Almond and Cherry Pithivier

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There’s one cooking show that I could watch endlessly over again. For me, it’s the perfect mix of Francophilic nostalgia, mouth-watering food and my style of cooking: rustic. It is…Rick Stein’s French Food Odyssey. If you’ve never had the pleasure before, you can find it online: www.amazon.com . You’re welcome.

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With its focus on French favourites, there are lots of dishes on Rick’s menu that were regulars at the dinner table growing up, but one that I have never tried was something called a Pithivier, and so, I decided to make one. My only regret…I shouldn’t have waited so long!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets butter puff pastry
  • 125g softened butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 125 almond meal
  • 15 flour
  • 2 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 225 fresh cherries, stone removed

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Method:

  1. Cut a disc of puff pastry using a medium size plate (about 25 cm) for the bottom and a slightly larger one for the top (about 29 cm), using a larger plate. Rest them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the almond filling, cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and one of the yolks, gently add the almond meal, flour and Kirsch, stir until combine.
  4. Stir in the pitted cherries.
  5. Place the smaller disc on flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spoon the almond mixture in the center and spread it to about 2.5 cm of the edge.
  6. Beat the remaining yolk with 1 tablespoon of cold water and brush the edges of the bottom disc. Place the larger disc on top of the filling and press the edges together to seal, pressing out any trapped air. Press the outside of the edges of the pastry with a fork to give it a attractive finish. Place the Pithivier in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Brush the top of the Pithivier with the rest of the egg wash, then with the tip of a small sharp knife, score radiating arcs from the center out towards the edge, taking care not to cut too deeply. Make a hole in the centre to let the steam escape.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius(428F), until the pastry puffed up and is golden. Then lower the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius(356F) and bake for a further 40 minutes or until a skewer pushed in the middle comes out clean. If it start to become too brown, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top.
  9. To give the Phitivier a classic glazed appearance remove it from the oven, increase the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Dust the pastry with icing sugar and bake for 4 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool slightly, then serve with vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
  11. I also recommend a glass of Chateau Viranel “Gourmandise” available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

Cherry Clafoutis

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Early summertime is cherry season and traditionally this means adorning the top of a freshly baked pavlova with these juicy little jewels for Christmas day dessert. But if you want to try something a little different (and you wouldn’t be food lovers without a sense of culinary adventure) then may I introduce a dainty little dish called the clafoutis.

This fabulous flan-like dessert is a traditional dish of the Limousin region of France and is rather peculiar in that it contains cherries that are unpitted. It may sound odd and like a lot of work to ensure you don’t chip a tooth with every bite, but believe me when I say that the pips add an extra nutty nuance that makes it worth the effort. Just make sure you let your guests know before they tuck in!

Traditional cherry clafoutis:

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Ingredients:

  •  185 mL thickened cream
  • 125 mL full fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 30g almond meal
  • 400g cherries
  • 1 Tbsp Kirsch

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F).
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla pod in two, scrape out the seeds and add both to the cream.
  3. Heat the cream gently for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat, add the milk and leave to cool. Take the vanilla pod out.
  4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes slightly white and foamy.
  5. Sieve the flour, mix it with the almond meal and then add it to the egg mix. Whisk well to avoid lumps.
  6. Gently add the cooled cream and whisk until combined.
  7. Arrange the cherries at the bottom of your cake tray (use a 23cm or so baking tray), pour the mix over the cherries to about ¾ of the tray.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden on top. A good trick to check if your Clafoutis is cooked is to plant a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean then it’s cook!
  9. Dust with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of cream while still warm.

With this delicious dessert i recommend a Chateau Coutet “Sauternes” available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au

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