The recipe this week, as with most of my late-summer posts, is inspired by holidays in France. In addition to the usual holiday activities, this year we also enjoyed WiFi where we were staying, and I was able to binge-watch many episodes of the French version of Britain’s Best Bakery.
In true Bake Off style, each bakery is graded across three rounds: initial visit and tastings, specialist round, and group challenge – where the 3 (later dropped to just 2) bakeries in the region make a recipe set by the judges.
The most recent series has emphasized bread for the second round, so the bakeries must present their best-seller or their most favourite of their bread range, but in earlier seasons, there was no such stipulation, and bakeries could put forward whichever of their products they liked.
One of the bakeries in the Aquitaine Nord region put forward these pastries which really caught my eye as being both simple yet flavoursome. The contrast between the crisp pastry and the soft, moist filling, together with the obvious enjoyment of the two judges, struck me as so delicious and so unusual, I decided to try them myself. Helpfully, the programs also show the bakeries making these recipes, although omitting for the most part any details such as weights, oven timings and even the full list of ingredients. Nevertheless, I managed to piece together this recipe and here we are.
Jesuits get their name from their triangular form, resembling the headgear worn by Jesuit priests in the 17th century. There doesn’t seem to be any further link to the priesthood at all, so we can move swiftly on to their structure. A orange-flavoured almond sponge, or frangipane, is baked between two sheets of puff pastry. Once cooked and cooled, the pastry is cut into triangles and coated with Italian meringue, and briefly returned to the oven to bake until lightly tinted brown.
Apart from being delicious, these are incredibly simple to make. Like the bakery in the program, I initially made a large ‘tray bake’ and then cut it into triangles, but you could also make individual-sized portions. The frangipane is easily customised to any flavouring you like, and the meringue coating is not compulsory – you can just spread a layer on top if you prefer (it’d be a lot less sticky to do, too). Several versions ‘out there’ have only a simple water glaze if meringue isn’t a favourite. You could even omit it altogether: the simple, crisp, unadorned, butter pastry is a great contrast to the soft, moist, orangey, almond filling. If you think that this version sounds more your thing, I recommend making individual pastries – any shape, although I find (Mille-feuille/custard slice sized) rectangles both easy and most appealing.
The classic topping is almonds, flaked or chopped, but for the large bake, I was out of both and so opted for nibbed sugar, which added both sparkle and crunch. The plain pastries can be adorned with a brush of syrup and some flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes of baking and then finished off with a dusting of icing sugar, or indeed nothing at all.
Variation: Ground hazelnuts, if you can find them, make a fantastic pairing with candied orange.
Obviously, you could hand-make your puff pastry, using only the very best ingredients and taking two days to do so, but for speed, practicality, and the unknown quality of a new recipe, a roll of ready-made is the sensible choice. Splash out on an all-butter version. Go wild.
2 sheets puff pastry
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g ground almonds
50g candied orange peel, chopped fine
grated zest of 2 oranges
2-3tbs orange liqueur (optional)
To finish – all are optional
sugar syrup – I used the syrup from the candied orange peel.
flaked or chopped almonds for sprinkling
icing sugar to dust
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Dock the pastry sheets with a pastry docker or use the tines of a fork to poke holes all over.
- Whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until the mixture is pale and light.
- Add the eggs, one by one, ensuring the first is thoroughly incorporated before adding the second.
- When the eggs are incorporated, fold in the almonds, orange peel and zest, and liqueur if using.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with 1 plain, 2cm tip.
- Lay one of the pastry sheets onto a baking sheet on a piece of parchment.
- Pipe the mixture evenly onto the pastry in a rectangle, leaving a border of at least 3cm around the edges.
- Brush the edges with water and lay the second sheet of pastry over the filling. Press the edges firmly, trying to trap as little air as possible.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden. NB For individual pastries, you need bake for only 30 minutes, brushing with syrup and sprinkling them with flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- When just warm, cut off the excess pastry from around the edges and then divide the filled pastry into triangles. The size is entirely up to you. You can either enjoy them as is, or add the meringue and almond coating.
- Make an Italian meringue. My recipe is here.
- Lay a fresh piece of parchment onto a baking sheet.
- Coat the sides and the top of each pastry with a layer of meringue, no more than 1cm thick.
- Lay the coated pastry onto the parchment.
- When all pastries are coated, sprinkle them with the chopped/flaked almonds and bake for 10 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.
- Enjoy warm, or allow to cool.
- If covered with meringue, these are best on the day they are baked. Unadorned pastries can be enjoyed for 2-3 days. Crisp them up by warming gently in a low oven.
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* 😉