Almond cone cookies with almond pastry cream
My second feature was about a girl who needs glasses and (spoiler alert) she gets glasses. Yes, it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller. I can’t imagine why it was never picked up for distribution! Of course it was about more than that. It was about the way girls are seen, about accepting the power to see. It was about the discomfort and joy of growing up. It was about eccentricity and art and sex and advertising and myth. Yeah. When I was dreaming it up, I spoke to the cinematographer about Godard’s Masculin Feminine
, because I loved it, and I wanted my film to look like that and to feel like that. Godard’s film seemed so revolutionary, such a new way of looking at the characters and actors, so honest and self-aware. “Yeah,” said the cinematographer, “But Godard really just put the babes up on the screen.” And of course he was right. The women in Masculin Feminine are gorgeous and fairly stupid, as Godard relentlessly drills home in one uncomfortable interview after another. Of course, this is Godard, so it’s impossible to say if he sees the girls in a certain way, or he’s showing us that we do, or if it’s all the point of view of his conflicted and lovelorn hero. I’ve been thinking about Masculin Feminine so much lately. So much of our lives in America today reminds me of this oddly prescient film, made in Paris forty-seven years ago. The film tells the story of Paul, a moody would-be philosopher just out of the army, played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, and Madeleine, a model who wants to be a singer, played by model-turned-singer Chantal Goya. More than that, it’s about the culture of youth, the sincere, foolish, self-absorbed search for meaning and identity. Godard, who was thirty-five when the film was shot, approaches the subject as an outsider, a documentarian, at once fascinated, amused, and dismayed by all that he sees. The film shows a clash between passionate revolutionary spirit, actual world events, day-to-day realities and celebrity pop culture. The characters are famously described as the children of Marx and Coca Cola. The dialogue is a manic combination of poetry, pop songs and advertising slogans. The world is full of violence, from the first scene, everywhere the kids go random strangers around them are shot or stabbed (and I doubt 1960s Paris was like that, but if you read the news it often feels as though 21st century America is). The intertitles shoot onto the screen with the sound of gunshots, the very words are violent and powerful. And the film is full of words, and the words are muddled and beautiful. Paul is searching for some way to understand the world and his place in it, some way to describe it that he can hold onto, but he realizes as he speaks that this isn’t possible. The world is changing as he watches, he himself changes every moment, and though he’s an insufferably pretentious poser at times, there’s something endearing about his struggle.
He decides that to be honest is to act as though time didn’t exist, and it’s strangely discombobulating to hear him say this in the context of a movie about youth and time passing, to think about Leaud, the actor, as we’ve seen him grow and age on film, to think about how little has changed–we’re still at war, we still reward shallowness over talent, we’re still constantly bombarded by a world for sale. Amidst all the chaos of words and gunshots and advertising jingles, Godard shows us quiet moments of connection and poetry, fleeting but hopeful. Godard has created an eccentric messy portrait of the world around him, it’s complicated, discouraging and ambiguous, but in capturing it he has made it beautiful.
French cone cookie molds
I mentioned last week that we met a nice French couple at the flea market, and that they had a veritable treasure trove of old French pots and pans and other cooking devices. Including these little metal cones. They’re not for bowling, as the boys surmised, but for making cone-shaped cookies. I couldn’t find a recipe, so I made one up! I made a sort of almond shortbread, and then I melted some chocolate and spread that inside and let it set. And then I made an almond pastry cream to fill the cones. These were really good! The pastry cream was a little thinner than I intended, but once chilled it firmed up quite nicely. If you don’t have little metal cones, you could make fan shaped cookies, dip them in chocolate, and serve them alongside the pastry cream.
Here’s Chantal Goya with Tu M’as Trop Menti
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t vanilla
1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 T butter
Process the almonds until quite finely ground. Add the sugar, salt and flour and process again. Add the vanilla and the butter and process until smooth. You should have a soft but firm dough. Wrap in foil and chill for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Butter your cones. Break the dough into 2 chunks. Roll each into a long strip about 4 inches by 12 inches. Cut this into four long one-inch pieces. Starting at the pointy end of the cone, roll the dough around, overlapping itself slightly to make a cone. Press down the edges to seal, but leave the wide hole at the top open.
Lay each cone gently on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Repeat until all the cones are covered. Any left over dough can be cut into squares to make little cookies.
Bake for about 12 minutes, until they’re firm to the touch and golden on the bottom. Let cool, and then wiggle the cones out gently. If you give them a little twist, they should pull right out. Leave to cool completely.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a small pan over a bigger pan full of boiling water. When they’re smooth and thin, spoon a little into each cone, turning to coat, or spreading with a butter knife. It’s okay if the chocolate comes out the edges of the hole. Chill till the chocolate is set.
ALMOND PASTRY CREAM
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 T flour
1 t vanilla
1 t almond extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped till stiff
Put the milk, vanilla, and almond extract in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Whisk well, until the eggs are nice and fluffy, and everything is very smooth.
When the milk has achieved simmering status, and is covered with tiny bubbles, pour about half of it into the eggs in a very thin stream, whisking quickly the whole time. Then pour everything back into the pan, making sure to get every drop of egginess.
Whisk whisk whisk until the mixture boils (a few minutes). Once it’s boiling, keep whisking until it starts to thicken. (Another few minutes) I think the whole process took about 10 minutes for me. It should be very smooth and obviously thick. When it’s done, if you tilt the pan to the side, the mixture will pull away from the bottom.
At that point, pour it into a cool bowl. Cover with foil and place in the fridge until completely cool.
Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Spoon a little of the mixture into each cone. Stand them upright (in a mug, for instance) and chill until set.