Rose, Raspberry and Lychee Eclairs

Did I ever tell you how much I actually enjoy visiting my dentist?

It’s not just that he’s in the oh-so-chic 16th arrondissement with shops for the ladies, but I can’t help feeling cool knowing that I share the same dentist’s chair as the French TV celebrity chef, Cyril Lignac.

In the waiting room, there was this cloth stapled to the other part of the room. Own up: would you dare to peek and see what was behind it? Is it Cyril’s own private waiting room? Or perhaps it’s a storeroom for the extra giant drills…

Leaving the surgery, tongue sliding over shiny, polished teeth, thoughts of gleaming porcelaine teacups come to mind with sweet accompanying French treats for goûter at quatre heures. This sweet temptress is tapping at my head, ‘Go on, a bit of sugar won’t do any harm after the spring clean, will it?’

Passing this tea salon, Thé Cool (thanks to my girls who noticed this play on words for ‘Tu es cool’), L’Eclair de Génie has just opened its doors in the Passy Plaza. The genius of Christophe Adam’s Eclairs is set out neatly in flashy, colourful rows. Each small éclair is as pretty as the next. He even transfers Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam to his white chocolate topping; also highly appropriate, since the word éclair means ‘a flash’ in French.

Genius, too, at €5.50 each. I promise my girls that we’ll come back after our shopping for friends’ birthday presents but somehow, we run out of time and speed off to the party. ‘Mum, les éclairs?’

A promise is a promise but no turning back. They have to be homemade. So, en route to the party, I feel a flash of Adam’s inspiration as I’m driving back to the suburbs. Suddenly, another flash of Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan macaron (rose, raspberry and lychee) comes to mind and there we have it: a rose éclair, Ispahan style! They’re not quite as fancy as the ones we saw in Paris but I can tell you, they disappeared in an oh-là-la flash and we enjoyed them last weekend for French Mother’s Day. You could say they’re cheaper by the dozen!

Rose, Raspberry & Lychee Eclairs Recipe (Ispahan-style)

Makes 12

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns then using a piping bag with a serrated tip (about 10mm), pipe out long éclairs on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack then cut the tops off horizontally.

ROSE PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

500ml full milk
20 ml rosewater*
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
pinch of pink powdered colouring (optional)

Fresh raspberries
1/2 tin lychees, drained

200g fondant (ready made)
1 tsp rosewater 
Pink colouring 

* you could use rose syrup but reduce the sugar to 60g

1. Heat the milk with the rosewater in a saucepan.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar then whisk in the cornflour until light and creamy. Gradually add the warmed rose milk and pink colouring, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool. Place cling film directly on top of the pastry cream to stop a thick layer forming (if you whisk that in, you’ll get lumps!) and chill in the fridge for an hour.

4. Meanwhile, whizz the drained lychees in a blender (even better if you have fresh lychees) and using a spoon (I used a grapefruit spoon, so that it’s easier to aim) fill the raspberries with the lychee purée.

5. Gently melt the fondant in the microwave (or over a pan of boiling water) with the colouring, a teaspoon of water and rosewater. Mix well before it cools and dip the éclair tops into the rose fondant.

6. Pipe the cream into the éclairs adding the lychee-filled raspberries and place on the éclair tops.

For more egg yolk recipes, don’t forget to check out the bonus recipe index!

 

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France before I put on weight. We certainly had our fill of our Scottish favourites while visiting family with Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones, Stornoway black pudding and tons of hot smoked salmon.

Back home, as Spring has sprung later this year, we luckily hadn’t missed our traditional French muguet, or Lily-of-the-valley, which is traditionally given to family and friends as a good luck symbol. It was a week late in our garden. Brilliant!

A belated wish of good luck to you with hugs from France!

Not so brilliant was that I (known in the family as ‘the French Police’) had returned to the kitchen. I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just a public holiday on our arrival on Wednesday, but also yesterday too. Shops? Fermé. Shut. But I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge, since Antoine (French hubby) had left most of the fruit he was supposed to eat while we were away. To my surprise, they were still ok but not exactly bursting with flavour.

There were 3 lemons, 5 strawberries, 2 kiwis and a tired pineapple just looking for a tasty makeover. So I defrosted a jam jar of egg whites from the freezer while thinking up this lemon cream meringue nest dessert, filled with a zingy lemon cream and topped with the fruits.  The slightly tired strawberries were resurrected by tossing them in some good quality strawberry syrup. Et voilà! You thought I was going to make macarons, didn’t you?

Lemon cream meringue nests

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

Meringues

2 egg whites (about 75g)
230g sugar
few drops vanilla essence 

1. Whisk the egg whites at high speed using a hand or stand mixer. Gradually rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk, adding the essence last, until the mixture is firm and glossy. It should form a peak (or bird’s beak, bec de l’oiseau) on the whisk.

