The Best Handbags from Paris Pâtisseries

I was in the Place de Saint Sulpice the other day, minding my own business. Sitting by the fountain, looking up at the St Sulpice church and nibbling on a Hermé Mosaïc macaron, I realised a few people looked curious as to what was in my bag.

Who’s peeking in my Hermé bag?

Anyone who knows their Paris pâtisserie bags will recognise it’s not just any old bag. Its leafy holes are Pierre Hermé’s signature: telling passers-by that you’re about to indulge in his Picasso-of-Pastry macarons, pastries or chocolates. This time I did have rather a lot of sweet works of art tucked away, and the wafting temptations of certain viennoiseries were inviting me through these sneaky-peeky-leafy holes. I kept my French art of self-control and resisted, keeping them for the family’s enjoyment later.

Suddenly I became the Paris Pastry Bag Awareness Committee, noticing many more bags being sported in between juggling cameras and umbrellas. Umbrellas?  Yes, yes. You’ve heard about the Paris summer?  Someone forgot to lay on the sunshine and it has been raining almost every day in July and much of June.

Perhaps the most recognised pastry bag is from Ladurée. Louis Ernest Ladurée would have been amazed 150 years after opening his shop to see how many tourists now show off the characteristic pastel shade of green with his name cameoed in the centre, bordered by leaves. Ah, leaves again, but more as a Versailles look. The golden rope is comfortable poised on the wrist, ladies, and its shape is ideal for positioning Paris guide books after your macaron tastings. To receive a bag like this, however, you need to invest in rather a few macarons or pastries. Most times I go in and buy 4 or 5 macarons, I’m flashed the Parisian shot and they’re stuffed into a pastel green paper bag.

What do you think of this bag with a silvery rope?

Fancy looking chocolates with a croc look?

Jean-Charles Rochoux‘s chocolates are given the classy treatment with the packaging plus bag to escort your tablets and sculptures. His signature muscular sculptures of male busts in chocolate are amusing. I learned the French phrase the other day from my daughter, who was referring to someone’s “tablette de chocolat”: it simply means they have lovely looking muscles, hence Rochoux’s muscles. Which reminds me (mussels is my wave of thinking here): did you know that Jean-Paul Hévin has a hot chocolate flavoured with oysters? I digress. Back to bag lady.

The glitzy, shinier look?

Christophe Roussel’s large, shiny black bags are rather stylish.  Why are they large?  When you order just one of his tall Réligieuse pastries, it’s packaged separately in its own tower box to ensure that it’s still perfectly intact by the time you arrive home.  As I no longer live in Paris and travel in the RER commuter train, I can tell you that attention to detail like this for top-of-the-range pastries is much appreciated!

He also thinks of the environment with the hessian bags to reuse… Good idea – I think it’s time I paid them a visit in the 7th this time and replenished my stocks since Antoine raves about his pastries.

The shopping bag look

Patrick Roger, on the other hand, knows how to concoct the perfect little bright green handbag to say, ‘I’ve been there and tasted his chocolates and caramels. They’re chic and dainty, resembling the shape of a Birkin bag but a paper DIY version without the worry of choosing which leather and colours of trimmings needed. Un Dimanche à Paris have also jumped on board with a mini bag for their chocolates, but personally I prefer Patrick’s. Roger; over and out.

Dainty bags to show off your love for French chocolates

Pain de Sucre has chosen a clever colour – resembling the classy signature orange used by the luxury Hermès store on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. No, not Hermé, but Hermès. Someday, I’ll earn money to buy a Hermès Birkin bag but while I’m dreaming about winning the Loto (ok, so I never buy tickets in the first place), I’ll continue with the pastries; at least I can change the colours frequently to adapt to sweet mood swings.

So what was in that first Hermé bag? Some macarons, of course, but also Infiniment Vanille (his vanilla tart, amazing!) and these Ispahan croissants, particularly sweet coated in sugar, dried raspberries but somehow we managed them for breakfast next morning…

There are many more pâtisseries to choose from in Paris, bien sûr.

What are your favourite bags that you like to keep as souvenirs of your trips to Paris?
And a double question whammy: what flavours are in Hermé’s Mosaïc macaron?

 

The Heat is on: Pistachio Vanilla Wasabi Ice Cream

Are you feeling the heat? You’re lucky. Mid July in Paris and we’re thinking of putting the heating on indoors as we watch the torrential rain. At least there’s no need to worry about sunburn and slapping on the sunscreen. On the other hand, I’m seeing poor friends having to deal with soaring, sky-high, sweltering temperatures.

While our American friends are enduring the worst drought since 1956, they’re hopefully enjoying National Ice Cream month, at least. Although we’re not craving ice cream just now as much as we should in Paris, I have a solution for our differences in temperatures. Needing something ice cold? Needing ice cream but with some heat? Here’s my solution with an intriguingly delicious Pistachio Vanilla Wasabi Ice Cream.

