12 November, 2010

Autumn notes.

Sophie Hunger's Le Vent Nous Portera (The Wind Will Take Us), with thanks to Delphine; do give the video time to upload.

Apples and walnuts, and all things chestnut.  That's just some of what's in season now.
I've already made my first nut tart, and the thick apple compotes, simmering away on the stove, saturate the kitchen--the entire house--with the warm scent of clove and cardamom.
At the market, I came across artisanal chestnut blood sausage (my daughter took the photo with her new camera, as I chatted with the butcher).  Haven't yet tried this sausage...
I did buy some fougasse, which is to our region what the pretzel is to New York.  The savory version of the Provençal  fougasse can be studded with olives, cheese, onions, or--as here--with bacon.
There were lovely slabs of bread, but also loaves of home-made pâte de coing, or quince paste, which in my mind is best enjoyed as the Spanish do it, with a wedge of good Manchego cheese.  Spain is only a carefree three hour drive away, mind you... 
The jars of honey are out in full force, despite the growing prevalence of colony collapse disorder, with more varietals than you can shake a stick at. I remain loyal to my purveyor.
 At home, there's the return to comfort, in its many forms, a buffer from the highly variable weather.  For a good friend, there's lots of cheer and a mildly sweetened gâteau au fromage, far less dense in texture than a New York cheesecake, but with the similar mild tanginess and a satisfyingly spicy crumb crust.  This is easy to make, easier to eat, and may be just the thing to chase those moody blues brought on by the earlier nights of autumn.  And once she's blown out the (70) candles and we've savored her well-earned dessert, I'll add the photo.  In the meantime, here's how I made it, and how you can, too.

Gâteau au Fromage (My French Cheesecake)

Serves...a whole party.

300 g store-bought graham crackers, McVitie's original digestive biscuits, or Belgian speculoos
50 g ground hazelnuts, or toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoons organic butter, melted
1 1/4 kg (about 5 cups) organic fromage blanc (drained in a strainer for a couple of hours)
1/4 kg thick organic crème fraîche
400 g (2 cups) fine sugar
1 tablespoon organic cornstarch or arrowroot
4 organic eggs

Preheat oven 175C (340F). Grease a 26 cm (10.25 inch) springform pan.  Finely crumble and blend cookies and spices in a food processor.  Add melted butter and blend.  Pour into the prepared pan. Tamp the crumbs down evenly using a drinking glass, then place in refrigerator.  Add remaining ingredients in the (cleaned) food processor and blend until consistency is even.  Pour the liquid mixture onto the chilled, unbaked crust and place in oven.  Bake for at least an hour, or until the edges are a light golden brown and the cake is lightly set (the center should still jiggle).  If the edges start darkening too quickly, place a sheet of baking paper over the cake. The cake will rise puffily in the oven and deflate a bit once removed.  This is utterly normal. For best results, allow to cool completely on a rack, then chill cake overnight before serving.

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