• A fruit for all seasons

    I have been fortunate over the past few days to have been given a couple of opportunities to take my business forward this year.   One of them isn’t until April and the other will have a mutually agreed start date.  As they say, you only have one chance to make the right impression so I have the next few months to ensure that I have everything in order so that I make the right impression when I present my bakes.

    As you will know from my most recent posts, I am partial to the crumble slice.  So much so that I want to include these in the bakes I offer.  I am very keen to use what is in season in the UK, so I spent some time yesterday looking up what fruit is in season at different times of the year.  Depending on what site you look at you get a slightly different list.  After a bit of digging and thinking about what I already know about seasonality, I settled on a list from the Vegetarian Society:

    Seasonal UK grown produce

    • January: Apples, Pears
    • February: Apples, Pears
    • March: Rhubarb
    • April: Rhubarb
    • May: Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • June: Blackcurrants, Cherries, Gooseberries, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Tayberries
    • July: Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Cherries, Gooseberries, Greengages, Loganberries, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • August: Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Cherries, Damsons, Greengages, Loganberries, Plums, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • September: Blackberries, Damsons, Pears, Plums, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries
    • October: Apples, Blackberries, Elderberries, Pears
    • November: Apples, Cranberries, Elderberries, Pears
    • December: Apples, Cranberries, Pears

    (Source:  Vegetarian Society)

    With seasonality in mind, I have come up with a short-list of possible crumble slices:

    • Apple crumble slice
    • Lemon crumble slice
    • Pear and ginger crumble slice
    • Plum and almond crumble slice
    • Raspberry crumble slice
    • Rhubarb crumble slice

    Over the next few months (as the different fruits come into season) I will be giving these recipes a go.

  • 12 months, 52 weeks, 52 pastries

    Okay, I should have written this post some time ago as the 01 January 2019 is looming and I haven’t documented my challenge as yet.

    As you will be aware, it has been over a year and a half since I completed my Diploma in Professional Patisserie and to be honest, I haven’t really used much of what learnt on the course.  I have been largely baking rather than doing patisserie since I left Ashburton Cookery School all those months ago.  Okay, so I may have dabbled a bit more recently – I have made meringues, short-crust pastry (a variety), caramel, praline, profiteroles etc. but I haven’t really indulged in the art of patisserie.  Concerned that I may lose my skills (I hope I haven’t already done so), I have decided to set myself a challenge for the New Year – 12 months, 52 weeks and 52 patisserie items.

    A few days ago, I started scouring my cookery books for suitable pastries.  To date, I have scoured three of my patisserie books for ideas (Patisserie at Home by Will Torrent, Patisserie Made Simple by Ed Kimber and Patisserie by Christophe Felder) and have come up with a list of 32 pastry challenges so far:

    1. Almond and honey friands
    2. Breakfast brioche buns
    3. Brioche
    4. Chocolate and hazelnut sables
    5. Chocolate fondant
    6. Coffee and chocolate madeleines
    7. Coffee tart
    8. Creme caramel
    9. Croissants
    10. Croquembouche
    11. Flan parisien
    12. Framboisiers
    13. Gateau au chocolat
    14. Gateau opera
    15. Kouign amann
    16. Macaron a l’ancienne
    17. Milk chocolate and hazelnut praline Buche de Noel
    18. Millefeuille
    19. Raspberry and pistachio financiers
    20. Paris-brest
    21. Pear and chocolate tartlets
    22. Pear tart
    23. Pistachio & cherry souffles
    24. Savarins
    25. Salted caramel and chocolate tartlets
    26. Spiced rum babas
    27. Tarte au chocolat
    28. Tarte au citron
    29. Tarte au pommes
    30. Tarte aux fraises
    31. Tarte tatin
    32. Tarte tropeziene
    33. Viennese biscuits

    I am not sure what I will start or finish with or what order I will bake the pastries in, or whether I will change my list during the course of the year.  What I am sure of is that at the end of 2019 I aim to have 52 pastry attempts under my belt, notwithstanding any acts of God.  This of course will be along with any other bakes that I do during the year.  If you want to get involved and set me a pastry challenge, please let me know.

  • Foolproof baking, is it possible?

    Not long after I wrote my blog entry entitled ‘Good Food’ I was asked to make the bitter orange and poppy seed loaf cake for a friend.  If you remember, I was going on in my blog about how great the BBC Good Food recipes were and that they almost always resulted in delicious cakes with a delightful texture.

