Passionfruit Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée: Walking on Mars?

Have you ever imagined what it could be like to walk on Mars? That’s what I found myself thinking as I cracked into this Passionfruit milk chocolate crème brulée. It’s incredible to think that one of the latest finds on the planet is a type of soil that’s used on Earth to grow asparagus. I wonder if I could bring some accompanying hollandaise sauce on an eventual space shuttle birthday adventure?

Could this be like walking on Mars, the red planet?

When I discovered that my astrology planet Mars – named after the Roman God of War – had something to do with a fiery temper and passionate, impulsive behaviour, what could I say? It’s not me, darlings; it’s that red planet again.

One fiery implosion was in my brazen-but-bashful teens, about to burst out of my 80s flying suit like David Banner, via the Incredible Sulk – playing Mars as bass flute in The Planets by Holst with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. It was a low moment. I’d finally been selected First Flute (note: the older I get, the better I was) which meant playing the orchestral flute solos in concerts abroad, on BBC radio… Listen to the opening Mars theme while reading this for ambience. Why was I at the bloomin’ bottom of the flute section, trying to prop up this beast that sounded like the last of the bath water draining? Because I simply had the longest, spindly, sprawling hands to get my fingers over the damn keys! Why couldn’t I be short? Mars was playing outside but it was also calling me from within but I played on. After all, music be the food of love (dixit Shakespeare.)

passionfruit milk chocolate crème brûlée recipe

Moods can quickly change, however, when confronted with a dessert – a milk chocolatey dessert, with explosive fruit to kindle the passion in you, and topped with a crackling, caramel crust that can turn your earth upside down. How can you be mad with rage? Hm. There’s that mad word again. I wonder why the publisher chose that?

Crème Brûlée is one of my favourite recipes to use up egg yolks. (You need the whites to make macarons, in case this is your first time popping in.) Like Amélie Poulain, cracking through the carmelised sugar is one of life’s incredible thrills. Living dangerously, eh? As one of my favourite macarons is chocolate and exotic fruits (see page 89 of the book), I’ve been dying to try the sensation in a crème brûlée.

The classic recipe is on page 124 of the book but I’ve adapted it here to cope with the passionfruit juice and chocolate, cutting back on cream. I strained the seeds from the passionfruits but there’s no need if you prefer the extra crunch. Adding milk chocolate did not make it pretty for the photos, but this is from another planet. The red planet. Grrrrr.

passionfruit milk chocolate creme brûlée dessert recipe

Passionfruit Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Chilling Time: 2 hours

8 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
4 passionfruits
400ml (13.5 US fl oz) cream
120g milk chocolate
4 tbsps brown sugar for caramelising

  1. Preheat oven to 110°C.
  2. Remove the pulp from the passionfruits and using the back of big spoon, press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds.
  3. Mix yolks and sugar until creamy, then whisk in the passionfruit pulp. Gently heat the cream and milk chocolate in a pan until warm and the chocolate has melted (don’t boil.) Pour over the egg mixture and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour into individual ramekins and place in a bain-marie (a roasting tray filled halfway up with water will suffice) in the oven for about one hour.  Leave them to cool, then chill for 2 hours in the fridge.
  5. Before serving, dust with the brown sugar then caramelise them quickly with a blowtorch or under a hot grill.

Floating upside down on Mars and attacking the Black Hole

To finish off, I tried another version by omitting the milk chocolate in the passionfruit cream.  Instead, plop in a lump of dark chocolate just before putting each ramekin in the oven. The result? A surprising, oozing, chocolatey black hole for your guests to float into the Milky Way.

Let’s take that one again but back down to Earth’s angle. Who also loves cracking the caramel with the spoon?

Jour du Macaron – Macaron Day in Paris, 20 March 2012

Macaron Day may be over in Paris but it’s time to relive the experience now that the last macaron is finished today from le loot bag.

