• 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.

  • A request: meringues, nuts & chocolate

    Just before Christmas, one of my neighbours invited us to dinner at his house over the festive period.  During the discussions as to what he may cook on the night (we settled on something containing fish), I volunteered to make the dessert if he provided the pre-dinner nibbles and the main meal.  Why I offered to make the dessert after 5 days of almost solid baking (for customers and family), I don’t know, but I did.

    Keen to provide a dessert which he liked (bearing in mind that he is the neighbour who had a strong opinion about my mincemeat and pecan crumble slices), I asked him what his favourite dessert would be.  He said that it would be something containing meringues, nuts and chocolate.  Already armed with a go-to meringue recipe in the form of a Martha Collison recipe from her recipe book, ‘Twist’ (an excellent book if you would like my opinion), I had to have a little think about what I needed to make to accompany the meringues.  Knowing that I had a couple of bags of hazelnuts which needed to be used, I googled ‘hazelnut meringues’.  As if by magic, my favourite recipe site, ‘BBC Good Food’ popped up with a recipe which incorporated the three ingredients I required, meringues, nuts and chocolate.  As I already had a meringue recipe to hand, I used the BBC Good Food recipe for hazelnut praline and chocolate sauce.

    The result of my bakes was a mound of mini-meringues, a golden hazelnut praline and a smooth, rich and decadent chocolate sauce.  Armed with my meringues, praline and chocolate sauce and a carton of double cream, we made our way to our neighbours around 7.30pm.  After a delicious fish pie accompanied by beans and a Tuscan bean side dish, I assembled my pudding as outlined in the recipe below.   I know you should not blow your own trumpet, but I have to say that the pudding was delicious.  I think everyone else would agree as everyone had seconds.   Jo and I even had thirds the next day after lunch.  Feeling that my waistband may expand too much if I had a forth helping, I sent my younger sister home with the remains of the dessert for her family and friend to enjoy.  She seemed quite happy to relieve me of my goodies.

    So pleased was I with the dessert that I have included the recipes in this blog post for you to try if you so wish.  Happy baking!

    Mini-meringues, praline cream, hazelnut praline and chocolate sauce

    Meringues

    Ingredients

    • 300g white caster sugar
    • 150g egg whites

    Method

    • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
    • Pour the sugar onto the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.  Warm in the oven for about 6 minutes, until it feels hot to the touch.
    • While the sugar is heating up, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (ensure that it is clean and grease-free).  Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
    • Remove the hot sugar from the oven when ready and turn the oven down to 100 degrees Celsius.
    • Whisk the hot sugar into the egg whites, adding a spoonful of sugar at a time and ensuring that the sugar is fully mixed before adding the next spoonful.  Add the sugar slowly and carefully as if added too quickly the meringue will collapse,
    • When all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer speed up and whisk the mixture for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy.  Check the mixture by rubbing a small amount of the mixture between your fingers.  You should not feel any grains of sugar.  If the mixture feels gritty, whisk it for a few more minutes until it feels smooth.
    • Line one or more baking sheets with baking paper (depending on the size of the baking trays).
    • Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a star or round nozzle or snip off the tip.
    • Pipe out 40-50 meringues, depending on the size you require, leaving spaces between each on the baking sheet.
    • Bake them in the oven for 1.5 hours until crisp on the outside and they can peel of the baking paper without sticking.
    • Let them cool completely.

    Hazelnut praline and praline cream

    Ingredients

    • 150g caster sugar
    • 150g hazelnuts
    • 300ml whipping cream

    Method

    • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.  Place the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 minutes.
    • In the meantime, warm a small heavy-based pan over a medium heat and cook the caster sugar until it melts and turns a rich caramel colour.  Carefully swirl the toasted hazelnuts around the pan until they are fully coated. Pour the mixture out  onto a tray lined with baking paper.  Leave to cool.
    • Chop two-thirds of the hazelnut praline in a food processor and set aside.  Chop the rest of the hazelnut praline into bite size pieces.
    • Whisk the cream into soft peaks.  Stir half the processed hazelnut praline through the cream (you can be more generous if you wish).

    Chocolate sauce

    Ingredients

    • 50g golden caster sugar
    • 50g cocoa powder
    • 50g dark chocolate

    Method

    • Make the chocolate sauce by heating together 150ml water, the caster sugar and cocoa powder until boiling. Pour over the chocolate and whisk well until smooth.

