I love taking a step back in time, especially when it is to the Middles Ages. So when I arrived in Pérouges, a well-preserved medieval walled town, I was enchanted.
This fascinating and historical cobblestone town is perched on a hill overlooking the Ain River valley 19 miles north of Lyon, France.
It was developed in the 14th century based around the local wine and weaving industries.
Today Pérouges has been declared by the French government as “one of the most beautiful villages in France.”
The fortress Church of St Mary Magdalen was destroyed during a siege in 1468 and later rebuilt in 1479.
Today the town has fewer than 100 inhabitants and is beautifully maintained.
Walking down the cobbled streets, you will see artistically placed flowers, artisan shops in old 15 & 16th-century houses, hotels and restaurants.
Many famous people have visited the village & sampled the local specialty Galette de Pérouges (sugar pie), including Bill Clinton (during the G7 in Lyon in 1996).
So of course, my mother and I stopped at Hostellerie de Pérouges, a nearly 600-year-old house converted into a hotel & restaurant, to taste this internationally acknowledged sugar sensation.
We were pleasantly delighted when we tasted this sweet, brioche-like dough with a caramelized sugar and lemon topping.
Personally, I think it should be called Crème Brûlée Pizza. No matter what name you use, it was the perfect mid-morning indulgence complimented with a glass of Vin du Bugey Montagnieu sparkling wine.
According to farming tradition, the famous Galette de Pérouges was created by Marie-Louise Thibaut in 1912 when she settled in the village with her husband. At that time, Pérouges was almost abandoned, so she established a commission to salvage the town and draw tourists.
Marie-Louise opened the Hostellerie de Pérouges and created a menu inspired by medieval dishes, which featured an ancient recipe for a wood-fired sugar pie. The village was saved and the pie still remains one of the star attractions.
Even James Beard felt this sugar pie had “all the virtues of French country cooking—it is simple, inexpensive, and makes thoroughly delicious eating.” The recipe below comes from Mark Bittman, printed in the New York Times.
- 1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 2 cups flour, plus more for sprinkling
- Pinch salt
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 egg
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- Combine yeast, flour, salt, tablespoon of sugar, cold butter, egg and lemon zest in food processor. Turn machine on, let it run for a second until mixture is blended, and then let machine run while you add ¼ cup water through feed tube, a little at a time, until mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of water, and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
- Turn dough onto very lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round ball. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp cloth, and let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough just about doubles in size, or at least 1 hour. (You can also let dough rise more slowly, in refrigerator, for as long as 6 or 8 hours.)
- Preheat oven to at least 500°F (600 is better, if your oven goes that high). Knead dough lightly, and place it on a very lightly floured surface; sprinkle it with a little more flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Let it rest while oven heats.
- Pat or roll out dough as thinly as possible to a diameter of 12 inches, using a little more flour if necessary. The process will be easier if you allow dough to rest occasionally between rollings. If you have a pizza stone in your oven, place dough on a floured peel, or long-handled board; if you do not, lay dough on lightly buttered baking sheet.
- Spread dough with softened butter, and sprinkle it with remaining sugar. Bake until crust is nicely crisp and sugar lightly caramelizes, about 10 minutes; if galette is browning unevenly, rotate it back to front about halfway through cooking time. Serve hot or at room temperature as a snack, or at room temperature with creme fraiche and cut-up ripe fruit.
It is a pleasure to discover every nook and cranny in this adorable historical village.
Adventure awaits for all who travel to Pérouges.
…and then, she paused for thought.