My Paris Wedding

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All photos by Fabien Courmont.

On December 22, 2016, twenty years to the day after our first date, Maxence and I got married.

It was a small wedding — just our parents, siblings, sons, and closest friends — that we decided on and planned in just two months, because we’re crazy like that.

It was, quite suitably, the most magical, the most romantic day of my life, and I kinda want to do it again this year, and the next, and the next (with the same man, obv.).

One of the benefits of getting married when you’re thirty-seven years old and you’ve been together for twenty, is that you know yourself and the other person very, very well. You can make swift and easy decisions that feel 100% you, and you can flow through the planning in a way that is joyful and exciting and a celebration of your relationship.

In that spirit, I want to share with you some of the choices that added up to create the perfect day for us.

If you don’t give two figs about weddings, I’m not offended in the least; I was firmly in your camp up until three months ago, so click away, my friend, click away.

But for those of you who geek out on this kind of stuff, here goes. (Also, I have put together this mini-guide of 10 Romantic Ideas in Paris that is free to download!)

Bride & groom"s hands

I got my dress from My Philosophy, a small ethical fashion boutique in my neighborhood where I’ve bought several (non-wedding) dresses in the past. The designer and co-founder Kroeusna Khaou buys remainder fabric from haute-couture collections, creates her designs, and has them made in a dedicated workshop in Cambodia that employs young women in need, providing them with shelter, training, and respectful working conditions.

In addition to creating this amazingly comfortable dress of chic and simplicity (love at first wear), Kroeusna was also super warm and available, helping me figure out how I could wear my hair, suggesting accessories that would complement the outfit, and getting sweetly and genuinely excited for me.

She’s the one who suggested I wear a pearl pendant, and as luck would have it, my mother had one that my father brought her back from Mallorca in 1964, one month into their relationship. (It was my “something borrowed”.) I also wore my late grandmother’s silver wind-up watch, and her own wedding ring (“Eugène uni à Marcelle 25-2-33”), which I’ve worn every day for the past twelve years or so. (Adding up to a lot of “something old”.)

Ethical wedding dress by My Philosophy

Because it was a winter wedding, I needed to find a coat and a scarf so I wouldn’t end up as The Newlywed with Pneumonia. I tried to borrow one or the other, but it turns out normal people don’t really own white coats or scarves. So I ordered this fake fur jacket that is warm and cosy, with a hood and zipper that give it a modern touch. I found an ivory white scarf at Sac & Sac, an independent boutique on rue des Abbesses where I have bought many a bag and scarf and shoe over the years. (“Something new.”)

I wanted a hair accessory and scoured Le Bon Coin (the most popular site for classifieds in France) for second-hand options. I lucked out on this Cécile Boccara tiara, sold at a steep discount by a lovely woman, who was also full of happy thoughts and good advice for me.

I got my shoes on Le Bon Coin as well, buying ivory white heels from a bride who had bought different pairs to try on for her own wedding, and had not worn these in the end. The fit was perfect and she happened to live right across from the Mairie* where we got married, so that was a fun coincidence.

Bride & groom"s wedding shoes

Next to the dress, my bouquet was the most personal, most meaningful choice I made: I asked my friend Apollonia, who runs the Poilâne bakery, if she would make one for me. The concept came to me as a revelation one sleepless night (“I want a bread bouquet !”), and in the morning I wrote to her to ask if it was a crazy, or a crazy good idea.

I gave her carte blanche, and she and Félix, the artist-baker who crafts their wonderful decorated loaves — one of which I received for the birth of each of my sons — got to work. Together they created the most delicate bouquet of bread roses in three colors of dough, with slender leaves and ears of wheat. It was a thing of beauty that stole the show, got compliments from everyone, and kept our sons happily occupied during the ceremony. They may or may not have eaten a few of the leaves.

Bridal bouquet made of bread by Poilâne

It’s always a headache to know where to put your phone and lipstick and tissues when you’re wearing a wedding dress (right?). My oldest dearest friend (and witness**) Marie-Laure offered to make a clutch bag for me, which she sewed by hand in a stunning gold-and-blue Japanese fabric. (It was my “something blue.”)

The day before the wedding, I got my nails done with a simple French manicure (FYI, we call it une French manucure here) at a nail bar near me. In early morning on the big day, I headed out to Profession Coiffeur so Michel, the head stylist, could get my hair into a bun, according to the style we had chosen together during a test session the week before.

