I’ve been inspired to bake some Normandy apple tarts recently. I had some really lovely ones while visiting Bayeux and the Normandy region.
Hope to find time to blog about these soon.
I’ve been inspired to bake some Normandy apple tarts recently. I had some really lovely ones while visiting Bayeux and the Normandy region.
Hope to find time to blog about these soon.
‘Tis the season for rhubarb. I’m welcoming it with wide open arms. I love its tartness and soft, pink coloured centers when you cook them down. While they look like red celery stalks, once cooked down in sugar, they break down into a beautiful mess and is a good balance of sweet and tart. I love the gorgeous pink colour that seem to intensify when they cook. My favourite way of eating rhubarb is in desserts,a simple rhubarb crumble, in particular, after dinner is a pretty fine way of ending the meal. I don’t quite see a need to try another rhubarb dessert when I have my strawberry and rhubarb crumble.
However, a warm, sunny afternoon found me creaming up some butter and sugar and these rhubarb managed to find their way into the base (or should I say top?) of the cake. In a way, I’m glad they did. This cake is pretty awesome. You don’t have to cook down the rhubarb before adding it to the cake or it will just break down too much into a horrific mess. I wanted the rhubarb to hold its shape somehow so they make a lovely patterned on top of it.
Don’t worry, the rhubarb would be well-cooked after being in the oven for a good fifty minutes. It would also have the right balance of tartness and sweetness for there is enough sugar added into the pan schmear and the rhubarb. This cake is deliciously moist when it is slightly warm and even after it has cooled completely – it is fantastic for tea and breakfast. You can debate all you want about whether we should consider rhubarb a fruit or vegetable. Excuse me while I go have some of my cake.
Recipe: Upside down rhubarb cake
Makes a 9-inch round cake
Adapted from Upside down Pineapple cake from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home
Ingredients: For Pan schmear
57g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tbsp honey
1 tsp brandy
90g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
For the rhubarb:
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, washed and tough ends trimmed
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
For the cake
113g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
120g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1. Prepare the pan schmear: Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter with honey, rum, brown sugar, salt and vanilla and beat until smooth and well-incorporated.
2. Prepare your cake tin: line and butter the baking parchment if you are not using a silicon mould. Spread the schmear over the bottom of a 9-inch cake tin.
3. Prepare the rhubarb: Slice the rhubarb into 1cm lengths and toss it with 1 tbsp of cornflour and 1 tbsp of granulated sugar. Top the rhubarb in a single layer over the pan schmear.
4. Prepare the cake: Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until pale and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add in the vanilla.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beat until well-combined and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add in the milk. Add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 batches, until just incorporated.
6. Pour the cake batter over the apple slices and spread the batter neatly with a spatula knife. Knock the cake tin twice against the counter top. Bake in a 175 degrees celcius, preheated oven for about 50 minutes, rotating the cake tin mid way for even browning. The cake is done when it is golden brown and spring back to touch.
7. Cool the cake in the cake tin for about 10 minutes before running a knife around the edges before flipping it over a serving plate. The cake is best served warm though it still taste great at room temperature. *Cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 days. Or you keep the cake for up to a month if you clingwrap the completely cooled cake and store it in the freezer.
I’ve written a post on Beaune last week. It’s time to turn the attention to the Burgundy region where Beaune sits in.
There is a lot of beauty in Burgundy in spring. There’s dancing sunlight and blooming flowers. The towns are starting to see activity and liveliness. However, if you are here for the vines, they have barely awoken from their winter slumber.
Burgundy is all about her grand vins yet also more than her grand vins. Sounds contradictory? I went to Burgundy expecting it to be about the beautiful wines – the elegant, oaked chardonnays and the subtle, sophisticated pinot noir but Burgundy turned out to be so much more than that.
There are many small towns (aside from wine-making towns) in Burgundy; I’ve visited a few of these medieval, small towns that left a lasting imprint. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, the town where the movie “Chocolat” was filmed in offered a quiet beauty.
