Tag Archive for Pastry

Puff pastry cookies

When we were in Spain, one day we came by a small bakery that smelled incredibly delicious, so we had to go in and buy all sorts of delicious pastries; these pastries were one of them. I’m not completely sure that it is a Spanish specialty, they did not have written signs next to the products in that bakery and due to the language barrier we couldn’t find out how the pastries were called. And I didn’t see this pastry at the other bakeries we visited. I guess they are best described as related to palmiers. They are made from puff pastry that is baked in an oven while covered with something heavy, so that it cannot rise. When they are cooked, they are uncovered, brushed with egg white which acts as a glue, and then sprinkled with sugar and almond shavings, after which they are baked uncovered a little longer to toast the almonds and slightly melt the sugar. They taste delicious, are lovely thin and crisp, sweet from the sugar and the almonds give extra flavour and texture. Make sure you use all butter puff pastry, this has the best flavour, which is very important for a simple pastry like this. There are no other ingredients that can cover the yucky taste of puff pastry made with margarine. If you want to make these cookies extra special, use home-made puff pastry. Variation tips: add some vanilla, cinnamon, or other spice(mix) to the sugar, use other sliced nuts like hazelnut, or use whole pine nuts. These are best eaten quite fast after baking, are delicious as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee, but are also a great addition to desserts.

Puff pastry cookies

Puff pastry (pre-rolled shop bought)
Egg white
Granulated sugar
Almond shavings

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Have another baking sheet or baking tin ready that fits on top of the first one.
Place your puff pastry on the lined baking sheet. You can leave the puff pastry as it is, we get our puff pastry in the Netherlands as smallish squares that make a nice, generous cookie, but you can also cut your puff pastry in strips, squares, ovals, whatever you like. Another option is breaking larger sheets after baking. Place the second baking sheet on top of the first one, with the puff pastry in between. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. The pastry should stay flat, but get crisp and golden brown.
Take the baking sheet from the oven. Set the second baking sheet aside. Brush the puff pastry with egg white as a glue, then sprinkle very generous with the sugar and top it with some almond shavings. Place back in the oven (uncovered) until the almond is nicely toasted and the sugar is slightly molten. This should take about 5-10 minutes, make sure you keep an eye on it to know when it is ready. Place the cookies on a rack to cool (goes quite fast since they are thin) and serve as soon as possible.

Portugese Custard Tarts

Pastel de Nata (also known as Pastel de Belém) is the national pastry of Portugal. It was originally invented to use up leftover egg yolks and although leftover egg yolks are not a problem any more, this pastry is available in all pastry shops in Portugal. They are a bit fiddly to prepare yourself, but they are worth it. The crisp pastry contrasts beautifully with the creamy custard, the caramelized brown tops give it a bit more oomph and the small amount of cinnamon gives it a delicate, aromatic taste.

Portugese Custard Tarts

Portuguese Custard Tarts (12 small tarts)
Adapted from Edible Garden

3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
400 ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 squares of puff pastry (in the Netherlands most puff pastry comes pre-rolled in smallish squares)

Heat the milk until barely cooking. Mix together the sugar and cornflour in a bowl, mix together, then add the yolks, mix well again. Slowly pour the hot milk on the yolk-sugar-cornflour mixing, while stirring constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan, place it over medium heat and cook until the mixture thickens, simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, pour over into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Leave to cool.
Grease a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 200C. Thaw the puff pastry.
Slice each square of puff pastry into 4. Roll each quarter out to get the pastry a little thinner. Place in the muffin tin. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on the pastry.
Scoop custard to about 3/4 level of the pastry and bake for about 25 minutes. They should get quite brown on top. Leave to cool on a rack and eat fresh (they don’t store well).
Note: depending on your muffin tin, you may not need all the pastry cream. Don’t worry, it is also delicious to eat it on its own!

Vanilla pudding

Sometimes you feel like having a dessert, but you don’t want to stand in the kitchen for a long time, but you don’t want to have anything ready-made too. Then this vanilla pudding is a perfect solution. It comes together in a breeze, uses only pantry ingredients and is lovely creamy and satisfying, so perfect for weekday cravings.

I’ve tried many vanilla pudding recipes, but this one is certainly the best. I like to eat my pudding warm, when it is not set yet, but you can leave it to cool and eat it when it has a more pudding-like texture. It is basically the same thing as pastry cream, so it works well as a filling for cakes, choux, sweet bread and danish too. Oh, and use real vanilla (or vanilla extract) for this recipe, it really tastes better!

Vanilla pudding (1 serving)
Slightly adapted from “Advanced bread and pastry – Michel Suas”

140 ml milk
8 g sugar
10 g cornstarch (maizena in Dutch)
30 g sugar
1 egg yolk
18 g butter

Mix the milk, first measuring of sugar and vanilla together in a pot and bring slowly to the boil (to have time to measure and prepare the other ingredients).
Mix the cornstarch and second measuring of sugar in a bowl. Add the egg yolk and mix well, but do not incorporate any air. By mixing the sugar and cornstarch together first before adding the egg yolk you make the risk of getting lumps of cornstarch smaller.
Pour one third of the boiling milk onto the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Pour this into the rest of the boiling milk and warm through on low heat until it is thickened. Keep stirring constantly (I like to use a whisk) to prevent getting scrambled eggs. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter. Keep stirring until the butter is incorporated, then pour the pudding into a clean bowl (or re-use the bowl you used previously).
Eat warm or leave to cool/set. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The recipe can easily be multiplied to make pudding for more people.

The quest for homemade croissants and pain au chocolat – part 1

About a year ago I tried to make croissants at home for the first time. That was a big disaster, it took a lot of time/efford and the result was rubbish. So I did not try again. But after being on holiday in France, where they have these delicious vienoisserie everywhere, it started to itch again. In the Netherlands, the croissants and pain au chocolats are just not as good as in France, so to have the perfect croissant for my breakfast, I would have to make them myself.

