Creme Bulgare, Christine Ferber and Petit Suisse Nostalgia

This post is about two loves of mine: yogurt and Christine Ferber…

Growing up, we ate a lot, A LOT of yogurt. Mainly plain whole milk yogurt sweetened with fruits, a bit of sugar or honey. Flavored yogurts from Danone (or Dannon as it is known here) were a treat, eaten as dessert. The fun about getting these flavored yogurts were all the “toys” that came with them. I think these must have been the first real marketing techniques applied to food products in Europe and of course, they were targeted to children. My favorite were the sticker albums usually in reference to some cartoon show that was popular at the time. I remember “Maya the Bee” like it was yesterday.

Our other childhood treat was petit suisse. If you grew up in Europe or even walked the yogurt and cheese section of European supermarkets, you have certainly tried or at least seen these little delicacies. Not to be confused with yogurt, petit suisse is an unsalted, unripened, fresh, cow’s milk cheese originally from Normandy but widespread in Europe now. It is sold in six pack mini containers with ridges on the side and the cheese is usually wrapped in a thin piece of paper. Again, this was one of the staple snacks growing up. There were different flavors, strawberry, chocolate, banana… but my favorite was always plain.

I have looked and looked everywhere but I have not been able to find any near me so yes, I will be making my own petits suisse. Stay tuned for that one. The nostalgia for this rich and creamy texture is what inspired me to make some yogurt of my own but instead of milk, I used heavy cream, 40% butterfat to be exact. Thick like Greek yogurt but not as tangy. Sweet without any added sugar.

My second love is Christine Ferber. I learned about her a few years back and in my eyes, she is the quintessential seasonal pastry chef. All her books and recipes are always organized by season and she focuses very much on fruits. Her books “Mes Confitures” and “Mes Tartes” are two of my favorite pastry books on my shelf and I often times go to them for inspiration. I love her rustic, simple and natural approach to food. It resonates with me and how I like to eat. This apple and rhubarb jam I made to go with the creme bulgare is inspired by one of her recipes.

Creme Bulgare

1 liter of organic heavy cream
1 envelope (5 grams) of freeze-dried yogurt starter

In a saucepan, bring the cream almost to a boil (about 82 degrees Celsius). Remove from heat and let it cool to 42 degrees Celsius. Mix a small amount of the lukewarm milk with the yogurt starter. Add it to the rest of the cream and whisk lightly.

Pour the cream into your yogurt jars and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A thin layer of fat will rise to the top of the yogurt forming a skin. That’s normal and that is actually the best part in my opinion. Refrigerate once the yogurt is set.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam

makes a medium jar of jam

100 grams rhubarb, small dice
100 grams Granny Smith apples, small dice
200 grams sugar
50 grams apple juice
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Cut the rhubarb in small dice. Peel and core the apples and cut them into small dice. Combine the fruit, sugar, apple juice and lemon juice in a bowl and let it macerated in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, strain the mixture through a sieve. Bring the leftover syrup to a boil and cook to 221 degrees Farenheit. Add the macerated fruit and bring to a boil again. Skim any impurities, reduce heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes. Pour the jam into jars and let it cool. Serve the creme bulgare with the rhubarb jam.

Candied Rhubarb Strips

75 grams sugar
75 grams water
1 rhubarb stalk

Make a simple syrup by boiling the water and the sugar. Turn heat off once the sugar is dissolved.

Cut thin strips of rhubarb with a vegetable peeler. Dip the rhubarb in the cooled simple syrup and place the strips on a silicon mat. Dry them in a 200F degree oven for about an hour. While they are still warm and pliable, twist them. They will cool quickly and as soon as they cool, they will hold their shape. Store in an air-tight container.

Stay tuned for part II and my attempt to make petits suisse…

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48 Responses to “Creme Bulgare, Christine Ferber and Petit Suisse Nostalgia”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Aran, también recuerdo con que ganas esperabamos los yogures,no solo por lo que nos gustaban sinó para hacer nuestro intercambio de cromos en el recreo.
    Creo que después de estos años, aunque en casa sigo comprando los famosos Petit Suisse para mi hija, yo prefiero comerme los tuyos, pues con el tiempo el paladar se acostrumbra a lo mejor. Una receta perfecta. Felicidades!!
    Anna de Girona

  2. Cakelaw says:

    Your rhubarb and apple jam looks delightful – such a delicate shade of pink.

    I have given you a blogging award, which you can find here:

  3. This yogurt seems a lot more decadent and exciting than the stuff in my fridge!

  4. I have been pondering making yogurt but alas no yogurt starter here. Love the little jars! :)

  5. Aran says:

    Hi Gretchen! No need for yogurt starer to make yogurt or yogurt maker for that matter. You can heat the milk to 84 degrees, when it cools to 42 degrees, add a container of plain yogurt with active cultures in it. Whisk, cover pan and let it sit at room temperature (about 70 degrees) overnight. Next day you will have yogurt! refrigerate after that!

  6. C.L. says:

    Everything you make is so beautiful and looks so comforting. I feel for your son’s wife…unless she is a James Beard award winner she is gonna pale in comparison to his mama.


