A warming easy casserole that’s even better reheated next day and fabulous served with pasta (plus glass of red!).
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It has all been a bit crazy the last few days. I was so hoping to make a second bûche de Noël as, by the time I’d finished it, it was so dark and I gave up on photos and just enjoyed it with the family! Now that we’re leaving for Corsica to spend time with Antoine’s family, there’s no time left. I shall be better organised for you next year, promise.
When I realised I had some egg whites left, I piped out a batch of 3 different sizes of pistachio macarons (a bit quickly, I have to say) then simply sandwiched them with decadent layers of pistachio pastry cream (using egg yolks so now I have more egg whites I can freeze before I go!).
I made a big one for the photos here but simply 3 macaron layers are sufficient. If you want to be more organised, then ideally have the macaron shells prepared in advance (even stored in the freezer) and prepare the trees at the last minute. Decorate with berries of your choice.
All details about making macarons are in my first book, Mad About Macarons – but don’t forget that there’s a whole chapter on making macarons in my new book, Teatime in Paris, plus more recipes for éclairs, Réligieuses, Saint-Honorés, tarts, millefeuilles, financiers etc.
Don’t forget to dust on some food glitter – something which has stuck to my cell phone, as I quickly took photos of it for Instagram… It’s catching!
Have a very Merry Christmas and good luck with all your delicious preparations. Before I leave, I’ll post my new concoction – a great festive dessert to serve with your salted caramel macarons – Apple Gingerbread and Caramel Trifles, coming up next…
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Thank Hévin for chocolate! Jean-Paul Hévin demonstrates stylish savoir-faire with his new French Touch chocolate collection for this holiday season 2016-2017.
New French Touch Chocolate Collection
Seven main ingredients are used by Hévin to give us that festive French Touch this year: fashion, joie de vivre, style, creativity, humour, terroir, and tradition – all illustrated in the following seven pure chocolate creations for Christmas and New Year. With FOUR new bûches in the collection, Hévin designs his chocolate yule log pastries around the quality of his chocolate first.
Hévin has always had an fashionable element of la mode in his chocolate and this Bûche Fashion firmly puts it in the bag, as the saying goes (same in French: l’affaire est dans le sac). Not quite a “trunk”, this is a rather compact handbag for any chocoholic who appreciates a pure intense Venezuelan chocolate sensation. Could our hands be too hot to handle this chocolate handbag? You could also show you’re “well heeled” with his famous chocolate stiletto sculptures!
A festive Bûche Cancan represents the French Joie de vivre party spirit. Like the Cancan dancers, the Tonka base has an exciting crunch, topped with frilly layers of chocolate and almond sponge, with a gutsy Peruvian Grand Cru chocolate mousse. A dark cherry jelly adds a suggestive lingering aftertaste.
Bûche Grand Style
Be transported to the regal gardens of Versailles with the Bûche Grand Style, especially designed to be easily transportable abroad for any stylish party, even if it’s next day to the USA. Based around a chocolate mousse (Grand Cru from the Equator), its subtle aftertaste brings out the pistachio in the chocolate gianduja base.
Bûche Rève or Dream
Creativity is given to Jean-Paul Hévin’s personal favourite Bûche Rêve – with dreams of a child being able to reach for the moon at Christmas. It’s the most complex: an orange crème brûlée is subtle but just enough to distinguish some balancing acidity and I loved the texture with the crunchy almond chocolate base. Although candied ginger is in there, it’s just a suggestive hint, all billowing around a Brazilian Grand Cru chocolate mousse.
Table Centre, Lumière
His French Touch continues with an ingredient of humour, demonstrated by a table centre-piece Lumière, as a chocolate candle – of course, not to be lit!
New Bordeaux chocolates put terroir (soil, climate etc. that distinguishes chocolate like wine) in the limelight with a Grand Cru from the Equator.
The same chocolate is highlighted in a new festive macaron range, Cocorico. Hévin pays homage to the traditional French sporting cockerel mascot, Cocorico (Cock-a-doodle-do!), symbolising the French pride of their country and culture.
This image of Jean-Paul Hévin to present the new French Touch chocolate collection sums up his quirky humour. I wonder what Renoir would have preferred for a festive dessert at this rather famous lively lunch on the Seine or Déjeuner des Canotiers in Chatou?
The French Touch festive collection is available as of 6 December.
Which one would you choose?
