Here are some answers to your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), mainly around baking tips. Please see below for oven temperature conversions.
If you have a question that's not answered, then please do contact me and I'll also add more queries or topics to this list.
Why are the recipes in grams and ounces?
Although I have added measurements in cups for my American readers, please note these are there purely as a guide. I strongly urge you to bake and cook using grams like the French by WEIGHT, not volume (cups) - particularly for making macarons, tarts and other French pastries which are precise. This achieves consistent successful results in your cooking and baking.
Digital scales are inexpensive and an essential item in your kitchen. If you’re used to ounces, with digital scales you can simply switch the button over to grams and we’re all talking the same language.
For much more in detail, see my post explaining why I recommend digital scales.
All-purpose flour and cake flour - what are they in France?
All-purpose flour in France is called T45 or T55. It doesn't contain any rising agents like in self-raising flour. While T55 is the equivalent of all-purpose flour, it's generally used in most French baking for crêpes, butter cookies, canelés and brioche. T45 is slightly finer pastry flour and the equivalent of American cake flour or Italian '00' flour and best used for making pâte sucrée, the classic sweet pastry dough for tarts (see Bourdaloue Tart and French Apple Custard Tart.)
Please check the sell-by date on flour. We've all done it - using out of date flour thinking it would be ok but it results in an unpleasant aftertaste. Especially for nut flours (chestnut, coconut or almond flour/ground almonds) which leave a rancid, bitter taste.
Do I need to sift flour?
During our grandparents' and parents' generations, sifting regular plain flour was necessary to take out any lumps for baking smoothly. These days there's no need for all-purpose or cake flours and, unless I state otherwise, don't sift. However, for thicker flours such as chestnut flour, almond flour (ground almonds) and the likes, I precise in each recipe to sift as they are more inclined to 'cake' up.
Is ground almonds the same as almond flour?
What butter do you use?
I use good quality classic unsalted French butter known as ‘beurre doux’, with 82% fat. Why unsalted? As it’s easy to control the amount of salt used in the recipes.
In Brittany, for example, we typically use salted butter (beurre salé or demi-sel) with around 3% salt content for authentic recipes such as Palets Bretons, salted caramel sauce (caramel au beurre salé) and in the filling for salted caramel macarons. As I know it’s not often easy to find good French salted butter in the rest of the world, I use unsalted butter and add fleur de sel salt in order to get the closest possible.
So to get as close to our French recipes, please use European-style unsalted butter with 82% fat.
What's best to grease a cake tin or muffin mould?
I usually use non-stick baking tins where possible or even silicone for baking cakes that don't take that long in the oven so greasing isn't always necessary. However, if you have classic tins that need to be greased for the best results, I recommend greasing cake tins with butter.
Please avoid shortening and baking oil sprays becoming so popular. If you wouldn't directly cook with it, then don't bake with it. The taste is, in my opinion, not good and French nutritionists and scientists confirm that's it's also not good for our health.
How do you line a cake tin?
Lining a round cake tin is simple with just baking parchment and scissors. There's no need to measure its size to fit perfectly:
- Cut out a square of parchment/baking paper that can fit the cake tin (turn it upside down to see the circumference best)
- From the centre of the tin, fold the paper in half - then in half again, half again twice until you have a thin triangle
- Then with scissors, cut the end of the paper triangle to go around the edge of the tin
- Open the paper out to a perfect circle that fits your cake tin.
How much vanilla extract for a pod/bean?
A vanilla bean/pod is preferable for many recipes – but are expensive. I often cheat and buy cheaper vanilla and steep them in rum in a jar to swell them – for more, see my tip how to store vanilla beans.
If you prefer to use extract or powder, then use it quite sparingly depending on the brand you use. I say use a teaspoon but taste the custard first. If it needs more, add more but better to dose carefully. If you add too much you can’t go backwards! Some brands use much more – see Nielsen Massey’s instructions.
I'm allergic to gluten. Do you have any recipes for me?
