“Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know/What life is, you who hold it in your hands”; (Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)/”You let it flow from you, you let it flow,/And youth is cruel, and has no remorse/And smiles at situations which it cannot see./I smile, of course,/And go on drinking tea./Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall/My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,/I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world/To be wonderful and youthful, after all. — from T.S. Eliot’s “Portrait of a Lady”
If you haven’t noticed I’m going through a chrysalis of sorts. When I returned from Paris I felt as if I’d been sleeping all this time to finally wake up. And this awakening, truthfully, has me out of sorts, chilled me to bone, because I was all happy, all tra la la less until I had the gift of time, of perspective, to realize that it’s possible that I could be happier.
On the subway I had a daydream. I saw myself in a room surrounded by cameras, laptops, books and papers and I was designing food itineraries for every sort of traveler. Here I was, paired up with a food writer or chef, bringing the best of every state, city and country, to people who want to eat at little or no risk. For people like me who study Trip Advisor as if it were the Bible. For people like me who don’t have time for fastidious research or debating which review makes sense. And as I was thumbing through Bon Appetit, the name Tummy to Table was born. Frankly, I don’t know what this is yet. I don’t have plans to make any rapid transitions for at least another year, but something is happening and I won’t allow it to stop.
And as one beautiful, beautiful reader reminded me: 37 isn’t that old. I need to stop acting as if I’m 90. So thank you, dear reader, for giving me some much needed light during this strange, serendipitous time.
But back to Paris! When I came home, I happened upon Michael Paul’s evocative tome, Sweet Paris. An Australian who’s had a lifelong affair with Paris and all the sweets the city has to offer, you peer through his lens to not only bear witness to his stark photography (think an actinic-sepia) and how he infuses more passion for pastry into this electric city. You’ll not only learn about his choice spots (the usual suspects and the gems), but I can’t find a more curated and cultivated experience in terms of story, recipe and photography. You will feel as if you’ve been transported to Paris savoring hot chocolate and a hot slice of puffed pastry.
I had far too many chausson aux pommes, and the idea that I could possibly re-create this at home is magical. While the ingredients are slim, the precision is tantamount. Too little apple and you’re left with flat pastry. Too much, you get exploding turnovers. Luckily I won on the first go, which is telling is something.
And unless you have a PILE of time on your hands, please purchase unprocessed (pastry free of partially-hydrogenated oils) puff pastry. Making puff pastry reminds me of assembling jet engines, so keep it simple and delicious.
INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Michael Paul’s Sweet Paris
4 Granny Smith apples
60g (1/4 cup) cane sugar, plus extra for sprinkling*
pinch of salt
juice of 1/4 lemon
15g (1 tbsp) unsalted butter**
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1x350g (12 1/3oz) pack frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold
1 egg yolk beaten, for egg wash
Bakers use grams and weigh their ingredients to achieve precision of measurement. You’ll also find most European or professional-grade cookbooks will use the metric system. Thus, I used these resources for converting from grams to cups/tbsp: *grams to cups converter, **grams to tbsp butter converter.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. Peel and core the apples, and cut them into slices about 1/2inch thick. Toss with the sugar and salt, then squeeze over the lemon juice. Mix by hand or with a wooden spoon.
Put the apples in a saucepan with the butter and cinnamon and simmer initially on low heat until the apples release their juices and the sugar dissolves (2-3 minutes). Then turn up the heat to medium-low and cook until you start to reduce the liquid around the apples (2-3 minutes). Once they start to soften and are just about cooked, take off the heat and set aside to cool.
Since I purchased my pastry frozen, I defrosted it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before starting the turnovers. You want your pastry cold but not frozen, as you need to work with the dough to create the turnover oval shape. Please, I beg of you, don’t put the pastry in the microwave — this will only ruin the delicacy of the dough and will start to cook the pastry. Exercise some patience. Do like me and eat a parma ham and mozzarella sandwich. Distractions are key.
Roll out the chilled pastry to 5mm (1/5 inch) thick using a dusting of flour on the surface to prevent sticking. I’m paranoid about sticky dough so I also coated my rolling pin with flour. With a mug/saucer, cut four circles using a very sharp knife. Then roll out each circle to an oval shape (roll from the center out, center side) about 3mm (1/10 inch) thick.
Place a generous amount (1-2 tbsp) of the cooled apple mixture on half of each of the pastry ovals, being careful not to overstuff them. Truth be told, I’ve had exploding pastries in the past so I found myself removing some of mixture after I attempted to fold + crimp. Use a pastry brush to paint the egg wash all along the rim of the pastry. Fold over into half moon shapes and press the edges together. It’s best to crimp with the tines of a fork, or pastry crimper if you have one. Cut three small vents in the top of the pastry, brush the outside with the egg wash, and sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
Transfer the chaussons to a large baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden, buttery and flaky, and the apples oozing and sweet. Serve the warm with a pipping hot cup of coffee or tea.