Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tourteaux Baubeau Club Ambassadeurs 79

French Village Diaries Tourteaux Baubeau Lezay Club Ambassadeurs 79
Tourteaux Baubeau, Lezay 79 fresh from the oven
Last week, on a cold and foggy morning (and we’ve had more than our fair share of those so far this winter) I set off on an adventure. I like adventures and this one ticked many boxes. It involved food, it was local and it was free. 

Here in the Deux-Sèvres department we have a kind of loyalty card scheme run by the tourist office called Club Ambassadeur 79. The scheme is free to join for residents of the Deux-Sèvres and as well as offering reduced price entry to local attractions they also organise group tours to local producers. I wrote briefly about this scheme when I signed up in 2014, (see here) but last week was the fist time I’d actually got around to using it. As my legs and I know from my cycle ride around the Deux-Sèvres, it is a long department and things that happen in the north are not really on my doorstep.

One of our local specialities is the Tourteau Fromager, a baked cheesecake I wrote about in 2013, (see here) which is traditionally served for celebrations like weddings, christenings and retirements. I was rather excited to see the Ambassadeurs were being offered a tour around the patisserie where they are made, Tourteaux Baubeau, near Lezay and I couldn’t put my name down quick enough.

French Village Diaries Tourteaux Baubeau Lezay Club Ambassadeurs 79
Mini galette fresh from the oven
Our group, that was mostly made up of retired French couples (yes, I was the only non-French person there) arrived in the morning just as a batch of little galettes came out of the oven and just in time to watch the start of the day’s production of Tourteaux. It was cold and dull outside, but inside it was warm and with a welcoming smell of baking and the seven members of staff didn’t seem at all bothered with us getting in their way. Tasters were of course offered and enjoyed.

French Village Diaries Tourteaux Baubeau Lezay Club Ambassadeurs 79
The Tourteaux making process
The Tourteau has a pastry base and is filled with a light and airy batter that contains fromage frais, which can be made with goat milk or cow. The first part of the process is separating the eggs, all 350 of them that are required to make just over 200 tourteaux. The actual number will vary as the volume of the beaten egg white varies depending on the external temperature. They have a pretty cool machine that separates the eggs, where the whites fall through the holes leaving the yolks to plop into the basin. Any rogue yolk has to be removed from the whites, which are beaten to soft peaks before being folded into the yolk, flour and sugar batter.

French Village Diaries Tourteaux Baubeau Lezay Club Ambassadeurs 79
Hand mixing the egg whites into the batter
We were told at the beginning of the tour that the flour, eggs, fromage frais and butter all come from the local area and much of the process is still carried out by hand. They weren’t lying, but I’m not sure any of us were expecting to see the hand (or should I say arm) mixing in of the beaten eggs to the batter.

French Village Diaries Tourteaux Baubeau Lezay Club Ambassadeurs 79
A delicious slice of tourteau fromager
Once the batter is spooned into the shells they are cooked at 300° for about 20 mins. The volume of egg white in the mix means they rise, but also that they brown very quickly hence the black top. The cooking process is watched very carefully, by shining a torch through the glass door of the oven, but as they looked black very quickly how they knew when they were cooked was a mystery to me. Once done, the oven was switched off and the door was opened allowing a cloud of smoke and smell of burning to escape, but the tourteaux stayed put for four minutes. It wasn’t quite the nice smell of baking we had arrived to, however, don’t be put off by their burned appearance as it hides a delicious, moist, light and airy cake within.

If you live in the Deux-Sèvres and would like more information on the Ambassadors scheme, click here.

This post has been linked to #AllAboutFrance over at the Lou Messugo blog. Click here to read more.

Lou Messugo

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