Strawberry Tart with Pistachio Pastry Cream

Ouf! Over the years, I’ve come to use this word just as the French use so often. It’s more than Oh-là-la; it’s just, well, ‘ouf’! It speaks for itself with an enormously liberating sigh of relief. ‘Cest ouf’ as well: meaning it’s fou (verlan speak which is back to front for ‘fou’, meaning crazy). We are, indeed, nearly there at the end of a crazy, mad term; finishing end-of-year school activities, exams, concerts and – last but not least -parties!

Last weekend we covered ourselves in flour with a make your own pasta early birthday party for Lucie and this weekend my eldest daughter, Julie, enjoyed a sugar candy bonbon rush with her class as they danced the night away. Oh, to be 13 again. They’re no longer referred to as parties, though: instead it’s a boum. Another Ouf! It gave me an excuse to clean out the garage, too. How much stuff can we accumulate over the years?

Meanwhile, as the weather has been less than summery in Paris lately (read: winter has been joining summer this year), at least the strawberries (Mara des Bois, Plougastel, Gariguettes, etc.) have given us some happy colours and cheered us up no end with their sweet, candy-like flavours. We’ve been simply eating them with morning cereal and with tons of ice cream, such as wasabi, pistachio and vanilla ice cream, but recently I can’t stop making berry tarts. It gives me a great excuse to use up egg yolks by making crème pâtissière.

What I love about pastry cream is that you can alter the flavours to alter classic French desserts. After visiting the Eugène Boudin exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum, we couldn’t resist a sweet French fancy treat at 4 o’clock in their chic café: mine was a Fraisier à la pistache. Bingo with such blissful inspiration! Pistachios and strawberries are heaven together, so why not in a tart?

Berry good indeed.

Classic Sweet Pastry

Makes enough for 2 large tarts. I use half and either freeze the rest or save it up to 4 days in the fridge and make tarlets with the rest.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Baking Time: 20 minutes

120g butter, softened
90g sugar
1 large egg
250g plain flour, sifted
good pinch of salt

1      Using a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Gradually add the other ingredients until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

2      Knead into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

3      Remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for ease of use. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

4      Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to a 28cm/11 inch circle with 5mm thickness and transfer to a 24cm (9 inch) non-stick tart pan.

5      Press into the mould. Prick the pastry with a fork and top with baking paper (cut to size – I use the same one several baking sessions for convenience) and fill with washed coins, rice or dried beans to blind bake the pastry.

6      Bake for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans.

7      Leave to cool, remove from the mould and set aside.

Pistachio Pastry Cream (egg yolk recipe)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes 

500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or bean)
4 egg yolks
80g sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste*
50g cornflour
20g single cream
3 drops of almond extract

(* if you don’t have pistachio paste, whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder. Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of almond essence and a tbsp water)

fresh strawberries, cut in half

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Pour on the hot milk and transfer back to the saucepan, whisking continuously over a medium heat until thickened.

3. Set aside and leave to cool. Place some cling film directly on to the pastry cream, to avoid a film forming on top (you don’t want to whisk this in later, otherwise you’ll end up with a lumpy bumpy cream!) After about 10 minutes, whisk in the almond essence and the cold cream. Cover with the film again and chill in the fridge.

4. Cut the strawberries in half. Fill the pastry base with the pastry cream then place the strawberries on top.

Don’t forget that there are plenty more recipes to use up your egg yolks
on the bonus recipe index.

Bon appétit!

Desperate for Chocolate Pistachio Macarons

I know, I know. I’m desperate for macarons again after tasting some yesterday at Christophe Roussel’s Chocolate Bar. I don’t eat macarons all the time so now and again, I crave them; like some crazy, mad, desperate person.

So here I am, encore rambling on about these ever-so-chic stylish and colourful French confections. You’ve had bonus recipes recently to add to the egg yolk recipe collection – but, since this is supposed to be a macaron blog, I suppose I should talk about them now and again.

Even if you already make them, even if you’re planning to make them, or even if you’re planning on the other half making them for you (the best lovers say it with homemade macarons), this is supposed to inspire you if you’re scared to make that first step.

Chocolate macarons; pistachio macarons; chocolate-pistachio macarons. The three recipes are already in the book but if I was to do the book again (I’m a perfectionist, a bit OCD – ask the guys who worked on the macaron video with me!), I’d include this photo of one of my favourite filling combinations. Even better, it just made another reprint – who would have guessed? It’s so exciting to see the book with a 2013 reprint marked in the inside flap.

Photos aside, it’s the taste that’s really important. Oh, and the macaron feet: that ruffled frilly foot that announces the filling is near. I loved doing a chocolate walk with the sweetest of children recently and when I asked what we call the ruffles on a macaron, the response was ‘they’re shoes’. How cute is that? They were so sweet, they were even given free macarons at Pierre Hermé!

For pistachio and chocolate lovers, this is for you. Why don’t you use half quantities of the chocolate-pistachio filling and the pistachio filling recipes and fill the macarons with the two of them?

Add a Griottine – a griotte cherry soaked in a Kirsch bath

…. plumping a glorious Kirsch-glugged Griottine cherry in the middle before adding another spot of ganache and then sandwiching the other macaron shell on top. Divine!

