It was about 4 years ago when I took Paris seriously for the first time. Before then, I had always devoted myself to the French capital with some consistency, but with a complete lack of planning. I would experience a short weekend away like a visit to a Funfair: losing myself in the admiration of the many shades of the City, but with a rather passive attitude. I would be pleasantly surprised if I accidentally came across something I had read about and that had aroused my interest, but I never thought about making it a destination in the first place.
It seemed restrictive to have a pre-set itinerary, instead of enjoying what the city would randomly and spontaneously offer. Then one day in the bookstore I saw, printed on the cover of a sizeable volume, the large face, smiling and mocking, of Ducasse busy eating a mini Eiffel Tower with fork and knife … and from that moment, nothing more happened “by chance”. J’aime Paris is the collection, divided by sections, of his favorite marchés, restaurants, boulangeries, bistrots and patisseries in Paris.
All that was left to do was take a map, place a few flags and arrange the routes. This is how I have been experiencing Paris in the past 4 years: running like a hungry Pacman between dots. I spoke in Strade di Parigi (Streets of Paris) of some lovely destinations which have become obligatory spots for me, but I haven’t yet spent a single word on Pain de Sucre. Ungrateful. I waited until summer to do it, because thanks to Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray (young creators of sweet and savory delicacies who spent years under the guidance of tri-starred Pierre Gagnaire) I’ve experienced over and over the taste of sun, the freshness, of flowers, of clean air, of clear sky, even on a cold March day. Rosemary is nobility, purity, elegance; it’s the desire of wearing a silk dress and go out walking on the grass.
And so I waited patiently for the arrival of June, of juicy raspberries and crunchy rhubarb. On a hot afternoon I set the balconies ajar, took my favorite cast iron casserole pan and put it on the stove along with a touch of magic.
1. While it’s not a particularly elaborate dessert, it’s important that some steps are carefully executed. The crème fraiche (easy enough to find in a well-stocked supermarket) must be very cold when it’s being whipped. I recommend placing it in the freezer first for about 10 minutes.
2. Make sure that the crémeux à l’orgeat has solidified before pouring it onto the rhubarb mixture. In addition, only prepare the crémeux once you’ve verified that the mixture is firm because you must pour it immediately onto the base. Otherwise, if left in the fridge, it will coagulate due to the gelatin and it will be difficult to pour.
3. Rhubarb is not easy to find, at least where I live; I expressly asked the greengrocer to get one kg of it for me. With the leftovers I made a few jars of jam. Rhubarb is peeled in the same way as celery, but it’s easier and faster: with a sharp knife, starting from one end, peel down the first layer of skin, the red one. You’ll obtain green stalks, crunchy and rich in water; when raw, the taste reminds a bit that of a Granny Smith apple.
4. This cake is suited to any type of shape. Pain de Sucre makes single portions or slices. Indeed, all three preparations of Rosemary (base, rhubarb mixture and cremoso) can be made separately and frozen, and then taken out of the mold and assembled together. Obviously to do it this way you need three identical molds. Since I didn’t have them, I baked the base in an oval-shaped mold, once cold I took it out and wrapped it tightly with an acetate strip held together with some Scotch tape. I poured the rhubarb mixture onto the base and placed everything in the fridge. Once firm, I added the cremoso all’orzata and put everything back into the fridge. Alternatively, you can do everything in one mold, but you’ll need to freeze the cake before removing it from the mold.
Food mixer or Kitchen Machine with K-beater or flat beater
Round or oval mold (5cm high) or square mold (18cm long and 5 cm high)
INGREDIENTS & METHOD
80 g butter at room temperature
90 g flour 00
40g icing sugar
40g almond flour
2 g fleur de sel
Grated zest of ¼ lemon (organic)
5 g rosemary, finely chopped
For the almond and rosemary Sablé
Finely chop the rosemary and the lemon zest. Add them to the bowl of the KitchenAid and mix them together with the butter and sugar until you obtain a uniform and creamy mixture. Add the 00 flour and almond flour. Mix only for as long as it takes to combine all ingredients together, then turn off the mixer, flatten the mixture onto cling film and put it in the fridge for at least 1.5 hour.
Line the mold with parchment paper and pour the mixture so that it’s about 1 cm thick.
Pinch the base with a fork then put in the oven, pre-heated to 150 °C. Once ready – it should be of a golden color, the time will vary depending on your oven – let the base cool down first at room temperature, then in the fridge.
For the rhubarb, raspberry and rosemary mixture
350 g rhubarb
85g castor sugar
1 branch rosemary
85 g gelatine (approx. 4 sheets)
20 g white chocolate, chopped
Wash the rhubarb stalks, peel them ad cut them into pieces about 1 cm thick. Add them to a casserole pan together with the raspberries, the rosemary branch and the sugar, and cook everything until you obtain a soft and dry enough compote.
In the meantime, place the gelatin to soften in a bowl of cold water, one sheet at the time to avoid them sticking to each other. When the mixture is ready, remove the rosemary and with a hand blender whizz it all together until you obtain a smooth texture. I prefer to use a chinois or a sieve to get rid of any fibers. While the compote is still hot, add the white chocolate and the gelatin (squeeze it well beforehand) and mix it all together. Let it cool down at room temperature, then pour the mixture over the base and put it back in the fridge to firm up.
For the crémeux à l’orgeat
50 g full fat milk
100 g sweetened almond milk
20 g orange blossom water
3 g gelatin sheets (approx. 1.5 sheets)
160 g crème fraiche, it must be very cold
Place the gelatin to soften in a bowl of cold water. Warm up the milk in a small pan, remove from the heat and add the squeezed gelatin, mixing well. Add the almond milk, the orange blossom water and set aside. Whip the crème fraiche like you would do with cream. Once the milk mixture has reached room temperature, slowly incorporate it to the whipped crème fraiche, working with a spatula from the bottom to the top.
Immediately pour the cremoso all’orzata on the rhubarb mixture and put it back in the fridge for at least 1.5 hour.
Decorate your Rosemary with raspberries, rosemary leaves and almonds.