St. Eve Pastry Recipe

Over the summer, we visited Normandy in northern France in order to check a big to-do off Tex’s bucket list. Meanwhile, I found one of my favorite European towns—Bayeux. We stayed in an Airbnb right smack in the center of town, a few minutes’ walk from the stunning cathedral (built during the time of William the Conqueror).

Another highlight was getting to examine the 70 meter-long Bayeux Tapestry, which is actually an embroidery depicting scenes from William the Conqueror’s life and the Battle of Hastings. We learned that it was commissioned by the bishop of Bayeux (a Norman), but was most likely stitched by Saxons. So there are a few discrete jabs throughout the images at the Saxons’ Norman captors. It was a bit like reading the Sunday funnies! The tapestry is quite a beautiful work of art, one I could have studied for days.

Oh, and I also found one of my favorite sweet treats—the Saint Eve pastry. This pastry is a Bayeux specialty, and we were only able to find it at one bakery in town, which also happened to be quite established and popular with locals. Recipes for these things don’t exist online, or at least not that I could find. But I’ve been determined for some time to try making them. I was shocked at how delicious these turned out… They are ridiculously rich and sweet, but somehow I always feel like I want another, ha! The smooth, melt-in-your-mouth macaron in combination with the silky, cool buttercream and toffee-like crunch of the nougatine— it’s just too much goodness!

There are lots of steps and several particular instructions… So set aside a morning, turn up some bardcore, and start baking!

There are three different parts to this pastry: the macaron shell, the vanilla buttercream, and the nougatine for the buttercream and dusting. Below, you’ll find some notes regarding the trickier parts of the recipe and then the full recipe at the end.

Only 4 ingredients make up the actual macaron part. So as long as you follow the directions closely, they are not as difficult as you might think. For example, I almost opted to put the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture straight from the food processor into the batter, but I decided to go the extra mile and sift it. This made a big difference in the smoothness of the batter. From what I’ve read, the mixing of the dry mixture into the egg whites is the most precarious part. All I did was use a rubber spatula to gently fold the flour into the egg whites, by scraping the edge of the bowl and folding the egg whites up and over the flour, until the flour was fully incorporated. And one last note for the baking of these macarons—if the shells are still somewhat stuck to the parchment paper, they probably need to cook a bit longer.

Ingredients for macaron shells
You can tell this mixture of almond flour and powdered sugar needs sifting…
Stiff peaks after whipping egg whites for macaron shells
The macaron mixture after folding in dry ingredients
After piping the shells…

The nougatine is fairly easy, and is also the one part you might be most inclined to skip… Please don’t! This brittle almond candy is what takes the St. Eve from being just another macaron to a truly gourmet French dessert. I had never tried a recipe where you cook dry sugar over the stove, but I was interested to try out this method. Sure enough, the sugar will eventually liquefy and become a thick dark syrup. It does take a bit of patience though. When you have rolled out the syrup between two sheets of parchment paper, give it just a minute to cool so that the top parchment paper peels easily off; but if you are going to cut it, try to do so while it is still warm and somewhat pliable. Finally, when grinding up the nougatine in the food processor, make it fine crumbles. It will be somewhat powdery, but you still want some small chunks to add texture.

Ingredients for nougatine
You can see that the sugar has begun to dissolve but still needs a few more minutes to get rid of the lumps.
Rolling out the nougatine
After cutting the nougatine into squares
The ground nougatine

And lastly, the buttercream! I chose to make a French buttercream for this recipe, which I’d never done before. And I was a bit surprised that it worked so well the first time. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer to determine when your sugar syrup is hot enough… something I didn’t have this time. So I eyeballed it and got lucky! Also, for whipping the eggs, I used my Kitchenaid whisk attachment and then switched to the beater attachment when I began adding butter. Do note that this recipe will make more nougatine and buttercream than you actually need for the macarons. But my philosophy is that I would always rather have too much filling/frosting/topping than too little!

Ingredients for the French buttercream
The finished buttercream
Beginning the assembly… Here the macaron shells are laying with the flat side up.
Attempting to pipe the buttercream
Rolling the Saint Eve in the nougatine crumbles, and… DONE!

Well, I think those are all my notes. I hope the pictures help provide a little more clarity about some of the specific instructions. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’m thinking this would be the perfect treat for the one you love!

This recipe makes about 10 Saint Eve treats.

