Treating the Piles with Macaron Stacks

What happened to this week? I’ll spare you with the details: I mean, who wants to hear about the dishwasher going sick, my sycophantic calls to the Mairie (long story, don’t ask), or that I forgot to defrost my prized Scottish Haggis for Burns Night; or that my patient web designer is underwhelmed with the lack of organisation behind the website? Admittedly, I also spotted a post I completely forgot to publish in October about Captain Haddock’s nose, Fishcakes and Tartar Sauce like Corsica. But who wants to read it? Fishcakes on a macaron website? Madness. It’s high time I filed better online plus treat these piles of manuscripts, papers, notes, and find a home for that Thai blue elephant.

Could I just dump everything and go on strike? No. I can’t do that. I’ll just blame it all on Rod Stewart’s Paris concert on Monday night. There’s nothing like starting the week off on a high note.

Don’t you think I’m sexy?

The last few days have been sailing at a hydrofoil speed of knots, while singing “Don’t you think I’m sexy?” as my eye sockets have been flashing their extra baggage allowance alert. How does Rod do it? He still rocks. As my creativity levels were gradually sinking, a magnesium boost was recommended for my boat to rock: so treatment sounded appropriate with a healthy dose of dark chocolate-hazelnut macarons (the recipe is in the book). Gluten free, as always. Much better.

With not enough egg whites for 150g, I used the reference chart at the back of the book for a smaller quantity of macaron shells. But I used the full recipe for the filling on page 59. You know what that means, don’t you? EXTRA, left-over dark chocolate ganache!  So for the kids’ goûter after school I made some grissini éclairs (follow recipe for choux buns and pipe them out in thin sticks) that they could dip into the chocolate ganache. Great idea from Eclairs! by Christophe Adam.

choux grissini sticks with leftover chocolate ganache

Don’t you think my eclair grissinis are sexy? (sing along with Rod Stewart)

For a reheating left-over ganache tip: When ready to use, if you reheat the ganache too abruptly in the microwave, the ganache’s butter risks splitting and it really doesn’t look that sexy. I would recommend heating the ganache gently in a saucepan, whisking to ensure that the sauce is even.

4 stacks of 2 caramel chocolate macarons

2222 likes on facebook

Speaking of even, it was exciting to see we hit 2222 likes on Facebook. How else but express it with macaron couples? Then it was 2234 likes and the piles started.

4 macarons stacks chocolate caramel

Then it was 2234…

Could I keep on stacking macarons like this?

It’s high time to stop playing with macarons and just get organised.

box of macarons stacked up high

Best go and make a Scottish dinner with that defrosted Haggis and pretend it’s Burn’s Night this weekend. Then again, I could also finally resurrect these smoked fishcakes…

Enjoy the rest of your week, too!

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream

Baby it’s cold outside. I’ve been humming this song most of the week, although now we’re singing in the rain outside Paris. While singing, this Chestnut Vanilla ice cream has been churning for a light and easy dessert to finish off a big holiday menu.

chestnut vanilla ice cream

My youngest daughter is mad about chestnuts in all forms. If I mention this magic word, Lucie’s smile makes me melt quicker than the contents of this bowl. She’s obsessed about roasted chestnuts: either simply tossed along with pumpkin, bacon, or with green beans, or willing to sacrifice precious pocket money for an expensive poke at the exit of a Paris metro station.

She nibbles at luxury marrons glacés as if she was Charlie with a golden-ticketed chocolate bar, and pleads for marrons glacés macarons. She also craves the sweetened chestnut spread that is so common in France, by way of Clément Faugier. But I won’t ramble since that’s already covered in my blog post: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons.

 Then I realised that I hadn’t yet posted this recipe for chestnut vanilla ice cream. Mon Dieu!

When you’re as mad about macarons as I am (and I know I’m not alone on this one – come on, own up), you need to use up plenty of egg yolks while you’re ageing your whites for making them. Ice cream is one of my favourite egg yolk recipes, as it uses up 8 yolks in this easy, classic recipe. Ideally, it’s best to have an ice cream machine. I don’t have one, but use the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid that still does the job well.  If you don’t have a machine, then just take the cream out of the freezer every 30 minutes (about 5 times) and mix up the partially frozen mixture well.

