While in office as president of France, Charles De Gaulle said, “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”
Currently there are over 600 distinct types in production there. And they take their cheese very seriously.
They have a government agency which tightly restricts cheese and many other products. Once a food has this designation, you just can’t produce it anywhere or in any manner willy-nilly.
Authentic brie has to be made in the Ile de France. And, the milk can only come from a cow. No goat, sheep, or whale milk allowed (it really exists and I would totally pay to see somebody milk a whale).
They don’t mess around when it comes to carbs, either.
Boulangeries are bread bakeries. And the French government has some very strong ideas on the making and selling of it. Just to be called a boulangerie, each location must choose their own flour, knead their own dough, and bake on premises.
The bake shops in France are separated into two groups. In one group everyone must vacation in July, the other, August. This is to make sure all the bakeries won’t close at the same time. The only other business considered this essential to the welfare of the people of France is pharmacies. They too, are on staggered vacation schedules.
Sugar is taken quite seriously, as well. Most French folk purchase sugary baked goods at a place called a patisserie. To be called a patisserie the shop must employ a licensed maître pâtissier (master pastry chef), who has gone through lengthy training, apprenticeship, and a long and difficult written test. There are combination boulangerie/patisserie shops, but they must adhere to all the rules for both types of shops.
Did you know the French helped our fledgling nation during its struggle for independence in many vital ways?
They supplied 90% (you read that right—90) of the gunpowder used by the Colonists.
Contrary to being a bunch of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”, they sent over more than 250,000 soldiers, including Lafayette and Rochambeau. French ships threw up a blockade that almost kept the British Navy bottled up in their harbors in England.
I’ve often thought that many in the ruling elite probably regretted this martial assistance when two years after the Americans “brexitted” English rule, the French people revolted and years of chaos and slaughter ensued.
So this week to celebrate our own independence and express gratitude with the French, I have created a French dessert; a galette, a rustic, free form pie, with brie. There’s an American thrust in the choice of fruit, and the store-bought nature of the crust (using my God-given right as an American to half-ass it).
Old Glory galette
1 refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces brie
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
1 cup frozen cherries, thawed and drained
2 teaspoons very finely minced fresh rosemary
Juice and zest of one lemon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons sanding sugar: a large grain decorating sugar that sparkles and won’t dissolve while baking
Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Lay the crust into the center of the parchment-lined sheet.Cut the rind off the brie and cut into strips about ¼ X 2 inches. Leaving a 2 ½ inch border around the outside of the crust, layer the brie onto the crust.
In a bowl, combine blueberries, cherries, rosemary, lemon zest, salt, and brown sugar. Spoon 2/3 of the mixture over the brie.
Fold the border of the crust up and around the outer edge. Put the rest of the berry/cherries on the center of the galette.
Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 6.
This is a festive, easy dessert for a July 4th picnic or cookout. And if you want to get all French-ified and fancy, make your own pastry dough, and make six individual galettes.
And when you serve them, you speak in a French accent. Just like Pepe le Pew.
Thanks for your time.