Macaron Vineyards

What a title. Doesn’t it have a special ring to it? When it popped up via Twitter, you can imagine my excitement. Vineyards. Macarons. For someone who loves macarons and wine – together, separately and not necessarily in that order – who wouldn’t be intrigued?  Do they grow macarons?

It’s wines that the Albino Armani family have been making in Italy for 400 years and their new release since this Spring (using Glera grapes, traditionally used for Prosecco) is the Macaron Prosecco D.O.C. which is available in the United States. It’s a medium sweet sparkling wine and aptly named to match with the elegance of our favourite gluten-free Parisian confection.

As soon as the shiny blue-topped bottle arrived, a recurring image of macaron picnics took hold.  When and where would the perfect moment be to open it? It looked too special to just open it at any time.

What about early June in a romantic French poppy field down by the river Seine with poppy and rhubarb macarons? Just as we were about to settle down, the heavens opened and we made a dive back to the car, cursing the storm through the flashes and arguing windscreen wipers.  It reminded me of summers in Scotland, watching the coastal view from the car park with a flask of stewed tea with egg and cress fingers; except this time we had gone slightly upmarket, holding chilled Prosecco and macarons.

With summer and the end of the school year finally approaching, we’re all feeling rather bubbly.  Surely in June we would have ideal picnic days, but anyone who has been watching the weather around Paris (and Roland Garros, the tennis open) will have seen just how disappointing our skies have been.

With a few sun rays over the weekend and macarons at goûter time, Antoine finally popped the question: ‘Shall we open it?’ Why does he always open bubbly with so much noise? What’s worse, some of it trickled down the side and right down the label. He was Jilled but it was Father’s Day. He’s a cool dad.

This Prosecco is medium sweet, so although it’s the perfect partner for macarons, I was rather hesitant to try what was left as an apéritif before dinner.

As melons from Cavaillon in Provence are now appearing at the markets here, I couldn’t resist pairing them. It’s not an original apéritif but with shavings of Parma ham, it seemed a rather fitting accompaniment of Italy meets France. The Macaron Prosecco matched it really well, with its subtle fruity, apricot notes. Needless to say, now that the bottle’s contents have disappeared the bottle has cool pride of place on our breakfast bar; or perhaps I should call it the brunch bar.

Better still: what about ‘The macaron bar’?

Update: Macaron Prosecco has just been awarded a gold medal at the 2012 Riverside International Wine Competition. Congratulations!

Disclaimer

This is a non-sponsored post. With thanks to Emily from Macaron Vineyards for sending a bottle of Prosecco from the USA to France. I was not asked to write a review and opinions published in this post are my own.

Strawberry Eclairs with Poppy and Vanilla Pastry Cream

What on earth has been going on?  I have not wanted to cook – or even bake. Do you ever get this feeling but times ten? Has it been a gradual form of French strike following the Elections? The weather could also be blamed, but as a Scot one should be used to torrential rain, winds and colder temperatures in June, n’est-ce pas? As you’ve seen recently, I have helped curb this crêpey feeling by sampling macarons, chocolate and delectable pastries around Paris. The only thing that has started to feel lighter is my purse.

Then this weekend I could have drifted off on a petal tasting these luscious strawberries from the market.

Antoine seemed relieved that our favourite restaurants were fully booked; I had forgotten the Roland Garros tennis finals, the Euro Football, then more Euro Football. Instead of being the perfect wife – joining in the banter, shouting hysterically at the screen – I footed it to the sombre kitchen as another deluge drowned my dreary pansies on the windowsill. Checking the football schedule, I can now guarantee a surge and return to home cooking until 1st July.

Macarons? I had no egg whites ready so needed to use up some yolks. What about crème pâtissière but with a twist to the classic? Inspired by the strawberry and poppy macarons from Ladurée and Gérard Mulot last week, I still had some poppy aroma left from my rhubarb and poppy macarons. So here’s a pink poppy crème pâtissière/pastry cream recipe for the egg yolk collection. Use any aroma of your choice in place of the poppy and if you prefer the classic vanilla cream, omit the colouring and aroma and add another vanilla pod. Do you think football fans will notice the girly pink?

Strawberry and Poppy Eclairs

Makes 12

48 strawberries (the sweetest you can find)

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns then using a piping bag with a serrated tip (about 10mm), pipe out long éclairs on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack then cut the tops off horizontally.

POPPY and VANILLA PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

500ml full milk
1 vanilla pod (split down the middle)
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
1/2 tsp poppy aroma
pinch of red powdered colouring

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Gradually add the milk, food colouring and aroma, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again.

4. Pipe the cream into the éclairs adding hulled strawberries to decorate, place on the éclair tops and dust with icing sugar plus a light sprinkling of poppy seeds.

