Puff Pastry Fans, Twists and Butterflies

I’ve listed these three designs together because they are all initially made with the same method, varying only with how the cut slices of pastry are subsequently treated.

Puff Pastry Fans showing upper side (top) and underneath (bottom)

 

Puff Pastry Twists (top) and Butterflies (bottom)

You will need:
1 roll of puff pastry – chilled
caster sugar

  1. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  3. Sprinkle the work surface with caster sugar.
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and lay it onto the sugar.
  5. Sprinkle more caster sugar over the pastry.
  6. Use a rolling pin over the pastry to press the sugar into both sides.
  7. Roll out the pastry until it measures 60cm lengthways.
  8. Starting at one end, fold over 5cm, then continue to roll/fold the rest of the pastry until the entire length has been gathered in.
  9. The pastry will end up looking similar to this:
  10. Cut thin (5mm) slices and lay them onto the parchment, cut side facing upwards. Leave a 2cm gap between each slice.
  11. Cut off the end of each slice so that the folded pastry can open out into a fan shape during baking. For each line of fans, arrange the slices so that the cut ends are alternate, as in the diagram below. this will allow for the shapes to open up evenly and not become misshapen if they happen ro spread a little too far.
  12. To make the twists, slightly press the centre of a cut slice together, then turn the un-cut end around 180° to form the twist.
  13. To make the butterflies, cut and remove both ends of a slice and then form a twist as above.
  14. Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 7 minutes to ensure even colouring. Don’t be tempted to take the fans/twists/butterflies out too early – they need to be nicely caramelised.
  15. Cool on a wire rack.

Variations

  • You can obviously make these as big as you like, it merely involves rolling the pastry long enough and/or varying the size of the first fold of the pastry, but these are a nice, dainty size, perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea or coffee.
  • You can also sandwich them together with a little smooth jam, preserve or conserve, or use them in place of wafers for an ice-cream sandwich.
  • Another option is to combine them with some fruit and cream, for a delicate dessert pastry.


Puff Pastry Fans

Five piece fans showing top sides (top) and undersides (bottom)

You will need:
1 roll of puff pastry – chilled
caster sugar

  1. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  3. Sprinkle the work surface with caster sugar.
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and lay it onto the sugar.
  5. Sprinkle more caster sugar over the pastry.
  6. Use a rolling pin over the pastry to press the sugar into both sides.
  7. Measure the length of your pastry and divide into three pieces, as per the image below:If your pastry is longer, you can make the pieces larger if liked – For example, for pastry 30cm long you can divide it into pieces 6cm, 12cm & 12cm.
  8. Fold the small piece in half lengthways. Fold the larger pieces in half lengthways (to determine the middle), then fold each of the long sides into the middle. Assemble the pieces as follows:
  9. Cut the pastry into 1cm thick slices and lay onto the parchment, cut sides upwards and spaced well apart to allow for expansion during cooking.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 7 minutes to ensure even colouring. Don’t be tempted to take the fans out too early – they need to be nicely caramelised.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.

Variations

  • You can obviously make these as big as you like, it merely involves rolling the pastry long enough or using multiple sheets of pastry, but these are a nice, dainty size, perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea or coffee.
  • You can also sandwich them together with a little smooth jam, preserve or conserve, or use them in place of wafers for an ice-cream sandwich.
  • Another option is to combine them with a differently-shaped base, some fruit and cream, for a delicate dessert pastry. In the photograph I have used the slightly larger fan design described here.


Puff Pastry Toasts and Bows

Toasts and Bows are made from the same preparation of the pastry, so you can make both and arrange them in several combinations to create variation.

Toasts

Puff Pastry Toasts underside(L) and top side (R)

You will need:
1 roll of puff pastry – chilled
caster sugar

  1. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  3. Sprinkle the work surface with caster sugar.
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and lay it onto the sugar.
  5. Sprinkle more caster sugar over the pastry.
  6. Use a rolling pin over the pastry to press the sugar into both sides.
  7. Cut the pastry into four even strips of around 10cm in width.
  8. Stack the strips on top of one another and press together lightly.
  9. Cut thin (5mm) slices and lay two slices close together to form 1 toast, cut edges upwards.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 7 minutes to ensure even colouring. Don’t be tempted to take the toasts out too early – they need to be nicely caramelised.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.

Bows

Bows

Follow instructions 1-8 above, then:

  1.  Cut 1cm thick slices and lay them flat on the baking parchment, with the cut edges upwards.
  2. Press the middle together slightly, then flip one of the ends around forming a twist.
  3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 7 minutes to ensure even colouring. Don’t be tempted to take the bows out too early – they need to be nicely caramelised.
  4. Cool on a wire rack.

