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Pithiviers

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Another ravenous hound (allxum) and I have been discussing "Pithiviers", a classic French dessert, and we have a difference of opinion on what it is. Every recipe book I have on the subject (and I have many) show the identical thing. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I don't believe in "borrowing" pictures, so I created my own, i.e. I made a Pithiviers and took pictures. Before you even look at them please accept my apologies for the look as I am by no means a pastry chef (I am better at cakes). I am not a chef or even a souschef (I am an engineer), and the work is a bit on the crude side. In any case, here are the pictures of before baking, after baking, and cut open.

BTW it was delicious !

 
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  1. No apologies needed, that is a thing of beauty. It's probably been 25 years but that looks very like the ones my father (a very good home pastry chef) used to make and I KNOW it was delicious!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      I thought this thread got deleted. For completeness here is a picture of the entire pastry that I also posted on another thread.

       
      1. re: GretchenS

        Yes, the dough is puff pastry. The filling is ground almonds, eggs, sugar, flour, and rum.

      2. Gosh, that looks beautiful. What is the filling? And is the dough a puff pastry dough, or something else?

        1. Excellent. Beautifully browned, filling appears to have a good balance of moisture and fruit solids (I have it when syrup runs out of these things as they're cut) and your artistic skills in marking the crust reveal your engineering experience. Nice job "souschef".

          1 Reply
          1. re: todao

            Thanks for the compliments. Syrup does not run out if it when it is cut as the filling is solid.

          2. That looks awesome! Could you post your recipe since the one you use doesn't produce that runny syrup?

            3 Replies
            1. re: morwen

              I have the recipe on another thread, but am reproducing it here for completeness, and removing Montreal-specific info. But, before I begin, one caveat: you need a cookie sheet that does not buckle/warp in the oven, especially going from fridge to oven. Forget about blue steel or black steel cookie sheets as they all buckle. I use a half sheet pan from Williams-Sonoma. A pan that buckles throws out the filling half onto the sheet itself.

              Ingredients:
              1 box butter puff pastry from Loblaws/Whole Foods, thawed overnight in the fridge.
              1 egg, beaten

              Filling:
              1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened (leave it on the counter for a couple of hours)
              4 oz sugar
              1 egg
              1 egg yolk
              1 package ground almonds (100gm/3-1/2 oz)
              1/2 oz flour
              2 tbsp rum

              For the filling: cream the butter in a bowl with a whisk, add the sugar, and beat thoroughly. Beat in the egg and the yolk, then stir in the almond, flour and rum. Set aside.

              The box of puff pastry contains two sheets, each individually rolled and sealed. Take out one roll, leaving the other in the fridge (puff pastry likes the cold). Unroll the pastry directly onto the cookie sheet. Cut out about a 10-inch circle from the pastry. Discarrd the trimmings or save them to make palmiers (love palmiers!). Mound the filling in the centre of the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around, and brush the border with egg glaze (the beaten egg). Take out the other roll of pastry and unroll it onto the counter, still on the paper. Cut a circle the same size as before. carefully transfer the pastry to cover the pastry/filling on the cookie sheet and press firmly so that they are sealed together. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for about 3 hours.

              Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and cut a scallopped border all around; the pastry should be quite firm and easy to work with. Then very carefully brush egg glaze all over, making sure that none of the egg falls over the pastry and onto the cookie sheet; if it does the pastry will get glued to the sheet and will not rise. Now score the top in swirls, making sure you do not cut the pastry through to the filling.

              Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 and bake another 20 minutes or so, until the pastry is puffed and brown. Take out of the oven, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then serve hot.

              1. re: souschef

                Thanks souschef! This is going to be my weekend project!

                1. re: morwen

                  Not counting cooling and baking times, this should take you one hour, tops.

            2. Bravo.

              I think it's time to update your handle ... from "souschef" to maybe "executivechef"?

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                heheh! Thanks. I think I'm stuck with this handle.

              2. Very nice job on the Pithiviers.Beautiful job on the scoring. I remember making these.
                Did you make your puff?

                I wonder if your confusion is that Pithiviers is often described as Galette des Rois
                and vice-versa. They look very much alike. The defining difference is that the Pithiviers
                has a filling, and the Galette does not, or so Dorie Greenspan and a number of posts
                on eGullet say. The Galette is not scored but sometimes is given height and decorated
                to look like a king's (rois) crown, but that isn't the defining difference. The Galette is named
                after the Three Wise Men, and is served for Epiphany. Pithiviers is served year-round.

