Dessert for a Feast (for Food ‘n Flix)

I know that all my Food ‘n Flix buddies were relieved when Camilla decided to present Babette’s Feast for her hosting gig for February after The Breakfast Club challenge last month.

BabetteCamilla from Culinary Adventures did herself proud and recommended a truly foodie film.   Babette’s Feast is so full of worthy inspirational food that I know we all had a terrible time trying to pick something.

 

The food at the beginning of the film is not too appetizing with simple tea and biscuits, ale and bread soup, and dried flounder.   By the end of the film though, it is a culinary collection of scrumptious, rich, and decadent food.

The basic premise of the film is that Babette, the French cook and housekeeper that Martine and Fillipa (two elderly sisters who are trying to continue their father’s Puritanical preachings) have taken in, wants to return their kindness and cook a French feast.   The sisters are a bit afraid of the decadance that this meal might include and the strange desires that this type of feast might conjure up.   Babette pleads with them, “Mademoiselles… have I ever asked you for anything? Hear my prayer today.  It comes from my heart.”

They grant their permission.    One wonders if Babette is so wise that she also wants this feast to heal the schism that is occurring in the small religious group.

Babette starts planning the feast and soon there is a culinary parade from the beach to the house with magical and forbidden delicacies including the chirping little quails and a live sea turtle.

And, there is wine.

Instead of dreaming of the supreme delicacies of the feast, Martine dreams of damnation and Hell-fire and imagines the “witch’s Sabbath” that may ensue.  Perhaps if I saw a live sea turtle in my kitchen, I might have nightmares too.  The parishioners vow to not speak a word of this feast in order as not to bring evil on the memory of their beloved dead and departed and Puritanical founder.

Before dinner one of the parishioners prays:   “Remember:  we have lost our sense of taste. Let us pray in our pastor’s own words. May the bread nourish my body. May my body do my soul’s bidding. May my soul rise up to serve God eternally. Amen.”

Besides the parishioners, there is also the reappearance of a potential love of one of the sisters as a high ranking general who guides the reluctant diners through all of the delicious delicacies.

In not talking about the gorgeous food, much to the General’s dismay and consternation, they are forced to talk about  their pastor’s words leading to a strange fellowship and even stranger dinner conversation all washed down with the most exquisite wine pairings.  (“Amazing! An Amontillado! The best Amontillado I’ve ever tasted!” the General proclaims. )

Following the General’s example, the parishioner’s do not miss a mouthful of this gorgeous meal and the wonderful wine.  Their cheeks become rosier and rosier as they find out they do enjoy wine and that champagne can taste like lemonade.

One cannot live by bread alone.

Here is the menu of Babette’s Feast.

Potage à la Tortue

Blinis Demidoff

Cailles en Sarcophage

Endive Salad

Cheese Course

Kugelhopf or Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée

Dates, papaya, pineapple, grapes, ripe figs

Notice how sinful and luscious that fresh fruit is?

What to make, what to make?    It was no turtle soup for me or dead quails in coffins.   Nope, I had to bake.   Some sites identified the dessert as a Kugelhopf  and some as Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée.   

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Babette’s Dessert

I decided to do a Kugelhopf.  

To cover my bases, I decided to douse the dried fruit with rum.   I found my recipe here.   A Kugelhopf is a bread-like cake that has origin in many different European countries, including France.     (I did think this would be easier than making glacéd fruit.)

Kugelhopf
based on a recipe at Epicurious

3/4 c. rum
1/2 c.  golden raisins
1/2 c. dried tart cherries
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 1/2 t. yeast
2 T.  warm water
1 c.  whole milk
6 T.  unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
6 T.  sugar
3 3/4 c.  all-purpose flour
1 t. fine sea salt
2 large farm fresh eggs
1 t.  finely grated orange zest
1 T. powdered  sugar

Place dried fruit in a small bowl and cover with the rum.  Let soak, stirring occasionally while the other ingredients are prepared.

Stir together yeast and water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Heat milk with butter and granulated sugar over low heat, stirring, until mixture is warm (105 to 115°F), butter is melted, and sugar is dissolved.

Sift together flour and salt into bowl of stand mixer. Make a well in flour and add yeast mixture. Add warm milk in a slow stream, mixing at low speed with paddle attachment. Increase speed to medium and beat in eggs 1 at a time, then beat in zest. Drain fruit, reserving the rum for a cocktail or to make a glaze.   Add dried fruit.  Continue to beat until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (Dough will be very sticky.)

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Prepare the kugelhopf mold (or a an 11- to 12-cup bundt pan) with baking spray. Scrape spoonfuls of dough evenly into mold (dough will be very elastic).Cover top of mold with oiled plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a warm place until it fills pan, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Remove towel from kugelhopf  (or bundt pan) and gently peel off plastic wrap. Bake kugelhopf in middle of oven 15 minutes, then loosely cover mold with foil and continue to bake until golden and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes more. Cool in pan 2 minutes, then invert cake onto a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

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What would I give to cook a meal that brings people together such as this, to allow people to speak of God, to call each other “brother” and “sister” and to say “God bless you” and mean it?   What would I give to cook a meal that brings people to such truths as to declare, as the General does, “Mercy and truth have met toghether. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another”?  What would I give to see my blessed and sated guests spill out of my dining room under a clear starry sky to hold hands and sing?

2014-02-24 06.50.06

If “An artist is never poor” as the title character avows at the end of the film, then Babette is rich indeed.

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My Favorite Reads

Eat, Pray, Love
Running with Scissors
SantaLand Diaries
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Angela's Ashes
Naked
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
My Life in France
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
The Liars' Club
Code Name Verity
The Paris Wife
The Shoemaker's Wife
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
Brother of the More Famous Jack
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls


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