Cremini Mushroom Cappuccino with Mini Macarons

Just look at this tray of healthy looking cremini mushrooms from the market – just perfect for a mushroom cappuccino. When I first bought mushrooms in France, it was amazing to see how they were sold with such large stalks and earthy feet as opposed to the pale, pre-packaged mushrooms presented in cellophane punnets looking as clean as a button in supermarkets.

Down to earth with organic mushrooms

As Autumn is winding its way around Paris, it’s high time to return to macaron madness with mushroom and truffle macarons. Have you tried savoury macarons?  In France, they’re great as an apéritif – my favourite part before the meal that has urged me to become more French over the last 19 years here. Serve with Champagne or a white wine from the Jura or an Alsacian Riesling but in this case, why not serve these mini macarons with the cutest little mushroom cappuccino for an amuse-bouche teaser or as a bigger appetiser/starter to a special meal? Surprise your friends.

French macaron mushroom

A Macaron Mushroom? It’s magic.

For the macaron shells, follow the basic recipe from the book (using less sugar – see page 97.) While beating the meringue to stiff peaks, add just enough brown (3/4 coffee spoon) with a slight hint of yellow (1/4) powdered colouring and a dash of cayenne pepper, then pipe out the macaron batter into the smallest, cutest rounds you can. Using a smaller, 6mm plain tip makes this easier.

how to make mushroom macarons

Getting the right mushroom colour meringue

To make the filling, sauté 100g cremini mushrooms until they sweat off all their liquid* and add them to 100ml whipping cream, infusing them over a low heat for 15 minutes.  Blitz with a hand blender or processor and add a dash of good quality truffle oil. Whisk an egg with 10g cornflour in a small bowl then add to the cream and mushrooms and keep whisking over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool, then whisk in 20g softened butter then fill the macarons.

* Tip: fry the mushrooms in a dry, non-stick pan. There’s no need for any extra butter or oil. Keep sautéing them until they give off their liquid and you’ll end up with healthy, natural mushrooms that are concentrated in flavour (and not dripping in oil!)

how to make mushroom filling for savoury macarons

This mushroom cappuccino is full of flavour and complements the macarons well. I prefer using cremini or portobello (giant cremini) mushrooms since I find they have more flavour than the normal white button mushrooms. Adding the truffle crème fraîche on top with a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten 100%) just finishes off le cappuccino look. Here I used crème fraîche to make this quickly, but if you prefer frothing up some whipped cream, then this will have a more authentic look.

mushroom cappuccino

Mushroom Cappuccino Recipe

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

600g cremini or portobello mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
25g butter
1 litre chicken stock
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tsp truffle oil

1. In a large, high-sided pan, cook the onion over a medium heat in the butter without browning for about 5 minutes. Remove the onion from the pan then throw in the chopped mushrooms and sauté them until they give off all their liquid. Add the cayenne pepper and return the cooked onion to the pan.

2. Add the stock and leave to cook on the lowest heat until the liquid reduces by at least a quarter for about 30 minutes.

3. Blend and froth up the soup using a hand blender and season to taste.

Serve in coffee cups with a blob of crème fraîche mixed with some good quality truffle oil and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder; or what about dusting it with dried porcini mushrooms that have been whizzed in a spice grinder to create a concentrated mushroom powder?

mushroom macaron

Is there mushroom for macarons here?

Racing with Banana Almond Cakes for the Egg and Spoon

I know. I’m not the biggest fan of cake. But suddenly remembering late on Saturday morning I’d promised to make a cake by noon for our daughters’ school Sports Day it was time for quick action. Oh-là-là. We’d scoffed the last batch of macarons and there were none left in our freezer ‘bank’ (*eye-roll*: it’s that macaron ghost-eater again.) With 3 ripe bananas just pleading to be mashed, I couldn’t resist altering a classic banana cake to mini cakes resembling more of a buttery almond French financier.

We’re having an identity crisis here: are we cakes or financiers?

Whatever they are, they pack a sweet boost to take on typical British sports day events: the sack race, three-legged race, tug-of-war and Lucie’s favourite, the egg and spoon race. Last year she raced home beaming with bronze and when she told her French grandparents the news, they were a little confused. ‘You were running with an egg? An egg on a spoon? In a race? Really that’s un oeuf…’

What’s so wrong with running and juggling an egg on a spoon?  We do it every day of our lives, don’t we?

