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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

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding

With winter thankfully fast disappearing around Paris, it’s about time I posted my favourite comfort-food dessert recipe, known affectionately in our family as S.T.P. or Sticky Toffee Pudding. Except I make this with a grated apple twist to the classic into a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding – just to add a little extra fruit to the decadent luscious toffee scrumptiousness!

sticky toffee apple pudding dessert

Why haven’t I posted this before? It goes against my Frenchie-style eating habits: I love dessert but shy away from over-sugared filling puddings.  This is the one exception – and the version below is my final answer to this most delicious dilemma called Sticky Toffee Pudding Syndrome.

Another reason? I already have a version of it in my first cookbook. For some fun, I converted the Sticky Toffee Pudding into a macaron for Mad About Macarons – making it an entirely gluten-free version.  I also made them into a giant macaron dessert for the book’s macaron dessert chapter, a kind of Xtra Large S.T.P. macaron!

Funnily enough, some American critics initially thought that S.T.P. was a “bit too British” for a macaron book – but little did they know that the recipe for sticky toffee pudding may well have originated in Canada, just like my Scottish Granny’s Matrimonial Cake (oaty date squares).

Sticky toffee pudding #macarons #glutenfree

As a youngter, my parents would often drive my wee brother and I down to the Lake District. It didn’t take us long to discover THE highlight of any of our trips there: we’d make a mandatory stop at the legendary Cartmel Village Shop for a S.T.P. dose from their “Home of Sticky Toffee”.
I distinctly remember the difference over many other sticky toffee puddings we tried in Scotland: it was distinctly dark and lush, covered in the darkest ever toffee sauce.

Living in France has meant the necessity of making this at home, as it’s not something we can just run out to our local pâtisserie or boulangerie and find – so this Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding was created along the way. It’s often requested by my beau-père, Jean-Pierre, who’s accent is adorable: can we have more of that steeecky toafee pood-eeeng?

Well, here it is, beau-papa.

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding

sticky toffee apple pudding #dessertlove #puddings

There are two ways of making this recipe:

Normally it’s made as a flat cake, batter sitting (nearly floating) on top of a pool of toffee sauce in a buttered ovenproof pie or gratin dish and serve spooned into pudding bowls or – in this case – teacups, inspired by Carina Contini’s family recipe for Sticky Ginger & Date Pudding in her Kitchen Garden Cookbook. I adapted the recipe, cutting down slightly on the butter and sugar and added apple, since my Granny always mixed dates with apple – it’s a deliciously nostalgic thing I can’t help continuing.

sticky toffee apple pudding #puddings #dessertrecipes #stickytoffee

Sticky Toffee Pudding Syndrome

If you’ve been smitten with this pudding, you’ll totally understand. The cake version has one HUGE problem: we normally have at least second portions and it can get out of control. It’s what we call the Sticky Toffee Pudding Syndrome. So, to avoid such sticky toffee impulses, my preferred method is to pour the batter into individual silicone moulds. It’s just enough. Full. Stop.

Moreover, they’re so easy to freeze when removed from their silicone moulds and reheat when needed – making them so handy to serve stress-free for a dinner party later!

sticky toffee apple pudding

We eat half and freeze the rest before anyone can ask for more.

No second portions – unless you want a sticky toffee pudding macaron?

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding Recipe

sticky toffee apple pudding sauce recipe

Firstly, make the sticky toffee sauce: you’ll need this not just for pouring when it’s served, but also for pouring underneath the batter to make the cakes beautifully sticky.

In order to get the best, dark sauce, use soft dark muscovado sugar. If you can’t find this in speciality épiceries in France, then use Vergeoise Brun.

sticky toffee apple pudding method

Prepare the date paste adding water, bicarbonate of soda and grate in a peeled apple. Make the batter and fold in the date and apple mixture.

sticky toffee apple pudding recipe method

Pour in the toffee sauce to about 1/4 of the way then top with the batter, leaving 1/3 space at the top for the cake batter to rise. Bake for about 30 minutes and serve with the toffee sauce. That’s it!

sticky toffee apple pudding #dessertrecipes #bestofbritish #classicpuddings

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Cooling Time
10 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
 

