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A Gourmet Weekend in Lyon

Well that took forever to post something: my kids are suddenly using this computer so much for their homework that my minutes are counted! Where was I?  Ah yes, my weekend in Lyon: it was a real treat. After experiencing Chez Hugon, a fabulously friendly Lyonnais bouchon with its traditional sausages, poulet au vinaigre and quenelles de brochet, it was time to venture out next day to discover Lyon’s sweet side.

market in Lyon

No trip to Lyon is complete without visiting Sebastien Bouillet.  I’d already seen his chocolate and macaron artistry at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris and had previously heard of his ‘MacaLyon‘, which provided inspiration for a half-dipped macaron in chocolate which is in the book.

Silk museum in Lyon

First – since we wanted a girlie weekend with a bit of culture thrown in too – we headed to La Maison des Canuts. The Canuts were the Lyonnais silk weavers who mainly worked in this hilly area of the Croix Rousse. The museum takes about 50 minutes to visit (if you do the guided tour in French) otherwise you can stroll around willy nilly while you’re left imagining the poor conditions these weavers had to work in, as if out of a scene of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

Sebastien Bouillet is only a ten minute walk away from the museum to the market square, at Place de la Croix-Rousse.

Sebastien Bouillet Patisserie Lyon

With the bellowing of an accordion nearby to get us into the French pâtisserie spirit, the boutique’s front was more like a make-up stand in a Parfumerie.

Chocolate lipstick by Sebastian Bouillet Lyon

Don’t be fooled: these are chocolate lipsticks from his ‘Chokola’ collection! What about some lip-smacking milk chocolate and passion fruit to hide in a handbag along with some chocolate lips, chocolate caviar… and some candied chestnuts (perhaps the latter would be messy)?

best chocolate and patisserie Sebastien Bouillet Lyon

His pastries were so inviting and at a fraction of the cost of the same kind of elegant, creative combinations you find in Paris. With only a 2 hour ride from Paris Gare de Lyon (surprise!),  I need to pop on that TGV train more often. He also runs a prestigious pastry school, Gâteau Ecole.

Best pastries at Sebastien Bouillet Lyon

His colourful array of macarons are just as tempting with inspiring flavours such as quince, chestnut, gianduja with green tea, chocolate, praline, salted caramel…. what would you choose?

macarons Sebastien Bouillet Lyon

Another culture break down the hill is well worth the visit to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the second biggest art gallery in France after the Louvre. I love seeing the impressionists paintings of scenes taken along the river Seine.  This Sisley landscape is just up the road from us, in Marly-le-Roi. Nothing much has changed.

Alfred Sisley Marly le Roi France painting

Just next door to the Gallery is a welcome sweet neighbour, Chocolatier Voisin. Léon Voisin’s chocolate shop’s doors have been open since 1897. He created the Lyon speciality, Le Coussin de Lyon: a bright green cushion of chocolate ganache, almond paste and a hint of Curaçao. If you love marzipan like I do, this is a must!

Voisin chocolate shop in Lyon

The friendly staff at the art gallery told us to try Voisin’s delicious praline quenellesThey’re officially classed as a national delicacy as the patrimoine nationale de la confiserie.  Again nutty, they’re made with grilled hazelnuts and almonds and covered in white chocolate.

Les Coussins chocolates speciality from Lyon

I felt like a bit of Opera coming on but we’d missed the guided tour (Saturdays at 1pm) so instead we headed to rue de la République.  Or rather, we tried to.  What is it with these Smartphone map apps?  I always get lost with them.

Lyon Opera House

Instead, we found it the old-fashioned way by asking a friendly Lyonnaise the direction. Walking in Lyon is like being in Glasgow but chatting in French: the Lyonnais are so friendly they even ask where you’re heading and how they can help. It’s a long way from Paris!

Lyon pastry shops and tea salons

At 4 o’clock, it was time for another kind of Opéra, with a cup of tea. Bingo! We found our recommended Salon de Thé or tea salon at La Maison Debeaux. 

best Tea salon Maison Debaux Lyon

Their traditional pink praline tart and brioches were tempting enough but I surprised even myself by pouncing on a giant coffee macaron with mascarpone cream, the ‘Maccarpone‘. Well, macarons are gluten free, after all.

Our particularly adorable server, on the other hand, wasn’t quite in agreement with my tea order: I’d asked for one of their gastronomic teas with a petit nuage or cloud of milk. But Madame, this kind of tea shouldn’t be taken with milk. Instead he brought me some Earl Grey, or Thé à la Bergamote, and offered me the most dinkiest looking teapots filled with blue flower and jasmine tea, just for me to try.  Now that was class in a glass teapot. I missed my milk, though!

Maison Debaux best Tea Salon Lyon

When most gastronomes think of Lyon, they think of Paul Bocuse.  This time around I wanted to try the Tetedoie restaurant, run by the brilliant chef and President of the Maîtres Cuisiners de France, Christian Tetedoie. His menu, Découverte et Gourmandise, merits a post by itself but a glimpse of his sweet treats will hopefully give you an idea why I’d love to return.  This sublime dessert, caramelised pastry with green apple compôte and Granny Smith sorbet was light enough to enjoy his surprise plate of mignardises to finish off the evening – all with the most spectacular views of Lyon.

