Teatime treats served around 4 o’clock, French goûter or quatre-heures

Knitted Choux Carnival of Festive French Chouquettes

A promise is a promise. Remember I said I’d make my own homemade knits, posting Auntie Shirley’s knitted cakes and felt macarons? I looked for bright holiday woollens for inspiration but since I’m hopeless at knitting, I found a fun solution. I cheated! No knitting needles were used in the making of them.

Some cherry pompom inspiration

There’s a wee story behind it. Let’s rewind to early last year.

A friend-of-a-friend popped round for coffee, eager to catch up. All too quickly I realised her ‘news’. She had become a sales rep for Flexipan products. As if by magic, she happened to have all the catalogues on her. And the order forms. Did you know she got such a super commission on every sale, too?  Suddenly, I was introduced to the world of everything served in fancy molds, s’il vous plaît. Quoi? I make macarons and don’t use a silicon mat? Well, when you make macarons, there’s no need for silicon mats; just simple, greaseproof baking paper. OK, you can see from the photos I did give in and bought the mat. I use them for choux buns and chouquettes, not macarons. I discovered that if you use a silicone mat when making macarons, it’s not that easy to tell if they’re cooked enough.

Having a good glance around while the kettle was on, she could tell straight away what a sucker I was for gadgets and fun kitchen toys. There was just one wee problem she had: I saw the mold prices. You see, if you’re approaching a budget-conscious Scot who’s become stubborn over the years (being married to a Corsican has now rubbed off on me, too), then filling in her motivational order form isn’t as easy as that. So she tried another angle.

She brought out a wonderful book demonstrating Flexipan molds, Les mignardises de Christophe: Leçons de pâtisserie by Christophe Felder. It’s true: each recipe with its step-by-step and beautiful presentations had me sold. I needed it desperately. Except for one recipe that didn’t use any mold and had me in stitches: Choux tricotés (knitted choux.) I mean, who would want to eat these?

Chouquettes are simply choux buns topped with pearl sugar with no filling and are smaller than choux buns. They’re just light, airy and the sugar on the top gives it that crunch. The children adore them at goûter time after school. So Christophe’s recipe is brilliant: why not colour the sugar and cover them completely like this? I bought the book, too. They really do look like they’re knitted. And the colours? Well, yes, they are vibrant but it is festive season, n’est-ce pas?

It wasn’t just the children that loved them (they adored helping out, too.)  We ended up making a second batch in the week – just to use up the extra sugar coating, plus try out pistachio flavouring this time from my macaron essences/flavouring secret cupboard. Och, who needs excuses? They were simply bloomin’ good.

Recipe: Knitted Chouquettes

Adapted from Christophe Felder’s Choux tricotés, from Les Mignardises de Christophe. I still had a lot of topping left over but discovered the uncooked covering keeps in the fridge for a few days directly in its greaseproof paper. I also added some flavouring to the sugar topping for some extra fun: strawberry, almond, rose, pistachio – you could adapt to your own taste.

Ingredients for the sugar topping

50g butter, softened
60g caster sugar (or brown sugar)
60g plain flour
few drops of liquid colouring (I used powdered which still worked well, as that’s all I use for macarons)
few drops of almond essence (or any other flavouring, to taste)

Follow the classic recipe and instructions for Choux Buns from my earlier post,
Choux Buns, Passionfruit Caramel and a Choux-Choux!

1. Cream the butter using a whisk. Gradually mix in the sugar then the flour until you have a good paste.

2. Separate the mix into separate bowls for each colour. I made only two colours, but you can do as many as you fancy.  Add a few drops of food colouring and mix well.

3. Place the mix between two sheets of non-stick baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the mix until you have a rectangle of about 2-3mm thinkness.  Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the mini choux buns.

5. There’s no need to coat each choux with egg yolk, just place a small square of the coloured sugar topping on each choux and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes.

Spot the Ninja seeing red – he’s supposed to be green!

OK. I cheated without the knitting needles but this was so much fun. Next time I’ll use slightly less colouring and make sweety pink rose ones for the girls, or orange and lemon chouquettes? I’m sure you can come up with all sorts of flavours. Gosh, these are about as fun as macarons!

