A deliciously zingy, creamy topping for crepes or pancakes this February.
A French Classic recipe of stuffed savoy cabbage made easy by using turkey stuffing leftovers.
Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits were just asking to be baked. It was a sign: Corsican lemons poking out from an oversized basket, stuck to their prickly leaves. I filled a large bag and, dreaming at the Monoprix checkout, thought about my favourite lemon and passion fruit meringue tart I could make with them. Corsican hubby would be pleased.
Then Lucie suddenly came down with a virus all last week while Mummy bear tried to calm her scratchy throat and racking cough with hot lemon and honey drinks. Finally when the fever subsided after a few days, it was my turn for the symptoms; then Antoine; like crashing dominoes, we were. The lemons didn’t make it to dessert mode – instead these easy Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits.
The oversized jar of honey, bought from the market at Apt last summer, was also our best medicine. Miel de Garrigues, or honey from the Mediterranean coastal regions from such typical wild shrubs as lavender, thyme, sage, rosemary was the perfect soothing addition to drinks, yoghurts and to coat our favourite weekend brioche (thank you, freezer!).
Feeling sorry for myself (I’m a typical Aries – I’d hate to live with me), I felt the love circulating via friends with hints on the best remedies on Facebook – thank you! Now I’ve discovered Rooibos, that has really helped.
However, I’ve also been thinking about the new website, and so Jérôme’s suggestion, “More egg yolk recipes?” was also welcome. I’ve gradually been building up a list of yolk recipes and you’ll be happy to hear there are plenty more waiting for you in my book, Teatime in Paris (as well as many egg white recipes!). Meanwhile I’m adding more to the list here on le blog. After all, we are mad about macarons, and we need to use up these yolks tout de suite.
Luckily I hadn’t lost my appetite. Come teatime this weekend, the end of the honeypot was looking rather concrete and unappetising. With only a few seconds in the microwave, the last of the liquid nectar was just too good to down all in one go, so I found these biscuits on the internet.
I say biscuits with my Scottish accent, my American friends call them cookies, the French call them sablés, so what on earth was I supposed to write as a title? Incidentally, the French refer to them as sablés since as you mix the butter and flour together with your fingertips, it resembles sand (our breadcrumbs reference). Crumbs – isn’t that fascinating? So, honey lemon sablé biscuits they are.
Honey Lemon Sablé Biscuits
Recipe slightly adapted from 750 grammes French website for Petits délices au miel. I reduced the sugar slightly and added a pinch of salt. I used a stronger honey (like mountain honey) which flavours the biscuits beautifully.
Makes about 40 sablés (depending on the size of your cookie cutters) @ 83 Calories each.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
250g / 9oz plain flour
60g / 2.5oz sugar
130g /4.5oz softened butter (unsalted/doux)
2 egg yolks
2 tsps lemon zest (unwaxed)
3 tbsp runny honey (Accacia)
1. Measure the flour in a large bowl. In the centre, add the sugar, softened butter, lemon zest, honey and salt. Mix all together well with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or sand – sable – as the French say) then add the egg yolks.
Alternatively, if you have a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients together for a couple of minutes maximum until well blended together.
2. Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan. Remove the dough from the fridge and film and roll out with a rolling pin to about 5mm thickness. Cut the dough using your favourite cookie cutters. Put the biscuits on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Bake for 10 minutes.
4. Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes (this will make it easier to remove them) then cool on a wire rack.
I was planning on coating them with a ginger and lemon glaze but after having tried the first ones, I can honestly say they don’t need any fancy toppings. They are delicious and tasty enough on their own. Although don’t forget the tea! Serve with lemon tea – or why not a warming pot of Ginger Rooibos tea?
Quick and easy cookies that are delicious using a strong mountain honey or Acacia honey that are particularly good with a pot of ginger Rooibos tea if you have a cold - or not!
- 250 g / 9oz plain flour
- 60 g / 2.5oz sugar
- 130 g /4.5oz softened butter unsalted/doux
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tsps lemon zest unwaxed
- 3 tbsp runny honey Acacia/mountain honey
- 1 good pinch salt fleur de sel
- Measure the flour in a large bowl. In the centre, add the sugar, softened butter, lemon zest, honey and salt. Mix all together well with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or sand - sable - as the French say) then add the egg yolks.
- Alternatively, if you have a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients together for a couple of minutes maximum until well blended together.
- Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan. Remove the dough from the fridge and film and roll out with a rolling pin to about 5mm thickness. Cut the dough using your favourite cookie cutters. Put the biscuits on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes (this will make it easier to remove them) then cool on a wire rack.
DON’T MISS A POST! Sign up for email alerts direct to your inbox: choose either daily, weekly or monthly. It’s that easy!
