Tourteau Fromagé

Tourteau Fromagé

Le Tourteau Fromagé is a French cheesecake, one that I mentioned buying during a recent grocery store trip. “Fromagé” means “with cheese”, and “tourteau” is a variation on the word “tourte”, which means “pie”. I happen to find the word “tourteau” very cute – it puts me in mind of a small cuddly animal for some reason.

It is a specialty from the Deux-Sèvres, a district in the Poitou (South-West of France), and its origins can be traced back to the beginning of the 19th century. It is traditionnally made with fresh goat cheese (but is also sometimes made with cow milk cheese), flour, sugar and egg yolks, in which you incorporate beaten egg whites. The mixture is then poured in a special small round mold lined with a thin layer of pastry dough, and baked in the oven.

The distinctive thing about this cake is that it bears a charcoal-black crust on top, which is obtained by baking it at a very high temperature at first, before lowering the temperature for the rest of the baking time. According to the legend, a home cook accidently burned the top of her cake, but then found out that the charred crust made for a very moist interior and kept it fresh for longer. Some eat the crust, some don’t : I do, Maxence doesn’t. It certainly makes for an unappetizing sight to those who have not yet been introduced to its delights, but that’s one thing I love about certain local and traditional specialties : they may not look pretty, but that’s the way they are, always have been, and if you don’t like it, well… tough!

This cake is such a pride to the Deux-Sèvres inhabitants that there is actually a Confrérie du Tourteau Fromagé, a brotherhood created in 1974 to promote and protect the Tourteau and its traditional recipe. The brotherhood’s signature apparel consists of a yellow shirt (to symbolize the inside of the cake), black pants and a black cape (to symbolize the charred crust), a wooden medallion in the shape of a mini-tourteau around the neck, a tourteau mold tied to the waistband and a hat. Sheer elegance!

I just adore the idea of these brotherhoods founded to defend any and all local specialties. If you’d like more fascinating information about them, I highly recommend Peter Mayle‘s hilarious book “Bon Appétit! Travels through France with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew”.

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    Sounds like a neat dish. I too am a big fan of regional quirky dishes. It becomes an interesting issue, though. If I were to make this dish in Oakland, does that dilute the tradition (by separating it from its regional culture) or add to it? Hard to know

    And I love the Peter Mayle book. Melissa and I read it as a read-aloud (which we do on car trips and the like) a while back.

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Barrett

    That’s a beautiful looking cake. The black and white are a great contrast. It reminds me of those ash baked breads that have an ashy outer layer with beautifully moist bread inside.

  • http://www.supereggplant.com Mariko

    I love the idea of the brotherhoods (or perhaps it is the idea of wearing a cape and a funny hat that appeals to me?). Maybe you should start a chocolate & zucchini brotherhood, dedicated to the perpetual enjoyment and appreciation of food!

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~michaelacavanaugh Michael Cavanaugh

    Bonjour, Clotilde,
    et heureux Fête de St.-Patrick!
    I have just stumbled last week onto your blog & find it very helpful. I especially appreciate the up-to-the-minute restaurant suggestions. My wife Elizabeth & I are coming over to Paris again for Easter, & are looking forward to Aux Lyonnais, and also perhaps Café Fusion. Haven”t been out to Butte aux Cailles for a while. Also to London in June (on the way back to France) & want to try the Red Fort. So, thanks!
    Is it possible to put you onto a few good restaurants you don”t already know? Hmm . . . well I”ll give it a shot. Here are 4, good RQ-P & good basic bourgeois/bonne femme cuisine:
    – Chez Lena et Mimille, 32 r Tournefort (just off r Mouffetard, just far enough off the beaten track to remain undiscovered [I don"t think Patricia Wells even knows about it]); nice little touches, like the dessert (yes, that”s right) of farmer”s cheese, chives & hazelnuts;
    – Au Buisson Ardent, 25 r Jussieu (almost to the Jardin des Plantes); the chef worked with Cagna & Senderens, but the prices are very reasonable;
    – Au Bon St-Pourçain, 10 bis r Servandoni (in the shadow of St-Sulpice), St-Pourçain au compteur along with good traditional food;
    – Wajda, 10 r de la Grand-Chaumière (just off bd du Montparnasse), last time I was there I had terrine de raie et son granité de tomate (delicious, and usually I don”t like skate), perfect 7-hour lamb, and a good fermier St-Marcellin; good selection of 70 wines by the glass and bottle, non-chaptalized & non-filtered.
    I”ve been to all of them at least once during the last year and a half; I”ve been most frequently to Lena et Mimille over the past 9 years, and recently most frequently to St-Pourçain, never a disappointment in either case.
    So, in case you don”t know them already, enjoy!
    A question: I”d like to save some of your recipes, but when I try to copy & paste text, it seems I have no control over my cursor; I can only select way too much or not at all. This must be a feature of your website; is there any workaround?
    Best wishes,
    Michael Cavanaugh
    Los Angeles

  • Molly

    Salut, Clotilde!

