Friday, June 19, 2015

Homemade Petits Beurres with strawberry buttercream filling

I’ve been on a pastry and cake baking bender these past few weeks and this blog has, unintentionally, turned a bit into a pastry blog. Now that summer fruits are making their appearance at the market one after the other, I can’t say I’ll be able to stop making sweet things. Let me assure you, though, savory dishes are still my number one love, but as I’ve said so many times in the past, good things need to be shared, therefore I couldn’t not share these strawberry filled petits beurres.

Petits beurres are butter biscuits originating from France. They are famous around the world and in Greece we not only dunk them in our morning or afternoon coffee but we also use them in all sorts of desserts. They are not too sweet, they are very crispy, a hard type of biscuit really, and that is why they are perfect for dipping.

Their signature rectangular shape with the scalloped edges, the small holes on the top and slightly burned corners is difficult to recreate if you don’t have a specific cookie cutter and, luckily, a few months ago, I had bought one in the hope that one day I would make these cookies myself. I finally did.

I remember when I was little, I loved petits beurres so much that I used to take the whole packet to myself. I’d start eating one after the other, always starting from the little scalloped edges all around the cookie and then, reluctantly, eating the center. I never would have thought then that I would make them myself one day.

They are so easy to make that I thought I’d fill them up with something scrumptious to make it more of a challenge so I chose to make a strawberry buttercream because strawberries are everywhere at the moment. The buttercream is not too sweet, due to the pleasant acidity of the strawberries, it’s smooth, fluffy and gets firm in the fridge, and, of course, incredibly tasty because, c’mon, strawberries!

I love filled biscuits in general and these really make my heart sing. The thing, however, in this case, is that given that petits beurres are hard biscuits, it’s a bit difficult to eat them without the filling squirting out from the sides. But you can do what I have always done with filled biscuits. Perhaps an unorthodox way of eating them but a successful one is to split the cookie and eat each filling-covered half on its own.

Of course you could make just the biscuits and eat them any way you like. Oh and the buttercream, you can use it to frost cakes and cupcakes. It’s up to you. Just make sure to have fun when you make them.

Homemade Petits Beurres with strawberry buttercream filling
Adapted from here

If you are wondering if it’s worth making these since you can buy them everywhere, let me tell you, they are so easy and quick to make and they’re so delicious, you’ll forget the store-bought ones even exist. Or maybe it’s just me. Because, you know I’m a sucker for making anything from scratch.

You can use other fruits instead of strawberry in the buttercream. Cherries, raspberries and blackberries work great as well as blueberries, but make sure you sieve the fruit purée in order to get rid of seeds and/or skins.

The recipe yields a little more buttercream than needed to fill the biscuits, but you can keep the rest in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks to use in any sort of cake or cupcake.

If you don’t have a petit beurre cookie cutter, cut the dough in small rectangular shapes and make small holes on top with a toothpick, or cut the dough in whatever shape you like.

Yield: 24 petits beurres (12 filled)


for the petits beurres
100 g caster sugar
100 g unsalted butter
60 ml water
¼ tsp salt
250 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder

for the strawberry buttercream filling
100 g fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
100 g unsalted butter, cut in cubes, at room temperature
75 g icing sugar
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract

Special equipment: rolling pin, two baking sheets, baking paper, cookie cutter, small food processor, fine sieve, stand mixer or hand-held mixer, piping bag and 1-2 cm round nozzle (alternatively use a Ziploc bag)


for the petits beurres
In a small saucepan, add the sugar, butter, water and salt and set over a low heat. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously until the butter has melted completely. Then pour into a medium-sized bowl and let stand for about 20 minutes or until slightly cooled, stirring every 5 minutes with a spatula.

Add the flour and the baking powder and mix with a spatula until you have a smooth and soft dough. Empty it onto a clean work surface and knead slightly with your hands to form a flattened disk. Then flatten it even more with your hands to create a thinner rectangle. This will make it easier to roll it out later. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Place it on top of another baking sheet. This will protect the bottom of the cookies and they will not burn.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap and place dough between two large sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll it out to 3mm thickness. Using the petit beurre cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them, spaced 2 cm apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 12-13 minutes or until they take on a golden color and the edges have browned. They shouldn’t feel soft to the touch on top.

