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Archive for the ‘French Patisserie’ Category

When faced with a choice at the French patisserie counter it’s always difficult.  I have already posted a recipe for Tarte au Citron so now, as promised some time ago, here is Tarte aux Poires.  Both are candidates for the title of our favourite, but the jury is still out…  It is a crisp pastry shell filled with cooked pear halves, a delicious soft almondy filling and a top scattered with toasted split almonds and is a relatively straightforward recipe.  Arranging the pears decoratively is not too difficult, just a bit fiddly, but it is worth it for both the positive comments of guests and being able to produce something to keep the family happy!  Another often seen title for Tarte aux Poires is Pear Frangipane Tart, the word frangipane relating to the addition of ground almonds. (More information about this can be found with the recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight).  The original recipe I used was called by another relatively common name, Pear Pie Bourdaloue, but the many variations of spelling make the meaning of the name difficult to trace.  Some sources credit a Parisien baker called Coquelin, owner of La Pâtisserie Bourdaloue named after the street in which it stands, who in 1909 baked the first Tarte Bourdaloue aux Poires.  Whatever its origins, however, the numerous recipes for this classic french pear and almond tart all agree with us: it is delicious!

The original version of this recipe Tarte aux Poires comes from the French recipe website Meilleur du chef which is also available translated into English where it is called Cuisine French.  The recipe translation is not perfect – for example it suggests the dish is finished with ‘blond coating’ (nappage blond). This appears to be a product commercially available containing sugar, water and a little apricot flavouring, which gives a slightly sticky finish to the tart.  I substituted a sugar and water glaze, which as far as I can see gives a similar result but is not absolutely necessary.  On many occasions have forgotten to add it or have simply run out of time.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tarte aux Poires Bourdaloue (Pear Frangipane Tart/Pear Pie Bourdaloue)

Shortcrust Pastry – enough to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
100g butter
100g sugar
100g ground almonds
20g flour
40g whipping cream – single if whipping not available
2 eggs
1 or 2 tins pears (enough to give six halves of roughly equal size)
or
Gently poach three whole sweet pears and cut into six halves, removing the cores.
Split almonds to decorate
Granulated sugar dissolved in a little water to make a light syrup (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

2.  Line the flan tin with shortcrust pastry, prick with a fork, fill with dried beans and bake blind for about 10 minutes until the pastry starts to set and colour.  Remove beans and set to one side.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2

4.  To make the almond cream filling cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and thick.

5.  Stir in the ground almonds.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat well.

6.  Mix in the cream and flour and then beat well to fully combine.

7.  Spoon this almond cream mixture into the blind baked shell, making sure it is level as possible.

8.  Taking each pear half, carefully cut splits lengthways down each piece leaving each slice joined at the top.  Gently ease each half into a fan shape.

9.  Arrange each piece of pear evenly around the dish, carefully easing out the fan shapes.  Some dishes would allow the six pieces in a circle with the points towards the centre.  If the pears are fat and round in shape there may only be space for five pears in the circle in which case the sixth piece can go in the centre.  Gently fan out the pear pieces before you place them on top of the almond cream mixture taking care not to separate them at the point.

10. If not using the sweet coating: Scatter a small handful of split almonds over the tart.  The quantity is up to you – I like to be reasonably generous.  If you intend to add the sugar coating the split almonds are added at the end just before serving and should have been carefully toasted in the oven or under a hot grill.  They burn very quickly and need to be watched as they toast.  Once toasted remove from the tin onto a cold plate to cool.

11.  Bake the tart in a warm oven for 40 to 50 minutes and remove when the top of the tart is golden. The split almonds should be starting to colour but not burn. The low heat will allow the tart to colour slowly whilst the shortcrust pastry bakes thoroughly. The almond cream will rise a little and gradually brown.

12.  Allow the tart to cool.

13.  Optional coating: Dissolve about 2tsp sugar in a very little boiling water.  Alternatively this can be done in a microwave oven.  Brush over the surface of the finished pie for a slightly sticky finish.

14.  Finish the tart by sprinkling over the roasted split almonds.

15.  Serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraîche – or alternatively just as it is.  It makes a delicious dessert, cooled but not long from the oven and can also be served at tea time.  A really good dessert when entertaining, especially as it can be made a little in advance.

Alternatives:
Can be made as individual tarts containing one pear fan each.
Other fruits are often substituted for the pears: especially apricot, apple, plums and blueberries – near Christmas I often make Mincemeat & Almond Delight which is similar but with a sweet mincemeat based filling
Other ground nuts can be substituted for the almonds. Pistachio is particularly delicious and pale green in colour even when baked.