I did my makeup myself — professionals often overdo it and I want to cry and wipe it all off — but I benefited from the private makeup course that my thoughtful friends booked for me at La Maison du Dr. Hauschka on my (quote unquote) bachelorette day. (Right before we had tea at Amami, saw the laugh-till-you-pee show Les Coquettes, and had dinner at Café Trama. Best. Friends. Ever.)

Wedding dress

During the civil ceremony at the Mairie, we exchanged the wedding rings of hammered red gold that we bought from Paulette à Bicyclette, a Parisian designer of ethical jewelry who works with certified fairmined gold, and got engraved.

You can pick out songs to be played while you sign the register at the Mairie, and we chose this, this, and this. We also realized these three song titles were perfect to name our three tables at the restaurant: Love, Stars, Remember. In three words, all was said! And since I dabble in hand-lettering lately, I made the table and place cards by hand.

Hand-lettered wedding table cards

After the Mairie, Maxence and I walked up the most charming streets of Montmartre toward the magical Hôtel Particulier, where we had booked a room for the night. We had a little time there to rest and recharge before the evening.

Wedding dinner at yam"Tcha

Our wedding cocktail and dinner were held at yam’Tcha, our very most beloved restaurant in Paris, where we’ve celebrated Maxence’s birthday every year since it opened***. Adeline Grattard and her team hosted us like friends (friends that would also be kings), and outdid themselves with a memorable meal that blowed our collective minds.

Wedding dinner at yam"Tcha

I also enlisted Apollonia Poilâne for the wedding favors: instead of the traditional dragées (candied almonds), our guests left with little bags of heart-shaped Punition sablés — a.k.a. the world’s best butter cookies — marked with our initials. They were distributed alongside short mad lib questionnaires I had drawn up in lieu of a guestbook (thank you Pinterest), which were super fun to read at breakfast the next morning.

Personalized Punition cookies

And to document it all, wedding photographer extraordinaire Fabien Courmont, who was such a friendly, kind, fun, and warm presence at our sides, you would have sworn he was one of our friends; apparently he gets that a lot. A perfect fit for us. (And if you want to meet him, he’ll be at the alternative wedding show LOVE/ETC in Paris on February 3 and 4. Tell him I said hi!)

In parting, here are two nuggets of wisdom I received, and would like to pass on:

1- My friend Bérangère recommended that I get absolutely everything sorted and organized in advance, so I’d have nothing to do on the day of, but to enjoy it. It may sound obvious, but I did catch myself many times thinking, “Oh, we can just call the taxi when we’re ready to leave” or “I’ll just pull out the bedsheets for the sitter before we go” or some other tiny thing, and remembered Bérangère and her wise words. So I scheduled the taxi rides in advance, prepared a bundle of sheets and towels for the baby-sitter way ahead, and on and on. My sailing? So. Much. Smoother.

2- A few days before the wedding, I heard the amazing Sarah Von Bargen on the Create Lounge podcast. She mentioned this thing that she does right after a trip or a vacation: she writes down 100 memories from it, big or small, in no particular order. I thought it was a wonderful idea and applied it to our wedding day. I sat down the next night and soon got to eight pages and 137 memories, which I slipped into our envelope of memorabilia. I don’t know when I’ll re-read the pages, but I know they’ll make me smile. And probably cry a little bit. Can’t promise I won’t.

Kids" wedding outfits

* In France, you have to get married at the city hall (à la mairie) of the place where you or your parents reside. In Paris, each arrondissement has its own mairie. Because of the separation of church and state, this civil ceremony must happen before any kind of religious celebration.

** In France, we don’t have maids of honor or best men, we have witnesses (témoins); for the civil ceremony you can have four in total, of any gender. Most often the bride choses two female friends and the groom two male friends, but there’s no obligation either way.

*** Except the year it was closed when it moved location, but still we picked up baos from the boutique.

Bride & groom in Montmartre

Note: None of these links are sponsored in any way, but the bouquet was a wedding gift from Apollonia.

PS: Don’t forget to grab your FREE mini-guide of 10 Romantic Ideas in Paris!

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Homemade Galette des Rois Recipe

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Galette des rois

If you’ve ever been in France during the month of January, surely you’ve noticed the blossoming of galettes des rois in the window of every bakery and pastry shop. A puff pastry pie garnished with a buttery filling, it is the traditional confection with which the Epiphany is celebrated*; I have written in more detail about this tradition in this post, so I invite you to go and read that first. I’ll wait right here.

