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French Semolina Pudding Cake

I’ve had this packet of semolina sitting in the pantry just waiting to be transformed into a delicious family dessert. Truth be told, I’ve been meaning to make this Gâteau de Semoule for so long: it’s a baked French Semolina Pudding Cake topped with caramel.

Moreover, if you have some jam handy, just dribble over a few spoonfuls of warmed jam for the ultimate comfort pudding – more ideas below.

French Semolina Pudding Cake

French Inspiration

How many of us earmark a recipe book and put it aside thinking, “I must make that one day”…?  The time came this week when that pack of semolina jumped out at me as I was tidying out the pantry, taking stock of what we actually had.

Turning to page 283 of Bernard and Dominique Loiseau’s recipe book, ‘Cuisine en Famille‘, I always fancied the look of this Gâteau de Semoule – even if there are no pictures.

As stated in the book, there’s no need to make the caramel. Just dribble over some warmed  homemade jam or a fruit coulis.

Semolina Pudding

How many of you remember hot Semolina Pudding from the 1970s and 1980s? I have the fondest family memories of Mum and Dad serving this as one of our most comforting winter desserts, as my brother and I were growing up in Scotland.  We’d enjoy it scalding hot in large, purple-rimmed bowls with a blob of strawberry jam on top.

Sheer Bliss.

At this point in the recipe – before even adding the eggs – I leaned in for a taste. Semolina pudding; my Madeleine de Proust.

Even without that jam, I couldn’t help myself from taking a spoon, then another spoon, a larger spoon – until I had to stop to continue this recipe! Needless to say – at this point you could serve the semolina pudding just like this, without the rest of the recipe.

French Semolina Pudding Cake

So, to continue – I made it! Willpower can be tough.

NOTE: if you don’t have fresh milk, UHT milk is ideal – or any other nutty or oat milks of your choice. Likewise, no vanilla? Grate in the zest of an orange.

Just whisk together the sugar and 2 egg yolks until light and creamy then add to the hot, creamy semolina.

For Caramel Lovers

Meanwhile, caramel lovers prepare the bubbling caramel.  It’s rather therapeutic to watch it bubble for a few minutes until it turns beautifully brown and the smell wafts around the kitchen. Pour the caramel immediately into a non-stick cake mould of your choice.

I used a fluted brioche mould, turned upside down to resemble a large jelly mould. I can just imagine it as being the shape of a dessert that Alexandre Dumas would have created in his demure up the road from us in Port-Marly, at his residence of the Château de Monte Cristo.

Whisk up the egg whites, adding to the semolina then pour on top of the caramel and bake. Leave to cool then upturn the mould on to a serving plate.

How to Serve French Semolina Cake

French Semolina Cake Slice

French Semolina Cake is best served chilled or at room temperature.

Dessert Topping Ideas

Here are some ideas for toppings:

  • Top with fresh or tinned fruit and/or with a fruit coulis sauce. (The good news is that fruit coulis sauces have a long shelf life and so it’s handy to keep in store);
  • Warmed jam or marmalade of your choice;
  • Chilled Crème Anglaise, thin French custard sauce. See my recipe for a spiced Chai Tea Crème Anglaise sauce;
  • Fried apples in vanilla sugar and butter (thanks, Martyn!):
  • Roasted rhubarb: roast chunks in orange juice with a sprinkling of sugar in 180°C/160°C fan oven for 10 minutes;
  • Spoon over this refreshing rhubarb & hibiscus (or ginger) compote;
  • Antoine thinks this looks like a French ‘Flamby‘, so why not flambée with Grand Marnier and orange juice or rum? Let’s make a festive pudding out of it!

French-Semolina-Cake

 

French Semolina Pudding Cake

5 from 2 votes
French Semolina Pudding Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

Our family favourite adapted by the recipe by Bernard Loiseau: semolina pudding given a French cake makeover, topped with caramel and served with fruit coulis, fresh (or tinned) fruit or just a topping of warmed jam for the best comfort dessert

Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: French dessert, French recipes, pantry recipes, semolina pudding, semolina,
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 209 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 1 litre (1.75 pints) Milk (or your milk of choice)
  • 125 g (4.5oz) Semolina fine or medium
  • 1 vanilla pod/bean Cut horizontally (or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder/extract)
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 2 organic eggs (separated)
  • 110 g (4oz) sugar
Caramel
  • 150 g (5.5oz) sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
Instructions
Cook the Semolina:
  1. In a large saucepan, boil the milk with the vanilla pod or extract (plus orange blossom water, if using). Rain in the semolina and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened for about 10 minutes.

    If using a vanilla pod, remove it to scrape out the seeds and add them back into the milk (discard the rest of the pod)

  2. At this point the semolina pudding can be eaten hot with a spoonful of jam. However, to carry on with the recipe - in a large bowl, whisk together the 2 egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Add the hot semolina to this mixture and whisk or stir until well combined. Set aside to cool and stir now and again to prevent a skin forming.

Caramel:
  1. Meanwhile, prepare the caramel by placing the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once boiling, leave it to bubble without touching it and keep an eye on it for about 5 minutes. The caramel should turn brown and smell beautifully of caramel. Take it off the heat immediately and pour into the bottom of the mould.

Cook the Semolina Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6

  2. Whisk the egg whites separately in another bowl using either an electric hand whisk or stand mixer. Stir into the semolina mixture until well combined.

  3. Pour into the mould over the caramel and bake for 25-30 minutes, covered with aluminium. Leave to cool on the counter then upturn the mould on to a serving plate.

Recipe Notes

Serve either chilled or at room temperature with either a topping of fresh (or tinned) fruit, fruit coulis (sauce) or warmed jam of your choice. Also good with a chilled Crème Anglaise sauce. Perfect for dessert but also good for breakfast.

Alternatively, grate in the zest of an unwaxed orange or lemon to replace the vanilla, adding to the milk at the beginning of cooking.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

 

French Chocolate Passion Mousse with Nougatine

It happened last night.  Excitement set in as this French Chocolate Passion Mousse was a simple  experiment that worked.

It’s based on a classic French dark chocolate mousse with its particularity being that it uses NO CREAM. However – I didn’t have enough egg whites and so experimented by adding – PASSION FRUIT juice.

Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse

The result?

It lightened it up even further, the taste was sensational and so I was rather excited about it. Those of you that heard me on Instagram stories will agree that I sounded really excited.

Excited in the French Kitchen – Be Warned!

Just don’t tell the French. Mention that you’re ‘excité’ in French and oh-là-là – your friends will tell you to take a cold shower.  Being excited just doesn’t have the same meaning here.

