Search Results for: Macaron

Macaron Successes, Failures and a Giveaway!

It was about 2.5 years ago (shortly after moving to the UK)  that I was flipping through a magazine when something caught my eye.  Something magnificent that I’d never seen before.  No, it wasn’t a pair of designer shoes or a pretty dress.  It was a cookie!  But not just any cookie.  These cookies were colourful fancy little things with pretty ruffled edges.  I scoured the page to find out what they were called and where I could get them.  Macarons. I’d never heard of them before – except for the American coconut haystack kind (aka macaroons).  I immediately googled macarons to see how I could make them.  At that time only a few websites & blogs popped up that actually featured recipes for macarons, each of them explaining how finicky they were to make.  Age your egg whites, fold the batter until it flows like magma – (no more than 50 strokes), don’t make them on a humid day, let the piped macarons rest on the counter for 45 mins,  leave the oven door propped open with a wooden spoon, and only listen to smooth jazz while making them – ok, that last one is a lie, but you get the picture.  It seemed as if the odds to make these pretty little cookies were stacked against me.  Never the less a few days later I decided to bake my very first batch of macarons.  I did all of those things I mentioned above (except for the jazz), and you know what?  My macarons actually turned out pretty darn good for my first try!  They had the frilly little feet and everything!  I was thrilled with them, and gloated to myself that they really weren’t that hard to make!  Well, fast forward 2.5 years, and I’ve made dozens of batches of macarons, but sadly only about 50% of them have actually turned out well enough to even be called a macaron.  I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.  My beginners luck had run out shortly after I made my first batch, and it seemed like each batch I made was completely hit or miss – even if I used the exact same recipe as the time before.  Macarons started getting increasingly popular on the blogging and baking scene, and I was constantly reading new blog posts and trying new recipes out.  I got pretty discouraged after a while, and to be honest I probably went a good year without baking another batch of macarons – until now.  Recently I came across a blog post by Brave Tart where she described her exact recipe and method of macaron making.  What made Brave Tart’s recipe and method so different from all the others I’d come across what that none of those crazy “rules” that I mentioned above applied!  It didn’t matter if the egg whites were aged, room temperature or cold, humid days were no problem at all.  And I believed her!  Why?  Because she confirmed my thoughts all along.  You see, Brave Tart is a restaurant pastry chef who makes batches upon batches of macarons each day, and if she had to adhere to all those crazy rules ALL the time, she may only be able to produce and sell her macarons 3 days a week!  So, this past weekend I gave Brave Tart’s recipe a try.  Three trys to be exact.  Each time I managed to get at least one tray of perfect looking macarons.  Sometimes I aged the egg whites, and sometimes I used fresh cold ones. They worked each time.  I did however have a few issues, but I don’t believe they’re the fault of the recipe. 



My latest macaron baking sessions allowed me to come to the conclusion that my oven is – well basically a piece of crap.  Why?  Well, to be honest I’ve never really been a fan of my tiny UK oven – especially after discovering that some of my North American pans are too big to fit inside. But the size isn’t what annoyed me this week.  It’s the fact that my oven only has a top element – not a bottom and a top element like most of the ovens I’m used to.  This results in a lot of my baking browning on the top in order for it to become fully cooked throughout.  In fact, I’ll often have to cover whatever I’m baking with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent it from browning as it continues to cook.  This was reflected in the 3 batches of macarons I baked over the weekend, and led me to believe that my oven may likely be the main reason why my macarons have been so hit and miss over the past couple of years.  I tinted the first batch bright pink, and I was really pleased with the way they were looking in the oven until I noticed that they were starting to brown slightly around the edges, making the colour a little uneven.  The other thing I noticed when I took them out of the oven after the recommended baking time was that the bottoms weren’t nice smooth (and lets face it – we all want nice smooth bottoms don’t we!)  Instead my macarons had slightly moist and sticky bottoms – a result of there being no direct heat underneath my macarons.  I came to this conclusion after reading this article from Syrup and Tang that explains the differences between the 4 main types of ovens & their heating elements.  The article stated “If you have a crappy electric oven with an element just at the top (type D), abandon much hope of easy macaron making without a serious oven stone of some sort to store heat in the lower part of the oven.”  That explains a lot!  As I mentioned before, my oven is fan assisted with the only heating element located at the top.  I’ve tested the temperature regulation of my oven before using a thermometer, and although it does reach the exact temperature I set the oven to, the temperature will vary by about 10ºC-15ºC throughout the duration of the baking time. Not good!  Basically thanks to the Syrup and Tang article I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll need to create a heat source at the bottom of my oven using my pizza stone.  I haven’t had a chance to try that yet, but I definitely will sometime soon!