Chestnut vanilla ice cream with macarons

 

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Makes 1 litre

8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
400ml whole milk
200ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod
pinch of caramel powdered colouring (optional)
2 small 100g tins of sweetened chestnut purée
a handful of broken marrons glacés (or whole ones if you’re feeling posh)

1. Cream together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

2. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod, cut in two lengthways. Bring to the boil, and turn off the heat for the vanilla to infuse in the creamy milk for 5-10 minutes. Scrape out the seeds from the pod and add to the cream.

3. Pour the creamy milk onto the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan on a medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla pod and set the mixture aside to cool.

4. Once cool, place in the fridge for 1-2 hours before pouring into an ice cream maker to churn.

Serve with marrons glacés and macarons, but of course.

Which leads me to apologise to many friends for appearing as cold as ice cream when it comes to saying hello just now. Truth be told, I’m struggling to keep up with the normal Mum duties, plus a couple of extra projects. Do you find you can do nearly everything on your daily list, except there’s always at least one biggie that constantly nags at you? It’s feeling hard to please everyone. But hey, just trying to stay cool – and eat ice cream.

There are also a few upgrades currently underway on the website, since wouldn’t it be useful if you could actually do a search on the blog plus recipes and find stuff?  New pages are also coming. Bigger pics. Ouff! Lots to look forward to.

Until my next blether, macaronivores.

Bonne semaine!

chestnut vanilla ice cream recipe

One Night in Bangkok: Back to the 80s Disco Macarons

A few days ago, I fell in love with some dazzling upbeat music on the car radio. I had never heard it before. For a few seconds, I felt the trendiest Mum: the car speakers were put to the test and down zipped the car windows as I casually picked up my daughter from collège. Dude. As Julie approached the car she shuddered, begging for a speedy getaway.  Mum? ‘One Night in Bangkok’?  But that’s ancient!  Where was I?

Could we be Sandy and Travolta look-a-likes?

Granted, I was not a trendy teenager in the 80s; playing in orchestras and excited by Stravinsky, Brahms or Dvorak rather than discovering Murray Head from Chess in the Charts could be considered downright nerdish. Then again, when Shirley Manson‘s sister (that was cool) asked at choir practice if I’d been to see ‘Grease’, I remember the cringing confusion as I said I’d never been – which was a pity, especially since I adored moussaka.

Boom. That was it!  After my daughter’s ‘boum‘ before Christmas, it was our turn. It may have been the end of the festivities of Christmas and New Year but last weekend we discoed back to the 80s. It was time catch up with friends, put on our red shoes and dance away the January blues. One girlfriend took it literally: I’m still in awe how she managed to wear her 20cm-heeled red sparkling Bowie shoes without keeling over. Another friend simply wrapped aluminium foil around his training shoes: great idea! My favourite gear in the 80s was the all-in-one jumpsuit but as it was difficult to pin down again (just as well), I found one quickly on the internet.

Jill Colonna

My John Travolta. Or was it a snazzy barman for the evening?

When my brother saw the party wig on Facebook, he thought I’d bought a dog. It wasn’t a dog but whatever it was, it was on top of my head most of the evening and I can tell you that it was sizzling underneath. So sweltering, that I dared take it off later and reveal the soggy dishwater blonde mop underneath. By that time, with the dancing and sweet (why did I want to write that with an ‘a’?) macarons served, who cared?

pannacottas, choux, hot macs & a sizzling wig

On the 80s food front, apparently microwave popcorn appeared in the USA but hey, we also wanted to serve up chic stuff.  So out came my good old favourites with easy recipes to prepare in advance: macarons and mini chocolate-beetroot fondants. On the day: ginger & cardamom panna cottas with rhubarb compôte, plus a huge batch of caramel-orange knitted-looking chouquettes (mini sugared choux buns).  We did serve up savouries, though. Try garlic snail toasts for starters, smoked duck and raspberry mini salads, Crab, Ginger & Coriander gluten-free quiches, Macsweens’ Haggis balls with whisky diane sauce … and mini mad macs.

Some like their macarons hot!

In the 80s, Mum and Dad went exotic with the latest Vespa curry mixes. So, some mini tikka mac’salas were a must to add some 80s pizzazz to hand around with drinks.  In making the curry macs (recipe on p.100), I should practise what I preach and done what I suggest in the book: use a disposable piping bag for piping out the curry filling. Now just look what I did: here’s what can happen with a potent curry filling mixing with a not-so-hot piping bag hooked up on the kitchen window (mac hook – it’s handy for drying it quickly.) I completely forgot the fresh coriander for the curry macs, so instead augmented the chili dose; don’t ask me why, but just as well they were tiny since they were hot, man!

