Carrot Cakes

Today I’m still cringing. Have you had an embarrassing instant of saying something without thinking it through, then spent the following hours and day wishing you could correct it and hit replay?  Even on a day like French Mother’s Day today, I can’t ask for that gift.

Such a wincing-induced moment came yesterday. It could have been straight from a Desperate Housewives’ scene; Bree standing in frilly apron, smiling proudly from ear to ear behind the baking stall at the School’s Summer Fête looking at her carrot cakes.

summer school fete at the Lycée International St Germain

Just as the director of the school chose a cake for his offspring and was about to continue the rounds, my mouth somehow opened on my behalf and blurted, “I baked these.”

carrot-cupcakes

These three pathetic words constantly tease me. “Excuse me, Sir. That’s what my mouth said.”
The only consoling thought is that everyone seems to love a good carrot cake – now including French hubby, who normally only appreciates spices in a curry or tagine.

carrot mini cakes

For the Fête, I chose to make light cakes, as I was simply too lazy to cut up a large cake! I’m not calling them cupcakes but individual carrot cakes.

carrot cake muffins

CARROT CAKES

Recipe from BBC Good Food. The recipe is super in that there is not as much sugar as other recipes I’ve tried and I love the proportion of carrots, making the cakes very light.  I only adapted it very slightly by lowering the sugar, adding extra zest to the frosting for more zing, and on the icing quantities as I had too much in proportion to the cake mix. This recipe is also delicious if you replace the orange with an organic unwaxed lemon.

Makes 18 large cakes using muffin moulds and paper cases (@ 7cm diameter) or one large cake.

INGREDIENTS

300g plain flour (or half each of plain and wholemeal flour)
225g light brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp gingerbread (pain d’épices) or mixed/pumpkin spice
zest of an unwaxed orange (keep some aside for the icing)
3 eggs
225g sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
300g peeled organic carrots, grated

Icing:

75g butter, softened
225g soft cheese, at room temperature (e.g. Philadelphia)
75g icing/confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract (or add 1 tsp zest from the orange)
Sprinkles to decorate (optional)

1. Heat oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan (Gas 4).
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spice and orange zest.  Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients with the grated carrot.

2. Prepare 18 muffins lined with paper cases. Divide the mixture between cases and bake for 20-22 minutes until a skewer poked in comes out clean.  If making a large cake, then bake for 35-40 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.

3. To make the icing, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla/orange zest.  Either swirl the icing on top of the cakes using a palette knife or use a piping bag with a star tip to pipe out spiral toppings and sprinkle with edible glitter to your fancy.

carrot cake muffins recipe

Enjoy!  Just watch what your mouth says.

Thoumieux Pâtisserie Paris, Where “Everything’s Better”

If you have a copy straight off the press of Teatime in Paris! you’ll discover that there are not only pâtisseries and Parisian street names mentioned throughout the recipes but there’s also a sweet bonus in the book’s Annex. One of my favourite sweet streets is Rue Saint-Dominique, near the Eiffel Tower. Antoine and I lived just around the corner from here for 5 years in our quaint petit studio.

Street Sign Paris of Rue St Dominique

You may remember me talking on le blog about the Thoumieux Brasserie, where I was most impressed with oh-so-chic classic but fun twists on the brasserie-style food served by French celebrity chef, Jean-François Piège.  Well, truth be told, Antoine and I returned with friends and it was disappointing. Mais non! Not for the food but they seriously dimmed the lights at 8.30pm.

OK, in a romantic sense (or if your poor shady-looking partner has just finished a hard day at work, is unshaved and has serious eye baggage from jet-lag), but when your neighbours beg to borrow your night lights on the table so they can attempt to read the menu, that can be frustrating.  We could hardly even see the food. Since we’ve been I’ve heard they’ve put more light on the subject but when we were there and the crème de la crème signature “chou-chou” desserts arrived, I had to use my telephone torch. The ultimate punishment.