An apple addition to the lush Sticky Toffee Pudding classic recipe, served individually in a pool of the darkest toffee sauce. The puddings and sauce also freeze extremely well. Just reheat them separately and serve when you need a dose of Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding! I use briochette or muffin silicone moulds, but traditional buttered dariole moulds are also good.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British, Canadian
Keyword: date pudding, sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 450 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Sticky Toffee Sauce:
  • 175 g (6oz) butter, unsalted
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
  • 250 g (9oz) dark Muscovado sugar Vergeoise Brun or soft dark brown sugar
  • 225 g (8oz) whipping cream (30% fat)
Pudding Batter:
  • 175 g (6oz) pitted dates roughly chopped
  • 175 ml (6fl oz) water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 apple (e.g. Granny Smith) peeled & grated
  • 75 g (3oz) butter, unsalted
  • 110 g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar (Muscovado)
  • 2 eggs organic
  • 150 g (5.5oz) plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (no need if use self-raising flour above)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger optional
Instructions
Sticky Toffee Sauce:
  1. Melt the butter, sugar and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat, then once dissolved, turn down the heat to low and stir occasionally until the sauce becomes smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool.

Pudding Batter:
  1. In a saucepan, cover the dates with the water and bring to the boil. Add the baking soda then mash until a smooth paste. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then stir in the grated apple until well combined.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4.

    Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl or in a large stand-mixer until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, flour and ginger (if using). Fold in the date and apple mixture until mixed together.

  3. Pour 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of each silicone mould (or into a buttered gratin dish if you prefer the cake-like version). Top with the batter until 1/3 from the top, giving enough room for the batter to rise. Bake for 30 minutes.

  4. Remove from the moulds after 5 minutes cooling and place directly on serving dishes. Reheat the toffee sauce and pour over each pudding. 

Recipe Notes

The puddings and sauce freeze well. Once the puddings are cooled, chill then transfer to a zip-lock bag or containers - likewise for the sauce.  Just defrost and reheat before serving.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

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sticky toffee apple #pudding #desserttable #bestofbritish #stickytoffeepudding

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Chicken Prune Tagine – Spicy Comfort Food

A Tagine is, broadly speaking, the French’s answer to the British’s favourite curry. When looking for a bit of comforting spice and the warming exotic, as the British go Indian, the French go Moroccan. As we’re a British-French family we love both – but during the winter, one of our favourite slow-cooked casseroles is this Chicken Prune Tagine, as it’s lighter than it looks.

chicken prune tagine

When I first arrived in Paris in 1992, Indian curry houses were rare; on the other hand, Moroccan Couscous restaurants were – and still are – extremely popular. What I love about tagines (or tajines, named after the dish they’re traditionally cooked in) is that they’re healthy, too. No need for a heavy dessert afterwards, either. The best dessert following this? Sliced juicy table oranges, with a hint of orange blossom water and more grilled almonds, if you have any left – and what about a orange and prune macaron?

This has been my go-to splashed and tattered recipe for years, adapted from a magazine cut-out (with my added notes like ‘More garlic!’, ‘add saffron’ and ‘fresh coriander a must’). Even French/Spanish family that live in Morocco approved this recipe, which is the ultimate compliment. Ideally it’s cooked in a tagine dish but is just as good in a good, heavy crock pot.

turkey prune tagine

This recipe started out as a lamb tagine but gradually, as the family have been eating meat less and enjoying more poultry, we’ve replaced it with something a bit more ‘meaty’ than chicken – even although chicken is super for this recipe. Traditionally, chicken tagine is usually made with olives and citron confit or preserved lemon (I love that too – recipe to come!). As it can be a bit acidic, the kids prefer this moreish chicken prune tagine version.

Meaty Poultry: Oyster (fowl) – Perfect for Chicken Prune Tagine

So what’s the special poultry meat that can fool us into thinking that it looks like lamb yet tastes slightly lighter? We find it at many local boucheries or at the local market: known as Sot l’y laisse or huîtres de poulet. They are Oyster Fowl – two oyster-sized rounds of darker poultry meat, found near the thighs.

sot l'y laisse or oyster fowl

They’re rather large – so large that, by rule of thumb, we usually have 3 per person and they can be each cut into 3.  They resemble pig’s cheeks (joues de porc), another interesting ingredient for spicy dishes. Please remind me later if you’re interested, as I have another recipe I often make yet haven’t posted. It’s dynamite.

