I had read rumors in several books and websites that pastries in France were not as sweet as in America. I had even read that the spices were subtle. Neighbors who go to France regularly confirmed these rumors. But, still, I wasn't sure.
Then we went on vacation to a little town in Florida that has a La Macaron French Pastries cafe. I was hungry. I ordered a pain au raisin. It looked vaguely like the cinnamon-rolls we popped out of a can and baked on Sunday mornings growing up. But that is where any similarity ended.
After I took a bite (yes, with the fork and knife served with the pastry on a china plate), I encouraged Doug to try a bite. "So? What do you think is different?" His reply was exactly my first thought, too. "It's not sweet."
And the subtle spice? Yep. No overpowering cinnamon or nutmeg. However, the pastry wasn't bland either; I just could not detect exactly which spices were used. The pastry was the opposite of bland - it was intriguing. Since there was no taste of sugar I could try to taste everything else.
Even more strange was several minutes later I could still taste the pastry, but not in an "my mouth is drawn from too much sugar" way. Just a delicate flavor when I paid attention to it.
- Eating with a knife and fork really does enlarge the experience of eating.
- Eating food with less sugar allows the flavors to be tasted.
The challenge: If you bake, try cutting the sugar in your recipes drastically, experiment with level of spices needed, and then get out your knife and fork to savor the difference. (I'm going to try it with a family blueberry teacake recipe. Here's to experiments in the kitchen.)