Thoumieux Patisserie in Rue St Dominique Paris

There was only one thing for it: to return to the City of Light’s Rue St Dominique and pop in to N°58, at Gâteaux Thoumieux Pâtisserie for a picnic teatime. There the light shone on the fraisiers, showing off fresh strawberries in season but my eyes were still fixed on these incredible bright green apple choux with speculoos (cinnamon biscuit) cream by pastry chef, Ludovic Chaussard: le chou-chou pomme spéculoos.

Parisian choux puffs from Thoumieux patisserie

I took a Pina Colada version, too – but my favourite is still the chou-chou pomme speculoos, with its apple compôte and bits of Granny Smith apples hidden inside and topped with a chocolate “apple stalk”.

For the sweet clue in the book’s annex, here it is near the Eiffel Tower: as the word “Thoumieux” implies with its play on words – everything’s better!

playing boules at the Esplanade des Invalides

Pastry box in hand, pick a bench and watch the world go by. Right in the middle of Rue St Dominique, the vast park at the Esplanade des Invalides is a great playground for boules and picnics.

Les Invalides, Springtime Paris

Now that Springtime is in full blast with its heady pollens and summer is around the corner, what better time is it to find an even quieter spot, away from the crowds?

park at les Invalides

I adore this little hidden gem of a park located at the top right corner of the Hôtel des Invalides/Army museum, right on the corner opposite the Varenne metro and the Rodin museum.

Paris map of Rue Saint Dominique

It’s a quiet spot that’s ideal to watch the leaves turning green, to listen to the birds singing, and to look at the Eiffel Tower in the distance as you’re tucking in to the best pastries from Rue Saint Dominique.

Thoumieux Patisserie Rue St Dominique

There are plenty more sweet temptations in Rue Saint Dominique which I’ll show you soon.  Meanwhile, let me show you a snippet from the book: choux with that famous crumble topping, called craquelin, about to puff up beautifully in the oven.  Here I added green colouring to the craquelin then, when they were baked, simply filled them with speculoos ice cream, another recipe from Teatime in Paris!

choux crumble craquelin topping green

Teatime in Paris! US Release and Online Book Tour

What can I say?  It may have been quiet here on le blog but, I can tell you, it has been a busy and emotional week. Following the release of Teatime in Paris in the UK, the launch event was last week in one of Paris’s most hidden, secret gems at the Treize café.

Teatime in Paris book event Treize Cafe

Photos thanks to Inez Forbes

A huge thanks to all of you who managed to pop in – it wasn’t the easiest of times to come by on a weekday afternoon so it was wonderful to see so many of you! Thank you to Laurel Sanderson and her staff at Treize for hosting the event and thanks to Inez Forbes for these photographs – I was so bowled over that I forgot to bring out the camera.

Some of you cleverly managed to grab Carol Gillott for a signing. Carol did this most delicious watercolour artwork for the endpapers and I’m so proud to show it off. She’s posted about the event on her famous blog,  ParisBreakfasts and now continues to enchant her followers with more beautiful maps of Paris.

pastry map of Paris by artist Carol Gillott in Teatime in Paris

Beautiful watercolour pastry artwork by Carol Gillott in Teatime in Paris – photo also by Carol

I love making new friends and so it was inspiring to meet Anne Penketh (author of Food Fight – have just ordered it, looks super), Paula and Catherine from Australia, a lovely couple from Oregon, discover a new tea companion, Céline Huet of Arthémiss who even posted exceptionally in English about Teatime (she’s also in love with Théodor Teas), and thanks to Cédric Bonnard who is the internet guru behind this new website design.

What a sweet coincidence to have met Nicola of Literary Ramblings, who was so taken with the idea of having Teatime in Paris that she stayed on from her lunch at Treize with her fans and even posted a book review! And I was also absolutely delighted to finally meet bubbly Janine who is behind the most popular online magazine, The Good Life France!

ONLINE BOOK TOUR

Meanwhile, the online book tour continues in Europe and is now kicking off in the US and Canada in anticipation for the release of Teatime on 30 May. Eeeeek!  It’s in just a few days. US bookstores and retailers will release the book on 30 June.

