Treat your traveller friends to all the best of French cuisine

Gift ideas: A Basket of French Goodies

Treat your traveller friends to all the best of French cuisine

Photo credit: BeautifulBlooms.com

Photo credit: BeautifulBlooms.com

 

Everything about the French exudes romanticism, from the beautiful architecture of the streets of Paris to the drawling accent of its people, down to the scrumptious, luxurious food that the French have become known for. There are many elements to the complete French experience, and no singular item can truly stand to represent French culture.
If you have any friends who have travelled to Paris to experience the lifestyle of the French, you could give them a head start by offering them a basket of the most traditional French goodies. Food baskets are a great way to bundle a group of presents into one, and although they’re more common in the Yuletide season, they can also be built around certain themes. The Belfast Community Telegraph once gave away a Marks and Spencer hamper of easy-to-use eco products to help their community become more environmentally-aware, and you can also give away gift baskets of little French delicacies to give your friends a taste of something truly French.

Building the hamper itself should be easy, as all you would need is something to put the goodies into. You could go for something traditional like a wicker basket, or something more contemporary like a cookie tin. There are some specialised cookie tin makers out there like the Independent Can Company that allow customers to design their own cookie tins, so you could make a great French- or Paris-themed goodie hamper for your friends.
You could then stuff the tins with your favourite French delicacies — everything from chocolate éclairs, mini-croissants, and French macarons, and even contemporary versions of classic French desserts like crème brulee cookies. Alternatively, if you decide to get a wicker basket, you could even add in some of the more savoury French classics, like delicious fromage and bottles of Bordeaux or Champagne – my favorite :).
Gift baskets are always appreciated, especially if you make the goodies contained in them yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Les macarons !
Photo credit: Xiaolu Hou Photography

Photo credit: Xiaolu Hou Photography

 

  • Les Palmiers
Photo credit: Jessica Williams of butterwithasideofbread.com)

Les Palmiers – Photo credit: Jessica Williams of butterwithasideofbread.com

 

  • Les mignardises
Mignardises - Photo credit: Roger de Percin Berendes

Photo credit: Roger de Percin Berendes

 

  • Le Paris Brest
Paris Brest - Photo credit: Say Hello to My Kitchen

Photo credit: Say Hello to My Kitchen

 

  • Les beignets
Les beignets - Photo credit: TriedAndTasty.com

Photo credit: TriedAndTasty.com

Honey madeleine cake – French traditional recipe

Honey madeleines

Lately, I’ve been to Saturne restaurant and discovered the fantastic honey madeleine cake served with coffee. I couldn’t resist trying to make them at home. For this first attempt, I adapted a homemade honey and chocolate recipe found in one of my cooking books. I added up honey and replaced chocolate by lemon. Those small cakes are soft and delicate but not exactly like Saturne’s ones. This promises a second attempt soon.

Honey madeleine cake

Ingredients (18 small cakes):

  • 140g/5oz all-purpose flour
  • 115g/4oz butter
  • 40g/1,4oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1 coffee spoon of baking powder
  • Pure vanilla extract

Honey madeleinesDirections:

Preheat the oven at 200°C/390°F.

Beat the eggs with sugar, honey, lemon zest and one or two drops of pure vanilla extract.

In a pan, heat the butter. When it starts to make bubbles wait for one more minute until it get golden and remove from heat. Add to the preparation.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Sieve on the preparation. Mix it well until soft.

Pour the preparation into the madeleine molds.

Cook for 10-15 minutes.

Honey madeleines-3

Honey madeleines-5

Classic Madeleines cake recipe (Madeleine de Commercy)

Bredele Christmas cookies

Fig, lemon and nuts bredele-7

Bredele are traditional cookies made during the Christmas season in Alsace. Alsatian families make many kinds of them starting as early as November. It is one good idea for a customized homemade gift.

There are dozens of Bredele cookies recipes. The following recipes are three original variations.

Fig and cinnamon star cookie

Ingredients (15-20 cookies)

  • 80g/2.8oz all purpose flour
  • 100g/3.5oz almond powder
  • 80g/2.8oz dried figs
  • 40g/1.4oz sugar
  • 40g/1.4oz icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the icing :

  • 75g/2,6oz icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-2 drops of pure vanilla extract

Fig, lemon and nuts bredele

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 150°C/300°F.

In a robot, mix the dried figs, flour, almond powder, sugar, icing sugar, egg white and cinnamon.

Roll out on parchment paper to 1cm/0,4in thickness.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a silicon cooking sheet.

Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Leave to cool.

Once the cookies are cold, make the glaze. Whisk the egg white until firm. Add on or two drops of pure vanilla extract and icing sugar. Stir until smooth.

