The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘france’

My last travel experience in 200 words – and in French

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 12, 2014

writing_hand_u270D_icon_256x256This was requested of me in one of my job applications: send along some examples of your translation work and “A short text in French (200 words max) describing your last travel experience”

Fair enough, and it has been a long time since anyone restricted my verbal diarrhea with a word count, so this was tough, but here goes, in an appropriately grumpy French style:

Auvergnate, j’ai cherché pendant des années le meilleur moyen de m’extirper du no man’s land du transport public que sont les alentours de Clermont-Ferrand. Aussi lors de mon dernier séjour à la maison, j’ai décidé dans un élan de décadence de remettre mon sort entre les mains d’une “vraie” compagnie aérienne, avec des collations à bord et des journaux à l’embarquement. AirFrance.

Seulement, après avoir enregistré les bagages et passé la sécurité, le vol AirFrance de 14h05 pour Paris, opéré par HopRégional, est retardé de 5 minutes, de deux heures, annulé. Un problème technique peut en cacher un autre, veuillez récupérer vos valises et attendre. L’avion suivant a tant de retard que le vol de 18h30 arrive avant lui – retardé également puisqu’il a fallu réquisitionner un appareil plus grand pour accomoder les passagers des deux autres vols. À Paris les automates indiquent que les connections ont été ratées, allez au guichet d’information.

Avec deux compagnons d’infortune écossais – que faisaient-ils en Auvergne? – je me rends au fameux guichet où trois employés nous montrent que l’imprimante de coupons pour une nuit d’hotel est cassée. Il l’ont pourtant éteinte et rallumée, rien n’y fait.

La prochaine fois j’essaie le stop.

So, what do you think?



Posted in France | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cure for all ills

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 25, 2013

Some of you might have heard me say that carrot cake would cure anything, even political despair. Give them cake, right? Chocolate cake, Frau Boxler’s mocha cake, macaroons etc would take care of the rest. But recently I have driven around the countryside with my grandad in tow and now I know better. You see, although I still don’t have a driving licence (at 25; shocking I know), I can drive when accompanied by an adult who knows how to drive. Never mind that I feel safer with Papy sitting in the passenger seat where I can see him than if he were driving himself.

IMGP9282So anyway, in order for me to acquire experience of driving along narrow winding roads with a rockface on one side and a ravine on the other, we go together to visit his friends from way back when; old grannies and grandads who went to school with him, or sat next to him and my grandma on coach trips to Lourdes or somewhere. Nowadays they sit around their front rooms wrapped up in shawls and scarves, waiting for winter to be over. We have long conversations about the weather, the war, farming, and grandchildren like myself who should really be looking for a husband and produce offspring. Someone heats up coffee in a pan on a wood-burning stove, which we drink from worn out bowls or cups or glasses. As the conversation goes on, an old bottle is brought out of a dark cupboard and someone will ask, or rather state: “You’ll have a little drop, won’t you.” “Une goutte”, a drop, “of eau de vie” of course. My grandad chuckles and protests, just a bit.

The bottle itself if usually a little sticky and dusty; it has been kept in there for so long. The stopper never quite fits, so there’s an accumulation of “stuff” round the neck of the bottle – you don’t really want to know. Sometimes, as a conversation piece, there’s a pear floating around in there (my grandfather’s godfather put that in there), or a stick, an articulated wooden doll, or even a snake or two. Someone explains: it’s quince, pear, plums, marc de raisin or some other fruit, and you have to take their word for it because really, you could not tell the difference. Either it tastes like pure alcohol and will burn your tonsils off, or if you’re lucky, it tastes of sugar. If it has any flavour at all, it will be of coffee because it is poured straight into the warm cup or bowl you’ve been using, even if you have explained that you’re supposed to steer the car all the way home and it’s getting dark. “Come on. Just a drop. It can’t do you any harm.”

Because whatever the shape and size of the bottle, the percentage of alcohol or sugar and which members of the extended family were involved in the distilling process, it’s good for you. So far, it has been recommended to me as an aid to digestion, a cure for the runs, the solution to headaches (hair of the dog perhaps), and as a panacea for all coughs, sneezes, tickly throats and bad colds. For internal and external use. If you have a sore throat and a runny nose, imbibe cotton wool in eau de vie and tie it around your neck with a scarf. That should sort you out. And make you smell like an alcoholic.

Well I spent hours outside in the cold over the past few days, shovelling never-ending piles of snow from the yard, and although my many layers of clothes made me look like the Michelin man, I got the sniffles. Maybe I should try the “goutte” remedy. But Mam went to the chemists today and bought some Fervex. Just in case.