  7. Eileen says:

    Aran,this looks fabulous! Your photos are always so beautiful. I have a HUGE crop of rhubarb this spring and need to find many uses for it. The Christine Ferber books sound wonderful too. Would like to get my hands on one of those.


  8. francesca says:

    beautiful photos expecially the last one.

  9. nadia says:

    Beautiful Aran. really stunning photographs and it sounds heavenly!

  10. Ann says:

    Beautiful! But c’mon… that isn’t health food! :-)

    Sounds like we had similar weekend cooking adventures! I scored some unhomogenized heavy cream at the Greenmarket and spent the weekend trying to reproduce clotted cream. I got close, but I’m not quite there yet!

  11. Gloria says:

    Dear Aran, happy you are come back. I will send you something to read later. So nice recipes and pictures, loves it!! xxGloria

  12. Veron says:

    Oh aran, these look so wonderful! Christine Ferber has a class this summer at the French Pastry school and I have always wanted to attend it. sigh…maybe next year.
    And are those little jars from jb prince? They were out of stock for the longest time and I bought a ton of them when they became available.

  13. Aran says:

    Anna- voy a intentar hacer petit suisse en casa. A ver que tal sale! Deseame suerte!

    Cakelaw- Thank you! Left you a comment in your blog!

    Dana- homemade yogurt really is something different… no artificial gums or thickeners… love it.

    CL- I hope my son learns to cook himself!

    Eileen- You are lucky yo have rhubarb. Wonderful!

    Francesca- thank you!

    Nadia- That means a lot coming from you, my photography hero!

    Ann- clotted cream, homemade? yum! need to make scones right now.

    Gloria- I can’t wait to see what you will send.

    veron- yes, I would love to go to Chicago but it is almost impossible for me right now with my little boy. You should try to go next year. She goes every year. I know what jars you are talking about but these are actually from my local craft store!

  14. Esti says:


    ¿cuando te marchaste a Florida? Está claro que hemos coincidido en la misma ciudad y tiempo. La tienda enfrente de los cines Capitol se llamaba Power Records y todavía está en la misma calle. En cuanto a Giant Sand… Fui su tourmanager durante unos años; nos hicimos amigos y son maravillosos.
    El mundo está lleno de casualidades y no deja de sorprenderme.

  15. Aran says:

    Que me dices Esti! Es verdad Power Records. Si me pasaba horas muertas alli!.. se me habia olvidado. Me vine a EEUU en 1998 (como pasa el tiempo). Que pasada lo de Giant sand no? Fijo que hemos coincidido en un monton de conciertos y no sabiamos que años despues ibamos a estar intercambiando emails… como es la vida. te suena Elurretan? Antes se llamaban Animese Martinez. Pues yo era la “tour manager/groupie” de aquella epoca… jajajaja….

  16. Bakerette says:

    My mother always made homemade yoghurt when I was growing up…i remember she kept them in the warmest place in the house and covered them with cloth. Talk about nostalgia…beautiful photos, delightful stories always!!

  17. diva says:

    that’s a beautiful picture. we used to eat so much yoghurt that mum had to make them from scratch just to feed all of us rather than make multiple trips out to the store to purchase them.

    aww. x

  18. Tartelette says:

    My mom bought me Ferber’s book and I keep telling her it’s unnecessary since I have her recipes!! But there are some combinations that mom has not tried yet! My husband is right when he says that dabbling with dairy is very European. Look at the grocery stores here and there!! Mom makes her yogurt, dad and I buy raw milk for cream and I make my own creme fraiche and ricotta….and the husband thinks we are nuts!! The jam looks almost jelly-like: gorgeous!
    BTW, I moved here with my Maya the bee magnet :)

  19. Dana says:

    I, too, am obsessed with yogurt and still yearn for the yogurts I ate when I was vacationing in Aix-en-Provence two summers ago. The yogurt section in French supermarkets is so exciting, whereas the yogurt aisle at home is so boring. I make my own, which is fun, but I wish we had more variety here! I think I saw petit suisse at my Whole Foods a few weeks ago! I nearly bought it but decided to wait until next time. Now I must try it!

  20. Um, yeah. I wish you lived next door. I already can’t wait for your next creation!

  21. Aran, this looks delicious. Also, i have been sick so I haven’t been able to post my so-so violet macarons, but will email you when I do. hopefully this weekend.

  22. Wow Aran this looks amazing, you’ve really surpassed yourself!!!!

    I’ve wanted to make paneer for a while and this is just the inspiration I need, must make it at the weekend

  23. Mrs.French says:

    Oh no, you did it girlie! This is now my favorite post of yours. The photos, the description, the imagery you conjure up in my head. A huge “I heart” for this one!

  24. Y says:

    Oh I loved Maya the bee, but not associated with yogurts :) Love Christine Ferber too – I’ve made quite a few of her jam recipes, and they always turn out beautifully.

  25. i fell in love with petits suisse the first time i went to paris! it is too bad it’s not sold in the states, even in gourmet shops. and i have “mes confitures” as well–what beautiful, natural recipes. this looks wonderful!

