Passion Fruit and Raspberry Macaron Filling

Standing in the buzzing queue of many of Paris’s best pâtisseries, I often realise that decision-making has never been one of my strong points. Well, how can you blame me? With such sumptuous choices to ponder over, there are a number of pastry classics that look up from the shiny museum-like glass counters, saying “Go on – don’t forget me! Pick me!”

raspberry giant macarons with passion fruit cream

Admittedly, picking one or two out has become quicker, thanks to taking around eager testers in the  chocolate and pastry groups with Context Paris. What a responsibility it can be to choose a wide enough variety of fabulous samples without them all floating off into a sugar coma.

One of the lighter popular classics is a giant pink macaron garnished with pastry cream and surrounded with fresh raspberries. What’s more, it’s gluten-free. However, it’s not that easy to cut up into sample pieces!

macarons ispahan style in local patisseries

Pierre Hermé, dubbed by Vogue Magazine as the Picasso of Pastry, christened the most famous of giant raspberry macarons the Ispahan, named after a tender, fragrant Iranian rose. The giant pink macaron is filled with a rose and lychee cream and finished off with beautiful fresh raspberries.

So many pastry shops in Paris have drawn on his inspiration with their own take on it. Even our local pâtisserie had their version (above) with the bottom macaron shell upside down…

Raspberry passion fruit giant macaron

As you can imagine, such Parisian pâtisserie temptations are a constant source of exciting inspiration.  For this dessert classic I replaced the lychee and rose with a zingy passion fruit filling, adding that extra acidic touch to the raspberries.

Truth be told, I ran out of passion fruits as I thought two would be enough. But after tasting the cream, I felt it needed another passion fruit for that extra fruity punch.  So instead I added some extra passion fruit purée as an emergency back-up. I use an excellent passion fruit purée from Monin. Incidentally, I also love their floral syrups to quickly and easily add that delicious fragrant touch to pâtisserie recipes such as rose, elderflower and violet for a summery Teatime in Paris.

Giant raspberry macaron with passion fruit cream

Passion Fruit Cream Filling for Giant Raspberry Macarons

I used the basic macaron recipe in “Teatime in Paris” adding a pinch of deep raspberry pink powdered colouring (if using “Mad About Macarons”, use the measurements specified in the Annex of the book, under “Egg White Reference Chart” based on 100g egg whites).  This will make 12 large macarons.  The filling is based on a classic pastry cream (recipe also in “Teatime in Paris”) but I’ve adapted it here based on the liquid of the passion fruit.  Don’t forget that macaron shells can be frozen, so I often prepare them in advance and defrost them the day of a dinner party and the rest is easy to put together.

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: about 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour (minimum)

250 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla pod/bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
30 g cornflour
juice of 3 passion fruits (the equivalent of 4 tbsp once seeds removed)
2 punnets of fresh raspberries

1. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk with the vanilla seeds, if using. Meanwhile, using a balloon whisk, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until creamy, then whisk in the cornflour until smooth.  When the milk is hot (but not boiling), add half of the hot milk to the beaten egg yolk mixture. Whisk vigorously then quickly add the mix to the rest of the milk in the saucepan while whisking continuously.

2. Continue to whisk over the heat until the mixture thickens. Cover with cling film so that no skin forms on the surface and leave to cool for about 10 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

3. Meanwhile, using a sieve, strain the juice and remove the seeds.

4. When chilled, whisk in the juice of the strained passion fruits and continue to chill until closer to serving time.

Spoon or pipe out the filling into the middle of 6 giant macaron bases and arrange about 8-10 raspberries (according to size) on the outside and finish off by topping with a macaron shell.

passion fruit cream

Speaking of passion fruit, have you tried the passion fruit and lemon meringue tartlet recipe from Teatime in Paris yet? My lovely friend, Christina, of Christina’s Cucina has just made them and posted the sample recipe!  You must pop in for a Parisian teatime in California – and please say hello from me.

French Clafoutis – Baked Cherry Custard Dessert

Clafoutis is a French speciality from the Limousin region. It’s also one of my French Mother-in-law’s specialities and so one of my husband’s favourite classic desserts. When we visit Antoine’s parents in Provence in the summer, Madeleine proudly rustles up her baked dark cherry custard dessert especially for son grand fils, her eldest son, with cherries freshly plucked from the orchard at the bottom of the garden.

