Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowball gluten-free recipe

We have been lucky lately in Paris.  Up until Sunday the weather has been awfully kind, thank you.  Now we’re making up for lost chilly time, as December has well and truly hit us with a blast from the Arctic, or so it seems.

The advent calendar is up, filled with riddles and surprises; I didn’t think that Lucie would still want it this year but I suppose at 12, she’s clutching on to childhood.  She’s already worried about the 4th, as that bag looks empty but hopefully, she’ll remember that day well.  I get as much fun out of it as she does – but that’s what it’s all about, hey? Oh, hokey cokey pokey …

advent calendar bags for macarons

What could be in the bags, do you think? Er, macarons?

Times like this evoke childhood memories, don’t they? Take teatime: do you have an afternoon treat that rekindles a warm, sweet blast from the past?

As a Scottish lass, there are a couple of sweet treats that can still instantly conjure up an instant glow: Tunnock’s teacakes and a Lee’s macaroon bar. I say the macaroon bar in the singular, since it’s so densely sweet that one rectangular bar is more than enough! It isn’t  a macaroon as such – you know, the sticky baked coconut confection using egg whites, sugar and coconut – and it’s far removed from (read nothing like!) a Parisian macaron, made with ground almonds (almond flour), sugar and egg whites, that’s in my book.  No, a Macaroon Bar is made with a hard fondant centre of mainly icing (powdered) sugar and mashed potato (yes, you heard me right), which is coated in chocolate and toasted coconut.

Lee's orginal macaroon bar

The Macaroon Bar in Scotland was originally manufactured in Glasgow by Lee’s in 1931 and they still make them today. It’s a classic.  I even see they’re sold on Amazon.co.uk for homesick Scots!  And the song that accompanied it was pretty catchy…

The other day I wanted to prepare some British treats for the Lycée International’s school Christmas Fête. Why didn’t I just make shortbread?  Since I was already on a roll with chocolate-coconut snowballs, I wanted to give these a go and besides, they look pretty Christmassy, don’t they?

To be honest, I couldn’t manage to eat a whole bar these days, as it really is far too sweet but the sensation of the fondant centre and the memory makes this smaller snowball size just perfect! I discovered a fellow Scot’s blog at TinnedTomatoes.com, where Jacqueline posts delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes. She had also produced smaller macaroon bars but in the smaller guise as snowballs. Parfait! So time to get rolling…

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Macaroon Bar Snowballs Recipe

Inspired by Jacqueline’s blog at TinnedTomatoes.com.  I’ve found that the amount of sugar will vary, depending on how dry your potato is.  You may need more or less but the fondant should be thick and quite difficult to stir at the end, when it’s just right and ready to roll. They may be packed with sugar but they’re gluten free!

Makes approx. 36 balls

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Chilling Time: Approx. an hour total

1 dry potato (about 120g)
460g icing or powdered sugar (more or less)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla powder)
200g dark chocolate (64% cocoa solids – I used Nestlé’s Corsé brand)
200g finely shredded coconut

1.  Peel the potato and cut it into quarters, then boil until soft.  Rinse off the extra starch in cold water.  Mash until smooth in a large mixing bowl and leave to cool completely.

mashing potato to make sweet macaroon bar treats

Mashing potato for sweet treats?

2. Using a wooden spoon, mix in a few spoonfuls of icing sugar at a time, stirring well to mix.  Don’t worry: the mix will be runny and rather unappetising at first but eventually, as you add more and more icing sugar, it will thicken up.

mixing mashed potato with icing-powdered sugar

3. The sugar-potato fondant will be ready as soon as it’s difficult to worth with: it will be stiff and difficult to stir.  At that point, cover it in cling-film or plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

How to make Scottish macaroon bar lees snowballs

4. Cover two baking trays with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or a Silpat mat.  Tear small balls of the macaroon fondant and roll into smooth balls the size of a one pound coin (I find it easier washing hands every 10 balls, as it can get rather sticky!)  Once all the balls are prepared, chill them directly on the trays in the fridge (update: I made mine in the winter when my kitchen was cool – you may need to put yours in the freezer).

5. Pour half of the desiccated/shredded coconut onto a non-stick baking tray and toast under a hot grill for a couple of minutes.  Keep your eye on it, as it burns far too easily!  Mix the plain coconut with the toasted batch.

toasted and plain shredded coconut

6. Break the chocolate into bits and melt over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie).  Leave to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.

7. This is when fun and messy fingers take over the kitchen: dip each macaroon fondant into the melted chocolate (I started using a cocktail stick then gave up – too long!), then immediately roll each in the coconut then place back on the baking tray.  Ideally use separate hands for each.

