Shiny Festive French Macarons

Paris is feeling extra magical at this time of year. Macaron cones are majestically towering more than ever in chic boutique shopfronts. As I joined the gathering crowd in front of Fauchon’s window in Place de la Madeleine, it made me giggle just thinking that it’s not for nothing that window-shopping is literally translated as window-licking (faire du lèche-vitrines) in French.

It was indeed window-shopping, after seeing the macaron prices! Instead inspired, I returned to ze kitchen and set about making a batch of shiny, festive macarons at home. As I’m not a professional baker and don’t have a shop or online business, I haven’t needed a macaron cone or tower – we just eat them greedily straight from the pastry boxes! The towers that the professionals have access to are amazing, but this macaron and cupcake stand is pretty cool, as is this clear, acrylic 4-tier cake stand version which I’m buying for Christmas, as you can compact the nesting design.

I may not have a business but I do have a straight-forward macaron recipe that works. It’s all in the book. If you’re new here, let me tell you it’s filled with tips and step-by-step instructions how to make macarons using the French meringue method (there’s no need for a sugar thermometer this way.) It’s a lot easier than you think to make them; there are just a few, simple ‘rules’ to follow but it’s so worth it (so is the book – a fraction of a macaron workshop!) Check out some tip examples on the sidebar ——->

There’s no need for a silicone macaron mat (see my macaron mat review) or a mould (the moulds are for chocolate makers who make macaron-shaped chocolates or marzipan); you really need a good spatula and a piping bag with a plain 8-10mm tip. See my recommended baking items. Oh, and the second edition is now out – including a troubleshooting section and a glossary of terms for our American readers.

If you’ve been timid to make them in 2012, then 2013 is your year of making macarons like the French!

Rubbing on the bronze food colouring luster dust on these vanilla and rum macarons give them that extra special festive look. It’s perhaps messy using your finger but you don’t lose the precious dust as you would using a brush. Speaking of a goldfinger, has anyone seen the new James Bond film yet? I digress but, if you’re still reading me at this point, you’ll know that this is one of my specialities!

I’m all over the place just now, like most women who need to juggle life, family, presents and – dare I say the words? – greetings cards!  Is it just me but do you get irritated by people who send a bald, ‘Love from xxx” and don’t write anything else inside? Rien du tout. You mean, you went to all that trouble to send something but you didn’t give an update? Frankly, with the environment and all that, what would you say? Tell them off, plead in your card that you (once again) would appreciate an update, or would you just not bother?

What are your favourite macaron flavours for the festive season? Our favourites are vanilla, pistachio, orange blossom and all chocolate varieties. Add some chopped fresh mint and mint extract to your chocolate ganache for After-Eight macarons. Spice up your chocolate macarons (also in the shells) with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves plus add a dash of Grand Marnier or your favourite liqueur. To make rum and vanilla macarons, just replace 40ml of the milk in the vanilla macaron filling recipe with good dark rum. These cranberry egg nog macarons are also based on the vanilla recipe: just add freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and 100g of drunken cranberries (first soaked in rum) to the filling.

And there are not just sweet macarons; for those who are a bit more daring, try savoury macarons: Thai Green Curry, beetroot and horseradish, Bloody Mary, sweet garden herb or – my favourite garnish for soups – my Tikka Mac’sala! This weekend, I’m excited about entertaining friends and so it will be curried cauliflower with fried scallops to start with the curry macarons. It guarantees a giggle at the table!

Another favourite soup is Pumpkin, Leek and Ginger Soup which goes well with the curry macarons. When my children were between 5-7 years, their best bedtime story book of all time was Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, as they were so concerned about Duck getting lost. Thank you, Granny, for many memorable moments and thank you, Helen – your wonderful story captivated my girls and any time I make this recipe, your name is always mentioned as they insist in adding some salt and a Pipkin of Pepper to the pot. Garnish the soup with crispy sage leaves and a couple of red peppercorns.

I think it’s time to make a pot of tea and attack that Christmas tree. Somehow the decorations are needing replacements around here. I bought baubles filled with chocolate nougat from our local chocolate factory. They open for a month before Christmas to the general public and so we go bananas stocking up like the pros!

I’m on this mission to finish all the chocolate nougat by this weekend so my tree is filled with macarons for our guests. Although I wouldn’t eat them. They’re just for show, as they’ve not been put in the fridge. It reminds me of my Uncle Bob, who ate the chocolate from my Granny’s Christmas tree and just about passed out when Granny told them they were 15 years old!

Never mind the tea. Is it Wine O’Clock yet?  I keep thinking about these greetings cards. Apologies for such a long post. I didn’t have the time to do a short one. Best prepare some curry macs for Saturday.

Happy Holidays to you! May it be merry and bright, relaxing and with many macarons!

Cheers from a cold and frosty Paris.
I’ll be back with you in 2013 with many recipes.

Green Macaron Shells and Ideas for Fillings

No, it’s not St Patrick’s yet. This week I wanted to treat hubby’s colleagues to macarons at tea time. Shh… you know the company that brought the Rolling Stones to Paris for the Biggest Secret Event of the Year just last month?

Their company colour is dark green, so with half a teaspoon of powdered green colouring the macarons turned out green alright!  Turning to our Facebook MaM friends for motivation with the filling, these marvellous macaronivores had many interesting flavour ideas: Thai Green Curry; Pistachio (see my pistachio colouring post on this); and wasabi. They’re great, but the recipes are already in the book! I needed something a bit different for the next book. Green Tea and Mojito popped up – that was it! Hm. I wonder what green tea would be like in a Mojito? Have you ever tried it?

With only some incredibly dark rum rather than white rum in stock, there was no choice. In it went with the lime, lime zest and mint from the garden (sorry about this photo, as discovered the tiny holes from a wee friend in the decor leaves after I put this up!) Just sniffing Appleton Estate’s rum is enough to dream of sunnier climes. If you love your rum cocktails, head to the Cayman Islands with Carsley of the Deep Dish for plenty of inspiration.

For macarons rather more sober at afternoon tea, then Rose and Green Tea was colourful. I simply followed the recipe for rose macarons (page 45) but infused green tea in the cream first. You don’t get much of the green tea since the rose dose was quite powerful. Perhaps I need to tone it down a bit for next time.

If you want to be glitzy for the holiday season, then rub on some metallic food colouring or lustre with a brush or even better, with your fingertip. There’s something so therapeutic in doing this part. I have some wonderful rose lustre (see 2nd photo) but my favourite is the bronze one from Deco Relief (rue Montmartre.) As I was preparing these caramel colour shells, I was dreaming of that rum island again for inspiration for the next flavour.

Goldfinger!

Speaking of gold fingers, I’m relieved to have found a wizard of an Osteopath in Paris to sort out my back. Thank you all so much for your lovely well wishes. I’ve discovered over the last couple of years that back pain is tougher than giving birth and just as embarrassing when the coccyx has to be straightened. It’s nearly over – hopefully – but the Osteo is good.

Like all French doctors, he’s also good at answering the ‘phone; right when you’ve stripped to your undies and feeling vulnerable before examination. Standing waiting until it’s over can feel long, especially when the conversation is not about how to deal with an urgent pain relief situation but about the bin management on the street with a neighbour. “Did you know that the Sushi restaurant is selling up?  So will the new sandwich bar have the same kind of clients, do you think?” Fascinating. Speaking of clients, hello?  Shall I get dressed again?

Enfin, the call ends then brrrrrring; excusez-moi, I have to take this as it’s coming from out of town. Hello?  I’m from out of town and I’m Here. In this room. Feeling rather bare. I should look on the bright side; at least it wasn’t at the gynaecologist! I’ll spare you with that story as it’s one I can only tell after a few glasses and it’s far too early in the evening here.

I’ll leave you with the image of the bronzed shell, looking forward to a glass of rum. Cheers to you and have a wonderfully, panic-free week. Christmas is ages to go yet! 😉