Let them eat cake, qu’ils mangent de la brioche, Marie Antoinette is said to have replied quite stupidly when confronted with the people missing their daily bread, and although this has often been disguised as quite untrue a quotation, it somehow still sticks to her. So, whenever I’m in Switzerland or France, I think of the Queen of France when I have brioche, although never when I eat cake—you see, truth be told for once, brioche is nothing like cake, it’s way too neutral in taste, it’s great with breakfast and café au lait, but it does taste wonderful cake-like when stuffed with truffles from Sprüngli, one of the world’s finest chocolatiers. So, as a basic rule, whenever you’re in France, have brioche, but whenever you’re in Switzerland, try a Truffe Brioche. For Marie Antoinette’s sake.
My grandmother used to travel and bake a lot after retiring, she had all this time on her hands and filled it with some culinary creativity, and as she was fond of red wine and Spain, she ended up baking but one cake only, her masterpiece, her Rioja cake, commonly and less specifically known as her red wine cake, as in the 1970s, Rioja was quite uncommon a beverage in Germany and she didn’t feel the urge to explain her extravagances to just anybody she had over for tea and sympathy, she was a teacher, the most loved one of her village, her funeral was crowded with former students, she must have been a hell of a teacher, anyway, I, being more into France than into Spain, have always replaced Rioja with some Bordeaux when I made that cake, but now, just to cherish her memory, I opened a bottle of Rioja, the batter takes a quarter of a litre, as well as vast amounts of cocoa, chopped dark chocolate, this one is from Venezuela, quite fitting an origin, it’s a Spanish speaking country after all, anyway, the cake‘s obviously soaked with flavonoids from all that red wine and cocoa, kind of an anti-ageing approach to baking. I think, I’ll have another slice just now.
Just look at them. Brunsli. Basler Brunsli. That’s what they are called. They are my favourite Christmas cookies in the whole world. The Swiss definitely made it into my heart with these, although, truth be told, I’ve only ever had the ones from Zurich, never from Basel, actually, I’ve never been to Basel, I’ve just changed trains there, but they can’t be any better than these from Sprüngli’s in Zurich. It’s basically nothing but ground almonds and brown sugar, fifty-fifty, cocoa and chocolate and, let’s not forget they’re Swiss, an unreasonable adding of Kirsch. Oh, that Swiss Kirsch! It’s in everything I like. Bâtons Kirsch. Zuger Kirschtorte. Cheese fondue. By the way, I’ve never been to Zug either, although their cherries are so very famous, Zuger Chriesi, best cherries I’ve ever tasted, it’s on the way from Zurich to Lucerne, Lucerne, however, I’ve been to, beautiful city, completely taken out of time, a real world Disneyland, spectacular lake, too, Lake Lucerne of course, anyway, these cookies are quite heavy, you need to wash them down, with a glass of milk, or even better, with fresh pressed pomegranate juice, just use your citrus juicer, it’s an awfully good combination of flavours and aromas, the slightly bitter and matte taste of the thick juice compliments the dark, smooth sweetness of the cookies quite wonderfully. Anyway, Basler Brunsli are essential to the holiday season, you should better get them right away to have them for Christmas – or call it off altogether.
One day, it must have been spring, I decided to lose some weight. You have to be slim for slim cut shirts. So, I had to find a way to eat less, at least for dessert, I had tried to have no dessert at all, but this didn’t work out well, it just made me cranky, and so, in order to keep some of my friends, I tried to eat just half of my crème brûlée or my panna cotta or whatever I was having for dessert, but this didn’t work out either. You cannot stop in the middle of something, can you? What idiotic concept is this? I then tried tiny portions. For instance, these ridiculously small things from Sprüngli. They made me burst out into tears. They seemed to mock me. So I gave up desserts altogether. Cold turkey. Now, I’m unbearably cranky, but quite slim.
Last Christmas, I didn’t give my heart to anybody, but I managed to stuff myself to death at Hermès in Zurich. I can’t remember what I purchased that day, another carré or just my Eau d’Orange Verte deodorant, so much more fun to get your deodorant at Hermès than at a department store, however fancy, but I do know what I had to eat: lots and lots of chocolates, Hermès branded chocolates that is, the iconic carriage and the equally iconic H on the yummiest chocolates ever, I forgot to ask where they came from, so I cannot tell you whether they were Swiss made from Sprüngli or Teuscher or whether they were from France, but whoever made them: good job! Well done! I ate an inappropriate amount of them at the counter and finally had to move to allow some other customers to pay for their stuff and so I ever so bluntly took some more for the road. I managed to take a picture of the remaining two at home. Best Christmas ever. No one broke my heart and I gained some weight!