Macarons Going Green and a Sham that Rocks

This past week we’ve seen many green posts in the bloggosphere for St Patrick’s Day.  As last week we went yellow with mimosa, then why not green this week to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and the continuation of Spring?  After all, the buds are now on the trees so greens are gradually popping out just as the locals are coming out of winter hibernation like les Champignons de Paris.

St Patrick is to Ireland what St Andrew is to Scotland.  Yet the St P green is so much more popular: St Andrews is better known as a golf course (there are greens there, too.) 😉 So here’s a piped round-up of the greener macarons:

From a pistachio macaron classic to pistachio and dark chocolate macarons

pistachio chocolate macarons

Pistachio-chocolate macarons, brushed with melted dark chocolate

…to a pistachio macaron with a surprisingly different twist: pistachio, white chocolate and wasabi.  This is my daughter, Julie’s favourite and I have to admit, I also find this one rather addictive with a pot of green tea.

pistachio wasabi macarons

Pistachio, white chocolate & wasabi macarons

In a couple of editorial reviews, ParisPatisseries commented, …”Thai Green Curry Macaron, anyone? There are some so adventurous that even Pierre Hermé’s wilder creations would seem tame by comparison.”  On the other hand, Elizabeth Luard from Scotsman Living.com loved the others but mentioned, “Thai green curry might be a bit too Blumenthal for me.”  It’s like music: totally subjective but I personally LOVE it.  The spicier the better!

The Thai Green Curry Macaron is rather adventurous and definitely something different with a Gin & Tonic for an apéritif.  Sorry, I should say Guinness here to keep on the Irish theme, but it honestly wouldn’t go as well as with a G&T or a glass of chilled Gewürtzraminer.  Try an Irish lager, though. 😉

macaron shamrock

Macaron shamrock? More like a sham but it rocks! Green thai curry macarons are HOT…

All the above are included in the book.  If you’re getting sick of seeing green, then don’t forget that there’s an Irish Coffee macaron, too. 😉

But here’s another of my latest experiments with flavours. We had some fun with this one on Facebook yesterday! Don’t scream, please don’t run away.

This is actually delicious.  It works.  I got the idea from a recent trip to South Africa, where I discovered Rooibos Tea.  I now drink this so much since it’s not just tasty but caffeine free, a great antioxidant and you can even add a dash of milk to it like the normal stuff.  Talking about it to a lovely South African lady,  she explained that her mother used to give her a popular infusion of rooibos with rosemary anytime she was down and needed a lift.  Now THAT needed investigation.  With an enormous rosemary bush in my herb garden, I set about preparing rosemary macaron shells…

rosemary macaron shells

Rosemary macaron shells

Hmm.  Don’t ask me why I added the chocolate, but I just felt like it.  Perhaps it was one of these moments when my system was shouting, “Gimme magnesium!  Gimme chocolate and LOTS of it.  RIGHT NOW!” So I infused the rooibos tea into the ganache cream to add a wonderfully slightly earthy, smoky taste of the tea to the dark chocolate.  The rosemary was also infused into the cream: just a sprig but enough to give a hint of it without being overpowering.  Now I understand that bit about this concoction being a pick-me-up!  So, here are Rosemary, Rooibos and Dark Chocolate Macarons

rosemary, rooibos chocolate

Rosemary, rooibos & chocolate macarons

Before you go, just a quick reminder about the Booksigning Event this weekend.  If anyone is in Paris on Saturday 19 March, please do pop in to say bonjour at Brentano’s American Bookstore between 15h-17h (address details are on the Event page).  It would be great to see you!

STAY TUNED for Sunday 20th March, when I’ll be posting something special for the Fête du Macaron!

Japan macaron flag

Our thoughts are with Japan…

This past week it has been devastating to watch all that has been going on in Japan.  It almost seemed silly to write a blog post this week, but it was ready to roll for St Patrick’s Day today so please excuse my normal weekly banter.

