Tag Archives: afternoon tea

Mini Lemon Eclairs or Lovebones

Sometimes, there are those nights. The late ones. The ones that you spend in the company of good friends. The ones where you accidentally-on-purpose forget to take your make up off upon returning home. And sometimes, after a particularly late night, my brain tries to mess with me by waking me up after only a few short hours of blissful sleep. That’s the only way I can explain why I stood bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in my kitchen at 9.30 on Sunday morning, getting ready to beat some choux pastry into submission. Because my brain is a spiteful sod like that.

The German name for eclairs is Liebesknochen or ‘Lovebones’. However, considering that one batch of these will set you well on your way to a pretty severe case of Nadal-arm, it would be more accurate to say that they are a product of sweat and willpower rather than love. Still, it’s a nice word for a delicious treat.

If I’d planned ahead or had more time, I would have made some crème pâtissière and lemon curd, but as it was I quickly raided my pantry and out came a third of a jar of shop-bought lemon curd and a packet of organic pudding mix. In effect, what I’m admitting to is cutting corners (don’t judge; you’ve done it, too.) But that’s what I like about choux pastry; even though it seems like a bit more faff than a sponge cake, all of the ingredients are things that you will have at home and the fillings can be as simple or as complicated as your kitchen cupboards allow.

Ingredients:

for the pastry

125ml water

125ml milk

pinch of salt

1 tbsp sugar

75g butter

150g plain flour

4 eggs

for the filling and glaze

40g organic vanilla pudding mix (one packet) If you can’t find pudding mix, custard powder could be an alternative, although I haven’t tried this.

500ml milk

50g caster sugar

180g butter, cubed

1 tbsp Advocaat (optional)

zest of 1 lemon

120g lemon curd

120g icing sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon, approx.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Combine the water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour in one go while beating. Return to heat and continue to beat until the dough sticks together and comes away from the pan. From this point continue to ‘cook out’ the dough, to get rid of the floury taste, by beating until a white film develops on the bottom of your pan.

Remove the pan from the heat. You could transfer the dough to a bowl to help it cool down a little, but I didn’t as it would have meant more washing-up, so instead I just worked the dough a little more. Once the dough is no longer the temperature of Venus, start adding the eggs one at a time, beating the dough until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. (Note: At this point you will probably want to save your poor left and/or right arm and just abandon the whole thing, but do persevere – it’ll be worth it.) The dough should fall off a wooden spoon in long ribbons.

Transfer dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star shaped nozzle, and pipe onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. This recipe would yield a dozen large eclairs or 24 small ones. I went with mini eclairs, as I could then justify eating a large quantity of them. Pop the eclairs into the oven and bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the eclairs are baking, make the filling. Combine the pudding mix and sugar with around 70ml milk, and work into a smooth paste. Combine the remaining milk with the paste in a pan and whisk until there are no lumps. Bring to the boil over medium heat while whisking constantly, then remove from heat and leave to cool.

Once the mixture has cooled down a little, add the butter and whisk until the mixture thickens and there are no more lumps of butter. If the mixture seems a little runny, you may either chill it or add a little more butter. Then add the Advocaat and lemon zest. Fill mixture into a piping bag.

Once the eclairs are baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool. Slice the eclairs in half and pipe a strip of the cream filling onto the bottom half of each eclair. On the inside of the top half, spoon or pipe a strip of lemon curd, then fold together again.

For the glaze, combine the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to produce a pourable, but not runny, consistency and drizzle over the eclairs. Then immediately nab a cheeky mini eclair for yourself before offering them to other people. Yes – that is a vital step of the recipe!

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Apple Cinnamon Swirls

My Easter plans fell through due to an unseasonable bout of hail storms and minor blizzards here in Berlin. Holing up in my house, and baking things that will ultimately lead my BMI to exceed my age, seemed far more appealing than digging out a pair of salopettes. These pastries turned out to be the perfect project for a bad-weather-weekend as they are time-consuming and messy to make and completely delicious to eat, especially warm from the oven.

The original recipe for these featured an awful lot of butter and sugar, particularly in the glaze. Personally, I don’t think these need to be iced, as the star of any cinnamon bun is always going to be the filling.

The dough plays its secondary part quite well, but it was the product of one of the most counterintuitive recipes I have ever worked from. Firstly, the butter was added after all the other ingredients had already been kneaded together, which isn’t ideal when you’re working by hand. Secondly, kneading more flour into the mixture is actively encouraged in the recipe. This is something I have always been taught to avoid and in hindsight I think I would make the, admittedly, sticky dough more manageable by french folding it for a while, rather than using additional flour. Thirdly, cream cheese is folded into the dough, but unfortunately rather a lot of it ended up being squirted back onto my worktop when I rolled it out. Next time, I might reduce the faff, by using a brioche-y dough. Having said that, it is a nice idea and made for a lovely texture, so definitely worth a try.

This recipe was adapted from http://joythebaker.com/2009/06/cream-cheese-cinnamon-rolls/

Ingredients:

for the dough

1 sachet of active dry yeast (7g)

1/2 tsp sugar and 40g caster sugar (try substituting vanilla sugar for some of the caster sugar)

60ml milk, room temperature

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1 egg and 1 egg yolk

360g plain flour, plus more for kneading

3/4 tsp salt

120g butter, softened

for the filling

100g sugar

50g brown sugar (dark or light depending on your preference)

100g nuts, finely chopped (I used a mixture of hazelnuts and walnuts)

50g apple, chopped into small cubes (I don’t like raisins, but if you do then raisins or an apple/raisin mix would be lovely)

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp honey or maple syrup

100g full-fat cream cheese

50g butter, melted

Method:

Mix the yeast, 1/2 tsp of sugar, and warm water (about 45°C) in a jug, and leave to froth up for ca. 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, milk, and eggs, then add the yeast mixture. Sift in the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple of minutes, then add the butter and knead again. (Note: this seems like quite a strange step and if you’re kneading by hand, like I was, I’d recommend putting in the butter at the same time as all the other ingredients) The mixture will be fairly sticky and the original recipe states to add some more flour if necessary. Knead until the dough is elastic and shiny, then place in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, around 2 hours.

To make the filling, combine the fruit with the dry ingredients, then thoroughly mix in the honey or maple syrup.

Once the dough has risen sufficiently, turn out on the worktop and knock back. Then roll out to a square(-ish) shape, about 25x25cm. Stir the cream cheese, to soften it, and spread evenly onto the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, first vertically, then horizontally. Turn over so the seam is facing downwards.

Roll out the dough again, this time to a rectangle about 25x50cm in size. (Note: You know that bit in Jurassic Park, when Richard Attenborough’s character utters the immortal phrase ‘Life will find a way’? Well, the same rule applies to cream cheese – it will burst out on the short sides of the dough, while you’re rolling it. Deep breaths; it will be ok.)

Brush the melted butter over the dough, then spread the filling evenly over the top and press into the dough, leaving a gap of an inch at one of the short ends. This is where the roll will be sealed. Then roll up the dough tightly. With the seam facing downwards, trim the edges, then cut the roll into 10 pieces with a serrated knife. Place in a well greased baking tin, cover with a tea towel, and leave to rise for another 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Bake the swirls for 30 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Best eaten warm from the oven, with your hot beverage of choice.

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