Cheese and Shallot Pastries
Takes 40 minutes to make and 25-30 minutes to bake
• 250g puff pastry
• 1 egg white, beaten
• 200g unsalted butter
• 500g walnut-sized shallots, peeled
• 250g Fourme d’Ambert, or a creamy blue cheese that’s not too aggressive in flavor
• 115g fromage blanc (recipe follows)
• 125ml double cream
• 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Method: How to make cheese and shallot pastries
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C. Roll out the pastry to a 20cm (8 inch) circle. Using the tip of a knife lightly score a border all around the pastry about 2.5cm (1 inch) in from the edge, this will help lift the edges when cooking. Put on a lightly greased baking sheet. Prick the pastry base inside the scored border with a fork. Brush inside the border with the beaten egg white. Set aside.
- In a heavy-based frying pan, melt the butter until it’s foamy. Then add the shallots and cook until golden and caramelized (you can add a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar for an extra sweet-sour, zesty taste). Take off the heat and scoop the shallots into a bowl to cool to room temperature. Reduce any liquid in the pan to a thick golden syrup and add it to the shallots.
- In a bowl, mash the cheese with the fromage blanc and the cream. Season, then fold in the thyme. Spread over the pastry to where you have scored the edge, and then top with the shallots. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden. Serve warm.
Homemade Fromage Blanc
• 2 quarts whole milk, as fresh as possible
• 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
• 2 cups fresh buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
• 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
• Heavy Cream, for serving
In a large, heavy saucepan, add the milk and the cream for a richer fromage blanc. In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk and lemon juice and stir to combine well. Add the buttermilk-lemon juice mixture to the milk and begin to heat the milk, over low heat and very slowly, to 175 degrees F. While the milk is heating, stir only twice, making 2 strokes each time, with a heat-proof spatula or other flat utensil. Check the temperature often. As soon as the temperature reaches 175 degrees F, remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
Line a large colander with 2 layers of fine cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Gently ladle the curds and whey into the colander and allow to drain until the drips of whey slows, about 2 minutes. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together to form a hanging pouch, and hang pouch over a bowl and allow to drain until the cheese reaches the desired consistency.
Serve as is, with preserves, honey or fresh fruit, or add salt or fresh herbs, to taste, and enjoy as a savory appetizer. If a rich cheese is desired, spoon or pour a bit of heavy cream over the top before serving. Also, if a very smooth product is desired, beat the cheese briefly with an electric mixer before serving.
Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 week. If cheese is marinated in oil with fresh herbs, it will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.