In the early days on arriving in Paris, I apparently told a few friends and – even worse – Antoine’s family that I was excitée to see (rather ‘had the hots’ for) all the farmers coming to the market, showing off their organic produce.  It’s just as well I didn’t babble on about their radishes and carrots.

I’ve also had many hot flushes for macarons too. I still can’t help becoming excited.  It’s when these macaron feet form in the oven.

French chocolate passion mousse

Who took the spoon?

Just saying, “Ça m’excite” is even worse – and I know I’m not alone on that one.  The French don’t have a real equivalent of saying that they’re excited about something.  They are more likely to shrug their shoulders and say, ‘C’est cool‘, or ‘C’est chouette“. They don’t become as bubbly and enthusiastic as we do – in fact, it’s seen as slightly childlike.

I don’t care any more. I’ll forever be a bubbly-sounding kid, excited in the kitchen.

So, when there’s a jam jar filled with leftover egg whites from the ever-growing egg yolk recipe collection, I still become excited. Either I could make a batch of homemade macarons – or I could make this light and fluffy French chocolate mousse – now with passion in it!

For Nutty Caramel Lovers

For nutty caramel lovers, I added a rather addictive Almond-Pistachio Nougatine. All because it’s February. Amour, love, chocolate, caramel and passion is in the air!

It’s based on this easy nougatine recipe, inspired by the famous Parisian rice pudding topping of chef Stéphane Jégo of l’Ami Jean restaurant in the 7th. I encourage you to try it – and if you can’t finish it all, ask for the famous Riz au Lait Doggy Bag!

This version is so quick and easy to make.  Unlike the original that uses 4 different kinds of nuts, I’ve cut it to my 2 favourites: almonds and pistachios, use just organic cane sugar and good, French President butter.

French Chocolate Passion Mousse & Nougatine

French chocolate passion mousse recipe

Join me here on Pinterest!

French chocolate passion mousse

 

5 from 6 votes
Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse
French Chocolate Passion Mousse & Almond-Pistachio Nougatine
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Chilling Time
1 hr 30 mins
 

The lightest French dark chocolate mousse with no cream but the juice of 2 passion fruits - served with the nuttiest caramel: an almond and pistachio nougatine

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: chocolate passion fruit, French chocolate mousse, gluten free desserts, no-cream chocolate mousse
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 205 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
French Dark Chocolate Mousse
  • 170 g (6oz) dark chocolate (I use 72% cacao - use only good quality)
  • 15 g (0.5oz) unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten)
  • 210 g (7.5oz) egg whites (from 6 organic eggs)
  • 30 g (1oz) caster sugar
  • 2 passion fruits juice sieved off, seeds removed
  • 1 egg yolk
Almond-Pistachio Nougatine (Optional)
  • 140 g (5oz) slivered almonds
  • 100 g (3.5oz) unsalted pistachios
  • 50 g (1.75oz) butter unsalted
  • 140 g (5oz) organic light brown cane sugar
Instructions
Dark Chocolate Mousse
  1. Melt the chocolate and cocoa powder together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water ('bain-marie'), taking care not to overcook the chocolate (don't have the water at a rolling boil; simmer gently). As soon as the chocolate is easy to stir, switch off the heat and stir until smooth, keeping the bowl over the pan to keep warm.

  2. Meanwhile, sieve out the seeds from the passion fruits. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites (using a stand mixer or electric beaters) with the sugar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the passion fruit juice to the whites then the egg yolk and continue to whip until firm.

  3. Fold the chocolate into the whites using a spatula.

  4. Divide the mousse into 6 serving dishes and chill for at least an hour.

Almond-Pistachio Nougatine (Optional)
  1. Place the nuts in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet and lightly toast them under a hot grill for a couple of minutes. Keep your eye on them and don’t move away from the grill, as this happens quickly and you do NOT want them to burn (any burning will make the nuts bitter).  Toasting them lightly brings out their natural flavour. When toasted, set them aside to cool.

  2. In a heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat. As soon as it’s melted, add the sugar. Using a wooden spoon, initially stir the sugar and butter together, then wait about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to form a  liquid and a caramel forms.  As soon as this happens, stir until smooth and it’s light brown (not dark brown, otherwise bitter), add all the nuts.

  3. Stir in the nuts until they’re all well covered and sticky in the caramel. Turn out immediately on to a patisserie mat (Silpat) or directly on to a clean, marble surface.

  4. Leave to cool on the counter for about 10 minutes or until the caramel hardens. Store in an airtight tin or jam jar and eat within a month.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is gluten free.  Serve with chocolate or exotic fruit macarons (see recipes in either of my books), top with the nougatine or serve with extra passion fruit. The mousse can be made in advance, chilled overnight and is excellent served next day.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk

Lately I’ve had visitors to Paris asking if I still lead my mad chocolate and pastry food tours in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Alas I don’t but, to make up for it, I have created this self-guided walk around my favourite less-touristy parts of Paris’s artistic hilltop village. Welcome to this Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk!

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk kisses

This walk came about when my French girlfriends came up north for our annual girls’ weekend and, as we had so much fun previously exploring chocolate and pastries in Saint-Germain, I surprised them by preparing my new Montmartre chocolate pastry walk – around the more hidden side of Paris’s most famous village.

It wasn’t completely a chocolate and pastry ‘tour’ as such, but more of a day-long, meandering walk while munching on chocolate, pastries and macarons along the way. We added a simple Amélie-style lunch, drinks then a historic dinner – where we could feel Toulouse-Lautrec keeping a more low-profiled, spectacled eye on us, as we checked out the absinthe being poured at the next table, comme à l’époque.

Montmartre café autumn

As you can imagine, I can’t possibly mention everything to do here, but it hopefully gives you an idea that there is more to Montmartre than Sacré Coeur and Place de Tertre, much as they’re special.

Are you ready? Take a seat and on y va!

Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk

Montmartre walk from metro Blanche

My self-guided Montmartre chocolate pastry walk starts at Metro Blanche, with Hector Guimard’s familiar Art Nouveau entrance. As Montmartre’s hill (‘la butte’) is 130m and boasts 38 staircases, we want a minimum to climb so this is a good starting point.

Chocolate Haven in Pigalle

For an immediate dose of chocolate endorphins, head to 30 rue Fontaine, a bit south of Place Pigalle, À l’Etoile d’Or. See my separate post on a visit to the pigtailed chocolate goddess, Denise Acabo’s boutique.