The French school mid-term holidays just came and went. So did the wonderfully sunny weather we had: it was a surprising bonus to be in T-shirts at the end of October so we jumped on the RER train into Paris to the Museum of Chocolate. Are you ready for a quick virtual choco-story run around?
The Paris chocolate museum is well ‘spread out’ and presented on 3 floors. When we arrived, we could sense it was the school holidays: groups of youngsters and really young ones were being taken around. Whether they grasped the story of chocolate beats me, as the poor things seemed to be told off more than given the chance to listen.
Why the name Chocolate?
The museum’s ground floor covers the Mayans and the Aztecs, starting out with questions where chocolate came from. For example, “Why the name cacao or cocoa?” Well different Mayan ceramic pots are decorated with glyphs which have been interpreted as ka-ka-wa. Hence the word cacao or cocoa in English.
Then why the name “chocolate”? In Nahuatl, a language which is still spoken today by ore than 1.5 million Indians in Central America, cacahuatl is the word for chocolate: kakawa = cocoa, atl = water. In the second part of the 16th century, the Spanish however used the word chocolatl, taking the Mayan word chocol to mean hot and the Aztec word atl to mean water, which later became chocolate.
How Chocolate Comes to Spain
The Mayans traded with cacao beans and so when Christopher Columbus saw this, he brought back the beans to Spain then, thinking they were bitter almonds, chucked them over his shrugging shoulders, thinking there wasn’t much they could do with them.
In 1519 it was the Spanish explorer, Cortez, that discovered the Aztecs drinking this bitter drink, chocolatl, from ceremonial pots. King Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (I need a hot chocolate just to pronounce that one!) managed to produce 2000 large goblets of cocoa for his warriors. It was a drink to fight fatigue and build resistance. The drink wasn’t just bitter (vanilla and honey were added to sweeten slightly) but it was also spicy using mexican pepper, chili and allspice. Thinking that Cortez was a feathered serpent god, the King offered him some of the royal potion and the story began…
Cortez finally brought cacao back to Spain in 1528. Up until 1580, the Spaniards managed to keep this special drink pretty quiet by forbidding it to be exported and in 1580 opened the first cacao processing plant. By this time they also added sugar and cinnamon to the spicy drink.
Fast forward to 1753 and the the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus names the cocoa tree Theobroma Cacao.
In Spain, cocoa products were originally sold in pharmacies. When it came to France, it was given the same treatment. Cocoa butter was also sold as ointment. I was just thinking about that as I was rubbing in my favourite cocoa butter moisturiser after my shower this morning – it’s just as good!
Sugar was obtained only from the sugar cane. The sugar cane was pressed and the juice thickened into a very sweet liquid, which was poured into conical moulds. After crystallisation, a cone of sugar was obtained. This is how sugar was sold at the time, as it still is today in certain regions of Morocco.
The sugar cones – also known as sugarloaf – or pain de sucre, needed some rather sinister looking implements to cut them! For Facebook friends who tried to guess what this was over Hallowe’en, here’s your answer!
It was only by the beginning of the 1800s that sugar beet came to be used in Europe.
The juicy bits of history – when the chocolate drink comes to France via the royal courts and is then consumed as chocolate today – is missing here as this would end up being a mammoth post! My colleagues and I talk about this during our chocolate and pastry walking tours in Paris via Context Travel.
The top floor also covers the first adverts, chocolate in France and collections of pretty chocolate and bonbon boxes, porcelain or ceramic.
And rather interesting looking chocolate pots. I particularly like this modern version from Marseille, complete with a Molinillo-style chocolate beater, or moussoir. Although the pourer does look like a rather long talking point! Chocolate as an aphrodisiac is also covered – it even goes back to the Mayans and Aztecs. The kids seemed to spend a long time trying to understand this section… ahem.
The Paris Chocolate Museum finishes with a short documentary film (which is needed, as the actual making of chocolate needs more emphasis, I felt) and a 15-minute demonstration downstairs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: my group were either too timid or too busy eyeing the samples offered. The girls and I were too polite and took only one and missed the others. Is that a British, “After you”.. trait?
I also bought the tasting of hot chocolate at the end of the visit for the girls. They had a choice of flavour, including a more Aztec style of drink, full of spices which was more intense in chocolate. The tasting takes place in the museum shop. As it was in the holidays, it was quite crowded but nevertheless it’s a visit I do recommend if you would love to learn more about the fascinating world of chocolate.
Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat – Choco Story
28 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
Métro: Bonne Nouvelle
Open every day 10am – 6pm
Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps. Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer to liberate us from any of the year’s accumulating cobwebs. Next time I’ll take a bike (although I need to practice on flat ground first) but in the meantime we did plenty of cyclist watching, hypnotically driving behind previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.
