Express Mini Christmas Puddings

I’m on a roll again.  Healthy, easy, no bake, no fuss and festively tasty.  Put these welcome words together at this time of year and you get … express mini Christmas puddings! They taste of Christmas and they’re gluten free, Vegan and Nut-free (although do check dried fruit packet ingredients just to be sure).

Unless Scrooge arrives or Antoine changes my mind, this weekend I’m looking forward to sitting en famille to watch the girls’ favourite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, and nibble on a few of these bonbons without any guilt.  Do you love that film? It just brings out the kid in us again and makes adult responsibilities drift aside for a couple of hours. We somehow become more aware of bells jingling in the distance…

mini Christmas pudding bonbons

This recipe started out as ‘snowballs’  from my Scottish Granny’s Black Book, using only oats (mainly), raisins, cocoa powder and milk then covered in  desiccated coconut.  After experimenting with Granny’s recipe, I’ve rather altered them since, alas, I found them way too sweet. I also wanted an extra Christmassy taste with the addition of more dried fruits, gingerbread spice and orange peel, especially.  For the snowball look, I just roll them in desiccated coconut, as Granny used to dip them in icing first then in coconut – but by adding a bit of orange juice and making the mixture quite wet, the coconut sticks no problem without the extra sugar.

quick and easy spicy dried fruit christmas snowballs

We started out as snowballs – look!

However, a couple of years ago, I saw the most gorgeous picture of mini Christmas puds on Pinterest, via the blog, IncludingCake. She had rolled actual Christmas pudding cake into cute little puddings and I pinned it to remind myself to make them one Christmas – so thank you, Jo, for the pudding inspiration!  However, I turned the filling around from Christmas puddings to a gluten free/vegan version that feels just as Christmassy with the flavours.

So how do we give these snowballs a make-over Christmas pudding effect?  To cover, melt white chocolate or make up a quick icing of icing/powdered sugar with a little orange juice – or why not a boozy splash of Grand Marnier, just to be naughty (but for adults only.)?

express mini christmas puddings

Express Mini Christmas Puddings

This recipe is inspired by Granny’s recipe in her Black Book and so I’m sure it came from a magazine, the Sunday Post newspaper or the Jimmy Young radio show back in the 70s.  If you’re watching over, sorry for altering it so much, Agnes, but I know you would have loved them! The oats, raisins and coconut are still in there, though, plus a much reduced sugar quantity.


Preparation Time: 30 minutes

50g raisins
40g dried apricots, finely chopped
40g dates, finely chopped
5 tbsps orange juice
60g (+ 40g for snowballs) desiccated/shredded coconut
60g caster sugar
40g oats
40g candied orange peel, finely chopped (or the grated rind of an untreated orange)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
50g coconut oil
2 tsps gingerbread/pumpkin spice

For puddings, to cover:

50g white chocolate
approx 25 dried cranberries (or glacé cherries)
green marzipan (optional)

1. Place all the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a spoon until all the flavours are well blended.  If the coconut oil is solid, melt very gently for just a few seconds in the microwave.

Mixing spiced dried fruits to make Christmas pudding bonbons

2.  Form little balls by rolling a couple of teaspoons of the mixture at a time in the palm of your hands (you could say this is a handy recipe!).  Set aside on a plate or baking sheet and place in the fridge for a few minutes.

3.  To cover, either melt 50g good quality white chocolate in the microwave (or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – bain marie) or make up some classic icing by mixing icing/confectioner’s sugar with a teaspoon of orange juice (or Grand Marnier for the adults).  Dribble this on the top to form the sauce effect and top with a dried cranberry (craisin) or bit of glacé cherry and green marzipan, cut to shape.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Best eaten at room temperature with your favourite cup of tea at teatime or festive sparkly.

express mini Christmas puddings

Express mini Christmas puddings

Wait a minute.  Please stop what you’re doing, just for a few moments.

