Thursday, 21 January 2016 07:18

French desserts are oh, so sweet

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Chefhusband and I step in off the street and to a French bistro that’s warm with the aromas of cooking.

 “We have reservations for...” I say, while Chefhusband closes the door behind us.
    “But of course. Your table is ready,” says the Maitre ‘D. I glance down to see if a forgotten library conference I.D. sticker is glued to my coat, and when it’s not, I smile to cover my confusion at being known. I begin to tug at a sleeve.
“Non,” says the Maitre ‘D, in an accent that is butter smooth. “Please. Allow me to undress you.”
Now, it must be said, with the exception of hoots and hollers from unwashed men at the Greyhound depot while waiting for my mother’s bus to arrive, no one but my husband has offered to undress me in a very long time.
In fact, Chefhusband and I were high school sweethearts. So the last offer was probably from an icky boy in the ninth grade.
Tonight, however, we’ve come to this little corner of France away from France, and innocent innuendo allows a girl to blush without the need to wash later with strong soap.
What is it about the French, I wonder, and their spacious syllables, their facilities with full fat cream, that allows latitudes one does not grant to the harder edges of North American voices?
Moments later, Chefhusband and I are seated at a table for two, next to the window, with a view on couples passing by.
The bistro and it’s tables are well peopled tonight, and waiters move among them with the practiced choreography of European service.
Our waiter, who a short while earlier pulled out my chair without incident (neither letting me crash to the floor nor jamming the seat into the back of my knees), intuits our readiness to order. Menus are replaced with warm bread and sweet butter, followed by tender bibs of lettuce, expertly dressed and garnished with grated egg.
The salad, its simplicity, makes me think for a moment to trade careers with Peter Rabbit, and spend summers stealing vegetables out from under Farmer Gregor’s fence.
Soon, though, after a well-timed pause, beef tenderloin with peppercorn cream sauce restores my convictions that I could never (again) be vegetarian.
After dinner comes profiteroles with vanilla bean ice cream, warm Belgian chocolate, and toasted almonds.
The evening ends, and I go home with my very own French-trained chef, who promises an encore.
A few weeks later, his homage is a simple dessert of cream-and-more-cream, known in France as Blancmanger. A dessert I’m going to Almond Crémes, if only so I can remember where to find it later.
“First, toast almonds and steep them in heated cream,” Chefhusband says. “Then add a little sugar and a few drops of vanilla, followed by your gelatin that’s been allowed to bloom.”
Honestly, it’s enough to make a girl go weak in the knees.
Almond Crémes
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 cups plus 1/2 cup whipping cream cream
2 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 packet powdered gelatin
1 1/2 tbs cold water
fruit compote to serve
Spread almonds on a baking sheet and place in a 350F oven until lightly toasted. Roughly chop.
In a medium pot, heat 1 cup of the whipping cream together with the toasted almonds until the cream simmers. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Pour cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Discard almonds. Gently rewarm cream. Add vanilla extract.
Lightly oil four custard cups with a canola oil.
Sprinkle gelatin powder over cold water. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes. Add gelatin to warm cream mixture. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.
Divide mixture among custard cups, and chill at least 2 hours or until firm. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cup to unmold. Serve with fruit compote, such as blueberries or rhubarb.

Read 3687 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 January 2016 07:20