But after twenty years, I finally plucked up the courage to make this ridiculously easy pudding at home. Why did I wait so long to make it? Perhaps, I dare say, because it was a bit heavy – especially as I prefer lighter desserts. Could Belle Maman really discover I’d slightly changed her recipe?

baked cherry custard dessert clafoutis

So many clafoutis recipes call for pitted cherries. Like it’s traditionally made in the Limousin, Madeleine normally throws in the whole cherries as they are and most of us politely dispose of the stones at the table. I say most of us, as Antoine – in his more natural Corsican style – rocks on the back of his chair, plotting his target as he catapults and projects them less than delicately into the garden – “Heh, je plante!”, he shrugs at us all.  It’s his Corsican sense of humour of saying he’s planting cherry trees. Oh, pl-ease!

I may mock but whole, unpitted cherries do keep in their flavour, and it’s far quicker than standing over the kitchen table with dark cherry-stained hands looking like Jack or Jill the Ripper. So just throw them in as they are naturally then get the family to do the gardening at the table. Otherwise pit them if you prefer, especially if you have a cherry stone extractor as part of your kitchen gadgetry.

This almond-topped clafoutis has been tried, tested and approved by Antoine, Julie and Lucie. Just don’t tell his Mum.

French clafoutis easy recipe

FRENCH CLAFOUTIS (Cherry Baked Custard) RECIPE

The almond topping idea is pinched from my friend, Véronique (merci!). You could replace the almond extract with a tablespoon of Kirsch or Amaretto liqueur for a more adult version.

SERVES 4-6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

500g fresh black cherries, washed, not pitted

For the mould (china or earthenware dish):
10g butter
10g sugar

70g plain flour
good pinch of salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, organic
1 egg yolk
80g sugar
270g full-cream milk
25g butter, melted
few drops of almond extract (optional)
25g silvered almonds (optional, for garnish)

Pouring clafoutis batter on to cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (gas 4). Butter an ovenproof china or pyrex dish (22cm diameter and 5cm deep) large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer.  Sprinkle in the sugar, shaking it all around so that it coats the surface of the dish and place the cherries in it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and yolk and, using a balloon whisk, mix well until the mixture is smooth.  Continue whisking adding the milk, almond extract and melted butter. Pour over the cherries.

French clafoutis before baking

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Toast the flaked almonds in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat until they’re golden and sprinkle on the Clafoutis with a dusting of icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Serve warm directly from the dish.

clafoutis cherry baked custard dessert

Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (or Facebook), where I’m having fun posting shots from day to day around Paris – from the market, to chocolate and pastry walks, to views of Paris, to mad family life.

cherry French dessert clafoutis

Feeling daring? Why not try out these savoury asparagus clafoutis recipes as a summery supper dish?

White Asparagus Clafoutis
Asparagus, Mint & Pea Gluten-Free Clafoutis

Pastéis de Nata Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe

After tasting the exquisite Pastéis de Nata from Comme à Lisbonne in Paris, I just had to make these delicious Portuguese custard tarts at home. Besides, it’s a great egg yolk recipe!

Pasteis de nata egg yolk recipe

In true lazy gourmet style, I cheat and use ready-made puff pastry.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember to use a good quality all-butter puff pastry. I use either defrosted (here in France, Picard do a good frozen puff), or ready-rolled (these are in packets of 230g and so easy to use). If you can’t find ready-rolled, just roll out the pastry to 3-5mm thickness and cut out your circles according to the recipe below.

One factor that’s not easy to control is the traditional extra hot oven needed to make traditional sized custard tarts more genuine looking.  As not all of our home kitchen ovens can go up as high as professional ovens to give them that beautifully scorched look, put it as high as you can – and keep an eye on them!  I’d suggest 7-10 minutes if it’s very hot, otherwise for about 10-15 minutes.

pasteis de nata recipe

PASTÉIS DE NATA RECIPE

Recipe inspired by Denise Browning at From Brazil to You, who adapted it from the cookbook, “Cozinha Tradicional Porguguesa”. Denise made mini tarts, whereas I made a slightly bigger, more traditional size like they serve at Comme à Lisbonne. So I used half quantity to fill regular muffin moulds, and cut down the sugar slightly, using a vanilla pod/bean instead of the extract.

