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Laduree Religieuse Recipe

Shhh, I have a secret….. I fell in love in Paris.  But not with my husband.  I fell in love with pastries.  Perfect little pastries.  From the first time I set foot into a Laduree patisserie parlour I knew I was somewhere special.  I’d never seen so many gorgeous and unique pastries before, they were like little works of art.  But there was one that immediately stood out – a pretty double stacked pink cream puff lined with white ruffles leading up to a silver pearl at the top.  It was a thing of beauty.  Sadly I never did get to try one that trip because I blew my budget on a box of their signature macarons.  


When I got home from Paris I immediately took to Google and discovered that the pretty pink pastry I saw at Laduree was called a religieuse, and was named so because the pastry is said to look like a nuns habit (headpiece).  

To this day I’ve never fallen out of love with the religieuse, and have always wanted to try and make my own.  So in preparation for Valentines Day I decided to celebrate love by recreating the religieuse from Laduree.  And I kid you not, these were probably the most tastiest things I’ve ever made.  They were to die for, and just as good as the ones from Laduree (which I’ve had on subsequent trips to Laduree.)

Choux pastry provides the base for the religiuese, which also happens to be the same pastry that is used for profiteroles and eclaires so it’s a great recipe to have on hand.  This recipe comes from the Laduree Sucre recipe book, so it’s as authentic as it’ll get.  


This was the first time I’d made choux pastry before so I made sure to follow the recipe exactly as described in the book.  But to my dismay my choux buns didn’t puff up like they should have.  They looked more like English Yorkshire puddings than they did choux buns.  What had I done wrong?  The recipe was very easy to follow and choux pastry is simple to make so I tried again, making sure to follow the instructions very carefully.  The recipe states to bake the choux pastry for about 10 minutes until they have fully puffed up, and then open the oven door a crack to let the steam escape, and cook for another 20 minutes.  I carefully watched my second batch of choux pastry through the oven door and they looked great.  I could see them puffing up nicely, so at the 10 minute mark I opened the door a crack.  I immediately  watched my choux buns defate before my eyes.  How disappointing!  

One thing that stood out while I was piping my choux batter onto my baking sheets was that it seemed a lot thinner than I imagined it would be.  I decided to try the recipe one last time, but this time I used one less egg in order to make the batter slightly thicker.  I also increased the oven temperature and left the door closed the entire time.  Success! My choux buns came out perfectly.  

A few days later I got talking to my friend Sarah from the blog Maison Cupcake and she thought my failed choux pastry attempts may have been down to the fact that I was using a fan oven.  I can’t say for certain if it was the fan that was effecting my first two batches of choux pastry or if it was the consistency of the batter, so I’m going to include the original Laduree recipe as well as my adaptations in pink so you can decide on which one you want to try.  

These religieuse might look difficult to make, but they’re really not.  So go on, and try making them for your special Valentine!


Valentines Day Religiuese
The recipes below are from Laduree Sucre, and have been adapted to make the religiuese.  
Adaptations are shown in pink.


Creme Patissiere

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Bean *I used 1 Tbsp Vanilla Paste
1 2/3 Cups (400ml) Whole Milk
4 Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (80g) Castor Sugar
1/4 Cup (30g) Cornstarch
1 Tbsp (25g) Butter

*300ml double cream, whipped

Directions:

1.  Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Pour the milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla pod and seeds *or vanilla paste.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat, and cover immediately.  Allow to infuse for 15 minutes. 

2.  In a large bowl whisk the egg yolk and sugar until slightly pale.  Incorporate the cornstarch.  

3.  Remove the vanilla pod from the milk, and bring to a simmer.  Pour 1/3 of the milk over the egg yolk mixture (to temper the egg yolks) , and whisk together.  Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a whisk, until thickened.

4.  Remove the creme patisserie from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then incorporate the butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and set. 

5.  Although the creme patissiere was delicious, I found it a bit too rich and heavy.  I had some double cream in the fridge, so I decided to whip it up and fold it into my chilled creme patissiere just to lighten it up a bit.  I’m so glad I did because the mixture of the whipped cream and the creme patissiere was absolutely delicious!
  