Thanks to some food blogger friends, such as  Manu from Manu’s Menu and Visda from Eat, Drink and Just Be!, here are some sites where you can donate to the Japan crisis:

International Salvation Army

Médecins sans frontières

Amercian Red Cross

British Red Cross

Stand with Japan.org (Direct Relief International)

March into Spring with Mimosa Macarons

This past week the weather in Paris has given us hope for Spring.  Morning frost has quickly surrendered to Azur skies, sweeter air and rays of sunshine are gradually pulling us out of any winter depressions starting to take hold.  Crocuses and electric yellow bushes of forsythia are suddenly announcing that Paris is marching into Spring.  OK, I can just hear you breaking into song with Ella Fitzgerald’s “I love Paris in the Springtime”…

forsythia bush

Forsythia giving their electric glow for Spring

With Antoine travelling for a while, there was less motivation to cook, however. 🙁 Where’s the violin?   So I cheered myself up with a bright and cheery bunch of mimosa flowers.

Many of us know of a Mimosa as a Champagne cocktail mixed with fresh orange juice (in the UK we call it a Bucks Fizz).  I personally love a Grand Mimosa with a touch of Grand Marnier in there, too (that managed to cheer me up as well ;-)).   There’s even a Grandaddy Mimosa, adding rum and lemon juice… Now that sounds my kind of tipple!   In France, you may have heard of oeufs mimosa: a classic, simple dish served as a starter and great for Easter.  It’s basically hard boiled eggs, halved with the egg yolk scooped out and mixed with mayonnaise, crushed garlic and parsley then stuffed back into the egg cavity.  Sound familiar?  When I was little it wasn’t as posh as the French version.  Two hb egg halves were turned upside down and dolloped with Heinz salad cream and sprinkled with une touche de paprika.  No comment.  Well, perhaps yes.  Sorry, Mum.  I now owe you a box of mimosa macarons…

box mimosa macarons Jill

Anyone for a mimosa macaron?

Back to my bunch of mimosa flowers, though.  Little did I appreciate just how strong the mimosa scent was and the house smelled of its perfume for days, even though its ephemeral blossom had dried out so quickly.  I couldn’t believe how this simple bunch of yellow mini pompoms could also have such a postive mental effect.  There’s even a Mimosa Festival in the South of France which takes place mid to end February with spectacular mimosa floats.  Can you just imagine how that would smell?

Then I remembered that Ladurée had a beautiful mimosa macaron display in their Champs Elysées boutique window last year.  SO why not make some myself?  I’m now on a roll to make new flavours and experiment again!

mimosa macaron pompom Jill

Mimosa macarons: a touch of Paris in the Springtime

Surfing on meilleurduchef.com I was excited to see they even had a mimosa aroma.  So I added a few drops to the macaron shells.

infusing mimosa

infusing mimosa for the buttercream filling

Using the tutti frutti macaron recipe (p.83) as a basis for the filling,  I instead infused some mimosa into the full cream milk for 10 minutes.  It was amazing how the milk turned bright yellow.  I then added a teaspoon of the aroma to the buttercream at the end.  The result?

bitten mimosa macaron

Crispy meringue on the outside, fondant in the middle

They were delicious and surprisingly subtle for such a strong-tasting buttercream.  After 24 hours, they had turned perfectly soft inside with the characteristic crispy meringue on the outside.  Bliss with a pot of Darjeeling tea, so not to overpower the flavour of the macaron.   As a perfectionist, however, I would double the amount of mimosa used to infuse in the cream for next time.  To make a macaron taste of the flavour, the filling does need to be pretty concentrated.

pompom macaron mimosa Jill

Mimosa pompom macaron

Alas it’s the end of the short mimosa season, but there’s still time for you to give it a go!  Next year I must get to the mimosa festival, though.

Opera near Brentanos

Brentano’s bookstore is on the Avenue de l’Opera, Paris (see Events)

Before you go, I’m so excited to annouce my booksigning on Saturday 19th March at Brentano’s American Bookstore in Paris.  The next day is the Fête du macaron but as it’s a Sunday the bookstore will be closed.  So if you’re in Paris, start off the macaron weekend fun between 3-5pm on Saturday. Brentano’s is just next door to Pierre Hermé if you’re needing a macaron fix.  I look forward to seeing you next weekend!

TV Demonstration: Make Rose Macarons

Say it with rose macarons …

Jill’s Demonstration of Rose Macarons on Scottish Television’s The Hour
(Valentine’s Day Special, 14 Feb 2011)

Video clip 11 minutes.

Jill proving she’s a bit mad about macarons with her TV debut at home in Scotland…

rose macarons on STV The Hour

With Michelle McManus & Steven Jardine on STV’s The Hour

See related post on Le Blog, “First Taste of Live TV with a Macaron Demonstration“.

Salted Caramel Sauce (Caramel au beurre salé)

This has to be one of the most satisfying of homemade sauces: it’s so handy to keep in the fridge. Ever since my sweet French friend, Emmanuelle, showed me how to make it, I have been in salted caramel heaven; in Autumn and Winter there’s now a constant supply of this sticky nectar in the fridge. And I mean it’s so constant, it’s on a drip!

It can jazz up scores of desserts, adding an extra wow factor to the most simplest of sweet treats. What’s more, it keeps for up to a month sealed in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, transfer to a small milk jug, reheat gently in the microwave and dribble or zig-zag over vanilla ice cream (see p125), waffles, profiteroles, chocolate fondants, crêpes, rice puddings, poached pears, apple crumbles, apple fritters, etc.

It also makes a perfect Autumn/Winter treat served with giant caramel macarons “tatin-style” (see p113 of the book.) You can also use this sauce for filling salted caramel macarons. To make the sauce more manageable for macarons, make a ganache using 80g white cooking chocolate (I love using Valhrona) and melt together in a saucepan with 30g of whipping cream. Add half of the caramel sauce (save the rest for further pleasure) and leave to cool for a good couple of hours until an easy consistency to pipe on to your macarons.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

160g sugar
200g single cream, warmed
120g salted butter

1. Put the sugar with a few drops of water into a small saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir it now and again over a medium heat until a golden syrupy caramel forms.  This should take about 10 minutes maximum.

2. Turn down the heat and add the warm cream gradually, stirring constantly.

3. Mix in the butter, still over the gentle heat and keep stirring until thickened.

Pour the caramel into a serving jug at room temperature and set aside until needed.

The caramel can last up to 3 weeks if stored in a sterilised sealed jar in the fridge – so why not make double? 😉

UPDATE !

Passionfruit Caramel: Sieve out the seeds of a passion fruit and stir the juice in with the sugar in step 1 instead of the water.
Coffee Caramel: Add a tablespoon of granulated coffee to the caramel for a perfumed coffee caramel.
Orange Caramel: Add the zest of an orange for extra zing – or why not limes, kumquats, meyer lemon…


Blushing Beetroot Flirting with Chocolate

Every year I say the same thing:  never again.  But when the January sales come around and friends tell me their great deals, as a Scot, I give in.  I even subjected myself to the hungry crowds twice at the shopping centre at Versailles.  I must be mad.

Inevitably, we spent and bought much more than planned.  Never again. One consolation being stuck in the bouchon en route home was we could actually read the plaque outside Camille Pissarro’s house.  It’s on the main road but you can imagine that the Impressionist painter had a completely different view à l’epoque.  Pissarro is quoted to have said “I began to understand my sensations, to know what I wanted, at around the age of forty – but only vaguely.”  After the sales, I vaguely understand 😉  The best consolation was coming back home to peace, sanity and eating cake.  Cake?  What?  No macarons?  Ecoute: even a macaronivore like myself needs a break now and again…

Which makes me realise I finished off my last entry discussing chocolate-beet cakes and I didn’t give you the recipe!  Perhaps you thought the combination was just a bit too way out?  Well, my macaronivore friends, I have to tell you that even I thought it was a bit weird at first;  until I tasted it.

