Mini Vanilla French Madeleines

August 04, 2018Isabella_Vineyards005

A new cookbook is rocking the food world right now, written by the women behind The Cook’s Atelier in Beaune, Burgundy (France)! After perusing this gorgeous gastronome tome, I quickly found their Instagram and found myself signing up for their newsletter.

One week later, voilà! A newsletter + recipe for mini madeleines pop into my inbox. The recipe is savory, but I was in a pinch, didn’t have the necessary parmesan, and wanted to try out my new mini pans ASAP. I made my go-to recipe for regular madeleines, found ing—you guessed it—Patisserie Made Simple.

I’m planning on trying out the savory recipe soon (it features chives and parm, yum!), but for now, here’s the recipe for plain madeleines that I love. Bonus to minis? Pop-able like potato chips! May be a minus, depending on how you look at it.

August 04, 2018Isabella_Vineyards006

Mini madeline molds are only 1 to 1.5 inches wide…not much space! I found it easiest to scoop the batter into a plastic bag or piping bag and pipe the batter into the molds. You don’t need much! A teaspoon or less per cavity should do it.

Happy baking, friends! And if you make a different flavor, let me know! Looking for inspiration 🙂


Mini Madeleines

Recipe can be found in Patisserie Made Simple. Also check out The Boy Who Bakes: blog and Insta! I love Ed 🙂


Palmiers (On Trust)


For this week’s adventure in pastry, I decided to make palmiers. Pronounced PAL-me-yay.  But honestly, it wasn’t much of an adventure, because I used store-bough puff pastry. It’s been so warm and we have no air conditioning, so even if I had wanted to make my own, it was not happening.

I poured some sugar into a bag of lavender that I had lying around- lavender is one of my favorite flavors. It’s delicate, very floral, and can stand its own.

In making this pastry, I started thinking about trust. (I like to explain life by means of food.)

Puff pastry can be rather difficult to make. And in this instance, we’re the scattered lavender, but what we want to be is the dough.

I don’t have much time left in school, and it’s (really) freaking me out. Any notion of “what I want” is out the window. The most honest answer is “I don’t know.” Scattered lavender. No particular place to be. No particular place. As much as lavender is lovely, it needs a vehicle as it’s not too great straight off the bush.

This pastry is a perfect encapsulation of me—and perhaps people. Multi-faceted, many layers, fragile, finicky. But, I think that if we trust (in my case, God, but fill in your blank), that we will find it easier to stretch when life stretches us, because we are in very capable hands that are not our own.

Why should we trust these hands? Because only someone incredibly skilled can manage something like puff pastry. I know because I’ve tried, and it didn’t turn out very well. We are in very, very capable hands. And while we are fragile, we don’t have to break. We can be mended, stretched, puffed up.

However, we can only move from petals in the wind to something sturdier if we trust and allow our essence to be place there. With trust comes the confident expectation of good things. Not to say that our pastry will never tear nor will it ever have holes. But when we can trust; when we can be confident; when we can hope; we will find courage to take flight.

For the palmiers


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to directions

(up to) 1/4 cup sugar (you can use citrus zest, vanilla pods, etc. to impart some flavor)

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface, up to 14×9. Sprinkle with sugar (and anything else you fancy. These can be savory, too.) Roll one of the long sides like a cinnamon roll until it meets the center. Repeat for the other side.

Using a sharp knife (chef’s knife is fine), cut into 1/2 inch cookies and lay on a baking sheet. They do puff up, so leave some room, at least an inch. Place on parchment paper.

Bake for around 18 minutes or until nice and deep golden brown. Cookies should also be sufficiently puffed. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Lavender Lemon Pots de Crème

The spice shelves were dismal. The bulk spice section had been terminated. And no other grocery store seemed to stock it.

Time was ticking, and I still had no lavender. And, my rational self was screaming, “who does not keep lavender in stock!?!?!?!?!?!!?” Everyone, apparently.

Hedging a bet, I hoped into the Dragonfly (our lil’ red electric car) and zipped over to my favorite French bakery in the Tri-Valley, Sugarie. Faintly remembering they sold lavender-flavored goodies, I was now banking on being able to buy straight-up lavender from them.