Diamond biscuits from Liv Life Teatime in Paris

Photograph by Kim of Liv Life

My lovely, sunny BFF Californian friend Kim Kelly, also known for the family blog at Liv Life not only shares the book’s recipe for diamond biscuits, but she has put together the most fun blog post I’ve ever seen to review a cookbook!  Check out the photo her super-talented daughter, Olivia, and the Californian Carlsbad dancers around it, and how the Honors Algebra Class also take creative photos of the lemon and grapefruit macarons. I feel like I’ve known Kim for so long and yet it’s frustrating not to meet her in person. Next time I need to ask if I can go in the envelope with the book! Thank you, Kim.

Back in Paris, it has been an honour to be interviewed by globetrotting Parisian-based travel writer, Lindsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland. Her article includes 5 of my tips to stress-free French pastry baking plus some of my favourite pâtisserie and tea salon addresses for your next visit in the City.

Photo of Strawberry Elderflower Eclair by Brooks at Cakewalker

Photograph by Brooks at Cakewalker: Strawberry Eclair and Elderflower Cream recipe from Teatime in Paris.

A couple of days ago, I was bowled over by my sweet friend, Brooks Walker, aka Cakewalker. I’m sure you already know Brooks for his most exquisite designer cakes but this time he swapped the piping bag for choux/éclair dough and made this recipe of Strawberry and Elderflower cream éclairs from the book (it’s also on the cover) and carried out a most thorough review.  He discovered that Ikea sold elderflower syrup in their gourmet section, so that’s another alternative if you can’t find Monin or St Germain liqueur. Merci beaucoup, Brooks – I say that since he has been tweeting and commenting with the most delicious French accents!

Thank you all so much x

As French Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, I’m looking forward to making a few of the recipes again myself.  We took a breather for a while during the printing process, since the girls were protesting about far too many tartlets and éclairs and now they’re missing them! So the time is just right to get back into the sweet swing of things.

Geraniums at the french market

Including planting the geraniums.  If there are any left at the market, that is.

Teatime in Paris French patisserie easy recipes

Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway to win a copy of Teatime in Paris! over at Cakewalker (until 30 May) and The Good Life France (until 10 June).  Or snap up your own copy on Amazon.com.

Saint Honoré, World Baking Day and Birthdays

Happy Saint Honoré Day!  Today on 16th May the French celebrate the Patron Saint of French bakers. Don’t you love it?  What better way to start the day with homemade bread to join in the fête. Truth be told, when bread is so cheap and delicious here, I find there’s not enough motivation to make my own bread. So to change habits this year, I baked something this morning a little different than what we see in our local boulangeries – chocolate bread.

chocolate bread

It wasn’t sweet but pretty solidly packed with good dark chocolate and added extra grains.  I’ll post the recipe soon, as there’s still room for improvement. Any excuse to make it again and lighten it, right?

For more history about how Saint Honoré came about, The Good Life France has a super article on it. Saint Honoré is most famous for its special occasion pastry.  Created in 1847 by pastry chef Chiboust at his pâtisserie in Rue Saint Honoré, it’s the crème de la crème of pastries. With its puff pastry circle as a base, a ring of choux pastry holds little caramelised choux buns and is topped off with a flourish of crème chiboust, which is pastry cream with whipped egg whites and gelatine to hold its hair-do.

It’s the last recipe in Teatime in Paris and it’s not as complicated as you think. It’s all explained in the book but I’ve simplified it a bit for us lazy gourmets plus added a touch of violet.

Saint Honoré pastry cake

Don’t be a shrinking violet – making these Saint-Honorés are not as difficult as you think …

Following on from Saint Honoré, the baking continues tomorrow, Sunday 17th May, for … World Baking Day! Whatever next? I never follow these things since every day could be a baking day when we feel like it.

I saw on the instragram-osphere it’s a day “to remind someone special how much you care”.  It couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as we’ll be celebrating Antoine’s Great Aunt Raymonde’s 94th birthday.  If you have a copy of Teatime in Paris, I mention this remarkable lady in the opening of the Tartlets Chapter. I’m not being cheeky putting her here; her speciality is French colloquial expressions and you’ll see why she’s mentioned as she’s a real cherry on any cake.