Choux Pastry

Ingredients: 

1 Cup – 1/2 Tbsp (120g) Cake Flour  *I used plain all purpose flour
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (100ml) Whole Milk 
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (100ml) Water 
1 Tbsp (10g) Caster Sugar 
1 pinch salt 
5 1/2 Tbsp (80g) Unsalted Butter 
4 Eggs *I used 3


Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)  *I baked mine at 200ºC.   Sift the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In a medium saucepan add the butter, milk and water and bring to a boil.   Remove from the heat, and dump the flour mixture into the liquid.  Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.  Set aside and allow to cool.

2.  Add in the eggs one at a time, stirring until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.  *Here I judged the consistency after adding each egg and decided to only use 3

3.  Transfer batter into a piping bag, and pipe into desired shape.  *To make the religiuese you will need to pipe an equal number of small and large circles on your baking sheet.

4.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes.  When they have started to puff up, open the door very slightly (about 1/8 inch) to allow the steam to escape. Continue to bake the choux pastry for a further 20 – 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar, until the choux buns are golden.  *I baked my choux pastry at 200ºC for 25 minutes, and did not open the door.

5.  Remove the golden choux pastry buns from the oven immediately and pierce them with a sharp knife or skewer to allow for the steam to escape.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Fondant Topping:

Ingredients:

3oz (80g) White Chocolate, melted
4oz (120g) White Pouring Fondant *I used the Silver Spoon powdered version that you mix with water
Drop of pink food colouring

Directions:

1.  In a small bowl (wide enough to dip your chox buns in) prepare the liquid fondant according to the directions on the package.  Pour the melted white chocolate into the liquid fondant mixture and stir until fully combined.  Add a tiny drop of pink food colouring, and stir until evenly blended.  


To Assemble:

In addition to the above recipes, you’ll also need:

* Silver dragees
* A small amount of buttercreme, or leftover creme patissiere

1.  To fill the choux buns, transfer the creme patissiere into a piping bag fitted with a medium plain tipped nozzle.  Insert the nozzle into the hole in the bottom of the choux bun that you made after they came out of the oven.  Gently squeeze the piping bag so that the creme patissiere fills the cavity of the choux bun.  Repeat until all choux buns are filled.  *Do not over fill

2.  Prepare the fondant topping according to the directions above.  Dip the top half of the smaller choux buns into the coloured fondant, gently tapping off any excess.  Add a silver dragee on top, and place the choux buns on a baking sheet or wire rack to allow the fondant to set.  These will become the tops of your religiuese.

3.  Dip the top halves of the larger choux buns into the coloured fondant, gently tapping off any excess.  Let them sit for a minute or two before gently placing the smaller choux bun on top.  Hold the top choux bun in place for a few moments to ensure it stays put.  Repeat until all of the religiuese are assembled.  

4.  Fit a piping bag with a small star tipped nozzle, and fill with a small amount of buttercream or leftover creme patissiere. Starting with the bottom choux bun, pipe a line of buttercream that stretches to fondant covering of the top choux bun.

5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  *The religiuese will keep in the fridge for up to two days.



I’m also submitting my Valentine’s Religiuese to a blogger link ups / challenges this month:  Homemade by Fleur’s virtual tea for two Valentine’s Bake Off, as well as this month’s Tea Time Treats link challenge (Perfect Puddings) hosted by What Kate Baked , and finally the Calendar Cakes challenge hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cake.




Creative Eclairs

How to make eclairs

A few years ago, and a few months after I started this blog I also started to use Google Analytics.  There was a lot to learn, but I enjoyed seeing that my baking and blogging efforts were actually being viewed by people all around the world. It was really neat to see the number of people visiting my blog each day, as well as where they came from.  My inner geek was starting to emerge!
 
I’ll always remember when I first began to notice that people were visiting my blog after being directed to it from another blog.  Not only were people reading my blog, but they liked it enough to actually link to it!  One of the very first people to link to my blog was Ruth Clemens who writes the baking blog The Pink Whisk.  I started following Ruth’s blog after that, and it wasn’t long after that I realised that not only did Ruth write her blog The Pink Whisk, but she also appeared on my TV screen each week in the very first season of The Great British Bake Off.
 
 
Over the next few weeks I was captivated by Ruth’s creations on the Great British Bake Off, so it came as no surprise when she was crowned runner up in the very first season.  Ruth’s bakes were so different from all the other contestants, they were polished and extremely creative.  Ruth’s creativeness and her passion for baking, combined with her charming personality have allowed her to publish a string of successful baking books, the most recent  titled Creative Eclairs focuses exclusively on Eclairs, and choux pastry creations. 
 
 
 
I’ll always have a soft spot for Ruth, so I was thrilled when I received a preview copy of Creative Eclairs to review.  The book is wonderfully written, and includes loads of clear and detailed step by step photographs – something I don’t think enough recipe books include.  The real highlight of the book are the recipes themselves.  There are so many unique flavour combinations to choose from, you’ll be able to make a new one each week for at least 6 months!  Just have a look at the recipe index pages below.
 
 
I couldn’t wait to try my hand at making eclairs.  With so many different flavours to choose from it was too hard to choose just, so I opted for two instead – original vanilla creme patisserie and the mocha creme patisserie.  Both fillings were so easy to make, and tasted absolutely delicious.  I had to restrain myself to make sure I din’t eat the whole lot with a spoon!
 
How to make eclairs
I will admit that I didn’t have instant success with the choux pastry recipe though.  Ruth’s recipe calls for 4 eggs to be used in the choux pastry, but I found that my choux dough was far too runny once the 4th egg was added, even with chilling.  This resulted in flat eclairs that deflated once out of the oven.  Luckily I had the step by step photos from the book to refer to.  It was clear that piped dough in the photos was much thicker and stiffer than mine, so I tried again using only 3 eggs.  This resulted in a choux dough that was much closer in consistency to the dough pictured in the book.  I ran into a similar problem the first time I tried to make choux pastry  last year to use in my Religiuese.  I combined the instructions in Creative Eclairs together with my previous choux learnings, and I was thrilled with the way my eclairs turned out.  They were absolutely delicious, and I can’t wait to try a new flavour combination.  
 
How to make eclairs

Vanilla Eclairs

Recipe by Ruth Clemens from the book Creative Eclairs
Adaptations are shown in pink.
 

Vanilla Crème Patissière

 
Ingredients
 
600ml (20fl oz) Whole Milk 
Seeds scraped from 1 Vanilla Pod, 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste or 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract 
100g (31⁄2oz) caster (superfine) sugar 
4 large egg yolks 
50g (13/4oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
 
Directions:
 
1. In a large jug whisk together the egg yolks and caster (superfine) sugar until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the cornflour and whisk again until of an even consistency. Set to one side.
 
2. Place the milk and vanilla in a medium pan and heat gently until just below boiling point. Whilst whisking the egg mixture continuously, add the warmed vanilla- infused milk a little at a time until both mixtures have been fully worked together.
 
3. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and over a medium heat, whisking continuously, bring to the boil. Continue to cook the crème patissière for 2 minutes until thick and glossy.
 
4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Contact-cover the top of the crème patissière with cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent a skin from forming, and allow to cool. Refrigerate once cooled.
 
5. When you are ready to use it, transfer the chilled crème patissière to a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until it is a smooth and even consistency.
 
 

Basic Choux Pastry

 
Ingredients:
 
75ml (2 1⁄2fl oz) Water 
55ml (2fl oz) Whole Milk 
55g (2oz) Butter 
5ml (1 tsp) Vegetable or Sunflower Oil 
1⁄4 tsp Salt 
1 tsp Sugar 
100g (3 1⁄2oz) Plain (All-Purpose) Flour 
4 Large Eggs *I used 3
Sunflower or vegetable oil spray
 
Directions:
 
1. Place the water, milk, butter, oil, salt and sugar in a medium pan. Heat over a medium heat stirring frequently until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil and add the flour.  With the pan still on the heat, beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball.
 
2. Turn the heat down to low and continue to mix over the heat for 3 minutes.This helps to reduce any excess moisture and changes the paste from a rough shaggy texture to a much smoother, glossy paste. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 2 minutes to cool slightly.
 
