Friday, March 19, 2010

Cakes and other sweet things

Canelés from Bordeaux
Photo Wikipedia

The French have a serious talent for making cakes, cookies, pastries.... whatever! I have made a short personal selection of my favourite local specialties. Enjoy!

Canelés from Bordeaux Let's start with the famous canelés that you find every where in Bordeaux and around. They are made with pancake batter, but with vanilla and dark rum added... d e l i c i o u s.  The mixture is put into small copper molds with a caracteristic wavy shape, and baked at a very high temperature, which makes the surface crispy while the inside is still soft and a bit chewy. The best are said to come from the bakery Baillardran. The French eat them at all times, as dessert, as a snack, for breakfast... A recipe if you want to try on you own!

Inside a canelé from Bordeaux
Photo Wikipedia

The canelés exist since the 18th century, but became very popular again the last years. Today you even find them in some bakeries in Paris for example. 

During the winification process many wineries use egg whites to clear the wine, which of course means they have many egg yolks left. Incidentally the canelé recipe contains a lot of egg yolks!

Tourtière from Dax

Tourtière from Dax: Tourtière is a cake that doesn't look much at a first glance. Pretty flat, made of flaky pastry and decorated with either apple slices or dried plums. Don't pass it without trying! The pastry has been worked in several sessions, folded houndreds of times. But the most important ingredient is the armagnac that is poured on top! Try it lukewarm with a little vanilla icecream. Heaven. I buy mine at La Tourtière in Dax.

And if you want to do like the locals, you cut the cake using scissors instead of a knife!

Gâteau Basque with black cherry jam filling

Gâteau Basque: A classic! The cake pastry contains almonds and the filling is a kind of jam, usually a jam made with black Itxassou cherries or a thick vanilla cream. A recipe.

Gâteau russe in Sainte-Oloron: You only find the real gâteau russe in Sainte-Oloron at the Artigarrede bakery - and their affiliates in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Pau. The recipe is kept top secret. Many try to copy it, but according to the rumour, no one has succeeded so far. The cake got its name after the Russian tsar that liked it so much it had to be sent by special post to him in Russia...  It is made with two featherly light cake parts made with hazelnuts and a butterbased fluffy filling with almonds. A sweet dream, to be taken in small parts.

Gâteau russe from Sainte-Oloron

Gâteau russe aux noix

Macarons from Saint-Jean-de-Luz: Irresistible! Sweet, so you won't eat that many each time, but really the best! They look like cookies, crispy on the outside and soft and a little chewy on the inside with a distinctive taste of almonds. There are many versions all over France, but all are made with almonds, sugar and egg whites. The difference in quality is about the almonds. In Paris you will often see them put together two and two with butter cream or chocolate cream.  Here we eat them "nature", with a cup of coffee.

Macarons from Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Best place to buy macarons, according to reliable sources, is Macarons Adam. According to the legend, Adam offered his macarons to the king and his future wife Marie-Thérèse in 1660. They loved them and so started a successful history of making macarons.


  1. I could kill for gateau basques or canelés (I see you're struggling with the spelling, it takes only one accent, on the second 'e'), although I've rarely (never) had a canelé that was good and not made in Bordeaux or by my mom.
    Same thing for gateau basque, never really had a very good one out of Pyrénées Atlantiques or the Landes.

  2. Hi David! Often when I write a post I start with something I know and appreciate - like canéles - and then I do some quick research on the Internet to check some details. Concerning the canelès I learned that many in Bordeaux spell them cannelès, but that the spelling canelés went further back to the original gascon word, and today is the official spelling. But I still didn't spell the word right... which is probably because I spelled it like I pronounce it... so anyway, thank you very much for correcting me. I will also correct my pronounciation!

    And also, I could kill for any of these pâtisseries...

  3. Hey, I love your site -very helpful. I am workin on a project on Aquitaine, and part of the requirements is to bring in something, food-wise, that I have made. Do you have any other recipes?


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