Thursday, 5 March 2009

Day in the life of a millefeuilles (for Mum)

I forgot to mention that yesterday, while struggling with that full plate, we also had to make a pâton of puff pastry from scratch, complete a Pithiviers and prepare a millefeuilles base. It was busy.

First off today we cooked the Pithiviers which came out looking like this... (The whole time I made it I was thinking about my sister who asked me if we ever made galette-des-rois type things.)

Some people whip the thing out of the oven, sprinkle with icing sugar then pop it back in to caramelize it. We go for the shiny look which is achieved by painting with a heavy sugar syrup the second (well, minute) the thing comes out of the oven.

While that was roasting we polished off our millefeuilles. Here is a photo journey. First, the base once cooked (on a perforated oven tray to ensure even drying). This is normal puff pastry which has been very well pricked so it does not puff up like the Pithiviers. Half way through cooking (once it starts to colour) we also add a perforated oven tray on top to weigh the thing down.

The base is then trimmed into three equal panels, each 55 x 10cm:

The panels are layered with crème pâtissière (with a piping bag). The top panel is placed upside down so it is completely flat and then glazed to make it easier to ice:

The white icing is applied and smoothed with a palette knife then horizontal lines of choco-coloured icing are traced with a cornet. A paring knife is dragged first one way, then the other through the two colours to achieve the marbling. All this has to be done swiftly before the first icing has set:

The hardest thing about the whole operation is simply cutting the buggers up. You have to saw them with a serrated knife because a normal knife would chip the pastry irregularly. But the sawing action is very hard when you've got two layers of crème pâtissière to wobble and only sticky icing to grip them by. We cheat with a speed-freezer but the cream cannot be properly frozen for hygiene reasons, so it's still a minor nightmare. The end product, for me, very sweet and with as much appeal as a hundred-year egg. They're Mummy's favourite:

I talked in this post about the construction of the famous Opéra entremets and there is a photo of the assemblage prior to cutting up yesterday. Here are the finished jobs. I was trying a new cornet technique I found on YouTube (...) and I'm pretty weak at the best of times so this was not a proud moment. Practice needed.

We also started another similar but more complicated pistachio based entremets. I'll describe this in full when finished so the photos don't end up scattered willy nilly.

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