A buttery scent greeted me, along with a case of pastries, as a scurried in. A mother was leaving with her toddler, who exuberantly hugged “Mr. Russ” (one of the owners) goodbye.

“Do I know you?” Mr. Russ asked. He squinted his eyes.

“I went to France last year,” I said. “You may not recognize me. I just cut my hair.”

“Oh, it’s you!” he exclaimed, and Natalie, his wife and co-owner, looked up. Their faces lit up with recognition.

“I’ve come to ask you guys a favor,” I said. “Will you sell me some lavender? I can’t find it anywhere else.”

“Honey,” Mr. Russ exclaimed. “Did you hear this? This girl just gets back from France and now she’s asking for favors!” he said, jokingly.

We laugh as Natalie scoops a couple tablespoons into a white paper pastry bag and seals it with a sticker. They won’t let me pay for it, but I leave money anyway.

And that, my friends, is how this post came alive today.

Hi friends.

After bumbling through my first actual week back here in the Bay, I’ve decided to implement my spring-semester epiphany.

In an effort to live out my francophile-ness (even more), this blog is doing a lil’ pivot to be my soap box for all things French. But don’t worry! I’ll still be talking about all the other stuff…but French recipes, novels, cookbooks, events, finds, fashions-anything French- is coming at ya. I hope you stick around.

So in the spirit of summer and my love of all things floral, my dear friend Haley and I made lavender-white chocolate pots de crème (literally “pots of cream”) from Baking Chez Moi by one of my fav authors, Dorie Greenspan!!

Haley and I have an unofficial cooking show (you can find it on Instagram stories- @mllemarissa) where we try out new recipes. Always- or very usually- dessert. And I got to choose (again), so I decided to conquer my fear of custards. Because water baths sounded scary and I am lazy, indeed.

Dorie Greenspan Pots de Creme

Here are les notes (the notes…) if you, like me, are planning to tackle your fear of custards.

  • 8oz ramekins are fine
  • A 9×13 pan is sufficient. Forget the roasting pan.
  • The white chocolate…is not very prominent. I think it plays the role of extra sweetening agent and extra richness.
  • Don’t walk away from the cream mixture. It will explode. Or at least overflow.  (Speaking from experience.)
  • Caramelizing sugar on top adds nice textural contrast, and slightly burned sugar adds a sharp bitterness to cut the creamy, floral custard.
  • Don’t caramelize the sugar with a lighter. You actually need a blow torch. I am speaking again from recent experience. (Let’s just say, 20 minutes to torch half the sugar, a dead lighter, and tired arms.)

Here’s Dorie’s recipe for caramel pots de crème, which is not too different from what’s in the book. Just melt 4 oz of white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the cream and add when you temper the eggs.

Berry Pavlova


I have spent the last two weeks as my mother’s main office minion, and therefore forwent Monday’s blog post. I beg forgiveness.

So, when I actually rummaged around the fridge, wondering what I should make, I remembered that I had too many egg whites in a Plentea bottle, nearly forgotten from the time I had made Audrey’s chocolate cake and used 16 egg yolks. Not all of the whites survived because there were some broken yolks, but by the time I was finished experimenting I still had around 6-8. They remained hidden in the fridge until I remembered them, which is actually ok because old egg whites will whip up better.

I passed sophomore year under the tutelage of Fred, baking-boy extraordinaire, and picked up a thing or two hanging around him whilst he created his edible masterpieces. Mostly how to be creative and fun in the kitchen. So, this normally plain-Jane whipped out all the stops, as in, this project took me three days to complete. And, there’s rose water involved, just for kicks.


First, we’re going to make the meringue. Egg whites and sugar are whisked in a double boiler to pasteurize the eggs. This is swiss-style meringue. Italian meringue is made by pouring boiling sugar syrup into egg whites whilst simultaneously whipping them at high speed. I feel that swiss meringue is a bit safer. Everything is cooked, and then whipped. No splattering 300-degree syrup. Using a piping tip and bag, create meringue bowls. The size is up to you.

This recipe could easily be made in one afternoon. While the meringues are crisping in the oven, start on the coulis. Coulis is a plant sauce; fruit is usually used for dessert, vegetables for savory dishes. Our farmer friends sent us strawberries, and as the fruit was looking overly ripe, I decided to make strawberry coulis, but any berry will do. If you want the coulis to set a bit, add some gelatin, or agar agar if you prefer.