How do you eat all those pastries and stay so slim?
I get this a lot. I should have written a whole book about it – although I so have a chapter on this in my 2nd book, Teatime in Paris!
Since arriving in France in 1992, in 30 years I have never needed to diet, just by sticking to the French way of eating. French people are healthy in general, as they tend to make meals from scratch with smaller portions - these pastries, croissants and cakes are occasional treats.
Don’t believe the myth that in France we always cook with butter. Read my daughter’s article on Five Ways to Eat Like the French.
Basically we stick to the 3 mealtimes (including one main meal with moderate portions) and never snack or graze. If I have the occasional tea and patisserie in the afternoon it’s officially goûter but will therefore have an even lighter lunch.
I also walk a LOT when I can instead of driving or taking the metro, take the stairs and walk about 5km a day, time permitting.
Most importantly, I avoid processed foods and eat fresh whenever possible - it has more flavour! That’s why I share my recipes here, to show that it’s easy to cook and bake from scratch.
I'm coming to Paris. Do you give cooking classes?
At present, I’m completely on my own without a team to help as I’m working hard for you on this website to share my recipes for free as well as many updated Paris food guides. As a result, I have no extra time to give classes.
However, I am making free demonstration videos on my YouTube channel. So please do pop in and support me there by liking and subscribing.
For macarons, get my books! My macaron classes are detailed step-by-step in my first book, Mad About Macarons also in the macaron chapter and much more in Teatime in Paris.
I'm coming to Paris. Can I still enjoy pastries with food allergies?
Luckily Paris is becoming more aware of the rise in food allergies. Here are the main ones:
What's the difference between a macaron and a macaroon?
Ever since my pastry and chocolate tours in Paris, I have had this question so many times I wrote an article on it in detail:
My macarons have cracked. What can I do?
Don’t throw them away! They will still taste delicious. I have plenty recipes you can crush them up or use them to make:
- macaron tiramisu
- mini Ispahan macaron trifles or
- macaron berry trifle
- baked peaches
- crush them and decorate on a Bourdaloue tart
As for the cracked macarons, it’s included in a troubleshooting section in my book, Mad About Macarons. Many are easy to solve – it could be just down to your oven or even your egg whites!
Can I share a recipe?
I would be delighted for you to share!
However, the recipes and images on the website are ALL copyright Jill Colonna. If you wish to link to the recipes on the site, then please contact me with credit to Jill Colonna at MadAboutMacarons.com.
For the recipes in the books, Waverley Books by law has the copyright and license to publish them, so they are uniquely in the books. If you wish to use a recipe from either book, please contact Liz Small at Waverley Books (info(at)waverley-books.co.uk) first for permission. Many thanks!
I'm a bookshop/trade customer. How do I order your books ?
Please contact my publisher, Waverley Books (The Gresham Publishing Company Ltd.), directly: info(at)waverley-books.co.uk or their UK distributors at BookSource.
For orders or enquiries Tel: +44 (0) 845 370 0067 or via Gardeners Books Wholesalers
Distributor for USA/Canada: Interlink Publishing.
Distributor in France: OLF via Relay H.
A question not answered here?
Contact me either via the Contact Form or by email jill(at)madaboutmacarons.com or directly under the relevant (recipe) post where I’ll be happy to answer you as soon as I can. Don’t forget I live in France so allow for the time difference.
Oven Temperatures Celsius to Fahrenheit
Hopefully this chart for oven temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit will help you, as we all have different ovens. Whether yours is Fahrenheit or a fan oven in Celsius, I have you covered - right up to older ovens with a gas mark.
|Normal oven ºC
|Normal oven ºF
Frequently Asked Questions on UK-US and French Baking Terms
Confused with the difference between plain flour, whipped cream or powdered sugar from France, USA or in the UK?
I have your frequently asked questions covered in this listing of UK-US Glossary of Terms and ingredients with their French equivalents. Hopefully this way we can be speaking the same baking language.