Easy French recipes to accompany the book, Mad About Macarons. Includes a database of egg yolk recipes and many more gluten-free dishes or cakes and treats.

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!

 

Express Mini Christmas Puddings

I’m on a roll again.  Have you noticed all the snowballs coming out of our kitchen lately and it hasn’t even been snowing yet in Paris?

Healthy, easy, no bake, no fuss and festively tasty.  Put these welcome words together at this time of year and you get … express mini Christmas puddings! They taste of Christmas and they’re nut-free.

Unless Scrooge arrives or Antoine changes my mind, this weekend I’m looking forward to sitting en famille to watch the girls’ favourite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, and nibble on a few of these bonbons without any guilt.  Do you love that film? It just brings out the kid in us again and makes adult responsibilities drift aside for a couple of hours. We somehow become more aware of bells jingling in the distance…

mini Christmas pudding bonbons

This recipe started out as ‘snowballs’  from my Scottish Granny’s Black Book, using only oats (mainly), raisins, cocoa powder and milk then covered in  desiccated coconut.  After experimenting with Granny’s recipe, I’ve rather altered them since I found them far too sweet. I also wanted an extra Christmassy taste with the addition of more dried fruits, gingerbread spice and orange peel, especially.  For the snowball look, just roll them in desiccated coconut.

quick and easy spicy dried fruit christmas snowballs

We started out as snowballs – look!

However, a couple of years ago, I saw the most gorgeous picture of mini Christmas puds on Pinterest, via the blog, IncludingCake. I had pinned it to remind myself to make them one Christmas – so thank you, Jo, for the pudding inspiration!

So how do we give these snowballs a make-over Christmas pudding effect?  To cover, melt white chocolate or make up a quick icing of icing/powdered sugar with a little orange juice – or why not a boozy splash of Grand Marnier, just to be naughty (but for adults only.)?

healthy gingerbread spice christmas pudding bonbons

Mini No-Bake Express Christmas Puddings

This recipe is inspired by Granny’s recipe in her Black Book and so I’m sure it came from a magazine, the Sunday Post newspaper or the Jimmy Young radio show back in the 70s.  If you’re watching over, sorry for altering it so much, Agnes, but I know you would have loved them! Do

MAKES APPROX 25

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

50g raisins
40g dried apricots, finely chopped
40g dates, finely chopped
5 tbsps orange juice
60g (+ 40g for snowballs) desiccated/shredded coconut
60g caster sugar
40g oats
40g orange peel, finely chopped (or the grated rind of an untreated orange)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
50g coconut oil
2 tsps gingerbread/pumpkin spice

For puddings, to cover:

50g white chocolate
approx 25 dried cranberries (or glacé cherries)
green marzipan (optional)

1. Place all the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a spoon until all the flavours are well blended.  If the coconut oil is solid, melt very gently for just a few seconds in the microwave.

Mixing spiced dried fruits to make Christmas pudding bonbons

2.  Form little balls by rolling a couple of teaspoons of the mixture at a time in the palm of your hands (you could say this is a handy recipe!).  Set aside on a plate or baking sheet and place in the fridge for a few minutes.

3.  To cover, either melt 50g good quality white chocolate in the microwave (or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water - bain marie) or make up some classic icing by mixing icing/confectioner’s sugar with a teaspoon of orange juice (or Grand Marnier for the adults).  Dribble this on the top to form the sauce effect and top with a dried cranberry (craisin) or bit of glacé cherry and green marzipan, cut to shape.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Best eaten at room temperature with your favourite cup of tea at teatime or festive sparkly.

mini nut-free, healthy christmas puddings

Wait a minute.  Please stop what you’re doing, just for a few moments.

Don’t make a sound. Just listen. Do you hear them? Sleigh bells jingling faintly in the distance.

I’m off now. Back to some responsibilities, like setting up the crèche to really get in to the Christmas spirit and remind the children what Christmas is really about.

