The charm of summer in Médoc is the lack of crowds on the beaches and in the forests. Our environment feels untouched and its inhabitants are glad. Locals love how detached Médoc is from the rest of France – some say that true Médocain character has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. They are raw, earthy and true hunters at heart. I really feel we are in a very special place here, far away from the rest of the world. May it stay this way forever.
When I want to reconnect with civilization, I go to Bordeaux (I will give you a little tour of Bordeaux next month) which is an hour and a half away by car. And for some charming sea-side culture I love going to Cap-Ferret (an hour away from here) which has all the key elements to make me happy – the charming oysters ‘cabanons’ (huts) where you can sit and eat the freshest oysters and drink white wine with your feet in the water, the perfectly shaped white dunes and big waves of the Atlantic ocean, pine trees perfuming the air, Vichy print dresses from Popie’s, the mussels filled with sausage meat and garlic at ‘Chez Hortense‘, the dune of Pyla, the bassin of Arcachon. It’s also where I love buying espadrilles for my kids – the choice is amazing.
Every summer I discover something new. Something that will mark my memory forever, like a beautiful shell found on a beach or a restaurant discovered on a hill with the best risotto ever (like ‘Da Priori’ in Marque, Italy). Well, summer is still not over, but I have to tell you about the ‘dunes blanches’ I ate last week. They are exquisite little ‘chouquettes’ filled with chantilly cream, a ‘spécialité’ from the boulangerie ‘Chez Pascal’ (46 Route du Cap Ferret 33950 Lège-Cap-Ferret) in Cap-Ferret. Chouquettes (sugar puffs) are sold in every bakery in France, but Pascal’s version with cream is a true delight. When they open in the morning, there’s already a five meter queue. Need I say more?
As I am a totally food-obsessed, I couldn’t wait for a new day to start so I could recreate these creamy gems as fast as I could. So here’s the recipe, to be treasured.
Ingredients (makes 20 large chouquettes or 30 small chouquettes)
250 ml full-cream milk
200 ml water
250 g butter (room temperature)
250 g plain flour (sifted)
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp fine salt
140 g small sugar grains
For the filling:
200 ml whipping double cream
50 g icing sugar
To make the ‘pâte à choux’ (choux pastry)
In a large saucepan, mix milk, water, caster sugar, salt and butter and bring to a soft boil. Take off the heat and add flour in one go. Mix well until dough is smooth. Return to heat for 1 minute stirring constantly – this step is called ‘drying’ the batter. The dough should be sticking off the pan and forming a ball.
Take off the heat, and add one egg at a time, making sure to mix in each egg in the batter.
Preheat oven 180 °C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the ‘pâte à choux’ dough in a pastry piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe medium (6cm) or small (4cm) dome shapes. Sprinkle with sugar grains. Depending on size, bake for 30-35 minutes for medium size, or 20-25 minutes for small size. Check on them gradually, they should be golden and puffed. I always eat/try one before taking them out to be sure they are perfectly cooked in the center. Set aside and leave to cool completely.
Whisk cream until stiff, add sifted icing sugar halfway. When all the ‘choux’ are cool, make a small slit in the base using a stick. Use pastry bag with the smallest nozzle tip and ‘inject’ each ‘choux’ with the cream (approx 1 tbsp per choux). Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.