Another holiday-ish inspired post – Brissants!
“Quoi!?” I hear you exclaim. Quite. Allow me to elaborate.
Picture the scene…
The sun is barely over the horizon and the first decision of the day is already upon you: Brioche? Or croissant? Even the soothing balm of fresh coffee fails to make this no less stressful a judgement.
Brioche: so rich, doughy, soft and comforting – but there’s no crunch!
Croissants: so flaky, buttery and crisp – but there’s no substance!
I’d be willing to bet even Solomon himself would have chewed his lip a bit over this dilemma – but no more!
For here lyeth the answer……*drumroll* Brissants!
A name cleverly thought up by my daughter to describe this fabulous combination of buttery brioche dough and buttery, flaky croissant layers.
Buttery, buttery, buttery.
More substantial than a croissant, lighter, crispier, flakier than a brioche.
Confession: Apart from the name, there’s nothing new about this recipe. If you want to get all nit-picky, it’s proper name is “Brioche feuilletée au beurre” but that isn’t very descriptive if your French is a bit rusty, and “Brioche made-all-layered-and-puffed-and-stuff with butter” is a bit long-winded. (I may have missed my calling as an international translator of unique repute.) Not sure who came up with the idea – I like to think whoever it was was working from an old baker’s book whose pages were stuck together: started off as a brioche, unwittingly ended up as a croissant method. Win!
It’s the Cronut for 2015 without all that greasy deep-frying. *shudders*
They are made with fresh yeast. *waits until you’ve stopped running round shrieking a la Edvard Munch*
Be not alarmed – it’s a ‘throw it all in the mixer’ method. No sponges, no Faff™.
The only downside, if any, is the rising time. Brioche, with it’s enrichment of butter and eggs, already takes longer-than-average to prove. Add to that the layers of butter and it rises (see what I did there? </subtle>). You can’t – let me rephrase – you shouldn’t put it in a warm place to prove, because the interleaved butter will melt and run out and all your hard work will be for nothing. Best to accept it’ll be about 2 hours and plan accordingly.
These Brissants are unflavoured, apart from the richness of the eggs and butter, but as such are infinitely customisable.
- Philippe Conticini adds a sprinkling of nibbed sugar in his recipe, before rolling up the dough.
- Maple sugar is another option, as indeed are all the caramel, dark sugars such as Muscovado and Demerera.
- If your butter tends towards the ordinary, try whipping in some citrus zest. NB If you try this, do it far enough ahead so that it has time to chill thoroughly to firmness before adding to the dough.
- Flavouring the dough with orange-flower water, vanilla, cocoa (remember to remove an equivalent weight of flour), chocolate chips…. Have at it!
I use my stand mixer and a dough hook to mix, but you can also use a bread maker or do it by hand.
500g strong white bread flour
60g caster sugar
15g fresh yeast
75ml warm water
4 large eggs
100g butter, cut into cubes
For the lamination
1 large egg to glaze
- Put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and stir to mix. Crumble in the yeast and add the water and two of the eggs. Mix.
- Add the rest of the eggs once the mixture has started to come together.
- Knead thoroughly for 5 minutes.
- With the mixer running, add the butter piece by piece. You don’t have to wait until it has been worked in before adding the next piece, just don’t dump it all in at once.
- Knead until the butter is fully incorporated, about another 5 minutes.
- Tip out onto a floured surface, shape roughly into a flat square and wrap in plastic.
- Put into the freezer for 10 minutes. NB No more than 10 – this is important – you want it chilled enough to match the consistency of the butter, but not so cold as to kill the yeast, so SET THE TIMER.
- While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter. Flatten it roughly, then wrap it in an envelope of baking parchment, making a 15cm square. Make sure all the folds are underneath, then use a rolling pin to roll the butter out. The envelope will contain the butter very effectively, allowing you to spread it right to the edges to make a very neat square. Chill. The butter that is, not you. Unless you’re becoming a little frazzled making an enriched, laminated dough, in which case – Chill!
- Remove the dough from the freezer and roll out to a square large enough to hold the butter.
- Fold the corners in and pinch the edges to seal.
- Roll out into a long rectangle and then make a book fold – that’s folding the edges into the middle (or preferably a little off-centre), and the folding them in again, like a book.
- Turn 90 degrees so the fold is on the left and the edges on the right and repeat.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the freezer for another 10 minutes. Set the timer.
- Prepare your tins – I used mini pudding cups like this, but you can also use individual foil cases. Brush with butter or spray liberally with cooking spray.
- After chilling, roll out the dough to a rectangle 0.5cm thick. Roll up from the wide edge into a sausage, as you would cinnamon buns.
