French Clafoutis – Baked Cherry Custard

Clafoutis is one of my French Mother-in-law’s specialities. It’s also one of my husband’s favourite desserts.  When we visit Antoine’s parents in Provence in the summer, Madeleine proudly makes a point of rustling up her baked cherry custard finale for son grand, her eldest son. Call me a Scottish ostrich who hides her head in the hot sand but, as a result, I have always shied away from serving it at home. Until fairly recently.

Would you believe I finally plucked up the courage to make this ridiculously easy pudding after twenty years? What was I imagining? Could Mother-in-law really discover I’d slightly changed her recipe and stone me with the beautiful plump, dark cherries from her neighbour’s provençal orchard? With such a blossoming cherry season around Paris, it has been my wake up call.

baked cherry custard dessert clafoutis

So many clafoutis recipes call for pitted cherries. Madeleine normally throws in the cherries as they are and most of us politely dispose of the stones at the table (I say most of us, as Antoine – in his more natural Corsican style – rocks on the back of his chair, plotting his target as he catapults and projects them less than delicately into the garden – “Heh, je plante!”, he shrugs at us all.  It’s his Corsican sense of humour of saying he’s planting cherry trees. Oh, pl-ease!).

I may mock but whole, unpitted cherries do keep in their flavour, and it’s far quicker than standing over the kitchen table with dark cherry-stained hands looking like Jack or Jill the Ripper. So just throw them in as they are naturally then get the family to do the gardening at the table. Otherwise pit them if you prefer, especially if you have a cherry stone extractor.

This almond-topped clafoutis has been tried, tested and approved by Antoine, Julie and Lucie. Just don’t tell his Mum.

French clafoutis easy recipe

FRENCH CLAFOUTIS (Cherry Baked Custard) RECIPE

Recipe adapted from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, France: The Beautiful Cookbook – Authentic Recipes from the Regions of France by The Scotto Sisters and Gilles Pudlowski (I added baking powder, another egg, more milk and cut down on the sugar and butter.) The almond topping is pinched from my friend, Véronique (merci!). You could replace the almond extract with a tablespoon of Kirsch or Amaretto liqueur, for a more adult version.

SERVES 4-6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

500g fresh black cherries, washed, not pitted

For the mould (china or earthenware dish):
10g butter
10g sugar

70g plain flour
good pinch of salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, organic
1 egg yolk
80g sugar
270g full-cream milk
25g butter, melted
few drops of almond extract (optional)
25g silvered almonds (optional, for garnish)

Pouring clafoutis batter on to cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (gas 4). Butter an ovenproof china or pyrex dish (22cm diameter and 5cm deep) large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer.  Sprinkle in the sugar, shaking it all around so that it coats the surface of the dish and place the cherries in it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and yolk and, using a balloon whisk, mix well until the mixture is smooth.  Continue whisking adding the milk, almond extract and melted butter. Pour over the cherries.

French clafoutis before baking

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Toast the flaked almonds in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat until they’re golden and sprinkle on the Clafoutis with a dusting of icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Serve warm directly from the dish.

clafoutis cherry baked custard dessert

Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (or Facebook), where I’m having fun posting shots from day to day around Paris – from the market, to chocolate and pastry walks, to views of Paris, to mad family life.

cherry French dessert clafoutis

And for more cherries on top, I’m off to make some pistachio and cherry tartlets – recipe in Teatime in Paris!

Summer Fête Carrot Cakes

Today I’m still cringing.  When was the last time you had an embarrassing instant of saying something without thinking it through, then spent the following hours and day wishing you could correct it and hit replay?  Even on a day like French Mother’s Day today, I can’t ask for that gift.

Such a wincing-induced moment came yesterday. It could have been straight from a Desperate Housewives’ scene; Bree standing in frilly apron, smiling proudly from ear to ear behind the baking stall at the School’s Summer Fête.

summer school fete at the Lycée International St Germain

As the director of the school chose a cake for his offspring, just as he was about to turn and continue the rounds, my mouth opened and blurted, “I baked these”.

carrot-cupcakes

These three pathetic words are still teasing me, as I’m desperately trying to convince brain to train mouth. The only consoling thought is that everyone seems to love a good carrot cake – now including French hubby, who normally only appreciates spices in a curry or tagine.

carrot mini cakes

For the Fête, I chose to make light individual cakes, as I was simply too lazy to cut up a large cake!

carrot cake muffins

RECIPE CARROT CAKES

Recipe from BBC Good Food. The recipe is super in that there is not as much sugar as other recipes I’ve tried and I love the proportion of carrots, making the cakes very light.  I only adapted it very slightly by lowering the sugar, adding extra zest to the frosting for more zing, and on the icing quantities as I had too much in proportion to the cake mix.

