Racing with Banana Almond Cakes for the Egg and Spoon

I know. I’m not the biggest fan of cake. But suddenly remembering late on Saturday morning I’d promised to make a cake by noon for our daughters’ school Sports Day it was time for quick action. Oh-là-là. We’d scoffed the last batch of macarons and there were none left in our freezer ‘bank’ (*eye-roll*: it’s that macaron ghost-eater again.) With 3 ripe bananas just pleading to be mashed, I couldn’t resist altering a classic banana cake to mini cakes resembling more of a buttery almond French financier.

We’re having an identity crisis here: are we cakes or financiers?

Whatever they are, they pack a sweet boost to take on typical British sports day events: the sack race, three-legged race, tug-of-war and Lucie’s favourite, the egg and spoon race. Last year she raced home beaming with bronze and when she told her French grandparents the news, they were a little confused. ‘You were running with an egg? An egg on a spoon? In a race? Really that’s un oeuf…’

What’s so wrong with running and juggling an egg on a spoon?  We do it every day of our lives, don’t we?

Recipe: Banana, Almond and Chocolate Chip Mini Cakes

Makes enough for a silicone mould of 12 mini cakes or 24 mini muffin moulds.
Wildly adapted from the banana cake recipe from Hachette’s mini book of Cakes by Catherine Moreau.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

150g plain flour
120g ground almonds
100g sugar
1 heaped tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate chips
1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs
2 egg whites

3 ripe bananas
150g melted butter
2 tbsp flaked almonds for sprinkling 

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix together all the dry ingredients above, except the flaked almonds. Mash the bananas with a fork and gradually add them into the mix followed by the eggs and melted butter.

2. Pour the mixture into silicone moulds (about 3/4, not fully to the top) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

3. Bake for 20 minutes for the smaller cakes and for slightly larger cake moulds, 25-30 minutes.

4. Once cooled slightly, turn the cakes out on to a wire tray.

Eye Twitching Syndrome Version: Use 50g chocolate chips and add 100g chopped, dried apricots.
Have you ever had an eyelid that twitches uncontrollably? Feeling stressed, anxious and with an eyelid that couldn’t stop flickering recently, my opthamologist suggested adding bananas and dried apricots to a daily diet. So much for expensive magnesium supplements: a banana and some dried apricots a day keeps the eye twitch at bay!

I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the view next to the sports ground where their races took place last weekend. Isn’t it so peaceful on the River Seine?

Barges on the River Seine

OK, let’s get back to running with that egg on a spoon and find a good balance.

You could pick me up with a spoon with all your sweet and encouraging comments that you leave here. Thank you for your motivation to keep running le blog.

 

P.S. Congratulations to Choclette who was the lucky winner to receive chocolate earrings in the Mad About Macarons Giveaway!

Arise, Sir Brioche

This sign popped out to say bonjour as we were meandering on a mid summer’s walk in Rhône wine country. Can you imagine living in a street called Brioche lane?  I’d personally feel compelled to have brioche dough out on the window ledge, puffing up proudly for the tourists that passed (that’s the dough not me), inviting everyone to have a part in making it.

I make brioche most weekends and so it’s about time I shared this with you. Surely you don’t want macarons ALL the time, do you?

The golden rule with brioche is take your time.  It’s so simple; but if you’re in a rush, forget it.  If you’re multi-tasking, I wouldn’t recommend this either; on a couple of occasions I’ve completely forgotten the dough rising and 2 hours later – rushing back from Jill the taxi and a last-minute shop – discovered brioche dough oozing down the side of a radiator or above the oven sticking to the door, as it was rising in all its glory. Sir Brioche prefers to be treated with more respect and not just fitted in to a last-minute schedule.

Depending on your mood, you can add all sorts of sweet surprises (see step 4). This is the part that the kids love to join in and create their own combinations; especially claiming their own brioche ‘ball’ with additions such as chocolate chips, walnuts, pistachios, cranberries, orange peel, drunken sultana raisins (either steeped in more orange flower water or Earl Grey tea overnight or in rum or in kirsch.) The list is endless, so it’s great to keep changing the ball game.

By the time the children come home from after-school activities, the smell of brioche wafts around the house and the weekend is signalled. Oui! C’est vendredi! TGIBF (Thank Goodness it’s Brioche Friday) We have 2 large brioches to last us for breakfasts over the weekend. I can’t help puffing up with pride, seeing them so happy.  Speaking of brioche dough like tennis balls, I’m also proud to be a Scot with Andy Murray winning the US Tennis Open at Flushing Meadow – great going, Andy!

Who’s been pinching the pearl sugar?

French Brioche Recipe

The first secret is to take your time. The other golden rule is to ensure your eggs are at room temperature. The rest is a piece of brioche. I make brioche using a KitchenAid, but I used to make it just as well by hand. This recipe originally came from the Alsa Briochin yeast packet instructions! Over the years, I’ve adapted it and our favourite addition is the orange flower water. The brioches also freeze well.

