This week Mauritius is celebrating its 44th Independence Day under the theme ‘Maurice Ile Durable‘. The official ceremony will be held at Champ-de-Mars where the chief guest, James Michel – the President of Seychelles – will grace the flag-raising event. The traditional parade by the police force and members of the civil service, followed by a cultural show performed by local artists, are among the activities planned for today afternoon to be enjoyed by our lepep admirab.

As usual, I try to bring out typical mauritian flavours on this blog. This year I chose to make our famous local pâtisserie. Yes, the one you used to fight for when it was time to distribute cakes after singing the well-rehearsed national anthem and patiently standing through the PM’s message in primary school. The cream-topped tartlet that you’d make a mess of on your school uniform as you tried to lick off the filling before throwing away the dry biscuit base. I’m sure you all have fond memories of this simple yet elegant pastry, the puits d’amour, rightly translated as ‘wells of love’.

The secret of making a good puits d’amour, I believe, is to find the correct balance between a tender, flaky crust and a rich, smooth pastry cream. Crème pâtissière, as it is commonly know, is a rich, thick custard made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch. Whipping cream can be added to give it a lighter texture. The recipe is from Joy of Baking which I have tweaked slightly in my attempt to recreate the puits as I remember it from my childhood days. A pretty good attempt, I’d say!

PUITS D’AMOUR

 

Ingredients:

For the Pie Crust

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup cake flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 sticks very cold salted butter

5-6 tbs ice water

For the  Crème Pâtissière

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

1/8 cup (20 grams) all purpose flour

Scant 3 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch

1/2 cup (115 ml) heavy cream, softly whipped (optional)

Dessicated coconut and glacé cherries, for decoration

 

Method:

  • In the work bowl of a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, add the flour, cake flour and baking powder.
  • Combine by pulsing the ingredients 5 or 6 times. Add butter and again, pulse 5 or 6 times for 3-5 seconds each.
  • There should be small lumps of butter throughout the flour, about the size of peas, or a little larger.

  • Through the feed-tube, with the machine running, quickly add 1/3 cup ice water.
  • After about 20-30 seconds, the dough should come together and form a ball on top of the blade.
  • If not, add a tablespoon of water. Do not over-process to ensure a flaky crust.

  • Put the dough, and any little scraps on the bottom of a bowl together and press into a ball.
  • Press down into a disc, about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • The dough, wrapped well, also freezes well for 30-45 days but defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.

  • When ready to use, dust each side of the dough with a little flour, then roll out on a lightly floured surface.
  • Rotate the disc, by quarter turns, as you roll to reach an even circle about 1/8-inch thick.
  • Transfer the dough to a deep 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate. Press the dough lightly along bottom and sides.

  • Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overlap. Fold the dough in half to create a double thickness along the rim.
  • Push lightly along the outer edge, leaving room for the dough to shrink on the rim during baking.
  • Because this is an all-butter crust, it must be very cold going into the oven.

  • Refrigerate the prepared shell for 30-60 minutes, or overnight lightly covered with plastic wrap.
  • Using a fork, prick the crust along the bottom sides. Bake in an oven preheated at 350 oF for about 30 mins.
  • When it turns golden brown, remove shell from oven and cool completely before filling.

  • For the crème pâtissière, mix sugar and egg yolks together in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl.
  • Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste.  Set aside.
  • In a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat.

  • Add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Pour through a strainer.
  • Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture.
  • Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. 

  • When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.
  • Remove from heat and immediately whisk thoroughly. Pour into a clean bowl.
  • Immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming and cool.

  • If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.  Beat before using to get rid of any lumps.
  • For a light pastry cream, fold in softly whipped cream with a wooden spoon. Makes about 1 cup.
  • Fill the prebaked crust with crème pâtissière and sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Top with glacé cherries.

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