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.

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France. Too much fun visiting family in Scotland had to come to an end – although I thought it had, after being hanged at the Edinburgh Dungeons! It could have been messy after these extra couple of kilos of Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones and Stornoway black pudding.

As Spring has sprung later this year, we luckily hadn’t missed our traditional French muguet, or Lily-of-the-valley, which is traditionally given to family and friends as a good luck symbol. It was a week late in our garden. Brilliant!

A belated wish of good luck to you with hugs from France!

Not so brilliant was that I (known in the family as ‘the French Police’) had returned to the kitchen. I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just a public holiday on our arrival on Wednesday, but also yesterday too. Shops? Fermé. Shut. But do you know what? I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge. Antoine (French hubby person) had kindly left us the fruit he was supposed to eat while we were away. To my surprise, they were still ok but not exactly bursting with flavour.

There were 3 lemons, 5 strawberries, 2 kiwis and a tired pineapple just looking for a tasty makeover. Without thinking on my arrival, I’d taken out a jam jar of egg whites to defrost from the freezer. Don’t ask me why. That’s what mad macaron people do, ok? So I thought up this dessert while zesting the lemons for a lemon cream. Why not make up some meringue nests, fill them with a zingy lemon cream and top with the fruits? The strawberries were simply resurrected by tossing them in some strawberry syrup. Et voilà!

Lemon Pavlova (Gluten Free) Recipe

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

Meringues

2 egg whites (about 75g)
230g sugar
few drops vanilla essence 

1. Whisk the egg whites at high speed using a hand or stand mixer. Gradually rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk, adding the essence last, until the mixture is firm and glossy. It should form a peak (or bird’s beak, bec de l’oiseau) on the whisk.

2. Spoon out 4 large heaps of the meringue on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press them down and scoop out a cavity that you can fill later.

3. Bake for 1 hour at 110°C. Meanwhile, make the lemon cream.

Crème au citron (Lemon Cream)

3 egg yolks
90g sugar
15g cornflour
3 lemons (untreated)
100ml water
knob of butter (unsalted)

4. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a saucepan. Add the cornflour, zest and lemon juice then the water. Mix together well.

5. Over a medium heat, whisk until the cream thickens then take off the heat and mix in the butter. Set aside to cool.

6. When the meringues are ready, leave to cool then spoon in the lemon cream into each meringue nest and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Just before serving, top with a mixture of fruits. Just look what my daughters put together for the decoration. Lucie loves pineapple – you can tell by this double decker!  I love leftovers. Now, I best get to the shops before mint meringues pops on the menu for our main course!

At least this means I’ve got more egg whites on the go for making macarons soon.

Happy sunny May time!

P.S. As with all my recipes, I use grams. Please don’t be mad, ounces lovers. However, if you’re mad about macarons, you’ll need digital kitchen scales – much more reliable to bake in weight rather than volume. Most digital scales have the option of switching from ounces to grams so this will make your life much easier.

Snapping White Asparagus for a French Clafoutis Recipe

When the asparagus season finally pokes its head out to say bonjour, it’s time to get totally asparagused. Hearing the calls of ‘Aspergez-vous!’ at our local market just outside Paris, I do what I’m told and end up buying so much asparagus that I could open a shop with all the elastic bands they’re bound in.

Weigh-laden with our usual favourites from Monsieur Dee’s poultry stall, I couldn’t help swooning over impressively fat, fresh white asparagus spears which are first to arrive pride of place from sun-kissed Provence.

It’s time to snap these asparagus stems. Snapping asparagus is easy when they’re fresh: they should be firm, have compact heads and not look dry at the stems. Just snap them where they break naturally, about 1/3 from the bottom. Ideally, eat asparagus fresh on the day, otherwise store white asparagus in the fridge for up to 4 days in a humid kitchen towel, heads upwards.

I love tossing fresh white asparagus in sage butter and serving simply with a crunchy baguette, but this is a warmer starter to welcome this chilly Spring. I discovered the recipe in a magazine last year featuring Eric Fréchon, chef at Le Bristol, Paris. But could I find the magazine that I’d painstakingly placed in a ‘safe place’ for this season? No (don’t laugh, Mum). Luckily, I jotted it down and see he’s written a book on Clafoutis.

Macaron lovers will be glad to note that it uses up FOUR egg yolks, but don’t be fooled: this is such a light way to start a meal – and it’s gluten free, too.

