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Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup

We’re going savoury today with the creamiest, crème de la crème of French soups.
Known as Crème Dubarry or Velouté du Barry, Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup is a simple French gourmet classic. For a soup, it also has a deliciously hot royal romance behind it, which simmered away between Versailles and Paris in the 18th century.

Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup

Why Dubarry – or Du Barry?

Turning to my French Larousse dictionary, anything called ‘Du Barry‘ in French cooking contains cauliflower – from a simple salad to the most famous Crème Dubarry, often served on winter menus in chic Parisian restaurants.

Why Dubarry? It’s a smooth, rich cauliflower cream soup or silky velouté that gets its name from the Comtesse du Barrywho adored the humble winter chou-fleur.

Trust the French to bring cauliflower and a hungry royal love affair together!

Comtesse Du Barry

Who was the Comtesse du Barry?

The Comtesse du Barry was the last mistress and favourite of King Louis XV. (Not to be confused with the chain of French boutiques, Comtesse du Barry, known in and around Paris for its gourmet tinned meals for those who would rather have foie gras or truffles on toast than baked beans.)

The Countess was renowned for her beauty, her blond curls, her blue eyes, her love for luxury – and her way of wrapping her little finger around aristocratic, influential men.

Antoine and I were intrigued to visit part of the residence given to her by Louis XV, where she stayed in Louveciennes in Les Yvelines, just 10km west of Paris. Alas, the domaine is now private and not open to the public – but once a year for just a couple of hours, guided visits are arranged in May by the Office de Tourisme de Boucles de Seine.  As photos were not permitted inside the residence, my photos are restricted to the lush grounds.

Louveciennes was host to painters such as Madame Vigée Le Brun (who painted 3 portraits of Madame du Barry) and the Impressionists. Camille Pissaro also later lived here and Sisley painted many landscapes, which shows not that much has changed outside her residence. It’s another lovely walk in the area, as part of the 4 Impressionist Walks by the Seine (see my post on the Renoir walk from Chatou to Carrières-sur-Seine).

Outside Madame du Barry’s residence was the enormous pipe – still camouflaged today – in the lush countryside. Apparently the noise of the water from the pipes was rather distressing for Madame; it transported water to the Versailles fountains from the Seine river via the Machine du Marly, an extremely incredible feat of engineering to cope with Louis XIV’s luxurious tastes for the palace.

Madame du Barry to Countess

The Countess wasn’t always a countess. Raised as Jeanne Bécu in a convent (since her mother had a dangerous liaison with a Franciscan monk), she then worked her way up from hairdresser to haberdashery in Paris. It was the wealthy, influential casino owner, Jean-Baptiste du Barry that changed her direction as Mademoiselle.

Jeanne became his mistress, and became mistress to others too in royal circles – right up to Louis XV. One problem: she wasn’t appreciated as being a non-aristocrat in French society and the king couldn’t see her unless she had a title. The King solved this by ensuring her marriage to Du Barry’s brother, the Count Guillaume du Barry in 1768, giving her title of Countess – even if she was and is still referred to as Madame.

After King Louis XV’s death in 1774, Madame du Barry wasn’t permitted to stay in the court (Queen Marie-Antoinette thought of her as rather common – read vulgar) and so she stayed here, continuing to lavishly entertain in her particularly impressive oak-panelled dining room.

Countess Amorous Royal Chocolate Drinks

It was apparently under this enormous tilleul or lime tree that the elderly King Louis XV and young Madame du Barry would sip chocolat together in Louveciennes, not far from Versailles. Although the luxury of chocolate (as a drink) was brought to the French court via Louis XIII then Louis XIV, it was Louis XV that was reputed to have loved chocolate the most.

Considered an aphrodisiac drink, the king prepared his own love potion chocolate drink in his appartments in Versailles, adding an egg yolk to his chocolate recipe to ensure its extra velvety, rich texture – see the recipe here, via Versailles Palace.