Before I go, I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to be featured with such impressive company in the Huffington Post’s 2014 Best Cookbook Gifts for Cooks and Food Lovers on Your List.  Thank you for adding Mad About Macarons to the list, Jamie Schler. What a lovely sweet ending to the year!

Good luck and have fun with all of your Christmas and holiday planning!

Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

It all started this summer.  In August, to be precise. Lucie rebelled after her 12th birthday in the loveliest possible way: she flung me out of the kitchen.

chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

She had a burning desire to make cookies.  But on her own.  No Mum intervention.  You see, I can’t help myself: somehow I have to ‘intervene’.  I think they see me as some kind of control freak.  Well, ahem, you could say I kind of take over the kitchen so it must become frustrating.

assembling chocolate-hazelnut macarons

So, while I was finishing off some dark chocolate hazelnut macarons (one of our favourite recipes from the book), assembling the macaron couples and piping on the dark chocolate ganache, Lucie was itching to get started.  You see, Mum doesn’t normally make cookies, really.  The last time were these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies but that was it.

Lucie making chocolate cookies

She followed the recipe to the letter, or so I thought, in her book, La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.  It’s in French – and so well presented for kids learning to cook from scratch.  But then she added nuts and told me afterwards she added more peanut butter than stated and cut down the sugar (she remembered I tend to do this as habit).

Placing large dollops of the cookie dough on the tray, she saw them rise in the oven after the first few minutes.  Panic struck, and without telling me, opened up the oven door, took them out and bashed them all flat with a pie slice, then returned them to the oven.
Hey presto!  The cookie crumbles were born.  A delicious accident.

chocolate crumble cookie biscuits

Now Lucie makes them regularly – especially Wednesdays, as the French secondary schools don’t have classes in the afternoon, so it’s a baking excuse (even if she was supposed to practise piano for her exam this weekend!). Yesterday she omitted the nuts and added a few drops of peppermint extract, just to make them festive.  What a treat!

Recipe: Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

Recipe adapted from La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 14 minutes

Makes approx. 20 cookies

125g butter, softened
70g light brown sugar
60g sugar
1 large egg
140g peanut butter (or Nutella)
2-3 drops vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
120g chocolate chips
30g chopped mixed nuts (walnuts & hazelnuts)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas mark 4.  In a large bowl, mix the butter and the sugars with an electric whisk (or in a stand mixer) until smooth and creamy.

2. Add the egg, peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat again until the ingredients are well mixed.

3. Sift the flour into another large bowl, adding the baking powder, cocoa powder and salt and mix with a  wooden spoon.

4.  Add the flour mix to the first bowl and mix well with the wooden spoon.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips. (The mix will be rather thick but this is normal).

chocolate brownie cookie dough

5.  Place 6 or 7 heaped tablespoons of the cookie dough on a baking tray covered with baking parchment or a Silpat silicone mat.  Leave a good space between each, as they’ll spread out a bit during cooking.  (Either make another batch but we do just the one and keep the dough in the fridge for more next day.)

6. Bake the cookies in the oven for 14 minutes for normal brownie cookies.  But for crumbles, remove from the oven after 10 minutes, flatten them down with a pie slice until they break up slightly, and continue to bake for 4 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes.

recipe for chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Sometimes mistakes in the kitchen are the best way of discovering new dishes – the best one we know is the Tarte Tatin.  The kids asked me recently if I could make les caves à l’orange again.  Do you know what they were?  My earliest macarons while experimenting with reduced sugar – long before the book was even thought of.  Out of the oven came orange flavoured empty shells that had puffed up with no feet – and the girls christened them les caves, which was rather fitting.  Do you think I can make them again?  No.  Because I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

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.  These rollovers are entirely gluten-free; but I still need to find that book.  In the meantime, they’re still delicious and modernised a bit with less sugar and more on the chocolate.

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!

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!