  26. cookworm says:

    The childhoods in Basque country and northern Portugal must have been very similar…my boyfriend also *loves* Maya the Bee, and also Before Sunrise! :) Your jam and yogurt cups look so delicious, and I love the curled rhubarb strips!

  27. Peabody says:

    Super yum on the jam…it sounds devine.

  28. Shana says:

    beautiful jam! i’ve never made jam before, but i’m tempted to with the rhubarb since it’s so ethereal!

  29. Cakespy says:

    Oh I can hear the Maya the Bee theme song in my head! It was popular in the US when my little sister was in her Nickelodeon years. Maaaaaaaaya–maya the beeeeee! Actually my parents even named their Shih Tzu Maya, after the show.

    That was a tangent! The jam and yogurt cups look simply gorgeous. No watching tv while eating these babies–they’re to be savored!

  30. Chez US says:

    I love this! I completely understand what you are talking about!! Great post!

  31. ainara says:

    Zorionak Aran!!!
    Me estás enseñando a saborear el sentimiento… Eskerrik asko. Algún día haremos algo juntas, honesto y dulce como lo que tú haces :)
    Mosu handi bat!

  32. Candace says:

    One word… YUM! Your creativity is absolutely fabulous!

  33. Rina says:

    Aran, your blog is so beautiful, but I have the bad idea to reed and see it with a lot of hungry, everything looks so amazing! I love to cook and eat of course, so I will try a recipe.

  34. chipima says:

    What a beautiful dessert Aran! And a nice trip down memory lane as well :) I can’t remember ever getting toys with yoghurt, but oh, les petits suisses…

  35. Gloria says:

    Aran tengo en mi blog para tì un Award so yummy. Go when you have time. xxxGloria

  36. I love your presentation on this one Aran…it is simply gorgeous looking! The rhubarb swirl is my favorite!

  37. Bakerette says:

    Hi Aran, yesterday I was in a french supermarket chain and of course thinking about your post i wondered into the dairy section and spent a good 10 minutes looking at the different varieties. Is fromage frais another version of petit suisse? It looks kind of the same and i bought some anyway..excuse my ignorance! :)

  38. Aran says:

    Hi Bakerette- I am certainly know expert in the technical differences between the two but here it is. Fromage frais is a general term to describe a soft cheese made with whole milk (cow). I am not sure the type you bought but I would pressume it is similar to a Quark? Petit Suisse is made with cream (about 60% fat content). It is not salted and it is sold in small containers. usually they are flavored with fruit or chocolate.
    If anyone out there knows more than me feel free to correct me. I hope that helps some!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Ahh, Maya the bee, I loved her when I was a child.
    Delicious dessert, love the rhubarb swirls!

  40. Mobula says:

    PetitSuisse!!!! Me los comía no de dos en dos sino de seis en seis…. y ahora soy incapaz de comerlos, la verdad que no se porqué creo que me empaché pero espero esa recta tuya para poderselos ahacer a los enanos….



  41. What a sweet childhood, growing up in a bakery… Beautiful post about your grandpa and of course beautiful dessert.

  42. My sweet boyfriend grew up going to France to visit his grandparents and waxes lyrical about petit suisse, I think I’ll have to make this for him.

  43. Kary says:

    I love the look of these rhubarb curls. So I tried it last night. I cut the rhubarb with a peeler, dipped the strips in a cooled simple syrup and then baked as directed. When they came out of the oven they were soft and pliable so I shaped them. But they have stayed soft and didn’t harden and get stiff. Eventually I covered them in foil and put them in the fridge to store. Which may have been a mistake. But I’m wondering why mine didn’t get stiff and harden. What did I do wrong? Advice?

  44. Aran says:

    Hi Kary!

    Sorry that they didn’t turn out…

    Well, the reason why they didn’t harden is because they probably needed more drying time in the oven. The one hour is a guideline but it might vary depending on your oven, the humidity in the air, how thick the strips are… You need to keep an eye on them so they don’t turn brown but they can dry for a long time.

    Also, putting them in the fridge is a mistake because there is a lot of humidity in the refrigerator and that makes the sugar dissolve and become soggy. Never put any sugar in the fridge or it will melt.

    So try it again and let me know what you think ok?

    Thank you!

  45. Jane says:

    My kids eat plain petit suisse every day, with honey usually. But, I’m in France. I do make it as well, with rennet and one petit suisse in a “fromagère”. I don’t know how to do it without the one petit suisse as a base, though. It has such a particular taste and texture. I’ll ask my friend who makes cheese, maybe she knows. Life without petit suisse is too depressing!
    Lovely blog, by the way!

  46. Lesli says:

    I don’t know where you live, but I have been dreaming of my petit Suisse since I left Belgium in 2000. My boyfriend and I recently discovered them at a Whole Foods store on the east coast in the U.S! They have the fruit and plain variety. Amazing. I have had them everyday since finding them. Not quite as good as when I lived in Belgium, but still so wonderful. Good Luck!

  47. Isabel says:

    As a food scientist, I would recommend asking a dairy technologist. Moshe Rosenberg of UC Davis is pretty much an expert on all things dairy, and he also teaches a class on different cheeses of the world.

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