Little Miss Sunshine, 2006

This piece by Sarah Koppelkam was originally published on hopeave.wordpress.com and then reposted in The Huffington Post in July 2013. I found it through the Feminist Bookclub (thank you ladies!). I am quoting it here in full, then offering some comments below.

How to talk to your daughter about her body

Step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.
If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
“You look so healthy!” is a great one.
Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”
“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.”

Sarah Koppelkam

Koppelkam wrote the post with eating disorders in mind, based on her own and friends’ experiences. Hence, perhaps, the raw urgency of it. She told website LittleThings that the piece is “a good reminder about where I was at that point in my life. I was so exhausted by not thinking about anything else besides that.”

Koppelkam’s piece went viral, sparked a wide online conversation about body positivity and inspired several direct responses, including an interesting Christian rendition.

Some of the responses to Koppelkam’s post have considered the idea of not talking to your daughter (or son)* about their bodies as a naive way of protecting them from social expectations. According to one Facebook comment: “whether we like it or not physical appearance is a huge deal in society. Ignoring it and not preparing our daughters for the judgement that is inevitably ahead of them is blinkered and careless.” Along the same lines, a second comment adds: “Either a child feels good about themselves DESPITE the attributes that don’t measure up to contemporary society, or they don’t. Don’t tell a girl her nose isn’t big, or her butt isn’t big, or that she has lovely thighs when she doesn’t have thighs that are coveted by a runway model. If you tell her that she is wrong about how she sees herself, you are dismissing her feelings about it. Being dismissed hurts more than having a big nose… Its better to listen, to look for solutions and validate their insecurities while building on the positives.

I disagree. Of course, ignoring social expectations about body image is dangerous in the same way as it is dangerous to ignore anything potentially harmful. Learning to live with potential harm, however, is not a better solution. Validating a kid’s insecurities about their nose/bum/ears/weight and teaching them to live with them ends up validating the social constructs that created these insecurities in the first place.

Rather than feeling good about themselves “despite” their nose/bum/ears/weight, we should inspire our daughters and sons to fight the social constructs that make them insecure about their bodies. The question then is: how?

Koppelkam’s call, I believe, is not to stop talking to kids about their bodies, but to remove judgment when doing so. Talk to your kids about their bodies (and yours), she says, but without the judgment that validates social constructs on body image (and eating habits). Allow them to get to know, use and like their bodies without society imposing its labels on them.

The image of Abigail Breslin standing in front of a mirror in Little Miss Sunshine keeps popping in my mind. In case you haven’t watched the movie: Abigail Breslin’s character is a plump, spectacled girl whose dream is to win the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant. All  other girls look like a mini-Barbie, with fake eyelashes, spray tan and glitzy costumes. They conform to the image of a child beauty contestant, Abigail doesn’t. After the swimsuit contest, she looks at her round tummy in the mirror and breaths in. But. She keeps going.

There is something incredibly compelling about her “blissful ignorance” – and I believe it is the revolutionary nature of it. Her ignorance of social expectations isn’t only innocent lack of awareness. It is disregard, a reflection of joyful emotional freedom.

Can Abigail’s revolutionary freedom be taught? Probably not. Little Miss Sunshine is just a movie.

Sarah Kappelkam’s suggestions, however, can help us free our real world’s kids from unattainable body image expectations.

 

———

* I made a conscious effort in this post to include boys, as well as girls, in the conversation about body image. The issue does affect both genders – as an increasing number of men and boys suffer from eating disorders.

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Liberty Summer Blooms Print Bomber Jacket,  Liberty for Mamas &Papas, £29; Floral printed fleece dress, Petit Bateau, £34.50; Wrapover cashmere cardigan in blue, H&M, £19.90; Liberty Strawberry Fields Print Blouse & Tutu Set, Liberty for Mamas & Papas, £39;  Embroidered blouse, La Redoute, £15; Denim dress, La Redoute, £19; Jersey-lined dungarees in blue, GAP, £19.95;  Erbavoglio ballet flats, Yoox, £42.00.

Pabbers is five week old now and she feeds about every two hours. Hence the dilemma: what to do during feeds – besides staring in marvel at your beautiful baby, of course? Especially at night, the options are limited: it needs to be something that you can do with one hand, sitting down in the dark – and it often ends up involving some kind of small screen. Besides checking social media, reading tomorrow’s news and discovering new blogs (here’s some suggestions by Hannah of The mum and the mom), there is a lot of time for online window shopping. This is my first attempt at a collage outfit. What do you think? The Mamas & Papas Liberty bomber and the white blouse are so lovely that I wish they existed in adult size so that I could wear them myself! What’s your favourite piece in it?

