Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipe for Cygnes

Back from the world of technology to the world of pleasure; the pleasures of the table, to be exact. A few years ago I held a tea in 18th-century style, which included fruit tarts, petit-fours (dyed to match my dress), lemonade, gourmet sandwiches, fruit, Paris-Brest cake, and much more; but my favorites were these little cream-filled "swans". The photo shows them in the bottom right-hand corner just as they were made and plated by my good friend Michael.
To make Cygnes:
(For 6 swans)
1 1/4 cups pate a choux (puff pastry)
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt (to create an egg wash)
2 cups creme chantilly (or whipped cream)
powdered sugar

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pate a choux, spoon into pastry bag with a 5/8" fluted nozzle, and on a lightly-greased baking sheet, pipe out six 2X3" choux. Hold the pastry bag slightly inclined and draw it out to make an oval. Stop squeezing, then pull the nozzle back and up to form a small point.
2) Replace the nozzle with a 1/4" round nozzle and pipe out six 3" long candy cane shaped choux for the swans' necks.
3) Brush all pate a choux with beaten egg and bake for 15 mins, then lower the heat to 400-degrees, prop the oven door open, and bake for another 15-20 mins. The smaller choux will bake faster than the large pieces, so remove them when they are ready. Do not undercook them. Cool.
4) While the choux are cooking prepare the chantilly and chill.
5) With a serrated knife, cut the top off each choux, about 1/3 of the way down. Cut each top in hald lengthwise to create "wings". Remove any fragments of undercooked dough from the middle.
6) Spoon the cream into a small pastry bag and fill the bottoms. Place the necks at the wider end, well-anchored in the cream. Place the two halves of the wings, cut side down in the chantilly.
7) Pipe rosettes of cream down the back and between the wings. Dust the wings lightly with powdered sugar just before serving.

Serve within 2 hours. Bon appetit!
(Recipe from "Encyclopedia of Classic French Pastries" by Susan Whatley. 1993)

Difficulties with Posting Comments

Recently I noticed that I was having a problem commenting or responding to comments on my own blog. I would click on "comment", write what I wanted to say, choose an ID to respond as, enter my word verification...and be asked to sign in. I'd sign in, and be sent right back to Anonymous land. Maybe you've been having this problem too, and in case you have I will tell you what finally worked for me.

Go to your dashboard and click "Sign Out" in the upper right-hand corner. It will take you to the sign-in page. UNCHECK the "Remember me" or "Keep me signed in" box, and sign in as normal. For some reason this should take you out of the sign-in loop so that it actually does remember your ID. It's counterintuitive, but it works.

Hope this helps!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Millinery Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Abby, over at Stay-ing Alive, has posted a lovely review of her crazy-sewing-schedule-fueled weekend event at Colonial Williamsburg. The lucky girl actually works at CW and was able to utilize their excellent staff and resources to pull off a beautiful outfit complete with hat in a week! I suddenly feel so lazy.

Intrigued by her post I looked up the shop from which she borrowed the hat, and came across a very detailed article about Margaret Hunter's Millinery Shop which originally appeared in a Colonial Williamsburg publication. As such all rights are theirs, and I make no claim to the contrary. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blog-anniversaire Part Deux!

Omigosh, I almost missed my own Blog Anniversary! June 30th 2009 I started posting, mostly as a place to keep my little diary of a noblewoman, but also to share in the wonderful community of 18th century enthusiasts that I have come to appreciate more every day. To celebrate two years of blogging I will be giving away two gifts, but there's a catch; to be eligible you must leave me a comment on any post from now until July 1st. I would be particularly interested to know how you became interested in the 18th century.

But Olympe, what are these gifts of which you speak? I'm glad you asked. One guest will receive a pierced brise-style scented fan
and a second guest will receive a postcard from Pretty Girl Postards to send to anyone you would like.

In the meantime let's pop open a bottle of champagne, deal the cards, kick off our silk slippers under the table, and get down to the serious business of celebrating!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

May 23rd, 1781 Nuptials...or Not

Tomorrow we marry! I am overflowing with joy at the thought, and yet it hardly seems real. A few hours, which I would call short, but they will not seem so; and then I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

I fled Paris by the Porte de Versailles, knowing that even if F- were waiting for me he would expect me to head south out of the city towards Auvergne. Meeting T- at a coaching inn nearby he joined me in my carriage and we headed for Lille instead where T- has friends and we might secure a hasty union. There has been talk of going to Florence or Venice or Rome to get away from France until things have calmed down, but I fear that would only make them worse. Now here we are, in Lille and a local priest has agreed to marry us, for a price, of course.