Makes 12 tartlets (using 2x 6-cavity non-stick muffin moulds @ 7cm diameter)

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 8-15 minutes (depending on your oven)

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
80g sugar
15g cornflour/cornstarch (a lightly heaped tablespoon)
1 vanilla pod/bean, scraped of seeds*
250ml whole milk
230g puff pastry (1 pack of ready-rolled or a pack of frozen puff, defrosted)
Powdered cinnamon (to serve)

* 1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Chill a bowl in the fridge. Put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla seeds (scraped from a pod cut in half down the middle horizontally) in a saucepan and mix well using a balloon whisk until you have a creamy paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking until mixed well together.

2. Put the pan on a medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens.  Remove pan from the heat. (If you don’t use the vanilla pod, add the extract at this point). Transfer the custard to the chilled bowl and immediately cover it with cling film to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool.

3. Lightly oil or butter the muffin moulds and preheat the oven preferably to the highest setting – I used  250°C/480°F/230°C mark 9.

4. On a lightly floured surface – roll the pastry if needed – using a cookie cutter or glass (about 9cm diameter, slightly bigger than the 7cm diameter muffin cavity), cut out discs and press them into each cavity.  Spoon in the cooled custard about 3/4 to the top then bake for 7-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them!

making portuguese custard tarts

5. Leave to cool in the moulds/tins for about 5 minutes then turn them out on to a wire rack.

Portuguese custard tarts and macarons

A baker’s loop. Use yolks for the custard tarts and macarons for the whites…

Serve them slightly warm and lightly dusted with cinnamon.

Pasteis de nata portuguese custard tarts

P.S. As large quantities of egg whites were used for starching clothes in the monasteries and convents around the 18th Century, the monks discovered this delicious way of using up the egg yolks and so a legendary Portuguese pastry was born!  And just for the record, I don’t starch hubby’s shirts with egg whites. Macarons are much better fun!

Click here for more about Pasteis de Nata and how popular they are!

Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits

Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits were just asking to be baked. It was a sign: Corsican lemons poking out from an oversized basket, stuck to their prickly leaves. I filled a large bag and, dreaming at the Monoprix checkout, thought about my favourite lemon and passion fruit meringue tart I could make with them. Corsican hubby would be pleased.

Then Lucie suddenly came down with a virus all last week while Mummy bear tried to calm her scratchy throat and racking cough with hot lemon and honey drinks. Finally when the fever subsided after a few days, it was my turn for the symptoms; then Antoine; like crashing dominoes, we were. The lemons didn’t make it to dessert mode – instead these easy Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits.

Corsican lemons with leaves

The oversized jar of honey, bought from the market at Apt last summer, was also our best medicine. Miel de Garrigues, or honey from the Mediterranean coastal regions from such typical wild shrubs as lavender, thyme, sage, rosemary was the perfect soothing addition to drinks, yoghurts and to coat our favourite weekend brioche (thank you, freezer!).

brioche with pink pralines

Feeling sorry for myself (I’m a typical Aries – I’d hate to live with me), I felt the love circulating via friends with hints on the best remedies on Facebook – thank you!  Now I’ve discovered Rooibos, that has really helped.

However, I’ve also been thinking about the new website, and so Jérôme’s suggestion, “More egg yolk recipes?” was also welcome. I’ve gradually been building up a list of yolk recipes and you’ll be happy to hear there are plenty more waiting for you in my forthcoming book, Teatime in Paris. Meanwhile I’m adding more to the list here on le blog.  After all, we are mad about macarons, and we need to use up these yolks tout de suite.

honey lemon sablé biscuits or cookies from the yolk recipe collection

Luckily I hadn’t lost my appetite. Come teatime this weekend, the end of the honeypot was looking rather concrete and unappetising.  With only a few seconds in the microwave, the last of the liquid nectar was just too good to down all in one go, so I found these biscuits on the internet.

I say biscuits with my Scottish accent, my American friends call them cookies, the French call them sablés, so what on earth was I supposed to write as a title?  Incidentally, the French refer to them as sablés since as you mix the butter and flour together with your fingertips, it resembles sand (our breadcrumbs reference). Crumbs; isn’t that fascinating?

honey lemon sablé biscuits

Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits

Recipe slightly adapted from 750 grammes French website for Petits délices au miel.  I reduced the sugar slightly and added a pinch of salt. I used a stronger honey (like mountain honey) which flavours the biscuits beautifully.

