French Pastries 2 : Sweet Pastries with Chef Susan Holding

Famous Pastries from Normandy

Chef Susan Holding  We can’t get enough of Chef Susan’s French baked goods, so we decided to do a two part series.  France is a diverse country in terms of territory and climate and as such each region has created and maintained its own culinary traditions that are a joy to discover. Here are the recipes from her Sweet French Pastries class. 

Normandy is famous for its rich cream, apples and seafood. The region supplies about half of France’s dairy products. Its apples are the basis of its best-known pastry, tarte Normande.  From its fragrant apples comes calvados (apple brandy) and cider, which are also used in many local dishes.  The seas around the coasts provide an abundance of seafood while cream plays a part in many of the region’s sauces. A traditional dish using both mussels and cream is moules  la crme Normande. Rouen is known as the gastronomic capital of Normandy, famous for its duck dishes such as duck with cherries and canard  la Rouennaise, duck stuffed with its liver and cooked in red wine. Camembert cheese originated in Normandy and the town of Gournay claims to have invented the brioche.
Brittany is home to crpes, the delicate pancakes with wonderful sweet and savoury fillings. They’re made with wheat flour and the most common is the crpe beurre-sucre made with butter and sugar. Buckwheat flour is used to make galettes, a type of pancake with savoury fillings such as the galette complte with ham, egg and cheese. Seafood fillings are also popular given Brittany’s coastal location.
Champagne and the north
Champagne’s main contribution is obvious, but being on the Belgian border there are also rich dishes of Flemish influence; the region’s cooler climate also lends itself to growing potatoes, cabbages, beets, watercress, endive and leeks. Flamiche is a simple dish of leeks cooked with cream and eggs in a pastry crust, and endive flamande is made by wrapping endives in ham and serving them with a white sauce. Carbonnade de boeuf is another classic dish, where the beef is slowly braised in onions and beer. A stew called chaudre (hence the word chowder) makes good use of the region’s fish. The cosmopolitan city of Lille is a big producer of charcuterie and beer. Pastries are quite basic with gaufres (waffles eaten with sugar and fresh cream) being among the best known. In Champagne, biscuits de Reims are sweet and delicious paper-thin macaroons.
Alsace and Lorraine
Alsace and Lorraine have been under German rule more than once in the past and this influence is evident in many of the local dishes, in which pickled cabbage and pork are common. Baeckeoffe is a stew of marinated meat and vegetables and choucroute alsacienne is pickled cabbage flavoured with juniper berries and served with sausages, bacon or pork knuckle. The locals also enjoy all kinds of savoury pies and tarts, the best-known being tarte flambe or flammekuche which is a thin layer of pastry topped with cream, onion and bacon and cooked in a wood-fired oven. From Lorraine comes the most famous of all, quiche lorraine. Originally, this dish was made without cheese, but most recipes now include it and also add vegetables, seafood or ham to the basic mix of eggs and cream.

Burgundy and Bordeaux
Burgundy and Bordeaux dishes make liberal use of their famous red and white wines. Burgundy provides the best beef in France and is famous for its boeuf bourguignon. It’s also home to Dijon mustard which is used to enhance the flavour of many dishes. Coq au vin (chicken in red wine) is another perennial favourite, and in this region you’ll find the biggest escargot (snails) in France – because they’re raised on grape leaves they’re also meant to be the tastiest. Bordeaux is carnivore country and its most celebrated dish is entrecte marchand de vin – rib steak cooked in a rich gravy made from Bordeaux wine, butter, shallots, herbs and bone marrow. Sweet treats include cannels (caramelised brioche-style pastries) and the famous marrons glacs (candied chestnuts).
Languedoc-Roussillon, Gascony and the Basque Country
These regions lie on the Spanish border and, using an abundance of tomatoes, peppers and spicy sausage, their food shares many similarities with that of Spain. Cassoulet (a casserole with meat and beans) is Languedoc’s signature dish; Roussillon has a similar dish called ouillade. There are strong Spanish and Catalan influences in Roussillon too, with tapas-style dishes served in many wine bars. Gascon dishes are kept simple but hearty with lots of meat, fat and salt. Garbure is a thick stew made with vegetables, herbs, spices and preserved meats. Poulet Basque is a chicken stew with tomatoes, onions, peppers and white wine and piperade is Basque comfort cooking – peppers, onions and tomatoes cooked with ham and eggs. The locally prepared Bayonne ham is usually eaten sliced with bread but is also the basis of jambon  la Bayonnaise (ham braised in Madeira).
Provence in the south of France has its glorious weather to thank for its colourful, flavoursome specialities like ratatouille and salade Nioise. It is often called the garden of France because of the high quality of its herbs, fruit and vegetables. Dishes here rely on tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs. It’s not an area famous for its meat dishes, but a winter staple is boeuf en daube – beef stewed with red wine, onions, garlic, vegetables and herbs. Perhaps its most famous dish is bouillabaisse, a hearty fish soup brimming with lobster, crab, mussels or clams, served as a main course and accompanied by rouille – a spicy mayonnaise made with olive oil, garlic, chilli and fish broth – and warm bread.
Edited from

Kugelhopf, the Alsatian Cake

Servings: 8
Preparation time: 60 minutes.
Cooking time: 50 minutes
1/2 cup seedless raisins (dry)
2 Tbs Kirsh or Rhum (and hot water)
2 envelopes of dry yeast
1 cup milk, but lukewarm
1 pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 small eggs
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
confectionners’ sugar
Soak the raisins in hot water and add the Kirsh or Rhum (optional). Set aside for 30 minutes.
Mix the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, salt, 1/2 cup of milk (lukewarm) and 5 to 6 Tbs of the flour in a bowl until you obtain a soft dough.
Cover the bowl with a clean towel and put it aside in a warm place for 25 minutes. The paste should double
In another bowl, mix the remaining flour, salt, 2 Tbs of sugar, the 2 eggs and add the rest of the lukewarm milk – 1/2 cup. Work this dough with your fingertips vigorously.
Add the butter into the paste and resume working the dough with your fingertips for a few minutes. ideally, the dough stop sticking to your fingers.  Add the yeast mixture prepared before and work the two together.
Drain the raisins and mix them into the dough.
Knead the dough for a good 5 minutes, let sit for a few minutes, and knead again.
Butter a 8-cup Kugelhopf mold or any mold for cake you have.  Optionally, you may put an almond in each groove of the mold.
Put the dough inside the mold equally and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour.
Put the mold in a pre-heated oven (350 degrees) for 50 minutes until the top is brown.

Remove from the mold upside-down and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Prune Flan from Brittany

Servings: 8
Preparation and cooking time: 70 minutes
5 cups of milk
4  eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup or 9 ounces of pitted prunes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees C.)
Pour 1 cup of the milk in a small saucepan and add the prunes. Heat on low for 20 minutes.
Pour the remaining milk (4 cups) in a large saucepan and heat to boil.
In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, 4 eggs and vanilla rapidly with a fork for 3 minutes.
Add the flour without making lumps. Stir.
Pour the boiling milk into the sugar/egg mixture and mix until you have a liquid paste.
Butter a 9″ dish. Remove the prunes from the small saucepan and place on the bottom of the dish.
Pour the paste over the prunes.

Cook in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Broil for last 3 minutes until top is golden.
Serve warm or cold.

Galette des Rois
This is a cake traditionally served in France on January 6th in celebration of All Kings Day, and given as a gift from Patisseries to customers.

2  sheets puff pastry
1 1/3 cup sliced almonds or 1 cup powdered almonds
3 1/2 Tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup of sugar (4oz)
3 egg yolks
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the pastry to two, 9-10″ circles

Almond Paste:
Finely chop the sliced Almonds to make a powder.
In bowl mix almonds and sugar. Then stir in 2 yolks and softened butter.