                Pithiviers can be savory. Filled with meat, roast poultry, goat cheese, other cheese,
                all encased in the puff pastry. Very good that way.

                33 Replies
                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I have made puff pastry before, and find it a lot of work. The stuff that I buy frozen works almost as well, and is more reliable.

                  Gaston Lenotre, the famous pastry chef from France, fills his pithiviers and galette with almond pastry cream; that's what is in a book I have by him. That is what I was going by.

                  As for savoury pithiviers I think my attempt is going to be with veal sweetbreads. I have baked a large puff and filled it with sweetbreads (per Jacques Pepin), but have not done it with pithiviers. The challenge will be to keep them moist and creamy without there being a sauce that is too runny. Perhaps use frozen sauce in the filling? The sauce I make uses the braising liquid (which is white wine-based) and whipping cream.

                  1. re: souschef

                    An alternative to the frozen sauce is one that sets up like a gel when cold. Cool it, make your pithiviers with it, then bake. If you use a frozen sauce/liquid and it will remain liquid or semi-liquid when cooled, then it helps to paint the inside of the pastry with butter as a water barrier, then serve immediately.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Souschef:
                      Just thought everyone would want to know....I showed your picture and recipe to my husband who grew up in Pithivier (France) and he says both are spot on. Personally, I was surpised to learn that the original pithivier had rum in it, and that there are savory ones.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Interesting. So you are suggesting that I paint the base of the pastry with the sauce in gel form to act as a water barrier ? Then I would put the sweetbreads over the gel.

                        1. re: souschef

                          I was responding more to your thoughts about freezing the filling n order to get it to seal and bake. Or at least that was my understanding of what you wrote. While I have used that method with Chinese "soup dumplings" with some success, the difference between a dumpling wrapper and puff pastry is a pretty wide gulf!

                          The sweetbreads idea sounds delicious but your major problem is going to be keeping the puff pastry puffy instead of soggy. Painting a butter barrier to limit the moisture penetration will PROBABLY help, but as I've had more time to think about it, I'm not so sure. Because of the very high butter content of puff pastry to start with, it will undoubtedly help a little, but the consistency of the "sauce" or "filling" you plan to use around the sweetbreads is the determining factor.

                          I wouldn't use something frozen simply because it will, as intended, thaw during the baking, and you'll have soggy puff pastry. Especially the bottom crust. A sauce that thickens as it cools would work better. You could cool it in a mold such as a pie plate, with the sweetbreads already incorporated, then unmold it to form your puff pastry shell around it while it is cool. Seal well, as Maria Lorraine recommends, using an egg wash and bake. During baking it will re-liquify, then re-solidify during cooling.

                          I have no idea what you intend to use as the sauce/filling with the sweetbreads, but an alternative idea comes to mind. When I make beef Wellington, I always line the puff pastry with prosciutto to protect the puff pastry from being turned soggy by the duxelle. You could do that as well as using a thick sauce to ensure the puff pastry stays puffy.

                          I think you've got the makings of a great savory pithiviers working for you here. Hot or room temperature! Let us know what you do and how it turns out.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Just had an idea. Make sure any water component of the sauce is "bound." If you make a bechemel or mushroom sauce, make the sugar/flour roux is bound, and then that is bound to the cream.

                            What "bound" means...Cook the butter/flour together till it's blond and smells nutty, as you know, about 5 minutes, or long enough to get the fat and the starch in the flour linked up on a molecular level. Add the heated milk or cream (perhaps reduced to remove some of the water) ladle by ladle, whisking constantly, till the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes gives the fat/starch moleclues enough time to grab onto all that liquid in the milk or other sauce ingredients. None of the elements can separate out then or become runny. Same principle for any other sauce: reduce or "bind" any liquid in any ingredient in the sauce.

                            You may be able to find a video of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin making Braised Sweetbreads in Puff Pastry with a Black Truffle and Madeira Sauce.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Check out "bouche a la reine."
                              http://etiennemarcel.blogspot.com/200...

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                ML, your suggestion would work, but there is one snag - I do not ike sauces that have a flour base; there is something about the texture that I do not like. I always use whipping cream when I reduce and thicken a sauce. I was thinking that since I will be making a cream sauce, how about letting a bunch of mushrooms take a swim in the sauce. They are nature's sponges, and would absorb some sauce. I could fish them out and put them into the pithiviers. That way there would be some moisture in the pastry without it being liquid. I could also use a veal demi-glace. What do you think ?

