A rather Franglais-style cheesecake & ranting over Brexit
Put just a few good quality basic ingredients together – salted butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour and baking powder – and what do you get? Irresistible French butter biscuits…
A deliciously zingy, creamy topping for crepes or pancakes this February. Part of the egg yolk recipe collection – keep the whites for macarons!
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 for macaron lovers needing egg whites!
An Easy Recipe for Custard Tarts
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). Did you know that in France, you can ask your local boulangerie for some of their homemade puff pastry (normally needs to be ordered in advance). If not 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. Click here for more about Pasteis de Nata and how popular they are in Paris!
The Story Behind Pastéis de Nata
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 Monsieur’s shirts with egg whites. No surprise – I use them to make macarons – much better fun!
PASTÉIS DE NATA
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)
4 egg yolks
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!
5. Leave to cool in the moulds/tins for about 5 minutes then turn them out on to a wire rack.
Serve them slightly warm, lightly dusted with cinnamon.
Inspired by the egg custard tarts served at 'Comme à Lisbonne' in Paris. As large quantities of egg whites were used for starching clothes in the Portuguese monasteries and convents around the 18th Century, the monks discovered this delicious way of using up the egg yolks and so the legendary Portuguese pastry was born. Keep your egg whites for making macarons!
- 4 egg yolks
- 80 g sugar
- 15 g cornflour/cornstarch a lightly heaped tablespoon
- 1 vanilla pod/bean scraped of seeds (or vanilla extract)
- 250 ml whole milk
- 230 g puff pastry 1 pack of ready-rolled or a pack of frozen puff, defrosted
- Powdered cinnamon to serve
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Leave to cool in the moulds/tins for about 5 minutes then turn them out on to a wire rack.
Serve slightly warm, lightly dusted with cinnamon.
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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.
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!).
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 book, Teatime in Paris (as well as many egg white recipes!). 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.
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? So, honey lemon sablé biscuits they are.
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) @ 83 Calories each.
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)
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.
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?
Quick and easy cookies that are delicious using a strong mountain honey or Acacia honey that are particularly good with a pot of ginger Rooibos tea if you have a cold - or not!
- 250 g / 9oz plain flour
- 60 g / 2.5oz sugar
- 130 g /4.5oz softened butter unsalted/doux
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 zest of 2 lemons unwaxed/organic
- 3 tbsp runny honey Dark mountain honey (strong flavoured)
- 1 good pinch salt fleur de sel
- 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.
- Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
I prefer to use a dark, full-flavoured honey, such as a mountain honey, to let the flavour shine through. Please use good quality organic lemons.
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I’m back! And to make up for it I’m presenting you with these pumpkin spice macarons!
Oof! It has been a real marathon so it’s good to be back finally on le blog. These past few months have been challenging. Juggling the stress of house renovations, a new bricolage world of riveting French DIY vocabulary has blossomed and I’ve even dabbled in some interior design (I made the plans for my office). I realised all this work has left its mark when I found myself glancing at the paint and tile colours in a few Parisian pâtisseries before the cakes!
The most exciting project, of course, has been preparing the new book: writing, recipe testing and taking hundreds of photos … all around teatime. I can’t wait to share its progress with you very soon but as it’s now going through edits and design with Waverley Books, I finally have an excuse to take a tea break and make some pumpkin spice macarons, strictly for le blog and perfect for Autumn!
I’ve never really understood why the French don’t seem to be that much into pumpkin. Last week at the market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, I even had a lovely French seller – complete with chic body warmer, hair tied back with scarf – ask ME (yes, I kept pinching myself it was unreal) how to cook mini pumpkins (Jack-be-littles) rather than show them off as decorative items for Autumn.
Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Spice
For sweet recipes, there isn’t any pumpkin purée in the French shops, an ingredient that appears to be familiar with most of my American blogger friends at this time of year. When I looked up some macaron recipes, there wasn’t even any pumpkin in them – instead simply ‘pumpkin pie spice’, another ingredient that’s difficult to find here. So there was only one thing for it: to make my own pumpkin purée and find a quick spicy alternative.
