Teatime in Paris by Jill Colonna and Diamond Biscuits
It’s always exciting when a fellow food blogger publishes a book and when it’s a book as good as Teatime in Paris, it doubles the pleasure. French pâtisserie is something many of us aspire to, but believe it’s too complicated to make at home. This book debunks that myth and makes many of these elegant pastries accessible to us all, as suggested by the subtitle a walk through easy French pâtisserie recipes.
The author, Jill Colonna, is no stranger to French pâtisserie. She lives in Paris and gives guided walks around the city’s best examples. She has also published the much acclaimed book, Mad About Macarons. Macarons are something I’ve never had the patience to master, but as this book has a whole chapter on Parisian Macarons giving detailed step by step instructions, I guess I ought to give them a go. The instructions are well illustrated, but my attention was quickly drawn to the sumptuous pictures of perfect macarons liberally interspersed within the chapter. Jill includes numerous tips such as how to fill a piping bag and how to rescue a runny batter, so I really should stop my excuses and just do it. When I start, top of the list will be Chocolate, Honey & Orange Blossom Macarons, although the Salted Caramel Macarons would be a strong contender. Then again Rhubarb and Poppy Macarons would be perfect for this time of year.
However, the book is by no means all about Macarons, the fifty glorious recipes include tarts, choux pastries, and millefeuiles. It starts with the quickest and easiest little cakes to make, then moves on to the more technical pastries. The final chapter, A French Tea Party – La Crème de la Crème gives afternoon treats for special occasions which require a little more time and effort. Classics such as Madeleines, financiers and tuiles are not forgotten and I was particularly pleased to see a recipe for canelés which has been on my list to try for a very long time. Le goûter is a French afternoon treat, which in Paris is taken around 4 pm, often with a cup of tea. Jill gives serving suggestions for each recipe along with a tea, or other beverage, accompaniment. Passion fruit and lemon meringue tartlets for example go well with Ceylon or gunpowder teas; wild blackberry millfeuille are best served with a spiced chai tea, a berry tea or even Kir Royal with crème de mûr; and waffles with speedy strawberry-apricot jam require Darjeeling, Earl Grey or iced teas.
The book is a total immersion into the Parisian tea time experience as seen by a native Scot who carries you along with her enthusiasm. We are taken on a journey from busy central Paris through the chocolate infused Saint Germain des Près and slightly risqué Montmartre to the elegant 7th Arrondissement and everywhere in between. Jills style is light and humorous and most informative. Each recipe begins with a brief introduction, detailing its history and/or associations and ends with variations on the theme. The photographs are, of course, mouthwatering and the recipes are varied and interesting; most importantly they’re actually doable.
For those with a trip to the French capital in mind, Jill includes an appendix giving her Favourite Sweet Walks in Paris. This takes you away from the tourist traps and into the authentic cafés, tea salons and pâtisseries where the locals hang out.
If this isn’t enough, you will find plenty more inspiration on Jill’s blog Mad about Macarons.
Of course, I had to try out a recipe. I had my eye on the double chocolate tartlets, but Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen got there before me in her review of the book. So I thought I’d try something different. Diamond biscuits, or diamants are a sort of shortbread, but the edges are rolled in granulated sugar to give a sparkling diamond border. I just couldn’t help myself and used half wholemeal spelt flour and half plain. The resulting biscuits didn’t much resemble diamonds, but they were easy to make and tasted wonderful; they were crumbly, almost melting in the mouth with a crunchy edge and they were not overly sweet. Next on my list are Mini Tigrés, a rather cute variation on a financier – I just need to get hold of some mini savarin moulds.
Waverley Books has granted permission for me to reproduce the recipe as follows:
Diamond Biscuits (Diamants)
- 125 g butter , softened
- 45 g sugar (granulated if possible) + 20g granulated sugar for rolling
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 150 g plain flour
- Mix the butter and sugar until light and creamy, either using a ballon whisk or in a stand mixer using the flat (or 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 flavour 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 180℃/360℉ fan (Gas 6).
- Once chilled, roll in the granulated sugar then cut into 1cm-thick (approx, 3/8") discs. Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicone mate and bake for 8 minutes until golden.
Thanks to Jill Colona and Waverley Books for a copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.