Thursday, October 28, 2010

PETS-De-NONNE or NUN’S FARTS

BEIGNETS SOUFFLÉS or DONUT PUFFS


It took me quite a long time until I was fluent in French. The common belief among expats, the old adage one hears over and over again as you are struggling with your verb agreement, the gender of nouns and the inexplicable plus-que-parfait, is that it takes five years no matter what you do. Others merely claim that when you begin dreaming in a foreign language then it is no longer foreign. Learning catch as catch can, picking up words and phrases from television, books (don’t keep relying on that dictionary!), spouse and, heaven forbid, the children, slowly but surely I came to actually speak – and dream in – French. All of my years of high school and college French got in the way, hampering, hindering instead of helping as I kept hesitating, tripping over my words for fear of getting it wrong, of being admonished by some invisible professor, but I finally arrived.

Now, husband and I, being avid and passionate readers, drink up books like there is no tomorrow, swimming in and out of decades and centuries, Montaigne and Balzac, Austen and Dickens, Swift and de Toqueville all sit happily on our shelves alongside more contemporary fiction, history books and murder mysteries. We’ve spent years wandering in and out of centuries as we weave in and out of conversations, cultures, countries, and all of this together has caused us to simply pare our language down to the necessary, the clear, the correct and proper. Our first concern has always been being understood by others wherever we are, to whomever we are speaking, in whichever language and culture we are in. When one travels, moves about, there is no time to catch up on the slang, the common expressions, the latest word fad. And yes, I must also admit, that we are rather language snobs, in love with words; my husband reads dictionaries and encyclopedias while I curl up at night with my beloved Roget’s Thesaurus. We simply love words, their sounds, their meaning, their origin. And language. Foreign language. A favorite dinnertime game of ours with our boys was comparing words and phrases between the many languages we have studied as a way to make our multi-lingual lifestyle more a game than a burden. So twenty-some years together, we all speak correctly, use big words and, as those of you who have met me know, I do indeed speak like I write.


But of course it doesn’t stop there. We aren’t really snooty language snobs. As much as we strive to speak correctly, we love us some good old slang and curse words and silly expressions and weird-sounding names for things, and they all play a part in our day to day. Oh, maybe not outside of the house, but certainly inside. We love rolling the other’s curse words and dirty language, les gros mots, around on our tongues like a sharp-biting mouthful of whiskey, let a slang word or two slip out here and there in the middle of a family discussion, using the odd, unusual and fun to describe the things and people around us, a way to learn and practice, have fun and be silly. But between the proper way to speak to others and the silly word games we play together, never the twain shall meet.

But accidents happen. When one lives in a foreign language, skips from one language to another, mistakes happen, the occasional faux pas slips out and trips you up, earning smirks and stares, the occasional dirty look or shocked expression or even a snort of laughter from the spouse. Like the time early in our marriage when JP used a less than savory sexual expression in the place of “Beat it, Injun!” when describing a scene from an old black & white Lone Ranger episode to my family. Or when, after years of my using the French word bordel to indicate a complete mess, my husband (from whom I picked up the word) kindly pulled me aside and said “Don’t use that word in front of my parents! It’s vulgar!” Thank you very much for telling me after how many years? Normally cautious and self-conscious with how we speak, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between the normal, the usual and the vulgar when trying to pick up the other’s language. Oh, some words or expressions are clearly off limits once we step outside the house, but others, well, there is a fine line to step over as words are magically transformed from the rude to the common. Language, after all, does evolve. And sometimes, well, we are just a little bit fascinated by an expression and end up using it anyway, just for the fun of it.


