Tarte aux Pommes -Celebrating Autumn!


Down at the farm, Domain Duclos Fougeray yesterday, the trees were bare of their apples. Only last week the orchards were heady with the scent of thousands of apples, Yesterday the you would have been forgiven for feeling drunk with the scent of them all in the cider sheds. Production of cider, Pommeau and Calvados was underway!


Pommeau is a smooth blend of 1/3 Calvados (apple brandy) and 2/3 apple juice aged in oak barrels, resulting in a sherry/port-like alcohol at 18% and is for me “normandy in a glass”!

Totally delicious!

From the cosy warmth of the “degustation”(tasting) barn the conversation soon became passionate about the  perfect marriage of those drinks with typical Norman specialities, and it wasn’t long before we succumbed to the heavenly combination of a traditional Tarte aux Pommes (apple tart) with a smooth warming glass of Pommeau.

Having tried the farm’s hand-made bite-sized apple tarts, I knew I would have to learn how to make them. And then a wonderful neighbour taught me all I needed to know about this not so humble desert, and from so few ingredients, the sublime taste is worth its weight in gold.


The farm makes its own organic apple and cinnamon purée which is heaven in a jar, but it’s easy to make back home.

Follow the recipe below to make a traditional Tarte aux Pommes with crispy caramelized pastry.

Take a pie sized circle of puff pastry, 5 Royal Gala apples or similar for the tart, and another 5 sweet apples and cinnamon to make a purée of apples. Enjoy a french moment at the local market buying some rich creamy normandy butter and reserve about 4oz for the tart. (The rest of the butter you can enjoy on a warm crusty baguette whilst you wait for the tart to cook!) and prepare a spoonful of demerara sugar.

Take a sheet of baking-paper or baking parchment. Cut to a size just larger than the size of the apple tart. Evenly brush over the surface of the baking paper some melted butter and sprinkle with some demerara sugar. Roll out the puff pastry to the size of a large dinner plate, and lay onto the buttery baking parchment. Spread over the uncooked puff pastry a generous helping of apple and cinnamon purée, and overlay with very thinly sliced sweet apples (desert).


Glaze with a small amount of melted butter and place in a medium oven, approximately 165-170° and leave to cook for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and sprinkle (optional) with a little more sugar if desired and cook for a further 4 to 5 minutes. just enough to melt the sugar.


Enjoy with  your friends, family and a dollop of thick farm cream…

or secretly by yourself at midnight in front of the glowing embers of the fire!

Don’t forget a little glass of Pommeau for total apple heaven!


Bon Apetite -Choux buns and Chouquettes

For the recipé click here:

For a few moments this morning I thought I was going to have to deal with a double booking. Not the kind where you find you are booked for two different tours in two entirely different places at the same time, but one you turn up to your destination and find that another group is already there.

This morning I led an eager group of Australians to the Atelier de Sylvie, a cookery school where they were programmed to create a profusion of profiteroles. But when we arrived, we found an equally sized group already crammed into the little cooking class. For a couple of seconds I wondered how I was going to deal with it, until the head of the first group heaved a camera onto his shoulder and with a wink and a grin called:


It turned out that our cooking class was going to be televised and I was dammed glad that I had thought to wash my hair this morning. Five minutes later I was miked-up and ready to translate the charming Sylvie, the owner and chef of the atelier.

WP_20160717_002The morning turned into a riotous affair, doing what the french do best, (and australian TV presenters do worst apparently), cooking and tasting delicious patisserie. In fact the presenter’s choux buns were so bad that we had to take them out of the oven twice in order for the  camera to effectively film the astonished expressions on the assembled cooks, and the grimace on the face of Sylvie!

“Il est le plus mauvais client que j’avais jamais eu dans cet atelier” she exclaimed, and the camera trained back to me to capture the translation. Struggling to contain my laughter I explained that perhaps that was better left untranslated, but no-one was having any of it:

“He’s the worst client that i’ve ever had in my atelier” I explained, and once the the camera man had finished snorting, he demanded we re-run the whole sequence. The presenter bravely bore the ridicule!

As the morning drew to a close we left the atelier, each holding a box laden with choux buns and chouquettes. (some more professionally looking than others!), calling

“Bon Apetite”, to the cameras as we went!

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For the recipé click here, and for the method, click here!

Tarte aux Fruits and a 19th Birthday!

