6th September 2013, Compiègne, Oise, Picardy.
It’s mid afternoon, I’ve done a lot of cycling and walking around, lunch was hours ago and I’ve got time to kill before my train. Wandering aimlessly down the street, I spot a boulangerie with rows and rows of different cakes and pastries in the window. Two weeks in the depths of the countryside haven’t left me starving, but I have been deprived of cake that looks that good for too long. And so I pass a good ten minutes stood outside the shop debating what I’m going to buy, and no doubt looking seriously dodgy. (It didn’t help that they had names but not descriptions, and I was all set on which one I was going to have when I suddenly realised it looked a bit meringue-y, and went right off the idea!). The shop assistant had clearly seen me because as soon as I came in she moved from the bread till to the patisserie till. She then proceeded to put my Chosen One in a box, and then wrapped the box, and then started trying to put the box in a bag (for anyone that’s seen Love Actually, think Rowan Atkinson when Alan Rickman’s buying the necklace for his secretary, but with anxiety motivated by a need to bite into something sugary as soon as possible, which I think you’ll agree is far more potent than a fear of your wife catching you buying a necklace for another woman…) I made it about a hundred metres down the road, spotted a picnic set by the river, sat down and scoffed it as a flotilla (OK, two) of Belgian pleasure boats sailed by.
And the cake in question? A ‘Succès praline’ (see what I mean about the non-descriptive names? Praline in what form?), which consisted of a very short (as in crumbly and biscuity, not lacking in height!) pastry tart case filled with a hazelnut cream, topped with a cake layer (which, if I must be honest, was the weak point of the whole thing, since it didn’t taste of a lot: I’m not even sure what flavour it was meant to be!), more hazelnut cream, a precariously balanced disc of caramel nut brittle, yet more hazelnut cream and a hazelnut on top. As you can imagine, the main difficulty was how to go about eating it: it basically had to be taken apart, and devoured in alternate bites of base and nut brittle.
The verdict? Pretty yummy: I really liked the hazelnut cream (just as well, because there was a lot of it!), and the caramel disc was delicious, if perhaps a little large: it would’ve passed for a dessert by itself! The pastry was also very good: the only weakness, as I said, was the cake layer, but not for nastiness, just because I had the impression it was a bit of padding to make the whole thing taller and more impressive. But overall, rather enjoyable!