Don’t make a sound. Just listen. Do you hear them? Sleigh bells jingling faintly in the distance.

I’m off now. Back to some responsibilities, like setting up the crèche to really get in to the Christmas spirit and remind the children what Christmas is really about.

Before I go, I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to be featured with such impressive company in the Huffington Post’s 2014 Best Cookbook Gifts for Cooks and Food Lovers on Your List.  Thank you for adding Mad About Macarons to the list, Jamie Schler. What a lovely sweet ending to the year!

Good luck and have fun with all of your Christmas and holiday planning!

Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

It all started this summer.  In August, to be precise.
Lucie rebelled after her 12th birthday in the loveliest possible way: she flung me out of the kitchen.

chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

She had a burning desire to make cookies.  But on her own.  No Mum intervention.  Alas, I can’t help myself: somehow I have to intervene.  Am I a control freak?  If anyone knows me, you could say I take over the kitchen so it must become frustrating. I mean, even I’d hate to live with me.

assembling chocolate-hazelnut macarons

So, while I was finishing off some dark chocolate hazelnut macarons (one of our favourite recipes from the Mad About Macarons book ), assembling the macaron couples and piping on the dark chocolate ganache, Lucie was itching to get started.

I could just about read her eye-browed expressions: Mum doesn’t normally make cookies, so it’s high time we get things straight around here.  The last time were these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies but that was it. Unless you count Parisian macarons as being cookies – I’ll leave that for you to judge by reading my article on the Difference between Macarons and Macaroons.

Lucie making chocolate cookies

She followed the recipe to the letter, or so I thought, in her book, La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.  It’s in French – and so well-presented for kids learning to cook from scratch.  But then she added nuts and told me afterwards she added more peanut butter than stated and cut down the sugar (she remembered I tend to do this as habit).

Placing large dollops of the cookie dough on the tray, she saw them rise in the oven after the first few minutes.  Panic struck, and without telling me, opened up the oven door, took them out and bashed them all flat with a pie slice, then returned them to the oven.
Et voilà!  The cookie crumbles were born.  A delicious accident.

chocolate crumble cookie biscuits

Now Lucie makes them regularly – especially on Wednesdays, as the French secondary schools don’t have classes in the afternoon, so it’s a baking excuse (even if she was supposed to practise piano for her exam this weekend!). Yesterday she omitted the nuts and added a few drops of peppermint extract, just to make them festive.

This has to have been the best and most delicious treat for a proud Mum. Ever.

Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

Recipe adapted from La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 14 minutes

Makes approx. 20 cookies

125g butter, softened
70g light brown sugar
60g sugar
1 large egg
140g peanut butter (or Nutella)
2-3 drops vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
120g chocolate chips
30g chopped mixed nuts (walnuts & hazelnuts)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas mark 4.  In a large bowl, mix the butter and the sugars with an electric whisk (or in a stand mixer) until smooth and creamy.

2. Add the egg, peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat again until the ingredients are well mixed.

3. Sift the flour into another large bowl, adding the baking powder, cocoa powder and salt and mix with a  wooden spoon.

4.  Add the flour mix to the first bowl and mix well with the wooden spoon.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips. (The mix will be rather thick but this is normal).

chocolate brownie cookie dough

5.  Place 6 or 7 heaped tablespoons of the cookie dough on a baking tray covered with baking parchment or a Silpat silicone mat.  Leave a good space between each, as they’ll spread out a bit during cooking.  (Either make another batch but we do just the one and keep the dough in the fridge for more next day.)

