The laziest cheesecake on the planet! A Corsican family dessert typically served between November and June.
The shock of the inhuman terrorist attacks in Paris last week have perhaps numbed us. But this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Day 2015 has never been so symbolic this Thursday 19 November. Beaujolais producers affirm that their “wines are to be celebrated” and “they represent French conviviality and culture.
The moment of sharing this year is a strong symbol to show that France still stands strong and is proud of its values.”
The French know how to continue their art de vivre and they need our support during this tough time – as locals and tourists alike are perhaps scared to venture out for a while in the Paris we love so much. After an exceptionally hot summer and a perfectly mature early harvest, the French have good reason to be proud. 2015 will apparently be an outstanding vintage and so it’s time to celebrate wine in France and around the world.
Today nearly a third of Beaujolais production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. Harvesting takes place late August to early September and the traditional Gamay Noir grapes (which make up 98% of Beaujolais wines) are fermented for only a few days then released on the third Thursday in November, a practise that has continued since 1985 by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO).
Like Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais basic reds are to be drunk within the year. They’re real bistro wines in Paris, served slightly chilled and slightly blueish-light-purple in colour due to the Gamay grape, known for being light, fruity and easy-drinking.
This week also marks 24 years ago since I met my Frenchman. Antoine had just returned from a student Beaujolais Nouveau evening and so we quickly found a mutual conversation starter – admittedly I made him do most of the talking just to listen to his endearing, oh-là-là accent. Having blind-tasted the Scottish Wine Society’s selection the previous evening – celebrated in true Frenchie style with the official jury arriving on bicycles, clad in onion-johnnys, berets, blue and white stripy nautical matelot jerseys – the best producer was unveiled with its pretty flowery label since it typically tasted of banana and bubble gum. Although my thoughts were leaning towards the highest category, the Beaujolais Cru wines.
When I explained to my new French-Corsican friend Antoine that evening about the 10 Crus (Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles; Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour; Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent), and how some of them could keep up to 10 years in the bottle with no need to chill the red wine either – I’d somehow talked myself into a Frenchman’s heart. We had an excuse to meet again and thankfully, we’re still continuing the love of discovering of new wines together.
Chestnut Pumpkin Tarts
So to celebrate the perfect partner, here’s a delicious recipe for chestnut pumpkin tarts that match well with the basic Beaujolais or the lighter to medium bodied crus. Inspired by my Corsican family who use chestnut flour in their cooking, I’ve added it to the pastry; the roasted pumpkin and mushroom filling is also good with any turkey leftovers. Do try and find some sage to add to this, as this adds that extra je ne sais quoi to the flavour.
Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom and Chestnut Tart Recipe
You could also replace the mushrooms with left-over turkey, as the wines also partner very well with poultry. Inspired by and adapted from a recipe from the French edition of Elle magazine. Enjoy a taste of Autumn on a plate!
Makes one large tart (28cm diameter) or 8 individual tartlets
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
150g plain flour
100g chestnut flour
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
4-5 tbsp water
1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave to stand about 10 minutes, to make it easy to roll it out.
2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface then using the pastry roller, wrap around the pastry to transfer it to the tart tin (I find it easier using a tart tin with a loose bottom). Press it in to the sides then, again with the roller, roll over the top of the tin to clean up the edges. Keep in the fridge while preparing the filling.
350g pumpkin (or red kuri squash/potimarron), roughly chopped into small chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part, sliced finely
300g mushrooms (chestnut/crimini), cut into big pieces
1 tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
250g crème fraîche
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated*
* please grate from a block of parmesan and not from a packet of pre-grated stuff. The resulting taste is so different!
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F (gas 6). Place the pumpkin with half of the oil and sage in a roasting tin and roast uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, over medium heat, dry fry the mushrooms. There’s no need to add any oil. Wait until the mushrooms give off their liquid and then transfer to a bowl. Set aside to cool slightly. In the same pan, add a little olive oil and fry the leeks until they’re translucent but not brown.
5. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, nutmeg, parmesan, and season to taste.
6. Sprinkle the roasted pumpkin with sage over the tart base, top with the leek and mushrooms and pour over the creamy egg mix. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes for a large tart (30 minutes if making tartlets).
So cheers to this year’s vintage! Serve with this year’s jam-packed Beaujolais Nouveau (apparently it’s full of forest fruits on the nose!) or enjoy it at any time of year with a medium-bodied Cru: a Saint-Amour, a Fleurie, or a Côte de Brouilly and let’s raise a toast to the French.
To show your support for our local bistros, restaurants and wine bars in France, see the
List of Beaujolais Programme throughout France.
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As the clocks moved to winter mode last week, it also signalled a new season of pastries in Paris. So, in true Teatime in Paris style, I headed to Angelina, who kindly invited me to choose from the silver platter to show you nine new gourmet patisseries that are gracing their new Autumn-Winter collection.
Angelina Paris since 1903
Two years ago, the Parisian institution of Angelina celebrated its 110th anniversary. Just stepping inside you can imagine when this elegant tea room opened its doors in rue de Rivoli in 1903, the Parisian aristocracy swooned in wearing their fineries and celebrities of the fashion world rubbed shoulder-fitting suits with the likes of Coco Chanel seated at the marble tables.
Angelina sums up so well its Belle Epoque interior as being “an exquisite space, somewhere between serenity and indulgence.” As we were there at teatime, the sweet Parisian rush hour, out of respect for the full house of clients I didn’t take the interior, even although the delightful staff at Angelina don’t have a problem with photo-taking, a welcoming difference to many of the luxury establishments in Paris. As it was the school holidays, my daughter Lucie and I did, however, simply indulge serenely – and totally appreciated an invitation to such luxury that doesn’t happen every day.
Angelina’s Classic Pastries
The platter consisted of the regular Classic collection such as this caramelised flaky vanilla millefeuille (left); the Saint Honoré with its three little caramelised choux-filled puffs of vanilla pastry cream sitting on a ring of puff pastry and crowned with a swirl of whipped cream; the Paris-New York (a variation on the classic Paris-Brest – more on that later); a lemon tart with vanilla marshmallows and a chocolate éclair.
But we were essentially here for a taste of the ephemeral New Collection, highlighting the season with citrus fruits, exotic fruits; comforting chocolate or praline or the more sophisticated acidity of dark berries.
From the left, there’s the pear and chocolate charlotte; praline éclair with its traditional praline of hazelnuts (the French love this nut in their pastries); blackcurrant cheesecake; the bright red Babylone, an almond meringue biscuit with vanilla mousse, raspberry confit and strawberry marshmallow; the Black Forest (Forêt Noire); and the new Calisson, a pastry take on the traditional oblong confection of marzipan and sugar icing from Aix-en-Provence.
How could you choose? An absolute must was the new coconut and passion-fruit variation on Angelina’s iconic pastry, the Mont-Blanc, which has been its signature pastry since 1903. The classic is a mound of chestnut paste vermicelli which encases light whipped cream and a meringue heart. You’d think with the chestnut purée and meringue that the dessert would be pretty sweet but that’s what makes Paris’s top pastries so special: they’re surprisingly not as sweet as you’d think.
Almost resembling some kind of ephemeral fashionable pastry catwalk on silver – even the elegant lemon and praline Religieuse looked ready to sit down next to us on the plush leather chair with her bright yellow hat tilted to one side. It was a sign – but then the Joconde, the other new seasonal pastry just seem to say, take me, take me…and as I’m known to be mad about macarons …
The Joconde is one of the most expensive of the pastries and has a sumptuous cream of cherry blossom tea sitting on top of a large macaron shell. Raspberries surround its blackberry and blackcurrant heart and it’s finished off with a little macaron hat.
The cream was so delicate and went beautifully with the light berries. Perhaps the cream made the macaron shell just slightly on the moist side. It’s certainly best to ensure that you eat this pastry on the day itself if you’ve bought them to eat at home. I love how this pastry is particularly light – and gluten free.
With my motherly are-you-really-sure-with-all that-pastry eyebrows raising to the glass ceiling above us, Lucie still proceeded with her order of their famously thick hot chocolate. It’s named “African” since it’s composed of three different cacao varieties from Niger, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. It’s even served with a pretty little pot of whipped cream – but seriously, that would be sheer decadence since already a little goes a long way! For African Chocolate fans, there’s also a pastry that goes with it, the Choc Africain, a chocolate brownie with pure dark chocolate mousse and cream.
A pot of Mont-Blanc tea hit my perfect teatime spot, an ideal match to accompany such delicate treats with its hints of maple and candied chestnuts and apricot with toffee aromas.
Don’t ask me why but with such a dizzying choice, I even went for another to share – their classic Paris-New York. It’s based on the classic Paris-Brest (I mention all about this in Teatime in Paris, along with a macaron version and a Paris-Brest-Edinburgh) but instead of filling the choux pastry with a praline cream of hazelnuts, Angelina’s New York touch is to use pecan nuts for the praline and adds an extra crunchy pecan praline heart to it.