Anyways, lets get back to my macarons! Although all 3 batches of my macarons turned out, I was most pleased with the look of my final batch.  In order to avoid my macarons from noticeably discolouring I opted to leave them au-natural.  I made a plain vanilla flavoured macaron and filled them with Speculoos (a subtle gingerbread flavoured spread similar to peanut butter).  I also had a few extra Speculoos cookies laying around which I crumbled and sprinkled on top of the macaron shells before baking them.  These were so so good!  And thanks to Brave Tart’s recipe they were also so so easy to bake!  For this particular batch I opted not to age my egg whites or bring them to room temperature.  I just used cold ones straight from the fridge.  Although I did get those pretty little feet around the edges of all my macarons, I do think that the best feet were achieved in my first batch (the ones that discoloured & that I ate before taking any real photos) when I used egg whites that were aged for 2 days at room temperature. 



Vanilla & Speculoos French Macarons
Slightly adapted from Brave Tart

4 ounces (115g) Almond flour, or whatever nut you like
8 ounces (230g) Powdered sugar
5 ounces 
(144g) Egg whites , temperature and age not important!
2 1/2 ounces (72g) Sugar
The scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp (2g) Salt

1 Belgian Speculoos cookie – crushed up

Belgian Speculoos Spread (Peanut butter or Nutella would also go well)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain circle tip, along with two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

2.  Process the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor for a minute or two in order to get rid of any little almond chunks.   Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.  

Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.  

At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed, just to show it who’s boss (and to evenly distribute the color/flavor).  At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue.

When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.

4.  Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.

First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.

Undermixed macaron batter: quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons!

Overmixed macaron batter: has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles. Um, try not to reach that point.

You can evaluate your batter one stroke at a time, no rush.  Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt.

5.  Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.)  Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit.  After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack.  Sprinkle the tops with the crushed Speculoos cookies.  

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done.  Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.

6.  To fill your macarons take a large dollop of  Speculoos and carefully smooth it on the bottom of a macaron before sandwiching another macaron of similar size and shape on top to create the finished macaron.  

Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don’t hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week. If at all possible, set them out at room temperature for a few hours before consuming, because cold buttercream is kinda gross.


I’m so excited that I found this recipe, and Brave Tart herself has been wonderful about getting back to my tweets and emails full of questions!  I can’t wait to make these again using different flavours, fillings and colours.  Next time I’ll use the pizza stone as a bottom heat source and will let you know whether or not its successful.


And now onto something really exciting!  Everyone knows that the key to making a good macaron is a good kitchen scale, so I was delighted when lovely folks over at Salter UK provided me with a beautiful new MyScale kitchen scale to test out.  I decided that making these macarons would be the perfect opportunity for me to try it out.  The scale is definitely the prettiest kitchen scale I’ve ever seen, and it’s also pretty cool because you can customise the pattern on it to whatever you like!



The Salter MyScale Personalised scale is customisable allowing you to change the display image to suit your tastes and kitchen decor.  It comes with 2 ready made designs – a pastel polka dot background and  a beautiful silvery grey damask pattern that I LOVE!  But if you don’t like either of those patterns then the really cool thing is that you can upload and print out your own design using a picture of your choice by visiting the MyScale website.



The digital display is back-lite which makes it easy to read, and the buttons are really sensitive to the touch, so there’s no need to push down hard on them in order to reset it or change the measuring units.  (I had to do this with my old scale and it was a pain!)  You can easily switch from grams to ounces and milliliters to fluid ounces at the touch of a button, so there’s no need for measuring cups.  The scale turns off automatically after a few minutes, but instead of the digital display turning completely blank, it reverts to a clock!  The scale is also wall mountable so that you can use it as a pretty piece of art and a clock when you’re done baking in order to save valuable counter top space!  See – told you it was pretty cool!




Now here’s the best part!  Salter UK has kindly provided me with a 2nd MyScale to giveaway to one of my readers!   To enter all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what design you would choose to use on your MyScale.  Additional entries can be earned by doing the following:

  • Become a follower of Made With Pink using Google Friend Connect
  • Become a fan of Made With Pink on Facebook 
  • Follow Made With Pink on Twitter and tweet the following message:  I’ve just entered to win a customisable #Salter_MyScale from @Made_With_Pink and you can too! Visit http://tiny.cc/nehz9
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random
You can also follow Salter UK on Twitter here: @SalterUK and as well as on Facebook
Open to UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Sunday May 29th.  Winner will be announced the week of May 30th.  

*** Just a reminder that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who tweeted, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using random.org to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. *** 


Alternately if you can’t wait to find out if you’ve won the MyScale you can purchase it via Amazon here:   


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!

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.

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.




