Jésuites, the three-cornered hat of the pastry kingdom

November 7th, 2007

My first encounter with a Jésuite left me with a sugar-dusted nose. A tray of the long, triangular pastries in the window of an Île de France bakery-café lured me inside, and a few minutes later I emerged with a floral-printed pack of pastries. Michel and I took a table on the sidewalk, ordered coffee and peered into the box: “How do we eat these?” was my husband’s first query.  The Jésuites cantilevered over the rim of a plate; the server brought spoons, but I was wondering if a steak knife and long-tined fork would be better weapons for approaching this iced, sugar-topped puff-pastry.  The American way, go ahead – use your fingers, would avoid having pastry corners shooting across the table, so that was my last resort:  pick it up, bite off one of the corners.  Flakes of puff pastry drifted across the table, the buttery-crisp corner melted in my mouth and traces of sugar stuck to the nose above my triumphant smile.  I took a good look at the pastry for future reference, wondering who first decided that eighteenth century Jesuit hats would provide a template for an almond-cream filled pastry.

Having conquered question number one – eating it – I moved on to question number two: how can I reproduce the frangipane filling and triangular pastry?  For the Jésuite is a classic pastry-baker’s item, rarely made at home.  You can begin with puff pastry, pâte feuilletée, which can be bought ready to roll.  Or chill a slab of marble, mix flour and chilled butter, (layer dough with butter chips) and fold the sticky pastry several times to ensure flakiness.  My first effort at this type of puff pastry was on a hot August morning, not the ideal timing and overall, a discouraging experience.  But I recently bought a pre-rolled pastry that was a decent substitute, enough for making four Jésuites.

To form the Jésuites, cut the circle (about enough to make a 10″ pie crust) of pastry down the center, then across the center making four equal quarters. Slice each quarter in half and separate. Prepare the frangipane: Cream 50 grams/1/4 cup of soft unsalted butter, add 50 grams/1/4 cup of sugar and 50 grams of ground/powdered almonds, whisking this into a frothy mixture. Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of almond essence, (add 2 more yolks at this point if you want a richer filling), and 2 tablespoons of rum or brandy. This can be made in advance and chilled. With a small pastry brush (I use a Hungarian feather brush from Williams Sonoma), moisten the edges of 2 triangles, spread with the frangipane, place one triangle on top of the other and seal the edges by pressing gently. Repeat this with the remaining triangles. The fingerprints will disappear as the puff pastry expands in the oven. Heat the oven to 205°c/400°f. Very lightly oil a baking sheet (use almond oil if you have it) and place the 4 pastries with 2″ spacing.  At this point, you can brush with milk and sprinkle flaked almonds on them, or go a step farther with a light meringue of: 1 egg white mixed with 25 grams icing sugar then topped with the flaked almonds (or crushed praline!).  Bake the Jésuites for about 8 minutes, then lower the heat to 160°c/324°f for another 8 to 10 minutes.  Take the golden Jésuites out of the oven and dust with icing sugar.  Some French bakers even add a fine top layer of white frosting – gilding the lily, perhaps.
Next question: Frangipane who?

2 Comments »

  1. Matt McCoy says

    Google brought me here in search of this classic pastry recipe.

    As I write this post I have gotten no further than this page, not even to the pantry, because I was captured by the length and continuity of the Post Archives.

    The abundance of work, joy, sweat, creativity and fun you have’ve had over the six plus years you have been at it, is made evident there for those who have “fought (and been gored by) the bull”.

    A tip of the tricornered hat to you.

    July 16th, 2012 | #

  2. marolyn says

    M.McCoy: So pleased that you found the Vagabond’s ramblings of interest…and thanks for your encouraging words as I get back on track. Watch this space for fresh notes, coming soon.

    July 21st, 2012 | #

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