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French Crème Caramel

I was scared to make this classic French Crème Caramel for many years after my arrival in France. Instead, I sat back and let my French mother-in-law make her delectable family-sized version each time we visited them in their pretty Provençal village of Saignon.  Back in Paris, I’d order it hands down each time it was on the dessert menu in brasseries,  bistros or cafés.

Somehow that pristine dark caramel reflecting our wide, greedy eyes looked so perfect yet was so light that I thought it was a no-go to make. French Crème Caramel seemed so simple but it was totally out of my comfort zone.

French Crème Caramel

French Crème Caramel – a classic favourite!

Growing up in Scotland, we made ours using a green-boxed packet mix: my job was to squeeze out each sachet of caramel into each dish and excitingly, the whole thing worked just beautifully. Many years on, I cringe at packet mixes but then it’s an entirely different era; now we prefer to make dishes from scratch – as we know exactly what’s in it, can lower sugar levels and add our own creative twists.

This classic French dessert can easily take on many twists – as the likes of teas, herbs, and floral infusions work well while infusing in the milk.  I’ve made this with jasmine tea, Earl Grey tea and fresh or dried lemon verbena (incidentally, have you tried this lemon verbena ice cream?).  They’re all fantastic – but I keep referring back to the good old classic vanilla.  There’s something so nostalgic about it, isn’t there? Fresh berries or exotic fruits on the side are enough for me. Simple yet effective.

Over the years, I prefer this version, as I’ve experimented making Crème Caramel with cream, milk and cream, milk and eggs but in the end, this is by far my favourite: just with milk but the addition of 3 egg yolks gives it that creamy melt-in-the-mouth feel, keeping it light.

French crème caramel recipe

Not long after launching this blog, I was fortunate to have my Japanese friend, Nami, from Just One Cookbook guest post before she hit super stardom.  Here is her recipe for Japanese Purin, a no-bake version using gelatine.

This French Crème Caramel recipe below does look long and complicated but I’ve given detailed recipe steps to explain how easy it is.  Et voilà !

5 from 2 votes
French Crème Caramel
French Crème Caramel
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 

An easy, step by step recipe for the classic French Crème Caramel. No cream but made with egg yolks for a light, melt-in-the-mouth perfect end to any meal.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 306 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Caramel:
  • 100 g / 3.5oz sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
Custard Cream:
  • 500 ml / 17 fl oz milk (whole milk)
  • pinch vanilla powder (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 2 medium eggs (organic)
  • 3 egg yolks (organic)
  • 70 g / 2.5oz sugar
Instructions
Make the caramel:
  1. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Over a low heat, stir using a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely disappeared or dissolved. Turn up to a low-medium heat and leave the caramel to form without stirring. This should take about 10 minutes (PLEASE don't multitask and leave the pan - keep your eye on it). Wait until the caramel is medium to dark brown - not light otherwise it will just be too sweet. (Don't leave it to go too dark, either, otherwise it will be bitter!)

  2. Pour the caramel into 4 ramekin dishes, ensuring that it coats completely the base.  Set aside to cool so that the caramel sets and immediately put the saucepan in the sink and soak in water, making it easier to clean later.

Make the custard cream:
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/150°C fan/Gas 3.  Pour the milk into a medium saucepan, adding the vanilla and just allow the milk to heat to simmering point (not boiling). Take off the heat.

  2. Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Pour in the hot milk and whisk constantly. Put the ramekins into a roasting tin and pour in the custard mix over the caramel. Place in the oven and pour in warm water into the roasting tin so that it comes to about 2/3 of the way up the ramekins.

  3. Bake for about 40 minutes or until set (they're not cooked properly if there's a dip in the middle). Remove from the oven carefully, and gradually remove the ramekins onto a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours - or overnight.

  4. To serve, slice through a cross in the middle of each ramekin with a thin sharp knife and loosen the creams by running the knife also around the sides.  Turn upside down directly on to the serving plates.  Or just serve them directly in their ramekins, as many Parisian brasseries do! Best served at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Serve with fresh berries or slices of exotic fruits, depending on the season.