Previously, for her 90th birthday, her “cake” had a vie en rose macaron theme. Tomorrow I’ll bake giant but light birthday éclairs with the sweetest Gariguette strawberries from the market (will post on Facebook/Instagram tomorrow).

Gariguette strawberries at the French market

Exactly a year ago, just as I was testing recipes non-stop for the new book, I tried out an experiment for my friend’s 50th. The “5” (outlined in pencil underneath the baking paper as a guide) was stuffed with whipped mascarpone cream (from the cream puffs recipe), topped with sweet strawberries.  The “0” was a long, elongated Paris-Brest (recipes in Teatime in Paris).

rue saint honore sign and giant 50th birthday eclairs

Update! 

Here’s the birthday girl!  Raymonde at 94.  Isn’t she amazing? And the giant éclairs were ideal to serve for a gourmet but little appetite.  Cheers!

Giant eclairs for a 94th birthday cake

The party continues, as it’s also Carol Gillott’s (of ParisBreakfasts fame) birthday too.  Happy Birthday, Carol! She did the most beautiful artwork for the endpapers in the book.

Carol Gillott watercolours in Teatime in Paris by Jill Colonna

See the position of Carol’s lovely watercolour painted cream puff? Well that’s where we’ll be continuing the baking party at 13-A Baker’s Dozen in Rue des Saints-Pères (Saint Germain) for the Teatime in Paris book Event on Wednesday.

If you’re in Paris, it’s still not too late to join us. Click here for more details and to get the last tickets! It’s a good excuse to celebrate these birthdays there too. I’m making macarons, while my chef friend, Laurel is making pastries from the book…

box of chocolate macarons

Giveaways!

If you can’t get to Paris for Wednesday, don’t forget to enter in the free draw to win a copy of “Teatime in Paris!” over at The Good Life France and for UK residents at the FarmersGirl Kitchen.  Good luck!

 

 

Lenôtre Tea Salon, Cour de Senteurs Versailles

As I stood there thinking about asking for some bread – or dare I say, brioche – at the massive gates to the Château de Versailles, I realised that we could eat macarons and pastries instead, just next door.

chateau de Versailles Main Gates

Would you believe we live not far from Versailles and yet I’ve never visited La Cour des Senteurs? The courtyard has, however, not long been renovated and celebrates the history of perfume around the 18th Century. Thanks to my friend, Francis, I have now discovered a quiet sanctuary of fragrances just 100m meters away from one of the biggest tourists attractions in the world.

Maison des Parfums Versailles

The Cour (or courtyard) houses Guerlain, the perfumery that recently created an exclusive Eau de Parfum edition, called Cour de Senteurs to celebrate the opening here in Versailles. In the most pretty bottles, the perfume is exquisite, and includes Queen Marie-Antoinette’s favourite fragrance, jasmine. As they describe beautifully,

“…sharing the magic and splendour of the lavish balls held at the Château de Versailles, it’s a sensual fragrance with a majestic trail in which jasmine leads the dance.”

Guerlain perfumery window in Versailles

I’m new to beautifully scented candles and now that I’ve discovered the wonderful fragrances (including jasmine, mimosa, rose, fig, and red berries) around the Diptyque boutique, they’re on my wish list. Suddenly my Ikea tea lights are disappointing… Or you could slip your hands into something comfortable at La Maison Fabre, known worldwide for its luxury gloves since opening in Millau since 1924.

Irises at the maison des parfums versailles

Fragrance houses also use spices, edible flowers and herbs – not just for their visual pleasure but a rich pleasure, marrying fragrance and taste. At the far end of the courtyard, tea and pâtisseries beckon as Lenôtre has a majestic tea salon, where you can eat outside (seats 30) or enjoy the classy interior (seats 20 for the tea salon, 40 for their restaurant for lunch). Their gourmet creations are inspired by the French gardens and the King’s Vegetable garden.

Macaron towers near Versailles palace France

Pastry chef, Guy Krenzer, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 1988 and 1996, added Jasmine flower to the filling of this Saveur Royal gold tinted macaron inspired by jasmine-loving Marie-Antoinette.  Alas, they’re so popular they were out of stock of these delicacies when I was there.