Did you know that just above the shop was one of 3 apartments where Toulouse-Lautrec lived on the same street? He also lived at N°19bis, where Degas had his workshop – although didn’t get the chance to exchange with the more illustrious artist at the time. Can you imagine being une mouche on the wall, witnessing them crossing on the staircase?

LEtoile D'or Denise Acabo Paris

Calling Henri to come down for a chocolate break?

Stock up on a bag of chocolate Sauternes-soaked raisins, and head to the Cemetery of Montmartre, passing the iconic cabaret, Le Moulin Rouge, which celebrated its 130th birthday (1889) this year.

Montmartre cemetery entrance on avenue Rachel

Entrance to the beautiful Montmartre Cemetery is via avenue Rachel. Grab a reference map by the door on the left, as there are many avenues to negotiate to find your favourite personalities. Ours included Michel Berger & France Gall, Emile Zola, Offenbach, Berlioz, Degas, Dalida, Sacha Guitry (he’s right there at the entrance with a funny greeting) and Louise Weber, known as La Goulue, creator of the French Cancan.

Montmartre cemetery fall

Rue Lepic: Music, Film and FOOD!

The 18th arrondissement of Montmartre beckons with a walk up Rue Lepic. Queue many film soundtracks from here, one of my favourites being ‘Les Ripoux’ (1984) starring Philippe Noiret and Thierry Lhermitte. Spellbinding accordian waltzes from Yann Tiersen came in 2001 with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film, ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain‘ (aka Amelie, played by Audrey Tautou).

For a treat, I sometimes book lunch at Amelie’s Café des 2 Moulins (referring to the 2 remaining windmills). Normally during the day it’s bustling, with 2CV cars stopping by so I managed to snap it later during a rare, tranquil moment!

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Amelie brasserie

Stopping for a drink here can be pricey but a no-fuss brasserie-style lunch is great, soaking in the ambience by the familiar zinc bar. We could have gone for Amélie’s favourite crème brûlée, cracking into the caramel layer with the back of a spoon. However, with so many places still to see and treats to try, we kept space for the rest like good French girls. Although they also make a savoury foie gras crème brûlée – for next time!

Montmartre Amelie Poulain

Montmartre’s Tempting Tarts

You’ll find many people at both windows – à faire du lèche-vitrine – literal window-licking at Les Petits Mitrons, also on rue Lepic. This family-run artisanal bakery is The Montmartre address for les tartes, churning out the most delicious seasonal vegetable or thinly caramel-crusted fresh fruit tarts.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk

My ‘radishing’ girlfriends couldn’t decide the best and I’m still tasting to find out – although the plum and apple tarts are rather exquisite in Autumn.

That wasn’t me holding radishes for a wee snack: there’s a small market by the side of the street, just in case there’s not enough food already from the boucher, poissonier and fromagerie to choose from here!

French Family Chocolate & Confectionary

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Mere de Famille

Across the street is À la Mère de Famille, is known as Paris’ oldest chocolate shop. The first green and gold-facade shop opened as a grocery in rue du Faubourg-Montmartre in 1761 (I strongly recommend you visit the original, which is classed a historical monument with wooden counter and rows of confectionary jars).

Today the family has an impressive chain of a dozen more chocolate-confectionary boutiques around Paris, all reminiscent of la Belle Epoque. Fans of chocolate orange will love their different orangettes plus calissons: losange-shaped, mouth-sized iced marzipans from Provence.

Where Korea Meets French Savoir-Faire

Turn right onto rue des Abbesses then first left on rue Tholozé for Chocolat Illèné.
Since 2015, Koreans Hyunsoo Ahn and Hyejin Cho both set up shop here after a star-studded chocolate-pastry career in Paris. While Hyunsoo was being trained by chocolatiers Michel Chaudun and Patrice Chapon, Hyejin was learning from pastry chefs Christophe Adam at Fauchon and Camille Lesecq at le Meurice.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk macaron tower

Don’t be shocked by this macaron tower. It’s a mix of the smooth Parisian gerbet macarons and deliberately cracked, old-fashioned macarons à l’ancienne which are simply melt-in-the-mouth gluten-free almond deliciousness. (I’ve written an article for more on the different kinds of French macarons.)

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk illené

Choose from seasonal flavours or the favourites at all times of year: pistachio, caramel, sesame, black sesame and soya milk. I was most intrigued by l’Armoise. Yes, you can even taste a MUGWORT herbal macaron, which I believe should have a more scrumptious name in English, don’t you?

Their signature chocolate, l’Illené, with timut pepper ganache and Korean candied plum demonstrates their art of blending Korean culture with French savoir-faire.

Montmartrois Humour

Although we could continue and see the many interesting cafés, bars, brasseries, boulangeries (Grenier à Pain) cheese shops, ice cream shops (Une Glace à Paris, Emmanuel Ryon MOF is a must), etc. on rue des Abbesses, turn back towards rue Lepic, as we’re going to follow it around uphill, now that we need to a break from eating and discover the rest of Montmartre’s ‘butte’!

Montmartre chocolate pastry macaron walk

First, some typical Montmartrois’ quirky humour. You’ll spot artistic graffiti with their play on words on many corners and alleys (I loved ‘Gilles est jaune’, sounds like my name Jill in French, Cheeeele, Giles is yellow – referring to the Gilets Jaunes yellow vests) but this one is a cracker, referring to the difference between Macaron vs Macaroon.

The Hunchback of Montmartre

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk teacakes

While we’re here, La Bossue is a cosy address on the corner of rue Lepic for weekend brunch (reservations essential), also lunches or for tea and cake. Thanks to my bubbly local friend, Lily Heise, we nibbled on the most delectable homemade gluten-free financiers and I immediately added this gem to my on-growing list of favourite Parisian tearooms. Lily is the author of 2 Parisian romance novels and her blog includes the most romantic places to visit in Paris.

Montmartre Van Gogh appartment

Just opposite, continuing on Rue Lepic at N°54 is a blue door that, paradoxically, always looks like it needs a paint! It’s where Vincent Van Gogh stayed with his brother, Theo (1886-88) before he moved south.

Bold, Buttery Boulangerie

Continue gently up the hill here by just one block, turn left on rue Tourleque and check out the bold and buttery viennoiseries (croissants, pains au chocolat, pain aux raisins…) from artisan boulanger, Gontran Cherrier.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Cherrier
Try his naughty Kouign Amann: Breton for butter cake (if you love these, try also Georges Larnicol‘s ‘Kouignettes’ on rue Steinkerque, which earned him Meilleur Ouvrier de France, MOF). Gontran Cherrier also makes curry and squid ink baguettes and buns, if you fancy something that bit deliciously different. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s workshop is just across the road (corner of rue Tourleque/rue Caulinacourt).