6. Bake the cookies in the oven for 14 minutes for normal brownie cookies.  But for crumbles, remove from the oven after 10 minutes, flatten them down with a pie slice until they break up slightly, and continue to bake for 4 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes.

recipe for chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Sometimes mistakes in the kitchen are the best way of discovering new dishes – the best one we know is the Tarte Tatin.  The kids asked me recently if I could make les caves à l’orange again.  Do you know what they were?  My earliest macarons while experimenting with reduced sugar – long before the book was even thought of.  Out of the oven came orange flavoured empty shells that had puffed up with no feet – and the girls christened them les caves, which was rather fitting.  Do you think I can make them again?  No.  Because I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

Best Cookie Recipes on Le Blog

This is a recipe from the archives. For the latest printable recipes, check out the following:

Breakfast Oat Cookies with Cranberry, Orange & Hazelnut 

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

French Salted Butter Biscuits (Palets Bretons)

Melting Moments (oat & cherry biscuits)

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Sketch Letters and Macaron Holiday Special at Paris Breakfast

Would you love a letter from Paris in your mailbox? Well perhaps you’ve heard of Carol Gillott.  If you have been following Mad About Macarons, I’m sure you have.  She is the talented American artist behind the popular blog, Paris Breakfast.

Sketch letters of water-colour prints by Paris Breakfast

Carol is real food lover.  Now living on Ile-Saint-Louis in Paris, she paints Parisian dreams and manages to take you on an imagined stroll through Paris.

She does this through her imaginative and colourful monthly Paris Sketch Letters.  They celebrate all kinds of French seasonal food each month and you’ll discover that she has a particular penchant for macarons and pastries.  When your package arrives from Paris, you’ll discover all sorts of petits additions – such as ribbons, perfume testers, and business cards from Parisian cafés and shops.

Sketch letters by Carol Gillott of Paris Breakfast blog

Paris Sketch Letters come in different subscription packages and this month there is a holiday special for the month of December!

December holiday special sketch letters by Carol Gillott

Delivered to you from Paris by Carol Gillott

Order a subscription on ETSY and get a watercolor print of a box of macarons with your name on it!
It’s not too late to receive the personalized macaron print in time for the holidays (Hanukkah and Kwanza included).

They’re ready to ship out TODAY! If you want to personally give the 1st letter, Carol can send it to you and the rest to the gift recipient.

Parisian Macarons presentation box watercolour print by Carol Gillott

I’m changing my name to Sue, the lucky macaron girl!  I’m off to make some macarons, then.

Oh, and just a wee whisper in your ear … you’ll be seeing a bit more of Carol around here soon;  I can’t wait to tell you about an exciting project. That’s a promise…

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

You read me correctly. I normally talk about French macarons, or the difference between Macarons and Macaroons – but this time I’m rolling my sleeves up by converting traditional Scottish Macaroon Bars into these Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs!

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

The advent calendar is up, filled with riddles and surprises; I didn’t think that Lucie would still want it this year but I suppose at 12, the bags are expected to be more thought-provoking or just filled with chocolate.

She’s already worried about the 4th, as that bag looks empty but hopefully, she’ll remember that day well, as there’s a wee note inside for something a bit bigger that didn’t make it into the bag.  I get as much fun out of it as she does – but that’s what it’s all about, see? Oh, hokey cokey cokey …

advent calendar bags for macarons

What could be in the bags, do you think? Er, macarons?

The Scottish Macaroon Bar

Times like this evoke childhood memories, don’t they? Take teatime: do you have an afternoon treat that rekindles a warm, sweet blast from the past?

As a Scottish lass, there are a couple of sweet treats that can still instantly conjure up an instant glow: Tunnock’s teacakes and a Lee’s macaroon bar. I say the macaroon bar in the singular, since it’s so densely sweet that one rectangular bar is more than enough!

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

It isn’t  a macaroon as such – you know, the sticky baked coconut confection using egg whites, sugar and coconut – and it’s far removed from (read nothing like!) a Parisian macaron, made with ground almonds (almond flour), sugar and egg whites, that’s in my book.  No, a Macaroon Bar is made with a hard fondant centre of mainly icing (powdered) sugar and mashed potato (yes, you heard me right), which is coated in chocolate and toasted coconut.