    To assemble

    • Spoon a layer of the praline cream into the bottom of a glass bowl or rounded glass.
    • Place 5-6 small meringues on top of the cream, pushing the meringues into the cream.
    • Place a generous spoonful of the praline cream on top of the meringues and then pour over a generous helping of chocolate sauce.
    • Top with a sprinkle of the processed hazelnut praline and the hazelnut praline pieces on top.

    (Source: Martha Collison and BBC Good Food)

  • Hot (or not) news – an update on some of my previous posts

    I don’t often look at my previous posts, but I guess I should as when I do I realise that I have mentioned things that possibly need some sort of conclusion.

    Let me first take you back to my post  ‘Video debut in my quest at becoming an Uuni Pro’ which I wrote back in October.  After a wait of more than a month and a mention that over 5000 people had applied to become pizza tasters for UuniPro, I finally heard, what in my heart I already knew, that I had not been successful in my quest at becoming an UuniPro.  I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, but it certainly didn’t come as a surprise.  5000 applicants were just a little too much competition for me (and I am guessing, many others).

    My big bake started as suggested on Friday, 22 December with two batches of mincemeat and pecan crumble slices (one for the coffee roaster in Cirencester and one for my manager), a batch of vegan cookies and a batch of rocky road; something I hadn’t made before.  I didn’t think that I would like the rocky roads as I thought they would be too sweet, but the combination of mini marshmallows, dark chocolate, rich tea biscuits, glace cherries etc. was  the perfect combination.  When I delivered my bakes for the cafe in Cirencester on Friday, I included a few squares of rocky road for them to try.  Their feedback was as follows:

    ‘Thank you for the rocky road by the way, delicious and perfectly balanced!  We may well go for that in January.’

    Saturday saw me bake 60 traditional mince pies.  I was planning on making 18 wholewheat, vegetarian mince pies (another customer order which came in late) as well, but the 60 traditional mince pies took longer than I expected and I wanted to fit in a run as well.  With the 60 traditional mince pies dispatched around 4pm and a 6 plus mile run under my belt, we indulged in some mulled wine and later a pizza from Sourdough Revolution in Lechlade.

    As I didn’t finish my baking on Saturday as planned and I also got another order for 12 traditional mince pies on Sunday, whilst at work,  Sunday was not a bake-free day.  Although my baking didn’t go as planned on Sunday, my visitors (youngest son and in-laws) arrived as planned.  I managed to deliver the mince pies by early evening and then proceeded to make a delicious chickpea curry with cucumber raita and rice for dinner.

    Despite planning an early start to my baking on Monday, I was somewhat delayed as my in-laws stayed longer than expected.  After a 10.30am start, three chocolate roulades and two batches of profiteroles later, I had two roulades for one customer and 24 profiteroles (8 large, 8 medium and 8 small) for another customer.  The spare roulade and the excess profiteroles were put aside for our Christmas dinner.  I sent Jo off to deliver the roulades while I went off to deliver the profiteroles.  We were both rewarded for our efforts with a little Christmas Eve tipple.  Our Christmas Eve was topped off with an invite from one of our neighbours for drinks and nibbles.

    Already baked out, there was no rest for the wicked on Christmas day.  My Christmas Day started with a 4.5 mile run, opening of presents and a Christmas Day service at the local Church.  It was followed by making the starters (vegetarian and pork and cranberry sausage rolls), vegetarian main (beetroot and red onion tart tatin), vegetables (thyme roasted parsnips and carrots; coriander seed red cabbage, chilli-charred sprouts and fluffy, roasted potatoes) and finishing off the desserts (chocolate roulade and cream filled/chocolate covered profiteroles).  I was very fortunate to have been assisted all day in the kitchen by my very capable, youngest son, Noah.  I am not sure what I would have done without him.

    The dinner was well-received, along with my sister’s contribution of ham, turkey and chicken, so I guess all the effort was worth it in the end.  Another positive note is that Montague (our dog), who has been very poorly for some time, made a somewhat miraculous recovery over the Christmas period, aided I am sure by all the delicious food on offer.  He spent most of Christmas Day evening on his feet, in close proximity to one of my brother-in-laws, who had the job of carving the meat.  Given my brother-in-laws love of dogs, I think Montague was given his full of tasty meat morsels.

