Cat therapy

RECIPE:   PEAR & PRALINÉ HAZELNUT PIE + COCOA CRUST

Pear & praliné hazelnut tart 7 | Infinite belly

We venture into town only when necessary, and usually that is to buy bread or go to the post office. In the car we look forward with the same blank expression while listening to talk radio. I approach the post office and pass by people I don’t know, often asking myself who they are, what they are thinking, who they’re coming home to, what they had for lunch. Sometimes I get overwhelmed trying to imagine the immensity of thoughts, feelings, and memories contained in each of those individuals I will never get to know.

Whisk illustration | Infinite bellyPear & praliné hazelnut tart 9 | Infinite belly

But this year I am spending a lot of time getting to know cats. I never had one before. Never even lived with any animal at all actually. Now I have three. And sometimes they seem like these familiar strangers you see in a small village like Lapte or Grazac, living in proximity, yet unknowable.

I always wanted to ask Gaston, the tabby chubby cat we found at the pastry school stuck in an air vent, how did he survive the long Auvergne winter in the wild at below zero temperatures? Did he eat ungodly amounts of macarons and other pastry leftovers in the trash? That would explain his taste for desserts, unusual for a cat, I heard. And Frida, whom we rescued in the forest with a paw cut off. We were looking for mushrooms when this emaciated figure meowed towards us. Did she live in a house before? What happened to her paw? How did she end up in the deep of these remote woods?

Frida the cat | Infinite belly

Pear & praliné hazelnut tart 4 | Infinite bellyCake slice illustration | Infinite bellyPear & praliné hazelnut tart 5 | Infinite belly

There’s also Boris, a kitten born in a nearby farm who decided to make our house his home (or maybe Adélaïde lured him in…). I still don’t understand why he meows like crazy every time I am about to feed him, as though I might suddenly change my mind. And he has another very special kind of meow the two others don’t have, like a little song, rolling and curling up, keen, high-pitched, mischievous.
During the warm months, they lived mysterious lives in the fields. We would let them out during the day and each one headed a different way, following his or her nose, looking for fast-moving objects to chase and grab. We managed to rescue quite a few little Cinderella shrews. When the sun would set on the far side of a grassy field, I could make out Gaston’s plump outline. I would call out his name, and like a dog, he would run back. Frida would stay close by, basking in the last rays of sun on our doorstep. Boris was too afraid to go to the outside world yet, but occupied himself at home all day scavenging for food scraps in unsuspected spots of the kitchen or the pantry if we forgot to lock the door.

Church gate | Infinite bellyCoffee cup illustration | Infinite bellyPear & praliné hazelnut tart 2 | Infinite belly

I feel like I know them so well, yet I will never know the things they see and do on these days. All the houses, gardens, hidden nooks that they frequent remain secret. I will never know what happened when Frida went missing for four days after a terrible stormy night. Sometimes, Adélaide and I muse about putting GoPro cameras on them to see what we would discover.

Leaf & art deco lamp | Infinite bellyCake pan illustration | Infinite bellyFrozen leaf in the garden | Infinite bellyPear & praliné hazelnut tart 6 | Infinite belly

We puzzle at their quirks as if they were children, entertaining the illusion they are unique when truly, they are probably like most other cats out there (although their latest fancy is to almost exclusively drink their water from an antique wine glass we have to leave on the kitchen table and fill up several times per day). Gaston has a propensity to find a cozy resting spot in a cupboard and has taken a liking for a golden teddy bear he carries around, forming the shape of massive lumberjack beard under his tiny head. Frida is a finicky one; she is often averse to petting, but will unpredictably perch herself on our laps and purr away for as long as we stay still, although she may bite your finger off out of the blue with unrivaled fury. She stands regally aside, gazing obliquely at the room to avoid getting entangled in kitten wrestling games, strategically standing next to the tap so that she can drink from it whenever we let her. Sometimes, she tries to devour our hair in our sleep which is absolutely terrifying.