 

Melting Moments (or Mini Oat Cookies)

Ouf! It’s the school holidays. Enfin!

melting moment oat biscuits or cookies

 

The children were desperately needing a break: they have worked so hard and are gradually becoming more independent. By that I don’t mean I can just leave them and they get on with it all. They still need the constant nagging and even more TLC, now that my eldest daughter has moved to Secondary School.

It’s a huge change for her – and seems even more ‘grown up’ in France, as they call it collège. One thing that hasn’t changed is their enthusiasm for Melting Moments.

Melting-moments

Why Melting Moments? Well that’s what these biscuits or cookies were called from my Brownie’s Cookbook (Were you ever a Brownie?  For those of you who think it’s just a chocolate cake, it’s the younger group that comes before Guides, as part of the Baden Powell Scout groups.) It was my first ever introduction to baking, when I also had precious moments with Mum in the kitchen and the chance to plunge my hands in sticky dough.

So I have a soft spot for these wee melt-in-the-mouth gems. They’re also one of the quickest and easiest cookies to rustle up for goûter (afternoon tea). They’re healthily full of soluble fibre using oat flour and finished off rolled in oat flakes.

Melting-moments-hands

The laugh is, they never even noticed I’d served them on a Beatrix Potter bunny plate – they were too busy devouring these mini cookies.  Ideally, there should be the standard glass of milk for the photos, but truth be told we don’t like drinking milk on its own. My eldest (now 11) is now even drinking tea!

It’s great to see that through baking, they have also gained more confidence in the kitchen. When it comes to the tasting in the end, their final masterpieces always taste better when they’ve been made by their own hands.  And ça va sans dire (it goes without saying), that making them is indeed precious melting moments together.

melting moment cranberry oat cookies

 

Recipe: Melting Moments

Adapted from the Brownie’s Cookbook (I have no idea where it disappeared to – must be in my parents’ attic.) I noted down the recipe years ago but since then have used less sugar and substituted half of the flour with oat flour.

100g butter, softened
65g caster sugar
1 small egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
75g plain flour
75g oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
oat flakes, for rolling
glacé cherries or dried cranberries for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and mix well.

2. Roll walnut size pieces of the mixture into balls, and roll each one in the oat flakes.

3. Place them on baking trays covered in baking paper, flattening slightly each one with the finger, then place 1/4 glacé cherry on each (or any other candied fruit; candied orange peel is wonderful, too.)

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

A touch of glacé ginger is rather more adult, though.  How often have you needed that wee kick to go with your cup of tea?  Perfect for a quick break before going back in the kitchen for more fun.  Although – it has to be said -for these memorable moments, there’s nothing to beat the good old simple glacé cherry on top.

Guest Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Bread

Paris this week has been blessed with an incredible Indian Summer. It’s hard to believe it’s Autumn but hey, let’s not complain! We’re supposed to hit 30°C today so the weekend is beckoning us to eat outside. We’re finally getting that August weather we never had.

Today you are all in for a treat.  I am thrilled to have the gorgeous, glowingly healthy, Kelly Hunt join us from Eat Yourself Skinny.

Why is she so healthy looking?  I’m sure her tempting eat-yourself-skinny recipes may just have something to do with it. En plus, although she has a love-hate relationship with running, she still manages to conquer the odd marathon. My favourite part, though, is that she not only adores her food but enjoys her wines, too. How lucky to have so many fabulous wineries in Virginia on her doorstep!

Ladies and gentlemen, macaronivores, let me hand you over to Kelly – she is about to share something particularly fabulous with us to welcome Autumn.

Kelly Hunt

 

Hello there lovely readers of Mad About Macarons!  I’m Kelly from Eat Yourself Skinny and I’m so excited to be sharing with you all today!  When Jill first asked me to guest post, I was beyond flattered and completely honored!  I mean c’mon guys, you read her posts every day…her pictures are gorgeous, her writing is witty and let’s face it, she has her own book!!  What in the world could I put together that would even be comparable to the lovely goodies she makes each day and keep you from clicking that little “x” at the top of your screen!
{Yikes}
Well I decided to go with something Fall and festive!  I give you my Pumpkin Spice Bread and boy was this delicious!  As most of you know, there seems to be a serious shortage on canned pumpkin this year (read my rant here) so attempting to find this necessity was quite the task, to say the least.  If you do come across some friends, {trust me} STOCK UP!!
pumpkin spiced loaf recipe

Anyway, I absolutely loved the combination of flavors in this bread.  You have cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves…ahem, need I go on??  This really turned out incredible, was perfectly moist and tasted sensationally sweet!

