Category Archives: Marjolaine

Making Marjolaine Step 7: Building It

If I were to try to describe Joe Pastry heaven to you, it would go a little something like this: a warm spring afternoon, the kids and the missus are taking a nap. There’s a cold bottle of suds open, and a big ol’ pastry to build.

That was my Sunday, friends, and here’s what it looked like. I used a spatula to loosen the cake (you can also employ meringue, recipe below) from the sides of the sheet pan, then slid it — still on the parchment — onto my work surface.

I got out my ruler and cut the cake into four equal strips (the exact size isn’t really important as long as the dimensions match)…

…then I trimmed off the hard, crusty ends…

…and started stacking. I took one layer and placed it on a serving plate.

Then I cut two narrow pieces of parchment about the length of the bottom layer and tucked one under each edge. These were my “drop cloths”, so to speak.

On the bottom went the ganache. I applied a nice thick layer, about 1/4 inch thick, paying special attention to the corners because the tendency is always to heap up filling in the center (this ends up giving the pastry a drop-shouldered look that isn’t terribly appealing).

Once the ganache was applied, I put on the next layer…

…and applied my prailine filling. Again, I put it on fairly thick, and squared off the corners and edges.

Then I put on the next sheet…

…and the rum pastry cream.

Then I applied the top layer. At this point I had several choices. I could have left the pastry as-is with maybe a dusting of powdered sugar on the top, however I decided to get a bit more jiggy widdit.

I had just enough ganache left in the bowl to do the top. I gave the ganache — literally — a two-second shot in the microwave to loosen it, then spread it quickly on. (I should point out here that ganaches tend to seize when you heat them like that, so if yours takes on a grainy or greasy texture, whisk in a couple of drops of cream to re-establish the emulsion).

Since I didn’t have enough ganache to do the whole thing, I applied some extra pastry cream to the sides…

…then patted on some peeled and sliced almonds.

It’s a nice look, I think. What were my other options? Some people frost theirs completely with ganache or buttercream. Others cover theirs top-to-bottom with pastry cream and nuts. It occurred to me that pastry cream with patted-on leftover praline would be very nice too.

But where was I now? Oh yes, I gently slid out my strips of parchment paper…

…then went around and stuck on a few extra almond slices where there were bald spots. Done!

This finished pastry benefits from an overnight in the fridge, and can be kept as long as four or five days. It’s best served chilled, though I like to take it out of the refrigerator perhaps twenty minutes before serving to allow the ganache top to soften.

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Making Marjolaine Step 6: The Flavored Cream Fillings

So, it’s the day of your marjolaine “build” and it’s time to make your fillings. Marjolaine typically has two different cream fillings (usually pastry cream or buttercream, but I’ve also seen whipped cream versions), one flavored with nuts, nut paste or praline, and the other flavored with vanilla and a liqueur of some type. What’s below is what I like to do. I put about a cup and a half of pastry cream in a bowl and add maybe half the ground praline.

And stir.

Next I put another cup and a half of pastry cream in another bowl. To that I add about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and maybe a tablespoon of rum.

And stir.

And now I’m ready to rock and roll.

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Making Marjolaine Step 5: The Layers

Since opinion is divided on which version of marjolaine is superior, the one made with sponge cake or the one made with meringue, I decided to demonstrate both:

For Sponge Cake Layers

You’ll need:

6 egg whites
3 ounces (1 cup) toasted, sliced almonds
4.5 ounces (1 cup) toasted hazlenuts
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
1.25 ounces (1/4 cup) flour

Begin by preheating your oven to 450. Then grease a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (trim it if you must in order to ensure it lays flat). Combine the nuts, sugar and flour in the bowl of your food processor and process until finely ground.

Now put six room-temperature egg whites into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whip.

Whip on medium-high to about the soft peak stage and add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to help stabilize the foam.

Whip until stiff (but not dry).

Now start folding in your nut mixture in three or four additions.

You’ll have something that looks about like this when you’re done. Don’t worry about incorporating every last tiny pocket of nuts into the batter, since you’ll do the last bit of mixing as you spread the batter around on the pan.

Speaking of which, get a little fussy about this step. Spread the batter around as evenly as you can. Pay particular attention to the corners, since they usually get short-changed. If you’ve ever watched a contractor smoothing concrete, that’s about the level of scrutiny you should apply here. A toothpick is a handy tool for checking your batter depth at different spots around the pan.

Bake the batter for 7-9 minutes until it turns a golden brown, a bit longer if you’d like your layers a little firmer and drier.

Let the finished layer cool in the pan. Lightly covered, it will keep overnight at room temperature.