Makes 2 brioches

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour + 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

500g brioche flour
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sachets of vanilla sugar (15g)
2 sachets/envelopes of dried baker yeast
7 tbsp warm milk
2 tbsp orange flower water
4 eggs (at room temperature)
150g butter, melted
2 EGG YOLKS (to glaze)
pearl sugar (to decorate)

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, vanilla sugar and yeast in an electric mixing bowl and make a well. Attach the dough hook and start mixing on the lowest setting.

2. Add the warmed milk, orange flower water and then the eggs one by one and mix well until you have an even dough. Gradually add the melted butter (leave a bit to butter the brioche tin if it’s not silicone), mixing for at least 20 minutes until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.

3. Cover with a clean dish-towel and leave to rise in a warm place (24-35°C) for an hour until it looks like this.

Sir Brioche has arisen…

4. Knock down the dough and if you’re adding chocolate chips, nuts, or candied fruits, mix these in. Divide the dough in 2 and transfer each dough ball to brioche tins and/or cake molds, dividing the dough into tennis-sized balls and sprinkle with the pearl sugar or toppings of your choice.

Arise, Sir Brioche. Puffing up before going in the oven.

5. Leave again in a warm place for another hour until the dough rises to the top.

Adding to the whites collection for macarons!

6. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Brush each brioche with egg yolks mixed with a bit of water to glaze and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden. If the brioche browns too much, cover with greaseproof paper halfway through baking (although we prefer it browned, just how they serve it in our local boulangerie.)

7. Leave the brioches to cool on a wire rack.

Let the brioches rest for about an hour before devouring; straight from the oven and it will be too yeasty.  That’s why I make them on Friday and they’re perfect next day and even the next. Sometime plain is best, just with the traditional pearl sugar or a toasted nutty topping – that way you can serve with lashings of homemade jam (see recipe for apricot and lavender jam.)

Plain and simple with homemade jam but treats are hidden in the last part…

What kind of goodies would you hide inside or sprinkle on top of your brioche?

Melting Moments (or Mini Oat Cookies)

Ouf! It’s the school holidays. Enfin!

melting moment oat biscuits or cookies

 

The children were desperately needing a break: they have worked so hard and are gradually becoming more independent. By that I don’t mean I can just leave them and they get on with it all. They still need the constant nagging and even more TLC, now that my eldest daughter has moved to Secondary School.

It’s a huge change for her – and seems even more ‘grown up’ in France, as they call it collège. One thing that hasn’t changed is their enthusiasm for Melting Moments.

Melting-moments

Why Melting Moments? Well that’s what these biscuits or cookies were called from my Brownie’s Cookbook (Were you ever a Brownie?  For those of you who think it’s just a chocolate cake, it’s the younger group that comes before Guides, as part of the Baden Powell Scout groups.) It was my first ever introduction to baking, when I also had precious moments with Mum in the kitchen and the chance to plunge my hands in sticky dough.

So I have a soft spot for these wee melt-in-the-mouth gems. They’re also one of the quickest and easiest cookies to rustle up for goûter (afternoon tea). They’re healthily full of soluble fibre using oat flour and finished off rolled in oat flakes.

Melting-moments-hands

The laugh is, they never even noticed I’d served them on a Beatrix Potter bunny plate – they were too busy devouring these mini cookies.  Ideally, there should be the standard glass of milk for the photos, but truth be told we don’t like drinking milk on its own. My eldest (now 11) is now even drinking tea!

It’s great to see that through baking, they have also gained more confidence in the kitchen. When it comes to the tasting in the end, their final masterpieces always taste better when they’ve been made by their own hands.  And ça va sans dire (it goes without saying), that making them is indeed precious melting moments together.

melting moment cranberry oat cookies

 

Recipe: Melting Moments

Adapted from the Brownie’s Cookbook (I have no idea where it disappeared to – must be in my parents’ attic.) I noted down the recipe years ago but since then have used less sugar and substituted half of the flour with oat flour.

100g butter, softened
65g caster sugar
1 small egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
75g plain flour
75g oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
oat flakes, for rolling
glacé cherries or dried cranberries for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and mix well.

2. Roll walnut size pieces of the mixture into balls, and roll each one in the oat flakes.

3. Place them on baking trays covered in baking paper, flattening slightly each one with the finger, then place 1/4 glacé cherry on each (or any other candied fruit; candied orange peel is wonderful, too.)

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

A touch of glacé ginger is rather more adult, though.  How often have you needed that wee kick to go with your cup of tea?  Perfect for a quick break before going back in the kitchen for more fun.  Although – it has to be said -for these memorable moments, there’s nothing to beat the good old simple glacé cherry on top.

Guest Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Bread

Paris this week has been blessed with an incredible Indian Summer. It’s hard to believe it’s Autumn but hey, let’s not complain! We’re supposed to hit 30°C today so the weekend is beckoning us to eat outside. We’re finally getting that August weather we never had.

Today you are all in for a treat.  I am thrilled to have the gorgeous, glowingly healthy, Kelly Hunt join us from Eat Yourself Skinny.

