Chou-Fleur de Bretagne

13 04 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I got a big, beautiful head of cauliflower in my CSA panier.

Hello, Gorgeous!

The accompanying literature indicated that the cauliflower came from Brittany (Bretagne, en français) which was odd, considering the CSA is called Les Paniers du Val de Loire, and all the participating farms are located in the Loire Valley.  I’m looking at it as a bit of serendipity, though.  I know it’s been hard to tell, but April is Bretagne month here at Croque-Camille.  While Brittany is best known for its crèpes, kouign amann, and shellfish, my preliminary research indicates that modern Breton cuisine focuses on fresh local produce and the bounty of the sea.  So lucky me, a fresh, local ingredient landed right on my doorstep, and all I had to do was figure out what to cook with it!

Fortunately, Mark Bittman had a suggestion for me, referenced in a glowing post about Parisian market-purchased cauliflower (I wonder where his came from originally?) – cauliflower pasta.  It sounded easy, fast, and hence perfect for my cooking-for-one needs while Nick was in the States.

Cauliflower Pasta

Looks a little bland, though, doesn’t it?  Kinda tasted that way, too, even with whole wheat spaghetti and a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes.  I think I can sum up the problem in two words: boiled cauliflower.  We all know that boiling is not the way to coax intense flavor out of anything, except maybe a reduction.  The good news is that I only used half the cauliflower, so I still had the other half to play around with.

What did I do with it?  Well, it happens that another cauliflower recipe landed in my inbox via the newsletter from Le Haut du Panier, another CSA-type service available to Parisians.  It was a recipe for cauliflower “cake,” cake being the word the French use for any muffin-like preparation.  It was also one of the most vaguely written recipes I’ve ever seen, with one of the weirdest mixing methods.*  It called for cauliflower, but didn’t say how much!  I assumed one head.  Then it said the cauliflower had to be cooked, but not how.  I opted for roasting, since everything tastes better roasted. 

Now that's more like it!

The recipe also called for a sachet of levure.  Again, I had to assume they meant levure chimique (baking powder) and not yeast, which is called levure, too.  Once I had copied down the ingredients (and halved them, given my half head of cauliflower and half packet of levure chimique I found lurking int the cupboard), I combined them in a way that made sense to me.  (I can do that, I’m a professional, you know.)  I’ll admit, I still didn’t have high hopes.

Cauliflower "Cake"

But when it came out of the oven, it smelled pretty great.  I cut a couple of thick slices and served them alongside a leafy green salad.  And I went back for seconds.  That is to say, it was surprisingly good.  I felt a brief pang of regret when I opened the fridge to get out the vinaigrette and saw the tiny Tupperware of cooked lardons I had wanted to add to the batter, but when I took my first bite of the cauliflower cake, the missing bacon was regretted no more.  As a bonus, it was Good Friday appropriate, so Nick and I finished it off together.

Cauliflower cake cross-section

Cauliflower “Cake”


What the French call “cake,” many Americans would refer to as “bread,” or more specifically, “quick bread.”  But the alliteration provided by “cake” is more euphonious, and I just can’t resist.  (How often do I get to use words like that?) This recipe could easily be doubled for a bigger loaf pan, though it will have to be baked a bit longer.  Now that the world of cruciferous cakes has been opened, I see no reason to stop there.  Suggested variations include broccoli and cheddar, mixing in some cooked lardons, or toasting some cumin seeds along with the cauliflower.  Let your imagination run wild!


½ head of cauliflower, broken into florets

50 ml/1¾ oz. olive oil, plus some for the cauliflower and some for the pan

2 eggs

75 g/ 2½ oz. all-purpose flour

50 g/1¾ oz. almond meal

½ sachet levure chimique/1½ tsp. baking powder**

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

60 ml/2 oz. milk

50 g/1¾ oz. Comté cheese, cubed (Gruyère or Emmenthal would work here, too)


  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/355 F.  Oil a 22 x 10 x 6 cm loaf pan (8½ x 4 x 2½ in. or equivalent).
  2. Spread cauliflower florets on foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until edges are deeply, deliciously browned.  Remove from oven, but leave the oven on.
  3. Meanwhile, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, a generous pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper in a bowl.  In another bowl, whisk olive oil and eggs until frothy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the eggs.  Add half the milk, then half the remaining flour, then the rest of the milk and finish with the flour.  Stir gently between each addition.  Fold in the roasted cauliflower and the cheese, then scrape the batter into the well-oiled loaf pan.  The pan should be about half full.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating once during baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a cutting board.  (You may need to loosen the sides of the cake with a knife.)  Serve warm with a green salad for a light meal, or as you might serve rolls or biscuits with a more substantial dinner.


