of trains and muffins and pierre hermé

Last weekend (or the one before last, the long one anyway) we tried to escape the noise of the Notting Hill Carnival by going to Paris. I hadn’t been there in almost ten years and had been looking forward to going back for a while. So it seemed quite appropriate to use the bank holiday weekend to spend a few days there – not so many that we’d get bored.

Also, this would give us the opportunity to do something we had meant to do for a while: travel on the Eurostar and avoid all the waiting and general time-waste associated with airports.

Ispahan

This whole time-saving idea nearly cost us our journey – having arrived to the station only 20 mins before the train was about to leave, we were greeted by the ‘last call’ warnings and had to rush through the platform to make sure we could get on the train. Fortunately the security procedures in a train station are much less time-consuming than at the airport, and with the help of a nice gentleman who ushered us to the fastest lane and urged us to ‘rrrun rrrun as fast as you can’ we managed to make it.

I had made some muffins the day before to finish off some stuff we had at home (eggs, carrots, courgettes) and these were great to help spend the time while we were on the journey – those and the addictive game ‘jewels‘.

(accompanied by some hazelnut thingy)

These muffins are probably the prettiest I have ever made. I used ideas from a number of blogs, and hopefully will be able to direct you to all of them. But what made them truly special was the fact that, in order to finish off some raspberry reduction I had left, I swirled it on top of each of them. They looked adorable.

raspberry swirl muffin

raspberry swirl muffin

As far as flavour, I honestly think they could do with a little more sugar – they aren’t sweet enough for my taste, almost savoury, in spite of the raspberry swirl. I also am unlikely to use strawberries in baked goods in the future – they just don’t deliver. Blueberries are the way to go. Next stop is probably blueberry muffins with a blueberry reduction swirl.

The sun was shining in Paris, but not for long – it was a bit of a daily gamble, and it ended up being sunny-cloudy-sunny-cloudy the whole time. Regardless, the bits when it was sunny were really enjoyable.

We mostly walked around and ate nice food. I made sure we had time to visit Ladurée and Pierre Hermé’s shop (sadly no time for Fauchon, but I guess I’ll go back eventually). I know these exist in London but what the hell. I was in Paris and I was going to make damned sure that I ate an Ispahan. Even though I hate lychees.

so cute! (random paris buildings in the background)

I don’t have any pictures of the Ladurée macarons because of how quickly we ate them. Also, I think the internets can live with one less photo of Ladurée macarons.

I did however take a few pictures of the Ispahan on the balcony of the hotel. It was just so lovely! The attention to detail is just phenomenal: the raspberries were gigantic (I guess PH gets first pick?), there were rose petals and even a little sugar dewdrop on them. Beautiful.

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really taste the lychees – no bad thing in my book. All I tasted was raspberries and then flowers, flowers flowers! If you read my blog you will know that I love floral flavours (if you don’t read it, RESPEC!), so of course this one didn’t disappoint. The macaron was very soft and then the mousse inside was really light. And the raspberries were huge. HUGE.

look at the size of those raspberries!

You really need to try it is all.

So below is my muffin recipe and inspiration. The pictures were taken after having travelled to Paris inside a bag – they look better when handled with more care – although not too shabby for a muffin if I do say so myself!

sorry about the shadows, unpredictable parisian weather

Raspberry Swirl Muffins
(adapted from The Tender Crumb‘s Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Muffins)
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup (packed) of brown sugar
1 cup oil (I used grapeseed)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup finely grated carrots
3/4 cup finely grated courgette
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh whole blueberries (you could use frozen too – I used a mixture of blueberries and strawberries but would not recommend it)
1/4 cup of your favourite berry reduction
1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare a muffin tray by either greasing it or using paper cups.
2.Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl
3. In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients and then add the carrots and courgette.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, being careful to not overmix. Add the berries.
5. Divide evenly by the cups in the muffin tray. When finished, use about 1 tsp reduction per cup: pour it in the centre of the mixture, and then using a skewer, swirl it around.
6. Bake for about 25 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clear. Turn out onto a cooling rack until cool.
Yields about 12 and they last less than a week, stored in an airtight container (’cause they’re so moist and that).
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