Ingredients

For the macarons:

  • 3 egg whites (room temp)
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 c. almond flour

For the nougatine:

  • 1 1/4 c. white sugar
  • Approx. 2/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds

For the buttercream:

  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 4 large egg yolks plus
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter (4 sticks)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Nougatine

Directions

Macarons:

1) Prepare a piping bag with a round tip, or snip a corner off a gallon Ziploc bag. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a food processor or in a blender, combine the powdered sugar and almond flour and process on low until the mixture is fine. Sift the almond flour mixture through a sieve into a bowl.

3) Add room temperature egg whites into a separate bowl. Then on high speed beat until the eggs begin to foam. Continually beating, slowly add half the granulated sugar. And then, when soft peaks begin to form, add the rest of the sugar. Continue to beat just until stiff peaks form.

4) Add about half of the sifted mixture into the egg white mixture and gently fold in with a spatula. Once incorporated, add remaining flour mixture and continue to gently fold until well the mixture flows like honey.

5) Transfer the batter to the preparing piping bag. Pipe the batter into snail-like swirls forming about 2½ inch circles. Space the macarons about an inch apart.

6) Pick up the baking sheet and drop onto a flat surface. Repeat 3-4 times to release all air bubbles rotating the baking sheet.

7) Let the macaron shells sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the macarons shells form a glossy layer. (You will be able to run your finger along the top of the macaron smoothly and the batter won’t stick to your hand.) Preheat the oven to 325F.

8) Bake the macarons for about 15 minutes, until the macarons form feet and the shells don’t stick to the parchment paper.

9) Allow the macarons to cool before removing them from the parchment paper for easier removal. Transfer the macarons to a cooling rack to completely cool.

Nougatine:

1) While the macarons are glossing over, line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper. Measure a second sheet of paper the same size and set aside along with a wooden rolling pin.

2) Heat sugar in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until it dissolves and turns a golden caramel color. As soon as there are no lumps, the syrup is ready.

3) Remove from heat and stir in almonds until combined.

4) Working quickly, pour the mixture onto the prepared tray using the wooden spoon to spread it out a little.

5) Place the second sheet of baking paper on top and use the rolling pin to roll the mixture out quickly into a thin sheet before it hardens. Remove the top parchment paper, and cut into approximately 1.5 inch squares while still hot.

6) Once cool, place 15-20 of the nougatine squares into a food processor, and pulse until no large pieces remain.

French Buttercream:

1) Allow all ingredients to reach room temperature (you could do this before you even make your macarons). Cut the butter into cubes. Prepare the eggs by separating 4 yolks from the whites and keep two whole.

2) To make the sugar syrup, heat sugar and water over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer inside. Continue to boil until the sugar syrup reaches about 238° F on the candy thermometer (soft boil stage). Keep a close eye so you don’t caramelize it.

3) Meanwhile, whip the eggs and egg yolks together with salt in a stand mixer bowl, using medium speed. After about 2 minutes, your eggs should be at soft peak consistency. Turn the mixer off to avoid over-mixing.

4) As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 238° F, pour the hot syrup slowly into the egg mixture. There is no need to rush this. With the mixer on medium, start pouring the hot sugar syrup into the mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed. The syrup should stream between the whisk and the edge of the bowl.

5) Once all the syrup is in, turn the mixer on high and whisk for about 3 minutes. The outside of the bowl will be hot at first and then be barely warm. Your meringue should look shiny with soft peaks.

6) Let the mixer run on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Using the beater attachment, begin adding in the butter—one cube at a time. Once all the butter is in, whip the mixture for another minute or two until you have a smooth and satin-like buttercream that is light and fluffy.

7) Scrape the seeds out from inside the vanilla bean. Mix in the seeds and vanilla extract. Finally, add about half of the ground nougatine (equivalent to 8-10 squares) to the buttercream and mix well.

To assemble:

1) Lay out your macaron shells with the flat sides facing up. Using a piping bag or large Ziploc bag with a hole cut in it, pipe the buttercream generously onto half of the macaron shells. My buttercream probably ended out being about an inch thick.

2) Place the remaining macaron shells on top of the piped buttercream, forming a sandwich. For each Saint Eve, turn it on its side and roll in a plate of the remaining nougatine crumbles. You want the buttercream to be completely covered in a layer of ground nougatine.

3) These treats can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. They can be served cold or after coming to room temperature.

Provence Copycat: Eggplant Garlic Chutney

Here’s a wonderful recipe for your Christmas table. We bought a few jars of a splendid eggplant garlic chutney at the markets in Provence. It’s addicting. So naturally, I needed to make some more, since we hadn’t eaten it in five months. Tex and I were both pleasantly surprised with the results…

And then I remembered that I had saved the jar from Provence (which was empty by all accounts except my own) in the back of the fridge. I pulled it out, perused the ingredients on the label while making notes for how to improve the recipe next time, and scraped out a bit to taste. All I can say is that this recipe comes quite close to the taste of the original!