                                BTW I think I did see that video.

                                1. re: souschef

                                  As far as a non-flour sauce, I understand. The concept is to remove the excess liquid from all ingredients in the filling, even pressing the excess liquid out of the sweetbreads after poaching. I'd saute the mushrooms first, perhaps finishing them
                                  with wine and cooked till au sec.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Apologies for butting in here, but souschef, I'm not sure why you would want to add moisture to a puff pastry. And Maria Lorraine, you're dangerlously close to a duxelle there! '-)

                                    Souschev, have you considered just outright making a duxelle and surrounding the sweetbreads in that? I do make a very non-traditional beef Wellington, however it did win me accolades among the professional chefs of Las Vegas when I lived there in the 60s. I think it could work well with sweetbreads in a pithivier.

                                    Line the puff pastry with thin layers of prosciutto to act as a moisture barrier. Then cover it thickly with a rich duxelle. Slice a black truffle or two thinly and pave the duxelle with them, then add the meat, in your case the sweetbreads. And of course, you would work in a circle and on two crusts as opposed to rolling a single crust to encase things.

                                    Mushrooms, as you point out, are sponges. The moisture barrier of the prosciutto will keep the puff pastry fluffy, crisp and light. The duxelle has a texture similar to a very thick cream sauce, and like the sauce, is thicker at room temperature, but unlike the sauce, does not liquify with heat. The black truffles are optional, but I do use them and they do add something very special. The difference here is that I also use a layer of pate over the duxelle and pave that with truffles when I make a Wellington.

                                    A bit decadent, but hey, it's not like you're going to have it for lunch every day the rest of your life.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Caroline, my reason for adding the moisture is that I am concerned that in the heat of the oven the sweetbreads would dry out and the creamy texture would get destroyed. This would be akin to deep frying sweetbreads - incredibly, some chefs do that, and it really ruins the texture.

                                      Your idea of prosciutto and a duxelle sounds great, and I think I will try it, but would not the taste of the prosciutto overpower the taste of the sweetbreads? Briefly, how I make sweetbreads is after the usual soaking, blanching, pressing, and sauteeing, I braise them with onions, carrots, white wine, and chicken stock. After they are cooked I strain out the solids and reduce the braising liquid to a sauce with some cream. So the taste is very light.

                                      I'll have to check the weight of my pocket book when I go shopping for the ingredients, to see if a black truffle is within scope.

                                      Your Wellington sounds like you achieved your Waterloo with it ! What type of "pate" did you use?

                                      1. re: souschef

                                        The problem is that moisture does two things to puff pastry while baking. First, it will limit how much it puffs. Second, it will turn it into a soggy gummy mess. I developed my Wellington recipe because the moisture from the tenderloin and duxelle would invariably make the bottom soggy while the top flaked and did what it was supposed to do. Then I notiece that the Wellington in the haute cuising places in Las Vegas had the same thing happen to their Wellingtons, whether individual or chateaubriand size for two.

                                        I do recall that I tried other things as a moisture barrier, but don't remember exactly what they were. Only that they did not work as well as the dry cured ham. Paper thin Westphalian will work too. But that thin sliced Danish ham doesn't work well and adds flavor. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think coating the inside of the puff pastry with butter was one of the failures. It just combines with the butter in the puff pastry, and when it gets wet, the puff pastry and butter melt into the moisture like liquid added to roux!

                                        No, the prosciutto doesn't make things salty or even add much discernable flavor. I only use a single thinly sliced layer, and any excessive saltiness is absorbed and distributed through the duxelle.

                                        As for creamy flavor for your sweetbreads, the flavor of the duxelle will not be similar to a bechamel, but you do have control over how rich or mild the flavor is through the type and age of mushrooms you use. Small fresh pale white button mushrooms are the mildest, in my experience. They will, however, darken during the cooking down process of making a duxelle. You can go with any single type of mushroom with a flavor you think will compliment the sweetbreads without overpowering them. Even a blend of different types. I don't know of any guidebook on flavors resultant from types of mushrooms used, so trial and error seems to be the way to go.

                                        Traditional duxelle calls for finely chopped onions and shallots, finely chopped mushrooms squeezed dry in cheesecloth, then softening the onions and shallots in butter before adding the mushrooms; cooking over high heat until mushrooms are cooked, seasoning with nutmeg. Then cooling and storing under buttered paper for future use. For sweetbreads, I would omit the onions and go light on the shallots.

