I had some friends coming over last night for drinks and dinner. And then, one by one, each cancelled because their kids had gotten the flu that’s going around. So I was forced to eat all the lemons bars I’d made for dessert, which I didn’t think would keep until the rescheduled night. (Actually, they probably would. But I knew it would be hard to keep looking at that pan of untouched lemon bars for a full three days.)
Results tagged sarrasin from David Lebovitz
In August, most of the businesses in Paris shut down while a vast number of people take their annual holiday vacations. And in case you think that’s a grammatical error, in French one says les vacances, in the plural. So if you have a problem with that, I would tell you to take it up with them yourself, but right now most of them are unavailable at the moment.
It sounds odd, but I know several business in America that follow the same model of shutting down for a few weeks so everyone can go on holiday at the same time, negating the need for constantly changing schedules the rest of the year to adapt to everyone’s particular vacations. (Although I am awaiting the results of a medical test and it would have been nice of the doctor to let me know that he was leaving for three weeks.)
Bread bakeries, which are an integral part of French life, also close up shop for two- to four weeks. But each shop plans their vacation(s?) in conjunction with the neighboring bakeries, by law, and posts those locations on their door so you can always be assured of fresh bread no matter what neighborhood you live in.
One of the main differences between American and French food magazines, and recipes in general, is the level of detail provided in the instructions. For example, if you were to publish a recipe in America that called for a cuillère à café (coffee-spoon) of baking powder, folks would go apoplectic. “How much is a coffee spoon?”
Then there was the infamous question a copyeditor queried me about. I wrote instructions to butter a cake pan, but apparently I wasn’t clear enough.
“Do they butter the inside or the outside of the pan?”
Another difference is the laissez-faire instructions for assembly: I’ve seen French recipes for puff pastry that simply say, “Roll the pastry six times, folding it between each turn.”
But people here seem to have no problems with that and I’m not quite sure what it means.
I’d like to introduce you to Henri Le Roux. And if you don’t know who Henri Le Roux is, it’s time that you did.
There’s a lot of very talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs in France. Some are quite famous, and some just go to work everyday and do their jobs well. A few have rather large egos, others are more humble, preferring the lights of the kitchen to the ones in the television studio. (I was at a recent event with another food blogger who correctly noted that all the famous chefs mostly talk about is one thing: Themselves!) But if you mention the name ‘Henri Le Roux’ to any chocolatier or confiseur in France, they stand silent for a moment. Then nod agreeably. He is perhaps the most respected and admired pastry chef and candy maker I know.
I first met Monsieur Le Roux when I went to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris with my Thierry Lallet, who has an excellent (and highly-recommended) chocolate shop in Bordeaux, Saunion, one of the best in France.
Before that day, I thought that caramels were caramels, and until that point, I’d tasted so many things in my life that there was little left that would deeply impress me. M. Le Roux is a very kind man, who basically changed the way pastry chefs, glaciers, and bakers everywhere think about caramel: he created caramel-buerre-salé (caramel-salt-butter), which he simply calls C.B.S.
And they are truly divine.
Henri Le Roux, whose Breton father was a pastry chef (and lived in New York for 5 years, cooking at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) started making caramels in the seaside town of Quiberon in 1976, located at the tip of a dramatic peninsula in the south of Brittany, where the best butter in the world is found (the first chapter in his book, is called “Le Rideau de Beurre”, or “The Curtain of Butter”. He decided to open there, selling cakes, candies, and ice creams. But like warm, buttery caramel, word of his candies spread and he stopped making cakes and tartes to concentrate all his energy on candymaking. Just 3 years later, in 1908, M. Le Roux won the award for the best candy in France, Le Meilleur Bonbon de France at the Salon International de la Confiserie in Paris.
M. Le Roux was kind enough to let me explore his workshop with him when I paid a visit during my August vacation in Brittany. As he raced from room to room, he flipped open bins of almonds from Provence or hazelnuts from Turkey to give me a sample, later showing me how he grinds his own fresh nut pastes in his broyeuse with massive granite rollers which keep cool, while metal rollers would heat the nuts too much, losing some of the flavor. And a rarity in the pastry field nowadays, M. Le Roux uses true bitter almonds in his almond paste, which he sources from the Mediterranean. Almond extract is made from bitter almonds, even in America, but they’re hardly used anymore since they’re difficult to find (and those pesky toxicity issues.) But in the land sans lawsuits, M. Le Roux makes that effort and blends a few into his freshly-pressed almond paste which tastes like none other I’ve tasted in France.
I like to ask chocolatiers which chocolate they use.
