Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bioparc Zoo de Doue la Fontaine

Bioparc Zoo de Doué is a zoo not like the others. It has some 70 species of animals under threat as part of a Species Survival programme and the zoo leads the European Endangered species Programme (EEP).Under the EEP, animals are not captured or bought in. Instead, animals are exchanged between zoos that are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

 Breeding programmes and scientific research, coupled with an adaptive approach to animal care and new developments in the design of enclosures, help to improve the well-being of the animals and contribute towards making zoos more like the animals' natural environment.

What is so special about this zoo is it's setting - ancient quarries, former lime kilns and cathedral-like caves and cellars - the pathways are set out , so you don't miss any of the animals of which there is a great variety. Animals are not in cages but in beautifully designed habitat that separate by rocks, caves or ditches. This make Bioparc Zoo de Doué one of the finest in Europe.

It's maze of rock and lush vegetation makes the visit very enjoyable.. Also, we were able to be up close with some of the animals. I am not talking about rabbits here but Vultures during feeding time. It was definitely the high-light of our visit.

You can get very close to birds. For instance you are free to walk around the huge (15 metre high) aviary. 

This makes a good day-out for any family with children. We were there for 3 hours and never once felt too long or too hot or too crowded. As benches are everywhere and a nice restaurant which looking straight over the giraffe enclosure so you are almost dining face to face with one of the gentle giants!  And this place doesn't smell! and all the animals look really happy!


Bioparc Zoo de Doué la Fontaine is located in the Loire Valley 15 km south west of Saumur in Maine et Loire.

Entrance fee:
Adults: 17.50 €
Children (3-10 years): 12 €
Free for children under 3 years

Life is good here..

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chocolate cookies

It's been raining.. Spring is beautiful but the weather is always so unpredictable. It can be sunny for 2 minutes then drizzle for the next hour. Sun is playing hide and seek, so does the bird.. when the sun is out they appeared in between branches of the Bouload tree in front of our apartment..but then when the clouds come, they are gone..

This is such a day, with LM who is on spring holiday and we have his little cousin coming all the way from another town to play with him.. If it is sunny, there is so much easier just like the other day where we went to a nearby Zoo.

So what to do with them?? we did some simple origami and bake some cookies :)

Here's the recipe for this simple chocolate chips cookies:

1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c.   salted butter, softened
1/4 c.   sugar
2          eggs
1 c.      chocolate chips (we just chopped some chocolate squares)

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, soda and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Beat butter, eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and soft.
  4. Add flour and chocolate chips. Blend just until combined.
  5. Spoon out teaspoonfuls of batter onto baking sheets, 1 1/2" apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
  6. Immediately transfer cookies to a cool, flat surface. Yields about 2 dozen.
Serve with cold milk.. Yummmm

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No Knead Ciabatta

Sticky dough after an hour of rest

Lately, I have an obsession for bread making. After the success of my buckwheat sourdough bread, I went on to Country bread and now Ciabatta. Putting together flour, water, yeast and salt...and time for fermentation, we produce bread. Simple yet bread has so many flavours and technique to master, I am sure this will keep me busy for awhile :)

No knead ciabatta, nice crumbs and crisp crust

Here's my Ciabatta! No knead!! because I don't have a dough mixer. All my breads are hand knead, so I snob around the Internet and Voila! No Knead Ciabatta!! how can I resist?? Easy to make, gives beautiful crumbs but get chewy after. So the next morning,  I toasted it, spread with a good layer of butter and some raspberry jam.. The saltiness of the butter pair with the sweetness of raspberry jam, accompanied with "Crunch Crunch Crunch" for each bite of the toast.. I let you imagine but I can assure you it is a  great way to start a day,
So here's what you need;

300g     White flour (Type55)
200g     Wheat flour(Type110)
375g     Water
1tsp      Instant yeast
10g       Salt (fine)

  1. In a big plastic tub (not less then 5L), stir together all the ingredient. You will get a very wet and sticky dough.
  2. Walk away for 20min, let the flour assorb all the liquid.
  3. Now stretch and  fold the dough with your hand or rubber spatula. You can stretch and fold on a well floured work surface with well oiled hands but I did mine in the tub. How? Visual the container as a clock. Plant your spatula at 3 o'clock stretch it till 12 o'clock and fold it towards you. Continue to do this while turning the container after you do the 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock(anti-clockwise), you will turn the container(clockwise) so that the 12 o'clock is now at the 3 o'clock and you will fold again towards you for 20 times. This is call 1 set of fold.
  4. Do 3 sets of stretch and fold with an interval of every 45mins.
  5. Let it ferment in the fridge for 12 to 14 hours. You should get a bubbly dough which is 3 times it's original volume. (I mixed my dough after dinner say 9pm and I bake it for lunch the next day.)
  6. The next morning, gently scrape dough onto well floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour and gently pat the dough into a rectangle.
  7. Divide dough into desired pieces and transfer dough on to baking pan. I use a non stick Tefal cake pan with extra flour and semolina.  Cover with a plastic and let rise for an hour.
  8. Preheat oven at 240C for at least 30 min. It has to be very hot to gives your bread that oven spring.
  9. Bake dough for 20 to 25 mins with steam ( I used a tin cup with some hot water in it) or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom.
  10. Remove the bread from tin and let cool on a grill.
First batch came out a little pale (see below right) with thin crust. So the second batch (below left hand side) I took out the steam cup after baking for 20min and let it bake for another 5 min to crisp up the crust. Which I like better. It's less moist and gives more crisp to the crust.

