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French Apple Crumble Cake

How on earth could a simple apple crumble take me so long to find the correct name to fit this recipe? I’ve called this a French Apple Crumble Cake, yet it’s without the cake bit.

French Apple Crumble Cake

French Apple Dessert Inspiration

With an abundance of French apples this Autumn, I wanted a classic yet healthy apple dessert.
This recipe “Le Gâteau aux Petits Lu®” of Danièle Thompson caught my eye in Philippe Conticini and Pascal Frey’s compilation of nostalgic desserts by French celebrities in “Souvenirs Gourmands” (bought at their book launch in 2015 at the Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris).

Danièle’s gâteau is genius. It’s basically a crumble with unsugared, lightly spiced apples. It’s given le French Touch by layering apple compote with a biscuit crumble in a rectangle or ring and left to chill in cake shape for 24 hours.

C’est tout.

Oat and almond toasted crumble

Well not quite.

Instead of using ready-made commercial biscuits, I made my own favourite Scottish oat crumble topping. So, does this make it an ‘Apple Crisp’, as it contains brown sugar and oats? Hmm. I’ve added ground almonds too.

Oat & Nut Crumble

This isn’t anything astounding, though, is it? As a Scot, it’s understandable we like adding porridge oats to  crumble toppings – as you can see from this simple apple oat crumble dessert. Moreover, the (optional) nutty addition of almonds adds more texture and flavour. Pudding proof is adding ground hazelnuts in this wicked chocolate hazelnut pear crumble.

Gingerbread spiced apple lemon compote

Naturally Sweet Apple Compote

The compote could be made purely with a sticky vanilla pod or bean but I love Danièle’s addition of pain d’épice/gingerbread spice. In this case, I had the French gingerbread spices to hand (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise) and so infused them into the bubbling lemon juice and apples.

So, what do I love most about this French Apple Crumble Cake? The choice of naturally sweet apples (Golden Delicious and Pink Lady) means there’s no need to add any sugar to the fruit. The result is sweet enough and it’s healthy too!

layering oat crumble with spiced apple compote

French Apple Crumble ‘Cake’

This isn’t really a French ‘cake’. Unlike apple crumble cakes on the web, this is rather more of a cake look-a-like.  In France, a “cake” is a transportable rectangular cake made with flour and it’s designed to rise (e.g. Banana Chocolate Marble Cake).

Instead, this French Apple Crumble Cake just rises to the occasion for teatime, dessert – or even breakfast or brunch and let’s even add it to the Thanksgiving table. It’s really a French gâteau but translated into English sounds awfully complicated. So I’m sticking with cake! Without the cake. Jings, now I’m making it sound complicated – but it’s just the delicious subtleties of the language.

French Apple Crumble Cake

Can I replace the Apples with other Fruits?

Keep it simple. Stick with apples rather than alternating with other fruits, as the compote should stay compact and avoid being too liquid.  Replace an apple with a pear at most but keep it at that to enjoy this recipe at its best. Using Granny Smith apples are good but remember they’re tart and would require some sugar.  Like in Danièle’s  original recipe, use a mix of Golden Delicious (I love how the French pronounce  them as “Gaulden“) and Pink Lady, as they’re the easiest to work with and naturally sweet.

Can I make it Gluten Free or Vegan?

This recipe is relatively low in gluten but if you want to omit the flour completely to make this completely gluten free, double the amount of oats and ground almonds. To make this recipe vegan, replace the butter with your favourite non-dairy spread or melted coconut oil for the best vegan crumble topping.

Can I freeze it?

I don’t recommend freezing it as, although possible, the crumble will become not as crisp and – dare I say such a horrible word in baking? Soggy. So let’s keep it crumbly crisp and serve simply chilled. Speaking of which, I do stress that the cake needs to chill for 24 hours in order to keep its perfect shape and eaten at its best on the day.

