A few days ago was Thanksgiving, and as much as I love living in France, it’s difficult not being in the US during the holidays. There’s a real longing to be where things feel familiar and to spend time with friends & family. Every year I find myself “rediscovering” something that I love about American holidays, and this year I’m wild about baking – cupcakes, brownies, pies, sugar cookies… you name, I’d like to make it. We don’t have a lot of the staples of American baking here, although I finally stumbled upon the French version of chocolate-chips, but I’m going to try my best to bake my heart out this holiday season. Double-layer pumpkin cheesecake here I come…
Through all of this longing, I’ve also been reminded of how grateful I am to be living in France and how thankful I am to the French people who have showed me kindness as a foreigner in their country. I’m a strong believer in combating the stereotype that the French are rude as I’ve found them to be among the nicest, most polite people I’ve ever met. Most recently, the evening after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the US, we stopped at our local wine shop (le caviste) and as we worked our way up the line, our wine “guy” turned to me & said… You’re American, right? From where? Do you have any family in New York? (no) I’m so sorry for what’s happened, it’s so terrible… etc. I thought that was so touching, from someone I hardly know.
Of course there are the daily things that I barely notice anymore, like the merchants at the outdoor market who know only know a handful of sentences in English but will try all of them to try to communicate with you… or really anyone who tells me after a conversation in French, full of the usual grammar errors, “You speak so well”. Not exactly true, but it gives me the courage to keeping trying, no matter how many mistakes I make. Or lastly, about three weeks ago, the bus driver who saw me in a full sprint, in the pouring rain, and stopped his bus in the middle of a busy street to let me in. Probably five different kinds of illegal, but that small gesture made my day.
And finally, here’s the first of my baking projects, not American this time… but definitely great for the holidays. Enjoy!
Moelleux aux Marrons
18 ounces chestnut creme (the recipe works just as well as a moist chocolate cake if you choose to omit the chestnut creme)
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum
1 bar baking chocolate (dark)
a pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 390° F.
1. Melt the chocolate and butter together and set aside.
2. Seperate the eggs, and add the chestnut cream, egg yolks, & rum to the chocolate mixture.
3. Beat the egg whites, with a pinch of salt, in a bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the chocolate & cream.
4. Spoon into individual ramkins (buttered & floured) or an 8-inch pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Before serving, top with powdered sugar or candied chestnuts if desired.recipe credit: Modes et Travaux