Tuesday 14 April 2009

Some classics

'Snack' is a strong contender for my least favourite word. I am not quite sure why. It's probably a spot to reminiscent of 'snake' with the aggressive touch of the shorter vowel. It's particularly irksome as a verb.

So I am not quite sure how to say we have been working on some traditional French snacks.

First, we made friands (also known as financiers, particularly when made in rectangular moulds) which are on the right in the photo. These are little cakes make with powdered almonds and, crucially, beurre noisette.

In the middle is perhaps the most famous of all French nibbles: the madeleine. The madeleine is particularly well known because it appears in Du côté de chez Swann, the first part of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. The madeleine features as a trigger of involuntary memory.

We also prepared batter for cannelés bordelais. These are top notch nibbles which look like this. They are made from a rich vanilla and rum flavoured batter cooked in copper moulds like these. Cooked for a long time at a high temperature, the outside caramelizes and goes very dark, and crunchy. The inside remains moist and chewy. It's hard to find good ones even in French patisseries but a successful hunt is well worth it.

Finally, you can see a ruddy great fruitcake. I see these kinds of cake as rather an English thing (indeed, the French call it le cake) and dislike fruitcake even at home. Well, this specimen was deadly dry even just after baking. The kind of thing that would get stuck in granny's throat. Steer clear.

And we finished off the day with these little coconutty cakes called congolais which translates as Conoglese. They are, however, distinctly white as the chef pointed out. Just one of a selection of dubiously named French patisseries among which the brilliant tête de nègre. The pyramids are moulded by hand.

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