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the choux well after each addition until all the eggs have been incorporated. Continue to mix until the consistency returns to a smooth, glossy texture before adding the next egg.
 
When all the eggs have been incorporated, the choux pastry will be glossy with a thick, medium-firm texture.  Transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film (plastic wrap). Allow to cool fully then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This makes the choux pastry much easier to pipe neatly.
 
4.  Once chilled, transfer the choux pastry to a piping (pastry) bag fitted with an 18mm (3⁄4in) piping nozzle (tip). A serrated pen (French style) nozzle (tip) is ideal for éclairs as it creates ridges in the piped éclairs which allow the dough to expand evenly on baking, avoiding any cracking across the top. *I couldn’t find my serrated nozzle (only the Wilton 1M tip which is too deep) so instead I ran a fork lightly down the piped eclairs. This worked great.
 
5. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan) /180°C /350°F/ Gas Mark 4.  Pipe the choux pastry into éclairs or choux buns of the desired size using an even pressure to keep the width of each éclair the same.  Any peaks or misshapen ends can be smoothed with a dampened finger once piped.
 
6.  Spray the éclairs lightly with a vegetable or sunflower oil. This light coating prevents the crust from forming on the éclairs too early in the baking process, allows the choux pastry to expand evenly, and helps prevent the top of the finished éclair from cracking.  Bake for 40 – 50 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
 
 
To Assemble the Eclairs:
 
1. Pierce the base of the éclair once at each end using a small piping nozzle (tip) (for larger 15cm/6in éclairs, also pierce a hole in the middle of the base).
 
2. Add the filling to a piping (pastry) bag fitted with a filling tip – these are also known as Bismarck tips or cupcake filler nozzles (tips), such as Wilton 230.
 
3. Insert the filler nozzle (tip) into the pierced hole at one end and squeeze in the filling gently. Remove the tip and place it into the hole at the opposite end and fill again, just until you see a little movement of the filling at the hole in the opposite end.
 
4. Clean off any excess filling from the base of the éclair with your fingertip or by swiping it across the lip of a small jug.
 
5. Place the warmed liquid fondant (recipe below) in a shallow open bowl – big enough to fit the length of the éclair easily.  Dip the top of the éclair into the mixture. Then with one end leading and the rest following, moving in an arc to remove it from the bowl and allow the excess to drain from one end.  
 
If you’re adding any sprinkles on top like I did, make sure to sprinkle them on immediately after dipping your eclair into the fondant before.  If you wait too long, the glaze will set and the sprinkles won’t stick. Place each éclair onto a wire rack, glazed-side up to set.
 
 

Fondant Glaze

 
Ingredients:
 
300g (10 1⁄2oz) White Sugarpaste (Fondant / ready-to-roll icing) 
30ml (2 tbsp) water
*I added a tiny amount of pink colouring, and 2 squares of white chocolate which made the fondant glaze more opaque.
 
1. Break the fondant into small pieces and place in heatproof bowl with the water. *I added my colouring and white chocolate in this step.
 
2. Heat gently in the microwave in short bursts, or over a pan of steaming water, stirring frequently, until the fondant melts.
 
3. Mix with an electric mixer until the consistency is smooth and even and no lumps remain.The glaze will begin to set while it cools, so use while it is still warm. It can easily be reheated to pouring consistency if it cools too quickly for use.
How to make eclairs
To celebrate the launch of Creative Eclairs a special blog hop is currently taking place.  Why not check out some of the other blogs participating to see what they made? A full list of the blogs taking place can be found here.
 
Creative Eclairs is available for early purchase now through the Stitch Craft Create website now for  £13.84, and will be available through Amazon UK here when it’s officially released the 25th of April.
 
If you’re in the USA, Creative Eclairs is available now for $12.63 though Amazon.com here 

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Foodies

I’ve always been a sucker for holidays of any kind. The shops are filled with cute limited edition holiday themed sweets and gift ideas. No sooner are we over one holiday before another limited edition themed product range hits the store shelves.

Some people may find this overkill, and at times I do too (ie: seeing the Easter candy being put out on display on Christmas Eve!), but it gives me something to look forward to.