And this brings me to donuts. I bake with the Daring Bakers, a wonderful baking experience led by the ever-wonderful Ivonne and Lis! The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up and Lori asked us all to make doughnuts or donuts. Now, she did offer us recipes for regular yeast donuts, baked or fried, and I have always wanted to make yeast-risen donuts. But because of both the lack of time and interested eaters (I mean, who doesn’t like donuts? How do I end up living with people like this?) I decided to make something easier and much lighter. Pets-de-Nonne. Nun’s Farts. Yes, you read that correctly, Nun’s Farts! I must admit that I have long wanted to make these delicate little treats if for nothing but the name. Pets-de-Nonne rolls off the tongue in a joyous tumble of giggles, hands clasped to the mouth, eyes dancing with delight like some schoolgirl who let loose a silly word in the middle of history class. Grown woman that I am, discovering foods with daring, vulgar, even slightly obscene names still has the power to amuse me. Like couilles du pape, pope’s well…. all I need to say is that they are a common name for a type of oval purple plum, or Gratte Cul, hmmm check your French-English dictionary please, a common name for Briar or Wild Rose (think of how and where it scratches) and a little cheese called Trou du Cru, a small cow’s milk cheese which when said much too quickly will come out trou du c**. Just plain silly, if you ask me, right? But after all of these many years I am smart enough to ask husband if it is okay to use this name outside of the house. Pets-de-Nonne, after all, is written there in bold black and white in his favorite food bible, Les Meilleures Recettes de Françoise Bernard … but is nowhere to be found in my Larousse Gastronomique. “Well,” explained husband, “of course it isn’t, it is a vulgar nickname for those beignets.” “But your Françoise Bernard has it in her cookbook!” “Oh, really?” Yes, and so it goes, the evolution of language. And the fun of it all.

Pets-de-Nonne are simply dainty little dollops of froth, light as air (or light and airy as a nun’s fart, I am assuming), dusted with a shower of icing sugar like snow on a bright winter’s day. Made from choux pastry dough, fried instead of baked, pushed off of a teaspoon into hot oil, Pets-de-Nonne float lazily up to the surface and puff up before your very eyes, turning a glowing, gentle golden color, like sunlight. Allow them to deepen in color a bit to make sure the dough is cooked all the way through, scoop them up and douse them quickly with sugar and pop them into your mouth one glorious beignet at a time. So light, they melt in your mouth, a delicate bit of dough, a sweet afterthought of sugar, and you will be left utterly…speechless.


And they smell divine!

We’ve had an overwhelming response to the Plate to Page workshop we announced earlier this week. I thank everyone of you who emailed, tweeted and spread the word.

If you really want to join the four of us for this intensive, hands-on food blogging experience then register now! – we’ve had a big rush and there are only a few spots left. Registrations have come in from South Africa, Canada, USA, Italy, UK and Holland and you wouldn't want to miss this exciting new concept in Food Blogging Workshops: this is more than a conference, this is a working weekend, a complete learning experience specifically designed for the food blogger who yearns to hone his or her writing, food styling and food photography skills. And have a great time while doing it!

PETS DE NONNE (Nun’s Farts) or DONUT PUFFS
Beignets Soufflés, Soufflé Donuts made from a classic choux pastry dough, fried instead of baked

5 ½ Tbs (2.8 oz/ 80 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (1/4 litre) water
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (125 g) flour
4 large eggs
vegetable or neutral oil for frying
Powdered/confectioner’s/icing sugar for dusting


Place the butter, water and salt in a saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until the butter is completely melted. Take the saucepan off of the heat and add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended with the liquid. Return the pan to the heat and, stirring vigorously, cook until the dough holds together in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan and no longer sticks to the wooden spoon.


Remove from the heat. Using the wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until blended. Then continue with the rest of the eggs one by one. The choux dough will be thick, smooth and very creamy.


Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large pot to a depth of about ¾ inch. When a pinch of the dough dropped into the oil sizzles and then cooks golden brown, the oil is hot enough. Drop the dough in by teaspoonfuls, only about 6 at a time. They cook very quickly and you want to have only a manageable amount to take care of. As they cook, carefully flip them around so they cook evenly on both sides.


Once they puffed up and are a deep golden brown all over, then lift them out of the hot oil and let drain on paper towels. While they are still hot, and as the next batch starts to cook, sprinkle the Pets-de-Nonne with powdered/confectioner’s sugar and gently toss to coat. Serve and eat immediately while they are still warm.



80 comments:

George@CulinaryTravels said...

Beautiful Jamie. Just perfect :)

Happy Cook said...

