If you live on the Sunshine Coast, you can bask all-year round in a French atmosphere with some of the nicest French or French-inspired cafés and patisseries at your door-step (see our pick below). Madeleines, galettes and chocolate mousse are well-known today, but do you know the story behind these famous French treats?
Masters of both culture and cuisine, the French also have their sweet side. French pastries and other desserts are celebrated throughout the world. These treats date to various periods of history, but with their vintage style and delicious taste, they are still enjoyed today.
Eggs, sugar, flour, and butter make up the basis of the small, scalloped little cakes known as Madeleines. The history of this celebrated cake is somewhat obscure. The cakes are associated with the French town of Commercy; a popular legend tells how the nuns of the St. Mary Magdalen Convent were obliged to sell their cake recipe when their convent was abolished at the time of the French Revolution. Madeleines are also associated with the writer Marcel Proust who mentioned them in Remembrance of Things Past. Today, Madeleines are sometimes made with vanilla and even rum. Additionally, they may be filled with preserves.
In France, galette generally refers to a round, flat cake. The galette is particularly associated with Twelfth Night; at this time of the year it is called Galette des Rois. Food historians trace galette to the Neolithic period and later to the Medieval era where chestnuts or walnuts were sometimes added to the cake. Today, galette is frequently made from puff pastry, but there are thousands of variations on this quintessential French dessert. Popular galette recipes also call for jam, candied fruits, or marzipan.
According to food experts, pinning down the origin of chocolate mousse is difficult. It is known that the French were the first Europeans to begin cooking with chocolate during the early sixteenth century; the French also coined the term mousse to denote a frothy and light dish that may be served warm or cold, savory or sweet. In any case, the French are typically credited with chocolate mousse and the delectable dessert has become one of the world’s favorites.
Quintessential French Chocolate Mousse
200g bar of very good quality dark chocolate
1 pinch of salt
1- Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a double boiler. When completely melted, stir gently to a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and let cool.
2- Break the eggs, separating the yolks from the whites. Add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them very stiff.
3- Slowly pour the melted chocolate over the egg yolks, stirring quickly with a whisk.
4- Using a wooden spoon, fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate/yolks mixture. Gently add the remaining egg whites, keeping the mixture fluffy and well aerated.
5- Divide the mixture into 6 glasses. Let the mousse set for 3 hours in the fridge. Serve well chilled.
Recipe adapted from "Mousse au chocolat Nestlé Dessert"
According to legend, the brioche was invented in the town of Brie as a pastry filled with Brie cheese. Historically made with baker’s yeast, the brioche was typically made in Paris until the mid-eighteenth century when it began to grow popular throughout France. Today, the brioche is still a favorite French pastry and is made in a myriad of ways. It may be eaten plain or with butter; it is sometimes loaded with preserves or even chocolate.
Although crème brulee is often regarded as a French invention, food experts typically believe this dessert was invented in England. Instead, the French are said to have created crème caramel. Crème caramel is a flan that is similar to custard. The French bake this custard, which they refer to as crème, and then chill it in a mold. Crème caramel is a popular dessert served at restaurants throughout France.
The French have authored a tremendous number of memorable desserts, but these continue to be among their most popular. Chefs have long tried to replicate these delicious treats over time, often adding their own twists to the recipes. Today’s French desserts continue to be celebrated and copied throughout the world.
Cafés and Patisseries on the Sunshine Coast:
A. Flaxton – Le Relais Bressan Cafe and Deli - 344 Flaxton Drive, Flaxton, Qld. Ph. 07 5445 7157
B. Cooroy – Maison de Provence - 9 / 13 Garnet Street, Cooroy, Qld. Ph. 07 5472 0077