The sans-cœur and hazelnut gâteau Breton

September 21, 2010 § 3 Comments

The sans-cœur. How do you explain that you have no heart? We studied a bit of negation last week and a young Japanese man professed that he was sans-cœur. It’s a strange concept to grasp, the idea that you can float (or trudge) through life without feeling, without love, without a heart. Is it a concept that can be laughed off, categorized under people-have-said-stranger-things-and-not-meant-them-at-all? We read a love letter from l’écrivain Victor Hugo to his lover Juliette aloud in class today. At the instruction of our professor, we were forced to emphasize each phrase, as though we really believed such intense love and feeling were possible. Our professor holds fast to the idea that wild, powerful love is possible and so our daily conversations often consist of a dialogue of pessimists with her gasping in romantic despair every time we express such hopelessness.

Maybe when you are finally alone, when you finally have a chance to breathe and take in the world around you, maybe then you realize how lonely many people are. It could be the old woman who walks up to you sitting on a bench and asks if you’re Swedish, hoping to launch into a discussion of the recent election, and then, upon the discovery that you are in fact American, is just as eager to discuss George W. Bush and the war on terror. Or it could be the man sitting next to you on the bench, smoking a cigar, who at first seems totally harmless asking questions about your studies until he starts trying to touch your face.

Or the woman you sit down for lunch with in the office — cheese, bread and wine finished with a small gâteau chocolat fondant — who has just discovered that she may lose what is left of her eyesight in her one eye. At this moment in my life, I don’t think I could imagine —and I hope I shouldn’t imagine — waking up one morning without my eyesight. The very thought makes me want to never go to sleep, to stay forever awake and looking, looking at everything around me. It makes you think that life is short, but when you see all these people in this city looking for someone, anyone, to talk to, you find that life is also long.

Life is those moments that stretch out forever while the plates are being cleared and you are waiting for dessert. Life is those moments when you decide that waiting is not enough, that you will have dessert before you will have anything else.

I made these little cakes for Jennifer’s Sugar High Fridays. The theme of September was bite-sized desserts and you can find the full announcement on My Diverse Kitchen. I have to say this is pretty much the theme of my life these days as everything I bake now can be eaten in a couple bites, provided you don’t eat the entire batch.

Hazelnut Gâteau Breton
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Makes 12 mini muffins

125 g. sugar
30 g. ground hazelnuts
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
114 g. salted butter, browned
130 g. flour

1 egg yolk for glaze (you won’t need the whole thing)

Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C. Butter and flour your mini muffin pans. Combine the egg yolks and hazelnut flour until well blended. Mix in the sugar, then add the vanilla. Gradually whisk in the browned butter. Gradually add the flour to the wet mixture, stirring until just combined in order to avoid a tough cake. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling each about 3/4 full. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each cake generously with the egg yolk. Using the back of a fork, deeply mark a criss-cross pattern on the top of each cake. Bake cakes until deep golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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