Remove them from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

for the strawberry buttercream filling
Place strawberries in a food processor and process until you have a smooth purée. Sieve the purée into a bowl to remove the seeds and discard them.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract, and beat with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, for about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, start the mixer at a low speed and as it is beating, slowly add the strawberry purée. Mix until it is just blended. If the buttercream splits when you add the strawberry purée, do not fret, there’s a way to fix this. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until it comes together. It will take about 2 minutes.

assembling the filled petits beurres
When the biscuits have completely cooled, line pairs of them on a wire rack and, preferably using a piping bag fitted with a 1-2 cm round nozzle, pipe lines of buttercream on the bottom of one of the two biscuits of each pair. If you don’t have a piping bag, just use a Ziploc bag. Cut one of the corners to make a hole from which you can pipe out the buttercream.
Sandwich the two biscuits together and you’re set.

At this point the buttercream will be soft and it will be difficult to eat the filled cookies. Place the cookies in an airtight container and place them in the fridge. The buttercream will set and it will be easire to eat the biscuits. You can keep them there for 2 weeks.

If you only make the petits beurres without the buttercream, keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Light lunch

Sometimes I get in a rut with what I eat for lunch or as a snack. Even though there’s plenty of inspiration around me, I always end up having the same avocado and egg toast, or a ham and cheese toast, fruit with nuts etc. and my belly, and taste buds, is getting tired of them. Do you have the same problem? Eating the same thing over and over?

So, as I am trying to find ways to change things up, I thought it would be a good idea to post these options here too in case any of you out there are in the same predicament as me. Most of the time, they are not going to be exact recipes with precise ingredients, but rather more like guides and ideas about a super easy, light lunch or snack made with few ingredients and minimal effort.

I have shared some of these in the past that would definitely fit into this category, like the open-faced sandwiches with pasta elias (Greek olive paste) and tomatoes, or the ones with figs, mascarpone and prosciutto, and you can find all of them here.
Hope to inspire not only myself but you too along the way. Tell me what you think! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

So, let’s start with these two open-faced quick sandwhiches, brushette or tartines, call them what you like. They are made with whole-wheat, multigrain bread, Greek yoghurt, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs and a spicy sauce. I used harissa (a Tunisian hot red chilli paste) because I’ve been obsessed with it for a long time now—I actually have one great recipe with harissa that I plan to share with you very soon—but you can use the Indonesian sambal oelek, the Serbian ajvar or the Thai sriracha too.

Tomatoes and yoghurt with harissa on multigrain bread

Dark multi-grain bread, sliced
Greek yoghurt, full-fat (I used one with 10% fat)
Ripe tomatoes of any kind, I used baby Roma tomatoes, sliced or halved
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

Smear the bread slices with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Dot with some harissa depending how you handle heat. Sprinkle with the parsley and season with salt. Drizzle some olive oil on top.

Cucumber and yoghurt with dill oil on multigrain bread


for the dill oil
A large bunch of fresh dill, about 15 g
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt

Dark multi-grain bread, sliced
Greek yoghurt, full-fat (I used one with 10% fat)
Cucumber, unpeeled, thinly sliced
Fresh dill leaves, chopped


for the dill oil
Pick the leaves from the dill and discard the stalks. Place them in a small food processor and add the olive oil. Process until smooth and add the salt.
This yields a good amount of dill oil. You can keep it in the fridge, in a glass jar, for a couple of weeks. You can use this flavored oil not only on top of this tartine but also tossed in salads or on top of baked or barbecued fish.

Smear the bread slices with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt. Arrange the cucumbers on top. Drizzle some dill oil on top, sprinkle with the chopped dill and season with salt.

PS. Sorry you can’t see the dill oil in the photos I took because, silly me, I drizzled it on top of the yoghurt instead of on top of the cucumbers. It is similar to the mint oil I made a few years back for this tomato salad.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Strawberry tartlets (with strawberry crème légère and fresh strawberries)

Did you really think I would only make one dessert with strawberries this summer? Of course not. My appetite for them is insatiable.

Apart from the lovely and delicious fudgy cocoa brownies that I shared with you some days ago, I made these beauties too. I actually made these small tarts for a very special birthday in lieu of cake and they were a huge hit. How could they not be? I mean, look at them. They are so cute. And, let me assure you, they’re not just looks, their flavor is superb too.

The pastry for these strawberry tartlets is a pâte sucrée (sweet short crust pastry) with the addition of ground almonds that make it more interesting both in flavor and texture. It is crumbly, buttery and it melts in your mouth whereas the vanilla seeds in the pastry give their incomparable aroma and flavor that you can taste with every bite.

The filling is a crème légère which is a lightened crème pâtissière (pastry cream) that is made with strawberry purée, orange and lemon juice, which makes it slightly tart and a great complement to the sweet pastry base. Indeed it is the pâte sucrée that provides most of the sweetness in these tartlets given that the filling is not too sweet.

The crème légère is smooth, light and airy, and the flavor of the strawberry comes through loud and clear, making this a refreshing, tangy and mildly sweet dessert, with an incredibly delicate flavor that is understated yet powerful.

On top, the glorious fresh strawberries, like the jewels on the crown, decorate and complete the individual tartlets, as do the generous dusting of icing sugar and the sprinkling of chopped fresh mint that adds color and freshness.

These tartlets are summery, light and fresh, and have the authentic, unadulterated flavor of the strawberry which is all you want when you are promised a tart like this.

P.S. I have one last strawberry sweet treat planned to share with you, so, strawberry lovers, stay tuned!

Strawberry tartlets (with strawberry crème légère and fresh strawberries)
Adapted from Edd Kimber

This recipe yields more crème légère than you will need to fill the tarts; not very much, but enough to turn the leftover cream into the best strawberry popsicle ever. That’s what I usually do. Just pour the leftover cream into ice pop molds or small glasses and enjoy after a few hours.

The recipe yields 7 tartlets but I made 6 and 2 tiny ones.

Yield: 7 tarts


for the pâte sucrée (pastry)
275 g all-purpose flour
25 g ground blanched almonds (see note in the beginning of the recipe)
50 g icing sugar
Scraped seeds from ½ vanilla pod
¼ tsp salt
175 g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing the pans
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp ice cold water

1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp cream, full-fat (35%)

for the crème légère (filling)
1 large egg yolk
50 g caster sugar
10 g corn flour
5 g all-purpose flour
200 ml strawberry purée (from 280 g fresh strawberries, see note in recipe instructions)
40 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
40 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
150 ml cream, full-fat (35%)

500 g strawberries, to top the tartlets
Icing sugar, for sieving on top
Fresh mint leaves, chopped, for sprinkling on top

Special equipment: fine sieve, large food processor, rolling pin, plastic wrap, fluted tart pans (their base should be 8-9 cm in diameter) preferably with removable bottoms, baking paper, baking weights or dried beans, pastry brush, wire whisk, hand-held electric mixer


for the pâte sucrée (pastry)
Note: You can use already ground almonds or you can grind your own. I always grind my own almonds. In this case, I finely ground blanched almonds in a food processor, being careful not to reach the stage where they become wet. Then, I sieved them using a fine sieve in order to remove the bigger pieces and used them in the pastry.

• with a food processor
In a large food processor, add the flour, ground almonds, icing sugar, vanilla seeds and salt and process to combine. Add the cubed cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. In a bowl, beat lightly with a fork the egg yolk with the water and add it to the food processor. Process until just combined and you have a very crumbly dough that barely holds together. Do not over process the dough.

• by hand
In a large bowl, add the flour, ground almonds, icing sugar, vanilla seeds and salt and stir with a spatula. Add the cubed cold butter and, using two knives, a pastry cutter/blender or your fingertips, cut it into the flour, until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle. In a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork the egg yolk with the water and pour it in the well. Mix with your hands, working quickly, until just combined and you have a very crumbly dough that barely holds together. Don’t knead the dough.