Tip: To release the crème caramels from their ramekins, my Dad explained "as an engineer" that it was easier to slice a cross through the middle.  Since then, I've always used this method, and find there's no need to grease the ramekins. However, if you prefer to grease them with butter, do so just before pouring in the custard.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

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Have you made any of the recipes from le blog (from my books, too) or fancy making this classic French Crème Caramel?  Please do leave a comment below or take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons.  I love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks so much for popping in!

 

Pure Vegetable Soup

Why have I hesitated to share this Pure Vegetable Soup? It’s pure and simple fresh vegetable genius; chunky, healthy and low in calories.

Moreover, this isn’t a recipe I’ve developed myself.  Apart from a few different vegetables, there’s no need to change anything from Raymond Blanc’s original recipe in my favourite cookbook, “Mange“. When I first received a signed copy of it as an Engagement present in 1996, I was terrified: the French gourmet recipes for guests all looked complicated.  Surely it was too difficult for me to try. However, years later, I realised with a little, insy-winsy bit of confidence, they were much easier than they looked.

Pure Vegetable Soup

Chunky Pure Vegetable Soup

These days, I normally blend soups to a smooth velouté or chowder consistency (see pumpkin & leek, mushroom cappuccino, smoked garlic and arugula (rocket)curried cauliflower with scallops, or sweetcorn and red pepper soups, for example), so that serving this chunky almost seems daring.
Is this life in the fast lane, darlings?

I served this to my French (Corsican) parents-in-law last week, as they’re total soup addicts like myself. Madeleine gave it a confirmed nod of approval, but she seemed surprised: they had soup with chunks in it growing up in Corsica. You know what? Me too!  I remember the chunky Scotch Broth (Janice has a good recipe at Farmersgirl Kitchen) with lamb and good old Lentil Soup (Christina has another good recipe with barley at Christina’s Cucina) with a large ham shank, when I was growing up in Scotland.

Somehow, going back to the “bits in it” is somehow satisfying and, while not a thick, hearty soup, the freshness of the herbs makes this a welcome starter at only 55 calories a bowl.  That’s before we add ripped off hunks of crispy French baguettes and lightly salted Normandy butter.

Pure Vegetable Soup

Fresh Vegetable Soup without the Stock

The secret to this recipe is the freshest of vegetables and respecting the short cooking time.  I know it’s tempting to use up these veggies at the bottom of the fridge that may be starting to wilt but please don’t! Honestly, if you use extra fresh, there’s no need for any vegetable or chicken stock – just the butter gives that added French touch and brings out the taste of the herbs, just thrown in at the end of cooking.  Chervil is best if you can find it, otherwise flat-leafed parsley is good.

5 from 2 votes
pure vegetable soup
Pure Vegetable Soup
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

A quick, chunky and healthy soup recipe that's perfect for any time of year, using the freshest seasonal vegetables and herbs

Course: Soup
Cuisine: British, French
Servings: 6
Calories: 55 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 20 g / 0.75oz Butter unsalted
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots finely sliced
  • 2 medium leeks outer leaves discarded, finely sliced
  • 1 small turnip (French navet) finely chopped into cubes
  • 2 ripe tomatoes chopped
  • 1 litre / 1.75 pints water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper according to taste
  • bunch fresh parsley or chervil roughly chopped (stalks removed)
Instructions
  1. In a large pan, gently melt the butter over a medium heat (don't allow it to brown). Sweat the peeled onion, carrots, and leeks gently for about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the water, the turnip, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities (foam) then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for up to 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened.  Add the tomatoes and chopped fresh herbs, cooking for another minute. 

Recipe Notes

Inspired by Raymond Blanc's Fresh Vegetable Soup with Chervil recipe in his book, Mange. If you prefer your soups smooth, then liquidise with a hand blender or food processor.