Oh, but I have forgotten to mention that as I was leaving Sully who should arrive but Christine! I had completely forgotten that she was to come to Paris for the wedding with F-, but instead we kidnapped her most willingly and have made her a party to our adventure. We will all laugh-

Christine has brought me a note and the news is bad. F- has indeed called off the wedding as requested, but he has also I suspect given the Paris police reason to suppose that T- may be a spy for the British and a friend at the Ferme writes to urge him to flee until the matter can be sorted out. I have sent Christine to bring T- back here at once from his errands. Do we go together or stay long enough to be married tomorrow?

Neither, I think. If F- wishes to prevent our marriage then he has succeeded in that at least temporarily, but he will expect T- and I to run away together, and if we do he may be caught and thrown into jail. F- will delay the trial all he can; and to think that not long ago he was our dearest friend! No, I will go to Auvergne for the summer, as the court retires to Fountainebleau, and they will not find T- with me. He must go alone, and I must not say where. To delay would be foolish. We have waited this long, we can wait still more until these accusations have passed.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Apologies and Upcoming Events

Lady Delme with her Children by Reynolds 1777-80
I offer the above painting, which I have often seen at the National Gallery of Art, with my most sincere apologies for being so long absent. A show I was working on went into tech, followed precipitously by the death of my laptop's powercord. My wedding is in exactly one month and so I suspect that I will remain very busy and less communicative than I would wish. I promise, however, that when I am less busy I will begin a series of costume diaries as I make an entirely new 18th century wardrobe, complete with jewelry, gowns, outerwear, fans, and hats. Wish me luck, and stay tuned!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Friends

"Give out that you have many friends, but believe that you have but few." - French proverb

Sunday, June 5, 2011

May 17th, 1781

Three days until the wedding is scheduled to happen and it is now or never. I called Marianne to me as soon as I woke this morning, having slept very fitfully in fear of sleeping too late. I told her to pack a trunk or two with only those items most essential for leaving the city for the season. Fortunately this will not draw suspicion as the household is packing for me to depart for my husband's home as it is. I told her that she should also alert the coachman and one footman to be ready to leave the city at a moment's notice, but to keep out of sight until summoned. She seemed genuinely surprised, which as I feel certain she reads this journal, would greatly surprise me. I promised her the pair of earrings which the Marquis gave to me for my birthday if she could accomplish this, but only when we reached our destination safety. I then dressed simply and sent word to F- that I needed to see him urgently, and gave Maman some money to buy a few things for the wedding.

In due course he came, looking stern and peeved already, and I should admit that I feared his reaction, especially as Thierry was not there to protect me, and I have learned well in the last year not to trust my own servants. I informed him that there was to be no wedding, that Thierry and I planned to wed and that he would not hinder us. As I expected he quickly brought up the fact that I had told the King that I would marry him, and that is when I informed him that he would be the one calling it off.

He looked for a moment as if he were not sure whether to laugh or shout, and then said simply that he would do no such thing. I told him that he would or be branded a cuckold and a fool. I told him that he could await me before the priest and guests, but that I would not come. I told him that he could say he had misgivings about our marriage, say that he knew I loved another and could not force me into a loveless marriage, say that his own family (of which he is the head) opposed the match, say anything, but should call it off and let me go, or look the worse for it.

"There will be rumors of the truth." He said.
"I expect there will, but there always were anyhow." I countered. "Yours as well as mine."
He bristled at this, but seemed incapable of comment. Standing suddenly, he paused, and then strode out the door. I do not know what he will do now, but in case we are not waiting to find out. Marianne had my traveling costume laid out awaiting me when I returned to my room, and as I scribble these few lines the coach is being brought around. I escape now to Thierry who, God willing, awaits me.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 16th, 1781

Thierry and I have developed a plan. I cannot know for sure whether the Marquis will agree to my wishes, especially considering his attitude towards them over the last few months. I do not entirely trust this latest, more kindly, behavior and wonder how long it can last, so we are proceeding as if he will not allow me to leave.

Nevertheless I did send a note to him this morning to ask if he would come to see me this afternoon before the ball. He sent one back saying that he was very busy and would see me tonight. Naturally I could not say what was needed there. I've made it known that I am not at home to visitors and will hold no Lever until after the wedding.

The ball in honor of our wedding was held tonight and everyone I could think of was there. The room was terribly warm and the open windows allowed the moonlight to stream in. I wore a new gown in lavendar, which has always been most becoming on me. F- was at ease in his role as host, but I could hardly hide my unhappiness for I am no actress and never have been. Maman was fairly in tears with joy, quite unconscious of my feelings, but that comes as little surprise. I realized that she, of course, endured a marriage not of her making when she wed my father so she probably has little sympathy for my plight.

Naturally I had to dance with everyone and it was in the middle of one such dance that I saw Thierry. He had not to my knowledge been invited, but there he was. In the next set he joined the dancers and for a few moments we were together before I was whirled away again. I know my eyes followed him about the room, but I had no care for the gossip of others. I lost him as the dancers broke ranks for refreshment, and when next I looked for him he was gone.

Tomorrow we set the plan in motion. Pray God we are not prevented.
Olympe, Comtesse