While in this quiet medieval townm, you should follow your nose to the Anise sweet facotry. Yes, you would smell that nice whiff of anise aroma in the air. The Anise sweet factory is located at the historic abbey as the sweets were used to be made by the Benedictine monks. The sweets are not made with star anise, but with the aniseed. The anise flavour was surprisingly very pleasant. My favourite is the rose flavoured one – with the delicate flavour of rose permeating it. Apparently, the flavours of the candy are all natural flavouring – derived from plants through alcohol of steam distillation.
Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, a small medieval yet picturesque village perched on a hilltop, is definitely worth a stopover. The journey is as beautiful as the destination as you can see the fortress from a distance.
You can visit the small fortified castle and its walls that was built in the 14th century. Otherwise, you can just take a stroll around the small medieval town and admire the beautiful views of the mountains of Morvan and the Auxois plains from this hilltop village.
The Cistercian Abbeye de Fontenay (Fontenay Abbey), a well-preserved UNESCO Heritage site of a 12th century Burgundian monastery. The Abbey is situated in the middle of a wooded valley, near Montbard. The structure and buildings are quiet plain and free from embellishments – the cloisters are simple with stone arches around but very beautiful at the same time. The space encourages quiet contemplation and is a good site that gives a full view of the monastic lives of the cistercian monks.
Another stop that you shouldn’t miss is Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region. Dijon is a much bigger city compared to Beaune but its centre is pretty much walkable. Dijon is more than its namesake mustard. Of course, you can and should troop down to the Dijon-established Maile boutique to taste its full-range of mustard products.
After that, you should most definitely follow the owl’s trail around town (with the owl pointers on the roads); the owl’s trail brings you to the important sites like the Ducal Palace and the 13th century Notre Dame cathedral around Dijon town. The owl or la chouette is the icon of the Dijon town.
Dijon town is very lively even when we were there on a day with a lot of grey clouds and passing rain. You can drop by Les Halles, an indoor covered market; I prefer the market at Beaune but if you happen to be in Dijon, you can just walk around the busy and authentic market and watch the locals shove their way into getting their produce.
A fun fact: Les Halles du Marche is designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Maybe that’s why you see similarities in the iron wrought arches?
The restaurants in the market’s vicinity are worth a stop for lunch – they have very affordable prix fixe lunch menus and allow you to sample a good range of Dijon fare. One of my favourites is the oeufs en meurette (Eggs cooked in red wine) – very delicious and all you need to do is to use a slie of bread to soak up all the good sauce. If you want a change from wine, you can opt for Dijon’s traditional cocktail – the kir royale, a cocktail made with creme de cassis and a crisp white wine like aligoté.
Another thing to get your hands on is the town’s specialty pain d’epices (spice bread). These pain d’epices are usually sold by the loaves and they make good gifts for your loved ones.
There you have it, Burgundy is so much more than her wines. You can definitely spend a whole week in the region and not be bored. It is definitely a region that I hope to revisit in the future.
You can visit Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, Flavigny sur Ozerain and the Fontenay Abbey in a single day.
Les Anis de Flavigny factory
You can visit the factory to see how the candies are being coated.
Opens: 9am to 11am, Mon to Fri
Opening hours differ based on seasons. Check out the Abbey’s Fontenay Abbey opening hours for precise timings.
Fee: 10 Euros for self-guided visits, and 12.50 Euros for guided tours.
Les Halles (Dijon)
The covered market is located on rue Quentin
Opening hours: 7am-1pm Tue & Thu-Sat
Shopping in Dijon
Maille (for mustards)
32 Rue de la Liberté, Dijon
Mulot et Petitjean
13 Place Bossuet, Dijon.
Baking pain d’epices Dijonaise since 1796. Also, a shop with very pretty decor.
Burgundy has always been a high priority on my to-go list because of the wines. You cant imagine how excited I was when I was planning my trip here. It was more of a dream that I didn’t think would be realised so soon.
