Sunday, May 8, 2011

Traveling to Eat: French Pastries from Nova Scotia

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. – James Beard
(apologies to any "tarts" out there…)

Une pâtisserie merveilleuse – Orielles d'Abricot
Photo: Xiaozhuli, Flickr ccl
Ahhh, the French. We love them for so many things, not least of which is for their food. Included in that love is their fabulous bread and pastry. The mere thought conjures up wafting aromas from the open doors of street corner patisseries, warm loaves, flaky butter pastries, fluffy cakes, sweet fillings and dustings of sugar.

Pain au chocolat, élcalir, beignet, croissant amande, chausson aux pommes, palmiers… the list is endless and more than a little hunger inducing. Actually, if I lived in France, I think this borderline lust would possibly turn into a daily addiction. I can see myself feet up, pastry and newspaper in hand, sipping cappuccino, my waist expanding by the hour…

I am actually able to scratch this particular itch right here in Nova Scotia. We have an excellent Nova Scotian bakery, Boulengerie la Vendéenne, right in our midst. They have a stall at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, one of our local weekend markets, every week. 

The actual bakery is located in Mahone Bay, and is run by Jean Marc Riant. He is originally from the Vendéenne region of France which explains the name of his bakery. It also explains the authenticity of his baked goods. They are superb.

La Boulangerie’s products run the gamut from artisanal breads through to traditional pastries. They are a member of Taste of Nova Scotia, which is a program under the auspices of Tourism Nova Scotia. Members are committed to delivering a superior Nova Scotia culinary experience to their customers. When visiting Nova Scotia, look for the members logo.

Besides the Seaport Market, la Boulangerie also sell their baked goods at Planet Organic and Pete’s Frootique in Halifax. From late Spring through to late Autumn they also sell in the Farmer’s markets in Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Annapoilis Royal, Hubbards and Wolfville. So if you’re touring our fair province, you have lots of opportunity to sample their goods. Unfortunately they do not have a “storefront” operation.

The Seaport Market in Halifax.
Photo: Spacing Magazine, Flickr ccl
If you’ve never had real, authentic French pastries or bread, you really should rectify the situation. It is very easy to purchase a loaf of their apricot/honey bread and eat it—sans beurre—on the walk or drive home. It is just that moist and flavourful. It’s hard to believe what they do with dough. Mmmmm...

For your elucidation I have chosen to offer you a recipe for Orielles d’Abricot, which they sell at la Boulangerie. As the name suggests, these pastries boast apricots atop pastry cream, all wrapped in puff pastry. Orielles translates to “ears” in English. It refers to the points that protrude from the ends of the pastry after it is shaped and baked. 

These wonderful pastries are a snap to make, especially if you use pre-made puff pastry. I know, I know—I should make my own. Perhaps later this year I’ll tackle that beast. In the meantime, try this recipe for delicious French pastries, straight from your own oven.

Recipe: Oreilles d'Abricot
Makes 12

Roll out the dough to 9"x6" and cut into 3"x3" squares.
For the Orielles:
400 g package of puff pastry, or make your own
12 fresh apricots, pitted, halved and poached (or 24 canned apricot halves) see note*
French pastry cream (see recipe below)
1/2 cup coarse sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam, heated to liquid state
powdered sugar for dusting

For the Almond Pastry Cream
Recipe from Larousse Gastronomique
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 tsp almond flavouring

To make the pastry cream:
Make the pastry cream ahead of assembly and refrigerate. It can even be made the day before use.

Press each square firmly into the sugar.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, butter and egg in a small heavy saucepan. Slowly add in the milk, whisking to ensure no lumps form. 

Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Care must be taken not to let the mixture “catch” on the bottom of the pan. If so, it will scorch and impart a burnt flavour. Stirring constantly, allow to cook for a minute until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond flavouring. 

Place the pastry cream in a bowl with a piece of plastic wrap directly touching the surface. This will prevent a skin from forming. It will set firmer as it cools, which is normal.

To make the Orielles:
Cut the puff pastry in two pieces. Roll out each piece to 9” x 6”. Cut into six equal 3” squares. You will have 12 pieces of dough.

Place the coarse sugar on a plate. Take one square of the dough, pull all four points out slightly, and flip it “up” side down into the sugar. The “up” side is more moist and the sugar will adhere more easily. Press down into the sugar, with a little force. Don’t worry about keeping a perfect square. Place the square on your work surface, sugar side down.

Left to right: pastry cream in centre of square; add 2 apricot halves;
Pinch two ends firmly together to close.
Put two heaping teaspoons of pastry cream down the longer dimension. Position two apricot halves in a row, cut side down, on top of the pastry cream.

Take the two opposite points of the square and bring up over the apricots and filling. Pinch firmly to close. You have to ensure the ends don't separate in baking. Repeat with the remaining squares. Sprinkle with a little more of the sugar.

Bake at 400°F for 25- 30 minutes or until golden, puffed and brown on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet to a rack.

While the pastries are still warm, melt the apricot jam with a little water over medium heat and brush the tops of each pastry. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

*Note: to poach the fresh apricot halves, place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of sugar. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain. 

I used canned apricots as I couldn’t find any fresh. The can I purchased (14 oz) had 22 halves – two shy of what I needed so I made one with just pastry cream…

Orielles ready for the oven.


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  1. so this is what you were talking about friday, yum!

  2. Haven't tried the recipe yet but the pastry looks just like the one I had in Paris years ago. Must try this recipe as my mouth is watering just by looking at your photos.