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Silicone Macaron Mat Review

For all the macarons I’ve churned out in the past few years, have you also noticed that there are trendy kitchen gadgets such as a silicone macaron mat in specialised baking shops? When Mum told me my cousin, Julie, made wonderful macarons for a family party (using the book) and that she was using a macaron mat, I thought it was about time to jump on the bandwagon and try one out myself.

So I bought myself a Mastrad macaron matThis post is not referring to a silicone Silpat mat, but a special macaron mat with circles. (Incidentally, I don’t use a plain Silpat mat as it tends to overcook macarons…)

Although it’s referred to as a small macaron baking sheet, it’s rather a large mat (42cm x 33cm; 17″x13″) and so the small is referring to the size of macarons. In America this may be an extra small size, but in France this is more of the normal size that we find in the pâtisseries in Paris, albeit just a little smaller. The mat produces 56 shells for 28 macarons.

Silicone macaron mat review comparison with baking parchment paper

It was great to see so many macarons condensed onto one tray. If you see the photo on the left, however, you will see that my macarons are not quite round.  Why?  Well, although it may look easy I had to pipe the batter right into the middle of the raised rounds. By the time the batter spread out a little (as they normally do), I realised that some of my piping wasn’t quite directly in the middle. I’m so used to piping quickly free-hand.

Although I missed the centre on some of them, the majority turned out in perfect circles.  On the other hand, the mat was too big for my large baking sheet. The result was that the batter moved and produced some oval macarons which were not so pretty. I would, therefore, recommend that you use a baking sheet that is large enough to support the mat, such as this aluminium 18×14 baking sheet.

small macaron feet using a macaron silicone mat

Oh what little feet we have

Baking the macarons using the mat took an extra 4-5 minutes compared to the ones being baked just on baking parchment.

In general, the end result was satisfactory but I really wasn’t happy that the macarons’ feet were much flatter than I normally achieve by piping directly onto baking parchment/paper. I also found that the macarons tended to stick to the mat, creating a shiny surface underneath.  I would recommend oiling the mat slightly before piping to avoid this.

review of silicone macaron mat

flat-footed macarons?

Being so used to piping out macarons free hand, I find it much easier to use simple baking parchment (good quality) and pipe out rounds quickly.

perfect macaron shell feet using baking paper

We have much better feet, see? Baking parchment is all we need…

After a few batches I stopped using the silicone mat for macarons; it’s too time consuming to relearn how to pipe the batter into the centre of the silicone rounds on the mat.  So that my money doesn’t go to waste, I’ve used it for making chocolate mendiants.

how to make chocolate disks or French mendiants

I also used the macaron mat for preparing French chouquettes (mini choux buns topped with pearl sugar.) It was interesting to see that they turned out slightly flatter compared to ones piped out onto my Silpat silicone baking mat.

using a macaron silicone mat to make chouquettes

Left: silicone macaron mat with circles (the subject of this post); Right: Plain silicone mat

Silicone Macaron Mat: My Verdict

The mat is an extra luxury; you don’t need it, especially if you already enjoy baking and have a few practises with the piping bag. First-time users with a piping bag can find it awkward at first and, although the mat provides extra confidence in piping out uniform rounds, you still need to practise piping out the rounds directly in the middle and just enough so that the batter doesn’t go over the raised rounds. The positive side is that you can fit more macarons on to the one sheet.

If you do prefer using the mat, I would encourage you to ensure you have a baking sheet that is large enough to hold the full mat, so check your sizes first as I recommend above.

I still prefer using good quality baking parchment for the best macaron shell results with a perfect foot.

chocolate macaron shells baked on baking parchment

Have you bought a macaron mat recently?  What do you think?

If you’re in Paris, join me or my sweet colleagues for much more macaron talk on a chocolate, pastry and macaron walk with Context Travel!  And if you’re wanting a macaron recipe that works, you need Mad About Macarons.

UPDATE! Now you have Teatime in Paris, with not just a chapter on how to make macarons but éclairs, tarts, millefeuilles, and many more French pastry treats…


Note: This is a personal review and not sponsored by anybody: Mastrad did not contact me. As I see them in so many shops and readers ask me if they should buy it, I bought the mat myself, curious to try. All ideas and opinions are my own in the interest of my macaron-making friends. If any company wishes to contact me to convince me otherwise, however, then I am totally open to doing a new review …

Giverny and Inspiration from Monet’s Gardens

Why is it when you live so close to something truly amazing and touristy, you avoid it? Antoine and I lived in rue Bosquet for 5 years, just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower and yet we went up only after we moved out of Paris. Then last weekend – after 19 years of living here – we finally drove 45 minutes up the A13 to a summery Giverny, Claude Monet’s haven near the river Seine in Normandy.

The secret is to leave early and get there for opening time at 9.30am so that there’s not much of a bouchon (traffic jam) on Monet’s Japanese bridge. Last year there were 611,000 visitors so believe me, this is important. The house and gardens have been open to the public since 1980. It needed 10 years of renovation (with major donations from the USA) after the house and garden’s neglect after the Second World War.

Such a wet summer to date has been good for the lush greens of the gardens.  Most of the flowers are seen in the Clos Normand, in front of the house. What a lovely idea to have an avenue of nasturtiums up to the front door. Imagine how many summer salads you could decorate with these (and eat)?

summer flowers in Monet garden of Giverny France

Just a few snapshots of the hundreds of flowers and plants on show. Claude Monet set to planting and sowing seeds as soon as he arrived in 1883 and his house is filled with volume upon volume of plant encyclopaedias and Japanese prints. Giverny’s talented gardeners continue to succeed in showing different varieties all through the year, as the seasons change.

summer gardens Monet Giverny France

You can see why the master of the Impressionists lived in this idyllic spot for nearly 46 years (1883-1926.)  Seeing the water garden live for the first time, it was just as he had portrayed them in his works of art. Do you recognise them?

Sur le pont… de Monet

Unlike Japanese bridges painted in red, Monet painted his bridge in bright green. Everyone around the garden’s visitor route was transfixed on the lily pads and nymphéas, made so famous by his paintings of them started in 1897. My girls loved watching an cute ugly duckling hobbling from lily pad to the next.

There wasn’t much to visit in the house, to be honest, and there is a lack of information as to what you’re seeing. Unfortunately photos were prohibited inside. His living room was impressive and although it’s filled with replicas, it’s still incredible to think he would lie on his chaise longue, puffing on his pipe while looking up at his masterpieces. Photos of Monet are around the house. Do you love looking at old photographs?

Claude Monet house Giverny

Standing outside Monet’s kitchen window: somehow with lace curtains around the house or that check and shutters you can tell we’re in France. Just up the road, the Hotel Baudy welcomed guests – particularly many American painters who came to Giverny for inspiration and to meet Monet.

Hotel Baudy Giverny France

To see Monet’s lilypond paintings, visit L’Orangerie Museum, the Louvre and the Orsay Museum in Paris. For more of his paintings – including the original painting, Impression Sunrise, which gave Impressionism its name – visit the Marmottan Museum in the 16th Arrondissement. They even have his pipe, if you’re particularly sentimental like myself.

lily pond at Giverny Monet Gardens France

After our meander up to the church to pay our respects to the great artist as well as locals who didn’t make their return to the village after the World Wars, it was time for a picnic. A short drive further up the Seine, we found the perfect spot underneath a weeping willow tree with our toes dangling into the river. The ideal, idyllic summer spot in the shade, imagining Monet capturing the scene on his floating studio.

Monet hat at Giverny

The Giverny look this summer

He’s still making an impression on us in different ways: we can’t all sport white beards but the look in Giverny is this straw hat; we’re also spending a few days in New York City at the moment and this lily pond is following us around Manhattan through his water lily paintings! More on that later.

What impression do you have from Monet’s garden?

Christophe Roussel Macarons at Montmartre Paris

Did you really think I’d tasted enough macarons in Paris after the last post? Admittedly, I make my own macarons at home but when I’m asked regularly which macarons I prefer in Paris, I should be able to help you out. That’s a sign of a macaronivore. There are so many pastry shops that sell macarons, it’s difficult to get around them all.

I’ll leave that to you but I can’t let you come to Paris – or go to Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur – without stopping in for macarons and chocolate at Christophe Roussel. It should be part of every guide’s spiel on the petit train in the area to mention this too.

sacre coeur paris Montmartre

I first tasted Christophe Roussel’s macarons at the Paris Salon du Chocolat in October last year. What was particularly impressive was that each macaron was half dipped in Valrohna’s Guanaja chocolate (70% cacao.) What’s more, I appreciated his main store was in La Baule in France but only recently discovered that he’d opened up a new boutique in rue Tardieu in the 18th, just a few macaron feet away from Montmartre’s steps and the queue to the Fenicular Cable.

Stepping in to this snazzy boutique that was once another souvenir shop, I could see something going on backstage for all to see: Christophe Roussel, the pastry chef in person, placing the final touches to his giant raspberry and lime-basil-raspberry macarons. Adding spots of intense raspberry compôte, he finished off with his unique supplier’s stock of Tulameen bionic raspberries. Who wants another Eiffel Tower lighter or pencil sharpener from a touristy souvenir shop when you can feast your eyes and go up to Montmartre tasting this?

