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20th Salon du Chocolat Paris

How could you resist? Week 2 of the French mid-term school holidays and the 20th Salon du Chocolat Paris kicked off yesterday.

chocolate fashion dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The kids ruled (my excuse, anyway) so it was time to head over to the Porte de Versailles for a taste. Arriving in the vast upstairs gallery, most people were making for the chocolate dresses.  Hey, did someone pinch that meringue at the bottom? It wasn’t me, I promise…

chocolate and macaron candy dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The fashion show parades at 3pm and 5pm, when the crowds form around the central podium.  That’s when I ventured around to visit other attractions, including the ground floor, full of chocolate from around the world.  The last time I came here was with talented artist, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfast fame: her fabulous artwork was in full view behind Fréderic Kassel’s pastry stand – although I don’t understand how I missed it.  It’s huge here – and not for nothing I lost Carol last time, too!

chocolate sculpture Paris 2014 court of Louis XIV

Jean-Luc Decluzeau, chocolate-maker and passionate historian put this sculpture together, celebrating how chocolate came to France around the 17th Century.  This represents the court of Louis XIV. It’s made with 500 kilos of Leonidas chocolates – including 2300 pralines – representing 300 hours of sweet labour.

Leonidas chocolate sculpture Paris salon 2014

Personally I had my eye on a leg: I’d be quite happy with the seat alone, weighing in at 35 kilos!
This time, macaron-lovers would certainly be happy.  These gluten-free treats were … everywhere.

macaron displays at the salon du chocolate Paris

And even more macarons from a huge central stand devoted to Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolates – including a White Bar, serving cocktails. I intended to return but became carried away… His chocolate macarons are top of my list, for sure.

macarons by Pierre Marcolini Paris

By lunch time, the kids and I were starving.  Looking around for a sandwich…. all we could find were these savoury macarons from les Macarondises (Paul, the only savoury boulangerie stand had sold out – my 12-yr old daughter Lucie has decided she’s setting up a stall next year).  That was definitely a first: savoury macarons for lunch.  Well, it was a gluten-free sandwich or few: salmon-dill, goats cheese-honey, foie gras and gingerbread and foie gras with chocolate (but of course).   The salmon was our winner with chèvre-miel a close second.

savoury macarons from les macarondises

We followed it off with another box for dessert from Les Macarondises.  Do you know what?  I much preferred the savoury ones – they were so much less sweeter and full of flavour, just enough filling, not too much.  Perfection.

macaron box at the salon du chocolat in Paris 2014

Before I knew it, I bumped into Christophe Roussel, the most friendly chocolatier-pâtissier in Montmartre.  He didnt have a stand this year being busy as a new Dad but was one of the judges – you must check out his new chocolate Eiffel Towers, called iTowers!  Then just around the corner, Philippe Urraca, one of my pastry chef heroes, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, s’il vous plaît, was demonstrating how to make chocolate truffles.

Philippe Urraca Cemoi chocolate demonstration Paris

Enough name-dropping (and grinning in a photo with him together – more are on Facebook and now on Instagram).
Look at Sadaharu Aoki’s stand: preparing the Tokyo Macaron Yaki – a large chocolate macaron sandwiched in between green tea waffle batter.

Sadaharu Aoki Tokyo macaron yaki for the Salon du Chocolat Paris

Every stand has something going on.  So much to take in, smell, taste, then bring out the wallet and pocket money… this is when I realise my kids love good, dark chocolate.

Japanese chocolate houses at the salon du chocolat Paris

Not only exquisite chocolate, but the best in artisanal lollipops, full of flavours such as the classic of salted caramel, chocolate-pear, green apple, honey, chocolate-nougat, chocolate-pistachio…

Artisanal lollipops salon du chocolat Paris

Chocolate mousse – the traditional chocolate mousse bar run by the famous house, Chapon – here’s Patrice Chapon’s recipe for his 100% cacao Chocolate Mousse.

chocolate mousse bar Chapon

Then the more chocolate, chestnut, coffee, praline flavours of macarons from Laurent Duchêne.  Then I was tempted by his Baba au Yuzu… just finished it tonight, split with the girls to taste.  Thanks to Carol Gillott for tempting me with a photo of it in the morning – this was the final straw and had me legging it to le Salon!

