Tag Archives: puff pastry

quince and marzipan tarte fine

22 Oct

She pulled down the branches and I twisted them from their stalks, one two three too many to hold. I dropped some into the unruly grass. When the tree was bare we came back to the kitchen with our haul and put a couple of the hefty quinces and some sugar in the pressure cooker, to test.

Then immediately forgot about them.

We had made quince mush; they had totally disintegrated. Lovely. My mother set about resurrecting it, and I started on a tart. (It was an incredibly nice moment, stepping around each other in the kitchen as we made dinner together. Not dictated by time or recipes, free to use the fresh ingredients we had picked from the garden and, uh, supermarket.)

The mush turned out beautifully in the end: mixed with almost equal quantities of jam sugar and boiled for barely five minutes, it became a stiff jam with a faint scent of citrus besides that particular quince taste. We filled three jars (fresh from the dishwasher, no need to sterilise) and turned them upside down to seal. Delicious both on toast or porridge in the morning, and with cheese in the evening like the Spanish membrillo.

The tart too was better than expected: since we sliced the quinces thinly and popped them straight into boiling sugar and water, they were poached in under five minutes. Then, a circle of puff pastry, ready rolled, and a smaller circle of marzipan on top. The quinces arranged in a delicate spiral into the centre, each slice overlapping slightly, covering the marzipan and leaving a border of pastry to puff up in the oven.

And that was it, simple. Except that in the course of baking, the plain quince pieces blushed pink, ranging from a golden rose to a autumn orange. The very edges charred black, turned up like the dry leaves carpeting the lawn. It was beautiful, more so when brushed shiny with the leftover poaching syrup.

If my mother hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t have attempted a quince dessert – too much hassle, I thought. As it was, it was both easy and delicious: the fruit tender and perfumed, the pastry crisp, the marzipan just a thin layer of sticky sweetness to bind it all together.

Obviously, I could have made it with apples (no need to poach first) just as you could make rabbit stew or jugged hare with a chicken breast, but I would have missed out on something special, something seasonal.

Quince and marzipan tarte fine

adapted from an apple tart recipe by Bruno Loubet

2 large quinces (about 800g total)

200ml water

100g sugar

225g puff pastry, all-butter ready-rolled

100g marzipan

Heat the sugar and water in a deep frying pan to a gentle simmer. Peel, core and slice the quinces one at a time and drop the slices in the syrup immediately so they don’t go brown in the air. Throw the cores in as well for extra flavour. After 4-5 minutes they will go tender and a little translucent, fish them out and spread out on some paper towel to drain. Repeat with the rest of the quinces, add more water/sugar if necessary. Save the syrup, discard the cores.

Heat oven to 180C.

Unroll the puff pastry, hopefully already in a circle, onto a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. If not cut the biggest circle possible. Score a smaller circle about 3-4 cm from the edge using a plate as a guide. Roll the marzipan out very thinly to fit this smaller diameter and lay inside the scored mark.

Pat the quinces totally dry with more paper towel, and arrange them on top of the marzipan, not on the border of puff pastry, in overlapping spirals.

Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the pastry has puffed up around the edges and the quinces just start to go brown at the tips. Brush immediately with the leftover poaching syrup.

Serve warm with crème fraîche or vanilla icecream.

fig and ginger millefeuille

19 Oct

If I am lucky enough to get my hands on a platter of figs (hurry to the market in the place d’Aligre, there may still be time!) I am reluctant to hide them in a cake. Rather a tub of a ricotta and a spoonful of honey to make me happy.

In the south of France recently, our tree only had a handful of the tiniest purple ones. I ran around the block looking for figs and considering all the possbilities for an interesting recipe. Since last year when an angry farmer confiscated my brother’s pickings and threw them under his tractor, then cut down the tree out of spite, there are no more figs to be had!

But I had an idea, inspired by Pierre Herme: a millefeuille de pain d’épice – or a stack of spice bread – interleaved with a light gingery pastry cream and some just-baked figs. A few drops of olive oil and honey, a few grains of sea-salt and five minutes in the oven only enhanced the sweetness and collapsible nature of our figs. The pain d’épice is sliced thinly and toasted to a crisp with a little butter, providing a good crunch to add to the soft figs and subtle cream.

