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It’s Springtime in Paris with Sunny Lemon Macarons!

It has been a long haul this chilly winter. In fact, I think it has rained since October, making it the longest hiver – more than I’ve ever known after living in Paris for 20 years, 3 months and 3 weeks. It’s my birthday today so I’m particularly 40-something sensitive in counting the years. It’s not the age, it’s the mileage, eh?
Although in France, we should be saying kilometres, rather than miles…

Ouf! Spring has sprung in Paris, enfin. What a pleasure it is to watch the first wasp of the year, buzzing amongst the tulips in the park and hearing the birds’ chattering singsongs in the morning and evening. And the sun… oh, the glorious sun; *bows*. Did we ever tell you just how much we missed you? With the sudden arrival of Printemps yellows and a family goûter this weekend, there was no question as to what macaron flavour needed whipping-up.

No sooner had the sun popped out, it took fright and hid behind a mass of stormy clouds – just as I was piping out the macaron batter into little rounds. Quoi? A hail storm? These hailstones look small but they’ve already melted in my palms!

Time to whip up some bright yellow lemon macarons

It had to be sunny yellow. If you’ve followed this blog back when the book first came out at the BBC Good Food Show, I made mimosa macarons just for you on le macaron blog, for something different. This time, it was simply good old plain – tart-yet-sweet – lemon. Nothing fancy; just tasty and agonisingly addictive.

A sweet golden ray of sunshine?

You know that euphoric feeling when you inhale the first sweet air of Spring? It was a magical sky on Sunday, not a cloud in sight – exactly as the weather is today. It’s that end-of-the-tunnel, feeling of relief with a natural energy boost that no supplements or extra fruit can really bring, is it? Now that is a lovely wee wink from la lune, n’est-ce pas?

Sun and the moon in Paris – ‘Macaron-style’!

Speaking earlier of miles vs kilometres, I’m seriously thinking of posting something about grams vs ounces. Does it really upset you when I – and other Europeans – post recipes in grams? Let’s be Frank, even if I’m still sticking to the name, Jill. More seriously, how many of you own digital scales? Tell me what you think.

Bonne semaine et vive le printemps!

P.S. The recipe for lemon meringue macarons is on page 41 of Mad About Macarons!

One Night in Bangkok: Back to the 80s Disco Macarons

A few days ago, I fell in love with some dazzling upbeat music on the car radio. I had never heard it before. For a few seconds, I felt the trendiest Mum: the car speakers were put to the test and down zipped the car windows as I casually picked up my daughter from collège. Dude. As Julie approached the car she shuddered, begging for a speedy getaway.  Mum? ‘One Night in Bangkok’?  But that’s ancient!  Where was I?

Could we be Sandy and Travolta look-a-likes?

Granted, I was not a trendy teenager in the 80s; playing in orchestras and excited by Stravinsky, Brahms or Dvorak rather than discovering Murray Head from Chess in the Charts could be considered downright nerdish. Then again, when Shirley Manson‘s sister (that was cool) asked at choir practice if I’d been to see ‘Grease’, I remember the cringing confusion as I said I’d never been – which was a pity, especially since I adored moussaka.

Boom. That was it!  After my daughter’s ‘boum‘ before Christmas, it was our turn. It may have been the end of the festivities of Christmas and New Year but last weekend we discoed back to the 80s. It was time catch up with friends, put on our red shoes and dance away the January blues. One girlfriend took it literally: I’m still in awe how she managed to wear her 20cm-heeled red sparkling Bowie shoes without keeling over. Another friend simply wrapped aluminium foil around his training shoes: great idea! My favourite gear in the 80s was the all-in-one jumpsuit but as it was difficult to pin down again (just as well), I found one quickly on the internet.

Jill Colonna

My John Travolta. Or was it a snazzy barman for the evening?