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre

This fourth boutique opened last year and together with his talented aroma-professional-tasting wife, Julie, they have a real creative duo here as the shop’s name implies, ‘Christophe Roussel duo créatif avec Julie‘. Can you imagine waltzing in to such a classy pâtisserie, being able to chat away with the creative genius couple as they offer tasting samples to curious tourists, lured in by the macaron sign and Marie-Antoinette style dress in the window?  I can tell you that in Paris, there are not many boutiques like this that give everyone such a friendly welcome!

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre Paris

While relishing in a tasting of the lemony cheesecake and passion-tarragon macarons (with the passion lingering on the palate for a full couple of minutes, followed by the hint of tarragon), I couldn’t choose. Do you have problems making decisions too?  So I ended up buying one of each. That way I could share them with the family.

Go for the marron-cassis (chestnut-blackcurrant), raspberry, passion-tarragon, cheesecake, chocolate-banana, coffee and caramel-ginger. OMG – the Cheesecake!!

Christophe Roussel macarons Montmartre Paris

As Christophe was adding a chocolate-raspberry creation to his pastry line-up, I had my eye on his Religieuse. I love how he does a retake on the normal classic of 2 choux buns: he adds a third and I’ve often seen his wacky versions including a macaron shell with a gigantic raspberry on top, presenting a magnificent mitre look.

best pastries in Montmartre Paris Christophe Roussel

I take my hat off to the salted caramel Religieuse, with the bottom sablé pastry hiding its gem of ginger. This crafty combination also works well in his caramel macaron just like it, using salt from the Guérande (also another boutique there.) Incidentally, they don’t give fancy titles to their pastries: just helpful descriptions.

No wonder they chose the mango dome with passion and citronella for their wedding: that did it for me since the flavours were sublime but the whole experience was so light. Then there’s the Mango compôte with caramel cream, ginger jelly and Indian vanilla. My only complaint? I needed just one spoon so that nobody else could get at it.

Update: The boutique now only sells macarons and chocolates.  Chef Christophe concentrates his pastries in the main boutique in La Baule, but pastries can be ordered online and picked up at the shop.

chocolate bars by Christophe Roussel Montmartre Paris

Now this is what I call class: choose from the gourmet chocolate bars – an ‘Electro’Choc’ – have it packaged individually, and indulge at the top of the Montmartre steps. Sounds a good program? That Tiramisu one is a great pick-me-up, and orange-speculoos (cinnamon.)

best chocolates at Montmartre Paris Christophe Roussel

On the right are one of his Buttes de Montmartre (Montmartre mounds). Coated ivory chocolates with a oh-so-fruity peach jelly inside. He also has one that fizzes in the mouth using sucre pétillant.

For the romantics, you must try his kisses – they’re nothing like the Hershey ones. These are flamboyant lips!  Creation obviously reigns in the family, as Julie’s brother fashioned this chocolate bar, housing different varieties of tablets.

So before you race up these steps up to Sacré-Coeur, take a breather of chocolate and macarons then head up that hill. He’s also near the Eiffel Tower (10 rue de Champ de Mars) so you have the same sweet program of what to do when in Paris.

Then perhaps a kiss or two at the top?

White Chocolate Mousse with a Valentine’s Touch

How often have you heard of perfectly competent cooks and bakers saying that they’re too scared to attempt making macarons? Have they got cold feet or something?

Cold feet? Macaron feet, happy feet and a warm heart

When they do finally attempt making them, I love how so many of them post excited messages on the Facebook page. You know the one that appears the most? “My macarons have feet!” You’ve no idea how much I want to dance too, knowing that some of that feel-good-macaron-feet pleasure has been spread.

It may be chilly with sub-zero temperatures outside Paris, but this warms the heart no end. This week some of you asked how to pipe out macaron hearts. It’s easy peasy. Just imagine you’re making a ‘V’ shape in 2 lines. Do it quite quickly: push down a bit more mixture at first at the top of each line and taper off coming down.  As the mixture spreads out slightly on the baking sheet you’ll see it come together.

How to make macaron hearts

Instead of filling the macaron hearts, they’re also handy as a garnish for desserts.

For a romantic dessert, try this Hermé-style simplistic version of rose mascarpone cream served on a giant rose macaron and topped with fragrant raspberries (recipe on p.109 in the book.) There’s only one problem: many of you are lucky enough to have red fruits in season just now but here there are no blooming raspberries around due to these Siberian winds – or at least worth buying them at an extraordinary cost and with no flavour. So I attempted something different.

raspberry rose macaron dessert

With the snow initially as inspiration, I remembered the Merveilleux pâtisserie from Un Dimanche à Paris with Mardi of EatLiveTravelWrite. It was basically a meringue coated with cream, infused with rose and orange flower water (although I didn’t really taste it enough), and rolled in white chocolate. Although I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate, I chose it because it didn’t just look pretty but it was also deliciously light. Besides, I adore rose and orange blossom.