My camera is not great. Unless you’re a static macaron and taken in the daylight, a Canon G10 is no use for night time and parties. It’s a crying shame there are no decent photos, since all 30 of us had so much fun dressing up and dancing. Then again, it’s probably for the best that they’re censored! If anyone knows me, I never have any New Year Resolutions but I’m putting in a quest for a new camera, just in case hubby ever reads this. I never bought these shoes near Place Vendôme – just gazed at them – if that helps my case.

Paris-Bangkok tea infused chocolate macarons

One Night in Bangkok macarons

This post is dedicated to MacTweets – as this month the MacAttack #26 Challenge was for Razzle Dazzle Macarons: featuring the Ostentatious with glitzy, dazzling and starry macarons. And being MacPassionate (love it, Deeba and Jamie), the party included One Night in Bangkok with some classic Madagascan Vanilla macarons – dusted with gold edible lustre to give it the in every golden cluster look from the Chess 80s musical.

Paris-Bangkok infused chocolate macarons

For an unexpected twist to dark chocolate macarons, I infused some Paris-Bangkok tea from Mariages Frères in the chocolate. The colour was purely to match the packaging, but I’m sure that it had something to do with the tea’s dazzling hints of red fruits, steamed pudding fragrances, and slight bubble gum tinges.

chocolate macarons infused with Mariage Freres tea Paris-Bangkok

It perhaps wasn’t Bangkok but it was One Night Near Paris and it rocked. I’m already planning the next one. We need more parties to chase away the winter blues, don’t you think? Vive starry nights, great friendships, laughter and loads of fun!

Saturday Night Disco Macaron Fever

Now I just need to keep a lower profile when picking up my daughter from school – unless you can give me some clues to the latest trendy numbers before the next move…

Guide to les Merveilleux de Fred in Paris & Giveaway Winners

Isn’t it wonderful to have one of these glad-to-be-alive days? The other day it was marvellous. With the back finally better after so many frustrating months of agony and the sun out to play, this was a morning escapade in Paris to catch up with my talented friend for a coffee-croissant-chatter before whizzing around the corner in the 16th Arrondissement to the dentist – inevitably showing a toothy display of what I had for breakfast.

My clever friend, Marinella, is Italian. She’s not only a wonderful (yet modest) cook, but she knows Paris like her pocket, as the French say. After 20 years as an adopted Parisian, she’s now sharing her insider’s guide to the City of Light by writing a Paris guide book, soon to be published in Italian. Meanwhile – stop press! – her blog, finestra su parigi (Window on Paris), is just launched. This is ideal for Italian visitors wanting more information on noteworthy Parisian addresses and useful for residents wanting news updates. Gradually, Marinella will also be translating each article into English for us non-Italian speakers.

“Are you taking some Merveilleux home while you’re here?”, Marinella asked. What? Merveilleux? Is it a marvellous cake or a meringue? (Friends are not obliged to laugh at my often ghastly clichéd jokes but for those unaccustomed to silly Scottish speak – ‘a meringue’ sounds like ‘am I wrong?’)

You mean to say I’ve been coming to my Parisian dentist in the 16th all this time and not checked this out yet?  (See the first of my blog posts, It’s a Small, Small World in Paris” for the same area.) Sure enough, on the same street – rue de l’Annonciation – in the 16th Arrondissement where I used to work – the posh baby clothing shop on the corner had disappeared since my last visit. Sad, since that’s where I bought my darling niece’s first posh outfit. In its place was an intriguing shopfront.

It wasn’t disappointing after all. One of the happy looking pastry chefs was preparing these particular Merveilleux pâtisseries directly in front of us, as we were just about licking the window.

That gooey chocolate wasn’t all; it was whipped into the lightest chantilly cream. These meringue hearts were then coated in it and rolled in dark chocolate flakes – the final touch being a dusting of powdered sugar then a dollop of chantilly on top.  Truly marvellous, n’est-ce pas?

This exquisite display is found at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. There are 2 other boutiques in Paris, 3 in Lille, one in St Omer and one in Belgium. To cater to everyone’s taste, they come in big, medium and baby bear sizes.

What would you go for as a first timer? Medium sounded good for a start.

What’s more, check out their cute logo on these beautiful boxes.

The medium ones deserve a bigger box with a huge logo. Foxy. For the moment, I have my eye on the boxes. They’re handy and chic for storing the homemade macarons later, bien sûr.

