A couple of years ago, I began noticing a disconcerting trend among my college-age students in the hotel and restaurant management school where I teach : they were often wearing a color combination that my generation had always shunned. Since when has wearing black and navy blue together become fashionable ? What is this, a color-blind revolution ? A not-so-subtle subversion of the fashion rules ?
In Paris, it’s well-known that black is always the new black. Parisians wear so much black it sometimes looks to me like a gothic army has taken over the city. And often you can’t even tell that these people are wearing any separate articles of clothing, because it’s ALL black, all the time.
"Like a bruise"
So when I dared to ask one of my students (right) how she’d come up with the "great" idea to wear blue shoes with a black outfit – of course I wanted it to sound like a compliment – she said it was more original than just wearing all black. (Which I’ll admit is de rigueur in the hotel industry, or at least wearing dark colors is. We try to blend in, be discreet, and look fairly conservative, what the French call classique.)
Some who shun navy and black say "Black and blue never do" or "You look like a bruise." I wouldn’t go that far, and just by nature of my being intrigued with the subject means that my ideas aren’t quite so fixed. Just like other fashion myths that have been busted over time, like not wearing silver and gold together (it all depends on how it’s done), and not wearing white after Labor Day, the black-and-blue combination has slowly creeped into our aesthetic values.
Andy Warhol and Vinyl
After casting a wide net on a source for this trend, I came up mostly empty-handed, with but a few vague ideas. One shop-owner in the United States told me it was Halston in the 1970s who fueled the black-and-blue fashion. Sure, Halston was known for frequenting the Warhol set and Studio 54. And as chance would have it, French pay channel Canal + (our equivalent of HBO) began showing the series Vinyl last night.
In the pilot episode, Devon (Richie Finestra’s wife), speaks with Ingrid, an old friend from the Andy Warhol days, and they mention Devon’s original blue and black eye makeup. A historical detail, or something just made up for the series ? It’s certainly no proof Halston was involved in the trend, even if we knew he ran in the same circles.
The cold shoulder
I did notice on the Halston web site that the company is featuring an item which is a HUGE trend here in Paris this summer : the cold-shoulder dress (right) or even a gown version of the cold shoulder. You won’t find me with cold shoulders this summer, however : after trying several models, I decided that I’d leave that particular trend to the under-30 ladies, and thereby give those dresses, well, the cold shoulder !
Back to black (and blue) : some here in Paris credit style icon Carine Roitfeld (photo) with the black-and-blue trend, but she is merely repeating it. Another source claims it was Yves Saint Laurent who first democratized the black-and-blue look (maybe with his tuxedo – called a smoking in French – for women ?). In a previous post, I wrote about Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress, and if you live on the east coast in the U.S., you can find an exhibit on his work at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (see fun trailer below).
Other sources claim it may have been Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix or Paul Smith behind the fashion innovation. It looks like we’ll never really know who started the trend, or when, but judging from the numbers of Parisians who are mixing back and blue, it might be here to stay.
And I’m welcoming it as a positive sign that the black-only hold that has held Parisians firmly in its grip might just be loosening a tad. L’espoir fait vivre ! Where there’s hope, there’s life !
Looking for ways to wear black and blue together ? I liked the suggestions in this article – and I might even try ’em ! And if YOU have ideas about where the trend came from, please share in the comments sections below ! Merci.
What is a sablé, exactly ? The literal translation of this French-style cookie is "sandy" because the process to make the cookie involves mixing ingredients together until they resemble sand. These cookies are delicious on their own : their texture is delightfully crumbly and they just melt in your mouth (unlike real sand, of course).
If you read my post about the Tropézienne Brioche Tart, for which you’ll also find an updated version in Bonjour Parishere, you’ll remember that there are a few variations on the pastry cream theme : one of them is crème mousseline. You wouldn’t think the addition of butter would make pastry cream have a lighter texture. Why is French cooking so mysterious ?
The trick is literally in the air – the essential long whipping process at the end of the recipe helps incorporate lots of air into the butter and hence the pastry cream. And thus a cream which is (almost) lighter than air !
