One my favorite things about Penn Appétit is receiving different products and cookbooks from companies, and as Culinary Director, I get the opportunity to test them all out. Recently, Nielsen-Massey sent us samples of their vanilla, orange, and rose extracts. Not only does Nielsen-Massey make fantastic products, but they also have a foundation to support education and leadership development, especially in the culinary arts. They are awesome!
When I sat down to look at the extracts, I thought to myself, what can I do with rose, orange, and vanilla extract? Too much rose can taste soapy, but just enough can enhance a pastry or a dish to make it delicate and elegant. Orange and vanilla are the same way – these extracts are made from alcohol, so too much can completely ruin your palate. (*fun fact, you can make your own extracts at home with vodka!).
The very first pastry I learned how to make at Le Cordon Bleu were “Diamants” – shortbread cookies rolled in sugar to make them glisten like diamonds. The original recipe included fresh orange zest, so I thought the rose and orange extracts would be a perfect edition.
I made two batches, each with a separate extract, and they were delicious – crumbly and buttery like any comforting shortbread cookie, but with a hint of rose and orange for that extra oomph. It felt like I should be having an afternoon tea!
This recipe is beyond easy and makes a lot of cookies:
225g butter, cubed and softened
100g powdered sugar
Zest from ¼ orange
¼ tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
½ tsp Nielsen-Massey orange OR rose extract
pinch of salt
1 egg, whisked to create egg wash
1. Preheat the oven to 320F. In a bowl, cream the softened butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest, salt, vanilla extract and either rose or orange extract.
2. Add the flour and incorporate with a pastry scraper or your hands (yes, use your hands). Once the dough starts to come together but it is still crumbly and dry, pour onto a clean work surface and use the heel of your hand to roll and push dough onto the table. It should become paler and form a ball. It is important to streak the dough across the table with the heel of your hand to fully incorporate the ingredients – this process is called fraisage.
3. Divide dough into quarters and roll gently into logs. Push gently on the ends to even out and place on a pan with parchment paper. The dough may crack if it is too dry – you can just wet your fingers and continue to fix. Place dough in the fridge until it is cold.
4. Once the dough is cold, lightly brush the logs with your egg wash (just whisk an egg together) and roll in sugar so the surface is coated.
5. Cut off the ends of the log so the face has no sugar, and cut into ½ cm wide disks. Place onto a baking sheet (they spread a little bit), and bake for approximately 13 minutes. They should not have much color. Let cool and enjoy!
After making the Diamants, I decided to test the Nielsen-Massey extracts with one of my favorite pastries: The French tart. Once you know how to make a solid pâte sucrée (sweet pastry dough) and properly line a ring mold, you are golden. An empty tart shell is a blank canvas that you can fill with anything your heart desires. I decided to adapt a recipe I have to make a rose crème pâtissière (pastry cream). It may sound fancy, but you basically temper eggs with hot milk and cornstarch to make a custard. I topped the tart with sliced strawberries, which complemented the rose really nicely. Try it out – it is easy to make but looks really impressive (*hint hint* the secret to baking 😉 ).
Strawberry Rose Tart
120g butter, cold and cubed
65g powdered sugar
25g ground almonds
¼ tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
Rose Pastry Cream
500ml 2% milk
80g egg yolks
30g custard powder or cornstarch
1-2 tsp Nielsen-Massey rose extract – taste and add to your liking
1. Preheat oven to 310F.
2. Add the flour, powdered sugar, ground almonds, salt, and cubed butter into a bowl. With your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients. Pinch between your fingers and rub between your palms to sablage – create a sand-like texture. There should be no large clumps of butter. Add the whisked eggs and start to incorporate with a pastry scraper. Once coming together, pour dough onto a clean work surface and fraisage (use the heels of your palms) to work the dough until pale and it forms a ball. **do not over-work!
3. Butter a 20cm tart ring well and gently roll out the dough (use flour to prevent sticking – this is a very delicate dough and may break). Gently line the tart ring and press the dough into the edges of the ring. Let the lined mold sit out to form a crust, and prick with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. You may need to prick with a fork while baking if the dough starts to rise. Remove the ring mold when hot and let tart shell cool.
4. To make the pastry cream, heat milk in a pot until it just starts to boil. Do not let boil just until you see the first bubble!
5. While the milk is heating, add egg yolks and sugar to a bowl. Whisk vigorously to blanchir, until the mixture becomes a pale yellow. Add flour and custard powder and whisk.
6. When the milk just starts to boil, pour some of the liquid into the eggs and whisk immediately to temper. Continue to add the milk and whisk to ensure the eggs don’t start to cook. Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over a low/medium heat while whisking continuously. This is a very important step because you don’t want the eggs to cook while the custard thickens. Taste occasionally and add more extract to your liking.
7. Add the rose extract and continue cooking until thick. Pour into a bowl and let cool completely while covered in plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream so it doesn’t form a film.
8. Once completely cool, fill the tart shell with the pastry cream. Top with sliced strawberries and enjoy!
xoxo Rachel Prokupek