French Apple Crumble Cake Ice Cream

How to serve French Apple Crumble Cake

This French Apple Crumble Cake is excellent served simply on its own, as the French tend to do.  However, for many of us who love that little extra luxury on the side, a drizzling of caramel au beurre salé (see my salted caramel sauce recipe) would be perfect with a dollop of good crème fraîche.
If we want to be British about it, add custard – or try this lightly spiced French chilled custard, Chai Tea Crème Anglaise. For ice cream lovers, chestnut ice cream is a perfect Autumnal or Winter treat.
Alternatively, serve with the lot if you plan to make this for a perfect, fruity Thanksgiving dessert!
JINGS – I have it!  Let’s call it Thanksgiving Apple Crumble.

More Apple Dessert Recipes:

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding

Alsatian Apple Custard Tart

Individual Apple Rose Tatins

Classic French Tarte Tatin

Gingerbread, Apple & Salted Caramel Trifles

Cheat’s Danish Apple Cake by FabFood4All

Toffee Apple Hazelnut Cake by Tin&Thyme

Persimmon Apple Crumble with Rum Sauce by Christina’s Cucina

 

French Apple Crumble Cake

French Apple Crumble Cake Recipe

5 from 3 votes
French Apple Crumble Cake
French Apple Crumble Cake
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Chilling Time
1 d
Total Time
1 hr
 

A chilled healthy Apple crumble style cake - served chilled with a naturally sweet and spiced apple compote sandwiched between an oat and almond crumble

Course: Brunch, Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: British, French, Scottish
Keyword: apple crisp cake, apple crumble cake,, baking with oats, healthy apple desserts
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 436 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Crumble
  • 100 g (3.5oz) butter (room temperature)
  • 50 g (1.75oz) coconut sugar or muscovado sugar
  • 100 g (3.5oz) plain flour (all purpose)
  • 50 g (1.75oz) medium rolled oats
  • 50 g (1.75oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
Apple Compote (Gingerbread-spiced)
  • 1 kg (2lb 3oz) apples 3 Golden Delicious, 2 Pink Lady
  • 1 vanilla pod (or 1tsp vanilla powder)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1/4 tsp fleur de sel (a pinch)
Instructions
Make the Crumble:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5

  2. Combine all the crumble ingredients an a large bowl, lightly rubbing through your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside. (I often make double quantities of crumble and at this point freeze the other half for an extra speedy dessert next time!)

  3. Spread evenly on to a baking sheet covered in baking parchment or with a silicone mat. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Make the Apple Compote:
  1. Peel and cut the apples into small cubes. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, cover and heat gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples have become soft (I love keeping a few bits still visible for texture). Set aside to cool.

Preparing the Apple Crumble Cake:
  1. Butter a 20cm cake ring or springform cake tin (or 20cm x 8cm rectangle) and place directly on the serving plate. Sprinkle half of the cooled crumble mix evenly on the bottom, then spoon all the apple compote evenly. Top with the rest of the crumble and transfer to the fridge for 24 hours. Lift off the cake ring or take off the springform tin (this is so much easier than it sounds!)

Recipe Notes

Serve chilled on its own with a dusting of icing/confectioner's sugar. Also good with warmed salted caramel sauce, chilled Chai Crème Anglaise (or at room temperature) or candied chestnut ice cream or a good old blob of crème fraîche.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Béarnaise Sauce – Recipe & Origins

How many times have you seen the French classic Béarnaise Sauce on a menu and thought it was perhaps too difficult to make? Well, let me show you how easy it is to whip up the real McCoy at home. It also tastes 100 times better than the jarred stuff in supermarkets!

Moreover, did you know that there’s at least another herb in it, apart from tarragon? Read on from the birthplace of the Sauce Béarnaise itself in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris and discover the  simple Béarn-ecessities of life!

Sauce Béarnaise

Difference Between Hollandaise & Béarnaise Sauce

In the 1800s, Chef Antonin Carême noted that in French cuisine, there were four basic sauces – each called a “Mother Sauce”. Later, Auguste Escoffier took Câreme’s rules of Haute Cuisine a step further by adding a basic fifth sauce, the Hollandaise sauce, an emulsion of egg yolks, white vinegar and wine (or lemon juice) plus melted butter.