That jar of chutney is the one I found in my fridge… empty.

Some notes for adjusting in the future:

  • Roast the eggplant and garlic in the oven before adding to the pot.
  • Add a teaspoon (or more?) of herbs de Provence.
  • Possibly add a roasted bell pepper and/or sun-dried tomato slices.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe that I made today. Making the above changes is totally optional… If you only have the ingredients below, just go for it! It’s really quite delicious. Do note that the recipe calls for one and a half heads of garlic, which sounds like a ton, but it’s what makes this chutney so flavorful.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 eggplants (chopped into approx. 1 inch cubes)
  • 1 1/2 heads of garlic (peel each clove)
  • 1 small red onion (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch of cumin
  • 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Place the chopped eggplant into a colander and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. salt. Coat the eggplant well with the salt, then let sit for about an hour. Rinse eggplant with cold water to remove the salt. Dry the eggplant with a paper towel.
  • In a pot, over medium heat, pour olive oil and cook the onion till translucent. Add cumin and cook for another minute.
  • Add the eggplant and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and enough water to almost cover (I added 1 1/4 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave simmering for 45-60 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Stir in salt. Then transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree.

It’s as easy as that! I will be serving this on a cheese board for Christmas, paired with homemade sourdough bread (baguette would be a great option too!) and spreadable goat cheese.

Bon appétit!

A Feast in Provence

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Bonjour! Tex and I recently had the opportunity to drive down to Southern France and explore Provence for a whole week. And what a feast for the senses it was—from the colorful Provencal markets to the fragrant fields of lavender to the salty splash of the sea. So tie a napkin around your neck, pull your chair up to the table, and I’ll serve up the details.

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Looking over the Luberon Valley from Menerbes

Note: For each list, the items are ordered chronologically.

Five memorable moments:

  • Driving and walking through the lavender fields ~ The first night, as we arrived in the area near the Valensole Plateau, we rolled the car windows all the way down and just let the aroma of lavender waft through the car. So much better than essential oils! We met up with our friends to catch the sunrise over a harvest-ready field of purple. Finally, we were able to find one of the main fields, where we quickly discovered an abundance of bees. Somehow we made the trek to the stone barn in the center of the field without anyone getting stung. I think we have Tex to thank, since he kept reminding us to keep our arms down by our sides in order to not attract the bees with our body odor. Haha!DSC02319DSC02257DSC02279DSC02222DSC02329
  • Breakfasting on the terrace of our Airbnb in Puimoisson ~ This was possibly our favorite Airbnb to have ever stayed in… Tex and I decided we liked it so much for two reasons: it felt like we were staying at our grandparents’, and the view off the plateau was stunning. We even spotted a hot air balloon taking off early that morning. As a bonus, our host provided some excellent tips about the area and a lovely breakfast of fresh breads and jam, along with freshly-squeezed orange juice and hot tea!DSC02358DSC02355
  • Kayaking in the Mediterranean and swimming in the Calanque d’En Vau ~ We reserved a two-seater kayak in Cassis (near Marseilles) ahead of time and showed up in the late afternoon ready to row. This was at the top of my to-do list before we made the trip, and it remains in my mind as the most fun we had, which is saying something. The waves were neither too fierce nor too calm (note that this is coming from a novice kayaker!). After a little over an hour, we arrived at the Calanque d’En Vau, a finger of turquoise sea trapped between two towering cliffs. We parked the kayak on the beach, munched on our snacks, and waded into the cool, clear water. There were no waves here, which made the swimming ever-so-enjoyable. I learned on this trip that I am an expert doggy-paddler… hmm.

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    One of those places where a photo does no justice.
  • Feasting on our market goodies at the campsite ~ For our last two nights in Provence, we pitched our tent at a campsite, which ended out being in somebody’s backyard. Honestly, though, it was great. We gathered up all our goodies from that day’s market and sat down for a refreshing picnic. Juicy white peaches, cantaloupe, heirloom tomatoes, fresh baguette, three big pats of chevre cheese, and—my personal favorite—eggplant and garlic chutney. Each bit so pure by itself but also very tempting in combination.DSC02502DSC02500
  • “Swimming” in the freezing cold river at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse ~ One day, we found ourselves with a free afternoon and bodies that needed a rest from the heat. After a little research, we settled down in a shady nook along the Sorgue River. We donned our swimsuits and prepared to feel the chill… But it was a chill we were ill-prepared for! I will say, I handled it better than Tex did. 🙂 He was already talking about hypothermia after two minutes of being waist-deep. Needless to say, we didn’t do a lot of swimming there, but we certainly did cool off and never complained about the heat again! Maybe this sounds like a terrible experience, but it was actually so funny and such a dreamy spot (outside of the water) that we think of it quite fondly.