                                        The squeezing of all of the juices out of button mushrooms would certainly reduce their flavor. For my duxelle, I intentionally leave the natural juices in the mushrooms and then cook them down slowly, which intensifies the flavor.

                                        Keep us informed on what you decide to do and what the results are. And if you allow for travel time, you could end up with a drooling mob of us on your doorstep!

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          Thank you for all the suggestions and detailed explanations; you remind me of Rose Levy Beranbaum - she goes to the same detail in her books; really well-researched. By comparison my cooking sounds like cowboy cooking. BUT, it's better than my wife's - she stopped cooking when she lost the recipe for toast!

                                          I will definitely go for the prosciutto and duxelles, and will let you know how it turns out. My next challenge will be how to combine sweetbreads with one of my other loves (I have many) - chestnuts. Maybe that's a challenge for you Caroline - come up with the appropriate recipe :)

                                          Fortunately I have a thick carpet on my doorstep to act as a droolcatcher !!!

                                          1. re: souschef

                                            Actually, you may have come up with your own recipe! No reason why a nice chestnut puree wouldn't work with your sweetbreads as well as a duxelle. Chestnuts are one of the most versatile foods around. I LOVE marrons glacee, but I also use chestnuts in a stuffing for Christmas goose. Very versatile.

                                            Off the top of my head, for a savoury pithivier (and I have never made this, I'm just "thinking out loud," so to speak), do you like escargot? Let's see what I can make up as I go along...

                                            Roast and shell/peel enough chestnuts to render three cups of puree. You can get them to the consistency where puree is possible in either of two ways; roasting them (by an open fire if you wish), or you can simmer them. If you choose to simmer, you can add "flavorings" to the pot such as simmering them in broth or adding spices or flavorings of your choice. Or you can leave them plain and flavor the puree. You could also just buy a can of chestnut puree, but home made tastes better. However, if you want to season fairly strongly, it won't make much difference either way.

                                            Mash the chestnuts or pass them through an old fashioned food mill. I wouldn't use a food processor. To go with snails, I would season the puree with a heavy reduction of a good (but not expensive) Burgundy wine, some mashed baked garlic to taste, a touch of cognac, some minced parsley, and a good chunk of butter. All the good stuff you would use in escargot Bouruignon. This will undoubted turn the chestnut puree a grayish purplish color, but we're after flavor here. Besides, snails don't exactly look like a bouquet of roses! '-)

                                            Spread the bottom puff pastry sheet on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Use the "ring" from a small (10"?) spring form pan for lightly marking the size of your filling. In fact, leave it in place while you place the filling.

                                            Now, we need a moisture barrier to put on top of the puff pastry. You can certainly use a dry cured ham, as for the sweetbreads. You could also use well rinsed and dried grape leaves. A cooked very mild cabbage leaf that has had all the moisture pressed out of it between paper towels with a cast iron skillet resting on it would work too. I would brush on a coat of melted butter if using leaves to help them stay in place when you place the filling. Not required with the ham.

                                            Now spread about a half inch or so of your finished seasoned chestnut puree over the moisture barrier in the bottom of the ring mold. Smooth it out. Now spot the puree with well drained escargot (helix!), but don't pack them tightly against each other as we want the puree to fill the nooks and crannies between them.. Now spoon in more chestnut puree to cover and smoosh it down between the escargot. Smooth the top and remove the ting mold.

                                            BUT!!! At this point, depending on how dense your chestnut puree is, you may want to chill it in the mold before proceeding. If it's thick enough this isn't required, then remove the spring form ring. Continue in the same way you would with any pithivier, painting the edges of the bottom crust with an egg wash before before placing the top cruse. Press to seal, then cut the scallops around the base. Glaze the top and score as usual. Bake! I'd probably opt for around 350F until the puff pastry is nice and brown, but you could probably go as high as 400F. The filling is already cooked, so your prime concern is making sure the puff pastry is cooked all the way through.

                                            As I said at the outset, this is off the top of my head. If you make it, you will be the first one on planet earth to taste it. But I do think it will work. But no guarantees! '-)

                                            I love your sense of adventure! You are well on your way to becoming an amazing cook. Hooray for you!

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              Wow ! That's amazing for something off the top of your head. Definitely worth trying.

                                              I love marrons glacees too. My SIL, for whom I will make the pithiviers, once got me 3 kilos of them from a confiserie (Rohr) in Geneva when she lived there. They were absolutely incredible.

                                              I use chestnuts with wild 'shrooms and pork to stuff turkey. Great combination.