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Food typography is the art of turning food into letters and words. Here’s a selection of my favourite artists and projects, all inspired by baking. If you like it, have a look at my Food Typography Pinterest board!

1. Baking time by Dina Belenko

Shouldn’t any time be baking time? Dina Belenko shoots conceptual still life images in her St. Petersburg flat, “telling magical stories behind everyday inanimate objects”.
Source: Instagram. Copyright: Dina Belenko.

 

2. Humble pie pastry type by Danielle Evans

I love a beautiful pie topper, especially when it’s cheeky and stylish. In Danielle’s words:

“Humble Pie. We can all use a slice now and then, but in our case a mouthful never tasted so good. After a spirit of contrition hung heavily overhead, I determined to bake a pie inlaid with cheek and cherry. A delicious yet modest pastry emerged from five hours of prep and exacto cutting our mouthwatering, homemade crust. A last minute decision to create an inline finished out the type beautifully.”

Source: Behance. Copyright: Danielle Evans.

1. Copyright Danielle Evans pie

 

3. Bite off more than you can chew by Anna Garforth

Anna Garforth, a multi-disciplinary designer working and living in East London, started this as a self-initiated project. I love the bold message, the clever food pun and the great execution – I wish my biscuits held their shape like Anna’s!
Source: Creative Bloq. Copyright: Anna Garforth.

Copyright Anna Garforth 2

 

4. Victoria sponge recipe by Grant Maycock

This wonderfully simple Victoria sponge recipe was born as a Creative Review ad for Smoke and Mirrors, Rockhound Photographic. Amazingly, it was styled in-house, pulling together people, ingredients and props to create a mouthwatering result. I love that it is nearly an infographic: no need for pen and paper anymore!
Source: Behance. Art Direction: Grant Maycock, Lee Gladman. Typography: Grant Maycock.

3. Copyright Grant Maycock

 

5. Typography pie by A Subtle Revelry

This wonderful pie was created to celebrate Thanksgiving for the blog A Subtle Revelry. In addition to being a show-stopper, the pie is easy to make: the recipe is available in full here. From the same website, here’s the recipe for a typography cake.
Source: A subtle revelry. Produced and photographed by Athena Plichta.

4. Copyright A Subtle Revelry

 

6. Type Delight: A Life Long Love Affair by Nina Harcus

Type Delight is a conceptual illustrative cookbook about Marcelle, a timid Patisserie Chef who falls in love and uses food to communicate his infatuation. Nina Harcus’ project consisted of three food typography quotes from the story printed on linen tea towels that came with the cookbook. Unfortunately, the cook book does not seem to be available anywhere…
Source: Pinterest. Copyright: Nina Harcus.

5. Copyright Nina Harcus.jpg

 

7. Norrlandssäkrade by Fabian Björnstjerna

I have great respect for these typography buns – you need guts to make food typography out of yeasty dough that is supposed to rise in the oven!
Source: Creative Bloq. Copyright:  Fabian Björnstjerna.

6. Copyright Fabian Björnstjerna

 

8. Be Sweet – Go Vegan by Molly O’Riordon

Molly created this project for her Design Alumni show. Completely true to her subject-matter, she used homemade vegan cookies! In her words:

“Not shown: The 100 other sketches, frosting text, and fondant text used to test/practice this. My apartment was covered in wax paper and frosting for a while. Whew!”

Source: Behance. Copyright: Molly O’Riordon.

Copyright Molly ORiordon

 

9. Home is where the cake is…

… and luckily enough, there is often cake at home.
Source: Blog du web design. Copyright: unknown.

9. Home is where the cake is

 

10. The End

Pancakes do not need to come round and flat.
Source: Pinterest. Copyright: Mathias Torgaard.

The end

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nails-1-web

Friday

I open my emails on an otherwise uneventful Friday morning and there it is: a lovely little invitation from the Stylist Beauty Team to take part in a Sally Hansen Miracle Gel trial. Yuppie!

As you probably know if you have given even a cursory glance at this blog, I have strong opinions, many of them, and I am happy to share them. What is more, nail polish is my favourite beauty product – yes, above lipstick. I love how it can be the only beauty product you wear and still work; I love the myriad of available shades (one of my all-time favourites is a dark green and gold nail polish, definitely more wearable than a dark green and gold lipstick!) and I love the grown-up feeling of a fresh manicure. So I am very excited.

