Conversations

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These pastries have an interesting and unusual appearance and an equally peculiar name. I am sure we have all heard the expression conversation piece or we have heard something referred to as a real conversation starter. It’s not too hard to imagine curiosity getting the better of a guest prompting them to stop and ask “What are those pastries?” And then, before you know it, you might be having a “conversation.”

In actuality, the name comes from a play that was popular at the time the pastries were first created—Les Conversations d’Emilie by Madame d’Epinay. It is not known if the chef who created the pastries had any particular reason for naming them for the play or if the title held a particular significance.

If you do not have puff pastry on hand, substitute pie dough. The decorative strips on top will not have the same dramatic lift, but the overall effect is still good. The royal icing should be soft enough to spread easily but not at all runny. If it is too thin, it will run between the dough and the form, ruining the appearance of the crust and making it very difficult to remove the pastries.

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Ingredients

Method

  1. Roll the puff pastry out to a rectangle measuring approximately 18 x 24 inches (45 x 60 cm); it should be slightly thinner than ⅛ inch (3 mm). Refrigerate the dough to relax and firm it.
  2. Cut a strip, 6½ inches (16.2 cm) long, from 1 short end of the chilled dough. Reserve this piece in the refrigerator. Use the remaining dough to line 40 mazarin forms (see Figures 2-4 to 2-7). Cover the scrap dough and reserve for another use.
  3. Place the apricot jam in a disposable pastry bag made from baking paper. Pipe the jam into the forms, dividing it evenly among them.
  4. Place the conversation filling in a pastry bag with a No. 7 (14-mm) plain tip. Pipe the filling on top of the jam, filling the forms almost to the top. If the surface of the filling is not flat, use a small palette knife dipped in water to make it level. Place the forms in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm the top of the filling.
  5. Cut the reserved puff pastry lengthwise into 3 strips, 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Leaving them in place on a sheet of cardboard, cut each strip across into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces. You need a total of 160 pieces, 4 per pastry. Place the cut pieces in the refrigerator.
  6. Spread a thin layer of royal icing on top of the chilled filling. Decorate with the puff pastry strips, placing 2 parallel strips across the top, close to the edges of the form, then 2 additional strips perpendicular to the first set, forming a square in the center. Let stand at room temperature until the royal icing has formed a crust.
  7. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for approximately 15 minutes.