Brush the cookies tops lightly with the glaze.

Leave to dry. The cookies are best to eat the following days.

Fig, lemon and nuts bredele-9

Lemon cookie

Ingredients (15-20cookies)

  • 80g/2.8oz all purpose flour
  • 100g/3.5oz almond powder
  • 40g/1.4oz sugar
  • 40g/1.4oz icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 organic lemon zests and juice

For the icing :

  • 75g/2,6oz icing sugar
  • 1 egg white

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 150°C/300°F.

In a robot, mix the flour, almond powder, sugar, icing sugar, egg white and lemon zests and juice.

Roll out on parchment paper to 0,7cm/0,3in thickness.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a silicon cooking sheet.

Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake for few more minutes.

Leave to cool.

Once the cookies are cold, make the glaze. Whisk the egg white until firm. Add on or two drops of pure vanilla extract and icing sugar. Stir until smooth.

Brush the cookies tops lightly with the glaze.

Fig, lemon and nuts bredele-8

Walnuts bredele

Ingredients (25-30 cookies)

  • 150g/5.3oz all purpose flour
  • 75g/2.6oz walnuts powder
  • 75g/2.6oz sugar
  • 65g butter
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1+1 egg yolks
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 25-30 shelled walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

In a robot, mix the flour, walnuts powder, sugar, butter, almond butter, egg yolk and a pinch of salt.

Roll out on parchment paper to 0,5cm/0,2in thickness.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a silicon cooking sheet.

Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets. Glaze with egg yolk and place a shelled walnut in the center of the cookies.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Leave to cool.

Fig, lemon and nuts bredele-13

Savory potato pie

Potatoe savory pie-3

The savory potato pie (pâté aux pommes de terre) is a French traditional side dish from Creuse. It is one family recipe, simple and comforting !

Ingredients (2 individual pies):

  • 1 puff pastry
  • 2/3 potatoes
  • 2 shallots
  • Dairy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt, white pepper

Potatoe savory pi

Directions:

Preheat the oven at 180°C/350°F.

Peel and cut potatoes and shallots in thin slices.  In a bowl, combine the potato slices, chopped parsley and shallots. Add salt and white pepper.

Cut 2+2 rounds in the sheet of puff pastry – two the size of the mold and two 1 inch bigger. Take off a 1/2 inch round of pastry in the centre of the smallest round (the hole will allow the water to go out the mixture during the baking).

Grease and flour two individual pie molds.

Potato savory pie

Dispose the biggest round of puff pastry in the mold. Fill with potatoes. Cover with puff pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry with water to stick. Brush the top with beaten egg.

Potatoe savory pie-2

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove the pies from the oven. Pour the dairy cream in pie center hole. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade pommes dauphines and blue cheese & mushroom sauce

Pommes Dauphines recipe-2

When I have to think of a perfect dinner party side, gratin dauphinois and green beans always come to my mind. But my favorite is certainly pommes dauphines. This traditional French side dish is made of mashed potatoes and choux pastry. I served it with a blue cheese and mushroom sauce.

Ingredient (4 servings) :

  • 700g/1,5lbs potatoes (Bintje or equivalent)
  • 125g/4,5oz flour
  • 75g/2,6oz butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 20cl/6,6fl.oz. water
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt, white pepper

Mushroom sauce

  • 1 onion
  • 150g/6oz mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons dairy cream
  • 50g/2oz blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt, white pepper
  • 1 pinch of Cayenne or Espelette pepper powder

Pommes Dauphines recipe-3

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F*.

Peel the potatoes. Cut in big pieces and steam for 20 minutes.

Boil the water and butter. Tip the flour in all in once. Beat the mixture vigorously. Continue to heat and beat until the pastry becomes solid and doesn’t stick to the saucepan sides.

Take the saucepan out of the heat. Add the eggs one by one and beat the mixture.  Dry the mixture by heating and beating it vigorously until a bit solid.

Place the potatoes in a bowl. Mash them with a fork and a piece of butter. Add salt and white pepper. Add the choux pastry to the mashed potatoes. Mix it well.

Make smalls balls with the potatoes mixture. Place in an oven plate. Pour the olive oil. Cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the blue cheese and mushroom sauce

Peel and chop the onion. Place in saucepan. Add the olive oil. Heat gently.

Clean and cut the mushrooms in small pieces. Add into the saucepan.

Cook until golden. Add the dairy cream and blue cheese. Add salt, white pepper and hot pepper powder at your convenience.

*Note: For this recipe, I choose to cook the pommes dauphines in the oven so it’s lower-fat. You might also cook them in a fryer until golden. It will be more crispy.

Pommes Dauphines recipe