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Posts tagged ‘French pastry’

No. 157: Even Burnt Cake!

Yesterday at the Salon l’Agriculture one of the many interesting things I came across was this:


My first thought was, “Yum! A large chocolate globe.” My second thought was, “Is that burnt?”

Turns out I was right on track with the whole overcooked thing. After taking a few pictures and catching the twinkle in the eye of the vendeur, I summoned up the courage to ask him just exactly what the heck those big black, burnt things were. Noticing of course, that I speak French with an accent, he asked me where I was from. When I told him I was from the States, he said, in French, “This is the French version of New York Cheese Cake, the Tourteau Fromagé”, or the Cheese Crab.

cheese crabs….

cheese crabs….

They do look a little like giant crabs, don’t you think? They are also known as Tortue Fromagé (Cheese Turtle) and Tourteaux Fromagé (Cheese Cakes).

I had never laid eyes on a Tourteau Fromagé until 24-hours ago, but already I’m a convert. How is it that the French can even make burnt cake taste good??

The Cheese Crab/Cake is a specialty of the Poitou-Charente region in Southwest France, and not usually found at a boulangerie or a pâtisserie, but rather in a fromagerie—especially those that specialize in goat cheese.

To set the record straight, it is nothing like New York Cheese Cake, but it is a lot like a springy and airy Angel Food Cake, with a bit of tangy sweetness.

The cake’s story is one I can relate to: a harried baker accidently shoved a goat-cheesy gâteau into a blistering-hot oven. She smelled something burning, and opened the oven to find a blackened and hardened crusted cake. Obviously she must have been having company, because she tried desperately to salvage it. She lowered the temperature, crossed her fingers, and hoped for the best. To her surprise, the burnt crust protected the inside of the cake, and her finished creation was a spongy, sweet but slightly tart, absolutely perfect cake.

After sharing one with my family last night, I must admit, it seems like a very versatile creation. You could eat it as a breakfast cake with a café au lait, or at lunch with a little fruit on top, or it would be divine after dinner with some strawberry ice cream, and maybe just a wee bit of chocolat noir. It also seems very well suited for a picnic or car trip as it would take a good deal of force to flatten this crab / turtle en route.


When I asked the vendeur if I should eat the crust, his response was, “Comme vous voulez!” I liked it better without the crust, but admittedly, I ate a slice with the crust. Yes. It tasted markedly burnt. Mais it’s a thin crust, and the inside is most definitely worth tasting.


boulangerie: bakery

chocolat noir: dark chocolate

Comme vous voulez: As you like.

fromagerie: cheese shop

gâteau: cake

mais: but

pâtisserie: pastry shop

vendeur: seller, merchant

No. 121: Profiteroles

Cream puffs filled with ice cream (usually vanilla) and topped with hot chocolate sauce—that is what the French call profiteroles. Supposedly Catherine de Medici (wife of the French King Henri II) was the first to have a slightly more modest version of this dessert, a pastry puff filled with whipped cream, or as we Americans know them, cream puffs.

Over the centuries, ice cream and chocolate sauce were added to make this delicious and cold treat you will find on most French dessert menus.


The first time I lived in France, I took a course on making pate à choux, fell in love with it (mes petits choux) and since then, profiteroles have been a fan favorite chez nous.

choux pastry profiterole

Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that hard. They are brilliant with coffee ice cream and caramel beurre à la fleur de sel sauce. For a savory twist, gougères, I make the choux with different types of cheeses (Comté & Bleu d’Auvergne, j’adore) and fresh herbs.

If you want to make Géraldine’s yummy recipes, click the links below:





caramel beurre à la fleur de sel: buttered caramel with sea salt

chez nous: at our house

gougères: savory choux pastry mixed with cheese

j’adore… I love…

mes petits choux: my little cream puffs (a term of endearment not just for pastry)

pâte à choux: a standard puff pastry that can be either sweet or savory, literally cabbage dough; also know as pâte à chaud (heated dough)