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Another Year and Even More Mad About Macarons!

Happy New Year!  Wishing you the best of health, happiness and may all your sweet dreams come true in 2018.
To kick off the year, here’s a batch of dark chocolate macarons made with a splash of Whisky Liqueur (Drambuie) just to have an excuse to say Cheers to you! Santé ! Sláinte!

chocolate whisky macarons

It’s easy to reproduce them yourself at home. Grab a copy of my book, Teatime in Paris, then simply flick to the Macaron Recipe chapter and follow the instructions for the Chocolate, Honey & Orange Blossom Macarons. Just replace the orange blossom with a Whisky Liqueur (I used Drambuie, which has a herbal honey flavour to it) or your favourite Whisky for a wee kick.

Are you a keen baker, love macarons but haven’t yet made them? Then make 2018 your year of le macaron!

The Auld Alliance: France & Scotland

As some of you may have seen on Instagram/Facebook, I’ve been looking for many ways to celebrate since in December, I became a French citizen.  Do I feel different? Well, yes. Bah ouiii! I should have done this years ago but now I’m finally able to vote full-monty-on in France; like many of my fellow ex-pats, it’s something I wasn’t able to do as a British citizen abroad during the UK Brexit elections. So now I have more of an identity, including an official French Carte d’Identité and been so emotional, that I’ve had quite a frog in my throat. As I’ve kept my British-Scottish nationality, it’s leading me to post more French and Scottish recipes here – it’s surprising how much they have in common.  Although I’m called Mad About Macarons, don’t be put off – I post all kinds of different recipes here, including the ‘sweeter’ recipes reduced in sugar.

cannele cakes from Bordeaux

Look, I’m not as ‘tweet’ as you think…

The Scots particularly loved their Bordeaux wines, known as Claret or Clairet, as the much-awaited barrels arrived in Edinburgh’s Leith Docks.  But Bordeaux is also just as famous for their Canelé teacakes, found in many Parisian bakeries. Made with egg yolks (the whites were used for the wine), vanilla and rum, you’ll also find an easy recipe for them in Teatime in Paris.

Edinburgh’s Christmas

Before I post the first recipes and blog articles for 2018, here are just a few snapshots while spending Christmas with my family in Scotland.  We were lucky to arrive on Christmas Eve and enjoy the ambience of Edinburgh’s award-winning Christmas Market.

edinburgh Christmas Market Scotland

The Christmas Market flows over not just one but THREE levels in East Princes Street Gardens, around the Scot Monument. Stalls of fragrant festive spices in all shapes and forms greet passers-by, along with tartan reindeer and other beautiful crafts, plus ample opportunities to stop for a mug of mulled wine or cider in between rides for all ages.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

If you haven’t been to ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas‘, then mark it on your bucket list: it includes shows, free events, Santa’s Grotto, ice sculptures – just to name a few. Following on to George Street after ice-skating in St Andrew’s Square, this dazzling construction below – again encasing more opportunities for a Christmas tipple from a Whisky Liqueur to RumChata Hot Chocolate – lures the more adventurous to the Drop Tower next door.

Last year my daughter, Lucie, was so excited to be whirled around high above the Scot Monument on the Star Flyer but this year the even more daunting tower certainly made our jaws drop – and that was just looking on!

Edinburgh's Christmas

As we looked on in disbelief at her few minutes of screaming and waving her legs about towering over Edinburgh, cocktails beckoned in one of the many chic establishments in George Street before heading back home to continue the festive fun with the rest of the family.

The following days involved plenty of flambéd Christmas Puddings with brandy butter and custard from talented dessert whizzes Auntie Catherine, and my adorable sis-in-law – who laid on extra entertainment of chasing chickens off the road back into the neighbours’ garden in Kinross.

Christmas Cocktails

Epiphany in France – A Feast of the Kings

Now that we’re back in France, the festivities continue with Epiphany, the Feast of the Kings or Twelfth Night this weekend (what January diet? I never diet!)  Traditionally, this puff pastry almond-frangipane-filled dessert contains a lucky favour (fève), and the person who gets it becomes King or Queen for the day.  Perhaps that’s why we don’t just celebrate it this weekend only: like most of the French do, we’ll no doubt be continuing with this cutting, tasting and crowning until the end of January!  There are so many different creative versions to try out.