The Hollandaise’s most famous offspring, the Béarnaise sauce, has the fragrant addition of shallots, tarragon and chervil – yet had nothing much to do with the French Province of Béarn. The Béarnaise Sauce was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris.

Béarnaise Sauce

The Origins of Béarnaise Sauce, near Paris

It took place at Le Pavillon Henri IV, a hotel in Saint-Germain-en-Laye which was built over the original spot of the Château Neuf, where Louis XIV was born in 1638 – for more on this part, see my post here.

In the 1830’s, Head Chef Jean-Louis Françoise-Collinet experimented with a shallot reduction then, taking the basic recipe for Sauce Hollandaise, replaced the lemon juice with white wine vinegar, shallots, chervil and tarragon and the Sauce Béarnaise was born. It’s the tarragon and white wine vinegar that makes that fragrantly addictive acidity that we associate with the star of sauces with serious steaks.

Why did Collinet call it Béarnaise? Inspired by the name of the hotel, Henri IV, it was the King’s previous home at the Château Neuf before it was a restaurant and he came from the province of Béarn. Shortly after, the chef also accidentally invented the soufflée potato and served both of his creations at the opening of the hotel in 1836.

Béarnaise sauce

Le Pavillon Henri IV, SaintGermain-en-Laye, the birthplace of Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise Sauce – Tarragon, Chervil and Parsley

Today, the hotel’s chef, Patrick Käppler, has posted the Béarnaise Sauce recipe in French, published by the Hotel Pavillon Henri IV here, without the actual quantities. As you can see, to continue the sauce’s tradition, he doesn’t just use the classic tarragon (estragon) – but also chervil (cerfeuil), another essential ingredient, and parsley (persil) too.

Following my challenge from L’Office de Tourisme in les Yvelines, this Béarnaise Sauce recipe was also cited by the novelist, Alexandre Dumas.  More known for his Three Muskateers and The Count of Monte Cristo, as a serious gourmet and cook, he also published his Grand Culinary Dictionary (only in French).  He cites using a good vinegar from Orléans, uses oil instead of butter and parsley or tarragon:

Alexandre Dumas: Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (1873), under “Sauce”,

Sauce échalote à la béarnaise.
Mettez dans une petite casserole deux cuillerées à bouche d’échalote hachée et quatre cuillerées de bon vinaigre d’Orléans ; la poser sur le feu et cuire les échalotes jusqu’à ce que le vinaigre soit réduit de moitié ; retirez alors la casserole, et quand l’appareil est à peu près refroidi, mêlez-lui quatorze jaunes d’oeufs, broyez-les à la cuiller et joignez-leur quatre cuillerées à bouche de bonne huile. Posez alors la casserole sur un feu doux ; liez la sauce en la tournant, retirez-la aussitôt qu’elle est à point, et lui incorporez encore un demi-verre d’huile, mais en l’alternant avec le jus d’un citron ; finir la sauce avec un peu d’estragon ou de persil haché et un peu de glace de viande.

Béarnaise Sauce

What Goes with Béarnaise Sauce?

Béarnaise Sauce can transform a simple grill and is the perfect accompaniment with salmon, chargrilled steaks, chicken and asparagus. If you love Eggs Benedict, you’ll know that poached eggs marry well with Hollandaise sauce – but try it with Béarnaise sauce, with its added herbs, and it is sheer luxury.

Béarnaise Sauce

Can Béarnaise Sauce Keep?

Béarnaise sauce is best when made as close as possible to serving.  Ideally, serve within an hour (no more than 2 hours max.), keeping the sauce slightly warm (not hot!) over a pan of simmering water. If the sauce gets too hot and starts to split, add a little warm water.  Frankly, I’ve not had problems with the latter, as the recipe is so easy and as long as it’s served reasonably quickly, the results are light and fluffy. The sauce also freezes well.

