French pastries made in Euskadi
Yes, winter is here and all I want to do is stay inside, mentally fast-forward to spring and think about what will help me going through those cold months. And by helping me going through winter, I mean savouring French pastries!
Living in the Basque country (Euskadi means Basque Country in Basque language) on the southwest coast of France near the Spanish border, I am lucky enough to have a large amount of choice in unique pâtisseries! Some of these wonderful desserts can only be found in the region. If you are ready to dribble all over your keyboard, let’s start with le gâteau basque, a must-have if you are visiting the area.
Warning: a single slice of this crusty-yet-smooth cake will make you want more. That is if you like almond-based flour cakes loaded with a rich pastry cream or black cherries. And who wouldn’t?
The cake was born and transformed over time in the small village of Cambo-les-Bains, about 30 minutes inland from the Atlantic coast. This is the typical story of a 17th century woman selling bread and cakes at the local markets. She passed on this precious recipe to her granddaughters who in turn passed it on to a local pâtissier thus transmitting the cake for generations.
If you’re not that keen on crème pâtissière or black cherries, how about indulging yourself with macarons from Maison Adam?
These unusual macarons from Saint-Jean-de-Luz are not the emblematic French macarons you are thinking of. At first glance, they look like they may have been crushed by the side of a fist. However their smell and delightfulness will prove you once again that everything that is handmade is truly amazing.
Even though the recipe evolved through generations and technology, the macarons from Maison Adam are still handmade every day according to the ancestral tradition, hence their irregular and imperfect shapes. So what is the secret of these round almond-mixed pastries? I am sorry to tell you that it is still well kept within the family. You will probably never know unless you are a taster goddess who can replicate any recipe.
Chocolats de Bayonne
Local chocolates from the region are also definitely worth trying out. Go to Bayonne and check out the many chocolate shops, like l’Atelier du Chocolat where you can sample a few.
Bayonne has been called the chocolate-making city for 500 years, since Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition brought cocoa beans to the region, making chocolate the new pride of the Basque Country.
You can even find chocolates with piment d’Espelette – chili from a village of the same name nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees and known worldwide for its chili production.
Now, have you found at least one of each of these tasty sweets? Good. Sit down. Relax, cover yourself with a blanket and turn on your favorite classic French movie. I guarantee your winter months will be a lot more bearable.
What are your favorite French pastries? Let us know in the comments below!All photographs © Marie Nicolas.