Makes about 40 sablés (depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

250g / 9oz plain flour
60g / 2.5oz sugar
130g /4.5oz softened butter (unsalted/doux)
2 egg yolks
2 tsps lemon zest (unwaxed)
3 tbsp runny honey (Accacia)
pinch salt

1. Measure the flour in a large bowl.  In the centre, add the sugar, softened butter, lemon zest, honey and salt. Mix all together well with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or sand – sable – as the French say) then add the egg yolks.
Alternatively, if you have a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients together for a couple of minutes maximum until well blended together.

2. Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan. Remove the dough from the fridge and film and roll out with a rolling pin to about 5mm thickness.  Cut the dough using your favourite cookie cutters.  Put the biscuits on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.  Bake for 10 minutes.

4. Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes (this will make it easier to remove them) then cool on a wire rack.

honey lemon sablé biscuits

I was planning on coating them with a ginger and lemon glaze but after having tried the first ones, I can honestly say they don’t need any fancy toppings.  They are delicious and tasty enough on their own. Although don’t forget the tea! Serve with lemon tea – or why not a warming pot of Ginger Rooibos tea?


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The French’s Favourite Casserole: Blanquette de Veau

With the Charlie Hebdo event in Paris still shocking us all profoundly, we’re definitely turning to comfort food – and this Blanquette de Veau is a real French classic at this time of year.

In the Annex of Mad About Macarons, I have suggested recipes for using up egg yolks before saving the whites for your macarons. This is one of them. Blanquette de Veau is most often translated as Veal Casserole in White Sauce.

Blanquette de beau French casserole recipe

‘White sauce’ doesn’t sound too sexy, does it?  Blanquette sounds fancier in French but the English translation just doesn’t give it justice.  It even sounds a bit bland.  To me, white sauce conjures up dull images of a plain béchamel sauce with flour, milk and butter.  This casserole couldn’t be further from plain!  For a start, there is no flour in the sauce; instead, the casserole is simply thickened by reducing the natural stock at the end and whisking in egg yolks and cream with a flourish of nutmeg and lemon juice.

Why Blanquette de Veau?

Veal Blanquette is a pure and simple French Grandmother’s dish which is passed on from family generation to generation.  It’s a casserole that’s so simple to prepare. “Blanquette” refers to the way it’s cooked: there’s no need to brown the meat beforehand; instead the veal is just placed in a large pot together with its partners in taste and, as it bubbles away merrily, you can get on with other things.

 

French blanquette de veau casserole

It’s also Antoine’s favourite casserole – as long as it’s full of flavour.  It has a rich, creamy fragrant sauce with a hint of lemon and, for me, the touch of cloves just gives it that extra touch of warmth.  When it’s packed with comfort and flavour, you can see why the French consider it their favourite national stew!  It may be seen as family fare but serve this version at a dinner party and it works – ça marche!

It only really works, however, if you carry out the necessary extra steps at the end, otherwise the taste is nothing like the real thing.  I’ve seen recipes that just use crème fraîche and don’t take the time to whisk up the classic sauce using egg yolks to complete the dish. I’ve tried them and the resulting taste is well, bland. Let’s say it’s like making a curry without any spices…

My favourite French butcher in Le Vésinet near Paris

Blanquette de Veau is from our Ile-de-France region around Paris.  My local butcher, Monsieur Le Corre, is passionate about hunting and takes great pride in his best quality meats, often showing me the simplest way to prepare some classic cuts with a different twist (I’ll post on this later).  He’s also partial to showing off his latest catch, too!  For a blanquette, ideally you’ll need a mixture of best quality veal: mainly breast and shoulder. If you can’t get good veal, then chicken will also work well (use free-range, if possible) – and I’ve also seen many fish blanquette versions too.

Take the time in the last couple of steps to thicken the sauce.  Have I stressed enough how important this is? In true lazy gourmet style, however, I cheat a bit in the recipe by using frozen pickling onions from Picard, our favourite French frozen store.

creamy veal casserole made like the French

Blanquette de Veau Recipe

Recipe slightly adapted from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, France: The Beautiful Cookbook – Authentic Recipes from the Regions of France by The Scotto Sisters and Gilles Pudlowski.  This book is full of the French classic dishes – I’ve particularly found that the savoury dishes are spot-on each time.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 2.5 3 hours

1.5kg veal (mixture of breast & shoulder), cut into chunks
1 onion
3 cloves
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley)
1 leek (white part only), sliced
2 carrots, cut into chunks
250ml white wine
150g crème fraîche
2 large egg yolks (or 3 medium)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
grated zest of half lemon (unwaxed)

Garnish:
24 small pickling onions (or use frozen)
24 small button mushrooms (Champignons de Paris)
30g butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Stud the onion with the cloves.  Place the veal in a casserole dish and add the carrots, onion, leek and bouquet garni.  Pour in the wine and add just enough water to cover the meat and vegetables.  Bring to the boil, skimming the surface for the first 10 minutes of any scum.  Cover and simmer gently for 2.5 hours. 

ingredients for blanquette de beau French casserole recipe

No need to brown the meat – just place the ingredients in a pot!

