Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

I love pound cakes, or quatre-quarts* in French. As a child, I went through a phase of eating Breton pound […]

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Best Baguette in Paris

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Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

I love pound cakes, or quatre-quarts* in French. As a child, I went through a phase of eating Breton pound cake for breakfast day in, day out. I’m talking about supermarket pound cake, baked in long yellow logs and wrapped in soft paper. I liked it on the stale side, so I sliced it in advance, and let it age three to four days. I was an affineur of pound cake if you will.

I only recently discovered the beauty of homemade pound cake, and it has become one of my could-make-it-blindfolded cakes, in rotation with my French yogurt cake.

You know how pound cakes work, right ? You weigh the eggs, and add the same weight in sugar, melted butter, and flour. This means these ingredients each form a quarter of the batter, hence the French name, four-quarters. The English name comes from originally using a pound each of the ingredients, but that yields a pretty big cake. The French ratio allows for more flexibility.

Of course, it doesn’t tell you if you’re supposed to weigh the eggs with or without the shell, and how much baking powder to add. In truth, you can just relax about both. We’re not building a rocket ship; we’re baking a cake. Weigh the eggs with or without, add one or two teaspoons of baking powder, it will be fine. Channel your inner French grandma and do what feels right.

And it is a recipe that lends itself to variations with remarkable grace; my favorite kind of recipe for sure. Today I will share one of my favorite riffs: the buckwheat and chocolat pound cake.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

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Roasted Cauliflower Wedge with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts

Roasted Cauliflower with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts

I want to preface this roasted cauliflower wedge recipe with one of the biggest lessons that having children has taught me, and it is: appreciation.

Appreciation for them as budding humans and appreciation for their amazing father? Absolutely. Appreciation for my parents’ decades of parenting and for my dear friends’ support? Certainly.

But, more selfishly, they have taught me to appreciate many things I used to take for granted pre-kids. Things that feed me, light me up, and make me me, but have been crowded out by other things that feed me in other ways, light me up in other ways, and define another side of me.

It’s all good: chapter of our lives, grow up so fast, next thing you know, moving out of the house, etc.

And the way I see it, I have been gifted with a priceless new perspective that allows me to experience all flavors of bliss when I read three pages of my book at the playground on a Sunday morning (in half-paragraph bursts); when I go over my fantastic flourishes worksheets while they’re coloring next to me (they’re helping me with this Paris coloring book); when everyone is fiiiiiiinally asleep and I tuck my own self into bed with a fresh episode of riveting fiction.

Roasted Cauliflower with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts

And date nights? Oh, date nights! The anticipation, the thrill, the magic of tiptoeing down our staircase and stepping out into absolute freedom, just the two of us, the city our oyster!

Sometimes we delight in having a simple meal at a neighborhood favorite; other times we plan an evening somewhere new and exciting.

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The Best Baguette in Paris

Best Baguette in Paris

The official Meilleure Baguette de Paris competition was held last Thursday, and the 2017 winner of the Best Baguette in Paris award is (drumroll please) Sami Bouattour from Boulangerie Brun, a bakery that’s at 193 rue de Tolbiac in the 13th arrondissement (métro Tolbiac).

The competition is held every year, and it is organized by the Mairie de Paris, the mayor’s office, to spread the word about Paris as a city of fabulous bread — which it no doubt is — and to foster a healthy sense of competition between the boulangers, who strive to improve their craft in the hopes of winning that coveted distinction.

Best Baguette in Paris

How is the Best Baguette in Paris prize awarded?

The competition is held over a single day. The bakers bring in their baguettes in the morning, and the jury spends the day grading them (anonymously) for appearance, quality of the baking, smell, and flavor. About 200 bakers enter the competition every year.

The 14-person jury is made up of other bakers, chefs, journalists, and also individuals who can put their name in and hope to be selected to participate. (It sounds like fun but it is a lot of bread to taste! Your senses and your brain get fatigued quickly when it’s not your profession. But a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure.)

At the end of the day, the names of the top baguette makers are announced.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

What’s in it for the baker?

For the lucky winner, the prize is threefold:

  • First and foremost, it is excellent publicity. The bakery puts a big sign in the window, it is talked about and featured in all the local papers, and bread lovers from around the city (and the world) come in to taste the new Best Baguette in Paris. Once that effect has subsided, locals continue to think of that bakery as the best in the neighborhood, and will favor it over the competition.
  • The winner receives a cash prize of 4000€. Not enough to retire (otherwise the city has just lost its best baker) but enough to buy a new piece of equipment, paint the store front, or maybe take the entire staff to a fancy dinner. (That’s what I’d do myself; excellent for karma, excellent for PR.)
  • Finally, the winning bakery becomes the official provider of baguettes for the Palais de l’Élysée, the French White House, where the lives and works. This means that the Président de la République eats that baguette daily, but more important, it is the bread served for all the official meals with ambassadors and foreign dignitaries. It is not a very large number of baguettes (about 25 a day I am told) but bread is such a central component of the French food culture that it is a very big deal to be THE baker who makes THE baguette served to some of the most illustrious people in the world.

Best Baguette in Paris - Held

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French Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

French Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May in North America. In France, it is the last Sunday in May. (Unless that falls on Pentecost Sunday, in which case it’s the first Sunday in June. Still with me?)

In 2017, Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day on May 14; the French will celebrate la fête des mères on May 28.

If your mother loves all things French, this is the time to pamper her inner Parisienne! You could even surprise her with an encore gift on French Mother’s Day.

French children usually craft some kind of project at school for their maman — most iconically, un collier de pâtes, a necklace made of dried pasta — and graduate to buying her flowers, chocolates, or beauty products when they are older.

Here are some wonderful, high-quality French gift ideas I’ve hand-picked with love so you can tell your amazing mother how amazing she is. And if you’re a new mother, you are fully entitled to buying any one of these for your amazing self, obv.

For even more French-inspired ideas, check out my Best Gifts for the French-Loving Cook! All of them will work as a French Mother’s Day gift.

Bonne fête to Mamans everywhere!

French Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

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Launching My Podcast!

Change ma vie : Outils pour l'esprit

Today is a big day for me, and I can feel the excitement coursing from my head to my toes: I am launching a podcast!

I’m full of surprises, so it’s in French, it is called Change ma vie : Outils pour l’esprit, and it is a fresh and modern take on personal development, managing your mind, and feeling amazing.

This is a side project that I will be running in addition to Chocolate & Zucchini, and I’m telling you about it because I suspect that if you follow me here, it’s also for my mindset and my approach to life, so this is an opportunity to continue the conversation on those topics. But if you don’t speak French and/or this stuff is not your jam, not to worry: we will continue to talk about food around here.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been looking to add more French language into your life, what better way than to listen to me speak French, on a weekly basis, about this other passion of mine? Who knows, you may actually change your life in the process.

So head over to iTunes (or your favorite podcasting app) and subscribe to listen to the first three episodes available today. And if you like what you hear, please leave a review! It is the best way to support this project, and I will be most grateful.

You can also visit changemavie.com to sign up for the newsletter — you’ll also get a free sign-on bonus — and share with any French-loving friend wanting to expand their mind and feel better.

Thank you!

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