Sauce Béarnaise

Béarnaise Sauce Recipe

Many chefs make this straight in the pan using the same quantities in the recipe, just like Dumas describes above.  I prefer making it over a bain-marie (bowl over simmering water) and, although this method sounds more hassle, it’s actually much less easy to curdle the sauce and the result is light and sabayon or mousse-like. However, if you prefer to make the sauce in the same pan, then carefully ensure that the temperature doesn’t get too high.

 

Béarnaise Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

An easy recipe for the classic French Sauce Béarnaise, inspired by the creator in the 1830s near Paris, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Course: Condiments
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Bearnaise, Bearnaise history, French cuisine, French sauces, Hollandaise, Parisian cuisine
Servings: 6
Calories: 280 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 50 g (2oz) white wine vinegar
  • 90 g (3.5oz) white wine
  • 2 small shallots chopped finely
  • 3 branches fresh tarragon branches separated from finely chopped up leaves
  • 3 grinds black pepper
  • 3 egg yolks organic
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 125 g (4.5oz) unsalted butter gently melted
  • 1 tbsp fresh chervil finely chopped
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley (flat-leaf) optional
Instructions
  1. Bring the white vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon branches and pepper to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat and leave to reduce for about 5 minutes until there's about a couple of tablespoons. Pour into another bowl and set aside to cool then filter out the shallots and herbs using a sieve.

  2. Fill the saucepan with 1/4 of water and bring to a simmer.  Place over it a large bowl with the cooled vinegar reduction, yolks and water then whisk constantly until the sabayon becomes mousse-like.

  3. After about 5 minutes, as soon as the sauce starts to thicken, take the bowl off the heat and, continuing to whisk, incorporate the warm, melted butter. Add the chopped tarragon, chervil and parsley, if using.  Season with a little salt and it's ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

If not serving straight away, keep at room temperature and return the bowl over the simmering water before ready to serve to re-heat, adding a little hot water if necessary.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

The Béarn-ecessities of life
They’ll come to you …

Béarnaise Sauce

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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.
  • 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.
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. If you don’t have time to spare but want a customized trip of Normandy in a day, then Context Paris have an 8-hour tour, including Honfleur – see the Context site here for details.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Poire Belle Helene Hazelnuts #dessertstory #dessertrecipes #chocolatepear

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

The Hottest Paris Food Tour

Do you love your food and planning your first visit to Paris? Then a warm, tasty introduction to traditional French foods is a delicious way to start your trip. I recently discovered that The Paris Guy has an evening food tour, that’s quite literally the hottest Paris food tour in the Marais!

While most walking Paris food tours focus on markets, ingredients, bread and cheese plus the sweeter side (like I used to lead in Saint Germain-des-Prés) on chocolates, pastries and macarons while walking, discussing and tasting in and between boutiques, Le Marais Paris Food Tour concentrates on primarily sit-down restaurant tastings of oysters and Champagne, wine, cheese, galettes (savoury crêpes) with cidre, Boeuf Bourguignon, more wine and crème brûlée – and that’s not all.

HOttest Paris Food Tour

Thank you to the Paris Guy for sponsoring this post by inviting me to experience Le Marais Paris Food tour. As always, all opinions are entirely my own. Affiliate links are included in this post, as The Paris Guy has kindly offered my readers 5% off their tours in Paris if you use the unique code, MADABOUTMACARONS.

The Hottest Paris Food Tour

The Hottest Paris Food Tour in the Marais kicks off with a warm welcome early evening near the metro, République. Our English-speaking guide for the 3-hour walking tour was Erica.

Hottest Paris Food Tour The Paris Guy #parisfoodtours

Our group was made up of a maximum of 12 so, along with the food tastings, anecdotes and history thrown in, it ended up being a fun social evening too.

Oysters and Champagne

To get us in the French mood, the POP sounded as our bottle of Champagne was opened with some explanations on the French’s famous bubbly. Platters of N°4 and N°3 oysters arrived in this lovely seafood bar. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see I love flowers and so this was a perfect spot to appreciate them too.

