The recipe this week, as with most of my late-summer posts, is inspired by holidays in France. In addition to the usual holiday activities, this year we also enjoyed WiFi where we were staying, and I was able to binge-watch many episodes of the French version of Britain’s Best Bakery.
In true Bake Off style, each bakery is graded across three rounds: initial visit and tastings, specialist round, and group challenge – where the 3 (later dropped to just 2) bakeries in the region make a recipe set by the judges.
The most recent series has emphasized bread for the second round, so the bakeries must present their best-seller or their most favourite of their bread range, but in earlier seasons, there was no such stipulation, and bakeries could put forward whichever of their products they liked.
One of the bakeries in the Aquitaine Nord region put forward these pastries which really caught my eye as being both simple yet flavoursome. The contrast between the crisp pastry and the soft, moist filling, together with the obvious enjoyment of the two judges, struck me as so delicious and so unusual, I decided to try them myself. Helpfully, the programs also show the bakeries making these recipes, although omitting for the most part any details such as weights, oven timings and even the full list of ingredients. Nevertheless, I managed to piece together this recipe and here we are.
Jesuits get their name from their triangular form, resembling the headgear worn by Jesuit priests in the 17th century. There doesn’t seem to be any further link to the priesthood at all, so we can move swiftly on to their structure. A orange-flavoured almond sponge, or frangipane, is baked between two sheets of puff pastry. Once cooked and cooled, the pastry is cut into triangles and coated with Italian meringue, and briefly returned to the oven to bake until lightly tinted brown.
Apart from being delicious, these are incredibly simple to make. Like the bakery in the program, I initially made a large ‘tray bake’ and then cut it into triangles, but you could also make individual-sized portions. The frangipane is easily customised to any flavouring you like, and the meringue coating is not compulsory – you can just spread a layer on top if you prefer (it’d be a lot less sticky to do, too). Several versions ‘out there’ have only a simple water glaze if meringue isn’t a favourite. You could even omit it altogether: the simple, crisp, unadorned, butter pastry is a great contrast to the soft, moist, orangey, almond filling. If you think that this version sounds more your thing, I recommend making individual pastries – any shape, although I find (Mille-feuille/custard slice sized) rectangles both easy and most appealing.
The classic topping is almonds, flaked or chopped, but for the large bake, I was out of both and so opted for nibbed sugar, which added both sparkle and crunch. The plain pastries can be adorned with a brush of syrup and some flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes of baking and then finished off with a dusting of icing sugar, or indeed nothing at all.
Variation: Ground hazelnuts, if you can find them, make a fantastic pairing with candied orange.
Obviously, you could hand-make your puff pastry, using only the very best ingredients and taking two days to do so, but for speed, practicality, and the unknown quality of a new recipe, a roll of ready-made is the sensible choice. Splash out on an all-butter version. Go wild.
2 sheets puff pastry
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g ground almonds
50g candied orange peel, chopped fine
grated zest of 2 oranges
2-3tbs orange liqueur (optional)
To finish – all are optional
sugar syrup – I used the syrup from the candied orange peel.
flaked or chopped almonds for sprinkling
icing sugar to dust
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Dock the pastry sheets with a pastry docker or use the tines of a fork to poke holes all over.
- Whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until the mixture is pale and light.
- Add the eggs, one by one, ensuring the first is thoroughly incorporated before adding the second.
- When the eggs are incorporated, fold in the almonds, orange peel and zest, and liqueur if using.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with 1 plain, 2cm tip.
- Lay one of the pastry sheets onto a baking sheet on a piece of parchment.
- Pipe the mixture evenly onto the pastry in a rectangle, leaving a border of at least 3cm around the edges.
- Brush the edges with water and lay the second sheet of pastry over the filling. Press the edges firmly, trying to trap as little air as possible.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden. NB For individual pastries, you need bake for only 30 minutes, brushing with syrup and sprinkling them with flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- When just warm, cut off the excess pastry from around the edges and then divide the filled pastry into triangles. The size is entirely up to you. You can either enjoy them as is, or add the meringue and almond coating.
- Make an Italian meringue. My recipe is here.
- Lay a fresh piece of parchment onto a baking sheet.