Makes 12 large cakes using muffin moulds and paper cases (@ 7cm diameter)

INGREDIENTS

200g plain flour (or half each of plain and wholemeal flour)
150g light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp gingerbread or mixed spice
zest of an unwaxed orange (keep some aside for the icing)
2 eggs
150g sunflower oil (or other neural oil)
200g peeled carrots, grated

Icing:

75g butter, softened
225g soft cheese, at room temperature (e.g. Philadelphia or St Moret)
75g icing/confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract (or add 1 tsp zest from the orange)
Sprinkles to decorate (optional)

1. Heat oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan (Gas 4).
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spice and orange zest.  Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients with the grated carrot.

2. Prepare a 12-cavity muffin tin with paper cases. Divide the mixture between cases and bake for 20-22 minutes until a skewer poked in comes out clean.

3. To make the icing, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla/orange zest.  Either swirl the icing on top of the cakes using a palette knife or use a piping bag with a star tip to pipe out spiral toppings and sprinkle with edible glitter to your fancy.

carrot cake muffins recipe

Enjoy!  Just watch what your mouth says.

Happy New Year with a Cheesecake from Paris!

Happy New Year to you from a chilly Paris!  I hope you all had a chance to have a good break, pick up a book now and again, stick your feet up and enjoy spending time with the family.  If you’re like me, you may have also spent much quality time in the kitchen – but it’s my favourite, cosy haven to concoct new dishes and bring out old favourites to the table, making the family happy bunnies.

Orange and cinnamon cheesecake with macarons for Teatime in Paris

A cheesecake fit for a King or Queen this Epiphany and for a macaron blog

While I’m making the traditional royal French Galettes des Rois this week for Epiphany, I’ve also had a crescendoing urge to make … cheesecake!  Julie is the greatest cheesecake fan I know –  training her eye to spot them from a distance – as New York-style cheesecakes are gradually appearing more in Parisian pâtisseries. Since her major discovery of Gontran Cherrier‘s deliciously tangy Yuzu and lime cheesecake, festive shopping trips to St Germain-en-Laye up the road have had a major attack on her pocket money. So, Mum to the rescue, it was high time to stock up on some cream cheese and make one family-sized this weekend.  Besides, I wanted to ensure she was eating enough fruit.  Excuses over.

orange cheesecake decor close-up

In my RECIPES TO DO pile, has been the most sumptuous-looking cheesecake on the 7th cover edition of Fou de Pâtisserie magazine: by Chef Jean-François Piège.  He owns Thoumieux: a restaurant, a hotel and brasserie (see my reviews here), plus one of my favourite pâtisseries in Paris, Gâteau Thoumieux – at 58 rue Saint Dominique.

Chef Piège’s ingredients’ list is precise with 401g of cream cheese, but I should have taken note in step 2 that you only need 300g of the base – I used all of it in the recipe which was too much for a 16cm diameter cheesecake mould.  The next time I make this, I’ll reduce the base by a 1/3 and add a little more butter, just to keep it better together.  However, the extra base was excellent as a crumble topping!  The cream cheese was divine – I added half the zest of an unwaxed orange, just to give it that extra tang.  He doesn’t mention this, but I recommend that your cream cheese filling ingredients are all at room temperature in order to mix well.

Teatime in Paris with cheesecake and macarons

Le Cheesecake de Gâteau Thoumieux

Recipe by Jean-François Piège and Ludovic Chaussard (Paris), extract from Fou de Pâtisserie magazine, September-October 2014 Number 7 (Cover feature).

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Biscuit base:

260g plain flour (type 55)
110g butter 1
55g icing/powdered sugar
1 egg
1g salt
1g orange and lemon zest
(I added 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
65g butter 2
35g soft brown sugar

Cream Cheese:

401g Philadelphia (R) cheese
50g sugar
55g single cream
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
(I added the zest of half an unwaxed orange) 

Decoration:

Rose petals, coriander and parsley flowers, quenelles de mascarpone, almond streusel (According to the winter season, I instead used physallis, pomegranate jewels and my leftover macarons – over to your imagination!)

1. Make a shortcrust pastry with all the ingredients except the Butter 2 and soft brown sugar.  Bake the pastry then, using a paddle beater of a mixer, break up into pieces when cool. (I mixed all the ingredients to a crumb consistency like shortbread and baked in the oven at 160°C fan /180°C for about 15 minutes). Add the Butter 2 and brown sugar.  Mould 300g of the cheesecake biscuit round by 16cm diameter.  Set aside.

2. To make the cream, mix the Philadelphia cheese with the sugar then gradually add the yolk, eggs and cream together.

3. To finish, pour the cream mix over the base and bake at 90°C for about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Leave to cool in the fridge.  Just before serving, decorate with the above suggestions.

orange cinnamon cheesecake with macarons

Another reason to have a stock of macarons in your freezer ‘bank’!

Now that we’ve devoured plenty of sweet treats this festive season, I’m back to soups and lighter savoury delights for a few days.  All the extra courses are now beginning to hang like a brioche over the jeans, which is not so sweet!  So it’s back to the yoga tomorrow but I also fancy trying out chef Piège’s Pizza Soufflé, a popular signature dish in his brasserie.