As I personally don't like celery, I have replaced one stalk of it with an extra leek - and adapt the vegetables according to season.  You could also use vegetable or chicken stock in place of the water but I find it's not necessary when using the fresh herbs.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Pure Vegetable Soup

Pure Vegetable Soup with chunks and the freshest of vegetables

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

The upside of last week’s heavy rainfall in Paris is that it has been ideal weather to bake some healthy breakfast bran muffins.

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

At this time of year I’m always looking for ways to bring a smile to my teenagers’ faces in the mornings. Let’s face it, it’s easy to get on that downward spiral of fatigue with a general lack of winter sunlight, the girls’ mock lycée exams and crescendo-ing snatched snooze alarms before reluctantly pushing aside the duvet (sound familiar?). We’ve needed to cheer up by starting the day with quick and easy comfort food that’s a bit nostalgic. Baking up a batch of these warmed healthy breakfast bran muffins with dates and apple has added a wee smile on my face too, thinking of Granny.

First let me show you some bright and cheery Scottish heather, snapped in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens over the weekend, then my French heather back in the garden, just after I got home, just west of Paris. There, that’s a sunshine fix for us – now for the muffins!

scottish heather Edinburgh

Looking for some cheery nostalgia, I brought out Granny’s Black Book of Scottish recipes again. I took it as a sign as the book opened directly at page 43, with Miss Adams’ recipe for Bran Muffins.

Only Granny would have known who Miss Adams was, as I can’t find any family members who had heard of her.  In any case, it was the perfect time to make these healthy breakfast bran muffins, as I’ve just discovered Hamlyn’s of Scotland’s new Oats and Bran. It took me right back to the time my Mum used to make bran muffins using a well-known breakfast cereal but when I checked the company’s website, it wasn’t up there – but who knew that Granny had a recipe?

So bring on these deliciously moist Breakfast Bran muffins, adapted from Granny’s Black Recipe Book with added healthy oats, dates and apple – and using weights (grams/ounces) to volume (cups).

Breakfast bran muffins

Granny’s handwritten recipe for Bran Muffins and Hamlyn’s Porridge Oats & Bran

Incidentally, if you’re curious why I always use weights rather than volume, see my post on measuring your baking here. And if you’re not curious and use cups, then I thoroughly recommend you read it now, as it will change the way you bake.  It’s not as important for making easy muffin recipes like this one, but boy – you can’t make macarons, fancy cakes consistently well, or French patisserie without digital scales!

As you can see from Miss Adams’ recipe, granny suggested using dates. I love that squidgy concoction.  She often mixed dates with apple in her recipes, so I added the apple in these too for old times’ sake.

This makes the bran muffins extra moist and with the dates’ natural sweetness, there’s no need to add anything to them. If you make the muffins the night before, just warm them slightly to serve for breakfast.

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

 

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

5 from 3 votes
Breakfast Bran Muffins
Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins with Oats, Dates & Apple
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

Irresistibly moist bran muffins with oats, dates and apple for a delicious healthy start to the day

Course: Breakfast, Snack, teatime
Cuisine: American, British, Scottish
Servings: 9
Calories: 153 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 100 g / 3.5oz plain flour all-purpose
  • 50 g / 1.75oz porridge oats with bran (Hamlyn's) or oats with 1 tbsp wheat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
  • 1 organic egg
  • 100 ml / 3.5fl oz milk
  • 70 g /2.5oz butter (unsalted) melted
  • 50 g /1.75oz soft dark brown sugar (Muscovado)
  • 100 g /3.5oz soft dates (Medjool) roughly chopped
  • 50 g /1.75oz apple finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp mixed/apple spice optional
  • 1 tbsp porridge oats for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan); Gas 6.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats with bran, baking powder and salt. Add the dates and apple (and apple spice if using) and coat in the flour mix.
  3. In another smaller bowl, beat the egg with the milk, melted butter and sugar. Mix together then add to the dry flour ingredients, stirring well until the batter is smooth.
    healthy breakfast bran muffins
  4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases inserted in buttered muffin tins (or directly into silicone muffin moulds). Fill ¾ of the way up.
  5. Sprinkle with a few porridge oats and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool completely for about 10 minutes before taking out of the tin.
Recipe Notes

Best served fresh on the day but for busy bakers, make the night before and store in an airtight container once cool.