For more explanation on the Galette des Rois and a line-up from many top pastry chefs in Paris, see my post here. Although written two years ago, many of the galettes remain the same in the Parisian bakery windows – including my own homemade recipe. You knew it was coming … the recipe is in Teatime in Paris!

galette des Rois for Epiphany

 

Keep in Touch

As I was writing this for my monthly Newsletter, I shared it here as a once-off on le blog too in case you don’t receive it. So, if you’d like to have a copy in your inbox next time, then simply sign up to the Newsletter here. Don’t worry, I never share your details with anyone.

You can also subscribe to receive notification of the latest posts and choose from daily, weekly or monthly too!
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Comments

Please also don’t be shy about leaving a comment below any posts here. Your email is never shared publicly. I’m so thrilled to hear from you, whether it’s just a hello, a question, or telling me you’ve made the recipe (that’s always the BEST!). Your motivating comments make this blog worth continuing this year.  Until the next, à très bientôt !

Christmas Macaron Tree & New Email Alert Service!

At last!  Many of you have been asking me to bring back the email alerts since I took it down due to spam problems. So here’s my Christmas present to you, thanks to Cédric Bonnard my web guru, who helped me get a brand new one up and running!  Now you need never miss a blog post – just click the pink email notification button in that right hand corner —>
or sign up here to receive updates to le blog or recipes – and you can choose whether to receive them daily or weekly!

It has all been a bit crazy the last few days.  I was so hoping to make a second bûche de Noël as, by the time I’d finished it, it was so dark and I gave up on photos and just enjoyed it with the family!  Now that we’re leaving for Corsica to spend time with Antoine’s family, there’s no time left. I shall be better organised for you next year, promise.

Merry christmas macaron tree

When I realised I had some egg whites left, I piped out a batch of 3 different sizes of pistachio macarons  (a bit quickly, I have to say) then simply sandwiched them with decadent layers of pistachio pastry cream (using egg yolks so now I have more egg whites I can freeze before I go!).

I made a big one for the photos here but simply 3 macaron layers are sufficient. If you want to be more organised, then ideally have the macaron shells prepared in advance (even stored in the freezer) and prepare the trees at the last minute. Decorate with berries of your choice.

All details about making macarons are in my first book, Mad About Macarons – but don’t forget that there’s a whole chapter on making macarons in my new book, Teatime in Paris, plus more recipes for éclairs, Réligieuses, Saint-Honorés, tarts, millefeuilles, financiers etc.

Merry Christmas Macaron tree

Don’t forget to dust on some food glitter – something which has stuck to my cell phone, as I quickly took photos of it for Instagram…  It’s catching!

Have a very Merry Christmas and good luck with all your delicious preparations.  Before I leave, I’ll post my new concoction – a great festive dessert to serve with your salted caramel macarons – Apple Gingerbread and Caramel Trifles, coming up next…

New Email Alert Service – Daily or Weekly

Don’t forget to sign up to the new e-mail alert service so that you don’t miss a post.  You can even choose whether to receive it as it comes (daily) or weekly!  How cool is that?

Kindle Edition of Mad About Macarons now on Amazon!

We’ve been so excited about Teatime in Paris, that Mad About Macarons has perhaps been the little brother around here recently. I say “brother”, as livre is masculine (in 23 years, I still haven’t got my head around genders in French – but that’s another story). But this is has been a real Mad About Macarons week.

If anything, macarons are stronger than ever and so it has been encouraging to see lovely messages circulating on Twitter. This week Becky of @Becksbake tried out the recipe for the first time from the book and was successful in making her pink macarons a super hit at her weekend dinner party. Thank you so much for all the feedback and tweeting your beautiful macaron feet, Becky! Now it’s up to the others (you know who you are ..) Please stop being so scared of attempting to make macarons, get the aprons on and get cracking the eggs …

successful macaron making twitter

Then another surprise came via email that Mad About Macarons has been featured as being highly innovative in the Presentation Innovation Chapter of an e-book, “Catalyzing Innovation” by Michelle Greenwald. She refers to the “interesting and unexpected” Bloody Mary macaron recipe from the book and their “whimsical presentation”. The e-book is sold through the iTunes store and is frequently updated with the latest innovations that are thought to be noteworthy and inspiring.
So, thank you, Professor!

mad about macarons bloody mary vodka-tomato

Finally, I am thrilled to announce that Waverley Books has released the Mad About Macarons Kindle Edition. I admit, I only bought my first e-book the other day and it was so easy. Now you can have the hardback and keep it free of kitchen spatters with the recipes also on your tablet.  That’s just my humble opinion: IMHO – another newbie I learned this week.