Four favorite towns:

  • Moustiers-Sainte-Marie ~ This town is nestled at the foot of a craggy, rocky mountain. It has everything an adorable town needs: a waterfall coming into the town center, painted china shops, plenty of stops for French cuisine, and a chapel built into the side of the mountain above. We were hungry when we arrived and sat down on a restaurant’s terrace that overlooked the waterfall. We ordered Filet mignon, thinking we were about to try the real deal; when it arrived, we realized we had overlooked that it was pork! Not exactly what we had envisioned, but still good. Later in the afternoon, when we had hiked up to the mountainside chapel, we witnessed a medevac helicopter perform a risky maneuver over the adjacent courtyard. It was the closest I’ve come to feeling like I was in the middle of a tornado. Tex was braver than I and stood outside the church building videoing it for the entire duration!DSC02343DSC02340DSC02341
  • Avignon ~ On our “flexible” day, we decided to drive up to Avignon and tour the Palais des Papes. In the 1300’s, the papal seat was actually there instead of in the Rome. This was news to us. We loved hearing all the history and seeing the functionality of the rooms in the Palais. Compared to the Vatican, the Palais des Papes offers a more raw look at the Pope’s everyday life and the important papal affairs. Most striking was the Indulgence Window, which overlooked the main courtyard. Here, the Pope would stand and offer forgiveness and indulgences to the crowds gathered below. After our tour, we ventured through the old city a bit, admired the medieval walls, and stuffed ourselves with some delicious pizza (who would think that cheese-less anchovy pizza could be so tasty?!)

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    The Palais des Papes

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    Indulgence Window

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  • Bonnieux ~ The views from the hillside town of Bonnieux were breathtaking and made me realize why Provence is beloved by so many. We made a pit-stop here as we drove to our campsite, but it would have been a lovely place to stay for a few nights. It was less crowded than Gordes (I can only imagine some of these tiny towns in a normal summer without COVID), and more authentic. We made the short trek up to the church for more views and some shade.IMG_20200723_142215IMG_20200723_144122DSC02466DSC02475
  • Roussillon ~ Every part of this town is tinted by the natural pigment found in the soil beneath and around it—ochre. With its reddish orange houses and streets, Roussillon stands out uniquely against the other towns of Provence. Tex and I took off on a morning stroll down the “Ochre Trail,” which showcases the many shades—rust, deep red, brick, burnt orange—of the small surrounding canyons. Then we snacked on some ridiculously good nutella beignets and made our way through the winding russet streets.DSC02525DSC02521DSC02516DSC02509

     

Bonus towns (that aren’t mentioned in my other lists): Valensole, Ménerbes, Gordes and the Abbaye de Sénanque…

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Valensole town center

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In Menerbes…

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Senanque Abbey

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Adventuring in Gordes

Three wonderful markets:

  • Saint-Rémy-de-Provence market (Wednesday) ~ Saint-Rémy was our first experience of a Provencal market, and it flooded our senses. We did a lot of bumping elbows and baskets with other market-goers. We sniffed our way through stalls of herbs, spices, garlic, and wide bubbling pans of paella. We listened to the sounds of accordian music and eyeballed stacks of colorful soaps and stands curtained by hanging tablecloths. We were in recon mode here, so we bought only a single cantaloupe.
  • Aix-en-Provence market (Thursday) ~ There are four different markets scattered about the town which make up the market day in Aix (pronounced “Ex”): the food market, the textile market, the flower market, and the antique market. We really took advantage of the free samples going on at the food market… In our defense, the chutney guy told us to please stay in front of his stand and to keep tasting so that other people would want to come by. And I’m pretty sure every time we stopped in front of this one cheese stand they offered us another sample of either cured sausage or aged cheese; it happened at least three times. We also tried lavender honey, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and another seller’s hazelnut salami.DSC02443DSC02444DSC02440DSC02441DSC02445

We enjoyed strolling down the long stretch of textile market, admiring the bright, floral Provencal fabrics and the linen blouses. I carefully chose my treasure to take home—a gorgeous oil cloth fabric, light green with stripes of blue and white flowers, to turn into some sort of tablecloth.DSC02439DSC02434DSC02432

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One fountain of many in the “Town of the Thousand Fountains” (Aix)

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  • Apt market (Saturday) ~ What makes the market in Apt so unique and charming is its sprawling nature. We kept stumbling onto more branches of the market as we continued our walk through the narrow streets of the town center. Stalls of handmade baskets, artisan breads, Marseille soap, and assorted pestos and tapenades were everywhere we looked. There was even a stand or two devoted to selling herbs de Provence, my new favorite herb mix. Just before we got on the road for our long drive home, we stopped at a bakery and bought a massive nougat-flavored meringue. It was as big as my face and much sweeter.