Hint:

Use half (for 6 portions) and keep the extra choux dough in the fridge for the next couple of days to make :

 

Christophe Roussel Macarons at Montmartre Paris

Did you really think I’d tasted enough macarons in Paris after the last post? Admittedly, I make my own macarons at home but when I’m asked regularly which macarons I prefer in Paris, I should be able to help you out. That’s a sign of a macaronivore. There are so many pastry shops that sell macarons, it’s difficult to get around them all.

I’ll leave that to you but I can’t let you come to Paris – or go to Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur – without stopping in for macarons and chocolate at Christophe Roussel. It should be part of every guide’s spiel on the petit train in the area to mention this too.

sacre coeur paris Montmartre

I first tasted Christophe Roussel’s macarons at the Paris Salon du Chocolat in October last year. What was particularly impressive was that each macaron was half dipped in Valrohna’s Guanaja chocolate (70% cacao.) What’s more, I appreciated his main store was in La Baule in France but only recently discovered that he’d opened up a new boutique in rue Tardieu in the 18th, just a few macaron feet away from Montmartre’s steps and the queue to the Fenicular Cable.

Stepping in to this snazzy boutique that was once another souvenir shop, I could see something going on backstage for all to see: Christophe Roussel, the pastry chef in person, placing the final touches to his giant raspberry and lime-basil-raspberry macarons. Adding spots of intense raspberry compôte, he finished off with his unique supplier’s stock of Tulameen bionic raspberries. Who wants another Eiffel Tower lighter or pencil sharpener from a touristy souvenir shop when you can feast your eyes and go up to Montmartre tasting this?

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre

This fourth boutique opened last year and together with his talented aroma-professional-tasting wife, Julie, they have a real creative duo here as the shop’s name implies, ‘Christophe Roussel duo créatif avec Julie‘. Can you imagine waltzing in to such a classy pâtisserie, being able to chat away with the creative genius couple as they offer tasting samples to curious tourists, lured in by the macaron sign and Marie-Antoinette style dress in the window?  I can tell you that in Paris, there are not many boutiques like this that give everyone such a friendly welcome!

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre Paris

While relishing in a tasting of the lemony cheesecake and passion-tarragon macarons (with the passion lingering on the palate for a full couple of minutes, followed by the hint of tarragon), I couldn’t choose. Do you have problems making decisions too?  So I ended up buying one of each. That way I could share them with the family.

Go for the marron-cassis (chestnut-blackcurrant), raspberry, passion-tarragon, cheesecake, chocolate-banana, coffee and caramel-ginger. OMG – the Cheesecake!!

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre Paris

As Christophe was adding a chocolate-raspberry creation to his pastry line-up, I had my eye on his Religieuse. I love how he does a retake on the normal classic of 2 choux buns: he adds a third and I’ve often seen his wacky versions including a macaron shell with a gigantic raspberry on top, presenting a magnificent mitre look.

best pastries in Montmartre Paris Christophe Roussel

I take my hat off to the salted caramel Religieuse, with the bottom sablé pastry hiding its gem of ginger. This crafty combination also works well in his caramel macaron just like it, using salt from the Guérande (also another boutique there.) Incidentally, they don’t give fancy titles to their pastries: just helpful descriptions.

No wonder they chose the mango dome with passion and citronella for their wedding: that did it for me since the flavours were sublime but the whole experience was so light. Then there’s the Mango compôte with caramel cream, ginger jelly and Indian vanilla. My only complaint? I needed just one spoon so that nobody else could get at it.

Update: The boutique now only sells macarons and chocolates.  Chef Christophe concentrates his pastries in the main boutique in La Baule, but pastries can be ordered online and picked up at the shop.

chocolate bars by Christophe Roussel Montmartre Paris

Now this is what I call class: choose from the gourmet chocolate bars – an ‘Electro’Choc’ – have it packaged individually, and indulge at the top of the Montmartre steps. Sounds a good program? That Tiramisu one is a great pick-me-up, and orange-speculoos (cinnamon.)

best chocolates at Montmartre Paris Christophe Roussel

On the right are one of his Buttes de Montmartre (Montmartre mounds). Coated ivory chocolates with a oh-so-fruity peach jelly inside. He also has one that fizzes in the mouth using sucre pétillant.

For the romantics, you must try his kisses – they’re nothing like the Hershey ones. These are flamboyant lips!  Creation obviously reigns in the family, as Julie’s brother fashioned this chocolate bar, housing different varieties of tablets.

So before you race up these steps up to Sacré-Coeur, take a breather of chocolate and macarons then head up that hill. He’s also near the Eiffel Tower (10 rue de Champ de Mars) so you have the same sweet program of what to do when in Paris.

Then perhaps a kiss or two at the top?