Posted in Family, Food, France, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Extreme flirting in Bavaria. Nope.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 14, 2013

This article has been trotting around my brain for the past 8 months.This delay means I can now pride myself that I am sitting on months of hard empirical study, interviews, and even on occasion things said by some highly respectable  and quotable people in lecture theatres.

Let’s start with a handful of stereotypes. One could say that Italians and Spaniards are very open with their flirting, especially when young, and very apt and swift at slipping their hands on people’s backside and their tongue down people’s throat. Blame it on the hot mediterranean sun and temperament. The British, in spite of their long reputation for being timid and prudish, have spent so much time baking on the white sandy beaches of Ibiza that they have adopted a similar way of flirting. A modern english damsel out on the town will typically not be wearing very much, and will not raise her eyebrows and say “Shocking!” if she should encounter an exposed pair of gentleman’s buttocks. On the other side of the channel, we French are under a lot of pressure. Over the course of my travels I have often heard the French were supposed to be good kissers, lords of the dance(floor), and queens of hearts. Paris is ze capital of romance, sacrebleu! On a more serious note, I think we lean towards the mediterranean style, only we spend more time on the preliminaries and start kissing a little later than our spanish and italian friends.

SAVE0002As a general rule, flirting has become very physical. Better people have written better texts, essays and books about this, so I’ll not gloss over the details, however, Germany seems to be an exception. Innocent flirting is much more rare, and if there are a few tigers out there on the prowl ready for action, the rest of the German population will need much beer and time before they can loosen up and start “making a move”, or at least one that a foreigner will notice. The Germans are the first to admit this as a nation: a song was even written about the bewilderment of a french girl Aurélie, when confronted with the “subtlety” of German flirting.

Aurélie so klappt das nie
Du erwartest viel zu viel
Die Deutschen flirten sehr subtil

Meaningful stolen glances, hints that don’t seem to be followed through, invitations for coffee that may or may not have a hidden meaning… Someone has yet to explain all these codes to me. With some friends, we went to serious lengths to try and understand. We pooled our experiences, we even interviewed handsome young men in Munich (whose excuses ranged from “being more career-orientated” to “intimidated by women”), but still couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer. The scientific, student-ish part of my brain reminds me: different cultures have different codes, different ways to react to different signals. But whatever  the German “signals” are, I (and a bunch of other french lasses of my acquaintance) simply cannot see them.

However, there is something unique about the politics of flirting in Bavaria. A tradition, which, according to my heated imagination, springs from the frustration caused by the local corseted rules of relationship-building. During the night before the 1st of May, young men in Bavarian villages secretly go and erect a long-stemmed tree festooned with paper garlands under their beloved’s windowsill. A sort of extreme, cumbersome Valentine card, if you will.

Trollops get a fir tree wrapped in toilet paper.

It’s all or nothing, innit?

Posted in France, Germany, Life, Studying | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Striking” a good joke.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 13, 2013

This is France, so it will come as no surprise that France Inter (Papa’s favourite radio) have been on strike for the last few days. Conversation at the dinner table has therefore not been punctuated with the usual titbits introduced by “ils ont dit dans le poste” (they said in the radio). Instead, we were treated to THIS joke:

A man drives home after celebrating New Year’s Eve with his friends, and has had a couple too many drinks. So when he encounters a policeman on the side of the road who asks him to take an breathalyzer test:

-erm… I’d rather not.. If I give you ten euros, will you just forget it and let me go? I promise it won’t happen again.


-20 euros?

-OK then, but only because it’s the new year.

The man gives the agent 20 euros and drives along, only to find another policeman, 20 metres further along the road. Once more, the man refuses to submit to the breathalyzer test and offers a bribe:

-I’ll give you ten euros if you let me go



-Allright then.

He pays the bribe, drives another 20 metres, and once more, finds a policeman.

-Listen. I’ll guve you 20 euros, so please just let me drive on.

-No. You’ll have to give me a hundred.

-A hundred? What? Your colleagues only asked for 20!

-Yes, but if you give me a hundred, I’ll help you get off this roundabout.

Did I mention this was France?


Posted in France, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Killing pigs and other stories

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 17, 2012

I live in the countryside. As does my grandfather. I tend to move around quite a lot, travelling to and from town, in and out of the country, using an armada of busses, trains, planes and cars. My grandad is not quite so mobile. So when I am around for a couple of day, I drive him around to visit his friends. Emile, Marius, Hélène, Dauphin… all the people who have known him since the good old days. I love it. I love meeting these people and listening to their stories, sitting in their dark kitchens with cast-iron wood-burning stoves, hand-painted tiles and various other compound adjectives.

