Whisky Toffee Frozen Crème Brûlée with Macarons

It was a sign:  a Scottish saltire traced onto such dazzling blue Parisian skies this week by the routine planes rumbling over us, to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Saltire flag forming clouds in sky

It was another reminder of this month’s historic Scottish referendum that has created such a powerful and passionate impact on a country that was already once independent.

I’ve never been into politics much but, hearing many lively debates and enthusiasm about the subject, it became increasingly frustrating that I couldn’t vote as a Scot living in France.  I could hear the same calls from my fellow Scots living in England, Wales or Ireland.  A familiar remark from friends and family, who were either for or against an independent Scotland was, “Well, my heart wanted to vote Yes to Scotland being an independent country; but my head told me it was better to stay together with the UK”. With such a close winning vote of 55% to stay in the UK, the Scots have perhaps been divided on the results but as we could think that the Yes voters are upset – or ‘gutted’ as I heard on BBC radio the day of the results – the debate continues.

“We’re not crying into our porridge yet.”declared my Uncle David, a proud Scot from the Shetland Islands. “We’re just delayed a bit”, he said, as thousands of Scottish flags were being waved in Glasgow and Edinburgh this weekend, showing their excitement at how quickly they’ve received so much enthusiastic support.

whisky caramel creme brûlée an egg yolk recipe for macaron makers

Did someone say whisky toffee is in that, Jimmy? 

Another Scottish sign came via Jamie Schler’s recent whisky recipes on her blog, Life’s A Feast: with a beautifully glazed Honey Whiskey Bundt Cake, and her celebratory Whisky Soufflé.  It occurred to me how little I cook or bake with Scottish Whisky.  Admittedly, the last time I added it was to coffee macarons (the recipe for Café MacWhisky is in the book, by the way).  These macarons make an excellent accompaniment to this whisky toffee frozen crème brûlée dessert, a recipe I’d ripped out from Mum’s pile of Sunday Times mazagines this summer when in Edinburgh, as it’s an ideal egg yolk recipe for all of you macaron lovers.

While the recipe below calls for American Bourbon whiskey, I’ve opted for Scottish Whisky.  Both are slightly different in flavour and they have different spellings: in Scotland and the rest of the world it’s always referred to as Whisky but in America and Ireland it can be Whisky or Whiskey, depending on the producer’s chosen spelling.

Chocolate and whisky macarons

On another note, there was yet another sign this week: I need to hide any macarons that are lying out for photos.  I quickly took this one with just three chocolate macarons that were left, salvaged before they were also pounced on from the pastry box in the fridge.  But when I went back to continue the photo with the crème brûlée, there were only two.  It’s a mystery that one.  The girls say it wasn’t them.  Perhaps it was a Scottish ghost?

whisky brûlée frozen custard recipe with chocolate macarons

The recipe asks for a ‘shot of bourbon’.  Being a bit lazy, I poured out a small enough shot glass of Ballentine’s Whisky (a blended Scotch, ideal for cooking/baking) and threw it into the pan.  It didn’t take long to realise visibly that my toffee caramel became rather liquid, so I added more sugar and boiled it up to thicken.  No harm was done, as I ended up with more toffee so dribbled even more on top of the ice cream before freezing.  But for the record, a shot is 25ml.

As I left them in the freezer overnight, caramelising the sugar with the blowtorch hardly melted the ice cream.  That way it was easy to return them to the freezer before serving later. To enjoy them at their best, remove from the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Toffee whisky iced brûlée egg yolk recipe with chocolate macarons

Whisky Toffee Brûlée Frozen Custard

Recipe adapted from the UK’s Sunday Times Magazine.  I substituted 1 shot of Maker’s Mark Bourbon whiskey stipulated in the magazine with Balletine’s Scottish Whisky, but you can use your own favourite American bourbon. The recipe says it serves 4 but I filled 8 ramekins with it.

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes

FOR THE CREME FROZEN CUSTARD

2 vanilla pods (or 4 tsp of vanilla extract)
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
100g caster sugar
6 egg yolks

FOR THE SALTED WHISKY TOFFEE

80ml double cream
20g butter
1 shot of whisky (25ml)
Pinch sea salt

TO BRÛLEE

20g caster sugar
A mini blowtorch

recipe for whisky toffee with frozen creme brûlée

1. Deseed the vanilla pods.  Pour milk and cream into a pan, add the pods and vanilla seeds.  Heat until it almost boils. Turn off the heat and allow the vanilla cream to infuse for 30 mins.

