Pineapple and coconut is one of my favourite combinations. Last year we went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, where I practically lived off piña coladas for four days! I’ve wanted to attempt a Vasseur-style escargot ever since I first set foot in Du Pain et Des Idées – I’m proud to say that this version is my very own creation. Since I’ve never actually made an escargot or pain au raisin before, these were a little experimental to say the least.
I decided on a croissant dough – Philippe Conticini’s croissant dough to be precise. Most pain au raisins contain a hidden crème patissière, so I searched for a simple coconut custard recipe. As for the pineapple…..a compote made with fresh pineapple, desiccated coconut and a splash of rum. Then finally, to give them a shiny finish, a Malibu sugar syrup. All the recipes are in fact Conticini’s…..sorry to be predictable, but it just so happened that he had an answer for everything I was looking for. I cooked the pineapple compote for a little longer than his recipe suggested because I wanted it very dry (I was worried that a wet compote would lead to soggy pastries). What I was left with was stickier and sweeter than Conticini himself probably intended, but it worked perfectly with the buttery dough. As soon as the escargots came out the oven, I brushed them with the Malibu syrup to give them a lasting shine. The Malibu’s optional of course – you could just make a plain syrup with sugar and water.
If you fancy attempting these, then I’d suggest starting the day before you want to serve them. On the first day make the croissant dough, pineapple compote and coconut custard, then all you have to do on the following morning is assemble the escargots before leaving them to rise…..and remember, you’re using croissant dough so they’ll need at least 2.5 hours to rise. The following recipes work together almost perfectly, i.e. one quantity of each recipe below will make approximately 16-20 large escargots, with no leftovers (although I will confess to eating a few spoonfuls of pineapple compote whilst working)…..
Step 1 – the croissant dough:
340g plain flour
10g fresh yeast
335g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
8g fine salt
55g caster sugar
40ml semi-skimmed milk
For the ‘poolisch’:
90g plain flour
20g fresh yeast
80ml semi-skimmed milk
Prepare the ‘poolisch’…..
– in a small bowl, mix the flour with the yeast
– add the milk then stir vigorously with a whisk to form a smooth paste
– cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1-1.5 hours (it will start to bubble)
Prepare the dough…..
– add the yeast to the bowl of an electric mixer, followed by the water and milk (at blood temperature). Cover with the flour, salt, sugar and 85g of the butter (softened slightly), then add the finished poolisch
– mix at low speed until the dough comes together, then at medium speed for a following 5 minutes (to start working the gluten). Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours (or until it has doubled in size)
– knock back slightly before forming into a neat ball. Wrap the ball of dough in film and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours
– place the remaining 250g butter between two sheets of baking paper. Use a rolling pin to work the butter into an exact square measuring 15cm x 15cm x 1cm-thick. Store in the fridge until ready to use
– roll the chilled dough into a rectangle 60cm x 20cm. Place the butter-block in the centre, then fold the two edges towards the centre of the butter, overlapping the edges of dough just slightly
– roll the package into a rectangle 60cm x 20cm. Letter-fold the rectangle, then rotate by 90°. Place the dough onto a paper-lined tray, wrap tightly and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour
– REPEAT THE LETTER-FOLD STEP TWO MORE TIMES, leaving the dough to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour between each roll and fold
…..once you’ve got to this point the hard part’s over, and you can safely leave your finished croissant dough (well wrapped up in film) in the fridge to rest while you tackle the compote and custard.
Step 2 – the pineapple compote:
370g fresh pineapple
270g coconut purée
40g desiccated coconut
100g caster sugar
15g lemon juice
– peel the pineapple and remove the core, then cut into small dice (of about 0.5cm)
– in a saucepan, mix together the remaining ingredients with the diced pineapple. Cook over a medium-low heat for about 1.5 hours, stirring from time to time
– when the compote is just starting to catch the bottom of the saucepan (i.e. has become very dry), remove from the heat and leave to cool completely
Step 3 – the coconut custard:
100g semi-skimmed milk
100g coconut purée
1 level soup-spoon plain flour
1 level soup-spoon cornflour
30g demerara sugar
2 egg yolks
15g unsalted butter
– bring the milk to the boil with the coconut purée, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes
– whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar, then add the flour and maizena – mix well until smooth and homogenous
– bring the milk to the boil again, then add half to the egg yolks and sugar – whisk well before adding to the remaining milk in the saucepan
– bring the custard to the boil, then cook for 2-3 minutes over a high heat, whisking continuously – remove from the heat when thick, then beat in the butter (cut into small pieces)
– pour the hot custard out onto a tray and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming – leave to cool completely in the fridge, then transfer to a piping bag
Step 4 – assembling the escargots:
Important stuff you’ll need…..
– a rolling pin (obviously) and a little flour for dusting
– a palette knife (for spreading the compote)
– a blunt(ish) knife (for cutting the escargots from the roll)
– two large baking trays lined with parchment paper
– one lightly beaten egg for ‘glueing’ the edge of the escargot roll, and for glazing the risen pastries before baking
Before you start rolling, give the pineapple compote a quick soften in the microwave – this will make spreading it across the dough much easier. I’d also suggest cutting your rectangle of croissant dough in half – return one piece to the fridge whilst you work with the other.
Dust the work surface very lightly with flour, and try to work as quickly as possible – remember that the warmer the dough gets, the more sticky (and therefore annoying) it will become. Roll the dough (the half batch) into a rectangle – 20cm x 25cm. Arrange the rectangle so that the shorter side (20cm) sits parallel to the edge of the work surface (you’re going to roll-up the escargot sausage starting at this side). Now to pile on the filling – start with two generous spoonfuls of compote and spread it around as evenly as possible, dragging it right to the edges so that every escargot gets a good portion. Follow suit with the coconut crème patissière, although go for a slightly lighter covering, otherwise it’ll ooze out all over the place later.
Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough up into a pineapple/coconut sausage. If some of the filling oozes out at the end, just scrape it off and set aside for the next roll, then brush the final edge with a little beaten egg just to help seal the seam. When you’re happy that the sausage is as evenly shaped and as tight as possible, take a large knife and cut each escargot off at 2cm intervals (to keep the pastries neat and tidy, wipe your knife between each cut).
Once you’ve successfully rolled, stuffed and cut both batches of dough, carefully transfer the finished escargots onto your prepared baking trays, leaving a good gap between each one. Very lightly cover them with cling film and leave them AT ROOM TEMPERATURE for at least 2.5 hours – the dough should rise by about 80% it’s original size. This part’s easy for me because there’s always something to do in a professional kitchen, but if you have an impatient nature, you may want to leave the house for a while. Do set a timer though, otherwise you might return to find pineapple compote on the ceiling.
They start to look impressive once they’ve risen, as all the layers in the dough suddenly become visible. Once you’re confident they’re ready to go, gently remove the cling film and brush them with beaten egg (just to give the dough a golden colour in the oven). I cooked them at 200°C for about 8 minutes, but the oven I use at work is very powerful – if you’re using a domestic model they may need a little longer. I also put an empty tray into the oven whilst it was pre-heating, into which I tipped some cold water when the escargots went in. This trick creates some steam, which is useful during the first few minutes as it will help keep the dough soft, allowing the pastries to expand more freely.
Whilst the escargots are baking, attack the Malibu syrup:
30g caster sugar
…..simply tip all the ingredients into a small casserole and stir together over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for 2-3 minutes, then leave to cool slightly. Transfer the cooked escargots to a wire rack to cool, then paint them liberally with the syrup. If you can wait any longer, they’re better eaten when cold.