In the heart of Burgundy lies the unofficial wine capital of the region, Beaune (pronounced as “Bone”) was the place that we spent a bit of time in during our trip here (we stayed in a small town, called Nantoux, just off Beaune).
Beaune certainly captured my heart from the moment I step foot in this town for lunch. It certainly did help that our first meal in Beaune (and Burgundy) was mouthwatering and delicious. We ate at a very good value-for-money, one-Michelin star restaurant, Les Jardin des Remparts. They spruced up the usual Burgundian specialities; you have your escargots, pain d’epices, and a slow-cooked beef chuck in red wine, but not in your standard bistro form.
The town is walkable but big enough to have variety. Being in the center of the all the wine of Côte d’Or, it is unsurprising of the quality of the restaurants and food in Beaune. It is definitely a good base for a trip in the Burgundy region.
Beaune’s Saturday market day
One of the highlights of my stay in Beaune is the Saturday farmer’s market. The streets at Place de la Halle come to live on Saturday mornings – they are many stalls that set up their stands and almost the whole town seem to be there as well.
Though smaller than the market in Dijon, I prefer Beaune’s market; it is so lively, colourful and there is just so much beautiful produce – from the fresh vegetables and fruits to the sauccison, and fromage. Being there in spring meant that the white and green asparagus were out in full force – they were so gorgeous, I wish that I wasn’t just looking.
It is difficult to leave such a market empty handed even if you aren’t intending to cook. There’s a shop specialising in local saucissons (cured sausages) that you can taste and buy. And another shop in the covered market selling cured beef, foie gras stuffed in dried figs, foie gras wrapped in cured beef – we tried and bought all three!You can also find local honey, fruit vinegars (for salads), tea leaves, mustard – all very good travel souvenirs to bring home.
Lastly, I do hope you don’t leave without trying the cheeses of Burgundy – my favourite is Brillat-Savarin, citeaux and Époisse and they also bring in cheese from the Jura region which meant Comté reserve, is there as well. The market is the best place to learn more about the delicious local cheeses and to taste some of them as well.
Hospices de Beaune stands erect in the middle of the town and is the town’s 15th century hospital for the poor. Its strikingly beautiful roof can be admired in the courtyard; the roof exhibits Flemish influence and the four-colour glazed tile roof is typical of Burgundian architecture of that period.
The charity hospital was set up by the Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, Nicholas Rolin and his wife, who are almost like modern-day philanthropists.
At the hospital (now a museum), you can understand how the patients are cared for by the hospital ran by nuns. One of the more interesting rooms was the apothecary room – where you see ceramic jars of medicinal ingredients are displayed. The nuns would pound the ingredients with the mortar and pestle and serve them to the patients.
Also, if you are an art lover, do not miss the 15th Century polyptych by the Flemish artist Roger van de Weyden, The Last Judgement. It has been removed from the chapel to be kept in a separate room so that it will be better preserved.
Basilique Notre-Dame, Beaune
The Basilique Notre-Dame of Beaune may not be striking at first glance, or even the second glance. It is a church built in the 12th Century based on the model of the Abbey of Cluny that is typical of the Burgundian Romanesque period with a couple of gothic elements such as the bell tower, courtyard added on later.
Some of the church’s stained glass windows are in in yellow and white with gray outlines. They are pretty interesting and I wish there was more explanation on the church.
The church is also known for its 15th century tapestries that are housed separately but it was not open when we went. The basilique opens up to a pretty courtyard area with gothic arches that makes for pretty photographs.
One of my favourite shops in town is Alain Hess. It was recommended to us by a winemaker that we visited in Corton.