2. Boil the toffee ingredients in another pan, then gently simmer.  Stir for 3 minutes, then chill in the fridge.

3. Hand-whisk the caster sugar into the egg yolks.  Add to the pan with the vanilla cream.  Place on a low heat; stir for 7 minutes until it becomes a light custard.  Cool, then chill for an hour.

4. Take the custard out of the fridge. Remove the vanilla pods from the vanilla cream.  Pour the custard and cream into an ice-cream maker until it has the consistency of soft ice cream.  Turn off the machine and ripple in the toffee, using a spoon.  Scrape the frozen custard into serving glasses.  Freeze for 2.5 hours.

5. Sprinkle caster sugar over the top of the desserts with a teaspoon.  Heat the sugar with a mini-blowtorch until it forms a caramel.  Serve immediately or refreeze until ready to serve.

Egg yolk recipes frozen creme brûlée

Unlike a classic crème brûlée, where you crack into the caramel directly into the cream, this frozen version makes the hardened caramel even more exciting.  Try it: it’s like skating your spoon and cracking into the ice.

For plenty more egg yolk recipes, check out the bonus recipe page that accompanies the book.

Pistachio-Strawberry Panna Cotta with Macaron Kisses

Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps.  Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer to liberate us from any of the year’s accumulating cobwebs.  Next time I’ll take a bike (although I need to practice on flat ground first) but in the meantime we did plenty of cyclist watching, hypnotically driving behind previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.

French Alps le Col du Galibier

As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door.  Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours.  We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.

Italian countryside around Susa near French Alps

This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived.   You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.

Italian pastry shop window with macarons

Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!

Roman Porta Savoia gate in Susa Italy

It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors.  Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC.  On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.

Roman gates in Susa, Italy

It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.

Roman amphitheatre in Susa, Italy

After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls (Valérie, a good friend in Provence, has a sign in her WC saying “If you’re not embarrassing your kids you’re not living life to the full”.)  Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice cream flavours from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.

Somehow, however, I feel I can live life to the full without selfies.  The girls were trying to explain how to take them properly but I was more interested in ice cream.  Julie didn’t give up: “Well at least make a silly face, Mum.”  I tried.

I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates).  Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.

Jill Colonna tasting ice creams from La Bottega del Gelate in Susa, Italy

As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at the local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce.  Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, dark chocolate cake, or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons.  It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colour (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?

mixing batter to make pistachio macarons

It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a Sunday afternoon lunch last weekend.  Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio-strawberry creamy desserts.

mini panna cottas with different flavours

Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons!  I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen.  It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them.  Rouen – there’s another place I should tell you about later.

pistachio and chocolate macaron tower display

Perhaps I could call the chocolate-hazelnut macarons (one of the 38 macaron recipes in the book BTW) Baci macaron?  Bite into one and it’s a chocolate kiss.  Oh-la-la. Enough of that nutty talk.  Time to get on with the recipe!

pistachio and strawberry panna cotta and macarons

Recipe: Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Makes enough for 8 mini verrines / shot-glasses

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2.5 hours minimum

3 sheets gelatine (@2g each)
400ml crème fleurette or whipping cream (30% butterfat)
100ml whole/full fat milk
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste *
3-4 drops pistachio extract (or almond extract)

Strawberry Coulis:
1 gelatine leaf (@ 2g)
300g fresh strawberries
50g caster sugar

* If you don’t have pistachio paste, make up your own: whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder.  Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of pistachio extract and a tablespoon of water.

1. Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan.  Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted.  Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.

3. Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

4. Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis.  Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes.  Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor.  Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water). Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.

pistachio strawberry easy panna cotta recipe

Funny.  As I’m writing, I can sniff the waft of pizza floating upstairs.  Lucie has discovered how to make pizza all by herself.  It has been so good that she’s starting to make it quite often – and she’s even excited at cleaning up – well, nearly.

 

A Lazy Gourmet Visit to Yvoire – one of France’s Prettiest Villages

Summer this year was all pretty much last-minute.  On return from our New York visit,  the French parents-in-law were disappointed that us ‘Parisiens‘ hadn’t yet thought of visiting them in Provence in August.  So, with that said, we threw a few bags in the car, leaving plenty of space for eventual goodies from the local Provençal market (my list was longer than a happy sunflower), and headed down the Autoroute de Soleil to Avignon.

As our plans were so last-minute it meant we could aim to follow the sunshine, hoping that the good people at the méteo weather centre hadn’t gone on holiday too.  You see, curiously, the normally radiant August sun in France was playing hard to get and the so-called Autoroute de ‘Soleil‘ was sulking under thick rain-clouds.  As we drove south, our goal was to leave the steely skies in the back mirror and so ended up taking a sunny detour via Haute-Savoie and the fresh air in the mountains of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

Medieval Town of Yvoire in France

One of the highlights of Haute-Savoie has to be the medieval village of Yvoire.  It’s right on Lake Léman, which separates France from Switzerland. “Make sure you reserve a table at Les Jardins du Léman and order the local catch”, advised Hervé, a wonderful gastronomic connaisseur and bon vivant friend.  So, not to disappoint him, we parked the car on the outskirts of the town and headed straight to our table.

Lake view from the top terrace of the Jardins du Leman restaurant Yvoire

Our table was on the top terrace where this secret ambience was hiding excited chattering, chilled rosé being poured and long platters of homemade frites.  Such a view was already enticing but the top terrace overlooks the lake and dominant Château d’Yvoire.  (Incidentally, you can’t visit it unless you know the owners: I need to work at networking, as my Mum has already placed her order for a Granny flat.) Back to the lake.  No wonder fish is what to order here.

Lake Leman between France and Switzerland

What a menu!  Julie, who isn’t as fond as white fish as ourselves, changed her mind that afternoon.  With perch fillets sautéd in a creamy basil sauce and served with the thinnest, crispiest, homemade frites, what was not to love?  I took Hervé’s advice and was in seventh heaven with the Féra du Léman, the local freshwater fish with the most exquisitely-cooked vegetables and the best risotto I’ve tasted in a while.

The best fish restaurant in Yvoire France

Dare I say I couldn’t even manage dessert?  I mean, who could resist choux cream puffs, une Réligieuse in her iced crowning glory hiding a light vanilla pastry cream or the freshest of raspberry tarts?  The portions were so ample that I had to pass – but it just means that we’ll need to return to taste them!  Instead, we needed a walk to merit something at 4 o’clock goûter teatime.

Boats in the harbour of Yvoire in France

The views and fresh air from the lake would surely work up a sweeter appetite.

The harbour in Yvoire, France

Classy passenger boats on the jetty go to and fro the Swiss town of Nyon, on the other side of the lake.  I was content just gazing at the sailing boats.  In any case, there were too many clouds on the Swiss side…

View of Switzerland on Lake Leman

The castle certainly dominates the landscape.  Imagine having your home on a restaurant’s business card?

Yvoire castle on Lake Leman

Nicolas here, also dominated this street with his giant gingerbread rounds, or Pain d’Epices.

Gingerbread or Pain d'epices stall

It didn’t need much to spice up my afternoon when I saw this macaron sign on the Grande Rue – with even more exclamation marks than Mad About Macarons!

French macaron tasting sign

The girls and I tasted their chocolate and passion fruit macarons.  Delicious.  Apparently they produced the biggest macaron pyramid last year. On return home, I looked up their website but it doesn’t exist.  And I’ve looked everywhere on Facebook for them in vain.  Never mind.  If you can’t get to Yvoire, you’ll just have to make your own macarons like the French.  Just saying.

bright coloured rows of macarons

rows and rose of macarons!

Back to street meanderings, the girls couldn’t help looking into Crêperies and ice cream boutiques.

pedestrian streets village of Yvoire France

This boutique confirmed the latest trend: mixing alcoholic drinks with Red Bull.  Now there’s an idea for your macarons, my friends – mind-blowing!

French ice cream flavours - fashionable or à la mode

Incidentally, have you tried my Pistachio, green tea and wasabi ice cream recipe yet?  It goes deliciously well with the same flavour of macaron (recipe is in the book).

As we sat under the shade of a giant fig tree, we watched others do like us: exchange ice creams.  Do you do that too?  We also reminisced that over the space of just a few hours, we’d had the most lazy yet gourmet and sunny afternoon.

Fig tree at the church in Yvoire

Speaking of lazy gourmet, have you tried this ridiculously easy recipe of roasted figs with honey and lavender?  As we’re smack bang in the middle of the short fig season in France, go for it!

roasted figs in honey and lavender

A quick fig dessert


Note: We were not guests anywhere here and all opinions are my own, as usual.  I’m just sharing our family holiday highlights.

Mad About Macarons Book #Giveaway

I promised to let you know about the GIVEAWAY from The Good Life France.  Well it’s now live on Facebook, thanks to Waverley Books.

To enter, comment on this macaron post on The Good Life’s Facebook page and share with as many of your sweet (and savoury – remember there are spicy sweet/salty macarons too ;-)) friends.

The Giveaway ends this Saturday 6 September, so share the macaron love.  Don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter on their website to find out the lucky entries from The Good Life.

GOOD LUCK !