Hottest Paris Food Tour #parisfoodtours

A touch of smoked salted butter served with the most delicious bread is delicious – but be careful: go easy on the bread in the initial stages, as you need to pace yourself on this food tour!  There’s still more to come.

Sipping on Champagne, I also loved the refreshing minty touch to their carafe water. If you know me, however, I usually prefer more Champagne than grabbing (or “crab-bing”) that bottle of water!

hottest paris food tour #parisfoodtour

Crab a bottle!

See anemones at the Parisian seafood bar?

Hottest Food Tour in Paris

See Anemones in front of this seafood bar in the Marais?

Say Cheese – French Fromage!

Normally the Paris Guy Food Tour starts with the Oyster tasting with Champagne but exceptionally, as it hadn’t yet opened at our meeting time, we started with the cheese. With over 1000 cheeses in France, no savoury tour is complete without it!

Hottest Paris Food tour

I’ll leave you to discover the cheesy stories and tips on the tour but the tasting platter had a good variety of many of my personal favourites. If you’re a couple, ensure you both have a taste of the stronger types together (just saying…), absolutely delicious served with fig jam (see my Corsican fig jam recipe here).

Hottest Paris food tour Marais #paristravel

Walking past many landmarks in the Marais, such as the Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement above, we headed for the famous rue des Rosiers in the Jewish quarter. The speciality? Falafel.

Falafels, deep-fried chickpea balls, are one of those deliciously “Did you know that they’re vegan?” types of foods that we enjoyed outside (the only tasting outdoors on the tour), with finger-licking sesame sauce coupled with a vibrant, festive ambience.

hottest paris food tour #Paristravel

Galettes – Savoury Crêpes

Next up on the tour was a walk to a cosy Crêperie. Typically served in Brittany and in Normandy, traditional wafer-thin buckwheat galettes – savoury crêpes – are enjoyed with cider served in giant cups. We tasted a couple of varieties: Forestière (chicken and mushroom) and the popular Complète with ham, cheese and egg washed down with some Cidre Brut.

hottest Paris food tour #Paristravel #Parisfood

I did tell you you need to pace yourself! Our last stop was a most relaxed setting in a quiet, slightly hidden Parisian Brasserie for not one but TWO finale tastings.

hottest Paris Food Tour restaurant tastings #paristravel #Parisfoodtours

As more wine was served, so was a generous tasting of Boeuf Bourguignon, a typical hearty beef stew from Burgundy, slowly cooked with mushrooms and carrots in Burgundy wine. Served with purée (also wonderful with Gratin Dauphinois), this is the ultimate French comfort food.

French culinary favourites on the hottest paris food tour

This is when Amelie Poulin would adore coming here too.  Her favourite part of this Parisian dessert, crème brûlée, is cracking the burned sugar surface and discovering the eggy vanilla cream underneath.

Incidentally, I have a recipe for a milk chocolate crème brûlée here.

hottest paris food tour creme brulee finale #paristravel

As we said Au Revoir to Erica, our cheerful Paris Guy guide, Paris by Night awaited outside. The 17th Century Eglise Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis was glistening in all its glory before heading back into the metro home on rue St Antoine.

hottest Paris food tour Marais

Hottest Paris Food Tour – 5% Reader Discount!

Looking to try traditional French food in Paris on your first trip? Prefer to sit more in restaurants than mainly eat outside? Then this is the ideal evening walking tour – indeed, literally the hottest Paris food tour for couples, solo travellers, families with older children and amongst friends – and great as gifts too if friends or family are going to Paris!

Just don’t forget to bring your appetite…

Hottest Paris Food Tour

 

DisclosureThank you to the Paris Guy for sponsoring this post by inviting me to experience their Le Marais Paris Food tour. As always, all opinions are entirely my own. Affiliate links are included in this post, as the Paris Guy has kindly offered my readers 5% off their tours in Paris if you use the unique code, MADABOUTMACARONS (also includes their tours in Italy).

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.

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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