What? You still reading me?

Get that apron on. It’s time to make macarons like the French. Crispy almond meringue on the outside; decadently smooth and creamy inside….

Love at first bite with a macaron…

OK, I’ve showed you my macarons. Now it’s time to show me yours. You know where to find me: here on le blog, on Facebook, on Twitter and today I joined Instagram (Madaboutmacarons – surprise!). So, why not join in the macaron fun?

Go on. Strut your macaron feet. They’re made for eating.

Giveaway of Mad About Macarons at Crumbs!

I’m excited to share this International Macaron Giveaway run by my friend, Aleena Soon, who creates the most wowzer designs from her macaron business in Malaysia, called Crumbs.

Yes, you heard me; macaron designs. While I continue to make my simple, classic, round macarons, Aleena pipes out the most stunning macaron shapes: from Hello Kitty, to KimmiDolls, the Pink Panther, to paintbrushes and even Blackberry Q10 macarons! Genius? She certainly is and I’m proud to say that Aleena’s Crumbs adventure with the French frilly footed confection kicked off with my book, Mad About Macarons!

Now that Crumbs is 2 years old, to celebrate Crumbs’ birthday & reaching more than 10,000 Likes on her Crumbs FaceBook page, Aleena is hosting her very first Giveaway over at Crumbs, and it’s open to everyone Worldwide!

Aleena is looking out for 4 lucky fans, as each one will win:

  • 1 copy of a signed Mad about Macarons!
  • 5 amigurumi hand-crochet macarons sponsored by Samm’s Amigurumi Cafe
  • 2 imported high quality macaron flash drives sponsored by Crumbs

Contest is now closed

Closing date is this Saturday 15 June 2013 (12AM +8.00 GMT)You will be notified via email if you’re one of the 4 lucky winners within 48 hours upon the end of the Giveaway.

Rose, Raspberry and Lychee Eclairs

Did I ever tell you how much I actually enjoy visiting my dentist?

It’s not just that he’s in the oh-so-chic 16th arrondissement with shops for the ladies, but I can’t help feeling cool knowing that I share the same dentist’s chair as the French TV celebrity chef, Cyril Lignac.

In the waiting room, there was this cloth stapled to the other part of the room. Own up: would you dare to peek and see what was behind it? Is it Cyril’s own private waiting room? Or perhaps it’s a storeroom for the extra giant drills…

Leaving the surgery, tongue sliding over shiny, polished teeth, thoughts of gleaming porcelaine teacups come to mind with sweet accompanying French treats for goûter at quatre heures. This sweet temptress is tapping at my head, ‘Go on, a bit of sugar won’t do any harm after the spring clean, will it?’

Passing this tea salon, Thé Cool (thanks to my girls who noticed this play on words for ‘Tu es cool’), L’Eclair de Génie has just opened its doors in the Passy Plaza. The genius of Christophe Adam’s Eclairs is set out neatly in flashy, colourful rows. Each small éclair is as pretty as the next. He even transfers Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam to his white chocolate topping; also highly appropriate, since the word éclair means ‘a flash’ in French.

Genius, too, at €5.50 each. I promise my girls that we’ll come back after our shopping for friends’ birthday presents but somehow, we run out of time and speed off to the party. ‘Mum, les éclairs?’

A promise is a promise but no turning back. They have to be homemade. So, en route to the party, I feel a flash of Adam’s inspiration as I’m driving back to the suburbs. Suddenly, another flash of Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan macaron (rose, raspberry and lychee) comes to mind and there we have it: a rose éclair, Ispahan style! They’re not quite as fancy as the ones we saw in Paris but I can tell you, they disappeared in an oh-là-la flash and we enjoyed them last weekend for French Mother’s Day. You could say they’re cheaper by the dozen!

Rose, Raspberry & Lychee Eclairs Recipe (Ispahan-style)

Makes 12


Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns then using a piping bag with a serrated tip (about 10mm), pipe out long éclairs on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack then cut the tops off horizontally.

ROSE PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

500ml full milk
20 ml rosewater*
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
pinch of pink powdered colouring (optional)

Fresh raspberries
1/2 tin lychees, drained

200g fondant (ready made)
1 tsp rosewater 
Pink colouring 

* you could use rose syrup but reduce the sugar to 60g

1. Heat the milk with the rosewater in a saucepan.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar then whisk in the cornflour until light and creamy. Gradually add the warmed rose milk and pink colouring, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool. Place cling film directly on top of the pastry cream to stop a thick layer forming (if you whisk that in, you’ll get lumps!) and chill in the fridge for an hour.

4. Meanwhile, whizz the drained lychees in a blender (even better if you have fresh lychees) and using a spoon (I used a grapefruit spoon, so that it’s easier to aim) fill the raspberries with the lychee purée.

5. Gently melt the fondant in the microwave (or over a pan of boiling water) with the colouring, a teaspoon of water and rosewater. Mix well before it cools and dip the éclair tops into the rose fondant.

6. Pipe the cream into the éclairs adding the lychee-filled raspberries and place on the éclair tops.

For more egg yolk recipes, don’t forget to check out the bonus recipe index!