As they say on Amazon, start reading Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons Like the French on the Free Reading Kindle app or on your Kindle in under a minute.

Visiting The Good Life France

I am enjoying the good life in France, you could say.  Over twenty years in Paris and it just gets better: good food, good wine…. plus macarons! 

greedy stack of colourful Parisian macarons

This week, I’m also enjoying good company at the online travel magazine, The Good Life France who have featured a short interview plus other treats.  Join us for a cuppa and macaron chat in my favourite Parisian tearoom…

pistachio green tea and wasabi macaron recipe Mad About Macarons Jill Colonna

pistachio, green tea and wasabi macarons

It doesn’t just stop there: the piece also includes a review of the book, Mad About Macarons!

And for those of you who don’t yet have the book, The Good Life France includes a book excerpt featuring the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding macarons.

So, without further ado, let me click you over to The Good Life France for a dose of everything you want to know about France and more… I also hear they’re doing a Giveaway of the book shortly, so find out by signing up to their newsletter.

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Imagine my surprise back from holidays and seeing this last crate of blushing apricots just waiting to be pounced on. I thought the apricot season would be over but here they were, pride of place, looking up at me at the market with a sign announcing they were jam apricots. It didn’t take much convincing to make a batch of my all-time favourite apricot jam.

apricots for making jam

Blushing apricots: we’ve been picked for the next jamming session!

Buzzing merrily, bees are currently feasting on our lavender next to the back door. The aromas remind me of the heady lavender fields in Provence at this time of year.  My lucky daughters are seeing them soon enough when they stay with their French grandparents next week – there’s even a lavender distillery nearby.  As you can imagine, the girls are buzzing with excitement at the thought of hot, sticky days ahead of them.

When they return to school in September, they are all too familiar with the smell of lavender due to the occasional bout of nits (les poux!) that hit the primary school: by dabbing a drop of lavender oil behind their ears they smell of Provence but nits hate the ‘heady’ smell and leave my girlies alone.

A heady touch of lavender from the garden

I much prefer to use lavender from the garden to add a special touch to this apricot jam. It’s a real winter treat to open up a jar of golden sunshine and smother it on slices of brioche for breakfast. My girls have this theory that if they write the jam labels, they’re entitled to more of the jar’s contents.

As I prefer to use half the sugar of the classic recipe, the jam doesn’t last as long as the classic. In our house, this is never a problem as it’s is consumed pretty quickly on crêpes, waffles, warmed as a sauce on nougat ice cream, as a glaze or simply eaten by the spoon! The addition of butter is my mother-in-law’s little secret to avoid too much scum floating to the top during the jam-making process.

apricot lavender jam

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 8-10 hours
Cooking Time: approx. 1 hour

1 kg apricots, washed and cut in 2 (stones removed)
500g granulated sugar with added pectin (jam-making sugar)
juice of a lemon
2 fresh lavender flowers (or 2 tsps dried lavender in a tea infuser)
knob of butter

  1. Mix together the above ingredients (except the butter) in a large bowl and leave to infuse overnight or 8-10 hours.
  2. Remove the full lavender flowers or the tea strainer with the dried lavender.
  3. In a heavy high-sided pot (as I use induction heat, but traditionally – if you can – use a copper pot), bring the ingredients to a slow boil over a moderate heat for at least 45 minutes. Stir occasionally using a wooden spoon and add the knob of butter.
  4. Meanwhile, chill a saucer in the fridge to quicken the setting process.
  5. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes until thickened. Test the jam on the chilled saucer. If it wrinkles, it’s set. If not, then continue to boil the jam and try again.
  6. Pour into warmed, sterilised jars. Cover with a disc of waxed paper – or parchment paper – and when cooled, tightly close the lids.

