August 2009


Pastry month round-upWhether an elegant or casual dessert, or simply an afternoon treat, I have re-familiarised myself this month with the fact there is quite simply a pastry for all occasions.  I only made a very small selection, but it has been enough to reignite my interest in pastry – and ensure I continue to include a pastry sampling (or two!) in my ongoing baking repertoire.

Until then, here is a summary of the basic pastry recipes I tackled during my pastry month, and my selected pastry desserts.  I hope you enjoyed some pastry of your own this month, too!

puffPâte feuilletée (or puff pastry) is the king of pastry.  Light, buttery and decadent.  The version by renown chef Jean Millet is outstanding.  Puff pastry is time consuming to make, but you are certainly well rewarded for your efforts.

tarte:: Tarte Tatin ::
This French classic is the ultimate dessert.  Simple yet impressive.  The taste is utterly sublime when made with an all-butter homemade puff pastry.  A winner for every baker.  { Read more here }

  

mille:: Mille Feuille ::
Mille Feuille, Napoleon, Vanilla Slice.   There are many names for this messy-to-eat-but-oh-so-finger-licking-good pastry.  Guaranteed to be all consumed within minutes.  { Read more here }

 

chouxThe lightest of all the pastries, pâte à choux (or choux pastry) can be transformed into an elegant croquembouche or a simple profiterole or éclair. 

eclair:: Chocolate éclairs ::
The simplicity of the chocolate éclair certainly does not translate to boring.  The addition of a light vanilla pastry cream and rich chocolate ganache glaze, provides a classic and mouth-watering dessert.  { Read more here }

 

sucreeJulia Child’s timeless recipe for pâte sucrée (or sweet tart pastry) creates a spectacular vehicle for any sweet tart.

basil:: Lime-Basil Tart ::
The traditional citrus tart is given a twist with the addition of fresh basil.  The fragrance from the basil is subtle but brings out the zesty overtones of the limes.  These flavours pair especially well with a basic sweet tart pastry.  { Read more here }

 

sableeCrumbly and buttery, pâte sablée is melt-in-your-mouth good.  This rich, sweet pastry has a delicate crisp and crumbly texture that seems to enhance the depth of any filling.

strawberry:: Strawberry and Pistachio Tart ::
The pistachio tart pastry produces an incredible aroma when baking.  The nuttiness of the pastry is a lovely complement to the creamy berry filling.  It is a perfect tart for a casual lunch with friends.  { Read more here }

 

briseeThe most basic of pastry.  An all-round baking basic.

cloudberry:: Orange-Spiced Cloudberry Galettes ::
Pâte brisée is made distinctive by Sherry Yard with the inclusion of cinnamon, ginger and orange.  The simple galette is quick and easy to prepare.  Perfect for an afternoon snack.   { Read more here }

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Orange Spiced Cloudberry Galette

This was a big day for me.  Why?  Today, I ran my first 10km race.  In fact, today I ran 10km for the first time ever.

Well, actually, I probably should clarify that statement.  When I say run, I in fact mean a jog-so-slow-you-inevitably-have-people-constantly-passing-you.  And when I say jog, I mean my level of exertion when not taking absolute and complete advantage of a well-deserved rest every now and again at water stops along the way.

During my race, I tried to keep my mind distracted.  Once I start thinking about what I am actually doing, the game is up.  Not surprisingly, I thought about baking.  I pondered that I would prefer to be making pâte feuilletée for six hours, rather than run for just over an hour.  I then also thought about my outstanding pastry for the month.  Pâte brisée.  More specifically, I was creating these mini galettes in my mind.

Recently, I found some cloudberry jam.  My first experience of cloudberry was last year, in Finland.  I sampled cloudberry ice-cream – a popular local favourite – and instantly loved the unique flavour.  The orange coloured berry has a distinct tartness, and paired so well with creamy vanilla ice cream.  In Finland, they often eat cloudberry with Leipäjuusto, a squeaky cheese similar to haloumi.  With this in mind, I was originally planning of complementing the cloudberry jam with ricotta, in a similar manner to a crostata di ricotta e marmellata (jam and ricotta tart).

