Monday, September 20, 2010


By the time I had worked my third job in France (Hostellerie Bourguignonne, that is) I knew how to make puff pastry. When I came home, I was anxious to demonstrate the glories of the Pithivier.

We were staying at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Willamette, Illinois. Like most American kitchens, hers had no space for rolling out dough.

So, I did it in the basement—on her drier. I think several loads of laundry later, she was still pulling out bits of dough.
The pastry is filled with an almond cream. In the pastry world, it’s called frangipani. This means “French bread” but it’s named after a French nobleman and has nothing to do with the flower. The pastry itself actually commemorates the kidnapping of King Charles IX on the way back from visiting his mistress. He was kidnapped near the village of Pithiviers by a band of Huguenots. The pastry commemorates the shape of the carriage wheels.

My effort failed miserably. First, I thought I could make puff pastry with the margarine in the refrigerator. Wrong. Any soft margarine should be avoided at all costs as the very property that makes it easy to spread on flimsy bread prevents the layers of dough from remaining separate. Second, I used rum flavor, which tastes somewhat like airplane glue.

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