A few weeks ago I started a new job here in Brussels – after more than 10 years I have left the world of law firms behind and joined the in-house legal department of a really exciting company. While the learning curve will be steep, I am thrilled to have this opportunity. In part, because it looks like I may finally have something resembling a work-life balance (which will hopefully also mean I will have more time to develop and share recipes here). So this also explains the radio silence in this space for the past few months – as it turns out, running a supperclub while doing multiple rounds of interviews for a new job while also travelling all over Europe for your current job is somewhat time-consuming (and tiring).
One of the perks of my old job is that as a firm we tried to meet colleagues from offices in other countries in person as often as possible. Every 3-4 months or so, there would be some form of an internal conference, usually in a really nice location. One such occasion took me to Lisbon last March.
I had never been to Lisbon so decided to extend my stay by a few days. Alas, I fell ill on my first day in Portugal. Plus, it was March, so still fairly cold and quite wet. But in between bouts of feeling horrible, I tried to explore as much as I could. One day I even made it to Belem, to try the famous Pasteis de Belem (and it being early in the morning on a rainy Monday meant I did not have to wait in line). Aside from stuffing myself with all the pasteis and bacalhau my stomach would allow me to, I also tried a new to me Portuguese pastry, so-called Palmiers Recheados.
It’s basically a Palmier sandwich with a filling of the typical Portugese eggy custard called Doce de ovos. Unlike the Palmiers in France, these Palmiers are shaped slightly differently – using shorter strips of puff pastry lined up one behind another, which gives the Palmiers a rectangular shape. And turning a couple of Palmiers into an eggy custard sandwich is as simple as it is delicious – think of it a bit like a Millefeuille but crunchier and easier to eat!
These past few days I finally got the time to make some Palmiers Recheados. Instead of the more typical eggy custard, I went for a black sesame custard because I cannot resist their nutty flavour and dramatic colour. And they turned out as delicious as I remembered them from my trip to Lisbon.
Palmiers Recheados with Black Sesame Custard
Makes 8 -10 depending on size
Notes: This recipe requires black sesame seed paste (unsweetened). You can find this in most Asian supermarkets and even in some health food stores (often called Black Tahini). You could also try and make your own but you will need a very strong food processor for this. I made my own black sesame seed paste for this recipe and it took way longer to make then it takes to make other types of seed and nut butters. If you prefer a plain custard you can simply omit the black sesame paste. Other flavours that I am sure would be delicious would be salted caramel or maybe a lemon or orange zest flavoured custard, so feel free to experiment a bit. You could also use a plain custard but sandwich some fruit between the Palmiers – e.g. fresh or roasted apricots or other stone fruits.
For the Palmiers
500g of puff pastry*
4 tbsp toasted black sesame seeds
A pinch of sea salt
A small bowl of water
*Feel free to use ready-made puff pastry but just make sure you buy all butter puff pastry (check the ingredients) – the one made with vegetable fat always seems to leave a weird film in my mouth and doesn’t taste nearly as nice as the all butter ones.
For the Black Sesame Custard
50g black sesame seed paste
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a sheetpan with parchment paper.
If using homemade puff pastry, roll out the pastry until it is no more than a couple of mm in thickness, while trying to keep as close to a rectangular shape as possible.
Lightly brush the puff pastry with water all over. In a bowl combine the sugar, black sesame seeds and salt. Scatter the sugar mixture all over the puff pastry. Cut the puff pastry into long strips of ca. 5cm in width. Next, cut each strip into smaller strips ca. 1.5cm in width. For each individual palmier, line up 10 of these 5×1.5cm strips one after another. Place the palmiers on the prepared sheetpan, leaving some space between them as they will expans in the oven, and bake for 18-10 minutes, turning once. Let cool completely before removing from the sheetpan and placing on a drying rack to cool completely and repeat this process with the remaining palmiers.
While the first batch of palmiers is in the oven, make the toasted black sesame seed custard. In a medium saucepan heat the milk with the black sesame paste. Use a whisk to thoroughly combine the milk and the black sesame paste.
In a separate bowl whisk together the egg with the sugar and cornstarch. Once the milk starts to steam, pour a little bit of the hot black sesame milk over the eggs and whisk to combine (this ‘tempering’ of the eggs prevents the egg curdling once stirred into the hot milk). Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook the custard on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard has thickened considerably. Scrape into a bowl and press a piece of clingfilm directly against the surface of the custard (this will prevent a skin from forming on the custard).
Once both the palmiers and the custard have come to room temperature, briefly whisk the custard to loosen it and then spread half of the palmiers with a couple of tablespoons of custard before placing another palmier on top of the custard.
Note these are best eaten when freshly made as the palmiers will slowly soften after being filled with the custard.