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There are many iconic symbols of France, whether they be the coq gaulois, the tri coloured flag, la tour Eiffel, le croissant… but for me, a cutie that I cannot bypass is the brioche a tête, with his stout, adorable fluted body and a little round head atop!

 

There is something utterly romantic about sitting down to a breakfast of brioche à tête that feels so luxurious. The form alone, is adorable and splitting one into two pieces makes way for a lovely slather of home made jam.  Whilst fossicking in a brocante once, I came across the marvellous tea service platter featured in this post, a vintage piece  including a tray with croissants as cupping handles and little fluted brioches as the milk jug and sugar bowl. Alas I know there are other pieces that are missing and I doubt I shall ever find them, but how I so love this service!

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The famous writer, Alexandre Dumas proposes the theory that Brioche is named as it is because it supposedly used to have the cheese ‘brie’ in it’s dough. What a curious thought! There are so many forms of brioche that are different, whether it be the brioche de Nanterre, which is a loaf shape with two rows of little domes across the surfaces, or brioche vendéenne, which is flavoured with orange flower water and often uses crème fraîche as one of it’s ingredients. There is the fabulous pogne, which is found in Romans-sur-Isere and that is a favourite of my husband. There are plaited brioche, others strewn with large sugar grains, some leaning toward the flavour of vanilla, others toward orange flower water. Some studded with enormous nuggets of brightest pink sugared almond confections called pralines.

 

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Brioche à tête (brioche parisienne)

500g all purpose flour

4 eggs

1/2 cube of fresh yeast

1 tsp salt

80 mls milk

90g of sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (or use vanilla sugar)

60g sugar

20g vanilla sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the milk at room temperature, Leave to froth for 10 minutes. If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start again. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla and salt, working in the eggs, before adding the soft butter. Knead this lovely glossy mixture for a good 10 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 12 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and knead a little on a floured surface, before forming into a series of balls of two sizes – a smaller and larger to drop into greased,  small fluted tins and then a larger to balance on top. Join the two together by piercing through the centre with a skewer, cover and leave to rise an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake the brioche until they become puffy and golden. You may wish to glaze them with egg yolk before baking, but I find them quite lovely with their golden, matt finish.

When well baked, tip them out onto a cooling rack or invert in their little tins to cool.

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Brioche à tête or brioche parisienne

Banon mariné

DSC_0564 (2)I remember a summer when my children were still small, we decided to take a day trip to Banon, the home of the famous AOP cheese of the same name, a treasured disc of goats cheese, wrapped as a cute little package in chestnut leaves. DSC_0366 (2) The day was positively sweltering, I remember not knowing if I would melt or just evaporate in the cruel summer sun. But what a memory, because scorched into my mind along with that weather memory, is the taste of that spectacular cheese, tasted in so many formats.  Here I would like to invite you to try a marinated goats cheese: if you cannot find Banon, try a relatively young goats cheese. Banon is aged in their naked state for about 5 days, then wrapped and matured for at least another 10.DSC_0357 (2)DSC_0363 (2)

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Marinated Banon

1 banon goats cheese

Dried savory, bay leaves, pepper corns

Extra virgin olive oil

Place herbs, pepper corns and bay leaves on the bottom of a jar, then sit your still wrapped banon on this cosy little bed. Add further herbs above and then pour over your oil until all is covered. Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for 15 days maximum ( It can even be delicious much earlier than that….). Remove from oil and serve with crusty bread.

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Pâte de fruits sans fruits…

I’m not exactly a fruit paste (pâte de fruits) kind of gal, but luckily Christophe Truffet of Au Veritable Gâteau de Savoie in Yenne has developed the most sublime solution to such a problem! Does anyone remember my earlier posts about this incredibly beautiful pâtisserie, the famous cake and the adorable family who runs the business? Securing a traditional recipe, a precious link to the gastronomical history of Savoie, Au Veritable Gâteau de Savoie is a must see destination! Le Gateau de Savoie, a cake and a journey cut in two halves: Part One

Gateau de Savoie, a cake and a journey cut in two halves: Part Two

 

Well after 2 years away from this wonderful patisserie, on a day trip to collect supplies for the ongoing renovations in our mountain home, we passed through Yenne. Oh how lucky was that; an anticipated-to-be rather dull drive was punctuated with a lovely return visit to Au Veritable Gâteau de Savoie!

We arrived at entirely the wrong hour for the gâteaux de Savoie, they were all busy baking themselves beautiful, but nonetheless we were able to secure two ‘Conversation’ cakes. A delight of two pastry discs sandwiched with frangipane and the top spread with the most delicate meringue and criss-crossed with thin pastry strands. Heavenly.DSC_0060

But back to the super important  subject matter of fruit jellies; it is so easy to digress and meander in any number of culinary adventures in this store!  Mr Truffet has utterly blindsided me with the most spectacular recipe creation, and I mean sublime.  It is utterly perfect for me, a jelly perfumed with Chartreuse!  Chartreuse is the famous green alcohol based on a secret mixture of more than 100 herbs that is produced by monks at Entre-deux–Guiers, at the heart of the Chartreuse mountains. The recipe is a secret, but the flavour exquisite.