Recipe: Banana, Almond and Chocolate Chip Mini Cakes

Makes enough for a silicone mould of 12 mini cakes or 24 mini muffin moulds.
Wildly adapted from the banana cake recipe from Hachette’s mini book of Cakes by Catherine Moreau.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

150g plain flour
120g ground almonds
100g sugar
1 heaped tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate chips
1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs
2 egg whites

3 ripe bananas
150g melted butter
2 tbsp flaked almonds for sprinkling 

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix together all the dry ingredients above, except the flaked almonds. Mash the bananas with a fork and gradually add them into the mix followed by the eggs and melted butter.

2. Pour the mixture into silicone moulds (about 3/4, not fully to the top) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

3. Bake for 20 minutes for the smaller cakes and for slightly larger cake moulds, 25-30 minutes.

4. Once cooled slightly, turn the cakes out on to a wire tray.

Eye Twitching Syndrome Version: Use 50g chocolate chips and add 100g chopped, dried apricots.
Have you ever had an eyelid that twitches uncontrollably? Feeling stressed, anxious and with an eyelid that couldn’t stop flickering recently, my opthamologist suggested adding bananas and dried apricots to a daily diet. So much for expensive magnesium supplements: a banana and some dried apricots a day keeps the eye twitch at bay!

I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the view next to the sports ground where their races took place last weekend. Isn’t it so peaceful on the River Seine?

Barges on the River Seine

OK, let’s get back to running with that egg on a spoon and find a good balance.

You could pick me up with a spoon with all your sweet and encouraging comments that you leave here. Thank you for your motivation to keep running le blog.

 

P.S. Congratulations to Choclette who was the lucky winner to receive chocolate earrings in the Mad About Macarons Giveaway!

Giveaway of French Bakery Macaron Jewellery on Mad About Macarons!

I was goofing around one day. Finding a ring with no jewel, I tried to photograph this homemade mini mac perched on top of it.  The idea was fun but using real macarons that could change colour and flavour daily was a mad, tall order, don’t you think?

Patricia Bourdel, from A French Bakery came up with the answer with her wonderful macaron jewellery.  They look so real, don’t they?

What’s more, there’s a different colour of macaron for every day of the week. Now you can ring your friends to come around for tea and macarons (sorry, can never resist a pun.)

Tea and macaron pendants are ever so minuscule and oh, so fun!  I personally adore these macaron earrings…

Put them together and you have a stunning result. There’s even more at the French Bakery for that macaron look, s’il vous plaît.

Update 20 September:

Sorry, this Giveaway is now closed.

Sweet Patricia offered one of you lucky Mad About Macarons blog readers the jewellery piece of your choice from the macaron collection. To enter this International Giveaway, simply tell us in the comments below which macaron jewellery piece and colour is your favourite and if you’re on Twitter or Facebook, please do help spread the news.

And the winner is….

Congratulations to ‘Choclette’

Don’t forget, you should ‘like’ A French Bakery on Facebook right away!

 

Arise, Sir Brioche

This sign popped out to say bonjour as we were meandering on a mid summer’s walk in Rhône wine country. Can you imagine living in a street called Brioche lane?  I’d personally feel compelled to have brioche dough out on the window ledge, puffing up proudly for the tourists that passed (that’s the dough not me), inviting everyone to have a part in making it.

I make brioche most weekends and so it’s about time I shared this with you. Surely you don’t want macarons ALL the time, do you?

The golden rule with brioche is take your time.  It’s so simple; but if you’re in a rush, forget it.  If you’re multi-tasking, I wouldn’t recommend this either; on a couple of occasions I’ve completely forgotten the dough rising and 2 hours later – rushing back from Jill the taxi and a last-minute shop – discovered brioche dough oozing down the side of a radiator or above the oven sticking to the door, as it was rising in all its glory. Sir Brioche prefers to be treated with more respect and not just fitted in to a last-minute schedule.

Depending on your mood, you can add all sorts of sweet surprises (see step 4). This is the part that the kids love to join in and create their own combinations; especially claiming their own brioche ‘ball’ with additions such as chocolate chips, walnuts, pistachios, cranberries, orange peel, drunken sultana raisins (either steeped in more orange flower water or Earl Grey tea overnight or in rum or in kirsch.) The list is endless, so it’s great to keep changing the ball game.