First, I WhatsApp my friend Silvia aka Fury, who is not only a beauty addict but also a beauty expert, being a chemical engineer working in a cosmetics company (Fury, if you’re reading: you should be the one writing this). I share my enthusiasm about my first teeny foray into beauty blogging, using a couple of nail polish emojis – this time literally. She wants to give it a try as well; I promise to share the Miracle Gel next time we see each other.

Second, I check the Miracle Gel page on the Sally Hansen website. It’s available in 48 shades, from classic nudes to blues, greens and blacks. I love Wine Stock, a deep, rich burgundy purple which is perfect for autumn. I actually don’t know which colour I will trial – looking forward to the surprise!

Third, I (finally) check my nails. *argh*! They are very short and in a pretty poor state. Spending last evening sanding down the walls (we are redecorating the kitchen) definitely did not do them any good. Tonight’s to do list: file nails – again, this time literally.

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Saturday

The magical little package has just arrived! I open it excitedly: it’s Tipsy Gipsy, a Barbie-like, very girlie bright fuchsia pink. A colour more suited to warm summer beaches than the grey sky of London in October, but I am happy to give it a try. I am actually quite glad now about my short nails: on long nails, this coulour risks looking tarty; on short nails, it is quite rock ‘n’ roll.

Sunday: day 1

There is one rule when using Miracle Gel Nail Colour: after two coats of the polish, you must apply a final coat of Miracle Gel Top Coat – the two are supposed to work together. Nothing else is needed – and no UV light. The big, fat brush and thick texture make the application smooth and easy. One coat dries up in about 5-6 minutes.  A quarter of an hour and I am ready to go!

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Monday-Friday: day 2-day 6

After having looked at my nails (and everyone else’s) about twenty times on the tube ride to work on Monday morning (are they still ok? what is everyone else wearing?) the rest of the week goes on without chips or other dramas. I type, I write emails, I take showers, brush my teeth, wash the dishes, touch and hug, and I forget about my nails: I get on with my life, while my pink polish is still there, cheerful and glossy. Exactly how it should be.

Saturday: day 7

Day 7 and end of the trial: my nails are still perfect, great success!! Would I use it again? Yes (this time in a dark, moody colour). Would I recommend it to my friend Silvia aka Fury? Yes I would – and I will. It is as easy to apply as a “normal” nail polish, but lasts much longer. It’s a no brainer! At about £20, the nail polish plus top coat combination is on the expensive side – but it works. Worth it!

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Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish (£9.99) and Top Coat (£9.99) available at Boots, Superdrug, Amazon 

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Speculoos 1
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This post is a little late, as speculoos biscuits (speculaas in Dutch) are traditionally baked in Belgium and the Netherlands on the eve of St. Nicholas day, on 5th December (and I did bake them before Christmas). When it comes to enjoying them, though, there really is no need to be so strict. Thin and crunchy, they are the perfect winter treat to accompany a hot coffee or a glass of milk – in January as well!

The speculoos spice mix (speculaaskruiden)

Speculoos spice mix webThe speculoos spice mix is what sets them apart from gingerbread biscuits. Comforting cinnamon creates the body of the mix; cloves and nutmeg are essential to give it a little warm kick. For two tablespoons of speculoos spice mix, you will need: 4 teaspoons of cinnamon; 1 teaspoon of nutmeg; and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. You can skip other spices completely or personalise the basic mix by adding a pinch of the one or two spices you like the most (ginger, cardamom, white pepper, coriander, etc.).

The speculoos moulds

Traditionally, speculoos biscuits are stamped on the front with St. Nicholas’ image using handcrafted wooden moulds. In fact, the mould is such a part of the process that the word speculoos apparently comes from the Latin word for mirror (speculum), referring to St. Nicholas’ reflection. If you live in the Netherlands, Belgium or France, finding a speculoos mould should not be difficult; Dille & Kamille sells several online. If you live in Germany, a springerle mould will do the job just as beautifully. Anyone else can either bribe Central European friends or buy the moulds on good old Ebay: search for ‘speculoos mould’, ‘speculaas mould’ or ‘springerle mould’. Of course, you don’t need to use a mould at all: cookie cutters or even the rim of a glass will do.

The dough can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and the spice mix can be kept for a few weeks in an airtight tin in a cool and dry place.