You made a total different one, looks so so good, so light.
I still am not fluent in Flemish here, my accent is so horrible, i blame always my hubby because we speak at home English and his family speaks always to me in English.
I have to say my reading has taken a step back after beeing busy with blog, i sure should take the reading again more seriously.

Debugcooking said...

Oh love it!Nun's fart? but like you say maybe they got the name as they are so light and airy;-)..So excited to see ya in P2P in May!

Nuts about food said...

After going to a Catholic school for many years, I really enjoyed the name. Heehee. And they look delicious, in spite of their name.

Junglefrog said...

Ah... I am so not really good in french! I can understand more then I speak it but it is usually spoken way too fast for me to follow..
I do think it is a beautiful language though..
Beautiful are also your nun's farts.. (now really how would a fart look??)
They look delicious!

Jamie said...

@Nuts about food : yeah, gotta agree. He He He!

@Junglefrog : I am guessing that they look something like this?

Heavenly Housewife said...

I love it that u made nun farts LOL. There are more joke possibilities here, than there are with cake balls ;).
I think its awesome that you are fluent in french. I studied a little bit of french, but didn't do to great.
*kisses* HH

girlichef said...

...tee hee!! And also YUM, love beignets...want some for breakie right now!

Lael Hazan said...

As always, a lovely post. I'm very impressed with your French. After 13 years of marriage, I'm still working on Italian. I truly wish we could live in Italy so that I could actually be immersed in the language long enough to feel comfortable with my verbiage.

The "nuns farts" are photographed so beautifully! You capture the airiness of the pastry. Are they the same dish as I've heard called "angels farts"? I'm afraid to use the English name in our house as my 7 year old would gleefully announce it at school.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Jamie, they are absolutely gorgeous and even despite my dislike of fried dough, I am sure I would be able to manage one of these!!! Re: language fauz pas, oh I have had some DOOZIES.

Jamie said...

@Lael Hazan : Thanks, Lael! And I think these are angel's farts. If they aren't they should be! And it is absolutely necessary for you to live in Italy - then you'll be fluent in no time. Plus you'll get to live in Italy! And your daughter would be right, it is a great name!

Jamie said...

@Mardi : oh I'll bet you do and I'd love to hear them. A good share over a plate of these beignets?

Renata said...

These look too delicious to have such a name! Love how beautifully you play with words!! Thanks for your lovely comment on my post!

Ken│hungryrabbit said...

Light, airy and it's FRIED. This made me love you just a little bit more.

Kris Ngoei said...

These are simply exquisite puffs... love the irregular shapes!

Sawadee from Bangkok,
Kris

El said...

For some reason I'm finding French very difficult to learn. Glad to hear it took you a while too. The beignets are lovely!

uk4dz said...

They look delicious - fried choux pastry almost. I look forward to trying this variation!

5am Foodie said...

Oh Jamie, I'm afraid I fall into the same camp as your family members - doughnuts just don't do it for me! I had to overcome my total ambivalence toward them in order to participate in this month's DB challenge. But these nun's farts, well, they look fabulous - a much preferable alternative to the doughnut (in my eyes, anyway!). They sort of look like this pastry that Italian friends used to give us at Christmas time. Light and airy with a dusting of sugar. Mmmm.

Sasa said...

I so know what you mean about rolling things around in your mouth to try them! When I first met F. he thought I was mocking him when I mimicked him but it was just that I wanted to say something the way HE said it, to see what it felt like.
You're lucky you have your family to mix languages with - when I'm with other half Japanese people, it's fun to mix English and Japanese (well, if they're American or Kiwi or English) and since they're my main languages, it's pretty satisfying but sometimes I wish I knew someone who also spoke a bit of German and Thai as well because there are some things that just don't come out as well in another language, innit?
It's so great to read your stuff, you feel like a kindred spirit ^_^
The beignets look much prettier than mine, heh, mine were a leetle...lopsided.

Jamie said...

@Sasa : you make a great point that we say all the time and I forgot to add here - sometimes the absolute perfect word or expression can be found in one language only, it just doesn't exist in another in quite the same way. It is great to be with others who speak the same languages (language!).

Barbara Bakes said...

