Passion Fruit and Raspberry Macaron Filling

Standing in the buzzing queue of many of Paris’s best pâtisseries, I often realise that decision-making has never been one of my strong points. Well, how can you blame me? With such sumptuous choices to ponder over, there are a number of pastry classics that look up from the shiny museum-like glass counters, saying “Go on – don’t forget me! Pick me!”

raspberry giant macarons with passion fruit cream

Admittedly, picking one or two out has become quicker, thanks to taking around eager testers in the  chocolate and pastry groups with Context Paris. What a responsibility it can be to choose a wide enough variety of fabulous samples without them all floating off into a sugar coma.

One of the lighter popular classics is a giant pink macaron garnished with pastry cream and surrounded with fresh raspberries. What’s more, it’s gluten-free. However, it’s not that easy to cut up into sample pieces!

macarons ispahan style in local patisseries

Pierre Hermé, dubbed by Vogue Magazine as the Picasso of Pastry, christened the most famous of giant raspberry macarons the Ispahan, named after a tender, fragrant Iranian rose. The giant pink macaron is filled with a rose and lychee cream and finished off with beautiful fresh raspberries.

So many pastry shops in Paris have drawn on his inspiration with their own take on it. Even our local pâtisserie had their version (above) with the bottom macaron shell upside down…

Raspberry passion fruit giant macaron

As you can imagine, such Parisian pâtisserie temptations are a constant source of exciting inspiration.  For this dessert classic I replaced the lychee and rose with a zingy passion fruit filling, adding that extra acidic touch to the raspberries.

Truth be told, I ran out of passion fruits as I thought two would be enough. But after tasting the cream, I felt it needed another passion fruit for that extra fruity punch.  So instead I added some extra passion fruit purée as an emergency back-up. I use an excellent passion fruit purée from Monin. Incidentally, I also love their floral syrups to quickly and easily add that delicious fragrant touch to pâtisserie recipes such as rose, elderflower and violet for a summery Teatime in Paris.

Giant raspberry macaron with passion fruit cream filling

Passion Fruit Cream Filling for Giant Raspberry Macarons

I used the basic macaron recipe in “Teatime in Paris” adding a pinch of deep raspberry pink powdered colouring (if using “Mad About Macarons”, use the measurements specified in the Annex of the book, under “Egg White Reference Chart” based on 100g egg whites).  This will make 12 large macarons.  The filling is based on a classic pastry cream (recipe also in “Teatime in Paris”) but I’ve adapted it here based on the liquid of the passion fruit.  Don’t forget that macaron shells can be frozen, so I often prepare them in advance and defrost them the day of a dinner party and the rest is easy to put together.

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: about 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour (minimum)

250 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla pod/bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
30 g cornflour
juice of 3 passion fruits (the equivalent of 4 tbsp once seeds removed)
2 punnets of fresh raspberries

1. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk with the vanilla seeds, if using. Meanwhile, using a balloon whisk, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until creamy, then whisk in the cornflour until smooth.  When the milk is hot (but not boiling), add half of the hot milk to the beaten egg yolk mixture. Whisk vigorously then quickly add the mix to the rest of the milk in the saucepan while whisking continuously.

2. Continue to whisk over the heat until the mixture thickens. Cover with cling film so that no skin forms on the surface and leave to cool for about 10 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

3. Meanwhile, using a sieve, strain the juice and remove the seeds.

4. When chilled, whisk in the juice of the strained passion fruits and continue to chill until closer to serving time.

Spoon or pipe out the filling into the middle of 6 giant macaron bases and arrange about 8-10 raspberries (according to size) on the outside and finish off by topping with a macaron shell.

Giant raspberry passion fruit macaron

Speaking of passion fruit, have you tried the passion fruit and lemon meringue tartlet recipe from Teatime in Paris yet? My lovely friend, Christina, of Christina’s Cucina has just made them and posted the recipe, plus is hosting a Giveaway of the book!  You must pop in for a Parisian teatime in California – and please say hello from me.

Confiture de Lait and How to Store Vanilla Beans

I have a confession to make. I’m glad it hasn’t really snowed in Paris this winter but I caught myself displaying a surprise tinge of jealousy the other day, admiring our Provençal friends’ snowy winter wonderland photos. They’d taken them just before they left Avignon on the TGV (speed train) to visit us snow-deprived souls “dans le nord“.

French clock tower of the town of Apt in the luberon

The paradox is that when it’s cold in the south, it can be lovely in Paris, and vice-versa. In winter, Provence can have the added wind-chill factor with the southern Mistral winds but in summer, they are blessed with the most sun-kissed, flavoursome fruit and vegetables.

