Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Notre Gâteau Chocolat

Today was Mardi Gras, literally “fat Tuesday.” This was the last day before le Carême (Lent) begins. Forty days of wandering through the desert of introspection, with a hope of being spiritually renewed upon the arrival of Paques (Easter) and the heralding of printemps (spring).
In some perverse way, I happen to enjoy Lent. I like it better than Christmas. It seems that forced contemplation and deprivation suit me. Nonetheless, in preparation for my suffering forty days of wandering through the wilderness of my soul, I also enjoy the festivity and gluttony of Mardi Gras!

So, this year it seemed especially fitting that Emily and I prepare a decadent gateau chocolat from an authentic French family recette. The task was rather daring, as we set out to make the cake “au pif” using a combination of instructions from Kristin Espinasse’s blog posting of the famille Espinasse recette and some varying written advice received directly from the source.
I was told that only the Lindt marque Dessert Le 70% Cacao and Beurre de baratte demi-sel à la fleur de sel de Guérande would do for this special cake. I went to the Leclerc in Valreas yesterday afternoon, to find the magical ingredients. My outing met success, a clear indication that this mission was blessed. After dinner, Emily and I began the process.

The recette calls for a "bain-marie" and since our little summer vacation home is short on culinary equipment, I had to get creative. A small glitch, like the absence of a double-boiler was not going to hold us back. We fashioned one out of a big pot filled with hot water, by placing a large, rimmed bowl on top, containing our butter and chocolate. It worked like a charm and soon we had chocolat fondant.

Our next challenge came with the job of adding the eggs to the melted chocolate and butter without scrambling them. It took a cooperative effort, with Emily continually in motion, to get us to the finish line and to get the cake into the oven. Emily’s hard work, stirring as each of the five eggs was added, met a suitable reward: The exclusive right to lick the bowl!

Precisely twenty-two minutes later, the gâteau was removed from the oven and set on the windowsill to refroidir, in true French fashion. I busied myself washing the dishes and preparing the table for the decadent twenty-four hour binge that would follow. At 8:30 last night, our efforts were rewarded. The cake had sufficiently cooled and it came gracefully out of the moule in one piece, onto our waiting platter. We filled our glasses with ice-cold milk.

Emily decided to have her first slice in purist fashion and I chose to follow Kristin's advice, anointing the creation with crème Anglaise. We have continued to feast on this chocolate sin for more than twenty four hours; we both had chocolate cake for breakfast this morning! Luckily, there is no separation of church and state here in France, and so the children get Ash Wednesday off from school. We will go to a special children's service tomorrow morning at 10:30 in Vaison. With all this cacao and sucre pumping through our veins, there was no way we could get to sleep before 11:00 p.m. tonight. So we climbed into my bed with the lecteur de DVD portable and turned on a sweet movie, Christmas Child. Fat Tuesday is drawing to a close and my commitment to relinquish chocolate for forty days will soon begin; I wonder how much more of this rich extravagance I can consume before the stroke of midnight. I wander down to the kitchen on the pretext of making popcorn for the movie; I take one last morsel directly from platter to bouche, sans crème. As the movie ends and Emily drifts off to sleep, I reach for my laptop, to seize the memory of our first French Mardi Gras before I willingly and now completely prepared, drift into the wilderness of le Carême.


isabella said...

Sweet dreams ;-)

Mel010100 said...

That sounds particularly yummy! But no chocolate for 40 days? Good luck with that!

Susan Sparkman said...

Dear me1010100,
Thanks for coming back! I've had a few distractions and my postings came to a halt the past three weeks, but with my birthday approaching, I have new resolve to get all these stories on my desk sent into cyberspace!
Please come back soon. ~Susan