Macaron towers at Le Notre Versailles

Instead three delicate macaron flavours were worth ordering with tea: pina colada, strawberry-ginger (I loved the after-taste of the spicy ginger!), and by far my favourite – chocolate-yuzu.

Le Notre Tea Salon Versailles macarons

I have always ogled that lovely macaron porcelain tea-set but note that little cube of chocolate, the “L7G”. It has been in Lenôtre boutiques since September 2009 and as the name implies, it weighs 7 grams and partners dark chocolate with a coffee ganache. Thanks for that titbit, Francis.

Le Shuss pastry at Le Notre Paris

I couldn’t resist trying the Schuss, which is a signature dessert created by Gaston Lenôtre in 1968 for the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, where Jean-Claude Killy made France proud with 3 gold ski medals.  This is a revisited verrine version of his classic with red fruits, filled with joconde sponge biscuit and a light fromage frais mousse and served with a beautifully tart red fruit coulis.

I’m no skier, and flying downhill at high speed scares the living daylights out of me but I certainly couldn’t help enjoying its light freshness at full speed – Schhuuuusssss!

Lenôtre tea salon Versailles

For something more classic to welcome spring and the French strawberry season, who can resist a tarte aux fraises? These are one of my favourite treats for goûter – and I have an easy recipe for it in Teatime in Paris!

After teatime, take a stroll around the Cour des Senteurs garden. Plants are glass-cased like in an outdoor museum, complete with fragrance facts and perfumery notes. The walkway takes you to the Jeu de Paume Game Room (the predecessor of tennis, played by the court from 1686, now a French Revolution museum, open afternoons) and the Potager du Roi, or King’s Vegetable Garden.

Le notre at Versailles

What a civilised teatime – although I still want to try these jasmine macarons, famous at La Cour des Senteurs and retrace Marie-Antoinette’s jasmine dance at the ball. In the meantime, let’s just continue with the macaron dance while watching their dainty feet form in front of the oven.

La Cour des Senteurs
Rue de la Chancellerie
78000 Versailles

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm

Public Transport from Paris: RER C (commuter train) station Versailles Rive Gauche – 5 minutes walk.


This article was featured as Blog Finds in French Entrée Magazine.

Teatime in Paris Now Released in the UK!

The big day has finally arrived. “Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Pâtisserie Recipes” is now released in the UK!

teatime in Paris book cover

It’s available in Waterstones and independent bookshops, and online stores such as The Book Depository and Amazon (who released it slightly earlier than planned, and in the US they’ve pushed release forward to 30 May). All this means that reviews are now open!

I’m thrilled to see lovely reviews come in today! A huge thank you to Jacqueline Brown of French Village Diaries and Janice Pattie of Farmersgirl Kitchen, who have both posted about making the double chocolate tartlets from the book and mentioned what they found inside.

double chocolate tartlets recipe teatime in paris

I would love to see your photos of recipes from the book. Just tag me and use the #TeatimeinParis hashtag when you send me photos of your French baking creations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (links top of this page).
As my sweetest cheeky Mum says, it always tastes better when you share!

THE PARIS EVENT!

I’m really looking forward to seeing old and new friends at the special French Afternoon Tea book signing event in Paris on 20 May. If you’re in Paris, why not treat yourself or a friend – or spoil your Mum for Mother’s Day – for a relaxed afternoon of tasting teatime pastries, fancy teas (or whatever takes your fancy) in one of Paris’s most trendy hidden bistro-cafés at the Treize Bakery. Ticket includes your copy of the book, too! Extra macarons and baking talk guaranteed …

Tickets are going like Parisian hot cakes so please do book your place now – more details are here.

Treize 13 Bakery in Paris, 16 rue des Saint Peres

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the website for the latest recipes (including the speciality rubric for egg yolk recipes) and food adventures around Paris – I’m continuing to taste delicious pastries for you and mention my favourite tearooms in the city, as well as restaurants and museums.  Plus I’ll post a slideshow of my pics of Paris in the Spring for Mother’s Day.
So that you don’t miss them, don’t forget to sign up to receive the latest blog posts by email ->

The sun has come out today!
A bientôt and hugs from Paris. 

Jill x