Have I sold you yet??

Well if not, the best part is this only takes about 10 minutes to whip up and is extremely easy! Enjoy a slice for breakfast in the morning or wrap up as great gifts for your family and friends.  I brought this particular loaf to my office to share with my co-workers and I’m happy to say there was none left!!  Feel free to add nuts or dried fruit to your mix for a great variation.

Did I mention I absolutely LOVE this time of year??  It doesn’t get much better than scarves, spiced lattes and the sweet aroma of delicious pumpkin bread!  Hope you all enjoy this as much as I did!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

 

 

spicy pumpkin bread recipe

 

Here are your ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Bella So Savvy

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.

Mix sugar, baking soda, spices and flour together in a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, blending well.  Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto cooling rack until completely cooled.  Enjoy!

pumpkin bread recipe

 

Thanks again Jill for inviting me to your fabulous blog to guest post!

Feel free to stop by my little bloggy anytime for more delicious recipes or even just to say hi!

XOXO

Merci beaucoup, Kelly. I’m heading out to grab that pumpkin (we’ll just have to make our own purée since the French haven’t thought of this one!) and make this as soon as I can. Your colleagues are so lucky to have you around to taste this beauty, Kelly. Don’t forget to check out Eat Yourself Skinny for many more recipes and say bonjour from me!  Enjoy your weekend.

Update: Apologies to all those who wanted to leave a comment and couldn’t.

We’ve had some crazy server problems so things have gone willy wonky.

Thanks so much for your patience!

 

Quick and Easy Fig Tart Recipe

When Mardi asked me to guest post on her blog, I was so excited.  Imagine being asked to do something for Eat.Live.Travel.Write?  When Mardi was last in Paris, we met up for goûter or quatre heures. What a wonderful afternoon we spent together, indulging on a selection of light but decadent pastries at Un Dimanche à Paris. Mardi had no hesitation choosing the spoon-clinging hot chocolate and myself, a pot of Ceylon Earl Grey which arrived with a timer and instructions to infuse the giant teabag for no more than 4 minutes.

merveilleux pastry from Un Dimanche à Paris

The “Merveilleux” pastry from Un Dimanche à Paris

Quatre minutes when you’re sharing funny stories of life in Paris?  We didn’t see the time pass so I’m sure any tea gourmets would have held their hands up in horror.  So, Mardi – next time you come to Paris this pastry jaunt has to be made into a ritual. We have to do this for our readers’ sake, n’est-ce pas?

Mardi’s readers are no stranger to French cuisine.  She always cooks up a storm in her kitchen – including macarons – to perfection.  So what could I serve up to her friends?  With such a short fig season here, I’m currently adding figs to so many dishes.

plate of figs

Who gives a fig?

At our local market in Saint Germain-en-Laye (just outside Paris) these figs are set out like jewels, individually nested in their crates begging, just try me for ripeness. Pick figs that are ripe but firm enough to the touch.  That way it will be easier to cut them into thin slices.

One of my personal favourites is this fig tart. It’s pretty to look at but light enough with a pot of Oolong orange blossom tea for Quatre Heures.  That way there’s still room for dinner! It’s so quick and simple to make plus easy to cut. The addition of orange blossom water gives it that extra je ne sais quoi to the almond and honey base.

For that extra taste of France, I love to scatter just one dried lavender flower to the tart once it comes out of the oven.  Or sprinkle on a few flaked almonds.

Fig Tart

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Baking Time: 20 minutes

Round of ready-made puff pastry
12-15 purple plump figs (ripe but firm enough to cut neatly)
60g ground almonds (almond flour)
2 tbsp runny honey
1 egg
2 tsp orange flower water

1.  On a baking sheet lined with greaseproof baking paper, prick the pastry with a fork and score a border 1cm in from the edge using a knife.  Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Wash, dry and cut the figs finely, using a good sharp knife.

3. Beat the egg and honey with a whisk in a bowl until light and creamy.  Add the ground almonds and orange flower water.  Using a spatula, spread the mix on the pastry.

4. Place the figs in rounds on the pastry.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

If only the fig season lasted longer but the good news is that you can freeze the tart for up to a month.

This was published as a guest post over at EatLiveTravelWrite.
I turned off comments on my side, since out of respect for my guest post, if you’d like to say something, head on over to see the delicious comments chez Mardi!

Guest Recipe: Rum and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream (low carb/gluten free)

How often do you dream about food?  Do you think about lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch and breakfast at dinner – and then continue dreaming of recipes in between meals?

Let me present you to my friend, Carolyn, who is otherwise known as FoodDreamer.  When I first discovered her blog, All Day I Dream About Food, there were a number of names that kept ringing out. Sugar was replaced with interesting names such as erythritol and stevia, for example.

What baffles me about Carolyn, is that each time I see her beautifully sweet and mouthwatering photos of cakes, cookies, tarts, bread, and candies, you wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.  They all look stunning.  But study each recipe carefully and there’s also something extra special behind each and every one she produces. They are ALL low carb and/or gluten free. You see, Carolyn is diabetic and has been ever since giving birth to her third child. It’s amazing how she has relearned how to cook all of our favourite treats but transformed them into low carb / gluten free masterpieces.

I am so honoured to have her on MadAboutMacarons, to concoct another stunning low carb recipe for us.  Let me hand you over to the sweet – but with no sugar added 😉 – Carolyn Ketchum.

FoodDreamer: All Day I Dream About Food

When Jill asked me to guest post on her blog, I may or may not have let out a squeal of delight.  I am not saying I did, but I am also not saying I didn’t.  See, if you are a regular reader of Mad About Macarons, you already know that Jill is brilliant.  She is an amazing cook, and has taken on the world of French cooking and that now infamous treat, the macaron.  She has written a cookbook devoted to them, and for those of us who are wildly scared of actually attempting to make macarons, she assures us that it’s really not that difficult.  I have promised myself to put her assurances to the test and make some very soon, but I haven’t quite worked up the courage.

So you can see why I was so delighted to be asked to guest post on such a wonderful blog.  But that delight was also tinged with a little fear.  Would I be able to come up with something that was Mad About Macaron-worthy? Jill requested that I develop a recipe that uses egg yolks.  I love that most of her guest posters do this, it makes so much sense.  After all, macarons use the whites, and we can’t let those leftover yolks go to waste.  I’ve made plenty of things that use yolks, and I am not one who fears undercooked or raw eggs, so I figured I was up for the challenge.

But what to make?  Mousse or crème brulee seemed too obvious, too…French.  I love both these desserts, but I thought if I made them, I might look like I was trying too hard to belong on Jill’s blog.  My mind kept circling back to ice cream, but I dismissed the idea several times.  Ice cream was just too unsophisticated, too child-like for Jill’s lovely blog.  But I couldn’t shake the idea.  It’s hot here in New England and ice cream is fun to make. Besides, I really wanted to try making it with some coconut milk, and the idea of coconuts made me think of rum.  And adding rum to ice cream takes it to a whole new level, so maybe it was Mad About Macaron-worthy after all?

If you happen to follow my blog too, you know that I am a diabetic and most of what I make is low carb and gluten free.  This ice cream is no exception, as I sweetened it with a stevia  blend called Stevia In The Raw.  But you could easily use whatever you like to sweeten it, it’s very versatile.  It’s also incredibly rich, as I used full-fat cream as the base.  But once again, you can change that up and use whole milk or a combination of cream and milk.  Adding the rum is up to you.  I find that a few tablespoons of alcohol in any homemade ice cream gives it a better texture and keeps it from freezing too hard.  And the dark rum in this particular recipe gives it a distinctive edge and flavor that is unmistakeable.

Rum and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

2 cups cream, whole milk or a combination thereof
½ cup Stevia In The Raw* (or sugar, honey, splenda)
4 large egg yolks
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
½ cup unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons dark rum

Set a medium bowl in a large container of ice water.

In large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and sweetener and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 170F on a candy or instant-read thermometer.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks until light yellow and thickened, about 3 minutes.  Very slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot cream into the yolks to temper them, then gradually whisk tempered yolks back into the saucepan.  Continue to cook mixture, stirring continuously, until it reaches 175F to 180F.  Do not let it come to a boil.

Stir in the coconut milk and toasted coconut.  Pour mixture into the bowl set into the ice bath and let cool 10 minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cold, at least 3 hours.

Stir in rum and pour into canister of an ice cream maker.  Churn according to manufacturer’s directions until thickened and creamy, about the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  Transfer to an air-tight container and press plastic wrap flush to the surface.  Chill until firm but not rock hard, about 2 more hours.   Serve immediately.

If you will be freezing the leftovers for later use, be sure to let them warm in the fridge or on your counter to make them soft enough to serve.

* Stevia In The Raw is a stevia blend that is meant to be measured cup for cup like sugar.  Pure stevia extract (liquid or powder) is much stronger and a little goes a long way, so sweeten to taste.

Thank you so much, Carolyn, for not only such a deliciously melting-in-the mouth rum and toasted coconut ice cream but you’ve done it again.  It’s not just ice cream but low-carb-with-no -sugar ice cream!  It’s high time I tried out baking without sugar – you have inspired me so much.

Don’t forget that Carolyn is on Facebook via ‘All Day I Dream About Food’ and don’t forget to drop in to her blog, All Day I Dream About Food to check out many more fabulous gluten-free and/or low carb recipes and say bonjour from me!

Peppermint Millefeuille with Fraises des Bois

 

Last weekend these little wild strawberry jewels were just beckoning in the sun along with redcurrants and mint from the garden. It didn’t take long to find inspiration for a quick dessert from Bernard Loiseau’s “Cuisine en Famille; I love this book (also as it’s signed by his wife, Dominique), even if the only problem is that there are absolutely no photos: you have to imagine in your head what the final result should be for each recipe. On the other hand, there’s no “pressure” – just use your creativity and imagination and you’re doing fine. It’s the flavour that counts.

 

This started out as his peppermint ice-cream with strawberries but as I began making the cream, another horrible migraine decided to interrupt the recipe. As it had the same quantities initially, it was quickly adapted as a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) and sandwiched between ready-made puff pastry cut into rounds using a cookie cutter.  (OK, I cheated with ready-made pastry, but there are times when it’s essential.)  The result was a pastry dessert ready in no time.  It’s perhaps not top of the fashionable pastry boutique parade in Paris, but the taste certainly made up for it!

Peppermint Millefeuille with Fraises des Bois

Serves 8

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (+1 hour infusion)
Cooking Time:
15 minutes

50cl whole milk
4 egg yolks
1 large branch of peppermint
70g sugar
50g cornflour
500g pure butter puff pastry
(or 2 packets ready rolled pastry rounds)

  1. Take the leaves off the peppermint branch, wash and dry them carefully.
  2. Boil the milk with the mint leaves, take off the heat and leave the leaves to infuse for 1 hour with the lid on.
  3. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy, then whisk in the cornflour.
  4. Remove the leaves from the milk with a slotted spoon then beat some of the milk into the egg mixture.  Transfer this to the milk and over a medium heat, continue to whisk for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  6. Set aside the custard to cool, whisking every so often so that no skin forms on top.  Once cool, transfer the cream to a piping bag.
  7. Meanwhile, cut small rounds from a pre-rolled sheet of puff pastry (or roll a block of puff pastry to about 2mm) using a 7cm cookie/scone cutter.  For one round I could get 15 discs: you shall need 3 per person.
  8. Place each disc on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Place another sheet of baking parchment over the discs and top with another baking sheet to stop the pastry discs from puffing in the oven.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden (I cooked mine for 15 which was a bit too much, as you can see.)
  10. Leave the pastry discs to cool, then pipe out the pastry cream on each layer and top with the fruits.
  11. Finish off with a dusting of icing sugar.

 

Store the egg whites in a sterilised jam jar with the lid on and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days until you’re ready to make your macarons…

See Mad About Macarons, Wimbledon and Wild Strawberrieson Le Blog.