What do they have in common? They’re so much cheaper and just as tender as lamb in a slow-cooked casserole.

Turkey prune tagine

Serve this Chicken Prune Tagine with medium sized semolina (couscous). According to packet instructions for semolina, use about 100g (3.5oz) per person with the same amount of water. Instead, for 4 portions, I’ll use 400g (14oz) of semolina, tossed in a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and 400ml of liquid: water topped with a tablespoon of Moroccan orange blossom water and mixed with a handful of golden sultanas, then heat.

Did you spot the macaron? It’s one of my savoury macarons from Mad About Macarons which uses mainly cumin and is ideal for serving before or during a fun spicy evening. It’s a taste sensation that tickles the senses: pop in a mini mac and hit the cayenne spice then the second that follows, the (reduced) sugar in the macaron shells put out the fire. Taste it and see!

turkey prune tagine macarons

Chicken Prune Tagine Recipe

Chicken Prune Tagine
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 40 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
 

A lightly spiced chicken tagine with prunes, served with orange blossom and sultana semolina and topped with toasted almonds and fresh coriander - perfect winter comfort food. Savoury macarons optional!

Course: Main, Main Course
Cuisine: French, Moroccan
Keyword: chicken prune tagine, couscous, spicy poultry slowcooked dish, tagine
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 473 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 1.2 kg (2lb 12oz) chicken breasts or whole chicken cut into 12 pieces (or oyster fowl)
  • 5 tbsp plain flour (for coating the chicken)
  • olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic peeled & grated
  • 4 cm piece fresh ginger grated
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp 4-spices powder (cloves, cinnamon, ginger, pepper)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
  • sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 tomatoes chopped
  • 24 juicy prunes (ideally with stones for flavour)
  • Pinch saffron ground or strands (optional)
  • 25 g (1oz) almond slivers toasted under grill, for garnish
  • fresh coriander for garnish
Instructions
  1. Coat the chicken in flour and fry in olive oil in a large non-stick casserole dish. When browned on all sides, strain and remove from the pot. Keep aside on a plate. Add the grated garlic, ginger and cayenne, frying for a minute. Add the rest of the spices and fry for a further minute.

  2. Add the chicken back to the pot with the chicken stock and thyme Cover and cook on low heat for at least an hour. 

  3. Add the tomatoes, prunes and saffron, if using. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Prepare the semolina, as per packet instructions and serve with toasted almond slivers and lots of fresh coriander.

Recipe Notes

Serve with semolina (100g per person/100ml water including a tbsp orange blossom water, a tbsp olive oil for 6, pepper, salt, olive oil), prepare as of packet instructions and add a knob of butter when reheating.

The tagine can be made the day before and reheated before serving. Also freezes well. I suggest making the first part without the prunes. Cool, chill & freeze then after defrosting, reheat adding the prunes and continue the rest of the recipe.

Serve with a Moroccan red wine (we love 'Tandem', a syrah fruity/peppery red made as a joint effort by Alain Graillot and Ouled Thaleb winery near Casablanca).

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

chicken-prune-tagine-couscous

Thanks so much for sharing, pinning or commenting below – it means the world to hear that you’ve either made/enjoyed this Chicken Prune Tagine or even popped in just to say bonjour.

I forgot to tell you one of our other favourite winter warming slow-cooked casseroles: it’s this classic French Blanquette de Veau.

turkey prune tagine

Cumin and have a spicy winter warmer with a wee savoury macaron!

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Bourdaloue Pear Tart – a Parisian Classic

Many a Parisian knows of their Bourdaloue pear tart. It’s a classic found in many patisseries at this time of year and has been glazing around the City of Light since the 1900s.

Just after I took these photos in the pear-fect street of Rue Bourdaloue in Paris’s 9th arrondissement, I bit into this tartlet. The filling fell straight out of the soggy base. Frankly for the price, it was disappointing and not the freshest of pastries.  It can happen but it’s incentive to make homemade at times.

