But on that Saturday it happened to be open house and the place was filled with families and teachers playing music and talking about classes, styles, and ensembles. I felt like one of the giddy little kids sitting next to me on the floor watching the adults play and trying to pick which instrument I would like to learn. Cello? Percussion? Electro-acoustic composition?
My head spun and I found myself in a large room, a library full of old leather-bound books, clean but slightly rundown, spots on the ceiling revealing the missing chandeliers of another time. A husky asian boy was singing an aria from a French opera, I don’t know the composer but it was a comic scene with a chorus of boys and girls that rehearsed a call and response, alternating jeering and cheering the soloist. I lost track of time and hours went by like this, going from door to door…
Saké and honey roasted asparagus puff tarts
with goat cheese & basil + cured egg yolk | Serves 6
The cured egg yolks:
These take a few days to make (4 to 6 days in total). If you haven’t planned making this recipe ahead of time, you could replace the grated egg yolks by a dry cheese such as parmesan for the puff tarts. This is a great way to consume unused yolks if you made meringues with the egg whites for example. Once dried, they keep for 1 month in the fridge in an airtight container.
- 6 egg yolks
- 250g fine salt
- 200g sugar
- In a bowl, combine the salt + sugar and mix well. Lay half of this blend in a small baking pan (large enough to lay 6 egg yolks app. 4cm apart from each other).
- With a whole egg or a spoon, make 6 indents in the powders and place the whole egg yolks in each of them.
- Gently cover the yolks with the other half of the salt + sugar blend. Cover with cling-film and store in the fridge for 4 days. The powders will absorb all the water from the yolks that will turn solid.
- After 4 days, carefully brush off the powders and retrieve each egg yolk. Lay them on a baking pan or rack and let them dry out in a less than 70°C hot oven for app. 2-3 hours. Otherwise, you can leave them in the oven, turned off, for another 2 days to obtain the same result.
- Check that the egg yolks have thoroughly hardened and rinse them under cold water to rub off the remaining salt & sugar. Grate over pies, pasta, cheeses, savory crêpes, etc.
The puff pastry:
This is the classic French puff pastry recipe. It is time-consuming — mainly because of the necessary resting time between the different steps — but so delicious! You could also buy it ready-made, frozen or fresh, from a supermarket or your local bakery.
- 220g all-purpose flour
- 5g salt
- 35g unsalted butter
- 110g water
- 135g special layering butter or regular butter, as “dry” as possible
- 2g white vinegar (optional — it helps the pastry last longer)
- In a bowl, work the flour, salt and 35g butter until crumbly. Add the water and vinegar and knead until homogenous. If you have a stand-mixer, mix all the ingredients together until homogenous using the hook. Make sure you don’t over-knead the dough as to not give it too much “body” which would make it too elastic. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate.
- Place the layering butter on half of a polypropylene sheet or parchment paper and fold the other half of the sheet over it. Using a rolling pin, start flattening the butter down and fold the paper around it like an envelope so that the butter doesn’t escape. Roll out evenly into a 15×15 cm square (app. 5 mm thick). Leave it wrapped in the paper and refrigerate for at least 30 min. It is important the butter is quite hard and cold when you use it next to get the best result!
- On a clean work surface, roll out the dough into a 15×30 cm rectangle. Dust your work surface with a little flour to make sure it doesn’t stick. Unwrap the butter and place it in the middle of the rectangle. Fold as shown in the drawing below and rotate by a quarter of a turn.
- On the sides of your square, make an incision with a knife as shown below. This will allow the butter to spread out more evenly. Keeping the same width, roll out the rectangle until it’s app. 45-50 cm long. Make sure you don’t flatten the dough too much or else the butter will be incorporated and you won’t get the final “thousand leaves” effect. You can trim both edges with a knife.
- Fold in three as shown below (folding the #1 side first and then the #2 side over the others). This is a “simple fold”, tour simple in French. Roll out again and perform a second fold in the same way. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Redo step 5 twice (fold twice and refrigerate an hour; then fold twice again).
Note: as a slightly faster alternative, instead of preparing the layering butter separately, you could knead it directly in your dough. Use the same quantities of flour, salt and water and cut 200g unsalted butter into small cubes (app. 1 cm), frozen for 10 minutes. Roughly knead all the ingredients together, by hand or using the hook in a stand-mixer (the butter shouldn’t be quite incorporated to the flour), shape into a rectangle and leave it to rest for 5 minutes. Fold the dough by itself as explained above 6 times and roll out into a 40x35cm rectangle. This is called a feuilletage rapide.
The roasted asparagus tarts:
- 1.3kg green asparagus
- 1 tbsp liquid honey
- 2 tbsp saké
- 2 tsp raw cane sugar
- 200g fresh goat cheese
- A few fresh basil leaves
- fleur de sel & black pepper
- Rinse the asparagus under cold water, pat-dry with a clean cloth and chop off the bottom of the stem.
- In a small pan or in the micro-wave, melt and mix the honey, saké, raw cane sugar and a pinch of salt. Make sure the liquids don’t evaporate nor reduce too much. Pour over the asparagus to coat them in this glaze.
- Roll out the puff pastry to app. 3-4mm thick into a rectangle and lay it out on a lined baking sheet. Be careful! Once rolled out or trimmed, this type of dough cannot be kneaded and rolled out again like regular pastry because of the folding process. Cut into 6 even squares. Poke holes on the whole surface of the dough with a fork and decorate the sides with a fork or a spoon if you don’t want the pastry to raise too much while baking. Don’t throw away the trimmings! They’re delicious baked by themselves too… You can twist them to give them a nice shape and sprinkle them with poppy seeds and/or parmesan cheese. They will bake more quickly than the feuilleté so take them out of the oven after app 10-15 min or until nicely golden.
- Lay even amounts of goat cheese on each square, leaving an app. 1cm border. Add the asparagus, trimming them if necessary, as well as a few basil leaves, sparing a few for serving. Season with salt & pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for app. 20-25 min or until the pastry is golden and the asparagus slightly caramelized. Grate some cured egg yolk over the puff tarts and add some fresh basil before serving.