A Chocolate Easter Walk in Paris

Come and join me on a brisk Easter chocolate walk in Paris’ Easter Playground! I say brisk, as it’s still remarkably chilly for this time of year but let’s be optimistic: it’s a great temperature for transporting Easter chocolates.

Swinging over to Fauchon at Place de la Madeleine, it’s showtime in the City of Lights. Their chocolate eggs look like they’re dancing the Cancan.

Their bird-patterned chocolate eggs are also decked out in chic, cheeky pink bows. Chick, chick.

Pierre Hermé has a more mini chocolate egg design for his Easter windows this year. But don’t be April fooled, his bigger oeufs are nesting inside.

While Patrick Roger‘s window creations are not quite so mini, except for the piles of bells and fritures, or small chocolate/praline fish and seafood. Why fish? The French celebrate April Fools’ Day as Poisson d’avril and somehow chocolate fish find their way into sachets. I love having an excuse to munch on these while patiently waiting for the Easter eggs.

How can you transport this gigantic sculpture from Roger’s Madeleine boutique? No wonder they didn’t transfer this egg to the sculpture gallery upstairs. It’s just about as big as the staircase!

Spot the odd one out? No chocolate in this window since we’re at Brentano’s American Bookstore at l’Opéra but they always have such a cute vitrine next to Hermé’s boutique.

There’s another odd photo here, too. I cheated, as this isn’t taken in Paris but from my ‘local’ chocolaterie in St Germain-en-Laye. Pascal le Gac makes the most exquisite chocolates and macarons.

Speaking of macarons, check out Gerard Mulot‘s take on a giant multi-coloured macaron Easter egg! Apologies for the shiny windows and a stationary fire truck interfering in this photo, but it’s better than seeing the pompiers and all the folk peering in, too.

Arnaud Larher‘s chocolate Angry Birds are causing a lèche-vitrine (window-licking) sensation in rue de Seine with disgruntled bird game lovers. Emile, the Gorilla looks rather friendly. Personally, I prefer his Springtime macaron towers with Easter Bunny chocolate lollies.

It’s time for the bell at playground time at Pierre Marcolini’s boutique in Rue de Seine, Paris. His limited edition chocolate bell is designed to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame Cathedral. My lucky children not only  had the Easter Bunny deliver their chocolate eggs, but also the French chocolate bells, signifying the bells ringing from the Vatican. Somehow, I just couldn’t explain to them how the bells managed to leave the chocolate for them. Bad Bunny-mummy person.

Meanwhile, the chocolate an pastry walk continues with Context Travel. Next time you’re in Paris, come and join in the fun. For Easter, enjoy these chocolate bonus recipes below:

Chocolate Layer Cake

Chocolate Cream Desserts

Chocolate Bacon Macarons

Chocolate Mendiant Easter Bonnets for Chocolate Macarons

Chocolate & Beetroot Fondants

Chocolate Pots de Crème (guest from That Skinny Chick Can Bake – appropriate, no?)

Passion Fruit and Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Chocolate Crunchy Trifle (Katerina, guest from Diethood)

Chocolate Chip, Banana & Almond Cakes

Don’t be caught out on 1st April: Poisson d’avril!

Just one question: when do you have your Easter hunt? If it’s on Monday 1st April, be warned. The Easter Bunny may play a few tricks…

Happy Easter weekend!

Update: Come over to French Village Diaries, where I’m being interviewed by Jacqueline with some fun questions for her France et Moi series.

Patrick Roger’s Chocolate Cake for Easter

Keeping the kids amused during the French school holidays is always fun. Art museums in Paris? What about checking out sculptures … made entirely out of chocolate?

There’s been much hype around chocolatier Patrick Roger’s new boutique at La Madeleine so it was time to enjoy the Patrick Roger experience in Paris with his out-of-the-box chocolate sculptures under one roof. As the tourists poured in and we looked around for the rest of the sculptures, we discovered the upstairs gallery was closed to the public. What? You mean…? We …. can’t see any more today? Dark chocolate lumps formed in our throats.