La galette, and the fun ritual that determines who will be king or queen for the day (allow me to insist you read this post if you don’t yet know about the fève thing), bring back many a happy childhood memory for me. Aside from the two years I spent in California, I have partaken of at least one galette a year for as long as I can remember.

My first homemade galette des rois!

I used to buy them from the pastry shop, like most French people do, but I started making my own a few years ago.

My deep attachment to this confection should have compelled me to do so years earlier, but the Epiphany is theoretically celebrated on January 6 — though this is extended to the whole month of January nowadays — and I always felt a bit too tuckered out after the holidays to tackle the project.

But that inaugural year was different. We were celebrating my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary one Saturday, my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were visiting from London for the occasion, and my mother had asked if I could bring the dessert for our celebratory lunch. It seemed the perfect opportunity to share a galette with my family, and I had just enough time to make it myself.

My initial intention was to make my own puff pastry, using this easy puff pastry formula, but I didn’t quite have it in me so I decided to use store-bought puff pastry. Not just any store-bought puff pastry, mind you, but Madame François’ puff pastry, which is produced in Sologne with butter from the Charentes, farine de gruau (fine wheat flour) and zero additives. I got it from G. Detou, where it is sold in slabs of 3 kilos, ready to be divided, shared and/or frozen; it can also be ordered on their website**.

What’s inside a galette des rois?

The stuffing was crème d’amande, not frangipane. There is a lot of confusion between the two, so here’s the difference: crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which in turn is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch.

Most galettes sold out there are filled with frangipane rather than crème d’amande — the production cost of frangipane is a lot lower, since the almonds are the most expensive ingredient in there — but my preference goes to crème d’amande, which makes a more delicate, less eggy, more flavorful filling.

As for the all-important fève (read here to know what that is), I had wisely saved the one Maxence got when we ate a galette des rois at my cousin’s a week before: it is a little porcelain tower of some sort that seems like the tip might pierce the roof of your mouth if you’re really out of luck, but this is France, where people don’t really sue one another for that sort of thing***.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

I consulted countless recipes, watched numerous videos including this one, and merged all the things I’d learned into my own version, with a little hazelnut flour in the stuffing.

The making of the galette itself really wasn’t difficult at all, at least for someone with a minimum of baking experience: you spread the puff pastry into two circles, spread crème d’amande on the first, cover it with the second, score, eggwash, and bake.

The only slightly tricky steps are: 1- not forgetting to place the fève in the filling (a horrifying prospect), 2- placing the top circle precisely over the first, 3- sealing it properly so the filling won’t escape, and 4- making sure the eggwash doesn’t drip over the edges of the puff pastry, otherwise it might not rise to its full potential.

I did get some guidance from my personal galette hotline, i.e. my friend Pascale, whom I asked if I could prepare everything a day in advance and bake the galette on the day of: she said I could freeze it overnight, and bake it straight from the freezer in the morning. She even mentioned that puff pastry rises higher if it’s been frozen at some point.

It worked perfectly: I woke up, preheated the oven, slipped the frozen galette inside, and tried my best to occupy myself with other things — watched puff pastry never rises — until it was ready, golden brown, puffy, and gorgeous.

Transporting my homemade galette des rois

The bonus challenge I faced was transporting the galette to my parents’ apartment — on Maxence’s scooter. I improvised a cake carrier out of two cereal boxes, inserted it in the compartment under the seat, and hoped for the best. Maxence was very careful to avoid bumps and ruts, and although we were practically run down by our squealing nephew upon arrival, the galette made it safely to my mother’s kitchen, then to our table, where it was received with enthusiasm and compliments. My father even declared he’d never eaten such a flavorful galette des rois, and he’d said that about Pierre Hermé’s before (a completely unbiased opinion, to be sure).

And as luck (and possibly karma) would have it, I got the fève, which means I could save it for the next year, when I made another galette: once you know how rewarding and fun it is to make your own, there’s no turning back, I’m afraid.

Feeling up for the project yourself? You have until the end of January to do so — at least that’s when the French stop eating galettes (and stop wishing one another a happy new year). And if it feels too tight, well, the recipe will be right here waiting for you next year!

Galette des rois

* Except in the south of France, where the gâteau des rois — a ring-shaped brioche studded with candied fruit — takes its place.

** If that’s not an option, use the best quality puff pastry you can find and afford. Ideally, it will be made with just flour, butter, water, and salt (no other type of fat, and no preservatives or additives); in France, the one that is sold by Picard is said to be the best option in its range.

*** I’ve read that some French-style bakeries established in the US simply place a whole almond instead of a trinket in their galettes, to avoid any broken tooth incident.

