Tag Archives: pastry

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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Berry Cakey Pastry Tart Pie

After four failed hot cross bun attempts (four!) last weekend, I was feeling rather demoralised about baking (And truth be told, life in general – what kind of person are you when you can’t even raise a colony of yeast in a warm, sugary, spice infused solution?).

Upon the fourth batch emerging smoking and blackened from the oven, my own mother uttered the immortal lines:

What do we do when we want hot cruss buns in future? We go to Tescos, don’t we Rachel.

I spent a week avoiding the kitchen and surviving on nachos and chunky chicken skewers courtesy of the local poorly lit cocktail bar. Shared with other people, of course. I wasn’t that desperate.

I was ready to toss in the tart tin and focus on the craft side of this blog (I had made a pretty impressive origami turtle during a slow afternoon at work) until I stumbled across a recipe in this month’s Olive magazine for a Mixed Berry Plaited Pie. Aside from the unseasonably dull name, this construction (which I have rejigged slightly and renamed) saved me from baking exile.

It combines pastry, sponge, raspberries, blackberries, other berries and more pastry. What more could you want? Ice cream, probably.

Without further ado, I present to you the recipe…

Ingredients

for the base

100g unsalted butter

2tbsp golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

200g plain flour

1 egg

for the ‘lid’

220g plain flour

100g butter

ice cold water

for the filling

150g butter

150g golden caster sugar

50g ground almonds

3 eggs

150g self raising flour

250g mixed berries – I used frozen.

Method

for the lid

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine bread crumbs. Alternatively, use a food processor, blitz the lot and save yourself approximately seven years and certain carpal tunnel.

Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and use a table knife to cut through the mixture and combine it all together. I used around four tablespoons of water. Once you can press it together in a ball and it leaves the bowl clean, pop it in a sandwich bag and put it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

for the base

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Line a brownie/roasting tin (approx 20 x 30cm) with greaseproof paper or tin foil.

As above, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour until it looks like fine bread crumbs. Food processor option as mentioned. Then mix in the sugar.

Beat the egg and then stir it in until the mixture looks like chunkier breadcrumbs. Tip the whole lot into the brownie/roasting in so it’s evenly spread and then press down with the back of a spoon. Make sure it is all fairly level and reaches the corners and the edges. Pop this in the frigde to chill whilst you make the filling.

for the filling

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add in the beaten eggs, the flour and the ground almonds. Mix it all together until it’s smooth.

Grab the base from the fridge and spread your filling across the top of it using a spatula. Once it’s all evenly on there, scatter on your mixed berries.

back to the lid

After ensuring that your lid mixture has been in the fridge for at least half an hour, take it out and place it on a well floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and set to work rolling it out so it is about 2-3mm thick.

Using a sharp knife and dragging it down the pastry, cut it into long ribbons, about 1cm wide. Gently drape these diagonally across the surface of the berries, first one way and then the other, making a criss cross pattern. Trim any excess from the sides.

Sprinkle 2 extra tablespoons of sugar on top.

Place in the oven for around 40mins until it is light golden.

to serve

On taking it out of the oven, allow it to cool slightly on a wire cooling rack.

Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream or clotted cream.

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We All Have to Start Somewhere…

…and we started with this tart.

A broccoli, mushroom, courgette and gouda tart to be precise.

It’s not the prettiest thing, nor perhaps the most structurally sound (we had some severe issues with a leaky bottom), but with cheese, nutmeg and pastry, you can’t go far wrong.

Here is how we made it, what we learned and what we’d change…

Ingredients:

for the pastry

350g plain flour

generous pinch of salt and pepper

220g unsalted butter, frozen and grated

2 medium free-range egg yolks

for the filling

medium-sized stalk of broccoli, cut into florets

half a courgette, chopped

10 chestnut mushrooms, chopped

4 medium free-range eggs

300ml milk

quarter of one nutmeg, grated

thyme and rosemary to taste

salt and pepper to taste

200g Gouda, grated

You will also need a 28 cm flan tin.

Method:

Sift the flour, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl. Rub in the grated butter until the mixture starts to resemble bread crumbs. Stir in the egg yolks, preferably with cold fingers or a round-bladed knife, until the dough comes together. If the mixture is too dry, stir in a little ice water. Press the dough together, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°/gas mark 5. Once chilled, roll out the dough, and line your flan tin with it. Prick the base with a fork, then fill with parchment paper and baking beans. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and beans and bake again for around 7 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

To prepare the filling, parboil the broccoli. Beat the eggs and milk in a jug and season with nutmeg, herbs and salt and pepper. Drain the broccoli and add to the pastry case, along with the courgette and mushrooms. Add the egg mixture and top with the grated cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Mistakes we made so you don’t have to:

1. Loose-bottomed flan tins are the enemy. Leaks can be avoided by using solid, one-piece dishes.

2. To make this a non-vegetarian meal, we would replace the mushrooms with some chicken.

3. Ricotta, or a strongly flavoured cheese of your preference, would make for a handsome addition to this tart.

4. This tart benefits from a short rest after being removed from the oven. We were a little too eager to reap our spoils and were rewarded with sagging pastry walls. Oh dear…

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