Inspirations In Ink: Teatime in Paris!

TeatimeInParisI love tea and I love Paris. It wasn’t until I started reading through the new book “Teatime in Paris!” that I received from its author Jill Colonna that I was introduced to the teatime custom in France. I knew about British teatime, but I have always thought of France as a coffee drinking nation, never realizing their culture included a time and place for tea. In France, this late afternoon treat is known as le goûter.

You know how you seldom see a fat French woman? Jill explains that this because the France is not a nation big on snacking. Eating is done at mealtime, but teatime is a secret “little meal” time: a break before dinner, when you can enjoy a cup of tea with a small pastry, guilt-free.

On the one hand, “Teatime in Paris” is a cookbook that offers recipes for an assortment of Parisian teatime pastries: éclairs, macarons, tartlets, cookies and more. In each recipe, Jill explains each step in a clear voice with helpful photographs, erasing the intimidation that some of the seemingly more complicated recipes induce.   Tea pairing suggestions accompany each recipe. I love it!

In addition, this book is an armchair tour book. As you explore the recipes in the book, you also go on a virtual tour of patisseries in Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement with Jill leading the way. She tells you about the pastry shops that inspire the recipes shared in the book, allowing you to dream of your own Parisian teatime.

The book start off with the simplest teatime treats: madeleines, financiers, cookies, and other assorted treats including other little cakes, ice cream, and crepes. The Mini Tigrés, tiny chocolate-speckled cakes topped with a dab of ganache, are adorable. And who can resist anything with speculoos, so why not Speculoos Ice Cream?

Next, you’re introduced to pastries made from choux dough. Choux pastry is the base for éclairs and other sorts of cream puffs. Each one, offering a different combination of pastry shapes, filling, and topping, range from the classic to the imaginative. For one thing, you can make waffles with leftover choux dough. And with lemon verbena growing in my herb garden, I plan to try the Lemon and Verbena Mini Éclairs.

This brings you to a chapter of tartlets (my favorite kind of French treat). Again, different flavors of pastry crust are combined with different fillings for a mouthwatering selection of tarts, both individually and full sized. There are several recipes to make use of the best of summer’s fruit, but I look forward to ripe figs in the fall for Fast Fig, Almond, and Lavender Tart where puff pastry is topped with frangipane, sliced figs, and dried lavender blossoms.

Have you always wanted to try to make millefeuille, those impressive towers of flaky pastry sandwiched between pastry cream, at home? Jill lets us in on a secret. It’s easy to make millefeuille at home if you start with frozen puff pastry! Different flavors of pastry cream and maybe some fruit and you can easily enjoy homemade millefeuille.

Jill has a blog (and an earlier book) called “Mad about Macarons”. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the chapter on macarons is the most extensive. It also inspires confidence. Again, Jill’s instructions are accompanied by step by step photos to guide you through making your own macarons in your kitchen that rival those on offer at a Parisian pastry shop. There are also ideas to vary the shape to make “Maclairs” (in the shape of éclairs) or even to imitate a Paris-Brest with its traditional tire shape.

Ingredients in this book are measured by weight, which is the French way. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, go buy yourself a digital scale. Measurements are so much more predictable when the ingredients are weighed, and there are fewer dirty dishes.

Diamond Biscuits

Diamond Biscuits

I baked a batch of Diamond Biscuits (Diamants), a “slice-and-bake” version of shortbread. The cookie dough log is rolled in granulated sugar which adds the sparkle that gives these their name. Two or three of cookies with a cup of tea make a perfect pick-me-up in the late afternoon at my own Parisian teatime, at home. You can try them too.  One tip: if you chill them longer than 25 minutes, you might need to let them sit at room temperature for a little while before rolling the log in sugar so that the dough is soft enough for the sugar to stick.  In this case, additional baking time might also be required.  Go by the color, not the time.

Diamond Biscuits (Diamants)
Recipe from “Teatime in Paris!” by Jill Colonna

125 g butter, softened
45 g granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
150 g all-purpose flour

Mix the butter and sugar until light and creamy, either using a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer with the flat (paddle) beater. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the flour. Keep mixing until the batter forms into a ball. (At this stage you could add a different flavor such as cinnamon.)