My lovely daughter had her 19th birthday this week. It’s quite astonishing when I consider that we arrived in France when she was just twelve. Then she didn’t have two words of french to her repertoire, now she dances rings around me with perfect conjugaison, ado-speak and a measure of verlan thrown in! What, may you ask, is verlan? It’s an argot of the french language with inversed syllables and is largely meaningless to hapless adults, especially the linguistically challenged like me who often cannot get the syllables in the right order, let alone inverse them!

One thing that we are both capable of doing in equal measure however is eating french patisserie and so it came as no suprise at all when, on the subject of birthday cakes, my daughter opted for a french Tarte aux Fruits from Yvonne instead of a typically english cake. Yvonne is our old favorite boulangerie/patisserie in Rouen Gare where we used to live.  It is still no more than 10 minutes walk away, but a combination of home improvements, tax bills and all our electrical kitchen appliances breaking down in the same month made me baulk a bit, as Yvonne’s tarts are sublimely tasty, stunningly beautiful and extravagently expensive but more importantly a little on the small side!


So on wednesday I got down to what I had been putting off for months. Making my own Tarte aux Fruits, Yvonne style. What I discovered in the course of the day was that they are supremely easy, and moreover, by the end of the evening – equally delicious.

There are two important facets to the Tarte aux Fruits. Firstly a rich sweet pastry which holds it’s shape and which doesn’t succumb to the moistness of the Crème Patissière. Then the smooth sweetness of the crème to contrast with the slight acidity of the fruit.

In my humble opinion pastry making is something of an art form. Throughout last summer I had the pleasure of standing in the kitchen with a professional patisserie chef and watching him effortlessly making perfect crisp pastry cases. I learnt several things.

-Firstly it is very important to keep the pastry cool and work the flour and butter mixture to the minimum, stopping mixing when the dough can just hold itself together.

-Secondly that the least amount of water or egg possible should be used to bind the ingredients together as during the baking process the evaporation of the liquid causes shrinkage.

-Thirdly the pastry should always be chilled for at least an hour before baking to prevent slippage in the mould during cooking.

-And finally the dough should never be stretched when fitting it to the mould as this also encourages slippage of the sides of the pastry case during the baking.

I asked the chef how to stop air bubbles appearing in the base of the pastry case, and he recommended using a pastry ring as opposed to a tin, and a perforated silicone baking sheet placed directly on the oven wire rack. In this way, no air is trapped between the pastry and a pastry tin.baking sheetsCercle-a-tarte-inox-24-cm


Having prepared the pastry case I began to cook the crème patissière.

I added the milk to the pan and incorporated a small proportion of sugar. By adding sugar to the milk, the milk is prevented from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan as I bring it to the boil. The milk boils at 100°, the sugar at 170°, the higher boiling point of the sugar protects the milk.

It is essential to boil the milk if using fresh, unpasturised or raw milk.

By adding the egg yolks to the poudre à flan and the sugar, the egg ‘cooks’ in the mixture. It will not curdle when added to the boiling milk.

I switch off the flame on the hob. Half of the boiling milk is added to the egg mixture which is then stirred and poured back into the remaining milk. The flame is once more ignited and the mixture simultaneously cooked and beaten until it begins to boil. Once boiling, it is beaten for a further 30 seconds until thick and smooth before the butter is added.

When the butter is incorporated I remove the pan from the flame and pour the Crème Pâtissière thinly over a wire rack covered with cling-film, and cover with another layer of cling-film to prevent from forming a skin and leave to cool. At this point it is possible to freeze the crème for another day or use straight away for a gorgeous tart.

Once cooled I put the crème patissière in my Kitchen Aid and beat until smooth before filling a piping bag with the crème.

The piping bag is partially stuffed into its nozzle to form a “bouchon” (cork) to prevent the creme from passing through the nozzle when I fill the bag. When I have transferred all the creme into the bag, I untwist the “bouchon” and push the creme down to the nozzle opening with the help of a spatula.

piping bag

piping bag1

Starting from the centre of the pastry case I squeeze the crème patissière through a 8mm round nozzle spiralling outwards until I reach the rim of the pastry case. This prevents the need to spread the crème with a spatula and the danger of damaging or”dirtying” the pastry case itself.

