I have done well in my resolution to gorge on bread products this month. But the scholastic in me requires that I try to learn a bit about what will soon make up 85% of my innards.
In the weeks before we left I had the chance to make baguettes, brioche, and ciabatta with a friend at Cook au Vin in Chicago (ugh on the name). Working the baguette dough involved throwing it from over my head onto the table as hard as possible only to then swoop it back up as fast as possible to encourage the large air pockets. Ten minutes of that meant I couldn’t make a fist for two days after. So I do have mad respect for the bakers in the world.
In France, there are two options for respecting.
A boulangerie would be responsible for unsweetened yeast breads like baguettes and brioches. And pain au chocolate like this, which frequently is in my belly:
(Ahem, only one is frequently in my belly. Brett digs them too)
A pâtisserie would have sweet, unleavened pastries like gallettes and tartes. A master pasty chef, or maître pâtissier, must be employed by the establishment for it to earn the government-controlled title of pâtisserie. I can really, really get behind a country that puts so much thought into the quality of its sweets. If you have a chance, there’s a wonderful film, Kings of Pastry, which follows several chefs efforts to achieve the M.O.F. The M.O.F. (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) is awarded to only the Best Craftsmen in France after an arduous three-day test many chefs spend years training for.
In a typical French provincial town like ours the boulangerie and the patisserie would have been separate shops up until the 1950s though now they are often sold in the same place.
Rânes now has a combo, and an incredible one at that.
Honestly, I don’t know how one of the 1000 people who live here rocks breads and pastries so hard, but she does.
I’ve had many a delightful pain au chocolate, with incredible, flaky brioche as well as a rich and wide array of incredible breads. We’re in there daily so I believe I can speak with confident authority on how silly good their bread is, as well as their tolerance of my bastardized French. Je m’excuse!
But hey combo place that does it all, how are you? This was tonight’s dessert:
Pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, cherry, awesome. So awesome.
But friends. FRIENDS. Nothing prepared me for the Marveilleux, the pastry so inticing it is PLURAL and has changed my scholarship to fanaticism. Yes, it means marvelous and wonderful and all those like-minded words you can find on thesaurus.com. And no, I have no photos of my own from today because the singular Marveilluex that was brought into La Balayrie was summarily destroyed by the inhabitants. A stock photo seemed appropriate because of the total obliteration of the tasty bites. But, luckily, David Lebovitz digs ‘em.
The base is meringue. I had no idea. I went strictly based on the chocolate-flecked exterior. I freaking love meringue (and also might freaking love the chocolate buttercream inside, just to be forthright). I also love how this describes meringue as unfashionable compared to the haut macaroon. The writer, in explaining the new(ish) Au Merveilleux de Fred pastry shops in Paris and Lille, shared that “the finished cakes have names like Le Merveilleux, L’Incroyable and L’Impensable, referring to the period after the French Revolution when young people known as les incroyables and les merveilleux dressed extravagantly, took on odd mannerisms and refused to pronounce the letter “r” (as in Revolution), which they said had done too much harm.” Oh, I don’t quote people often, but I’m quoting that.
Yesterday my brother in law asked about how I imagined this trip will impact our world when we return. I didn’t have a great answer as we want this kind of trip to just be part of the way our world works. I know the slower pace has resonated with me, as has less TV and more laundry hung on a line. But, I can say with confidence that the merveilluex is coming home with me. If I know you now, you may know this recipe as a staple. But know that if I may know you someday, this may just be what you get.