Last October I visited France for the purpose of researching the Champagne region for my latest book. I spent most of my time exploring Paris and the champagne houses of Épernay, gathering information on how to make bubbly in the méthode champanoise. While there, I became a little obsessed with Biscuits roses de Reims. Everywhere I walked these pink treats were displayed in bakery and confection showcases, and I felt compelled to try as many as I could. I knew right then that I would be comparing flavors and recipes to develop my own to add to the novel.
In case you aren’t already aware, I add recipes between some of the chapters in my books. Usually, the recipes are Greek foods and they are mostly family recipes. Since my novels are partially set in Greece and revolve around a Greek American family, I’ve kept the foods I’ve shared to ones the characters partake of throughout the story. In Book three: Chasing Petalouthes, one of the main characters spends time in France, so I decided to add a few French recipes as well. Below is a little snippet from Evvie’s time at a family owned champagne house in Épernay.
“Sabine this is delicious. You must have been cooking all day,” Evvie exclaimed, eyes wide in wonder at the meal laid out before her. Platters of food holding mushroom tartlets, crispy golden potatoes and chicken in a wine sauce made her mouth water with anticipation. “I would be happy to come back early to help you cook tomorrow.”
“Non, ma chére. You came for the champagne. Learn all you can while you are here.”
“I’ll need you both in the field tomorrow,” Antoine, René’s father, said. “We need to go vine by vine to make sure the grapes are not crowding each other.”
“Will we be using ties to pull back the vines and separate them?” Evvie asked.
“You’ve done this before?” Antoine asked.
“Good. That will save time then.”
After they’d consumed every last morsel of food, Sabine brought out a platter of Biscuit rose de Reims, a regional favorite, twice-baked, pale pink cookie that resembled the ladyfinger. Antoine popped the cork on a bottle of champagne—one from their very own label, naturally. The biscuits, she was told, when dipped into the champagne, enhanced the aroma. Evvie had not heard of these delicate biscuits before, but she followed the lead of her hosts and was taken by the pleasant bouquet wafting upward as she sipped the vintage cuvée.
“It’s a beautiful evening,” René commented, setting down his champagne flute. He extended his hand to Evvie. “Would you join me for a walk?”
Evvie looked to Sabine. “I should really help clear the table first.”
“Non.” Sabine shooed them off. “Go, it’s a beautiful night.”
Biscuit roses de Reims
4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1½ cup flour, sifted
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
Red food coloring, approximately 6 – 10 drops
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
Preheat oven to 300º F
In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Set aside.
Mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl using an electric blender for 5 minutes, increasing the speed every few minutes. Beat in half of the egg whites and then continue to beat for an additional 2 minutes. Beat in the remaining egg whites and the food coloring and beat for 4 more minutes until the mixture begins to form stiff peaks. Start with 5 drops of food coloring and add drop by drop until you reach the desired medium pink coloring.
Fold the flour mixture slowly into the egg mixture until fully blended.
Pour batter into greased financier pans or fill a pastry bag and pipe 3 inch strips onto a parchment-covered baking pan. Dust the tops with powdered sugar.
Bake for 12 – 14 minutes. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and bake for another 12 – 14 minutes.
Remove from the oven and, while they are still warm, cut the edges to make the biscuits uniform in size and shape, if desired.
Biscuit roses de Reims are a nice accompaniment with tea or coffee; however, traditionally, they are served with champagne. Placing the biscuit in the glass is said to bring out the aroma of the bubbly wine.
Yields 3 to 4 dozen depending on the size.