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!

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

CHOUX DOUGH

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!

 

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France before I put on weight. We certainly had our fill of our Scottish favourites while visiting family with Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones, Stornoway black pudding and tons of hot smoked salmon.

Back home, as Spring has sprung later this year, we luckily hadn’t missed our traditional French muguet, or Lily-of-the-valley, which is traditionally given to family and friends as a good luck symbol. It was a week late in our garden. Brilliant!

A belated wish of good luck to you with hugs from France!

Not so brilliant was that I (known in the family as ‘the French Police’) had returned to the kitchen. I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just a public holiday on our arrival on Wednesday, but also yesterday too. Shops? Fermé. Shut. But I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge, since Antoine (French hubby) had left most of the fruit he was supposed to eat while we were away. To my surprise, they were still ok but not exactly bursting with flavour.

There were 3 lemons, 5 strawberries, 2 kiwis and a tired pineapple just looking for a tasty makeover. So I defrosted a jam jar of egg whites from the freezer while thinking up this lemon cream meringue nest dessert, filled with a zingy lemon cream and topped with the fruits.  The slightly tired strawberries were resurrected by tossing them in some good quality strawberry syrup. Et voilà! You thought I was going to make macarons, didn’t you?

Lemon cream meringue nests

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

Meringues

2 egg whites (about 75g)
230g sugar
few drops vanilla essence 

1. Whisk the egg whites at high speed using a hand or stand mixer. Gradually rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk, adding the essence last, until the mixture is firm and glossy. It should form a peak (or bird’s beak, bec de l’oiseau) on the whisk.

2. Spoon out 4 large heaps of the meringue on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press them down and scoop out a cavity that you can fill later.

3. Bake for 1 hour at 110°C. Meanwhile, make the lemon cream.

Crème au citron (Lemon Cream)

3 egg yolks
90g sugar
15g cornflour
3 lemons (untreated)
100ml water
knob of butter (unsalted)

4. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a saucepan. Add the cornflour, zest and lemon juice then the water. Mix together well.

5. Over a medium heat, whisk until the cream thickens then take off the heat and mix in the butter. Set aside to cool.

6. When the meringues are ready, leave to cool then spoon in the lemon cream into each meringue nest and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Just before serving, top with a mixture of fruits. Just look what my daughters put together for the decoration. Lucie loves pineapple – you can tell by this double decker!  I love leftovers. Now, I best get to the shops before mint meringues pops on the menu for our main course!

At least this means I’ve got more egg whites on the go for making macarons soon.

Lemon cream meringue nests

Happy sunny May time!

P.S. As with all my recipes, I use grams. Please don’t be mad, ounces lovers. However, if you’re mad about macarons, you’ll need digital kitchen scales – much more reliable to bake in weight rather than volume. Most digital scales have the option of switching from ounces to grams so this will make your life much easier.

Chocolate Cream Desserts for Macaron (Yolk) Lovers

Poor blog. I’ve neglected it and so my apologies. Chest infection dragging on, living in the dark, the pouring rain. Not a great couple of weeks, although I do have a much more fun excuse – all shall be revealed in the next post.

In the meantime, I’ve still had some sweet dreams, mainly consisting of desserts. Ideally they’re not too sweet, they’re packed with flavour and they’re quick and easy to make. If they use up egg yolks, that’s an extra bonus for macaron lovers. These chocolate cream puddings can not only be whipped up in 20 minutes but they’re so versatile and perfect for re-cyling those hoarded yoghurt pots.

Here I’ve added zingy orange zest and a sneaky soupçon of Cointreau to them but adapt them to your own tastes. For spicy romantic lovers, replace with cardamom and ginger. Lucie adored the addition of 100g candied chestnut cream (she’s mad about chestnuts) but why not add a touch of Chambord and serve with raspberries?  You get the picture. Top with physalis (why does that always sound like a disease?) or, to add that je ne sais quoi, a mendiant topped with dried fruits and nuts.

They remind me of La Laitière cream pots we can buy in the supermarket but they’re much better and so quick to make – it’s worth the effort. They’re not like a mousse and they’re not like heavy creams, either. Do you remember the Aero bars we used to devour as kids? What was the best part for you? The bubbles?

