Plum Pithiviers, delicious and unexpected. Found by chance, I was impressed by its look which was rustic and elegant at the same time. Gotta say the French are always one step ahead.
This pie came up during a challenge I did on Instagram: publish one (food) photo a day for a week.
The idea was to improve on my food photography. While I was looking for pastries to make and photograph I stumbled upon the Pithiviers. And I found out that the name is always plural, like pants and shenanigans.
The classic Pithiviers is composed of an almond cream (see below) enclosed between two puff pastry layers. Then the pastry is scored with the classic decoration.
I opted for a Plum Pithiviers with hazelnuts in place of almonds. I watched a few videos on YouTube as this recipe requires a manual finesse which of course I don’t have. Seeing how it’s made greatly helps.
I the future I will include step-by-step pics but for now you can check my Instagram stories, time-lapsed preparation is in the Highlights.
Pithiviers vs. Galette
After posting the first pic for the challenge I found out there is a bit of confusion between the Pithiviers and the Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake). The two cakes are almost identical in taste, but with subtle differences. Someone on Instagram pointed out that mine was actually a Galette.
I’m curious so I embarked on a quest for the true Pithivers.
The quest for truth
I came across in an interview of a woman named Jaqueline Mecorelli and if you are French I don’t thinks she needs an introduction. She is mostly known as Mercotte. Food blogger and food critic, she is an institution in France and amongst other things she is one of the judges of Le meilleur patissier, the French version of our Bake Off Italia, The Great British Bake Off (UK) or The Great American Baking Show (US).
In this interview Mercotte explains well the differences between Pithiviers and Galette des Rois. I don’t speak French but with the aid of Google here what she says:
[…] The main difference is that inside the Pithiviers there is a “crème d’amande”, that is an almond cream composed of almond flour, eggs and sugar in equal quantities.
On the other hand the Galette has a frangipane, which is almond cream with the addition of 1/3 of its weight in custard cream.[…]
The other difference is in their appearance: the Galette is low and flat, whereas the Pithiviers is rounded.
Another minor difference is in the seasonality: the Galette des Rois is generally associated with Epiphany and is found on sale until the end of January. By contrast the Pithiviers is typical of the Loire Valley and can be found all year round.
Anecdote about the Galette
In my quest I also stumbled upon a peculiar anecdote linked to the Galette: it was a custom hiding a bean inside the cake and whoever found the bean would have been King or Queen for that day.
This tradition seems to date back to Ancient Rome, to the Saturnalia celebrations (end of December) when the order of social classes were mixed. Slaves could sit at the table and eat with their masters, and one of them was elected King for one day.
[History Channel mode off…]
A last note: for best results it is better to leave the Pithiviers in the fridge overnight before baking. I know it’s a pain but like for most things in life the result is directly proportional to the hassle.
- 700 g puff pastry (25 oz) easy puff pastry recipe here
For the plums:
- 100 g dried plums, pitted 3.5 oz
- 25 g lemon juice 0.9 oz
- lemon peel approx ½ lemon
- 80 g brandy or cognac 2.8 oz
For the “almond cream”:
- 120 g butter, room temperature 4.2 oz
- 120 g sugar 4.2 oz
- 150 g hazelnuts, roasted 5.3 oz
- 40 g flour 1.4 oz
- 2 eggs
- 25 g brandy or cognac 0.9 oz
- powdered vanilla bourbon, the tip of a tsp. or vanilla extract
- grated lemon zest ½ lemon
- grated orange zest ½ orange
- 1 egg yolk
- Put the plums, brandy, lemon juice and lemon peel in a small pot on low heat. Cook until the plums are soft, approx 10 minutes. If it gets too dry add a couple of tbsp of water.
- Blend the hazelnuts in the mixer.
- Using the handheld mixer beat the butter together with the sugar until fluffy.
- Add the eggs, vanilla with the lemon and orange zests. Blend to incorporate.
- Add the hazelnuts, flour and brand. Mix with a spatula.
- Coarsely chop the plums and add them to the mixture together with part of their on juice, filtered through a strainer. Mix well.
- Slightly flour the working surface and roll out half (350g) of the puff pastry dough in a 24 cm disc (9.4 in). The disc doesn't have to be perfectly round.
- Using a 20 cm (7.9 in) pastry ring mark a circle in the middle of the dough but do not cut! A small mark will do.
- Whisk the egg and brush the area across the round marking on the dough.
- Distribute the hazelnut mixture in the center of the dough, enough to create a small semisphere, and staying 1-2 cm away from the edge.
- Momentarily set the cake aside. Roll out the remaining dough in another 24 cm (9.4 in) disc.
- Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and place it over the cake, making sure it matches the lower disc of dough.
- Press all around the edges to make the layers stick.
- Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but better overnight.
- Once the cake has settled preheat the oven at 200° C (392° F).
- Brush the cake with the whisked egg. Leave it to rest 10 minutes at room temperature and brush for a second time.
- Using a small straight edge knife score the dough in the desired pattern. I used a semi-curved pattern, starting from center.
- Make a small hole in the center which will act as a chimney to let the steam out.
- Bake at 200° C (392° F) for the first 10 minutes, then lower the temperature at 180° C (355° F) and bake for another 25 minutes. Check the cooking. Bear in mind that the cake will be dark due to the egg yolk.
- Let it cool off before serving. In my opinion the Pithiviers is perfect when served lukewarm.