These sparsely toothed men and women bring out cake and tiny glasses of red wine or sweet coffee and start lisping stories of days gone by. About being a mischief at catechism and locking up the altar boy in a wardrobe “accidentally”, while fathers were protesting against boring sermons by leaving church halfway through to have a canon of rouge at the bistrot. Striking, some things don’t change. Or a few years later as young adults, cycling 23 kilometres downhill on a summer night to go dancing in Issoire and then drinking too much and having to carry the bicycles back up the mountain, sometimes spending the night on a haystack. Have you ever tried drunk cycling? I have. Thankfully in well lit, reasonably flat streets. And even then I did not get very far before dismounting and pushing the bike in front of me like a walker.

The most interesting topic hat afternoon was certainly 90-year-old Marius’ recollection of the pig-killing season. You see, November was the time of year those things were done. Maybe because that’s when apples are ripe and apples and black pudding are a match made in heaven. The more rational explanation is probably that people would want to stock up the larder before winter. Marius was, and still is, an expert at pork slaughtering. Even non-farming families sometimes fattened a pig, so he showed them how to go about killing it when the time came, and how to make boudin and chops and hams and dried sausage… He also explained when the factory opened, how people started killing their swine only on saturdays so he sometimes would have to “do” three pigs in one day. We were treated to a few details about  blood and guts and unpleasantness, about the thickness of  the layer of fat on the back of certain pigs’ neck and about how everything was kept and used, except perhaps the tail. It may not be very P.C. but in spite of the goriness  and the acrid smell of burning hairs, I would still love to see it done; not because I like the idea of killing animals, but because I don’t think that sort of knowledge should just disappears when Marius dies.

The last story of the day was  that of a man loading a sow in the back of his van. He drove all the way to his house and never noticed that the door was open and the pig had walked of. He got back to his farm and his wife said… something. Marius unfortunately delivered the punchline in patois, the local dialect. My grandad found it hilarious.

Posted in Family, Food, France, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chronicles of a French Bistro, part 2: I am NOT single

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 7, 2011

Well ok, I am, but don’t breathe a word of it to all the fat smelly old pervs who sometimes (regularly) come and have a drink in my bar. They do not need to know. If telling them I’m… married can in any way deter them from further flirtation, then that will be my official line.

Let me explain the why and wherefore of today’s rant. My boss, expecting it to be a quiet shift, booked an appointment at the hairdresser’s and left me in charge (I feel so grown up when I say that hihihi). It was very quiet though. I had only served a couple of coffees when two men came in. They were obviously father and son, and quite probably came from the gipsy camp down the road. They had a martini and a glass of white wine. They were sitting at the bar, so what with it being so veeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry very quiet, I couldn’t escape talking to them. So. The son asked me – like many other people do (it’s such a wonderful, imaginative way to start a conversation) – whether I had a boyfriend or not. I’m afraid I confessed to being single, which caused a glint to spark up in the (hairy smelly old) father’s eye. Euuuugh! I immediatly knew I’d made a mistake.

And when the son when out for a fag, the dad started advertising to me the health benefits of having sex on a regular basis, and how nice it can be to do it with random strangers. After all, the luuurve is a part of life is it not? One simply needs to have intercourse every now and again…it’s only natural, isn’t it? Eeeeek! All the while I was trying to –well– get him to shut up, basically, but he had an answer to every thing; when I said my life was fine as it was, and none of his business by the way, he just said that you know, there’s life, and rrrrrrrr sex life. Ooooooooooow, I have already mentioned that I am no fan of text speech, but …*shaky panicky voice* OMG !

I could go on for a while about the specifics of today’s encounter, but I’ll spare you the details. Sufficient to say it made me both want to be safely married, and avoid all contact with males. However I might shift my marital status back to “single” the next time a handsome, well behaved, interesting young man comes through the door, perhaps. We’ll see.

Posted in France, Life, Work | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Chronicles of a French Bistro, part 1: new job

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 6, 2011

Well, I am glad to announce the underwater hockey tournament is finally over, and the pool and pertaining sunbathing grounds are once more open to the general public. So I spent a few hours there swimming and preparing my next post: after all, is there anything more agreeable than to lie in the sun complaining on paper in the hopes of attracting some online commiseration.

