Did I ever tell you that I have a passion for pistachios? No?! Well, now you know it: I am a pistachio-addicted! I can’t say no to a couple (a couple?! Who believes that?) pistachio nuts, at any time and situation, I believe that “if a dessert has pistachio in it must be good” (and not just desserts… I’m not a racist!), I strongly believe that “Sicily is the promise land”.
So when last summer I went to Calabria, even without setting foot in my promise land (I admit it, I haven’t been in Sicily, yet), I found out that pistachio flour was very easy to find. Could I ever come back home empty-handed? I definitely couldn’t, so, while a part of that treasure still lies in my wardrobe/pantry (yes, sometimes I keep food and clothing together), a part has already gone away, but it was for a good cause.
Our heroine, in fact, sacrificed itself on a special occasion, the birthday of two people who are very important to me and who, like me, love pistachios. So I chose to prepare as a birthday cake a mille-feuille with hand-made puff pastry, pistachio custard and then garnished with a sprinkling of pistachios and a chocolaty writing (as I said, there were two party boys: no one turned 2728).
To accompany the dessert I could choose to stay in Sicily, with a Pantelleria passito (did I ever mention my passion for passito wines?! Well, I still have many secrets), but then I decided to serve it with a Piedmontese passito, the Sulé Caluso Passito doc produced by Orsolani. This wine, sweet and fruity, would marry even better with pastries, but I think that pistachios created the right conditions for a perfect wedding, even if this dessert is made with custard and whipped cream. And, maybe it’s my love for the Sicilian land, but I’m always in favour of a marriage between Sicilian food and a Piedmontese wine, as I already shown in the past.
For the puff pastry and custard recipes all credit goes to the professional pastry class I’m attending.
Who wants to see the process to make puff pastry should pay a visit to Morena (aka Menta e Cioccolato) … sooner or later I’ll some pictures or a video fot the step by step procedure!
- PER LA PASTA SFOGLIA (you’ll need half of it, but you could freeze the rest)
- For the pastel
- 350 g strong flour
- 200 g water
- For the butter stick
- 150 g flour
- 500 g unsalted butter
- FOR THE CUSTARD
- 500 ml milk
- 100 g egg yolks (about 4-5)
- 125 g sugar
- 100 g flour
- pistachio flour
- TO DECORATE
- 500 ml whipping cream
- dark chocolate
- pistachio flour
- Prepare in advance (even days before) the puff pastry. Prepare the pastel by kneading strong flour and water with a pinch of salt until you have a smooth and very elastic dough. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Prepare the stick by mixing butter and flour: give to this dough a rectangular shape (1-2 cm thick) and let it rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that for home-made puff pastry and rest periods, the more the better.
- Roll out the pastel in a rectangular shape (wider than the stick) about 5 mm thick, then put the rectangular stick in the middle and close it within the pastel; with a rolling pin, lower the thickness to 7-8 mm without using excessive force, and always moving from center upwards and from center downwards, never in width.
- Make a three fold (fold the top edge to ⅔ of the strip and then the bottom edge to cover it up) and let it rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Lower the thickness (gently) up to 5-6 mm. Taking the folds toward you, make a four fold (fold the two short sides towards the center and then the top edge towards you) and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Lower the thickness (gently) up to 5-6 mm. Taking the folds toward you, make a three fold and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Lower the thickness (gently) up to 5-6 mm. Taking the folds toward you, make a four fold and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- The puff pastry is now ready: now you can roll it out to the desired thickness (for this recipe about 5 mm), cut it into 3 equal shapes and riddle it with holes. I do recommend a final rest before baking it. Then brush it with water and sprinkle with sugar, then bake at 373-391°F (190°-200°C) for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and puffed. Let it cool completely before using it. I suggest you to bake some puff pastry scraps, if you want to garnish your mille-feuille sides with pastry crumbs.
- Prepare (you can do it in advance) the custard. Bring the milk to a boil with the aromatic part (in this case there isn’t any, but it might be vanilla or citrus peel -leave this in large pieces, so you can remove it with ease) and, in the meantime, in a bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture whitens. Add the flour (with this amount of flour you’ll obtain a very thick cream) and continue beating. Leave aside the mixture and whisks, and keep a tarot near you.
- When the milk is near the boiling point, remove with a skimmer the aromatic part (if there is one). Then, as the milk comes up (NOT BEFORE), pour with the aid of a tarot the mixture of eggs, sugar and flour into the milk, stir for 1 minute or two with the whisk, then remove from heat and continue stirring… custard is ready (if not thick enough, it probably just needs some more time on the stove).
- Flavour it with pistachio flour, stir and then put the custard in a bowl with plastic wrap or parchment paper on it (it must touch the custard, to avoid the skin). Let it cool completely before using it.
- Whip the cream with one or two tablespoons of sugar.
- Now assemble the mille-feuille. Arrange on a serving platter (or, for greater accuracy, on a grid, and then move the cake when your work is completed) the first disc (or rectangle or square) of puff pastry; then, with a sac-à-poche, spread a generous layer of custard on it. Place the second disc of puff pastry and spread another layer of custard; end with the last disc of puff pastry. Now, using a spatula, spread a generous layer of whipped cream over the last puff layer and on the sides of the cake (you can garnish them with pistachio flour, chocolate or puff pastry scraps crumbled by hand.
- Decorate with pistachio flour and, if the occasion calls for it, with a writing made with melted (in a baine-marie) dark chocolate, slightly cooled down (so it’s not too fluid), with a cone of parchment paper or other tool (like one of those silicone pen).