Two worthwhile drives:

  • Route des Crêtes at Verdon Gorge ~ Our Puimosson host recommended this scenic loop. “Route des Crêtes” translates to mean Road of Ridges/Crests. The drive took only a little more than an hour and offered some incredible views over Verdon Gorge and the surrounding mountains. There are some tight curves, steep drop-offs, and bicyclers involved, and at one point the road suddenly becomes one-way. As long as the driver is not prone to freaking out in these sorts of situations, you should have no trouble. Hence, Tex drove. The route has several pull-offs for picture-taking and admiring the landscape.DSC02371DSC02387
  • North through Sault ~ This is the one area where we did not spend any time (except for driving through on our way home), but that I would recommend to anyone planning a visit to Provence. I was surprised to find that the lavender around Sault seemed to be even more abundant than the lavender on the Valensole Plateau. Based on my research, I think the lavender in this area is harvested slightly later than that in the regions farther south. So perhaps that could explain the copious amount of purple that we saw in late July. I squealed as we skirted around a vast valley—a patchwork of golden, lavender, and forest hues. The towns too struck me as charming, especially Sault and Montbrun-les-Bains.

The #1 pastry:

  • Pain au chocolat ~ Tex and I have definitively settled on our favorite pastry. We’ve been in France twice in the past month (11 days total), and we have started almost every morning with a delightful little thing called pain au chocolat. Okay, it’s usually two or three of those delightful little things… I know I have talked about it on the blog before, but now I feel like I can talk about this pastry as a connoisseur. We’ve had pain au chocolat at gas stations, cafes, hotels, and bakeries. The best one yet was in a nameless bakery in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. If you want to find the most flaky, buttery, perfect-ratio-between-melty-chocolate-and-bread pastry, then go to 23 Rue Carnot in Saint-Rémy, walk into the little brown storefront painted with the words “Boulangerie Patisserie,” and buy some for both of us, please.

Bonus: An honorable mention of our travels is the city of Lyon and this eye-catching treat, called a Praluline. It is a heavy loaf of brioche studded with lots and lots of chocolate chips. We ate it for supper on our first night in Provence.

Y’all probably are thinking, “Man, this girl eats way too many carbs and too much chocolate.” I do. Especially when in France.

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Tex wanted to make an appearance on the blog 🙂

 

Portugal: Doors, Tiles, and Ovos moles

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A couple of months ago, I had the treat of visiting my dear friend and her husband who were living near Porto, Portugal. Though my primary goal for the trip was seeing and hanging out with her, I was, of course, ecstatic to explore another European country. They were such wonderful hosts to me and took me all over the place to experience everything Portuguese.

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Exploring Porto…
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One of my favorite pastimes ended out being scouring the surrounding areas for unique tiles and colorful doors. There is an abundance! The city of Porto is decorated everywhere with the iconic blue and white tiles, from the train stations to the church exteriors. But even in the smaller towns nearby, there is no shortage of intricate tiles in every color imaginable.

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In Aveiro

My other favorite pastime was— wait for it— eating! Big surprise. Thankfully, my friend and I have always shared a love for food, so I was never hungry. After they picked me up from the airport, we went into Porto and ate a massive, Porto-original sandwich, called a Francesinha. I think there were about four or five different kinds of meat inside, and the amount of cheese on top was crazy! In general, I found that Portuguese food is quite rich and hearty. The baked goods in Portugal are hard to beat. From the delectable pastel de nata to the traditional, pillow-soft, sweet croissant, Portuguese treats kept our tummies full in the time between meals. Oh and did I mention the churros?!? Interestingly, these Portuguese churros far surpassed the Spanish version. Lastly, I was obliged to try the strange but popular egg yolk sweet, called ovos moles. The town of Aveiro is known as the home to these little novelties. I actually liked it, much to my friend’s chagrin, ha!

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Francesinha sandwich

We did so many other things too. And I wish I had more pictures to share. The view of Porto from the Gaia side of the river is stunning. The narrow, cobblestone alleyways are enchantingly medieval. The Ovar Thursday market is a bustling place of trade. The expansive, sandy beaches are warm and peaceful in February. And I mustn’t forget to mention the very awkward experience of accidentally walking in on a small, private funeral and backing out slowly.

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View over Porto and the Duoro River

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The vast Ovar beach