Dubarry French Cauliflower Cream

Dubarry Cream of Cauliflower

Keeping with rich, velvety textures, Countess du Barry’s chef, Louis Signot, created a soup with Jeanne’s favourite vegetable. It was so simple yet sophisticated enough for royal approval. It’s not clear what is the original recipe but looking around in cookbooks (in vain), French gourmet dictionaries, online, and even from French recipe booklets received from our local market there are two versions of Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup.

One is based on milk, cream and potatoes; the other Crème Dubarry is based on a white roux (butter and flour) with added egg yolks and cream at the end of cooking. Seen as Louis XV’s chocolate potions included egg yolks, I’m guessing the King cracked for the latter version so I’m sticking with this. The vegetable market’s booklet recipe, however, used a whopping 6 egg yolks. Instead I developed the recipe as follows, as it’s silky enough without being too overwhelmingly rich to start off a meal.

How to Prepare Cauliflower Cream Soup

This is the first time I’ve made a white roux for a soup. Normally I wouldn’t add flour to soup and use a potato to thicken it instead. However, for the sake of authenticity with French recipes, let’s make that roux by adding butter, gently cooking the leeks and adding the flour to make a paste then stir in the stock and tiny cauliflower florets.

All of the bitter stalk is discarded. Small, digestible florets are used, cleaned first in a mixture of water with a dash of vinegar. Don’t forget to keep the smallest florets aside for the garniture. Once mixed or blended using a stick blender or ‘giraffe‘ (I love how some of my French friends call it this!), create the liaison (pun totally intended).  A mix of the egg yolks and cream are gradually blended into the soup by adding some of the soup liquid to the cream, then adding the whole lot to create that rich, velvety Dubarry cream.

Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup

Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup Garniture

The garniture for serving Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup is just as important as the cream itself, it appears. There are 2 simple classic garnitures: finely chopped chervil and tiny cauliflower florets (pre-cooked à l’anglaise – English-style in boiling water). That’s it. My personal preference is not to cook the cauliflower garniture at all. Just sprinkle with the smallest of florets and the heat of the soup and the raw crudité-style cauliflower adds a magnificent crunch! I also finely grate a cauliflower floret on top of the soup too.

Seared scallops are another possibility. If you’ve seen my recipe for Curried Cauliflower soup, I got the idea of adding seared scallops when tasting wine under January hailstones in Clos Veogeot at the annual Burgundy wine festival, la fête de Saint Vincent. So add scallops if you fancy – but for royalty, the good old classic cauliflower with chervil or parsley will do!

 

Even although the Parisian gerbet macaron wasn’t yet created in Paris yet, there’s nothing stopping you from serving the Dubarry Cauliflower Cream with a mini curry macaron, is there? The recipe is in the savoury macarons chapter from my book, Mad About Macarons! I’m sure the Countess would have approved.

This has turned out to be a long post for a few wee bowls of soup – but don’t you love a delicious French love story behind it?

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Dubarry Cauliflower Cream

Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup Recipe

5 from 5 votes
Dubarry French Cauliflower Cream Soup
Dubarry Cauliflower Cream Soup
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

A rich, creamy French classic soup or velouté that was created for Madame du Barry, King Louis XV's last and favourite mistress, who adored cauliflower

Course: Appetizer, Light Lunch, Soup, Starter
Cuisine: French
Keyword: cauliflower cream, cauliflower soup, Crème Dubarry
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 160 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 700 g (1.5lb) organic cauliflower (prepared after stalk/leaves removed)
  • 2 leeks (white part only) sliced
  • 55 g (2oz) butter (unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp flour (all purpose)
  • 1 litre chicken stock * (stock mixed with hot water)
  • 2 egg yolks organic
  • 100 g (3.5oz) half-fat cream or crème fraîche
  • Fresh chervil or flat-leaf parsley optional, for decor
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt (fleur de sel) & freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove the bitter stalk and leaves from the cauliflower, reserving the florets. Wash in a mixture of water with a dash of vinegar and set aside. Clean and slice the leeks.

