Sunday, April 22, 2007

Edible souvenirs: financiers

I have a new favourite cookie, the financier. According to Dorie Greenspan, author of Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops, these rich almond cookies were created for 19th century Parisian stock brokers and baked to resemble bars of gold. They are so flavourful because of beurre noisette, sweet butter that is cooked until essentially burnt, deep brown and nutty. You can see those lovely dark flecks baked into the cookie.

Unlike my past shopping habits which would have focussed on shoes, and perhaps sweaters, my souvenir purchases from France consisted entirely of cookbooks, pastry supplies and a few culinary ingredients. In the neighbourhood around Les Halles, a concentration of food equipment and supply stores exists and undoubtedly, I could have spent a small fortune there. Because luggage space was at a premium, my purchases were limited to items which I knew were either hard to find or much cheaper than in Canada, such as silicone molds for financiers, madeleines, and cannelés.

My practicum is going well despite my usual anxieties regarding new surroundings. The most challenging aspect has been trying to fit in to an all-male crew which is an eclectic mix of strong personalities. Even though the girls were vastly outnumbered during my Ophthalmology residency, the gender difference in the pastry kitchen has been more pronounced and from what I have heard and read, my experience is not unique within the food industry. Luckily, with a relaxed attitude and some self-deprecating humour, I am starting to feel more grounded. I have even received a new nickname "Dr. Chocolate", a combination of my old and new professions.

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