And it just so happens I have recently found a new source of inspiration: my job. I believe I mentioned in a previous blog just how important it was in the scheme of things that I find a job without delay. I need money to finance my driving licence &c. And also, wouldn’t things be dull if you could do what you want when you want to? (and for those of you not familiar with the concept of irony, please follow this link.)

Anyway, after looking far and wide and not finding anything, in spite of what I thought was a good CV, I finally stumbled upon an announcement in the local jobs-for-young-people centre. I called the number, went to visit the place on the next day, had a try-out a few days later, and a first shift on Saturday night. The job is waitressing : so far so good, I have experience in that. However the context, a small café in a french medieval town centre, is about as far as you can get from the 4star hotels I am used to. I know it sounds slightly pedantic, but there it is. There’ll be some things I’ll miss, but also some I really look forward to. Working as a part of a large team, that I will certainly miss, but the client/waitress dynamic will be completely different, and that is something to look forward to, along with all the necessary associated crispy froggy anecdotes.

It’ll probably take me a little while to get the right balance between detachment and friendliness; I was never very good at the PR stuff. I just hope in the meantime the regulars don’t think I have “a broomstick stuck up my backside”, as the french saying goes. On my very first shift, I was flirted “at” by three different guys with various degrees of drunkenness, age and general desirability. One of them even asked the landlady if he could chat with me (chat me up?) for five minutes while I was doing the dishes. Very sweet.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted if anything entertainingly french happens, in a new series: “Chronicles of a French Bistro”.

Posted in France, Life, Work | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Tous en cuisine”: converting the french to britishness…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 3, 2011

Well, I was going to go swimming this morning, but it turns out the pool is closed for a major underwater hockey tournament. I am not one for text speech, but my initial (and still current) reaction was simple: WTF. I apologize to all practitioners of this noblest of sports (is it?) but I just wanted a swim, sob. SO I wrote yet another blog about food instead. I do believe in yesterday’s post I mentioned a cooking competition, and promised to say more about it, so here goes:

Have you heard of “Tous en Cuisine avec Alain Ducasse”? If you are an English-speaker, probably not because it’s French, and his year will be the first series. However, I believe it to be pretty much the same as the ITV programme“The Best British Dish”, where amateur cooks compete in front of TV cameras to create a typical “national” dish. In order to apply, you had to send in a recipe inspired by local cuisine, but adapted to your taste and personality, either by using unusual ingredients, or putting them together in an unexpected way.

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I have never been able to keep to recipe instructions. The very first thing my mam taught me to cook was bolognese sauce, and very soon after that, I started adding herbs and chilli to it, much to the despair of my little sister’s over-sensitive tastebuds. I suppose this habit could be a problem if I one day decided to go into gastronomy, where you have to have standards, and recipes have to be the same from one day to the next, but for a competition like this, where you need creativity and inventiveness, it’s just what I need! So anyway, I had to come up with a savoury recipe for four people. Personally I’m more of a dessert-person, but this is what I turned up with, my take on “Potée au choux”: the crumble anglo’vergnat———>

Potée is in my opinion one of the most typical specialities in the Auvergne. Basically, it’s a big old soup: you take salted pork, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and turnips and boil them in water for EVER with salt, pepper, garlic, cloves and a bouquet garni. Then as it often happens for this sort of dish, on the first meal you eat the meat and veg, and on the following day, or in the evening, you have the soup with croutons, or more traditionally, poured over bread and cheese.

Like many of these traditional hearty country soups, it can be a bit blobby, and there’s plenty of room for improvement if you want to make it look more fancy and posh. In a bold move I decided to turn it into a crumble and by thus adding a lovely crumbly crunchy topping of rye bread and cheese, both personalize my dish and solve the blobbiness in one fell swoop.

I thought it was bold and inventive, but when I told my french friends about it, I only had to say the words crumble and english for them to start laughing and sneering and saying “what a waste of perfectly good ingredients”. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, you will be aware that british cuisine does not have the best reputation, and nowhere does this prejudice go deeper than in France. As a matter of fact the French are very intolerant to any sort of foreign food or flavours, but the relationship between France and English being what it is, the indigenous on both sides have difficulties seeing past the frogs legs and snails, or the jelly and SPAM. I could go on forever about culinary racism, but this blog is already way too long. My point is, if I do get through to the next round, I’ll carry on putting britishness into my recipes to prove my point to these miscreants!