But then I remembered the recipe for Orange-Spiced Pâte Brisée in Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking.  The idea of a spiced pastry that could carry the flavour of a seasonal fruit (Sherry’s recommendation), ultimately won me over.  This simple combination ended up as my must try for the cloudberry jam.

I was happy I kept it straightforward.  In fact, it was quite fortuitous – given the exertion of the day – that the simplest pastry and dessert brought my pastry month to an end.

I made half the recipe to produce four 10cm (2.5 in) galettes.  To increase the Scandinavian twist, I also substituted ground cardamom for the recommended ground ginger.

The result?  Simple but delicious.  The cloudberry jam was sweet, but still permeated strong tart overtones.  With minimal sugar and a strong spice in the pâte brisée, the pastry balanced the jam filling perfectly.  I will definitely make this quick and easy pastry again to pair with a multitude of fresh fruits and other mouth-watering jams!

{ Orange-Spiced Cloudberry Galettes }
Pastry adapted from Sherry Yard

* Ingredients *
250g or 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold water
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 large egg, at room temperature

* Directions *
Cut the butter into pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Sift together the flour, sugar, spices and salt into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the frozen butter.  Mix on low speed for 2 minutes.  Stop the machine and by hand pinch flat any large pieces of butter that remain.  Whisk together the water, juice and egg in a small bowl.  Turn the mixer on low speed and add the liquid all at once. Mix just until the dough comes together, about 15 seconds.  The dough should be tacky but not sticky.  Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic film.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Quickly roll out each piece into 15cm (6 in) circles.  Chill again for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).  In the centre of the dough, place the jam of your choice.  Fold up 2cm (about 1 inch) around the edge and pinch gently to adhere the folds.  Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Baked for 30 minutes.

Makes eight 10cm (2.5 in) galettes

Dobos Torte

My baking book wishlist never seems to subside.  I add new books quicker than I can buy them.  So I was excited that for my birthday, I was lucky to reduce my wishlist down by quite a few books.  One book in particular I had been eyeing off for some time was Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers.  I felt the time had come to bring this one into my home (oh, with a few other baking book orphans at the same time!).  No sooner had my books arrived, then the August Daring Bakers challenge was posted.  I just shook my head.

The book is a delicious journey through some of the most famous Austro-Hungarian desserts, including the Dobos Torte – five thin layers of vanilla sponge, filled with chocolate butter cream icing, and topped with wedges of caramel glazed cake.  The cake was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties.

I took the liberty of steering away from the typical round cake, opting instead for a more linear, rectangular version. 

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Thank you ladies.  A wonderful selection!

Dobos Torte set

{ Dobos Torte } from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers

* Ingredients *

Sponge cake
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

* Directions *

Sponge layers
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)
4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Chocolate buttercream
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.
1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping
1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Assembling
1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Chocolate Eclairs

I admit this is a very obvious choice.  When you mention pâte à choux, who would not immediately think of chocolate éclairs?  So, perhaps I am predictable.  But at least I baked something delicious, yes?

Admittedly, this is not the first time I have made pâte à choux.  Earlier in the year I made a quick batch of profiteroles – inspired after a pastry class with the head pastry chef at E’cco Bistro.  I promised myself that my next batch of pâte à choux would deliver me some tasty éclairs.  So here we are.

I used a vanilla pastry cream filling for the éclairs, and a simple ganache for the glaze.  For both the éclairs (and the profiteroles previously), I did not end up with a neat glaze finish.  I remember the beautifully smooth finish on the éclairs at Fauchon in Paris – and long to replicate that slick look!

Anyway, glaze neat or messy, these éclairs were delicious – even if they were predictable.

