Monday, February 1, 2010

Candlemas (La Fête de la Chandeleur)

The French holiday, La Fête de la Chandeleur, or Candlemas, is celebrated on February 2nd, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Originally a Pagan festival honoring the Roman god named Pan, revelers paraded with torches through the streets. In 472, the Pope decided to Christianize the holiday; it would mark the date that it is thought that Jesus would have been presented at the Temple for consecration. It is said at this occasion there was a meeting of Jesus, his parents Mary and Joseph, and those he would be presented to. For this reason, the festival is also called "Hypapante", in Greek ("The Meeting"). Since the festival was celebrated with a candlelit procession at mass, the holiday was also called "Candlemas."
Since the holiday commemorates Mary having offered a sacrifice as part of her purification ritual after the birth of her son, it is dedicated to her and some people refer to the holiday as "The Purification."

This holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière, or crêpe day.

Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:

À la Chandeleur, l'hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens

À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost

Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour

Crepes Recipe

This sublime French crepe recipe is guaranteed to please all!
Served with Nutella, or sweet fresh fruits… ice-cream, whipped cream… chocolate sauce.
We 'll all scream for more!

You can make these crepes in any basic frying pan. 7 or 8 inches works best. Or, better yet, with a handy crepe maker.
The basic batter recipe is just below, but if you want to skip right to the fillings, go ahead!

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (for about 15 crepes):
2 cups Flour
2 1/2 cups Whole Milk
4 Eggs
2 tbsp. Butter (melted)
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Vanilla Stalk or Few Drops Vanilla Extract (optional)
Vegetable Oil (for pan)

How to Prepare Batter:

1. Sift flour and mix with salt in a bowl.
2. Make a well and pour in eggs. Stir well.
3. Slowly pour in milk while stirring. Keep stirring batter until small bubbles form on the surface.
4. Stir in Butter.

NB: The batter does not need to stand before using it. However, if you do let it stand, you will most likely want to add 1 tbsp. of water before cooking with it. General rule of thumb: if it seems thicker than cream, add a little more water, and/or a little more milk.

How to Prepare the Crepes:

1. Pour a little vegetable oil on a folded paper towel, and wipe the pan evenly. Keep paper towel at hand while preparing crepes, in case you want to give it another wipe.
2. Pour in 2 - 3 tbsp. of batter and quickly move the pan around, so that batter spreads evenly, covering the whole surface with a thin layer.
3. Let it cook for about 1 minute. Then, flip with a metal spatula, and cook other side for about 30 seconds.

Repeat these steps until you are out of batter, stacking cooked crepes on a plate. Yum!

Make your own Nutella it’s that simple and so good…

Try something new…Make your Own Nutella...
Nutella is a Chocolate-hazelnut spread. The kind of thing to me, which is like peanut butter or macaroni cheese to an American. I grew up on Nutella - spread on tartines, on crepes, with a spoon in front of the TV.

Here is my very personal recipe…

Yields about 1 1/2 cups - that is if you refrain from eating it while making it.

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces good milk chocolate, chopped and melted - I used milk chocolate chips

To toast and peel the hazelnuts, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the hazelnuts in one layer on a baking sheet for 15 minutes, until they are golden. Wrap them in a clean dish towel and rub continuously for a few minutes to remove the skin. You won't be able to remove everything but that's ok. Let the hazelnuts cool down before you grind them. Grind the hazelnuts well in a food processor to make a paste - my tiny food processor made me a paste with very tiny morsels (like big sand particles) and it's the best I could do, but it was fine. Add the oil, the sugar, the cocoa powder, and vanilla and continue processing. I microwave the chocolate chips on low power in small increments of 30 seconds, stirring before I would put it back in the microwave.
I transfer the hazelnut paste to the bowl of my processor, and then pour the chocolate, and pulse for a minute to blend it. I recommend straining the mix if you can still see large nut pieces; I did not because it was fine enough. Pour into a jar and let cool and thicken.
The spread will keep for about a month at room temperature (be sure the jar lid closes tightly there).
I recommend using whenever by itself, on crepes, on tartines, on muffins... You name it!

No comments: