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 }

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

Tarte Tatin

I could not let anything distract me.  I needed to dedicate Saturday with the challenge.  I was prepared for the time consuming (but hopefully rewarding!) task ahead.  I was about to tackle the most difficult pastry of pastry monthPâte feuilletée, or puff pastry.

The basic premise for puff pastry is folding chilled butter (“butter block”) within a base dough (“la détrempe”).  This is then folded and rolled a number of times (“turns”) to create hundreds upon hundreds of layers.  These layers provide the puff.  As the pastry cooks, the water within each layer of butter evaporates into steam.  This pushes up the layers of détrempe to create a very flaky pastry.

For my very first puff pastry effort, I reached for my Roux Brothers on Patisserie reference.  Michel and Albert Roux include a puff pastry recipe by their friend Jean Millet, the president of the Confédération de la Patisserie, Confiserie, Glacerie de France and MOF in patisserie.  I knew I would be in good hands.

When reviewing the recipe, my eye wandered to the subsequent page.  Here was the recipe for Quick Puff Pastry, Feuilletage Minute.  After a brief review of the directions, I uncovered that the quick method skipped the “butter block”, opting instead to work cubed butter into the flour at the beginning.  It also skipped a number of “turns”.

I thought about it a few times.  I really did.  I thought about it seriously.  But almost as soon as I considered the option, I dismissed it.  If I were going to attempt puff pastry, it may as well be the whole butter-blocking, full-6-turning, palm-aching-from-all-the-rolling effort kind.

From beginning to end this pastry took close to six hours.  And I will not lie, it really felt like six hours.  But the result?  Without hesitation, it was definitely worth the time.  The resulting puff pastry had all the characteristic buttery goodness you want, plus it was incredibly lip smackingly flaky!

I asked my partner what desserts he would enjoy from my puff pastry, pâte feuilletée, adventures.  First request?  Tarte Tatin.  I have made Tarte Tatin before, but never with my own homemade puff pastry.  I hoped we would be in for a treat.  We were.

Tarte Tatin (set)

{ Feuilletage Jean Millet :: Jean Millet’s Puff Pastry }

* Ingredients *
500g / 1 lb flour
200ml / 8 fl oz water
12g / 1 ¾ tsp salt
25ml / 1 fl oz white wine vinegar
50g / 2 oz butter melted
400g / 14 oz butter, well chilled

* Directions *
To form the détrempe, put all the ingredients up to the chilled butter into a stand mixer.  Mix well until completely homogenous but not too firm.  Turn the détrempe out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by hand, rounding it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To roll in the butter, first prepare the softened butter by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the softened butter into a rectangle.  It is important that the détrempe and butter be of almost equal consistency.  If necessary, allow the détrempe to sit at room temperature to soften or chill the butter briefly to harden.

On a lightly floured board, roll the détrempe into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 15 inches (30 centimetres by 37.5 centimetres).  Lift and rotate the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.  Position the butter in the centre of the rectangle and remove the remaining plastic. Fold the four edges of the détrempe over the butter enclosing it completely. Stretch the dough if necessary; it is important that none of the butter be exposed.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to an even rectangle of approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 cm by 60 cm).

Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter.  This is the first turn.  Give the rectangle a one quarter turn and again progressively roll it gently away from you to approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 cm by 60 cm).   Fold the dough into 3.  This is the second turn.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Repeat the rolling and folding technique until the dough has had a total of six turns. Do not perform more than two turns without a resting and chilling period. Cover the dough completely and chill overnight before shaping and baking.

Yield: 1.2kg or 2.5 lb

{ Tarte Tatin }

* Ingredients *
3 Apples
1 cup sugar
65g or ½ stick of butter, cut into cubes
Squeeze of lemon juice
250g puff pastry, cut into 20cm / 8 in circle, chilled

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 200C or 400F.  Butter a pie plate or cast iron skillet well.  Peel and core the apples and cut into quarters.  Place the sugar, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water into a small saucepan.  Heat gently under the sugar caramelises and is a light-golden brown.  Pour the sugar into your dish and quickly add the butter to melt.  Add the apple, cut side up.  Place over the pastry, gently pushing into the apples.  Place the plate or skillet on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden. Remove from oven and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.