20th Salon du Chocolat Paris

How could you resist? Week 2 of the French mid-term school holidays and the 20th Salon du Chocolat Paris kicked off yesterday.

chocolate fashion dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The kids ruled (my excuse, anyway) so it was time to head over to the Porte de Versailles for a taste. Arriving in the vast upstairs gallery, most people were making for the chocolate dresses.  Hey, did someone pinch that meringue at the bottom? It wasn’t me, I promise…

chocolate and macaron candy dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The fashion show parades at 3pm and 5pm, when the crowds form around the central podium.  That’s when I ventured around to visit other attractions, including the ground floor, full of chocolate from around the world.  The last time I came here was with talented artist, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfast fame: her fabulous artwork was in full view behind Fréderic Kassel’s pastry stand – although I don’t understand how I missed it.  It’s huge here – and not for nothing I lost Carol last time, too!

chocolate sculpture Paris 2014 court of Louis XIV

Jean-Luc Decluzeau, chocolate-maker and passionate historian put this sculpture together, celebrating how chocolate came to France around the 17th Century.  This represents the court of Louis XIV. It’s made with 500 kilos of Leonidas chocolates – including 2300 pralines – representing 300 hours of sweet labour.

Leonidas chocolate sculpture Paris salon 2014

Personally I had my eye on a leg: I’d be quite happy with the seat alone, weighing in at 35 kilos!
This time, macaron-lovers would certainly be happy.  These gluten-free treats were … everywhere.

macaron displays at the salon du chocolate Paris

And even more macarons from a huge central stand devoted to Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolates – including a White Bar, serving cocktails. I intended to return but became carried away… His chocolate macarons are top of my list, for sure.

macarons by Pierre Marcolini Paris

By lunch time, the kids and I were starving.  Looking around for a sandwich…. all we could find were these savoury macarons from les Macarondises (Paul, the only savoury boulangerie stand had sold out – my 12-yr old daughter Lucie has decided she’s setting up a stall next year).  That was definitely a first: savoury macarons for lunch.  Well, it was a gluten-free sandwich or few: salmon-dill, goats cheese-honey, foie gras and gingerbread and foie gras with chocolate (but of course).   The salmon was our winner with chèvre-miel a close second.

savoury macarons from les macarondises

We followed it off with another box for dessert from Les Macarondises.  Do you know what?  I much preferred the savoury ones – they were so much less sweeter and full of flavour, just enough filling, not too much.  Perfection.

macaron box at the salon du chocolat in Paris 2014

Before I knew it, I bumped into Christophe Roussel, the most friendly chocolatier-pâtissier in Montmartre.  He didnt have a stand this year being busy as a new Dad but was one of the judges – you must check out his new chocolate Eiffel Towers, called iTowers!  Then just around the corner, Philippe Urraca, one of my pastry chef heroes, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, s’il vous plaît, was demonstrating how to make chocolate truffles.

Philippe Urraca Cemoi chocolate demonstration Paris

Enough name-dropping (and grinning in a photo with him together – more are on Facebook and now on Instagram).
Look at Sadaharu Aoki’s stand: preparing the Tokyo Macaron Yaki – a large chocolate macaron sandwiched in between green tea waffle batter.

Sadaharu Aoki Tokyo macaron yaki for the Salon du Chocolat Paris

Every stand has something going on.  So much to take in, smell, taste, then bring out the wallet and pocket money… this is when I realise my kids love good, dark chocolate.

Japanese chocolate houses at the salon du chocolat Paris

Not only exquisite chocolate, but the best in artisanal lollipops, full of flavours such as the classic of salted caramel, chocolate-pear, green apple, honey, chocolate-nougat, chocolate-pistachio…

Artisanal lollipops salon du chocolat Paris

Chocolate mousse – the traditional chocolate mousse bar run by the famous house, Chapon – here’s Patrice Chapon’s recipe for his 100% cacao Chocolate Mousse.

chocolate mousse bar Chapon

Then the more chocolate, chestnut, coffee, praline flavours of macarons from Laurent Duchêne.  Then I was tempted by his Baba au Yuzu… just finished it tonight, split with the girls to taste.  Thanks to Carol Gillott for tempting me with a photo of it in the morning – this was the final straw and had me legging it to le Salon!

Macarons Laurent Duchene Paris

Not forgetting that pastry chefs and chocolatiers are real artists, there was a huge emphasis also on chocolate artwork as well as the sculptures.  Here, Romain Duclos  demonstrated his artwork, ‘Valse Chocolat’ showing the movements of chocolate through 15-second vibrations every 1.5 minutes underneath the table.  At one point, the vibrations were so powerful, we could have been in Iceland watching some kind of chocolate eruptions.  Wonderful imagination.

chocolate artwork by Romain Duclos Valse Chocolat

Then back to art on canvas – macarons.  Carol Gillott should have a stand of her amazing macaron and pastry watercolours.  Just saying for the next Salon du Chocolat Paris …

macaron artwork

Next door, the kids posed for a Giant King Kong in chocolate, were particularly taken by a chocolate owl who was weeping, then we gazed up at these painters still preparing something for the following few days…

painters in action at the salon du chocolat Paris

Hubby was brought up in Africa and so spooky masks are something I’ve tried to avoid.  Now that these are in chocolate by Chocolats Colas, I could live with that…

african art chocolate masks by chocolats Colas

Suddenly we heard the crowds again: the next fashion show was parading around with chocolate dresses.  Meanwhile, this little girl was up to a few tricks and treats: watching attentively as the strawberries were dipped into the most tempting of melted chocolate.

Godiva-chocolate-strawberries-Paris

By now we were flagging.  I’m sure you are too by now?  There are more photos on the other social network channels (I’m starting to give it a go) for those of you who need more chocolate.

giant macarons

By this time, giant macarons were rather on the big side – even for macaronivores.

chocolate and coffee macarons

What would you go for, now that Autumn is here: lemon, praline, coffee, speculoos (cinnamon), crème brûlée, chocolate?

macaron-tower-salon-du-chocolat-Paris-2014

There’s still time to get to Le Salon du Chocolat Paris – it continues until Sunday 2nd November!

Pumpkin Spice Macarons & Roasted Red Kuri Squash Filling

I’m back! And to make up for it I’m presenting you with these pumpkin spice macarons!

Ouf! It has been a real marathon so it’s good to be back finally on le blog. These past few months have been quite challenging. Juggling the stress of house renovations, a new bricolage world of riveting French DIY vocabulary has blossomed and I’ve even dabbled in some interior design; the other day I realised it has left its mark when I found myself glancing at the paint and tile colours in a few Parisian pâtisseries. But that’s not why I’m here.

The most exciting project has been preparing the NEW BOOK: writing, recipe testing and taking hundreds of photos … all around teatime (hint, hint). I can’t wait to share its progress with you very soon but as it’s now going through edits and design with Waverley Books, I finally have an excuse to take a tea break and make some pumpkin spice macarons, strictly for le blog and perfect for Autumn!

Pumpkin spice Parisian macarons

I’ve never really understood why the French don’t seem to be that much into pumpkin. Last week at the market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, I even had a lovely French seller – complete with chic body warmer, hair tied back with scarf – ask me (yes, I kept pinching myself it was unreal) how to cook mini pumpkins (Jack-be-littles) rather than show them off as decorative items for Autumn.

Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Spice

For a start, for sweet recipes, there isn’t any pumpkin purée in the shops, an ingredient that appears to be familiar with most of my blogger friends at this time of year.  When I looked up some macaron recipes, there wasn’t even any pumpkin in them – instead simply ‘pumpkin pie spice’, another ingredient that’s difficult to find here.  So there was only one thing for it: to make my own pumpkin purée and find a quick spicy alternative.

potimarron or red kuru squash spiced macarons

Potimarron Pumpkins

I set out to grab a giant quarter slice of pumpkin, as they’re normally sold here. With Hallowe’en gradually becoming more popular here with youngsters, giant Jack-o’-lanterns are also more available than before, ready to carve for this Friday’s spooky date.  This year, pumpkins seem to be overshadowed by the smaller potimarron, The Autumn foodie fashion item in the French supermarkets and at our local farmers’ markets just outside Paris.  They’re everywhere!