I'm wishing I could pop them into my mouth right now for breakfast. They look fabulous, so light and tasty. We had a little beignets shop, but it closed. Guess I'll just have to make them myself. Fun post!

elra said...

I am so tempted of making this Jaime. They look superb!

Wheels and Lollipops said...

Jaime, I love what you did with this month's challenge, can so see myself eating this instead of a donut. I can't begin to say how much I really enjoyed reading your posts, I can see so much of my hubby and myself in your steps. Thank you for such a lovely pause in the day. - Sharlene

Jamie said...

@Wheels and Lollipops : Sharlene, that is just so sweet! It means so much to me when people tell me they appreciate my writing! And as for being like us - well, the longer I live the more I find that being in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual family is more the norm than the exception and I think knowing each other and sharing stories helps us get through the difficult things!

Ria Mathew said...

Jamie,that was a new one to me. They look like a snack we get in tea shops in Kerala, India. But that snack is hard as rock ;-)

Loved it's 2nd name...Nun's Fart! :D

bunkycooks said...

These look so light and perfect to have in just one bite!

lisaiscooking said...

I think I would need more than five years to become fluent! And, figuring what's acceptable and what isn't among various sayings, I may never learn in another language. Your beignets though, I could learn to love very quickly! They do look light as air.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, they look heavenly even if their name is less than poetic! ;-P

I am like you. I love languages as well as words and enjoy cursing or using slang in a playful way... The story about the word "bordel" made me laugh!

Cheers,

Rosa

A Thought For Food said...

These look absolutely delicious! Wonderfully light and fluffy... and FRIED!!!!

Asha @ FSK said...

LOL Jamie, funny post!! I am trying to learn French and I so totally get the intimidating and shyness part of learning a language.. i so wish I had tried when i was little and had a gift for languages..

Love the beignets! have to try them out!!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Y'know, I really don't think I fancy the idea of nuns' farts (no offence to nuns intended), but I seriously like the look of these. Definitely bookmarked - thanks!

RamblingTart said...

Oh, these are such enticing little morsels, Jamie. :-) We LOVE words in my family too. We grew up reading British authors, long-dead authors, and watched much more British television than American. Our friends laugh at our vocabulary and say, "Dumb it down, man, dumb it down." :-) Words are so delicious and I love that you love them too. :-)

Jan said...

Had no idea that choux pastry could be fried, or that fried choux are called beignets soufflés! Thanks for the recipe!

Sue said...

Jamie, These Nun's farts look way too easy to pop into my mouth(like popcorn)! So light and delicious and bite size. My husband will get a big kick out of the name:)
Oh, I wish I was bilingual(at least)! I suppose it's up to me to do something about that. My mom was fluent in Armenian, and my dad in Spanish, but they didn't pass it on to their children:( At the time, in the U.S., it was all about assimilating(at least to my parents). My son is fluent in Tagalog though, and I love it! (My Filipino daughter-in-law tells me that my son doesn't even have an accent! :)
Jamie, I think you need to write a book! :)

Jamie said...

@Rambling tart : Dumb it down? LOL that is so funny! I had a roommate once who called me elite!

Audax said...

Well what a stunning posting your writing style is so simple yet so full of complex ideas also like you I'm a lover of language and how and why it works especially how "meaning" is created when letters are strung together into words and sentences.

Your posting is so straight laced yet I was laughing the entire way through it is that light formal tone you have about a slightly vulgar name.

Your fart's look exquisite I have to try them just for the name the children will just love them.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Jamie said...

@Sue : Fascinating! I know about the assimilation thing: my grandaparents were immigrants and just wanted to americanize their kids. My parents did end up learning yiddish but never taught us. Sad. And the book? One day...

Jamie said...

@Audax : thanks for the visit and thanks for the lovely, lovely compliment-filled comment. Makes me happy :-) Yes, the name makes these doubly fun to eat!

Pavithra said...

Wow thats cute and looks delicious. Picture perfect...

Deeba PAB said...

Bon jour!! I've been waiting for these- LONG! How enticing... Pets-de-Nonne ...yes, light as froth. You've had me in splits about the French language. Then again, you have a flair for languages and am sure you beat JP hollow when it comes to French! {Shhh, don't tell him I said that}! I love these delicate choux bites...gorgeous!

