There are at least six boulagerie/patisseries in our local town (quite apart from the supermarkets). But only one - the artisan bakery - has really good cakes. And on Wednesdays they are shut.
So, when Yvette said let's have tea Wednesday afternoon and I foolishly said I'd bring the cake, that meant making it. As I rarely make cakes, I dithered all morning, wondering if it would be better to go and buy one and finally at the last minute, without much hope of success, flung together an almond and chocolate cake (no flour) that I'd spotted on Pomiane's blog ages ago. It was delicious! So we had seconds.
I wanted Yvette to keep the cake, but she insisted we took the rest home. And I didn't try too hard to dissuade her.
That evening, feeling peckish and knowing that eating dark chocolate that late was risky, I had my third slice of the day. In an email to a friend I said I would be zinging round the house at two in the morning - little did I know!
Tod had been to bridge and as he came back into the cottage we lingered on the doorstep. In the dark, immediately above our heads the cranes were flying over, heading south for the winter. Their cries were so close it felt as if they were skimming the tops of our trees. Which of course was more than Bertie could bear - cranes, in our garden! So he vanished into the night barking at the top of his voice.
Silence, with dogs, is usually an ominous sign. At eleven-thirty, afraid he'd got himself trapped somewhere, I went out with a torch and tramped the garden. And at twelve. And at twelve-thirty. And at one. And at one-thirty. By now I was pretty sure he'd gone AWOL - chasing the cranes in the dark maybe. Vita, ever helpful and only too keen to put him in his place, charged round the garden with me. It was about 2am I first heard him barking - the other side of our electronic fencing. He'd decided it was time to come home but couldn't cross the barrier. That meant Vita had to be lured back inside (to bounce all over Tod who was trying to sleep), so I could turn off the power to the fence and walk the boundary to find him. He came willingly enough to a piece of smoked sausage.
We finally all turned in some time after two-thirty. It was a good job I'd had that third slice of chocolate cake - kept my energy up nicely.
A PS: thank you for your comment Perpetua. You've reminded me that Pomiane felt he had to take his blog out of the public domain (which is a shame as it is an excellent blog) so I hope he won't mind my repeating his recipe here. The cake really is very splendid and as he says, very quick and easy.
Ingredients: 4 oz Butter, at room temperature; 3 oz Sugar; 4 oz Ground Almonds; 4 Eggs, separated; half a teaspoon of Almond Essence; 4 oz Dark Chocolate (Felchlin, by preference, but if not, something like Valhrona or better-quality Lindt) ; 1/4 cup of Slivered Almonds.
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Melt the Chocolate in a double boiler. Once it has melted, allow it to cool slightly, as you get on with the next stage in the recipe.
3. In the food processor, cream the Butter and Sugar together, then add the Egg Yolks, one by one, processing them into the creamed mixture after each one has been added.
4. Add the Ground Almonds, and process in, then add the melted Chocolate and the Almond Essence and again run the processor for ten seconds or so thoroughly to amalgamate everything. Scrape this mixture out of the food processor into a large bowl.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the Egg Whites until quite stiff. Then take a quarter of this Egg-White mixture and stir it into the Chocolate mixture, to lighten it, before folding in the remainder of the beaten Egg White - much like making a chocolate mousse.
6. Grease a 20 cm spring-form cake tine and pour the cake mixture into it, levelling it off inside the tin. Sprinkle Slivered Almonds over the top.
7. Bake for fifteen minutes at 200 degrees C, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C for a further ten minutes. If the Almonds show any sign of getting too dark, then cover the cake loosely with a piece of foil. Check for done-ness with a skewer, and by pressing the surface of the cake (if the skewer comes out clean, and the surface springs back under the light touch of a finger, then it's done).
8. Run a knife round the cake inside the tin, but don't turn it out immediately - leave it to cool down in the tin for ten minutes or so, before removing the spring-form bit of the tin.
I used Carrefour dark cooking chocolate, because that's all I had and I thought the flavour was fine. No doubt with a better quality dark chocolate the flavour will be even more special. I heated the oven to 200C and then turned it straight down to as low as possible when I put the cake in. Even so, I did have to cover the cake part way through. French bottle gas ovens can be very fierce and slow to respond when the flame is turned down. Also next time I'll add Amaretto.
In the 1970's I lived in Brazil and I wrote home to my mother in the UK every week. Those letters became the story of my life there. In 2007 I moved to south west France. Not quite sure where "home" is, I have no family left in the UK. If I did, these words would be my letters home, capturing the first impressions of my life here, to share, enjoy and perhaps re-read in years to come.