Chocolate-Beet Fudgy Fondant Cake

We all love a good carrot cake, don’t we? Lovely shiny orange slivers just give that added touch of earthy sweetness and the grated vegetable ensures a moist cake that – dare I say – make us believe we’re having something healthy by eating our veg!  Why not with beetroot?  I had heard of the combination a couple of years ago but the cake recipe was not my favourite.  Too sweet:  way too much sugar/syrup and not enough (good quality) chocolate plus it was even a bit dry.  I adore GUNGY, healthier cakes!

So I took my favourite dark chocolate fondant recipe and added some grated beetroot to the mix.  Et voilà: my recipe for chocolate-beetroot fondants. A whole new experience was born in our family: soft, decadent and fudgy fondants with the deep beetroot colour making the intense chocolate blush.

 

I also went on to vary the flavours by adding a touch of orange zest or some slivers of glacé ginger.  I personally loved these combinations but my children (who are my fiercest critics) prefer them without the “sophisticated” additions.

Then one typical macaron baking day when the egg whites were ready and I was anticipating my next flavour adventure, it suddenly struck me that the fondants could be easliy translated into a macaron.  The laugh is, it ended up being the biggest hit at my younger daughter’s birthday party.  I’m still a bit surprised.

Chocolate-beetroot macarons

What can I say?  For this dreary time of year, the humble beetroot can flirt so well on the sweet as well as the savoury side.  Talking of flirting, we’re gearing up for St. Valentine’s. Don’t forget to put the whites aside and say it with macarons!

Forgotten Legumes, Old Crosnes & a Beetroot Macaron

It has been yet another chilly, damp week outside Paris. A trip to the local market at St Germain-en-Laye quickly brightened up the spirits, though, fuelling the kitchen with inspirational seasonal produce. My favourite vegetable stall is run by someone who not only knows his radishes but he could possibly be moonlighting as The Barber of Seville.

Forgotten vegetables

Remembering our roots at the local French market

The French call many of these root vegetables, les légumes oubliés. Forgotten perhaps since they skipped a generation as grandmothers were glad to no longer serve up what they lived on during the war? One thing is for sure: parsnips (panais), Jerusalem artichokes (topinambours) and rutabagas are back “in” on the dining table. I love standing in the market’s queues, discussing how to cook the various produce. One kind woman gave me the following wee tip.

Crosnes or Chinese Artichokes

No, this is not Hallowe’en. These may look creepy at first glance but they are crosnes or Chinese artichokes (in Italy they’re called Queen’s potatoes). As the name suggests their sweet taste is not unlike an artichoke and a light version of a potato. Armed with a scrubbing brush under running water, I tackled the hardest part of cleaning them energetically to remove the outer skin, then snipped off the ends.

Cooked Crosnes

One of the best ways to prepare Crosnes is to simply toss them in butter over a high heat with a couple of chopped shallots for a few minutes. Then add just enough chicken stock to cover, simmer for 15 minutes until the stock has reduced but there’s still enough sauce to cover them. Season to taste et voilà. They are delicious served as a side dish for fish, chicken, meat or game.

Horseradish

This odd looking fellow is horseradish. Before coming to France, I thought horseradish was a sauce you found in jars 😉 but this fresh raifort certainly packs a punch! So what better way to use it than in a macaron! Here’s one I made earlier: a beetroot (or beet) and horseradish mini macaron that can be served with an apéritif or if you’re feeling on the wild side, serve it with the starter…

Beetroot & Horseradish macaron

Beetroot & Horseradish Macaron

I was left with just enough beetroot to make a chocolate-beet macaron or one of my favourite cakes: a dark chocolate and beetroot cake. That was a tough decision to make until I discovered that I was low on stock on aged egg whites. So the compromise?

Chocolate praline macarons with chocolate-beet fondants

Chocolate praline macarons (using the egg white reference chart at the end of the book when you come up short) with a praline ganache, using the full quantities. That way, there’s tons of extra ganache for that extra gooey praline sensation…