Finally, whip the cream—by hand if you’re brave—and add a teaspoon of rose water. Don’t be tempted to pour in more; rose water is, while floral and heady, exactly that. Too much, and it’ll probably smell like rotting roses. Yuck.


By this time the meringues should be high and dry. Try one. They are…ephemeral. Shatter the delicate shell, and it melts daintily in your mouth.

Choose a fun, swirly tip and transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag. Pipe generous swirls into the meringue bowls, topping with coulis and raspberries for decoration. Have some friends on had to help you eat the pavlova; I spent my afternoon frantically looking for takers. Cousin Ben will be saving the day.

Berry Pavlova


1 batch meringue

I based mine off of The Boy Who Bakes, doubling the proportions. You’ll have enough for little meringue cookies, too. Cut in half if you wish.

6 room-temperature egg whites (BUT! Always separate a cold egg to prevent the yolk from breaking)

Scant 2.5 (480g) cups sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 225˚F. It is important that the temperature is precise! Meringue is very delicate and finicky.
  2. Using a hand or standing mixer, whip egg whites on high speed. When soft peaks begin to form, gradually add the sugar and whip until glossy and stiff. If you can hold the bowl over your head without dumping meringue on yourself, it’s ready.
  3. Using a piping bag and tip, pipe the meringue onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The bowls should be approximately 3” wide. Start piping from the center of the circle, making your way outwards, and then slowly build up on the last ring, creating a wall approximately 2” high, or whatever you prefer.
  4. Bake for 1-2 hours, allowing the meringues to crisp, and then turn off the oven and let the meringues sit in the oven, allowing them to completely dry out.

Fruit Coulis

350g berries

0.25 cup water

3 tbsp sugar, or to taste

up to 0.25 tsp gelatin, to set

  1. In a saucepan, heat berries, water, and sugar until fruit becomes extremely soft. Gently mash with a spoon, breaking up the fruit. All the liquid to cook down; it should have the viscosity of smoothie.
  2. Pour the coulis through a sieve to remove seeds and skin. Allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

Whipped Cream

2 cups very cold heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon rose water

sifted powdered sugar to taste (optional, and I’d just go by the tablespoon)

  1. Using a standing mixer, hand mixer, or your actual hand/arm, whip cream and rose water until soft peaks form. Begin adding sugar, a tablespoon at a time, tasting along the way. Stop whipping when stiff peaks form. Go too far, and you’ll have rose-water butter.



  1. Place whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice. I used an Ateco 807.
  2. Pipe generous swirls of whipped cream into the meringue bowls. Drizzle with coulis and top with raspberries.
  3. Serve immediately, or, if you must, store in the fridge for a few hours.


Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake & Coconut-Lime Sorbet


This summer I have eaten many life-changing foods. Lamb chops, panna cotta, olive oil and balsamic, coconut lime sorbet… I must say, working in a cooking store really does open your eyes to all the food possibilities.

On the weekends, sometimes we’ll do a demo, and one of these weekends happened to be an ice cream demo! Can I get a HOORAY! ? And, as the title of this post suggests, the demo involved coconut lime sorbet. At first, I was skeptical. You would not be surprised to know that my favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla. Plane Jane, and I like it that way. But, as I am wont to do when I am in charge of a demo, I tasted it.

The bright, tart, citrus of the lime beautifully complimented (and was also mellowed by) the subtle, light, sweet coconut milk. The pairing worked, and I was surprised. Usually, if I want to be “adventurous,” I go for a fruit sorbet or chocolate ice cream. No toppings, no mix ins, and of course, no funky flavors. Ever. But, gosh darn, one taste of this sorbet and I was hooked! It took an obscene amount of self control to not eat all the samples. I feel like I should receive a medal or something for restraining myself.

A couple days later, I made Padre buy me some limes at the grocery store, and off I went to re-create the recipe. I used a little more cream than I ought to have, so it’s not essentially a sorbet, more like an ice cream.


What I discovered was that the cream really mellows out the lime, which I did not like. The recipe I present now cuts the amount of cream in half. But really, the cream is just there to help with the texture, not the flavor. Coconut milk and lime juice alone make for somewhat of an icy texture, so the cream smooths it out. At most, you should only require a fourth of a cup.