Place one round sheet of the Pastry into the greased cake pan.
Slightly moisten the edge of the Pastry with water.
Place the almond cream in the center of the sheet without spreading it too much.
Cover with the second sheet of pastry. Pinch the edges to seal the “pie”.
Dilute the last eggs yolk with a teaspoon water and “paint” the top of the Pastry. You can also make designs with the tip of a knife.

Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees F.
Serve 5 minutes after baking when it is still warm or reheat in warm oven.

Gateau Basque
200g (1/2 lb) butter
200g (1 cup) white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
300g (2c plus 1 tbsp) cake flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon (grated peel)
Creme Patissiere:
250 ml (1 cup) milk
60g (1/3 cup) sugar
25g flour (plain or cake)
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
vanilla to taste (2 tsp)
Notes on ingredients: Cake flour here means flour with baking soda/powder
premixed. If this is not available, mix normal flour and 1 teaspoon of
powder (levure chemique – une cuillere a cafe).

Using cake ingredients:
1. Cream sugar into soft (but NOT melted) butter until smooth.
2. Add the 2 egg yolks, whole egg, and lemon peel; mix well.
3. Add cake flour gradually and stir until well blended.
4. Cover mixing bowl and keep in refrigerator for one hour.

Meanwhile, make the creme patissiere (eclair filling):
1. Mix sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Heat milk in heavy-bottomed saucepan until very hot but not boiling.
3. Whisk hot milk into bowl of dry ingredients and beat until blended.
4. Return mixture to pan and whisk over low heat until thickened (like
pudding) – 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Add egg yolks and cook 2 or 3 minutes more, constantly stirring.
6. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally. Stir in vanilla.

Butter and flour a regular-sized round cake pan (9 or 10 inches by 2
inches high, I think; around 25 cm by 5 cm).

Assemble the gateau:
1. After the dough is hard, divide not quite equally into two parts.
2. Press larger part into bottom of cake pan, covering bottom and partway
up the sides to make a trough.
3. Spoon creme patissiere into middle of cake.
4. Working quickly, roll out (or try with your fingers) the rest of the
dough into a circle. Lay over the filling and seal at the sides with the
bottom half.

Cook at 180 C (350 F) for about 40 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Serve in wedges.
Gateaux Basque #2

25cl Milk
1/2 Vanilla pod
1 egg
2 egg yolks
50gr Caster sugar
40gr plain flour
50ml Rum

300 gm flour
150 gm sugar
1 pinch salt
10 gm baking powder
1 egg
3 egg yolk
160 gm butter
30 ml rum
confectioner’s sugar
 1. Pastry cream filling.
Heat the milk to boiling point with the vanilla pod in it.
Beat the egg and the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture is creamy.
Add the flour, stirring in all the time and then, little by little, add the boiling milk.
Put the mixture into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat, beating all the time until the mixture reaches boiling point.
Put the finished cream into a bowl add the rum and sprinkle with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming.

2. Pastry
Using an earthenware dish mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder then making a well in the centre and add the eggs, the butter cut in small pieces and the rum.
Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients until they are dry enough to knead by hand.
Knead until the mixture is quite smooth then roll out and place in the refrigerator to rest for 1 hour.
Divide the pastry into two unequal portions (1/3rd 2/3rd). Thickly coat the inside of a tart dish with butter and sprinkle with flour then lay the larger piece of pastry over the dish ensuring that there is a good overlay of the pastry around the outside of the dish.
Pre heat the oven to 200c
Pour the cream evenly over the pastry.
Use the other piece of pastry to cover the cream and form a lid.
Close the edges by moistening.
Glaze the top of the pastry with egg yolk then place in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes
Remove Gateaux from the oven and allow to cool before tipping it from the dish.


Be the first to comment...

Leave a comment
* Your email address will not be published