When my brother saw the party wig on Facebook, he thought I’d bought a dog. It wasn’t a dog but whatever it was, it was on top of my head most of the evening and I can tell you that it was sizzling underneath. So sweltering, that I dared take it off later and reveal the soggy dishwater blonde mop underneath. By that time, with the dancing and sweet (why did I want to write that with an ‘a’?) macarons served, who cared?

pannacottas, choux, hot macs & a sizzling wig

On the 80s food front, apparently microwave popcorn appeared in the USA but hey, we also wanted to serve up chic stuff.  So out came my good old favourites with easy recipes to prepare in advance: macarons and mini chocolate-beetroot fondants. On the day: ginger & cardamom panna cottas with rhubarb compôte, plus a huge batch of caramel-orange knitted-looking chouquettes (mini sugared choux buns).  We did serve up savouries, though. Try garlic snail toasts for starters, smoked duck and raspberry mini salads, Crab, Ginger & Coriander gluten-free quiches, Macsweens’ Haggis balls with whisky diane sauce … and mini mad macs.

Some like their macarons hot!

In the 80s, Mum and Dad went exotic with the latest Vespa curry mixes. So, some mini tikka mac’salas were a must to add some 80s pizzazz to hand around with drinks.  In making the curry macs (recipe on p.100), I should practise what I preach and done what I suggest in the book: use a disposable piping bag for piping out the curry filling. Now just look what I did: here’s what can happen with a potent curry filling mixing with a not-so-hot piping bag hooked up on the kitchen window (mac hook – it’s handy for drying it quickly.) I completely forgot the fresh coriander for the curry macs, so instead augmented the chili dose; don’t ask me why, but just as well they were tiny since they were hot, man!

My camera is not great. Unless you’re a static macaron and taken in the daylight, a Canon G10 is no use for night time and parties. It’s a crying shame there are no decent photos, since all 30 of us had so much fun dressing up and dancing. Then again, it’s probably for the best that they’re censored! If anyone knows me, I never have any New Year Resolutions but I’m putting in a quest for a new camera, just in case hubby ever reads this. I never bought these shoes near Place Vendôme – just gazed at them – if that helps my case.

Paris-Bangkok tea infused chocolate macarons

One Night in Bangkok macarons

This post is dedicated to MacTweets – as this month the MacAttack #26 Challenge was for Razzle Dazzle Macarons: featuring the Ostentatious with glitzy, dazzling and starry macarons. And being MacPassionate (love it, Deeba and Jamie), the party included One Night in Bangkok with some classic Madagascan Vanilla macarons – dusted with gold edible lustre to give it the in every golden cluster look from the Chess 80s musical.

Paris-Bangkok infused chocolate macarons

For an unexpected twist to dark chocolate macarons, I infused some Paris-Bangkok tea from Mariages Frères in the chocolate. The colour was purely to match the packaging, but I’m sure that it had something to do with the tea’s dazzling hints of red fruits, steamed pudding fragrances, and slight bubble gum tinges.

chocolate macarons infused with Mariage Freres tea Paris-Bangkok

It perhaps wasn’t Bangkok but it was One Night Near Paris and it rocked. I’m already planning the next one. We need more parties to chase away the winter blues, don’t you think? Vive starry nights, great friendships, laughter and loads of fun!

Saturday Night Disco Macaron Fever

Now I just need to keep a lower profile when picking up my daughter from school – unless you can give me some clues to the latest trendy numbers before the next move…

Going Macarons at the Paris Salon du Chocolat

How come I’ve never been before? It took my talented artistic American friend, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfasts, to entice me along finally to the 2011 Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Was I too busy making macarons? Perhaps more because it’s at Porte de Versailles, an area that’s a nightmare to park and with all the exhibition halls for someone with no sense of direction, it’s like suffering an orienteering course for a sports exam when it’s not your sport. Arriving seriously late with a lame excuse of being too nice in traffic jams, she was an angel to still take me under her wing.

Who was more mad about macarons? Check out Carol’s eye-catching gear of tee-shirt and matching macaron bracelet. Not difficult to lose her – although she might tell you the opposite. Each stand visited, we were greeted with “Superb T-Shirt!” followed by more chocolate tastings, thanks to her savoir-faire.

Carol knows a thing or two about Paris fashions – not surprising, as she has the artist’s eye. Macarons are definitely à la mode (by that I don’t mean the American ice-cream on top, I’m talking trendy Parisian fashion here.)

See?  Macaron ruffled necklaces are obviously in.

Another necklace – this time just like her bracelet, plus macarons dotted around the dress.