    This is my first time posting a comment on your site, but I’ve been following your blog for some time now and have really enjoyed cooking from your recipes. The broccoli-mimolette soup was a big hit (already made it twice!), as were the Gateau de Mamy and the Gateau a l’Orange. Can’t wait to try some of the others…

    I also want to congratulate you on making it into the pages of Gourmet magazine (April 2004). On page 65, Gourmet profiles six food blogs (“Of the thousands out there, these are some of the best,” they write), and yours is one of them. Felicitations!

  • http://foodgoat.blogspot.com ladygoat

    Hmm, a cheesecake … with real cheese, and not cream cheese? Sounds very intriguing.

  • Andree

    Clotilde, what a beautiful photo! I have made goat-cheese cheesecake before, but not like this!

  • Eric

    Now that looks like a very tasty cheescake… and having had various charred items (there was a period when the barbeque was feared…), I’m intrigued by the charred crust. It might look a bit off-putting but the flavour would be very interesting, I’d think. Now, to find regional specialties closer to home that aren’t just another chunk of bison / beef on a grill…

  • Charlotte

    Imagine my surprise tonight when flipping through my new issue of Gourmet magazine, and there you are — a famous blogger! Congratulations ..

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Derrick – Interesting debate! I would probably say that it does neither, it doesn’t dilute or add to the tradition, but that reproducing it in your Oakland kitchen with California goat cheese is a great honor made to that tradition. Think of how that first cook would have felt if she’d known that somebody would retrace her steps, two centuries later and an ocean and a continent away?

    Barrett – I’ve never had bread of that kind : are they a traditional bread from somewhere? And are they actually baked in ashes? Or on?

    Mariko – Love the C&Z brotherhood idea! Would you design and knit capes for us? :)

    Michael – Thank you so much for the restaurant recommendations. I have copied them into my little notebook, and will have to check them out!

    About the copying, what you mention is a bug in IE. As a workaround, you will notice a “print me!” link at the bottom of each entry : this opens a new window with the text in a print/select friendly format…

    Molly – Thank you! I’m very happy to have been mentioned in that article. Out of curiosity, which 5 others have they selected?

    Ladygoat – I think the fresh goat cheese that is used for this cake is the kind with sort of a cream cheese like texture : halfway between yogurt and regular goat cheese, see what I mean?

    Eric – Indeed, a mouthful that includes a bit of charred crust as well as some of the inside of the cake and some of the bottom crust makes for a very interesting mix of taste and texture. But of course, the top crust eaten on its own, tastes well, …charred.

    Charlotte – Thanks for the congrats! :)

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Barrett

    Clotide- I’m not sure of the culture or the story behind the ash bread (which is baked in ash, not made with it), but here’s a recipe: http://www.food24.co.za/Food24/Components/Recipe_Details/0,10439,B0885,00.html

    I’ve had it a couple of times and it’s great.

  • boreal

    I’m so glad you made this post since you discussed buying them, I was DYING of curiousity to find out more, thanks and congrats on the Gourmet magazine promo! Yay! Couldn’t agree with them more.

  • lara in nyc

    clothide – i am a BIG fan of your blog. i really didn’t know what a blog was until a friend directed me to yours.
    i am also a huge fan of tourteau fromage. i searched around for a recipe and wasn’t able to find one. do you have recipe so i can attempt one at home?
    thanks! lara.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Barrett – Thanks for the pointer to that ash bread, it sounds very interesting!

    Boreal – I’m glad this feeds your curiosity, and thanks for the congrats!

    Lara – Here’s a recipe I found on the web that I’ve translated for you. I’ve never tried it, so can’t vouch for it, but it sounds correct. Do let me know if you try it! (Check my conversions page for measurement equivalents.)

    Tourteau Fromagé

    – 260 g flour
    – 120 g butter
    – 250 g fresh goat cheese
    – 175 g sugar
    – 6 eggs
    – 5 cl milk
    – a pinch of salt
    – 1 tsp vanilla extract

    Combine 100 g butter, 200 g flour, the salt and a bit of water to make a pie dough. Let rest for two hours.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese with 125 g sugar and the milk. When this is well blended, add the egg yolks one by one, 60 g flour and the vanilla.

    Beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar until stiff and fold into the goat cheese mixture. Line a greased small round mold with the pie dough, and pour the goat cheese mixture into it.

    Bake at 300°C (570°F) for ten minutes, then at 220°C (430°F) for 40 minutes. Let cool, unmold and serve at room temp or cold.

  • http://thedinnerfortwoproject.blogspot.com even-star

    I have just returned from France and got to try one of these. I love browsing foreign supermarkets! We weren’t too sure at first but it was actually lovely! We expected something more cheesey than cakey. But it is like a very light sponge. Just the thing to go with an apperitif or as an alternative to the ubiquitous breakfast croissant. I am inspired to try making one as they appear to be a French specialty and are not to be had readily else where. But then broad bean flour (apparently the traditional ingredient for the crust) is not particularly widely available either. Though chick pea flour might substitute. We had thought that tourteau might refer to their tortoise like appearance!

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