By the time the children come home from after-school activities, the smell of brioche wafts around the house and the weekend is signalled. Oui! C’est vendredi! TGIBF (Thank Goodness it’s Brioche Friday) We have 2 large brioches to last us for breakfasts over the weekend. I can’t help puffing up with pride, seeing them so happy.  Speaking of brioche dough like tennis balls, I’m also proud to be a Scot with Andy Murray winning the US Tennis Open at Flushing Meadow – great going, Andy!

Who’s been pinching the pearl sugar?

French Brioche Recipe

The first secret is to take your time. The other golden rule is to ensure your eggs are at room temperature. The rest is a piece of brioche. I make brioche using a KitchenAid, but I used to make it just as well by hand. This recipe originally came from the Alsa Briochin yeast packet instructions! Over the years, I’ve adapted it and our favourite addition is the orange flower water. The brioches also freeze well.

Makes 2 brioches

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour + 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

500g brioche flour
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sachets of vanilla sugar (15g)
2 sachets/envelopes of dried baker yeast
7 tbsp warm milk
2 tbsp orange flower water
4 eggs (at room temperature)
150g butter, melted
2 EGG YOLKS (to glaze)
pearl sugar (to decorate)

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, vanilla sugar and yeast in an electric mixing bowl and make a well. Attach the dough hook and start mixing on the lowest setting.

2. Add the warmed milk, orange flower water and then the eggs one by one and mix well until you have an even dough. Gradually add the melted butter (leave a bit to butter the brioche tin if it’s not silicone), mixing for at least 20 minutes until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.

3. Cover with a clean dish-towel and leave to rise in a warm place (24-35°C) for an hour until it looks like this.

Sir Brioche has arisen…

4. Knock down the dough and if you’re adding chocolate chips, nuts, or candied fruits, mix these in. Divide the dough in 2 and transfer each dough ball to brioche tins and/or cake molds, dividing the dough into tennis-sized balls and sprinkle with the pearl sugar or toppings of your choice.

Arise, Sir Brioche. Puffing up before going in the oven.

5. Leave again in a warm place for another hour until the dough rises to the top.

Adding to the whites collection for macarons!

6. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Brush each brioche with egg yolks mixed with a bit of water to glaze and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden. If the brioche browns too much, cover with greaseproof paper halfway through baking (although we prefer it browned, just how they serve it in our local boulangerie.)

7. Leave the brioches to cool on a wire rack.

Let the brioches rest for about an hour before devouring; straight from the oven and it will be too yeasty.  That’s why I make them on Friday and they’re perfect next day and even the next. Sometime plain is best, just with the traditional pearl sugar or a toasted nutty topping – that way you can serve with lashings of homemade jam (see recipe for apricot and lavender jam.)

Plain and simple with homemade jam but treats are hidden in the last part…

What kind of goodies would you hide inside or sprinkle on top of your brioche?

A Bite of New York: A Stirring Manhattan Cocktail

I’m finally over that red-eye jet-lag following a bite of the Big Apple. It was the second bite I’ve had in the last 14 years and what a bite. The last few days back home in my bubble outside Paris, I’ve been on a more nocturnal rhythm with a head still buzzing with the noises of NYC. Manhattan certainly is a cocktail with a punch.

The Wanted in NYC

The Wanted in NYC

Manhattan has such energy. There’s no standing around; the determined pace of walkers is speedier than in Paris; coffee bars are filled with guys in suits making deals over an espresso as opposed to Parisian cafés where we watch the world go by. This captivating street drummer set the pedestrian pace using plastic tubs – I wonder what he would sound like with a real drum kit? I could have watched him all day if I hadn’t been bustled around to keep up with the flow of pedestrian traffic. The only dilly-dallying appears at the Rockefeller Plaza, where NBC shoot live every morning. My girls looked at me with sheer disbelief when I showed the photo above of this group, ‘You mean, you saw The Wanted and you didn’t know it, Mum?’

Broadway NYC

No Standing, No Stopping, No Way – it’s Broadway!

Broadway’s place to eat has to be at the NoMad Restaurant at 1170 Broadway. I love the service in NYC! Elizabeth Merner, our smiling server extraordinaire confirmed my choices on the menu were her favourites: I’m still dreaming of that appetiser of strawberry gaspacho, basil and smoked duck. Although we resist tasting French wines in the USA since America has so much to offer, Liz served us an incredible Macon Vieilles Vignes 2008 for an apéritif the next time we popped in (we couldn’t resist returning.) Like Daniel Beedle, the Sommelier, they understood our tastes so we were thrilled with their choices, even if a couple were from France!