New Mont-Blanc Pastry
Our unanimous favourite from the tasting was the Mont-Blanc Passion-Coco. Lucie in her excitement to pounce on it, realised afterwards that she’d been served with the classic Mont-Blanc (without the coconut on top) instead of the new version. The staff were totally adorable and appeared immediately with the new version but as she had tucked into it wanted to finish and so we were even given a cute box to take it home with us. We were reassured that we could easily eat it next day. After all, one day of decadence was enough!
Remembering the exclusive raspberry version from the Bac Sucré event in June (from the Angelina boutique in Rue du Bac), this version hit a very-special-pastry-nerve. The coconut whipped cream was so delicate with just a touch of passion fruit in its heart. With a sprinkling of coconut on top, it guards its snowy traditional resemblance of the Mont-Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Really, this is a sheer beauty and if it was on the catwalk, I’m sure would be the bride in the finale.
How could I take you to Angelina’s and not mention their ten macaron flavours? Chocolate, pistachio, lemon, coffee, vanilla, blackcurrant, caramel, chocolate-passion, raspberry and Mont-Blanc.
To avoid regular queues like this, I strongly recommend you reserve a table like we had, especially for teatime. That way the special queue-saving time can be used instead to stroll off the desserts in the Tuileries Gardens across the road.
I’ll leave you with a few Mont-Blanc macarons, my favourite here, filled with a chestnut cream and topped with crushed meringue. And if you’re in Paris on 4 November, I hear they’re having a special Mont-Blanc day featuring variations on their famous dessert.
So, after all that – what would you choose?
226 rue de Rivoli
Tel: 01-42 60 82 00
The last time I made this French Apple Custard Tart, I earmarked the recipe and put it aside in a special file called “Best egg yolk recipes: must make for le blog”. That was last autumn.
Luckily this delicious custard tart and I were reunited with me falling on the stairs – there’s always a silver lining! A forced foot-rest due to ankle sprain and torn ligaments has had me rather house-bound and frustrated at cancelling pastry and chocolate walks in Paris but an office clean-out has meant that the tempting yolk recipe file has resurfaced from the back of the cupboard!
This French Apple Custard Tart recipe is also ridiculously easy – especially if you cheat and buy ready-made pastry. However, I do urge you to make your own sweet pastry here, as adding that extra touch of cinnamon in the base had even my cinnamon-avoiding husband ask for a THIRD slice.
Techniques such as blind-baking the pastry beforehand is also cleverly replaced by simply laying out the apples and baking them before adding the filling. For macaron, meringue, and financier lovers, then you’ll appreciate having another egg yolk recipe up your sleeve and the good news is that this filling uses 4 egg yolks! The filling couldn’t be simpler – just whisk the whole lot together and pour on top of the apples.
French Apple Custard Tart
Recipe adapted from ‘Tarte aux Pommes à l’Alsacienne’ in France the Beautiful Cookbook by the Scotto Sisters – with extra cinnamon and reduced sugar in the filling. If you make tartlets, either butter tartlet moulds or use 6 tartlet rings.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Makes one 25cm tart or 6 tartlets
300g sweet pastry (with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
2-3 apples (Golden Delicious or Cox’s Pippin)
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g double (heavy) cream
1. Preheat the oven to 210°C/410°F (gas 6 1/2). Butter a 25cm tart tin (no need to butter if using non-stick moulds) or tart ring. Roll out the pastry dough larger than the tart tin (about 4cm larger) and press into the tin. Chill in the fridge.
2. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them evenly over the pastry, starting from the outside and overlapping the slices slightly in the form of a rose. Bake for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, using a hand whisk, beat the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and cream. Pour over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes (20-25 minutes for tartlets) or until the apples are tender.
No need for any ice cream or cream; just enjoy on its own served warm with a cup of your favourite tea for the perfect Sunday teatime treat.
The French school mid-term holidays just came and went. So did the wonderfully sunny weather we had: it was a surprising bonus to be in T-shirts at the end of October so we jumped on the RER train into Paris to the Museum of Chocolate. Are you ready for a quick virtual choco-story run around?
The Paris chocolate museum is well ‘spread out’ and presented on 3 floors. When we arrived, we could sense it was the school holidays: groups of youngsters and really young ones were being taken around. Whether they grasped the story of chocolate beats me, as the poor things seemed to be told off more than given the chance to listen.