As far as the olive oil cake is concerned, about a year or two ago I was pursing Food52 and stumbled across a recipe for Maialino NYC’s olive oil cake. It was one of the site’s most popular recipes, next to the one for chocolate cake, which remains my go-to recipe, despite the number of blogs that I read the number of cookbooks I have amassed. The olive oil cake has been on my “to make” list for a while, and after being introduced to some mighty fine olive oils at the cooking store, I took the plunge, bought a bottle, and whipped up (in one bowl, no less), this cake.

If you do not like the taste of olive oil, you’d be better off with the sorbet alone, although you needn’t be a connoisseur to appreciate the cake. Savor the light fruitiness of the oil, and tight, soft crumb, and the delicate crust. Food52 describes the cake as almost pudding-like, and they’re about right. Try it, even if you feel skeptical. And if you do like it, don’t be Padre, who cut himself a hunk and crammed it in his mouth. That is not the proper way to enjoy such a dainty, delicate dessert.

Paired together, the cake and sorbet make a good match. I would, however, highly recommend adding the lime zest to the sorbet (I skipped this to save myself from washing another utensil) and scaling back on the cream. The coconut milk and olive oil combined really can overpower the lime. I admit, the strength of the olive oil and its ability to mask other flavors surprised me, as it is generally unassuming if you aren’t looking for it.


Here is the cake recipe. Instead of 1.25 cups of milk, you could substitute for 1 cup of creme fraîche. I did this because that is what I had on hand.

Coconut-Lime Sorbet

2.5 cups coconut milk

0.5 cup cream

0.25 cups lime juice

2 tbsp lime zest

1 cup sugar

  1. Make sure to freeze the ice cream bowl the night before, per manufacture’s instructions.
  2. Zest limes and place in a large bowl. Microwave limes in 10-second increments until slightly warm. Using the palm of your hand, roll limes on a hard surface to release the juice. Juice the limes and add juice to the bowl.
  3. Add cream, coconut milk, and sugar. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze per manufacture’s instructions. Approximately 20-30 minutes.
  4. Eat or freeze immediately.

Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts


Three days ago, it was blisteringly hot outside and I was laying on my floor, trying not to die of heat stroke and to keep up with my Italian lesson. Dad waltzed in, and said, “DOUGHNUTS!”

“OOOOOOOO, really?” I exclaimed. I was down for a Krispy Kreme or two. “Downstairs?”

“Nope,” he grinned. “We’re gonna make ’em!”

I was skeptical at first, because doughnuts usually entail frying, and I am not the biggest fan of the processes. Honestly, a Krispy Kreme doughnut would have sufficed.


But, BOY OH BOY AM I GLAD THAT DAD HAD A DOUGHNUT EPIPHANY. These doughnuts are delicious. Sugar-y, soft, airy, slightly spiced with cinnamon. I have been looking for this brioche recipe for years. I exaggerate not. For the past few years, I have been enticed, mystified, and frustrated with the brioche recipes that I have tried. The crumb was too tight. It was a little dry. The dough didn’t rise as much as expected.

Zoe Nathan strikes again with her brioche and her doughnuts. I’ll be referring to this from now on. A note, though: This recipe requires overnight refrigeration. A good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Not great for procrastinating, forgetful, unplanned bakers (me), but great for everyone else. And if I could pull this off, you can, too.

The recipe makes one brioche loaf (perfect for french toast, bread pudding, sandwiches, pain aux rasin, and other glorious creations) or these doughnuts. Can’t go wrong either way, although I’d like to see how it turns out as the pain in pain aux rasin. 

Back to the doughnuts, though. Here’s what the dough looks like after you’ve taken it out of the fridge and cut out the circles:


Very flat.

Here’s the dough after one hour in a warm(ish), draft-free place (the oven, turned off):


Pillow-y, squishy, (cute!), and puffy. Perfection? Yes.

The frying time varies; the book said two minutes per side, but we had very well-done doughnuts. 15 seconds worked for us.

You can roll them in cinnamon and sugar, glaze, or fill the doughnuts…if you’re feeling un-lazy and curious (not me), try all three. At the same time.

