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Festive Desserts with Macarons and Peppermint Creams

This has been a fun and busy year and I am so relieved to have finally handed in the last proofs of my upcoming new book. Let’s hope Waverley Books are happy with it as it has been an absolute marathon!

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 guess I can say it’s my first, can’t I?)  I have loved hearing from you via book reviews and from the Readers’ Forum.

This is 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 coffee vanilla pear dessert with mocha 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

Recipe for Spiced Pumpkin and Leek Soup.

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!

 

A Sexy Valentine Dessert Recipe with Parisian Macarons

Last week, as the wild, wild winds howled around a rather bald looking Paris, there was still love in the air. As I turned up my collar and tightened two oversized Scottish scarves, I briefly stopped on this bridge to take in Notre Dame and admire the frozen statues of the 12 apostles walking up the spire.

Even the blustery, horizontal rains didn’t stop this romantic couple from locking up tight and cosy together. I felt like the Parisian Love-tourist Gringe as they put their initials on a padlock and locked it on to one of the two Paris ‘love lock’ bridges, le pont de l’Archevêché. Tut-tut!  OK, where’s my romance, you ask?  I don’t need a padlock to show it. So there.

Romantic couple on the love lock bridge near Notre Dame in Paris

Back home, sheltered from the winds and feeling much more romantic and cosy, I wanted to make something sweet and special for Antoine – and my girls!  Why wait until Valentine’s Day?

One of my favourite Valentine’s desserts is on page 109 of Mad About Macarons: a giant rose macaron with rose and raspberry cream, topped off with a heart macaron.  For those of you who adore lovehearts, then check out How to Make Macaron Heart Shapes. This year, so far, there are no love heart shapes in sight; unless this edible winter pansy counts.

red fruit bavarois recipe with rose macarons

Instead I was tempted by a blackcurrant (cassis) bavarois recipe in Pierre Hermé’s Dessert Book (my pride and joy prize for winning a local  French Pâtisserie competition a few years ago with my pistachio and wasabi macarons). It’s a French answer to the Italian panna cotta (see this rose, cherry and cardamom panna cotta recipe). What I love about this dessert is that it’s packed with fruit and at this time of year, I just used a mix of frozen red fruits. If using frozen, there’s no need to defrost them first; just throw them in the blender and follow the recipe below. Except I have played around so much with the recipe, it’s reduced in sugar and I’ve eliminated the butter.

easy sexy valentine dessert rose macarons

Red Fruit Bavarois Recipe

You’ll need silicone demi-sphere moulds or other shapes will also work well, such as dariole moulds.  If not using silicone non-stick moulds, then butter moulds first. This recipe is gluten free.

Serves 4-6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours

400g mix of red fruits (fresh or defrosted)
4 gelatine sheets @ 2g
140g caster sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or mixed spice)
400ml crème fraiche (30%)

1      Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 10 minutes.

2      Wash and drain the mixed red fruits and whizz them to a purée in a blender or food processor.

3      Heat half of the fruit purée with the sugars and cinnamon then add the gelatine (squeezing first any excess water). Mix in the rest of the purée and the crème fraîche then pour into demi-sphere silicone moulds (I poured into 5 half-sphere moulds, right to the top).

4      Set aside to cool then chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set.

5      When ready to serve, quickly run the bottom of the moulds under the hot water tap then upturn them directly onto each plate (I do this with the help of a pastry scraper).

Serve with white chocolate, rose and orange blossom mousse.

valentine macaron dessert with sexy bottle of wine

It went down a treat with a mellow sexy red wine. You think I’m joking but this Sexy bottle is Portuguese wine.  But to be THE sexiest and perfect Valentine this weekend, make your own home-made macarons.

Black Forest Cakes in Germany and a No Bake Chocolate Cherry Dessert

Do you really think a sweet tooth determines our family holiday destinations? Well, perhaps it does. It has been 30 years since I last visited Germany and the same, ridiculous amount of time since I practised my rusty high school German. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut!  It was high time to visit.

We headed to the medieval town of Staufen, south of the Black Forest, a jewel nestled in between lush mountaineous forests, vines, cafés and bakeries.

