24 December 2010

Christmas Eve at the French Bakery

This is becoming a tradition 
Inside the local French Bakery (Trompeau French Bakery) on the morning of December 24th, is a wonderful place to be. The line of customers is long and friendly. The smells delight and the choices abound. Behind the counter, three of the familiar faces I see on my regular morning visits are gathered together rapidly serving customer after customer. All the bakers are here as well. This morning they are all needed - the place is hopping. 
Talk is lively as customers pick-up special orders and the staff calls out what is due fresh from the ovens in mere minutes. A glance is given to the first customer at the counter as if to say it is worth waiting for. The rest of us in line relax a bit as we realize we are truly in no rush. I hear the names of familiar pastries being called out; cakes, quiches, tarts, breads and other specialty items made only this time of year. It is Christmas. 
By the time I get to the counter I have no idea what will be left for me to bring home, it really makes no difference, here is the one time when I am certain of the phrase it is all good. Then I saw it. The lone cake sitting on the rack behind the glass display with a small sign labeling it "Cannelés $1.50". Could it be? I hadn't seen one since I was in France in July. I requested the tiny cake as if I was asking permission to take it home. 
I found this description of a cannelés online: "These exquisite little cakes with origins in Bordeaux are simple elegance defined. The crepe-like crust, turned crispy by burnt sugar, houses creamy custard, moist and rich. A prime example of French mastery of pastry, these wonderful treats are both refined and sinfully good." I couldn't have described it better myself. 
When you are in France, in the medium to large cities, you will likely come across a bakery or sandwich shop offering a lunch meal combination. You will have your choice of a sandwich, canned soda, and a desert - if you see these cannelés, make one your selection. If you see them in a fine bakery, for certain, make one your selection. 
Why not throw in one of these while you are at it - a French macaroon (they are not made of coconut). From the best bakeries they are delicious, light and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. 
Or in the morning with an espresso try a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant). 
Wow, it is all good. Merry Christmas Eve!