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Ingredients (for 20-25 biscuits)

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 300g soft butter
  • 280g dark brown sugar
  • 70ml water or milk
  • 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • a little corn flour for dusting

Speculoos 3

How to make them

1. In a bowl, beat together 280g dark brown sugar, 300g soft butter and 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix. Dissolve the resulting cream into 70ml water or milk.

2. Sieve together 500g all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda. Sprinkle the flour over the butter mix and blend to get a thick, not too elastic dough. Be careful not to knead too much.

3. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and let it cool in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight).

4. About half an hour before baking, take the dough out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 170 °C (160 °C for a ventilated oven). Cover your worktop with some baking paper (using baking paper rather than dusting with flour will keep the dough lighter and the worktop cleaner). Cut the dough into four parts. Cover the first one with some cling film and flatten with a rolling pin.

5. If you are using a wooden mould, lightly dust it with some corn flour. Press the dough into the mould with your hand to fit the design and cut the exceeding dough with a cutting wire or a sharp knife. Gently remove the dough from the mould by tapping the mould against the table or using a toothpick. If you are not using a wooden mould, cut the dough into shapes using a cookie cutter or the edge of a glass.

How to use a speculoos mould

6. Place on a baking sheet covered with baking greaseproof paper. If necessary, place in the fridge to cool for 30 min.

7. Bake at 170°C for around 10-15 min, depending on the size, until the speculoos are a deep golden brown . Turn the oven down if they are darkening too quickly.

Enjoy!

Speculoos 4

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Mont Blanc roulade 1

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Apparently created at the time of the Duchy of Savoy, Mont Blanc (the dessert) is a little cone of chestnut cream vermicelli and crème Chantilly over a base of meringue, inspired by the shape and colour of Mont Blanc (the Alpine mountain). As if the idea of a snow-capped peak were not wintery enough, I though that the earthy chestnut and fluffy meringue flavours of the Mont Blanc would make a lovely Christmas log. Enter the sugar-capped Mont Blanc meringue roulade with chestnut and whipped cream filling. Is there anything more Christmassy than that?

Although Christmas is all about indulgence, you do not want to use too much sugar in this recipe. The sugar in the meringue and the one used to make chestnut spread will be enough as sweeteners, so you won’t need to add more sugar to the chestnut filling or the whipped cream.

Chestnut puree and whole roasted and peeled chestnuts are generally available in supermarkets and health shops in the UK around Christmas, as they are used for stuffing and soups. If you cannot find chestnut puree you can make it by blending roasted and peeled chestnut, adding a little water if necessary. Chestnut spread (crème de marrons), made with sugar and vanilla, may be more difficult to find in small supermarkets, but it is easily available online. The original Mont Blanc recipe calls for some rum to give a deeper note to the chestnuts. If you don’t have it, you can use some whiskey cream or just skip the alcohol.

If you have never made meringue before, have a look at my post on French meringue for some basic tips. Compared to a classic dry meringue, a meringue roulade needs more sugar for elasticity and it is baked at a higher temperature. The rolling needs a firm hand: here’s how Baking Queen Mary Berry does it.

Enjoy!

PS: The lovely golden birds on the photos are by Danish designer Jette Frölich.

 

Mont Blanc roulade 4

Ingredients (for 10 slices)

For the roulade

  • 5 egg whites
  • 275g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the chestnut filling

  • 400g unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 400g chestnut spread (crème de marrons)
  • 150g whole roasted and peeled chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons rum (optional)

300ml fresh double cream

Icing sugar, for dusting

Mont Blanc roulade 2

 

How to make it

1. Pre-heat the oven 200°C/180°Fan/Gas 6. Line a large swiss roll tin (about 37×27 cm) with greased non-stick baking paper (note: this last step is not necessary if you are using a silicon tray).

2. In a squeaky clean, large bowl, start whisking 5 egg whites with an electric mixer on full speed. When they get foamy, add ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. Keep whisking and gradually add 275g caster sugar, one spoonful at a time: one third at the soft peaks stage; another third at the firm peaks stage; and the last third at the stiff peaks stage. Whisk until very, very stiff and glossy.

3. Spread the meringue mixture into the prepared tin in a uniform layer. Place the tin in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 8 minutes until very golden. Then lower the temperature to 160°/140°Fan/Gas 3 and bake for a further 15 minutes until crisp and firm to the touch.

4. Remove the meringue from the oven and turn it upside down on to a clean towel or a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Remove the paper from the base of the cooked meringue and allow to cool completely.

