Poached Coffee Vanilla Pears with Mocha Macarons

I’m sure we’re not alone with these poached coffee vanilla pears. How many times have you looked for a sophisticated dessert but it has to be super light, perhaps gluten free, but above all – simple but effective?

Now that we’ve had our fill of Christmas puddings, pumpkin pies, yule logs, mince pies, fruit cakes and chocolates in all forms, who’s ready to start all over again to bring in the New Year with yet more gastronomic pleasures? Count me in, as long as it’s slightly lighter this time.

Light Desserts vs Heavy Rich Holiday Puddings

When entertaining the French, it took me a few years to work out that menus need to be planned carefully; if I’m serving a large main course after an amuse-bouche (something small to tickle the tastebuds before the meal) then starter/hors-d’oeuvres – and then it’s followed with an ambitious taste-of-the-regions cheese board – it can be difficult keeping up when a heavy finale to the meal is served. I used to love doing that and soon learned the hard way. With a thud.

The French could have a crise cardiaque (heart attack) if they see a large pudding arrive, piled high on their plate and since they’re polite, they wade through it and suffer in silence. I’m now the same. Have you ever had that feeling of just being so stuffed that you’re kicking-yourself-for-being-so-greedy uncomfortable?

poached coffee vanilla pear dessert with mocha macarons

French Chef Inspiration

For light dessert inspiration, I pounced straight away on Anne-Sophie Pic’s French cookbook, Recettes Pour Recevoir. The Michelin-starred chef has put together her cooking lessons for ideal recipes aimed at entertaining. Claudia, aka Journey of an Italian Cook, talked more about Anne-Sophie Pic’s career last week and shares her tomato chutney.)

Anne-Sophie Pic’s dessert for a poached pear in vanilla and blackcurrant with a coffee fondant seemed a perfectly light and chic end to a meal. What really caught me eye, though, is that it would be beautifully peared (couldn’t help myself, sorry) with macarons.

My first try with the cassis macaron – terrible photo!

Developing the Recipe

That would definitely keep my French friends happy. But I can’t just copy a recipe from a cookbook. I had to make my own version that’s easy to make at home. So, I inversed the flavours: the fondant au café and vanilla tuile was replaced by a tutti-frutti blackcurrant macaron (see p.83 of Mad About Macarons!) and the blackcurrant poaching sauce was replaced by a coffee sauce. My first try. Shame about the presentation! However, dead easy and the dessert was now totally gluten-free.

What I love about macarons is that they can be made a few days in advance (or even frozen and taken out the freezer 1 hour before serving at room temperature) so you can stay zen while preparing the rest of the meal.

Not only can you serve these poached coffee vanilla pears as a double bill with chocolate-coffee macarons, but if you have left-over chocolate ganache from your macarons, then warm it gently and offer it as a triple whammy with the pear and vanilla-coffee syrup.

Poached coffee vanilla pear gluten free dessert

Poached coffee vanilla pear dessert

By serving a light dessert like this, nobody feels the need to stuff themselves more than they wish. The paradox is that when you do serve them on a large platter in the middle of the table, I’ve noticed that guests tend to eat much more than they were intending. But hey, that’s their problem. I’m no longer responsible for their hidden macaronivore tendencies…


Poached Coffee Vanilla Pears

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20+20 minutes

150g sugar
1 litre water
1 vanilla pod, cut lengthways
2 tbsps coffee granules
4 large firm pears

  1. Boil the sugar with the water, vanilla and coffee in a heavy based casserole dish or saucepan. Once boiling, turn down the heat.
  2. Peel the pears and cut them in half horizontally. Place them in the syrup and poach them gently with lid on for 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the pears, set aside and chill.
  4. Boil up the coffee syrup for about 20 minutes until concentrated and thickened.

I usually place the left over coffee syrup in a jam jar, sealed in the fridge. Over the next few days, just heat it gently and pour over ice cream.

Serve with chocolate-mocha macarons (simply add 2 tbps of granulated coffee to the heating cream while making your classic chocolate ganache. Recipe on page 47 of Mad About Macarons!) Or infuse the bruised seeds from 4 cardamom pods to the coffee poaching liquid, remove, and serve with chocolate, cardamom & ginger macarons (see page 56 of Mad About Macarons!)

Indulge…

poached coffee vanilla pears

Beet-Horseradish Macarons with Apple and Salmon

Are you all enjoying the festive season? Still merry? Dead beet? In just a few days it will be out with the old and in with the new. Out with the Scottish piping bag! By that I’m referring to the Scottish bagpipes since we’re just back from a wonderfully cosy, family Christmas in Scotland and so now feeling rather patriotic. I wonder if my French neighbours would mind if I took up the bagpipes in 2012?