Ciabatta for lunch

Monday, April 09, 2012

Petite Madeleine

Our very colurful Easter eggs with confetti in it

It's Easter weekend and LM is on spring break. To keep him busy and also to get his mind away from French Conjugaison, multiplication and also history time periods.. we did some Easter crafts.. Egg painting of course. I bake some Madeleine with the eggs and LM decorated the egg shells then we went down to the park next door and hide the eggs.. FH and MIL hunt the for those colourful eggs. Which was not difficult at all..we had fun :)

Hiding eggs

The ant is trying to carry the feather??

Madeleine are little traditional almond sponge cakes that are sold in every bakery or supermarket. It is usually baked in a baking pan which has a shell shape. Traditional recipes include very finely ground almonds. A variation uses lemon zest, for a pronounced lemony taste. We can also coat it with chocolate or make it marble.
You get what I mean.. shall we start??

To make the frangipane, mix all the ingredients below and set aside.
50g     Ground almonds
50g     Fine sugar
40g     Butter (melted)
1         Egg
A pinch of salt

Madeleine ingredients:
3         Eggs
130g   Butter (melted)
150g   Flour
1tsp    Baking powder
120g   Sugar

  1. Preheat oven at 240C.
  2. Whisk together eggs and sugar until mouse like.
  3. Then fold in shifted flour, baking powder, melted butter and frangipane. Blend well but not overmix.
  4. Prepare your mould (butter and dust with flour)
  5. Spoon or pipe the batter in the mould and tap it on the counter to make it even. Which make less dishes to wash :)
  6. Bake 3 min at 240C then 4 min at 180C.

This recipe makes 24 Madeleines. This is a great snacks for Quatre heures (4 o'clock) which means tea time for the French. We had it for dessert after lunch, tea time and breakfast the next day.. it's all gone now cause it is best consume fresh..

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Homemade Buckwheat(Sarasin) sourdough bread

I have been busy baking..BREAD!!  FH asked why bother to even try to bake my own bread since France has millions of boulanger in every corner and turn. I so agree with him as the bread here is world famous and world best :) It's not like Lou Shi Fun or Pau.. which I can't get and need to put my hands together to make it!! But this is just me.. love to try :) want to experience:) who knows?? I might be a boulanger one day?? Since the weather is getting warmer and I have always been  making my own pizza from scratch. So bread is just another step :)

Here's what I did;
The sourdough starter/ Levain:
200g        Flour (type 55/65)
200g        Water

Mix the flour and water together to get a thick paste and leave it in a bottle with the cover ajar. Let it stay in room temperature for 24 hours. What I got was a bubbly paste with a nice sour smell. You can increase the amount of flour but always mix in the same amount of water. Use half when the starter is "hungry"/ before you "feed", meaning take out half of the content above (after 24hr) for this recipe then mix in another 100g of flour and 100g of water for your next bread..should you don't need to use it the next day then put it in the fridge after it's fed.
If you see it turn grey or mouldy, bin it and starts again. It should have a very  light brown colour and smell sour/fermented.

Day 2
300g        Flour (unbleached) or in France Type 55/65
100g        Wheat flour (in France Type 110)
100g        Buckwheat flour (Farine de Sarasin)
100g        Sourdough starter
200g        Warm water (finger test, it should feel hot but not burning)
3tsp          Fine table salt
1pkt         Dried yeast

  1. In a cup dissolve dried yeast, a tsp of sugar with some warm water. Set a side for 10min.
  2. In a big bowl, mix together 3 types of Flours, salt.
  3. Make a well in the middle, pour in your sourdough starter and the yeast mixture which should be foamy by now. Mix it with a wooden spoon.
  4. Mix in warm water bit by bit, don't stop mixing until you get a very sticky gluey paste.
  5. Keep kneading in the bowl for a good 15min. This is hard work if you don't have a dough mixer but you will be rewarded with beautiful bread.
  6. By the end of the 15min kneading, it should be soft and elastic.
  7. Cover it with a cling film and let rise for 2 hours or until it is double in volume.
  8. After the 1st rise, punch down to deflate the dough. On a table, dust with flour and take out the dough and knead for the second time for about 10 min.
  9. Take out your baking tin, oil and dust it with flour. Form your dough into a ball with the smooth side up, place it in the prepared tin.
  10. Let rise for the second time (another 2 hours).
  11. Preheat oven at 200C (gas 8). When you open the door, you should feel the hot air rush out. Then place the baking tin in the middle of the oven and bake for 15min then reduce the heat to 180C for another 20min.
  12. Don't forget to place also a little container of water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. This will give a very nice crunchy crust.
  13. Take it out of the tin once it's sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool in a grill.
To conserve it, cover it with a dish towel.
We had it with a thick layer of butter, ham and salad for dinner.
p/s: FH asked me to make another one :) oh yesss

Monday, April 02, 2012

United Color of Spring


Oh finally the bright blue sky!! 20th March is officially Spring in France. Spring is the new beginning for the nature.
sign of flowers everywhere.. big tree with tiny flowers..

Springs means nature wakes up from their long months of  hibernation, each on their own time..

This is an almond tree, it is one of the first fruit tree that bloom at the end of winter months.
Filling the air with a thin sweet almond scent.

Jacintha in soft pink, smell fantastic

Jacintha in hot pink

 Spring is a good way to "see" time. As each day, different type of tree wakes up by showing us beautiful, colourful flowers before their leaves.

Doesn't want to be left out, this tree trunk is showing it's colour too.

Busy at work

LM call this "shooting stars". It really looks like shooting stars when there is a breeze.

A close up look at the "shooting stars"

This is a "Pie Vert" a green woodpecker. I have been waiting for it since January..
Worth the wait, isn't it?