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Homemade Galette des Rois Recipe

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves 6 to 8.

Homemade Galette des Rois Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500 grams (17 2/3 ounces) all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (you can use my recipe for quick and easy puff pastry)
  • For the crème d'amande:
  • 100 grams (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar (I used a blond unrefined cane sugar)
  • 110 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) almond flour (= almond meal or finely ground almonds*)
  • 20 grams (2 tablespoons) hazelnut flour or finely ground hazelnuts** (optional; you can also use all almond meal as in the classic galette, 130 grams total or 1 cup and 3 tablespoons)
  • 8 grams (1 tablespoon) corn starch (in France, this is known under the brand name Maïzena)
  • a good pinch sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 drop almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water or a liquor of your choice, such as Grand Marnier or rum
  • For the eggwash and glaze:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
  • Accessories:
  • 1 porcelain trinket or dried bean
  • 2 paper crowns

Instructions

    1. Prepare the crème d'amande.
  1. Beat the butter until creamy, but avoid incorporating air into it. In a bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, corn starch, and salt. Stir with a whisk to remove any lump. Add to the creamed butter and mix until smooth. Add the almond extract and orange flower water, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
  2. Crème d"amande
    2. Roll out the puff pastry.
  3. Divide the puff pastry in 2 equal pieces, and roll each one out to form a rough circle a little larger than 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. Use a sharp knife and an upturned plate of the right dimension to cut a neat 30-cm (12-inch) circle out of one, and a slightly larger one with the other, adding, say, 6 mm (1/4 inch) all around the edge of the plate.
  4. 3. Assemble the galette.
  5. Place the smaller of the two circles on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with a tablespoon water (or milk, if you have it handy) until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the outer rim of the dough lightly with the eggwash by a width of about 2.5 cm (1 inch). Make sure not to wet the actual edge of the dough, or it will impede its rise.
  6. Pour the crème d'amande in the center and spread it out inside the eggwash ring with a spatula.
  7. Place a porcelain fève, a dried bean, or the trinket of your choice in the crème d'amande -- not in the center but closer to an edge, or your knife will keep running into it when you divide the galette. And if it is an elongated shape, make sure to orient it straight toward the center of the galette, again, to minimize the possibility of you hitting it with your knife (as you see in the picture below, mine was not, and sure enough, I cut right into the top of the little tower). Press it down gently to bury it.
  8. Stuffing
  9. Transfer the second round of dough precisely on top of the first, smooth it out gently over the crème d'amande to remove any air pocket, and press it down all around the sides to seal.
  10. Closed
    4. Score the galette.
  11. Using the back of the tip of your knife (i.e. the dull side), draw a decorative pattern on top of the galette: a diamond-shaped grid, optionally with double or triple lines, a flower pattern... see examples here, here, or here.
  12. I chose to make a sun pattern as demonstrated in this video: you start from the center and draw an arc to reach the edge of the galette in a single, smooth gesture, exercising just enough pressure to score the dough without piercing it. You then turn the galette ever so slightly, draw a similar arc nested in the first one, and repeat until the entire galette is scored.
  13. Scored
  14. Holding your knife upright, blade down, and using the dull side of the blade, push the dough inward where each sun ray ends, to create a festooned pattern.
  15. Chiquetée
  16. Brush the top of the galette lightly with the eggwash: again, make sure it doesn't drip over the edges, or the eggwash will seal the layers of the puff pastry in this spot and it won't develop as well. Let it rest a minute then brush it lightly again with the eggwash. (As you can see on the picture below, my eggwash pooled a bit around the bulge of the crème d'amande, which resulted in a darker coloring around the sides; I didn't mind, but I'll be more careful next time.)
  17. Using the tip of your knife, pierce 5 holes in the top dough -- one in the center, and four around the sides, piercing through the pattern you've drawn -- to ensure an even rise.
  18. Eggwash
  19. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or a tart pan with a removable bottom, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can place the galette in the freezer at this point, on the baking sheet or pan, and bake it the next day. Although I haven't tried it, I'm sure you could prepare it up to a week or so in advance: once the galette is thoroughly frozen, transfer it to a tightly sealed bag to avoid freezer burn.)
  20. In pan
    5. Bake the galette.
  21. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F); if the galette was in the freezer, take it out while the oven preheats. Insert the galette in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes (35 if it was frozen), until puffy and golden brown.
  22. In the final minutes of baking, combine the tablespoon of confectioner's sugar with a tablespoon very hot water (heated until boiling in the kettle or the microwave). When the galette is done, remove it from the oven, brush it across the top with the syrup, and return it to the oven for a minute; this will give it a shiny finish.
  23. Place on a rack to cool completely (it will settle as it cools) and serve at room temperature. (Some people prefer it slightly warm, so they reheat it slightly in a warm oven before serving.) The traditional pairing is with Champagne or hard cider.
  24. Have one of the guests (usually the youngest) hide under the table if he's willing, or at least cover his eyes or turn his back to the table. Cut the galette into servings and, for each serving, have the guest decide who should have it. If your guests are unfamiliar with the tradition, make sure you warn everyone that a fève may be hiding in their slice. Whoever finds it is king/queen for the day, receives a paper crown, and gets to pick his/her queen/king (or king/queen for that matter) by giving her/him the second paper crown.
  25. Galette des rois