Why the name Chocolate?
The museum’s ground floor covers the Mayans and the Aztecs, starting out with questions where chocolate came from. For example, “Why the name cacao or cocoa?” Well different Mayan ceramic pots are decorated with glyphs which have been interpreted as ka-ka-wa. Hence the word cacao or cocoa in English.
Then why the name “chocolate”? In Nahuatl, a language which is still spoken today by ore than 1.5 million Indians in Central America, cacahuatl is the word for chocolate: kakawa = cocoa, atl = water. In the second part of the 16th century, the Spanish however used the word chocolatl, taking the Mayan word chocol to mean hot and the Aztec word atl to mean water, which later became chocolate.
How Chocolate Comes to Spain
The Mayans traded with cacao beans and so when Christopher Columbus saw this, he brought back the beans to Spain then, thinking they were bitter almonds, chucked them over his shrugging shoulders, thinking there wasn’t much they could do with them.
In 1519 it was the Spanish explorer, Cortez, that discovered the Aztecs drinking this bitter drink, chocolatl, from ceremonial pots. King Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (I need a hot chocolate just to pronounce that one!) managed to produce 2000 large goblets of cocoa for his warriors. It was a drink to fight fatigue and build resistance. The drink wasn’t just bitter (vanilla and honey were added to sweeten slightly) but it was also spicy using mexican pepper, chili and allspice. Thinking that Cortez was a feathered serpent god, the King offered him some of the royal potion and the story began…
Cortez finally brought cacao back to Spain in 1528. Up until 1580, the Spaniards managed to keep this special drink pretty quiet by forbidding it to be exported and in 1580 opened the first cacao processing plant. By this time they also added sugar and cinnamon to the spicy drink.
Fast forward to 1753 and the the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus names the cocoa tree Theobroma Cacao.
In Spain, cocoa products were originally sold in pharmacies. When it came to France, it was given the same treatment. Cocoa butter was also sold as ointment. I was just thinking about that as I was rubbing in my favourite cocoa butter moisturiser after my shower this morning – it’s just as good!
Sugar was obtained only from the sugar cane. The sugar cane was pressed and the juice thickened into a very sweet liquid, which was poured into conical moulds. After crystallisation, a cone of sugar was obtained. This is how sugar was sold at the time, as it still is today in certain regions of Morocco.
The sugar cones – also known as sugarloaf – or pain de sucre, needed some rather sinister looking implements to cut them! For Facebook friends who tried to guess what this was over Hallowe’en, here’s your answer!
It was only by the beginning of the 1800s that sugar beet came to be used in Europe.
The juicy bits of history – when the chocolate drink comes to France via the royal courts and is then consumed as chocolate today – is missing here as this would end up being a mammoth post! My colleagues and I talk about this during our chocolate and pastry walking tours in Paris via Context Travel.
The top floor also covers the first adverts, chocolate in France and collections of pretty chocolate and bonbon boxes, porcelain or ceramic.
And rather interesting looking chocolate pots. I particularly like this modern version from Marseille, complete with a Molinillo-style chocolate beater, or moussoir. Although the pourer does look like a rather long talking point! Chocolate as an aphrodisiac is also covered – it even goes back to the Mayans and Aztecs. The kids seemed to spend a long time trying to understand this section… ahem.
The Paris Chocolate Museum finishes with a short documentary film (which is needed, as the actual making of chocolate needs more emphasis, I felt) and a 15-minute demonstration downstairs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: my group were either too timid or too busy eyeing the samples offered. The girls and I were too polite and took only one and missed the others. Is that a British, “After you”.. trait?
I also bought the tasting of hot chocolate at the end of the visit for the girls. They had a choice of flavour, including a more Aztec style of drink, full of spices which was more intense in chocolate. The tasting takes place in the museum shop. As it was in the holidays, it was quite crowded but nevertheless it’s a visit I do recommend if you would love to learn more about the fascinating world of chocolate.
Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat – Choco Story
28 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
Métro: Bonne Nouvelle
Open every day 10am – 6pm
How could you resist? Week 2 of the French mid-term school holidays and the 20th Salon du Chocolat Paris kicked off yesterday.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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 …
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…
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…
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.
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.
By this time, giant macarons were rather on the big side – even for macaronivores.
What would you go for, now that Autumn is here: lemon, praline, coffee, speculoos (cinnamon), crème brûlée, chocolate?
There’s still time to get to Le Salon du Chocolat Paris – it continues until Sunday 2nd November!