Category Archives: Francophilia

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.

Inspiration in Ink: A Kitchen in France

A Kitchen in FranceFor an armchair traveler like me, Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse transported me to another place. The book as a whole, Mimi’s recipes together with the photographs taken by the author’s husband Oddur Thorisson, offers a glimpse into their world of family, friends, dogs, food, home, and the French countryside in Médoc.

Médoc is a wine-producing district in the Bordeaux region in Southwestern France on a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary, just north of the city of Bordeaux. Thorisson describes it as the “anti-Provence”, considered off the beaten track even from the French.

For those not familiar with Mimi Thorisson, she writes the blog Manger, where she shares her version of French home cooking and her family’s life in rural France. No country bumpkin, she and her family chose to relocate to this region from Paris. In April 2013, Saveur magazine named this gem the Best Regional Food Blog.

Mimi Thorisson’s approach to cooking is to savor what’s in season and to transform the best ingredients in simple ways. The book is organized by season, starting from the rebirth associated with Spring and working its way through Summer and Autumn before reaching Winter with its instinct for comfort and nesting. Each season opens with an essay sharing thoughts about food treasures she values at that time of year, whether grown in her garden, purchased at the market, or foraged near her home. Her story continues to unfold through the headnotes accompanying each recipe, sharing the provenance of the recipes from her kitchen.

Thorisson has a deep connection to France. Though she grew up in Hong Kong, she spent summers in France with her grandmother and great-aunt where she learned to cook and appreciate seasonal local ingredients.

The recipes in this book cover a broad range of French home cooking, from everyday fare such as simple roasted potatoes to special occasion dishes such as bouillabaise. Many of the main course recipes won’t be easily accessible to the typical American home cook because they call for unfamiliar meats that will require a trip to the butcher. For those with an intrepid palate and access to specialized ingredients like poussin, guinea hen, squab, quail, snails, beef cheeks, sweetbread, and oxtail, uncomplicated recipes to prepare them are on offer. That said, this book has something for everyone.  There are plenty of other recipes for starters, side dishes, and desserts that are similarly uncomplicated and use seasonal ingredients that should be readily available to any home cook.

At the end of the book, there is an unexpected group of recipes to celebrate Chinese New Year. These recipes are not out of place in this French cookbook because they reflect the author’s heritage (her father is Chinese) and just as she honors and celebrates the culinary heritage of her French mother’s family, she gives equal respect to her father’s Chinese roots as she passes down the traditions of the Chinese New Year celebration.

By season, these are the recipes I’m tempted to try first:


  • My Aunt Francine’s Fava Bean Soup
  • Onion Tart
  • Roast Chicken with Crème Fraîche and Herbs
  • Roast Lamb Shoulder with Garlic Cream Sauce


  • Tomato Tart
  • Tuna Rillettes
  • Almond Mussels
  • Peach and Cherry Papillotes


  • Potatoes à la Lyonnaise
  • Butternut Gratin
  • Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water
  • Galette Pérougienne


  • Winter Vegetable Cocotte
  • Garlic Soup
  • Roasted Sausages with Red Wine and Fennel
  • Kouign Amann

This book can be equally at home in the kitchen or on the coffee table. As a cookbook, it is a compilation of recipes, but the gorgeous photos provide a temporary visit to the Thorisson home in the Médoc without leaving your couch.

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


Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.