Serving Suggestions

  • Toasts can be enjoyed stuck together with jam or used instead of wafers for an ice-cream sandwich.
  • For decoration, lay a strip of paper diagonally across the top of the toast or bow, and then sprinkle over icing sugar. Carefully remove the paper to reveal the nice contrast between the browned pastry and the white sugar.
  • Add a little fresh fruit and whipped cream to turn these into speedy and delicious desserts. Use a bow on top of a toast for an unusual and eye-catching combination.


Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

Blackcurrant & Basil Tart

Wotchers!

In food, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s really difficult to be original. Whatever blinding flash of inspiration you think you’ve had, I promise you that it has been done before; usually better, sometimes worse. If it hasn’t been done before, then that’s usually a good indication that it’s not such a great idea (i.e. it was done before and discarded because it wasn’t fab at all). If it was fab, we’d have heard about it in the last 5000 years. This goes for top-level chefs as well as for the humblest baker.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking a recipe and putting your own spin on it. Tweak it enough and then you can claim it as your own (and acknowledge the inspirational recipe, but it’s surprising how many people seem to forget this bit).

Example: Ian Dowding and the invention of Banoffi Pie. Except, of course, he didn’t invent it, he readily admits that it evolved by adding bananas to a recipe for Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie brought back from the US by Russell the chef, with whom Dowding worked in a restaurant in Berkshire. Read all about it here.

And so to this week’s recipe. I recently watched an episode of a food show from the US and one of the items shown was a Goat’s Cheese and Blueberry Pie with fresh basil. I liked the unusual combination and re-watched the clip several times in order to jot down what looked like the quantities/ingredients. It took a couple of tries to get the sweetness and texture right, and my overall verdict was: No. The goats cheese was odd. The tart lacked zing. The fresh blueberries were OK, but had no pop of flavour, and so I set my notes aside.

Until I had a brain wave a couple of weeks ago with: blackcurrants! I resurrected my notes and swapped in blackcurrants for blueberries and it was amazing (she said modestly). The fresh basil is very reminiscent of the aroma of blackcurrant leaves and the amazingly tart pop of flavour from the berries was just what had been missing from the original. After guarded compliments from friends after the first attempt, I swapped the goats cheese for cream cheese and found I didn’t miss the lack of tang at all. – it was creamy, but not so dense as to push it into cheesecake territory (although it’s close!). Disliking unnecessary waste, the surplus egg-white from the filling ended  up in the topping, along with butter instead of margarine, which all made for a crunchy variation to the original. Finally, there was a need to balance out the basil: the boldness of the blackcurrant flavour meant a larger quantity was needed in order for it not to be lost in the background whilst avoiding being too heavy handed and tipping it over into a borderline savoury tart. Luckily, the perfect amount was almost exactly the quantity of leaves you get in a 28g pack of fresh basil in the supermarkets.

Interesting Fact: I read recently that blackcurrant is, for the most part, an unknown flavour in the US, due to a ban in the early 20th century when it was thought to harbour a disease harmful to the logging industry. All  can say is: you’re missing out, my friends across the water, and it’s high time you invested in blackcurrant bushes in order to enjoy all the wonderful things you can do with them. Exhibit A: this pie! If you’re lucky, you will be abe to find frozen berries in your supermarkets and farm shops until your bushes bear fruit themselves.

So yes, I did not conjure this fabulous tart up out of thin air, I evolved it from something else. That doesn’t mean it’s not fabulous and you should all rush out and get some blackcurrants immediately.  If nothing else, for the vitamin C, doncherknow.

“But  where!? It’s March!” I hear you wail. If you’re not lucky enough to have some in your own freezer from the bounty of last summer, then (in the UK) some supermarkets have them in the frozen fruit section. You can also find them in farm shops that have large chest freezers, alongside other berries and fruits in a kind of scoop-your-own setup.

I’ve opted for a pastry crust, but you could just as easily use a cheesecake-like, biscuit-and-butter crumb instead. Fresh basil is a must – don’t even think of trying to fudge it with dried.

