly make the world a better place. And about finding a better face looking back out of the mirror every morning. This is the gift that puts all the other "gifts" into perspective! (Really!)
Hope you like some of these suggestions, it is not a comprehensive list, but when one has a blog, one somehow feels obliged to somewhat participate in this seasonal ritual......so one does one's small part.
I hope you like it and find some good possibilities, because.....with less than 20 days to go, what are YOUR better ideas?!
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