08 May 2018

May holidays, and asparagus pie

This is an odd week in France. Every May is full of holidays here, including two that fall on fixed dates (May 1 and May 8), and two (one a Thursday, the other a Monday) that "float" because they are observed on fixed numbers of days after Easter Sunday. Today is May 8, and one of the Catholic holidays falls on May 10 this year. That means that both Tuesday and Thursday are holidays.

It doesn't matter much to retired people like us, but for people who work, it might be very tempting to take Monday, Wednesday, or Friday off work — or all three — and have up to a full week of vacation that would "cost" them just three days' pay. In the U.S., most holidays were moved to Mondays decades ago, but not in France. I imagine that our local zoo, Beauval, is having a busy week with all these people on vacation, and with the warm, dry weather we're enjoying.

Anyway, Walt went to the market last Saturday and bought a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of white asparagus. Yesterday he made his delicious tarte aux asperges et au jambon for our lunch. This time, he actually used American-style "streaky" bacon in the tart instead of sandwich ham (jambon blanc). We wrapped bundles of asparagus spears in strips of bacon and he baked them in a pie shell with a home-made egg custard flavored with Parmesan cheese. It was a holiday kind of lunch...


  1. …and it was absolutely delicious!

    I know what I am talking about since I tasted Walt’s tarte aux asperges before. I wish I were a little mouse and sneaked into your home when Bertie looked away!

    Coming back to yesterday’s pain de mie, to me it looked more like some kind of pain brioché. I wonder whether there is butter in the regular pain de mie?

    1. All the pain de mie recipes I've seen have butter incorporated into the dough, as well as milk and sugar. The video I linked to shows how it is made by a boulanger who appears with chef/host Joël Robuchon. Pain brioché has the same ingredients, with even more sugar, more butter, and, in addition, either whole eggs or egg yolks.

      See this recipe, for example. It's very similar to what I made. For a video in English, look here. Oh, and here's an American video.

    2. Here's what it says in the Grand Larousse Gastronomique électronique :

      Pain de section carrée ou ronde, caractérisé par une mie dense et blanche et une croûte presque inexistante, utilisé grillé ou légèrement rassis pour réaliser toasts, sandwichs, canapés et croûtons. Fait de farine, de sel, de sucre, de lait, de beurre et de levure fraîche et cuit en boule, le pain de mie ne doit pas être confondu avec le pain brioché, qui est beaucoup plus riche en beurre.

    3. Donc, indépendamment des œufs, c’est la quantité de beurre qui fait la différence entre le pain de mie et le pain brioché. J’essaierai mon pain « japonais » avec du beurre pour voir ce que ça donne en machine à pain.

    4. The French Wikipédia article says:

      Pain de mie domestique :

      Levure de boulanger

      I've been reading about pain brioché and all the French recipes I've found on the internet say it has whole eggs or egg yolks in the dough. One or two people on forums say there shouldn't be eggs in pain brioché, and some say there should be no milk. It's all over the map. It seems to me that maybe there should be eggs in brioche, but no eggs in pain brioché — that's why it's "bread" and not "cake." The added richness of pain brioché might come from putting more sugar and more butter in the dough as compared to pain de mie dough. As with most things, I think tastes in bread and pastries have evolved in France over the decades and centuries. One man on a forum posted what he said was his boulanger grandfather's recipe for brioche but warned people they might not find it as tender or sweet as what they are used to getting nowadays.

      I plan to use your recipe to bake bread in my "Pullman pan" (moule à pain de mie) in a few days.

    5. This past winter, instead of 3 cups all purpose flour, I have used 1/2 cup semolina and 2-1/2 cups flour. The semolina seems to make whatever crust there is a little more crunchy. King Arthur Flour says that flour is more or less dry depending on the season and, consequently, needs more or less water — 1-1/2 cups for three cups flour. I try to strictly follow instructions, but not two loaves are alike. I bake about one and a half loaves per week. The whole cycle is three and a half hours (3,37 to be precise!).

    6. I have a bag of farine de blé dur, and I might use that. I think it's about the same as what we call "bread flour" in the U.S. and might resemble your mix of all-purpose and semolina.

      Here's a British recipe for "loaf bread":

      500 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
      7 g sachet fast-action dried yeast
      1 tsp. salt
      up to 350 ml lukewarm water
      a little sunflower oil, for greasing

      I think "strong flour" is the same as farine de blé dur. We'll see. Your recipe seems to take a lot of liquid for the amount of flour. I wonder if that's because it's a recipe for a MAP (machine à pain).

  2. Looks extremely tasty. You're great cooks

    1. I think we complement each other in cooking styles and methods.

  3. That looks so delicious! 😀

  4. I've used this recipe of yours (regular ham and green asparagus) -- I love it!

    1. It is very good. I think the source might have been TV food show host Julie Andrieu.

  5. My mate Hendrick, who grows mushrooms in a cave in Selles sur Cher and sells them at the markets in Loches and Amboise says Beauval was super busy this week, with motor homes everywhere.


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