I’ve noticed that the Valentine’s Day range of products has been slow to hit store shelves this year. They’ve been trumped by the Easter range which is still 3 months away. And perhaps it’s because other holidays have a wider appeal, but the selection of Valentine’s products never equals that of the other holidays (aside from St. Patricks Day – except maybe in the States where it’s hugely popular). Over the past week or so I’ve really started to see some neat Valentine’s Day products emerge, especially in the food / baking department.

I’ve found a few new products that I really love, as well as a few favourites that have been seasonally rebranded. So without further adew, I give you my top 10 Valentine’s Day gifts for foodies. Feel free to share these with your significant other, you know – just in case they need a little help.

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Foodies

1.  Limited Edition Le Creuset Cast Iron Casserole Dish – What more can I say?  I seriously LOVE this dish!   Available exclusively online at Le Creuset  UK, this “chiffon pink” casserole dish is limited to only 100 pieces, and retails for £145.

2.  Peggy Porschen Valentine’s Day Cupcake Gift Box – An assortment of my two favourite cupcakes, the Strawberry & Champagne, and Chocolate Heaven cupcakes are decorated with hand made sugar roses and mini heart biscuits.  £30 for six cupcakes.  You can also add on a bottle of Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Champagne if you wish. Available for pick up and delivery from Peggy Porschen.

3.  Charbonnel et Walker Truffle Kisses – How cute are these!  Perfect little pink lips flavoured with Marc De Champagne and Raspberry.  So much better than a Hershey’s Kiss!  Available from John Lewis for £15.

4.  Pink Tuscan Cake Stand – An absolutely gorgeous pale milky pink 9 inch cake stand.   Other colours and sizes available. £65 from Liberty.

5.  Heart Ravioli Pasta Cutter – Instead of going out, cook your other half a romantic dinner to remember with this ultra cute ravioli cutter.  I first spotted this in Carluccio’s a year or so ago, and I’m glad to see they still have it.  £4.95

6.  Mason Cash Hearts Mixing Bowl – You can never have enough mixing bowls.  Seriously.  This would also make a great popcorn bowl if you feel like watching a movie after dinner. It’s the perfect size for sharing.  £13.99 from Dunelm.

7.  Laduree Macarons – Laduree has the best macarons, as well as the most stunning gift boxes.  They’ve always got seasonal flavours – this month it’s a limited edition Nina Ricci Macaron covered in gold leaf that’s filled with a raspberry jam, and a hint of lemon juice and rose essence.  Ah-maze-ing!  Assorted flavours, boxes and sizes available from the four London Laduree locations.

8.  Light My Fire Matchstick Biscuits – These are just so cute and unique.  Perfect if you’re not into heats and pink!  Available from Not On The High Street for £10, although I’m pretty sure you could make your own with minimal effort.

9.  Emma Bridgewater Heart Mug – I’m not a massive fan of Emma Bridgewater, but I do love her heart pattern collection.  These mugs are so classic, and beautifully British.  You can also order a personalised version for £18 from the Emma Bridgewater website.  I have one, and it’s great. No one can steal your mug at the office!

10.  “I Love You A Latte” Coffee Stencil – These are actually personalised coffee stencils that you can customise to say whatever you want, but there’s a great selection of pre-made ones suitable for Valentine’s day. Really great fun for a Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed. £12.50 from Not On The High Street.

* My Top 10 Picks were independently chosen by me without any compensation or influence from the manufacturers.