Jamie said...

@Deeba, darling, for once you are wrong. JP can run circles around me, language wise. His English is a so much better than my French and He speaks and writes Italian like an Italian while mine is schoolgirl level. He decides he wants to learn a language and he immerses himself in that language 100% while I, sadly, am lazy... But the beignets are out of this world! I got him on that one! xo

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

So light and airy!

♥Sugar♥Plum♥Fairy♥ said...

So delicously delightful!

Mary said...

What a wonderful post, and so fun that you got to use the 'f' word so many times. I am a substitute teacher, and any grade I teach would be in fits if I told them of the existence of these delicacies. Your photos are beautiful!
I grew up in a bilingual city in Canada and used to be quite good in French before I moved away. After attending Le Cordon Bleu in French, I got a job in the kitchen of a fancy hotel. One of my tasks was to make a special each day, and one day I decided on Poulet Chasseur'. I ran it by the large, French, cranky chef who made me nervous and it came out 'Poulet Chaussure'. Well, I never heard the end of it!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

LOL - nothing pleases me more than rude names for food!! Spotted Dick is always a favourite here in the UK, and in Rome we had a dessert called "Grandpa's balls". :) Your nun's farts look heavenly (excuse the pun!!) and so light!

Marcellina said...

I love your passion for language. I am sorry I didn't speak to my children in Italian when they were small though now we are doing better and they are learning small amounts of Italian. I also love your Nun's Farts...so European to give such a name. The English would never do that! I love it!

Lora said...

They look great Jamie. We have the same here in Germany called "nonnenfürzchen". Same meaning. Where I live (in North Rhine-Westphalia). My family makes them specifically for Karneval time in February.

I envy your fluency in French. I still struggle with my German while my husband speaks 4 languages beautifully. Grrrr. And yes, w have also found ourselves on the floor with laughter because of my mispronunciations that completely changed the meaning of what I intended to say.

The Betz Family said...

Those look beautiful and so light! I bet you could eat a few before it even registers. Nice job on the challenge!

Aparna said...

Interesting, but I guess in many cultures, people were just down to earth and named food after "ordinary" stuff! LOL

You can call them whatever you want, I'll call them beautiful.

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

I gotta have some of these Nun's Farts~ they look and smell good! :-))

I SO wish I could join you guys in Germany!!

Cake Duchess said...

Tu sei buffa;) I love those fried farts. They look light and delicious. You make me smile:)

Peter M said...

Ahahaha, love the title...they are really called Nun's Farts? These look alot like our Loukoumades but our fried dough is made with yeast. Not sure if they make Greeks fat though!

Jamie said...

@Mary - I love that story! Thanks for sharing.

@Jeanne - I love the name Spotted Dick and when JP worked weeks in England he brought me back a can of spotted dick. Just for the name.

Jamie said...

@Cake Duchess : Ah it's been years since someone has called me buffa and I love it! xo

@One Tribe Gourmet : Darling, I wish you could join us too! Maybe the next one? But still looking forward to Paris!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

LOL Jamie I chuckled at this post. You've described the trials of learning a new language and what can happen so well! And illustrated with some very lovely beignets too! :D

Jenn said...

I loved this post. Though I've still got 4 more years until I can hope to be fluent en français? oy, such a long time yet...but compared to how little I knew when I started, I have to be a bit proud of myself :)
There's a Scottish dessert with an equally unsavory that I've made, "fly cemeteries" - my best guess is because the dried currants look like a bunch of dead flies together...but they really taste great!

Jamie said...

@Jenn : Thanks and I can empathize with your "en français" quickly followed by the "oy"! Love it! And fly cemeteries? Oooh now I have to try that!

UrMomCooks said...

"Beignets!" Perfection! (I used to dream in French, but alas, no more...) These are the pinnacle of donut!

Lisa said...

