Oh look, it's the weekend!
Back when my weeks consisted of two days of classes and three hours of English tutoring, the term "weekend" didn't actually mean much to me. When someone came along rejoicing and screaming "It's almost Friday night!!!", I would usually think one of three things:
- I can finally see my friends!,
- I thought today was Monday for some reason,
- Wait, what? Friday night? The beginning of my 48-hour shopping-free spree!
Since most stores are closed on Sundays in Paris, Saturday is a pretty awful day to do any shopping, if you ask me. Stores are crowded, and people get cranky because it's their day off and there are too many people around. Consequently, I used to shop on Tuesdays--nobody in sight, the store to yourself. Sigh Those days are long gone.
Now, when someone starts a heated conversation about the approaching weekend, I think the same thing every time: I want to go on a weekend trip.
Obviously, if you're not really planning on going anywhere, you can just pretend. Pretend like it's not raining, pretend like that loud group of tourists standing in front of your door for the past twenty minutes (with no plans to move to accomodate your passing through with grocery bags) doesn't even exist.
I mean it: it's actually quite easy to convince yourself that they aren't really saying "Oh my god, Kevin, look at how old this building is. Maybe the king even went here."
Here's my solution to all this brouhaha: plan a mini-staycation and get a picnic going.
It can be a picnic in your own apartment, but that doesn't really matter: I traveled to the South of France this weekend with a tasty tomato salad. You don't even need a toothbrush, unless you're planning on eating quite some garlic, I guess. There's only one thing you can't forget, and that's dessert. Specifically, Pierre Hermé's recipe for a Flan à l'Eau. This is pretty much your typical Flan Pâtissier (also called Flan Parisien at times), except it substitutes half of the milk for water. Sounds strange, but it's incredible. The taste is lightly sweet, the texture creamy, yet it holds its shape like a nice flan pâtissier should.
And when I mean incredible, I mean picnic-in-the-woods incredible. (That explains the terrible picture and aluminum foil.)
Even better: Picnic-in-your-apartment incredible.
Flan à l'Eau
adapted from Pierre Hermé
Note: The pastry crust may seem like a hassle to make, especially if you've got a tried and true recipe. Trust me on this, though, and give it a try. It isn't too sweet, which is a great counterpoint to the sweet filling.
for the crust:
180 grams / 12.5 TB unsalted butter, softened
1 TS coarse salt
1 TS granualted sugar
1/2 egg yolk
50 ml / 1.7 fl. oz., or a scant 1/4 c. milk, room temperature
250 grams / 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
Place all ingredients except flour in a food processor, and pulse several times. Add flour, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Work dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Roll dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of approximately 2 millimeters. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and press into a buttered 9-inch springform pan. The flan will be high, so leave at least 1.5 inches of dough on the sides of the pan. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before filling and baking.
for the filling:
375 grams / 1.5 c. + 2 TS milk, preferably whole
370 grams / 1.5 c. water
60 grams / scant 1/2 c. vanilla pudding powder
210 grams / 1 c. + 1 TB granulated sugar
Bring water and milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, pudding powder and sugar together and pour slowly into the milk-water mixture. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat and let cool thirty minutes.
Prehat oven to 190°C / 375 °F.
Place filling on top of chilled dough and bake for one hour. Remove form oven, let cool, and refrigerate at least 3 horus prior to serving.
The flan can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days after baking.