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

To get to know the Bourdaloue Pear Tart better, I reached for Larousse Gastronomique. Translated into English it reads:

Bourdaloue is a tart invented by a pastry chef in Paris’s Rue Bourdaloue during la Belle Epoque – composed of poached Pear Williams, drowned in a vanilla frangipane cream, covered in broken macarons and finally glazed in the oven.

The words, “drowned in a vanilla frangipane cream” has me glazed over myself. But who knew it was covered in broken macarons? All versions I see of this tart in Paris patisseries are covered simply in slivered almonds. I’m not keen on breaking macarons – perhaps for a macaron tiramisu – so let’s top with some shells. Now for the tart!

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

The frangipane cream filling is often made using a mix of both an almond cream and crème patissière (pastry cream). While this is absolutely delicious, for this recipe I prefer cutting corners: I skip the pastry cream step and make an easy almond cream adding a dash of good, dark Jamaican rum.

I’m sure the pears won’t mind being drowned in that.

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

What Pears are Best for the Bourdaloue Tart?

As in Larousse, I’ve made this tart using Williams, while Comice or Conference are just as good for poaching pears from scratch (see this recipe for Poached Pears in Coffee and Vanilla for the method). I’ve even tried using fresh pears without poaching: just act quickly and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent them turning brown. Pick pears that are not yet ripe but not brick hard either. Slightly soft yet firm is perfect.

This recipe, however, is based on the one in the Larousse French Book of Desserts, which uses tinned pears in syrup. If Pierre Hermé can do it, I don’t feel too bad at cutting corners here with tinned. It’s so much easier and just as tasty.

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

Let me add that if you’re following a professional pastry course like the CAP Patisserie, then you wouldn’t use tinned pears. After baking the tart, you’d mix an egg yolk with water and brush it on to the pastry sides and bake for a further couple of minutes. Then you’d make a fancy nappage glaze to polish it all off.

For this easier recipe, just brush with about 4 tablespoons of slightly warmed apricot jam after the tart comes out of the oven. I recommend making your own pastry (I use my favourite one from the tart chapter in Teatime in Paris) but if you’re short for time, use ready-made shortcrust pastry (pâte sablée).

Bourdaloue Pear Tart Step by Step

Bourdaloue Pear Tart Recipe

 

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

Bourdaloue Pear Tart
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Chilling Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

Bourdaloue Pear Tart, named after the Parisian street where it was invented in the 1900s. A shortcrust tart base filled with Williams pears and almond cream, glazed and topped with slivered almonds and macarons.

Course: Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Bourdaloue Tart, Pear Almond Tart, Pear Tart
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 387 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Sweet Pastry (based on my recipe in 'Teatime in Paris') or use ready-made shortcrust
  • 125 g (4.5oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 75 g (3oz) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1 organic egg
  • 225 g (8oz) plain (all-purpose) flour preference Type 45
  • 25 g (1oz) ground almonds/almond flour
Pear and Almond Cream Filling:
  • 6 half pears tinned
  • 100 g (3.5oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 75 g (3oz) sugar
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 3 drops almond extract
  • 100 g (3.5oz) ground almonds/almond flour
  • 2 tbsp good quality dark rum
  • 20 g (handful) slivered almonds
Glaze:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) apricot jam slightly warmed
Instructions
Sweet Pastry:
  1. Using a stand mixer with a paddle beater (otherwise mix by hand but use cold butter), mix the butter, sugar and salt until pale and creamy. Gradually add the egg, flour and ground almonds until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour.

  2. Leave to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes then roll out the pastry to about 3-4mm on a lightly floured surface. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin to transfer to a loose-bottomed tart tin (28cm diameter).

  3. Using your fingers, press the pastry right into the sides of the tin. Roll the rolling pin over the top to even off the pastry, prick with a fork then chill for 30 minutes.

Pear and Almond Filling:
  1. Drain the pear halves from the syrup on kitchen paper. When dry, cut them in slices horizontally (optional).

  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, almond extract, ground almonds and rum.

  3. Spread over this mixture evenly over the tart base using a palette knife (or pipe it out in a spiral). For a 28cm tin, this will look quite thin but it will puff up in the oven and keep your tart golden and crispy.

