Sunday, 22 May 2011

Melbourne Made Macarons

Well, apparently you can make them in THIS country too. So having recovered (a bit) from jet lag, Jeff and I had a go at making Paris style macarons at home.

The challenges :
- apparently Aussie almond meal is a bit wetter than european, so we dried it a bit in the still-warm-from-something-else oven. Can't say it made much difference.
- egg white in this country comes in EGGS, not (as in our class) in litre bottles. So we had to work out how many to crack to get 2 lots of 80 grams of white. Five, it turns out.
- what filling to use? Chocolate ganache promises good results, but surely this Caramel Buerre Sale (salted butter) can't be that hard to make?
- what heat and cooking time? Gotta adjust for the fan forced oven, and they are all a little different of course.

Everything went pretty much to plan - making Italian Merinque is a complete doddle if you have a good mixer, and a thermometer. Our almond meal is possibly more coarse than it should be - a whiz first would have helped.

The first tray got cooked for 12 minutes at exactly half way between 120 and 160 on our dial (which I hesitantly say must be 140, but it's not marked). Looked good, a little hard to get the bikkies off the tray. So we bumped up to 14 minutes, and it was perfect.

Then I started filling them. Hmm, this caramel is a bit tough, isn't it? Hope it's runny enough to be a filling.

A few minutes later - whoa, this caramel is runny, isn't it? Hope it's firm enough to be a filling.

A few minutes later - help, the tops are sliding off the bases!

Finally - well, they seem to have settled down now. Definitely need to make the filling a tad more firm. Here's a nice result.

And for future reference, here's what happens if the caramel is too runny. Drips all over the counter. Oh no, what shall we do (schlurp, schlurp).

What do they taste like? Pretty darned nice!

Monday, 16 May 2011

The future

Actually this shot shows you the Future a bit. Note that in the Future, there will be Oracle. That's a computer programmers joke.

Heading home

We're at Charles de Gaulle airport, better known as the cover of the Alan Parsons Projects 'I Robot' cover. I'm sitting under one of the tube escalators, in the Future.

Judging at the Fete du Pain

Because it's near "home" for us, we had a second visit to the Bread Festival at Notre Dame. This is one of the bakers in the viennoisserie section getting judged. The judge weighed each and every pastry, and called out the weights to his scribe (who was noting it all into a laptop). Then selected pastries got cut in half for viewing. A very professional judge.

If it was me, it would have been :

"Now, cut that one in half. Now, hand me the left half. Oh, regarde over there! (om nom nom) Now hand me the right half..."

Paris flea markets

Here's a sight from the very elegant part of the famous Paris Flea Markets. We used the market map, and made a point of visiting the different parts - there are a number of "marches". The one people usually send home photos of is full of gorgeous frou-frou stuff. Then we found the more quirky and recent vintage stuff. Then we found the the junk-y mixed old stuff. Then we found (along the street, and not actually in the market) an illegal market! As we passed through, the word went around, and all the vendors picked up their blankets of stuff and disappeared. Well. That was a nice mix of markets.
Didn't buy anything at any of them though. For me, Sunday at Marche Aligre was a proper treasure market.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

At Parc Bercy

Just stepped out of a fancy shop area to a pretty park. With Wifi.

Hotel room collage number 4

Bought some kids stamps. Quite cute, hey?

Hotel room collage number 3

This are tic tacs, by the way. Any sense made by any French words I paste on is entirely conincidental.

Hotel room collage number 2

Keeping the hands busy while Paris wakes up...

Hotel room collage number 1

See, you can make collages in your hotel room with no materials to speak of- I packed a pen and some Inktense pencils.

And now some art

In case you think we are slacking off and eating food all day, we DID make time to visit an art exhibition yesterday. Pretty quick visit, there was only one sculpture, but it was a doozy! This is the fourth annual Monumenta exhibition, where the Grand Palais invite an artist to make one awesome thing that does justice to their awesome venue. Anish Kapoor from the UK has filled it with this inflatable gorgeous monster - you can go inside too! And walk all the way around. Wish we could be here on deflating day!

It looks like a huge student prank - "Yes, very clever Mr Kapoor, now YOU can work out how to get it out!".

Cool coffee cups!

Seen the very cool porcelain crumpled cups from Revol? Go look them up now if you haven't. We bought some seven years ago here, because they were so ... unique. Now they are in all the posh shops, so not all that unique, but since they come in gorgeous colours and finishes now, they are still highly desirable.
Then we discovered this. McDonalds have commissioned their own line, and are giving then away if you buy enough food!