Makes one loaf.

* For those interested, here is my direct translation of the original recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Butter a loaf pan.  Mix 3 eggs, 150 g flour, and a sachet of levure.  Gently heat 120 ml of milk with 100 ml of oil.  Add the liquid to the egg mixture.  Season.  Add 100 g of hazelnut meal and 100 g of grated Comté-type cheese.  Then incorporate the cauliflower (cooked and roughly chopped).  Stir delicately.  Bake about an hour.

** I have to give a shout-out to Clotilde, for solving my levure chimique-baking powder conversion dilemma.  Thank you!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




11 responses

13 04 2009

I’m with you about boiling — and I’m not a fan of the sulfur smell that accompanies boiling cauliflower. Ironically, it was Bittman who taught me about roasting chou-fleur (and mixing it with bulgur) in “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” (There was also a recipe in Gourmet last year that had me shaving off the floret tops and pan-sauteeing them. They were wonderfully nutty little “crumbs.” And then you take the stems and slice them very thinly, pan-saute them, too, and toss it all with spaghetti. And a nice shake or three of red pepper flakes. Yum.)

14 04 2009

Ew, no boiling! My Mom always says “you’re not allowed to boil vegetables unless you plan on drinking the water you boiled them in, ’cause that where they left all their vitamins!” I have to say, that pretty much makes me think twice and every time I’m glad I did. I made my cauliflower into an Indian stir fry with spices and peas and peppers. I’ll have to post about it when I get the chance. It was super yummy.

14 04 2009

Hopie – I boiled the pasta in it, too – does that count? Anyway, your mom is totally right. And besides, roasting is so much better anyway. 🙂 And curry sounds great.

Trisha – Those cauliflower crumbs sound delicious! That’s a much better method for cauliflower pasta. Thanks!

14 04 2009

Ever since re-watching some old episodes of Jacques and Julia Cook at Home, I’ve been hooked on the cauliflower gratin… so simple and so wonderful. But your creation sounds like a winner… going to try it!

17 04 2009
Ann @ Cooking the Books

Question — how do you get a CSA pannier? I would love to do this!

17 04 2009

LeslieK – You can rarely go wrong with a gratin. 🙂 I hope you do try this, and like it as much as I did!

Ann – In Paris, you can subscribe to Les Paniers du Val de Loire (linked above). There are a few more commitment-phobic panier programs outlined in this article I wrote for Secrets of Paris, and I found out more recently about Tous Primeurs. The panier is a great way to eat seasonally and (relatively) locally. Go for it!

19 04 2009

I am always making quickbreads/cakes and a cauliflower one sounds good.

7 05 2009

I know I’m a bit late but I just found your blog. And this is the way to have cauliflower with your pasta:
The recipe is originally by Alice Waters.
The pasta is sauteed, not boiled, and this makes so much difference, the dish tastes nice and crisp. The flavours really complement each other wonderfully. Even leftovers (if you have any) are very good.

8 05 2009

Why, oh why, would Bittman ask anyone to boil cauliflower?! That Euphonious cake sounds Dead Good, though. Goodness, you are right–Possibilities are Presenting Themselves! Once I’m unpacked, I can actually start cooking and baking again. And that will be Very Good:)

8 05 2009

Kevin – I never before considered making a savory quickbread for dinner, but you can be sure I’ll be doing it more often!

Esther – That does sound good! And I won’t be making the boiling mistake again. 🙂

pastrychef – Search me. The cake was Very Good indeed, let me know if you come up with a winning combination! I thought you’d enjoy the original recipe, and how I made sense of it. 😉

20 07 2009
Columbus Foodie » Blog Archive » April 2009 Roundup

[…] Panko-Crusted Pork Chops from The Crepes of Wrath, Weekday Paella with Sausage from Crispy Waffle, Cauliflower “Cake” from Croque-Camille, Roast Leg of Lamb from Cucina Panzano, Sopa Seca from Cucina Pazza, […]

%d bloggers like this: