Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bleu Cheese and Bacon "Cake"

Every now and then something falls into your lap, something wonderful and something that whisks you away to a land of excitement and curiosity. A few weeks ago, Amazon brought me a new treasure. It's made of lots and lots of pages and bound in a cover, it's a blend of tales about Paris. Its titled, The Sweet Life in Paris : Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - And Perplexing- City. It comes to us from the wonderful David Lebovitz. It's been keeping me company each evening as my head hits the pillow. I can't imagine anything better than getting swept up in Parisienne adventures before drifting off into dreamy time land.

David Lebovitz writes in such a real and comical way. He talks to you like a friend and reading his stories just makes you want to know him even more. I have always been obsessed with Paris and most things French. I dream about the day I board a plane and actually travel there. I can't wait to experience all of the lavish sights and tastes. I know I will fall in love. I just know it.

While David L. admits that Paris is amazing, he chooses to mostly write about the quirky and less delightful sides of the city. Referring the french, he writes, When they say, "It does not exist", they mean, "It does exist - just not for you." When they walk right into you on the street and say nothing, they mean, "I'm Parisian, and you're not." When they say, "The Cheeses in France are the best in the world," they mean, "We are indeed a superior culture." Very funny and I'm sure true.

He writes about how the customer service in Paris is horrendous and how the coffee is even worse. He also says that restrooms are nearly impossible to come by and that most of the grocery stores are very hideous, unwelcoming, and inconvenient. He goes into depth about how the french hate to wait in line for anything and will push and shove to get ahead. And you can't touch anything when shopping, at the Farmer's Market, don't even think about handling any of the produce. He mentions how people keep fresh cheeses and stocks in their cupboards because the refrigerators are so small and that hardly anyone has a dryer to go with their washing machine. He also says the french boys and men have very skinny waists.

The book is full of tempting recipes like Dulce de Leche brownies, Fromage Blanc Soufleé, Floating Islands, and Warm Goat Cheese Salad. It's kind of ironic that the first recipe I've decided to make from this famous pastry chef is not something sweet and flaky but something involving bacon and bleu cheese. Bleu Cheese and Bacon Cake. From the first glance at it, I was intrigued. Anyone who knows me even a little knows about my ongoing and eternal affair with cake. I love cake. Love it like crazy. I'd never had a savory cake such as this and it just so happened that I had a party to attend the next day and needed to bring a finger food along. I actually got so excited about baking these little loaves that I went out and bought two new loaf pans that are apparently the big thing right now, they should be for twenty a piece! I also made a variation he offers using chevre and black olives. Just a couple notes about this recipe, I don't know how much I liked the chili flavor. Next time I would reduce the chili powder and not use any salt, the bacon provides all the saltiness you need. Also, my friend Mallory, who I shared a glorious evening and meal of pasta, salad, and the bread cake with later that night thought something spicy would be nice in the bleu loaf, minced jalapenos, etc.

Bleu Cheese and Bacon “Cake”

8 strips (5oz) of bacon or pancetta, cooked to a crisp, grease reserved for later use
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder ( I would use less next time)
1/2 tsp coarse salt ( I wouldn't use next time)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt1
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard (recommended brand: Edmond Fallot)
1/2 small bunch of chives, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup) or scallions
5 oz well crumbled bleu cheese or Roquefort**
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

**To make the bleu cheese easier to crumble, put in in the freezer to firm a bit.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, reserving the grease. When the bacon has cooled, crumble.

Grease a 9-inch loaf pan (I used a 10-inch pan) with reserved bacon grease and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, chili powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, yogurt, mustard and chives until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to stir in the wet mixture, stirring just until the wet ingredients are almost incorporated. (there should be a bit of flour still visible). Do not over mix. Fold in the bleu cheese, Parmesan, and bacon bits until everything is just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour (45 minutes was enough for a 10-inch pan), until the top is golden brown and the cake springs back when you gently touch the center. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then tilt it out onto a wire cooling rack. Peel off the parchment paper and let cool upright before slicing.

Storage: The cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept for up to three days. It can also be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to two months.

Yields: One 9-inch loaf cake
Source: Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz

I recently found myself in the premier local grocery store here in Bellingham and I have to say that since reading this book I've started to look at my friendly little town and clean, welcoming market as little blessings. We all know Paris is the shiniest city around, and as much as I dream of the special place, maybe it doesn't have it going on entirely. I am vowing to find more things to love in my native land and to stop putting Europe on such a pedestal. Maybe we don't have amazing old architecture and culture coming out our ears, but we do have a pretty good way of doing things and life in our lil' country is pretty easy-breezy indeed. Get your hands on this book!


missmallory said...

Loved these little cakes, and I don't even like olives! It was the first time I'd ever had a savory cake, and I was thoroughly impressed. Better than bread if you ask me, but I'm a cake lover! So, when do we get to repeat a dinner on the back deck?

RachelleLouise said...

Miss Mallory, I loved them too but I do think they need a little tweaking. I love the idea of them. You could go so many ways with it, sun-dried tomatoes with chevre and basil! I don't know how I feel about the chili powder component? I say we repeat a dinner on the back as soon as possible!