White Asparagus Clafoutis Recipe

Serves 4-6

Recipe Adapted by Eric Frechon, Author of Clafoutis.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

1 bundle white asparagus (500 g /1 lb)
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
10 g (4 tsp) cornflour

300 ml /10 fl oz single cream
100 g /3 oz fresh parmesan, grated
Seasoning
Handful of pine nuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Wash the asparagus spears and snap them 2/3rds of the way down, where they break naturally. Peel them as close as possible to the spear heads. Keep the peelings!

2. Cut the asparagus in 3, reserving the spear heads.

3. Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil with the asparagus peelings, adding a tablespoon of sugar (to reduce the bitterness).
When bubbling, remove the peelings and cook only the spears for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

4. Using the same cooking water, drop in the rest of the asparagus chunks and cook for 7 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the clafoutis batter: mix the eggs, cornflour, cream, grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

6. Drain the asparagus chunks and, using a hand blender or food processor, mix the asparagus and cream together.

7. Pour into a non-stick tart dish and decorate with the asparagus spears. I like to sprinkle over some lightly toasted pine nuts for a crunchy texture.

8. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until golden.

 Note: If making individual versions, pour into 6 silicone briochette moulds and bake for only 20 minutes. Turn them out directly on guests’ plates for a posh but simple starter.

Enjoy this asparagus clafoutis either warm or hot from the oven and serve with a glass of chilled Pinot Blanc from the Alsace.

Cheers!

Now it’s your turn to snap them this Spring and become totally asparagused!

 Aspergez-vous!

Patrick Roger’s Chocolate Cake for Easter

Keeping the kids amused during the French school holidays is always fun. Art museums in Paris? What about checking out sculptures … made entirely out of chocolate?

There’s been much hype around chocolatier Patrick Roger’s new boutique at La Madeleine so it was time to enjoy the Patrick Roger experience in Paris with his out-of-the-box chocolate sculptures under one roof. As the tourists poured in and we looked around for the rest of the sculptures, we discovered the upstairs gallery was closed to the public. What? You mean…? We …. can’t see any more today? Dark chocolate lumps formed in our throats.

Chocolatier Patrick Roger’s chocolate sculptures at La Madeleine, Paris

Tails between our legs, we headed down Rue Royale. There’s yet another Patrick Roger boutique around the corner but attention, it’s well hidden. If there are too many people in the boutique at Place de la Madeleine, don’t waste your time – whizz over to the other one at the end of Cité Berryer, Village Royal (off Rue Royale on the right), just 5 minutes’ walk away.

As if by chocolate magic, Patrick Roger appeared that evening on France’s popular TV show, Top Chef. He was hosting a Chocolate Cake Challenge. The competing professional chefs’ faces were a picture when they saw Patrick’s alluring cheeky face appear but displaying his grand ‘MOF’ uniform: Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2000. As he demonstrated his recipe, it called our next holiday activity; Amateur but macaron-style!

THIS is when I can eat out of a bucket!

This was also a good excuse to use the most exquisite cooking chocolate from our local chocolate factory. As the Chocolaterie du Pecq only open their doors to the public in December, I’d gone bananas and stocked up with a whole cupboard of their products! The paradox? They supply their chocolate to Menard’s La Chocolatière in Tours, where Patrick Roger started out his career!

Chocolate Cake Recipe

By Patrick Roger for Top Chef

Cake:
5 egg whites
210g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100g flour, sifted
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
100g butter
80g hazelnuts, finely chopped

1. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites, adding the caster sugar gradually until you have firm peaks. Add the egg yolk and continue to mix.

2. Fold in the flour with a large spatula and add the sifted cocoa powder. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan and mix into the batter with the hazelnuts.

3. Pour into a rectangular mould (I used a silicone rectangular cake mould) and bake 30 mins at 160°C. (I found with my oven that I needed to bake it for 40 minutes at this temperature).

4. When cool, cut the biscuit into 3 slices horizontally. (As you can see, I didn’t cut them as precisely as Patrick Roger did and regretted this afterwards!)

Syrup:
100g water
100g granulated sugar
100g rum
2  vanilla pods
the zest of an orange

5. In a saucepan, boil the above ingredients and scrape out the vanilla seeds from the pods.

6. Using a brush, cover each layer with syrup.

Chocolate fun for the school holidays

Ganache: (600g)
300g cream
40g honey
40g butter
300g dark chocolate (I used 64%)

7. Boil the cream with the honey, and pour onto the broken chocolate bits and whisk gently. Add the butter. Mix using a hand blender.