It goes without saying – but I shall say it anyway – that, obviously, you can sub back in all the stuff I took out and try it for yourselves and make it YOUR own. 😀

Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

1 x 20cm shortcrust pastry case, blind baked (or biscuit base of your choice)

Filling
300g cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large yolk
60g caster sugar
2tbs cornflour
15g fresh basil leaves, shred finely (from a 28g bunch/pack)
300g blackcurrants – frozen is fine

Topping
50g caster sugar
1 large egg white
50g flaked almonds
50g melted butter – cooled

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Whisk the cheese until smooth, then add the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour and mix thoroughly.
  • Stir through the shredded basil and the blackcurrants. The blackcurrants can be used frozen, just make sure they’re not all stuck together in a big lump.
  • Pour the filling into the prepared tart case.
  • Whisk the sugar and egg-white together, until frothy, then stir through the almonds. Add the cooled butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the topping evenly over the filling.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until almost set, and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool, then chill thoroughly before serving.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: A super quick, fruity Soda Cake from 1835


Carrot and Parsnip Tart

Golden Root Vegetable Tart

Wotchers!

I’ve decided to go all autumnal this week with this comforting, root vegetable tart. It was inspired by a recipe from 1604 for parsnip pie.

It can make the basis of a light lunch or be served as an accompaniment to a main meal.

Its simple flavours are enriched by generous use of butter, with which both carrots and parsnips become glorious. And by generous, I mean about 50g, less than two ounces in old money, so hardly extravagent either budget or health-wise.

And yes, I’ve hopped onto the current ‘spiral tart’ craze to provide the impressive appearance, but I would argue that it is only a development of the apple rose tart, so neeners!

Like the apple rose tart, and unlike most of the current crop of spiral tarts, this tart also has a filling beneath the decorative vegetable ribbons – the remains of the vegetables carved up for the decoration are steamed and then mashed together with lashings of butter and pepper. They give the tart both substance and richness.

Equipment Recommendation
I don’t usually mention cooking equipment, mostly because my kitchen is too small to have much of anything, but I heartily recommend this kind of saucepan set:

steamer saucepan set

The top two tiers are steamer pans, over a regular saucepan. You can cook all the side dishes for a Sunday lunch in this – potatoes in the bottom and up to four vegetables in the steamer baskets – at the same time, on one burner/ring on the stove, removing the baskets from the stack as the contents are done. I use mine daily.

Other vegetables you might like to try with this recipe: beetroot, turnip, swede, butternut squash, courgette.

Carrot and Parsnip Tart

1 x 20cm partially blind-baked shortcrust pastry tart shell
5 large parsnips
5 large carrots
50g butter
salt & pepper

  • Peel the carrots and parsnips, then cut into ribbons. I find a Y-shaped peeler is best for this.
  • Cook the ribbons in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Chop the remains of the vegetables into cubes and steam over the boiling water until tender. The parsnips will probably require more cooking than the carrots, so have them in separate steamer baskets so you can remove them when done. Even though they will be mashed, you don’t want them mushy.
  • Mash the cooked vegetables together. Don’t be too thorough with your mashing – it’s nice to be able to see flecks of both vegetables in the mix, and it gives a mottled, almost marbling effect. Add 30g of the butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
  • When cold, spoon the mashed vegetables into the tart shell and smooth over.
  • Arrange the ribbons of vegetables in alternating circles on top. You can begin in the middle or on the edges of the tart.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Melt the remaining butter and brush lightly over the top of the vegetable ribbons.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then cover lightly with a foil tent to prevent the vegetable ribbons from burning, and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  • Cool in the tin for 10 mintes before removing and serving.

Chocolate Praline Tart

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Praline Tart

Wotchers!

A little bit of luxury for you this week. I’m still sticking with the French theme, but it’s a little less obvious than in previous weeks. This week’s recipe is inspired by a newly acquired book which demonstrates that food allergies or intolerances need not signal a lifetime of dull or dismal food.

Conticini GF DF book

This is the latest pubication by Philippe Conticini, creating mouthwatering desserts and treats that are both gluten free and dairy free. Although I purchased my copy from the French Amazon site a few months ago, it is now available with just UK shipping charges here, or order through your local bookshop. Alas, it is only available in the original French, but anyone with O-level/GCSE French and a working knowledge of baking will manage easily.

Sidebar: for the digitally inclined, there is a free Translate app that will allow you to photograph text with your phone, which it will then scan and translate on the go. Also, Chef Conticini has many of his recipes freely available on his website here, as well as numerous demonstration videos on his Facebook page here.

The first recipe in the book is for a kind of chocolate nut sponge, and it is filled with a ganache and glazed with a slightly thinned version of the ganache. It is delicious! It is also very hard to believe it is both gluten and lactose free.

I was so impressed with the ganache, I thought it deserved a starring role, so here it is in a very elegant and sophisticated tart. Gluten and dairy free chocolate is available in supermarkets – I found both milk and dark chocolate in Morrisons.