Boris the kitten | Infinite belly

I often surprise myself singing songs to them, saying their names borrowing accents from Bollywood movies or Bob Marley or telenovelas. I also like to rewrite lyrics to old Spanish tunes and Broadway hits based on their personalities and freestyle (stupid) rhymes. On an especially productive morning, I even made a song for Frida inspired by Animal Collective.

Ornament illustration | Infinite bellyWhile their presence can veer from cute to annoying and back in a matter of seconds, what stays with me from getting to know them this past year has been how naked I can feel in front of them. They know us just as well as we know them. They know when I am about to wake up and feed them, they know if I am tired or angry, cheerful or rested. They look at me with their curious eyes and perceive my presence, intuit my thoughts. It makes one feel naked — not as in vulnerable, but as in equal to them, as just another animal doing the same basic things and living a similar existence.

Ribbon illustration | Infinite bellyPear & praliné hazelnut tart | Infinite belly


Pear & praliné hazelnut pie + cocoa crust  |  Serves 6-8


The quantities given below will make 1 large pie or 6-8 tartlets depending on the size of your baking pans.

The cocoa crust:

  • 30g cocoa powder, sifted (preferably Van Houten)
  • 100g good quality flour, sifted
  • 8g almond powder, sifted
  • 50g powdered sugar
  • 90g unsalted butter, diced
  • 20g egg, beaten (or 1 egg yolk)
  • a little cold water if necessary
  • a pinch of salt

Pear & praliné hazelnut tart 8 | Infinite belly

  1. On a clean work surface, directly sift the cocoa powder, flour, powdered sugar, almond powder and add a generous pinch of salt. Gently mix with your fingers to blend the ingredients. Dice the cold butter & start mixing with the powders to cut in the dough, by sweeping up and gathering the blend in your hands and gently rubbing them against each other until the butter is integrated into the dry ingredients. The blend should look like rough sand. This sablage should take a few minutes.
  2. Form a well and add in the beaten egg. In circles, rub the egg into the flour/butter blend until it forms a homogenous dough. If necessary, adjust the consistency by adding a little cold water if too dry. Knead as little as possible, or else the pastry will become elastic and it will shrink when baking.
    Note: if you have a stand mixer, you can sift the powders and add the chopped butter directly in the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed with the paddle until the blend gets the desired consistency. Then add in the egg and keep beating until it starts forming a ball. Finish smoothing out by hand, shape into a ball and flatten it down. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate. Sugar jar illustration | Infinite belly
  3. Smooth out the crust by pressing it down with the palm of your hand 2 or 3 times. If you feel that the pastry is too moist, dust with flour. Shape into a ball and flatten it down a little. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can even start by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes if you’re in a hurry. It’s important the pastry rests and cools before you roll it out or else it might tear!
  4. Dust your work surface with a thin and even layer of flour. Roll out the pastry until it is app. 3mm thick. Make sure the pastry doesn’t stick by rotating it regularly by a quarter of a turn.
  5. Ease the crust into a buttered baking pan or tart ring the shape of your choice and trim excess with a sharp knife. Using a fork, poke holes into the bottom of the crust so that no air is trapped under it while baking. Store in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking.

Pear & praliné hazelnut tart 3 | Infinite bellyThe pear & praliné filling:

  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored & thinly sliced
  • 100g butter, at room-temperature
  • 100g ground toasted hazelnuts or almonds
  • 2 farm eggs, beaten
  • 100g smooth hazelnut praliné or any other hazelnut paste (if unsweetened, use 50g and add 50g of sugar)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted & crushed

Egg basket illustration | Infinite belly

  1. Peel, core the pears & slice them thinly. Reserve.
  2. In a mixing-bowl, beat the butter until it gets soft, creamy & whitens in color. If the butter is too cold, microwave it for 10-15 sec. or slightly heat it up over a bain-marie, making sure it doesn’t melt. Add the smooth praliné, the pinch of salt and keep beating until well blended.
  3. Sift the ground hazelnuts into the bowl and mix well. Then, add the beaten eggs little by little until the blend is homogenous & fluffy.
  4. Toast the 2 tbsp hazelnuts in a preheated oven at 190°C for app. 10 min. or until well colored. Roughly crush using a mortar or chop with a knife.
  5. Pour the praliné blend into the lined baking pan and arrange the sliced pears over it. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for app. 35-40 min. depending on how soft you want the filling.

