Rien n’est plus beau que les mains d’une femme dans la farine
Quand tu fais la tarte aux pommes, poupée, tu es divine
Rien n’est plus beau que les mains d’une femme dans la farine. *
- Claude Nougaro
As, once again, Europe reposes snuggly under a blanket of white, Nantes remains bright and clear and unusually, sadly, free of dusty snow. Blizzards rage across the country and cities are buried under thick drifts of powder one after the other, yet Nantes stays temperate and dry. Oh, we did have our one flurry, whipping across the rooftops and through the streets, ever so fleetingly, but it has already fluttered away, disappearing like an ace of spades in the fingers of a magician, as ephemeral as dandelion fluff carried away on the wind. The long-promised snow came early one morning and by the afternoon we were out tromping across the stretch of white on Place Louis XVI, crunching and running and laughing, enticed outside and throughout the city like excited children. Handfuls gathered up and tossed back and forth, screeching with delight, laughing as Marty danced and skipped in a futile attempt to keep his paws out of the damp cold ice. We arrived back at the house chilled and out of breath but thrilled and content with the vibrancy and sparkle of the much-anticipated winter.
But nothing lingers; the temperature has dropped to glacial yet the lovely white has melted and gone away. The Arctic chill has driven us indoors and we stay huddled together happily, reading, watching films, working on projects. I must admit that I have been so lazy these past few days, lazy and blah and just a tad grumpy, so grumpy that I had my men dancing around me trying to cheer me up, attempting to drag a chuckle from my lips, doing what they could to pull me up and out of the doldrums. Silly faces, eye-roll-worthy jokes and a quick song and dance were mine for the asking, but, alas, I was in no mood to be consoled. I buried my chin just a little bit deeper into my collar and plunked down into my chair at the table, as if on cue, just to be fed. Despite my absolute passion for the icy winter weather, maybe the fact of being inside, albeit cozy and warm, has made me lackadaisical, my energy sapped and my brain and body simply listless. So JP decided that a jaunt out in the chill, a stroll through town, a spot of window shopping, would be just the thing to kick start my creative energy and inspire a story or two. So…
We ventured to Angers today, a wonderful city an hour outside of Nantes, where the chill factor was below frigid and snow still carpeted the ground. Simon went to take a language proficiency test, so JP and I scurried and slid across their very icy sidewalks, through the streets, looking for a warm haven in which to wait. Arm in arm, only tumbling once, we popped into a café and ordered steaming mugs of hot chocolate and nibbled on bottereaux, small square puffs of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar, a regional specialty for Carnival, and we happily wiled away an hour in the warm comfort of a barren bistro. Not ones to miss out on a little adventure and fresh air, we finally bundled back up, gathered our courage and ventured our way back out into the cold. A slippery-slidey trip through the center of Angers, we decided to once again visit the la Tenture de l’Apocalypse, the stunning XIVth century tapestries depicting the Apocalypse created for Louis 1er d’Anjou, on display in a long, dark, solemn wing of the city’s Château. We love the quiet, deserted space, miles high and so dim we had to lean in closely and squint to read the description of each tapestry. A wonderful sanctuary with a fascinating history, but back out into the snow we went to finally meet up with Simon and drive back home where….
We found Marty curled up against the radiator, slowly going bald as he mysteriously does each and every winter, and we unbundled and tried to find a warm spot in our vast, drafty apartment. An adventure and a quick call to a friend upon returning home did indeed seem to boost my spirit and knock some ideas into the old noggin and I began to organize my work and type. Yet, for three days or more, Simon has been begging me, nudging me, prodding and harassing me to bake him brownies: chocolaty yet not too chocolaty, moist yet not too dense, fluffy, crusty with enough chopped pecans to balance out the natural sweetness of a good pan of brownies. Yes, my baby is exacting, fussy and downright imperious, but what’s a mother to do? He loves my treats as long as they are always exactly the same. With nothing special or, as he says, “fishy” inside. And so I made him brownies. Little does he know and much to his horror if he ever finds out, I decided to jazz up this great, classic brownie recipe with orange and Cointreau with the idea to turn part of the recipe into a stunning, elegant, luxurious and romantic treat for Valentine’s Day. So a splash of liqueur and a bar of orange-flavored chocolate and the trick was done. And out came my heart-shaped muffin tin and the romantic girly-girl and the devoted mom merged into one and Orange Cointreau Brownies were born.
Rien n’est plus pur que les mains d’une femme dans la farine. *
Who says that Valentine’s Day should be pink and red. Orange is the color of burning desire, and after 25 years with my own man I can assure you that burning desire is still indeed the color of the day. Orange is fiery heat, burning bright and constant rather than explosive red bursting and then quickly fading away or gentle pink, pale, feminine and utterly forgettable. Orange is creativity and enthusiasm, deep, passionate, inspiring. So you can keep your dainty raspberry concoctions, your effeminate, sweet strawberry confections. The bright, jazzy taste of oranges, the voluptuous whipped mascarpone cream, light, ethereal yet so sumptuous, spiked with an ever-so-adult splash or three of Cointreau atop a dense orange-scented brownie infused with sharp, bitter orange marmalade is my Valentine’s Day offering, a gift from the heart. Passionate, indulgent, neither insipid nor conventional, an astonishing Tiramisu, a superbly lavish Valentine’s Day dessert to declare your burning desire.
There’s nothing quite like chocolate for Valentine’s Day and February is #chocolatelove month! Please join in on the #chocolatelove fun and romance by linking up any chocolate recipe posted during the month of February 2012 . Don't forget to hop over to this post to share your recipe. The twitter hashtag is #chocolatelove.
Nothing is more beautiful than the hands of a woman in flour.
When you make an apple pie, baby doll, you are divine
Nothing is more beautiful than the hands of a woman in flour.
Seeing you so my childhood soul returns to me
Nothing is purer than the hands of a woman in flour.
- Claude Nougaro
ORANGE COINTREAU FUDGE BROWNIES
Adapted from a recipe in Brownies by Linda Burum
3 ½ oz (100 g) Intense Orange Chocolate by Lindt (or equivalent orange-scented semisweet chocolate)
2 oz (60 g) unsweetened chocolate
1 1/3 cups (300 g) unsalted butter
2 ½ cups (500 g) sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 – 2 Tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier
5 large eggs
1 ½ cups (180 g) flour (lightly spooned into measuring cup then leveled with a knife)
1 ½ cups (125 g) coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly but thoroughly butter a six-cup heart-shaped muffin tin or equivalent (each cup holds a little more than one soup ladle of batter) and one 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1-inch (approximately 39 x 26 x 2 ½ cm) jellyroll pan.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter together with the chocolates, stirring gently to keep from burning. Remove from the heat when almost but not completely melted, continuing to stir off the heat until all the butter and chocolate are melted. Allow to cool slightly.
Scrape all of the chocolate-butter liquid into a large heatproof mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and vanilla and stir or whisk until well blended. It will be grainy. Stir in the Cointreau. Vigorously whisk or stir in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. The batter should become smooth and no longer grainy. Stir in the chopped pecans and the flour until well blended and smooth.
Ladle batter into each buttered muffin cup of the tin until filled about halfway and not more than ¾ full. Pour the rest into the prepared jellyroll pan and smooth, making sure the batter fills the corners and all the way to the edges.
Bake the brownies for 25 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pans and the oven, until the brownies are set and the top shiny. A toothpick inserted into the brownies should come out clean. If you prefer your brownies gooey and slightly undercookied in the center, take them out of the oven sooner, but the top should be uniformly set and shiny.
Remove the tins from the oven and allow to cool on racks.
ORANGE COINTREAU BROWNIE TIRAMISU
For approximately 8 individual Tiramisu
Orange Cointreau Brownies (½ x 10 ½ x 1-inch (@ 39 x 26 x 2 ½ cm) jellyroll pan)
Bitter orange marmalade or jelly + a bit of Cointreau
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups (500 g) fresh mascarpone
½ cups (100 g) granulated sugar, divided
2 – 3 Tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Set the whites aside is a medium bowl, preferably plastic or metal.
Beat the yolks in a large bowl with all except 1 tablespoon of the sugar until very thick, creamy and pale. Beat in the mascarpone until well blended and creamy. Stir in 2 tablespoons of Cointreau.
Beat the whites until they start to stiffen. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar gradually, continuing to beat the whites stiff. Carefully fold the stiff egg whites, a third at a time, into the mascarpone/egg mixture: using a spatula, gently fold the whites into the mixture after each addition so as not to break the air in the whites. Taste the mascarpone cream, adding a bit more sugar or Cointreau to taste.
Using individual metal ring molds, press each mold into the brownies; carefully slide a wide spatula underneath the brownie and the ring and lift off of the pan. Invert the mold with the brownie base inside it and place the inverted ring mold on a platter; press the circle of brownie down into the mold, sliding it so it rests at the bottom on the plate (still inside of the ring): the brownie is now upside down so the crusty, shiny side is down and the moister side is up.
Once all of the ring molds have a brownie base (inverted) and are lined up on the platter or clean cookie tray, melt several tablespoons of bitter orange marmalade over very low heat, stirring to avoid burning; stir in a capful of Cointreau to liquefy the jelly. Using a pastry brush, dab a layer of bitter orange marmalade onto and all over each brownie base, as much or as little as desired. Spoon the prepared Cointreau mascarpone into each ring mold on top of the brownie base to fill up to the top of the ring.
Cover all of the filled ring molds with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, slide a wide spatula underneath each Tiramisu, one at a time, and place one on each individual dessert place. Dust the surface of each Tiramisu generously with unsweetened cocoa powder. Carefully slide a thin, sharp knife around each Tiramisu to loosen then gently twist and lift the ring mold off of the Tiramisu. Serve and eat immediately.