8. Cover the biscuit layers with the ganache, one on top of the other. Leave to rest for 30 mins then cover the cake with cocoa powder.

9. Using a stencil, dust with icing sugar to decorate.

Bear footprints? Well if you saw the weather in Paris last week, it snowed. Big time!

We were just left with un petit problème: we had too many chocolate macaron shells. A few of them managed to eat up the little extra ganache that was left but the rest have gone straight in to a pastry box in the freezer ‘bank’. That way the next chocolate dessert can be decorated with macarons with no effort at all!

Our family verdict? For chocolate dessert fans who don’t like their cake too sweet and appreciate the intense chocolate flavours coming through, this is for you. Merci beaucoup, Patrick Roger! NOW, can we get to see more sculptures?

Hey – was it you who walked on our chocolate cake?

Chocolate Cream Desserts for Macaron (Yolk) Lovers

Poor blog. I’ve neglected it and so my apologies. Chest infection dragging on, living in the dark, the pouring rain. Not a great couple of weeks, although I do have a much more fun excuse – all shall be revealed in the next post.

In the meantime, I’ve still had some sweet dreams, mainly consisting of desserts. Ideally they’re not too sweet, they’re packed with flavour and they’re quick and easy to make. If they use up egg yolks, that’s an extra bonus for macaron lovers. These chocolate cream puddings can not only be whipped up in 20 minutes but they’re so versatile and perfect for re-cyling those hoarded yoghurt pots.

Here I’ve added zingy orange zest and a sneaky soupçon of Cointreau to them but adapt them to your own tastes. For spicy romantic lovers, replace with cardamom and ginger. Lucie adored the addition of 100g candied chestnut cream (she’s mad about chestnuts) but why not add a touch of Chambord and serve with raspberries?  You get the picture. Top with physalis (why does that always sound like a disease?) or, to add that je ne sais quoi, a mendiant topped with dried fruits and nuts.

They remind me of La Laitière cream pots we can buy in the supermarket but they’re much better and so quick to make – it’s worth the effort. They’re not like a mousse and they’re not like heavy creams, either. Do you remember the Aero bars we used to devour as kids? What was the best part for you? The bubbles?

The best part are the chocolate bubbles…

Chocolate Orange Cream Desserts

Serves 6 (small pots)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours

200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
zest of an orange (untreated)
1 tbsp Cointreau
(optional)
1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)

1. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Meanwhile break up the chocolate into pieces in a large bowl. In a saucepan, boil the milk and cream.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Pour over the hot milky cream, mix and transfer back to the saucepan.

3. Whisk vigorously over a medium heat until the cream thickens. Take off the heat then pour over half of this hot cream on to the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts, add the grated zest, Cointreau (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.

4. Transfer to 6 serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us.)

Serve with sablé bretons or, dare I say, some macarons?

This recipe is added to the egg yolk recipe collection. There’s plenty more so you’ve no excuse – get these egg whites put aside! By making this recipe, you’ll have enough for 100g whites, which will make about 30 macarons.

Stay tuned for the fun surprise. If you haven’t yet subscribed to le blog, then don’t forget to sign up. Toodeloo, bonne semaine, I’m off to London so it’s time to get back into action!

To Make Macaron Hearts, Think ‘V’ for Valentine

As the 14th February is on the pinkish, romantic horizon, it’s hearts galore on the blogosphere. A few macaron lovers have asked me if I could tell them how to pipe out heart shapes.

Well, it’s so easy. You don’t even need a template. To pipe out macaron hearts, just think “V” for Valentine.

Pipe out the macaron batter using a plain tip. Make two separate strokes in a V shape, pressing down firmly at the top and tapering away towards the bottom.

Make 2 separate strokes with your piping bag in a ‘V’ shape

Don’t forget that the hearts will spread to form the heart, so leave a good space between each. If, after a couple of minutes, your hearts are rather round at the bottom, take a cocktail stick and just make a quick line down the middle to the tip. The hearts will continue to spread slightly and even out nicely while you’re airing them.

Make pink heart macarons with the rose buttercream filling (see recipe on page 45), or why not make a macaron dessert, placing a macaron heart on top? The hearts can be made in advance and frozen so you’ll have a quick, easy romantic dessert for your Valentine. It’s gluten free!

