Panicking Over Pithivier

Of all the recipes we’ve tackled so far in school, the pithivier (pronounced pi-tee-vee-ay) has to have induced the most panic in the hearts of me and my classmates.  Baking a pithivier was part of our recent exam requirements.  The entire baking process for this puff pastry pie spanned three days.  There are so many small details that could ruin the pithivier… the temperature during the shaping has to be very cold, and the folding process has to be exact or the pastry won’t rise in the oven.  I think that the French Pastry School’s three-day exam stressed me out much more than any of the tests that I took at the University of Chicago.  Unlike the exams at my undergraduate university, however, the grueling slog toward the finish line literally made the end product that much sweeter.

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Pithiviers are essentially two disks of puff pastry, with almond cream or sometimes other fillings sandwiched in between.

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The ingredients involved in making pithivier sound simple enough, but the process of locking cold butter into the puff pastry dough was more difficult than it originally sounded.  The “lamination” process involves enclosing a block of butter into a dough “envelope,” and then folding the dough over and over again without allowing any of the butter to ooze out.  If the butter finds a way to escape, it is likely that your finished product will not rise in the oven.

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Pithivier are also sometimes called Galettes des rois, or “King Cakes,” in France.  I would have to agree that this is a dessert fit for royalty!

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I couldn’t help but strike a Lion King pose with my pithivier after learning that!

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It is a french tradition to bake a bean or another trinket into the pithivier.  Whoever ends up with that particular slice gets to be king for the day.  Apparently bakeries in France often give out paper crowns with their pithivier sales.

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While I didn’t bake any hidden surprise into my pithivier, getting through the recipe during my exam was prize enough!

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In the future, I want to experiment with the surface design of my pithivier!  There are so many out there.  I’m looking forward to taking my time under circumstances that are not as stressful!

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