Should I perhaps give some macarons to the French fashion creator, Jean Colonna? We could create Le Colonna macaron dress. Just an idea…

Meanwhile, looking around, it’s macarons galore – perfect for a macaron blog.

A rather foxy (get it?) macaron-shell tower in all its glory by Gregory Renard and then his Eiffel Tower of macarons…

While we’re gazing at the Paris monuments, what about l’Arc de Triomphe by Léonidas?  It’s the one time I can negotiate the traffic around it without needing a bumper or aspirin.

Eye-spy, my little eye falls on chocolate-dipped macarons by Christophe Roussel.

Then a tasting over at Arnaud Larher‘s stand, even if the taster macaron bits were so near yet so far behind the counter.  Pain d’épice (gingerbread) and orange. What a gorgeous filling texture, although I didn’t really get the orange, sorry.  Hm – what’s that electric green colouring for pistachio? Never mind, it’s delicious!

Quite the chocolate treat from Arnaud Larher: these are chocomacs. They’re not macarons but chocolates in the shape of macarons. Now when you see macaron molds, you understand it’s not to make macarons but chocolate-shaped macarons.

There’s also a Professional Salon du Chocolat downstairs, including packaging, equipment and all kinds of tricks for the trade. This macaron-making machine might be rather bulky for the kitchen, n’est-ce pas? It also looks rather complicated but worth it if you need to make macarons in their thousands daily. Give me the simple piping bag any day.

Meanwhile, time to check out the World Chocolate Masters 2011. It’s serious business between the top chocolatiers strutting their stuff until something catches my eye in the audience. I should really learn to concentrate.

Imagine this blissful scene: somebody is just sitting with their arms out, holding these miniature macaron beauties.  Of course, I asked if I could try just one since I LOVE macarons. Wouldn’t you do the same on seeing this sight?

This was a Grand Marnier mini macaron, with a macaron shell on top of the most exquisite chocolate by Spruengli in Switzerland. What lovely people!

Then came Sébastien Bouillet. He’s a pâtisserie legend in Lyon and his speciality?

The Macalyon.  It’s a salted caramel macaron dipped completely in 70% dark chocolate.  Only €6.80 for a box of four…

It was with his Macalyon that I was inspired with this bitter chocolate macaron for the book, but only dipping it in half. Then Christophe Roussel also does it. What do you think? Personally I prefer seeing a macaron’s feet, rather than hiding it all. Although…

Chocolate macaron from my book, “Mad About Macarons”

 

My chocolate! Is that the time already? Now if I was really Smart, I could get in this nifty Salon du Chocolat special edition car and whisk myself home, weaving in front of the crazy drivers, just in time for school pick-up. It’s sweet but macarons were missing on it, don’t you think?

If you’re in Paris, then do check it out: the Salon du Chocolat is still open until Monday 24 October!

It’s guaranteed you’ll have a smashing time!

Ah. Just as well I’d made more chocolate macarons back home for dessert. All this chocolate is making me crave more.  I wonder why?

French Mushroom and Truffle Macarons of the Season

There has been a definite change in the air over the past 10 days around Paris.  The first sign of autumnal golden leaves are appearing. Slowly but surely.

first sign of Autumn trees

 

The sun has been shining but jings, the wind has had more of a mistral effect from the French South than anything else. When that strikes, a 20°C sunny day can feel like you’re in the north of Scotland. And I know what that feels like.

Mornings are becoming chilly; it’s time to put on that coat and admire the colourful scarves making their first fashionable autumnal appearances on the sidewalk. I’m not so sure it’s that fashionable: they’re covering up the first signs of a sore throat. The French always wear scarves to accompany throat infections. It’s vraiment cute.

wild mushrooms in the garden - not for eating

first mushroom in the garden – but not for eating!

When Jamie and Deeba posted the MacTweets Mac Attack #23 Challenge for September, it was something that brought back the warm to the cockles.  After 4 months of summer dilly-dallying, it was high time I joined in some seasonal fun.  The challenge was to celebrate the change of seasons through our passion de macarons.

giant tiramisu macarons with marsala figs

 

This past couple of weeks, we’ve been enjoying the brief period of French figs with a quick and easy fig tart and roasted marsala figs with giant coffee macarons and tiramisu cream.