 While the Scots celebrate ‘Hogmany’, on New Year’s Eve on 31 December, the French have a more formal dinner affair. It normally lasts all evening; in fact, there have been occasions when we’ve been so carried away at the table that midnight has struck as we’re tucking into the cheese board and just about missed it! And that’s long before dessert is even served. Last year, I just about fell asleep in the pudding from fatigue and the liquid refreshments, willing myself to continue into the early hours. Och, it’s not the age it’s the mileage, eh?

Feeling patriotic, Scottish smoked salmon is definitely on my menu for starters (or hors d’oeuvres.) My favourite is Salar Hot Smoked Salmon from the Outer Hebrides in North-West Scotland, but you can use any good quality wild smoked salmon – or in the photo, I used Smoked Salmon with 5 peppers from our local supermarket’s gourmet section (OK, it’s from Monoprix, but I’m just telling you where I shop since nobody ever approaches me for advertising, I never have freebies to post and so this is just simple old me. Voilà.)

 

We filled the suitcase with the Salar smoked precious stuff, hoping that Ryanair Staff wouldn’t take a liking to it and confiscate it at airport security. I was too worried about being blown back with the wind rather than anything else. Edinburgh was incredibly windy and I’m not just talking about the after-effects of the Christmas sprouts here. Don’t get me started on as-much-as-you-dare-with-Ryanair. ‘Haste ye back’ to the recipe!

 

One of the recipes that’s given on the back of the Salar smoked salmon pack is a simple apple and horseradish sauce to accompany it. The apple makes this sauce so deliciously light.  At first guests think it’s pure cream looking at the colour, but on tasting they dollop on more when they realise it’s mainly apple with half fat crème fraîche tossed in as an afterthought!  Serve a little on serving plates and provide extra sauce on the table.

For that extra special touch, this goes famously with a beetroot and horseradish macaron (see mini macs savoury macarons on p.103 of Mad About Macarons.)

Another party? I’m dead beet…

Horseradish and Apple Sauce for Hot Smoked Salmon

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes

1 tart apple (e.g. braeburn, granny smith)
1-2 tbsp cream of horseradish (according to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 small 12cl carton low fat crème fraîche (15% fat)

1.  Grate the apple then quickly add the lemon juice so that it won’t turn brown.

2.  Mix in the other ingredients and season to taste.

 

Fiddling around in Picasa, I noticed I could make a collage!  Isn’t that pretty?  Not pretty, not awful just pretty awful. OK, I’m still learning. Great fun!  Coming on Friday – a simple, light but fancy French dessert to serve with your macarons for a New Year dinner menu.

Nougat Glacé Choux Buns with Orange Caramel

As you may have gathered, I’m not just mad about macarons, but also rather crazy about choux buns and so these Nougat Glacé Choux Buns are a must for the festive season! My last ‘choux carnival’ was festive French chouquettes, which looked like the mini choux were wearing red and green knitted sweaters for Christmas. Here’s a more sophisticated choux bun version for a holiday dessert: after all, this was for a guest post over at Nami’s blog, Just One Cookbook.

One of the first classic desserts I discovered in France was the nougat glacé. It may perhaps sound posh but there’s no nougat in it; it’s essentially just fancy honey ice cream containing a mixture of predominantly orange candied fruits and toasted nuts, then traditionally served surrounded by a pool of tart, red berry coulis.

Much that I love the classic version, I’ve never appreciated the red fruit sauce that accompanies it. When Nami explained that the Japanese adore choux buns, I could just see it for her readers: why not prepare a light nougat glacé ice cream, fill it in a choux bun and replace the red berry coulis with a sticky, seductive orange caramel for a simple yet festive dessert for the holidays?

Don’t be put off by the long recipe. This is ridiculously easy to put together quickly and without fuss – my kind of stress-free recipe for a holiday menu. Each of the 3 parts can be made in advance: the caramel can keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks; the ice cream can be made a week or two in advance and the choux pastry can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days (so handy to have in that piping bag!) What’s more, the ice cream doesn’t even need an ice cream maker!