    Although my second attempt at the bitter orange and poppy seed cake tasted delicious (confirmed by my friend who shared it with three of his friends – their verdict was that it was delicious with Yorkshire tea, but not Early Grey tea, which one of his friends was having), the texture was not as good as the first one I made.  The crumb was more dense than the first time around.  As I had not recorded what ingredients I used the first time around, I had no way of knowing if the change in texture was the result of using different ingredients or with the preparation or bake.  On the ingredients side, the only thing that I could think of was that I may have used a different self-raising flour.  On the preparation and bake side, the only thing that may have different was that I was in a bit of a hurry and I may have rushed the bake.

    Not put off entirely (albeit a little disappointed), I started to scour the internet for tips on the best self-raising flour to use in baking.  Not surprisingly, rather than finding a recommendation for a good self-raising flour, I was informed that I should not use self-raising flour at all but rather add baking powder to plain flour as in this way you can control how much baking powder you add to your bake.  The next step was to google the ratio of baking powder to flour.  Well that is a completely different story as every site I visited had a slightly different ratio.  Nigella suggests two teaspoons of baking powder for every 150g of flour, whereas Delia suggests 1 teaspoon for 110g plain flour.  BBC Good Food recommends the same as Delia.

    During my scouring of the Internet, I came across some baking tips from the trusty Mary Berry and her previous sidekick, Paul Hollywood, which I thought I would share with you (Source: Woman & Home and the Telegraph).

    Baking Tips

    • Use a tried and tested recipe and follow it accurately.
    • Use the right fat.  If you use margarine or butter, it must be soft and ready to be beaten straight away.  Do not use a low-fat one.
    • Use plain flour with the right amount of baking powder rather than self-raising flour.  If you add the baking powder yourself you will know exactly how much you’ve put in.  This will give you better control over your bake.
    • Don’t add extra baking powder.  It will rise up and then fall down.
    • Use caster sugar in cakes rather than granulated sugar.  Speckled tops on cakes are usually caused by granulated sugar that has not properly dissolved in the mixture.
    • Don’t over beat the batter or you will knock all the air out of it.
    • Use the right type of tin.  Using the wrong tin will affect the bake and the texture of the end product.
    • To avoid cakes cracking don’t bake them too high in the oven.  If you do then the crust forms too soon and cracks as the cake continues to rise.
    • Don’t over bake or under bake or open the oven door too soon.  Over-baking gives a dry result. Watch the cake in the oven during the final stage of cooking.   The cake should be shrinking away from the side of the tin. When you press your finger in the middle, the mixture should spring back.  Under-baking will cause the cake to sink.  Only open the oven once the minimum cooking time has been reached.
    • Know the quirks of your oven and be aware that you can get ‘hot spots’ which can throw a bake out.  Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature of your oven.
    • Make notes about the bake i.e. cooking time if different to the recipe; whether the cake freezes well, ingredients used etc.
    • Most cakes are best iced after freezing, except if filling with buttercream.
    • When icing a cake, seal the top with apricot jam first to prevent crumb contamination.  Add liquid gradually to icing.  You can always add more and a thicker icing works better than one that runs off the sponge.
    • Use the right chocolate stipulated in the recipe.  As the cocoa solids in the chocolate will affect the desired outcome.
  • Sugar craft equipment

    As promised, the following is a list of equipment which you will need to make sugar flowers.  My advice is that you buy what you need as a bare minimum and then build on it as you go, especially with regards to cutters and veiners, colours and tints.  As I discovered last night, even buying the basics can soon mount up.

    • Small rolling pin (silicon)
    • Cutters & veiners (I started with rose, blossom and peony)
    • Calyx/star cutter
    • Wire cutters
    • Flower foam pad
    • Petal Veiner / Friller modelling tool
    • Ball tool
    • Non stick veining board
    • General non stick board
    • Flower drying mat/petal former (can use apple tray)
    • Florist paste
    • Food colours and tints
    • Florist wires (22, 24 etc)
    • Florist tape
    • Stamens
    • Edible glue
    • Polystyrene cake dummy (to insert wire flowers when drying and assembling)
    • Trex (to grease board/prevent sugar paste from sticking to boards

    Happy sugar crafting!