{ Pâte à choux } adapted from Sherry Yard

* Ingredients *
¼ cup water
¼ cup milk
45g butter, at room temperature, cubed
½ cup plain flour, sifted
2-3 eggs, at room temperature

* Directions *
Place water, milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and mixture just comes to the boil. Add all the flour to the butter mixture at once and use a wooden spoon to beat until well combined. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for at least 4 minutes or until the mixture forms a mashed potato like appearance.  Remove from the heat.

Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for a few minutes to cool the mixture down.  Then start to add the egg one by one.  Make sure the egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Before you add your last egg, check for consistency.  (See notes.)  Once done, the dough should be shiny and smooth.  At this stage you can fill a piping bag with the choux paste and use straight away or freeze for later.  (See notes.)

Preheat oven to 220 C or 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat.  Pipe the eclairs onto the baking tray. Brush the tops with a little egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, or until begin to rise.  Turn the temperature down to 180 C or 350 F.  Carefully prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and bake for another 15 minutes.
When cool, cut the top half off each one with a serrated knife.  Set the tops over a cooling rack.  Drizzle ganache over each top (you can use any recipe you like for the ganache).  Place the tops in the ridge to set, about 15-20 minutes. Fill the eclairs with a simple pastry cream. 

Makes 12 eclairs 10cm (4 in)

{ Basic Pastry Cream }

* Ingredients *
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup cornflour

* Directions *
In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.)  Add the cornflour to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste.  Set aside.
Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.  Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture.
Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly.  When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.
Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.  Cool.  If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.  Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Makes 1 ½ cups

{ A few tips … }

1. You can freeze the pastry before you pipe into puffs.  Transfer the mixture once cooled to a piping bag, seal and then freeze for up to 2 weeks. 
2. The number of eggs given is a bit of a guide.  When you have added the second last egg, check the consistency.  The pastry should be more firm than runny.  If it is a little runny, add the last egg.  Sherry’s tip is to pinch off about 1 teaspoon of the dough with your thumb and index finger, then pull your fingers apart.  The dough should stretch rather than break.  If it breaks, add the last egg.
3. Steam helps these little puffballs rise.  Sherry recommends putting a cup of hot water into a baking dish at the bottom of the oven when you put your puffs in to bake.
4. Filled puffs only last a couple of hours in the fridge.
5. Consider filling with a lovely chocolate custard for a different twist.

My jaw dropped.  Then my hands flew to my mouth in surprise.  I was stunned.  Almost immediately I broke out into a childish grin, clapping my hands in glee.  I quickly turned around to search out my mother.  She was there with me.  I quickly located her.  Now, almost jumping up and down like a five year old, I thrust out my arm, pointed proudly and declared, “I won a place….I came third….my little fruit buns came third!”

I could not believe it.  One of my entries into the Queensland Royal Show cooking competition won a place!

Ekka AnimalsImages from Animal Boulevard @ The Ekka 2009

It all began a few months back when I entered into five categories.

:: Date Loaf
:: Chocolate Loaf
:: Scones
:: Small Cakes
:: Fruit Buns

Immediately, I started collating recipes to commence my trial runs straight away.  Admittedly, I was not sure what the judges were looking for (as the instructions were extremely limited), but nonetheless, I figured I would just give it my best shot.  As this was my first ever baking competition, however, I was actually a little nervous.

Fortuitously, I started my practise early.  Very fortunate indeed because all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, the time had come to bake and submit my entries! 

Ekka CookingImages from the Cooking Display @ The Ekka 2009 :: Top left image: Julia’s Entry

On entry day, I carefully took my baked treats to the RNA showgrounds.  There were some serious contenders dropping off tray upon tray of entries.  I handed over my five little items, and headed to work.   Judging was happening that day.  I did not expect to hear anything.

The following week I went to The Ekka with my mother.  We had not been in about 15 years, but decided this year was a good time to go.  Go explore the exhibition and displays – and, of course, the cooking entries!