Macarons Laurent Duchene Paris

Not forgetting that pastry chefs and chocolatiers are real artists, there was a huge emphasis also on chocolate artwork as well as the sculptures.  Here, Romain Duclos  demonstrated his artwork, ‘Valse Chocolat’ showing the movements of chocolate through 15-second vibrations every 1.5 minutes underneath the table.  At one point, the vibrations were so powerful, we could have been in Iceland watching some kind of chocolate eruptions.  Wonderful imagination.

chocolate artwork by Romain Duclos Valse Chocolat

Then back to art on canvas – macarons.  Carol Gillott should have a stand of her amazing macaron and pastry watercolours.  Just saying for the next Salon du Chocolat Paris …

macaron artwork

Next door, the kids posed for a Giant King Kong in chocolate, were particularly taken by a chocolate owl who was weeping, then we gazed up at these painters still preparing something for the following few days…

painters in action at the salon du chocolat Paris

Hubby was brought up in Africa and so spooky masks are something I’ve tried to avoid.  Now that these are in chocolate by Chocolats Colas, I could live with that…

african art chocolate masks by chocolats Colas

Suddenly we heard the crowds again: the next fashion show was parading around with chocolate dresses.  Meanwhile, this little girl was up to a few tricks and treats: watching attentively as the strawberries were dipped into the most tempting of melted chocolate.

Godiva-chocolate-strawberries-Paris

By now we were flagging.  I’m sure you are too by now?  There are more photos on the other social network channels (I’m starting to give it a go) for those of you who need more chocolate.

giant macarons

By this time, giant macarons were rather on the big side – even for macaronivores.

chocolate and coffee macarons

What would you go for, now that Autumn is here: lemon, praline, coffee, speculoos (cinnamon), crème brûlée, chocolate?

macaron-tower-salon-du-chocolat-Paris-2014

There’s still time to get to Le Salon du Chocolat Paris – it continues until Sunday 2nd November!

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!

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

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!

Patrick Roger Chocolate Cake

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!)

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

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.

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

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.

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

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!

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

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? Patrick Roger’s Grizzly chocolate sculpture

Joining Together in Mac-rimony plus a Crème Caramel in a Cheesebox?

It’s already one week later and I’m still recovering. Is it the age or the mileage, perhaps? Or both?

This was no ordinary weekend. Not only was it decision time for the French to elect their President, but we also witnessed no ordinary Scottish wedding. It was my brother’s extra special day; I’m a proud sister, bowled over to gain such a precious sister-in-law and a beautiful family. My eldest daughter squeezed me tightly as I placed the lid on this box of mini macs just before leaving the house. “Mum, no wonder these are the cutest macarons you’ve made: you poured so much love into them…” That was the first lump that formed in my throat. I always become emotional at weddings and so that was a last-minute reminder to pack the extra tissues.

The happy couple asked me to make some mini curry macarons for the drinks. With some extra batter, I piped out couples stuck together (Tip: normally you shouldn’t pipe out your batter too close to each other, as they do spread on the baking sheet) and wrote on them using edible food colouring pens.

Joining together in mac-rimony

This time the fragile macs made it through Beauvais airport’s security belt in one go and the box remained upright.  Just as we sailed smilingly through to the other side, Antoine informed me that he couldn’t find a parking place at the airport. He had parked the car ‘somewhere outside’. Trop tard. There wasn’t much we could do. Either we could laugh about it or cry. I didn’t expect to use the tissues so soon, thinking of the Gendarmes clamping the car with a fine as we boarded.

The bellowing bagpipes in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile made us all feel smiles better. With a nippy easterly wind opposite Parliament Square, we gazed at the bagpiper clad in short sleeves and kilt, wondering if he was wearing his tartan the traditional way: feeling the drafty winds from the south, as it were. Braveheart, indeed. Needless to say there is a distinct lack of photographs here. In between hugging and joyful tears, Antoine and I fondly remembered our own wedding across the road nearly 15 years ago. The only differences? The sun was shining and the bagpiper had changed. So had we, but we could have done the wedding thing all over again. I wonder if Antoine would still arrive in an Irn-Bru taxi?

Made from girders… my daughters’ new Scottish tipple

Flying back next day, we were lucky to make it in time for Antoine to vote. Before François Hollande was even elected, some humourists were out and about in Paris. View of the rue de l’ancienne comédie: Impasse de Sarkozy.

A dose of French humour…

Turning the corner into Boulevard St Germain, wacky chocolatier Patrick Roger also showed off his wit in the boutique’s window: a chocolate die picturing Hollande and Sarkozy.

The jokes were flying around on Facebook and on TV. Antoine was particularly in hysterics with a picture of a round, empty box of Président camembert cheese filled with a ‘Flamby’ (a commercial crème caramel.) Hollande’s endearing nickname of Flamby is due to his wobbly ideas, apparently. My personal preference was “vote Hollande if you want a Pays Bas” (Pays Bas to non-French speakers is another word for the country, Holland.) Ah, the French and their politics.  I’ve never taken to politics but when you live in France, you have to have some sort of clue what’s going on: it’s a passionate topic that always finds itself around a French table with friends or family.

Time will tell with President Hollande. From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…until 2017? I wonder if I should make some caramel Flamby macarons in his honour – or does that sound a bit cheesy?