Chocolatier Patrick Roger’s chocolate sculptures at La Madeleine, Paris

Tails between our legs, we headed down Rue Royale. There’s yet another Patrick Roger boutique around the corner but attention, it’s well hidden. If there are too many people in the boutique at Place de la Madeleine, don’t waste your time – whizz over to the other one at the end of Cité Berryer, Village Royal (off Rue Royale on the right), just 5 minutes’ walk away.

As if by chocolate magic, Patrick Roger appeared that evening on France’s popular TV show, Top Chef. He was hosting a Chocolate Cake Challenge. The competing professional chefs’ faces were a picture when they saw Patrick’s alluring cheeky face appear but displaying his grand ‘MOF’ uniform: Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2000. As he demonstrated his recipe, it called our next holiday activity; Amateur but macaron-style!

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

THIS is when I can eat out of a bucket!

This was also a good excuse to use the most exquisite cooking chocolate from our local chocolate factory. As the Chocolaterie du Pecq only open their doors to the public in December, I’d gone bananas and stocked up with a whole cupboard of their products! The paradox? They supply their chocolate to Menard’s La Chocolatière in Tours, where Patrick Roger started out his career!

Patrick Roger Chocolate Cake

By Patrick Roger for Top Chef

5 egg whites
210g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100g flour, sifted
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
100g butter
80g hazelnuts, finely chopped

1. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites, adding the caster sugar gradually until you have firm peaks. Add the egg yolk and continue to mix.

2. Fold in the flour with a large spatula and add the sifted cocoa powder. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan and mix into the batter with the hazelnuts.

3. Pour into a rectangular mould (I used a silicone rectangular cake mould) and bake 30 mins at 160°C. (I found with my oven that I needed to bake it for 40 minutes at this temperature).

4. When cool, cut the biscuit into 3 slices horizontally. (As you can see, I didn’t cut them as precisely as Patrick Roger did and regretted this afterwards!)

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

100g water
100g granulated sugar
100g rum
2  vanilla pods
the zest of an orange

5. In a saucepan, boil the above ingredients and scrape out the vanilla seeds from the pods.

6. Using a brush, cover each layer with syrup.

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

Chocolate fun for the school holidays

Ganache: (600g)
300g cream
40g honey
40g butter
300g dark chocolate (I used 64%)

7. Boil the cream with the honey, and pour onto the broken chocolate bits and whisk gently. Add the butter. Mix using a hand blender.

8. Cover the biscuit layers with the ganache, one on top of the other. Leave to rest for 30 mins then cover the cake with cocoa powder.

9. Using a stencil, dust with icing sugar to decorate.

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

Bear footprints? Well if you saw the weather in Paris last week, it snowed. Big time!

We were just left with un petit problème: we had too many chocolate macaron shells. A few of them managed to eat up the little extra ganache that was left but the rest have gone straight in to a pastry box in the freezer ‘bank’. That way the next chocolate dessert can be decorated with macarons with no effort at all!

Patrick Roger chocolate cake

Our family verdict? For chocolate dessert fans who don’t like their cake too sweet and appreciate the intense chocolate flavours coming through, this is for you. Merci beaucoup, Patrick Roger! NOW, can we get to see more sculptures?

Hey – was it you who walked on our chocolate cake? Patrick Roger’s Grizzly chocolate sculpture

Celebrating Macaron Day in Paris 2013 with a Video

It’s hard to believe it’s a whole year since the last Jour du Macaron in Paris. As before, this year it’s on 20th March to celebrate the arrival of Spring. If you’re in Paris, here’s a list of macaron boutiques participating next week in aid of the Association, Fighting Mucoviscidose.

In the meantime, let me share a short video with you to celebrate the simple pleasures of macarons, which has started to circulate via Facebook’s American Express pages so far for Argentina and Australia. Surprise!

I can’t stop humming the catchy music which was composed by talented videographer, Darryl O’Donovan. Please help yourself to some chocolate-orange macarons, which were made during the film. My favourite part is watching the feet form in the oven – it’s just as well I managed to find a replacement bulb for the oven light before the video team came. It’s amazing how much went into such a short video – it was great fun to watch and I’m honoured to have been a part of it. The icy wind in Paris was enough to take your face off, though!