Lee's orginal macaroon bar

The Macaroon Bar in Scotland was originally manufactured in Glasgow by Lee’s in 1931 and they still make them today. It’s a classic.  I even see they’re sold on for homesick Scots!  And the song that accompanied it was pretty catchy…

The other day I wanted to prepare some British treats for the Lycée International’s school Christmas Fête, west of Paris. Why didn’t I just make shortbread?  Since I was already on a roll with chocolate-coconut snowballs, I wanted to give these a go and besides, they look pretty Christmassy, don’t they?

To be honest, I couldn’t eat a whole bar these days, as it really is FAR too sweet but the sensation of the fondant centre and the memory makes this smaller snowball size just perfect! I discovered a fellow Scot’s blog at, where Jacqueline posts delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes. She had also produced smaller macaroon bars but in the smaller guise as snowballs. Parfait! So time to get rolling…

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs Recipe

Inspired by Jacqueline’s blog at  I’ve found that the amount of sugar will vary, depending on how dry your potato is (the drier the potato the better, Russett – I use Bintje in France).  You may need more or less but the fondant should be thick and quite difficult to stir at the end, when it’s just right and ready to roll. They may be packed with sugar but they’re gluten free!
Update December 2017: My friend, Christina Conte also has a recipe for Macaroon Bars – but at the time of writing I hadn’t discovered her yet!

Makes approx. 36 balls

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Chilling Time: Approx. an hour total

1 potato (about 120g) a dry potato like Russett, Maris Piper or Bintje
460g icing (powdered) sugar (more or less)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla powder)
200g dark chocolate (64% cocoa solids – I used Nestlé’s Corsé brand)
200g finely shredded coconut

1.  Peel the potato and cut it into quarters, then boil until soft.  Rinse off the extra starch in cold water.  Mash until smooth in a large mixing bowl and leave to cool completely.

mashing potato to make sweet macaroon bar treats

Mashing potato for sweet treats?

2. Using a wooden spoon, add the vanilla extract (or powder) then a few spoonfuls of icing sugar at a time, stirring well to mix.  Don’t worry: the mix will be runny and rather unappetising at first but eventually, as you add more and more icing sugar, it will thicken.

mixing mashed potato with icing-powdered sugar

3. The sugar-potato fondant will be ready as soon as it’s difficult to worth with: it will be stiff and difficult to stir.
(Not the case? Add more icing sugar.)  At that point, cover it in cling-film or plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

How to make Scottish macaroon bar lees snowballs

4. Cover two baking trays with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or a Silpat mat.  Tear small balls of the macaroon fondant and roll into smooth balls the size of a one pound coin (I find it easier washing hands every 10 balls, as it can get rather sticky!)  Once all the balls are prepared, chill them directly on the trays in the fridge (update: I made mine in the winter when my kitchen was cool – you may need to put yours in the freezer).

5. Pour half of the desiccated/shredded coconut onto a non-stick baking tray and toast under a hot grill for a couple of minutes.  Keep your eye on it, as it burns far too easily!  Mix the plain coconut with the toasted batch.

toasted and plain shredded coconut

6. Break the chocolate into bits and melt over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie).  Leave to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.

7. This is when fun and messy fingers take over the kitchen: dip each macaroon fondant into the melted chocolate (I started using a cocktail stick then gave up – too long!), then immediately roll each in the coconut then place back on the baking tray.  Ideally use separate hands for each.

8. Place the baking trays with the coated macaroon snowballs in the fridge to set.

The macaroon bar snowballs can keep in a tin or airtight container in a cool, dry place for 7-10 days.  There’s no need to keep them chilled in the fridge.

homemade Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs packaging

Here are some I made earlier, all packaged up and ready to party at the Christmas Fête… Wish I’d manage to see the expressions at the potato ingredient!

Scottish macaroon bar snowballs

Scottish Macaroon Bar snowballs


And, like macarons, they’re GLUTEN FREE!


Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs