Thursday, July 8, 2010

Le Tour de France – Bonjour from Stage 6!

Saturday, the 3rd of July marked the beginning of the 97th Annual Le Tour de France! The route changes each year, with the current tour beginning in Rotterdam, and concluding in Paris at the Champs-Elysees.

Barbara from Wino's and Foodies put a call out for bloggers interested in taking part in a group project. Her idea was to assign each person a stage of the Tour, for them to then research the destination city and choose a recipe from the area to prepare and write about.

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I share my contribution to this project! Stage 5 was beautifully covered by Jeanne from World on a Plate.
I have been assigned Stage 6, which begins in Montargis, with the destination city of Gueugnon.

Gueugnon is a small country town located in the SaĆ“ne-et-Loire region in South Burgundy. With a population of only 8,300, Gueugnon is known for it’s iron and steel industry, as well as a strong farming culture devoted mainly to the breeding of Charolais Cattle.

Delving into the depths of this glorious French region, it became apparent that the town of Gueugnon does not boast any specific recipes of note. For this reason, I chose to look more at Burgundian cuisine in general. The classic recipes of Burgundy make use of local fresh produce and commonly include beef and red wine. The most famous recipe from the area has to be Boeuf Bourguignon, which consists of beef marinated in red wine and slow cooked with various vegetables. Such a glorious dish!! However I decided I wanted to try and find a dessert recipe from Burgundy to showcase here. I doubt I could master Boeuf Bourguignon on my first try, as I’m certainly no Julia Child, or Julie Powell for that matter!!

Anne and Kerry Guy from Wine-Tour France discuss some beautiful local recipes from the area, and paid mention to a classic Burgundian dessert called Pain d’Epices, a kind of sweet, honeyed gingerbread.

This recipe is said to originate from Marguerite of Flanders, the Duke of Burgundy’s wife, who had a particular fondness for honey cakes. Apparently, during the 1300’s, the Dukes of the region had control of the spice trades, and therefore had access to the gorgeous flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, etc. This enabled them to develop new recipes for the beloved honey cake, including these lovely new spices.

I followed this recipe, but modified it slightly.

• 2/3 cup honey
• 1/2 cup hot milk
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 2 cups self-rising flour
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ cap vanilla essence
• ½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
• 1 egg

Preheat an oven to 180 and butter baking pan.
In a small bowl, mix together the honey, hot milk, and the butter; set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, dry spices, and nuts. Whisk the egg into the warm milk and honey mixture.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir together until the batter is thoroughly moistened throughout, add the vanilla.
Pour the batter into the buttered baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake tests done 1/2–inch from the centre.

The cake turned out beautifully, and was delicious with a lashing of cream and a drizzle of some lovely warmed honey. This kind of cake really benefits from a luscious syrup to pour over the top, as it is quite dry on its own. The flavour of the roasted hazelnuts paired with the magnificent spices make for a lovely, sticky cake!

Howard Hillman describes the cooking of Burgundy as relatively uncomplicated, as it relies mainly on the high quality of the local ingredients for which the Burgundy countryside is famous. This sums up much of the French cuisine, such a strong focus on local, fresh quality produce.

It was an absolute pleasure to be apart of this project, and a huge thank you goes to Barbara for facilitating the entire idea! I now have a lovely sticky cake and a divine smelling kitchen to show for it!

I hope you now enjoy the next stage of Le Tour, to be covered by Eliza from Gastronomy Gal. Visit her blog to learn more!

Au Revior from Moi!