Pastries Page 147

Cream-topped and chocolate-iced
Napoleons (above) and
apple and cheese-filled College
Pastry (right)
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Pastry Specialities
My father was trained as a baker in Germany. He started as an apprentice at the age of twelve. When he reached master level, his speciality was
in making pastry and tortes. He was a Konditor. With this art, he created
the special German treats that are often called “French Pastries.” His skill
was in the use of delicate doughs, artful decoration, and chocolate. This is
the area of baking that satisfies our taste for richness. These are the
decadent desserts that we deserve as special treats.
Among the French Pastries we made are the airy Cream Puffs made
from choux paste. Light and airy balls are filled with thick custard cream so
that each bite fills the mouth with creamy goodness within a very tender
crust. Eclairs add chocolate to the set of senuous delights in each bite.
Our well filled eclairs were very popular. When a customer bought some,
often an extra was bought unwrapped so that the urge to bite into an eclair
could be immediately satisfied. In our store, eclairs oozed with delicious
custard cream and left chocolate moustaches on many a customer before
the purchase was even complete.
Every night when I went to bed, a fragrance would waft up from the
bakery below. Our first night baker had come in to start baking the cream
puff and eclair shells. They require a very hot oven, so they were baked
first while the other things baked later as the oven cooled down slowly.
This wonderful aroma of renewed baking efforts marked the end of my day.
The other French Pastries we made used puff pastry dough. This is
dough of millefuilles or a thousand layers. It actually has 1458 layers
separated by butter after the dough gets 6 turns. When it bakes, the butter
creates air pockets and the dough forms flakes that are crisp on the
outside and moist on the inside. When this is used in Napoleons, I would
fall prey to temptation. Napoleons use three strips of puff pastry with
custard parfait filling between them. On the top is a thick layer of chocolate
frosting or whipped cream.
There are favorite ways to eat Napoleons. If you can open your mouth
widely enough, bite down from the top. Be careful! You might get a noseful
of whipped cream, but who cares. The taste is very satisfying. When I was
small, I would take the layers apart and eat them individually. This posed
another dilemma, however. I had to decide which to eat first. Two bottom
layers had the pastry and the custard parfait and the top one had the pastry
and the whipped cream or chocolate. It’s a hard choice, but a fun one.
As my tastes matured, I developed a strong passion for apples with puff
pastry. Apple Logs were apple pie filling surrounded by puff pastry and
rolled into small cylinders. Sugar icing topped each one giving it a sweet
College Pastry contain a similar ratio of pastry, sugar, and filling. They
have an additional treat of cheese filling along with apple. The Apple or
Cherry Turnovers provide similar delights, but can become wonderfully
rich and senuous when they are sliced open and filled with a piping of
whipped cream, too. These are actually easy items to make at home once
the dough is made.
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Puff Pastry dough has many uses. A piece can be cut off to make one
treat while another piece can be used for something else, even for a savory
filling. Having this dough on hand provides you with a pastry shop of
possibilities. Freeze some to use a month later, too.
However, you can even save the work of making the dough. In my test
kitchen, my brother and I confirmed that the store-bought frozen puff pastry
works very well as long as it is thawed, kept cool, and only rolled once
when using it. The layers have to line up, so rolled scraps need to be
pieced together side by side and with great care. Thin strips of dough can
be spiralled around metal cones to make Cream Horns or Schillerlocken
or simply twisted to make Sugar Twists.
Dad made his strictly German specialities, too. I especially loved his
Seven Layer Cake. In German it is similar to a Dobos Torte. Thin layers of
sponge cake are filled with mocha filling and iced with a thick layer of
chocolate. He made this cake in a long strip and cut off inch thick rectangular slices. This gives a good cross sectional view of all elements of
icing, filling, and 7 layers of tender tasty cake that can be enjoyed in each
bite. I had my fun peeling layers apart, too. This way I could linger over
each layer and prolong the ecstasy. Either way, this is a chocolate lover’s
German pastry always brings Strudel to mind. ( See a slice of apple
strudel below.) Dad mastered the technique and Arthur improved on the
recipe. Strudel dough is very thin. A small lump of dough that would fit in
the palm of your hand gets stretched and stretched to cover an entire
workshop table 12’ by 6’. Holding it up you could look through it, but it also
had no holes.
I was always amazed to see how quickly it was filled and rolled after it
was stretched. In my home we used the dining table covered with a vinyl
cloth. Together, Arthur and I pulled the dough, sprinkled it, filled it, and
rolled it up. With the help of the cloth to lift it, the whole thing was rolled in
seconds. From the stretching to the rolling, we used less than 5 minutes.
Arthur had techniques to make it quick and easy, which I learned and
transcribed for you.
It is definitely worth making this strudel. Crisp layers filled with fruit or
cheese provide a taste that is very special. The whole is far greater than
the sum of its parts. I have travelled to Germany and learned that the best
strudel came from our bakery.
A slice of Apple Strudel
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Cream Puffs
Makes 1 dozen large puffs
or 3 dozen small (canape size)
1/4 lb. Butter (1 stick)
1 cup Boiling Water
1 cup All-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
4 Large Eggs
1 recipe Custard Filling
Powdered sugar to dust
Preheat oven to 450oF.
In a saucepan, boil the water and add the butter. Stir to melt the butter.
Add the flour and salt all at once. Cook, stirring vigorously, until mixture is
smooth and forms a soft ball that does not separate.
Cool mixture slightly. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after
each egg is added. Beat until mixture is smooth.
Drop batter onto a greased cookie sheet for 12 large or 36 small
(canape size) cream puffs. A piping bag may also be used.
For large cream puffs, bake in a 450oF. oven for 15 minutes. Then
reduce heat to 325oF. and bake for another 25 minutes.
For small cream puffs, bake in a oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce
heat to 325oF. and bake for another 10 minutes.
Puffs should be golden brown and hollow.
Cut off top of puffs, fill with Custard Filling, and replace top. (A piping
bag with a metal tip may be used instead by inserting the tip into one end
of each puff and squeezing the custard in until it feels full.)
Finish the cream puffs by dusting with powdered sugar.
Chill puffs well before serving. Store any extra puffs in refrigerator.
A Cream Puff Ring also known as Paris Brest may be made by piping
this dough through a large metal tube. On a sheet of parchment to line
your cookie sheet, draw a large circle of about 12 inches in diameter. Pipe
the dough on that line and a second ring just inside of it. Pipe a third ring
on top of the first two. You may smooth the rings together and top with
sliced almonds, if desired. Bake, fill, and dust with sugar as described
above. See the photo on the opposite page.
This dough is versatile and can be used to make French Crullers
when fried as doughnuts.
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