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French desserts – they’re world renowned, world class and mouth-wateringly delicious.

For the times when you can’t be in France but fancy a sweet treat that’s easy to make at home, here are they’re easy to make..

Tarte Reine Claude

This classic French plum tart is fit for royalty, made with greengage plums, known as reine claude (Queen Claude) in France…

Ingredients

1 packet of puff pastry

1.2 kg of plums (greengage)

4 tablespoons almond powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 ° C.

Wash the plums and pit them.

Line a buttered tin with the rolled out puff pastry. It can be quite thick as it soaks up the juice from the plums. Pick the bottom with a fork. Sprinkle the almond powder evenly over the pastry.

Cut the plums in half and arrange them skin side up over the pastry. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake for about 30 minutes. It’s done when you see the plums are caramelised on top!

Serve with vanilla ice cream or Chantilly cream with some grated orange zest…

Chouquettes

Deliciously simple, moreish little snacks…

Ingredients for 35 chouquettes

25 cl of water

1 tablespoon caster sugar (10g)

5g salt (level teaspoon)

100g butter (cut into cubes)

150 g flour

4 medium eggs

Sugar crystals

Preheat the oven to 200 ° C (Gas Mark 7) and line a tray with baking paper.

Heat the water, salt, sugar and butter in a saucepan stirring constantly. When the butter is completely melted and the liquid brought to a boil remove from the heat.

Pour in the flour in one go and mix with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the heat, add the eggs one at a time and mix well.

Place a tablespoon of dough on the baking sheet and leave plenty of space in between for them to rise. Sprinkle the crystal sugar over the dough mounds.

Cook for 15 minutes then lower the thermostat to 175 ° C (Gas mark 6) and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Blackberry and apple clafoutis

You might have had cherry clafoutis but this versatile dessert works well with strawberries too and apple with blackberry!

Ingredients: Serves 4-6

400g apples

125g blackberries

250g crème fraîche

50ml whole milk

Seeds of 1 vanilla pod

3 eggs

100g all-purpose flour

60g fine sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a rectangular baking dish of approx. 26 x 18.5cm with butter.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Spread them over the baking dish together with the blackberries.

To make the batter:

In a large bowl, whisk the crème fraîche, milk and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, flour and sugar. Add to the cream, eggs and vanilla and whisk well.

Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Delicious warm or cold, it goes well with ice cream!

Brioche has been a staple of French cooking for hundreds of years. All that practice makes perfect!

Brioche is made as buns or a loaf and is great with butter and jam and even spready with a soft cheese. It’s the ultimate snack food for the French – a sort of cakey-bread. Here’s a recipe for brioche for you to make at home:

Ingredients for one brioche loaf

220g plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs, beaten

60 ml whole milk, warmed

75g unsalted butter cubed, room temperature

Few drops of vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Mix the yeast with the warm milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar and leave for 10 minutes in a warm place. You’ll see that the yeast will become frothy.

2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with the salt and the rest of the sugar, add the yeast mix, 2 beaten eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on a low speed. When the dough starts to clump together, swap the paddle attachment for a dough hook and mix for 2 minutes until the dough is firm and elastic.

3. Add half the butter at little bit at a time while the mixer is set to a medium-low speed. Fold the dough over on itself so you get the butter thoroughly mixed in. Then add the remaining butter as before and mix for 3 minutes at medium-low speed.

4. Scrape the dough hook and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again until the dough is smooth, soft and shiny, about three minutes. You’ll hear the dough slap against the sides of the bowl when it’s ready. Do the “windowpane test” – take a small ball of dough, flatten it and gently stretch. If it doesn’t break but is thin enough to see through – you’re ready.

5. Put the dough into a clean bowl and cover it with oiled cling film and leave to rise in draught-free place for 1 to 1.5 hours or until doubled in size.

Then take the dough, give it a punch several times to expel the air and knead lightly for 2 minutes.

6. Shape the dough into a rectangle and put it in a buttered loaf tin. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free spot until doubled in size, usually about 30 minutes up to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C, (400˚F/Gas Mark 6)

7. Brush the top of the brioche with the beaten egg and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top of the brioche is a rich, golden brown.

If you want to create the traditional “bubble shape”, when the dough has risen, make cuts with a sharp pair of scissor. Snip three times on each side and twice at each end. The cuts should be about 1 inch deep. This allows the brioche to rise around the cuts.