Golden Pages & Designer Macarons

In the world of recipe books, there’s  some that just belong on the shelf.  C’mon – I’m sure we all have a few.  Then there’s some that belong in the kitchen.  You know, the ones that get used ALL the time.  And then there are the ones that belong centre stage on the coffee table for all eyes to see. They’re the kind of books that you could sit with for hours and just read every single recipe and imagine exactly what each of them tastes like.  The kind of book where you just lose yourself in page after page of gorgeous pictures, and fantasize that one day when you make that recipe it will turn out EXACTLY as it looked on the pages of the book. 
These books don’t come around very often, but when Laduree finally released their famous recipe book Sucre in English I’ll admit I got SUPER excited! Sucre got glowing reviews on the Amazon France site, and if French women thought it was good (because we all know French women are able to whip up a perfect pastry at a moments notice!) I knew it was going to be amazing.
I purchased my copy from Amazon and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived at my office nearly 5 days ahead of schedule.  When I opened up the package I was greeted with a familiar looking box – or so it seemed!  Laduree’s Sucre comes packaged in a replica of their famous macaron box, and it looked so similar that I actually had people stop by my desk thinking I had a rather large box of macarons!
Sucre The Recipes can be purchased in English via Amazon US here and Amazon UK here.  Unfortunately it’s not available in English yet on Amazon Canada.
Laduree has done a fabulous job transferring the opulence of their tea salons into this recipe book.  With it’s mouth watering pastry pictures, velvety pistachio green cover and gold gilded pages, this book is a little work of art.  There are oodles of recipes in it.  Everything from Vanilla Eclairs and Strawberry Napoleons to Raspberry and Rose Sundae’s and of course – their famous macarons!
Strawberry Marscapone Tart
I can’t wait to start making delicious pastries from this book, although I will warn you that some of the ingredients are rather hard to find.  Things like chestnut puree, almond & pistachio pastes or rose syrup.  But, there are definitely lots of recipes that can be made with ingredients are can be found at your local grocery store.
 
Harmonie
 
A sampling of some recipes that caught my eye:
Chestnut Barquettes
Rose Cream Puffs
Pistachio Salambos
Roasted Pineapple Tart
All Chocolate Tart
Upside Down Apple Tarts
Chocolate Mousse
Pistachio Sour Cherry Verrines
Lemon Cake
Cherry Calfoutis
The list goes on and on!!
There are even several recipes included for their infamous macarons, but my past history of macaron making has been a bit hit and miss.  Sometimes they turn out beautifully, and sometimes they don’t.  I have no idea why.  So for now, I’ll try my hand at making a few other Paris pastries from the book and stick to buying my macarons from Laduree.  Speaking of which – each year Laduree partners with one (sometimes more) famous fashion brands to design and release a limited edition macaron box.  This year Laduree has partnered up with famed fashion designer John Galliano, and I must say the box is absolutely gorgeous.  Last week I popped into the Harrods branch of Laduree and picked one up.  I couldn’t help but rush down there the day after they were released so I could get a hold of one.  In case you don’t know – I’m a bit obsessed with collecting Laduree Macaron boxes.  The limited edition John Galliano box is available in Laduree stores now.
My selection of macarons below:  Coconut, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Black Current & Violet (amazing btw) and Praline.
Golden Pages! 
Keep checking back to see what I make from this amazing book!

J’adore Paris

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been on holiday without any access to my computer.  The past few weeks have been a bit crazy, Paris one weekend, then back to the UK for a few days before heading off to Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria.  4 countries in a less than week sounds glamorous, but it can be rather tiring!  Luckily I managed to find time to  visit with all my family and friends, AND fit in some shopping for loads of fun baking supplies that aren’t available here in the UK.  Thank goodness for my extra luggage allowance!! 
To start off my vacay, I celebrated my birthday weekend with my husband in my favourite place in the world – Paris!!!  I absolutely LOVE Paris.  I would totally move there, except for the fact that I can’t speak French – and the French don’t take kindly to foreigners who don’t integrate into their society well.  So until I can speak fluent French (which is likely never, considering I’m not even taking lessons) I’ll have settle for the 2 hour journey on the Eurostar.  It’s amazing that a country only an hour’s flight away can be so incredibly different from London and the rest of the UK.  The architecture in Paris is simply stunning.  Paris wasn’t bombed during the war, so it’s still got all of their beautiful buildings and landmarks in tact.  Living in London has allowed my obsession with Paris to develop at a much faster rate than if I lived back in Canada.  I’ve only lived here for 2 years, but I’ve been to Paris 3 times, and am already planning my next trip.  I’m always hearing about new and fabulous places to visit while in Paris, so I had to tick a few off my continuously expanding list.  On the menu for the weekend (and I do mean menu!) was a Paris Pastry tour. C’est magnifique! 

You’ll never guess where these macarons are from!