5. While the meringue cools down, prepare the chestnut filling by mixing 400g chestnut puree, 400g chestnut spread, 150g whole roasted and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped, and 2 tablespoons of rum (optional).

6. Whip 300ml fresh double cream.

7. Spread evenly the chestnut filling and then the whipped cream over the meringue.

8. To form a roulade, roll up the meringue firmly from the long end, using the towel or baking paper to help you. Make sure to keep the roll very tight.

9. Wrap in non-stick baking paper or foil and chill before serving. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Mont Blanc roulade 3

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Dille & Kamille BrusselI am in Brussels for work (the day job…) As I was early for my meeting this morning I stepped by chance into Dille & Kamille in Rue Jan Stas, near Avenue Louise. Oh joy… This little paradise of utilitarian design is the kind of place where I could spend hours calculating how much I could fit into my hand luggage. In the end, I sadly had to abandon the moule à kouglof for a smaller wooden speculoos mould and yet another snowflake cookie cutter.
If you happen to be in Brussels (or another major Belgian or Dutch town) their shops are definitely worth a visit. If Belgium is not in your plans, have a look at their lovely recipes online.

Maple 2 web
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I had the perfect autumn day today. It was a fresh crisp day, with a little drizzle in the air. I put my wellies on and went to the park for a little brisk walk. The leaves were all shades of gold and red and the dogs were playing in the mud. You get the picture! Once back home, I baked these maple syrup shortbread biscuits, just in time for Bonfire Night. They are great with a cup of steaming hot ginger and lemon tea!

I have been planning to bake some maple syrup biscuits for some time, but it took me a while to find the right recipe. Mine is based on the traditional 1-2-3 shortbread recipe, but it replaces sugar with pure maple syrup and adjusts butter and flour accordingly. As maple syrup is liquid, the biscuit is less crumbly than a traditional shortbread.

What makes or breaks these biscuits is the quality of the ingredients, so it’s worth using the best quality ingredients you can afford. Make sure that you use pure Canadian maple syrup (I used Shady Maple Farms’ organic 100% pure maple syrup). I used salted butter because I like to counter-balance the sweetness of the maple syrup; however, that’s just a matter of taste and unsalted butter will work just as well.

For a good result, temperature is also key. The butter must be very soft before you start making the dough, or it won’t become creamy enough to mix properly with the maple syrup. That’s why it’s a good idea to dice it and work it on its own, before incorporating the maple syrup. Once the dough is mixed, on the other hand, you want to keep it cool to make sure that the biscuits keep their shape in the oven. . If it is a hot day, you may need to leave the biscuits in the freezer for 15 minutes after cutting them to make sure that they hold their shape in the oven.

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Ingredients (for 8 large biscuits)

  • 100ml pure maple syrup
  • 180g butter, diced and soft
  • 275g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Maple 1 web

How to make them

  1. Beat 180g of butter, diced and soft, and 100ml maple syrup with an electric mixer until smooth (this will take about 3-5 minutes).
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together 275g of plain flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Using a spatula, gradually fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until completely incorporated.
  3. Squeeze the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably two).
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / Gas 4 (ventilated). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof baking paper.
  5. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 8mm-1cm thick. Cut into leaf shapes using a biscuit cutter.
  6. Transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of brown sugar. If it is a hot day, leave in the freezer for 15 minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes. The larger and thicker the biscuits, the longer they may need in the oven. Once they are pale golden and firm and no longer stick to the greaseproof paper, remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Maple P2 web

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P1120523 web
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My grandmother had a persimmon tree in her back garden in Italy and I have always loved their sweet vanilla taste and firm, shiny flesh. More exotic than apple and pear and with a warm, golden orange colour, persimmon (also known as Sharon fruit) is my favourite autumn fruit. To welcome the new season, I combined it with cinnamon and organic apple juice, two traditional autumn flavours, for a light and creamy seasonal cake.

In keeping with the Italian theme, I decided to go for a very simple Pan di Spagna sponge. Pan di Spagna is a traditional Italian sponge cake with a light and airy texture and only three ingredients: eggs, sugar, and flour. The basic Pan di Spagna sponge cake contains no butter, milk or oil, which makes it low-fat and perfect for a dairy-free diet. If you want to keep the persimmon compote dairy-free and low-fat as well, substitute the whipped cream with soya cream. Of course, you can also leave the cake naked or just add a sprinkle of icing sugar on top!