Incidentally, further up rue Caulinacourt, is another MOF, Arnaud Lahrer. Try his macarons or his speciality, Le Pavé de Montmartre, a sumptuous, moist biscuit of almonds and marzipan. For the sake of this walk, however, let’s stick to our path.

Montmartre’s Windmills

Montmartre madeleines

Returning up the winding hill of rue Lepic, follow it around until it stops at the Moulin Radet (built in 1717), now the restaurant of Le Moulin de la Galette. A windmill site for centuries, this one turned into a dancing club which inspired Renoir’s Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette (Musée d’Orsay), also immortilised by Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Utrillo. The other remaining windmill, Le Blute Fin (1622), is behind this but now private.
Where did I get this lemon madeleine? Patience – it’s coming.

Montmartre man in wall sculpture

Turn left onto rue Girardon and then right on rue Norvins passing Place Marcel Aymé, dedicated to the local writer who lived here and wrote The Passer Through Walls (Le Passe-Muraille). Actor Jean Marais immortalised the sad tale with this sculpture (1989).

If you plan on seeing Place du Tertre, continue along the busier half of rue Norvins. While there, pop into the Biscuiterie de Montmartre – otherwise I recommend taking the other oldest parallel street in Montmartre, rue Saint Rustique.

Oldest Streets in Montmartre

Montmartre restaurant la Bonne Franquette

La Bonne Franquette (playing on a French expression meaning unfussy, simple food) has been a legendary restaurant with the Montmartrois. Regulars such as Degas, Renoir, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec all loved to love, eat, drink and sing here.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk cabaret

Turn left onto rue du Mont Cenis. At N°13 stood the Cabaret Patachou, now an art gallery. Go in to the foyer and feel the echos of Edith Piaf’s last public performance. It’s also where Brassens, Brel and Charles Aznavour started out.

Montmartre’s Oldest House

Turn left onto Rue Cortot, looking right to N°6 where composer Erik Satie (known for his piano Gymnopédies) lived for 8 years. As I discovered at the Satie Museum in Honfleur, he had an oh-là-là wee affair with painter Suzanne Valadon a couple of doors down at 17th century La Maison du Bel Air, the oldest house in Montmartre – now the Montmartre Museum.Montmartre chocolate pastry walk rue Cortot

If you have time, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Montmartre Museum plus a drink in the Renoir Gardens (see my article on the Café Renoir), where you can see the famous swing immortalised by the painter, who also lived there.

On the crossroads of rue de l’Abrevoir and rue des Saules is La Maison Rose. It’s a restaurant-café made famous by Utrillo’s paintings (son of Suzanne Valadon) and where Charles Aznavour enjoyed many after-song drinks on la Butte. Lucky for us it was renovated in 2017.

Montmartre’s Vineyard

It’s hard to believe you’re in Montmartre at this point: right on rue des Saules, discover the last vineyard in Paris, le Clos de Montmartre, at the back of the Musée de Montmartre.

The annual Fête des Vendanges is quite an event since 1934 every second Saturday of October – see my wine harvest festival article for a wee online taste.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk vineyards

Gill’s Red-Scarfed French Rabbit

I’m aware we’re further away from the chocolate and pastries in Montmartre, but you can’t come here without seeing just the next corner – and the next. The Cabaret, Au Lapin Agile was frequented by many artists and authors. In the 1880s the owner of the former “Assassins’ Cabaret” asked the caricaturist, André Gill (pronounce that ‘cheel’ again), to paint a logo. He produced a rabbit wearing a red scarf and green hat, avoiding being cooked in a pan while balancing a wine bottle on his paw. The locals called it ‘Le Lapin de Gill‘ and the name transformed – just-like-that!

The story goes that Picasso lunched regularly here and paid with his unsigned drawings. When the owner asked why they were never signed, Picasso wasn’t popular afterwards when he retorted, “I just want to buy lunch, not the restaurant!”

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Lapin Agile

Fall for Autumn in Montmartre

Turn left onto rue Saint-Vincent, especially in Autumn. It’s also where the last scene of Amélie is filmed.

Montmartre chocolate pastry macaron walk

Then a macaron comes into view and the eyes go blurry.

That’s a sign of a true macaron-ivore. For the macaron recipe, tips and how to control Parisian macaronivore symptoms, see my book Mad About Macarons.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk macaron

Macarons? Jings, we’ve walked so much it’s time to head back down la Butte de Montmartre for more chocolate, cakes and macarons. This is Christophe Roussel’s melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake macaron.

Moreover, just for the raspberry-coloured autumnal ivy treat, we’ll have to walk UP a flight of steps on the left – the only one going up on this walk (not bad). I’ve saved you a Petite Butte de Montmartre pistachio chocolate – finally coming below at Christophe Roussel, our last stop on this Montmartre chocolate pastry walk.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Butte

A post-chocolate sprint up the steps and Place Dalida awaits with a statue in memory of the famous French-Egyptian singer. I’ll leave you with the surprise to see what the locals do – to either keep their hands warm or carry on a warming tradition!

Look up at rue l’Abrevoir. We’re nearly there and it’s all downhill now. Next stop: the French’s favourite hunchbacked cake, baked by Gilles Marchal.

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour madeleine

Ahead in Montmartre with Saint-Denis

Montmartre walk autumn fall

Walking straight on rue Girardon is the entrance to Square Suzanne Buisson. Come here in November and this tranquil public garden is alive with chrysanthemums, symbol of immortality following Toussaint’s 1 November French tradition.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk St Denis

Here the statue of the first bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, is holding his own head. Decapitated in Montmartre in 250AD, legend has it that when he dropped dead, his head rolled down the hill to the spot that became the famous royal Abbey and Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Exiting onto Avenue Junot with a view of the second Blute Fin windmill, rows of stunning private villas continue down to the cul-de-sac of Villa Léandre. Here is home to celebrities, fluffy watchful cats and a pianist who often practises if you’re lucky to catch the sounds with a window open. Back DOWN rue Girardon, walk past singer Dalida’s mansion house on rue d’Orchampt until Le Bateau Lavoir on Place Emile Goudeais, which was home to Picasso and Modigliani and the birth of cubism.

Montmartre Madeleine Moments

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour Gilles Marchal

On the corner of rue Ravignan, you’ll find the delights of Pastry chef, Gilles Marchal. Also from Lorraine, like the scalloped madeleine cake made famous by Marcel Proust, try his speciality: fresh madeleines. Choose from his classic salted caramel, chocolate, orange, Sicilian pistachio – or even nature.