- Cut into 12 thick slices and place end-up into your prepared tins, so the spiral is visible. The dough should half-fill your tins.
- Set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan.
- Whisk the egg and lightly brush the top of the dough. Try not to get it dripping down the sides – it’ll glue your dough to the tin and impede the rise as it bakes.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and brown and glossy.
- Cool on a wire rack and devour with gusto! Or a fresh coffee. Your call.
 Or Crioches, as my far-too-clever-for-his-own-good friend Dr Dan suggested *shakes fist at his cleverness* 😉
Week Two on the Festive Food, and it was inspired one of my followers on Twitter (@BakesALotSue). In response to my call for Festive Food requests, she asked for something for a Boxing Day buffet that could be made ahead and then baked on the day.
So here we have my Sausage Wreath – with the bonus that if it all goes pear-shaped, you can nail it to the front door as a symbol of your seasonal Joyful Mood. H0. H0. H0.
Its basically a riff on sausage rolls, which always seem festive to me, especially when they are in one-or-two-bite sizes. A central sausage pie ‘dome’ is surrounded by a ring of help-yourself, tear-off-and-scoff mini sausage rolls. If you are Cunning, then you can mix and match fillings so that the dome has a separate filling, possibly even vegetarian, which would make this a great two-for-one special. It tastes great hot or cold, so it can stay on the table or sideboard for the rest of the day, for nibbling on. Not directly, of course – get a plate. We’re not animals here!
I’ve made mine circular, but you could make it any shape you like – a square or rectangle would probably be the most space-efficient. Your only limit is the size of the baking sheet your oven can cope with (and also freezer, if you intend to make ahead).
A word of caution: if you make the dome pure sausage-meat, it will take quite a bit longer than the rolls round the edges to bake. This means that, once cooked, the edges will need to be covered with foil to prevent them burning, until the central dome is cooked through, which you can check by using a digital thermometer. An alternative would be to make the middle filling something less dense, such as a mixture of (for example) salmon/cooked rice/spinach/hard-boiled eggs, similar to the Russian Coulibiac. Alternatively, you could use something along the lines of the Picnic Pie filling. Be creative. Go wild!
The additional flavourings are purely optional, but have the added benefit of making the filling much more interesting and allowing the ingredients to stretch even further. These instructions will cover the use of sausage-meat for the whole pie since, as already mentioned, it requires a little extra care in the baking.
800g good quality sausages
2 sharp apples – Braeburn, Jazz or Granny Smith
Onion to taste
Chopped fresh sage and parsley to taste
Salt and pepper
2 x 500g blocks of puff pastry 
1 large egg for glazing
- Remove the skins from the sausages and put the meat into a bowl.
- Peel, core and chop/grate the apple and add to the sausage meat.
- Chop the onions finely and add to the bowl with the herbs.
- Season well.
- Mix all together.
- Check seasoning/flavourings by cooking a little of the mixture in a pan and tasting. Adjust accordingly.
- To assemble the pie:
- Remove the bowl and cut slits in the sides of the dome to let out the steam.
- Decorate with any leftover pastry.
- If you’re making this ahead of time, stop now. Freeze on a baking sheet, and when frozen, wrap in foil and plastic to prevent freezer-burn. Thaw thoroughly.
- To cook:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Whisk the egg with a little water and brush over the pastry to glaze.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the rolls on the rim are cooked through and the pastry golden. NB The filling and the pastry are both rich with butter/fat,so you might want to bake this on a wire rack to let the excess drain off.
- Remove from the oven and wrap the edge in foil to prevent the pastry from burning. Return to the oven until the dome is cooked. The internal temperature should be at least 71°C when measured by a Thermapen or equivalent. Depending on how firmly you packed the filling, this could be an additional 20-30 minutes or even longer.
- To serve:
- Run a knife around the edge of the dome, cutting a circle in the pastry, allowing both the rolls to be pulled away easily and slices of the pie dome to be cut neatly.
- Garnish with some sprigs of curly parsley.
- Step back briskly two paces as the stampede begins. 😀
 Depending on how onion-y you like things, you could use chives, spring onions, shallots, brown onions, white onions or Spanish onions.
 2-3tbs each of fresh, chopped – or half this quantity if using dried.
 Or you can make 2 batches of the quick puff pastry recipe method here. Replace the cocoa with plain flour obvs. and use 250g butter for each batch.
 It is possible to cook from frozen, but I haven’t, and considering the trickiness of getting this evenly baked, with the different cooking required of pie and rim, I think it might be unnecessary hassle – NOT required at this time of the year. If you feel confident, though, go for it.