Tete a tete

I admit, I didn't try everything at the food show.

A food show. In Paris!

What's this? Free invitations to a food show? Sounds ok to me! We picked up a couple of postcards way back at the macaron class, and made a diary note about "Salon Saveurs". Turned out it was a quick ride on the metro, a little further than you would normally go, to the equivalent of Jeff's Shed. Or actually more like Caulfield Racecourse, except without the racecourse. And inside - just like food shows I've been to at home, but with gorgeous foods I haven't tried before. Alright, THIS photo shows Parmesan, which I do believe we've tasted in the past. But we tried artisan bread from Raoul Maeder (whoa!), and spicy cakes, and crunchy macarons, and fruit jellies, and Quernons d'Ardoise (praline coated in blue chocolate, but that didn't put me off one bit!). What a day!
These are a regular event - so, let's look up the next one when we plan our next trip, hey?

Unbelievably amazing patisserie

Here's a "macaronade" from a small patisserie in Versailles. Yes, that is gold leaf on the garnish. The golden shell is actually just cardboard, but the whole base of the pastry is chocolate dipped. Its a good thing the excesses of Versailles are a thing of the past.

Tortoise and iguana fountain

Yes, tortoises, iguanas and frogs, all ready to spit water for the King's pleasure. But today's not a fountain day at Versailles.

A bit more Versailles for you

There are fish in the fountains! Too cool!

No photos please!

We sneak into the gardens of the Chateau at Versailles. Well, not exactly sneak, it's free on weekdays, but we didn't realize that, so it felt like sneaking. A way better than average place to eat the lunch you bought at the boulangerie.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Din Dan don!

The bells in this tower are ringing right now, so I'll have to type loudly!

Putting a lattice on an apple tart

More Fete du Pain news .... These bakers have already made a base, and spread it with apple puree. This is the top, which is measured out precisely, attacked with a wheely cutter, and then rolled onto the top. It's way bigger than you would try at home, but they use the right tools. None of these bakers was young or inexperienced, but there was much coaching and teaching happening, as they worked under pressure. You could see there are lots of little tricks you can learn over the years to get the best results, and this is where they get shared.

Pain au chocolat at the Fete du Pain

Now we're out of the fancy competition section, and into the sizeable bakery that is supplying the stall outside (as well as some yummy free samples). These bakers are quickly and expertly turning out all the popular pastries that are eaten daily here. This baker has just turned out a whole batch of mini pain au chocolat, a perfect bite with a coffee. They'll go on the tray next, then get baked. They sell for about 50c. See that box on the bench? That's a box of "baking sticks", rods of dark chocolate just the right size for encasing in buttery pastry. Need a box of those, I reckon.


Expert baking at the Fete du Pain

This is a view from the competition part of the festival. This baker had already formed, sliced and chilled those little scrolls in two colours. Now he alternates them in the baking tray. For the small one, he started by zeroing his electronic scale with an empty tin on it. He filled the tin, and weighed it again on the very accurate scale. Yep, exactly 100g. That's the sort of precision needed in competition! I notice he's using silicone bakeware - now I'm sure it's not cheating.

Fete du pain in Paris

The annual Fete du Pain, the bread festival, is on now! We were pretty excited to discover that it is held on the forecourt of Notre Dame cathedral - a fabulous public square just near our hotel. It was on all day today, and all weekend as well. In a big tent, lots of school children are coached in making bread by expert Baker's. Now why did we never get such good school outings?

See my next couple of posts for what ELSE was in the tent!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Yarn bombing in Paris

Yes, it seems that the railings of the steps up to Montmarte have been decorated with crocheted (or knitted) creations in the night. These ones might be due for refreshing!

Paris sights

This must be one of them fancy doorways they have in Paris. Picturesque, isn't it? This octopus/Cthulhu figure is graffitied all over the place.

Coffee time in St Germaine en laye

It's after 11 am, so I wouldn't dream of ordering cafe creme.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A French duck

This is a duck. It's a French duck. It's having a swim right under the south pylon of the Eiffel Tower. You can't see the tower in this shot, because I was focussing on the duck.

Another shipment...

Of humorous farm animals to the cheese shop, please. Actually, does that sign say "animals for sale"? We could have bought one!

Way to go, Ellie and Blake!

We walked over another footbridge near the Eiffel Tower. I bet Jeff there would be padlocks on this one too - but the railings were fat, and small locks wouldn't fit. A few inventive people found themselves prime love lock real estate!