  2. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter then sweat the leeks in it until translucent but not brown. After 4-5 minutes, add the flour and stir together well until a smooth paste forms. Gradually whisk in the hot stock. Add the cauliflower florets, setting aside a few of the raw, smallest florets for decor. Bring to the boil.

  3. Cover, turn down the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 25 minutes.

  4. Towards the end of cooking, in a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cream, salt and pepper. Add a ladle-full of the soup's hot liquid and whisk together. Using a hand-mixer, blitz the soup until well blended. Gradually whisk in the yolk and cream mixture until the soup is smooth. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

  5. Serve topped with tiny raw cauliflower florets, chopped fresh chervil or parsley.

Recipe Notes

*  fresh chicken stock is best for this recipe, although I cheat and buy frozen stock from our local gourmet frozen French food store, Picard.

Decorate with a few tiny reserved (raw) cauliflower florets and sprigs of fresh chervil or parsley.

Update (March 2020): Try the same recipe using broccoli - it's fabulous!

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 with this 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. 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. 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 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

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5 from 1 vote
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

Poire Belle Helene – A 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, Poire Belle Helene, was born when a famous chef fell in love with a  silky soprano’s voice? It’s a pair-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 – 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 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

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Poire Belle Helene #dessertstory #chocolatedessert #dessertrecipes

Poire Belle Helene – a Parisian Recipe with a Story

Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding (Riz Condé)

I love a gourmet challenge – as you can tell from my latest Vegan Raspberry Macarons. However, you may recall in my latest newsletter, our regional Seine Saint Germain tourist office set me a local French culinary challenge. So here’s my first recipe, Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding. 

The aim is to recreate recipes of author, Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo, 3 Muskateers…). During some initial research, I discovered a fruity French rice pudding dessert made with pineapple or apricots and, after a twist or two to Ananas à la Condé, have come up with individual desserts to make a Dumas-style version of  French rice pudding.

Caramelised pineapple rice pudding

What is Condé Rice Pudding (Riz à la Condé)?

According to Larousse and other more recent French culinary dictionaries, Condé (or à la Condé) is a chilled entremet (old French for the modern dessert) made of rice pudding cooked in milk, presented in a savarin or crown-like mould and served with poached fruits in syrup. The classic is made either with apricots or pineapple slices soaked in Kirsch and decorated with candied fruits.

Why the name, Condé? It refers to the Prince of Condé (aka le Grand Condé), chief subordinate to King Louis XIV and occupied the family’s estate of the Château de Chantilly. The Prince of Condé allured such influental guests as MolièreRacineLa Fontaine and Bourdaloue (a French minister/preacher, who’s Parisian street, rue de la Bourdaloue, is named after him and is where the Bourdaloue Tart was invented – see my recipe here).

The Prince of Condé’s butler/chef was the legendary Vatel, renowned for committing suicide since the fish didn’t arrive on time for Louis XIV visit. Did Vatel invent this dish? Who knows, but it certainly wasn’t with pineapple. Pineapples didn’t arrive in France until 1733 under King Louis XV, when they could be grown in the Potager’s greenhouses in Versailles.

Caramelised pineapple rice pudding

Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding

My French Culinary Dumas Challenge

With 172 years apart, our famous novelist neighbour, Alexandre Dumas, built the Château de Monte Cristo in Port Marly and, as of 1847, held lavish parties centred around the most gastronomic of feasts with impressive wines. Towards the end of his life, Dumas wrote Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, documenting many of the classic ingredients and recipes around – all of them, no doubt, served at his castle-like demeure in les Yvelines.

My challenge is to recreate some of his recipes, although it’s not as easy as I thought.According to a few menus documented in the Chateau de Monte Cristo, he doesn’t even specify many of the desserts (entremets) but cites mainly “Seasonal Fresh Fruit” or a “Basket of Fruits”.

