Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

This maple granola has turned me into a cereal blogger (pun totally intended). Why not make this for Mother’s Day?

So, how do you often start the day?

I’m an easy camper, happy with a slice of multigrain toast; or a tartine of toasted baguette with a scraping of good Normandy butter; or sometimes my favourite homemade brioche and jam. If we have more time together as a family on Sundays, the ultimate treat are the flakiest, buttery croissants from the local boulangerie.

healthy oat fruit maple breakfast cereal

Breakfast cereal somehow dropped down the shopping list since I moved to France. Why? The answer is simply Paris; wouldn’t you also be tempted, surrounded by all those amazing bakeries with croissants, pain au chocolats and pain aux raisins, just for morning starters?

It’s confession time: each time I saw homemade granola on friends’ blogs, such as Kim of LivLife’s lovely cinnamon and coconut cereal, I should have picked up on it like a good cereal blogger.

homemade breakfast cereal maple granola

My final “Just-do-it” push came via an old thumbed Elle magazine at the orthodontist’s waiting room. One of the only recipes that wasn’t ripped out was for a maple granola, so I tried it. Boy was it overly sweet! Read ridiculously sweet.

Cutting out the Sugar

It took many experiments to come to this to suit our Antoine’s taste – not too many nuts, more oats please, oh I love the graines de courges (pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds) for that crunch but not too crunchy. The magazine’s recipe has, as a result, changed beyond recognition and its original whopping 140g sugar has now been omitted entirely. You don’t need it; the dried fruits and the maple syrup are naturally sweet.  You could use the coconut oil but I honestly prefer it with the neutral oil.  So here is our favourite cereal, totally subjective, of course: adapt the quantities and ingredients to your own liking but try this first!

Warning: you’ll discover that this has to be made at least once a week. The good news is, by going to our local organic health food store (La Vie Claire), I’m cutting down costs on bigger packs of oats and seeds and they’re better quality too.  Ensure that your ingredients are organic. Your body will thank you.

 

Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

300g oats
100g pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
75g walnuts, broken
25g linseeds

pinch salt (fleur de sel)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
(optional)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (neutral tasting oil or coconut oil, melted if solid)
5 tbsp maple syrup
10g flaked/slivered almonds
100g dried cranberries, blueberries, or raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan).

2. Measure* all the ingredients (except the almonds and dried fruits) in a large bowl and stir to mix them all well together.

3. Grease a large rimmed baking tray with more oil or use a baking tray covered with baking paper (or a Silpat) and spread out the oat mixture by shaking the tray gently from side to side.

4. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, turn over the mixture and sprinkle on the slivered almonds and bake for a further 10 minutes.

5. Leave to cool then add the dried fruits.

Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh berries. I love to sprinkle on a teaspoon of bee pollen, which is not only natural tasting of honey but it’s good for boosting the body’s immune and digestive system a couple of times a year.

* I use digital scales.  If you’re used to using ounces, then just switch over to grams. 

oat and maple healthy breakfast granola cereal

I just about forgot that it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this weekend.  As I have a French diary where Mother’s Day is highlighted for 25 May, I had it in my mind that the UK was at the end of the month!

That’s a great excuse to make macarons again. What favourite flavours do you think would be ideal for Mother’s Day?


 

Update!   

Brazil nut homemade granola recipe

After our visit to Brazil, I’ve replaced this maple granola dried fruit with pineapple and guava, replaced the walnuts with broken brazil nuts, and added a touch of ground cinnamon and cloves.  Try it!

Falling for La Pâtisserie des Rêves, Paris

I don’t exactly have dainty feet like macarons.  Changing shoes to adapt to the seasons can have precarious consequences when you’re tall: just add up long and pointy toes with bouncing up the stairs in excitement with oversized shopping bags and it equals trouble.

Why the excitement? Let’s say that the anticipation of tasting the latest pastries from La Pâtisserie des Rêves had me flat out on the staircase at our local shopping centre, Parly 2, just outside Paris.

La Patisserie des Reves Parly 2 Paris

Are you all right? Gosh, that looked a nasty fall…” I gazed up at this concerned, gentille French lady as she offered her hand to help me up. I had only one thing on my mind: how did the pastry bag land? Was it on its side? Still upright? What had I done to a couple of the latest best pastries in Paris?

As I lay there like a misplaced gym student trying to do press-ups on the staircase, I found myself apologising to a line-up of disgruntled shoppers. I was blocking their way. “Don’t worry about me,” I stuttered, trying to find the most elegant way to pick up the bags as well as my legs. “I’m more worried about MES PÂTISSERIES!” Was that a weird reaction? They all looked at me strangely, like some sort of mad person.

pineapple mango tart patisserie des reves Paris

Needless to say I was anxious at opening the pastry box on return home for teatime.

Thankfully, the lovely staff know how to take care of chef Philippe Conticini’s masterpieces: they had propped little logos in plastic to ensure the pastries would be kept intact in transit. Phew. Suddenly that knee started to throb.

pineapple tartlet from la patisserie des Rêves Paris

La Pâtisserie des Rêves‘ latest seasonal treat is this pineapple and mango tart. I love roasted pineapple. It takes a while to prepare but it’s so worth it. Soft, roasted and thinly sliced exotic fruit nestle on top of a warming vanilla pastry cream and a crispy puff underneath makes it a pastry of textural dreams. Darjeeling was a great accompaniment for teatime, but if this was for dessert a chilled late harvest Gewürtzraminer wine would go down perfectly.