For Meringue Layers

Most people in the know believe meringue layers are truer to Fernand Point’s original. They have a different texture of course, but one of the big advantages to them is that they give you a finished pastry with more distinct layers. Begin by preheating your oven to 350, You’ll need:

8 egg whites
3/4 cup of your toasted nut mixture (hazelnuts or almonds or a mixture of both)
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar, divided
3 tablespoons (about 1 ounce) all-purpose flour

Combine the nuts, flour and HALF the sugar in the bowl of a food processor…

…and process until finely ground.

Now put your egg whites into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whip.

Whip on medium-high to about the soft peak stage and add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to help stabilize the foam.

Whip for a few seconds, then add the rest of the sugar in a steady stream with the machine running.

About 30 seconds later you’ll have a meringue:

Now start folding in your nut mixture in three or four additions.

You’ll have something that looks about like this when you’re done. Again, don’t worry about incorporating every last tiny pocket of nuts into the batter, since you’ll do the last bit of mixing as you spread the batter around on the pan.

Scoop the batter onto your greased sheet pan and spread the batter as evenly as you can.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the meringue turns a golden brown.

Let the finished layer cool in the pan for at least an hour, until it’s not longer sticky to the touch. Lightly covered, it will keep very well overnight at room temperature.

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Making Marjolaine Step 4: The Crème Fraîche Ganache

What, you mean you didn’t know you could make ganache with crème fraîche? Indeed you can, and a splendidly rich, smooth, sweet and tangy experience it is too. Some people make ganache using nothing but crème fraîche (or sour cream) for the dairy component. I myself prefer a mellower 50-50 blend of crème fraîche and heavy cream. For this week’s marjolaine project you’ll use half a cup (4 ounces) of crème fraîche, half a cup (4 ounces) of heavy cream and 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips.

Most of the time when I make ganache I use a microwave to slowly heat my mixture of cream and chocolate. For a “sour” ganache, however, I bring the dairy to a boil first. Why? Partly because it helps liquify the crème fraîche or sour cream, but also because I’m planning to let this ganache cool at room temperature overnight and I’d just as soon all the lactic acid bacteria in the bowl were dead. They don’t really pose much of a threat, and they’d have a hard time surviving amid all that sugar and fat anyway, but they way I see it, the fewer active bacteria in my finished pastry, the better. So adiós muchachos.

Combine the dairy ingredients in a small sauce pan…

…whisk them together and put the pan over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.

Pour it over your chips…

…and stir…

…until it looks about like this.

I make this the evening before I make marjolaine, then let it sit on the counter to slowly firm until I use it the next day.

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Making Marjolaine Step 3: Make the Praline

Praline is what we’re going to use to flavor one of the layers of pastry cream. It’s a simple, fun and kinda silly part of the marjolaine-making process. Start by greasing a sheet pan or cookie sheet. You can use butter, oil or cooking spray like I’m doing here. (A Silpat comes in very handy here if you own one).

Mix together half a cup of your toasted almonds and hazelnuts and pour them onto the greased pan.

Now make a good, smoky caramel out of half a cup of sugar and a two or three tablespoons of water (instructions on caramel-making are under the Pastry Components menu to the right). All you really need to do is swirl your moistened sugar over high heat in a non-stick pan until it looks about like this:

Pour that over your nut mixture…

…and allow it to cool. Kinda pretty, yes?

Now wreck it. Scrape it up with a heavy scraper, not caring at all if it breaks…

…because all you’re going to do is put it into your food processor…

…and grind it to pieces.

This is the silly part I mentioned. Why go to the trouble of making something only to destroy it? I dunno, ask Fernand Point. Keep this in an airtight container for many days if need be.

If you want to take this all the way down to praline paste, that’s another equally viable way to go.

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Making Marjolaine Step 2: Make the Pastry Cream

One batch of pastry cream as listed on the components menu to the right, with one exception: leave out the vanilla bean. You can keep this in the fridge, covered, for days. Oh, and if you prefer making your marjolaine with buttercream, make a batch of plain Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream. I know, this is a French pastry. Classic French buttercream, however, is too heavy for this pastry.

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Making Marjolaine Step 1: Toast The Nuts

This is one of those small steps that has a big impact on flavor. Yes, it’s an extra step, but I think it’s worth it since nuts play such a big part in the overall flavor profile. Preheat your oven to 400 and toast 1 1/2 cups (4.5 ounces) of sliced almonds for 7-8 minutes until they look about like this:

Then toast 1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) of hazelnuts until they look about like this:

Cool and…done! You’ll use these in two different components of the pastry. These will keep for several days.

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On Building Marjolaine

I know what I wrote below about Point’s philosophy of food, but trust me, if you try to prepare all the components of a marjolaine and build it in one afternoon you’ll go crazy (or worse, get sloppy). In total it takes about three to four hours. Two or three to make the base components and one to build it. Now me, I like to spread this sort of thing out over several days if I can. I suggest you do, too. You’ll pay more attention to each piece and the craftsmanship with show in the finished product.

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