Avenue de la Motte Piquet
Update! For more yule logs new this season in Paris, read my article at Paris Perfect!
I have great news for praline lovers since they’ll be spoiled this holiday season: Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection 2016 is entirely based on his winning praline theme.
Known by his Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) peers as the King of Praline, you’ll understand what they mean if you’ve gone into the charming boutique in Paris’s 16th arrondissement and tasted just one of his pralines. Join me for a taste here.
This Christmas, one new bûche (yule log) takes the spotlight, surrounded by a team of other festive treats in store.
New Festive Yule Log
The new sublime Bûche Féérique is indeed magical with layered waves of intense praline, a perfectly balanced compote of blackcurrant from Burgundy and smooth chestnut from Naples. It’s topped with an airy Madagascan vanilla mousse then glazed with blackcurrant.
Personally, this was one of my favourites of all bûches I’ve tasted for this season, as the play of textures with the chestnut and fruit are all harmoniously dosed so that every layer’s flavours shine through. The blackcurrant gives that acidic depth, and the whole sensation is surprisingly light.
Four other classic yule logs feature in Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection: 70% dark chocolate from Guatemala (Splendide); Venezuela (Etincellante, Merveilleuse); and 40% milk chocolate with lime (Lumineuse). All feature chocolate from La Chocolaterie de l’Opera®.
Splendide (pictured above as a large yule log) is for pure chocolate lovers who love that extra textural crunch of almond praline at the bottom. The chocolate mousse has almost a hint of smokiness to it which comes from the cacao plantations, with a mix of Guatemala and Madagascar.
Even if you prefer dark chocolate like me, the Lumineuse will be a real family pleaser since although it’s made with milk chocolate, the play of flavours create a festive explosion to any meal. How does hazelnut praline with a light vanilla and lime mousse, vanilla caramel, milk chocolate lime mousse and grilled hazelnuts sound?
Life is a Box of Chocolates
I spied a selection of chocolates – what do you think about an edible chocolate box? As Pascal Caffet says:
The best chocolate is the one that we love.
A Piece of Christmas Cake
I’m not such a cake fan – unless it’s like this: syrupy moist and full of flavour.Also part of Pascal Caffet’s new festive pastry collection is the Spiced Christmas cake. It’s his take on the traditional gingerbread with star anise, cinnamon, orange and candied Corsican clementines.
The cherry on the cake for praline lovers is Pascal Caffet’s new cookery book, simply called “Praliné“, which came out 21 October. Most of the 100 praline recipes are easy enough for us home bakers while there’s a section dedicated to the more challenging recipes if you feel like taking the plunge as a pro.
The festive collection is available in any of his boutiques in and outside Paris as of 25 November.
13 Rue Duban, 75016 Paris
Metro: La Muette
Disclosure: I was invited by Pascal Caffet’s team to simply taste the new season’s yule logs in store. I was not compensated and was not obliged to write a positive post. As always, opinions are entirely my own.
Angelina’s new yule log for Christmas this year will certainly grace any elegant festive table for a traditional French bûche dessert. And for fans of their famous African Hot Chocolate and Mont Blanc, there are more surprises in store.
The highlight for me was not just being invited to taste and share Angelina’s new yule log with you, but I was equally bowled over to be able to talk with the pastry chefs themselves.
Angelina’s New Yule Log, the Paon Blanc
Created for Angelina by head pastry chef, Christophe Appert, the Paon Blanc (white peacock) takes pride of place for this year’s festive centre-piece. The rare and beautiful white peacock was particularly chosen as an artistic symbol of the Belle Epoque era, echoing the style of the famous tearoom in Rue de Rivoli since 1903. For more about the background of Angelina, see my article here.
Angelina’s new yule log is sheer elegance on a plate, the Paon Blanc fanning out delicate notes of citrus and the exotic with passion fruit, mango and coconut. As light as the peacock’s feathers, this is always appreciated after a festive meal and its perfect play of not too much sugar encourages the delicate fruity notes and white chocolate to shine through.
Let’s look at its sophisticated layers: underneath the white peacock’s coat of coconut and white chocolate and golden powdered feathers, lies a crisp crumble base finely topped with coconut butter/white chocolate. The heart of the yule log contains layers of joconde almond biscuit (sponge) interspersed with three different jellies: orange, passion fruit and mango.