So with all this in mind, I’ve come up with a light, fragrant, snowy mousse for you that’s not too sweet: it’s a quick and easy gluten free dessert.

What is it about rose that makes it so Valentine friendly?  I adore this addition of the orange blossom. Heating the white chocolate in the pan with a little of the cream makes melting it so much easier – especially if you’re unsure of the quality of your chocolate. The meringue crunch comes from the macaron heart and the dosage of orange blossom and rose counteracts the sweetness of the chocolate and is just enough to send your Valentine into a billowy, romantic cloud. Accompany this with glass of chilled Muscat.

white chocolate mousse

White Chocolate Mousse with Rose and Orange Blossom

Serves 4 big glasses or 8 mini portions

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Chilling Time: At least 20 minutes

300ml whipping cream
120g white chocolate (+ 20g grated for decoration)
1 tbsp rose water
1/2 tbsp orange flower water
1 egg white

1. Place a mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes (I just put it outside – brrr!)

2. Meanwhile, break 120g of the white chocolate into a saucepan and heat very  gently together with 50ml of the cream, rose and orange flower waters. As soon as it’s melted (after about 5 minutes), set aside to cool slightly.

2. Using an electric beater, whisk the rest of the cream with the egg white to medium-firm peaks. Gradually pour in the melted chocolate mixture and continue whisking until completely mixed together.

3. Pour into individual serving glasses and sprinkle on the grated white chocolate. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

Halve the quantities if you’re serving just for a romantic couple but this does keep easily until the next day in the fridge.

You could also serve this with macarons; if you don’t have cold feet!

white chocolate mousse

Update: I’m so thrilled to see my recipe tried, tested and approved by Gourmantine’s Blog in her marathon to find the best chocolate mousse:

Well, I think anyone thinking this way should be sent a pot of this white chocolate treat by wonderful Jill Colonna, and I am most certain they will have an epiphany.

When I first saw this recipe posted on her fabulous blog “Mad about Macarons” (and I tell you, her macarons are truly to die for..), I couldn’t wait to make it, and chocolate mousse marathon seemed more than appropriate for it.

To be honest, the dark chocolate loving judge panel put the final fight for the best of the best title between recipes essentially out of dark chocolate, but this wonder was considered a champion in it’s own category and does deserve a special mention…Just for the record, it tastes better than it looks…this one is definitely going to the top of my all time favorites.”

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with Chestnut Flour

Wanting something a bit different for pancake day?

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with chestnut flour

 

Scotch pancakes are also known as drop scones or griddle cakes.  To keep Corsican hubby happy, I came up with an Auld Alliance version, merging the two nations in a simple pancake. Here I’ve made them slightly different with the addition of chestnut flour, which is a typical rustic flour used in Corsican cuisine.  It just adds a nutty, rich texture and goes beautifully when paired with orange.  Serve warm with plenty of honey and/or warmed marmalade for something special. Adding a touch of Corsican liqueur just gives a subtle kick to the flavour.

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes (put your feet up & have a cup of tea..)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

70g plain flour
45g chestnut flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
30g butter, diced & softened
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp Corsican Chestnut Liqueur (or Grand Marnier), optional
150ml milk

  1. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder & salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Make a well in the centre.  Whisk in the egg, the liqueur (if using*) and gradually add in the milk until thick and creamy.  Set aside the mixture for 30 minutes so that the glutens in the flour expand.  This will make your pancakes light and fluffy (which I didn’t do for the photos here.  I was in a rush to run the kids back to school at lunch and you can see they’re as flat as a pancake.  30 mins rest does make a difference).
  3. Lightly grease a griddle/pancake pan or heavy frying pan and preheat it.
  4. Cook in batches.  Drop the equivalent of 4 spoonfuls of the mixture spaced apart over medium heat for 3 minutes until bubbles rise to the surface and burst.
  5. Turn the pancakes over and cook for a further 2 minutes.

* If you don’t want to use alcohol, replace the liqueur with orange flower water.

 

Scotch Pancakes

Turn over the pancakes once you see the bubbles bursting

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Scotch Pancakes (Drop Scones) with Corsican Chestnut Flour

Update: I’m still learning: I should have just lumped these Scotch Corsican Pancakes with the blethery blog post on one page. So if it’s the chatter you’re after, see le blog: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons…