A student's guide to baking

Archive for the ‘Pastry’ Category

Pear and Passionfruit Tart

Pear and passionfruit tart

Ingredients:

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 5 large pears
  • 100ml pear juice
  • 100ml apple juice
  • Cold water
  • 300g passionfruit curd

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.

Whilst the pastry is blind baking, you can make the filling:

  • To make the poached pears, gently peel the skins off the pears, leaving as much of the flesh as possible.
  • In a saucepan, pour the fruit juices and top up with cold water, leaving room in the pan for the pears. Heat the liquid mixture over a medium heat and wait until hot before placing the pears into the mixture. Leave the pears in the mixture over a low heat for 15-20 minutes before removing them and leaving them on a plate to dry. Keep the juices to one side for now.
  • Once the pears are dry and soft, cut them vertically into thin slices.
  • On the cooled pastry base, spread a generous layer of the passionfruit curd. Into this, gently press the pear slices, progressing in a circular direction to create a spiral design. Pour a little of the poaching juices over the pears to coat them.
  • Bake the tart in the oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes.

This is where my journey with shortcrust pastry started. I made this tart with my aunt when she came over for dinner one night after she’d agreed to give me a lesson in pastry. Having never worked with pastry of any kind before when baking, I really appreciated having someone who knew what it was supposed to look and feel like there to be able to direct me when I was first starting out.

My aunt is a wonderful cook and she’s particularly great at inventing dishes and discovering flavour combinations. This one came about after she found some passionfruit curd when out shopping. Sadly it’s not something particularly common, as I’ve not been able to find it since any small supermarkets, and the more common lemon curd probably wouldn’t work in quite the same way. It’s rather a shame, given that the combination worked really well, and the curd was also delicious in its own right!

Choux Pastry Buns

Strawberry and orange cream choux buns

Ingredients (makes 18):

  • 120ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 150g strawberries

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 220ºC and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • In a saucepan, heat the butter and water together over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to the boil before immediately removing from the heat.
  • Add in the flour when you take the mixture off the heat and stir vigorously and continuously with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft ball. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat once more and leave the mixture to cool. Add the eggs, beating each one in fully without adding the next, to create a shiny and smooth paste.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the pastry into 3.5cm wide discs.
  • Bake at 220ºC for 8 minutes and then at 180ºC for 8 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the pastry inside with door ajar for a further 5 minutes.
  • Once the choux pastry has finished in the oven, take the buns out and leave them on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Whip the cream until it starts to thicken and hold its shape a little. At this point, add in the orange zest and then continue whipping the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  • Garnish the tops with halved strawberries.

Despite the fact that neither of us had ever made choux pastry before, my girlfriend Ele and I decided one afternoon to have a go at making chocolate éclairs. Sadly we didn’t quite get it right the first time and the pastry didn’t rise as much as it should, so we ended up with éclair buns that were a bit thinner and wider than they ought to have been. We covered them in chocolate ganache and cream regardless and they still tasted just as good.

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Choux pastry isn’t too complicated when it comes to the ingredients, so we decided to have another go, which yielded more successful results. Having already used a lot of the chocolate we’d planned on turning into the ganache, we changed tactics and decided to make a more simpler choux pastry bun and use some of the fruit I had instead.

It’s a fairly simple recipe, and a good one for starting off with choux pastry, as it doesn’t require quite the same structural integrity and perfect appearance that you have with an éclair. It’s also one that you can easily tailor to whatever fruit you prefer or just happen to have in the kitchen at the time. Using lighter summer fruit flavours tends to work better with the gentleness of the choux pastry, so I’d recommend at least sticking to that to begin with.

The sadly less than perfect chocolate éclairs.

The sadly less than perfect chocolate éclairs.

Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion Quiche

Cheddar and red onion quiche

Ingredients:

The pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 25g butter
  • 2 large red onions, chopped
  • 140g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Recipe:

This quiche starts off with the same shortcrust pastry recipe as my vegetable quiches:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.

Whilst the pastry is blind baking, you can make the filling:

  • Heat the butter in a pan and cook the onions for about 20 minutes. Stir them occasionally to prevent them from sticking. Once done, remove from the heat and leave them to cool.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl and gradually add in the cream. Stir in the onions and half the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the mixture into the cooled pastry case and sprinkle with the rest of te cheese.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200ºC until set and golden.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6291/sticky-onion-and-cheddar-quiche)

Like the vegetable quiches, this quiche has been another convenient one to make for a busier lifestyle. On the days when I wasn’t going to be back at home around lunchtime, I cut a slice and wrapped it in foil in the morning to take with me. It’s great when it’s fresh out of the oven, but it’s still tastes good when it’s cold too.

Obviously a cheese and onion flan will work with pretty much any type of cheese or onion you so desire, although you might end up with something rather powerful, depending on the cheese you use! Cheddar, whilst hardly the most exciting of lactational produce, is at least usually not too expensive and very easy to come by. As for the onions, I prefer red onions in almost all cases, and so I usually substitute in the more brightly coloured version for it’s paler sibling.

Vegetable Quiches

Asparagus, red pepper and beetroot quiche

Asparagus, red pepper and beetroot quiche

Ingredients:

The pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 7-9 asparagus
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 small beetroot, cooked (optional)
  • 1/2 butternut squash (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.

Whilst that’s baking, you can make the filling:

  • If you’re using butternut squash, I like to make this into a mash to line the bottom of the quiche. This stops the base from becoming soggy and it adds another taste and texture to the quiche. Chop up the squash into large cubes and boil for about 20 minutes. Once the squash is tender, remove it from the heat and drain the water. In a pan or flat-based bowl, mash the butternut squash using a masher or a fork until smooth and even.
  • Steam the asparagus lightly until it’s soft and tender.
  • Chop the bell peppers, and beetroot if you’re using it, and put them to one side.
  • Beat the eggs and mix together in a measuring jug.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.
  • Sprinkle thyme and black pepper over the base of the quiche.
  • Next, spread the butternut squash mash over the seasoned base, and then add your beetroot, red pepper and asparagus. Depending on the quantity of asparagus, I like to use them as spokes for the design on top, or build a crossed lattice structure inside to ensure good coverage.
  • Once your vegetables are in, pour over the egg and milk mixture, making sure that it fills the quiche but doesn’t spill over. Be warned: if you’re using beetroot, the mixture will start to go pink from the beetroot juice, but don’t worry about it.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the quiche has finished baking, remove it and let it cool. Season the top with black pepper, and you’re done!

(Recipe adapted from: https://gumroad.com/l/MYX and http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/shortcrustpastry_1278)

Asparagus and red pepper quiche

Asparagus and red pepper quiche

In many respects, quiches are rather a useful meal idea for students: you can make one at the beginning of the week and have it last the next 7 days’ worth of lunches when paired with some salad bits, and they’re good for using up any vegetables you may have lying around. Providing it’s not too watery, you can put it in a quiche.

I started doing just this halfway through my second year of university. I’d make the quiche on a Sunday afternoon, reading for my next essay whilst waiting for it to cook, and then I’d have a box of salad leaves to go with it for lunches throughout the week, which meant that I didn’t have to spend an extra half an hour every day making lunch when I was in the middle of working. During the 8 weeks or so in which I made these religiously, I experimented with various flavours, going from just using asparagus and red pepper in the first quiche, to adding in butternut squash mash and beetroot later on.

Many supermarkets will stock ready-made shortcrust pastry, but after a lesson in pastry with my aunt, I realised that it’s really not that hard. It’s a relative simple process, and the ingredients are the kind of staples that any regular baker will almost always have in the cupboards, and it tastes better too.

 

Ok, so the first time I made a quiche I didn't have a pastry dish, so a cake tin had to do.

Ok, so the first time I made a quiche I didn’t have a pastry dish, so a cake tin had to do.

Coffee Cream Éclairs

Coffee cream éclairs

Ingredients (makes 12):

Choux pastry:

  • 120ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 2 eggs

Coffee cream filling:

  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp finely ground coffee

Chocolate ganache icing:

  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 40g dark chocolate, in small pieces

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 220ºC and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • In a saucepan, heat the butter and water together over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to the boil before immediately removing from the heat.
  • Add in the flour when you take the mixture off the heat and stir vigorously and continuously with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft ball. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat once more and leave the mixture to cool. Add the eggs, beating each one in fully without adding the next, to create a shiny and smooth paste.
  • Using a piping bag with a 2cm nozzle, pipe the pastry into 15cm long logs, leaving about 3cm between each.
  • Bake at 220ºC for 8 minutes, and then at 180ºC for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the pastry inside with the door ajar for a further 5 minutes.
  • Once the choux pastry has finished in the oven, take the buns out and leave them on a wire rack to cool completely.
The choux pastry buns before adding the cream and chocolate ganache.

The choux pastry buns before adding the cream and chocolate ganache.

Whilst you’re waiting for the buns to cool, you can make the filling and icing:

  • To make the glaze, heat the milk and chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave on a medium setting for 20 seconds.
  • Remove from the microwave and stir the mixture gently until the chocolate melts to form a ganache. Leave the mixture to cool in the fridge until needed.
  • To make the filling, beat the cream with the icing sugar, vanilla extract and ground coffee until stiff peaks form. Store in the fridge until needed.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut a horizontal slit down one side of the cooled éclair buns. Fill the buns with the coffee cream and spread the chocolate icing over the top.
  • Place the buns in the fridge to allow the icing to set.

(Recipe adapted from: http://wholesome-cook.com/2014/07/17/coffee-cream-eclairs-and-the-only-choux-pastry-recipe-youll-ever-need/)

When chatting to Becky, one of my closest friends, a couple of months ago, we realised that despite having spoken about our respective baking endeavours on many an occasion, we’d never actually baked together. We’d shared ideas, recipes and tips, but we figured it was about time that we made something together rather than just talk about it. Given that I’m now out of the country on my Year Abroad, and I’m not going to be spending much time in the UK for the next 12 months or so, we settled on a date.

And so we baked. We’d spent some time deliberating over what we wanted to make, eventually settling on éclairs because Becky had never worked with choux pastry before, and I wanted to have a go at éclairs! (Plus they’d be easier to divide up afterwards.)

We did the usual things one does when baking: getting flour all over the hob, coating the walls in icing sugar, eating any remaining mixture that was sadly left unused at the bottom of the bowls… (I see you with your judging eyes, don’t pretend you don’t do it too.) We even ended up making a bit too much of the coffee cream filling, so once we’d finished baking, we treated ourselves to some chocolate-infused coffee with the leftover cream added for good measure and an éclair each.

I particularly enjoyed baking with Becky, because it sort of brought things full circle for me. She and another good friend from home, Charlotte, were the ones who about this time last year kept telling me to watch The Great British Bake Off until I finally caved into the pressure and agreed to watch the first episode of the new series. Looking back, I’m very glad I did. Since then, I’ve become hooked on the show and been inspired to start baking, much to the delight of my family and friends. One year later, and here I am!

