Tea Time in Paris with a Romantic Candle Giveaway!

Last week in Paris, as we celebrated a traditional Scottish Burn’s Night, I couldn’t help reminiscing about our Scottish-French wedding, or alliance. Are we sniffing romance in the air on le blog as Valentine’s Day approaches? Och, who loves an excuse to light beautifully scented candles, just to create a cosy and uplifting ambience at home?

My talented friend, Laura Hastings – of Rosslyn Candle Company fame in Scotland – has created a particularly perfect alliance with one of her handmade soy wax candles. Inspired by a recent holiday to Paris and love of Parisian macarons, she’s made a naturally fragranced candle, blending Scotland and France in a stylish re-usable Paris teacup. It’s called the “Auld Alliance.”

Now she’s offering a lucky reader anywhere in the world the chance to win it!

A clever eco-friendly candle…

Why “The Auld Alliance”? Laura’s candle celebrates the centuries-old friendship between Scotland and France. First agreed in 1295, the Auld (Old) Alliance was built on Scotland and France’s shared needs.  From the Scots’ point of view, it brought tangible benefits through pay as mercenaries in France’s armies and the pick of the finest French wines.

The scents of both countries are brought together in Laura’s “Auld Alliance”. The fragrance is a blend of relaxing French lavender and uplifting geranium, with a hint of Scottish heather. Hm. I feel a macaron coming on…

Like all of Laura’s candles, they’re made of natural soy wax: so they’re eco-friendly, don’t produce toxins like paraffin candles, they last longer and they don’t leave any black sooty smears on the walls!

The Rosslyn Candle Company produce their handmade candles just a stone’s throw away from the world-famous Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, the Scottish Capital.  Sensibly priced in tins, teacups and vintage, their candles have scents which evoke the peace and quiet of the countryside in which they are located.

Many of you will remember the book “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown.  The film of the book starred Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, whose French character Sophie Neveu discovered her Scottish family near the end of the film.

OK, are you ready?

I burn for 40 hours and I can be re-used for your tea and macarons!

International Giveaway is Now Closed – and the winner is…

Congratulations to Dianne Micallef from Malta, who has won this unique, 40 hour Paris teacup candle, scented with Rosslyn Candle Company’s “Auld Alliance” fragrance!

Competition Answer: In “The Da Vinci Code” movie, Roslin Chapel was used as a location in Scotland.

Feel free to email Laura (laura@rosslyncandlecompany.co.uk) to order her soy wax candles in a teacup online or to receive her occasional e-newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

Have a look at Rosslyn Candle Company’s gorgeous candles at www.rosslyncandlecompany.co.uk and don’t forget to like them on Facebook!

How to Make a French Religieuse or a Scottish Mac Snowman

I have a confession to make. I should have made something more typically Scottish as it’s Burn’s Night this Friday. Patriotism is kicking in as the bagpipes, Stornoway black pudding and haggis are suddenly sorely missed. Don’t ask me to make the latter myself, though. You’re talking to an ex-vegetarian.

With a first mere dusting of snow last week, our lucky Scottish heather was then well and truly tucked in with a thick, snowy blanket this weekend outside Paris. We had more snow than in Scotland!

Lucie was itching to build a snowman and managed to convince her sister that it was still cool to play in the snow by repeating renditions of the Snowman’s ‘I’m Walking in the Air’ on the piano. What’s with the hat? A TGV cap was all we could find.

With a couple of lollies pour les yeux, they reminded me of the sugar eyes I’d bought at the NY Cake supply shop on my trip last summer to NYC.

Am I a Scottish or French snowman woman person with a hat like this?

More macaron madness struck. I’d just made a batch of choux dough to make les Réligieuses: that’s one small choux bun stuck on a larger bun and dribbled with fondant.

Hm. Sugar eyes…  put them together with macarons (I had some left from my freezer ‘bank’) and what have you got?

A Snowman built indoors! OK, so I’m not too old to kid around too, right? He’s a Religieuse Snowman. Hm. In French that doesn’t work since a Religieuse is feminine.

Somehow a Mrs Snow-woman doesn’t sound right, so apologies to my French friends for the Religieuse recipe title – I’d love to hear your ideas for a more fitting title. No surprise why Mrs Snowman looks a bit grumpy: I didn’t wait for the fondant to slightly set before dipping in the choux buns and so she’s dribbling fondant down her cheek. Next time I’ll be more patient.

Does this fondant coat make my bun look big?