Seeing Rome’s legendary Campo dei Fiori market last week reminded me of our favourite Provençal market in Apt. My parents-in-law live just up the hill, so this is our local market pilgrimage during summer visits. Apt is also where we stock up on candied fruit.  Renowned as the world capital for fruits confits, buying direct from the factory by kilo is far cheaper and better quality than we can find at our Parisian super-markets.

roofs of the French market of Apt in Provence

Apt’s market is far from small; here’s just a fraction of it in the square of the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), as it snakes out into the main cobbled street, the shady side streets, and a few more animated squares. In the summer, it’s crammed with more Dutch, Belgian and British tourists than locals, and musicians from around the globe come to busk in the atmosphere.

Stocking up on our favourite lavender honey, this time around we also met Monsieur Jean-Pierre Setti, selling the most plump, natural sticky Bourbon vanilla pods/beans from Madagascar.

Vanilla beans at the French market of Apt in Provence

Can you smell their perfume? Counting up each exotic stick of fragrant magic, he gave some simple advice how to preserve vanilla pods/beans: put them in a long, sealable jar with just 1/2 cm of rum, close the lid, et voilà!

Madagascan Vanilla on sale at the market in Provence

The girls were fascinated at the next stand by these vibrant Crête de Coq flowers, as they resemble a rooster’s head. Watching the 6 Nations’ rugby yesterday reminded me of some news heard on French radio end January about a particular kind of serial killer roaming around Toulouse. Prized roosters that represent France just before rugby matches were mysteriously disappearing.  Apparently French police believed the culprit was a mink. As my friend, Mel Fenson says, “Better that it’s not human!”

Tete de Coq French Flowers at the market Provence

Back to vanilla and Monsieur Setti, and back home, I found a few long jars that used to hold shop-bought fruit coulis, poured in a measure of rum and squeezed in the vanilla that had dried very slightly from our return drive.  A week later, I’d developed a new daily ritual of opening the jar to sniff the aroma jumping out of it. Better to sniff vanilla, right?

I took a look at Mr Setti’s recipe flyer that he’d thrown in with our goodies.  One of the recipes was for confiture de lait (literally, “milk jam” – or more widely known as dulce de leche). Like salted caramel, it’s more of a perfect winter treat.

Confiture de lait recipe with vanilla bean

There are many express recipe versions on the internet using a can of sweetened condensed milk and cooking it with some water in a pressure cooker.  Call me old-fashioned but I loved popping back over to the stove now and again to stir it, having the house smell sweet on a dull and nippy Sunday afternoon.  It’s a simple, soothing way to cheer up the senses!

Confiture de lait with vanilla French Milk Jam

Confiture de Lait (Milk Jam) with Vanilla

Recipe from Monsieur Jean-Pierre Setti, although I’ve lowered the sugar quantity slightly.

Fills 2 jam jars

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time:  2 1/2 hours – 3 hours

1 litre whole milk (full-fat)
450g sugar
1 vanilla pod/bean

 

1. Put the milk and the sugar in a thick-based large pan.  Cut the vanilla pod or bean right down the middle from top to bottom and add it to the milk.

2. Heat until boiling then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer away for 2h30 to 3 hours.  Every so often, stir well with a long wooden spoon.  It’s normal that nothing much happens in the first couple of hours, then you’ll see that it does thicken quite quickly towards the end.

3. Take out the vanilla pod and as soon as the jam becomes caramel-like and coats the back of a spoon nicely, take off the heat and pour into a couple of clean jam jars.

It will harden as it cools. Store in the fridge.

confiture de lait or French milk jam with vanilla. Take a spoon!

How long can you keep confiture de lait? As it’s a caramel, it will last a couple of months kept in the fridge, although I found it best kept within a month.  Reheat it for a few seconds in the microwave and dribble it on crêpes, waffles and about anything that you fancy.

I made just a few macarons with Confiture de lait.  I personally find them far too sweet in a macaron, and much prefer “plain” vanilla macarons (recipe in the book) but I’ll leave that for you to try.  In any case, the girls spread so much of this on crêpes recently that the stock didn’t last long!

P.S. The good news is that vanilla is one of the heroes in my new easy pâtisserie recipe book, “Teatime in Paris” – coming 7th May!
New-look blog coming and pâtisserie talk in Paris …

The French’s Favourite Casserole: Blanquette de Veau

What a week this has been in and around Paris. There’s no need to fill you in further here but as you can imagine, we have turned to French comfort food.

In the Annex of Mad About Macarons, I have suggested recipes for using up egg yolks before saving the whites for your macarons. This is one of them: it’s the French’s favourite winter warmer classic, Blanquette de Veau, most often translated as Veal Casserole in White Sauce.

Blanquette de beau French casserole recipe

Veal Blanquette is a pure and simple French Grandmother’s dish which is passed on from family generation to generation.  It’s a casserole that’s so simple to prepare – there’s no need to brown the meat beforehand; instead the veal is just placed in a large pot together with its partners in taste and, as it bubbles away merrily, you can get on with other things.

‘White sauce’ doesn’t sound too sexy, does it?  Blanquette sounds fancier in French but the English translation just doesn’t give it justice.  It even sounds a bit bland.  To me, white sauce conjures up dull images of a plain béchamel sauce with flour, milk and butter.  This casserole couldn’t be further from plain!  For a start, there is no flour in the sauce; instead, the casserole is simply thickened by reducing the natural stock at the end and whisking in egg yolks and cream with a flourish of nutmeg and lemon juice.