The pineapple was the height of luxury as so difficult to come by, and was seen more as a symbol that adorned not just Versailles but the aristocratic homes in the 19th Century. They were so expensive that it was big business – you could even RENT a pineapple to show off. As Alexandre Dumas was most lavish and proud to show off his wealth to his guests, I figure the pineapple is the perfect recipe to kick off my Dumas recipe challenge!

caramelised pineapple love hearts

How To Make Pineapple Love Hearts

Quite by accident, I cut out pineapple love-hearts for Valentines using a small corer. As the corer was a bit too small, I cut out 2 rounds, realising it turned into a heart. No pinks, no ribbons – just a heart that’s hiding secretly, drowned in the most lush pool of vanilla and rum syrup.

Caramelised pineapple rice pudding

Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding

Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding

This recipe classic is normally one large rice pudding, augmented with vanilla and egg yolks to hold its shape, placed in a large crown-like savarin mould and decorated with pineapple slices macerated in Kirsch. In order to boil off the alcohol and make this recipe family friendly, I caramelise pineapple slices in a rum syrup (it’s a variation to this whole roasted rum pineapple recipe), place individual vanilla rice puddings (in mini savarin moulds) on top of a slice of caramelised pineapple and serve with nougatine for added crunchy texture.

5 from 1 vote
Caramelised pineapple rice pudding
Caramelised Pineapple Rice Pudding
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Chilling Time
2 hrs
Total Time
55 mins
 

A French Rice Pudding served "à la Condé" style on top of caramelised pineapple roasted in a rum syrup and topped with passion fruit. A perfect light yet special dessert for any occasion - and a chic way of serving vanilla rice pudding!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: caramelised pineapple, chic rice pudding desserts, pineapple rice condé, rice pudding, riz à la condé
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 394 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Caramelised Rum Pineapple
  • 1 pineapple, medium
  • 1 vanilla pod/bean (or 1 tsp vanilla powder)
  • 150 g (5.5oz) sugar
  • 125 ml (4.5oz) boiling water
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 passion fruit (optional, to decorate)
Vanilla Rice Pudding
  • 150 g (5.5oz) round pudding rice
  • 75 g (3oz) brown cane sugar
  • 500 ml (18fl oz) full cream milk
  • 1 vanilla pod/bean (or 1tsp vanilla powder)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 40 g (1.5oz) butter, unsalted
Instructions
For the Caramelised Pineapple
  1. Caramelise the sugar with a couple of drops of water over a low heat without stirring. Meanwhile, cut the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds using a sharp knife (even easier, just add a tsp vanilla powder). Reserve the emptied pods, if using.

  2. As soon as the caramel turns a dark golden colour, add the boiling water and vanilla seeds. Stir using a wooden spoon and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and add the rum.

  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Prepare the pineapple by cutting off the outer skin with a sharp knife. Remove the inside core using a corer or sharp knife. Place in a roasting tin, pour over the syrup and roast in the oven for 35 minutes (adding the scraped vanilla pod, if using) - coating the pineapple with the syrup a couple of times. Remove from the oven and cool.

For the Rice Puddings
  1. Meanwhile, while the pineapple is in the oven, weigh out the pudding rice, sugar, milk in a saucepan. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Cook over a medium heat, half covered, stirring a couple of times during cooking.  After about 35 minutes the rice will have thickened. 

  2. Take off the heat and beat in the 3 yolks and butter.  Press the mixture into 6 individual savarin moulds (I use silicone but buttered moulds such as muffin tins will do if you don't have savarin). Leave to cool first then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight or transfer for up to an hour in the freezer.

To Serve
  1. Place a pineapple ring in each bowl, turn out the rice puddings from the moulds and place on top. Dribble over the caramelised vanilla and rum syrup and top with some passion fruit seeds. Serve chilled and decorate with an edible flower.

Recipe Notes

Serve with Nougatine to give some added crunch for texture.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Caramelised pineapple rice pudding

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