It’s all covered in an airy vanilla mousse – and my favourite part is the circular, surprising zing of a lemon and lime cream which I’m so glad that Chef Appert added after his first few drafts, as for me it’s the winning touch! I have to add that I’m not a white chocolate fan – but this is so fine with a perfectly dosed overall balance that the white chocolate, although present, is a wonderful background suggestion.
Gourmet Advent Calendar
The traditional Advent Calendar evokes chic illustrations of the tearoom in Rue de Rivoli, with a surprise behind each window. Each day discover the likes of milk chocolate almonds, white or dark chocolate pralines, Napolitains and Giandujas (chocolate-hazelnut).
The advent calendar is on sale as of 16 November.
Gift Boxes (Coffrets)
Angelina have thought of everything this Christmas, and their selection of gift boxes includes the new white-peacocked festive edition. Fans of Angelina’s famous African Hot Chocolate are spoiled with a festive edition with added cinnamon, a box of 19 chocolates, and a jar of chestnut paste to continue their Mont-Blanc theme. A new Christmas tea (Thé de Noël) from China and Sri Lanka is also given the white peacock treatment with orange peel and flavoured with gingerbread and flower petals.
More Yule Logs
Angelina’s new yule log still has it’s traditional bûche family alongside it: the Choco Intense, The Tentation Passion and the Mont-Blanc.
Did you know that the emblematic Mont-Blanc pastry was created by Angelina pastry chefs in the 1910’s based on a popular hairstyle that women wore at that time: a short bob?
Saturday 17 December
Mark your calendars if you’d like to surprise your loved ones with a personalised note around the festive white peacock theme. A Calligraphist will be at both stores to write something for you with her plume on an Angelina card. Free event.
- Boutique in Rue du Bac: 11am-3pm
- Tearoom in Rue de Rivoli: 3.30pm-7pm
Meet Florent Martinot, pastry sous-chef, who joined Angelina in June 2015. Originally from the gourmet Capital of Lyon, a town where he grew up around delicious confection specialities and where he realised his vocation after falling and saving a pain au chocolat rather than his teeth as a youngster. He’s worked with Sebastian Bouillet, Dalloyau (specialising in chocolate), Hermé (managing the opening of a new chocolate shop in Alsace), then finally Hugo & Victor (R&D) before his calling to Angelina.
Sous pastry chef, Florent Martinot
Last but not least, are the macarons! This Christmas, there’s nothing plain about their vanilla macarons which are coated in gold powder to top off the White Peacock theme with panache – not ganache.
With thanks to the pastry and press teams at Angelina for a wonderful festive tasting and for trying so hard to evoke a Christmas ambience in sweltering 30°C + temperatures of our Indian Parisian Summer in September! The Christmas collection, including the limited edition Paon Blanc, is available as of 26 November.
Rue de Rivoli
P.S. Let me show you this beautiful illustration of Angelina’s Paon Blanc bûche by a newly discovered artistic friend, the talented Isma of MesArticlesduJour. This conjures up the feminine, light touch of Angelina, don’t you think?
Some of you saw the live videos on Facebook but I’ve been itching to tell you in much more detail about this exceptional pastry and chocolate weekend! To start, I was bowled over to be invited by Christophe Roussel to join the French jury for his Annual Pastry Competition Final in La Baule (Loire-Atlantique) on France’s west coast.
Open to budding amateur pastry chefs, five talented finalists were chosen in September via their tantalising patisseries and descriptions on Facebook, all based on this year’s défi (challenge), first announced in July.
As the event wasn’t open to the public, I feel duty-bound to share this with you, patisserie and chocolate lovers. So fasten your seat-belts for a bumper post!
What was the Défi Patissier‘s CHALLENGE this second year?
TO REVISIT an OPÉRA cake, using the famous Fleur de sel de Guérande as an imposed ingredient and during the final, include Christophe Roussel’s new signature Bahiana® chocolate from Brazil.Sounds easy? An Opera pastry has to be one of the most difficult in the French pastry repertoire!
With the competition’s early morning start, Christophe and Julie generously helped relieve any night-before stress by hosting a welcome dinner on La Baule’s beach. Dessert was, of course, by Christophe himself. If anyone had forgotten his style and needed to tweak their dessert next day, now was the time. The desserts set the tone…
Luckily I had lovely Lucie by my side who works with Christophe, so she could suggest two out of the FOUR desserts! The Fleur d’Asie, or Asian Flower, is a delicate combination of apricot and the Asian Osmanthus (Devilwood) plant which has scents of apricot and peach. I love his hidden Fleur de Sel which gives that unexpected crunch – fantastic!
