Bring teatime in Paris to your home

Jill ColonnaJill Colonna fell in love with a Frenchman she met in her native Scotland and they moved to Paris together over 20 years ago.  She couldn't speak much French and had never needed to entertain before.  Soon realising that her "banana surprise" with custard from a packet mix was not going to hack it with her new French dinner guests, Jill needed to improve her culinary skills tout de suite!

Calling herself a "lazy gourmet," she enjoyed exploring how to make great French food inexpensively and quickly while keeping it authentic and full of flavour.

It was as a busy working mum that Jill began to make Parisian cakes and pastries as a hobby.  She mastered macarons and wrote her popular book, Mad About Macarons!, a step-by-step demystification of how to make these delicious confections. After successfully mastering French patisserie, Jill has now written Teatime in Paris! (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy.) Her straightforward approach and guidance will enable you to create some of Paris's best-loved teatime pastries and cakes.

Previously a professional musician, Jill continues to enjoy playing flute and piano.  She also conducts walking tours of the best patisserie and chocolate establishments around St Germain-des-Prés in Paris. Jill spoke with us about her love of Paris and the cookbook writing experience:



Teatime in Paris. These three short words have been constantly on my mind for the last two years, and, I can tell you, it's been a deliciously exciting adventure.

My name is Jill Colonna, and I live in Paris. I grew up in Edinburgh and moved to Paris over twenty years ago after I met the Frenchman who was to become my husband. I couldn't speak much French then and I couldn't bake much either. The challenge was rather intimidating! I worked for ten years, had a family, and through that period learned how to cook Paris-style, speak fluent French and most importantly, make macarons! That led to my first book Mad About Macarons (Waverley Books).

In the last couple of years, I started to guide on sweet walks in Paris, and show chocolate and pastry-loving visitors around some of Paris's most famous pâtisseries and chocolateries.

It was while leading a walk around the teashops in lovely Paris sunshine, filled with svelte Parisians, that I kept mulling over a recurring question, 'How can the French stay so slim yet eat all these pastries filled with so much cream and butter?'  The answer is this: the French don't snack all day, and they stick to regular mealtimes. Everything is in moderation. But they also often sit and take pleasure in an official afternoon "snack", the goûter, often called quatre heures or 4 o'clock teatime. I was intrigued. And delighted. So my first Teatime research was to list typically light French recipes, perfect with tea in the afternoon, (I adore tea!), and then try them all out.

I wanted to make the recipes as straightforward as I could, and added step-by-step stages, and easy-to-find ingredients in the hope budding readers will reach for the aprons and get cracking with the eggs!

To keep the recipes authentic, I tasted many of the temptations in high-end patisseries, and on my walks, found myself obsessed with street signs too. I love the names, and designs, so I photographed them around Paris just as I snapped the pastries for my book.  The street signs serve as a guide to many personal favourite addresses and here you'll find the most wonderful lemon meringue tartlets, fruity éclairs, salted caramel cream puffs, chocolate macarons, vanilla millefeuilles, and hot chocolate. From the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, to the Marais area, the book lists great places to taste excellent patisserie in a bonus feature. I discovered they're not all necessarily in the most famous establishments, either!

While recipe testing, perhaps one of my happiest discoveries has been how French pastry chefs use less sugar compared to the particularly sweet commercial pastries. It's the cheeky play of good salt (fleur de sel) paired with good quality ingredients that make them special. Chefs' pastries are not overly sweet, and so the exquisite flavours shine. No wonder they present their cakes as if they're in a museum of ephemeral art!

For me, I love to try out tasty ideas inexpensively at home and to mix and match pastries. I'm still discovering new flavour combinations using the teatime recipes in the book and I hope you have fun doing the same.

Read more from Jill Colonna at her website, MadAboutMacarons.com.

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