DSC_0434 (2)Such delicacy, a flavour so full, wistful and enchanting, powerful yet somehow sedate, with such a satisfying bite to these crystal like little cubes. Their exterior sprinkled with small grained sugar, the interior smooth as your teeth slide through the texture to bite!  He explained that it was a sort of ‘pâte de fruits’, like the others in his selection – raspberry, or an apricot passionfruit mix, but alas, the Chartreuse version contains no fruit. So we decided to dub it ‘pâte de fruits sans fruits’ (fruit paste without any fruit) on the spot. I bought two precious little bags. I hope he will be able to send more by post if I can’t visit again soon.  I don’t know how I will be without my now early afternoon tradition of a piece of Chartreuse pâte de fruits sans fruits after my lunch!

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I was tempted by the caramel au beurre salé that he developed with his daughter, Audrey. I am presently enjoying my breakfast toast slathered with this sticky, irresistible caramel.

You must visit Au Veritable Gâteau de Savoie. If you are in Savoie on vacation and you don’t go and see it, you really are missing something spectacular.

Au Veritable Gâteau de Savoie

Rue des Prêtres

Yenne 73170

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ANZAC day from so far away….

I am in the midst of a particular wave of nostalgia for Australia at the moment and ANZAC day has heightened that sentiment. It is an odd sensation to feel a yearning for my country, so far away, yet knowing that so much of the bloodshed occurred here in France. When my children were younger I said that I would one day go to a dawn service at Villers-Bretonneaux, and visit the school built by the donations collected by Victorian school children.

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DSC_0272 (2)But for today, I settle for getting out my grandmother’s cookery book and baking up a batch of ANZAC biscuits. Whether or not they were sent to troops because of their lack of rapid spoilage, or soldDSC_0333 (2)

DSC_0342 (2) at fairs and public gatherings to raise money for the war effort, I consider them to be anything but a ‘scrimp and save’ ration style biscuit, but rather a rich treat. Oats, sugar, butter, golden syrup and coconut meld together for a golden crunchy biscuit with a spectacular flavour.

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Ordinarily my children prefer a chewy, gooey style of biscuit. Today, on a day that ties Australian and French history in a tight knot, I like to talk with the kids about the events of the second world war over making a batch of ANZAC biscuits, the spirit of Aussie soldiers in fighting for and giving their lives for this beautiful country. Lest we forget

ANZAC Biscuits

200g flour

200g sugar

150g dessicated coconut

150g oats

200g butter

3 tablespoons golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tablespoons boiling water

 

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Melt butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan. Mix together all dry ingredients together, except the bicarbonate of soda. Mix the boiling water with the bicarbonate of soda, stir into the butter golden syrup mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Roll dessertspoon sized balls and place on a greased oven tray, then flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.

Cook about 10 minutes, until golden.

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A stitch in time – les exercise de couture de Lucette

DSC_0245 (2)We made a very beautiful discovery in a brocante of Grenoble, the sewing album of a Miss Lucette Joffrette Terret, 13 years of age. An exquisite collection of hand sewn pieces, exercises and even an adorable, tiny smock on the last double page.

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Lucette’s work leaves me astonished by it’s beauty, but wistful for these types of skills to be taught in schools today. I am looking to find anyone who may know who Lucette was and to give this album to her family. Exquisite, it belongs to them, or if not them, perhaps the school where she learn to sew.

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Suivre une étoile….following a star….

DSC_0013 (2)A very happy new year to you! I have two resolutions for this year of 2018. The first is to face my fear of making viennoiseries – pastries – and I am on the right track. I mean, isn’t it difficult to tear yourself away from the above photo? Hmm? Did you cast your eye over the exquisite multitude of paper thin layers, all rising up in a victory celebration for little old me?  I wish you could see my facial expression right now. Try to imagine me standing at a podium, palm to chest, humbled and disbelieving, as I accept my gilded, pastry layer statuette for ‘flakiest bake and baker’. Then recounting to an enraptured audience,  my deepest, darkest fears that home made pâte feuilletée would always elude me and thus I would forever be chained to the refrigerator section of ready-rolled. I thank my husband and my dogs, for eating all my failed recipes without complaint, but the same can’t be said for my children. But most importantly I wish to thank my supermarket, for never succeeding to have the product supply to meet the demand.

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Financiers

DSC_0031Financiers are little gold almond ingots of sweetness that in my eyes are as valuable as any bullion. These small, dense bars of cake evolved from the clever idea of a patissier called Mr Lasne in the 1890s to revive and repackage an old cake recipe, visitandine, invented by an order of nuns of the same name and baked since the 17th century. Continue reading