You’ve got to love a country that disappears for an entire month. Unless, of course, you had plans.
Lucky me. I’m here for a year, researching a second cookbook. This one is all about cake – specifically, regional cakes of France. My man (affectionately known as “Mr. Tart”) and I have long been enamored of French food and history. Last year, we decided to pack up the family and immerse ourselves in it. Have laptop, will travel.
It only seems fair to chronicle some of the research I’m conducting, right?
Here’s the basic premise of the book: 101 departments of France, five of which are overseas. And as tempting as it might be to include places like Martinique and St. Barts, let’s stay on the continent, shall we? That leaves 96 departments and countless recipes. The trick will be to narrow it down to one or two cakes per department. The French are SERIOUS about their baked goods, as you well know.
Over the next year, I’ll share an anecdote or two each month, along with photos (and maybe an occasional recipe for group testing and feedback?) If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’ll be the eyes and ears on the ground here in France – the culinary correspondent of all things gâteau.
Let’s start with a couple oddballs we discovered last month…
(Department 12 – Aveyron)
I’d heard rumors of this cake, but until I actually laid eyes on one, I had no concept how on earth it could be possible. Possibly the oddest cake I’ve met, gâteau à la broche is literally, in keeping with its name, roasted on a spit. Layers of batter are poured or brushed onto a conical wooden mold suspended over an open flame. On the outside, gâteau à la broche has the appearance of a giant, cone-shaped waffle. Perfumed with almond extract, the flavor is strangely addictive. The texture is tough to describe – something akin to slightly stale puff pastry is the best I can come up with. Not sure this one will make the book, due to lack of backyard spits in the US. I doubt it will replace the Raclette party, but who knows?
(Department 79 – Deux–Sèvres)
To call this cheesecake would be blasphemy. After finally partaking of this bit of heaven from the Poiteau-Charentes, I’m ashamed to think of how many times I passed it by at the market. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. To the untrained, un-French eye (ahem, mine) this dome-shaped cake resembles a burnt, bowl-shaped loaf of bread. Maybe they made it ugly to ward off a run on local bakeries? Because I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the best desserts ever to pass my lips. Baked in a special, bowl-shaped mold, torteau fromager packs the flavor of the greatest cheesecake you’ve ever tasted into feather-light chiffon cake. What. The. Hell. And hey, the crispy burnt crust protects this dessert from spoiling!
I’ve been tasked with dessert for the event – Atlantic Beach Pie. Tickets just went on sale if you want to come! September 9, 6pm at Tournant. (If you’ve not been to Tournant, you are in for a serious, no-holds-barred awakening.)