See, we're proper tourists

Last stop yesterday was the Eiffel Tower. It's a very good place to buy a slightly dodgy ice cream, sign a clearly fake petition, buy a drink out of a bucket, or play the shell game for 50 euros a go. There are gendarmes with semi automatic weapons, and massive crowds, and did I mention the pickpockets?

Nonetheless, best view in town.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Silicone bakeware heaven

Who knew, the French are big into silicone baking? I guess that means they work,

The obligatory cheese shop photo

Hush, don't tell the fromager, but one of his cheeses is mouldy!

Ladybird in a poppy at St Germain en Laye

This is in the gardens around the Chateau. There's a patch of local wild flowers that has been planted as part the ornamental gardens.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Another candidate for best macaron in Paris

The orange one in the foreground - that's mandarin flavor. It's there to remind us not to get too carried away with the temptations of chocolate. Fruit flavors can turn your day around! Notice that its clearly the best constructed one on the plate - the baker really cared. So Angelina enters our Best Macaron list at approximately number 1.

The very best hot chocolate

If you find me collapsed in my hotel room, this is very likely the reason. Chocolat Chaud from Angelinas. A jug of thick hot chocolate, with a bowl of whipped cream on the side (at home we add cream to make things richer, but here we do it to lighten them). Quite delicious, and a very gracious tea room to visit too. Salad for lunch I think.

Love padlocks on the River Seine

Awww, this is so cute. We discovered that on a few bridges in Paris, couples inscribe a padlock with their names, lock it onto the bridge, and throw away the key!

We noticed some people have their padlocks professionally engraved before coming, and others write or scratch onto theirs. Yes, there's a guy on the bridge who will sell you one for 2 euros. Disturbingly, some are combination locks. What does that say about the relationship?

More disturbingly, we discovered this quaint and personal ritual while playing with iPads in the nearby Apple store - I ran a travel app, and asked it "what is good near me?".

Incurable romantics, those iPads!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Our own bananas

Bought this nice bunch of mini bananas at Marche Aligre. Then we retired to the nearby Square Trusseau, where there is a nice park, and playground, and benches. And a loo, and a drinking fountain. Tiny bananas have a thin, tough skin - you might want a knife to get into them. The flesh is rich and sweet, a little more caramel than a normal banana. They are delicate and won't keep long, so we'll do what the locals do and shop for fruit every day.

Of course, that means we have a kilo of strawberries to get through today...

Like to try?

This market vendor at Marche Aligre is tending his pigs on spits. They are coming along nicely. I was taking a photo when he came and opened the glass door to check on them. He offered me a taste! Um, no, not hungry right this minute...

I'm in my element!

It's the Camberwell market! No, it isn't, it's Marche Aligre in eastern Paris. All this lovely junk to look at, and a complete food market too. The boxes of bric a brac had old remote controls and broken mobile phones, all jumbled in with bits of china, fountain pens, advertising key rings, nifty things.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

What we made in our macaron class

The cooking school provided boxes, and some of the other students carefully packed them, making sure everyone got the same. I scored on slightly crushed one (ate that up first). These are filled with Lemon and Chocolate - some of each, and a few mixed. We learned the secret of flavouring macarons - you don't! The flavor is all in the fillings. It's all done with food colour.

See the feet?

Newly baked macarons at our cooking class. They look pretty perfect - that crinkly little base is called the "pied", or feet. These ones developed nice feet. These are ready for filling.

Macaron baking class

Jeff provides some muscle as the meringue is incorporated into the almond meal mixture. There were six of us at a nice cozy class with Dianne. We managed to finish in the two hours, although at home this recipe would take a bit longer from start to finish. The lemon filling was almost a disaster, but Dianne saved it expertly. We each took home a box with about eight macarons!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Arty window displays...

..they can make you buy stuff, you know. I didn't realize until just now that I really need an organza bag of plaster cherubs.

Feeding the sparrows outside Notre Dame

These timid little guys are so unused to people, it took a good half minute to get them feeding from our hands. Of course, we were offering pretty spectacular bread, only a little stale.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Washi tape!

At last, an arty purchase. Some washi tape (printed masking tape). It's from Japan you know.

Onion soup!


Still going on that tomato

I swear it's growing! We are still only half way through it. Also, teensy problem getting it to fit the bread.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Are these the smallest bananas in Paris?

Quite possibly. They are "bananitos" ( I think, I may have that name wrong). About 10cm long - those are normal sized strawberries for comparison. Soooooo cute!

Is this the biggest tomato in Paris?

Well, probably not, given that it was the smallest one in the basket I got it from. At 12cm across, it will do about five sandwiches. That's a soup bowl it's sitting in.