One of my favourite French chefs is William Ledeuil of Ze Kitchen Galérie in Paris (and KGB). He makes the most incredible dessert consisting of a white chocolate and wasabi ice cream and serves it with a pistachio and green tea sauce, fresh strawberries and either crumble or wasabi meringues. The flavour combination is simply incredible!

I have been experimenting with the flavours that he concocts in his grand finale but twiddling with my own recipes at home. First I made pistachio, coconut and wasabi macarons (recipe in Mad About Macarons). This time, I’ve put the flavours together into just one ice cream to make it simple – after all, I’m a lazy gourmet!  I replaced the white chocolate with egg yolks (as macaronivores, we need the whites for macarons!) The result is a gluten free dessert, full of interesting flavours.

Pistachio-wasabi ice cream. Are you making a face?

Pistachio Vanilla Wasabi Ice Cream

200ml coconut milk (small carton)
300ml whole milk
50g ground pistachios
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp pistachio extract
pinch green and brown food colouring
(3 parts green, 1 brown)
5 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
4 tsp powdered milk
15g wasabi paste

1. Heat the milk, coconut milk and pistachios in a heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod which is 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.

2. Cream together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the powdered milk, wasabi paste and pistachio extract and mix well.

3. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the yolk cream. Discard the pod from the warmed coconut-milk and add the food colouring.

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. 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 according to your ice cream maker.

Serve on fresh strawberries with pistachio macarons on the side.

Pistachio Vanilla Wasabi Ice Cream recipe

If you feel like a double intriguing wasabi wham – enjoy this with Pistachio, White Chocolate and Wasabi macarons (recipe on p65 of my first book, Mad About Macarons.)

How much wasabi can you eat to feel the heat?

Mad About Macarons in Hungarian!

This week, the title at Mad About Macarons is Akarom, mert Makaron!

I am so proud to announce that the book has been translated into Hungarian and is now hot off the press at T.bàlint Kiadò publishing.

Akarom, mert Makaron translated is literally: ‘Macaron, I want it!

The book is now on sale in all bookshops in Hungary. The main bookstores being:

A huge thank you to Gyula and T.bàlint Kiadò publishing, who also have Gordon Ramsay, Michel Roux and Rachel Allen in their food titles as well as present Hungarian leaders such as Lajos Bíró. I’m so proud to be associated with them.

Macarons, Hungary – they go so well together, don’t you think?

Giveaway of Macaron Earrings to Mad About Macarons Readers!

It’s amazing what can happen when you become mad about macarons! Talented Amelia Schmelzer is such a macaron fanatic that she has created macaron jewellery to add to her miniature creations of food. From sushi bracelets to cappuccino necklaces, there’s a Frippery Factory food accessory to match whatever cooking mood you might be in. As we’re mostly in the mood for macarons…

Amelia has just released a new earring design featuring macarons and is offering a Giveaway to all Mad About Macarons readers. The lucky winner can choose from either these bubblegum pink or cotton candy blue macaron earrings.

What’s more, Amelia is offering a 10% off coupon to Mad About Macaron readers, on all her products featured on the online store, as well as her special custom items. All you need to do is use the code MADABOUTMACARONS at checkout, and the discount will be automatically deducted. For Amelia’s full range of fun jewellery, visit her site at FripperyFactory.com.

To join in the Giveaway, it’s easy. Just tell me below what you’ve done to join in:

  • If you haven’t already subscribed to receive blog updates, then sign up now!
  • You could also ‘like’ Mad About Macarons on Facebook; and join me on Twitter.
  • Enjoyed making macarons from Mad About Macarons? Many people have been wonderful and mentioned it on the site here, but don’t be shy (I’m shy to ask this) –
    if you really like the book and have a few moments, why not post a review on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or your local online bookstore?

The giveaway ends on Friday 20 July (midnight America West Coast time) and the winner will be chosen at random from the comments below and announced on the site on Saturday 21 July.

Congratulations to Susan, who was chosen at random as No 5 out of the responses!

Commiserations to the other participants, but don’t forget that you can still receive a 10% discount on your purchases online by quoting MADABOUTMACARONS at the checkout.

Yuzu Macarons: Another Parisian Fashion

Yuzu. It’s such a fashionable macaron flavour in Paris just now. A few years ago while studying at Strathclyde University in Scotland, the closest I ever got to yuzu was hearing west-coast, Glaswegian accents with phrases such as, ‘Yuzu’ll have had your tea?’  Or, ‘Yuzu’ll be down the pub at what time?’  That’s as far as it went.

Even the duck was eyeing the Yuzu macaron in the Batignolle Park in Paris

Twenty years on, I’m exchanging dainty conversations with Parisian ladies in the pâtisserie boutique queues, as they point with their perfectly French manicured fingers at the Yuzu macarons. If you haven’t tasted yuzu before, the taste is like mandarin oranges but with a tangy, tart note of grapefruit. I haven’t been lucky enough to actually taste the fresh yuzu fruit yet but I can tell you that I’ve nibbled on enough yuzu macarons to get an idea for starters. I’m convinced it’s good for you too: with a touch of vitamin C packed into a gluten-free treat.

