Friday, March 31, 2017

Fantaisies de Fées (Fairy Fancies): Pastry in Style

Fairy Fancies
The Recipe
Source: Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families, Reduced to a System of Easy Practice (London, 1857):

About Eliza Acton (1799-1859)
Acton is considered to be a highly influential and accomplished British cookbook writer. Ironically, Acton originally wanted to be a poet. When she presented some of her verses for review to a publisher, she was told that they were not interested in her poetic efforts but would rather  she offer a cookery book for publication. Acton conceded and by 1845 published Modern Cookery. She revised the book and it was reprinted in 1855 and several more times until well past her death. Modern Cookery is one of my favorite books because it contains a lot of illustrations as the recipe for Fairy Fancies demonstrates. Though it is sad to think that she never got to fulfill her dreams of becoming a notable poetess, it is fortunate that she was able to create such a lasting and informative cookery book.

Eliza Acton lived in Suffolk, Kent, London, and even spent some time in France. Because her experience living in many places, Acton's recipes are interesting to read and sometimes promoted as French, albeit grounded in English roots. Some examples are recipes for Truffled Butter, Truffles Sausages, Quenelles (French forcemeat), and a French Receipt for Boiling Ham. This recipe for Fantaisies de Fées (Fairy Fancies) is a perfect example of her tendency to "Frenchify" her recipes to make them seem more exotic and exciting. However, this recipe needs no embellishment--it is truly beautiful and is a genuine work of art!

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Fairy Fancies
Ingredients for the Short Crust:
  • 8 Ounces All-Purpose Flour 
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Ounces (1 Stick) Butter, Cut Into Small Pieces
  • 6 Tablespoons Cold Milk
Ingredients for Assembling the Pastry:
  • 2 Pieces of Parchment Paper, About 12" x 16" in Size Each
  • 4 Wide Mouth Canning Jars with Lids Fastened
  • 1 3.5-inch Round Biscuit Cutter
  • 1 2.75-inch Round Biscuit Cutter
  • 1 Egg White 
  • Pastry Brush
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Each of 4 Different Fillings, of Various Colors (Apple, Strawberry, Raspberry, Black Currant, Red Currant, Peach, Apricot, etc and/or Lemon Curd, Clotted Cream, Fruit Flavored Whipped Creams, etc)
1. Directions to Make the Short Crust:
  • To make the short crust, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers to work the butter evenly into the dry ingredients. The butter should be no larger than the size of peas.
  • Add the milk to the flour/butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together in a ball.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, complete step 2 (Directions to Make the Pastry Template).
2. Directions to Make the Pastry Template:
  • Lay the piece parchment paper on a flat work surface. Place the Mason jars upside-down on the paper as follows:
  • Trace around the perimeter of the jars.
  • Remove the jars. This is how the template should look:

  • Then cut out the template and set aside.

3.  Directions for Assembling the Pastry:
  • Heat the oven to 375º F.
  • Place the remaining piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and roll out the pastry dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. 
  • Lay the paper template on top of the dough. Weigh the paper down with some lightweight kitchenware to keep the paper from moving and lifting up such as this:
  • Using a sharp knife, cut around the template. Your finished dough should look like this:
  • Pull the parchment paper underneath the pastry dough cut-out onto the cookie sheet.
  • Roll out the the dough again and make the thickness a bit bigger. Using the larger 3.5-inch biscuit cutter, cut four circles. 
  • Using the  smaller 2.75-inch biscuit cutter, cut four circles out of the larger pastry circles thus transforming the larger circles into rings.
  • Place the  rings into position on the larger pastry base. Line up the circles so that they reach to the edges of the base. Trim off any areas of the base that are not centered or sit outside the ring. 
  • Remove the rings, and cover the top of the base with egg white using a pastry brush. Return the rings to their original positions and cover them with egg white, as well. Dock the insides of each circle to prevent the pastry from puffing up during baking.
  • Bake for 13-14 minutes, until the pastry just starts to develop a get golden color. Remove from the oven and place on a serving dish.
  • Fill each of the holes in the rings with a different color/flavor filling. 

  • Davidson, Alan, The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford University Press, 2014)

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