Posted in Food, France | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The french farmers’ frolics I missed yesterday

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 30, 2011

Yesterday as you all know was the last saturday of January, and therefore the day of the foire de la Sainte Paule; and while I didn’t go this year, I have seen it many a time in the past and I thought you might be interested to hear about this strange indigenous custom. It is after all a very froggy-french type of thing. So froggy-french in fact, that it gets boring after a few times. I enjoy it the most when I have a foreign person with me to see them stop and stare in amazement. Basically it’s like a giant outdoor market which takes over the small provincial town of Issoire.It used to be purely a livestock market, but these days have gone now, and although you can buy a hen or a rabbit or a cow there, most people don’t.

Because I didn’t go this time, because I am not an organised person and because writer’s block is crippling me today, I think I’ll make an impressionist description of what I remember of previous years, with little metaphorical brushstrokes. It probably is the best way of doing this anyway, because I don’t believe there is any methodical way you can go about describing (or visiting) the Sainte-Paule. It is mayhem, organised chaos. A maelstrom of smells, bright colours, people, and loud noises. And all of this very french, apart from the market stall of the cake-selling Irish lady.

First of all, let me warn you: you will get lost. Issoire isn’t exactly a metropolis but during the foire, the houses and shops disappear completely behind the flapping awnings of the stalls. And there are so many people: most of the rural population from the surrounding area descend from their villages on the hills and plateaux to eat tripe for breakfast. Yes, I know: tripe. For breakfast. yum. The smell of it hangs over the town all day. It’s inescapable, especially if you’re foreign: you have to try it. My dad will treat you. He likes to take a foreigner and drop them in a circle of béret-clad french farmers talking about cows, agricultural machinery and the weather whilst eating tripe and maybe drinking a few glasses of cheap red wine from a buvette.

That would be the frenchest thing to do, but if you’re not so keen on eating a cow’s stomachs, you can just have a wander around. The way it works at the Ste Paule is you stand on the edge of the crowd for an instant take a deep breath and step into the flow. If you’re small enough, I imagine you could just jump and literally let yourself be carried away by river of densely packed people walking the streets. As you move along you can hear vendors advertising their wares, shouting at the top of their voice, and sometimes making a performance of it. “A massive technological advance ladies and gentlemen! The brand new no-tear, no-wear socks! Look at this: I am now going to take this knitting needle and rip through the sock! A foolish thing, you say, Madame. Well just look! And there. Have a look, no hole, no tear! The sock remains undamaged. There is nothing better when you wear boots on a regular basis. I cannot help but notice Monsieur you are wearing boots yourself now! Have you noticed how boots wear out your socks within a couple of weeks? Well, these times are over! With the new no-tear no-wear socks! The fibres, a special blend of…. ” And the same sort of things for knife-sharpeners, vegetable slicers, saucisson, cheeses… Most of the time, if you’re a girl and smile at the vendor, they’ll offer you a sample and call you Mademoiselle, or Madame if they think you look old. At 23 I look young for my age, so I’m still a Mademoiselle, but I dread the day when people start calling me madame. The first person to call me that will die instantly, struck down by “the look”.

But we’re still quite safe I think, last November I had to show proof of age to enter a wine fair. Back to Issoire. So we were letting ourselves be carried around by the compact mass of foire visitors. Whenever you see a stall you like and want to have a closer look at it, you have to squeeze yourself out from between a pram and an elderly fat lady. It can be so difficult you sometimes can just imagine a popping sound when you finally manage to extricate yourself from the crowd, like pulling a corkscrew.

And while you’re standing looking at things, that’s when people start seeing you. You see, for as long as you’re moving, you just melt into the crowd. It’s when you stop you become visible. People see you as they walk by, like they would look at the scenery from the window seat in a train. And sometimes they’ll recognise you. I’m usually identified as being Julie’s daughter (the one who travels). Both my brother and sister hang out a lot in Issoire, so they’ll be with their friends right now, while I perambulate in the streets alone with a million other people. But my mam is a teacher, and as such, everyone knows her. So even if I don’t stay with her, I still get spotted by a few people, who ask me how I am, what I’m doing these days, and the unavoidable: so you’ve come back to France for a few days? and of course: is your mam here, where is she? ridiculous useless question: unless you tie them up to a signpost, there is no way you can find people at the foire. And even if you do know where they’re supposed to be, you can walk past them a dozen times before you see them, unless you know they’ll be holding a dolphin shaped helium balloon on a string and waving a baguette around (or something noticeable to that effect).