As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door. Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours. We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.
This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived. You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.
Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!
It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors. Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC. On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.
It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.
After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls (Valérie, a good friend in Provence, has a sign in her WC saying “If you’re not embarrassing your kids you’re not living life to the full”.) Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice cream flavours from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.
Somehow, however, I feel I can live life to the full without selfies. The girls were trying to explain how to take them properly but I was more interested in ice cream. Julie didn’t give up: “Well at least make a silly face, Mum.” I tried.
I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates). Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.
As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at the local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce. Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, dark chocolate cake, or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons. It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colour (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?
It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a Sunday afternoon lunch last weekend. Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio-strawberry creamy desserts.
Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons! I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen. It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them. Rouen – there’s another place I should tell you about later.
Perhaps I could call the chocolate-hazelnut macarons (one of the 38 macaron recipes in the book BTW) Baci macaron? Bite into one and it’s a chocolate kiss. Oh-la-la. Enough of that nutty talk. Time to get on with the recipe!
Recipe: Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis
Makes enough for 8 mini verrines / shot-glasses
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2.5 hours minimum
3 sheets gelatine (@2g each)
400ml crème fleurette or whipping cream (30% butterfat)
100ml whole/full fat milk
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste *
3-4 drops pistachio extract (or almond extract)
1 gelatine leaf (@ 2g)
300g fresh strawberries
50g caster sugar
* If you don’t have pistachio paste, make up your own: whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder. Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of pistachio extract and a tablespoon of water.
1. Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.
2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted. Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.
3. Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
4. Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes. Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor. Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water). Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.
Funny. As I’m writing, I can sniff the waft of pizza floating upstairs. Lucie has discovered how to make pizza all by herself. It has been so good that she’s starting to make it quite often – and she’s even excited at cleaning up – well, nearly.
Last week, as the wild, wild winds howled around a rather bald looking Paris, there was still love in the air. As I turned up my collar and tightened two oversized Scottish scarves, I briefly stopped on this bridge to take in Notre Dame and admire the frozen statues of the 12 apostles walking up the spire.
Even the blustery, horizontal rains didn’t stop this romantic couple from locking up tight and cosy together. I felt like the Parisian Love-tourist Gringe as they put their initials on a padlock and locked it on to one of the two Paris ‘love lock’ bridges, le pont de l’Archevêché. Tut-tut! OK, where’s my romance, you ask? I don’t need a padlock to show it. So there.
Back home, sheltered from the winds and feeling much more romantic and cosy, I wanted to make something sweet and special for Antoine – and my girls! Why wait until Valentine’s Day?
One of my favourite Valentine’s desserts is on page 109 of Mad About Macarons: a giant rose macaron with rose and raspberry cream, topped off with a heart macaron. For those of you who adore lovehearts, then check out How to Make Macaron Heart Shapes. This year, so far, there are no love heart shapes in sight; unless this edible winter pansy counts.
Instead I was tempted by a blackcurrant (cassis) bavarois recipe in Pierre Hermé’s Dessert Book (my pride and joy prize for winning a local French Pâtisserie competition a few years ago with my pistachio and wasabi macarons). It’s a French answer to the Italian panna cotta (see this rose, cherry and cardamom panna cotta recipe). What I love about this dessert is that it’s packed with fruit and at this time of year, I just used a mix of frozen red fruits. If using frozen, there’s no need to defrost them first; just throw them in the blender and follow the recipe below. Except I have played around so much with the recipe, it’s reduced in sugar and I’ve eliminated the butter.
Red Fruit Bavarois Recipe
You’ll need silicone demi-sphere moulds or other shapes will also work well, such as dariole moulds. If not using silicone non-stick moulds, then butter moulds first. This recipe is gluten free.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours
400g mix of red fruits (fresh or defrosted)
4 gelatine sheets @ 2g
140g caster sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or mixed spice)
400ml crème fraiche (30%)
1 Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 10 minutes.
2 Wash and drain the mixed red fruits and whizz them to a purée in a blender or food processor.
3 Heat half of the fruit purée with the sugars and cinnamon then add the gelatine (squeezing first any excess water). Mix in the rest of the purée and the crème fraîche then pour into demi-sphere silicone moulds (I poured into 5 half-sphere moulds, right to the top).
4 Set aside to cool then chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set.
5 When ready to serve, quickly run the bottom of the moulds under the hot water tap then upturn them directly onto each plate (I do this with the help of a pastry scraper).
Serve with white chocolate, rose and orange blossom mousse.
It went down a treat with a mellow sexy red wine. You think I’m joking but this Sexy bottle is Portuguese wine. But to be THE sexiest and perfect Valentine this weekend, make your own home-made macarons.