A First in France: Signature Chocolate
Chocolate-lovers will love the Fleur de Bahiana, the upcoming Bûche de Noël (festive yule log) made with the new signature Brazilian dark chocolate (69%), Bahiana®. It’s from the Pêtrolina cacao farm in the Bahia region, a family-run plantation, and made exclusively for Christophe Roussel in partnership with Valrhona – a first in France.
Intense in chocolate with floral and fruity notes, I found it so warming, almost like tasting a chocolate-vanilla pastry version of a velvety hot chocolate with playful textures. To top it, it wasn’t overly rich but left a lovely round satin touch on the palate.
But I digress – back to the competition!
Meet the Finalists
From left: Catherine Brug (Besançon: Opera-Cube), 18-year-old Laurie Lacoviz (Saint-Maur: Opéra Rock), Anne-Sophie Donnard (Montmorency: Comme un Air d’Opéra), Émilie Chrysostom, (Paris, Min’Op), and Arnault Buisson (Luxemburg, Opéra Spirit).
Meet Christophe Roussel
Ever since I walked into Christophe Roussel‘s welcoming boutique when it opened 5 years ago in Paris’s Montmartre, it was special. As I say in my book, Teatime in Paris, Chef Christophe must be one of the most genuinely friendly and approachable pastry chefs in France. His credo is sharing, pleasure and a little bit of madness – and add to that an incredible generosity.
After setting up his first pâtisserie in La Baule in 2004, he decided to steer away from the traditional route of adding a boulangerie and instead devoted the rest to chocolate-making. Now with an impressive business with around 44 employees and 7 trainees, Christophe Roussel, part of the prestigious Relais Desserts group, is the star of the French west coast with two boutiques in La Baule, Guérande, Pornichet, Paris, and has just opened another in la Pornic. Together with his wife, Julie (pictured far right below), they make the perfect duo créatif.
Only the HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCTS are used to create his gourmandises, notably sourcing local produce – one of which is the famous salt, the Fleur de Sel de guérande, just a few kilometres from his laboratory in La Baule (pronounced la-bowl).
Meet the rest of the jury with Christophe Roussel. You can imagine why I was so honoured to be a part of such a prestigious line-up!
- Thierry Bamas MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) and world champion for frozen desserts, he’s the star of pâtisserie based in the Basque region, between Biarritz and Bayonne. Like Christophe, he runs pastry and chocolate-making classes.
- Cyril Carrini, winner of the last 2015 Meilleur Pâtissier on French TV’s M6 Channel (The French equivalent of the Great British Bake Off), and winner of the best of the winners. He’s a policeman near Bordeaux who also runs pastry workshops.
- Mercotte is to France what Mary Berry is to the UK. A most adorable, down-to-earth TV celebrity for the Meilleur Pâtissier on M6, and The French Patisserie Blogger at La Cuisine de Mercotte, with four recipe books.The Pastry & ChocolateLAB
Hitting the starting block at 7.30am, the finalists cracked on with their 3-hour pastry challenge. As it was the early stage, we had the opportunity to visit the immense lab.
What an Ali-Baba maze! It was hard to resist a peek into these enormous vats of babas steeping in rum syrup as we explored each chocolate and pastry-making workshop. Everyone was quietly and dynamically working on each creation: from chocolate moulds of Peppa Pig, Calimero, and chocolate kisses destined to be exported to Japan, to his assortiment of macarons – of which about 25 tons are produced a year. There’s even a room assigned to edible decor – spot his pastry signature above (top left).
Back to the buzzing competition room, just to keep us going, we taste Christophe’s Coffee Réligieuse – Pas Très Catholique (meaning a bit doubtful), with lively notes of two different coffees and a chocolate craquelin crumble topping for le crunch. Incidentally, this was the inspiration behind the recipe for the salted caramel choux snowman in Teatime in Paris!
The classic Opéra isn’t an easy pastry … and on top of it, personal variations made it a particularly interesting challenge. Cubes, balls, discs, giant spheres, logs, tuiles … they’d all thought it out so well.
All aspects were taken into consideration: such as respect to the classic recipe (e.g. right dosage of coffee coming through, enough chocolate, right textures; their interpretation; clean workspace; no waste (Christophe made frequent bin inspections), respect to time, visual aspect, and so on.