Brioche Doughnuts

(from Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan)

3 tbs whole milk (we used cream)

2 tbsp active dry yeast

1.75 cups (215 grams) all-purpose flour

1.75 cups (215 grams) bread flour

0.25 cup + 1 tbsp (55 grams) sugar

1.5 tsp kosher salt

5 eggs, beaten

1 cup (220 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Sugar & cinnamon, for coating

  1. Gently heat cream until warm. Mix with yeast and set aside.
  2. Place flours, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the eggs. Add yeast mixture. Beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Add butter in 1-2 tablespoon increments, mixing on low speed. The butter will not incorporate right away. After all the butter is added, turn the mixer to medium high speed and mix for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl from time to time.
  4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  5. In a stainless steel pot or dutch oven, pour in 3 inches of canola oil. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, and heat to 375˚F.
  6. Transfer dough to a heavily floured work surface. Using a rolling pin or your hands, press until 1.25” thick. Cut out doughnuts (we used the rim of a glass jar and a piping tip). You should have 10-24, depending on the size you choose to make the doughnuts.
  7. Fry the doughnuts 15 seconds per side, or long enough to obtain a golden brown color. Prepare the cinnamon sugar mixture and immediately toss the doughnuts after frying. Eat!
  8. These will keep for a few days, tightly sealed.

Audrey Hepburn’s Chocolate Cake

Update 7/9: Seized chocolate will indeed cause a dry cake. New texture is mousse-y, almost creamy, but not ganache creamy.

Today Haley and I had our quintessential meet-up, which consisted of the usual: Watching an Audrey Hepburn movie and baking something sweet! We decided, after deliberating, to try Audrey’s chocolate cake recipe, in honor of our our second friendiversary and in commemoration of our first official hangout. The hangout, you may have guessed, involved baking (cream puffs by Joy the Baker!) and and Audrey movie. Roman Holiday was my first Audrey film, and I haven’t looked back. So thanks, Haley! It’s always fun with you 🙂


The recipe for this cake comes from Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen, written by her son, Luca Dotti. It’s equal parts memoir and recipe book, in which Dotti combines anecdotes from his mother’s life with a beloved dish that held significant memories of the time. This cake in particular evoked memories of the liberation of Holland after WWII. According to Dotti, chocolate was one of the first things his mother ate after a long period of starvation. Chocolate and condensed milk brought by the brand-new United Nations.


Just some notes before you start-

You absolutely must combine the cream and chocolate together before melting the chocolate. Otherwise, the chocolate will seize, and the chocolate will become grainy. To simplify the processes, I would heat the cream and then pour it over the chocolate to melt it. It’s easier than melting everything over a bain-marie or double-boiler.

There may or may not have been too much meringue in the recipe. I will be revisiting this with new results. Egg whites give structure to baked goods, and the cake came out a bit dry as opposed to creamy, so I suspect that, if the seized chocolate was not the problem, then the egg whites were.

Finally, you can serve this cake with whipped cream or ice cream. Really, you could serve it with whatever you fancy. I went with a simple Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream: Cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. If your torte come out dry like mine, the topping will add a little moisture and cut the intensity of the chocolate.


Audrey Hepburn’s Chocolate Cake

(From Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti)


11 ounces (300g) unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped

0.25 cup whole milk (I substituted cream)

1 stick/0.5 cup (120g) unsalted butter

8 eggs, separated

1 cup (200g) sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Heat cream until just below a simmer. Place chocolate in a bowl. Pour cream over and let sit for 3 minutes. Gently whisk to create a ganache. Add butter and whisk until combined. Whisk in egg yolks.
  3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add all the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until still and glossy.
  4. Place 1 cup of the beaten egg whites (meringue) into the chocolate mixture and use a spatula to fold gently. This will lighten the batter. Continue adding in 1-cup increments until all the egg whites are combined.
  5. Buter and flour a 10- or 12- (25- or 28- cm) inch pan (I used a springform pan). Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Turn off oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and cool for 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Ice Cream

This ice cream is very soft and melts quickly. Eat immediately after serving.

1.5 cups cream

1.5 cups whole milk or half-and-half

1 cup (200g) sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Freeze your ice cream bowl overnight.
  2. Heat cream and milk/half-and-half until just warm. Whisk in sugar and salt to dissolve.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Pour into ice cream bowl and churn for 30 minutes. Transfer to container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Serve.