I had resigned myself to the fact that it was a long shot to win a place in the Queensland Royal Show cooking competition.  For me, just entering my very first baking competition, and the whole experience, was rewarding enough.  But I wanted to see all the winning entries, not expecting mine to be among them.

I was slowly wandering around all the winning entries on display.  My eyes naturally darting to the categories I had entered.  I was calmly taking notes in my head, observing some uncanny similarities between the winning entries.  Detail that was not at all included in the original instruction.  And it was then, in the display, when I noticed I had won. 

Ekka DogsImages from the Royal Championship Dog Show @ The Ekka 2009

After the excitement had died down (I was pretty excited!), I noticed how irregular my fruit buns were compared with the other winning entries.  Soon after, I was speaking with one of the stewards.  I pointed out my ‘non-standard’ fruit buns.  Based on appearance, she seemed surprised they won a place, but offered “the judges must have been very impressed with the texture and taste”.  With a coy smile, she then said, “next year, make sure you change the size and you could be looking at 1st place”.

We will see.

So until (perhaps!??) next year, I leave you with a sprinkling of photographs from the Queensland Royal Show 2009.

Ekka CraftsImages from the Craft and Quilting Displays @ The Ekka 2009

Strawberry Tart
There is no denying winter is slowing coming to an end.  Yesterday, Sunday, was splendidly perfect.  Sunny.  Clear.  Dry.  The temperature?  It reached a pleasant 29C (85F).  Yes, a little warm for winter, but this is the sub-tropics after all!

I was pottering in the garden taking advantage of the glorious sunshine, and soaking up the impressive abundance of flowers in bloom.  Smiling and cheery at the floral display, I walked back into the house to check on some baking, bien sûr.

I was overwhelmed by the smell.  It hit me immediately.  It was the sweet, buttery, nutty aroma of my pistachio pastry quietly blind-baking away in the kitchen.  I rushed to the oven.  It was all I could do to pull the little tart shells out then and there.  They smelled divine!  Instead, I waved the palm of my hand in front of the oven door towards my nose to breathe in all the pastry goodness.

I was not surprised at the glorious aroma.  I was baking a variation of pâte sablée; the most rich and flavourful French short pastry.

The Roux Brothers reference two pâte sablée recipe versions in Roux Brothers on Patisserie.  Both are made with flour, butter, egg yolks and icing (confectioners) sugar.  But one also substitutes some flour for ground almonds.  This variation reminded me of a lovely berry tart using a pistachio (instead of almond) dough in my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  With pastry month in full swing, there was no time like the present.

This tart was melt-in-your-mouth good.  The pâte sablée pastry has a delicate crisp and crumbly texture.  The sweet, buttery-ness of the pastry pairs well with the slightly sharp and tangy crème fraiche filling.  A hint of summer bursts through with a perfect finish of strawberries on top.

Perfect tart.  Perfect day.

{ Strawberry and Pistachio Tarts } Adapted from Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *
All purpose flour, for dusting
7 oz or 200g crème fraiche
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
8 oz or 240g fresh strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
Pistachio Tart dough

* Directions *
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 6mm (1/4 in) thickness. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour.  With a 15cm (6 in) dessert plate as a guide, use a sharp knife to cut out eight rounds, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Fit dough rounds into eight tart rings, pressing into the edges. Chill for 10 minutes. Using a sharp paring knife, trim dough flush with the top edge of each ring. Refrigerate the shells until well chilled, about 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 375 F. Line shells with parchment, leaving a little overhang. Fill with pie weights. Bake until edges are just beginning to turn light golden, about 15 mins. Remove parchment and weights; continue baking until surface is light golden all over, about 6 mins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. After 10 minutes, remove pastry from the rings.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine crème fraiche, cream and sugar.  Whisk until soft peaks form.  Using an offset spatula, spread mixture into cooled tartlet shells. Arrange strawberries and pistachios on top. Serve immediately.