Chocolate-orange macarons

With the snow falling in Paris right now, Spring doesn’t really feel on its way yet so I’m off to bake and stay cosy with the children on school holidays. Why don’t you join me making macarons and bring a bit of Paris to your own kitchen?

Let me leave you with a photo taken just this morning in our garden of a European Green Woodpecker (Le pivert). Isn’t he cute?

Stay cosy and make this week a Macaron Tweet!

Doing the Macarons Walk in London’s West End

What a strange couple of weeks. Finally feeling better, off the antibiotics and then..WHAM. Struck down again in bed with flu, exhausted. I don’t remember ever feeling so ready for the bin. I blame it on being filmed eating macarons in sub-zero winds beginning February. Another story.

I was planning on a great London macaron tour but it had to be cut short. Instead join me on a day’s walk around London’s West End. Just wrap up warmly!

What a welcome. Macarons in the room and a day full of sunshine. What more could you want?  This skyline photo was taken mid-morning on Waterloo Bridge as an experiment, since I shot right into the light. All that’s missing is Tinkerbell flying over Big Ben!

To savour the scene, I nibbled on the hotel’s macarons. Ahem. Each of them were, well. Brick. Hard. How many guests had they been served to already like this?  Honestly, if this is someone’s first taste of a macaron, it could put them off for life!

Before the tourists and locals come out to play, take a leisurely walk around Covent Garden before lunchtime. Laduree were stocking up on their macarons and the Royal Opera House at the end of the corridor was seducing visitors with tear-inducing extracts from Verdi’s Nabucco and Puccini’s Tosca.

It’s just as well street signs gave the odd reminder which way to look before crossing the street. I was turning into a walk-a-wrong. These London buses come fleeing past! I was aiming to find the Lanka Cake Shop in Primrose Hill but discovered that it was closed. Apparently their macarons are the best value for money in London. Next time I’ll know to head to their shop in Finchley Road. Don’t forget there’s also Pierre Hermé at Selfridges.

For chocoholics, there’s still La Maison du Chocolat’s macarons at Piccadilly. A quick look in at Burlington Arcade. Ladurée macarons still going strong, full of inviting colours and less crowded than Harrods. Checking out Fortnum and Mason’s institution across the road, they didn’t have many macs left. Valentine’s Day was truly well and over but they were still flaunting their chocolate heart-shaped macarons limited edition for £1.75 each. A few door’s down, Richoux café was hiding a neat little tray behind the counter…

Suddenly distracted from looking for the Menier Chocolate Factory just off the Strand, here was a glamorous hustle and bustle. The last day of London’s Fashion Week and what a feast for the eyes. My favourite dresses were made out of balloons but seriously, would you wear one? Suddenly the word, bursting or ballonné would have a whole new meaning when attempting to have dinner wearing an outfit like that. Interesting take on tartan here.

Before you get excited about Menier’s Chocolate factory visit, let me warn you it’s a theatre. So, back to Covent Garden. It was almost like a different place from the morning’s calm and judging by this street performer below, he wasn’t the only one who found it difficult to find a place to sit. The curious faces were pressed against Balthazar’s new pastry shop window: it had just opened, selling their take on the Ispahan macaron plus flaunting their chocolate kugelhopfs and praline meringues.

There are times you believe you could be in Paris since there are so many French cafés around – but you don’t find the French rushing about the streets with giant cups of coffee in their hands. Yet.

Chinatown in Soho is where I got lost when the snow flurries came down. Next time I’ll find Yauatcha in Broadway Street. They specialise in dim sum but they also have a pastry counter, highlighting macarons with an Asian theme.  Also, next time I’m aiming for Clapham Common’s gem: Patisserie Macaron.

So many places to try! Exhausting, eh?  That’s why it’s simpler to just make them at home. What do you think?

Looking at that brave piper outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is enough to wonder how on earth the Scots can go traditional, without anything underneath in such bitter winds.  Perhaps they should give him his own heated telephone box to play from?

Now if I could just work out how to upload a video for you for the next post, I’ll be a happy bunny. Oh, and my voice back, please. Until then, cheers from Paris and roll on Spring!