Creamy Orange Curd – a perfect topping for Crêpes!

“Come on, as soon as we get home we’ll have oranges by the fire”. It was Mum’s way of encouraging us up that hill walking back from school on a wild and wet Scottish evening. With la Chandeleur and Mardi Gras approaching and another excuse to enjoy French crêpes, try this deliciously creamy orange curd recipe as a perfect topping for your pancakes this February …

How to Make a Giant Paris-Brest Choux (Eclair) Pastry Ring for Christmas

Ho ho! Lately, it’s more like Oh oh, as I think I’ve been going backwards. Where has the time flown?

My Corsican parents-in-law have already been and gone for our early French Christmas in Paris.  Their visit certainly speeded up the last few days of marathon shopping for holiday gifts and rustling up menus with fresh produce from the market; I’ve probably been looking like a perplexed turkey who’s lost the plot in Star Wars.

Before we know it, we’ll be flapping off to Scotland for my family’s Christmas gathering: pulling at our favourite British crackers together at the table, the more brave amongst us wearing their banger-sizzled contents of fluorescent paper hats and reciting the rolled-up corny but giggle-provoking jokes – especially after some toe-curling glasses of wine nectar.

The final blast of cheese after the Christmas Pudding still comes as a surprise. Bless Antoine; it has taken him a while to get used to dessert before cheese (and I am perhaps worse than him on this British custom after 24 years in France) but he’s cool and laps it all up – except Monsieur still refers to cranberry sauce (no matter how good, since he won’t even try) as turkey with jam or avec de la confiture.  Thank goodness Mum just laughs it off and has learned to shrug her shoulders like the French.

Choux (Eclair) pastry for special occasions

Traditions on the French side are slightly more serious at the table. My mother-in-law or Belle-maman always makes her two homemade bûches de Noël, or yule logs. I say always, as none of us have even contemplated breaking with this family ritual – that’s decidedly her territory. To avoid stepping on any toes in the kitchen, my answer is to make this large crown version of the Paris-Brest, dressed up for Christmas with holly and red currants.  What’s more, I find it much less hassle to make than a yule log!

Paris-Brests are in many Parisian pastry boutiques these days, although I’m disappointed to see they’re more often served as straight éclairs.  If it’s a real traditional Paris-Brest, it should be in the shape of a bicycle wheel since it was invented in 1910 by Louis Durand, who concocted a giant choux wheel filled with hazelnut praline buttercream to celebrate the cyclists passing his pâtisserie in Maisons-Laffitte (just west of Paris) on their sprint up to Brest.

You can find my recipe for mini Paris-Brests on page 100 in the The Good Life France magazine’s online Christmas edition. The recipe is an extract taken from Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Pâtisserie Recipes.  This time I’m doubling the quantities and making an extra large Christmas choux pastry wreath.

Giant Paris-Brest choux ring decorated for Christmas from Teatime in Paris

For such a large circle, no fancy moulds are needed – just a plain but large piping bag (about 30cm/16 inches).  Once you’ve had fun piping out large circles to create a giant wheel shape, there’s no stopping you: you’ll find it just as easy to pipe out large numbers for birthday éclairs too!

First was for a good friend’s 50th with a mixture of a Paris-Brest and a giant 5 with strawberries and cream – then Antoine’s great aunt Raymonde was thrilled to bits on her 94th birthday this summer with two giant elderflower cream and fresh strawberry éclairs, served with a glass of bubbly as she looked at the recipe in Teatime in Paris, just back from the printers and smelling of fresh ink.  It was a great double dose to celebrate!

Birthday giant numbered choux or éclairs

Just sketch out your circle or number shapes on baking parchment, cover it with another layer of parchment (so the dough isn’t in contact with the pencil), pipe away with two side-by-side layers then pipe out a third one on top, between the two.

How to pipe out giant eclairs in the shape of numbers

Choux (Eclair) Pastry Recipe

Instructions in steps 4 & 5 are given for piping out the large ring or Christmas wreath to make one large Paris-Brest choux wheel. Use this principle to pipe out giant numbers for birthday éclairs. When baked and cooled, split horizontally then fill with double quantities of the Praline filling from the mini Paris-Brests in “Teatime in Paris” or any other choice of filling.
(This is a slightly shortened and adapted version of the recipe, which is in more step-by-step detail in Teatime in Paris with its own chapter, including chouquettes, éclairs and Réligieuses.)

