Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Edinburgh and Edinburgh with a bit of Glasgow thrown in.
When and why did you move to Paris?
I came to Paris on a whim in January 1992 straight after graduating with a Masters Degree in Marketing at Strathclyde University. I’d met Antoine during studies there; he suggested I come with him to brush up on my awful French while waiting to return to a brand manager post in the wine trade in Perth, Scotland. We both knew that Paris was my one-way ticket; I found a temporary job at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) that lasted ten years – during which time I became obsessed with cooking, baking, we got married, had kids. If someone had told me to move to Paris 25 years ago, I don’t think I would have had the courage.
At what age did your love of baking start and what were some of the first things you made?
I remember baking from the earliest age every time I visited Granny in Musselburgh. We made snowballs, apple and date turnovers, matrimonial cake, caramel “stuff”, German biscuits – heaven knows where the names came from but they were all sumptuous. The first time I baked without any help was a big moment: Melting Moments (oat cookies) from the Brownie cookbook; once I put the glacé cherries on top, I was hooked.
When were you first introduced to French pastries and what was that experience like?
It was on our first family holiday in the late 70s. Dad used to drive all the way from Edinburgh to the South of France nearly every summer. He drove and drove with no air-conditioning, fanatical about getting ahead of the holiday traffic so we never stopped for long. My first pastry was an oversized slice of deliciously squidgy Flan (vanilla tart), tasted not too far from the car (it had to be in view!), accompanied by a bottle of exploding warm lemonade that had “Pshitt” on the label. I loved this country!
How did you come to write your first book Mad about Macarons?
When I hit on a recipe that worked, I couldn’t stop making macarons. Friends were asking me to make them for their dinner parties until it got out of hand – so I started (a bit cheekily) writing out a recipe for them, then added more until I had something that resembled a manuscript. My brother said one Christmas, “You should get this published”. I contacted a Scottish publishing house, Waverley Books, and couldn’t believe my luck when they tried the recipe too. Not only did they take me on, but asked me to write the new one, Teatime in Paris.
It’s going to be difficult to keep this short! There’s been great excitement about Yann Couvreur opening his first Patisserie this month. Christophe Michalak, Cyril Lynac have also recently been creating a stir with their new boutiques and contemporary takes on French classics. Also to particularly watch out for are the growing number of bakeries and patisseries specializing in gluten-free and health alternatives for those with allergies - including dairy free - such as Chambelland, Helmut Newcake, Foucade, and Gâté.
What are some of the latest French pastry trends?
Again it’s the gluten-free themed boutiques but many traditional patisseries are gradually including gluten-free options. Also, although not new but still very much on the rise are patisseries specializing in only one product: Éclairs (Éclair de Génie, Mon Éclair); Choux buns (Popelini, Maison du Chou, Odette, Profiterole Chérie); Madeleines (Mademoiselle Madeleines), Brioches (Goût de Brioche); Macarons (Christophe Roussel, le Monde du Macaron, Ladurée, Acide Macaron) and le Mont Blanc (Le Mont du Bonheur). Out of these examples, another trend is for clients to compose their own pastry that’s designed in front of them (Mon Éclair and Maison du Chou).
If you had to choose one dessert if you were living on a desert island, what would it be?
Cheese. Just kidding! Do I have to pick just one? If Pierre Hermé’s Infiniment Vanille tart couldn’t make it over, I’d have to make a double chocolate tartlet topped with 2 profiteroles filled with Grand Marnier pastry cream, a vanilla macaron, and a giant fragrant strawberry. That counts as one, does it?
Can you give our U.S. readers some tips about using French pastry recipes with U.S. ingredients which vary from French ingredients?
I prefer to stick with the easier classic recipes that use the same ingredients: many differences are just a confusion of terms: such as sucre glace for confectioners’ sugar, and poudre d’amandes is almond flour etc., while baking powder (levure chimique) in France is packaged in sachets as opposed to pots using teaspoons. I find that the real difference is in measuring: the French use weights rather than volume in the U.S. and insist on measuring in grams rather than in cups to achieve consistent successful results.
What’s your go to pastry recipe that’s easy to make and impresses people?
A simple choux bun with a crunchy craquelin (streusel) topping, filled with vanilla or rose pastry cream and raspberries. It’s even quicker to make when I have a store of the topping made earlier as it freezes so well and guests think I’ve spent ages on it. Even better when I have a store of macarons from the freezer too. That’s just the extra wow when I need it.
What do you prefer about Paris?
The avenues, the grand boulevards of trees; the architecture; the fountains in summer; meandering along by the Seine, getting lost in the tiny side-streets but discovering something new each time; the wealth of museums; the gold-topped roofs and bridges; the choice of top bakeries and the incredible inspiration they create; sitting at a café like at the movies, watching the world go by.
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Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
Each 6” X 4.25” traditional size postcard is printed on thick matte coated card stock, similar to traditional vintage postcard stock that enhances the vibrancy of every image.
Only $30 for a 3-month subscription plus shipping or
Only $60 for a 6 month subscription (plus shipping)or
$110 for a 12-month subscription (plus shipping)
Click here to order a 3-month subscription from my Etsy store
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.