Well, Christmas is fast approaching, and so I thought a festive recipe was in order, and this one is fantastic!
It’s an alternative to mince pie. *pauses for the gasps of shock and horror*
Now, I love mince pies (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B ), but I also don’t have a very sweet tooth, and if you’ve had an extended social life in the run-up to the big day, and have sampled nothing but mince pies throughout December (sidebar: where do all the other bakes go in December? Are they on holiday? Sometimes it seems you can’t even turn around in December without bumping into a plate of mince pies!), by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.
Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect on so many levels. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but AlWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone? What’s not to love about this tart!?
It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! – and because the original recipe didn’t specify any particular pastry, I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I’ve been saying lately how much I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.
It’s Eliza Acton’s cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:
- Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
- Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
- It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
- And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.
You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.
Radnor Cranberry Tart
Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.
225g plain flour
300-450ml double cream
- Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
- With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
- Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
- Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
- Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
- Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
- Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling (see below).
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
- Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
- Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
- By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
- Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
- Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
- Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
- Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
- Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
- Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.
450g fresh cranberries
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract
- Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
- Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
- Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
- Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.
Week 9 on The Great British Bake Off – where has the time gone?? – is Semi-Final week, and the Signature Bake is for three savoury canapes. Now, I could think of about a dozen canapes off the top of my head that have absolutely zero baking element, but that wouldn’t bear much relation to the Bake Off, so my guess is that it will involve pastry – especially since there was a, let’s face it, very similar sweet puff pastry challenge just the other week.
We’ve had shortcrust, filo, choux and puff – so the only one(s) left is/are flaky pastry and rough puff pastry, and I’m in two minds which way I’d go. The most impressive might be to make canapes using three different pastries. Then again, showing the diversity and range of what can be achieved using just the one kind of pastry might win brownie points too. If I were to go down the first route, I’d do some kind of mini quiche using my current favourite shortcrust pastry, alongside some gougeres and then something with either rough puff or flaky pastry on account of, as I believe I may have mentioned before, life being too short for puff pastry outside of competition, etc. However, I decided to go down the second route, and show a few of the possibilities using just one type of pastry.
Now I learned ‘The Big Four’ (basic pastries – puff, rough puff, flaky, shortcrust) when I was at school. Yes, I am so old I had proper cookery lessons – and still remember the recipes for all: shortcrust = half fat to flour, rough puff & flaky = 3/4 fat to flour, puff = equal fat and flour. Browsing the web I was surprised to see neither of the rough puff or flaky methods that I know ‘out there’, so I abandoned my Bake Off theme (kinda, but not really) and decided to make this post a basic How-To for both flaky pastry and rough puff. Yes, I KNOW that the title of this post just mentions rough puff, but it went so well with ‘stuff’. And no-one loves a rhyming title more than me! But to have included both would have gone very badly – I would have gone with something along the lines of Achy-Breaky Flaky, and from there it’s a short, rapid slide into lip-licking and twerking, and we don’t want that. Nobody wants to see that. If you’re not reading this in late 2013, you might wonder what I’m going on about. Be content with your puzzlement and move on. It’s for the best, believe me.
Here’s the lowdown on both rough puff and flaky pastry – quicker than a luxurious all-butter puff pastry, more special than regular shortcrust. As I mentioned above, the proportion of fat to flour is the same for both, but the methods differ. You might prefer one over the other, but as you can see from the photo above, the results do actually differ in a couple of aspects. The flaky pastry has a more even spacing of the layers, and has, for want of a better word, a more controlled rise. The rough puff above seems to have a bigger rise, and also bigger spaces between the layers. However, as will be seen in photos below, when cut into various shapes,they are very similar. One thing I did notice was that flaky pastry lost it’s structure integrity when cut. That sounds a bit poncy, so I’ll put it another way. When I cut the sheet of flaky pastry into slices, it fell apart. The rough puff held together under the same conditions, and so would be the better choice as a base for an open ‘sandwich’ or for savoury mille feuilles etc. (see photos below).
The quantities below made for a range of items, but is probably a bit small to make a batch of one particular thing. Increase the quantities as you see fit.
As I have mentioned before, unless you’re catering for vegetarians, the best pastry is made with a mixture of half butter and half lard – butter for flavour, lard for crispness.
Rough Puff Pastry
Make sure the butter and lard are very cold to start.
160g plain flour
ice cold water
- Cut the butter and lard into 1.5cm cubes
- Put the flour into a bowl and add the fats.
- Stir with a knife to coat the fats with flour.
- Still stirring, add the water gradually until the mixture comes together. It is supposed to be lumpy. It will even out during the rolling.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface.
- Scatter more flour over the top and roll out into a long, thin rectangle – ideally three times as long as it is wide, but don’t fret too much. The fats will be visible as large blobs
- Fold the bottom third upwards and the top third down, and then turn the whole 90° to the left.
- Repeat the rolling and folding, then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll, fold and turn two more times (for a total of four) and you’re done. The lard and the butter will have all but disappeared into the dough, for a smooth and even colour
- If you have time, chill for another 30 minutes before use.
Make sure the fats are at room temperature.
160g plain flour
ice cold water
- Knead the fats together until thoroughly mixed, then shape into a square.
- Cut the square into quarters.
- Put the flour and one of the quarters of fat into a food processor and blitz until well mixed.
- Add the iced water gradually, until the mixture comes together into a ball.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface.
- Scatter more flour over the top and roll out into a long, thin rectangle – ideally three times as long as it is wide, but don’t fret too much.
- Take one of the quarters of fat and either dab little pieces or, if it is soft enough, spread it over the top two thirds of the pastry.
- Fold the bottom third upwards and the top third down, and then turn the whole 90° to the left.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for an hour, due to the softness of the fats.
- Roll, dab, fold and turn two more times (for a total of three) and you’re done. I like to do one final roll/fold, without any additional fat, just for luck.
- Chill thoroughly for 1-2 hours, preferably overnight.
- Both pastries need a HOT oven to cook – 220°C, 200°C Fan – and unless you’re baking large items, probably no more than 10 minutes.
- Turn the baking tray around 180° after 5 minutes to help ensure even colouring.
- Brush with beaten egg for a shiny, glossy finish. Do NOT let the egg wash run down the sides or over any cut edges, as it will act like a glue to the layers of pastry and they won’t rise evenly.
- Pricking the bottom of a tart/vol au vent will help keep it from rising up too much.
Bake Off Suggestions
This post is already way too long to go into much detail, but the pictures below show how each of the pastries performs with a variety of canape shapes. Each was glazed with beaten egg (except the rough puff spoons, I forgot, mea culpa), then baked for a total of 10 minutes in a 200°C Fan oven, turning the baking sheet around halfway through the cooking time. I’ve left them mostly unfilled, to display to better effect, how well each type of pastry performs with each of the various shapes.
- Canapes are meant to be eaten in one bite, possibly two, just as long as it can be done without mess.
- Aim for big flavours, since there’s only room for a small amount of filling.
- Try and include some ‘fresh’ element – grapes, celery, cucumber – to contrast with the rich, crispy pastry.
- Pesto packs a serious punch, even in small amounts.
- Pipe fillings into vol au vent cases for an even finish.
- Avoid overly wet fillings for pies and turnovers.
Key to the Canapes (same for both pictures)
- Vol au Vent cases Cut two shapes the same size, then cut the centre out of one and stack it on top of the intact piece to make the walls of the vol au vent. Don’t just stick with traditional round/oval shapes, experiment with other shapes and sizes. You can liven up even a plain shape by using a star or flower shaped cutter for the hole in the middle. Brush the bottom pastry with water to make sure the top adheres, but don’t press down too firmly – you still want the sides to rise up. Don’t forget to prick the bottom and glaze the top surface with egg wash.
- Open-face sandwich – here topped with cream cheese, chorizo and some parsley.
- Savoury Mille Feuille – Here with, for example only, cream cheese and smoked salmon. For this and the previous canape, you can ensure an even, flat surface to your pastry and control the rise by laying a weight of some sort – a loose-bottom from a cake or tart tin is ideal – on top as it goes into the oven. You might be surprised at how much lift the pastry can still achieve even when weighed down in this manner.
- Mini turnover/empanada/piroshki. I’ve used a folding, plastic form to get the lovely, even shape.
- Pastry spoons -eliminate the need for both cutlery and washing up with these free-standing pastry spoons. Cut a template using a mini cutter for the spoon and a free-drawn spoon handle. Press the bowl of the spoon into a mini-muffin case and drape the handle over the side of the tin and into the next door hole. Press a finger into the bowl of pastry and against the sides to reduce it to tissue paper thinness, otherwise the whole thing will puff up and lose any shape.
- Miniature tarts – these really are bite size – similar to the ‘spoons’ but without the handle, baked in a mini muffin tin. The filling should really pack a punch, flavour-wise, as they are so tiny.
- Mini pies onna stick! Take care pressing the pastry around the filling – try not to squash the edges together.
In each photo the FLaky pastry is on the Left