Friday, August 15, 2008
Breakfasts of Champions?
Today, Friday, August 15, is a day off for the French. It is L'Assomption, the day that the Virgin Mary ascended into heaven. Since I am a reformed Baptist, not a Catholic, I did not know why today is a holiday and the shops are not open. I admit, I googled it. What on earth did we do before we could just google something? Go around acting dumb all the time? Look it up in an encyclopedia, if we just happened to have all 24 volumes handy? Ask our parents who were dumber that rocks themselves or so we believed? Anyway, it is great for the French today because they now get a long weekend. We could have rented 100 rooms here at the B&B instead of the five we have that have been booked for weeks by those who actually plan ahead. There will be music this evening in a little place or square with several cafés in the section of Arles known as La Roquette. I look forward to a fun time with friends after the guests all arrive. Three rooms down and two to go.
Breakfast is my topic of the day. This morning, I barely had time for a couple of pieces of baguette left over from dinner with salted butter (this is a treat, though), homemade apricot jam and hot café au lait. I had crêpes to make and cantaloupe to cut. Dorette was pitching in, as usual, washing dishes. Chef Érick said he had been up since 5:00 am and had been to the bakery for bread and pastries and then he headed out the door to get oranges for the freshly squeezed juice we serve each morning. There is a great little épicerie or small grocery store just right around the corner where we get oranges each morning and anything else we need during the course of the day. It is an amazing store run by a young couple.
When Érick returned, he brought Gilles with him. Gilles is the owner of the used book shop on Rue 4 Septembre. He always make me laugh. Gilles sat down at the stainless steel table in the kitchen and opened La Provence, the daily newspaper. Dorette offered him a cup of coffee. He told me that he had looked at my blog. He was quite shocked at the amount of entries I have made and the length of them. Perhaps the fact that I am much quieter in French than I am in English made him think I don't have much to say. Ha! Gilles speaks and reads English and told me that he planned to read the blog when he has more time.
The French are very polite, by nature. That's a fact and maybe Gilles is just being polite. Any language that has two ways of saying you is spoken by polite people. I think that you could get away with a lot here if you just address someone the proper way! Vous is reserved for someone you do not know well, especially anyone you address as Mr. or Mrs. Tu, the more informal you, is for your friends. But to further complicate matters, vous is also plural. The French equivalent of y'all, I guess.
Anyway, back to breakfast. Dorette ate the some of the dish we call tian de légumes d'été. A tian is an earthenware baking dish. For this recipe, it is filled with summer vegetables- eggplant, zuchinni and tomatoes. We made it last night in a cooking class we did for two young Japanese women. Dorette saw the leftovers and decided that she wanted some for breakfast. She was busy at work on her novel last night and didn't come down for dinner. Chef Érick ate two pieces of toasted baguette with really smelly cheese melted on them. Not a pleasant odor for me first thing in the morning... Gilles decided he would have a leftover tarte aux prunes Reine Claude, the dessert tarts we made for dinner last night, pictured above. Reine Claude are wonderful yellow plums that are in season right now. The tartes also have a pastry cream in them. After Gilles ate his tarte and finished his coffee, he was out the door, on his way to open his shop for a little while.
Earlier in the week, Chef Érick surprised Dorette and me by stirring up gâteau au riz (or what I've always called rice pudding) for us one morning. Oh my gosh. He made it with rice that is called dessert rice. He cooked the rice in a little bit of water for a few minutes, absorbing the water, then added milk and set it back on the stove. To this, he added raisins and vanilla sugar. After the rice was cooked and the milk absorbed, he put sugar on the top and got out the torch. He burned the top of it the way you would crème brulée. We really showed great restraint and only ate half of it, saving half for the next day. Dorette made a treat, also. For dinner one night, she made a cake out of semolina sweetened with honey and ground almonds on top. We ate that for breakfast the two mornings.
Anyway, after Gilles left, the rest of us got to work, too. Dorette went back to the dishes (what will I do when she leaves??) and then upstairs to her computer. Érick got busy stripping the sheets from the four rooms that emptied after breakfast and mopping floors. I set about hanging laundry to dry and then to cleaning bathrooms and making beds. All four rooms were ready by 1:00 pm, just in time for lunch! A very productive morning!
Fresh Fruit Tart with Hazlenut Sablée Crust and Crème Anglaise
This is a tart recipe that goes splendidly with all berries. Note that the tart dough can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a day or two, or even put in the tart molds and frozen till needed.
For the crust : (makes enough for a dozen little tarts or a large single tart)
2 cups flour
1 cup toasted and ground hazelnuts
1/4 lb plus 3 Tbsp sweet butter
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of water (only if necessary)
For the crème:
one cup of whole milk
one tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 egg yolks
Your fruit of choice, washed and sliced, or if berries, simply washed and drained. Add the juice of a few freshly squeezed grapes, if necessary. For the plums, we cut them in half, removed the pit, covered them with about 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked them for about 10 minutes. If you cook the fruit, you need to let it cool before putting it on top of the crème.
For the crust : in a large mixing bowl put in the flour and toasted, ground nuts, the sugar, the salt, and the butter cut in small pieces. With your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you get to a sandy texture that, if you squeeze a hand-full, will hold together. Into this mixture, break your whole egg and work in the egg with your hands lightly, then, as needed, add a tablespoon of water, work the dough quickly together and pat it into a ball, wrap it in plastic and put it into your refrigerator to chill.
Prepare the crème: heat the milk in a double boiler. Place cornstarch in a separate bowl and whisk in the egg yolks. When milk is hot, but not boiling, remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture quickly. Then quickly whisk in sugar and vanilla. Return to heat, just enough to warm all ingredients. Cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.
At a minimum of one hour later, remove the dough from the fridge and put it onto a work surface. (At this point you can preheat your oven to 350F/160C). Sprinkle some flour on the work surface and start to knead your dough. Press it down and fold it over, press it and fold it, for about 2-5 minutes. You want it to start to hold together and no longer crumble too easily apart. It is great to make tartlets with this dough as it is not easy to cut once cool after cooking. It crumbles easily.
When making tartlets, take a small amount of dough and place it in the tart pans and then snip off the extra dough around the edges.
To pre-cook the crust : poke the crust with a fork multiple times, place into your pre-heated oven and bake until it just begins to take some color, about 5-10 minutes.
Finish by taking the cooled crusts, gently turn them upside down to remove them from their pans and fill them with the cooled crème. Place your fruit on top of the crème and put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.