What amazed us most about the region, is how clean and tidy the towns are. Everything is immaculate, even down to the neat stacks of wood piled outside geranium window-boxed freshly painted houses. It’s also the first time I’ve seen kids paddling about in the gutters! (Well, one of them was mine – was ist das?) The Germans seem particularly eco-friendly: bikes are the norm, an impressive amount of houses have flashy solar panels and their signposting is nothing short of perfection.

We stayed at the Gasthaus Krone (meaning ‘crown’), which is an excellent address in Staufen – including their Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurant. Luckily the friendly owner spoke some French, since my painful phrases embarrassingly resembled a mix of German vocabulary, French grammar and stuttering English fillers-in. I am determined to return after doing some homework next time, but at least communication through food is easier!

Meandering down the main cobbled street, serenaded by a solo oboist trying to compete with the local brass quintet oompa-ing around the fountain, the castle ruins and vineyards majestically tower over the local wineries. The city crest is a shield with 3 wine glasses so when in Staufen, it would be rude not to taste; their welcoming barrels proudly strut their tasting offerings.

This is what holidays are made of: sitting back, people-watching, contemplating family postcards, nibbling on a salted bretzel and sipping at the local traditional grape varieties – including the oldest, Gutedel. Personally, I preferred the dry Muscat for white wines but their red wines shone high above the rest with some stunning Pinot Noirs, bursting with jam-like cherry fruits.

Staufen Castle, although now a ruin (built in 850), can be visited to admire the breathtaking vista of the Black Forest and Rhine Valley. Looking out the arched window, we’re reminded by such an enormous tree that we’re in black cherry country.

After such a climb during the heatwave, it was time to follow the tempting signs dotted around the town to the nearest cake shop. It didn’t take us long to discover the Café Decker, undoubtedly the best cake shop and tea salon in Staufen. It was so decadently, deliciously decked in cakes that we admittedly returned three times.

Black Forest Cakes, küchen, more chocolate cakes, redcurrant meringue pies and macarons were just some of the treats that would make anyone go off their sweet trolley. I think I put on three kilos during the week!  So, switching to ice cream seemed a lighter idea: wouah! Teasingly steeped in Kirsch liqueur, it made an ideal excuse for an afternoon nap by the snoring river.

Back home, the Black Forest provided inspiration for a gluten free dessert back home: ideal for using up egg yolks and for serving with your chocolate macarons.  What’s more, it’s holiday style: quick, easy, tasty and no bake!

Black Forest Chocolate Cherry Cream Desserts

Serves 8 (mini pots) or 4 (in wine glasses)

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

1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)
200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
1 tbsp Kirsch liqueur (optional)
16 fresh cherries (or Griottine cherries, soaked in Kirsch)

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 Kirsch (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.

4. Transfer to 8 mini serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us), cool and chill for at least an hour. Decorate with fresh dark cherries and/or Griottine cherries soaked in Kirsch and a scoosh of Chantilly cream*. (Or why not roast cherries with a splash of Kirsch as Jamie Schler does at Life’s a Feast?)

If you have a siphon, fill it up half way with chilled cream (no less than 30% fat) and splash in a couple of tablespoons of Kirsch or cherry syrup, fit with the gas canister, shake and chill for a few minutes. Instant, homemade lighter-than-light cream!

Guten Appetit!

 

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France before I put on weight. We certainly had our fill of our Scottish favourites while visiting family with Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones, Stornoway black pudding and tons of hot smoked salmon.

Back home, 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 I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge, since Antoine (French hubby) had left most of 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. So I defrosted a jam jar of egg whites from the freezer while thinking up this lemon cream meringue nest dessert, filled with a zingy lemon cream and topped with the fruits.  The slightly tired strawberries were resurrected by tossing them in some good quality strawberry syrup. Et voilà! You thought I was going to make macarons, didn’t you?

Lemon cream meringue nests

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

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.

Lemon cream meringue nests

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.

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). Leave to cool and chill for an hour.

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?

Valentine macaron dessert teatime in Paris

With a macaron, dessert’s your oyster!