Alain Hess shop is a fromagerie – the family has been making their own cheeses for three generations. It is also a delicatessen that houses artisanal products made in Burgundy. The cheese that you have to try is one of Hess’s own creation – Délice de Pommard which is soft and creamy triple cream cheese covered with brown mustard seeds. The delicatessen is a haven for food lovers. It was at this place that I bought my J.Leblanc huille de noisette ( hazelnut oil), cassis vinegar for salads, and Bonnat chocolate
I love this town and you think would too if you love food and wine. You can almost not eat better and not drink better anywhere else.
Beaune Farmer’s Market
held every Saturday morning from March to November. Also on Wednesdays on a smaller scale.
Outdoor market at Place de la Halle and Place Fleury (Just across Hospices). Also, a covered market in Les Halles
Hospices de Beaune (L’hôtel Dieu)
Rue de l’Hotel-Dieu, F-21200 Beaune, France
Opening hrs: 9am to 6:30pm but shorter hours during winter
Ticket: 7.50 Euros for adult, price comes with an audio guide
Basilique Notre-Dame, Beaune
Place Général Leclerc
Around the corner from Museé du vins
A fine example of a Burgundian Romanesque style church
Les Jardins des Remparts
10 Rue de l’Hôtel Dieu, 21200 Beaune, France
Phone:+33 3 80 24 79 41
Alain Hess (Fromagerie Hess)
Both a fromagerie and epicerie. I can’t emphasize how much I love this shop. First, buy the cheese. They make their own. They also housed all of Beaune and Burgundy specialities here – mustards, cassis liquers, and the artisanal J.Leblanc hazelnut oils
7, place Carnot
Tél : 03 80 24 73 51
Opens: 9am to 12:15pm and 2:30 pm to 7:15pm (Mon to Sat)
and 10am – 1pm (Sun)
It is hard to leave Normandy without trying her apple ciders or cidres as they would call it. That would be a utter shame.
This was about the only time when in France that I drink more cider than wine. And then, there is calvados; An apple brandy made in the region that you pray that you won’t get drunk on it though it is certainly comforting and warming to have a touch of it after a heavy meal, just before braving the cold, strong winds on the walk back to the hotel.
The first few days in Bayeux was somewhat une petite introduction to the glories of ciders and calvados that the region has to offer. Lunches were supplemented by bottles of ciders that add a refreshing touch to the meal. They are mostly delicious, crisp, some more so than others.
You might be familiar to Normandy apples or Normandy apple tarts – apples are pretty much synonymous to this region. Hence, it is hardly surprising that this is also the region that produces some of the best cider, in my humble opinion and also its famous counterpart, calvados (only the apple brandy made in Normandy can carry this name).
We dedicated one day to explore the Pay D’auge area in Lower Normandy to do some cider and cheese tasting on our own. Our first stop, however, was this small, picturesque town – Beauvron-en-Auge, that has earn herself the name of one of the most beautiful villages in France. Beauvron-en-Auge is certainly deserving of her accolade. While
most of this village lie on one main street that you can walk end-to-end in 15 minutes, the houses that lined the street are half-timbered style Norman houses that make the whole village exude a quaint picturesque quality unlike any others. There are shops that sells little knick-knacks and an unassuming bakery that sells really good pain aux raisins and chouquettes.
Since it was a cold April morning, we practically had the village to ourselves and I got shutter happy as always. The cold winds and drizzle did nothing to dampen any high spirits I had.
We took the cider route (route du cidre)and headed to Calvados Pierre Huet after our morning walk in Beauvron-en-Auge. We visited the distillery that is housed in a wooden building, with its surrounding apple orchards, to learn about how calvados is made. Calvados Pierre Huet is a five-generation, family run estate that produces calvados, pommeau, ciders.
We tried a whole range of their products, starting with their natural apple juice that is naturally sweet and refreshing. They had a few ciders including a pear one which was nice and crisp.
The pommeau was the surprise. I haven’t had that before coming to Pierre Huet – pommeau is made by combining apple must (or simply juice) and calvados before ageing it in oak barrels. The pommeau made in Pierre Huet is aged for 36-48 months in oak barrels. You will greatly enjoy it if you appreciate port. The pommeau here taste of prunes, raisins and reminds me greatly of a gorgeous tart tartin.
