phyllo experiment

Yesterday, I tried the experiment with goat cheese and apricot jam purses in phyllo pastry. I assembled them in the morning – consulting the recipe for scallop and pesto phyllo purses in “Baking With Julia” on p.435. She said to clarify the butter. I tried that. I was so worried about burning it that it didn’t really clarify. No matter, I used unclarified butter. (Just don’t tell the kitchen police, please) I cut 4 pieces of cotton strings and dropped them into the butter. Then I laid out a sheet of phyllo, slathered it with unclarified butter (using my Danesco silicone pastry brush) put another sheet down, slathered it with butter, then a third and a fourth. Then I realized that the “Baking With Julia” recipe that I was sort of following was for 12 purses and she made 6 at a time. So I had two too many layers. But that can’t be bad, can it? I cut the sheets into four and placed some soft goat’s cheese and a spoonful of the apricot jam I made the other day. (How much goat’s cheese did I use? To employ my mother’s standard and enfuriating answer, some. How much is some? To continue with the infuriation, just ‘some’. Put enough but not too much.) Then for each of the purses, I folded the sides over each other and lifted the ends up and tied them with the buttered strings. They were just a little boxy perhaps but interesting looking. I covered them and put them into the fridge.

There are SO many phyllo sheets (is that a redundancy?) in the package that we bought! What are we going to do with all that phyllo dough??

Looking for other ideas for things in phyllo pastry, I leafed (no pun intended) through our various cookbooks and found a goatcheese phyllo pocket recipe in one of the Silver Palate books. And they put butter on the outside as well. That seemed like a good idea…. So I pulled the purses out of the fridge and slathered a little more unclarified butter on the outsides. Covered and back in the fridge.

And now here’s where things starting really going awry. We were taking these uncooked purses over to friends’ house as our offering for dessert. We were going to take a half bottle of Quady Essentia Muscat but the LCBO didn’t have any. Two of the fellows recommended Alambre Moscatel 2000 from Portugal. One of the guys said it was fantastic…. (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Taking the wellpackaged purses, apricot jam and Alambre wine, we hopped on our bikes and rode through the frigid air (hey!!! I just figured out why the company name is ‘frigidaire’!!!) to have a very congenial and delicious dinner with our friends. We started with melon, prosciutto and goat cheese, then chicken marbella from one of the Silver Palate books served on a bed of potatoes with steamed broccoli and carrots on the side. And drat! What was the name of the really fantastic French merlot we had with it? It married perfectly.

When time for dessert approached, I asked casually for a cookie sheet with sides. No, no cookie sheets. (NO!!???! How could any kitchen not have any cookie sheets??) Would this large pyrex dish work? Well, it would have to, wouldn’t it?

And the oven is gas. I don’t have a gas oven. Does it work the same? In a word, nope. Well, all that butter – I really thought one could never have too much butter – yes, all that butter melted and the purses were absolutely swimming in butter. They couldn’t brown on the outsides because they were being braised in butter. We poured off as much butter as we could and baked them a little longer. The tops were getting golden and the sides were splitting so that goat cheese was starting to ooze.

So I just served them. With more spoonsful of apricot jam on the side. They were good… there is promise there… but RATS, they weren’t fabulous. And as for the wine. Yuck. It tasted like apple juice. Not nearly enough acidity to balance the sweetness. T said it was madurized. Whatever… it was a disgrace.

We had some cleansing ginger tea instead to wash away the horrible cloying sweetness of the Alambre. And some time afterwards, back out into the dark to ride home in the cold. Some houses were still adorned with Christmas lights to distract us from the biting cold on our faces and making the ride just a little festive.

And will I make these purses again? You bet! They could be fantastic. I won’t put butter on the outside though. And I will use a cookie sheet to bake them. And I’ll use two layers instead of four. But yes, they show great promise.

On a side note, I’ve had to disable my forum until I can figure out how to upgrade it. It is taking MUCH longer than expected but it is a necessary upgrade because apparently, there was a serious security problem with the version I had installed. edit at 19:29EDT: at long last I managed to do the upgrade and the forum is back online.
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  • Barbara

    You can take consolation in this: once you master the purses, you’ll have a great dessert AND a hilarious story.

    With your extra phyllo, you could try baklava. If you cut the sheets into 6 or 8 pieces before assembly, you can make a tiny baklava AND you can use lots of pistachios without it getting horribly expensive.

  • ejm

    Hmmm. Well, I’m glad someone thought it was funny… I’m almost ready to laugh.

    I was considering baklava but we think we might do a savoury thing with chicken, mushrooms, spinach and what’s left of the goatcheese. But that’s a good idea to make tiny baklava. Maybe there will be enough. There IS a lot of dough in that package. Maybe maybe there will be enough for a couple of mini baklava too. No pistachios in the house right now but almond baklava might be good.

  • Arrrgh! What an odyssey! I wouldn’t be ready to laugh about it yet, that’s for sure. It took me at *least* 24 hours to get over my Paper Chef debacle!

    My vote (I’ll just throw it in like it counts, hee hee) for the extra dough is to make something savoury- the ingredients you have planned sound like they’d be great.

  • I still love the idea of this combination, Elizabeth. I’m sure you can make it work. I’m also wondering if triangles (like the shape of little spinach pies) would work better than the purses, so the butter doesn’t flow downhill from what I’m visualizing is a more vertical purse shape. And thanks so much for posting the apricot jam! I’m definitely going to try it.

  • ejm

    I’m pretty much laughing now. We haven’t tried the apricot and goat cheese again yet – we used up all the rest of the dough to make two large chicken, mushroom, spinach in a white sauce packages. (great minds etc. etc., Moira. We almost made spanakopita – sp??) One is in the freezer for later baking and the other was consumed last night for dinner. Absolutely delicious! We neeeed to get more phyllo dough.

    Yes, Julie, I think you might be right that they purses should be more like triangles. That would also do away with the string – which is a bit of a drag to tie and untie.

    I hope you like the jam! Rats, whose blog did I recently read that talked about adding cardamom to apricot preserves???

  • That was Santos over at ‘the scent of green bananas’ who blogged about apricots and cardamom!

  • ejm

    Yes, indeed it was, Moira. Thanks!

    cardamom spiced apricots