Mapping Cakes

A guest post today from Angela Wren, whose latest crime novel, Montbel, has recently been published by Crooked Cat.  She’s here today to talk about her love of French cakes.  Mmmmm, I can smell them already ……


I’ve realised that I’ve spent so much time travelling in France that I’m able to wear out maps. I’ve just replaced my last one. Of course, each replacement – and there have been quite a few – means that I have to transfer all my notes from the old to the new. I’ve been doing that recently and I couldn’t help noticing how many notes I have about food. From restaurants in Sées or Montbel, to bakers in Arques or Saverne, to markets in La Roche or Millau and just about everywhere in between. But it’s the notes about pâtisserie that have particularly drawn my attention this time around, there seem to be so many of them. I even have notes of regret… Like this one about a favourite pâtisserie in Auxerre which had become the place to go for Mille Feuille. I also have notes about closed restaurants, or establishments where the menu has changed radically or where the place no longer exists. Imagine my disappointment having arrived in one village looking forward to having lunch in the restaurant on Sunday, only to find the place had been destroyed by fire some months earlier. That may have left a big black scribble on an earlier map, but it did provide the spark of an idea for the story that has now become Montbel.


But let’s get back to the cakes! Flicking through the pages of my atlas of France I can say that the absolute best amandines come from Baugé-en-Anjou in Maine-et-Loire (49). The pastry is ultra thin, light and crumbly. The circle of marzipan at the bottom of the pastry case tastes of fresh almonds, the almond sponge to fill the case is light, fluffy and very almondy and the top is covered with lightly toasted almond slices and then dusted with icing sugar. The very best Tarte au Citron – my favourite – can be found in Prémery in Nièvre (58). Fabulously light pastry case filled with a really sharp lemony curd and topped with a rich, dark chocolate button in the centre.

Boulangers and pâtissiers are artists and this is never more apparent than for specific seasons, festivals or local saints’ days. In September I found this fabulous display outside the local pâtisserie. Of course I had to have a closer look – the theatre director in me propelling me forward to investigate. A lot of the display was made from what I would call ‘prop-dough’. The pâtissier would probably refer to it as Pâte à Sel (Salt Dough). It’s very simple to make – a fixed amount of flour, half that amount of salt and some water. Then mix until smooth and turn out on a board and mould to any shape you like. I’ve created various props for stage, mostly food, with it. Once you have your shapes or models, put them on a lined baking tray and cook in a slow oven for two or three hours until rock hard. Leave to cool and then paint. And if you have the talent that this pâtissier has, you can create mushrooms and toadstools that look real!

But it’s not the inedible salt-dough that I am here for. In this particular shop you can get some of the most scrumptious nougat, made with honey. My favourite is the red berry one. It contains cranberries, raspberries and cherries and is delicious. Don’t keep it in the fridge, though; it will cause it to become brittle. A wrapping of baking paper in an airtight box is fine and, unless you’re like me, it will last for up to three months and maintain its softness. Enjoy!


A clear-cut case?
A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.
When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.
Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?



Angela Wren:  Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.


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