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I was intending to start this post by being a bit clever, quoting “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, writing something about French Queen Marie Antoinette and mentioning the common inaccurate translation of her phrase as “Let them eat cake”…  I am so glad I checked the details before writing!  The quote is correct, but is often wrongly attributed to Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XVI.  The words were said by Marie-Therese, the wife of King Louis XIV who lived around 100 years previously. So not what I had thought, but interesting nonetheless and I thought worth sharing!  Back to the subject in hand… One of our first purchases on arrival in France is a Brioche loaf. We find it so useful: it keeps well, is good for breakfast and handy for emergency use.  Brioche and Gâche Vendéenne (its cousin from the Vendée region in Western France) are soft, light, puffy and slightly sweet crosses between cake, pastry and bread.  They are made from a yeast dough enriched with butter and egg and often flavoured with rum, brandy or – our favourite – fragrant orange flower water.  Some years ago on holiday I bought recipe postcards and a bottle of orange flower water with the intention of making brioche.  I even bought a fluted Brioche tin.  Until now I had not got round to making the brioche although I have used the tin for jellies! and the orange flower water in other recipes (including Fragrant Marmalade Cake and Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Oranges & Beetroot).

Orange flower water can now easily be found in the UK and is the one ingredient we feel gives brioche that little extra something, however it was not an ingredient in my Brioche postcard recipe so I turned first to books and then the Internet for help.  I eventually found the recipe below, Brioche with Fleur d’Oranger posted by Gary at Meltingpan.com  I would have left him a note to say how successful his recipe had been, but could not see where add a comment and the site now seems to have disappeared completely (I have left the links in case it does re-appear). Gary recommended it spread with unsalted butter but never toasted, though I have to say I think it makes lovely toast!  Initially I carefully made a half quantity but will definitely be making the full amount in future.  I used the French method of dough making, where the dough is thrown and scraped which makes the initial extreme stickiness easier to manage.  Do ‘stick’ with the recipe and it will eventually come together into a smooth ball.  Once you have this it can be kneaded in the conventional English way.  Brioche, apparently, makes a delicious rich bread and butter pudding, but I am not sure we will ever have any left to make one!  The recipes for Paddington Pudding (Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding) or Toffee Apple Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding could easily be adapted.  I shaped my loaf by dividing into three strands and plaiting them before putting into a tin, which is the usual shape of the loaves we buy.  Probably the most familiar shape is the brioche à tête (literally ‘bun with a head’) usually made in the fluted tin with a small ‘top knot’ of dough added on top, similar to a Cottage Loaf.  La Gâche Vendéenne is torpedo shaped and slashed from end to end.  The Brioche (or Couronne) des Rois, translated as King’s Brioche or King’s Crown, comes from Provence in the south of France (this linked recipe looks good but is untried) and is normally a ring shaped loaf decorated with crystallised fruits.  It is served on 6 January at Epiphany, the feast celebrating the Wise Men’s visit to the infant Christ.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Brioche

The original recipe advised that if you have a bread machine you simply put in all the ingredients apart from the butter. Put it on the dough setting and after about 10 minutes (or whenever it alerts you to add nuts or other ingredients) add the softened butter. Although I have a bread machine I used the conventional method so cannot comment on the success or otherwise of using a machine.  The instructions were not very clear but I assume that the brioche was kneaded in the machine but cooked conventionally in the oven.

300g of white flour, sifted
2 eggs, beaten
50ml of milk
10g of dried active yeast
50g of sugar
3 tablespoons of Fleur d’Oranger (Orange Flower Water)
70g of unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1 teaspoon of salt

For the loaf pan(s):
2 tablespoons of melted butter
2 tablespoons of sugar

1.   Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 and place a pan of water on the lowest rack.

2.  Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Add the salt and sugar and then the dried yeast.

3.  Warm the milk slightly, which helps the yeast to start to grow more quickly and stir into the dry ingredients along with the beaten eggs and orange flower water.

4.  Gently mix together with one hand adding the butter little by little.  The mixture will be very sticky.  Avoid adding extra flour at any point as this makes the dough tough.

5.  Turn out onto a cleaned work surface and start to knead, bringing the edges in with a dough scraper or a palette knife.  It will come together eventually if you keep working at it and the dough will eventually form a soft ball.  Continue stretching and scraping until conventional kneading is possible.  This took at least 20 minutes.