8. Turn the loaf out and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom – it’s done! Put it back in the tin upside-down to crisp the base for 5 minutes

Leave to cool and then feast on your brioche loaf. It’s very moreish and utterly delicious.

More delicious French recipes on the blog:

Moules Frites – the ubiquitous taste of summer at the seaside in France…

Pancakes – French crepes – here’s a fail proof recipe…

Gougères – cheesy balloons that everyone loves…

To the southwest of the great city of Toulouse, Gers is a beautiful land of rolling countryside, vineyards and forests, peppered with tiny hamlets and medieval villages. The capital of the department of Gers, Auch, is also the capital of the historic area known as Gascony.

Auch is a small city but has plenty to do for visitors and it’s a classified “Grande Site Occitanie”…

What to see and do in Auch

Pop to the tourist office to find out what’s on in the town as it has a thriving events calendar including a major circus festival each October.

Start your visit at the great Gothic and Renaissance Cathedral of Sainte-Marie on the UNESCO listed route to Compostela. Building began in 1489 but it took nearly two centuries to complete. The oak stalls are a must see – over 1500 characters are represented and some of them are highly unusual (including nubile young women) and very detailed. The 16th century stained glass windows by Arnaut de Moles are fabulous and just as unusual as the wood carvings. The colours are dazzling and feature naked bodies galore as they tell Biblical tales from the original Sin to the Salvation of Humanity.

Auch was the birthplace of the musketeer D’Artagnan, made famous by Alexander Dumas in The Three Musketeers, immortalised on film and still a symbol of loyalty, military prowess and honour. You’ll find his statue on the Grand Escaliers, the monumental limestone staircase which links the lower and upper towns, right by the cathedral.

Wander the old town of this hill top city with its little alleyways and cobbled streets, Rue Dessoles is especially lovely, lined with authentic bars and bistros. Pop into the Musée des Ameriques to discover am extraordinary collection of pre-Columbian and South American art, local Gascon artefacts and Gallo-Roman remains.

If you’re in the town on a Thursday or Saturday, you’re in for a treat as that’s when the market is held in front of the Cathedral.

Enjoy a delicious lunch at La Table d’Oste (7 rue Lamartine) – food like a Gascon maman makes. Meanwhile at the Hotel de France, one of Gers’ most famous chefs runs the gastronomic restaurant that’s a local legend.

And of course pop into any bar or restaurant to enjoy a glass of the local tipple Armagnac!

What to see close by

The Gers department is home to some of the most beautiful countryside in France. It’s made for touring, visiting medieval villages and “Plus Beaux villages, some of the officially prettiest villages in France of which Gers, though small, has no less than 6. Fourcès, Lavardens, Montreal, Larressingle, Sarrant and La Romieu are all close together and wonderfully pretty. There are castles and abbeys, vineyards and Armagnac houses where you’re welcomed in for a taste. Fabulous cycling routes, hiking, boating and water sports. Wonderful markets and historic cities. You’ll never run out of things to fall in love with in the Gers.

Find out more to see and do in Auch and around: Tourist office: www.auch-tourisme.com

More info on the area at: www.tourisme-gers.comwww.tourisme-occitanie.com

French Connections has loads of lovely holiday rental homes in Gers which you can see here.

 

In Aveyron, in southern France, you’ll discover a region that’s truly authentic, fairy tale pretty and has oodles of charm, a land that time forgot…

Fairy-tale Aveyron

Ever since Peter Mayle put Provence on the tourist map, tourists have led a long procession to enjoy its charms but there is another south of France, a land that hasn’t been discovered by the hordes. Unspoiled, uncrowded and irresistibly pretty, Aveyron is hardly known outside of France.

There are great hiking and cycling routes, horse riding, kayaking and more. And this area is blessed with some of the most beautiful villages in France, the most glorious countryside and the tastiest food. Roquefort cheese is produced in the area, it’s truffle country, and dishes are flavoursome, rustic and utterly delicious.

Traffic free roads, the Millau bridge, marvellous markets and ancient towns and villages galore – this isn’t a region to be rushed but savoured and soaked up…

Must-sees in Aveyron ancient Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route

The jewel of the region is Conques, a captivating town on the ancient and most celebrated of pilgrim routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela. Conques is famous for its UNESCO listed 11th century Saint-Foy abbey church which has an ornate interior and is filled with treasures including stained glass windows by Pierre Soulages, France’s most famous living artist. The pilgrim's bridge that crosses the Dourdou River is also UNESCO listed as part of the World Heritage Sites (Route to Santiago de Compostela through France).