On the day itself, just pipe out the buns, wham them in the oven for 20 minutes, and when ready to serve simply fill them with a dollop of the ice cream and dribble on the warmed caramel. Decorate with the nuts and candied fruit and serve with a chilled glass of Muscat and let the toes curl in front of the fire.

choux puffs with orange caramel filled with honey nougat ice cream

A pair of choux for Christmas

Christmas Profiteroles with Orange Caramel

ORANGE NOUGAT AND HONEY ICE CREAM

Serves 8

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Freezing Time: Minimum 12 hours

60g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
50g pecan nuts or walnuts, roughly chopped
100g candied fruit, preferably orange peel and candied kumquats, roughly chopped
4 egg whites
3 tbsp runny honey (I used a strong pine honey)
300ml whipping cream, chilled

1. Put a glass bowl in the freezer in preparation for whipping the cream.

2. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

3. Heat the honey in a pan until it starts to bubble. Pour it hot onto the egg whites then whisk for another minute or two.

4.  Whip the cream in the chilled bowl until it’s stiff. Add the nuts and fruit (but keep some aside for the decoration) and fold the mixture gently into the beaten egg whites.

5. Pour into mini muffin molds (I used silicone), or simply into a sealed container and freeze.

Adapted from a recipe by Trish Deseine.

CHOUX BUNS

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes

140g water
100g milk
1 tbsp orange flower water
pinch salt
1 tbsp sugar
90g unsalted butter
150g flour
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Boil the water, milk, orange flower water, salt, sugar and butter in a large saucepan.

2. Once boiling, quickly add the flour and whisk until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan.

3. Transfer to a mixing bowl (or electric mixer) and gradually add the eggs. Whisk until you have a lovely smooth, sticky paste.  At this point, you can transfer the pastry to a piping bag and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

4.  Using a piping bag, pipe out small heaps on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking.

5.  Brush with a glaze of one egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

ORANGE CARAMEL SAUCE

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

160g sugar
120g salted butter
200g whipping cream, slightly warmed
grated rind of an orange, or 3 kumquats
1 tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

1. Put the sugar with a few drops of water into a small saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir it now and again over a medium heat until a golden syrupy caramel forms.  This should take about 10 minutes.

2.  Stir in the butter, still over the gentle heat and keep stirring for about 10 minutes until thickened. Don’t worry if it looks like too much butter at this point: when you add the cream it will all come together.

3. Turn down the heat and add the warm cream, zest (and liqueur if using) gradually. It will look runny but that’s good.  Keep it bubbling away for another 5 minutes then cool.

The caramel can last up to 3 weeks if stored in a sealed jar in the fridge. As the caramel cools it will thicken.

Presentation: When the choux buns are cool, cut them in half and fill with a scoop or mini mold of nougat ice cream. Warm the orange caramel in the microwave just for a few seconds and dribble over the buns (sorry, I can’t help laughing on that one: you don’t dribble but the sauce should be dribbled…). Decorate with candied fruits and the extra toasted nuts. Enjoy!

nougat-filled choux puffs with orange caramel

 

This recipe was shared as a guest post over at Nami’s blog, Just One Cookbook.

Wishing you all a cosy Christmas, filled with fun and laughter – and plenty of macarons!

Update: Don’t forget that there are many choux and éclair recipes (in much more detail), along with tarts, millefeuilles and French cakes in my new book, Teatime in Paris!, a great gift for the bakers in your life…

Happy Holidays! Bonnes Fêtes !

Blog-sitting with a Pair of Choux at Just One Cookbook

It’s finally Friday. This has been a mad partying week but it’s not over yet: I’m ‘blog-sitting’ over at Just One Cookbook for my good foodie friend, Nami, while she’s visiting her in-laws in Taiwan.

Anyone who visits Nami’s blog knows that she has a goldmine of down-to-earth Japanese recipes with step-by-step, clear and easy instructions. She has been a great source of inspiration not only as a blogger friend but as a cook. Thanks to Nami, I’ve been able to suss out the ingredients at the Japanese supermarkets in Paris and my girls now regularly ask for Japanese style ginger pork or fish on our weekly menus at home.

A pair of choux for Christmas

Nami asked us blogger friends last month to come up with something for a holiday menu.  As you can imagine, I opted for something on the dessert end; it was tempting to concoct something on a Japanese theme to combine our recipes. Pairing pistachio and wasabi macarons (see p.65 of the book) with her Matcha green tea ice cream was on my mind but it needed something a bit more festive for the occasion. After all, we’re now only about a week away until Christmas!

One of the first classic desserts I discovered in France was the nougat glacé. It may perhaps sound posh but there’s no nougat in it; it’s essentially just fancy honey ice cream containing a mixture of predominantly orange candied fruits and toasted nuts, then traditionally served surrounded by a pool of tart, red berry coulis.