Once done it is just a simple matter of positioning the fruit. I chose raspberries with a strawberry edge, and every so often upturned a raspberry and filled it like a mini “cup”with a raspberry coulis.

strawberry tart

Afterwards  you  can dust softly with icing sugar, or lay a sprig of black currents or redcurrents and a sliced strawberry or two as decoration.

I was worried that my daughter would be disappointed that she didn’t have a real Yvonne tart for her birthday. But when she came in from work she opened the fridge and uttered a “ooooh”.

After dinner, when we were sitting replete from second helpings, my pudding monsters declared it was a huge success, especially as they didn’t have to forgo being greedy as they would have done with Yvonne’s little masterpiece, and moments later it was “snap-chatted” to celebrity and my daughter declared that judging by the responses of her friends – I better get making another one!


For the recipe click here


Christmas Atelier de Patisserie -La Bûche de Noel.

For the recipe


One of the things I love best about our region of France is that the preparations for Christmas only begin in December. Suddenly, on the last days of November, ‘cherry pickers’ park up in highly inconvenient parts of the city in the middle of rush hour and the council start to put up christmas lights, causing the circulation to grind to a standstill. Somehow the excitement caused is more intense than the long drawn out decorations of the UK which seem to appear as soon as the British shops have cleared  the last of Halloween.

Today I was booked in for ‘La Bûche de Noel’ at the Atelier de Patisserie and savoured the new decorations as I made my way there.

Nov,dec 2012 002Under the shadow of the cathedral the Marché de Noel was just opening up,

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while the pretty side street that led to the atelier was charming with its simple lights and foliage.

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I was momentarily dazzled by the sweet stall

Nov,dec 2012 005and spent a few moments watching the young ‘Dragons Ice Hockey team on the christmas rink outside the Hôtel de Ville.

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But Arnaud’s atelier was calling, and within minutes I was equipped with Tablier (apron) and ready for the class to begin.

Today we were making the Bûche de Noel (traditional Christmas log) with a roulade of Biscuit Viennoise and Crème de Beurre.

As ever, Arnaud was a mine of information. What he doesn’t know about eggs isn’t worth knowing, but what is, is that egg yolks can be stored in a freezer for a month, and that freshly laid eggs do not whip well. Eggs should always be left for a few days before using for patisserie.   Aparently, although he didn’t know the science behind it, frozen egg whites or a egg white and 10% water mix whip more quickly than standard eggs.

All egged out, we turned to start making the Biscuit viennoise.

We weighed out our ‘Tant pour Tant’ (such for such, the french expression for replacing one ingredient for an equally acceptable alternative) with an equal mixture of ground almonds and icing sugar. Any powdered dried fruit would work, ground hazelnut for example. We added the egg yolks and full eggs and whipped until creamy and light. Arnaud had plans for strengthening our arm muscles, and got us to work with a hand whisk!

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Then we whipped the egg whites into peaks and added the sugar to form a thick meringue.

Nov,dec 2012 030With a soft folding action we incorporated the meringue into the TPT mixture.

Nov,dec 2012 032Once thoroughly incorporated we poured onto  a greaseproof paper on a long baking tray.
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And with a spatula laid it smooth taking care to use as few strokes as possible.

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Once complete we placed it in the oven and prepared to make the filling.

Arnaud educated us on the various types of meringue; French, Suisse and Italien. The French form of meringue already having been used to create the volume for the Biscuit Viennoise.

Meringue Italienne is an uncookable meringue, which does not dry and is always used for making patisserie creams. This is the type of meringue we now use for making the Crème à Beurre.

Arnaud amuses us by admitting that he likes his steak ‘bien cuite'(I have known customers thrown out of restaurants for asking for that)  as opposed to his wife who like’s hers bleu. Can we believe he is really a chef? To achieve this with perfect timing he shows us his thermometer.

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We place the water and sugar mixture on the hob and bring to 115°, at the same time whipping the egg whites into peaks.

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Arnaud shows us what happens to the sugar if the temparture rises to 120°. A brittle, unworkable sugar that would break our mixer!

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We carefully measure the sugar solution temperature and at exactly 115° pour it carefully down the side of the whipped egg bowl.

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We leave the mixer to beat to a smooth thick meringue, before adding the butter to make the crème à beurre.

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There are two ways to add the butter, one is to add the entire cold quantity of butter to the warm meringue mixture where the heat softens and helps it incorporate to a smooth cream.

