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Le Creusois

For weeks after my first arrival to Le Creuse, way back in February, I had been hearing about the fabled Creusois cake (which shares its name with the region). The flour used is made of ground hazelnuts and the concoction is advertised with the momentous “Once upon a time, there was a cake…” The recipe was developed by monks and is kept secret, known only to about 30 local bakers.

Un petit gateau

Un petit gateau

For a month I looked at them in the window of the boulangerie, wondering what made them so special. Jason promised that we would get one to celebrate Clint’s stay in France, to be part of the tremendous three-week feast that his visit turned out to be.

There are knock-off creusoises sold in the grocery stores, but we decided to go for the authentic recipe. At €6 a cake, this was quite the extravagance for our little up-and-coming commune. As we watched Gran Turino after our homemade pizza dinner I carefully sliced le gateau and served it to the boys. I believe Clint’s response was “What the hell is this?”

Well, it was good, and there was a lovely syrupy glaze on top. The cake had a nutty taste, which we silently considered as we ate our second pieces.

It seems inevitable that with such a buildup, disappointment will follow. Maybe not exactly disappointment, but I still prefer a nice chausson pommes, or even a fresh croissant. Minou, however, had a much different experience (for those not in the know, Minou is THE cat). Although normally quite purry, she went into a frenzy as she licked the crumbs out of the cake pan. If we hadn’t surrendered the remaining pieces of cake I’m not sure we would have survived the night. The famous Creusois was good, but Minou definitely enjoyed it more than anyone else!

Big News 'Round These Parts

Big News 'Round These Parts

Months later I had a second opportunity to taste un Creusois. Tiny samples were being given out at a rest stop/visitor’s center. As I ate the slightly stale cube I couldn’t help but smile, not at the taste so much as the memories of grey February days, standing outside the bakery window and wondering.

3 Comments

  1. Donna says:

    Juli – I love your story, the anticipation and the fulfillment. It reminded me of a cake Reese and I made recently. Flourless Honey-Almond Cake. Reese (age 4) loves to cook when she comes over and keeps asking to make a cake with ICING, but she accepted the honey, because she wishes she was a bear so she could eat MORE. Here’s the recipe:
    1 1/2 cups whole almonds, soaked with water changes for a couple of days to remove enzyme inhibiters
    4 large eggs at room temperature
    1/2 cup honey
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt

    Preheat oven to 350 and rub some butter in pan, cover with parchment paper, and rub some butter on top.

    Beat egg YOLKS, honey, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix with finely blended almonds.
    Beat egg WHITES until very foamy, white and doubled involume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks and fold in.

    Place in pan on top of parchment paper and bake 28 minutes until golden brown (skewer in center comes out clean). Let cool for 10 minutes.

    It says to top with 2 tbsp honey and 1/4 cup sliced almonds, but even Pooh Bear might have thought that to be a bit much. We put almonds on without the honey – but even that might have been too much: very RICH. I wonder if Minou would have liked it?

    I think that this cake belongs in the once upon a time category.

  2. Jason says:

    Haha, “I believe Clint’s response was “What the hell is this?”” That’s probably about right!

    And yes, the recipe is top secret indeed, guarded carefully by only 33 French artisan bakers here in the Creuse. But, I happened to share a bottle of 22 year old whiskey with one of them a few nights ago… So, a first online and a Le Vignaud exclusive, we now bring you the veritable top-secret recipe.

    INGREDIENTS
    – 4 blancs d’oeufs.
    – 200 g de sucre
    – 1 paquet de sucre vanillé
    – 100 g de farine
    – 100 g de noisettes pilées.
    – 125 g de beurre fondu et refroidi.
    – Beurre et farine pour le moule !

    PREPARATION
    – Battre en neige 4 blancs d’oeufs.
    – Dans un saladier bien mélanger 200 g de sucre + 1 paquet de sucre vanillé + 100 g de farine + 100 g de noisettes pilées.
    – Ajouter 125 g de beurre fondu et refroidi.
    – Incorporer délicatement les blancs en neige.
    – Mettre dans un moule type génoise beurré et fariné.

    – Cuire à 170°C pendant 25 à 30 minutes.

    1. Jason says:

      En Anglais:

      INGREDIENTS
      – 4 egg whites.
      – 200 g sugar
      – 1 package vanilla sugar
      – 100 g flour
      – 100 g of crushed hazelnuts.
      – 125 g butter melted and cooled.
      – Butter and flour for the mold!

      PREPARATION
      – Snow Beat 4 egg whites.
      – In a bowl, mix 200 g sugar + 1 packet of vanilla sugar + 100 g flour + 100 g of crushed hazelnuts.
      – Add 125 g of butter melted and cooled.
      – Stir gently white snow.
      – Put in a buttered cake pan type and flour.

      – Bake at 170 ° C for 25 to 30 minutes.

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