Much that I love the classic version, I’ve never appreciated the red fruit sauce that accompanies it. When Nami explained that the Japanese adore choux buns, I could just see it: why not prepare a light nougat glacé ice cream, fill it in a choux bun and replace the red berry coulis with a sticky, seductive orange caramel for a simple yet festive dessert for the holidays?

The best part is that each of the three ingredients can be prepared in advance. So you can enjoy a stress-free, light-but-wicked festive dessert, curled up with a glass in hand in front of a crackling fire with family and friends.

Pop over now to Nami’s Just One Cookbook for the guest post and recipe. Nami has also integrated a wee interview into the post: so mix a chatter-box with a choux-box recipe and see what you get…

Don’t forget: you have until Sunday 18th December Midnight (‘Midnight in Paris’ time)
to enter
The International Christmas Giveaway of Mad About Macarons!

Enjoy all your holiday preparations!

Mad About Macarons Christmas Party Special

It’s Christmas countdown! Is the excitement crescendoing in your family? I don’t know about you but up until now, I’ve been avoiding any tunes or decorations – especially since our local authorities mounted the festive decorations as early as mid October! Motivation, however, soon jump-started last week on a shopping spree in Paris. Check out these macaron baubles for the tree.

More baubles were hanging up with the gingerbread men at my favourite pastry shop in St. Germain-en-Laye, Le Petit Gateau. This is where I first learned how to make macarons all those years ago, since they have workshops for adults and children. Looking in the window, everyone becomes a child. Isn’t it magical?

Their gingerbread men are a huge hit with customers but the pastry chefs are freaked out by them. The popular smiling treats are hanging on their strings when it’s lights out at night; first thing in the morning they’ve dropped off them, lying motionless in the window. Did they come alive during the night like in Toy Story? I wonder if they played with the dwarves (oh dear, makes me think of a terrible joke but I should keep this website respectable) or did they storm the gingerbread house, claiming their territory?

Chocolate-cointreau-gingerbread macarons

Speaking of gingerbread, there has been a huge trend towards gingerbread macarons on the blogosphere recently. It has been exciting to see so many macaron lovers preparing their Christmas mac treats. You must visit Laura of Craftstorming and check out her incredible Gingerbread macaron men. Also Jamie of MacTweets aka Life’s a Feast. Jamie added Cognac to her macs (she had an excuse to use the good stuff after visiting the place en direct, lucky girl!) I didn’t have any left (what’s going on in our liqueur cabinet?) so resorted to Cointreau – a lovely orangey alternative, which goes well with the ganache and spices. I loved Jamie’s addition of the sweet chestnut purée: you don’t taste it with the chocolate as much as on its own but adds a beautiful Christmas gloss to the ganache.

And in the window at Patrick Roger’s chocolaterie

Back to Christmas tree baubles. Just take a peek at Patrick Roger’s vitrine of his St Germain-en-Laye boutique. How would your family react if you came home with a chocolate tree like this with real orange baubles? This year, kids, we’re respecting the environment. We’re fed up of untangling the Christmas lights, so let’s just decorate it with oranges and spiced orange blossom macarons. What do you think?

Spicy Christmas Orange Blossom Macarons by Jill

spicy orange blossom macarons

 

This time last year it was snowing. It was so dizzily exciting at first but it soon made way to alarmingly heavy snowfalls, that my first TV debut for making macarons was postponed. Instead we consoled ourselves my munching through these spicy orange blossom macarons that I’d prepared for the program. All was not lost; we just sat and gorged on them in front of the fire with slippers on, watching the snow outside plus the snow reports on the TV.

For orange blossom spiced macarons: just follow the recipe for orange blossom macarons (on p.77 of the book), infusing 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 star anises and 2 cloves in the cream.

Are you Christmas partying? These mini Thai green/red curry mac’sala macarons are a real hit at parties (spot Auntie Shirley’s knitted Christmas mac warmer!) Same goes for the beetroot and horseradish macarons or tikka mac’sala curry ones: serve them with drinks or better still, with hors-d’oeuvres/starter, as a surprising gluten-free alternative to bread with Round Carrot, Parsnip and Coriander soup.

