It’s that moment when you turn onto a dimly lit, narrow street, with sidewalks barely wide enough for one person, the pre-Haussmann medieval buildings curving over you as you look up, and you know that you are experiencing Paris as it was, and will be, decades ago and decades in the future. It’s the cool autumn day, when you are having lunch, sitting by the window, and you watch the two elderly Parisian women, warm in their fur coats, carefully unwrapping their chocolate squares before delicately sipping their coffee.
It’s the knowledge that the cheese lady will wrap each piece of cheese you’ve chosen like a precious small gift, which it is, a gift of land and sky and love and hard work, which you will taste with each bite as the Parisian sun (so precious in itself) streams through the big windows of your apartment and you clink your wine glasses, knowing that this lunch, of cheese and meat and bread and wine, is one you really can’t have in any other city in the world.
It’s that sense of magic, as you sit outside on a restaurant terrace with your friends on a warm summer evening, finishing dinner at 10pm while the sun is still stubbornly refusing to set, and the waiter smiles as he pours the final bit of wine for all of you and you are happy, because the night isn’t over, there’s still the lazy walk back home as the sky furiously changes colors before it finally gives up and goes dark.
It’s the giddy feeling you get every time you end up at the Eiffel Tower, wanting to be blasé about the whole thing, but being unable to resist the overwhelming beauty around you and the shared joy of so many people for whom being there is a lifelong dream. It’s the moment you take as you cross one of the Seine bridges to stop and look and take in the unquestionable beauty of this city that is loved and loves back. When you know that no matter what happens, you will always have Paris in your heart.
French Apple Cake – Very slightly adpated from Cook’s Illustrated
1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Calvados or white rum
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Step 1: Adjust oven rack to lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil. Place prepared pan on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Step 2: Place apple slices in a microwave-safe dish, cover and microwave until apples are pliable, about three minutes. Toss apples with lemon juice and rum and let cool whilst you prepare the cake batter.
Step 3: In a large mixing bowl whisk one cup flour, one cup sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
Step 4: In another bowl whisk together one egg, oil, milk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients until just combined. Transfer 1 cup of batter to a small bowl.
Step 5: Whisk 2 egg yolks into remaining batter. Gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth surface.
Step 6: Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the reserved batter then pour over the top of cake. Sprinkle the surface of the cake with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Step 7: Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes, until golden brown and set. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool, five minutes.
Step 8: Run a paring knife around the sides of the pan and remove from form. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack, 2-3 hours. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.