Our sunny Paris macaronathon started out at Pierre Hermé’s boutique at Opéra, with talented artist, Carol Gillott and clever ‘Bear’ of Paris Breakfasts fame. Where was the queue at 10h opening? There wasn’t even time to wait in line and think about what first flavour to choose. Pressure. Many other boutiques were taking part in the Paris Jour du Macaron but as time was limited, we didn’t manage to do all of them. However, we did well.  Really well.

A donation for a macaron

This was the deal with participating macaron boutiques: give a donation to Autistes sans Frontières and pick a macaron of your choice. Hermé had 25 enticing flavours. My first choice was the classic Ispahan (rose, litchi & raspberry) with Hermé’s characteristic spots of metallic food colouring. Don’t ask me how it happened, but we didn’t eat them when we came out. It was for saving until later. Since we were across the road, a quick stop was needed at the Japanese Supermarket, Kioko, as I’m craving yuzu powder for some pastries to make at home. Forget it. A kilo bag for over €120? Back to the macaron hunt.

On to Galeries Lafayette. Where were the queues? The sudden rush of excitement came at Jean-Paul Hévin: with one donation you could choose THREE of his chocolate-something macarons. The sugar rush was on. Quick, next on the list was Dalloyau just in macaron crumb distance. The server took one pitiful look at us as she explained they were certainly not participating in the event. Why do I never get it? After 20 years experience of living here, I should have just shown her The List in black & white. But when in Paris, you must remember that the client is the lowest form of being.

Already with 4 macarons, how could we transport our macarons without the inevitable crushing in a handbag? Time to look for boxes. Could we buy a pâtisserie box or bag, s’il vous plaît, Madame? But of course not. What do you think this is? A charity or something?  You have to buy boxes with macarons in them. But why would we do that on the Fête du Macaron?  You just don’t get it.

The delightful ladies at Sadaharu Aoki understood. Mon Dieu. They were selling macaron shells: macaron à la rusk. What a great idea! As the prized yuzu macaron was delicately placed in its perfect pochette, our loot was looking good stacked in a shiny bag. We still had room in there for more. The macaronivores in us crescendoed as we sped downstairs to Pierre Hermé like kids in a giant sweet shop. Then upstairs to Pierre Hermé. Hm. They know we’re fans, as they stick little stickers on your coat.  I wonder if that’s secret code for Triple Greedy PH Macaronivores?

Americano Pamplemousse; Rosehip, Fig & Foie Gras. Top: Hévin’s chocolate combos.

Another quick stop. But at €1.50 to spend a penny we decided to give the throne room at Galeries Lafayette a miss. We didn’t really need a posh seat, you know – even if we were holding an Aoki Paris pâtisserie bag.

It was time to get out of the store and the 9th Arrondissement. Carol had a great idea: back to Hévin for 3 more in the 7th – metro stop  Ecole Militaire. I have a soft spot for this area, since Antoine and I had a doll’s house apartment here for 5 years. Was it the stickers on my coat? The loot bag? Not enough thudding sound in the donation box? I somehow got flashed le look from Madame as I left with yet another three macs…

My favourite from Hévin was this Chocolate-Yuzu

…then another three from the Hévin boutique in rue Saint Honoré in the 1st Arrondissement. Final stop was Hermé again in rue Cambon. This time the most exquisite dark chocolates were offered as a tasting at the door, as the charming ladies smiled at our greedy PH stickers. So thoughtful for people like us who weren’t actually tasting our macarons sur place. Until later.

It was time to return home since the piano students would be waiting. It’s just as well they practised this week otherwise they’d have to donate a macaron for every wrong note. If you’re reading this, take note for future lessons.

Not bad, she said. Smugly. Tea and tasting time!

Hévin’s macarons are delicious but they generally lack the depth of flavour that you get from Hermé, although they are lighter and ‘easier to eat’. My personal favourite was his Chocolate-Yuzu. Fabulous. The plain Yuzu macaron of Aoki certainly hit the spot with a perfect bite. Hermé’s Ispahan is incredible, but it does have the impression of eating into butter: it’s so rich and sweet.

The fois gras, fig and rosehip was incredibly original: the foie gras notes were pronounced and the macaron was distinctly sweet. It’s meant as a dessert, so the foie gras was kind of strange. You couldn’t really serve it as an apéritif. Today I opened the chocolate-foie gras and the whole thing had turned to mush after 2 days. Boohoo.

Today I tasted Hermé’s new additions and loved them: Americano Pamplemousse for its bitter-sweet (reminded me of hibiscus-Campari-blood orange) and slightly more crunch to the shell, plus my favourite: his new Infiniment Jasmin, as part of his 2012 collection, “Les Jardins”. The jasmine was slightly lighter than the others and packed full of flavour of the flower and jasmine tea – plus with Pierre Hermé’s distinct metallic food colouring hue.

Infiniment Jasmin de Pierre Hermé

Have a wonderful week and don’t worry: macaron day may be over but Spring is here and macaron day continues in my book. Won’t you join me?

Update: Macaron Day Paris info 2013

How to Make Macarons like the French, Aye Write Glasgow UK

What happened to this week? It has been a real macaronathon and it’s not even over yet.  On Tuesday it’s la Fête du Macaron in Paris and so it will be ‘my duty’ to taste some for you. In the meantime, let me give you a taster of last weekend’s macaron event at the Aye Write Book Festival in Glasgow.

It’s the first time I’ve been asked to demonstrate how to make macarons in a library – and the Mitchell Library to boot. My macaron kitchen was in a suitcase but somehow the oven was missing, so preparation was key with “Here are some I made earlier.” It’s just as well I’d prepared more than needed. Have you ever tried to transport 3 pastry boxes of fragile macaron shells through security at Beauvais Airport?

Demonstration Macaron Making Book Festival UK

That could be another service Mr O’Leary can offer to RyanAir passengers when booking online: Will you be transporting Parisian Macarons? Then tick the box for another €30. As this wasn’t a service this time, these 3 boxes went through the stuttering security conveyer belt, then jolted back in again just for an extra look. When they eventually came out, the boxes were upside down and many macarons were smashed. I’m surprised they didn’t confiscate the ones that were intact!

Talking macarons at Glasgow Book Festival UK

It’s a ‘macaron’, so no confusion with this coconut macaroon bar

The event was chaired by the lovely Elizabeth McMeekin of the Herald and Times Newspaper Group. She knew how to put everyone at ease and how to deal with a chatterbox like myself, by keeping the session to one hour!  A huge thanks to Waverley Books for organising the event, Eleanor Abraham (the Editor) for the photos, and such a friendly audience. When you return to Glasgow after being so long in Paris, you really appreciate how the Glaswegians are so helpful, chatty with their sing-song accents and down-to-earth.

With a low table, one way to help the audience see properly was to whisk in the air! Whisk your egg whites to stiff but glossy peaks…

Elizabeth asked if you needed to be an experienced baker to make macarons. Well, assuming you cook or bake a little, it’s easy. Even my Dad made macarons and he buys his cakes! (Sorry, Dad, but it’s true…) His came out perfect first time around just by following the recipe to the letter. It was a proud moment!

Then the actual process which makes a macaron a macaron with a foot…macaronnage!

macaronage technique – easier than you think!

Have I always made them perfectly? No. When I came home after a macaron lesson in a pâtisserie, suddenly my oven wasn’t like the professionals and there were many cracked macarons that ended up crushed in desserts. My children referred to the ‘best mistakes’ once as les caves à l’orange due to huge hollows and asked for them again recently. Could I really make my blunder again? I’m not sure, but one thing is certain: your oven is often the biggest culprit. As le blog only started up after the launch of the book, I don’t have any of it documented here. But the lessons learned from all the experiments in the kitchen were learned quickly and the results of making perfect macarons at home are simply written in the book.

The fun moment: out with the piping bag, then leaving the little rounds to air while answering questions from the audience. There’s one that is still foxing me: can you bake macarons in an AGA? Well, I’m sure you can but you’ll definitely need an oven thermometer to check the heat. I need to find someone who has one so I can try it myself. Have you ever tried them in an AGA? I’m dying to hear from anyone who has given them a go using one.