  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Using a (palette) knife, carefully transfer the pears evenly over the top and sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

  5. Bake in the oven for 30-35 or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from the tin and brush over with the apricot jam. Top with macaron shells (recipe in both my books).

Recipe Notes

Nutritional Information: 387 calories per serving; 6g protein; 29g carbohydrates; 26g fat.

For more detailed instructions on the tart's pastry, see the tart chapter in my book, Teatime in Paris.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making this Bourdaloue Pear Tart recipe?  Please leave some comment love below, take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram or Facebook – or just tell your family and friends about le blog! Thanks so much – I love to see you enjoying the recipes.

Bourdaloue Pear Tart

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Lightest Dark Chocolate Mousse

Trust the French to transform just a few simple yet good quality ingredients into a most elegant dessert. This dark chocolate mousse is also an extremely light chocolate mousse. Unlike many recipes I’ve tried, this one essentially consists of dark chocolate with whipped egg whites. So, it’s a light yet dark French chocolate mousse – without any cream!

It’s not unlike this egg white-based light-as-a-feather white chocolate mousse with orange blossom but this dark chocolate one is decadent for serious chocolate lovers.

Dark chocolate mousse recipe

Just before Julie left recently for her new studies in London, I’d asked what she’d love as her favourite meal together as a special send-off.  It was classic lasagna (it was also a toss-up for this Corsican Cheese and Spinach Lasagne), loads of unpasteurised cheese, followed by this dark chocolate mousse for dessert.

Her list didn’t stop there, though; she added, “and a batch of chocolate, chestnut and cinnamon macarons, please.” with her most beautiful eyes sparkling over a cheesy grin that melted my heart. How can a Mum refuse that?

dark chocolate mousse with macarons

So, as you can see, her wish was granted – including an extra bonus of unusually warm weather so that dinner was outdoors – and before I could say, “Let’s keep some macarons for teatime tomorrow ….” the whole lot disappeared.  I wasn’t complaining; I’d kept the other box aside, hidden at the back of the fridge! Although, they’ve got used to that trick by now so ended up putting the rest in the freezer.

Incidentally, the recipe for the dark chocolate macarons with chestnut and cinnamon is in my book, Teatime in Paris.

dark chocolate mousse

As you can see from the recipe card below, the recipe is so easy: it’s basically melting (good quality) dark chocolate and unsweetened chocolate powder together over a pan of simmering water, then adding one egg yolk and whipped up egg whites with sugar. Although slightly tweeked with more dark chocolate, less powder and the addition of salt, this is my favourite recipe inspired by Raymond Blanc.

Speaking of Blanc, only ONE egg yolk is used, so I’d suggest making any of the recipes from the egg yolk recipe database in advance. That way you can put aside plenty of egg whites (I normally store them in a clean jam jar in the fridge for up to 5 days) to make this mousse – and indeed, homemade macarons!

dark chocolate mousse recipe method

Dark Chocolate Mousse

5 from 1 vote
dark chocolate mousse
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Chilling Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

A French classic without any cream: a light and intensely bittersweet dark chocolate mousse for serious chocolate lovers - topped with the most fondant macarons.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 133 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 170 g (6oz) dark (bittersweet) cooking chocolate best at 70% (but no less than 64%)
  • 15 g (0.5oz) unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten)
  • 290 g (10.5oz) organic egg whites (from approx. 10 eggs)
  • 30 g (1oz) sugar
  • 1 organic egg yolk
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
Instructions
  1. Melt the chocolate and cocoa powder together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (Bain-marie), taking care not to overcook the chocolate (don't have the water at a rolling boil, just simmering gently). As soon as the chocolate is easy to stir, switch off the heat and stir until smooth, keeping the bowl over the pan to keep warm.

  2. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites (using a stand mixer or electric beaters) with the sugar until soft peaks form.

  3. Quickly stir in the egg yolk and half of the fluffy egg whites then fold in the rest of the whites using a spatula, adding the pinch of fleur de sel salt.