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The second method is to make the butter into a beurre pommade. Keeping the butter at a constant temperature of 37° we continually beat the butter until the consistancy of a ‘face cream’.

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The end result is a thicker crème for the solid butter, and a lighter crème for the pommade.

We add the flavour, pistachio to one and chocolate to the other, ready to spread over our cooked golden Biscuit Viennoise.

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Our biscuit is golden and we divide in two to form two ‘Bûche’, one of which we spread thinly with pistachio crème, the other with chocolate.

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Before rolling the Biscuit Viennoise into a roulade, moistening where necessary with a sugar syrup.

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We spread the outside of the log with more crème chocolate and fork to give a ‘log’ texture.

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The final stage of the atelier is to experiment with ‘Meringue Suisse’.

The beauty of meringue suisse is that it is excellent for forming little decorations as it looses its shape much more slowly.

We measure a two to one part mix of sugar and egg white. We whisk the mixture whilst heating it at a constant temperature of 50° until it begins to thicken, and then put into the Kitchen Aid to continue whisking until it forms a stiff meringue.

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We place several differently sized ‘douilles’ (nozzles) into several icing bags, twist the bag to form a ‘bouchon’ or cork in the nozzle, and fill the bags with meringue. Once ready we pull out the bouchon and push the meringue firmly into the nozzle.

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We take a baking tray with a greaseproof sheet and begin to form various shapes, mushrooms and snails  and old boots with which we will decorate our ‘bûche’.

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Having dried in the oven, the meringue decorations are ready to use.

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A final photo – well no, that’s for you to create!

As for our ‘Bûche de Noel’ –  its already been eaten!

A little early I know, but it was my birthday today! I think we can be forgiven! (Well we just couldn’t stop ourselves!)

As for you, the ‘Bûche de Noel’ freezes perfectly, so you have no excuses!

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For the recipe: Bûche de Noel

To read further blogs taking part in the Expat Blog Hop, click on the links.

 French Village Diaries

 Vive Trianon

 Melanged Magic

The Business of life

 Paris Cheapskate

 A Flamingo in Utrecht

Steve Bichard.com

Books are Cool

Life on La Lune


Victoria Corby

 Painting in Tuscany

Bordeaux Bumpkin

 Scribbler in Seville

 Perpignan Post

 Blog in France

 Leaving Cairo

 Piglet in Portugal

Andalucia explorer

 Box53b Naomi Hattaway

 Suzanna Williams

 Very Bored in Catalunya

 What’s an Alpaca

Steven C Sobotka

What about Your Saucepans

Chronicles of M

Beyond Manana in Spain

Jeno Marz


Callaloo Soup

Aussie in france

Didi Books English

The Eclairs Went Like Lightening – Atelier de Patisserie.

For the recipe click here

I was the first to pull my camera out at the Atelier de Patisserie this week, but the Japanese students weren’t far behind! After ten minutes we were neck and neck on the photo stakes, and by the middle of the class they were actually helping me out with my own camera, and I came home with 124 photos and no excuses for forgetting how to make Eclairs!

Arnaud also had his work cut out. This class was made up entirely of ‘foreigners’, with the Japanese students aided by their own Japanese translator Miki, who herself had moved to France only a year ago, and whose mastery of the French language was incredible, already having mastered Chinese and with a good command of English.

This post is decicated to my sister-in -law in Canada, who years ago asked me for a profiterole recipe, and to my Australian in-laws for giving me this atelier for my Christmas present. I’ve been making profiteroles for a few years now, but I’ve realised by now that there will always be something Arnaud can teach us, and as with all things, he has that attention to the final detail that turns a 1€  eclair into a 2€ work of art.

Having got the introductions over; and I was amused to see that for once Arnaud was struggling with the names, Japanese is certainly not an easy language for either the French or English tongue; We picked up our pans and scales and set to work.

Arnaud talked us through all the different uses for Choux Pastry; the sugary ones of course encompassing Eclairs and Profiteroles, Chouquettes and Chaussons Napolitan; the savory including Gougères, and with a 50/50 mix of pureed potato, Pommes Dauphines and Gnocci.

Arnaud told us that Choux pastry freezes well both in its raw and its cooked state. Salt is add to all Choux pastry for flavour, and sugar to encourage them to colour golden during cooking. The length of cooking time, and the ability to assess their colour prevents the Choux pastry from collapsing by the oven door being opened too early during the cooking process.

