The first thing I did when I arrived home in the Berkshires was bake a pie. What was the first thing I did when I arrived in France? You guessed it; I baked a pie. I’m still waiting to hear how it turned out, though, because I am a fly-by-night pie baker and I left Aix before tasting the pie. I actually left before it was out of the oven! You may call me an irresponsible baker if you wish. I’m glad to say, however, that I left it in capable hands.
Those hands belong to my hostess, Milne, who I met on the bus from the Marseille airport to Aix-en-Provence (cover your ears, kiddies! don’t talk to strangers!) She was standing behind me in line as I tried to decipher the bus driver’s Marseillais accent, and as soon as we sat down she politely asked “parlez-vous l’anglais?” and that was the beginning of a beautiful visit to Aix-en-Provence, and I believe a beautiful friendship.
Not only did I get to sleep for twelve hours in the fresh-air-filled former kitchen of a hôtel particulier built in the 1600s, but Milne also showed me around Aix the next morning, taking me to two farmers markets overflowing with produce and cheese and mushrooms and really good smeeellls from the direction of the roasting chickens. Milne treated me to madeleines and a cannélé made by Christophe… and we bought apples for the pie, Grannys and Chanticlercs.
On the route between markets we stopped in at a chocolatier, where we got some chocolates filled with caramel au beurre salé—I had to compare my salted caramel to the French version, after all.
When we got back to Milne’s house all I had to do was prepare the apples and put the pie together, since I had already made the crust and caramel and rolled out the crust. Even all this preparation didn’t allow me the hour for baking and the three hours for cooling that I would have needed in order to get a taste. I was sad that I didn’t get to see how Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ salted caramel apple pie turns out with French ingredients, but I had to start the next phase of my journey by catching a 2:00 bus to Digne!