Inspired and wanting a taste of more US blockbuster wines to bring home, we headed to Morrell, NYC’s institution. Perhaps it was just an off day, but they weren’t friendly. I’m perhaps cynical as I become older but why give business to people who don’t want to serve you? The moral of the story?  Listen to Daniel. When in NYC and looking for wines, head to Astor Wines in Soho. With our amazing wine consultant, Duncan McRoberts, we have our favourite gutsy, buttery, toasty – even wooded (if not fashionable but we love it) – Californian Chardonnays.

La Maison du Macaron NYC

La Maison du Macaron, NYC

‘You mean you’ve not tried any macarons yet? But it’s your duty, girl!’ exclaimed Carol Gillott, of Paris Breakfast fame. The last time we met, I dragged her to the Paris suburbs for a macaron workshop chez moi. This time she wanted to meet up so she could show me some macaron spots in NYC. By the time I surfaced that morning and switched on my phone after 9am, she’d sent me 3 emails from 5.30 am to check I was up. I wonder when Carol sleeps?

First stop was La Maison du Macaron (132 W.23rd Street) with basil-lime-ginger and Graham-Cracker-Key-Lime-Pie macarons (using French meringue, same as the macarons in my book). Perhaps it was too early after breakfast, since I didn’t get much flavour but we didn’t wait the dutiful 15 minutes until they were fully at room temperature. So, where were the Big Apple macs?

NYC

Tasting French macarons with Carol Gillott – this was my NY breakfast!

More bright green macarons were at Financier, reputed for the best macarons in NYC and where their financiers are perfection. You know how I feel about pistachio macarons and colouring. Next stop? I had to check out Trader Joe’s – Carol showed me the free coffee as we waited in line, now that is service!  My basket was filled with dried cherries, something you can’t find in Paris.

Carol realised how goofy I was when she took me to N.Y. Cake on 56 West 22nd Street. With macaron gift boxes and everything you can imagine to make macarons and more, I just couldn’t contain myself. I think she started to pretend we weren’t together when she asked me to speak French.

Everything you need for making macarons easily at home

After the sweet meet-up, Carol put me in an arty mood so there was nothing better than to have a taste of the Frick Collection and the Museum of Modern Art. Gigantic MoMA has such an impressive wealth of art treasures. In awe of more of Monet’s Water Lily paintings following our trip to Giverny this summer, Catherine and Paul in the restaurant (where else would you find us?) told us about the new Giverny – in NYC Botanical Gardens!

I couldn’t get enough of this Manhattan Cocktail of art and checked out just a part of the Metropolitan Museum. Just an insy-winsy taste left us completely punch drunk! It’s mind-blowing to see works that were painted only up the road from where we live on the Seine.

Punch drunk at the Met.

The last part of the Manhattan cocktail left me rather shaken. Thursday night, Antoine and I were strolling (no, walking fast) past the Empire State Building and I decided not to visit it next day since I’m no longer good with heights. On Friday morning, I was only 2 blocks away from the shooting at the ESB and as 4 helicopters hovered above later, I couldn’t stop thinking that we should never take life for granted. This statue was a statement outside the Caen War Memorial Museum this summer.

Back to the more stirring cocktail in Manhattan. More eateries we adored centred on Italian: from a crowded Eataly (where you shop, eat sitting down/standing up or eat standing hiding in a corner); to Lombardi’s first NY pizza; to Peasant in Nolita where the food is cooked on a homemade wooden oven built by the chef, Frank de Carlo. His white pizza and wooded quail are begging for me to return to NYC.

I loved seeing macarons in many cafés and bakeries, such as Screme (best espresso next to Grand Central Station), Bouchon and of course, Maison du Chocolat. There are no doubt many more but as the French say so well, everything in modération!

I’ve rambled on enough since I didn’t have time to do a short post – it’s a mad week returning to school, organising my students, chocolate walks in Paris etc. We love routine, don’t we?

Let me just leave you with one question: am I imagining this? Have you noticed that plates in NYC are small for big portions and in Paris, the plates are huge for smaller portions? Just saying.