In which Claire, who doesn’t speak French, bakes her way through the cake section of a French cookbook from 1962.
I’m woefully behind with my French-cake-a-week series! Last week I didn’t make a cake at all, because it took us all week to eat David’s birthday cake. This week, I did make a cake, but I’ve been so distracted by little Clio that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about it. So here we go! In honor of little Clio and the Frenchness of the cake, we’ll begin today by discussing one of my favorite movies, Cleo From Five to Seven, by Agnes Varda. Varda was a member of the famous Nouveau Vague, and, in fact, Godard and Anna Karina appear in the movie in a sweet little film-within-a-film
. The film tells the story of two hours in the life of Cleo, and is very nearly filmed in real time. It seems very simple…Cleo is a pop star, and the progress of the film follows her day-to-day activities. But she’s waiting for news about her health, and everything she sees and hears, every conversation she has, takes on significance and weight. In the end, she meets a stranger in the park, a soldier from the Algerian war. They connect on a simple human level – they’re kind to each other – and though you’ve only known Cleo for a short while, you can tell that this connection will change her.
All of the recipes in my French cookbook are cryptic and brief, but this was the most perplexing of all. It calls for hazelnuts, and tells you to peel them, but that’s it. The cake has very little flour, so I assumed the hazelnuts should be ground, which is what I did. Otherwise you’d have a sort of hazelnut omelete! As it is, the cake is very nice. It doesn’t have any butter in it, so it’s quite light and simple, but it has a pleasant sponge-cake texture, and the subtle, unmistakable flavor of hazelnuts.
Here’s Sans Toi, from Cleo from 5 to 7.