First up was actually somewhere that I really had absolutely NO intention of going to.  Normally when I go to Paris and other foreign countries I prefer to try food from local restaurants, but when we walked past a McCafe on the Champs-Elysées, I suddenly remembered watching some online interviews with Parisians doing a taste comparison between Pierre Herme’s macarons, and the newly launched McDonald’s version.  Yes – you read that correctly.  The McDonald’s restaurants in Paris sell macarons.  Actually, they sell a lot more than macarons (above).  They’ve actually got a whole pastry counter, and I must admit it looks like something you’d see in a posh pastry shop!  The McDonald’s macarons come in 6 flavours (vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, lemon, chocolate and salted caramel).  I picked up a box (4.50) for us so we could do our own taste comparison.  Verdict: The McDonald’s macarons are alright.  I suppose if you haven’t tried many macarons before, then you may really enjoy these.  The flavor is there – they did taste good, but the consistency of the “cookie” bit was totally wrong.  They were much denser than the macarons from Laduree or Pierre Herme. These ones had some what of a cakey consistency, which I’m assuming would probably result in them being far less fragile than their more expensive counterparts, which means you might even be able to bring them home with you for family and friends back home. Chances are, they’re not going to know the difference! 

McDonald’s macarons and pastry case – French fast food!

Next on the tour was Angelina. Famous for their hot chocolate and Mont Blanc pastries, this place should be on everyone’s “To Do” list when they come to Paris. Seriously, the hot chocolate is sooo good, but it’s sooo rich.  My husband and I each got a pastry – he got a type of vanilla slice that was made up of layers of flaky pastry and vanilla cream, while I got the famous Mont Blanc which is made up of vanilla chantilly cream on top of a thin flat meringue and covered in thin strands of chestnut paste. I’d been warned at rich the hot chocolate was, so we opted to share one.  Seriously, when they say the hot chocolate at Angelina is rich, they’re not joking!  This isn’t your milky Nestle variety.  Angelina’s hot chocolate is pretty much just melted chocolate.  It’s so luxurious and thick, and so absolutely delicious.  Le Chocolat chaud l’African is served in a small jug, alongside an accompanying bowl of whipped cream.  If you’ve read my blog more than once, you’ll know I’ve got a passion for anything sweet, but the combination of the sweet Mont-Blanc and the thick hot chocolate kicked my ass. My husband and I couldn’t finish either of them.  I’d definitely recommend going to Angelina’s, but would advise you to share the hot chocolate! 

Angelina’s famous hot chocolate, Mont Blanc and vanilla slice (in the back).
Angelina sells their famous hot chocolate, but it’s practically solid when it’s at room temperature! Below are a few other drool worthy shots of the pastries at Angelina

The final stop on our Paris Pastry tour was the infamous Laduree.  As I’ve mentioned before, the best macarons and pastries in Paris can be found at Laduree.  We had originally stopped by Laduree for afternoon tea one and of their delicious pastries – specifically the Religieuse – a puffed choux pastry filled with a rich chocolate cream, topped off with chocolate fondant. Unfortunately we (as well as several others) were turned away because they were “only serving lunch”, tea would only start to be served at 3:30.  I’m not sure if I believe that or not, but we opted to wait in line and ordered our pastries and macarons over the counter to take away.  I ended up eating my Religieuse pastry on my way back to London on the Eurostar – a far less glamours place than inside the golden gilded walls of Laduree. 

A slightly blury picture of the chocolate religieuse

More pastries from Laduree

If you’ve read my previous post about the macarons from Laduree, you’ll know that I’m totally obsessed with them, as well as their beautiful boxes.  Several times a year Laduree releases specially designed limited edition macaron boxes, and I just happened to be in Paris while their Summer 2010 boxes were being sold. This years box was covered in pretty white daisies, and had a cute little butterfly attached to the top.  I just had to have it!

Mmmacaons!!! 

While in Paris, we stayed in an amazing little hotel directly opposite the Arc de Triomphe called the Hotel Splendid Etoile.  This hotel was so charming, I’d recommend it to anyone! Both the room itself and the view were amazing, and the breakfast was delicious!  Lots of yummy breakfast pastries!

Our hotel room, and the view from the balcony at night.