The best part are the chocolate bubbles…

Chocolate Orange Cream Desserts

Serves 6 (small pots)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours

200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
zest of an orange (untreated)
1 tbsp Cointreau
(optional)
1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)

1. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Meanwhile break up the chocolate into pieces in a large bowl. In a saucepan, boil the milk and cream.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Pour over the hot milky cream, mix and transfer back to the saucepan.

3. Whisk vigorously over a medium heat until the cream thickens. Take off the heat then pour over half of this hot cream on to the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts, add the grated zest, Cointreau (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.

4. Transfer to 6 serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us). Leave to cool and chill for an hour.

Serve with sablé bretons or, dare I say, some macarons?

This recipe is added to the egg yolk recipe collection. There’s plenty more so you’ve no excuse – get these egg whites put aside! By making this recipe, you’ll have enough for 100g whites, which will make about 30 macarons.

Stay tuned for the fun surprise. If you haven’t yet subscribed to le blog, then don’t forget to sign up. Toodeloo, bonne semaine, I’m off to London so it’s time to get back into action!

How to Make a French Religieuse or a Scottish Mac Snowman

I have a confession to make. I should have made something more typically Scottish as it’s Burn’s Night this Friday. Patriotism is kicking in as the bagpipes, Stornoway black pudding and haggis are suddenly sorely missed. Don’t ask me to make the latter myself, though. You’re talking to an ex-vegetarian.

With a first mere dusting of snow last week, our lucky Scottish heather was then well and truly tucked in with a thick, snowy blanket this weekend outside Paris. We had more snow than in Scotland!

Lucie was itching to build a snowman and managed to convince her sister that it was still cool to play in the snow by repeating renditions of the Snowman’s ‘I’m Walking in the Air’ on the piano. What’s with the hat? A TGV cap was all we could find.

With a couple of lollies pour les yeux, they reminded me of the sugar eyes I’d bought at the NY Cake supply shop on my trip last summer to NYC.

Am I a Scottish or French snowman woman person with a hat like this?

More macaron madness struck. I’d just made a batch of choux dough to make les Réligieuses: that’s one small choux bun stuck on a larger bun and dribbled with fondant.

Hm. Sugar eyes…  put them together with macarons (I had some left from my freezer ‘bank’) and what have you got?

A Snowman built indoors! OK, so I’m not too old to kid around too, right? He’s a Religieuse Snowman. Hm. In French that doesn’t work since a Religieuse is feminine.

Somehow a Mrs Snow-woman doesn’t sound right, so apologies to my French friends for the Religieuse recipe title – I’d love to hear your ideas for a more fitting title. No surprise why Mrs Snowman looks a bit grumpy: I didn’t wait for the fondant to slightly set before dipping in the choux buns and so she’s dribbling fondant down her cheek. Next time I’ll be more patient.

Does this fondant coat make my bun look big?

Snowman Religieuse Recipe (Choux Buns with Pastry Cream)

Makes 20

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns. Using a piping bag with a plain tip (about 10mm), pipe out large heaps 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 a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make a second batch of choux buns but pipe out much smaller heaps (as you would for chouquettes) and bake in the oven for only 15 minutes.

VANILLA PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

500ml full milk
1 vanilla pod (split down the middle)
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod 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. Gradually add the milk and extract, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again, then transfer to a piping bag with a thin, plain tip (8mm) so that you can pierce the buns without too much leakage!

4. Pipe the cream into the buns by piercing a hole at the bottom of each bun and squeeze in the vanilla cream.

DECORATION

Gently melt the fondant in a bowl (white fondant is available from many speciality baking stores but if you can’t find it just make a classic icing using icing/confectioners sugar and some water.)  Once the fondant starts to cool, dip the buns upside down into the bowl until there’s no excess on the buns. Leave to set on a wire rack but first stick on the eyes (you could use smarties), pierce Mikado sticks for arms and stick on a macaron.

If I’m a snow-woman I’ll eat my hat!

I forgot to take a photo of the vanilla cream inside. It was too good. You’ll just have to make them for yourselves! Here’s another reason why it’s handy to keep some macarons in your freezer. And now you’ve used up 4 egg yolks you have a good supply of whites for your macarons!