For Autumn, Monsieur l’écureuil‘s (squirrel) praline is a cracker and I personally love the glazed lemon madeleine. If you’re lucky, he may have some truffle madeleines warm from the oven. His pastries are also divine – try the pear and almond tart (like the Bourdaloue tart), les mille-feuilles and éclairs.

Metro Abbesses, the Deepest in Paris

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk abbesses chestnuts

Continue downhill on rue Ravignan and turn left onto Place des Abbesses. Wafts of roasted chestnuts are at the famous Art Nouveau metro entrance, signalling Autumn and Winter in Paris. Pick this metro as your Montmartre starting point and either take the lift or be prepared to climb 181 steps. It’s the deepest metro station in Paris (36m underground). Mind you, the climb is interesting, as 7 artworks of Montmartre were added after its renovation in 2007.

Behind in Place Jean Rictus is wall fresco by Frédéric Baron saying “I love you” in 311 languages. Queue these chocolate kisses from our next and last stop! Walk down rue des Trois Frères, stopping en route at N°56 to see ‘Collignon’s’ grocery from Amelie, then turn left on rue Tardieu.

Montmartre’s Exclusive ‘Butte’ Chocolates

Location is spot on here. Imagine tantalising us with a chocolate and macaron boutique right in front of a flight of 222 steps, next to the Funiculaire (price of a metro ticket) up to Sacré Coeur? If you prefer to start your walk here from Anvers or Abbesses metro, then ensure that you stop for a chocolat chaud and stock up your goodie bag first from Christophe Roussel Duo Avec Julie in Rue Tardieu.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Christophe Roussel

Christophe Roussel is The veritable chocolate and pastry star from La Baule and along France’s north-west coast. Thankfully for us chocolate and macaron fans, he recently opened this Paris boutique with his wife, Julie (read my introduction here).

Sensitive to environmental and social practices, Christophe has chosen his exclusive, signature chocolate as pure origin Bahiana® from Brazil. All dark chocolates and pralines are rich and intense, with 65% cacao – my personal favourites? Taste his crispy raspberry ‘Kisses From’, Tokyo Sésame Pralines, petites buttes de Montmartre range and chunky Electro’chocs – all Oh-là-là divine.

As I say in my recipe book, Teatime in Paris – Christophe is one of the most genuine, talented yet fun-loving pastry chefs I know. I’m also extremely proud and flattered to have been twice (they even asked the clown-girl back?) on such a prestigious French jury for his annual Amateur Pastry Competition in la Baule – the latest challenge was end June 2019. Pop in for a taste of this high-end yet convivial French pastry-making Roussel challenge. Who knows, perhaps you could give it a go next year?

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour buttes chocolates

Don’t leave without trying Christophe Roussel’s ‘Petites Buttes de Montmartre’. These little chocolate hills of heaven are produced ONLY for the boutique in Montmartre. One of my favourites is a milk chocolate coconut praline with sparkling candy (sucre pétillant). Your mouth is guaranteed to fizz and turn like the carrousel with Sacré Coeur looking on.

For me, it’s the final flurry of fireworks to end this Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk.

montmartre bars

Absinthe-Minded in Montmartre

If you’re looking for some authenticity for dinner, Montmartre’s oldest restaurant, Le Bon Bock on rue Dancourt still has original decor from 1879. If it wasn’t for clients’ clothes and mobile ‘phones, one could really imagine being transported to la Belle Époque, even if it’s not even Midnight in Paris!

This is one of the rare establishments left that still serves Absinthe as it was done during the time of Toulouse-Lautrec. Here is information donated types of games like apps and see online friv games, which are played on devices and gadgets, such as laptops, mobile phones and others. Many of these games can be found on various websites and some of them are free. Call me a wimp but I prefer to look on others trying it out. Instead, I stuck with bubbling Mamie’s Gratinée à l’oignon and poulet fermier with Camembert. Somehow, after all the treats we had, I just couldn’t manage dessert.

I wonder why?

Montmartre traditional Absinthe bottles

Montmartre Guided Walking Tours

This is a whirlwind online walk and I can’t possibly mention everything I’d normally ramble on about in person. The best way to really do Montmartre is with a guided tour. See my list of recommended Paris Food Tours.
For more information, consult the Official Tourism Office of Montmartre.
They also have a wonderful “Discover Montmartre” map and fliers on the village’s history and what’s on.

Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk Tips

  • Even off-season, Montmartre is busy – especially around Sacré-Coeur, Place de Tertre and the metro stations. PLEASE be careful of pickpockets.
  • Montmartre is on a rather steep hill, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk a lot;
  • Bring water with you, especially if you plan to enjoy a lot of chocolate – regardless of the weather;
  • I recommend these addresses and specialities for this Montmartre chocolate pastry walk – don’t forget to pace yourself and do try to keep some aside for later;
  • To really enjoy Montmartre to its fullest, please allow a whole day – or at least an afternoon – for the walk.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk kisses

 

Disclaimer: None of the addresses or recommendations in this post are sponsored. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

Saint-Germain Almond Cake

If you haven’t yet tried the Saint-Germain almond cake, then you’ll probably go nuts after tasting this.

Saint-Germain almond cake

Known simply as le Saint-Germain, this almond-packed cake with a subtle hint of rum was created in 1920 by the Pâtisserie Hardy in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

As you can imagine, I’ve tried all sorts of ways to be able to extract the recipe from the patisserie’s creators on rue des Louviers. Each time, however, it’s made clear that the secret recipe has never left the laboratory since it was created in 1920.  So, what’s a girl to do?

The answer? Taste as many Saint-Germain cakes as possible and develop as close to the recipe myself to share a part of our delicious royal town, so that you can transport a bit of the Parisian life to your own kitchen, wherever you may be.

Le Saint Germain

Le Saint-Germain Cake Versions

In Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Le Saint-Germain almond cake is available also at the Patisserie Grandin in rue au Pain. While both versions are full of almonds and clearly have some bits of almonds in there too (not just powdered), Grandin’s version is laced a lot more with rum. In fact, it’s pretty boozy!

Not everyone loves rum but if you’re like our family, we love it and a good splash in the glaze is great. Add another tablespoon in the almond filling just for that extra oh-là-là kick.