I found a new recipe and tried again last week. And although they were not as good as the ones we had in France, they were certainly nice and flavourful. I had some trouble with the dough, it was much to wet (probably because I scaled down the recipe) which gave trouble with rolling and laminating the dough. Also the butter did not form nice layers in the pastry, it partly absorbed in the dough (but I still had some layers!). Also they were not as puffy as I would like, probably because normal yeast cannot grow that well at the high sugar levels (18%) of the dough, but osmotolerant yeast is quite hard to come by over here.

So it is clear that the croissants need lots of tweaking. To be continued….

Croissants and pain au chocolat

Sweet shortcrust pastry

A good recipe for tart bases and cookies, that is not to sweet. You can freeze this dough very well. Keep a log in the freezer to cut 3 mm cookies from for unexpected visitors (or cookie cravings). You can cut and bake the cookies frozen, just add a few minutes to the baking time. Update: you cannot cut this dough completely frozen, it crumbles and it is very hard to cut. Therefore let it defrost for about 30 minutes in the fridge before cutting.
To make a pastry shell from frozen pastry, let the dough defrost in the fridge overnight.

For a tart form of 25 cm
From New Classics – Gary Rhodes
225 gram flour
150 g cold butter
75 g sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Rub the flour with the salt and the butter. Mix in the sugar. Work to a smooth dough with the egg and egg yolk, but take care not to overmix since this will make the finished product less crisp. Cool for at least 30 minutes.
Roll till 3 mm thickness, put in a baking tin, rest/cool for 20 minutes and blind bake for 20-25 minutes. A good trick is to leave the overhanging dough on, since sometimes the dough shrinks a bit. If you take it off after baking, you will have a perfect pastry shell.
Or cut cookies from the rolled out dough, cool and bake for 10-15 min until the edges are nice and golden.

Leek pie and shortcrust pastry

When I was little, this was one of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately we did not eat it that much, since rinsing and cutting all the leeks is a bit labour intensive. So, for a long time, at my birthday, leek pie was my chosen dish to eat.
I like everything of it, the way the bottom layer of puff pastry goes a bit soggy from the moist of the leeks, the sweet leeks in contrast to the salty bacon, the crispy top… just delicious! The pie as I know it is made with puff pastry, but I think it will work very well with shortcrust pastry. I will include a recipe for this too, but I never tried it myself yet.

Leek pie (2 big servings)
Family recipe
1 pack of puff pastry (it depends on your oven dish how much you will use)
3 big leeks, rinsed, cleaned and sliced
1 packet of bacon bits
1 onion, in cubes
2 eggs
salt (not to much, bacon is already salt!)
dried italian/french herbs
some grease (oil, margarine, butter… what you like)

Preheat the oven at 180C. Let the puff pastry defrost (if you use frozen).
Grease your oven dish. Line the dish with puff pastry.
Bake the bacon and onion for a while, then add the leeks. Cook until most moisture is disappeared and the leeks are cooked. Mix the egg whites and yellows. Stir in most of the eggs into the leeks, and season with salt, pepper and herbs. Dump everything in the oven dish. Cover with remaining puff pastry. Brush with remaining egg (for a nice brown finish). Put in the oven for about 30 minutes.

NB. The bottom of this pie can be a bit soggy. Since I like soggy puff pastry (yes, I know, I am weird) I don’t mind. To prevent sogginess you can try and pre-bake the pie bottom without the filling.

Shortcrust pastry (1 pastry case)
From New Classics – Gary Rhodes
125 g flour
pinch of salt
55 g butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the cubes of butter.
Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter remaining. Try to work quickly so that it does not become greasy.
Using a knife, stir in just enough of the cold water to bind the dough together.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 10-15 minutes before using.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll out the shortcrust pastry until it is slightly larger than a 25cm/10in loose-bottomed cake tin. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill it with rice or dried beans. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the greaseproof paper and rice or beans. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then return the tart to the oven and bake for a further five minutes, or until golden-brown.
Then fill and bake again until the filling is cooked.

Ham and cheese quiche

The recipe of this ham and cheese quiche is from my mum. She makes this quiche on every appropriate occasion (parties, potlucks, etc) and it is always very appreciated. It is a really versatile dish, you can eat it warm or cold, as appetizer, main dish, on a picnic, as party food, etc. And everyone always loves it, me included. No one can make it as well as my mum, but we can at least try to recreate this amazing dish!

Ham and cheese quiche (10-12 pieces)
Family recipe
1 tin croissant dough
200 gram grated cheese (Gouda)
200 gram ham, cubes
150 ml cream
3 eggs
italian dried herbs

Preheat the oven at 160C. Grease a round or square oven dish. Open the tin croissant dough, cover the oven dish with it. If your dish is to big, you can roll the dough a bit thinner. Spread out the ham in the dish over the dough. Then sprinkle over the cheese.
Mix the cream, eggs, pepper and herbs (no salt, the cheese and ham makes it salty already!), pour evenly over the ham and cheese in the dish.
Cook in the oven for 35 minutes. Take it out and let it cool. Or, for an even better quiche: let it cool inside the oven (turned off, off course).

– use puff pastry in stead of croissant dough
– use different kinds of cheeses, like emmentaler, parmesan, cheddar, brie or even a blue cheese
– use bacon in stead of ham
– add some sautéed onion and mushroom
– swap the meat for something else (f.e. sun-dried tomatoes) for a vegetarian variant
– use other herbs, like provencial dried herbs, or fresh herbs (thyme/rosemary, parsley/chives, etc)
– make mini quiches by using a muffin or mini-muffin baking tin