Category Archives: Recipes

Life Lesson from a French Brioche

In Jodi Picoult’s latest book, “The Storyteller,” Sage Singer, baker and the novel’s heroine, turns to her kitchen for comfort. And in so doing reveals the power of baking to teach us all a lesson about ourselves and coping when events seem to unhinge our emotional stability.

“I decide to bake something that requires my undivided attention: brioche.

brioche, baking. bread

“It’s a bread that is an anomaly—50 percent of it is butter, yet instead of being a brick of a loaf, it is melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, airy. To make it on a hot, humid day like this is an added challenge, because it requires all ingredients to be cold. I even refrigerate the mixing bowl and the dough hook.

“I begin by beating the butter with a rolling pin while the dough is mixing. Then I add it, in small portions, to the mixer. This is my favorite part about brioche. The dough doesn’t quite know what to do with all that butter, and begins to come apart. But with enough time, it manages to bring itself back to center, to a satin consistency.

“I turn off the mixer and rip off a hunk of dough the size of a plum. Holding it between my hands, I pull it slowly to see if it sheets—growing transparent as it stretches. I set the dough into a container and cover it tightly with plastic wrap, then place it on my counter and begin to clean up the kitchen.”

Read that middle paragraph again – and join me in saying “Vive la France, la brioche, Mlle Singer et spécialement Mme Picoult!” 


Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce Gratin

Whenever I buy some particularly appealing fresh produce or cheese at a local market in Provence, my go-to cookbook for a recipe to use is Patricia Wells’ “At Home in Provence” cookbook. This quick and easy appetizer recipe is from her book and gets rave reviews from our Provence Escapes guests.

Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce

Equipment: Six shallow 6-inch (15 cm) round gratin dishes or one 10 1/2-inch (27 cm) round baking dish

About 10 ounces (300 g) soft goat cheese in a log
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves or a pinch of dried leaf oregano, crushed
1 1/2 to 2 cups (33 to 50 cl) homemade Tomato Sauce, at room temperature
About 24 best-quality black olives (such as French Nyons), pitted

Preheat the broiler.

Slice the goat cheese log into 1/2″ pieces using a piece of floss.

Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of each gratin dish. Cover with a layer of goat cheese slices. Sprinkle with half of the herbs. Spoon on just enough tomato sauce to evenly coat the cheese. Sprinkle with olives and the remaining herbs.

Place the baking dish or dishes under the broiler about 3 inches (8 cm) from the heat. Broil until the cheese is melted and fragrant, and the tomato sauce is sizzling, 2 to 3 minutes.

Wine suggestion:
I like to serve a bright Provencal rose or a light red from the charming village of  Roussillon.