                                              Attached is a picture of the kind of stuff I like to do on the other side of the house.

                                               
                                              1. re: souschef

                                                Julie is indeed on lucky 12 year old! Looks delicious. I've gained a pound just looking at it. '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  That 12 year old considered me her best friend, even though I am the same age as her dad. How quickly they grow, though!

                                                  That cake is my favourite. Dried figs simmered in cognac, plus hazelnuts and lots of chocolate.

                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        Hi, Caroline1,
                                        I wasn't thinking of finely chopped mushrooms, like a duxelle, instead
                                        sliced mushroooms or even a little chunky. But I like duxelle!

                                        Laughed aloud at a couple of your posts the other day.
                                        M.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Great to know someone enjoys my humor! '-) thanks!

                                          I'm not sure just adding mushrooms to the broth would have any thickening effect. I'm thinking of mushrooms in soup. When they're thick, it's not usually from the mushrooms. The reason I thought of duxelle is that it will remain fairly firm in texture whether served hot or cold. Well, it's also delicious! But could be a bit strong for sweetbreads without careful control. Or maybe a really strong flavored duxelle would be great with sweetbreads. Who knows?

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            I once made a duxelle of portobello mushrooms, and was amazed at how concentrated the flavour was; it was pure essence of mushroom. I think I used that in a cream of mushroom soup.

                                            On a different, but related matter: I once had a pate made from sweetbreads in a restaurant in Montreal, and it was amazing (moh, it was at Au Tournant de la Riviere in Chambly). I thought I'd do the same at home, and pureed some sweetbreads with the sauce. Unfortunately it destroyed the creamy texture of the sweetbreads. Any ideas?

                                            BTW where are my manners? Thank you Caroline and Maria Lorraine for all of the help with my pithiviers.

                                            1. re: souschef

                                              You're very welcome! It's a lot of fun for me. :-)

                          2. re: souschef

                            Souschef, you really do love cooking, I can tell! Brava!

                            I love the idea of a sweetbreads Pithiviers. Just wish I were coming to dinner. I'd bring the wine. Again, wonderful work.

                            As far as the filling not running, make sure you have a very tight seal between the two puff layers, perhaps sealing with a stripe of egg white all around the perimeter, and then pressing the two puff layers together. My other thoughts were the same as Caroline1's: cool the filling until it has "gelled" and try a butter "paint" of the inside of the puff layers.

                            After I saw your post, I checked a half-dozen of my books, some in French, and tried to find an answer about the Pithiviers/Rois confusion. When I get time, I'll pull out a few of the older books, and see if I can unearth more info for you. I recall that in the Pithiviers I made, I used a Mazarin filling instead of almond paste or frangipane, and I liked the lightness of that.

                            Your post inspired me. I studied classical French pastry 15 or so years ago (and lived in France). Your post made me think -- maybe I should take a stab at a French "something" again after all these years! Thank you for that! I'm sure my skills are a bit rusty, but perhaps my diners and I can suffer through my ineptness.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Yes, I do love to cook. What wine would you drink with sweetbreads ? My sister-in-law, who always asks me to make them, insists that it should be a Bordeaux, but I'm not convinced. However, I don't know what I would drink. Suggestions? It has to be something creamy to go with the texture of the sweetbreads.

                              I looked up "Mazarin" as I had never heard of it before, and could not come up with something definite, so what is it ?

                              Lucky you, studying pastry in France. Mind you, there is a Cordon Bleu school right here in town, but I have not taken any courses there. I just learned techniques from books and TV.

                              Let us know what you decide to take a stab at. Perhaps salambo ?

                              1. re: souschef

                                With sweetbreads, and a pastry with butter, the wine should be, IMO, a high-acid white wine. White because it matches the intensity of the flavors, and high-acid to cut through the fat. I'd keep the French theme going and would recommend the beautiful whites from the Loire, Savennieres in particular. Baumard is one of the best producers for the money. particularly. I'd also recommend a white Bordeaux, a Graves, and my favorites there are Haut-Lafitte and Chevalier. Several posts about these wines on CH. Champagne or Rose Champagne
                                would also work well.

                                I'll see if I can dig out my Mazarin filling recipe for you and post it. Sometimes the two-week long pastry classes, offered by many schools, are enough to refine technique. Sounds like you're doing rather well without classes, though.

                                Best,
                                M.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Souschef, I think you mentioned that you are in Ottawa. If that is the case, I have a great suggestion for a Loire wine to go with your Sweetbread Pithivier. BTW, Maria Lorraine has an excellent palate when it comes to food and wine, her suggestions are always well-thought out and delicious!