Religieuses

P1090104

Ingredients (makes 8):

Choux pastry:

  • 60g butter
  • 150ml water
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 eggs

Crème pâtissière:

  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 20g cornflour
  • 25g plain flour

Chocolate ganache:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 200g plain chocolate, pieces

Collar cream:

  • 150ml double cream

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 220ºC. On a piece of baking paper, draw eight circles 5cm wide and eight circles 2.5cm wide, and use it to line a baking tray
  • In a saucepan, heat the butter and water together over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to the boil before immediately removing from the heat.
  • Add in the flour when you take the mixture off the heat and stir vigorously and continuously with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft ball. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat once more and leave the mixture to cool. Add the eggs, beating each one in fully before adding the next, to create a shiny and smooth paste.
  • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a 1.5cm nozzle and pipe round discs onto the baking tray in the marked circle. Dampen your finger and gentle smoothen the top of each disc.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes at 220ºC, then reduce the temperature to 190ºC and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove the choux pastry buns from the oven and pierce each with a skewer to allow the steam and heat to escape. Turn the oven off and put the choux buns back in for 4-5 minutes to dry. Remove once more from the oven and leave them to cool.

For the crème pâtissière:

  • Add the milk and vanilla seeds to a saucepan and gradually bring to the boil. Once the mixture has started to boil, remove from the heat and leave it to cool for 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until pale, then add in the cornflour and plain flour to the mixture. Combine with the vanilla-flavoured milk and whisk continuously.
  • Bring the mixture back to the boil over a medium heat whilst continuing to whisk and cook for 1 minute.
  • Pour the crème pâtissière into a bowl and cover it with cling film, as doing so will prevent it from forming a skin. Put the bowl in the fridge to cool.

For the chocolate ganache icing:

  • Bring the double to a boil in small pan, and then remove from the heat.
  • Add in the chocolate and stir consistently until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is shiny.
  • Transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave in the fridge to cool until the ganache is thick but still spreadable.

For the cream collar:

  • Whip the double cream in a bowl until peaks start to form.

To assemble the religieuse:

  • Spoon the crème pâtissière into a piping bag with a long thin nozzle, and use it to fill the buns.
  • With a teaspoon, gently spread the chocolate ganache over the top of each bun, using the ganache to help keep the smaller bun on top of the larger.
  • Spoon the cream for the collar into a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle. Pipe a collar of cream around the joining point between the two buns.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/religieuse_46431)

Now, I must be honest with you here and tell you that when I first tried to make these, my crème pâtissière really didn’t work as I’d hoped. As you can see, the mixture was far too thin, as the milk I was using had too high a water content and too low a fat content. I have since learnt the error of my ways. One of the things I also took from the experience was that with some things, no amount of whisking is going to make them thick enough to resemble cream in any form, and you’ll just end up with a vanilla-flavoured milk substance that refuses to change texture.

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Please don’t tell Mary Berry!

I was first introduced to religieuses, as with many baked goods, through The Great British Bake Off, and I loved the concept. As a long-time lover of profiteroles, the idea of stacking them seemed like genius. I will admit, the fact that the name is French may have also been a contributing factor in my love for these delicacies, especially because of the wonderful attempts at pronouncing the name made by the various GBBO contestants and presenters.

The French name, for the finished good as well as the choux pastry and crème pâtissière, made this recipe a clear forerunner when it came to deciding what to bake for a French tea party. (Yes, French tea party. I’ll explain.) Once the words ‘tea party’ had been mentioned, I naturally felt an obligation to don my apron and bake something for the occasion. Hence the French connection to religieuses.

At the end of my second year studying French and German at Oxford, our French language tutor offered to host our final class in her flat nearby. Given that it was the end of the year and we were preparing to go off on our Years Abroad, our only task was to produce a hilariously bad translation of a pop song, which we then read to each other at said tea party. I appreciate that to those of you who don’t have much to do with translation this may not sound like the most fun experience ever, but when you’ve made some pretty creative but ultimately wrong word choices and produced horrific contortions of both English and French, laughing at deliberately bad attempts is somewhat therapeutic.

To aid in our therapy therefore, our tutor very kindly provided us with a miniature feast. She made brownies, banana cake and flapjack for us, so with the religieuses as well we were rather spoilt for choice! What these photos do lack sadly is some sense of perspective, but know that these nuns were rather large. Thankfully the other French students at my college came along at the end to help us out with the cornucopia we’d found ourselves with.

Religieuses