Join me on Instragram and Facebook for a daily dose of photos from Paris and the suburbs – this week I’m sure you’ll see scenes from the Sales (les Soldes) as of 7th January, plenty more Galette des rois cakes decorating the pastry shop windows and baking them chez ze Colonnas.

Cheers to you and a delicious 2015!

 

Festive Desserts with Macarons and Peppermint Creams

This has been a fun and busy year.  I’ve been so lucky to have you popping in to say hello or sharing in the fun on Mad About Macarons, either here on le blog or on Facebook.  And most of all, thank you for buying my book!  I have loved hearing from you via book reviews and from the Readers’ Forum.

I thought this was a good time to give a short round-up of desserts from le blog that are perfect for this time of year – and also ideal to serve with your macarons!

desserts with macarons

Whether it’s the most wicked of dark chocolate cakes, the tangiest of lemon tarts or the creamiest of riz au lait or rice pudding, desserts during the holiday season just love that extra je ne sais quoi: Parisian macarons!

If it’s lighter desserts you’re looking for, what about this roasted caramelised pineapple with vanilla and passion fruit recipe.  Serve with exotic fruit macarons or what about chocolate, coconut and passion fruit macarons? All from the book.

roasted caramelised pineapple dessert

If you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen but fancy some quick and tasty no-bake chocolate desserts, then what about some black forest chocolate puddings, chocolate orange creams or chocolate & candied chestnut cups? What’s more, they are handy egg yolk recipes, so that you can save your egg whites for making macarons a few days later.

chocolate pudding no-bake easy desserts

Since it’s perfect pear season, why not poach some firm, comice pears in coffee and serve with chocolate-moka macarons?  Here’s the recipe for vanilla and coffee poached pears.

 poached pear and coffee dessert with macarons

 Like Amelie Poulin, for crème brûlée dessert lovers who are addicted to cracking the ice-rink of sugar with your spoon, any chocolate – or chocolate-whisky – macarons are happy holiday partners. Try chocolate-passion fruit crème brûlées or whisky toffee frozen crème brûlées.

creme brulee desserts with whisky, chocolate or passion fruit with macarons

Funnily enough, Antoine seems to eat more ice cream when it’s cold outside than any other time of year.  I don’t think that’s completely French somehow, but a lemon ice cream (served with lemon macarons or tutti-frutti, for example), candied fruit or Plombières (no churn) ice cream, or pistachio-vanilla-wasabi ice cream (served with pistachio macarons) can certainly be a refreshing end to any festive meal.  My favourite at this time of year has to be the vanilla and chestnut ice cream, served with vanilla macarons or coffee macarons.

ice cream desserts with macarons

I couldn’t talk about desserts without mentioning one of our favourite macarons: rose.  These are delicious served with a white chocolate mousse with orange blossom and rose, pistachio panna cottas, or red fruit bavarois desserts.  Before we know it, Valentine’s Day will be upon us!

light desserts with rose macarons

And don’t forget the savoury macarons that have their very own chapter in the book!
Here are some suggested festive starters or appetisers that can give your guests the oh-la-la with some mini mad macs!

spiced pumpkin and leek soup with curry macarons

Before you go, let me show you some peppermint creams I made this week – quite by accident!

peppermint cream easy recipe

As you’ve noticed on le blog, I’ve been rolling rather a lot of snowballs and mini Christmas puddings lately.  Well, as I was making more Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs, I ran out of coconut.  As the fondant centres were just looking up at me, saying ‘Cover me!’, I quickly added a few drops of peppermint essence (or oil) to the melted chocolate and as soon as the chocolate hardened, these peppermint creams just vanished!  I guess Julie and Lucie liked them…

I shall definitely be making more of these soon.  Homemade peppermint creams are super – none of these E numbers in the ingredients – just sugar, potato (yes, you heard me right), good dark chocolate and peppermint!

peppermint creams recipe

A  huge thank you et merci beaucoup to all of you for following and sharing in the fun on le blog.  Have a wonderful festive season and I so look forward to sharing many more treats – and big news – on the blog in 2015!  I’m off to get packed.  Exceptionally, I’ve closed comments since I won’t have access to the website or emails but I’ll be hanging out as usual on Instagram and Facebook, my lovelies. See you soon x

In the meantime, wishing you all the happiest and healthiest 2015!

Happy Holidays!

 

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!

Pumpkin Spice Macarons & Roasted Red Kuri Squash Filling

Ouf! It’s so good to be back on le blog.  I’ve missed you.

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 macarons – 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.

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

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 this macaron when David mentioned that the Red Kuri squash slices could also be roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Yum! 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

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 them 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!

 

Roasted Red Kuri with Pumpkin Spice Macaron Filling

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 potimarron red kuri squash macarons

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

Why not share your macaron inspirations 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!