I have not tasted or made a pithivier before. I didn’t even know how to pronounce this what Dorie Greenspan in her book Baking Chez Moi calls “the great forgotten pastries of France.” It is pee-tee-vee-yay. It is a double-crusted puff pastry, sandwiched with a mound of rum-scented almond cream and a layer of fruit jam. Now I have made it for the first time, with limited success, I have a greater appreciation of pithivier. How could it not be the great one, when you marry two classic beautiful french pastry components: puff pastry and frangipane.
I made the prune jam with a few pitted dry prunes. Soften them in lightly sugared water until the liquid has evaporated. Then vigorously stir in an egg yolk. I like Dorie’s suggestion of adding a few extra pitted prunes in strong black tea or Armagnac. I did not do that this time.
I’m sure other stone fruits besides prunes, like cherries or apricots, will work just as well with this pastry. With some ready made cherry or apricot jam, you may even skip the step of making the jam.
The next step is to make the almond cream. Dorie’s recipe calls for mixing together butter, sugar and grated lemon or orange zest until smooth. The key ingredient, almond flour, is then added to the mixture. Blend in small amount of all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and egg white until it turns creamy. The critical step is to refrigerate or freeze the almond cream, shaped into a small disk on a piece of plastic film. That’s an important set of instructions not to mess up. The disk of almond cream has to be in one piece, or close to it, so that it’ll slip easily on top of the bottom layer of the puff pastry.
Since I am a home baker, I get a free pass of not having to make the puff pastry. With store-bought puff pastry, making a pithivier can be as easy as pie. Well, not quite! I didn’t realize assembling the pithivier can be tricky. Dorie warns: “Brush the border of the dough circle with egg wash… Be generous… You have to double-seal the edges.” I did not follow this step as well as I should and, guess what, the almond cream leaked out from my edges. My bad!
Well, I have the excuse to make this delectable and glorious pastry again.
To see how other home bakers tackle the pithiviers, please visit the blogroll on Tuesdays with Dorie.