8. Place the baking trays with the coated macaroon snowballs in the fridge to set.

The macaroon bar snowballs can keep in a tin or airtight container in a cool, dry place for 7-10 days.  There’s no need to keep them chilled in the fridge.

homemade Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs packaging

Here are some I made earlier, all packaged up and ready to party at the Christmas Fête… Wish I’d manage to see the expressions at the potato ingredient!

Scottish macaroon bar snowballs

And I forgot to mention: like macarons, they’re gluten-free!

Ready to chill out with the holiday preparations?

Chocolate Coconut Snowballs (gluten-free)

Somehow over this past week, the dull light and persisting rain in Paris has had me thinking warm thoughts around teatime: snowballs, my Scottish Granny and her splattered Black Book of favourite recipes.  With a school Christmas fête approaching fast, I thought I’d make these Chocolate Coconut Snowballs as they’re quick, easy to make and deliciously festive. Just as well, as mad woman here suggested 300.

chocolate coconut snowballs (gluten free) no bake treats

The snowball recipe was in The Black Book.  It contained not just recipes dictated from Granny and scribbled down by my aunts and Mum, but also frayed newspaper cuttings and hurried notes taken as dictation, listening to Jimmy Young’s radio show (no wonder my Mum ended up being the Edinburgh Queen of shorthand for journalists!).  But with the last few months of house renovations, I can’t find it.  You see, I put that Black Book somewhere safe.

So safe, I can’t remember for the life of me where I would have put it.  Does that ever happen to you?  I used to frown at Mum, when presents were discovered a couple of months after the event.  How could she have forgotten where she put things?  Now, doing the same myself, I can’t help rolling the eyes and shrugging the shoulders like the French.

Rolling little chocolate balls in shredded coconut, however, provokes the most warming memories I have of childhood Christmases in the 70s at Granny’s.

chocolate coconut snowballs gluten free treats

Christmas snowballs meant getting away with gooey, chocolatey, messy fingers.  Auntie Shirley (remember the artist behind these knitted cakes?) brought out the ingredients (I remember raisins, rolled oats,  cocoa powder and tons of coconut) as Granny was in charge of total quality control: as my younger brother and I rolled them in the palms of our hands, Alan would often bash them on the table and completely flatten them.  Och, Alan, how could they taste the same?

They were so easy to make, no-bake, quick and delicious.  In no time, we’d fight for the best position on the poofie, which was in the middle of Granny and Grandpa’s facing armchairs, and nibble at them served with satsuma oranges in front of the crackling fire.

We’d just stare into the hypnotic flames, imagining all sorts of characters dancing around in front of us as we threw the peelings in, fascinated by their singing and hissing, whilst smouldering and creating the most cosy aromas. The whole lot scoffed and stories exchanged, we’d reluctantly get up and laugh at our fire-tartaned faces.

chocolate coconut snowballs (gluten free)

Keep us several days in a tin in the fridge

Meanwhile as the fête is nearer and I wanted to test some recipes, I came across this one for chocolate coconut rollovers – rolling them instead in coconut, to create the snowball effect.  These snowballs are entirely gluten-free; but I still need to find that book.  In the meantime, they’re still delicious and modernised a bit with less sugar and more on the chocolate.

Chocolate coconut snowballs

Take a wee bite!

Chocolate Coconut Snowballs (Gluten Free Recipe)

Recipe adapted from the 12 October issue of the You Magazine, thanks to Mum and Dad for leaving some British newspapers from their last visit!  The recipe specifies rolling in cocoa, chocolate vermicelli or other sprinkles of your choice.  Here I’ve opted for a mixture of toasted and plain desiccated/shredded coconut.

Makes about 20

100g (3 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, about 70% cocoa
100g (3 1/2 oz) desiccated coconut
50g (2oz)  coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For rolling:

50g (2oz) desiccated coconut

1. Break up and gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water. Allow the melted chocolate to cool to room temperature.

2. Mix together the coconut, coconut oil and maple syrup and blend until smooth, then add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and blend again.  Pour this into a medium-size bowl, cover and chill for about 1 hour or until the mixture firms to the consistency of chilled butter.

3. Taking a heaped teaspoon of the mixture at a time, roll it into a ball the size of a cherry between your palms and set aside on a plate.  Roll the chocolates in coconut (or in cocoa or chocolate vermicelli if you prefer).  I spread half of the coconut on a baking tray and placed under a grill for a couple of minutes to toast it, then mixed it in with plain finely grated/shredded desiccated coconut.

