Using Classic Puff, Croissant Dough, a Warm Chocolate Tart and…

Week 6.

And a gateaux Pithivier! I have your attention now, don’t I? I had no idea what a gateaux Pithivier was, but with a class line-up that included classic puff pastry, croissant dough and a warm chocolate tart, my hopes were high that it would be something just as wonderful.

First, though, finishing the classic puff pastry. Using the dough we made during week five, each team completed the final double turn, bringing to five the total turns on the dough. If you recall, I mentioned in week five’s post that classic puff pastry should have six single rolls and six single turns, but a double turn here and there is acceptable. Evidently, it is also acceptable to do only five total turns (keep this in mind if you are in a hurry when making classic puff pastry, which is actually a silly statement since it takes a good four hours to make classic puff pastry with all the rests between the turns).

Handling the classic puff pastry. With all necessary turns completed it was time to turn the dough into something fabulous. In week five’s post, I mentioned I didn’t know what the class would be making with the classic puff pastry, but I told you to think turnovers and Napoleans. Turnovers it was (apple to be exact), as well as diamond vol au vents [vawl-oh-vahn].

Turnovers. Once you get through the laborious (in my opinion) classic puff pastry laminated dough-making process, it turns out that making apple turnovers is relatively easy and quick. Roll out into a rectangle the classic puff pastry, and then cut the dough into squares about 4″-5″. Rotate the dough so it is in a diamond shape. Using a rolling pin, press down in the middle of the diamond. The pressed down area is called the “hinge.” Egg wash the dough along the edge, creating about a 2″ egg wash border all around the diamond. (Note: the one on the left was my first attempt. I have never been good at coloring, drawing, painting, so, yes, it looks a little sloppy. I admit it. I redeemed myself with the take two attempt on the right.)

Put the apple filling (chopped apple that has been seasoned with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar) in the hinge, fold over the dough, press out the air and then press along the edges with a fork to seal the dough. Egg wash the dough all over, but avoid getting too much egg wash into the fork-pressed edges. Using a small paring knife, cut a small vent in the top. That’s it.

Bake. Eat. Oh wait, technically you should let it cool slightly before eating, but really, what is the sense in including that step?

Diamond vol au vents, or, gettin’ fancy with classic puff pastry. Well, that’s not the literal translation. In French, vol au vent translates to “flying in the wind” or “windblown” depending on whether you are reading the Epicurious definition or the Wikipedia definition. In either case, it is a reference to the airiness and lightness of the pastry. Traditionally, vol au vents are made with a round of classic puff. When the puff is baked, it rises into a short cylinder that is then filled with all kinds of savory and sweet goodness. A diamond vol au vent, then, is simply a vol au vent in a diamond shape. Tricky.

Following the same process as for turnovers, roll out the classic puff pastry dough into a rectangle with about a 1/8″ thickness. Trim by about an inch the edges of the rectangle so you will have a nice clean rectangle with which to work. Cut dough into equal sized squares, depending on with what you plan on filling the vol au vents and or how you plan to serve them, i.e as hors d’oeuvres (you don’t need a pronunciation on that one, do you?) or an entrée. Fold each square into a pyramid. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut about a one inch border along the shorter inside edges to almost the corner of each side.

Open the pyramid back to a diamond shape. Egg wash the center area of the dough. Fold each cut edge to the opposite side so a diamond shape is created. Press down on the edges so that they are sealed.

Egg wash the edges. “Dock” the inside center area of the dough by making fork pricks all over. This will keep the center from puffing too much so that it may be filled after baking it.


I’m reluctant to say this, but I did not do anything with my two satisfactory-looking diamond vol au vents. I took one bite out of one them – to see how it tasted – and then ended up throwing them both away. Not because it didn’t taste great – because it did – or because they were only average looking, but because Hurricane Irene decided to come through, and I was a little busy getting ready for her arrival. I know, dumb. Todd and I could have used a couple of good, filled diamond vol au vents right about in the middle of her visit. I’m adding it to my hurricane preparedness list for next time.

Should I continue with laminated doughs or move on to something sweet and different? I think I will wrap up the dough portion of this post since there isn’t that much to say about croissant dough. You read it correctly: there isn’t much to say. How can this be, you may be asking yourself, given the delicious, flaky, warm, buttery nature of a croissant. But, it is true. In a nutshell, croissant dough is similar to the other laminated doughs the class has learned to this point: it has a détrempe layer and a beurrage layer. Croissant dough is different, though, in that the détrempe contains yeast and milk and the beurrage contains a “small” amount of butter compared to classic puff and quick puff. It is also different in that the dough is very sticky when it is first mixed and the book is created differently. The croissant book is made by rolling out a rectangle in a landscape orientation and placing the beurrage on the left side of the rectangle. The détrempe is folded over the beurrage and the first roll and turn is completed. One other significant difference with croissant dough is that it requires only three single turns or two double turns. Fine by me! This is where the yeast comes into play, giving it the added rise it would have otherwise gotten from additional rolls and turns.  After each team made its dough and completed a double turn, the dough was put away until next week’s class when, presumably, we will make croissants. I mean, what else would we make?

Warm chocolate tart. I am hesitant to even share this information with you because you are possibly going to question why I think pastry class is so complex, not to mention, you may steal my new go-to dessert so I won’t be able to serve it to you if you come over for dinner or happen to drop by coffee (does anyone actually “drop by” any more? Only if it is scheduled three weeks in advance.). Alright, here it is: sucrée shell blind-baked, heavy cream, milk, 63% cocoa chocolate and an egg. Remember what I said about keeping a batch of pâte sucrée and lemon curd handy and how simple it is to make a lemon curd tart? Well, this ain’t much different. Make the ganache (cream, milk, chocolate), let it cool for a bit. Whisk the egg, slowly add the ganache to the egg, continue to add the ganache and whisk until all ganache is combined with the egg. Strain mixture over a sieve. Pour into the sucrée shell to about three-fourths full. Bake for 20 minutes, let the tart rest for thirty minutes (it is important for this to rest so just be patient), eat. I am not making this up. The evidence is below.

Finally, what you’ve been waiting for: gateaux Pithivier. [gah-toe pa-tiv-e-a] Gateau in French means “cake” (the “x” at the end makes it plural) and Pithiviers is a town in France (not sure why the “s” is left off in the cake name). Thus, gateaux Pithivier is a Pithiviers cake, named as such because it is thought to have originated in Pithiviers. It is a delightlful concoction of frangipane sandwiched between two layers of classic puff pastry. According to Chef, this is a common cake found in France and Parisians can often be spotted strolling down les rues with a gateaux Pithivier tucked under their arms, or so he says. If this is true, the reason the gateaux may be tucked under their arms is because it is in a large, round disc shape which makes it rather portable, if you think about it (always thinking, those French).

Much like the turnover, once the process of making the classic puff pastry has been completed, making a gateaux Pithivier is rather quick and carefree. Simply roll out a layer of classic puff pastry to about 1/8″ thickness and large enough to cut out an 8″ circle. Top the dough with frangipane, leaving a one inch border. Roll out another layer of classic puff pastry the same size as the bottom. Place this layer over the top of the frangipane, and then press the top and bottom edges together so it looks like a flattened top hat. Make lots of knife marks on the top (knife held at a 45 degree angle) in the pattern of a pin wheel, taking special care to make a vent on the top, otherwise the gateaux will explode, which you do not want to happen. Freeze for one hour, bake for one hour. Save yourself the airfare to Paris, and instead, take a stroll to a neighbor’s house with the gateaux Pithivier tucked under your arm (wrapped up nicely, of course). Enjoy!

(Editor’s note: Full disclosure: the warm chocolate tart and gatueax Pithivier shown in this post are solely the works of Chef Mark Ramsdell. The only claim I can make to the tart and cake is complete and total enjoyment of my alloted slices.)

2 thoughts on “Using Classic Puff, Croissant Dough, a Warm Chocolate Tart and…

    • I’ve mentioned it to him a couple of times, and he asked for the URL, which I promptly forgot to give him. Thanks for the reminder! And I’ll let him know one of my loyal subscribers thinks I deserve extra credit.

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