6.  Once you have a soft ball of dough that is no longer sticky put it in a bowl, cover it with a tea-towel and let it sit in a warm place for 20 minutes to allow it to rise.

7.  Meanwhile butter the loaf pan (or pans) and shake over sugar so it is well coated.  The sugar can, of course, be omitted.

8.  When risen knock the dough back and knead well for a further 20 minutes.

9.  Make either one large or two smaller loaves.  Before placing the dough in the pan(s) the dough can be split into three strands and plaited or shaped into a long loaf with a gash cut down its length.

10.  Drop the dough into the prepared loaf pan(s), cover with a clean tea towel and leave it in a warm area for 20-30 minutes to allow it to rise again.

11.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.  The finished loaf/loaves will be golden brown and doubled in size.

12.  Turn out of the pan(s) and cook on a wire rack.  Eat and enjoy!

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Although some sources try to connect these pastries with Napoleon I of France, it is more likely that they originated from Naples in Italy with the connection with the Emperor made at a later date.  Mille-feuille a French word is translated literally ‘thousand leaves’, referring to the fine layers of puff pastry.  In the UK  the most common version contains thick cream or custard (and sometimes jam as well) plus a feathered decorative icing, when it is is often given the name Cream, Vanilla or Custard Slice.  Whatever the name this pâtisserie is relatively simple to make, especially as if uses ready made puff pastry (make your own if you wish), with the pastry layers made in advance and the layering done within an hour or so of eating to avoid losing the crispness.  This last stage is rather fiddly and time consuming but well worth the effort and should earn appreciative comments from those you are serving!

This recipe called Napoléons with Lemon Cream and Strawberries was found in a small book from the library: French Desserts by Laura Washburn.  It is a variation on the original plainer versions and containing layers of lemon cream and strawberries.  I felt that the finished Napoléons, whilst delicious, could be rather too acidic in flavour for some people.  Using a sweeter, less acidic, lemon curd mixed with extra cream and well sugared strawberries (rather than unsugared) could go some way to solving this.  In my version of the recipe I have substituted my own lemon curd (still lemony but milder), sugaring the strawberries well to counteract their natural sharpness. Thinking further, it would be interesting to try some more combinations using curd and cream mixtures with fruit: orange curd would go well with apricot and lime curd with stem ginger and both could have added chocolate shavings, for example.  If the curd was omitted and the cream was increased then flower flavourings such as rosewater or orange flower water would be delicious in combination with fruit. Dainty individual servings of just a bite each would make an ideal finger buffet snack or single element of a multi part dessert. There are many possibilities for these Napoléons and I shall definitely be doing some experimenting.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mille-feuilles Napoléon with Lemon Cream & Strawberries
Napoléons au citron et aux fraises
(Makes 10-12 pastries)

500g packet of Puff Pastry (or home made if you wish)
Milk, just a little for brushing
Caster sugar, just a little for sprinkling
2lb/900g strawberries, aproximately
4 or 5 tbsp sugar, depending on sweetness of Strawberries, more if needed
For the lemon cream:
1 jar of lemon curd, home made if possible or good quality
150ml whipping cream, Elmlea half fat if possible
Icing sugar, to dust

1.  Preheat oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  This step can be done well in advance, leaving just the finishing to be done closer to serving.  Roll the Pastry into a large oblong on a floured board and cut into 15 to 18 equally sized 2 x 4 inch/5 x 10cm rectangles.  Place these, spaced out, on baking trays.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 10-15minutes, or until golden.  Carefully lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

3.  Slice the strawberries into thin layers, sprinkle generously with sugar and leave to one side.

4.  Within an hour or two before eating whip the cream well and thoroughly combine with the lemon curd.

5.  The pastry rectangles must be completely cool before filling.  Slice each carefully in half.  This is easiest with a serrated knife.  The pastries are made in three layers so choose the best looking top pieces and keep to one side.  The remaining pieces, either tops or bottoms, form the other layers.

5.  Layer the Napoléons together.  First put about 2 teaspoons of cream mixture on a bottom layer.  Cover with about 8 strawberry pieces.  Add a second pastry layer (this will be either a bottom or a top of the halved pieces). Follow again with lemon cream and strawberry pieces.  Finally, add one of the selected top pieces as a lid.

6.  Move each Napoléon to a serving dish as it is completed.

7.  Just before serving dust the completed plate of Napoléons generously with icing sugar.

8.  Serve with additional strawberries and extra cream.  Allow 1 or 2 Napoléons per person, depending on size of serving and appetites of diners.