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There are different methods to make Pan di Spagna sponge: this recipe, based on Giallo Zafferano’s, uses the egg-separated method. Like angel cake, Pan di Spagna cake does not need raising agent: it raises thanks to the air and steam trapped inside the egg foam. Because the mixture needs to be as light as possible to raise properly, I recommend using a low-protein (weak) type of flour, such as US (unbleached) cake flour, Italian grade 00 flour or French T55 flour.

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

P1120488 webFor the Pan di Spagna sponge

  • 5 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 75g 00-type flour (or other weak flour)
  • 75g corn flour
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the persimmon compote

  • 5 persimmons
  • 250ml organic apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crème Chantilly

  • 250ml full-fat whipping cream
  • 50g icing sugar

To assemble and decorate

  • 30ml organic apple juice
  • 1 persimmon
  • A few mint leaves

How to make it

How to make the Pan di Spagna sponge cake

1. Pre-heat the oven at 180-160ºC. Grease and line with baking paper a medium round tin (18cm diametre). Sieve together 75g 00-type flour (or other weak flour) and 75g corn flour.

2. Separate the whites from the yolks of 5 eggs; this is easier when the eggs are fridge-cold. Take care not to leave any trace of the yolks in the egg whites bowl.

3. With a sharp knife, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the egg yolks bowl.

4. Whisk the yolks and the vanilla seeds with 100g caster sugar until the mixture doubles in size and becomes light and fluffy (see photo 4b for how it should look like).

5. Whisk the egg whites with 50g caster sugar and ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until they make hard peaks.

6. Using a large spatula, gently mix the egg whites to the yolks mixture. Take care not to overmix: you don’t want to knock the air bubbles out of the mixture.

7. Gradually sift the dry ingredients over the mixture, gently folding them in until they are completely incorporated.

8. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake at 180ºC for 40 minutes (static oven) or at 160ºC for 30 minutes (ventilated oven). The cake is ready when it springs back if poked with a finger.

9. Once the cake is baked, turn the oven off and leave it in the oven to cool down for about 10 minutes. Then take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely before taking it out of the tin.

How to make the persimmon compote

10. Cut 5 persimmons in small pieces.

11. Transfer the persimmons to a pan and add 250ml organic apple juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Slowly simmer on a low heath for about one hour, until the compote reduces to the consistency of a jam.

12. Blend the compote in a food processor until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons whipped cream and mix well. Set aside.

How to assemble and decorate the cake

13. Make the crème Chantilly by whisking together 250ml full-fat whisking cream and 50g icing sugar.

14. Cut the cake in three horizontal layers.

15. Drizzle 10ml organic apple juice over the bottom layer. Spread half of the persimmon compote and then a layer of crème Chantilly over the persimmon compote layer.

16. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first one and drizzle 10ml organic apple juice over it. Cover with the remaining persimmon compote and a layer of crème Chantilly.

17. Top the cake with the third layer and drizzle the remaining 10ml organic apple juice over it. Spread a thin layer of crème Chantilly over the whole cake and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. This layer will create a smooth surface for the rest of the crème Chantilly to be laid upon.

18. Once the first layer of crème Chantilly is set, cover the cake with the remaining crème Chantilly. Decorate with one persimmon, sliced, and a few mint leaves.

This cake keeps well in the fridge for 1-2 days.

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Despite the cold and wet English weather, I am determined to cling to the last summer days. Like the weather, Eton mess is quintessentially English, in a Mary-Poppins-and-Harry-Potter kind of way!

A mixture of strawberries, cream and meringue, this dessert takes its name from Eton College, where it is traditionally served at the annual cricket game against Harrow School – and has been since the 19th century.

As, of course, traditions are there to be broken, my version of this classic recipe includes pistachios and mixed berries. With a toast (and a farewell) to the rainy English summer!

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Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

  • 500g mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries)
  • 500g meringues (here’s how to make them)
  • 400ml full-fat double cream
  • 250g pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • The juice of one lemon

 

How to make it

  1. Chop 500g mixed berries in a bowl, adding 1 tablespoon caster sugar and the juice of one lemon. Leave some berries aside for decoration.
  2. Shell, blanch in boiling water and peel 250g pistachios. Roughly chop them.
  3. Whip 400ml full-fat cream until stiff peaks form and fold in 500g meringues, broken up.
  4. Spoon layers of the cream-meringue mix, pistachios and berries into 4-6 jam jars.
  5. Decorate with whipped cream, whole berries and pistachios.

Enjoy!

 

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