Variations: Instead of 100g dates, mix 50/50 of dates and sultanas. Another variation is to replace the dates with soft dried apricots – particularly the organic dark ones.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Healthy breakfast bran muffins

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Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post but was thrilled to receive Scottish Porridge Oats & Bran from Hamlyns of Scotland in return for this recipe in their ‘Oat Cuisine’ collection (I wish I’d thought of that one!)

Moist Banana Chestnut Loaf

Whether it’s banana bread, loaf or cake, it’s a recipe you’ll want to make for teatime or breakfast.

Relais Desserts Yule Log Presentation, Paris 2017

This week, the elite group of top pastry chefs had us floating on the Seine for their annual Relais Desserts Yule Log presentation of Bûches de Noël. You’ll remember me talking about the Relais Desserts group here before, as they organise the charitable event, the Fête du Macaron or French Macaron Day each Springtime.

relais desserts yule log presentation paris 2017

Even the boat’s pristine top deck looked covered in shiny festive glaze with seats of whipped meringues. Meanwhile, I was already in a daze to get started  downstairs: there was a LOT of patisseries to get through and their stars of pastry to meet. So, ready for a bumper gourmet edition? Grab a cup of tea and join me on the sweet voyage.

 

Presided by Frédéric Cassel on the left below, Relais Desserts invited us to taste the bûches/yule logs, meet the chefs behind each creation, ask questions and enjoy the tasting notes.  As I do in my patisserie recipe books, each creation suggests how to serve it: either chilled or, as in most cases, to take out of the fridge for 15-30 minutes beforehand in order to appreciate all the flavours and textures.  Recommendations for the perfect drink to accompany them are also given, although this one is easy for a festive meal if you like bubbles.

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

 

Each yule log was presented by collection. Have you ever seen chocolate paper before? This listing was printed on paper made by 45% of recycled cacao shells.

cocoa paper

I’m a sensitive cookie. If you’re like me and an obsessed gourmet, can you imagine walking in to one long room filled with the most outstanding French pastry chefs in one spot? I was overwhelmed yet bubbling to discover each creation.

 

Dried Fruit & Nuts Collection (Fruits Secs)

relais desserts yule log Bernardé

Sporting the renowned collar of a Meilleur Ouvrier de FranceNicolas Bernardé doesn’t give a name to this yule log but certainly provokes the goose-bumps, just thinking of the flavours: NOISETTES-MANGUE-PASSION.  It’s a mountain of hazelnut sponge, mango-passion fruit compote with a passion fruit cream, crunchy hazelnuts from Piemont and a Gianduja crème légère. Enjoy it with Earl Grey tea.

 

Relais Desserts Mercotte Roussel

The beaming smiles of Mercotte and Christophe Roussel were in full tasting swing. Mercotte – France’s wonderful answer to Mary Berry – is TV presenter of La Meilleur Pâtissier, patisserie blogger at La Cuisine de Mercotte, and on the jury for Christophe Roussel’s prestigious Amateur annual pastry challenge, Le Défi Patissier, of which I was most flattered to join them as guest on the jury last year in La Baule (read all about it here).

 

relais desserts yule log Christophe Roussel

Far removed from a traditional yule log, Christophe Roussel, also the star of La Baule and la Guerande, evokes icy snow with his ICEBERG. Served chilled, it’s a most refreshing end to any festive meal. Topped with glistening choux buns, break into creamy vanilla, toasted hazelnuts from Piemont with a zesty touch of orange.

 

Jean-Philippe Darcis ‘s ALESSANDRIA (top left below) is best served with a good pure Arabica coffee, to accompany the Gianduja mousse, Ristretto cream with a cappuccino marshmallow, hazelnut sponge and chocolate-hazelnut crunchy crumble. Attention: it’s a limited edition, with 300 examples for Christmas.

