Life is a Macaron – or a Meringue?

How often have you lain in bed wide awake at 3am, cogitating your lists mentally, ready to take on the world – until slumber hits at 6am and when the alarm has the audacity to scream brightly, there is no way on earth you can drag these bones out from the cosy duvet?

How many times have you got up on the wrong side of the bed and wished you could start the day over?  It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Even if it was my favourite mug, or that one of the girls reached out in a greedy moment to grab the Nutella jar and it landed crash bang on my precious hand-painted plate by Anna Young in Hermanus, as she immortilised the moment of a Southern Right whale jumping out of the water in South Africa’s famous whale town.

Kitchen floor quiche. That’s a new one on the menu…

Before the school holidays, my savoury contribution to the end-of-term party was a quick and easy bacon-asparagus quiche. So speedy, that half of it jumped out of my burned fingers trying to juggle a large plate, foil and a schoolbag. They ended up getting the other quiche half and a huge bag of crisps. Can you imagine the children’s teacher/Maîtresse holding it up at the front of the class? “Les enfants – this is the contribution from whom?” Aha. Your Mum is Scottish? Don’t worry, dear.

C’est la vie, I know, but these scenarios have been recurring too often recently. Could it just be the change of winter to spring? Becoming another year older? Worrying about the upcoming French Presidential Elections and what the results mean for our family? Contemplating our house project? Adding and subtracting new ideas to the upcoming new book? Excited about Mad About Macarons’ 4th reprint and release of its second edition?

I’m a sensitive cookie. Big time. It can also take one short book review that says something totally grumpy and I’m up most of the night upset about it. It’s the second time I’ve read someone groaning that it’s their first ever macaron book and say, “…but the shells are all the same!” Well, please don’t get upset about it. C’est normal. You’ve got a simple recipe and a recipe that works! Why complicate things?

If anyone knows their macarons, they’ll tell you that the secret in the flavours is in the fillings. Ask Pierre Hermé. Sure, now and again you can add vanilla, coffee powder, any kind of flavouring to the shells, but keep it simple. The secret in a good macaron is that it’s the filling that packs a punch in taste. In the essential 24 hours that you need to wait before eating one, the macaron magic takes place: the filling permeates into the shell, making the centre incredibly fondant while the outside remains lightly crisp. The fragrance takes a hold of the whole macaron.

Voilà. Mini macaron lecture over. On the other hand, it’s incredibly gratifying to read so many wonderful reviews, when the sweetest souls take the trouble to share their excitement, exclaiming how they can’t believe they can make macarons at home themselves. See? It’s not as difficult as you think! What’s more, it’s fun watching these feet form as you dance in amazement in front of the oven. Then when you take that first heavenly bite, it’s love. It’s amour. It’s Paris.

I’ll leave you with this last image. It’s how I feel when even acupuncture couldn’t provide the turbo I was needing: a meringue stuck in a white chocolate mousse with rose and orange blossom. As this extra portion was left overnight, the meringue drooped.  Like macarons, humidity isn’t on their side. Fatigue isn’t on mine but I do love how it looks like some animal with its praline tongue hanging out!

As you’re reading this, I’m far away from ze kitchen. I’m on a beach and with any luck, soaking up the customary sun to accompany it, staring at that ball in the sky like a stuffed lizard. Or instead rejoicing for frogs or ducks with their ideal weather, as we play with the hotel’s grotty Scrabble set indoors as we stare at the rain skipping on the swimming pool, wondering why I booked so early and so couldn’t be at the London Book Fair. Cheers to revamped, positive thoughts and living the sweet life of a macaron.

See you next week, my friends –

bright eyed, bushy tailed and positively recharged!

Souris – it’s a French Mouse!

For the last few days we have had an unexpected visitor to the house – a visitor clearly with a sweet tooth and partying spirit. She has had an absolute ball testing out brioche flour, speculoos biscuits, praline pâtisserie chocolate, mini chocolate Easter eggs and – wait for it – ground almonds! With all my macaron ingredients stashed away in the basement, she came to the right house, this mouse.

I say ‘she’, as the French have given the mouse feminine status, la souris. I wonder why? Souris, or smile as the French also say (from the verb sourir, to smile.) Do you really think I’m smiling?

chocolate macaron mice

Chocolate mice macarons – a bit of fun decor with chocolate ganache from the books!


Well, yes; with extra ganache for chocolate macarons, somebody had to look on the bright side – especially as we spent part of our precious Easter weekend gutting out the basement stocks just looking for her. The poisonous route was out of the question, as was luring her with a bar of praline chocolate on an old-fashioned mouse-trap.  Much that she would go nuts for it, that’s good chocolate! Instead our clever Monsieur at the quincaillerie (I always loved that word for the Ironmonger in French class; say “can-cay-eree”) came up with a plug-in chaser that emits a silent human ultrasound but one that has mice racing out the door before they can say cheese.

Why is it that I have the feeling that mice are following me around? I’ve already heard someone say that just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. In Paris, I couldn’t help popping in to one of my favourite boutiques, La Vaissellerie in Rue St-Lazare (just behind Galeries Lafayette, around the corner from Gare St Lazare.) It’s a real bazaar of porcelain serving dishes and heaps of culinary knick-knacks.

Who could resist these cheeseboard accessories? I’m still debating on the little cutlery stands, a typical French dinner table accessory. Antoine will surely think it’s mouse overload for our next dinner guests.

Who would have thought that mice were such chocolate lovers? Should somebody tell the lovely people in the boutique that they should change the cheese to a chocolate set?

Next time you’re making chocolate macarons, why not play around with any leftover ganache and make silly shapes with the piping bag? Gosh, I hope the publishers are not reading this: I should be getting on with that book manuscript.  Ahem. Truth be told, I’m going blind with too much computer. Am I becoming French by exaggerating my ailments?

How did that nursery rhyme go again? Let’s give it a new look:

One blind mouse, one blind mouse,

See how she runs, see how she runs,

She poked too much and ate chocolate by the tons,

And ended up on a mac topped in crumbs,

Did you ever see such a thing in your house,

As one blind mouse?