Pithiviers

Pithiviers (pee-thee-v’yay) is a classic pastry which is a speciality of Pithiviers near Chartres in France. Serve the pastry, cut into small wedges, with coffee.

8-

8 oz. flour :{ teaspoon salt

8 oz. unsalted butter

4 fl. oz. iced water

6 oz. ground almonds

6 oz. castor sugar g teaspoon almond essence

3 tablespoons rum

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg, well beaten

1 egg yolk, well beaten with

1 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon castor sugar

First make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 2 ounces of the butter and cut into small pieces with a table knife. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water and mix it in with the knife to form a firm dough. Lightly knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth and pliable. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in greaseproof or waxed paper. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Place the remaining butter between two sheets of greaseproof or waxed paper and beat it with the back of a wooden spoon or a wooden mallet into a flat oblong approximately -inch thick. Set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrig-erator and remove and discard the paper. Place the dough on a lightly floured board.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into an oblong approximately

½ inch thick. Carefully peel off and dis-card the paper from the butter oblong and lay the butter in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough in half to enclose the butter and chill it in the refrigerator for

10 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrig-erator and place it, with the folds facing downwards, on the working surface. Roll the dough into an oblong and fold the oblong in three. Turn the dough so that the open ends face you and roll it out again.

Fold the dough over in three and chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Repeat the rolling and folding process twice more, and chill the dough in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 400°F (Gas Mark 6, 200°C). Line a large baking sheet with non-stick silicone paper and sprinkle it with a little cold water. Set aside.

To make the filling, place the ground almonds, sugar and almond essence in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the rum and the softened butter and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it is well blended and the butter is evenly dis-tributed.

Add the egg and continue beating until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrig-erator and divide it in half. Place one half on a lightly floured working surface and set the other half aside. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a circle approximately –inch thick. Trim the circle to make it 8-inches in diameter. Carefully lift the dough circle on the rolling pin and place it on the prepared baking sheet.

Spoon the almond filling on to the dough circle and, using a flat-bladed knife or the back of the spoon, spread it evenly to within -½ inch of the edges of the dough. Moisten the edges of the dough circle with a little cold water and set aside.

Place the second half of the dough on the working surface and roll it out and trim it as before. Using the point of a sharp knife, trace a pattern in the shape of a single rosette in the centre of the circle. Lift the circle on the rolling pin and place it over the almond filling. Crimp the edges of the dough circles together to seal them.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the dough with the egg yolk mixture, and sprinkle with the sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the pastry aside to cool for 30 minutes. Then carefully transfer to a wire rack and set aside to cool completely before cutting into wedges and serving.

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