Most are secretive, but M. Le Roux led me into a cool room packed floor to ceiling with boxes of various chocolates he gets from all over France and Belgium. He tore into them, breaking off chunks for me to taste and explaining how he uses some of each, blending them as he wishes to get the desired tastes he’s after. Valrhona and Barry-Callebaut are used, but he also sources chocolate from François Pralus, an artisan chocolate-maker located in Roanne, just outside of Lyon, who specializes in single-origin chocolates, as well.
I wanted to describe each and every chocolate in the box, but decided that that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (Actually, I ate them all and didn’t feel like writing down what tasted as I was eating as I went. As mentioned, I’m a lousy blogger.) But I remember Harem, a filling of green tea and fresh mint, Sarrasine, infused with blé noir (buckwheat), and Yannick, blended dark cane sugar, salted butter and ground crêpes dentelle, hyper-thin, crackly lace cookies ground to a crunchy paste.
Oh yes, there’s C.B.S. too, nutty salted-butter caramel enrobed in dark chocolate as well, which was my favorite.
18, rue de Pont Maria
56170 Quiberon, France
1, rue de Bourbon le Château (6th)
(Will ship internationally.)
Henri Le Roux’s caramels and chocolates are also available in Paris at:
A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Fontaine
Tél: 01 48 74 59 55
Related Links and Recipes
When you think of ‘take-out’, France perhaps isn’t the first culture that comes to mind.
The concept to me seems so American; pick up the phone or walk to the corner, grab something to eat, bring it home and eat it in front of the television.
Nice and quick…and no dishes!
In spite of what you might think, France has plenty of take-out food shops, called traiteurs. These specialty shops are loaded with tempting things to eat: roasted and smoked meats, a few carefully-selected cheeses, vegetable salads, poached and cured fish, and of course, terrines and pâtes.
Although I don’t usually visit the traiteur, since I like to cook for myself and friends, i was in serious pursuit of Kig ha Farz, a Breton curiosity that’s made by making a gargantuan ‘dumpling’ of buckwheat flour, eggs, butter, and milk or cream, stirring them together and simmering the whole thing in a special linen sack (and yes, I bought one in Brittany to make this in the future.)
After the giant dumpling is cooked, the bag is rolled and rolled until the dumpling’s been broken up into tiny, couscous-like pieces. It’s heaped onto a plate and served with smoked bacon or lard, as they call it in France. Although I’ve seen recipes that call for vegetables served alongside, no one seemed to be requesting any…and there didn’t seem to be any on offer.
After hearing about Kig ha Farz for years, I was very curious and eager to try it. Acting on a tip from a friend’s Breton mother, I found one of the few remaining places in the world that still makes Kig ha Farz…and they make it only on Wednesdays.
Sure enough, when I arrived, there was a huge mob barely forming a line…and the frantic, but cheerful saleswomen were spooning Kig ha Farz into take-out barquettes as fast as they could (and most couldn’t resist picking and eating little morsels as they scooped. I can’t say I blame them…I’d do the same, if no one was watching. Take that to those of you who think I’m too uptight about food sanitation!)
Sporting a seriously-treacherous butcher’s knife, only then would the crowd part just long enough for them to hack off a slab of smoked bacon, wrap it in butcher-paper, and send you on your way. Once I was lucky to escape (alive), I went back to the house and wolfed down a plate of Kig ha Farz…then immediately had seconds, giving little to the thought that in just a few hours I’d have to don a swimsuit to return to the beach.
And the little French swimsuits leave no room for imagination, or expansion, caused by too much Kig ha Farz and lard.
Surely the most well-known take-away treats in Brittany are crêpes, which are impossible to avoid no matter where you go. I woke extra-early one morning to scour a local Vide-Grenier (similar to a flea market, but more like a large, free-form garage sale.) There I scored a stack sumptuous, unused vintage French linen sheets (for about the price of one French linen pillowcase in the US) from a rather nasty woman…an encounter which would make a visit to the oral surgeon seem pleasurable.
Thankfully there were dilligent crêpemakers there, swirling the eggy batter over the hot griddle, dotting them with salty butter and a dusting of crunchy sugar, passing off the warm, folded crêpes to hungry and beat-upon shoppers….aka: moi!.
Later in the day, it was back to the traiteur and to make a picnic for the beach.
It was a perfectly clear day, blue sky, delicious food and red wine…gentle waves lapping as I fell asleep in the warm sand…where I dreamed of many future nights, dozing away in my cozy bed between luxurious, hard-won linen sheets…with a big, round tummy…full of Kig ha Farz!
1, rue Général-Leclerc
Tel: 02 98 69 61 78