Semelles aux Fraises – Or how to Eat a Shoe Sole

We often had shoe soles for dessert. It’s a local specialty of the town where I partly grew up. One could buy them at the Confiserie, the pastry shop, over the counter two shoe soles please, you would say, and the lady would put them into crisp brown paper bags. Then she’d pick out a little chocolate with a pair of ornate silver tweezers and hand it over. Would you like to try?

Sometimes we would make the shoe soles, mother and I, on a wet afternoon, the kitchen window a little open so the marble table top stayed cool.

Classic shoe soles are filled with vanilla buttercream. Given that barely a week ago it was wonderfully summery and light, and me having just returned from the neighbouring village with the very first strawberries of the season, real strawberries that grow in the soil and taste of sun rays, given all that I decided to give it a little twist and prepared a vanilla parfait instead.


What you’ll need:

For the shoe soles

  • 250g of quality puff pastry
  • One cup of sugar

For the filling

  • 2.5dl sweet cream
  • Half a vanilla bean
  • One generous tablespoon of sugar (or inverted sugar, if available)
  • Two eggs
  • Fresh strawberries

How to cook it:

Start on the vanilla parfait, ideally the day before. Separate the yolks from the whites. Slice the vanilla bean and scrape out the dust with a knife, throw everything into a pan, dust and sliced bean, add cream and sugar and put on the stove, whisking in order to avoid burning, until it raises. Take off the heat and let sit for a couple of minutes. Now the mass should be very warm, yet not cooking. Take out the bean and swiftly stir in the egg yolks. You may even use a cutter to this purpose, so that all amalgamates comme il faut. Whisk the egg whites very firm, Marie Antoinette. Then gently fold under the warm vanilla cream. Ideally you end up with a foamy fluffy mass. Pour into a mould, ice cream mould or a discarded yoghurt jar will do too, and freeze. After one hour, shake the mould and put back into the freezer.

The next day, make sure your kitchen is cool. Pre-heat the oven to 220° C and switch on the fan.


Roll out the puff pastry down to about half a centimetre. With an ordinary glass (take a tiny glass my dear American readers) cut out round patches. Then, pour the sugar on the slab and roll out the rounds to form long thin tongues. Or shoe soles for that matter. I usually roll them down to 1mm.


Put the soles on parchment paper, sugar top up, plain top down, on a cold baking tray and bake for seven minutes. Check after five minutes, for the sugar should caramelise yet not burn. You’ll perhaps have to find out for yourself a little, as it depends on your oven and the external conditions. You may have to do several rounds, I usually bake five soles at a time.

Take out of the oven and let cool on a cooling rack.


Take the parfait out of the freezer one hour before serving. When it starts melting, stir it up, for example with a cutter, to obtain a chilled fluffy cream. Place half of the soles on a large tray and add a dollop of the parfait. Cut the strawberries’ green collars and sandwich them with another sole.


How to enjoy it:

Just so, in the kitchen, standing against the counter and making a mess of yourself. Alternatively, on a beautiful day in the garden (or the balcony or at the window, wings wide open, for that matter) with a glass of rosé champagne.


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