Snowman Religieuse Recipe (Choux Buns with Pastry Cream)

Makes 20

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns. Using a piping bag with a plain tip (about 10mm), pipe out large heaps 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 a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make a second batch of choux buns but pipe out much smaller heaps (as you would for chouquettes) and bake in the oven for only 15 minutes.

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 vanilla extract

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 and extract, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again, then transfer to a piping bag with a thin, plain tip (8mm) so that you can pierce the buns without too much leakage!

4. Pipe the cream into the buns by piercing a hole at the bottom of each bun and squeeze in the vanilla cream.

DECORATION

Gently melt the fondant in a bowl (white fondant is available from many speciality baking stores but if you can’t find it just make a classic icing using icing/confectioners sugar and some water.)  Once the fondant starts to cool, dip the buns upside down into the bowl until there’s no excess on the buns. Leave to set on a wire rack but first stick on the eyes (you could use smarties), pierce Mikado sticks for arms and stick on a macaron.

If I’m a snow-woman I’ll eat my hat!

I forgot to take a photo of the vanilla cream inside. It was too good. You’ll just have to make them for yourselves! Here’s another reason why it’s handy to keep some macarons in your freezer. And now you’ve used up 4 egg yolks you have a good supply of whites for your macarons!

Perhaps this is a Scottish post after all: could we call it a MacSnowman?

How to Make Rice Pudding like the French – Riz au lait!

When my Frenchman asked me to make rice pudding years ago, it was a no-brainer. I remembered what my Scottish Granny and Mum had done: rained in some rice into a pint of milk, added sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and nutmeg, dotted it with butter and baked it slowly until a caramelised rice pudding emerged with a film of buttery, bubbled skin.

We ate it warm from the oven as the reassuring aromas of cinnamon wafted around the kitchen. This was comfort food at its best, my Madeleine de Proust; that feeling of drifting back for a fleeting moment, remembering Grandpa supping his rice pudding using an oversized spoon, as Agnes poured him more of the coveted extra cream from the top of the milk around the enormous bowl’s rim.

best baked rice pudding easy recipe

Carmelised rice pudding as Granny used to make in Scotland

Suddenly the bubble burst. “Your rice pudding is so different to my Mum’s. She didn’t have skin on it; I remember vanilla rather than cinnamon, and we didn’t eat it warm like this,” gently prodded my Frenchman. My baked rice pudding wasn’t sexy.

It was time to do some homework. I looked up Granny’s ‘Black Book’, full of her children’s scrawls, splatters and notes for different Scottish sweet recipes ranging from neighbours such as Mrs Patterson to the Jimmy Young Show’s dictations from the radio. Nothing. No rice pudding. As Grandpa ate it just about every third day there was no need for Agnes to write it down.

I did discover that, in the north, the French also bake their rice pudding. In Normandy they make a slow-baked Terrinée, Beurgoule or Teurgoule not unlike this, although they add another half litre of milk and bake at 80°C for 6 hours.

Baked Rice Pudding Recipe: In a buttered gratin dish, rain in 100g short grain rice into 1 litre whole milk, add 80g sugar, a cinnamon stick & 50g sultanas. Dot with 40g butter and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Bake uncovered at 110°C for 2 hours.

baked rice pudding with toasted skin from the oven

How do I look? Am I a skinny rice pudding, then?

It was time to make a different, extra creamy rice pudding or ‘riz au lait’ (reeh-oh-lay.) Bathed in a vanilla milk, showered with freshly grated nutmeg and eaten chilled. Personally, I prefer it at room temperature and can’t resist sneaking a bowl of it before placing the rest in the fridge once it’s cool. Initially inspired by Raymond Blanc’s recipe (well, his Mother’s recipe!) by adding 3 egg yolks at the end of cooking, after a few trials, here’s my riz au lait; tried, tested and approved by my adorable French hubby pampered person.
Just don’t tell his Mum.

Creamy rice pudding with dried fruits and egg yolks

How can you make a rice pudding look sexy when it’s not even skinny?

Creamy Riz au Lait Rice Pudding Recipe

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

100g pudding/short-grain rice
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or cinnamon stick)*
80g chopped dried fruit (sultanas, apricots)
50g (25+25) light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
20g butter (optional)
pinch of finely grated nutmeg

* or use 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Fill a large saucepan with water. Add the rice and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook for a couple of minutes then drain the rice in a sieve or colander.

