In Paris, a city full of spectacular pastry shops, it really takes something major to grab me by the shoulders and shake me to attention. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the other ones, but when you see something as jaw-dropping as the pastries at Café Pouchkine, you can’t help but stop and stand at full attention.
Results tagged cake from David Lebovitz
There are a lot of things I like about living in Paris. There’s shopping at the outdoor market and knowing the vendors and having them give you the good peaches, and not sticking a few icky ones in the bottom of the bag. Picking up a still-warm baguette and ripping the end off the very moment you step outside the bakery. And getting to go all the way home and re-do that file of paperwork that you carefully spent the last six months assembling isn’t acceptable because you’ve used staples to fasten the pages together rather than a paperclip.
Living abroad in a different culture certainly has its challenges (like being able to determine if paperclips or staples will be acceptable…and at which particular agency), and sometimes one wants a big ol’ generous American hug rather than just a few bisous pecked on both cheeks. For the same reason French people congregate on Claude Lane in San Francisco, sometimes you just want to walk in somewhere and not have to worry about feeling like an outsider. Or you want free WiFi that’s doesn’t shut down after twenty minutes. Or you want ice.
I was browsing through my archives this weekend and landed on a post that I wrote back in 2005, about Vandermeersch. The bakery is really out in the middle of nowhere and for most visitors and even local, whether you’re going by foot or even by métro. But I was looking at the pictures I’d taken back then, which didn’t do the kouglof justice, that I hadn’t been back there in a while and since I had friends in town, I figured there was no time like today.
When I arrived in the nondescript area just at the perimeter of Paris, my friends were a few minutes late and I noticed—then panicked—because there were only five large kouglofs left in the shop, and just a few individual ones. Certain they’d arrive just as the last ones were being bought up by someone less-worthy than me, I was a little rude and went ahead and bought two of the pastries, and stashed them in my bag.
Admittedly, carrot cake isn’t something one normally associates with Paris. (Although if you want to see a Parisian go ecstatic, show them a block of Philadelphia cream cheese.) But when I had a slice of Barbra Austin’s carrot cake, I found myself polishing off the whole slice and begging for seconds. I met Barbra a few years back when she was shuttling back and forth between Paris and New York City, where she was baking professionally. I think I might have nudged her in the direction of making Paris her full-time home and I’m happy she’s here. Barbra blogs at BarbraAustin.com, updating readers about restaurants and bakeries, and is a terrific storyteller as well. So I asked her not only to share her recipe, but to provide this guest post. Merci, Barbra! -dl
If I had a FAQ page on my blog, “What brought you to Paris?” would surely be the first item. The problem is that I don’t yet have a clear answer.
I came to visit a couple of times in my 20s, and as a pastry cook I was surely inspired by Paris. But I didn’t start studying French until 2006, and my motivations for doing so, and for embarking on a two-month stay not long after that, remain shrouded in some mystery to me.
(Not the reasons themselves, but how I could have possibly thought they were sound – something best discussed with lots of wine at hand.)
That trip was a bit of a disaster, yet I decided to come back the following year. And with subsequent visits things started to get easier. I used to think it was because I had become familiar with the culture and customs, and because I had made strides with the language and come to understand the rules of etiquette.
In my recent winter newsletter, I sent out a list of some of my favorite recipes that are great candidates for the holidays. Here I compiled more recipes from the site for sweets and treats that I hope will make your holidays a little happier.
Nibbles & Drinks
The Best Holiday Nut and Pretzel Mix: This it the best snack I know of to go with festive drinks. I can’t get enough of it. Make this for your next cocktail gathering!
Spritz: Want a holiday drink that’s lighter than a cocktail, and more festive? Try pouring a Spritz (or two) this year for guests.
Roasted Squash: Could this recipe be any easier? Oven-roasted slices of squash, which you can customize with different herbs and spices. Leftovers are great cubed and tossed in a salad of winter greens with toasted pecans and dried cranberries.
Sardine Pâté: Silky fish pâté is great spread on toasts with flutes of sparkling Champagne.
When is a cake not a cake? When you’re in France. These ‘cakes’ (pronounced kek) are what we might call ‘quick bread’ in the United States, although we usually make them sweet. So I’ll have to give one to the French and say that they’re right—this actually falls more in the category of a cake rather than a bread.
People often ask what people in France do for Thanksgiving. Well, to them, bascially the day is just another random Thursday in late November. (Albeit with a few crazed Americans scavenging madly though the Grand Épicerie searching for fresh cranberries and canned pumpkin.) Although I’ve been wrong before, I would venture to guess that not many other cultures systematically celebrates a joint feast between the pilgrims and Native Americans that took place a long time ago in the United States. And I’m not sure why folks would think that people in France..or Bali, Korea, or Iceland, would celebrate an American holiday*, but we Americans who live here do celebrate The Most Important Day on the Planet.
It’s interesting that there are so many views of Paris, which you notice if you follow the variety of voices that write about life in the city. I tend to find all the quirks and report on the sardonic side of things, which for some reason, always find their way into my life. But the main reason is that I live here full-time and deal with not just sampling my way through the lovely pastry shops and meeting chocolatiers, but also spend a fair amount of time wresting with perplexing bureaucracy and other idioms of life in the City of
For example, last week I went to the largest fabric store in Paris where I always buy étamine (cotton gauze), which I couldn’t locate so I asked a salesperson. He was having a nice chat with his co-workers but was kind enough to take a moment to tell me “Non”, they didn’t carry it, and went back to his conversation. After I raised an eyebrow and asked a few more times just be sure, he and all the others in the group shook their heads, confirming with absolute certainty that they definitely did not have that in stock.
Because I was absolutely certain that they did, I went down one level and, of course, found a huge bolt of it right on top of the pile of other rolls of fabric.
Continue Reading French Apple Cake…
There are two things hard about living in France. The first is ….well, let’s not get into that today. The second is getting recipes from French women. It’s not because they closely guard their secrets, but it’s because they frequently use recipes as guidelines rather than making them by rote.
So if you ask a question, the response is often—”Because that’s always the way I did it.” Which was what I was told when I read the instructions on the hand-written recipe I snagged, that said to dip the bottom of the bowl of melted chocolate in a larger basin of cool water to bring down the temperature, where lazy old me would just let it sit on the counter until it was cool. Who wants to empty all those dishes out of the sink?
They often refuse to specify exact quantities. “Just add enough flour until the dough looks correct” is a fairly common response when I press for things like ‘details’, and I keep imagining how much easier writing a cookbook (and a blog) would be if I could give instructions like that.
Continue Reading Chocolate Mousse Cake…