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Anne Willan - smallAnne Willan is one of the world’s authorities on French cooking, with more than fifty years of experience as a teacher, cookbook author, and food columnist. She founded École de Cuisine La Varenne in 1975. Anne’s book, The Country Cooking of France, took two James Beard Foundation Book Awards and her most recent book, The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook, won the Jane Grigson Award for outstanding literary writing and the IACP Culinary History Award.  Willan was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2013 for her body of work. She lives in Santa Monica, California and in France.



Anne Willan, James Beard award-winner and founder of La Varenne Cooking School, demystified classic French culinary technique for regular people who love food. Her legendary La Varenne Cooking School–– in its original location in Paris and later in its longtime home in Burgundy––trained chefs, food writers, and home cooks. Under Willan’s cheerful, no-nonsense instruction, anyone could learn to truss a chicken, make a béarnaise, or loft a soufflé.  She taught and launched today’s top food writers and editors, shaping modern food like no one else.

In ONE SOUFFLE AT A TIME, Willan tells her story and the story of the food-world greats –– including Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, Craig Claiborne, Richard Olney, and others ––who changed how the world eats and who made cooking fun. She writes about how a sturdy English girl from Yorkshire made it not only to the stove, but to France, and how she overcame the exceptionally closed male world of French cuisine to found and run her school. Willan’s story is warm and rich, funny and fragrant with the smells of the country cooking of France. It’s also full of the creative culinary ferment of the 1970s –– a decade when herbs came back to life and freshness took over, when the seeds of our modern-day obsession with food and ingredients were sown. Tens of thousands of students have learned from Willan, not just at La Varenne, but through her large, ambitious Look & Cook book series and twenty-six-part PBS program. Now One Soufflé at a Time ––which features fifty of her favorite recipes, from Cotriade Normande to Chocolate Snowball––brings Willan’s own story of her life to the center of the banquet table.

Aunt Louie’s Cheese Balls

Makes about 30 balls

1  1/4 cups/150 g flour
1  1/4 cups/150 g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, more to taste
1/2 cup/110 g melted butter, more if needed

Mix the flour in a bowl with the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and dry mustard. Stir in the melted butter so the mixture forms crumbs.

Kneading with your hands, press it into balls the size of small walnuts – a half tablespoon measuring spoon as a mold can be a help here. If the mixture is very dry and crumbly, add a bit more melted butter. Set the balls on a buttered baking sheet and chill about 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Bake the cheese balls in the oven until browned, 35-45 minutes. Test by cutting into a ball, it should not be doughy in the center.

Transfer the cheese balls to a rack to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, and I always have a back-up supply in the freezer.


Treacle Tart

Serves 8

Treacle, otherwise known as golden syrup, looks like thick, golden honey and is formed during the refining of sugar.  Be sure to get the genuine golden syrup, not the squeezable version which is thinner and has less taste.  Grandma’s pastry was made with lard, but shortening or more butter can be substituted in the recipe. Treacle tart should be thin like a pizza and I use a shallow pizza plate. Treacle tart is perfect topped with vanilla ice cream and somehow Grandma would find it in the wilds of Yorkshire shortly after World War II.

1/2 cup/200 g golden syrup
1 slice white bread
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

For the pie pastry
2 1/2 cups/300 g flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons/90 g butter, more for the plate
6 tablespoons/60 g lard
4 tablespoons/60 ml water, more if needed

10-inch/25-cm heatproof pizza plate or shallow pie pan

For the pie pastry: sift the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter and lard in small cubes and add to the flour. Rub the fats into the flour with your fingertips to form crumbs. Stir in the water with a fork to make sticky crumbs, adding more water if necessary. Press the dough together with your fist to make a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until firm, 15-20 minutes.

For the filling: Cube the bread, spread it on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Grind the frozen bread cubes in a processor, using the pulse button. Measure the golden syrup into a small bowl, stir in the lemon rind and juice, then the crumbs. Butter the pizza plate.

To assemble the tart: Cut off and set aside about a quarter of the pastry dough. Roll out the rest on a floured board to an 12-inch/30-cm round (the dough will be about 1/4 inch/5 mm thick). Line the plate with the dough round, leaving a 1-inch/2.5-cm border overlapping as an edge.  Roll the remaining dough with the trimmings to a long strip and cut it in ribbons about 3/4-inch/2-cm wide.  Pour the filling into the plate and spread it with the back of a spoon almost to the edge of the plate. Lay a diagonal lattice of pastry ribbons over the filling and trim the ends. Fold the dough edge over the ribbon ends and press down with the tines of a fork to neaten them.  Chill the tart until the pastry is firm, 15-20 minutes.

Set a shelf  in the center of the oven with a baking sheet on top and heat it to 375◦F/190◦C.  Set the tart in the oven on the hot baking sheet and bake until the pastry and filling are browned, 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm, topping each slice with a scoop of ice cream.


These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from One Soufflé at a Time  by Anne Willan. (St. Martin’s Press; September 2013; $17.99/Paperback; ISBN-13; 978-1-250-04930-8).  http://us.macmillan.com/SMP.aspx

Contact: Staci Burt