Saint-Germain Cake

With or Without the Pastry Base

When I first tasted le Saint-Germain almond cake made by a French neighbour, she didn’t serve the cake at all using sweet pastry like the patisserie versions: it was without the the tart shell and served as a plain – and gluten-free – cake. If you prefer this, it’s just as good on its own, although I’m adding the tart base just to keep the recipe more authentic – even if it’s not from Hardy’s secret laboratory!

After painstaking tasting sessions with Lucie, however, I’m happy with the result as it tastes just as good.

Saint Germain Cake

Saint-Germain Almond Cake

Just like macarons, once you’ve made this try and forget about it for 24 hours as it tastes so much better after leaving it aside for a day to mature.  Believe me, after being greedy and trying it too soon, it really is worth the wait.  Try it for yourself and taste the difference.

More on Saint-Germain-en-Laye

For your own DIY tours, see my posts on Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s rooftop castle visit, a chocolate and pastry teatime walk, and find out other speciality recipes that were created here, including the Sauce Béarnaise.

Saint Germain Cake

 

5 from 2 votes
Saint-Germain almond cake
Saint-Germain Almond Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Resting Time
16 hrs 40 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Known as Le Saint-Germain, this almond and rum cake sits in a pastry shell and tastes even better the next day.  Made with ground almonds and a hint of rum, it's an easy recipe which is also served by locals without the tart base, making it a gluten free cake.

Course: Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: French
Keyword: almond rum cake, Easy almond tart recipes, Saint Germain almond cake, Saint-Germain
Servings: 8
Calories: 260 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Sweet Pastry Base:
  • 125 g (4.5oz) butter (unsalted) softened
  • 75 g (3oz) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1 egg (organic)
  • 250 g (9oz) plain flour (all-purpose)
Almond Filling:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 75 g (3oz) sugar
  • 2 eggs (organic) at room temperature
  • 100 g (3.5oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 1 tbsp good quality rum optional
  • 25 g (1oz) slivered almonds
Glaze:
  • 4 tbsp icing (powdered) sugar
  • 2 tbsp good quality rum
Instructions
Sweet Pastry (this part is optional):
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4/360°F.

  2. Beat the butter, sugar and salt together in a mixer or by hand until pale and creamy. Gradually add the other ingredients until well combined then split the dough in two, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour. (You won't need all of this dough - you can freeze the rest or keep it for up to 3 days.)

  3. Remove from the fridge until easily workable. Roll out the pastry to 3-4mm thickness on a floured surface then press into a 24cm (9") tart ring or into a pie case. Leave to set in the fridge for 20 minutes then blind bake by topping with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. (For a more detailed step-by-step recipe, see my chapter on tarts in 'Teatime in Paris'.) Set aside to cool on a wire rack once turned out.

Almond Filling:
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the eggs, ground almonds and rum if using.  Sprinkle the slivered almonds on the base of the baked pastry base then spread on the almond filling.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Set aside to cool then chill for 24 hours or overnight. 

Glaze:
  1. Mix together the icing (powdered) sugar with the rum and spread the glaze on to the cooled almond tart. 

Recipe Notes

Set aside in the fridge for 24 hours to mature and serve at room temperature to appreciate all of the flavours. Decorate with red fruits.

Note: Some local friends make this without the tart base and it's just as good, even if not an authentic Saint-Germain cake.  If making this without the sweet pastry base, add another egg to the almond filling.

Nutritional Information: 240 Calories per serving; 6g protein.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

10 Reasons to Visit Honfleur, Normandy

It doesn’t take long to discover why Honfleur is in France’s top 5 of tourist destinations. With only 2 hours’ drive from Paris, I have enjoyed much testing – and tasting – my way around Normandy’s most charming French coastal town to present at least 10 reasons to visit Honfleur. 

Ten reasons to visit Honfleur

Our most recent stay in Honfleur was for 6 days to sample as many restaurants for you, visit the local museums, walk and discover interesting landmarks, the organic market and soak up the wonderful general ambience of France’s historical and pretty port nestled on the Seine’s Estuary before it opens up to the English Channel.

10 Reasons to Visit Honfleur

So, what is there to do in Honfleur? What is Honfleur famous for? Find out in my 10 reasons to visit Honfleur and what makes it such a special, popular getaway in Normandy.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Honfleur’s Old Harbour (Vieux Bassin)

This is the first spectacle that hits you in Honfleur. The Vieux Bassin, or inner harbour, is the heart of the medieval town that has attracted writers, musicians, and painters over the centuries. Listen to the hypnotic bells vying with the tinkling yachts from the nearby churches and at the end of the harbour, is the 17th-century watch-tower, the Lieutenance.  It was here that Samuel de Champlain set sail from Honfleur in 1608 to colonise Canada and led to Quebec’s foundation.

Dotted with bright, colourful clinking boats and lined with bustling restaurants, seafood bars, cafés and art galleries, it’s an ever-changing mix of quietly humming weekly fishing haven to a weekend and holiday cacophany of happy tourists meandering along the port, watching the world go by while artists seated quietly behind easels squiggle their brushes to capture the varying scenes and ambience.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Honfleur’s Fresh Fish and Seafood

A giant pot of steaming moules (mussels) sums up the fresh seafood and fish that’s caught daily in Honfleur. We often see bikers whizz up the autoroute from Paris just for their Sunday lunch plate of oysters or mussels sold on the harbour.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur, Normandy

Old Town

The old town is what makes Honfleur so particularly charmant and so French. Its quaint narrow streets and pretty cobbled squares are crammed with half-timbered houses, juxtaposed with wooden and slate houses, many on 7 floors. Don’t forget to look up, as you may see plaques indicating famous birthplaces (Eugène Boudin, Erik Satie, Alphonse Allais…).

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

10 reasons to visit Honfleur, Normandy

Honfleur’s Beautiful Churches

St Catherine’s Church dates back to the 15th century. Constructed by local ship-builders, it’s primarily made of wood and resembles an upturned ship’s hull. St Catherine’s tower is separate across the square and houses the bells.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

St. Leonard’s Church – With its 15th century portal, just a step inside reveals two spectacular fonts made out of natural seashells, with gigantic oyster shells crowning them (my photo wasn’t good enough here).

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Notre Dame de Grace (Our Lady of Grace) – this chapel is in the heights of Honfleur and is accessible by a short, steep climb (really recommend the walk) or easily reached by car to Le Mont-Joli. I can’t recommend this highly enough – especially out of peak season to appreciate its special tranquility. Inside, boats and relics high on the ceiling and thanksgiving plaques by the Honfleurais and pilgrims can make this a rather personal experience. Every 15 minutes, the impressive external bells ring and on the hour, don’t miss the bells playing Bizet’s Carmen from l’Arlésienne.

It’s also here that the last king of the French, Louis-Philippe and his wife, Marie-Amélie, spent their last days in France before leaving for England.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Pont de Normandie

From the Mont-Joli next to the Chapel of Notre Dame de Grace, is a fabulous view of the River Seine’s Estuary and the Pont de Normandie – 2.14 kilometres across the Seine from Honfleur to Le Havre. Opened in 1995, the Normandy Bridge is the largest  cable-stayed bridge in the world. It’s a motorway toll bridge but for walkers and cyclists it’s free, with a footpath. Check out the monument just at this panoramic viewpoint: it glorifies Notre Dame de Grace for sparing Honfleur during the 1944 Battle of Normandy.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Honfleur’s Museums

With Honfleur being the birth-town of major artists such as Eugène Boudin (who inspired Claude Monet) and Erik Satie, it’s great to delve deeper and discover more about them and other artists and writers (Alphonse Allais) that worked here. Feel the history of the Honfleurais of its fishing, maritime world and way of life over the centuries. We purchased a reduced-priced collective ticket for the following 4 museums (except the separate salt lofts):

  • The Eugène-Boudin museum is above all devoted to art about Honfleur, daily Norman life in the 18-19th Centuries,  the estuary and showcases nearly a hundred works by Eugène Boudin – known as the painter of the sky and sea, who influenced Claude Monet – among others. I particularly loved discovering artists such as Adrien Voisard-Margerie with his painting of Toulouse-Lautrec and his model. Also featured are 20th Century artists (Dufy, Villon) who worked in the region and more recent works from Denis River, who was also born in Honfleur in 1945.
  • On entry to The Satie Houses – Erik Satie’s birthplace in 1866 – we’re told that it’s not a museum as such; instead a whimsical discovery through sound, light, images and objects to appreciate the musician and composer’s eccentric character. Via movement-sensitive audiophones (tour is also in English), listen to his life and anecdotes to the sound of the Gymnopédies, Gnossiènes or the Morceaux en forme de poire. The final theatrical show is, alas, only in French but you can appreciate the character of Satie, including one-page works that were written, for example, when he hadn’t had breakfast yet and was about to venture out from his home in Montmartre (rue Cortot).
  • Musée de la Marine is about the history of the port, housing a collection of model ships and marine artefacts on just one floor in St Stephen’s Church (the oldest church in Honfleur), on the old harbour. It is paired with the Ethnographical and Popular Arts Museum around the corner – presenting the inside of ten 16th-century Normandy dwellings.
  • Greniers de Sel (Salt Lofts) salt lofts, 17C buildings made of stone and covered with tiles. These lofts were built under the salt tax agreement to store 10,000 tons of salt needed by the cod fishing boats to preserve the fish.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur Normandy

Honfleur’s Markets

In St Catherine’s quarter, under the shadow of St Catherine’s Bell Tower, is the local farmers’ organic market on Wednesday mornings. Here you’ll regularly find an abundance of locally harvested watercress (to see how it’s grown, see my post from Veules-les-Roses, including a recipe for French watercress soup.)

The main market is on Saturday mornings, with fruits and vegetables, other Normandy local specialities such as Cider,  Calvados and cheeses (such as Pont l’Evèque, just down the road), plus plenty of fish and seafood. Head to Place Arthur Boudin for the flower market and for clothes, accessories and souvenirs, you’ll find them at the Cours des Fossés et Rue de la Ville.

Arriving in Honfleur on non-market days is not a problem, as shopping is also great for local produce to quaint antique shops. Try the Crottes de Mouettes (seagull droppings!), morsels of chocolate and caramel.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Honfleur’s Restaurants

Whether it’s fine dining in any of the numerous Michelin-listed addresses, enjoying a plate of oysters or mussels by the harbour, or a good quality traditional Normandy crêpe, there’s something for all budgets and tastes in Honfleur. Here is my personal list of favourites. Note that during January and February, many restaurants close for their annual holidays (I loved the humour in one window – although closed it finished off saying “sending salty iodine kisses”).

  • La Fleur de Sel – Chef Vincent Guyon sets the bar high with gastronomic dishes at great value. Ensure to book, as this small gem has already been discovered. Perhaps my favourite.
  • SaQuaNa – Chef Alexandre Bourdas shows just why he received 2 Michelin Stars. Just watch opening times, as when we were there previously, they were shut for their annual holiday. Ensure to book.
  • Le Bréard – I mention this, as it serves great food but, from our experience, the service needs work: not in speed but in politesse.  It’s up to you if you don’t mind and just concentrate on the dishes, although it’s the first time I’ve been served bread and told not to eat it yet. There were more issues, but I’m far too polite…
  • Entre Terre et Mer – although also a super restaurant, just across the road we love their oyster bar where a simple, fresh plate of oysters or mussels are great value.
  • La Chaumière – slightly out of town, this characteristic thatched hotel-restaurant has a homely feel.  Outside eating in summer with views over to Le Havre, and cosy nooks by the roaring fire, friendly service and super menus. Great for celebrating a birthday, too.
  • Le Manoir des Impressionnistes – Also slightly out of town, this is an ideal quiet haven away from it all with good, simple yet beautifully presented food. We just found the wine list a bit pricey but the list is excellent. If you’re looking to speak English, the British owner, Brigitte, usually comes around the tables to say hello.
  • La Crêperie des Arts –  We’ve tried many crêperies in Honfleur and this one gets our top vote each time as the buckwheat galettes (savoury crêpes) are beautifully lacy thin and all fillings use fresh ingredients (alas, more establishments serve the likes of tinned fruit with the local cheesy galettes or on sweet crêpes). Great friendly service.
  • Laurence – At first glance, you’d think this was an antique shop but it’s the cutest restaurant with curious nick-nacks on rue des Lingots. Laurence herself, like the ambience, is charming. Enjoy French traditional family dishes such as the blanquette de veau (see my recipe here) and a particularity is that no phones are permitted. Lovely!
10 reasons to visit Honfleur

10 reasons to visit Honfleur, Normandy

2 Hours Drive from Paris

With only 2 hours drive north of Paris, Honfleur is particularly accessible. It’s pretty much a straight drive up the Autoroute (A13), passing Giverny. So, if you have time en route, visit Monet’s house and garden. However, if you’re looking to spend time between Paris and Honfleur, it’s a “straight” sail on the buckling River Seine all the way up to the Estuary.