    I can’t recall much about Boxing Day other than returning home and trying to clean up after the Christmas period.  I must have cooked something that evening, but I can’t recall what.  Either way, I had a slight reprieve from cooking/baking on Boxing Day.  This was all change again on the 27 December as you will see from my next post.

  • The big bake

    It has been a wee while since I last wrote.  Although it has been a very difficult time in the Upton household (our elderly pooch, Montague lost the use of his back legs a couple of weeks ago (blood clot) and we have been nursing him ever since – he has bad and better days but we are still not sure what the outcome will be) I have been doing quite a bit of baking.

    As mentioned in my previous post, I continued to experiment with mince pies and variations thereof.  I made deep filled mince pies with shortbread pastry and mincemeat and pecan crumble slices.  The deep filled mince pies were delicious but the pastry was very fragile.  The thought of making 48 mince pies using shortbread pastry was too much for me to bear.  I decided to try the mincemeat and pecan crumble slices as an alternative as these are made in a tray and can be portioned after the bake.  I was delighted with the outcome of the bake.  So much so that I gave four of them to the neighbour who had requested the 48 mince pies so that she could try them as a possibility a pre-Christmas get-together.  She tried one then and there and we then left her with the rest to eat at her leisure.  I also gave a couple of slices to another neighbour, who has indulged in my bakes from time to time.

    In response to receiving the treats, this neighbour sent me the following email:

    Morning Bridget,

    I had just eaten one, (well maybe two!!), Waitrose mince pies when Joe, the delivery man at the door, presented two beautifully wrapped mincemeat slices. Thank you, you are kind. They are sitting tantalisingly on the counter and will be tonight’s pudding….if I can resist earlier temptation!!

    They look scrummy…

    The following morning, he popped into where I work and in a lowered tone asked me if I wanted some constructive feedback.  I thought he was going to tell me what a wonderful bake it had been (as Jo and I could not stop eating them once we started).  Instead, he said that he felt that the slices were over- caramelised on the edge and that the mincemeat was a bit on the dry side for his taste.  Despite this criticism  he said that he thought that the slices were very tasty.  The other taster said that they were delicious but that they were slightly on the sweet side. Slightly taken aback by the less than positive feedback, but not put off entirely, I adjusted the sugar and the baking time when I next baked them.

    I should mention that my next time I baked the mincemeat and pecan crumble slices was for a coffee roaster in Cirencester, which has a small cafe in it.  I got an opportunity to make a few test bakes for them a week past Friday: a chocolate cake, vegan biscuits, ‘caramel heavens’ and the mincemeat and pecan crumble slices.  After a slight delay (it is the Christmas season after all and coffee roasters are a roasting to meet demand) the feedback to my bakes was as follows:

    Cakes went down a storm (especially mince pie crumble and the cake).  Unfortunately, the cake is too messy for us to serve realistically, its perfect otherwise, light, moist, buttery, great cake!

    This feedback was followed by an order for another batch of mincemeat and pecan crumble slices and vegan cookies, which I delivered on Monday.  Today I returned to the coffee roasters for a chat about invoicing and future bakes and I received a further order for mincemeat and pecan crumble slices and vegan cookies, which I need to deliver tomorrow morning.

    The next four days will be baking mad as in addition to tomorrow’s order for the coffee roaster, I also have to make a batch of the crumble slices and some rocky road for a Christmas gift for my manager.  Also on the back of the pre-Christmas get-together, I have an order for 5 dozen traditional mince pies and one and a half dozen wholewheat mince pies, which I have to deliver on Saturday.

    I think Sunday will be a bake-free day as my youngest son, Noah is arriving for Christmas, along with my in-laws who are visiting for the day.  I am then back on it on Monday as I have to make two chocolate roulades for one of the local residents (she bid for them at the recent Auction of Promises) and 24 profiteroles for one of my colleagues at work, who wants to make profiterole snowmen, but doesn’t want to make the profiteroles.

    With my big bake looming, I had better sign off and get some sleep.   But before I do, I forgot that I also made another variety of mince pies for one of the regulars at work.  This time, cranberry, orange and almond mince pies.  The crumbliest of pastry with the tastiest of filling.  Although I am a little mince pied out at the moment, I have a few days, 78 mince pies and two mincemeat and pecan crumble slices to make and then I can breathe a sigh of relief, unless of course I get another order through in the meantime.