2. About 45 minutes before the end of cooking, prepare the garnish.  Wash mushrooms, pat dry and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size.  Fry them at first without any oil or butter (my tip – not in the original recipe!) in a non-stick pan until they have given out all of their juices.  This concentrates their flavour.  THEN add 25g of the butter and the lemon juice to them and set aside. Sauté the onions in a small pan with the rest of the butter until golden.

vegetable garnish for blanquette de veau

3. Lift the lid of the casserole dish and smell these flavours!  Discard the bay leaf and thyme stalks. Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large serving dish, adding the mushrooms and pickling onions.  Set aside and keep warm in a cool-moderate oven.

Blanquette de Veau French veal pot casserole

4. Boil the cooking liquid over a high heat until reduced.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, hand-whisk the crème fraîche, lemon zest, yolks, grated nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper.  Blend in 3 tablespoons of the hot stock then quickly whisk in the yolk mixture back into the stock.  Stir constantly until thickened but do not boil (it will reduce its subtle flavours). Whisk until the sauce is smooth and velvety.

how to reduce sauce for a blanquette casserole

Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with basmati or Thai rice.  This dish is also lovely reheated the next day.  For busy gourmets, this dish can be prepared the day before a dinner party.  Just prepare steps one and two in advance then chill in the fridge.  Make the sauce on the day of serving and voilà!

classic blanquette de veau or French veal casserole recipe

Antoine loves to serve this with a delicate white wine, such as an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris, otherwise a St. Véran, Marsannay or other Burgundy will be fabulous.

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Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding for the Holiday Season

You can tell that chocolate has been quite prominent in our diets these last couple of weeks.  How could I talk about the 20th Salon du Chocolat in Paris without having some kind of a chocolate treat for you?  I also need to write up about the Paris Gourmet Chocolate Museum from the mid-term school holidays but right now, work on the new book is hotting up and I need to focus.  I’m off to pick up, Eleanor, the Editor at the airport and we have a busy few days ahead of us…

best quick holiday chocolate desserts presented with macarons

Blustery showers, soggy leaves and chilly fingers calls for warming chocolate, doesn’t it?  Let’s face it, dark chocolate is good for you, a mood enhancer and cooked together with egg yolks filled with iron, we need a good dose to stay healthy during the winter months.

And, with the simplest presentation in little cups, it’s the easiest of desserts to whip up at the last minute for the holiday season with friends and family.  It’s also perfect served with macarons.  Either made earlier and still in the fridge or from your freezer bank!

chocolate pudding egg yolk recipe with festive macarons

Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding

Recipe of Budino di Cioccolato adapted from Nigella Express Cookbook by Nigella Lawson.

350ml full-fat milk
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
35g cocoa powder
2 tbsps boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g candied chestnut purée (Clément Faugier)
60g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped

1. Put the kettle on, and warm the milk/cream together in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave.

2. Put the sugar and cornflour into another saucepan and sieve in the cocoa powder.  Add the 2 tbsps of boiling water and whisk to a paste.

3. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream, then the vanilla extract.

4. Scrape down the sides of the pan and put it on lowish heat, cooking and whisking for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency.

5. Take off the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and candied chestnut purée, before pouring into 4 small cups or glasses, each with a capacity of about 150ml.

6. Cover the tops of the cups or glasses with cling film, letting the cling-film rest on the chocolate surface, to stop a skin forming, and refrigerate once they are cooler.

Serve at room temperature, adding a blob of cream or top.  I topped it with a marron glacé, a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon and served with chocolate macarons.

easy chocolate pudding dessert recipe for the holiday season with macarons

Don’t forget there are many more egg yolk recipes on le blog for all you macaron-making lovers.

Store your egg whites in a jam jar with a closed lid and keep in the fridge for 4-5 days – then you’re ready to make Parisian macarons!