The holiday season is upon us and I am reminded of the year I was besotted by Pithivier, so much so that I even photographed my efforts. I made large ones and small ones, savoury ones and sweet ones. I had sooo much fun and pain – will it, won’t it work. So, today you get to suffer too! But first some worthy words on the Pithivier.
A pithivier (according to Wikipedia) is a traditional French dish. It is similar to the galette des rois but although the two look virtually the same and traditionally contain pretty much the same filling, the Galette des Rois is said to have a rich history and steeped in tradition. The Pithivier, on the other hand, is simply believed to have come from the town of Pithiviers, in the Orleans region of in France and dates back only to the 17th century, and comes without the rich religious and cultural connections of the Galette des Rois, although it is said to be made for the Epiphany.
Nowadays the pithivier can be either sweet or savoury. It is a round, enclosed pie usually made by baking two disks of puff pastry, with a filling between. A mound of filling is positioned at the centre of the underneath layer of pastry, rather than spread on it, so as to prevent it from leaking during baking. It has the appearance of a hump and is traditionally decorated with spiral lines drawn from the top outwards with the point of a knife, and scalloping on the edge. The pie is traditionally finished with a distinct shine to the top of the crust, by brushing on an egg wash beforehand, or by caramelising a dusting of confectioner’s sugar at the end of baking, or both.
The filling of the pithivier is often a sweet frangipane (optionally combined with fruit such as cherry or plum), but savoury pies with vegetable, meat or cheese filling can also be called pithivier. I tried various vegetable fillings. The one in the picture above involved lining a bowl with butternut squash, but kumara (sweet potato) and celeriac are delicious too.
The larger one served eight but the smaller ones are individuals serving one person. Now, I have seen photos and read descriptions of the Pitivier and the Galette Des Rois where, indeed, the filling is ‘humped’ in the middle. But the only recipe I have found where the final pie keeps its shape, and has the wow factor, is that of Jamie Oliver’s from his book Veg
He says of its difficulty that it is ‘showing off’, so if you want to impress and have a vegetarian mains for Christmas, do please try this (recipe link below) – it is so delicious and very beautiful.
Meantime I shall leave you with this image (above) of the Pithivier I shall be eating on Christmas day which comes from Tommy Banks Michelin star restaurant at Oldstead. Seasons greetings to everyone and best wishes for a better 2022.
Butternut and Mushroom Pithivier