A couple of Incroyables (cinnamon speculoos added to the chantilly), a Merveilleux and an Impensable. All fit snuggly into one pastry box.

Next time I’m going back for the Belgian brioche and the BIG ones… What do you think? Marvellous, incredible or unthinkable? The Unthinkable/Impensable was our favourite – rolled in a crispy meringuey coffee but without the little blob of chantilly. We could deal with that, though.

Thanks to Marinella, my trips to the 16th arrondissement have never been the same again: a box en route home is compulsory. She knows – as well as my dentist – that I have a sweet tooth.

I’m looking forward to meeting up again soon with Marinella, my personal guide to Paris. Don’t forget to check out Marinella’s blog, finestra su parigi, for your own window onto an insider’s Paris. It’s packed with many more marvellous and incredible addresses like this one.

Christmas Giveaway Winners!

Waverley Books have announced the following winners, chosen randomly from the Christmas Giveaway. Bravo to Amalia Pagura, Carsley Paige Fuller, Ivy Liacopoulou, Jessica Hose, and Rachel Jacobs, who will all receive a copy of Mad About Macarons from Waverley Books. For those who wish to order a copy, you can find it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and from The Book Depository, who ship for free internationally.

Leek, Pumpkin and Ginger Soup with Curry Macarons

Happy New Year! Have you all had fun over the festive season? Survived the gargantuan meals? It’s still not over for us yet. With Epiphany on Sunday 8th January, the traditional Galette des Rois are now in all the French pâtisseries and so it’s time to taste all the different variations: plain, chocolate, candied fruits… Admittedly, I prefer to make my own – just to ensure there’s the maximum amount of my favourite frangipane inside, sneak in some fancy trinkets, and change fillings such as this recipe for Praline and Pear Galette des Rois. But I’ve already talked about Epiphany on le blog.

It was good to be back in Scotland over the holidays with the family. Feeling the proudest auntie in the universe, I was introduced to another gorgeously smiling baby niece. Isn’t it amazing how you can easily forget how small they are? Especially when it seems like yesterday when my two girls were born, who are now wee ‘giants’! It’s great to see the wee ones enjoying their food so much, too. No wonder, as Grandpa was serving up his amazing warm homemade bread and Arbroath Smokie Pâté just for starters…

Take a leek or two…

On our return to France, I was listening to a French doctor on the radio, concerned for us all after over-indulging in rich, festive foods. His suggestion? Eat plenty of leeks. Apparently they help to clean out the gut. Trust the French to sound so poetic. With that, I headed straight to our local market and loaded up on leeks.

Are you ready for a tasty clean-out? Then this is the ideal soup to follow the Christmas – New Year extravaganza meals. The hardest part of making this soup is cutting up the pumpkin, but it’s worth the effort since it’s full of iron, zinc, fibre and carotene. Carotene is what we all need at this time of year to bring the glow back to our cheeks, and the ginger gives a great kick-start to 2012, as it’s great for digestion, keeping colds at bay and virility (I keep meaning to ask hubby on that one.)

Bring a healthy glow to kick-start 2012

Leek, Pumpkin and Ginger Soup

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

40g butter
4 leeks, sliced
800g pumpkin,
roughly cut into cubes
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
800ml chicken stock
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1.  Melt the butter in a large pot then soften the leeks, ginger and pumpkin together.  Sweat gently for about 5 minutes.

2.  Add the stock (just enough to cover the vegetables), cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

3.  Blend with a hand mixer, add the nutmeg and season to taste.

pumpkin leek and ginger soup served with mini curry macarons

Or serve this as a mini amuse-bouche with macarons

To garnish you could swirl in some naughty cream and sprinkle on smoked crispy bacon, or guess what? For macaronivores, why not serve with a couple of mini curry tikka mac’sala macarons (See page 100 of the book.)

Who wants baby bear’s bowl?

In between sane bowls of soup and greedy galettes, it’s just the right timing to prepare loads of macarons today for this weekend’s party. Hm. Too many choices of flavours – what favourites would you prefer to see on the table: classic or wacky? Dress is also ‘back to the 80s’. What on earth did we wear then? Do you remember? Shoulder pads? Jumpsuits? Disco gear? What would you wear?

Happy, Healthy New Year!

spiced pumpkin and leek soup with curry macarons

Bonne Année – Bonne santé 2012!