Friday, September 19, 2014

Romantic French Village And Classic Tarte Tatin Recipe~

Apremont-sur-Allier is one of the official "Most Beautiful Villages" of France~and with a rare otherworldly garden: (HERE).

In late spring, birds sing, flowers bloom, bees buzz and the river cascades with an invitation to spread a picnic blanket and create a memory to last a lifetime

From Apremont-sur-Allier it's two hours to historic Chenonceau--a fave among the Loire Valley chateaux I've visited, and historically riveting: (HERE). 

Night walks are scheduled at Chenonceau from July 1st. Take a moonlit stroll in the footsteps of Chenonceau's unforgettable mistress, Diane d'Poitiers, as she would have experienced the garden's beauty perhaps at midnight amongst fragrant roses with her guests like Voltaire...

The Loire Valley is the “Garden of France" with highest quality apples that base the region's classic Tarte Tatin. Make this recipe to serve 10 to 12 around the firelight--and feel like a queen...

Sour Cream Pastry Ingredients~

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
6 tablespoons chilled sour cream

Apple Filling Ingredients~

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
11 medium-size Pippin apples (about 4 3/4 pounds), peeled, quartered, cored
1 egg, beaten to blend (glaze)
Crème fraîche or sour cream


Blend flour, sugar and salt in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add butter and beat at medium-low speed until butter is size of small lima beans, about 3 minutes. Add sour cream and beat until moist clumps form, about 1 minute. Gather dough into smooth ball; flatten into 6-inch-diameter disk. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Spread butter over bottom of 12-inch-diameter ovenproof nonstick skillet with sloping sides (skillet should be at least 1 3/4 inches deep). Reserve 2 tablespoons sugar; sprinkle remaining sugar over butter. Place skillet over medium-low heat and cook until butter melts, sugar begins to dissolve and mixture starts to bubble, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Arrange apples on their sides around edge of skillet, placing tightly together. Arrange as many of remaining apples as will fit, pointed ends up, in 2 circles in center of skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Set skillet over medium-high heat; boil until thick peanut butter-color syrup forms, repositioning skillet often for even cooking and adding remaining apples as space permits, about 45 minutes (syrup will continue to darken during baking). Remove from heat; wrap handle several times with heavy-duty foil.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 °F.

Roll out pastry on floured surface to 12-inch round; place over apples. Cut four 2-inch slits in top of pastry. Press pastry down around apples at edge of skillet; brush pastry with some of egg glaze.

Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to work surface; cool 1 minute. Cut around edge of skillet to loosen pastry. Place large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts as aid, hold skillet and platter together tightly and invert, allowing tart to fall onto platter. Carefully lift off skillet. Rearrange any apples that may have become dislodged. Cool tart 30 minutes.

Cut warm tart into wedges. Serve with crème fraîche. 

Official Loire Valley Tourism Site: (HERE). "Memories Are Made Of This: (HERE).

The Frenchman Who Won The Golden State~

Old Monterey on the 5,000 foot deep Bay, was the capital of Alta California from 1777 to 1846 under both Spain and Mexico rule. In 1846 after the Battle of Monterey--the U.S. flag was raised on the 1814 Customs Building over the Bay.

A short walk away today, in the historic Fremont Adobe from that era (directly above) is the highly-rated bakery-cafe Parker-Lusseau one of three locations owned by Yann Lusseau, from Brittany, France--and his American wife, Ann Parker.

The Fremont Abode was the 1846-1847 headquarters of Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Frémont. Born to a French father, Louis-René Frémont, and American mother...Lt. Colonel Frémont led the 1842-1845 expeditions of the Oregon Trail and Territory, the Great Basin, and Sierra Mountains. He was the first American to spot Lake Tahoe—and in 1846 camped at the summit of what is now Fremont Peak (4th photo) overlooking Monterey Bay.

In late 1846 he led the U.S. military capture of Santa Barbara during the Mexican-American War and days later presided over the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga in an adobe house in what today is North Hollywood--effectively ending the fight for possession of California.

Frémont became the 3rd Military Governor of California in 1847. When California became a U.S. state in 1850 he was elected to the U.S. Senate—and was a candidate for President of the United States in 1856. Countless streets, parks, towns and other honors in multiple U.S. states bear the name of this educated, fearless, deep believer in an 'American Spirit' He was anti-slavery and believed in a free land of free men most of all.

And in Monterey, are a long list of firsts for California. The first theatre, public library, printing press—and in the 1849 Colton Hall--California's first constitutional convention and the adoption of the state seal bearing the Greco-Roman Goddess of Wisdom. Today, this still agricultural region remains the 'salad bowl' of the world.

Four miles away where I live in Carmel-by-the-Sea is the 1771 Mission the oldest continuous operating church and oldest stone building in the Golden State. This arts community--home to Clint Eastwood--was created from a Spanish land grant purchased by a French entrepreneur. Yet perhaps the icing on the gâteau, for me anyway, is that a Frenchman from Brittany operates his outstanding establishment in a historic landmark named for a Franco-American who secured the Golden State. Setting the Gold Rush in

John Charles Frémont gave ardent rise to a golden California civilization that in history will be measured alongside the Ancient Greeks, the Renaissance, and 18th c French Enlightenment. Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot...California. California!! Signed into being by a Frenchman.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

French Chocolate-Caramel Cake with Sea Salt~

Famous salt fields in France...
All hand harvested and all natural~

The salt fields of Guérande are flooded by the sea by gravity.
The artisan paludiers "sweep" the surface of evaporating water  
to capture the salt on the surface...which set in mounds to dry into
salt desired  by the top chefs in the world...