Christian Tetedoie restaurant Lyon

It was the cherry on the cake – or meringue on the macaron? – of the weekend.  Soon it’s Lyon’s annual festival, la Fête des Lumières (5-9 December – check out their fun video on this site).  Next year we’ll need to organise another trip and discover more of Lyon’s sweet side. What do you think?

 


 

Disclaimer: All tastings and financial indulgences were purely my own. Ridiculous!

Silicone Macaron Mat Review

For all the macarons I’ve churned out in the past few years, have you also noticed that there are trendy kitchen gadgets such as a silicone macaron mat in specialised baking shops? When Mum told me my cousin, Julie, made wonderful macarons for a family party (using the book) and that she was using a macaron mat, I thought it was about time to jump on the bandwagon and try one out myself.

So I bought myself a Mastrad macaron matThis post is not referring to a silicone Silpat mat, but a special macaron mat with circles. (Incidentally, I don’t use a plain Silpat mat as it tends to overcook macarons…)

Although it’s referred to as a small macaron baking sheet, it’s rather a large mat (42cm x 33cm; 17″x13″) and so the small is referring to the size of macarons. In America this may be an extra small size, but in France this is more of the normal size that we find in the pâtisseries in Paris, albeit just a little smaller. The mat produces 56 shells for 28 macarons.

Silicone macaron mat review comparison with baking parchment paper

It was great to see so many macarons condensed onto one tray. If you see the photo on the left, however, you will see that my macarons are not quite round.  Why?  Well, although it may look easy I had to pipe the batter right into the middle of the raised rounds. By the time the batter spread out a little (as they normally do), I realised that some of my piping wasn’t quite directly in the middle. I’m so used to piping quickly free-hand.

Although I missed the centre on some of them, the majority turned out in perfect circles.  On the other hand, the mat was too big for my large baking sheet. The result was that the batter moved and produced some oval macarons which were not so pretty. I would, therefore, recommend that you use a baking sheet that is large enough to support the mat, such as this aluminium 18×14 baking sheet.

small macaron feet using a macaron silicone mat

Oh what little feet we have

Baking the macarons using the mat took an extra 4-5 minutes compared to the ones being baked just on baking parchment.

In general, the end result was satisfactory but I really wasn’t happy that the macarons’ feet were much flatter than I normally achieve by piping directly onto baking parchment/paper. I also found that the macarons tended to stick to the mat, creating a shiny surface underneath.  I would recommend oiling the mat slightly before piping to avoid this.

review of silicone macaron mat

flat-footed macarons?

Being so used to piping out macarons free hand, I find it much easier to use simple baking parchment (good quality) and pipe out rounds quickly.

perfect macaron shell feet using baking paper

We have much better feet, see? Baking parchment is all we need…

After a few batches I stopped using the silicone mat for macarons; it’s too time consuming to relearn how to pipe the batter into the centre of the silicone rounds on the mat.  So that my money doesn’t go to waste, I’ve used it for making chocolate mendiants.

how to make chocolate disks or French mendiants

I also used the macaron mat for preparing French chouquettes (mini choux buns topped with pearl sugar.) It was interesting to see that they turned out slightly flatter compared to ones piped out onto my Silpat silicone baking mat.

using a macaron silicone mat to make chouquettes

Left: silicone macaron mat with circles (the subject of this post); Right: Plain silicone mat

Silicone Macaron Mat: My Verdict

The mat is an extra luxury; you don’t need it, especially if you already enjoy baking and have a few practises with the piping bag. First-time users with a piping bag can find it awkward at first and, although the mat provides extra confidence in piping out uniform rounds, you still need to practise piping out the rounds directly in the middle and just enough so that the batter doesn’t go over the raised rounds. The positive side is that you can fit more macarons on to the one sheet.

If you do prefer using the mat, I would encourage you to ensure you have a baking sheet that is large enough to hold the full mat, so check your sizes first as I recommend above.

I still prefer using good quality baking parchment for the best macaron shell results with a perfect foot.

chocolate macaron shells baked on baking parchment

Have you bought a macaron mat recently?  What do you think?

If you’re in Paris, join me or my sweet colleagues for much more macaron talk on a chocolate, pastry and macaron walk with Context Travel!  And if you’re wanting a macaron recipe that works, you need Mad About Macarons.

UPDATE! Now you have Teatime in Paris, with not just a chapter on how to make macarons but éclairs, tarts, millefeuilles, and many more French pastry treats…


Note: This is a personal review and not sponsored by anybody: Mastrad did not contact me. As I see them in so many shops and readers ask me if they should buy it, I bought the mat myself, curious to try. All ideas and opinions are my own in the interest of my macaron-making friends. If any company wishes to contact me to convince me otherwise, however, then I am totally open to doing a new review …