 

Equinox last week seemed to have an affect on my baking habits this time, however…

… Which axis were my macarons headed for MacTweets?

mini mushroom and truffle macarons for the change of season

 

Pumpkins are gradually appearing but they are not quite there yet.  Right now the French markets are proudly displaying mountains of marvelous mushrooms in all shapes and sizes, to herald the start of Autumn.  Cepes, trompettes, pieds de mouton, girolles, champignons de Paris and chestnut mushrooms are displayed in all their glory.  We even discovered more (this time edible) mushrooms dans le jardin.

mushroom macarons growing in garden

 

Let’s take that one again…

from another angle…

Parisian macaron mushroom

A macaron mushroom!

You guessed right.  Well, I am officially Mad about Macarons, n’est-ce pas?  You are looking at cepes, chestnut mushroom and truffle macarons, inspired by the earth and its axis at this time of year en France.

I followed the same principle as the other savoury mad macs in the book regarding ratio of liquid and cornflour in the filling. I fried some chestnut and cepes mushrooms until they sweated off all their liquid and infused them into the cream, finally blitzing the whole lot and adding a dash of good quality truffle oil.  The chocolate dusting on the shells is 100% Belgian chocolate without any sugar. Don’t forget to dust the shells after airing, just before they go in the oven.

macarons mushroom out of oven

Et voilà.  I also added just a touch of cayenne in there to give it a kick. We all love macarons with feet but why not give a bit of a kick to them, too? 😉

They are great on their own served as an apéritif with hazelnuts and with a chilled white wine from the Jura, for example.  I tried this – especially as it’s the Foire aux Vins just now so need to taste if wines are any good or not before buying more – and they got the thumbs up. Or why not serve them along with some creamy mushroom soup? That certainly gets the conversation going at the dinner table.  In any case, you’ll find yourself on another axis when sharing this with friends.

mini mad mac mushroom

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom – make a mini mad mac

Thanks again to Jamie and Deeba of MacTweets for providing us macaronivores with yet another month of macaron inspiration!

Enjoy the new season!

Mad About Lime Blossom Macarons in the Loire

Mon Dieu! I was so carried away with the MacTweets Fruity Challenge that I forgot this sequel to the Loire Valley post! Et voici, mes amis – enfin…

Remember recently I asked you what this tree was? It’s a French Tilleul. In English, it’s Linden Blossom but after Sue of Tales from the Giantswood asked if it was a lime tree, I realised that Tilleul is linden blossom or lime blossom.  Thank you, Sue.

lime linden blossom Normandy

We had our breakfast under this tree at the B&B just around the corner from the Château of Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire. What a civilised haven, with classical music coming out from the dining room as we ate – somehow Lady Gaga wouldn’t have been right.

Loire castle fireplace

As the weather was warm, we ate under this tree outside so the breakfast room was used as the buffet – filled with brioches, baguettes and goat cheeses. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve eaten goat cheese for breakfast. What an experience.

Loire goat's cheese or chèvre for breakfast

The perfect pot of café crème with a plate ranging from the freshest goat cheese, to the most matured and piquant; as the word implies, it almost pierced the taste buds and the sticky honey put out the “fire”.

I wouldn’t have this every day, but I shall never forget such a waking revelation to the taste buds. At home, we’re more likely to have our favourite salad in the summer as a main course: Salade de chèvre chaud (warm goat’s cheese salad).

linden or lime blossom Loire Valley

Tilleul / Linden Blossom

Back to that linden blossom tree.  When we first arrived, Antoine greeted the B&B owners as I secretly hid behind the tree and tried to straighten out my back.  I had turned into a chair after 3 hours of lying flat out in the passenger seat from Paris, so it was slightly embarrassing attempting a transformation from a crooked old woman to a 40-something on a romantic weekend..

harvesting lime or linden blossom in Normandy

The owner had her basket out, ready to laden it with linden blossoms. This was the perfect time to dry them as they were in full bloom.

infusing French tilleul or lime blossom in Normandy

In France this is particularly popular as a herbal infusion: infusion de tilleul, which is relaxing and caffeine free before bedtime.  An infusion of lime blossom is also said to soothe tension headaches.