Inspired by Pierre Hermé’s famous Ispahan of rose, raspberry and lychee, I have a rosy, raspberry dessert in the book (recipe on page 109.) Simply mash a few raspberries into mascarpone, adding a dash of rosewater and sugar, whisk until light and fluffy. Serve on top of a giant rose macaron, decorate with raspberries and plonk (sorry, delicately place) your Valentine heart on top.

Say sweet nothings over this raspberry-rose macaron dessert

Why are there no lychees? Er – shh, don’t tell anyone – but when I was 9, I stole a lychee from Safeways. What? Well our family never bought them. I was intrigued by their lumpy, martian appearance and had no idea of their taste. Terrified about being caught with it in my pocket, the most guilty feeling followed of cracking the shell secretly in my room. I’ll never forget the taste but as a result of secret guilt, you won’t see any lychees in my cooking.

There!  That saved me a fortune in therapy, now that it’s finally out in the open.

Say it with rose macarons this Valentine’s Day.

And for those of you who are not into love heart-shapes, like my Frenchie Valentine, there’s always the plain, traditional round macaron – just like the ones you find in the Parisian pâtisseries. Although there’s nothing really that plain about a macaron, is there?

 

How to Make a French Religieuse or a Scottish Mac Snowman

I have a confession to make. I should have made something more typically Scottish as it’s Burn’s Night this Friday. Patriotism is kicking in as the bagpipes, Stornoway black pudding and haggis are suddenly sorely missed. Don’t ask me to make the latter myself, though. You’re talking to an ex-vegetarian.

With a first mere dusting of snow last week, our lucky Scottish heather was then well and truly tucked in with a thick, snowy blanket this weekend outside Paris. We had more snow than in Scotland!

Lucie was itching to build a snowman and managed to convince her sister that it was still cool to play in the snow by repeating renditions of the Snowman’s ‘I’m Walking in the Air’ on the piano. What’s with the hat? A TGV cap was all we could find.

With a couple of lollies pour les yeux, they reminded me of the sugar eyes I’d bought at the NY Cake supply shop on my trip last summer to NYC.

Am I a Scottish or French snowman woman person with a hat like this?

More macaron madness struck. I’d just made a batch of choux dough to make les Réligieuses: that’s one small choux bun stuck on a larger bun and dribbled with fondant.

Hm. Sugar eyes…  put them together with macarons (I had some left from my freezer ‘bank’) and what have you got?

A Snowman built indoors! OK, so I’m not too old to kid around too, right? He’s a Religieuse Snowman. Hm. In French that doesn’t work since a Religieuse is feminine.

Somehow a Mrs Snow-woman doesn’t sound right, so apologies to my French friends for the Religieuse recipe title – I’d love to hear your ideas for a more fitting title. No surprise why Mrs Snowman looks a bit grumpy: I didn’t wait for the fondant to slightly set before dipping in the choux buns and so she’s dribbling fondant down her cheek. Next time I’ll be more patient.

Does this fondant coat make my bun look big?

Snowman Religieuse Recipe (Choux Buns with Pastry Cream)

Makes 20

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns. Using a piping bag with a plain tip (about 10mm), pipe out large heaps on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat.) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make a second batch of choux buns but pipe out much smaller heaps (as you would for chouquettes) and bake in the oven for only 15 minutes.

VANILLA PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

500ml full milk
1 vanilla pod (split down the middle)
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Gradually add the milk and extract, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again, then transfer to a piping bag with a thin, plain tip (8mm) so that you can pierce the buns without too much leakage!

4. Pipe the cream into the buns by piercing a hole at the bottom of each bun and squeeze in the vanilla cream.

DECORATION

Gently melt the fondant in a bowl (white fondant is available from many speciality baking stores but if you can’t find it just make a classic icing using icing/confectioners sugar and some water.)  Once the fondant starts to cool, dip the buns upside down into the bowl until there’s no excess on the buns. Leave to set on a wire rack but first stick on the eyes (you could use smarties), pierce Mikado sticks for arms and stick on a macaron.

If I’m a snow-woman I’ll eat my hat!

I forgot to take a photo of the vanilla cream inside. It was too good. You’ll just have to make them for yourselves! Here’s another reason why it’s handy to keep some macarons in your freezer. And now you’ve used up 4 egg yolks you have a good supply of whites for your macarons!

Perhaps this is a Scottish post after all: could we call it a MacSnowman?