Last week in Besançon, particularly toward the end of the week, we had some really nice weather. There was no rain, we have begun to see the sun for the first time in (literally) months, and the days are getting longer. So I was really excited at the prospect of having a lovely sunny weekend, and then this:
Not a ray of sunlight to be seen. So much for my grand plan to run this weekend...I mean, I guess I could still go running, but with this weather, I would rather stay inside and make something delicious... and the Alsatian classic, tarte au fromage blanc, is just the thing. First, an explanation for those of you who aren't familiar with fromage blanc (or fromage frais - honestly I have no idea what the difference is). It's kind of like a mix between sour cream and plain yogurt. Less tart than sour cream and not as thick, but not quite plain yogurt. I think a good substitution would be Greek yogurt. And it come in big tubs, like this one that has a whole kilo of the stuff:
This tarte is very similar to a cheesecake, but lighter. You can flavor it with whatever you like: vanilla, orange, lemon, or kirsch which would be quite nice with some cherry preserves along side. The first step is to make a sweetened pâte brisée, let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour, roll it out, then blind bake it (that's all the first step, ok?). Then the filling comes together really quickly. Separate 4 eggs, whisk the whites to stiff peaks.
Whip the yolks with 150 grams of sugar until fluffy. Add 40 grams of cornstarch, then 10 cL of liquid crème fraîche (or just regular cream if you can't find crème fraîche or you're too lazy to make your own), along with a splash of Cointreau and the zest of an orange.
Fold in the egg whites.
And bake at 175 C for 35-40 minutes. I then like to do what I do for cheesecakes to prevent the top from cracking: when it's done, turn off the oven and let the tarte sit until the oven is cooled down. This allows the filling to cool very gradually, preventing cracks on the top. Then remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. The refrigerate, or serve at room temperature, which would be nice.
So here's the first post of the new and improved non-password-protected food blog. To celebrate let's make a cake! But not just any cake, oh no, something seasonal and delicious and, since we're in the country where all food is described as fondant, it better be that too! Sometimes I really just have to make a cake, but since I don't want to be stuck with an entire cake for weeks I don't make cakes as often as I would like, however when I do get around to baking one I spend way too long looking through cook books, recipes online, and other food blogs searching for the perfect cake.
Normally you would expect me to make something spicy with lots of cinnamon and cloves and "Christmas flavors", but actually I have noticed that in France they aren't so into cinnamon and what is considered "holiday" is not necessarily spiced. What is Christmas-y over here is chestnuts. I've seen carts out selling roasted chestnuts here and there which marks the beginning of the holiday season. This cake, which is incredibly easy to make, is flavored with a healthy dose of chestnut purée, something that can easily be found at any supermarket here (if you're in America, sorry, I have no idea where to find it and making homemade chestnut purée is a huge pain in the ass, especially considering the store-bought products is just as good and less grainy).
I must confess that I have an enormous weakness for this stuff. It's sort of like Nutella or Speculoos à tartiner: you go to use some, just a little to spread on a tartine, and you end up glutinously scarfing down two or three gratuitous spoonfuls - I completely lose all will power around this stuff. So it's a good thing I bought two cans when the recipe only calls for 200 grams...
Back to the cake! It's slightly adapted from this recipe - the only difference is I didn't have 50g. vanilla sugar so I just used half cassonade (raw sugar) and half regular sugar.
Waiting for the cake to bake and enjoying the warmth of my chestnut-scented living room, I looked out the window and to my delight there was blue sky! Today was a particularly nice day: it was freezing cold, but at least there was sun. Recently it has been raining, threatening to rain, or pouring rain. Plus it's cold - snow is coming. Cooking in a sunny kitchen is always so much nicer.