Make it as rustic or elegant as you like: pipe neat droplets of ginger cream onto perfect squares of pain d’épice, sandwich with figs and adorn with a strip of crystallized ginger. Or serve family style: a gorgeous dish of just roasted figs, a dish of pastry cream and a pile of spice bread to pass around. Create deliciously messy tartines, jammy figs squashed onto crunchy gingerbread: a worthy vehicle for those fresh figs (and an excellent way to liven up any sad supermarket specimens).

Fig and ginger millefeuille

serves 4

4 giant or 8 small figs

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp honey

pinch sea salt

1 loaf pain d’epice (or gingerbread), slightly stale

20g butter

for the pastry cream:

300ml milk

45g light brown sugar

2 tbsp finely chopped crystallised ginger

3 egg yolks

30g light brown sugar

15g (1 tbsp) flour

30g (2tbsp) corn flour / maizena

100g crème fraîche

to serve: 2 figs + strips of crystallised ginger

Heat the oven to 180C . Halve the figs and place in small baking dish, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and honey and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 5-10 minutes until soft without losing shape. At the same time, heat a large baking tray with the butter on it. As the butter melts, slice the pain d’épice as thin as you can. (It helps if it is a little stale.) Aim for 12 slices roughly the size of a playing card. Remove tray from oven, tilt to distribute melted butter evenly. Rub the pain d’épice in the butter on one side, then turn over. Toast in oven until crisp – but be careful not to burn.

Make the pastry cream: heat the milk, the 45g sugar and the ginger until it boils. Whisk the egg yolks and the 30g sugar to combine, then sieve in the flour and cornflour. Pour half of the boiling milk into the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to temper it (stop the eggs from cooking too quickly) then tip it all back into the pan. Gently bring the custard back to a boil and whisk until thick (about 3 minutes). Pour out onto a clingfilm-lined tray, cover with more clingfilm and refrigerate. This way it should cool down quickly.

Just before you are ready to eat, beat the pastry cream to remove any lumps and fold in the crème fraîche. Do not overmix or it will be too runny. On each plate, layer a pain d’épice toast with a dollop of cream, half a baked fig and repeat. Finish with a third slice and decorate with a sliver of crystallised ginger and a slice of fresh fig.

Alternatively, serve up the figs on a platter with bowls of ginger cream and pain d’epice for everyone to help themselves. Eat immediately.

party food : beef, apple and goat’s cheese sausage rolls

20 Nov

Proper English  food, slightly poshed up. Puff pastry with a goat’s cheese lining, hiding good beef mixed with a little grated apple for extra tenderness. With a sprinkle of toasty sesame seeds, they could even pass for exotic.

Sausage rolls: the perfect bitesize party food, apparently little known in France, so extra appreciation for me. In any case, after the first confusion – is it an oriental pastry? sausage what? – they were polished off in a few minutes.

(If there is any beef mixture left over after the party, they also make excellent burgers with a fat slice of apple and a smear of goat’s cheese on the bun.)


Beef and apple sausage rolls

(makes more than 50, up to 70)

2 packs ready rolled puff pastry

500g beef mince

1 egg

1 apple, grated

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

2 tbsps double cream

lots salt and pepper

150g soft (spreadable) goat’s cheese

1 more egg

toasted sesame seeds

Gently squeeze the grated apple in a clean tea towel to remove excess liquid. Mix with beef, 1 egg, shallots, garlic and cream. Add salt and pepper liberally. To test seasoning, microwave 1/2 tsp mixture until brown, then taste and adjust salt/pepper accordingly.

Unroll puff pastry onto a floured surface. If the sheets are round, roll a little until roughly rectangular. Cut strips 8cm wide and spread a thin layer of goat’s cheese, leaving 2cm along one side bare. Brush the bare edge with a little water.Shape the beef mixture into a rough sausage along the goat’s cheese side, then roll up, pressing gently at the end to stick together. Repeat with remaining pastry. Place long rolls in the freezer, seam side down for 10-15 minutes. Then cut 2cm wide pieces and leave in the fridge/freezer until party time.

When ready to bake, preheat over to 200c. Beat the other egg in a shallow dish, and fill another dish with sesame seeds. Dip the top of each sausage roll first in egg then in sesame seeds. Space out on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes until golden and sizzling.

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