If impending autumn sparks an existential crisis, here’s a cure: A film set in Paris and a cake that takes advantage of sea salt harvest time in France. 

Like Audrey’s Paris dance of empathicalism in Funny Face, making a French Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Cake puts you in sync with everything new…

While other nations have mechanized sea-salt production, France’s northern coastal Guérande and Île de Ré salts are artisan. Fleur de sel is the delicate crème de la crème of salt with the fragrance of violets; while their gray sea salt is moist, coarse, and nutrient rich.

French Chocolate-Caramel Cake with Sea Salt~

From Bon Appétit. Serves 10. 100% would make it again. Use quality ingredients for quality results...

Cake Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise (not low-fat)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling; optional)
Special equipment: Three 8"-diameter cake pans

Prepare the cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat cake pans with nonstick spray and line bottoms with parchment paper; spray again. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs and sugar until pale and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes. Add mayonnaise and vanilla and beat until just combined. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into pans, dividing evenly.

Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool 20 minutes before turning out onto racks. Let cool completely.

Frost and assemble: 

Put chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 10–12 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth; let cool, stirring occasionally.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat chocolate mixture, gradually adding butter, until frosting is thickened and smooth, about 1 minute. Chill, stirring occasionally, until stiff enough to spread easily, 20–25 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over to come just beyond edges. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and place second cake layer on top, pressing down gently. Repeat process with 1 cup frosting and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place third layer on top, and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Just before serving, sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt over top of cake; drizzle slices with oil, if desired.
Like the cake above, the perfect wedding dress dance at the end of Funny Face cures all...(HERE). Thanks for stopping by...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Art, Beauty, Wine, And France's Foodie Saint~

Photos alone don't do Talmont-sur-Gironde justice. As one of the official "Most Beautiful Villages of France" visiting there rates high on many Bucket Lists. See the architectural details of the church constructed in 1054 that attracts so many pilgrims and art lovers from around the globe: (HERE). 

Noted for extravagant display of pink Hollyhocks on the southwest Atlantic shore of France...the village of Talmont with a population of 79 souls is 90-minutes from Bordeaux…the ”wine capital of the world” upstream Bordeaux Talmont is also sited on France’s Gironde Estuary…

The Estuary--approximately 50 miles long and from 2 to 7 miles wide—was formed from the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne. And like Point Lobos here on the Monterey Coast, the Garonne is notorious for deadly currents. 

Talmont is a pedestrian village only and crowded in summer months. There are three small bed and breakfasts, several good cafes, and a number of arts related shops. 

The main attraction besides the whitewashed, blue-trimmed its mystical Sainte-Radegonde de Talmont Church constructed of local rock on a seaside cliff 960-years ago.

The simple elegance of the Romanesque church offers perfection views in a stunning setting of great tranquility...

The church is named for Sainte-Radegonde, Patron Saint of Gastronomy. La Belle France at her charming upmost... Thank you for stopping by...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Storybook France As It Was And Remains~

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye is a boutique member of
Relais and Chateaux-situated in the ancient village of 
Brantôme in western Dordogne~
Brantôme is scenic, outdoorsy, and for the entire family. A 
short video introduction...(HERE).

Saint-Jean de Côle is an official "Most Beautiful Village of France"
and within a short drive of Brantôme. Walk everywhere...

The two villages above, Brantôme and Saint Jean de Côle. are within a 20-minute drive of each other and an hour or so from the market town of Sarlat. This is the Dordogne region, and for many, a secret part of France's abundant riches. Like Cary Grant, it quietly makes perfect look easy...

Scenic and verdant, it's for foodies and wine lovers. Truffles come from here. It's a revelation for outdoor enthusiasts. And jaw-droppingly historic, the pre-historic Lascaux Caves are here.

Brantôme is the larger of the two villages and has been inhabited for 40,000 years on the River Dronne and in the shade of limestone cliffs. The Celts’ Druid priests named the village by combining Celtic words for water and rocks: (HERE).

Absorb the atmosphere at the chic riverfront Moulin de l'Abbaye. The boutique hotel is a member of Relais and Chateaux. Dordogne dishes are featured on the terrace within view of the 16th century Abbey founded by Charlemagne, with its medieval tower, Renaissance Pavilion, and monastery garden.

Brantôme withstood invasions, Black Death, The 100 Years War, becoming in the Middle Ages—a stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

Today, the town is considered imbued with a special healing spirit that can reawaken mind, body, spirit and soul. Kind of Sedona with crêpes...

Saint Jean de Côle~

Nearby is this official "most beautiful village" of France--and charm personified. Within a short stroll you'll find architecturally significant old half-timbered houses with picturesque roofs; the 11th century church and priory, La Marthonie Chateau, the old stone bridge and market area. Floralies is the flower festival  held each May. There are daily-guided tours. This video is a bit too long, but provides a good sense of the village. You can push the slider forward: (HERE).

Healthy Vegan No Cook Truffle recipe: HERE  Thank you for stopping by...