2. Pour the milk (whole, full milk for best creaminess) into the large saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod down the middle,  scrape out the seeds and add to the milk (or add vanilla extract/cinnamon stick) with 25g of the sugar. Rain in the rice and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to that no skin forms on the milk.

3. Add the chopped fruits. Continue to stir now and again as it heats gently for about another 10 minutes. Check that the rice is cooked but not mushy.

4. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks with the rest of the sugar and grated nutmeg until it’s light and creamy. Add the hot rice (and butter, if using – this just adds a little extra creamy luxury) and mix well. Ensure you take this off the heat so not to overheat and curdle the yolks.

Serve at room temperature or once cool, chill in the fridge.  Grate a little nutmeg on top.

Mini French rice pudding creamy desserts

And a wee ‘riz au lait’ for baby bear

As my baby bear, Lucie, doesn’t like drinking milk, this is a great way for her to fill up on calcium. And as an obsessed macaron maker, macaronivores will love this recipe to use up more yolks!

creamy rice pudding

Speaking of macarons, I’ve been caught making them again in the reflection. Are you a macaron addict, too?

Happy Sweet 2013 from Paris with Galettes des Rois

So we made it to 2013. It wasn’t the end of the world after all, right? I hope you had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and took the time to chill out, relishing in the festive atmosphere and savouring precious moments.

Just as you thought I was deserting you all, I surprised even myself with such a long computer break – even forgetting my password – and instead became an elf. I ‘desserted‘ the kitchen. Big time.
Although I’m sorry to say I didn’t take many photos. I don’t know how so many wonderful, serious blogger friends do it but as I’m not serious, here are just a few snaps to prove I’ve been testing some sweet recipes for you.

Ice creams, pastries, meringues, macarons (well you expect it here, don’t you?), brioches, éclairs – all accompanied by good friends and bubbles. Now that’s what I call the sweet life. N’est-ce pas: a meringue or am I right? (Scottish pun).

What I love about living here is that the French still have a knack of cheering you up, even as the Christmas decorations come down at Epiphany. Suddenly the Pâtisserie shop windows are decked out in Galettes des rois (King Cake.) Being a cheap-skate (or rather, obsessed home cook), I make mine at home. That way I can greedily add more creamy almond paste filling inside the puff pastry and use fancy trinkets. Being a lazy gourmet, I use store-bought puff pastry (always choose pur beurre, the full butter version, which is better quality than plain puff.)

J’aime la galette…especially with added hazelnut praline

Galette des Rois Recipe

Preparation Time : 30 minutes
Cooking Time : 30 minutes
Serves 6-8

150g softened butter
150g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp dark rum (or Amaretto)
*
1 tsp almond extract

2 puff pastry circles (ready-made, pure butter)
1 egg yolk

1 fève or trinket
1 crown (i.e. paper; don’t go sneeking into the Tower of London, ok?)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4). For the almond cream, cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl then gradually add all the other ingredients and mix together well to form a smooth cream.
  2. Place the first pastry circle on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Spread the almond mix evenly on top, leaving a space of 2-3 cm as a border and wash this border with egg yolk. Insert the porcelaine trinket well into the almond cream (if you’re not sure of the quality of the trinket, I suggest you add it at the end by pushing it up into the bottom of the pastry.)
  3. Place the second puff pastry circle on top and seal the outside edges, ensuring there are no air bubbles. Brush the top of the pastry with the rest of the egg yolk. 
  4. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes (optional but helps the decor about to be done stay intact). Make indents on the border and then criss-cross patterns using the blunt end of a knife. Pierce 4 or 5 little holes in the pastry, so that air can escape.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with Cider.

* For those that don’t want to add alcohol, you could replace the rum or Amaretto with milk and a dash of orange flower water.

Some fancy porcelaine galette trinkets from St Germain-en-Laye

As usual in our house, Lucie – being the youngest – traditionally sits under the table and chooses who gets each slice, so there’s no favouritism in dishing out the prized portion with the fève/trinket to become crowned King or Queen. Just as well for tradition: at least I can be rest assured there’s no longer need to crouch and creek the knees below – even amongst the adult table; I married a Toy Boy. Ha! Say no more.

Well yes. There is more; much more in store for you this year on le blog. I just need to put it all together, remember the blooming passwords and get that brain gack in bear!

Happy New Year to you all and wishing you the best of health and happiness, my friends.


 Update

You can find my recipe for Pistachio and Griotte Cherry Galette des Rois in my new recipe book, Teatime in Paris!