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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.

Want to Share a Cuppa?

Rustic Blueberry Scones

Tea is my caffeinated drink of choice. I drink cups and cups of tea everyday. My favorite is Extra Bergamot Earl Gray from Upton Teas. I’ll have an occasional espresso drink on the run. I don’t really care for plain old coffee, though I’ll sometimes order it in restaurants because the way most restaurants serve tea is abysmal. Don’t even get me started…

In the afternoon (or sometimes mid-morning), a cup of tea wants a little bite to accompany it. I think this is what scones were invented for. I like them just a little bit sweet and crumbly.

I’m constantly trying new scone recipes. My goal is to some day settle on two base recipes, one using cream or milk and the other with buttermilk. That way I can accommodate the current dairy supply in my refrigerator. My choice of mix-ins can always be combined into either dough.

I have a variety of flours in the pantry, most of them from Bob’s Red Mill, leftover from various recipe experiments. A local grocery store (though my least favorite one around) stocks a large inventory his products. I will visit that store for flour.

My recent favorite is buckwheat flour. I’ve been substituting it for some of the regular flour in assorted baked goods. I like the earthy undertone it adds, and the slightly purple color of the end product.

With a recent excess of blueberries, picked next to the dock of our Maine cottage, I had blueberry scones on my mind. Using some buckwheat flour gave my scones the rustic look I had in mind.

When you’re in the neighborhood, you’re always welcome to stop by and join me for a cup of tea, a scone (or two), and a chat!

Cuppa Tea with Scone?

Rustic Blueberry Scones
Makes 15

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
10 Tbsp (1¼ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in to ½-inch pieces
1 large egg
6 Tbsp buttermilk
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp almond extract
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Measure the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal. (You can process about 10 seconds before starting to pulse, if you’re not that patient.). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add buttermilk and extracts and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour is incorporated. Add the berries and stir gently to combine.

For each scone, scoop about ¼ cup of dough onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. I use an ice cream scoop that’s about this size.

Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove from the oven and let them sit for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer the scones to a rack to cool further, or just eat them warm!

I find that scones freeze well. If I take one from the freezer in the morning, it’s defrosted and ready for a quick toasting in the oven later in the day.

* Note that Bob’s Red Mill is a sponsor of the International Food Blogger Conference that I am attending later this week. In exchange for a discounted rate, I’ve agreed to write some blog posts about the conference and its sponsors. However, I purchased the flour myself and I’ve expressed my honest opinions in this post.