Those of you who followed my week’s holiday in France last month may recall that I developed an addiction for Cafe Gourmands at the end of meals. I’d first discovered these delights while on a short break to Lille with my son a few years ago and when I saw them on the menu at Les Vapeurs in Trouville on my recent holiday I couldn’t resist. I had two or three more during that week and everyone who read my blog seemed to be taken by them and many comments appeared about how wonderful they looked. I decided to re-create the dish once home. I even bought some special little dishes to hold some of the things in Deauville. With the family here this weekend and five of us to the Sunday meal it was an ideal opportunity to go to town on the dessert.
There seemed to be a set pattern that the Cafe Gourmand – apart from containing a small cup of espresso – would have four little desserts. By little, I really do mean petit fours sized dishes – just one of two mouthfuls. Invariably there was creme brulee (which I didn’t manage tonight), ice cream, chocolate mousse, ice cream and macarons. One really special one in Cambremer, in the heart of the Route de Cidre and Calvados country, had a little dish of tiny caramelised apple balls with Calvados poured over them. Another regular ingredient was a little, one-mouthful sized, tartlet – usually strawberry. So, the big decision today was: what four things would I include in my Cafe Gourmand. I decided on ice cream, a small pot of chocolate mousse, a little raspberry tart and a macaron. I planned to make it all except the macarons, which I bought from Paul in Richmond. Their macarons are wonderful and the French never think any less of you for buying dessert from a good patisserie.
By chance, it turned out to be Bastille Day and I thought it seemed appropriate to be re-creating a little bit of my French holiday on a French day of celebration. We didn’t manage the fireworks but we did fire up the barbecue! I prepared some things yesterday. I made the ice cream – the family’s favourite Lemon & Basil Ice Cream (click here to see recipe). I also made the pastry for the little tartlets: 6 0z plain flour, 4 oz butter, 2 dessertspoons icing sugar and 1 egg. All thrown into the food processor and as soon as the mixture gathered into a ball, wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge ready for today.
This morning I made the chocolate mousse. I used the recipe from the late great Katie Stewart’s Calendar Cookbook that I’ve used for many, many years. I melted 100g dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. When it had melted I added 15g butter and mixed, then one by one, 4 egg yolks. I removed from the heat and whipped up the 4 egg whites until stiff and gradually added with a metal spoon (I didn’t add quite all of it; maybe three quarters, as I got to the stage it looked pale enough to me). Then I divided the mixture into 6 shot glasses.
Then I baked the tartlet cases. I buttered and floured a 12-hole tartlet tin, rolled the pastry out quite thin and filled each hole. I pricked them with a fork and put into a hot (200C) oven for about 10 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. I didn’t need 12 but I wanted 5. In the end, my family asked for more even though they knew it wasn’t the ‘cafe gourmand’ thing to do … so I made up the rest after the main event, topping some with strawberries instead of raspberries.
This morning I also made the creme patisserie. I adapted a recipe that I’ve used many times from my The Roux Brothers on Patisserie to make a small amount. I put it in a small jug and kept in the fridge till needed. I wanted to put the tartlets together at the last moment so they didn’t get soggy and were as fresh as possible.
The macarons I bought in Paul this morning. Nicola and her friend Rachael and I went to Kew Gardens, after an almost mandatory coffee first in Taylor St Baristas. Nicola, who never drinks coffee, knew she stood no chance as it turned out Rachael loves coffee as much as I do so was keen to sample the delights of a Taylor St Baristas’s Flat White – about which I endlessly talk, it has to be said. It was a wonderful day to go to Kew and getting there fairly early, it was quiet for a time, though got much busier. After an hour and a half I left them and headed home via Paul. It was too hot (yes, really!) for long walks in the sun and I had some more cooking I wanted to do.
We had a lovely meal: barbecued koftas and chicken with a tahini marinade (both recipes from Moro East). There was barbecued halloumi cheese which had been marinated in olive oil and oregano for our vegetarian guest and a variety of salads, including our favourite fattoush. We had some prosecco to begin, sitting in the warm garden with a big umbrella up to shield us from the sun. What a difference to a month ago when we were complaining that summer would never come! After the main course I disappeared into the kitchen to put the Cafe Gourmand together. Nicola caught a photo of me in action.
On to the plate went a small coffee cup, one of the chocolate mousses, a macaron and a small dish ready for the ice cream (which I’d taken out about 15 minutes before to soften). I laid one tartlet case on and added a teaspoonful of creme patisserie, laid three raspberries on top and sifted over a little icing sugar. At the last minutes, a scoop of ice cream was added to the small dish. Coffee was on the go: some decaffeinated for Jonathan in the small Bialetti; Union Coffee Foundation Blend, freshly ground from beans that I bought in New Row Coffee, in the large one.
I made a small pot of Moroccan Mint Tea for Nicola but gave her a small coffee cup to drink it from for the Cafe Gourmand experience. The plates were carefully carried into the garden.
Everyone was suitably impressed. Including me. I was very pleased by my Cafe Gourmand experiment! And every little mouthful was wonderful. What a treat!