2. Spoon out 4 large heaps of the meringue on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press them down and scoop out a cavity that you can fill later.

3. Bake for 1 hour at 110°C. Meanwhile, make the lemon cream.

Crème au citron (Lemon Cream)

3 egg yolks
90g sugar
15g cornflour
3 lemons (untreated)
100ml water
knob of butter (unsalted)

4. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a saucepan. Add the cornflour, zest and lemon juice then the water. Mix together well.

5. Over a medium heat, whisk until the cream thickens then take off the heat and mix in the butter. Set aside to cool.

6. When the meringues are ready, leave to cool then spoon in the lemon cream into each meringue nest and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Just before serving, top with a mixture of fruits. Just look what my daughters put together for the decoration. Lucie loves pineapple – you can tell by this double decker!  I love leftovers. Now, I best get to the shops before mint meringues pops on the menu for our main course!

At least this means I’ve got more egg whites on the go for making macarons soon.

Lemon cream meringue nests

Happy sunny May time!

P.S. As with all my recipes, I use grams. Please don’t be mad, ounces lovers. However, if you’re mad about macarons, you’ll need digital kitchen scales – much more reliable to bake in weight rather than volume. Most digital scales have the option of switching from ounces to grams so this will make your life much easier.

Chocolate Cream Desserts for Macaron (Yolk) Lovers

Poor blog. I’ve neglected it and so my apologies. Chest infection dragging on, living in the dark, the pouring rain. Not a great couple of weeks, although I do have a much more fun excuse – all shall be revealed in the next post.

In the meantime, I’ve still had some sweet dreams, mainly consisting of desserts. Ideally they’re not too sweet, they’re packed with flavour and they’re quick and easy to make. If they use up egg yolks, that’s an extra bonus for macaron lovers. These chocolate cream puddings can not only be whipped up in 20 minutes but they’re so versatile and perfect for re-cyling those hoarded yoghurt pots.

Here I’ve added zingy orange zest and a sneaky soupçon of Cointreau to them but adapt them to your own tastes. For spicy romantic lovers, replace with cardamom and ginger. Lucie adored the addition of 100g candied chestnut cream (she’s mad about chestnuts) but why not add a touch of Chambord and serve with raspberries?  You get the picture. Top with physalis (why does that always sound like a disease?) or, to add that je ne sais quoi, a mendiant topped with dried fruits and nuts.

They remind me of La Laitière cream pots we can buy in the supermarket but they’re much better and so quick to make – it’s worth the effort. They’re not like a mousse and they’re not like heavy creams, either. Do you remember the Aero bars we used to devour as kids? What was the best part for you? The bubbles?

The best part are the chocolate bubbles…

Chocolate Orange Cream Desserts

Serves 6 (small pots)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours

200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
zest of an orange (untreated)
1 tbsp Cointreau
(optional)
1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)

1. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Meanwhile break up the chocolate into pieces in a large bowl. In a saucepan, boil the milk and cream.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Pour over the hot milky cream, mix and transfer back to the saucepan.

3. Whisk vigorously over a medium heat until the cream thickens. Take off the heat then pour over half of this hot cream on to the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts, add the grated zest, Cointreau (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.

4. Transfer to 6 serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us). Leave to cool and chill for an hour.

Serve with sablé bretons or, dare I say, some macarons?

This recipe is added to the egg yolk recipe collection. There’s plenty more so you’ve no excuse – get these egg whites put aside! By making this recipe, you’ll have enough for 100g whites, which will make about 30 macarons.

Stay tuned for the fun surprise. If you haven’t yet subscribed to le blog, then don’t forget to sign up. Toodeloo, bonne semaine, I’m off to London so it’s time to get back into action!

How to Make a French Religieuse or a Scottish Mac Snowman

I have a confession to make. I should have made something more typically Scottish as it’s Burn’s Night this Friday. Patriotism is kicking in as the bagpipes, Stornoway black pudding and haggis are suddenly sorely missed. Don’t ask me to make the latter myself, though. You’re talking to an ex-vegetarian.

With a first mere dusting of snow last week, our lucky Scottish heather was then well and truly tucked in with a thick, snowy blanket this weekend outside Paris. We had more snow than in Scotland!

Lucie was itching to build a snowman and managed to convince her sister that it was still cool to play in the snow by repeating renditions of the Snowman’s ‘I’m Walking in the Air’ on the piano. What’s with the hat? A TGV cap was all we could find.

With a couple of lollies pour les yeux, they reminded me of the sugar eyes I’d bought at the NY Cake supply shop on my trip last summer to NYC.

Am I a Scottish or French snowman woman person with a hat like this?

More macaron madness struck. I’d just made a batch of choux dough to make les Réligieuses: that’s one small choux bun stuck on a larger bun and dribbled with fondant.