I am aware I haven’t mentioned the traditional mimosa, or the tractors and agricultural machinery yet but all this walking around has left me tired, so I’ll just buy a paper bag full of candied nuts, step out of the crowd and away from the tripe smell and go and wait by the car.

Posted in Food, France | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making “Macarons”

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 15, 2011

I really should have written and posted this long ago, since those pictures date back to the 29th of December. I have had a busy time since then, what with new year and my exams and everything… But I’ll try not to go overboard and into the great sea of randomness, this post will be devoted to the lovely sweet almondy perfection of macaroons. Mmmmmmh…

I don’t know what the state of macaroon affairs is in your country, but a couple of years ago in France, Macarons were the crème de la crème of french culinary trends. Instead of giving people chocolates, or biscuits, you would give them a box of many coloured, many flavoured macaroons garnished with creams, ganaches, jams, chocolates and nuts. People even had the stuck together and piled into fantastic macaroon pyramids. The cream of the crop were to be found at Ladurée, apparently. I personally have never tasted those, but like everyone, I know the name, and next time I go to Paris I’ll investigate: in case you wondered, I have managed to live 23 years in France and never set foot on the Champs Elysées, so it might be a while yet.

But anyways, the point is that  for Christmas my sister bought me a kit intitled: Macarons Moelleux Muffins, which included: 1 recipe book, 4 silicon muffin forms, 4 metal circles, and a reusable piping bag with a selection of nibs. I can’t wait to make all sorts of things with it! And so, on the 29th, I was making macaroons. I was quite apprehensive, since quite a few people had told me how very hard, complicated and tricky it is, which made me very afraid of wasting large amounts of almonds and be left with dozens of unused egg yolks. However, as you may have noticed from the pictures, that fortunately didn’t happen and I immediately posted the photos on facebook. I loooove to show off.

Despite what most people will tell you, I found making macaroons rather easy and straightforward, once you’ve understood how they work. I cooked my firs batch too quickly, which meant that the top cracked and collapsed as they were cooling down. The second batch was slightly better, and the third one was utter perfection! Apparently a good way to prevent this from happening is : after you’ve made piped out little piles of dough, you leave it to dry for at least 15 minutes, and when you bake them, open the oven door on a regular basis to let the moisture out. You dry the macaroons almost as much as you bake them, really. And by the way, the raw preparation tastes soooo good . I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder to give my macaroons a browny beige colour and it was simply yummy. I licked the bowl clean in no time after  I had finished.

The recipe that follows is translated from the website of “l’atelier des chefs”. I first spotted them on youtube a while ago when I was looking for tips to make choux pastry, and they have very good short explanatory videos, I highly recommend you take a look (Especially if you understand french). I didn’t follow their recipe exactly, but almost. It’s very well explained. Here is my translation of their recipe (I’ve only translated the basic macaroon preparation):

Macarons au sucre cuit:


185g powdered almonds (not just ground, really powdered as thin as you can, sieve it to check)

185 g icing sugar

30g non sweetened cocoa powder

150g egg whites

200g caster sugar

5cl water

1. Preheat the oven 160°C, mark 5

2. Pour the icing sugar, almonds and cocoa powder in a food mixer, set for30 seconds to make a fine powder, then sieve into a bowl

3. In a heavy based pan, mix the caster sugar and water with a spatula and cook until it reaches 118, 119 degrees celsius. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, that point comes about 3 minutes after the sugar starts boiling. It must still be colourless. (The video is quite helpful at that point, you get a good idea what it’s supposed to look like)

While the sugar is cooking, beat half the egg whites until almost quite stiff, when the sugar reaches the right temperature, pour it into the beaten egg whites, whilst beating them at the same time, and until the bowl cools down slightly.

4. Pour the rest of the egg whites into the almond/icing sugar/cocoa mixture and mix. Slowly incorporate the stiff egg whites to that mixture. You must end up with a slightly liquid light mix which produces a long ribbon when you lift it.

5. Fill a piping bag with your macaroon mixture and pipe onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. (a little trick: in order to prevent the baking paper from lifting off the tray, you can stick it down at the edges with a bit of your mixture). Tap the tray against the table to allow for any small bubbles to come to the surface.

6. Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes (mine took more like 15 minutes, actually),  turning the tray half way through to allow all the macaroons to cook evenly. Don’t forget to open the oven door regularly while the macaroons are baking to allow the moisture out of the oven and avoid the macaroons cracking.

7. Let them cool down before attempting to remove them from the baking paper, or they’ll just fall apart.

8. Enjoy!

Posted in Food, France | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »