Grabbing the plastic bag that I had prepared the night before, I left early in the morning to my friend Annie's house. (Annie was my friend who was 91 at the time.) Annie told me to come early, and what to bring to make Bugnes. Bugnes, like oreillettes are similar to beignets, or dough-nuts, though without yeast or any self rising agents, other than eggs.
Annie was a wonderful cook, as Sacha has reminded me many times over, "...Women Annie's age really know how to cook. Honestly mom, they can take a plain head of lettuce, put it on a plate and it taste like a million bucks." I always felt so reassured about my cooking skills after a conversation like that. Once, he went on and on about how Annie's "green beans" were the best he ever had in his life. I asked him if they were so different from the ones I made. But before he could answer I said, "...shh, forget about it, I don't want to know."
I put the plastic bag full of flour, sugar, eggs, and oil on Annie's table. She had her apron on and handed me one. Annie placed a big bowl on the table, open the flour sack, poured half of it into the mixing bowl. Quickly, her hands moved at lightening speed as she whipped the other ingredients into the bowl.
Clearing my throat, I said, "Annie, Annie remember I want to LEARN how to make Bugnes, can you tell me your recipe first?" She pointed, then wiggled her floured finger towards the kitchen drawer, "There! Over there... yes that drawer, see the recipe?"
Looking through her stack, of neatly printed scratch pieces of papers, I found it: (to this day I wished I had taken a photo of it.)
- 500 grams of flour
- Pinch of salt
- Two soup spoons of sugar
- Two soup spoons of rum
- Two eggs
- 100 ml of of oil (and a bottle of oil for deep frying.)
- 50 ml of milk
Glancing at the list of ingredients and looking at what she was mixing into the bowl, I said, "Annie it says here, Two soup spoons of sugar..." but before I could finish my sentence, she added, "Yes, I know, but my way is better."
Annie knew the recipe by heart... had tweek-ed it by heart too, and knew it well. I grabbed a pen and started to scribble down what she was doing:
- Pour half a bag of flour into a large bowl
- a teaspoon of salt
- stir with a fork to blend.
- In a pan, melt 50 grams of butter, add 100 ml of fresh cream, do not boil, melt slowly.
- Take it off the burner, add two heaping spoonfuls of sugar, pour it over the pan, if another spoonful worth pours over the spoon that is okay too.
- Stir until creamy.
- Add two, or three, or four soup spoons of COGNAC (at this point I said, "Hey Annie that isn't Rum, its Cognac. I thought at the bakery they used Orange blossom water?" Annie didn't even bat an eye she kept at her task she said between spoonfuls, "Orange water is cheaper than alcohol that is why the bakery uses it. Cognac has better flavor than rum."
- Lick the spoon before putting it into the sink.
- Crack the two eggs into the flour. Stir it then add the butter/cream sugar mixture into the bowl.
- Mix with a spoon and eventually use your hand to combine.
- Knead the mixture until it bounces back with elasticity.
- Form it into a ball.
- Let it set for two hours.
I kneaded the dough. While it was rising she talked about what it was like living in France during WWII. I love her stories about her past. Two hours later the dough was double in size.
Annie handed me an empty wine bottle. "Inventive rolling pin, isn't it?" then added, "Roll the dough, as thin as paper."
In her earlier years, Annie was a hat-maker, she had a good eye for detail. She sliced the rolled out dough into a perfect rectangle. Then Annie cut long strips down the rectangle, two inch wide. She then cut each strip into diamond like shape, and slit each diamond shape down the middle. (Why, oh why didn't I take my camera, it would have been so easy to show, instead of trying to describe it.) Then she tucked the top of the diamond into the slit and pulled it through.
Annie made four to my one. Then she stopped, and said, "Okay you need to learn, go ahead and do the rest." She watched me with an eagle eye. Letting me pretend I could do it as well as she did. Though after making several of them I did get the swing of it.
We fried the Bugnes (they fry quickly, several seconds on each side.) Then we let them drain on a paper towel, and sprinkled powered sugar to them.