Jamie, your beignets are perfect, flaky, golden puffs of heaven and tres jolie! I always wanted to be fluent in french, but that came after I took Spanish all through JHS and HS LOL I picked up a little from a friend and my quasi -french speaking maternal grandma, when she wasn't speaking Yiddish, but not enough to have any kind of conversation. I need to hang out with you so you can speak only French to me...the only way to learn since I won't be living in France any time soon LOL Oh, please bring the beignets and some of your amazing macarons!! ;D

Jamie said...

@Lisa - quasi-French speaking Yiddish grandma? Oh I love that! And don't tempt me because one of my goals when I win Euromillions is to come and stay with you for a while! Talk and eat! I'd even watch a baseball game with you if you asked!

Lisa said...

Yes, Jaime..from English to Yiddish to French to Yidlish lol OK, we 'can' watch a baseball game, but now the Yanks are out of it and the World Series goes on without them *pout* That said, forgot to mention LOL@ Nun's farts, and how they smell delicious! Also, I'm always keen on learning curse words in other languages. I'm currently on 'encule' kick with my BF, just for fun lol

Jamie said...

@Lisa : Aw sorry to hear about the Yankees (*snort*) no really if you come and visit me I'll turn you on to rugby. And enculé ha ha ha I know what you mean by being on a kick. We love learning new words and using them every chance we get. Husband is ready a huge pile of books about the Civil War and picking up fun terms (not dirty. He has also been using dangbusted as often as he can.

Ana Powell said...

So light and delicious.
Outstanding work ♥

Reeni said...

I can't stop smiling over the name for these! I can't stop drooling either - totally divine! I'm off to get my Mom and show her because I know she'll get a kick out of it too!

Coco cooks said...

Oh these look divine and so delicate.

Sophie said...

I love the titile of these tasty nibbles!! hahahahha!!

Nun's farts,.;they are huge though!! They look wonderful & irrisistable too!

Great pictures, Jamie!

Kisses & many hand waves from Brussels to you!

Ananda Rajashekar said...

beautiful, loving it! Nun's fart is funny! wish to grab few of those right away :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

Nun farts! I wonder how this name came about. They do look quite heavenly and airy! ;)

One of these days I hope to get better at French. I once dreamt in Italian after years of studying. I hope I get so good one day that I can make my own verbal faux pas.

my little expat kitchen said...

Hehe, that name is hilarious. I have to make these doughnuts just so that I can say to everyone that I've made Nun's farts!
Magda

Erica- HiP Paris said...

Wow I need some nun farts right about now. It is rainy and icky in Italy where I am and these would really hit the spot!!

Cathy said...

Your post gave me a good laugh, Jamie. I went to a Catholic girls school through grade school and high school and would have believed that even thinking about nun's farts would have been a mortal sin.

Tamanna said...

i made a donut from the same type of dough mix =) yours look divine and i would looove to pop em in the mouth right now! beautiful presentation

theUngourmet said...

Dreaming in another language... I loved this part of your post. I hadn't ever thought about this. It's so true!

What a funny name for such a delectable treat!

Eliana said...

These look gorgeous and super delicious :)

OysterCulture said...

Love this post and can totally relate. When we were in Italy, I lived in fear of saving the wrong thing. I think that stems from high school French when my teacher told me I had an accent that would kill a French man. I had no desire to leave dead bodies in my wake.

I love the name for these tasty tidbits and will have to make them son.

MeetaK said...

oh boy i can so relate to this post. i have a few of embarrassing foreign language stories i could tell you too! laughing at this jamie. love the light fluffy farts! lol! sorry it took me this long to get here!

asiangrrl said...

Snicker. The story is funny and fun (I, too, love words. Unlike you, however, I am less circumspect as to when I use which words), and the pets-de-nonne look simply heavenly.

P.S. Your word verification cracks me up. Today, I am warcomi (war commie).

shaz said...

Hi Jamie, I've been so busy and raring to come over and read about your pets-de-nonne (giggle, wink) ever since I saw it on twitter. So glad to have finally made it. Loved the post and loved the beignets :) Oh and I often wish I had more time, I'd love to learn to read in French.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Tee hee! Well you would absolutely expect Nun's Farts to smell wonderful - not sure about Pope's Bum or whatever that translates too, probably far less savoury!!

alissa said...

These look and must taste amazing! Your blog is wonderful!

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