This tart is made up of bits and pieces from different recipes, tweaked to fit in with my overall idea: I like to think of it as the Lego™ approach. The praline paste is Philippe Conticinis, as well as the ganache – I’ve not messed with either. I’ve tweaked the sweet pastry recipe by adding cocoa (reducing one of the flours) to make it chocolate.

I’ve used a long, rectangular tart tin, but any shape will do. Since everything tastes so rich, the tart doesn’t have to be very deep and you could probably stretch the pastry to a 24cm flan tin. Otherwise, use a 20cm flan tin and, exercising your will of iron, cut the slices very thin.

Chocolate Praline Tart

For the praline

NB Because it is a bit of a Faff™, this deliberately makes a LOT of praline. However, it will keep for months in the fridge if necessary. If you really don’t think you’ll use it – I mean, it’s not like it tastes AWESOME or anything – consider making a half batch.

300g of whole raw hazelnuts (with skin)
300g of whole raw almonds (with skin)
400g caster sugar
100g water

  • Put the sugar and the water in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring the syrup to a boil and when the temperature reaches 118°C, add the hazelnuts and almonds.
  • Stir the nuts in the sugar, making sure that they are thoroughly coated. This movement will also cause the sugar to crystallise. This is fine. Continue stirring to keep the nuts from burning.
  • Eventually, the sugar will melt again and turn a deep and warm caramel colour.
  • At this point, pour the whole mixture onto baking parchment. Before it cools, pull the nuts apart using a couple of forks, so that they don’t set in a solid lump. This will make processing them easier.
  • When the caramelised nuts are cold, break them up either by hand or by battering them with a rolling pin and transfer to a food processor fitted with the cutting blade.
  • If you want to use some of the nuts as decoration, as in the photo, set some aside before the mixture becomes paste.
  • Process the nuts into a smooth paste using a series of short bursts with the blade. If you keep the blade moving for too long, it will heat up the paste, so short stints are best. For a long time it will seem like you’re just making a racket with the machine, but it will eventually break down into smaller pieces.
  • When the mixture is smooth, transfer to an airtight box and store in the fridge.

For the pastry

This recipe uses clarified butter. Before everyone starts shrieking dairy, let me remind you that clarified butter is pure fat, WITHOUT any of the dairy solids. If you’re not convinced, as an alternative you can use Indian ghee or coconut butter.

50g clarified butter
30g icing sugar
30g ground almonds
25g chestnut flour
25g Green & Black’s cocoa powder
25g cornflour
50g rice flour
pinch of sea salt

1 large yolk
½ large egg – whisked

  • Use a little clarified butter to grease your tin and shake over some cornflour (to help keep the pastry from sticking).
  • Put the butter and the dry ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the yolk into the beaten egg and add gradually to the dry ingredients until the mixture comes together. It might not come together in the bowl, only resemble damp crumbs, but it will hold once tipped out and pressed firmly.
  • Roll out thinly and use to line your prepared tin. Alternatively, just use the damp crumbs into your tin and press into the sides and base until covered. I opted to roll the pastry and got it impressively thin, but then I found I couldn’t move it across into the tin in one piece, so I just patchworked it together.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line your pastry with baking parchment and add cooking beads/rice.
  • Bake until the pastry is fully cooked (20-30 minutes).
  • Set aside to cool. NB Your pastry might crack as it cools. Fear not. Just melt some GF DF chocolate and literally paint over the cracks. And everywhere else if you like. Put the tart shell in the fridge to set. The layer of chocolate will help keep the pastry crisp underneath the rich filling.

For the ganache

170g GF DF dark chocolate
55g GF DF milk chocolate
150ml Soya milk

  • Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over warm water.
  • Heat the milk and slowly add to the melted chocolate, stirring constantly until fully combined.
  • Set aside until required.

To assemble

  • Add a layer of praline to the cooled tart shell. How much is entirely up to you. I am a big fan of its rich taste, but then again, a little does go a long way. I spread a 5mm layer which is enough to give the flavour, but doesn’t overpower. If the praline is cold and too stiff to spread, zap it for a few seconds in the microwave to soften.
  • Pour the warm ganache over the praline paste and smooth. You can also tap the tin lightly on the work surface to get the ganache to level out.
  • Put into the fridge to set. Once set, sprinkle over the finely chopped praline if using.
  • If not eating immediately, cover lightly with cling film – try and keep it from touching the ganache – and store in the fridge.
  • Allow the tart to come to room temperature before serving.