I set out to grab a giant quarter slice of pumpkin, as they’re normally sold here. With Hallowe’en gradually becoming more popular here with youngsters, giant Jack-o’-lanterns are also more available than before, ready to carve for this Friday’s spooky date. This year, pumpkins seem to be overshadowed by the smaller potimarron, The Autumn foodie fashion item in the French supermarkets and at our local farmers’ markets just outside Paris. They’re everywhere!
What’s Potimarron in English? Apparently it’s Red Kuri, Japanese Squash or Orange Hokkaido. It’s darker than pumpkin without the ridges and has a more intense, even chestnut-like texture and flavour (as the French name implies: marron, meaning chestnut). What I love about it is, unlike pumpkin, you can even eat the skin!
I remembered a post by David Lebovitz about how to roast potimarron or red kuri squash: he dribbled olive oil over the slices, added herbs and roasted in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 200°C. I tried this method using potimarron in my favourite pumpkin, leek and ginger soup and it really is delicious.
Inspiration knocked for these pumpkin spice macarons when David mentioned that the Red Kuri squash slices could also be roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon. Instead I used pain d’épices or gingerbread spice, perhaps the French’s closest quick answer to pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & all-spice powder). And in case some of you have hands up in horror, wondering why there are no Hallowe’en decorations on these macarons – I’m ridiculously scared of spiders and anything in the least bit squirmish; perhaps I grew up with too many Scottish ghost stories!
Macaron Fruit Fillings – A Tip!
One word about using fruit purées for macaron fillings: it can make macarons become rather soggy. One tip is to add ground almonds (almond flour) to soak up the juices which I’ve done here. The good news with this recipe is that for impatient macaronivores, you can eat this macaron after only 6 hours in the fridge and finish them the next day. Any longer and they will turn slightly soggy – but the taste is divine and full of healthy, spicy squash! I wouldn’t recommend keeping the pumpkin spice macarons any longer than 2 days or even freezing them as you would for all the macaron recipes in my book. If you prefer to keep them longer like in the book, use equal quantities of purée, melted white chocolate and whipping cream.
Instructions on how to make the macaron shells are given step-by-step in both my books, Mad About Macarons! and Teatime in Paris! Just add a dash of powdered colouring (I use a pinch of red and yellow) and a teaspoon of pumpkin spice or pain d’épices to the meringue.
Pumpkin Spice Macarons:
Filling with Roasted Red Kuri
This recipe is ideal for serving later in the day. Just chill in the fridge for 6 hours. Best eaten within a couple of days. The basic French recipe for macaron shells are well explained in both Mad About Macarons! and Teatime in Paris! (150g egg whites for about 40 macarons).
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: max 35 minutes
Chilling time: min 1 hour
1/2 red kuri squash or Potimarron
2 tbsps brown sugar
3 tsps pumpkin spice or pain d’épices
2g sheet of gelatine
2 egg yolks
50g brown sugar
50g whipping cream
100g roasted red kuri purée (half of one red kuri)
2 tsps pumpkin spice or pain d’épices
2 tbsps ground almonds (almond flour)
100g chilled mascarpone
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Cut the kuri squash in 2 and, using only half of it, scoop out the seeds. Cut into slices and place on a non-stick baking sheet, sprinkling with the brown sugar and spice. Cover with aluminium foil and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the slices. When ready, set aside to cool then purée using a mixer or by hand with a masher. Weigh out 100g of purée.
2. For the cream, soak the gelatine in cold water for about 15 minutes. In a bowl, hand-whisk the yolks and sugar until creamy. Heat the cream in a saucepan until nearly boiling, then whisk into the yolk mixture then transfer back to the pan over a medium heat, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens (rather like a pastry cream).
3. Take off the heat, add the gelatine (squeeze of excess water) to the warm cream, whisking until melted then add the purée, ground almonds and spice. Set aside to cool then chill for about an hour.
4. Hand-whisk in the mascarpone then transfer the cream to a piping bag with a 1cm plain tip. Pipe onto half of the shells then assemble with the remaining macaron shell tops and chill in the fridge.
Are you planning to make spooky macarons for Hallowe’en?
Why not share your pumpkin spice macaron – or Hallowe’en inspired macarons with us? Post them on the Mad About Macarons Facebook page or tag me on Instagram (@madaboutmacarons). It’s always exciting to see you baking the recipes from my books.