Early one morning Sarah's boyfriend pleads her to be "fair" to the baker and trade her track suit casuals for slacks and a blouse. Uh huh. Personal upkeep is an omnipresent necessity for Parisians, a necessity that foreigners are expected to adhere to as a proffering of "respect" for the scenery. I admit my secret joy upon reading these words, I agree with the Parisians on the importance of personal upkeep as a sign of respect, for I maintain my life-long aversion to the American trend of wearing sweat suits and the like out of the confines of ones home. There is no less comfort in wearing jeans or trousers to stroll the aisles of a market, or sit through an hour long class lecture than there is in wearing floppy gray sweat bottoms. And I can find no need for one to ever wear runners when one is not running, that is why man created leather. No I will not keep my opinionated insecurities to myself, this is my blog. I say Parisian for the city exists in a world of its own; an island floating landlocked and impervious to the vast difference that is the rest of the country. To a Parisian, there are the French, and then there are the Parisians. Regardless of my own style convictions which, I admit, pale and fade in their conservative tones and cuts to the sleek and haughty cotour of the native Parisians, I find style as a rule superficial and insensitive to individuality and personal choice. But who am I to question another culture's inner workings--as the saying goes, if you don't like it, leave. So put some pants on.
Overall Sarah's insights appear helpful; warnings of the difficulties of foreign acceptance, the language barrier (ah oui, I suppose there is a difference between my textbook French and the vrai langue francais), the laundry list of people and places to visit, and the warning of falling madly in love with the entire package: the streets, dogs, people, smells, sounds, and feel.
As a dedication to Sarah, and an admittedly strange gesture of appreciation for my overall liking of the book, I decided to bake a treat that has been on my to-bake list for weeks: Australian Lamington cakes in tribute to the author's homeland. How thoughtful I am, I know.
Lamingtons are defined as any variety of cake--sponge, pound, or butter--cut into cubes, dipped in a chocolate icing, and then rolled in coconut. Traditionally they are served with a creme fraiche or jam sauce, or just plain. The equivalent to French croissant and American muffin, Lamingtons are statically found in coffee shops and bakeries throughout the nation. The confection is often the crux of tea receptions following naturalization and citizenship ceremonies. I henceforth dub said confection the patriotic kiwi cube, as Australian as Apple pie is American. Like most dishes that boast a national sentiment, the Lamington is wrought with an Urban legend as convoluted as any. Word has it that the cake derives its name from Charles Cochrane Baillie, the Second Baron Lamington of Queensland. Mind you the second. How the cake came to his honor is under wide dispute, one account attributes the incident to a government dinner party when Lord Lamington accidentally plopped a piece of cake in a gravy pot, ill mannered as he was, the Lord proceeded to chuck the gravy soaked cube over his shoulder whence it landed in a tin of coconut. The gravy was later replaced by a chocolate icing. Another account attributes the cakes creation to a savvy manor chef, who, overwhelmed by an abundance of stale plain cakes, invented the recipe to make the cake palatable. Still another merely draws the connection to a similarity in appearance with the Lord's favorite style of hat. Nevertheless, what is unanimously agreed upon is the Lamington's disapproval of his namesake pastry, he is remembered for having referred to them as "bloody poofy woolly buiscuits." Mine certainly are quite woolly.
To begin, I awoke early and proceeded with a gluten free batch, and a normal batch. Surprisingly--and undoubtedly for the first time--the gluten free batch surpassed the wheat flour with high marks. The former was an adaption of the recipe by the Kiwi food blogger, Bron Marshall. The later was an anonymous recipe from an evidently non Australian chef, as it broke into crumbly pieces upon its acquaintance with the chocolate icing. The coconut to be used is actually dessicated coconut, which to my naivety is different from shredded coconut. It worked non the less, an added sweetness. Although mincing the shredded coconut would have aided the appearance--less woolly. Bron's recipe was definitely a sponge, as it called predominately for eggs and no butter. The result was a dense, yet airy sponge that yielded few crumbs and held tightly to fork and absorbed the perfect amount of icing. The other, well lets just say I have created a new recipe--Lamington puddding. A clear sign of gluten free superiority.
Gluten Free Lamingtons:
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup gluten free baking mix (I used Pamela's Kitchen)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 3 tbsps butter
- 1/2 cup milk
The wheat flour batch, though a complete disaster, did not go uneaten. After polluting my remaining icing with bits of the crumbling cake, I decided to throw the massing pieces back into the square baking pan of their birth. Already gritty mass that resembled turkey stuffing, I smashed them down bread pudding style, and to moisten mixed milk, melted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar and proceeded to soak. The remaining chocolate icing was then spread thickly on top, and layered with coconut. Refrigerate overnight, pop in the oven the next morning, and voila! You have lovely Lamington pudding for breakfast. Never waste, and never make it look like an accident.
A recipe in honor of an author's homeland--hey whatever inspires. Lamingtons are delightfully simple, and are sure to impress a crowd. Whether or not Sarah's account will hold true of Paris--we shall see. The journalist's experience will be played against the students. Either way await my departure. As of now Sarah and I undoubtedly share a common link, as she states: "On the stress-factor scale, encounters with the French bureaucracy send the needle soaring into the red. Living legally in France requires a breathtaking amount of paperwork, and getting it all in order requires inhuman reserves of patience, not to mention a second life of spare time." Preach it sister, preach it. I need another Lamington, but with milk or merlot is the question.