This weekend, my eldest had her first boum – disco party – which is quite a milestone for 11/12 year-olds. I’m still recovering myself after that disco! What happened to the next day? I felt more like a Black-Eyed Pea Poopper! I’ve had some serious catching up to do in the groovy world after Mamma Mia: Funky Mum needs to know LMFAO, Zac Harry, Katy Perry, Pitbull, David Guetta. Guetta-load-of-that! It was great to see over 25 kids really enjoy themselves. They’ve worked so hard this tough term as the new kids on the block in first year at Collège. They also proved they’d worked hard at these dance moves. They know how to shake their stuff!

When I brought out the boxes of macarons, one boy asked Antoine if they were actually allowed to eat them. Can you imagine? Are macs just seen as treats for the adults? Really. Makes me want to make them all the more.  Then all the boys pounced on the chocolate ones and the girls were discussing what was the cube in the middle of the strawberry ones. Fascinating.

Drunken cranberry and egg nog macarons

Meanwhile, these macarons were preparing themselves for another party debut: drunken cranberry egg nog macarons. Using my favourite Appleton Estate Rum, I only wished I’d upped the dose by not just macerating the dried cranberries in it but also adding more rum to the vanilla cream, too. It just confirms that I should do what I say myself and don’t be afraid to concentrate the flavours as much as possible.

Cranberry Egg Nog Macarons: Simply follow the basic recipe for vanilla macarons (p. 35 of the book), using 120ml whole milk and 40ml rum, and add freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and 100g of drunken cranberries to the filling.

This week, it’s time to say “merci, maîtresse” (thank you teacher) with little macaron bags at the end of term.

Bags of macarons for the teachers

The question is, do I give dark chocolate and mint macs to the French or the British school teachers? I love making these every Christmas – and each time Antoine still tries to explain that the French just don’t like mint with chocolate. Well I’m sorry but we love it in Britain: we were brought up to serve After Eights after dinner. It’s posh. So I’m still doing it whether you like it or not, Monsieur Antoine.

After Eight macarons

Wanting to decorate them with something festive, Mum had given me these Edible Green Trees by Rainbow Dust last year. Great idea and thanks, Mum – but they were so small and fiddly to use and kept curling. Now Lora, aka The Mad Hausfrau had a great arty crafty technique of painting on snowflakes with white food colouring directly on the macaron shell, then glittering them with disco dust for a Christmas macaron disco fever!

Don’t forget to put out some macarons for Santa with these macarons aux marrons glacés. Bulging stockings are guaranteed…

Well, the macarons are made and there’s even more partying: this is going to be a mad week! Enjoy your Christmas macaron-ing. Now it’s time to hang up the decorations!

spot the edible ones 🙂

Don’t forget to enter the international Christmas Giveaway of Mad About Macarons!
You could be one of the FIVE lucky readers to receive a copy, courtesy of Waverley Books.

Christmas Giveaway of Mad About Macarons!

The Christmas Giveaway is now closed.
Winners will be announced shortly by Waverley Books.

The countdown is on. As the children are opening up their surprises in the Advent Calendar’s goody bags, it’s time for us to join in the fun.  It’s time for a Christmas giveaway!

Waverley Books are offering a copy of Mad About Macarons! to FIVE lucky readers this week. And it doesn’t matter where you live. They have been kind enough to open it up as an international giveaway.

For those of you who don’t have the book, there are 38 macaron recipes plus an annex containing recipe ideas to use up your egg yolks. There is an illustrated step-by-step guide in 6 pages explaining the basic macaron recipe. The book is full of tips, well over 100 macaron photos and serving suggestions for teas, coffees and wines to complement your home-made macarons (see Table of Contents.) Why not sample A Taste of Paris?

Don’t forget that all the macaron recipes are gluten-free. For macaronivores who already have the book, why not enter a friend who would love this as a gift?

How do you enter the international giveaway of Mad About Macarons? Dead easy.

Simply follow Le Blog by adding your email in the right hand column and you’ll never miss a blog post. If you’re on Facebook, ‘Like‘ Mad About Macarons. Already signed up for both? Then use your imagination: why not let as many friends who love macarons know about the book’s giveaway and what you like about the book. I’m not yet on Twitter, but why not tweet it amongst your friends, too?

Just leave a comment below telling us what you’ve done to enter the Giveaway and Waverley Books will pick your name at random.

The Christmas Giveaway ends Sunday 18th December 2011 midnight, Paris time.

Sorry, this Giveaway is now closed. But the book still lives on 😉

Now best get ready for a party tonight with these spiced chocolate orange Cointreau macarons above, plus chocolate glacial mint. Will do a Christmas macaron special for you on Monday, once I’ve recovered from entertaining 25 12-yr-olds!