Yuzu originated in China but it is most widely grown in Japan and Korea. It’s also pretty frost-hardy, apparently;  I wonder if I can grow it in our garden?  Have you tried to grow your own yuzu?

Acide macaron makes a great yuzu bergamot tea mac

No wonder it’s considered a luxury item. I could bathe in it. That’s not as daft as it sounds: apparently the Japanese have customary yuzu baths (yuzuyu) in winter to ward off colds and rough skin. Could you live with that, nibbling on yuzu macarons and sipping some Macaron Prosecco just to add to the luxurious experience?

Dreaming of that bath, the Yuzu-Earl Grey Tea macarons by Acide Macaron were luxury enough. It’s not for nothing that the pastry chef, Jonathan Blot, names this flavour Jonathan; he describes that these are the macarons that take the most amount of work to perfect the flavour. Chocolate also makes sense as a partner, to complement the acidic clementine taste; Jean-Paul Hévin makes beautiful yuzu-chocolate macarons;  Patrick Roger makes yuzu and verbena chocolates (you just have to make the macarons!) Saduharu Aoki has stuck with plain and simple Yuzu with nothing else nudging its alluring zing. It didn’t need any more macarons to be convinced, frankly. It was time to get home and make a batch of my own. Where on earth could I find yuzu?

Searching for yuzu-inspired desserts in some French gourmet magazines, I came across yuzu powder in the ingredients. But when I discovered at the Japanese supermarkets near Opéra that the yuzu powder could only be bought in bags of a kilo for over 120 euros, that was pushing it.  I liked yuzu but I’m not that mad.  That’s when I realised how lucky I am to have such a good friend like Nami of Just One Cookbook fame. She heard my cries of help and before I knew it, she had already expressed a bottle of extract and freeze-dried yuzu from her Japanese store in California to Paris. How’s that for the most friendly emergency yuzu service?

Freeze dried yuzu and extract from Japan to California to Paris

Now that I know what the extract and freeze-dried yuzu products look like, it will easier to spot these in Paris.  I can waltz in to the supermarket and perhaps even look like I know what I’m doing, thanks to Nami. She also makes a wonderful Yuzu Sour Cocktail. The packet of freeze-dried yuzu is incredible.  I whizzed it up in the spice grinder.  If only this photo below had a scratch-and-sniff option, since the perfume that wafted out as soon as I opened the top was the most exotic, well, yuzu.

Sniff this photo, but please avoid scratching the screen

Adding a tablespoon of the powder to the shells and a mixture of the powder and extract in the filling, there was certainly no disappointment. After two large boxes of homemade yuzu macarons, I made them quite tart.  Perhaps a bit too much on the extract?  According to the family, it was just right.  I wonder if they always feel obliged to say that?

Next time it’s a white chocolate ganache. I’m still recipe testing and considering another book. It’s a long process – especially if you have no patience. That’s why I’m generally going a bit mental but having fun in between the chocolate walks in Paris.

Many more homemade yuzu macarons. Just testing

How would you like your yuzu macarons?  Acidic with a real bite to it, or sweeter with a more subtle hint of flavour?  It’s important to please our sweet macaronivore friends.

Speaking of Glasgow accents, Antoine and I relived our student days together a couple of weeks ago with fellow colleagues at Strathclyde Business School for a 20 Year Reunion. Yuzu’ll have found us at the local, darlings, this time with a French manicure and arm in arm with my French hubby in a Scottish kilt!

And as macaron decoration on a yuzu cheesecake…

Loving Your Blog in Sickness and in Health

Did you know what happened to the website over the last two weeks?

Thinking it was just a crazy dream, I woke up and discovered the nightmare: the site was down and not a temporary hiccup.

No big deal. ‘It’s just a website,’ a friend reasoned on Facebook.  He was right, but when your blog instantly disappears without a proper backup and all your labours of love are magically reduced to one BLANK page staring defiantly at you, it’s pretty soul destroying. ‘Try not to go down with the site,’ I told myself, c-a-l-m-l-y. My main worry was that everyone would just forget about Mad About Macarons; as if nothing had happened over the last year and a half. As the website’s email account is still down, I have missed seeing blog updates and messages from friends.

The company that hosted and originally built the site eventually explained that their system detected a virus/hacker situation and so the website shut down completely. There were no backups containing the new site design. A word to my blogger friends: learn from my lesson and back up your site on your hard drive. Conducting the full backup function on WordPress means nothing if you don’t download it as a zip file on your hard drive.

The site was restored thanks to Melissa Hartfiel of Fine Lime Designs, who redesigned the site in March. Melissa – thank you so much for all your help, courage and incredible patience, especially as we have been dealing with extreme time differences and lack of hosting communication. Now with a new host we’re moving on and catching up.

I’m back up and running – give or take a few photos missing and more tweaks needed.  Please don’t be shy at leaving comments (I tried to turn it off here but can’t – this is not a sympathy post, just keeping you up to date.) You’ve no idea how your words of encouragement help ensure my mad posts come your way!

Now, let’s get that Yuzu post up again finally