Q&A plus TASTING TIME! Fresh macarons versus macs left to do their magic after 24 hours.

Tasting time!  After assembling the fresh ones, the audience were eager to try. It’s important to taste the difference between ones just made and those that are left for 24 hours. It’s definitely worth the wait. Macaron magic takes place when the filling and its flavour permeates into the shell, making the special fondant centre, the meringue like crunch on the outside… I can now feel one coming on, can you?

One of the hardest questions: what’s your favourite macaron?  I’ll leave you with a peek of one of them: white chocolate, pistachio and wasabi. If you love wasabi, you’ll love it with pistachio.

Pistachio, white chocolate and wasabi macarons (recipe p.63)

Happy Macaron Day to you all on 20th March. Och, who am I kidding?
Every day is macaron day in my book! 🙂

I’m a Guest at Lazaro Cooks!

Today is cool: I’m a guest over at Lazaro Cooks. What an honour – every sophisticated seasonal dish this mega-talented chef plates is more than stunning: he’s totally inspiring. Not only that but Lazaro – aka Laz – rocks. He’s genuine and incredibly supportive. If you’ve had a taste of his blog and how he writes, you’ll cry for more. Just don’t expect recipes. That’s another reason why he’s a dude: he shares his philosophy and cooking techniques with us, which is nothing short of brilliant.

In casual Laz style, he suggested I make dessert. Well, as I had a few hibiscus macarons left over, I thought about sticking to the same theme and added a couple of egg yolk dessert additions. Here’s my dessert as a kind of Café Gourmet à la Laz.

Head on over to Lazaro Cooks, where I’m serving up a mini dessert trilogy based on blood oranges, hibiscus and Campari: a macaron served with a blood orange-Campari ice cream with hibiscus jelly and an inverted tartlet.

See you over there. Personally I wish I could be there in person: living in Miami with continuous BBQ weather must turn you into a real dude. Miami Vice? Pah! Miami’s Lazaro should have his own TV show!

A Party Macaron for Macaron Day: Hibiscus, Blood Orange & Campari.

When Jamie and Deeba announced the latest MacTweet Challenge it was time for more inspiration. That’s what I also adore about macarons: with an empty canvas in front of you, it’s easy to experiment with flavours using the basic recipe. For the challenge, macaronivores were to come up with a new macaron creation to celebrate la fête du macaron (Macaron Day) on 20 March. All the signs were there to do something a bit different. The result? A macaron that’s not really sweet as such; neither is it savoury. One thing is for sure – it’s a party macaron and as addictive as ever!

I’m fascinated by this sprawling hibiscus plant. Ever since we moved it indoors during the chilly months, it didn’t seem to appreciate our company. It’s next to the TV and the piano for goodness sake, so what’s been going wrong since October with no flowers? Suddenly last week, it blooming sprouted! Could it be that my piano students are progressing so it’s getting more tunes – or is it the Six Nations’ Rugby at weekends?

I first discovered hibiscus in Egypt many moons ago when my parents-in-law were living in Alexandria. It was in the form of carcadé – a bright red infusion made with dried hibiscus flowers. I loved this thirst-quenching drink in such a heat, as long as some sugar was added to sweeten its alluring bitter taste. Then the other day when I was cleaning out a cupboard (yes, this happens sometimes), these pretty dried hibiscus flowers pleaded, Infuse me; this bottle of Campari suggested, Finish me; and the blood oranges in the fruit bowl pressed at me, Squeeze me; so I poured myself a glass with a little carcadé, Campari and finished it off with blood orange juice. I highly recommend it while preparing risotto to gradually generate a party mode, especially during the week.

Then bingo: this cool drink just winked at me and begged, “Macaron me, baby.”

I know, I know. This macaron is perhaps not quite in focus. Neither are my eyes just now but I’ve ordered new glasses so patience is the word. What’s incredible about this macaron is that it’s not really that sweet. Before Julie tried one, I warned her about it being a bit bitter but my daughter is a keen taster: no, Mum. Don’t add any more sugar but hang on, can I just have a few more to confirm?