  4. Spoon into serving glasses and place in the fridge to chill for about 1.5 hours until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

Serve with good quality chocolate macarons and garnish with edible flowers.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

dark chocolate mousse

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making this dark chocolate mousse recipe?  Please leave a comment below or take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram / Facebook, or just tell your friends to join me on le blog! Thanks so much – I love to see you enjoying the recipes!

Wood Cottage like chocolate

As the dark chocolate mousse was chilling nicely in the fridge, we popped along to Wood Cottage in Le Vésinet (just west of Paris, in les Yvelines), for a FREE (!) jazz concert.  How lucky everyone was that day with such glorious weather.

Now classed a historical monument, the 1864 Wood Cottage buildings look remarkably like chocolate, don’t they? I’ll be writing more about Le Vésinet and many other of our lovely local towns just outside Paris soon, so don’t forget to sign up below so you don’t miss any new posts.

dark chocolate macarons

While we’re on the subject of chocolate, stay tuned for the most incredible chocolate shop personality just 5 minutes’ walk from Le Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, à l’Etoile d’Or with Denise Acabo.

French dark chocolate mousse no cream

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Matrimonial Cake – Oaty Shortbread Date Squares

It’s wedding season – and even if it’s not, what better lovable treat is there to serve than sticky Matrimonial Cake, or oaty shortbread date squares, with your date?

I’ve baffled even myself as to why I haven’t made these oaty date squares until recently.  Granny called the recipe “Matrimonial Cake” and it was my personal favourite of all of my childhood baking with her and Auntie Shirley in Musselburgh. There was only one problem and so it comes with a warning to you: it’s so blooming addictive!

Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares

By now, if I’m able to control myself like the French women with sumptuous Parisian macarons, Lemon Passion Meringue tarts, Strawberry & Elderflower éclairs, double chocolate tartlets, buttery financiers and Madeleines (all in Teatime in Paris), plus the likes of palets bretons butter biscuits, I can safely make Granny’s Matrimonial Cake and leave it sitting in the box for up to a week.  Right?

Wrong. Moreover, it hasn’t helped that Lucie provides a daily reminder that they’re just sitting in the fridge. “Let’s just have a couple, Mum. Don’t worry – you’ll still get in to your dress for the next wedding”.

It’s hard to believe it’s already two weeks ago that I was back in Scotland celebrating Lindsay and Eddie’s wedding in Edinburgh.

matrimonial cake Scottish wedding

My cousin, Lindsay, is the life and soul of every family party and at Christmas time, before you know it after Auntie Catherine lights up her homemade Figgy Pudding with brandy, there’s no snoozing by the fire; you can pretty much guarantee being put into a team as Lindsay puts on the entertainment for the rest of the evening with a whole variety of party games, quizzes and prizes. Eddie, you’re in for a most fun-loving life together and wish you both matrimonial bliss for a long, healthy and happy vie à deux en amoureux. As they say in Scotland, “lang may yer lum reek” (long may your chimney smoke)!

matrimonial Cake Scottish wedding dancing

Back home in France – as the honeymooners had found the sunshine – we were unexpectedly snowed in.  For the first time in five years, Paris was briefly coated in a giant duvet of snow and with the girls’ lycée closed, it meant I turned to Granny’s Black Book of Scottish Recipes for our golden sunshine in the cosy kitchen.

Thinking of the wedding, it had to be Matrimonial Cake! As the recipe calls for cups, I’ve double checked the quantities in more modernised measurements in grams and ounces and, as always, reduced the sugar slightly.

matrimonial Cake in the snow

Why is it called Matrimonial Cake?

Goodness knows why the recipe is called “Matrimonial Cake”.  Do you know of its origins? If you do, then please leave a comment below this post – I’d love to hear from you! All I know is that it’s popular in Canada, with some Canadians mentioning that the recipe originally came from Scotland.

This is when I wish I could have asked Granny tons of questions today, as this recipe probably has a lot more to it than meets the eye. All I know is that before life with Grandpa, she’d left Scotland and lived in Canada for about 3 years with a most adventurous life as nanny to five children of a business tycoon of a canning factory, originally from Kinlochleven in Scotland. Mr & Mrs Stewart loved entertaining and while travelling in their private plane, Granny had full control of their children, taking them on holiday, baking, sewing etc. and keeping up with the glamorous life.

matrimonial cake

When she baked these date squares with us, who knows what was running in her mind of memories? Questions were taboo back in these days but knowing just this now, I’d be dying to know the children’s names. Were they named after her own 5 children later: Ronald, Shirley, Irene, June and Catherine?