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, ensuring you roll it as round as possible into a sausage, to about 3 cm (1¼”) in diameter. Roll in cling film and chill in the fridge for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/360F.

Once chilled, roll in granulated sugar, then cut into 1 cm-thick (approx 3/8″) discs. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat and bake for 8 minutes or until golden.

Serve with Lady Grey tea or Darjeeling (the champagne of teas)

Shaping Tip: To keep your sausage shape round in the fridge, without a flat side, roll in cling film and place it on top of a plate covered in rice.

 

Each time I page through this book, I savor my little visit to Paris, and I’m filled with inspiration.

A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 4 plates (out of 5)

I received this book from Jill Colonna for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Cottage Cooking Club: June 2015

New Potato Salad Tartare

Finally after a long, long winter, fresh local vegetables are starting to be plentiful around these parts. Mostly what we’re seeing is Greens, Greens, and more Greens, though spring roots like radishes and salad turnips are being harvested too. I tried to align what’s available with the recipes I picked from Kitchen Lioness Andrea’s lineup for Cottage Cooking Club this month. The recipes we cook from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg celebrate vegetables, sometimes in familiar ways, and often with an unfamiliar twist, which has been fun.

I chose two recipes this month. The first was New Potato Salad “Tartare”. I love potato salad, especially ones made in the French style with a vinaigrette. My signature salad is a Dijon potato salad (which I’m shocked to find I’ve never blogged about), but I’m always up for trying a new version. The flavorings in the salad were inspired by tartar sauce, without the mayo. What a refreshing twist! Chopped cornichons, capers, and fresh herbs (dill, chives, and parsley) are added to potatoes along with a simple vinaigrette. Quartered “soft” hard-boiled eggs add the final touch. I was even able to use chives and parsley from my back door herb garden!

Potato Salad

The only thing I’d change about this is the cooking method for the potatoes. Whenever I boil potatoes for potato salad, I’m unhappy. The potatoes always seem water-logged. I have much better luck with steaming them. I followed the recipe and tried boiling them as directed, but I should learn by now to stick to my preferred method.

Other than this hiccup, I loved the end result. The contrast of the salty tangy pickles to the fresh verdant flavor of the herbs make a winning combination. I’ll definitely be making the River Cottage version of potato salad again this summer!

The second recipe was the Greens and Ricotta Tart. I couldn’t find beets with greens the day I went to the farmers market (just a tad too early in the season), but I found beautiful Swiss chard from Kimball’s Farm. I also couldn’t find ricotta salata where I looked, so I substituted another sheep’s milk cheese: Spanish Manchego. Savory tarts are another favorite of mine. In the summer, I make one almost every week. Again, I’m always happy to try a new combination and learn something new.

Chard Manchego Tart

I love when a recipe that uses both the stems and the leaves of greens. It always feels wasteful to discard the stems which they are perfectly edible, though not always in the recipe at hand, and try to do “nose-to-tail” cooking of vegetables when possible. For this tart, thinly sliced stems are sautéed with the onion and garlic before adding the leaves to wilt. The custard for this tart is made richer with egg yolks and cream.

The pastry crust was interesting in its use of cold milk instead of water. I found the dough to be easy to work with and the final pastry had a flaky texture. The crust didn’t brown as I would have expected, but I’ll admit I’ve been having some issues with my oven temperature and it was probably that, not the recipe.

My intuition told me to use a larger tart pan than called for, so I chose an 11-inch instead of a 9-inch. This was the right call. The crust fit into the larger pan with no trouble, and I had custard leftover. I ended up making a mini-crustless tart with some already cooked broccoli rabe and the extra custard.

I was very lucky in my choices this month: two winners that I will definitely make again this season.

One of my favorite parts of this group is seeing the other participants’ results with the recipes I didn’t choose to make. It helps me narrow down the other winners in the book that I must try. If you’d like to see their posts, you can see them here.

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