Why is she so healthy looking?  I’m sure her tempting eat-yourself-skinny recipes may just have something to do with it. En plus, although she has a love-hate relationship with running, she still manages to conquer the odd marathon. My favourite part, though, is that she not only adores her food but enjoys her wines, too. How lucky to have so many fabulous wineries in Virginia on her doorstep!

Ladies and gentlemen, macaronivores, let me hand you over to Kelly – she is about to share something particularly fabulous with us to welcome Autumn.

Kelly Hunt

 

Hello there lovely readers of Mad About Macarons!  I’m Kelly from Eat Yourself Skinny and I’m so excited to be sharing with you all today!  When Jill first asked me to guest post, I was beyond flattered and completely honored!  I mean c’mon guys, you read her posts every day…her pictures are gorgeous, her writing is witty and let’s face it, she has her own book!!  What in the world could I put together that would even be comparable to the lovely goodies she makes each day and keep you from clicking that little “x” at the top of your screen!
{Yikes}
Well I decided to go with something Fall and festive!  I give you my Pumpkin Spice Bread and boy was this delicious!  As most of you know, there seems to be a serious shortage on canned pumpkin this year (read my rant here) so attempting to find this necessity was quite the task, to say the least.  If you do come across some friends, {trust me} STOCK UP!!
pumpkin spiced loaf recipe

Anyway, I absolutely loved the combination of flavors in this bread.  You have cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves…ahem, need I go on??  This really turned out incredible, was perfectly moist and tasted sensationally sweet!

Have I sold you yet??

Well if not, the best part is this only takes about 10 minutes to whip up and is extremely easy! Enjoy a slice for breakfast in the morning or wrap up as great gifts for your family and friends.  I brought this particular loaf to my office to share with my co-workers and I’m happy to say there was none left!!  Feel free to add nuts or dried fruit to your mix for a great variation.

Did I mention I absolutely LOVE this time of year??  It doesn’t get much better than scarves, spiced lattes and the sweet aroma of delicious pumpkin bread!  Hope you all enjoy this as much as I did!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

 

 

spicy pumpkin bread recipe

 

Here are your ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Bella So Savvy

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.

Mix sugar, baking soda, spices and flour together in a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, blending well.  Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto cooling rack until completely cooled.  Enjoy!

pumpkin bread recipe

 

Thanks again Jill for inviting me to your fabulous blog to guest post!

Feel free to stop by my little bloggy anytime for more delicious recipes or even just to say hi!

XOXO

Merci beaucoup, Kelly. I’m heading out to grab that pumpkin (we’ll just have to make our own purée since the French haven’t thought of this one!) and make this as soon as I can. Your colleagues are so lucky to have you around to taste this beauty, Kelly. Don’t forget to check out Eat Yourself Skinny for many more recipes and say bonjour from me!  Enjoy your weekend.

Update: Apologies to all those who wanted to leave a comment and couldn’t.

We’ve had some crazy server problems so things have gone willy wonky.

Thanks so much for your patience!

 

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with Chestnut Flour

Wanting something a bit different for pancake day?

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with chestnut flour

 

Scotch pancakes are also known as drop scones or griddle cakes.  To keep Corsican hubby happy, I came up with an Auld Alliance version, merging the two nations in a simple pancake. Here I’ve made them slightly different with the addition of chestnut flour, which is a typical rustic flour used in Corsican cuisine.  It just adds a nutty, rich texture and goes beautifully when paired with orange.  Serve warm with plenty of honey and/or warmed marmalade for something special. Adding a touch of Corsican liqueur just gives a subtle kick to the flavour.

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes (put your feet up & have a cup of tea..)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

70g plain flour
45g chestnut flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
30g butter, diced & softened
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp Corsican Chestnut Liqueur (or Grand Marnier), optional
150ml milk

  1. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder & salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Make a well in the centre.  Whisk in the egg, the liqueur (if using*) and gradually add in the milk until thick and creamy.  Set aside the mixture for 30 minutes so that the glutens in the flour expand.  This will make your pancakes light and fluffy (which I didn’t do for the photos here.  I was in a rush to run the kids back to school at lunch and you can see they’re as flat as a pancake.  30 mins rest does make a difference).
  3. Lightly grease a griddle/pancake pan or heavy frying pan and preheat it.
  4. Cook in batches.  Drop the equivalent of 4 spoonfuls of the mixture spaced apart over medium heat for 3 minutes until bubbles rise to the surface and burst.
  5. Turn the pancakes over and cook for a further 2 minutes.

* If you don’t want to use alcohol, replace the liqueur with orange flower water.

 

Scotch Pancakes

Turn over the pancakes once you see the bubbles bursting

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Scotch Pancakes (Drop Scones) with Corsican Chestnut Flour

Update: I’m still learning: I should have just lumped these Scotch Corsican Pancakes with the blethery blog post on one page. So if it’s the chatter you’re after, see le blog: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons…