Monday, February 18, 2008

Le Temps des Cerises

In the middle of winter, something of a promise that le temps des cerises is yet to come.

Say cherries and chocolate. Now imagine Alice and her cake. A door opener, something to crave, that box facing Pandora. We went out to the Auvergne to see Aude and Seb's new baby, and for a change of air. Inside the farm house, there is a little newborn, a head still covered with fuzz. We are sitting under the eaves. Aude hands her to me. The baby smiles. I repeat to myself 'It's just gas', but deep inside I think this baby likes me. The connection is a little bit shocking when I look deep into her eyes.

Aude puts her hand on my arm and poses a question that provokes me to cry. She asks me to be the baby's Godmother. Loic and Seb are looking on and one of my tears drops on the baby's face. All I can think of is Little Bunny Foo Foo. "Then Doooowwnn came the Fairy Godmother!" The child is three weeks old and they put her in my arms, and ask if I will accept to be her Godmother. Does life get any better?

I imagine that I will take this little girl out for a snack in the afternoons when she gets to be old enough to sit politely at the table. But since she is only three weeks old, I give you a recipe for a dessert on the menu at a little gem called l'Épicerie, which is a bar a tartines in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon, back in the narrow streets behind rue Mercière.

When I discovered it, I was enchanted at once. It is one of those cozy little secrets, you know the ones. Now that the new law has put an end to the high school kids smoking there, parents have begun bringing their (well behaved) children in the afternoon. What a treat it must be for them. The place is a feast for the soul. Childhood memories of the fairy godmother kind are being made every afternoon there.

One must begin with the serving dish for this dessert. Since cherries come out in June, extend a happy salute to the idea if not the memory of putting up nice little cozy jars of cherry preserves, and the advent of summer, Le Temps des Cerises. So begin with little jelly or jam jars. Whichever ones you have available. The jars I used were the smallest available, and contain enough room inside for about 3/4 cup, when filled to the brim. Opening the jar is part of the experience of eating this dessert.

Le Temps des Cerises, a house dessert from the bar a tartines called l'Épicerie, in Lyon.

Note on the alcohol: You can omit it if you think that a couple of teaspoons of it per serving will cause damage, but be reminded that there is very little in the end product, after all. The flavor does add to the experience.

Enough pain d'épices or any kind of spice cake, including speculoos, classic gingerbread, a peppery ginger seasoned spice bread or maybe even crumbled ginger snaps or molasses crinkles to cover the bottom of 6 of these small preserves jars.
A jar of cherries preserved in eau-de-vie (from which you will spoon out 2 dozen), or a mix of 3/4 of a cup of cherry jam with 4 Tbs. cherry liqueur.

For the layer of mousse au chocolat:
one 6 oz. bar or 200 grams of dessert chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 cup or sugar
7 Tbs. or 70 g. butter
a pinch of finely ground salt

For the crème Chantilly:
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. Kirsch

- Layer the bottom of the jar loosely with the pain d'épices or cake. Don't pack it down.
- Mix the vodka or eau-de-vie with the jam, and drizzle four heaping teaspoons of the mix over the pain d'épices or cake in each jar. If you are using the cherries in eau-de-vie, add two or three cherries to each jar, scooping them in with a spoon to soak them with a bit of juice.

Prepare the chocolate mousse:
- Separate the eggs and whip the whites in a big bowl.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water in the bottom.
- Remove the bowl of chocolate and butter from the heat and add the yolks and sugar. It will thicken.
- Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites.
- It will be the consistency of an airy cake batter. Transfer about 1/3 cup of this mousse into each of the jars over the spice cake and spiked cherries.

Make Chantilly:
-Whip up some heavy cream with the 3 tablespoons sugar until it is stiff but not butter!
- Mix in the Kirsch at the last moment.
- Dollop enough Kirsch scented Chantilly into each jar to fill it.

Add a cherry on top if you are using the cherries soaked in eau-de-vie. Shut the jars and refrigerate them until served. You can prepare them a day in advance.

Even though this dessert is simple and requires no skill in the kitchen whatsoever, I promise you your guests will be astounded by the beauty of it. But don't eat too many, or I may have to turn you into a goon.

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Blogger Tace said...

It sounds like you had a lovely day becoming fairy godmother to the baby!
And those desserts, I just love the serving method. Individual little jars, what a treat it would be to open, I bet it smells heavenly.
Thank-you for sharing the recipe!

12:14 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger davidL said...

I just made the world's worse pain d'epices (which was someone else's recipe), but unfortunately I don't even think a dollop of cream or some cherries soaked in eau-de-vie could save.

So I'll just eat the cherries instead!

12:24 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thank you Tace! Try the recipe, you won't be dissapointed!

David, I was thinking that your recipe for Fresh Ginger Cake that you sent in an e-mail to your subscribers in December would be just perfect for this dessert.

12:52 PM, February 18, 2008  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

Oh. My. Goodness. This sounds like foret noir without the chocolate- absolutely yummy!

Looking forward to cherries myself- here's hoping there are no little worms this year! bleh.

8:59 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger Loulou said...

What a beautiful dessert Lucy!

That little girl is incredibly fortunate to have you as her godmother. I can just see the two of you when she is older in a little salon de thé, enjoying dessert together.

8:54 AM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Francine said...

I can confirm that this is indeed delicious!!!!

3:41 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Gina Louise said...

That's one of my favorite places in Lyon- I take everyone who comes to visit there. Sigh. I love the mismatched placed settings and the quirky table arrangements. If I could live there I would. Actually, my secret dream is to acquire a set of dishes like theirs, completely mismatched but lovely. I should really take myself over there for lunch some day this week...

8:11 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Cheryl, what you said but with the chocolate!

Thanks Loulou! I aappreciate your warm sentiments.

Francine, Thanks! Please come again!

Gina Louise, I should have known you would have already picked out this place as one of your favorites. The mismatched plates and cups, the pot bellied stove, the backlit shelving, and all of the wonderful things on the walls... Now all they need is wifi!

10:18 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger LloJo said...

Ooh I'm jealous, now that I can see what those cherries were for! You make it all sound so effortless... I think I need to go to Epicerie pronto!

8:15 PM, February 20, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Jo, my dear, lets share this treat together.

7:16 PM, February 26, 2008  
Blogger Don McNulty said...

My wife and I will be in Lyon at the end of May and this blog is a wonderful find for us, thank you so much Lucy.
Bev & Don McNulty
Coquitlam BC Canada

1:47 AM, March 07, 2008  

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