- Coat the sides and the top of each pastry with a layer of meringue, no more than 1cm thick.
- Lay the coated pastry onto the parchment.
- When all pastries are coated, sprinkle them with the chopped/flaked almonds and bake for 10 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.
- Enjoy warm, or allow to cool.
- If covered with meringue, these are best on the day they are baked. Unadorned pastries can be enjoyed for 2-3 days. Crisp them up by warming gently in a low oven.
Semi-final week on The Great British Bake Off, and the Signature Bake for Round 1 is a layered sponge and mousse cake.
My original recipe is listed on the BBC Food website, which was the version from the show and which was completed within 2 hours.
This version varies slightly in that, without the time-pressures of competition, I have suggested a gelatine-set orange gelee for the top. This can look especially impressive as it means that the gelee stands proud of the surface of the cake, as if by magic.
The instructions below are for a single, large mousse cake. The same quantity will also make 12 mini versions like the one pictured above, which stands about 6cm high. Instead of teeny tiny springform pans (I’m not even sure they make them that small), I used the ‘improvised baking rings’ (made from tinned peas tins) mentioned earlier in the Muffins post.
Joconde décor paste
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
100g egg whites
110g plain flour
orange food colouring
2tbs melted butter
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
40g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
85g clarified butter, melted
Chocolate and orange mousse
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tsp powdered gelatine
175g plain (60%+) chocolate, broken into pieces
2 large eggs, separated
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
300ml orange juice
3 sheets gelatine
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
- Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter.
- Line the base and sides of a 25cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.
- Make the joconde paste:
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
- Fold in the sifted flour then add the food colouring.
- Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
- Pipe the mixture onto the buttered parchment in a swirl pattern and place in the freezer to harden.
- Make the joconde sponge:
- Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.
- Scrape the meringue mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the meringue collapsing.
- Beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs in the bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Turn the speed down to low and mix in the flour and cocoa powder.
- Gently fold in the meringue mixture using a large spatula.
- Put the melted butter in a small bowl and mix in a cupful of the sponge batter. Pour this back into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the rest of batter.
- Remove the baking trays with the decor paste from the freezer.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two baking trays, spreading it smoothly over the decorations and into the corners ensuring it is level. An offset spatula is useful for this.
- Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch and have shrunk away from the edges of the pan.
- Turn out by covering the sponge with a sheet of parchment then flip the baking tray over onto the work surface. Peel off the paper to reveal the pattern, and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.
- When cooled, cut strips of sponge to line the sides of the cake tin, ensuring the pattern is facing outwards against the sides of the tin. Cut a circle of sponge to line the base and lay it patterned-side down, in the bottom of the tin. Cut a second circle to make the top of the cake and set aside.
- Make the mousse:
- Pour the juice from the orange through a fine sieve into a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set the mixture aside for three minutes then place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, taking care the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and stir gently until the gelatine has dissolved.
- Place the chocolate in a large bowl and melt it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds.
- Mix the orange zest and egg yolks into the melted chocolate, then stir in the gelatine mixture and fold in the whipped cream.
- Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into the tin, level the surface and place the remaining sponge circle on top, pattern uppermost and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
- Make the orange gelée:
- Cut the gelatine sheets into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add 60ml of orange juice from the 300ml and leave for 10 minutes while the gelatine swells.
- Heat very gently in a saucepan until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir in the rest of the orange juice.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Don’t skip the cooling. If you try and pour the orange gelee over the cake before it has cooled and thickened slightly, it will just soak into the sponge.
- When the orange mix has cooled and is beginning to thicken, remove the tin from the fridge and slide a strip of food-grade acetate (or silicon sheeting) between the side of the springform tin and the sponge.
- Carefully pour the orange mixture over the top of the cake and return to the fridge to set (2 hours)
- To decorate:
- Release the sides of the springform tin and peel off the acetate/silicon. Transfer to a serving plate .
- Whip the double cream to stiff peaks (be careful not to over-beat) and pipe swirls around the edge of the mousse cake.
- Cut thin strips of peel from the oranges and curl them around a straw.
- Decorate mousse cake with orange zest curls and dust with cocoa powder.
Cost: £9.50 (September 2011)