Monday, January 18, 2010


"Into each life some rain must fall." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Rain has hit the Southland. It started yesterday, and continued through the night, gaining strength with no signs of it letting up any time soon. Los Angeles usually averages about 15 inches of rain annually, winter and spring showers (November through April) which are generally light, but that at times comes down in torrential downpours scattering Angelenos every which way but loose as they duck from the rain, in fear of melting. Rain in LA is always accompanied by the sounds of sirens, police cars and fire trucks chasing accidents caused by lead-foots, or overly cautious and hesitant motorists, their wet road reflexes dulled with too many days of sunshine. The rains make the streets and freeways extra-slick, they bring flash-floods and mudslides. Glum faces stare out of car windows, a cacophony of grumblings vocal and rampant, as extracurricular activities are dashed until further notice.

For me rain isn't reason to gripe and groan. I find the rain strangely comforting, a catalyst for wistful recollections of times lost and found, a sentimental yearning for creature comforts, whether it's snuggling under warm bed covers, sipping hot chocolate, reading noon to night tucked into the corner of an inviting couch, or calling in sick for a marathon of movies. The comfort in knowing your buffeted inside, dry and cozy. The driving wet sounds, background accompaniment to lazy-day indoor activities. Splatters, drizzles, drips, swishes and splashes, insistent rooftop pitter-patter plops, a tap-tap-tap on the windows begging to be invited in. It's a rain of remembering and forgetting, a baptism of renewal and rebirth, a cleansing, a washing away of the past, starting anew, a do-over. Rain in its infinite roles offers redemption, even as it stings, a flagellation that whips down upon our heads, and leaves an indelible trace to our skins. Grey skies that hang overhead, in a sifting of rain, or buckets poured in torrents, they sweep sidewalks clean of grime and disillusion. Spitting rain, contempt for the day-to-day minutiae, a drizzle or a whispering of long lost secrets, a sheet of mist burying us beneath a blanket of promises. Rain, beautiful but fickle rain.

Cassonade (or vergeoise) is a special brown-colored, free-pouring sugar found in France. It's very similar to raw, or turbinado sugar. The following recipe was modified from a popular Flanders (region in Northern France) recipe to swap out vergeoise for raw, or light brown sugar. Serve it warm alone, or paired with ice cream or fruit for an extra yummy treat.

Tarte Au Sucre (Sugar Pie)
for the crust:
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups flour
1 egg
1/4 cup white sugar
6 tbsp softened butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt

for the topping:
3/4 cup raw sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
2 tbsp butter
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm to the touch. Remove from heat, and stir in the yeast until completely dissolved.
  2. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and make a large well in the center of the flour. Into the well, add the egg, sugar, butter, salt and milk. With a sturdy wooden spoon, start mixing the ingredients until it becomes a stiff dough. Requires a strong arm to ensure all is well blended.
  3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave the bowl in a warm place to rise. Let rise until double the volume. Depending on warmth of room, and activeness of yeast, could take 1 to 3 hours.
  4. Once the dough has risen, use your finger tips to fit it in the bottom of a 10-inch pie tin. Turn the oven on to 400°F and let dough rise again fro 15 minutes while the oven is warming.
  5. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the raw sugar. Whisk the 2 eggs and then whisk in the heavy cream just until mixed. Pour mixture on top of the sugar topped dough. Cut the final 2 tbsp of butter into about 20 tiny pieces and place evenly atop the pie.
  6. Bake at 400° F for 25 minutes. Serve warm.

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