Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

It all started this summer.  In August, to be precise. Lucie rebelled after her 12th birthday in the loveliest possible way: she flung me out of the kitchen.

chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

She had a burning desire to make cookies.  But on her own.  No Mum intervention.  You see, I can’t help myself: somehow I have to ‘intervene’.  I think they see me as some kind of control freak.  Well, ahem, you could say I kind of take over the kitchen so it must become frustrating.

assembling chocolate-hazelnut macarons

So, while I was finishing off some dark chocolate hazelnut macarons (one of our favourite recipes from the book), assembling the macaron couples and piping on the dark chocolate ganache, Lucie was itching to get started.  You see, Mum doesn’t normally make cookies, really.  The last time were these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies but that was it.

Lucie making chocolate cookies

She followed the recipe to the letter, or so I thought, in her book, La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.  It’s in French – and so well presented for kids learning to cook from scratch.  But then she added nuts and told me afterwards she added more peanut butter than stated and cut down the sugar (she remembered I tend to do this as habit).

Placing large dollops of the cookie dough on the tray, she saw them rise in the oven after the first few minutes.  Panic struck, and without telling me, opened up the oven door, took them out and bashed them all flat with a pie slice, then returned them to the oven.
Hey presto!  The cookie crumbles were born.  A delicious accident.

chocolate crumble cookie biscuits

Now Lucie makes them regularly – especially Wednesdays, as the French secondary schools don’t have classes in the afternoon, so it’s a baking excuse (even if she was supposed to practise piano for her exam this weekend!). Yesterday she omitted the nuts and added a few drops of peppermint extract, just to make them festive.  What a treat!

Recipe: Chocolate Brownie Cookie Crumbles

Recipe adapted from La Cuisine C’est Simple! by Katharine Ibbs.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 14 minutes

Makes approx. 20 cookies

125g butter, softened
70g light brown sugar
60g sugar
1 large egg
140g peanut butter (or Nutella)
2-3 drops vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
120g chocolate chips
30g chopped mixed nuts (walnuts & hazelnuts)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas mark 4.  In a large bowl, mix the butter and the sugars with an electric whisk (or in a stand mixer) until smooth and creamy.

2. Add the egg, peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat again until the ingredients are well mixed.

3. Sift the flour into another large bowl, adding the baking powder, cocoa powder and salt and mix with a  wooden spoon.

4.  Add the flour mix to the first bowl and mix well with the wooden spoon.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips. (The mix will be rather thick but this is normal).

chocolate brownie cookie dough

5.  Place 6 or 7 heaped tablespoons of the cookie dough on a baking tray covered with baking parchment or a Silpat silicone mat.  Leave a good space between each, as they’ll spread out a bit during cooking.  (Either make another batch but we do just the one and keep the dough in the fridge for more next day.)

6. Bake the cookies in the oven for 14 minutes for normal brownie cookies.  But for crumbles, remove from the oven after 10 minutes, flatten them down with a pie slice until they break up slightly, and continue to bake for 4 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes.

recipe for chocolate brownie cookie crumbles

That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Sometimes mistakes in the kitchen are the best way of discovering new dishes – the best one we know is the Tarte Tatin.  The kids asked me recently if I could make les caves à l’orange again.  Do you know what they were?  My earliest macarons while experimenting with reduced sugar – long before the book was even thought of.  Out of the oven came orange flavoured empty shells that had puffed up with no feet – and the girls christened them les caves, which was rather fitting.  Do you think I can make them again?  No.  Because I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

Pistachio-Strawberry Panna Cotta with Macaron Kisses

Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps.  Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer to liberate us from any of the year’s accumulating cobwebs.  Next time I’ll take a bike (although I need to practice on flat ground first) but in the meantime we did plenty of cyclist watching, hypnotically driving behind previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.

French Alps le Col du Galibier

As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door.  Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours.  We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.

Italian countryside around Susa near French Alps

This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived.   You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.

Italian pastry shop window with macarons

Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!

Roman Porta Savoia gate in Susa Italy

It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors.  Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC.  On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.

Roman gates in Susa, Italy

It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.

Roman amphitheatre in Susa, Italy

After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls (Valérie, a good friend in Provence, has a sign in her WC saying “If you’re not embarrassing your kids you’re not living life to the full”.)  Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice cream flavours from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.

Somehow, however, I feel I can live life to the full without selfies.  The girls were trying to explain how to take them properly but I was more interested in ice cream.  Julie didn’t give up: “Well at least make a silly face, Mum.”  I tried.

I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates).  Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.

Jill Colonna tasting ice creams from La Bottega del Gelate in Susa, Italy

As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at the local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce.  Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, dark chocolate cake, or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons.  It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colour (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?

mixing batter to make pistachio macarons

It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a Sunday afternoon lunch last weekend.  Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio-strawberry creamy desserts.

mini panna cottas with different flavours

Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons!  I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen.  It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them.  Rouen – there’s another place I should tell you about later.

pistachio and chocolate macaron tower display

Perhaps I could call the chocolate-hazelnut macarons (one of the 38 macaron recipes in the book BTW) Baci macaron?  Bite into one and it’s a chocolate kiss.  Oh-la-la. Enough of that nutty talk.  Time to get on with the recipe!

pistachio and strawberry panna cotta and macarons

Recipe: Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Makes enough for 8 mini verrines / shot-glasses

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2.5 hours minimum

3 sheets gelatine (@2g each)
400ml crème fleurette or whipping cream (30% butterfat)
100ml whole/full fat milk
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste *
3-4 drops pistachio extract (or almond extract)

Strawberry Coulis:
1 gelatine leaf (@ 2g)
300g fresh strawberries
50g caster sugar

* If you don’t have pistachio paste, make up your own: whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder.  Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of pistachio extract and a tablespoon of water.

1. Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan.  Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted.  Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.

3. Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

4. Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis.  Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes.  Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor.  Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water). Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.

pistachio strawberry easy panna cotta recipe

Funny.  As I’m writing, I can sniff the waft of pizza floating upstairs.  Lucie has discovered how to make pizza all by herself.  It has been so good that she’s starting to make it quite often – and she’s even excited at cleaning up – well, nearly.


Treating the Piles with Macaron Stacks

What happened to this week? I’ll spare you with the details: I mean, who wants to hear about the dishwasher going sick, my sycophantic calls to the Mairie (long story, don’t ask), or that I forgot to defrost my prized Scottish Haggis for Burns Night; or that my patient web designer is underwhelmed with the lack of organisation behind the website? Admittedly, I also spotted a post I completely forgot to publish in October about Captain Haddock’s nose, Fishcakes and Tartar Sauce like Corsica. But who wants to read it? Fishcakes on a macaron website? Madness. It’s high time I filed better online plus treat these piles of manuscripts, papers, notes, and find a home for that Thai blue elephant.

Could I just dump everything and go on strike? No. I can’t do that. I’ll just blame it all on Rod Stewart’s Paris concert on Monday night. There’s nothing like starting the week off on a high note.

Don’t you think I’m sexy?

The last few days have been sailing at a hydrofoil speed of knots, while singing “Don’t you think I’m sexy?” as my eye sockets have been flashing their extra baggage allowance alert. How does Rod do it? He still rocks. As my creativity levels were gradually sinking, a magnesium boost was recommended for my boat to rock: so treatment sounded appropriate with a healthy dose of dark chocolate-hazelnut macarons (the recipe is in the book). Gluten free, as always. Much better.

With not enough egg whites for 150g, I used the reference chart at the back of the book for a smaller quantity of macaron shells. But I used the full recipe for the filling on page 59. You know what that means, don’t you? EXTRA, left-over dark chocolate ganache!  So for the kids’ goûter after school I made some grissini éclairs (follow recipe for choux buns and pipe them out in thin sticks) that they could dip into the chocolate ganache. Great idea from Eclairs! by Christophe Adam.

choux grissini sticks with leftover chocolate ganache

Don’t you think my eclair grissinis are sexy? (sing along with Rod Stewart)

For a reheating left-over ganache tip: When ready to use, if you reheat the ganache too abruptly in the microwave, the ganache’s butter risks splitting and it really doesn’t look that sexy. I would recommend heating the ganache gently in a saucepan, whisking to ensure that the sauce is even.

4 stacks of 2 caramel chocolate macarons

2222 likes on facebook

Speaking of even, it was exciting to see we hit 2222 likes on Facebook. How else but express it with macaron couples? Then it was 2234 likes and the piles started.

4 macarons stacks chocolate caramel

Then it was 2234…

Could I keep on stacking macarons like this?

It’s high time to stop playing with macarons and just get organised.

box of macarons stacked up high

Best go and make a Scottish dinner with that defrosted Haggis and pretend it’s Burn’s Night this weekend. Then again, I could also finally resurrect these smoked fishcakes…

Enjoy the rest of your week, too!