Makes eight 10cm (4 in) tartlets or one 35x10cm (14 x 4 in) tart

{ Pistachio Tart Dough }

* Ingredients *
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
2 large egg yolks
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsalted shelled pistachios, finely ground
2 tsp heavy cream

* Directions *
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and icing (confectioners) sugar on a low speed until combined, about 2 mins. Add egg yolks and mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add 1 cup flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Add remaining ¼ cup flour, pistachios, salt and cream and mix until flour is no longer visible. Wrap tightly using plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hr or overnight.

{ A few tips … }

Pâte sablée is a little tricky and delicate to work with due to its high butter content.  It is an extremely soft dough. 

1. If baking in summer, or in a hot climate, regularly pop the dough on a baking tray covered with the plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes.  I have also had success rolling out similar pastry dough between plastic wrap.  See tips here :: { Linzer cookies }
2. Ensure you do not roll out the dough too thin as it can be fragile when baked.
3. If you have trouble rolling out the dough, simply press it gently into your pan.

Mille Feuille

It was not long after I met my partner that we took a mini trip to Victoria.  It was a post-Christmas getaway.  We spent a few days travelling around the majestic Great Ocean Road taking in the amazing Twelve Apostles, then we travelled to Mornington Peninsular visiting a number of wineries and picking some local grown strawberries, and then settled back to Melbourne to ring in the New Year.

There was one pastry pit stop along the way.  My partner is quite partial to the Vanilla Slice – Mille Feuille or Napoleon, if you wish.  In my pre-travel research, I stumbled across a number of references to the ‘best vanilla slice in Victoria’.  It was a bold claim.  It was being made about Just Fine Foods Delicatessen(23 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento, Victoria).

Seeing we were in the area, we needed to sample this custard pastry to see what all the fuss was about.  It was worth the visit.  Lovely crispy layers of pastry contained a light, creamy custard. It was delicious.

Since that trip to Victoria, I had not thought much about Vanilla Slice.  Until reaching ‘pastry month’.  Given I would have a more than willing taste tester by my side, I decided to make my own Mille Feuille.

I filled my Mille Feuille with a simple vanilla pastry cream, crème pâtissière, then topped with the traditional glaze and pattern.  This dessert exaggerated the buttery-ness of my homemade puff pastry.  In a good way.  The puff pastry flavour and texture was quite unadulterated with only the simple addition of pastry cream between the layers.  There was no hiding!

It was very rich, but totally mouth-watering – and it all went in a flash.

{ Mille Feuille }

* Ingredients *
450g or 1lb puff pastry
1/2 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon cocoa
Basic pastry cream

* Directions *
Make the pastry cream and set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll out puff pastry to 30 x 30 cm square (12 x 12 inch square).  Cut into 3 strips at 30 x 10 cm (or 12 x 4 in).  Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F or 200C. Place the pastry on the lined tray. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.  Top the pastry with another sheet of baking paper and another baking tray and bake for a further 6-8 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, butter and milk to make the glaze.  Once you have reached a spreadable but firm consistency, remove 1/4 of the glaze to a separate bowl.  To that, add the cocoa powder.  Add a drop more milk if necessary.  Transfer the cocoa glaze to a small piping bag.

Spread the white glaze on top of one of the cooled pastry strips.  Spread evening.  Then pipe the chocolate across gently from side to side. Lightly drag a wooden toothpick down the length of the pastry, in alternating directions, to create the pattern.

Spread the pastry cream over the remaining two pastry strips, creating layers of pastry, pastry and then glaze.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Use a large serrated knife cut the pastry into portions and then serve immediately.

Serves 5-6

{ Basic Pastry Cream }

* Ingredients *
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup cornflour

* Directions *
In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.)  Add the cornflour to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste.  Set aside.

Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.  Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture.

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly.  When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.  Cool.  If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.  Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Makes 1 ½ cups

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