French veal casserole in white sauce

It’s also Antoine’s favourite casserole – as long as it’s full of flavour.  It has a rich, creamy fragrant sauce with a hint of lemon and, for me, the touch of cloves just gives it that extra touch of warmth.  When it’s packed with comfort and flavour, you can see why the French consider it their favourite national stew!  It may be seen as family fare but serve this at a dinner party and it works – ça marche!

It only really works, however, if you carry out the necessary extra steps at the end, otherwise the taste is nothing like the real thing.  I’ve seen recipes that just use crème fraîche and don’t take the time to whisk up the classic sauce using egg yolks to complete the dish. I’ve tried them and the resulting taste is well, bland. Let’s say it’s like making a curry without any spices…

My favourite French butcher in Le Vésinet near Paris

Blanquette de Veau is from our Ile-de-France region of Paris.  My local butcher, Monsieur Le Corre, is passionate about hunting and takes great pride in his best quality meats, often showing me the simplest way to prepare some classic cuts with a different twist (I’ll post on this later).  He’s also partial to showing off his latest catch, too!  For a blanquette, ideally you’ll need a mixture of best quality veal: mainly breast and shoulder. If you can’t get good veal, then  chicken will also work well (use free-range, if possible).

The last couple of steps to thicken the sauce are so worth taking the time.  Have I stressed this enough yet? In true lazy gourmet style, however, I cheat a bit in the recipe by using frozen pickling onions from Picard, our favourite French frozen store.

creamy veal casserole made like the French

Recipe: Blanquette de Veau

Recipe slightly 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.  This book is full of the French classic dishes – I’ve particularly found that the savoury dishes are spot-on each time.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 2.5 - 3 hours

1.5kg veal (mixture of breast & shoulder), cut into chunks
1 onion
3 cloves
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley)
1 leek (white part only), sliced
2 carrots, cut into chunks
250ml white wine
150g crème fraîche
2 large egg yolks (or 3 medium)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Garnish:
24 small pickling onions (or use frozen)
24 small button mushrooms (Champignons de Paris)
30g butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Stud the onion with the cloves.  Place the veal in a casserole dish and add the carrots, onion, leek and bouquet garni.  Pour in the wine and add just enough water to cover the meat and vegetables.  Bring to the boil, skimming the surface for the first 10 minutes of any scum.  Cover and simmer gently for 2.5 hours. 

ingredients for blanquette de beau French casserole recipe

No need to brown the meat – just place the ingredients in a pot!

2. About 45 minutes before the end of cooking, prepare the garnish.  Wash mushrooms, pat dry and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size.  Fry them without any oil or butter in a non-stick pan until they have given out all of their juices.  This concentrates their flavour.  Add 25g of the butter and the lemon juice to them and set aside. Sauté the onions in a small pan with the rest of the butter until golden.

vegetable garnish for blanquette de veau

3. Lift the lid of the casserole dish and smell these flavours!  Discard the bay leaf and thyme stalks. Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large serving dish, adding the mushrooms and pickling onions.  Set aside and keep warm in a cool-moderate oven.

Blanquette de Veau French veal pot casserole

4. Boil the cooking liquid over a high heat until reduced.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, hand-whisk the crème fraîche, lemon juice, yolks, grated nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper.  Blend in 3 tablespoons of the hot stock then quickly whisk in the yolk mixture back into the stock.  Stir constantly until thickened but do not boil (it will reduce its subtle flavours). Whisk until the sauce is smooth and velvety.

how to reduce sauce for a blanquette casserole

Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with basmati rice.  This dish is also lovely reheated the next day.  For busy gourmets, this dish can be prepared the day before a dinner party.  Just prepare steps one and two in advance then chill in the fridge.  Make the sauce on the day of serving and voilà!

classic blanquette veal casserole recipe

Antoine loves to serve this with a delicate white wine, such as an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris, otherwise a St. Véran, Marsannay or other Burgundy will be fabulous.

Don’t forget to pop in and join me on Instagram for a daily dose of more photos, chatter and life in and around Paris.

Cheers to you all for a peaceful and harmonious week, wherever you are!

#JeSuisCharlie

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!

 

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.

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.

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 (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.

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 (I didn’t and even answered the ‘phone – that was mad.)

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?

Have fun!

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 snowballs as they’re quick, easy to make and deliciously festive. Just as well, as mad woman here suggested 300.

chocolate coconut no-bake rollover snowballs

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.

coconut chocolate gluten free snowball 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 rollovers or snowballs

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.  With no oats, these rollovers are entirely gluten-free; but I still need to find that book.  It’s not quite granny’s recipe but they’re still delicious.

a festive holiday bite into a chocolate coconut snowball

Take a wee bite!

Chocolate Coconut Rollover Snowball 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 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!