We also did a horizontal tasting of the calvados – things start to get interesting with the vieux reserve 8 years after the alcohol begins to mellow down. The 15 years was smooth and well-rounded, the alcohol doesn’t hit you immediately anymore. It really does get better with age. If you can afford, you can always go for the Cordon Or 30 years (yes, the calvados that has been aged in oaked barrels for 30 years!)
If you have more time, you should most certainly drive along the idyllic route du cidre for a relaxing afternoon. Unfortunately, we did not do that due to time constraints.
After loading up our car with a whole box full of calvados, pommeau and cider, we hit the road towards Livarot – a cheese-making town in Normandy.
We visited the Fromage Graindorge factory that also has a self-guided tour through its cheese making processes. The most famous of its cheeses is of course the Livarot AOC cheese, a washed rind cheese made from cow’s milk and is often characterised by the five rounds of reed that is tied around the cheese. It’s a soft cheese with quite a strong aroma.
While we came looking for Livarot cheese, we unexpectedly found the Neufchâtel coeur AOP cheese (Coeur de Neufchatel) that Graindorge produces as well. It is one of the oldest cheeses in Normandy, and maybe France. The cheese came in the shape of a heart – its texture is similar to a camembert but it posses a stronger, more earthy and nutty flavour. We bought some along the way to have it with some toasted baguette and wine – it was simply delightful!
Lunch was at a small town named Vimoutiers. We ate in this small and cute place called La Héronnière (which translates to the hedgehoge). The food was simple but pretty delicious. Its focus was on local produce sourced from farms in the region – they also have a nice selection of Norman craft beers and organic ciders. The wholewheat pizza is made in a wood fire oven on site.
We headed to Camembert town to taste the namesake cheese but alas – both Maison du Camembert museum and Fromage Durand (another camembert producer) was not open. I’m not sure why because we did check its opening hours but I guess France was just stepping out of winter hence, businesses are taking their time to open its doors to visitors.
Despite being a little disappointed, I suppose we had done enough eating and drinking for one day. We did enjoy our little adventure in Pay D’auge, a lovely area that is worth your attention if you are in Normandy.
(I’ve also included some of the places that we did not visit but would have loved to.)
7km north of the N13 halfway between Lisieux and Caen
Information center: Porte Verte du Pays d’Auge, Relais de la Route du Cidre
2, Esplanade Woolsery
14430 Beuvron en Auge
Tel : 0033 2 31 39 59 14
5 Avenue des Tilleuls
Tel: +33 (0)2 312 63 01 09, contact through website
Domaine Familial Louis Dupont
RD16 14430 VICTOT-PONTFOL
Telephone : 02 31 63 24 2
Opening hrs: 9am to 6pm. E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Manor de Grandouet 14340 CUMBERER
Telephone : 02 31 63 08 73
Opening hrs: 9am to 13:00, 14:00 to 18:30
E-mail : email@example.com
42 Rue du General Leclerec,
14140 Livarot France
Tel: 02 31 48 20 00, E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening hrs: 10am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 5:30pm
Go in the morning to see the workers making the cheese.
Maison du camembert museum
Le Bourg, 61120 Camembert, France
closed on monday. 10am to noon/2pm to 5pm
Visit to learn about how camembert is made. Comes with tasting at the end. 3.5 euro
the last dairy farm in the actual village of Camembert producing true A.O.C. camembert cheese from raw milk, hand moulded with a ladle in the traditional way.
La Heronnière, 61120 Camembert, Orne
Open all year. Open daily from 9:30am to 12:30pm and 3pm to 6pm. Closed on Sundays.
3 rue du Quatorze Juin
Tel: 02 33 12 93 44
Opens: lunch 12 noon to 2pm (Tue to Sat) and dinner (Tue to Sun)