This is a recipe I thought up one night just as I was falling asleep. I was so excited about it that I got up and wrote it down, worried I would have forgotten it by the morning. It’s inspired by a dish I had tasted Godenya, a small restaurant just off Wellington Street, in Central, which serves Japanese food paired with sake. On one visit, the chef had made a small shirako (male “roe”) and black truffle paste pithivier that was so good I had complained the portion wasn’t big enough.
Shirako is hard to find in Hong Kong – even Japanese supermarkets rarely carry it, so I substituted scallops. What I’m most pleased about is the puff-pastry dough: instead of using plain butter, as they do at Godenya, I made it using beurre d’algues – a seaweed butter that’s available at City’super and Fresh Mart, in Sogo. Puff pastry is not difficult, but it takes several hours to make because it needs to rest in the fridge between turns. Make it at least a day in advance.
Scallop, truffle paste and seaweed butter pithiviers
For the seaweed butter puff pastry:
250 grams beurre d’algues, chilled, divided
250 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, divided, plus extra for rolling the dough
About 120ml iced water
5ml fresh lemon juice
For the filling:
8 fresh scallops, with bodies about 3cm to 3.5cm in diameter, removed from the shell and cleaned
Italian black truffle paste
1 egg, for brushing
Mix the lemon juice with the iced water. Place 210 grams of flour in the bowl of a food processor and add 30 grams of seaweed butter that’s been cut into small pieces. Keep the rest of the butter refrigerated. Process the ingredients until the butter is in tiny pieces (about the size of rice grains). Put the flour-butter mixture into a bowl and add about 100ml of iced water. Mix until it comes together into a dough that’s neither wet nor dry, adding more iced water as needed. Knead the dough briefly so it forms a cohesive mass. Wrap with clingfilm then refrigerate for an hour.
Just before the hour is up, put the remaining butter in the food processor (no need to wash it) then add the rest of the flour. Process the ingredients until smooth, light and soft, but still cold. Spread the butter into a 12cm square on a sheet of parchment paper. Take the temperature of the butter – it should be 15 degrees Celsius; if it’s warmer than that, refrigerate until it’s 15 degrees.
Take the dough from the fridge. Using flour as needed so it doesn’t stick to the work surface or rolling pin, roll the dough into an 18cm square. Use the rolling pin to make the four corners thinner than the rest of the dough. Brush excess flour from the surface of the dough. Invert the butter square onto the dough, positioning it so it’s at a 45-degree angle, then peel away the parchment.
Fold up the corners of the dough, overlapping them so they securely enclose the butter. Using flour as needed, roll the dough into a rectangle that’s 30cm long and about 15cm wide. Dust off the excess flour from the surface of the dough. Fold the top third of the dough just past the centre, brush off the excess flour, then fold the bottom third of the dough over the top and brush off the excess flour from that portion. The dough should now be in three even layers. This is called a single “turn”.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Position the dough on the work surface so one of the short edges is closest to your body, then roll it so it’s 30cm long and about 15cm wide. Fold it again into thirds, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat the process four more times for a total of six turns, letting it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes after each turn, always using enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking, and also brushing off the excess flour before folding the dough into thirds. After the sixth and final turn, wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Roll the puff pastry on a floured work surface so it’s about 4mm thick. Lay the sheet of dough on a tray that’s been lined with baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough is resting in the fridge, put the scallops on a small tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Whisk the egg. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
Use a plain round cookie cutter (also called a dough cutter) to cut eight 7cm circles and eight 7.5cm circles from the puff-pastry sheet. (Gather the puff-pastry trimmings/scraps and press them together, wrap with clingfilm and refrigerate. They can be used later to make cheese straws or other small, savoury pastries; seaweed puff pastry is especially good with anchovy.) Lay one of the semi-frozen scallops in the centre of the 7cm circle then top with about half a teaspoon of truffle paste. Use a small pastry brush to very lightly brush the edges of the 7cm circle with egg, then lay the larger circle over the top. Press the edges of the top pastry layer down so they firmly adhere to the bottom layer and securely enclose the filling.
Decoratively flute the edges of each pithivier then lay them on a tray lined with baking paper and freeze for 10 minutes. Brush the surface of the pithiviers with beaten egg. Use a very sharp paring knife to cut a small, round air vent in the centre of each pithivier. Use the knife to cut a decorative pattern on the top pastry layer starting at the centre and radiating out almost to the edge. Cut only through the surface of the pastry, and not into the filling. Bake at 220 degrees for 15 minutes then turn the heat to 180 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the pithiviers are golden brown and firm. Serve hot or warm. Serves eight as an appetiser.
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