If you’ve been following this site for any length of time, you might already be familiar with today’s guest contributor. Jill Colonna, author of “Mad About Macarons” and one of my earliest Franco File Friday features, has just released her second book “Teatime in Paris“, in which she shares the best and easiest ways to make French pâtisserie classics at home, from madeleines to éclairs. While some desserts may appear hard to make, Jill breaks down each recipe with a simple step-by-step, making them more than suitable to prepare for your own teatime, wherever you may be.
Here, she offers a few additional tips on preparing French pastry at home, sans stresse! See her five tips below and don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win your own copy of Jill’s latest book!
— 5 tips for no-stress French pastry baking at home —
1// Give yourself time with no distractions – or as little as you can. This should be a pleasure to make and ultimately a pleasure to share and taste.
From experience, multi-tasking can result in missing out an important ingredient or weighing out the wrong measurement due to lack of concentration. The only plus on this is that I’ve occasionally produced a new creation this way but could I remember what I did in order to make it again? No wonder, as I was trying to make dinner and was possibly on that long phone call to Mum in Scotland or trying to talk about a homework assignment at the same time! Put on some French music to set the ambience, close the door and get cracking the eggs! (I love the sound-track to the film, Amelie Poulain, Edith Piaf or some French accordion music – everything my French husband, Antoine, or my girls run away from, so that’s yet another distraction gone!)
2// Focus on reading the recipe first then prepare all your ingredients in advance before you start.
It sounds obvious but I didn’t do this at first and I can tell you, it makes such a difference.
3// Tidy up as you go along.
My Mum always said this when I was little and it has stuck with me and now my girls. If dirty dishes are gradually cluttering up valuable kitchen surface space, I become crabby. (Ideally find someone to do this for the ultimate no-stress kitchen experience but I’m hopeless at delegating so I’m still the head dish-washer.)
4// Make some recipes, or parts of recipes, in advance.
For example, choux (éclair) pastry is wonderful since it can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Macarons even benefit from being kept in the fridge for at least a day before enjoying them and can also keep deliciously well for a few days – even frozen. Pastry cream can be made the day before or earlier in the day and if you have guests and are looking for that easy wow-factor dessert finale, prepare crumble topping (craquelin) in a big batch and freeze the discs. Just take them out of the freezer and top just before baking your choux puffs and I can guarantee some oh-la las – and there’s not much to it! Don’t worry, I mention this in much more detail in the book.
5 // Follow an easy recipe.
I love a baking challenge as long as it’s not difficult. Complex recipes with many different stages and that require sugar/candy thermometers usually have me running to the nearest pâtisserie! I love recipes that are straight-forward with step-by-step instructions and the result is not only less expensive, but the height of pleasure is in the taste and taking pride in that you’ve made it yourself.
A note about Jill’s favorite pastries and pastry shops:
The book is primarily a recipe book but the underlying theme is based around my favourite French treats and pâtisseries in Paris. I’m obsessed with street signs and so couldn’t resist photographing them as much as the pastries for the book and mentioning where to find some of the best pastries in different areas of Paris. What’s wonderful is that this city is so full of high-end pastry boutiques, there’s no end of inspiration to try out tasty ideas at home and to mix and match pastries like fashion accessories. What’s more, the boutiques are multiplying – and so are the cakes at home!
Where on earth can I start? One of my favourite hot chocolates is at Un Dimanche à Paris in the area of Saint Germain-des-Prés, where I conduct occasional pastry and chocolate walks. Their pastries, all around a chocolate theme, are also divine and above all, light: the perfect teatime treat. If it’s the ultimate vanilla experience I’m after, I’ll head to Pierre Hermé for his Infinitely Vanilla Tarlet; if it’s for macarons, Gérard Mulot satisfies a 4 o’clock sweet fruity craving, Pierre Marcolini for his bean-to-bar chocolate macarons and Acide Macaron, which is just as brilliant with their pastries.
The rising stars, however, are éclairs and cream puffs, and so it’s fun trying out the latest tasty choux shops. I can’t possibly mention them all but Christophe Adam of L’Eclair de Génie fame” is spreading his genius around the city but other gems can be tasted at Fauchon, Des Gâteaux et du Pain of Claire Damon, Sébastien Gaudard and for a more original looking éclair, Philippe Conticini makes his own artistic take at La Pâtisserie des Rêves, where dreams are made, indeed!
— GIVEAWAY —
Win your own copy of Jill’s new recipe-filled book! Just follow the steps in the Rafflecopter plugin below to enter (and if reading this in your email, click HERE to enter in a web browser).