Arrange the chocolate coconut snowballs in a pretty dish or box, loosely cover and chill for a couple of hours.  They should keep well for several days in the fridge, it says.  We found they tasted so much better when left at room temperature for half an hour to enjoy them at their best.

 Stay tuned – I’m on a snowball roll!

Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding for the Holiday Season

You can tell that chocolate has been quite prominent in our diets these last couple of weeks.  How could I talk about the 20th Salon du Chocolat in Paris without having some kind of a chocolate treat for you?  I also need to write up about the Paris Gourmet Chocolate Museum from the mid-term school holidays but right now, work on the new book is hotting up and I need to focus.  I’m off to pick up, Eleanor, the Editor at the airport and we have a busy few days ahead of us…

best quick holiday chocolate desserts presented with macarons

Blustery showers, soggy leaves and chilly fingers calls for warming chocolate, doesn’t it?  Let’s face it, dark chocolate is good for you, a mood enhancer and cooked together with egg yolks filled with iron, we need a good dose to stay healthy during the winter months.

And, with the simplest presentation in little cups, it’s the easiest of desserts to whip up at the last minute for the holiday season with friends and family.  It’s also perfect served with macarons.  Either made earlier and still in the fridge or from your freezer bank!

chocolate pudding egg yolk recipe with festive macarons

Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding

Recipe of Budino di Cioccolato adapted from Nigella Express Cookbook by Nigella Lawson.

350ml full-fat milk
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
35g cocoa powder
2 tbsps boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g candied chestnut purée (Clément Faugier)
60g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped

1. Put the kettle on, and warm the milk/cream together in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave.

2. Put the sugar and cornflour into another saucepan and sieve in the cocoa powder.  Add the 2 tbsps of boiling water and whisk to a paste.

3. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream, then the vanilla extract.

4. Scrape down the sides of the pan and put it on lowish heat, cooking and whisking for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency.

5. Take off the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and candied chestnut purée, before pouring into 4 small cups or glasses, each with a capacity of about 150ml.

6. Cover the tops of the cups or glasses with cling film, letting the cling-film rest on the chocolate surface, to stop a skin forming, and refrigerate once they are cooler.

Serve at room temperature, adding a blob of cream or top.  I topped it with a marron glacé, a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon and served with chocolate macarons.

easy chocolate pudding dessert recipe for the holiday season with macarons

Don’t forget there are many more egg yolk recipes on le blog for all you macaron-making lovers.

Store your egg whites in a jam jar with a closed lid and keep in the fridge for 4-5 days – then you’re ready to make Parisian macarons!

Chocolate Hazelnut Rocher Truffles

As I got the ball rolling with chocolate hazelnut macarons for holiday gifts this weekend, Julie and Lucie had other ideas on the side. Shopping for macaron ingredients at our local supermarket, they were instead eyeing the shiny, festive towers of  Ferrero Rocher’s golden foil-wrapped little crunchy milk chocolate hazelnuts.

Lucie remembered seeing a recipe for Rochers at home, in a tiny little book that came with a cute bear mould (which they have never used, alas) in her stocking last Christmas. With the advance thought of her dental brace being put in today, it was essential in her book to cram in as many sweet – and especially crunchy treats – as possible before she had to em-brace (sorry!) the orthodontist’s less than sweet, strict toothy diet restrictions.

To make them extra crunchy and nutty, we toasted the hazelnuts in the oven first and coated them in dark chocolate, although the recipe calls for milk chocolate, if you prefer.

Chocolate Hazelnut Rochers

Adapted from  L’atelier Oursons & Guimauves by Aline Caron

Makes 30 mini bites

Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Resting Time: 2½ hours

Chocolate ganache:
200g milk chocolate, broken into bits
12g (a tablespoon) single cream
30 whole hazelnuts

Coating:
100g dark chocolate
50g wafer biscuits (optional)
100g hazelnuts, crushed

Prepare the Ganache:

1. Heat the oven to 180°C and roast all the hazelnuts in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. If you prefer, you could wipe off the skins using a tea towel.

2. Heat the tiny bit of cream in a saucepan (yes, it does look so little but trust me, this is correct!) and add the broken bits of milk chocolate. Using a whisk, once the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and, using a balloon whisk, mix quickly until you have a mixture that resembles a gorgeous, chocolatey putty.

3. Using a teaspoon and your fingers, break off a walnut size of milk chocolate ‘putty’, roll it in the palm of your hands into a ball. Push a toasted hazelnut into the centre and roll again, ensuring that the hazelnut is completely covered. Complete the process until you have 30 balls then chill in the fridge for about 40 minutes.

