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!

Whisky Toffee Frozen Crème Brûlée with Macarons

It was a sign:  a Scottish saltire traced onto such dazzling blue Parisian skies this week by the routine planes rumbling over us, to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Saltire flag forming clouds in sky

It was another reminder of this month’s historic Scottish referendum that has created such a powerful and passionate impact on a country that was already once independent.

I’ve never been into politics much but, hearing many lively debates and enthusiasm about the subject, it became increasingly frustrating that I couldn’t vote as a Scot living in France.  I could hear the same calls from my fellow Scots living in England, Wales or Ireland.  A familiar remark from friends and family, who were either for or against an independent Scotland was, “Well, my heart wanted to vote Yes to Scotland being an independent country; but my head told me it was better to stay together with the UK”. With such a close winning vote of 55% to stay in the UK, the Scots have perhaps been divided on the results but as we could think that the Yes voters are upset – or ‘gutted’ as I heard on BBC radio the day of the results – the debate continues.

“We’re not crying into our porridge yet.”declared my Uncle David, a proud Scot from the Shetland Islands. “We’re just delayed a bit”, he said, as thousands of Scottish flags were being waved in Glasgow and Edinburgh this weekend, showing their excitement at how quickly they’ve received so much enthusiastic support.

whisky caramel creme brûlée an egg yolk recipe for macaron makers

Did someone say whisky toffee is in that, Jimmy? 

Another Scottish sign came via Jamie Schler’s recent whisky recipes on her blog, Life’s A Feast: with a beautifully glazed Honey Whiskey Bundt Cake, and her celebratory Whisky Soufflé.  It occurred to me how little I cook or bake with Scottish Whisky.  Admittedly, the last time I added it was to coffee macarons (the recipe for Café MacWhisky is in the book, by the way).  These macarons make an excellent accompaniment to this whisky toffee frozen crème brûlée dessert, a recipe I’d ripped out from Mum’s pile of Sunday Times mazagines this summer when in Edinburgh, as it’s an ideal egg yolk recipe for all of you macaron lovers.

While the recipe below calls for American Bourbon whiskey, I’ve opted for Scottish Whisky.  Both are slightly different in flavour and they have different spellings: in Scotland and the rest of the world it’s always referred to as Whisky but in America and Ireland it can be Whisky or Whiskey, depending on the producer’s chosen spelling.

Chocolate and whisky macarons

On another note, there was yet another sign this week: I need to hide any macarons that are lying out for photos.  I quickly took this one with just three chocolate macarons that were left, salvaged before they were also pounced on from the pastry box in the fridge.  But when I went back to continue the photo with the crème brûlée, there were only two.  It’s a mystery that one.  The girls say it wasn’t them.  Perhaps it was a Scottish ghost?

whisky brûlée frozen custard recipe with chocolate macarons

The recipe asks for a ‘shot of bourbon’.  Being a bit lazy, I poured out a small enough shot glass of Ballentine’s Whisky (a blended Scotch, ideal for cooking/baking) and threw it into the pan.  It didn’t take long to realise visibly that my toffee caramel became rather liquid, so I added more sugar and boiled it up to thicken.  No harm was done, as I ended up with more toffee so dribbled even more on top of the ice cream before freezing.  But for the record, a shot is 25ml.

As I left them in the freezer overnight, caramelising the sugar with the blowtorch hardly melted the ice cream.  That way it was easy to return them to the freezer before serving later. To enjoy them at their best, remove from the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Toffee whisky iced brûlée egg yolk recipe with chocolate macarons

Whisky Toffee Brûlée Frozen Custard

Recipe adapted from the UK’s Sunday Times Magazine.  I substituted 1 shot of Maker’s Mark Bourbon whiskey stipulated in the magazine with Balletine’s Scottish Whisky, but you can use your own favourite American bourbon. The recipe says it serves 4 but I filled 8 ramekins with it.

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes

FOR THE CREME FROZEN CUSTARD

2 vanilla pods (or 4 tsp of vanilla extract)
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
100g caster sugar
6 egg yolks

FOR THE SALTED WHISKY TOFFEE

80ml double cream
20g butter
1 shot of whisky (25ml)
Pinch sea salt

TO BRÛLEE

20g caster sugar
A mini blowtorch

recipe for whisky toffee with frozen creme brûlée

1. Deseed the vanilla pods.  Pour milk and cream into a pan, add the pods and vanilla seeds.  Heat until it almost boils. Turn off the heat and allow the vanilla cream to infuse for 30 mins.

