To me, there is nothing more sumptuous in baking than golden brown pastry. A vessel for any array of sweet or savory flavours, golden buttery pastry is one of the many delights and difficult feats of baking. In my foray into French cuisine pastry has been ever present, tempting and luxurious. In this instance it comes in the form of the pithivier; a sumptuous sandwich of pastry containing either sweet or savory filling, adorned with golden pastry decorations, originating from Pithiviers in north-central France.
The history and invention of the pithivier is closely linked with that of puff pastry. It is said, that the French inspiration for puff pastry, pâte feuilletée, came from the pastry brought by the Crusaders from the Greeks and Arabs. This pastry, phyllo (filo), was made by lamination, although this technique was layering successive sheets of pastry over one another, rather than the folding and refolding technique commonly associated with puff pastry. The invention of this technique is much disputed, some attributing it to Claude Lorrain, others Feuillet; pastry chef of the Prince of Conde. But what is clear is that by the 17th and 18th centuries, puff was present.
Upon the creation of puff pastry, enveloping food in such pretty puff was a both inevitable and genius.
The pithivier later became a national dish, with a re-branding as gallette des rois (Kings Cake). This once regional dish is now associated with the celebration of the Epiphany and can be enjoyed in central France all through early January, although it crops up all over. The rebranding of a regional dish as a national “French” dish, and a part of the national cuisine, speaks to the “dual gastronomic heritage”of French cuisine noted by Poulain.