Chausson Napolitain

Chausson Napolitain, the third recipe in Philippe Conticini's book, La Pâtisserie des Rêves, is perfect for highlighting the importance of correctly interpreting a recipe.  Wow!  There's so much to say about this recipe,  but I'll try to keep it succinct (although those of you who know me know I can be a stickler for details).

I have been aware of this particular pastry but had never researched it and certainly had never made it.  In a nutshell it is a pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) turnover filled with a mixture of crème pâtissière, pâte à choux and rum soaked raisins.  Philippe throws in citrus zest and macadamias, and I'll share my own variations with you as well. 

For those of you who know your way around the pastry kitchen, this recipe incorporates some of the classic bases of pastry that should be second nature to any pastry chef.  This is just one of those times when you'll be happy you have that stash of puff pastry in your freezer - yeah!

The first time I read this recipe it seemed rather daunting, but, once I dissected it and separated out the components, it became much more straightforward.  As I mentioned, having puff pastry in your freezer is a big plus but you can use "store-bought" if you wish.

The plan
Most of the components can be prepared the day before, each one requiring minimal time, leaving you with the pâte à choux prep, final assembly and baking for the day of.  It's all about timing and planning.  Three cheers for mise en place!

I should point out that there are a couple of serious errors in this recipe, requiring you to pay close attention and adjust accordingly.

The 200 gm of puff pastry called for is woefully inadequate, and should be about 600 gm. It was clear that 200 gm was not enough to create a 30x60 cm piece with a 1.5-2 mm thickness.

And when slicing the rouleau, the slices should be 1.0 -1.5 cm thick NOT 1/2 cm as the printed recipe states.  Philippe, where are your recipe testers and copy editors??

I admit that I am not a big fan of rum or raisins.  During the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu, as well as my during my stage at Pâtisserie Pascal Pinaud on rue Monge in the 5th, I was amazed at how often rum (and a lot of it) was used by the Parisians.

When a recipe calls for alcohol, I tend to replace rum with either an almond or hazlenut liqueur, or I leave it out altogether and stick with good old vanilla extract.  It's so much easier on the budget, and I don't find the liqueur to be that much of a flavor enhancer.

For this particular project I replaced any rum in the recipe with Fratello, a delicious hazelnut liqueur that Steve discovered recently, used tart dried cherries instead of raisins and replaced macadamias with hazelnuts.

So let's get going!

I soaked 50 gm of cherries in Fratello/brown sugar and have the softened butter/brown sugar mixture ready to go.  I weighed out 50 gm of blanched hazelnuts and coarsely chopped them before final assembly.

I have a batch of crème pâtissière chilled in the fridge.

My puff has thawed in the fridge so I rolled it out to about 2 mm thickness and a length of 60 cm.  I spread on the softened butter/brown sugar mixture and rolled it up snugly (the rouleau).

The above components can all be done a day ahead, and the rouleau wrapped and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the chausson.  Alternatively you can form the rouleau the same day, freeze it for 40 minutes or so, and it will be ready to slice.

Puff rolled out
Spread with butter/brown sugar
The rouleau ready for chilling

On the day you plan to assemble and bake your chausson make your pâte à choux

Once it's ready, blend in the crème pâtissière, add the zests of one lemon and one orange, a splash of vanilla extract, the marinated cherries and the chopped hazelnuts.  Your filling is ready to go! 

Remove your puff roll from the fridge (or freezer) and cut cleanly into 1.0-1.5 cm thick slices.

Cool layers, don't ya think?

Now comes a bit of fussiness.

The slices are rolled out into a flat, ~2 mm thick oval, and it is very helpful if you keep the slices cool.  Work with 3 or 4 at a time while keeping the others handy in the fridge.  Work quickly on a nicely floured surface to minimize the potential sticking of the butter layer.  I keep a bench scraper close by to lift up the dough and re-flour the surface as I go.

The flattened dough ovals
Scoop a grosse noix of filling just low of center on your oval and fold it over.  Don't worry about sealing the edges - just gently place them together, since you want the chausson to be open.

Now give them a coat of egg wash and chill.

Philippe recommends a one hour refrigeration before baking.  I put mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  My practice with all things puff pastry is to freeze before baking, whether it's chausson aux pomme, palmier or simply blind baking a puff crust for a quiche or flan.  The freezing firms up the dough and re-stabilizes the butter layers before it goes into the hot oven.

Bake at ~350ºF convection for about 30-40 minutes.

Remember: every oven is different, and it is sooooo key to pay attention to what's going on in there!  Even convection ovens don't always bake uniformly, so rotate and change shelf positions of your sheet pans half way through.  It works!

Et voila - c'est fini!
A cool way to use puff pastry for sure!