What’s Potimarron in English? Apparently it’s Red Kuri, Japanese Squash or Orange Hokkaido.  It’s darker than pumpkin without the ridges and has a more intense, even chestnut-like texture and flavour (as the French name implies: marron, meaning chestnut).  What I love about it is, unlike pumpkin, you can even eat the skin!

pumpkin spiced Japanese squash macarons

I remembered a post by David Lebovitz about how to roast potimarron or red kuri squash: he dribbled olive oil over the slices, added herbs and roasted in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 200°C.  I tried this method using potimarron in my favourite pumpkin, leek and ginger soup and it really is delicious.

Inspiration knocked for these pumpkin spice macarons when David mentioned that the Red Kuri squash slices could also be roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon. Instead I used pain d’épices or gingerbread spice, perhaps the French’s closest quick answer to pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & all-spice powder).  And in case some of you have hands up in horror, wondering why there are no Hallowe’en decorations on these macarons – I’m ridiculously scared of spiders and anything in the least bit squirmish; perhaps I grew up with too many Scottish ghost stories!

roasted red kuri or Japanese squash

Roast me in the oven for nearly 30 mins, covered in brown sugar, pumpkin spice and top with foil

Macaron Fruit Fillings – A Tip!

One word about using fruit purées for macaron fillings: it can make macarons become rather soggy.  One tip is to add ground almonds (almond flour) to soak up the juices which I’ve done here.  The good news with this recipe is that for impatient macaronivores, you can eat this macaron after only 6 hours in the fridge and finish them the next day.  Any longer and they will turn slightly soggy – but the taste is divine and full of healthy, spicy squash! I wouldn’t recommend keeping the pumpkin spice macarons any longer than 2 days or even freezing them as you would for all the macaron recipes in my book.  If you prefer to keep them longer like in the book, use equal quantities of purée, melted white chocolate and whipping cream.

Colouring the meringue for making pumpkin macaron shells

Instructions on how to make the macaron shells are given step-by-step in  Mad About Macarons!  Just add a dash of powdered colouring (I use a pinch of red and yellow) and a teaspoon of pumpkin spice or pain d’épices to the meringue.

pumpkin spice macaron filling with red kuri squash

Top me off with a macaron shell and I’m yours!


Pumpkin Spice Macarons:
Filling with Roasted Red Kuri

This recipe is ideal for serving later in the day.  Just chill in the fridge for 6 hours.  Best eaten within a couple of days. The basic French recipe for macaron shells are well explained in Mad About Macarons! using 150g egg whites for about 40 macarons.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: max 35 minutes
Chilling time: min 1 hour

For roasting:

1/2 red kuri squash or Potimarron
2 tbsps brown sugar
3 tsps pumpkin spice or pain d’épices

Cream:

2g sheet of gelatine
2 egg yolks
50g brown sugar
50g whipping cream
100g roasted red kuri purée (half of one red kuri)
2 tsps pumpkin spice or pain d’épices
2 tbsps ground almonds (almond flour)
100g chilled mascarpone

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.  Cut the kuri squash in 2 and, using only half of it, scoop out the seeds.  Cut into slices and place on a non-stick baking sheet, sprinkling with the brown sugar and spice.  Cover with aluminium foil and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the slices.  When ready, set aside to cool then purée using a mixer or by hand with a masher.  Weigh out 100g of purée.

2.  For the cream, soak the gelatine in cold water for about 15 minutes.  In a bowl, hand-whisk the yolks and sugar until creamy.  Heat the cream in a saucepan until nearly boiling, then whisk into the yolk mixture then transfer back to the pan over a medium heat, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens (rather like a pastry cream).

3.  Take off the heat, add the gelatine (squeeze of excess water) to the warm cream, whisking until melted then add the purée, ground almonds and spice.  Set aside to cool then chill for about an hour.

4.  Hand-whisk in the mascarpone then transfer the cream to a piping bag with a 1cm plain tip.  Pipe onto half of the shells then assemble with the remaining macaron shell tops and chill in the fridge.

pumpkin spice macarons potimarron red kuri squash

Are you planning to make spooky macarons for Hallowe’en?

Why not share your pumpkin spice macaron – or Hallowe’en inspired macarons with us?  Just email your photos as soon as you can to Jill@MadAboutMacarons(dot).com and I’ll post a special Hallowe’en Macaron Round-up, citing you on le blog.

Happy macaron-making!

Beetroot Horseradish Risotto – with Macarons

I’m often amazed how some of my recipes, like this Beetroot Horseradish Risotto, have been created around a macaron!

The other day I was walking on the sweet side in Paris with a lovely group of Americans.  It’s a chocolate and pastry tour and, as you can imagine, I tend to become particularly passionate when somebody asks about macarons.

One question has remained with me this week: “Do you like savoury macarons – and when would you eat them?” Well, I love them – especially if they have a wee kick to them.

Beet and horseradish or wasabi macaron

By adding some heated spice to the filling, the intriguing sweetness of the macaron shell puts out the fire.  Have you tried these beetroot (or beet) and horseradish macarons? (The recipe  is in the book). They’re great with bubbles or red wine as an apéritif but they also go so well with one of my favourite risotto recipes, ideal as a starter.  It’s also a wonderful talking point at the table: once friends thought I was serving a steak tartare – as an ex-vegetarian, I was just as surprised as they were!

Normally you’d expect the beetroot to give the risotto or macarons an earthy taste but the result is instead ever so delicately sweet.  Try these beetroot and chocolate fondants – it’s not unlike the carrot cake idea or chocolate and zucchini/courgette cakes, where the vegetable just acts as a fun and extra squidgy ingredient.  But here, in a gluten-free macaron, it’s a colourful change!

beetroot horseradish risotto with savoury beet macaron

This light risotto blushes with the beetroot, taking on the most vibrant natural red colour.  The added touch of creamy horseradish just gives it that je ne sais quoi. It’s healthy, cheap to make, and ideal to serve at any time of year – and great fun for the holiday season.

Beetroot Horseradish Risotto

Serves 4 as a starter (or 2 as a main course)

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (+ 45 minutes if using raw beetroots)

400g pre-cooked beetroot / beet (or 2 small raw beetroots)
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250g risotto rice (carnaroli)
150g ( or glass) white wine
800g vegetable or chicken stock
60g freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsps crème fraîche
2 tsps horseradish sauce

1.  Wearing rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands, peel and grate the beetroot. (If using raw beetroot, rub on coarse sea salt and wrap them up in aluminium foil and bake at 180°C for 45 minutes and leave to cool.)

2.  Fry the onion in the olive oil and butter over a medium heat until softened (do not brown) for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and stir until softened for another couple of minutes.  Add the rice and stir until the grains are all coated and shiny.

3.  Add the wine until it has disappeared into the rice.  Gradually add the hot stock, a ladle at a time and stir continuously until each time the stock has soaked in.  Cook for 15-17 minutes.  After about 10 minutes, stir in the grated beetroot.

4.  When the rice is cooked, stir in the crème fraîche, parmesan and horseradish and take off the heat.  Add salt (fleur de sel) and pepper to taste.

Serve in small pasta bowls, decorate with fresh herbs and more parmesan shavings and a mini beetroot and horseradish macaron (recipe on page 103 of Mad About Macarons!)

Beetroot horseradish risotto with red wine and a savoury macaron

Pair with a fruity red wine with a hint of spice such as a Médoc, Pinot Noir from Alsace, Côte-du-Rhône – or a chilled rosé from Provence.

Santé – to your good health!

 

Visiting The Good Life France

I am enjoying the good life in France, you could say.  Over twenty years in Paris and it just gets better: good food, good wine…. plus macarons! 

greedy stack of colourful Parisian macarons

This week, I’m also enjoying good company at the online travel magazine, The Good Life France who have featured a short interview plus other treats.  Join us for a cuppa and macaron chat in my favourite Parisian tearoom…

pistachio green tea and wasabi macaron recipe Mad About Macarons Jill Colonna

pistachio, green tea and wasabi macarons

It doesn’t just stop there: the piece also includes a review of the book, Mad About Macarons!

And for those of you who don’t yet have the book, The Good Life France includes a book excerpt featuring the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding macarons.

So, without further ado, let me click you over to The Good Life France for a dose of everything you want to know about France and more… I also hear they’re doing a Giveaway of the book shortly, so find out by signing up to their newsletter.

Macaron Fillings: XL or Dainty?

Do you recognise this photo taken while making macaron shells with the MacShapes parchment paper recently?  Well, I’m intrigued and would love to hear your opinion on the subject of filling size.

baked macaron shells with perfect feet, ready to be filled

Press me to the limit?

At this stage some macaronivores push their thumb into the centre of each macaron shell in order to be able to use the maximum amount of filling.

Do you prefer a normal big scoosh of filling inside or are you into XL portions?

Imagine this is a green tea, pistachio and wasabi macaron from the book.  Would you want the absolute maximum sky’s the limit amount of white chocolate flavoured ganache inside?  Like, bigger than the macaron shell?

Go on.  Be honest.  Tell all.  Would  you thumb each base shell or not?

 

 

Macaron Parchment Paper – MacShapes #Giveaway

I know this may sound funny but I’ve never used a stencil to help me pipe out macarons. Even as a total wobbly beginner, when I started out making them 10 years ago, I didn’t.

Over the years, I’ve just become used to piping out macaron batter freehand. Granted, each tray’s shells are not always completely uniformed in size.  Out of 3 trays, I’ll often just get one or two strays that I love to put aside, scoosh out some extra filling on top and enjoy as a taster before putting them all in the box to mature in the fridge for 24 hours.

piping out macarons on to MacShapes baking paper

 Then the other day, I heard about this new pre-printed macaron parchment paper guide called MacShapes.

piping out green macarons on a stencil parchment paper guide

For novice macaron bakers in particular, this parchment paper is definitely a great confidence booster, as it’s such a helpful guide to get you started.  There’s no need for tracing out stencils by hand.  They’re pre-printed with food-grade ink.  An extra luxury is the baking paper’s quality.

green macarons piped before baking

Normally I stagger my rows in order to get the most shells on the one baking sheet.  With the MacShapes paper, I wasn’t used to piping them out at speed in straight lines but it was useful with a guide.  OK, even although I aimed right in the centre, I could have added a bit more batter: it spread out as usual and didn’t quite reach the outer circle.  In the photo they look uneven but I can tell you that it was quick to pair up the couples afterwards, as all the macaron shells were uniform in size.
green macaron batter MacShapes baking paper
Oh, what lovely bottoms and feet!  As you can see by the photo below, the result got the macaron addict thumbs up.  MacShapes parchment paper is super quality.
MacShapes are available for purchase at MacShapes.com. You can also find them on Facebook and join their mailing list to get their latest news and deals.  With a parchment paper guide and a straight-forward macaron recipe from the Mad About Macarons book, there’s no excuse to make that first plunge if you’re scared to make that first move.
In the meantime, MacShapes MacShapes are running this Giveaway on Mad About Macarons!
baked macaron shells with perfect feet

The MacShapes Giveaway

The lovely people at MacShapes have kindly offered a roll each to TEN lucky winners residing in the USA or Canada.

The Giveaway ends Sunday 1 June 2014  (Midnight in Paris)

The GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Update, 2nd June 2014:

Congratulations to Susan, Karen, Judy, Donna, Mardi, Lake Lili, Chantal, Rieko, Camiella and Christopher – the ten Giveaway winners were selected using the Random Integer Generator on Random.com and will receive a roll of macaron parchment paper from MacShapes.  An email has been sent to them today.

pairing green macaron shells before filling

What flavour will make me fulfilled? Now that’s another question…

How to Enter

Two ways:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me if you’re a beginner or if you have ever used stencils to guide you in macaron making – and, why not what flavour you’d love to see for this macaron?

2. Share the Giveaway from the MaM Facebook page (and/or on Twitter) and return to this page leaving a comment to let me know you did it.

 Giveaway Rules

1. Open to US and Canadian residents only.

2. Last entries accepted until Sunday 1 June (midnight in Paris; GMT +1)

2. The 10 winners will be selected at random (using www.random.org) and notified by email on Monday 2 June 2014.

Don’t forget there will be 10 lucky winners. Good luck!

 

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Disclaimer: MacShapes supplied me with their pre-printed macaron parchment paper to review . I was not compensated for writing this post and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.