Rodez museum – an artist and a chef create a winning, inspirational combination at Rodez Museum. Pierre Soulages, internationally renowned artist, shows more than 500 works. Take a break in the museum restaurant where food meets art as 3 Michelin Star chef Michel Bras creates dishes that are themselves works of art.

Belcastel with its medieval castle is a “plus beaux villages de France” and is quite astoundingly beautiful, with the gentle tumble of water from the River Aveyron in the background and its steep, cobbled streets leading up to the castle. If you’ve got the time, have lunch at the Vieux Pont (a Michelin star restaurant in the village) and then walk off your indulgences with the climb (and it really is a climb) up to the castle.

Najac, one of the most beautiful villages in France…

Head to Villefranche-de-Rouergue, one of the region’s five 13th century “new concept” bastide towns with a distinctly southern feel. Every Thursday morning the rather sleepy town bursts into vibrant life as the market fills the main square, Place Notre Dame. Fruit, veg, spices, sticky sweets, warm breads and patisseries, herbs, flowers, meats slow turning on the spit and vast pans of steaming shell fish, all teasing and tempting you into the many backstreets where the market spills out to.

This is the France you imagine in your dreams, with ancient and impossibly gorgeous villages, magnificent houses, chateaux and churches that date back a thousand years. Here the culture of France is laid before you, wonderful local produce and authentic dishes, delicious wines from the local vineyards, historic buildings, arts and crafts and the nurturing of traditions.

French Connections has dozens of beautiful holiday homes in Aveyron – we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true…

Between the coast of southern France and Italy, Corsica lies in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. With its sunny climate and diverse landscape, the island lures some 3 million visitors a year thanks to its reputation for the best beaches in Europe, historic cities, unique gastronomy and mountainous interior.

Reach it by ferry from mainland France or by air.

Where to go in Corsica

Corsica is part of the continental alpine system and is broadly divided into two parts. The dividing line between these two main parts runs roughly from St. Florent in the north, southwards to Corte, then southeast to Solenzara and the eastern coast. The island has two departments Haute-Corse and Corse du Sud.

If you’re after a beach holiday, you’re really spoiled for choice in Corsica. 1000km of coastline, some 200 beaches, white sandy bays, secluded coves, fishing villages, swanky resorts, sun-bleached cliffs and pretty pebble beaches that are perfect for a sunset stroll.

We love Palombaggia beach with its white dunes and background of shady pines, turquoise water tempting you in for a swim. And Calvi beach which has wonderful views across the bay. And Lozari beach which the locals love. There are just so many to choose from.

What to see and do

Lovers of the great outdoors will find plenty to keep them happy here. Hiking, cycling, golfing, horse riding and diving - you’ll never be bored. And for thrill seekers, there’s paragliding, kite surfing, rock climbing and even canyoning.

And for those days when you just want to chill, the alure of sunbeds at your villa or the sandy beaches await, or take a boat ride out to the Lavezzi Islands, a little paradise that many visitors miss.

The island’s stunning interior can be wild and dramatic, peppered with tiny hamlets and hilltop villages like medieval Sant’Antonino, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Dsicover UNESCO listed Piana and photogenic Bonifacio, the historic village perched on a cliff, world-famous for its exquisite views over Sardinia.

There are cycle routes galore, and the GR20 hiking route is exceptional, its stages along a 200km trail take you through forests, alongside lakes and over mountains. Though you might not want to walk the entire length, a day on the trail will reveal some of the beauty of this magical island.

Or visit the Parc Naturel Régionel de Corse, with its tumbling streams and deep gorges

Culture vultures are not forgotten. The prehistoric site of Filitosa is fascinating with its carefully preserved 8000 year old standing stones. There are museums in several of the major towns; Bastia, Corte and Ajaccio boast fine collections.

Don’t forget to try Corsican wine, the rosés are perfect for sunny days. And Corsica is famous throughout France for its cheese and charcuterie.

Outstanding natural beauty, friendly folk, marvellous Mediterranean weather, breath-taking beaches, glorious countryside, mouth-watering gastronomy – Corsica is a holiday paradise…

 

Discover more to do on the island at the Corsica Tourist office website: visit-corsica.com/en

French Connections has dozens of stunning holiday homes in Corsica – take a look and you’re your dream holiday:

frenchconnections.co.uk/accommodation/corsica