Frolicking in France

In France, I’ve been soaking up the heat. There has been wandering through quaint villages, clambering up mountains, and splashing about in rivers and lakes. All rather fabulous, except when it comes down to the eating. France’s foodie reputation is renown, so I guess it’s a tall pedestal to fall down from.

In rural France, the idyll of locally made, high quality produce seems to be hard to find. From my local boulangerie selling only mass-produced and stale baguettes, and the village market flogging peaches at €6/kg; it isn’t hard to see why local people prefer the nearest hypermarket.

I do like French hypermarkets, I have to add. There’s something terribly exciting about finding absolutely everything under one roof, and the quality of fresh fruit and vegetables there beats Tesco hands down.

Anyway, during my holiday I finally found a gem of a patisserie, predictably in an urban, rather than rural locality.

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Four delectable tarts. Tarte aux pommes, tarte aux noix, tarte au chocolat and tarte aux fraises. Apple, mixed nuts, chocolate, strawberry. Look at that perfect mirror of glaçage on the chocolate tart! The insides were perfect as well, with a meltingly rich ganache centre. My other favourite was the strawberry tart, sweet glazed strawberries on a bed of crème pâtisserie and a sprinkling of pistachio on top – delicious!

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It really made me want to bake. The French heat along with the tiny rented kitchen deterred me. I came back buzzing with ideas, so I guess I will still be whipping up plenty of French confections in the coming months!

What made me really happy was knowing that despite not having chocolate glaçage, glazing and other fancy patisserie skills, it’s actually quite easy to create a tart which delivers a similar flavour hit.  So if you can’t head out to your nearest French patisserie, I dare say you can make something just as good-tasting at home!

How fab is that?

Guimauves and Gelato

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This short break in France has been a lovely rest from all the hustle and bustle that is normal daily life. It also provides a myriad of new-food-spotting opportunities. In between peering at picturesque chateaux, and pretty patisseries, I discovered a flavour sensation that had been jumping for joy.

It started in the form of an amazing gelato in the picturesque town of Amboise.

And finally, I hit the jackpot in pure, pure edible gold by discovering speculoos spread. It really reminds me of the cinnamon-sugar dusted pretzels you can buy in London. I can imagine manifold uses for it in baking, from a luscious filling between cakes, in tarts, as a component of cookies, or sandwiching plain biscuits together. On the other hand, sometimes the simplest ways are the best, and I love this spread lavishly over a slice of thick crunchy toast.

Holidaying in France

On a fashion-related note, I have seen many Frenchmen wearing stripy shirts, black moustaches AND berets. Seriously. I genuinely thought that only happened in cartoons…