We poured the water, butter salt and sugar into a large casserole pan and placed on the flame to bring to the boil.

We extinguished the flame, added the flour to the pan and with a wooden spoon mixed well. Once mixed, we re-lit the flame and for a minute began the process of stirring the pâte to dry it. Once the pâte fell easily from the upturned wooden spoon, the pâte was ready for the next stage.

We added the lightly beaten eggs bit by bit until the pâte was smooth and came cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

We took a few minutes to discuss the various sizes of ‘douille’ or nozzles. An eclair took an 18 and  Chouquettes  a 12. We made up a piping bag, remembering to put a ‘bouchon’, literally translated as a cork, made up of scrunching part of the piping bag and pushing it into the douille or nozzle. We filled with the piping back with the pâte.

Holding the piping bag at an angle of 45° we ran the eclairs in 80mm lengths, pressing down at the ends and flicking back.

For the Chouquettes we used the smaller douille and made round balls piping from a vertical position. Now I have attempted to make the Chouquettes before. What always frustrated me was that after having cooked some fairly good profiterole shapes, I never succeeded in getting the sugar crystals to stay on the top of the Choux pastry. As ever with Arnaud , there is of course a secret.

Firstly we glazed with beaten egg the uncooked Choux Eclairs and Chouquettes; The Eclairs with a soft bristle glazing brush, pressing down perpendicularly to the length of the pâte; The Chouquettes by pressing down the tail left during the piping process. We then very liberaly sprinkled the Chouquettes with sugar crystals. Contrary to what one would believe, the majority of sugar crystals survive their stay in the oven.

We continue to use up the last of the pâte in the piping bag to make long thin strips called Mikados.

Once the Choux pastry is in the oven we start to make the Crème Pâtissière. The Choux will cook for 25-30 minutes.

We add the milk to the pan and incorporate a small proportion of sugar. Arnaud explains that that by adding sugar to the milk, the milk is prevented from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan as we bring it to the boil. The milk boils at 100°, the sugar at 170°, the higher boiling point of the sugar protects the milk.

It is essential to boil the milk if using fresh, unpasturised or raw milk.

By adding the egg yolks to the poudre à flan and the sugar, the egg ‘cooks’ in the mixture. It will not curdle when added to the boiling milk.

The flame of the hob is switched off. Half of the boiling milk is added to the egg mixture which is then stirred and poured back into the remaining milk. The flame is once more ignited and the mixture simultaneously cooked and beaten until it begins to boil. Once boiling, it is beaten for a further 30 seconds until thick and smooth before the butter is added.

The pan is removed from the flame. We divide the Crème Pâtissier into two bowls. We add 30g cocoa powder to one, and strong liquid coffee to the other and mix thoroughly.

We pour the Crème Pâtissier over a wire rack covered with cling-film, and cover with another layer of cling-film to prevent from forming a skin and leave to cool.

It is time to check the Eclaires and Chouquettes. Arnaud explains that if the Choux pastry still has areas of white or very pale pastry, it must be left to cook for a while longer until all the surface is golden. If they are removed from the oven too soon they are likely to collapse or be too soft once filled with the Crème Pâtissier.

Our Eclairs and Chouquettes are ready. We place them on a cooling rack and turn the Eclairs upside down to cool.

We melt some chocolate and dip each Mikado into it.

With a very fine douille or nozzle we make three small holes in the base of the choux Eclairs.

We beat the cooled rubbery textured Crème Pâtissiere until smooth and fill a piping bag remembering to make a ‘bouchon’ or cork as before using the very fine douille (3-4mm). Using the holes we have already punctured in the Choux, we fill with the crème.

We mix some icing sugar with syrop de glucose, flavouring one portion with chocolate and the other with coffee. Choosing a flat nosed douille (nozzle) and another piping bag we apply the ‘nappage’ or topping to the finished eclairs.

Yet again Arnaud shows us techniques for decorating the eclairs, turning our 1€ Eclair into a 2€ Eclair.

and shows us a pot of Violet for jazzing up the nappage of a vanilla flavour Eclair.

We fill our cake boxes with our bounty and head home.

Barely have I got through the door than the Eclairs are all gone…..

With lightening speed!

translation: eclair = lightening

For the recipe click here