Lime or linden blossom at Azay le Rideau castle Loire Valley

Linden blossom au château d’Azay le Rideau, Loire

As we took a walk around the Château of Azay-le-Rideau, linden blossom trees surrounded us and we were mesmorised by the perfumes and the views.

cat in a basket Normandy drying lime blossom

Back at the B&B, Madame hadn’t got around to collecting the blossoms yet.  Meanwhile, someone had a better idea for her basket.

sleeping cat in lime blossom basket Normandy

Sun in all its glory, blossoms perfuming the air, Vivaldi out of the speakers  – it’s time for a cat-nap.

linden lime blossom or French Tilleul tree

And time for some linden/lime blossom macarons with a hint of lemon for something light and gluten free on a summer’s day…

lime blossom macarons Jill Colonna

Not just for night-time infusions, my macaronivore friends…

Wishing you a summer of lazy cat-naps and dreams

under the shade of your favourite tree.

The Party Times!

Shhh. The macaron secret is out…

Come and join us at The Party Times Online, where Pippa Middleton is sharing some macaron recipes from the book, courtesy of Waverley Books.

Stay tuned, as she is also planning a great Mad About Macarons! competition on the Party Times site…(UK residents)


French Poppies: A Macaron Impression

Think of French poppies and often Claude Monet’s impressionist painting comes to mind, n’est-ce pas?

Monet painted Camille and Jean strolling amongst the poppies near Argenteuil – not far from where we live.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Monet’s impression of the poppy field as we took a drive to the country recently. En route, poppies were out in all their glory – fields upon fields – to say bonjour.

There was this urge to make French poppy macarons as soon as I got back home.  I had found an intense poppy essence (arôme coquelicot), which was like tasting pure bonbons as a child.

As the poppy flavour was so sweet – and it’s still the rhubarb season – I added a touch of rhubarb compôte.  A classic is to pair poppy with strawberry, but the rhubarb just gave that tiny touch of tartness that brought out all the memories of poppy coquelicot sweeties.

Some poppy macarons with a touch of rhubarb

As you can understand, I’m not allowed to publish my macaron recipes on the site.  So, to make the filling, grab a copy of the book and use the recipe for orange blossom macarons on p.77.  Simply replace 5 tbsps orange flower water with rhubarb compôte and use 1 tsp of the poppy extract and follow the rest of the recipe as in the book.

french poppy macarons by the Seine by Jill @ Mad About Macarons

 

And what better way to eat them?  Sitting in a poppy field with Parisian poppy macarons in a basket, served with a chilled bottle of fizz: fizzy water – or what about Macaron Prosecco?

There’s perhaps some things missing:  the easel, paints and Monet’s pipe.  Let the dream live on: wear a panama hat. That way we can take our hats off to all Dads out there and wish you all a very Happy Fathers’ Day on Sunday.

Cheers to your good health!


Egg Yolk Recipe Series

I am so proud to welcome my talented guest, Nami from Just One Cookbook.  Just in case you missed it, see what she has prepared for us, using 4 egg yolks: a gorgeous recipe for Crème Caramel, or Japanese Purin.   This has to be the best crème caramel I’ve ever seen.  Thank you Nami for sharing this with us!

Visit to Pain de Sucre Pâtisserie in Paris with ParisPâtisseries

Join us on our mad macaron adventure at Pain de Sucre Pâtisserie in Paris.  I recently went with Adam Wayda of Paris Patisseries fame, to watch them making macarons using their new macaron-making machine.  Please don’t forget that this is on a large scale (about 2000 macarons a day) and don’t let that put you off making them yourselves at home.  Remember, they are a lot easier than you think!

Pain de Sucre making macarons Part I

Pain de Sucre making macarons Part II

I’m so inspired by Adam’s photography and so many of my blogger friends’ photos, I’m trying to work on enlarging my own just now, as they are all too small on the site (you’re right, Thoma ;-)).  This last photo is blown up but have no idea how it will look on your screens (possibly too big?)  By next week, I’ll have it sussed – I hope.

Bonne semaine and macaron making!