Notes

  • I provided volume conversions, but for best results I strongly recommend you weigh the ingredients for this recipe.
  • I normally mention that you can also grind your own almonds, but here it is worth seeking out almond meal (you'll find it at natural food stores and Middle-Eastern markets): it is a lot more finely ground than what you could achieve at home, and this will make the crème d'amande incomparably smooth.
  • Read more about the hazelnut flour I used. Alternatively, you can grind the hazelnuts yourself if you prefer: place 20 grams (3 tablespoons) shelled hazelnuts in a blender with 2 tablespoons of the sugar used in the crème d'amande, and pulse until finely ground.

3.1
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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes are copyright Clotilde Dusoulier.

Galette des rois

This post was first published in January 2010 and updated in January 2017.

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5 Tips for Fabulous Homemade Soups

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Fennel Soup with Lime and Cashew Cream

You know the feeling. This time of year, you’re simply dying for a bowl of something warm, comforting, and full of vitality. But as painful experiences may have shown you, good intentions and a throw-whatever-vegetables-you-have-into-the-pot approach doesn’t always work so well.

For a simple, clean-out-the-fridge soup, I will point you to my Everything Soup. It’s the ultimate guide to soup improv that you can tweak to your heart and fridge’s content, with recommendations for optimizing flavor profile, plus must-haves and must-nots.

Once you have these basics down, here are some more tips for fabulous homemade soups, which will turn any pot you make into a seductive winter dish that will have your spoon quivering with excitement.

Stay in season

It’s not just about the carbon footprint, the mood of the weather, or the tradition, though of course these things count. It’s also that in-season vegetables taste significantly better, and if you want a soup that shines with flavor, you gotta have good vegetables to begin with.

And as luck would have it, winter vegetables are perfect candidates, with their starchy textures and sweet, earthy notes. Can’t remember what’s in season? I have a free seasonal produce guide for you.

Chunky or smooth?

Whether you are in the mood for a chunky soup or a smooth velouté, make up your mind before you start. This will determine how you cut the vegetables, and the order in which you add them in. If you want it chunky, such as this chunky pumpkin soup, you’ll pay more attention to not overcooking any of the vegetables. And if you want an ultra-smooth, restaurant-quality velouté, investing in a high-performance blender such as this one will make all the difference (night and day).

Play with spices and fresh herbs

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

Soups are the perfect opportunity to finally get some mileage out of that spice drawer. Vegetables are such a welcoming canvas, whether you are flavoring them with citrus and spicesturmeric and hazelnuts, or an ayurvedic blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with just salt and pepper if that’s all you have (sometimes they’re all you need!), but this is your chance to kick things up a notch and test out new, interesting flavor combinations.

Make it interactive

I love meals that require some audience participation, whether you invite the eater to drizzle oil or cream, sprinkle things, or stir a condiment right in.

I like using the latter method with my pattypan squash and pesto soup: I just place a bowl of pesto on the table for guests to help themselves, stirring it into the soup and preserving the immediacy and freshness of the pesto.

You can also elevate a simple soup meal with bowls of various soup accoutrements, like almond breadcrumbs, roasted chickpeas, homemade croûtons, crushed spiced almonds… or anything you have on hand that will add texture and flavor to your soup.

Keep it creamy

If you’re craving a creamy soup but want a change from dairy (or can’t have it), there are options. Instead of adding heavy cream or crème fraîche, try using coconut milk to make the soup silkier, or whip up a quick cashew cream to pour over the top (bonus: it’s pretty). You can also use almond meal or nut butters to thicken your soup.

Join the Conversation

What’s been your favorite soup combo lately? Any tip you want to share for soup success?

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