2. Boil the toffee ingredients in another pan, then gently simmer.  Stir for 3 minutes, then chill in the fridge.

3. Hand-whisk the caster sugar into the egg yolks.  Add to the pan with the vanilla cream.  Place on a low heat; stir for 7 minutes until it becomes a light custard.  Cool, then chill for an hour.

4. Take the custard out of the fridge. Remove the vanilla pods from the vanilla cream.  Pour the custard and cream into an ice-cream maker until it has the consistency of soft ice cream.  Turn off the machine and ripple in the toffee, using a spoon.  Scrape the frozen custard into serving glasses.  Freeze for 2.5 hours.

5. Sprinkle caster sugar over the top of the desserts with a teaspoon.  Heat the sugar with a mini-blowtorch until it forms a caramel.  Serve immediately or refreeze until ready to serve.

Egg yolk recipes frozen creme brûlée

Unlike a classic crème brûlée, where you crack into the caramel directly into the cream, this frozen version makes the hardened caramel even more exciting.  Try it: it’s like skating your spoon and cracking into the ice.

For plenty more egg yolk recipes, check out the bonus recipe page that accompanies the book.

Pistachio-Strawberry Panna Cotta with Macaron Kisses

Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps.  Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer to liberate us from any of the year’s accumulating cobwebs.  Next time I’ll take a bike (although I need to practice on flat ground first) but in the meantime we did plenty of cyclist watching, hypnotically driving behind previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.

French Alps le Col du Galibier

As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door.  Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours.  We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.

Italian countryside around Susa near French Alps

This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived.   You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.

Italian pastry shop window with macarons

Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!

Roman Porta Savoia gate in Susa Italy

It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors.  Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC.  On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.

Roman gates in Susa, Italy

It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.

Roman amphitheatre in Susa, Italy

After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls (Valérie, a good friend in Provence, has a sign in her WC saying “If you’re not embarrassing your kids you’re not living life to the full”.)  Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice cream flavours from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.

Somehow, however, I feel I can live life to the full without selfies.  The girls were trying to explain how to take them properly but I was more interested in ice cream.  Julie didn’t give up: “Well at least make a silly face, Mum.”  I tried.

I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates).  Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.

Jill Colonna tasting ice creams from La Bottega del Gelate in Susa, Italy

As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at the local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce.  Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, dark chocolate cake, or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons.  It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colour (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?

mixing batter to make pistachio macarons

It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a Sunday afternoon lunch last weekend.  Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio-strawberry creamy desserts.

mini panna cottas with different flavours

Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons!  I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen.  It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them.  Rouen – there’s another place I should tell you about later.

pistachio and chocolate macaron tower display

Perhaps I could call the chocolate-hazelnut macarons (one of the 38 macaron recipes in the book BTW) Baci macaron?  Bite into one and it’s a chocolate kiss.  Oh-la-la. Enough of that nutty talk.  Time to get on with the recipe!

pistachio and strawberry panna cotta and macarons

Recipe: Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Makes enough for 8 mini verrines / shot-glasses

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2.5 hours minimum

3 sheets gelatine (@2g each)
400ml crème fleurette or whipping cream (30% butterfat)
100ml whole/full fat milk
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste *
3-4 drops pistachio extract (or almond extract)

Strawberry Coulis:
1 gelatine leaf (@ 2g)
300g fresh strawberries
50g caster sugar

* If you don’t have pistachio paste, make up your own: whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder.  Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of pistachio extract and a tablespoon of water.

1. Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan.  Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted.  Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.

3. Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

4. Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis.  Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes.  Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor.  Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water). Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.

pistachio strawberry easy panna cotta recipe

Funny.  As I’m writing, I can sniff the waft of pizza floating upstairs.  Lucie has discovered how to make pizza all by herself.  It has been so good that she’s starting to make it quite often – and she’s even excited at cleaning up – well, nearly. Now let’s put on a bit of Italian opera to celebrate.