                                  I had a chance to try some Domaine Huet Vouvray, the "Le Haut-Lieu" and "Le Mont", both from the 2006 vintage. They are fabulous!!! I think they would fit the bill beautifully. Le Mont ($33 Canadian) is so decadent, it would be great with sweetbreads. You could do a search on the SAQ website and see if there are any outlets in Hull carrying it. Alternatively, you could make a pithivier for your next trip to MOntreal and I could provide a bottle! ;)

                                  I have been enjoying your pithivier threads! And I have been keeping an eye out for the kumquats...

                                  1. re: moh

                                    Hey moh, great to see you back. Yes, I am in Ottawa. I'll look for those two wines.

                                    Maria Lorraine does indeed sound like a wine expert.

                                    I provide the pithiviers and you provide the wine? Sounds like a great idea. We should plan on doing that. BTW have you considerd a pithiviers with a filling of Royal figs ? You could serve it with some of that Royal fig ice cream I made recently.

                                  2. re: maria lorraine

                                    A beautiful white from the Loire? My favourite is Sancerre from Henri Bourgeois. I did think about a Rosé Champagne, but the only one I have had that I have liked is the Laurent Perrier - at $100 now - ouch!

                                    1. re: souschef

                                      Moh is good guide to have in your parts. Wonderful palate for both food and wine.
                                      Really gets into specifics. You two should meet up.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Sous chef,
                                        Ideas for sauces, or the lack of them:

                                        Links for you:
                                        Chowhound thread titled “Sweetbreads for the uninitiated”
                                        with a post about about bouche a la reine and sweetbreads
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5090...

                                        For sauce ideas:
                                        Search
                                        Feuilleté de ris de veau
                                        or
                                        vol au vent ris de veau, often listed as vol au vent aux ris de veau

                                        Hubert keller’s recipe for sweetbreads in puff pastry
                                        http://books.google.com/books?id=2iYI...

                                        Good luck!

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Thanks for the links ML. I'll check them out.

                                          1. re: souschef

                                            Coupla quick thoughts:
                                            If you go the savory chestnut route, I'd use the vacuum-packed parboiled type.
                                            My favorite brand is Ponthier, and about this time of year I buy up a bunch of
                                            packages for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

                                            As to any other flavors you might add: my only concern is that they do not
                                            begin in the slightest to detract from the relatively mild taste of the sweetbreads.
                                            If mushrooms or a duxelle, then mild wild varieties (oyster, etc.). Same for
                                            anything else, chestnuts included.

                                            I'm not so worried about the sauce making the puff soggy. You may get a bit of sogginess on the first few layers of puff below the filling, because of residual liquid and weight pressing down. A little liquid will create steam and that will help the top layer (the dome) puff. The key for me is sealing to keep in both the liquid and steam. I'd check the experts' recipes for the same thing and do your own synthesis/invention of everything you've heard and read, and forge ahead. Good luck!

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              Analyzing all these ideas (it helps to be an engineer - an applied scientist), I will use a duxelles of oyster mushrooms above and below the sweetbreads. Below the sweetbreads as a moisture barrier, and above the sweetbreads as a heat barrier. There will be a little veal demi-glace under the top layer of duxelles.

                                              I plan to do this all about a month from now; no trial run as the ingredients are expensive - I will use San Daniele prosciutto rather than the local stuff, and sweetbreads are expensive.

                                              Now to decide if I make my own puff. Maybe I will - it is cool enough, and I have a marble pastry board. Also, I love to work with butter that is cold but pliable. It is amazing how important that resting phase in the fridge is, between sets of turns.

                                              I will post pictures here when done.

                                              1. re: souschef

                                                Well, after a considerable delay I finally made the sweetbread pithiviers.

                                                While perusing a book by the Brothers Roux I came across a recipe using puff pastry where they use a crepe as a moisture barrier, so that's what I did. I used a crepe under the sweetbreads as well as on top (to stop them from drying out), and the pastry turned out great.

                                                I cooked some mushrooms in the sauce and included them in the pithivers so they would add a moisture component. A bit of sauce did run out when the pastry was cut, but it did not make the pastry soggy. I served the sauce separately.

                                                I almost did not get to the pithiviers stage - the sweetbreads tasted so good that I almost ate them straight out of the pan. My lunch guests were delighted with the results.

                                                I am attaching some pictures of the pastry at various stages.