French Hot Chocolate, Sweet Paris Book Review and a Giveaway


Phew!  After a whirlwind of Diamond Jubilee baking it was nice to get a bit of a break from baking and blogging by escaping to Italy for a few days.  Last week we travelled to Bologna for a short 3 day city break.  It was my first time in Italy and we (my husband, baby and I) had a fabulous time.  The sun was shining, the people were friendly and most importantly the food was amazing, especially the gelato!  

The gelato in Italy is the best ever.  They’ve got an amazing array of flavours, and I think the best one we tried was probably the ricotta and chocolate – who woulda thought!?  A daily gelato (or two!) was essential in helping to cool down in the hot Italian sun, so you can imagine our disappointment when we landed back on UK soil where the wind and rain was there to great us in full force.

The weather has been so rotten in the UK, I’m skeptical as to if summer will actually ever arrive.  The weather so far has been more suited to hot chocolate rather than gelato, and I’m pleased to say I have the perfect recipe!


A month or so ago I was sent a review copy of Sweet Paris by Michael Paul.  The instant I first opened Sweet Paris I knew it was going to go straight to the top of my “favourites” list.  Although I had a fantastic time in Italy, Paris still remains my favourite city to visit and I will definitely be taking my copy of Sweet Paris with me on my next visit there in August.

Sweet Paris isn’t your typical recipe book.  It’s filled with insider knowledge on the best places in Paris to find traditional French desserts and treats such as chocolate eclairs, macarons, strawberry tarts, brioche, creme brulee, salted butter caramel, and of course – hot chocolate.  A brief history of some of the major Parisian patisserie shops are included, as well as a history of many of the featured desserts.  There is a great selection of recipes that compliment the written content of the book as well, and I had a really hard time deciding on which one to make.  In the end I settled on the hot chocolate, and as well as a spur of the moment apple tarte tatin.


Sweet Paris is made up of seven chapters and also includes several pages of addresses so you can easily find your favourite pastry shop while your there.  The thing that really makes Sweet Paris stand out from the other books on my shelf is the photography.  The pages are filled with stunning images of Parisian pastries, pastry shops and every day images of Paris. I could stare at the photos all day long!


Some of the recipes that I’ve bookmarked to make in the future are:  

Classic French Chocolate Eclairs
Traditional Tart au Citron
Bittersweet Tarte au Chocolate
Homemade Blackcurrant Sorbet with Cassis
Classic Caramel au Beurre Sale 


I’d been looking for an authentic French hot chocolate recipe ever since I had my first encounter with it at the infamous Parisian tea salon Angelina.  The hot chocolate at Angelinia was so rich, thick and chocolately I couldn’t finish the whole thing.  Although it was delicious, it’s definitely not something I could drink on a regular basis.  The recipe for hot chocolate in Sweet Paris is just right – it’s still delicious and chocolately, but not overwhelming enough that you couldn’t finish the whole cup!



Old Fashioned French Hot Chocolate 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Pod 
600ml (20oz) Whole Milk
250ml (9oz) Single Cream
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Pinch of Sea Salt
150g (5 1/2oz) Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
100g (3 1/2oz) Milk Chocolate , finely chopped
300ml (10 1/2oz) Double Cream, whipped

Instructions: 

1.  Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  In a large saucepan, add the vanilla pod and seeds to the milk, cream, brown sugar and salt.  Warm over low heat and bring to a simmer, but don’t boil.

2.  Remove the milk mixture from the heat, and then remove the vanilla pod.  Add in the milk and dark chocolates and stir gently until they’re melted and the mixture becomes smooth.  Using a hand whisk, whisk the hot chocolate mixture for a few minutes until it’s smooth and frothy.

3.  Return the hot chocolate to the stove and re-heat again to a gentle simmer (not boiling).  Pour into cups and serve with whipped cream on top.

I served my hot chocolate with whipped cream on the side, just like they do at Angelina in Paris.


I also made the Apple Tarte Tatin when I needed a last minute dessert idea.  It was the first time I’d made a tarte tatin and it was delicious and so simple, only requiring a few ingredients.  I took a few pictures of it using my iphone before we gobbled it up.  


I can’t wait to try more recipes from Sweet Paris, and also explore some of the many pastry shops and tea salons listed in the book.  As I mentioned before, I will definitely be bringing my copy with me when I go to Paris in August.


Now here’s some good news – it’s GIVEAWAY time!!! I’ve got an extra copy of Sweet Paris to give away to one of my lucky readers!  


To have a chance at winning, simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Paris pastry is.  It could be macarons, eclairs, brioche – you decide!  Additional entries will be given by doing the following:

  • Become a follower on Google+ (I just joined this week!)
  • Become a fan on Facebook
  • Become a follower on Google Friend Connect
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random.

Open to UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Monday June 25th.  Winner will be announced shortly after.  

*** Please note that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using random.org to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. ***


With thanks to Hardie Grant Publishing for my review copy of Sweet Paris.