Hm. Sugar eyes…  put them together with macarons (I had some left from my freezer ‘bank’) and what have you got?

A Snowman built indoors! OK, so I’m not too old to kid around too, right? He’s a Religieuse Snowman. Hm. In French that doesn’t work since a Religieuse is feminine.

Somehow a Mrs Snow-woman doesn’t sound right, so apologies to my French friends for the Religieuse recipe title – I’d love to hear your ideas for a more fitting title. No surprise why Mrs Snowman looks a bit grumpy: I didn’t wait for the fondant to slightly set before dipping in the choux buns and so she’s dribbling fondant down her cheek. Next time I’ll be more patient.

Does this fondant coat make my bun look big?

Snowman Religieuse Recipe (Choux Buns with Pastry Cream)

Makes 20

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns. Using a piping bag with a plain tip (about 10mm), pipe out large heaps on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat.) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make a second batch of choux buns but pipe out much smaller heaps (as you would for chouquettes) and bake in the oven for only 15 minutes.

VANILLA PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

500ml full milk
1 vanilla pod (split down the middle)
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Gradually add the milk and extract, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again, then transfer to a piping bag with a thin, plain tip (8mm) so that you can pierce the buns without too much leakage!

4. Pipe the cream into the buns by piercing a hole at the bottom of each bun and squeeze in the vanilla cream.

DECORATION

Gently melt the fondant in a bowl (white fondant is available from many speciality baking stores but if you can’t find it just make a classic icing using icing/confectioners sugar and some water.)  Once the fondant starts to cool, dip the buns upside down into the bowl until there’s no excess on the buns. Leave to set on a wire rack but first stick on the eyes (you could use smarties), pierce Mikado sticks for arms and stick on a macaron.

If I’m a snow-woman I’ll eat my hat!

I forgot to take a photo of the vanilla cream inside. It was too good. You’ll just have to make them for yourselves! Here’s another reason why it’s handy to keep some macarons in your freezer. And now you’ve used up 4 egg yolks you have a good supply of whites for your macarons!

Perhaps this is a Scottish post after all: could we call it a MacSnowman?

How to Make Rice Pudding like the French – Riz au lait!

When my Frenchman asked me to make rice pudding years ago, it was a no-brainer. I remembered what my Scottish Granny and Mum had done: rained in some rice into a pint of milk, added sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and nutmeg, dotted it with butter and baked it slowly until a caramelised rice pudding emerged with a film of buttery, bubbled skin.

We ate it warm from the oven as the reassuring aromas of cinnamon wafted around the kitchen. This was comfort food at its best, my Madeleine de Proust; that feeling of drifting back for a fleeting moment, remembering Grandpa supping his rice pudding using an oversized spoon, as Agnes poured him more of the coveted extra cream from the top of the milk around the enormous bowl’s rim.

best baked rice pudding easy recipe

Carmelised rice pudding as Granny used to make in Scotland

Suddenly the bubble burst. “Your rice pudding is so different to my Mum’s. She didn’t have skin on it; I remember vanilla rather than cinnamon, and we didn’t eat it warm like this,” gently prodded my Frenchman. My baked rice pudding wasn’t sexy.

It was time to do some homework. I looked up Granny’s ‘Black Book’, full of her children’s scrawls, splatters and notes for different Scottish sweet recipes ranging from neighbours such as Mrs Patterson to the Jimmy Young Show’s dictations from the radio. Nothing. No rice pudding. As Grandpa ate it just about every third day there was no need for Agnes to write it down.

I did discover that, in the north, the French also bake their rice pudding. In Normandy they make a slow-baked Terrinée, Beurgoule or Teurgoule not unlike this, although they add another half litre of milk and bake at 80°C for 6 hours.

Baked Rice Pudding Recipe: In a buttered gratin dish, rain in 100g short grain rice into 1 litre whole milk, add 80g sugar, a cinnamon stick & 50g sultanas. Dot with 40g butter and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Bake uncovered at 110°C for 2 hours.

baked rice pudding with toasted skin from the oven

How do I look? Am I a skinny rice pudding, then?

It was time to make a different, extra creamy rice pudding or ‘riz au lait’ (reeh-oh-lay.) Bathed in a vanilla milk, showered with freshly grated nutmeg and eaten chilled. Personally, I prefer it at room temperature and can’t resist sneaking a bowl of it before placing the rest in the fridge once it’s cool. After a few trials, here’s my riz au lait; tried, tested and approved by my adorable French hubby pampered person.
Just don’t tell his Mum.

Creamy rice pudding with dried fruits and egg yolks

How can you make a rice pudding look sexy when it’s not even skinny?

Creamy Riz au Lait Rice Pudding Recipe

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

100g pudding/short-grain rice
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or cinnamon stick)*
80g chopped dried fruit (sultanas, apricots)
50g (25+25) light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
20g butter (optional)
pinch of finely grated nutmeg

* or use 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Fill a large saucepan with water. Add the rice and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook for a couple of minutes then drain the rice in a sieve or colander.

