french themed - ooh-la-la
by Sasha Soren
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In the prologue of Random Magic, we meet a whimsical and endearingly vain French countess, Lady Witherspoon, who happens to be the chatelaine of one of England’s stately homes.
Far from her native Paris, the displaced aristocrat brings a little joie de vivre, outlandish fashion, delightful sweets and mildly eccentric company to her immense, gloomy home.
Ever the charming hostess, she’s unruffled by the intrusion of a chaotic group of visitors who’ve assembled in the castle’s library in the wee hours after a call for help is sent.
Of course they must be made comfortable and have some midnight tea, made up of the very best tasty things to settle their nerves:
Tony settled himself lazily into one of the overstuffed leather chairs by the fire, and waited for the figurative curtain to go up. An unexpected guest, a dark, gloomy night, and a story, into the bargain.
Absolutely ripping, this. And tea.
Knowing Lady Witherspoon’s bent for hospitality, it wouldn’t be just some shriveled watercress sandwiches and an old biscuit, either.
Oh, no -- there’d be lovely buttery cranberry scones, stems of dark chocolate and miniature blood oranges; plum jam, hot crumpets, and savory cheese tartelettes. He was salivating already. “Go on, girl,” he said expansively, “we’ll hear you out. Tea coming, as well.”
What could be more delightful for a lazy afternoon brunch on the day after, once everything’s been settled amicably and the story told and mostly everyone -- although not all -- find their happily ever after?
One of the items on the menu would most definitely be something simple and delicious. Something, perhaps, like…baguettes, a simple bread at once famously French and simply delicious.
Crunchy and salty on the outside, light as air on the inside, a baguette and some fresh fruit with a bit of cheese and wine can easily make a whole meal and a tasty repast, especially for a summer picnic.
So, let’s have it! Here’s a lovely and simple recipe for baguettes, from a cookbook by French food writer Mireille Guiliano:
These 18-24-inch wands of French bread are as much a symbol of France as the Eiffel Tower. And while French women don’t often have need to bake them today, when they are for sale on almost every commercial block of every town and city, there’s no substitute for the intoxicating aromas of freshly baked bread at home. Good baguettes should be crusty, moist and slightly chewy and, of course, flavorful. And they are amazingly easy to make.
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
In a small bowl dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water using a fork.
Set aside for 10 minutes.
Combine flour and salt. Add yeast mixture, stir in remaining 1½ cup water.
Mix until sticky enough to knead.
Knead for 6-10 minutes; dough should be sticky and smooth. Put in a bowl, cover with a damp tea cloth, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.
Punch down and divide into 4 pieces.
Roll each into a ball and shapem into a baguette. Transfer to slightly greased baking sheet (I use a special baguette-shaped baking pan) and let rise until nearly doubled).
Brush with mixture of one beaten egg and one TB water. Score.
Pour two cups of hot water in a pan and place in preheated 450°F oven.
Bake the baguettes for 15 minutes then lower temperature to 400°F and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.
Remove and cool on a rack before slicing.
Serving: Makes four baguettes
Source: Mireille Guiliano
Video: Mireille discusses her book, French Women for all Seasons
And here we have a quick, five-minute video clip, if that’s even easier!
That’s all delightful and will make for a fun summer picnic or breakfast.
Ah, but back in our prologue to Random Magic, and Lady Witherspoon’s frantic midnight guests, what of them?
What happened and whatever was the answer to the vexing mystery presented?
A difficulty, perhaps -- but a mere bagatelle, for someone as cool-headed and unflappable as the enigmatic Frenchwoman.
Her solution, as with all things, is charm, resourcefulness, courtesy and patience. For all her guests, even the hot-headed and temperamental ones, must of course be served delightful food and delightful conversation, and somehow it will all come out fine in the end.
As if…by magic.
More about Random Magic
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by Sasha Soren:
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Guest post created for Books&Brioche event by Sasha Soren, author of Random Magic
© 2011. All rights reserved.
by Sasha Soren
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by Santa Montefiore
-a light read
perfect for a day at the beach or a picnic
A neglected garden.
A cottage that holds a secret.
A mysterious Frenchman (handsome, naturally).
A family in need of some love.
It begins as Miranda and David Claybourne move into a country house with a once-beautiful garden. But reality turns out to be very different from their dream.
Then an enigmatic Frenchman arrives on their doorstep. With the wisdom of nature, he slowly begins to heal the past and the present. But who is he? Wise and winsome, The French Gardener is a contemporary story told with an old-fashioned sensibility steeped in the importance of relationships and the magical power of love.
Win a copy of this book!
Open to all.
Offer ends: August 31, 2011
Visit Random Magic A to Z at Snowdrop Dreams of Books and tell us which alphabet letter tidbit captures your interest.
AND, leave your email (if I don't already have it)
Contest has ended - winner is here
* image sources lilacs
* must say, i'm partial to the letter V