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 – 40 minutes

150g water
90g milk
1 tbsp orange blossom water
4g salt
1 tbsp sugar
90g unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
150g plain (all-purpose) flour
4 medium eggs, chilled
Slivered almonds (optional, to decorate)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F (Gas 4). Boil the water, milk, orange blossom water, salt, sugar and butter in a large saucepan.

2. Once boiling, remove from the heat and quickly add the flour. Whisk until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan.

3. Transfer to a mixing bowl (or electric mixer) and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the eggs until you have a smooth, sticky paste. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a plain or star tip of 10-12mm. At this point, you can seal the pastry in a piping bag and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

4. Cover a large flat baking tray with baking parchment.  Using a pencil, trace out a circle of about 18cm diameter, with the help of a round plate (I do it free hand – it doesn’t need to be that perfect!) and cover with another film of baking parchment, so there’s no direct contact with the pencil marking.

5. Pipe out the dough following the first 18cm circle, then follow with another circle right next to it in the inside.  Finish with a third circle superposed on top, nestling in between the two rings below.

6. Sprinkle with almonds for a round Paris-Brest (no need for giant éclairs). Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until brown – and don’t open the oven door at all during the process, otherwise the pastry will fall. Just wait until it’s well browned.

7. Leave to cool on a wire rack then using a bread knife, cut through the middle horizontally and fill with the praline buttercream or any other filling of your choice, such as this pistachio cream and top with fresh berries.

Paris-Brest-Edinburgh from Teatime in Paris Jill Colonna, Christmas

Before you go, you still have time to enter the international competition to win a copy of Teatime in Paris!

Just click here to read the FREE 2015 Christmas Issue of The Good Life France Magazine and turn to page 55 and click on the book cover for Teatime in Paris!  Good luck.

Thank you so much for your support and comments here on le blog and on social media. I’ll be back here after Christmas with more festive recipes and travel stories. In the meantime, you can still find me on Instagram – starting with a book-signing and carol singing at the British Embassy in Paris tonight …

Happy Holidays!


Caramel and Jasmine Macarons and Tea-Infused Recipes

Apparently 9 November is International Tea Day.  When I saw this over the weekend on Instagram, excitement set in as it was the perfect excuse to put the kettle on and infuse some tea into more teatime treats. I don’t normally keep up with national or international food days but Tea Day made me think about how tea and teatime have been top for Mad About Macarons this year. And to celebrate, let’s enjoy one of the recipes from Teatime in Paris!

Adding tea to baking and cooking is such an easy touch to make certain simple recipes sophisticated.  As ever, Paris has been my inspiration, as many fancy pâtisseries and tearooms offer tea-infused pastries for that extra chic Parisian teatime.

Some tea-infused recipes on le blog have not been confined to teatime. One of my favourite main dishes is this easy yet elegant fish recipe with a beurre blanc sauce infused with Lapsang Souchong smoked tea.  Try it and you’ll see how it takes a simple John Dory fish dish to another level. I love the crispy topping but the sauce is the always the winner of compliments at dinner parties – so thank you Chef Vincent David for this one!

Cooking with tea recipes

Top: Herb-hugging John Dory with Smoked Tea Beurre Blanc;  Below: Tea-infused chocolate macarons; Green Tea Rice Pudding

I was in shock yesterday when I remembered these One Night in Paris-Bangkok (Mariages Frères) tea-infused chocolate macarons and partying with a wig. Moving on to more recent comfort food was this rice pudding recipe infused with Theodor’s latest aromatic green tea called Little Bear, with notes of ginger and mandarine. I see the Insolent Parisian has yet another delicious tea-infused vanilla cream recipe.

Tea-infused recipes are also included in my new book, Teatime in Paris, such as these Honey, Rose and Green Tea Madeleines from the first chapter – and ending with the final Tea Party recipes, made to mix-and-match, including this Chocolate-Earl Grey Tart with Cointreau Crumble Puffs.

tea infused recipes in Teatime in Paris

Now, thanks to Waverley Books, I can share the recipe for the salted caramel cream filling from the new book – although instead I infused jasmine tea into the cream and omitted the salt to let the tea shine through.

caramel and jasmine macarons

Caramel and Jasmine macarons – with a cup of Jasmine tea …


Recipe adapted from Teatime in Paris - the salt has been omitted and the cream is slightly increased to allow for the infusion with the Jasmine tea. First, follow the basic macaron recipe (pages 146-150 in Teatime in Paris – or from Mad About Macarons) and add caramel colouring.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 20+30 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes

Caramel & Jasmine filling:

110g cream, warmed
12g jasmine tea
1 x 2g sheet gelatine
100g sugar
60g butter
150g mascarpone

Heat the cream in a small saucepan and add the jasmine tea.  As soon as the cream boils, take off the heat, put a lid on and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Filter out the tea, pushing as much of the cream out of the tea as possible using a wooden spoon. Set aside.

Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes and reheat the cream.

Heat the sugar with a tablespoon of water over medium heat in a small saucepan until a golden, syrupy caramel forms. Stir only when it starts to change colour and watch that it doesn’t colour too much (i.e. it can burn quickly – and there’s nothing worse than bitter burnt caramel, so keep you’re eye on it!). This should take no more than 10 minutes in total. Turn down the heat and add the warmed cream gradually (ensure it’s warm, otherwise you’ll have the boiling caramel spitting at you!)

Take off the heat and melt in the butter, stirring the tea-infused caramel with a wooden spoon.

Add the gelatine (squeezed of excess water) and stir. Leave to cool on the counter for 15 minutes.

Whisk in the mascarpone vigorously (or use an electric whisk) until you have a smooth texture.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Transfer the caramel cream to a piping bag, pipe on the filling to each macaron couple, topping off with the other macaron shell to assemble.

Caramel and jasmine tart with Parisian macarons

I’ll leave you with this Caramel, Walnut and Maple tart, another of the recipes from Teatime in Paris I made this weekend to accompany the macarons (I did say I was looking for excuses to bake!).  Here I also infused Jasmine tea into the cream before pouring into the caramel. I also infused the tea into the melted butter for these almond tuiles, another of the recipes. It’s easy to adapt so many varieties of your best recipes to celebrate your favourite teas.

caramel jasmine macarons with caramel-maple and walnut tart from Teatime in Paris

All that’s missing is a cup of tea and some company. So, what’s your favourite tea and do you bake or cook with it?  Please feel free to share a tea recipe with us in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

Happy Tea Celebration Day!

French Apple and Cinnamon Custard Tart – An Easy Yolk Recipe you HAVE to try!

The last time I made this tart, I earmarked the recipe and put it aside in a special file called “Best egg yolk recipes: must make for le blog”.  That was last autumn.

Luckily this delicious custard tart and I were reunited with me falling on the stairs – there’s always a silver lining! A forced foot rest due to ankle sprain and torn ligaments has had me rather house-bound and frustrated at cancelling pastry and chocolate walks in Paris but an office clean-out has meant that the tempting yolk recipe file has resurfaced from the back of the cupboard!

Alsacian French Apple Tart Recipe

This sumptuous dessert recipe is also ridiculously easy – especially if you cheat and buy ready-made pastry.  However, I do urge you to make your own sweet pastry here, as adding that extra touch of cinnamon in the base had even my cinnamon-avoiding husband ask for a THIRD slice.

Techniques such as blind-baking the pastry beforehand is also cleverly replaced by simply laying out the apples and baking them before adding the filling. For macaron, meringue, and financier lovers, then you’ll appreciate having another egg yolk recipe up your sleeve and the good news is that this filling uses 4 egg yolks!  The filling couldn’t be simpler – just whisk the whole lot together and pour on top of the apples.

Easy best recipe for French apple tart

Alsatian Apple and Cinnamon Custard Tart

Recipe adapted from ‘Tarte aux Pommes à l’Alsacienne’ in France the Beautiful Cookbook by the Scotto Sisters – with extra cinnamon and reduced sugar in the filling. If you make tartlets, either butter tartlet moulds or use 6 tartlet rings.

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Makes one 25cm tart or 6 tartlets

300g sweet pastry (with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
2-3 apples (Golden Delicious or Cox’s Pippin)
4 egg yolks
75g sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g double (heavy) cream

Alsatian apple cinnamon tart

1. Preheat the oven to 210°C/410°F (gas 6 1/2). Butter a 25cm tart tin (no need to butter if using non-stick moulds) or tart ring. Roll out the pastry dough larger than the tart tin (about 4cm larger) and press into the tin. Chill in the fridge.

2. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them evenly over the pastry, starting from the outside and overlapping the slices slightly in the form of a rose.  Bake for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, using a hand whisk, beat the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and cream.  Pour over the apples and bake for 35 minutes (25 minutes for tartlets) or until the apples are tender.

Apple cinnamon French custard Tartlet egg yolk recipe

No need for any ice cream or cream; just enjoy on its own served warm with a cup of your favourite tea for the perfect Sunday teatime treat.

French apple and cinnamon tarts