I simply followed the filling recipe on p84 (Whisky macCoffee) but replaced the liquid with 50ml blood orange juice, 30ml hibiscus infusion and 20ml Campari.

Hibiscus, campari and blood orange macaron

The hibiscus has found its friends: Campari and blood oranges… Cheers!

Julie is right; the filling’s bitterness and the macaron shell’s sweetness is intriguing and what makes it addictive. You can even enjoy this macaron as an apéritif and it wouldn’t be out of place (except if you call it macarooooon.) I took to drinking it with a pot of Darjeeling at goûter time. Don’t you just love trying out new concoctions? Thanks to MacTweets for the inspiration and Happy Macaron Day to all you macaronivores on 20th March. If anyone is in Paris, contact me and we’ll go on a macaronathon together to try out the goods! Kick-off at 10am at Pierre Hermé, Opéra…

Welcome to the New Blog of Mad About Macarons!

Welcome to the New, Improved, Revamped blog of Mad About Macarons!

I’m proud to show off the wonderful new look which was redesigned by the talented Melissa Hartfiel of Fine Lime Designs. I’m thrilled that she has continued with the colourful look and feel of the book and made searching the site so much more user-friendly for you – and myself included! It’s a pleasure to work with Melissa and I can’t recommend her highly enough. She also shares recipes, as well as her photography expertise on her blog at My Eyes Are Bigger than My Stomach.

There are many new features on the site which are so useful. For a start, there’s finally a working search function for you, all bonus recipes are categorized, and there are new pages with lists of macaron ingredient stockists (which will be continuously updated) and US-UK terms for my American friends. I’m not linking to them here, as I encourage you to surf the site for yourself to discover the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, About the Book (including sample pages) and much more. You can also now join me on Twitter – I’ll be tweeting regularly with some musings of life in France – and join me on Google + although I’m still going around in these circles trying to understand it!

Well today it was time to get our skates back on; we’re back to rigorous routine after two lazy weeks of school holidays, baking cookies and visiting our favourite haunts with my parents in St Germain-en-Laye and long walks along by the Seine in Paris. After two chilly weeks of sub-zero temperatures, it was as if we were all coming out like les Champignons de Paris as the sweeter air added a spring to our step and made us rather chirpy like the newly singing morning birdies. Just as we arrived at the Hôtel de Ville, a surprise view of skaters greeted us. As most of the French and Parisians take to the ski slopes at this time of year, we enjoyed having more of Paris to ourselves.

 Following a walk around Notre Dame, the roller skaters were out too, weaving around the tourists. And just since it was Sunday and  in the neighbourhood, Dad treated us to one of the best hot chocolates and pâtisseries in Paris at Un Dimanche à Paris, only 15 minutes’ walk away from Notre Dame. Sorry Mum; as much as I adore you and know you love to taste everyone’s at the table, I didn’t share mine with anyone: it was one of the lighter Winter collection’s sweet treats, the Mont Blanc, accompanied with a floral Russian tea.

 On our way home, we popped into the legendary chocolateries in Boulevard St Germain. This is when I realised that my children are still young enough to giggle uncontrollably looking at the latest chocolate cacao sculptures by Patrick Roger.

There’s no cellulite on these French cacao sculptures…

Moving swiftly on to George Larnicol, I think Mum wanted to buy most of the sculptures in the boutique. Take this Macaron Tree, made out of more chocolate. And more kiddy giggles with some rose macarons. Gosh, what did they put in that hot chocolate? Really, it’s not that funny, is it?

Do you think I’m sexy?

It’s time to get my skates on now and make macarons for this weekend’s macaron event at Aye Write! I’m really looking forward to seeing you at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and excited to hear that there will be a great turnout. Spread the word – the more the merrier. It will be a challenge demonstrating how to make macarons in a library! If you read the blog, then please don’t be shy and come to say hello. In the meantime, enjoy the new Mad About Macarons site and let me know if you think it’s sexy. Isn’t Melissa clever?