Prepare the coating:

4. Melt the milk chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (bain-marie). As soon as the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, crush the hazelnuts (and wafers, if using) in a food processor (or place them in a bag and bash them using a rolling pin) then place them in a round bowl.

5. Dip the cooled rocher balls into the chocolate and immediately roll them in the crushed hazelnuts.

6. Place the rocher chocolate nutty truffles on a baking sheet covered with baking paper and leave to set at room temperature for 1½ hours.

These little rocher bites can keep for up to 5 days, kept in a cool place.

For the best presentation, place each rocher in mini bright foil cases for festive effect. In our case, they were pounced on so fast, it wasn’t even necessary.

With some leftover crushed hazelnuts, it’s an ideal decoration for chocolate hazelnut macarons (recipe in the book): just brush on some chocolate ganache and spinkle the nuts on top.

OK, now it’s on to the end-of-term macaron-making marathon using the recipes in the book. These macarons are going to party this week! Next ones will be festive and shiny.

What colour and/or flavour of macarons would you like to see at a party or decorated on your Christmas tree?

Chocolate Drizzle in the Black Forest

The hills were alive with the sound of cattle bells and gradual butterflies in my stomach as we ascended to the top of the Belchen mountain by cable car. Somehow I can’t get over my fear of heights but the views from the top made the ride worthwhile. The Belchen is the third highest mountain in the Black Forest (1414m) just south of Freiburg, its Capital.

Belchen mountains Black Forest Germany

The hills are alive with the sound of cattle bells and butterflies

Couldn’t you just imagine Julie Andrews running towards you in her pinafore, beckoning you to join in song? Are you ready? If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music like myself, you’ll love this page of trivia about the film.

Black Forest Mountains Germany

Climb Ev’ry Mountain…

Back down to ground level, the girls were dying to go boating on the Titisee lake, which is about 850m above sea level.  Thank Goodness they’re not quite Sixteen Going on Seventeen yet. A pedalo for four did us quite nicely, thank you, as the rain drizzled on us. Pity it wasn’t chocolate drizzle.

Boating on Lake Titisee Black Forest Germany - great for family holidays

A trip to Furtwangen was a must on this short trip, as it’s famous for its cuckoo clocks. At the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (German Clock Museum), I’ve never seen so many of them in one place, from the traditional to more contemporary designs. Schönwald, a tiny town next door, is said to be the birthplace of the cuckoo clock, where Franz Anton Ketterer thought of combining a clock with bellows at the beginning of the 18th Century.

German cuckoo clocks museum Black Forest

Time to say, Oh, cuckoo!

Our girls thought the highlight of the trip was the nature walk at Triberg, up to the Gutach waterfall – the highest waterfall in Germany – which cascades over 160m through the forest. Many royal and celebrity guests have visited the falls, including Ernest Hemingway in August 1922. Our favourite celebrities were the swooping nutcracker birds and the cheeky squirrels, as they fought over the allocated bags of monkey nuts.

Triberg waterfalls Black Forest Germany

Triberg Waterfalls, Black Forest

On our return home, my petite Lucie turned 11 years old and another couple of shoe sizes bigger in the last month. You think I’m joking? At this rate, she’s going to tower above me in no time.  The request for her birthday cake was simple: chocolate cake!  I’d already made a wickedly rich chocolate cake by Patrick Roger this Easter but Lucielocks quite rightly asked to try something different.

It didn’t take long to find a perfect chocolate bundt cake recipe from Jamie Schler’s blog, Life’s A Feast.  I loved the shape of this Bundt cake and simply drizzled it with plenty of chocolate ganache (recipe below) and melted white chocolate, one of Lucie’s favourite sweet things.  With chocolate macarons on the side, bien sûr.  Which reminds me of another of Maria’s songs, “I Have Confidence” – which is basically the main ingredient needed for macaron-making, n’est-ce pas?

As this cake was made for a children’s party, I omitted the cinnamon but if you’re including it, I would also suggest adding a good pinch of cinnamon to the chocolate drizzle, as well as a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Lucie doesn’t like cherries (I know, I know – scream!) so there’s not a cherry in sight, but to make a Black Forest version, I suggest adding 100g of dried cherries (even better, soaked in Kirsch) to the dough before baking and serve with plenty of cherries and whipped cream on the side.

Chocolate Ganache Drizzle

100g dark chocolate (at least 64% cacao), especially for pâtisserie
100g good quality milk chocolate
300g single cream
1 sachet (7g) vanilla sugar

Break the chocolate into pieces. Gently heat the cream in a saucepan, adding the vanilla sugar and chocolate pieces.  Heat over low heat until the chocolate has melted, then stir with a wooden spoon to make a beautifully glossy, even sauce to drizzle over your cakes and ice cream.