Relais Desserts Yule logs Dalloyau Lenotre, Darcis

Jean-Christophe Jeanson prefers to keep his UNE SURPRISE Bûche secret. Made for Lenôtre Paris, even the packaging evokes a mysterious snowy forest in Lapland.  I wonder if Laurent Duchêne was asking if he could reveal it?

Again on a snowy and marshmallow note, Nicolas Boucher’s KUKLA (bottom right) is for Dalloyau Paris. Its  chocolate cover evokes a matryoshka doll, revealing a variation on a theme of a pavlova: an almond meringue base with confiture au lait with a financier heart of mango-passion fruit compote and vanilla cream.  Glazed in white chocolate, this frozen bûche is surrounded with a citrus marshmallow. Recommended with a mature dark rum.

 

Chocolate Yulelog Collection

relais desserts yule log Pierre Hermé

I managed to catch an enigmatic smile from Pierre Hermé, as he looked on to his GÂTEAU DE NOËL ÉCORCES. Together with artist Sylvianne Lüsher who designed the clay base, it’s an ephemeral piece of art – and at only 20 examples being made for Christmas, it’s a cracker of a limited edition! A log within a log, encompassing Viennese chocolate sponge, dark chocolate and raspberry Chantilly, raspberry compote with dark chocolate salted butter shortbread. Three out of the four portions are dark chocolate: one is raspberry red to give the artistic finish.

 

relais desserts yule log Hévin Paris

Following on from last year’s French Touch collection (see my post on it here), Jean-Paul Hévin has been inspired through time, paying homage to designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld with his GÉOMETRIK.
A crunchy almond praline with poppy seed base is topped with a Peruvian Grand Cru chocolate mousse smoked with pine, topped with a hazelnut sponge and caramelised laurel-infused mousse.
A special tip for clean-cutting this Christmas is to cut the yule log with a warmed knife.

 

relais desserts yule log marc Ducobu

Marc Ducobu‘s MERVEILLEUX NOËL brings the classic chocolate yule log from Belgium with new notes based on meringue, Chantilly, Caribbean chocolate ganache, with different chocolate crispy textures.

Vianney Bellanger (above right) brings his chocolate CAROUSSEL from Le Mans, evoking childhood with a crunchy chocolate crumble, plus the more rare criollo cacao variety in a chocolate mousse from the Dominican Republic. It comes with a chocolate crème anglaise (light custard) with crunchy pearls.

 

relais desserts yule log Jeff Oberweis

Jeff Oberweis concentrates more on after Christmas when the traditional yule log changes time to New Year’s Eve, known here as SAINT-SYLVESTRE.  Inspired by Salvador Dali’s melting clocks, it’s ticking with Madagascan dark chocolate mousse with a Gianduja crunch, plus a Brazilian milk chocolate cream topped on a chocolate almond sponge.  I think it’s about time we visited Luxembourg with only 2 hours by TGV from Paris. After having lived in Guatemala, he knows a thing or two about chocolate!

 

Spicy Collection (Épices)

Relais Desserts Yulelogs Pignol Lyon

Jean-Paul Pignol‘s BELLECOUR pays homage to the silhouette of Lyon’s famous square and his Madeleine de Proust of childhood memories: devouring clementines from under the Christmas tree.
The warming hint of spices are in a soft sponge, a crackling nutty contrasting texture with a Peruvian chocolate mousse which is interlaced with the most deliciously acidic note of clementine marmalade and confit. After discussing macarons and Lyon with Chef Pignol, I have to return soon: on my last gourmet trip to Lyon (see my post on Lyon’s patisseries) I didn’t even try his speciality, La Tarte Ecossaise!

 

relais desserts yule log arnaud larder

Arnaud Larher is already celebrating 20 years’ anniversary since opening his first boutique in Montmartre, 1997.  With a mixture of nostalgia and his favourite recipes comes ÉPICÉA.  It’s a yule log filled with 66% dark grand cru chocolate and gingerbread mousse, orange marmalade on a gingerbread base and all topped with a glaze and 80% dark chocolate Chantilly cream.

