Honeymoon part 2: Lyon
... and a Tarte aux Pralines
Lyon is a beautiful place - I actually enjoyed my visit there even more than Paris. I guess it was the relaxed atmosphere; it was supposed to be a holiday after all!
When we stepped off the train from a rainy (but warm) Paris, a wall of 33°C heat hit us. I was still wearing a leather jacket, and didn't take it off until we reached our apartment; I guess you can take the boy out of London ...
Our first outing was to a place that I'll remember for the rest of my life - to eat at, and meet with, the legendary Paul Bocuse. A lot of people complain that PB's flagship restaurant is stuck in the past - well yes, it's the epitome of classic French cuisine; but so what? That's exactly what we'd come for, and it was brilliant on every level. I can normally roll with the best of them in the gluttony stakes; but Paul Bocuse truly managed to finish me off. The words "here are the dessert trolleys - have whatever you want" should never be said to me.
The next day, we visited Bernachon to try their signature President cake and Palet d’Or chocolates (likely the best chocolates I've ever eaten), then walked to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse for even further treats (and a spot with the famous Mrs. Sibilia).
That night, sadly our last in Lyon, we visited Le Café des Fédérations. On one hand it was the polar opposite of Bocuse; classic Bouchon food ... but in terms of enjoyment (and richness), it was almost as good.
While my sweet memories of Lyon will be the Palet d'Or and multiple Baba au Rhum, the recipe I've chosen for this part of the blog is probably the most classic Lyonnaise dessert of all; Tarte aux Pralines.
It's made of special red-sugar-coated almonds that you can pretty much only find in Lyon, melted and mixed with cream in a sweet pastry case. The recipe is simple so, if you can find them, grab a bag and give it a try.
Ingredients (makes 1 shallow 28cm tarte or a deeper 20cm one)
Sweet pastry case
- 250g Plain flour
- 75g Icing sugar
- 120g Unsalted butter
- 2 Large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons of cold water
- Pinch of salt
- 200g Lyon pink pralines
- 300g Double cream
Step 1: Make the case
Weigh out your butter and let it sit to come up to room temperature. Take the plain flour and gently mix with the icing sugar and salt on your work surface.
Make a well in the centre, and drop in the butter. Start to rub the butter into the flour/sugar mix with the tips of your fingers, gradually drawing in all the mix until you get a crumble-like texture.
When the butter is evenly distributed, make a well in the centre again and this time add the egg yolks and water. Mix with your fingertips again, drawing the mix in, and lightly pressing the ingredients together.
Try not to knead or heavily mix the ingredients, as you'll end up with pastry that shrinks when cooked. The point you should reach is when the mix looks yellow, but may not "come together" like a normal dough (in other words, it will be quite short).
Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
When ready to prepare the case, take a sheet of cling film and lay it on your work surface. Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap and place in the centre of the cling. Use a rolling pin and roll out to a circular shape by rolling and quarter-turning the cling as you go. If you have a normal cling film, it will be about 30cm in width, so your pastry should come a touch over the edge. What we want is enough pastry to go up the sides of the flan ring, then very slightly over the top.
Line a baking tray (at least 30cm x 30cm) with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Take a 28 cm flan ring (don't use a tin; a flan ring produces much better results, especially on the base) and place this on the paper.
The next part is a bit tricky. Sometimes, if the pastry is still cold enough, you can just invert it with your hands or rolling pin and drop this onto the flan ring. Otherwise, you can take the flan ring, place it on the pastry and then invert the whole lot at once, placing it over the greaseproof paper.
Either way, you should now hopefully be able to gently push the pastry into the base of the ring easily, as it's still coated in cling film. Push the pastry up the sides, and roll the little extra over the top so that it's outside the ring. Some people will trim the pastry with a rolling pin at this point; but I like to trim it after baking - just in case it has been slightly overworked and tries to shrink during cooking.
At this point, turn your oven to 170°C and put your baking stone in place (a pair of flat, stacked trays would also be fine if you don't have a stone). Remove the cling, prick the base of the case with a fork, and place this into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Bake the case and make the filling
After 30 minutes have passed, take the case out of your fridge and carefully slide this onto your baking stone or trays in the oven (a baking peel makes this much easier). Remember to leave the greaseproof paper on the bottom!
This will take 25 minutes to bake; while you're waiting, make the filling.
Your pralines will come in a bag, and we need to crush them slightly - so batter them with your rolling pin. It's likely your bag will burst, so be careful.
When every praline has been smashed at least once, transfer to a heavy-bottomed pan and pour in the 300ml of double cream. Place this on a medium heat and place your thermometer in there too.
Gently stir the mix from time to time. When the temperature reaches 100°C, stir more constantly to get the red colour to come out of the sugar and blend with the cream. When the temperature reaches 104°C, remove from the heat and poor into a clean bowl.
This won't set too quickly, so leave it there until needed.
When your pastry case is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. After it has cooled, use a small sharp paring knife to carefully make a straight edge on the pastry case. At this point, you should be able to gently spin the flan ring and carefully lift it off. There will probably be some pastry trimmings inside the case, and you'll want to get rid of these - so just use a pastry brush to get them to one side and flick out of the case (remember that the pastry is short, and therefore fragile - don't be too aggressive with it or the walls will collapse).
At this point you can pour your filling, which should still be relatively liquid, into the case. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon, then transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes.
Cut a slice, pour a coffee and get yourself ready for the sugar rush!