French cake a week – les sables de caen (with clementine zest)

Les sables au caen

Les sables au caen

In which Claire, who doesn’t speak French bakes her way through the cake section of a French cookbook from 1962. Here at The Ordinary, we’ve fallen way behind in our French-cake-a-week series. O! The angry uproar from our cake-eating fans! Our mailbox is crammed with notes that say, “merde!” and “zut alors!!” Where is our cake?!? Well, fear not! Here it is! We mark our triumphal return with the spectacular … well, the spectacularly simple sables de caen. As you will recall, if you can remember that far back, we had gotten into the custom of writing about films by french women to accompany our french cake a week. This week, the film I’d like to tell you about isn’t really french, and isn’t by a woman. But it takes place in France, and it does concern a woman. It is, in fact, the very last five-minute segment of Paris, Je T’aime, a film comprised of many such segments directed by many different directors, including such notables as the Coen brothers and Gus Van Sant. The film as a whole is very entertaining. Each segment is different, and some are light-hearted and amusing, some are stylish, some romantic, some heavy and dramatic, and one even involves a sexy french vampire. The last section, directed by Alexander Payne seemed completely different from all of these, and held a mysterious power – it felt like a gentle but powerful punch. It was very moving! In music and poetry, they speak of something called a “feminine ending” or a “feminine cadence,” in which a line, phrase or movement ends on an unstressed or “weak” syllable or note. Though it is called “weak,” the effect of such an ending is usually quite powerful, because it is unexpected and unresolved, it leaves you questioning and wanting more. Payne’s tiny movie felt like just such an ending. It was simple, sweet, thoughtful, a little sad, but ultimately uplifting. It was a story told by a seemingly very ordinary woman – a letter carrier from Denver – for her French class. She recounts her trip to Paris in a horrible french accent, and though it’s a very short narrative, and though nothing happens, by the end I was nearly in tears, I liked her so much, and I wanted to go to Paris more than ever. (The link above includes the whole narrative, which works on its own, but is probably better as part of the film as a whole.)

These little cakes are very simple, but quite delicious. They’re more like cookies, honestly, and I think they’d make nice Christmas cookies. They have a lot of butter, and precious little else! The recipe calls for orange zest or any flavoring you’d like, but I opted for clementine zest, because it’s a lovely mysterious flavor, and because that’s what I had! The recipe called for a large, round fluted punch, to cut the cookies. I happened to have ja tiny tart pan (about 8 inches) that I thought would work, but if you don’t have such a thing, you could use any cookie cutter you like, or even a juice glass of any size you like.

Here’s Clementine, by the Decemberists. I love this song!

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Ginger cookies with white chocolate-cassis glaze

Ginger cookies with white chocolate glaze

It has come to our attention, Here at The Ordinary, that there are, literally, a gazillion food blogs in the world. This is a precise number, tabulated in our statistics division. A gazillion. When the field is saturated to such a degree, questions of sustainability arise. In order to “stand out from the crowd,” we have decided to rebrand ourselves. A careful review of the trending of recent posts out of The Ordinary, suggests that “the time is now” for a blog devoted entirely to the analysis of bird gestures. Henceforth, we will conduct a definitive exploration of birdy gestures, from both the scientifical and the poetical angles. If any bird in the tri-state area (any tri-state area!) should snap a beak, pump a tail, flap a wing or move so much as a feather…we will be there. We will head out into the field to become leaders of the field. We will provide in-depth-studies, detailed technical drawings, DIY guides, celebrity interviews, step-by-step instructions, virtual 3-D models, and printable paper cutouts.

I’m joking, of course! Rest assured we will still be firing a recipe at you (almost) each and every day! In the meantime, though, I have been thinking about birds a lot lately. Some time ago, I compiled a list in my head of my favorite bird related movies, birds and movies seem so perfect together – a movie is about capturing light and shadow and movement, and a bird’s whole life seems to be beautifully made of those things! I’d like to share my top four with you now. So, here we go, yo…

Le Poulet, Claude Berri’s ridiculously beautiful short film about a boy and his rooster. It’s joyful and simple, but it’s also incredibly thoughtful – it makes you think! It makes you think, specifically, about how it is harder to be cruel to somebody that you know, that has a name, than to a generic, unknown being. Once somebody (be they chicken or otherwise) goes from being a random, unnamed individual to being a friend – you have to treat them differently.

In Le Samourai, Alain Delon’s pet bird is, oddly, the most endearing character in the film. The title character is so cold and mechanical, he’d be a lesser man without this bird, who seems to represent his soul. I honestly felt more anxious about the bird than any of the other characters.

Ghost Dog. Inspired by Le Samurai. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. Ghost Dog’s pigeons…his home is in their coup, he’s closer to them than any human, and they’re his only contact with people. Beautiful, fragile, and accompanied by some of the best movie music ever.

Kes is surely one of the most beautiful saddest movies ever. The bird is his refuge and his friend. I can’t even watch the trailer without getting weepy!

What are some of your favorite bird-related film scenes?

And your recipe for the day is ginger cookies with a white chocolate cassis glaze. I had a small amount of white chocolate chips left in the cupboard, and I wanted to bake something with them. I thought to myself…white chocolate is very sweet, let’s combine it with something with some bite – ginger! These aren’t like ginger snaps, though…they’re pale and simple, and quite elegant. I decided to mix a bit of cassis in with the white chocolate, because I thought its tartness would be pleasant with the spiciness and the sweetness. You could leave it out, or add the liquor of your choice. Rum goes nicely with ginger! So does orange! The flavors are very nice together. Strangely lemony, despite the fact that there’s no lemon!

Here’s Patti Smith’s remarkably ecstatic birdland
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