2. Pour the milk (whole, full milk for best creaminess) into the large saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod down the middle,  scrape out the seeds and add to the milk (or add vanilla extract/cinnamon stick) with 25g of the sugar. Rain in the rice and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to that no skin forms on the milk.

3. Add the chopped fruits. Continue to stir now and again as it heats gently for about another 10 minutes. Check that the rice is cooked but not mushy.

4. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks with the rest of the sugar and grated nutmeg until it’s light and creamy. Add the hot rice (and butter, if using – this just adds a little extra creamy luxury) and mix well. Ensure you take this off the heat so not to overheat and curdle the yolks.

Serve at room temperature or once cool, chill in the fridge.  Grate a little nutmeg on top.

Mini French rice pudding creamy desserts

And a wee ‘riz au lait’ for baby bear

As my baby bear, Lucie, doesn’t like drinking milk, this is a great way for her to fill up on calcium. And as an obsessed macaron maker, macaronivores will love this recipe to use up more yolks!

creamy rice pudding

Speaking of macarons, I’ve been caught making them again in the reflection. Are you a macaron addict, too?

Glace Plombières: No-Churn Candied Fruit Ice Cream

I’d promised the children a taste of the best ice creams in Paris during the summer holidays.

Straight after our UK Roman trip, however, the unusually dismal July temperatures meant replacing ice cream with homemade vanilla macarons. But as soon as that ball o’ fire returned, it was destination Berthillon on Ile Saint-Louis.

Plombieres French Glazed Fruit no churn ice cream

Berthillon is a Parisian institution. So much so that, come August – finally in the wonderful heat of the City of Light – their doors were… closed; shut; fermé; on holidays; en vacances, like most of Paris. Luckily, their ice creams and sorbets were being served by their more commercial neighbours. One of the tempting ice creams on Berthillon’s list was Plombières ice cream, packed with candied fruits.

Berthillon Ile-Saint-Louis Paris best ice creams

As my lucky French parents-in-law live in the Luberon near Apt, the world capital of candied fruits, I’ve an excuse to use Mother-in-Law’s generous bulk supply from the local Candied Fruit factory: candied orange peel strips, lemon peel cubes, glacé cherries and – my favourite – their candied ginger.

So instead of hanging around Ile Saint-Louis for Berthillon to reopen, it was easier to make Plombières ice cream at home. Reaching for my favourite French coffee-table cookbook, France: the Beautiful Cookbook by Gilles Pudlowski with recipes from the Scotto sisters, that was it. Perfect.

  • Ten egg yolks? Fabulous: whites for macarons.
  • Serve with apricot jam? Ideal: I’d just made a batch of apricot and lavender jam.
  • En plus, the recipe didn’t even require an ice cream maker – it’s no churn!

So I ‘ad-Apt-ed’ it, making individual portions for dessert rather than one giant ice cream. This will make a light, fruity, stress-free dessert – and even a handy dessert recipe to have on your Christmas menu.

Plombieres French Glazed Fruit no churn ice cream

Plombières Ice Cream Recipe

In 1858 Napoleon III met Count Cavour (Prime Minister of Sardinia) at Plombières-les-Bains in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France. As they were secretly negotiating the Treaty of Plombières, the local chef came up this dessert and has been a local speciality ever since.

Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Soaking Time: 2 hours
Freezing Time: At least 2 hours

200g (7 oz) mix of candied fruits, roughly chopped
55ml (2 oz) Kirsch
1.5 l (48 fl oz) whipping cream
250ml (8 fl oz) whole milk
10 egg yolks
200g (7 oz) sugar
1 tsp almond extract
250g (8 oz) apricot jam 

  1. Soak the candied fruits in the Kirsch for a couple of hours. Place a bowl in the fridge in preparation for whipping the cream.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar in a large saucepan until pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in 1 litre of the cream and the milk over a moderate heat. Whisk constantly until the custard coats the spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the almond extract and candied fruits with the Kirsch. Leave to cool, stirring from time to time.
  4. When the custard is completely cooled, whip the remaining 500ml of cream in the chilled bowl until it forms soft peaks.
  5. Fold into the custard then pour into silicone moulds. (Here, I used 12 briochette moulds.) Freeze until firm.
  6. When ready to serve, gently heat the jam in a small saucepan. I If you prefer it smooth, strain the bits.Turn out the ice creams directly on to dessert plates. The beauty of silicone moulds is that you don’t have to run it under warm water first. See? An easy, handy dessert to have up your sleeve.

Glazed fruit no-churn ice cream, Plombieres Lorraine Speciality

And don’t forget you can freeze your macarons too – just defrost before serving and voilà!

P.S. It’s also apt for gluten free diets.