Perhaps this is a Scottish post after all: could we call it a MacSnowman?

How to Make Rice Pudding like the French – Riz au lait!

When my Frenchman asked me to make rice pudding years ago, it was a no-brainer. I remembered what my Scottish Granny and Mum had done: rained in some rice into a pint of milk, added sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and nutmeg, dotted it with butter and baked it slowly until a caramelised rice pudding emerged with a film of buttery, bubbled skin.

We ate it warm from the oven as the reassuring aromas of cinnamon wafted around the kitchen. This was comfort food at its best, my Madeleine de Proust; that feeling of drifting back for a fleeting moment, remembering Grandpa supping his rice pudding using an oversized spoon, as Agnes poured him more of the coveted extra cream from the top of the milk around the enormous bowl’s rim.

best baked rice pudding easy recipe

Carmelised rice pudding as Granny used to make in Scotland

Suddenly the bubble burst. “Your rice pudding is so different to my Mum’s. She didn’t have skin on it; I remember vanilla rather than cinnamon, and we didn’t eat it warm like this,” gently prodded my Frenchman. My baked rice pudding wasn’t sexy.

It was time to do some homework. I looked up Granny’s ‘Black Book’, full of her children’s scrawls, splatters and notes for different Scottish sweet recipes ranging from neighbours such as Mrs Patterson to the Jimmy Young Show’s dictations from the radio. Nothing. No rice pudding. As Grandpa ate it just about every third day there was no need for Agnes to write it down.

I did discover that, in the north, the French also bake their rice pudding. In Normandy they make a slow-baked Terrinée, Beurgoule or Teurgoule not unlike this, although they add another half litre of milk and bake at 80°C for 6 hours.

Baked Rice Pudding Recipe: In a buttered gratin dish, rain in 100g short grain rice into 1 litre whole milk, add 80g sugar, a cinnamon stick & 50g sultanas. Dot with 40g butter and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Bake uncovered at 110°C for 2 hours.

baked rice pudding with toasted skin from the oven

How do I look? Am I a skinny rice pudding, then?

It was time to make a different, extra creamy rice pudding or ‘riz au lait’ (reeh-oh-lay.) Bathed in a vanilla milk, showered with freshly grated nutmeg and eaten chilled. Personally, I prefer it at room temperature and can’t resist sneaking a bowl of it before placing the rest in the fridge once it’s cool. Initially inspired by Raymond Blanc’s recipe (well, his Mother’s recipe!) by adding 3 egg yolks at the end of cooking, after a few trials, here’s my riz au lait; tried, tested and approved by my adorable French hubby pampered person.
Just don’t tell his Mum.

Creamy rice pudding with dried fruits and egg yolks

How can you make a rice pudding look sexy when it’s not even skinny?

Creamy Riz au Lait Rice Pudding Recipe

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

100g pudding/short-grain rice
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or cinnamon stick)*
80g chopped dried fruit (sultanas, apricots)
50g (25+25) light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
20g butter (optional)
pinch of finely grated nutmeg

* or use 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Fill a large saucepan with water. Add the rice and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook for a couple of minutes then drain the rice in a sieve or colander.

2. Pour the milk (whole, full milk for best creaminess) into the large saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod down the middle,  scrape out the seeds and add to the milk (or add vanilla extract/cinnamon stick) with 25g of the sugar. Rain in the rice and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to that no skin forms on the milk.

3. Add the chopped fruits. Continue to stir now and again as it heats gently for about another 10 minutes. Check that the rice is cooked but not mushy.

4. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks with the rest of the sugar and grated nutmeg until it’s light and creamy. Add the hot rice (and butter, if using – this just adds a little extra creamy luxury) and mix well. Ensure you take this off the heat so not to overheat and curdle the yolks.

Serve at room temperature or once cool, chill in the fridge.  Grate a little nutmeg on top.

Mini French rice pudding creamy desserts

And a wee ‘riz au lait’ for baby bear

As my baby bear, Lucie, doesn’t like drinking milk, this is a great way for her to fill up on calcium. And as an obsessed macaron maker, macaronivores will love this recipe to use up more yolks!

creamy rice pudding

Speaking of macarons, I’ve been caught making them again in the reflection. Are you a macaron addict, too?