Empty the pastry dough onto a clean work surface (do not knead it because you will activate the gluten in the flour which will make the pastry tough and it will shrink during baking), bring it together to form a disk and flatten it as much as you can, using a rolling pin, to form a somewhat thin rectangle. This way it will be quicker and easier to roll it out. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill, for about 1 hour.

At this point start making the crème légère (filling). See instructions further down.

Note: You can make the pastry a day before and keep it in the fridge.

Using a pastry brush, lightly grease the bottom and sides of your tart pans.

Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap and place dough between two large sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 2-3 mm, taking care to keep the dough neat and tear-free.
Remove the top sheet of baking paper and using a tart pan as your guide cut rounds of dough with a knife (the rounds should be 12-13 cm in diameter). You should have 6 rounds. Gather the scraps of dough, roll into a ball, form into a disk and place it in the fridge to firm up. Remove it after 15 minutes, roll it out and cut out your seventh tart base.

Note: Cut and line a trial pastry base to see how it fits in the tart pan. Continue cutting the rest accordingly.

Carefully and gently place the dough rounds onto the prepared tart pans, allowing them to fall little-by-little onto the pan base. Carefully and gently line the tart pans with the pastry, pushing it into the curved sides of each pan. If it tears, don’t fret; just use the overhanging dough to cover those tears. Using the back of a knife, cut the excess dough that’s hanging around the edges of the pans.
Place the tart pans in the refrigerator and chill the dough for about 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Take the tart pans out of the refrigerator and prick the base of the dough with a fork all around. Line the bottom and sides of the dough with a large enough piece of baking paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Place the pans on a baking sheet and on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the pastry cases for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small bowl, add 1 egg yolk and the cream, and mix well with a fork.
Take the pan out of the oven, remove the baking paper along with the pie weights from all the tart pans carefully not to tear the dough underneath. Brush the base and sides of the pastry cases well with the egg yolk-cream mixture and return pans to the oven while still on top of the baking sheet. Bake for another 7-8 minutes or until the dough is golden.

Note: The glazing of the pastry “seals” it, preventing it from getting soggy and soft when the filling is added.

Remove tart pans from the oven, transfer them onto a wire rack to cool completely and then remove the pastry from each pan leaving them onto the wire rack.

for the crème légère (filling)
While the pastry dough is resting, start making the crème légère, which will also need time to cool in the refrigerator before using.

Note: To make the strawberry purée, rinse and hull the fresh strawberries and add them to a food processor. Process until you have a smooth purée, pass it through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds and keep it in a bowl.

Crème légère means light cream and it’s a crème pâtissière with the addition of soft whipped cream. So to start, you first need to make a crème pâtissière.

In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, add the egg yolk, sugar, corn flour and flour and whisk. You will have something that resembles breadcrumbs.

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the strawberry purée, the orange juice and the lemon juice and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Pour the juices over the egg mixture and whisk vigorously to combine, making sure the mixture is lump-free.
Pour this custard mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until it comes to the boil. Then boil for a further 3-4 minutes until you have a thick mixture. It should have the texture of loose mayonnaise.
Empty the crème pâtissière into a clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap adheres to the surface of the cream which will prevent it from forming a skin.
Place it in the refrigerator for an hour or until it has cooled.

Note: You can make the crème pâtissière a day before and keep it in the fridge.

When the crème pâtissière has cooled, whip the cream with a hand-held electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Whisk the crème pâtissière with a wire whisk to loosen it and fold the whipped cream into the crème pâtissière gently, using a spatula. What you have now is the crème légère.
The texture of the crème légère must not be stiff but soft and fluffy like a light mousse.

Assemble the tartlets
Fill the tart shells with the crème légère mixture. As mentioned at the top, the remaining mixture can be used to make popsicles.
Hull the fresh strawberries and pat them dry so they don’t have any moisture on them. Arrange them on top of the tartlets.
Right before you want to serve the tarts, sieve some icing sugar on top and sprinkle with some chopped fresh mint leaves.

You can keep the tarts in the refrigerator, uncovered (or lightly covered with a piece of plastic wrap) for 3-4 days.