I pine for the buttery croissants of the boulangeries and the sweet layers of fraisiers from the patisseries. Last summer I spent 6 weeks studying in Paris. And each day during those 6 weeks, I indulged in a different pastry or bread. I tried to limit this to once a day, but it was difficult wandering around the city, the smell of sweet butter wafting out of the shops, one on nearly every corner.
My favorite activity on a Saturday morning was to leave the house early and head to the boulangerie for a freshly baked pain au chocolat and a cafe au lait. The pain au chocolat is a long, thin sweet bread (like Brioche) studded with tiny morsels of melted chocolate. I would dip the pain into my cafe before each bite, allowing the delicious flavors of coffee, chocolate and butter to slide easily down my throat.
I discovered this book at a library book sale a few weeks ago. Obviously, I could not pass it up. The opportunity to create my own Parisien pastries in the comfort of my own home...! This was nearly a dream come true.
Although, I have since discovered that the ingredients available in the United States are subpar to French butter, cream and such. And the ambience created by the sidewalk cafe in Paris can't quite be replicated. But it will, at least, allow me to prolong my dreams of Paris a bit until we meet again....
My first attempt at Parisien pastries were these raspberry bars. Simple enough, non? What sets them apart from American jam bars is the addition of almond meal to the shortbread dough and a light egg wash on top, producing a nice, crunchy texture on the initial bite. I was running a little low on preserves so the full amount was cut short. But I think it turned out to be just the right amount of fruity sweetness for these tasty morsels.
Carres aux Framboises
(or Raspberry Squares)
Adapted from Paris, Boulangerie, Patisserie
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. almond meal
1 large egg, beaten
2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 c. - 1 c. raspberry jam, more if needed
sugar, any combination of brown, white, and powdered
Pate Sablee: Mix together flour, sugar and almond meal. Add the egg and butter and mix until it comes together. Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least half an hour.
Assembly: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large glass Pyrex dish. Divide dough in half. Flour a surface and roll out to about 1/8 in. thickness. Fit into the bottom of the dish, trimming the edges to fit the pan. (I could never get this to work; the dough kept coming apart when I tried to pick it up. Either I didn't refrigerate it long enough or there was enough moisture. At any rate, I simply took pieces and smashed them into the bottom of the dish. The same with the top layer.) Spread a 1/4 in. layer of preserves on the pastry. Roll out remaining pastry to 1/8 in. thickness and press onto top of preserves. Trim edges of pastry. (Or press dough in pieces onto preserves.) Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until pastry is golden, about 30 - 40 minutes. Cut pastry into 3 inch squares once cooled. (It is vitally important to let bars cool before cutting them, otherwise they break apart.)