Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gateaux Pithiviers -- still a winner, though not "officially"

This fall brought a big change to the Baking JDs -- after spending the past five years at two different law firms, Erica and Sara are now colleagues, in addition to baking partners.

This move has provided fun opportunities for mid-afternoon coffee breaks, outfit consultations, and post-work libations. It also presented the once-a-year chance to participate in our annual office baking challenge. We discussed the possibility of bringing our daring baker challenge before the December recipe even came out, and we were glad to see a beautiful cake appear for this month's challenge.

Due to the craziness of the holiday season, we prepared the component parts separately. Erica kindly offered to make the puff pastry. I had the much easier task of preparing the frangipane.

Despite the fact that I had the easier recipe, I'm the one that faced difficulties. I ground by almonds in the food processor, as instructed. The recipe said to combine the ground almonds with the other ingredients, so I just dumped in the eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and flavorings and pulsed a few times to combine. I'm not sure whether using the food processor was the error or something else, but my frangipane was decidedly not in a solid state when finished mixing. I tossed it into the fridge to cool overnight and hoped for the best.

Erica brought over the puff pastry dough the following night, and we performed the quick task of assembly. The frangipane was still giving us trouble, but it stayed solid enough to form a thin-ish layer (see above). We mastered the swirly top, and had a great time watching it bake -- first puffing up, then turning a golden brown.

Fortunately, we had enough leftovers to make both a perfect cake for the competition and a bonus cake (pictured above) to try that night. The one right out of the oven was amazing -- so flakey and warm, and full of almond flavor. We thought we would be a shoe-in for the office competition.

While the cake held up remarkably well (thanks uber, for getting it to the office in one piece!), it lost some of its magic when cool. I'd say we took a strong second place, but we ultimately lost to a brown butter almond cake that was pretty darn tasty.

We hope you are all enjoying a great holiday season, and wish you a happy new year!

For the month of December, Kat challenged us to make Gateaux Pithiviers. 

Gateaux Pithiviers

1 pound / 450g puff pastry
1 batch of frangipane
1 large egg
granulated, superfine, or powdered sugar (optional)

Beat the egg well to make an egg-wash. Add up to one teaspoon of water, if necessary, to loosen the mixture up. Divide the pound / 450g of puff pastry in half, and return one half to refrigerator. Roll out the remaining half on a lightly floured surface. Using a plate or bowl approximately 8” / 20cm in diameter and a very sharp knife, cut out a circle of puff pastry. Carefully move the pastry to a silicon mat or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush a ring of egg-wash around the outside of the pastry, but do not allow the egg-wash to go over the sides, as that will prevent the edges from rising prettily. Center the disk of frangipane on the pastry and place the baking sheet in the fridge to keep cool.
Roll out the second half of the puff pastry and cut a circle the same size as the bottom. Retrieve the Pithiviers from the refrigerator and place the top layer of puff pastry overtop. Quickly use your fingers to mush the two layers of pastry together without warming the pastry or allowing the filling to squeeze out.
Press two fingers of one hand into the pastry and use the back of a small knife to push an indent in between your fingers. Repeat all the way around the Pithiviers. This will form the scalloped edges Pithiviers are known for.
Brush entire top with egg-wash, again trying your best to not let the egg run over the edges. Starting at the middle of the pastry, draw long sweeping s-curves out to the edges. When you’re satisfied with your work, return to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7.
Bake the Pithiviers for 10 minutes at 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7, and then reduce the heat to 350°F / 175°C / Gas Mark 4 and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The top should be a dark bronze color, and the filling (which you won’t be able to see) should be set. At this point, you can sprinkle sugar over the top and return to the oven at 500°F / 260°C / Gas Mark 10 for a few minutes to develop a beautiful glaze. I burned it every time, so I just skip this step now.
Allow the Gateaux Pithiviers to cool completely before serving. The taste is a little nicer when it’s warm, but the texture is better when it’s a room temperature. This can sit on the counter for a day, but longer storage is attainable using your refrigerator.  

1 comment:

Sara Stall-Ryan said...

:( I'm so sorry you lost the baking competition. Your gateaux looks like a winner to me. I had problems with runny frangipane too. I think that was a common difficulty with all of us.