Pear & praliné hazelnut tart 10 | Infinite bellyLogotype medalion

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31 thoughts on “Cat therapy

    1. Obrigado Anete, bom saber que voce gostou. A musica foi feita muito rapidamente em um dia, acabou ficando meio “experimental”. Avisa se voce for tentar fazer alguma das receitas um desses dias!
      Beijos

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  1. I love cats – I grew up with them and one used to come on walks with us. She’d follow us part of the way and then disappear into the woods and reappear on our return. I never worked out if she just sat there waiting or had a sixth sense and knew when we were on our way back! Lovely post – that tart looks absolutely AMAZING!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you! Do let us know if you try it, we’d love to hear how it turns out. You have some great recipes on your page, I was drooling over the shakshuka which I’ve been meaning to make for a while…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love everything about this post, the wonderful photographs, the stories about your cats, the delicious looking dessert. But my favourite thing is that you have given a lovely home to three cats that needed somewhere safe and full of love. We have 7 cats because we find it so very hard not to rescue strays ….

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    1. Thank you so much Claire :). The three of them are so happy now and get along so well; it’s very heartwarming. But I always wish I could do more!! I’m sure your 7 cats are great companions for the other animals of the farm…

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  3. Lovely to read – I adore the idea of Gaston living on macarons and pastries before you took him in – and your cats clearly have such style, drinking out of antique glasses! Beautiful photos too.

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  4. Cats are amazing creatures. I have two at the moment. Gaston sounds so much like my Sunny who passed away a few years. Orange tabbies seem to always have a bit of a comedic nature. I’d almost bet Gaston is trying to make you laugh by carrying the little bear around. One of Sunny’s favorite toys was small pink foam brain. It was a a stress reliever, you keep it at your desk and squeeze it when you’re stressed. He would kick it around and sometimes place it on his head with a look of sheer determination. It almost looked as if his brain had popped out and he was trying to get it back in.

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  5. I really enjoyed the whole story, the pictures and how they resulted in vivid scenes in my imagination! Ironically enough; i too keep wonder what sort of life do strangers i meet in the streets, public transport, in different cities i visit, have and aspire to achieve, or just think about when i am passing by them. I was even tempted once to write a story based on these thoughts i collect from strangers, but loads of work killed the passion for it. I adored your Cats! Reminded me of my own Cat that i used to have before, as i recognised many of the Catty behaviours you mentioned above and even reimagined beautiful memories i had with my beloved pet.
    Delicious recipe i must say! can’t wait to try it out, especially that it looks very natural, healthy and .. yes Delicious! One thing though; you throw out your Macarons-leftovers in the trash?! O_o

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wasan! I (André) never had cats growing up so it’s been a year of discovery for me one might say ;) but yes they are adorable and exhibit very peculiar behavior according to their personality. Glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t what you’re referring to with macarons in the trash (?!) but we haven’t had any in a long time and if we do they’re definitely way too delicious to go to waste!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi André! I’m happy for you for enjoying the wonders of living with Cats now, and your cats have a mazing personalities telling from the way you described them :)
        I was referring to what you mentioned earlier in the post about how you guessed Gaston has survived: “I always wanted to ask Gaston, the tabby chubby cat we found at the pastry school stuck in an air vent, how did he survive the long Auvergne winter in the wild at below zero temperatures? Did he eat ungodly amounts of macarons and other pastry leftovers in the trash? ” hence my surprise of the Macarons in trash :))
        Wish you all the best!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh whoops I totally blanked there. Yeah, that part was talking about the macarons at the school. Unfortunately, since they make so much pastry there everyday and are technically not allowed to redistribute it due to health/safety liability issues, some students throw away their pastries. It’s a shame that they do that. Adelaide would bring her pastries home and we would share it with our neighbors anyways.
        Since we found Gaston at the school, we think that he was surviving off these sugary meals, especially since he actually likes sweets which is very rare for a cat. Thanks for the questions and comments!
        All the best to you too :)
        Andre

        Liked by 1 person

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