Good Base for Visiting Normandy

If you’re staying in Honfleur for a few days, it’s a great base for visiting the nearby towns of Étretat, Deauville, Cabourg, Veules-les-Roses (check out the summer sea festival), and Le Mont Saint-Michel. It’s also great for discovering the nearby Cidre and Calvados farms, as well as cheese in nearby Pont l’Evèque.

10 reasons to visit Honfleur

Top Tips for Visiting Honfleur

  • If you can, do try and speak as much French as you can.  The locals appreciate visitors but, as we are in France, it’s only polite to try and speak the language. No matter how little you speak, if you show willingness to try, it helps keep the lovely Honfleurais smiling.
  • If arriving by car, try to park on the outskirts of the town using the various car parks as much as possible.  Busy periods mean busy traffic and, as many streets are one-way and pedestrian only, this will make everyone’s lives easier. Please note that the harbour is closed to traffic after 1 May.
  • For boat trips, information on timings for museums and other visits including Calvados tastings, see Honfleur’s tourist information office
  • Personally speaking, our best time to visit Honfleur is out of tourist peak season (particularly avoiding the French summer holidays in July to August), as it is less crowded. If you do make it during a tourist wave, ensure to book your restaurants and do some advance planning using the links on this post.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. This was a personal trip and as we live in the Paris region, this is to share the best things to do if you’re visiting Paris and want a weekend or short getaway not too far from the Normandy coast. The only link to Context Travel above, is an affliate link at no cost to you.

10 reasons to Visit Honfleur

Pear Belle Helene – A Parisian Musical Story

I do love a story – especially when it’s about something as delicious as a poached pear sitting on good vanilla ice cream and given a warm, clinging thick coat of French chocolate sauce. Did you know that the Parisian classic dessert, Pear Belle Helene, was born when a famous chef fell in love with a silky soprano’s voice?

It’s a pear-fectly scumptious love story between music and dessert.

Poire Belle Helene

La Belle-Hélène

The scrumptious musical inspiration happened in Paris, 17 December 1864 at the Théâtre des Variétés on Boulevard Montmartre. The French soprano, Hortense Schneider (known as la Snédèr) was singing the title role of Helen of Troy (or Sparta) in the first performance of Jacques Offenbach’s opera bouffe, La Belle-Hélène.

Funnily enough, the soprano was originally turned down by the Théâtre des Variétés when she came to Paris from Bordeaux. It’s thanks to Offenbach who invited her to the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens in Passage Choiseul, which the composer founded in 1855 for the performance of his operettas and opera bouffes. From then on, Hortense Schneider became a real Parisian celebrity – even if she was renowned for being a bit of a Prima Donna.

Poire Belle Helene - French recipes with a story

Chef Escoffier’s Creation

Captivated by Schneider’s silky smooth voice as the beautiful Helen at that first performance, the young chef, Auguste Escoffier – who would be a mere 18 years old – dreamt up this symphony of flavours: a pear poached in vanilla syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with the silkiest smooth French chocolate sauce. Could the soprano have been a bit pear-shaped?

Here was chef Escoffier’s Beautiful Helen Pear or Poire Belle Hélène. Somehow it sounds so much better in French, doesn’t it?  Like a good tune, it’s all in the mixing of simple, good ingredients.  So, please use good quality chocolate for the sauce, good fresh Pear Williams (ripe but firm; not turnips, either!) – and if you don’t use homemade ice cream, then use good quality which uses vanilla beans/pods rather than just an aroma.

Poire Belle Helene #pears #dessertlove #parisian

The Most Intense Chocolate Sauce

As you can see from some of the photos, the chocolate sauce thickened as it became cool in taking these pictures. If you prefer your sauce to be more liquid, then add just a little more cream before reheating.

Poire Belle Helene #dessertstory #pears #chocolatedesserts

Hazelnuts Crack the Top Note!

Normally the Pear Belle Helene dessert is garnished with grilled flaked almonds but, as I adore chocolate and hazelnuts together, toasted broken hazelnuts add a cracking crescendo to a delicious finale.  A chocolate hazelnut macaron adds a fabulous Encore (recipe in Mad About Macarons)

Pear Belle Helene Recipe

Poire Belle Helene Hazelnuts #dessertstory #dessertrecipes #chocolatepear

What Can I serve with Pear Belle-Helene?

To bring out the tasty crunch of the toasted hazelnuts, serve with Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Cookies – another perfect duet that sings along with Hortense’s interpretation of Offenbach and a Poire Belle Helene dessert!

 

Poire Belle Helene #dessertstory #Parisian

Pear Belle Helene – the Recipe

Poire Belle Helene Dessert
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

The Classic Parisian dessert of a poached pear, vanilla ice cream and thick French chocolate sauce was invented by legendary chef, Auguste Escoffier, after hearing the French soprano, Hortense Schneider, sing the title role in Offenbach's Belle-Hélène in Paris, 1864.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 238 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 250 g (9oz) sugar
  • 500 ml (18fl oz) water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (optional)
  • 6 pears (Williams, ripe but firm) peeled, stalk and core left intact
  • 1 litre tub vanilla ice cream
  • 40 g (1.5oz) broken hazelnuts, grilled (for garnish)
Chocolate Sauce
  • 100 ml (3.5 fl oz) double cream (Crème fleurette 30% fat)
  • 50 ml (2fl oz) full cream milk
  • 125 g (4.5oz) dark chocolate bittersweet (at least 64%)
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, boil the water and sugar to form a syrup. Add the vanilla powder, if using.

  2. Peel the pears, leaving the stalk and the core intact. Ensure the pears are covered by the syrup by placing parchment paper on top and cover with a lid.  Poach in the syrup for about 30 minutes until tender.

  3. Remove the pears from the syrup and finely cut the ends off so that each pear can stand up right without falling over. Chill in the fridge until needed.

Chocolate Sauce:
  1. Heat together the cream and milk over a medium heat until nearly boiling. Break the chocolate into a bowl, pour over the hot cream and stir until the chocolate sauce is smooth.

Assembly:
  1. In each serving dish, serve 2 scoops of ice cream, top with a pear and pour over the sauce.  Garnish with grilled or toasted hazelnuts and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Serve with chocolate or chocolate-hazelnut macarons or with chocolate hazelnut cookies.

It's best to use pears that are just ripe (not over, not under). If slightly under, then allow for slightly more cooking/poaching time.

Nutritional Information: 238 calories per serving; 4g protein; 12g fat; 29g carbohydrates.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Poire Belle Helene #dessertstory #chocolatedessert #dessertrecipes

Poire Belle Helene – a Parisian Recipe with a Story