While all was being filmed on camera, we were additionally going around filming and snapping shots on our phones: everyone was spontaneously interviewed on Facebook Live by the bubbly Mercotte (we were all impressed with her mega battery!). Apparently I speak French like Jane Birkin, ahem… Thierry Bamas and Cyril also caught the online interviewing bug as the stress and COUNTDOWN started.
Discussions behind the finalists didn’t put them off – and although there was the odd hand trembling towards the finishing touches, everyone showed their talent of being calm and collected, plus it was a good team spirit if someone needed to borrow equipment from each other. Not every competitive spirit is prepared to do that.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … and STOP! Et Voilà: their finished results. Now we could think of the visual aspect. Great job – and totally resembling what they submitted online.
By now finished, the finalists took off their aprons for a well-earned break.
Salon du Chocolat, La Baule
Meanwhile, we were given the added job of tasting our way through 3 different themes of chocolates over at the Castel Marie-Louise, as part of the Salon du Chocolat in La Baule, hosted by the Casino Barrière. Our challenge was to pick the best in each category before announcing the winners – including the pastry challenge – at the Salon later.
Our group tasted 12 chocolates on a dark chocolate and citrus almond paste theme. The unanimous winner went to Vincent Belloir (Goût du bonheur, La Roche-Bernard). It was best for the visual sheen on the chocolate, the clean cut without losing it’s shape, the smooth texture, the bouquet on ze nose, and of course, the taste!
Olivier Grimault (Créat-shop, Les Sorinières) won the chocolate bar category with dark chocolate and Matcha, … and winner of the third category went to Christophe Roussel for his dark chocolate and pink peppercorn! Also congratulations goes to Amélie Giraud for her chocolate sculpture, who is also part of Christophe Roussel’s team!
A few glasses of water later – and all before lunch ….!
Pastry Competition Tasting & Verdict
This is when I appreciated when Mercotte took me under her wing. Although the group agreed on the same issues and were discerning on each aspect, my marking was slightly too high for each finalist – so now I can put it down to experience!
Pastry Competition Winners!
Our winners were also announced on Saturday evening at the Salon du Chocolat.
Congratulations to the winner, Anne-Sophie, a school teacher and French pastry blogger at SurprisesetGourmandises. She wins a Gourmet Luxury Weekend in La Baule and a day of pastry-making with Christophe Roussel.
Bravo to Catherine Brug who came a close second, and a huge round of applause to Arnault, Emilie and Laurie. Each of them were not just great bakers but lovely, sensitive souls too.
Lucie Henaff, thanking everyone, even prepared framed momentos of their Opéra creations, a lovely keepsake of their tremendous talent.
A Gourmet yet Light Weekend
After all the excitement, the chocolate, the opera cakes, lunch, more various dessert tastings, there was … another gourmet dinner!
For everything we ate, however, all was impeccably light. Spoiled by Eric Mignard, Michelin-starred chef for 30 years at the Relais-Châteaux Castel Marie-Louise, he took us through local seafood and fish menus, including a memorable dish of tartar scallops with passion fruit, pineapple, daikon, and salsifis chips with grilled almond oil. I’d need another few pages to discuss the rest!
On to the DESSERTS, all prepared by Christophe Roussel, each one was immaculate. They’re airy, full of surprising textures (he has fizzy chocolates too) and each ingredient has its own punch to say, “Taste me – I’m here too!”. The finale – made especially for the occasion – of Tahitian vanilla mousse with mango and that nesting ball on top is full of exploding salted caramel. It was the closing firework display to an exceptional weekend.
Christophe Roussel Pastry Competition
Do keep an eye out for the 2017 competition on Christophe Roussel’s Facebook page. If you or anyone you know is a real fan of making French pastries, then you’ll have witnessed that this is an extremely special competition indeed. I hear there will be even more surprises for next year’s Défi challenge. How can you beat that?
I’ll finish with Christophe Roussel’s popular chocolate kisses from La Baule and say a big Cheers, Santé to you, Chef! Bravo to such an extraordinary and successful weekend, the opening of your new boutique in La Pornic, the new signature Brazilian chocolate, for such a wonderful, dynamic team you’ve inspired – and, above all, for your generosity.
6 Allée des Camélias
44500 LA BAULE
5 Rue Tardieu