So Long, Farewell, auf wiedersehen to you, the holidays. The French schools return next week for la rentrée so, before we’re back to routine, I’ll try to upload the latest photos. I forgot to post this before leaving for Italy last week.  If anyone follows me on TwitterInstagram or Facebook, you may know that I can’t sit down for long before my back seizes up, so my computer and travel visits are kind of short these days. So, here’s the second part of our Black Forest jaunt before I turned into a chair!

Holidays: one of My Favourite Things – along with chocolate, macarons, strawberries, bubbly and brown paper packages tied up with string. What’s yours?

Prost! Cheers!

Black Forest Chocolate Cream Desserts – and a Trip to Germany

Do you really think a sweet tooth determines our family holiday destinations? Well, perhaps it does. It has been 30 years since I last visited Germany and the same, ridiculous amount of time since I practised my rusty high school German. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut!  It was high time to visit.

We headed to the medieval town of Staufen, south of the Black Forest, a jewel nestled in between lush mountaineous forests, vines, cafés and bakeries.

What amazed us most about the region, is how clean and tidy the towns are. Everything is immaculate, even down to the neat stacks of wood piled outside geranium window-boxed freshly painted houses. It’s also the first time I’ve seen kids paddling about in the gutters! (Well, one of them was mine – was ist das?) The Germans seem particularly eco-friendly: bikes are the norm, an impressive amount of houses have flashy solar panels and their signposting is nothing short of perfection.

We stayed at the Gasthaus Krone (meaning ‘crown’), which is an excellent address in Staufen – including their Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurant. Luckily the friendly owner spoke some French, since my painful phrases embarrassingly resembled a mix of German vocabulary, French grammar and stuttering English fillers-in. I am determined to return after doing some homework next time, but at least communication through food is easier!

Meandering down the main cobbled street, serenaded by a solo oboist trying to compete with the local brass quintet oompa-ing around the fountain, the castle ruins and vineyards majestically tower over the local wineries. The city crest is a shield with 3 wine glasses so when in Staufen, it would be rude not to taste; their welcoming barrels proudly strut their tasting offerings.

This is what holidays are made of: sitting back, people-watching, contemplating family postcards, nibbling on a salted bretzel and sipping at the local traditional grape varieties – including the oldest, Gutedel. Personally, I preferred the dry Muscat for white wines but their red wines shone high above the rest with some stunning Pinot Noirs, bursting with jam-like cherry fruits.

Staufen Castle, although now a ruin (built in 850), can be visited to admire the breathtaking vista of the Black Forest and Rhine Valley. Looking out the arched window, we’re reminded by such an enormous tree that we’re in black cherry country.

After such a climb during the heatwave, it was time to follow the tempting signs dotted around the town to the nearest cake shop. It didn’t take us long to discover the Café Decker, undoubtedly the best cake shop and tea salon in Staufen. It was so decadently, deliciously decked in cakes that we admittedly returned three times.

Black Forest Cakes, küchen, more chocolate cakes, redcurrant meringue pies and macarons were just some of the treats that would make anyone go off their sweet trolley. I think I put on three kilos during the week!  So, switching to ice cream seemed a lighter idea: wouah! Teasingly steeped in Kirsch liqueur, it made an ideal excuse for an afternoon nap by the snoring river.

Back home, the Schwartzwald German trip provided inspiration for these gluten free Black Forest No Bake Cream Desserts back home: ideal for using up egg yolks and for serving with your chocolate macarons.  What’s more, it’s holiday style: quick, easy, tasty and no bake!

Black Forest chocolate cream desserts

Black Forest Chocolate Cream Desserts

Serves 8 (mini pots) or 4 (in wine glasses)

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

1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)
200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
1 tbsp Kirsch liqueur (optional)
16 fresh cherries (or Griottine cherries, soaked in Kirsch)

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 Kirsch (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.

4. Transfer to 8 mini serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us), cool and chill for at least an hour. Decorate with fresh dark cherries and/or Griottine cherries soaked in Kirsch and a scoosh of Chantilly cream*. (Or why not roast cherries with a splash of Kirsch as Jamie Schler does at Life’s a Feast?)

If you have a siphon, fill it up half way with chilled cream (no less than 30% fat) and splash in a couple of tablespoons of Kirsch or cherry syrup, fit with the gas canister, shake and chill for a few minutes. Instant, homemade lighter-than-light cream!

Black Forest chocolate cream desserts

Guten Appetit!