Store in a cool place for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

apricot lavender jam

Plus it goes without saying (ça va sans dire – love that phrase!) that you could fill orange (or purple) shells to make apricot and lavender macarons. The beauty with macarons is that you can make any flavour of your imagination. Be inspired from the recipes in the book and add your own personal touch.  Here, I used the filling recipe on page 74 for the liquorice macarons, replacing the 30g of liquorice for the jam.

So here’s my gift to you for all your comments and support over the last few months. Merci beaucoup, my macaronivore friends! Help yourselves; they’re now at room temperature so perfect for eating.

Apricot-lavender macarons

How would you use this jam?  Have you tried it warmed and poured over candied fruit ice cream?

French Mushroom and Truffle Macarons of the Season

There has been a definite change in the air over the past 10 days around Paris.  The first sign of autumnal golden leaves are appearing. Slowly but surely.

first sign of Autumn trees

 

The sun has been shining but jings, the wind has had more of a mistral effect from the French South than anything else. When that strikes, a 20°C sunny day can feel like you’re in the north of Scotland. And I know what that feels like.

Mornings are becoming chilly; it’s time to put on that coat and admire the colourful scarves making their first fashionable autumnal appearances on the sidewalk. I’m not so sure it’s that fashionable: they’re covering up the first signs of a sore throat. The French always wear scarves to accompany throat infections. It’s vraiment cute.

wild mushrooms in the garden - not for eating

first mushroom in the garden – but not for eating!

When Jamie and Deeba posted the MacTweets Mac Attack #23 Challenge for September, it was something that brought back the warm to the cockles.  After 4 months of summer dilly-dallying, it was high time I joined in some seasonal fun.  The challenge was to celebrate the change of seasons through our passion de macarons.

giant tiramisu macarons with marsala figs

 

This past couple of weeks, we’ve been enjoying the brief period of French figs with a quick and easy fig tart and roasted marsala figs with giant coffee macarons and tiramisu cream.

 

Equinox last week seemed to have an affect on my baking habits this time, however…

… Which axis were my macarons headed for MacTweets?

mini mushroom and truffle macarons for the change of season

 

Pumpkins are gradually appearing but they are not quite there yet.  Right now the French markets are proudly displaying mountains of marvelous mushrooms in all shapes and sizes, to herald the start of Autumn.  Cepes, trompettes, pieds de mouton, girolles, champignons de Paris and chestnut mushrooms are displayed in all their glory.  We even discovered more (this time edible) mushrooms dans le jardin.

mushroom macarons growing in garden

 

Let’s take that one again…

from another angle…

Parisian macaron mushroom

A macaron mushroom!

You guessed right.  Well, I am officially Mad about Macarons, n’est-ce pas?  You are looking at cepes, chestnut mushroom and truffle macarons, inspired by the earth and its axis at this time of year en France.

I followed the same principle as the other savoury mad macs in the book regarding ratio of liquid and cornflour in the filling. I fried some chestnut and cepes mushrooms until they sweated off all their liquid and infused them into the cream, finally blitzing the whole lot and adding a dash of good quality truffle oil.  The chocolate dusting on the shells is 100% Belgian chocolate without any sugar. Don’t forget to dust the shells after airing, just before they go in the oven.

macarons mushroom out of oven

Et voilà.  I also added just a touch of cayenne in there to give it a kick. We all love macarons with feet but why not give a bit of a kick to them, too? 😉

They are great on their own served as an apéritif with hazelnuts and with a chilled white wine from the Jura, for example.  I tried this – especially as it’s the Foire aux Vins just now so need to taste if wines are any good or not before buying more – and they got the thumbs up. Or why not serve them along with some creamy mushroom soup? That certainly gets the conversation going at the dinner table.  In any case, you’ll find yourself on another axis when sharing this with friends.

mini mad mac mushroom

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom – make a mini mad mac

Thanks again to Jamie and Deeba of MacTweets for providing us macaronivores with yet another month of macaron inspiration!

Enjoy the new season!