The mousseline cream recipe will make more than you need, and unfortunately lasts only 24h in the fridge. But it freezes well, so cut the recipe in half and freeze one half for later use. Later on, when you want to take advantage of fresh berries, you just have to make the sablé cookie bases, and can pull the mousseline cream out of the freezer for a quick dessert !
The sablé recipe comes from a well-loved book in my cookbook collection, called Le Meilleur de la cuisine française : Saveurs et Terroirs (éditions Hachette) and the crème mousseline recipe comes from another favorite, French Cooking : Classic Recipes and Techniques by Boué and Delorme.
special materials : food processor, stand mixer, pastry bag, fluted pastry tip
for the sablé or "sandy" tartlets : 1⅔ cups (215 g) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (70 g) confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons (150 g) high-quality butter (use European-style butter if you can find it), very cold
1 egg yolk
for the mousseline cream : 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
⅔ cup (125 g) sugar
⅓ cup (40 g) cornstarch
16 tablespoons (2 sticks or 250 g) high-quality unsalted butter, divided in half, room temperature
to finish : about 4 cups (400 g) fresh blackberries, washed
about 4 cups (400 g) fresh blueberries, washed
how to make it :
1. The day before you want to serve the tartlets, make the sablé cookie tartlet bases. Process together the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor until mixed. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients.
2. Process the ingredients by pulsing just until the mixture resembles very coarse sand.
3. Add the egg and egg yolk. Process the ingredients together, but don’t overmix : stop mixing as soon as the mixture is homogenous. When you remove the dough from the processor, if there are a few pats of butter still visible, quickly use the palm of your hand to spread the dough over a floured work surface, which will mix the butter in. Wrap the pastry in plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
5. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about ¼ of an inch (5 mm) thick. Using a cookie cutter or even just a round glass turned upside down, cut the dough into 3-inch (7 cm) circles. Or for smaller, petit-four size sablés, use a 1¾-inch (4 cm) cookie cutter.
6. Place the dough circles on a baking sheet and bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 17-22 minutes for the larger size sablés, and for 15 minutes for the smaller size, or until the sablés are starting to turn nicely browned on the edges.
7. To make the mousseline cream, pour the milk into a saucepan and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer.
8. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture thickens and becomes pale, then add the cornstarch. Whisk carefully to blend.
9. Pour the simmering milk very slowly over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well. Then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan. Return it to the heat, and bring to the boil, stirring with a whisk the whole time, making sure to get into the corners of the saucepan. Boil for 2 minutes, continuing to whisk.
10. Remove from heat, and transfer the pastry cream to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, turn the mixer on to medium-high speed and slowly add HALF of the softened butter (1 stick or 125 g), 1 tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated.
11. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic lies directly on the mixture. This will prevent the formation of a "skin" on the mousseline cream. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
12. Next is the last and crucial step, but first taste your plain old pastry cream. Note the thick, custard-like texture. Memorize this texture on your tongue !
13. Now transfer the cream back into the stand mixer’s bowl. Whipping on high speed, slowly add the remaining stick (125 g) of butter into the cooled pastry cream (tablespoon by tablespoon). This step should take about 5 minutes.
14. Now continue to whip at maximum speed for almost 10 minutes. This step takes patience and possibly a set of high-performance ear plugs, but the cream will start to turn pale in color and miraculously light in texture. You may stop the mixer from time to time during this process to taste what is now a mousseline cream : light and airy. Just keep whipping until it gets that way.
15. Divide the mousseline cream in half, and transfer it to two separate pastry bags : one should contain a fluted pastry tip. (The one without pastry tip should go directly in the freezer if you’re freezing it.)
16. Only when you’re ready to serve the finished sablés, pipe a bit of mousseline cream in a circle onto each sablé. Top with fresh berries according to size and/or as you like. I don’t recommend assembling these in advance and refrigerating since the sablés tend to lose their crispy crunch in the fridge. Store the sablés in an air-tight container on the countertop, the mousseline cream in the fridge, and assemble only according to how many of these you’ll be serving/eating at a time. Régalez-vous ! Enjoy !
sablé recipe makes 12-15 3-inch (7 cm) diameter cookies OR 32-40 1¾-inch (4 cm) diameter cookies ; mousseline cream recipe makes a scant 4 cups