La Patisserie des Rêves Paris - latest from Chef Conticini red fruit charlotte with green tea

Yet another new pastry on the box is this vanilla and red fruit charlotte. It’s the lightest lime sponge encircled with Matcha green tea encasing a surprise base of crunchy biscuit for added texture, a vanilla pastry cream that balances the acidity of a raspberry mousse and red fruit compôte. These sophisticated layers are topped with a raspberry glaze and a mere whisper of golden lustre dust.  Complex pastries like this are the kind I buy rather than make at home: after all, that’s what lazy gourmets do, right?

pastries from la Patisserie des Reves, Paris

What would you drink to go with them? Black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea, fruit or herbal infusions? Coffee? Cold drinks? Hot chocolate? Oh, choices.

Speaking of teatime, I recommend what kind of tea or other drinks to serve with your afternoon French pâtisseries in my forthcoming new book, Teatime in Paris. In the meantime, I’m off to make some more choux pastries for dessert tonight. These pastries have inspired me again. It’s not for nothing that chef Conticini named his boutique, the Pâtisserie of Dreams

 Disclaimer: I was not sponsored or asked to write this post in any way. All views are my own.

Confiture de Lait Recipe and How to Store Vanilla Beans

I have a confession to make. I’m glad it hasn’t really snowed in Paris this winter but I caught myself displaying a surprise tinge of jealousy the other day, admiring our Provençal friends’ snowy winter wonderland photos. They’d taken them just before they left Avignon on the TGV (speed train) to visit us snow-deprived souls “dans le nord“.

French clock tower of the town of Apt in the luberon

The paradox is that when it’s cold in the south, it can be lovely in Paris, and vice-versa. In winter, Provence can have the added wind-chill factor with the southern Mistral winds but in summer, they are blessed with the most sun-kissed, flavoursome fruit and vegetables.

Seeing Rome’s legendary Campo dei Fiori market last week reminded me of our favourite Provençal market in Apt. My parents-in-law live nearby in the hilltop village of Saignon, so this is our local market pilgrimage during summer visits. Apt is also where we stock up on candied fruit.  Renowned as the world capital for fruits confits, buying direct from the factory by kilo is far cheaper and better quality than we can find at our Parisian super-markets.

roofs of the French market of Apt in Provence

Apt’s market is far from small; here’s just a fraction of it in the square of the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), as it snakes out into the main cobbled street, the shady side streets, and a few more animated squares. In the summer, it’s crammed with more Dutch, Belgian and British tourists than locals, and musicians from around the globe come to busk in the atmosphere.

Stocking up on our favourite lavender honey, this time around we also met Monsieur Jean-Pierre Setti, selling the most plump, natural sticky Bourbon vanilla pods/beans from Madagascar.

Vanilla beans at the French market of Apt in Provence

Can you smell their perfume? Counting up each exotic stick of fragrant magic, he gave some simple advice how to preserve vanilla pods/beans: put them in a long, sealable jar with just 1/2 cm of rum, close the lid, et voilà!

Madagascan Vanilla on sale at the market in Provence

The girls were fascinated at the next stand by these vibrant Crête de Coq flowers, as they resemble a rooster’s head. Watching the 6 Nations’ rugby yesterday reminded me of some news heard on French radio end January about a particular kind of serial killer roaming around Toulouse. Prized roosters that represent France just before rugby matches were mysteriously disappearing.  Apparently French police believed the culprit was a mink. As my friend, Mel Fenson says, “Better that it’s not human!”

Tete de Coq French Flowers at the market Provence

Back to vanilla and Monsieur Setti, and back home, I found a few long jars that used to hold shop-bought fruit coulis, poured in a measure of rum and squeezed in the vanilla that had dried very slightly from our return drive.  A week later, I’d developed a new daily ritual of opening the jar to sniff the aroma jumping out of it. Better to sniff vanilla, right?

I took a look at Mr Setti’s recipe flyer that he’d thrown in with our goodies.  One of the recipes was for confiture de lait (literally, “milk jam” – or more widely known as dulce de leche). Like salted caramel, it’s more of a perfect winter treat.

Confiture de lait recipe with vanilla bean

There are many express recipe versions on the internet using a can of sweetened condensed milk and cooking it with some water in a pressure cooker.  Call me old-fashioned but I loved popping back over to the stove now and again to stir it, having the house smell sweet on a dull and nippy Sunday afternoon.  It’s a simple, soothing way to cheer up the senses!

Confiture de lait with vanilla French Milk Jam

Confiture de Lait (Milk Jam) with Vanilla

Recipe from Monsieur Jean-Pierre Setti, although I’ve lowered the sugar quantity slightly.

Fills 2 jam jars

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time:  2 1/2 hours – 3 hours

1 litre whole milk (full-fat)
450g sugar
1 vanilla pod/bean

 

1. Put the milk and the sugar in a thick-based large pan.  Cut the vanilla pod or bean right down the middle from top to bottom and add it to the milk.

2. Heat until boiling then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer away for 2h30 to 3 hours.  Every so often, stir well with a long wooden spoon.  It’s normal that nothing much happens in the first couple of hours, then you’ll see that it does thicken quite quickly towards the end.

3. Take out the vanilla pod and as soon as the jam becomes caramel-like and coats the back of a spoon nicely, take off the heat and pour into a couple of clean jam jars.

It will harden as it cools. Store in the fridge.

confiture de lait or French milk jam with vanilla. Take a spoon!

How long can you keep confiture de lait? As it’s a caramel, it will last a couple of months kept in the fridge, although I found it best kept within a month.  Reheat it for a few seconds in the microwave and dribble it on crêpes, waffles and about anything that you fancy.

I made just a few macarons with Confiture de lait.  I personally find them far too sweet in a macaron, and much prefer “plain” vanilla macarons (recipe in the book) but I’ll leave that for you to try.  In any case, the girls spread so much of this on crêpes recently that the stock didn’t last long!

P.S. The good news is that vanilla is one of the heroes in my new easy pâtisserie recipe book, “Teatime in Paris” – coming 7th May!