So, Matrimonial Cake looks like it came from her previous life in Canada. Its name is probably just because it was served at weddings at some time.  It’s ideal for a winter wedding, as dates are easy to keep in store. My theory is that it’s simply so deliciously addictive that it had to be kept for weddings or special occasions – what do you think?

Whatever its origins, this Matrimonial Cake is just as addictive as I remember it and Lucie is pleading we make it again.  We have a good excuse, as tomorrow Antoine’s cousin is coming over with her fiancé for a goûter before we see them at their French wedding during the next holidays near Paris.  More matrimonial cake bliss is ahead…

matrimonial cake or date squares

Matrimonial Cake: The Recipe

Granny mentions using lemon juice so I’m sticking with it – and even added a bit more which made the date paste turn a bit pinkish in colour but I loved this, as it ended up being rather appropriate for Valentine’s Day, too.  I see in other Canadian recipes that they use orange juice instead plus even some zest but I prefer keeping it simple as I remember it.  If you feel some zest coming on, then go for it!

Once the delicious shortbread-like oat crumble is pressed in to the bottom of the tin and spread with the date paste, just drop on the crumble topping and only gently pat it down so that the effect is still a bit crumbly on top.

matrimonial cake (date squares)

If you love dates, then you’ll also love these Date and Apple Bran Muffins, another inspiration from Granny’s recipes. One day, I’ll convince Uncle Ronnie to give me his recipe for a rather famous Date Loaf. In the meantime, wishing them a most Happy Wedding Anniversary – 60 years and many more of matrimonial bliss! I even heard the Queen wished them Happy Anniversary, too!

5 from 3 votes
Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares
Matrimonial Cake - Oaty Shortbread Date Squares
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Matrimonial Cake that Granny used to make. Whether it's Canadian or Scottish, the result is just as delicious: dates sandwiched in an oat shortbread crumble crust.

Course: Snack, teatime
Cuisine: Canadian, Scottish
Servings: 10 people (calories for 2 squares each @70g)
Calories: 275 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Date Filling
  • 255 g (9 oz) Pitted dates either in a block or separate in packets
  • 110 ml (4 fl oz) boiling water
  • 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 lemon juice only from a lemon
Oat Shortbread
  • 110 g (4 oz) butter (unsalted) softened
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g (3 oz) porridge oats
  • 120 g (4 oz) plain flour all-purpose
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 good pinch salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
Instructions
For the Date Filling:
  1. In a saucepan, cook together all the ingredients except the lemon juice.  Cook gently until soft (about 20 minutes). It's ready when the dates soften into a paste. (If you prefer having a perfectly smooth paste, then blitz it for a few seconds in a food processor.)  Set aside to cool then add the lemon juice.

For the Oat Shortbread Crumble:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4 and grease a baking tin (I use a 27x19cm tin) with either butter or spray with baking oil.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together either by hand using a wooden spoon or better, in a food mixer/processor.

  3. Add oats, flour, soda and vanilla until well combined.

  4. Press a bit more than half of the mixture into the greased baking tin - either with your fingers or using a flat spatula to make the bottom layer even. Spread on the date paste using a spatula and smooth it out until even.

  5. Top with the oaty shortbread crumbs and gently pat it on top to keep it in place but not too much - it's better to have a crumbly look to the topping. 

  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the oats are lightly toasted.

  7. Cool on a wire rack then place in the fridge for about 30 minutes, remove from the tin and cut into squares - or bars, if you prefer.

Recipe Notes

Like macarons, this is even better eaten next day - and the next and next...

Store up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. Best eaten at room temperature so remove from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

matrimonial cake or date squares recipe from Granny's selection of Scottish recipes

Like the recipe?  Have something to say about it? Just even want to say hello?  I love hearing from you – it’s my motivation to keep this blog going as I don’t monetise it. So, don’t be shy and leave a reply below… thank you!

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