 

Citrus Yulelog Collection (Agrumes)

relais desserts yule log Mulhaupt

Thierry Mulhaupt brought this dazzling ÉTOILE from Strasbourg and Colmar to take the chocolate brownie to new heights. An almond brownie is topped with the most succulent Maltese orange caramel and topped with a 66% dark chocolate mousse with orange marmalade.
He also makes a savoury bûche (salmon, lemon, broccoli as a starter) and has just published a new book on Bredeles Salés, filled with savoury recipes for aperitif nibbles.

 

relais desserts yule log Luc Guillet

Luc Guillet must have been inundated with fans since I couldn’t find him before I had to run off.  To celebrate his first Christmas in the family business, his CÉSAR is inspired by his Asian travels, with fragrances of yuzu, black sesame, chocolate and caramel.

 

 

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Bouillet

Also hailing from Lyon, Sebastien Bouillet brings on a touch of circus fun with his CHAPITEAU. Toasted popcorn and 44% milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut are topped with a beautiful yuzu cream and yuzu jelly that tickles all the senses. For more on his boutiques, see my article on Lyon here.

 

Yulelog Fruit Collection

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Paris

Claire Damon, the only woman chef in the group, has logged herself with a self-portrait in INITALES CD.  Evoking her childhood memories of freshly cut hay at the end of spring, she evokes a taste of summer on the plate this Christmas. Be transported with a compote of handpicked wild blueberries from Auvergne, a light sponge of rice flour and an airy mousse fragranced with cut hay. There’s even a touch of crunchy wild clover. She healthily suggests a modest glass of still water to accompany it.

 

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

Claire Damon has the spoon! With Laurent Duchêne, Arnaud Larher, Sebastien Bouillet

 

relais desserts yule log laurent duchene Paris

It’s the famous Black Forest Gateau that inspired Laurent Duchêne this year with his SOUS BOIS FORET NOIRE. The fun visual of being in the woods mixed with the legendary ingredients are taken to new heights with a light chocolate sponge, Tanzanian 75% dark chocolate creamy mousse, griotte black cherry confit and a Madagascan vanilla Chantilly.

 

relais desserts yule log Frederic Cassel

Frédéric Cassel continues the tradition of exchanging gifts, and his BOITE CADEAU continues the charm with 14 Christmas boules garnished with all sorts of delicious speciality surprises from his patisserie in Fountainbleau. It’s a limited edition, with 100 examples available this Christmas.

 

relais desserts yule log Michel Pottier Grandin

Called Royale, referring to the royal burgh of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where Michel Pottier runs the Patisserie Grandin on rue du Pain (quite aptly named as the original bakers’ street to King François I’s château, just around the corner). As I live in the area, check out my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye and a DIY Chocolate & Pastry tour in his royal town.

Serve chilled, Royale’s lime and raspberry mousses nestle between an almond sponge, topped with toasted meringue with a fresh raspberry coulis or sauce. I like the mini macarons as a slice guide, so there’s no cheating.

relais desserts yule log richard Seve

Richard Sève beckoned me over with a square of red chocolate. I felt like Charlie in a chocolate factory. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s due to open a new lab and chocolate museum in Lyon at the end of this month.
He made the chocolate using whole fresh strawberries without any added sugar to continue the pleasure of summer over the Christmas table. His COLIBRIS, referring to the exotic birds that feed off the rare nectars of tropical fruits and flowers, adds the most intense yet light natural strawberry ganache with a compote of mango and passion fruit to an airy sponge.

 

relais desserts Coco Jobard

To finish off my early festive log, meet the talented Coco Jobard, food stylist and recipe editor for the association’s new forthcoming book, Haute-Pâtisserie for Relais Desserts, due to hit the bookshelves on 26 October. You mean – there’s more?

So, after all that, am I the only one to have this inexplicable urge for Champagne?

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museum

The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum Paris

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)