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One of our favourite French desserts is Tarte au Citron or French Lemon Tart and it is surprisingly easy to make.  It is one of those food items that we cannot leave France without having at least once. Tarts of varying quality can be found across France in supermarkets and patisseries and often have the word ‘Citron’ drizzled on top in chocolate or gold wording on chunk of decorative chocolate.  This recipe is for a much simpler version without the chocolate but you could add that if you wished as well.  I just served a summer fruit accompaniment of blueberries and strawberries with my Tarte au Citron and gave it a dusting of icing sugar.  For those who wished, pouring cream was available at the table.  It makes an excellent dessert when entertaining friends.

This recipe came from The French Kitchen by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde: Joanne Harris is a well known novelist many of whose books I have enjoyed (including Chocolat which was also filmed).   I would certainly repeat this Tarte au Citron recipe and next time would very much like to make it with authentic Pâte Brisée pastry as suggested in the recipe.  This soft but often difficult to handle pastry, made with butter, egg and sugar, is regularly used for French patisserie.  On this occasion I substituted the simpler shortcrust for the recommended pâte brisée (see basic recipe post for information on how to make these).

100_2336 Tarte au Citron with berries

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tarte au Citron (French Lemon Tart)
(Serves 6)

Quantity of Shortcrust or Pâte Brisée pastry using basic recipe

Lemon filling:
2 eggs
100g unrefined sugar
150ml double cream (I used Elmlea half fat)
zest & juice of 2 lemons
50g butter

1.  Heat the oven to  200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for blind baking if you are using a shortcrust pastry shell. 

2.  Make pastry case (either Shortcrust or Pâte Brisée) using basic recipe and chill for at least 30minutes. For the shortcrust pastry shell only, blind bake for 10minutes (I fill the empty pastry shell with dried beans).

3.  Heat oven (or reduce temperature) to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4

3.  Place the eggs, sugar and cream in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice and whisk until creamy.

4.  Melt the butter gently and whisk into the lemon mixture.

5.  Pour lemon mixture into the chilled pastry case.

6.  Carefully place tart into the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 160oC/Gas 3 and bake for a further about 20minutes or until the filling has set.

8.  Leave to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

9.  Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar or chocolate shavings.  Can be served with summer berries or slices of orange and if needed, some pouring cream.

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This delicious set custard patisserie, most commonly studded with prunes, comes from the region of Brittany in North West France.   Versions of Le Far can be found throughout France however, often without any fruit, called simply ‘Flan’.  Le Far is one of our holiday favourites!

I translated this particular version from a local recipe postcard bought on holiday.  The original instructions were for double the quantity stated below.  Some recipes soak the prunes in Armanac brandy, but mine did not and I think it is fine without.  Although prunes are used in the traditional version, I have also successfully used dried apricots or Lexia (Valencia) raisins.  I have also read of an alternative using chopped apple, but I have not tried this – could be good as apple and raisin mix, possibly.

‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Le Far Breton aux Pruneaux
Breton Far with Prunes
(Serves 6-8)

125g plain flour
pinch salt
100g granulated sugar
2 eggs
1tbsp sunflower oil
500ml milk
100-150g pitted prunes

1.  Unless they are very fresh and soft, pour boiling water over the prunes or apricots, soak to soften and drain very well. Leave to dry on kitchen paper. (Raisins do not need pre-soaking.)

2.  Preheat oven to 180oC

3.  Sieve flour and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar. Gradually mix in beaten egg, oil and milk. Make sure there are no lumps. You will have a very thin batter.

4.  Pour mixture into a lightly greased shallow dish. I used a large round fluted flan dish, or two smaller ones. (To make it easier to get the Far into the oven without spilling I find it easier to reserve some mixture to pour over at the end.)  More recently I have made this in a deeper dish giving thicker slices.  I have also made it in an oblong dish, cutting it into small taster squares for an International Food event at church.

5.  Cut the prunes or apricots in half and evenly distribute the pieces into the mixture. Place the dish in the oven and pour in the remaining mixture, if necessary. It does not matter if the dish is fairly full as it does not usually overflow, but I always stand the dish on a baking sheet whilst in the oven.

6.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 1hr 15mins. The mixture will set with dark patches on the surface and the edges rise slightly.

7.  Cut into wedges. Far is usually eaten cold, though it can be served hot. It can be served as dessert or as a cake.

(This recipe was first posted on 31 October 2007 at my original blog Meanderings along the narrow way)

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