 


Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Wotchers!

Coffee and Walnut is one the best flavour combinations you can enjoy.

Of course, it helps if you’re a coffee fiend like myself. The tannins in, and astringency of, the walnut skins both help to balance out any sweetness and also complements the bitterness of the coffee. If, also like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it is a delicious step back from too much sweetness.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe is the best cake version of this classic combination. As part of the audition process for season two of The Great British Bake Off, groups of applicants were summoned to a test kitchen and asked to bake Mary’s Coffee and Walnut Cake under filming conditions, to determine both real-time cooking ability and whether you could whisk eggs and answer questions at the same time.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake is also the cake that I bake for others to enjoy: for the school summer fete, to thank a neighbour for removing a tree that was damaging our fence, for my dentist to apologise for missing an appointment, for the lads at the garage for going that extra mile. It’s the kind of cake that doesn’t sound very interesting, but when tasted, invites a wave of nostalgic memories of traditional tea-times.

coffeewalnuttart0

This recipe is a variation of this classic flavour combination, in the form of a tart: sweet walnut pastry, coffee and walnut frangipane, a layer of coffee caramel over walnut halves and decorated with candied walnuts.

The original recipe wasn’t such a coffee/walnut feast. In fact, it didn’t have any coffee in it at all. I played around with adding it here and there and eventually came up with this variation. The appearance also required attention, which isn’t exactly one of my strengths. In this year’s Bake Off, Mary Berry has found a word to describe bakes of less-than-ideal appearance: they are being referred to as ‘informal’. The first iteration of this recipe was definitely informal – see below. It didn’t help matters that I decided to cut it whilst still warm.

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

During the filming of the Bake Off, I’d apparently told Mary Berry that “I don’t do dainty”. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that this tart still isn’t dainty, I’ve tried to make it a step up from ‘informal’, out of my desire never to earn reproach from the imaginary Mary Berry that will forever be looking over my shoulder, i.e. made an effort to make the pastry thinner, allowed the caramel to cool down before cutting into the tart, less icing sugar, more candied walnuts.

In a week where Mary Berry decided to leave the Bake Off, I’d like to acknowledge my very great affection and respect both for her and her gentle encouragement to always make an effort to finish things nicely.

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

If you’re not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out altogether – it will still be delicious.

Walnut Sweet Shortcrust
150g unsalted butter
85g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
80g walnuts – ground fine in a food processor.
125g plain flour
1 large egg
1 large yolk

  • Grease and line a 20cm tart tin with baking parchment.
  • Blitz the butter, sugar, walnuts and flour in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk together the egg and the yolk.
  • With the food processor running, gradually add the egg, little by little, until the mixture comes together into a ball. NB There is moisture in the walnuts and the butter, so you might only need a little of the egg. Do NOT be heavy-handed adding the egg, as this pastry is rather a challenge to work with when made well – too wet and it verges on nightmarish.
  • Roll the pastry thinly (5mm) and use to line your tart tin. It is very fragile, so you’re unlikely to be able to drape it into your tin in a whole sheet. The good news is, it is very forgiving if you just want to patchwork it.
  • Put your pastry-lined tin in the fridge or freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Trim any excess pastry from your tin, line with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes to firm up the inner surface  of the pastry.
  • Set aside until required.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan.

Filling
100g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
100g walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
60g warm, melted butter
2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and foamy.
  • Gently fold through the ground walnuts, coffee powder and the melted butter
  • Pour mixture into the blind-baked pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until set and lightly browned.
  • Set aside to cool.

Topping

150g walnut halves

  • When the tart has cooled, arrange the walnut halves neatly over the top.

Caramel
150g caster sugar
50ml water
100g crème fraîche
20g butter
1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder, dissolved in 1tbs hot water

  • Put the sugar and water into a pan over medium heat. I prefer my non-stick frying pan for this task.
  • Allow the sugar to dissolve, then turn up the heat and allow to boil until a golden caramel colour is achieved.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, butter and coffee.
  • Pour the caramel over the walnut halves. I found it best to spoon a little over each nut, to ensure an even coating, then to drizzle the remainder into any gaps.
  • Allow to cool, then chill in the fridge until required.

Candied walnuts
8 walnut halves
100g caster sugar
2tbs water

  • Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil.
  • When the sugar begins to caramelise, add the walnut halves and stir over medium head until coated.
  • Lift the sugared nuts from the pan with a fork and set onto parchment to cool.

To Serve

Dust lightly with icing sugar and top with the candied walnuts.