Things To Do With Choux

Different choux bun toppingsWotchers!

This is my 100th post – go me! – and will be the last before I take a break from the blog for a month or so, so I decided I would make it a special one so that you’d have lots to keep you busy over the coming weeks.

I’ve talked about choux pastry before, in an everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-baking-choux-pastry tutorial and to introduce the lesser known savoury version, the gougère. Choux pastry is usually used to make a sweet cream puff, which can also be served with a pouring of warm chocolate sauce as profiteroles, or cemented together with a glass-clear caramel as the impressive croquembouche. Alternatively, choux pastry makes the equally recognisable eclair.

This repertoire is all well and good, but being able to count the number of recipes on one hand is surprisingly limited in terms of what may be created with choux pastry, when compared to the dozens, if not hundreds of creations made from both shortcrust and puff pastry.

So here are a few suggestions for expanding your choux pastry repertoire. Use the recipe from here and why not try several of these variations from the one batch?

Have fun!

1. Finishes

The simplest way to glamourise your choux buns is to add a finish, or glaze that will enhance both the appearance and the flavour.

Unglazed vs Glazed choux buns

Unglazed (L) vs Glazed (R) choux buns

a) Egg glaze

Brush your choux buns with the beaten yolk of an egg mixed with a tablespoon of water just before they go into the oven. This will result in a deep, rich mahogany brown with a very pleasing sheen.

Chouquettes

Choux buns sprinkled with nib sugar and salt flakes

b) Chouquettes

After brushing over the egg glaze, sprinkle some nibbed sugar over the buns, or for a savoury bun, use flakes of sea salt. Nibbed sugar is available from Bakery Bits, Amazon and Melbury and Appleton.

Choux with Craquelin

Choux with sweet (L) and savoury (R) craquelin.

c) Craquelin

Those of you that keep a keen eye on the international world of patisserie – What? You mean you don’t do that? Stop looking at me funny! – will have noticed the current trend of adding texture to choux buns. This is done by making a paste of brown sugar, butter and flour and rolling it out thinly between two sheets of plastic film.

The sheet of paste is then frozen for 10-15 minutes before circles (or fingers if you’re making eclairs) are cut out. The disc of craquelin paste is then placed lightly on the top of the choux paste just before it goes into the oven. It provides a great texture, but be warned, it will only remain crisp on the day you bake it.

I also made a savoury version of the craquelin by replacing the sugar with fresh grated parmesan, for use on gougeres and other savoury choux.

Sweet Craquelin
50g soft dark brown sugar
50g plain flour
40g butter

Savoury Craquelin
50g fresh grated hard Italian cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano)
50g plain flour
40g butter

  • Blitz the sugar (or cheese), flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture comes together into a ball.. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, there’ll be enough moisture to make it hold together when pressed.
  • Roll the paste out between two sheets of cling film until extremely thin – about 2mm.
  • Put the sheet of paste into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up.
  • Using a pastry cutter of the same diameter as your choux buns, cut out circles of the frozen paste and balance the discs on the top of each choux bun.
  • Bake/cool/fill as usual.

2. Variations

The Religieuse

Sweet (L) and Savoury (R) Religieuses

Sweet (L) and Savoury (R) Religieuses

These little choux delights were allegedly created in 1856, in the famous Frascati cafe in Paris. They consist of  a small choux bun atop a larger choux bun, both filled with a flavoured pastry cream. Both buns are then dipped in fondant icing, usually of the same flavour as the pastry cream, and are joined together with a ruff of whipped cream. They are named for their resemblance to a nun in her habit.

640px-Religieuses_du_Saint_Esprit_XVIIIe

Choose any flavour or combination of flavours for your pastry cream and fondant, and use a large star tip to pipe the whipped cream ruff. For a savoury version, use a soft, white cheese instead of the cream to form the ruff. Set the religieuse in a blind-baked, shortcrust pastry tart, for that finishing touch.

Choux Divorces

Choux Divorce

Another simple presentation idea, also using two choux buns, this time of the same size. One is filled with a coffee pastry cream and glazed with coffee fondant, the other with chocolate pastry cream and chocolate fondant. The two buns are then joined together with whipped cream.

The Harlequin, The Acorn and The Salambo

Harlequin and Acorn

All three of these are made from a short, oval choux bun, about half the length of an eclair, and a little bit wider.

  1. The Harlequin – Caramel pastry cream filling, chocolate and caramel fondant icing, each covering half of the bun.
  2. The Acorn – Kirsch pastry cream, pale green fondant icing, one end of the bun dipped in chocolate sprinkles.
  3. The Salambo -Not pictured, but a variation of The Acorn with Grand Marnier flavoured pastry cream. In the Champagne region of France, the colour of the icing is used to denote the flavouring of the filling: white = vanilla, green = rum and pink = Grand Marnier. Chopped pistachio nuts are an alternative option to the chocolate sprinkles.

Paris Brest

Choux Paris-Brest

Created in 1910 with the inspiration of the famous cycling race, the Paris-Brest is formed from a circle of choux pastry, topped with slivered/sliced almonds before baking and traditionally filled with a butter-enriched pastry cream (crème mousseline) flavoured with praline. The Paris-Brest can be made large enough to serve several people, measuring as uch as 30-50cm, or as a smaller, individual serving. Rather than a plain circle of dough, I like to pipe six tiny choux buns in a circle, which will then rise and join themselves together during baking. Once filled, dust with icing sugar to serve.

Polkas

Choux Polka

This final variation is  a little different in that the choux pastry is piped around the edge of a sweet pastry base and then both are baked together. The centre is then filled with pastry cream, dusted with icing sugar, and a heated metal skewer used to caramelise the sugar in criss-crossing lines. Other variations include a poured caramel sauce, and a brulée of sugar over the top of the pastry cream.

To make the sweet pastry:
This has a slightly different method to normal, and is sometimes known as Kneaded Pastry, in that the paste is broken into small pieces and then re-formed several times before being chilled. Best made the day before, it should chill for a minimum of 2 hours before rolling out.

140g plain flour
60g butter
1tbs sugar
1/2tsp salt
1 large yolk
ice-cold water

  • Blitz the flour, butter, sugar, salt and yolk in the bowl of a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together.
  • Tip out the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
  • Using the back of a spoon, break off small pieces of pastry. It’s similar to scooping a bit of butter to spread on toast, but with more of a squashing-onto-the-worktop motion.
  • When all of the pastry has been broken off, reform it into a ball and repeat the breaking process.
  • Repeat a third time, then wrap the pastry in plastic and chill until required.

For the Polkas

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Roll out the pastry thinly (3-4mm) and cut into circles using a large, plain cutter.
  • Lay the pastry circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Prick the pastry with a fork to prevent it rising too much during baking.
  • Put the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with either a plain or star tip, and pipe a ring of choux around each circle.
  • Brush the pastries with a mixture of egg yolk and water to glaze.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the choux is risen and free of moisture.
  • Cool on wire racks.
  • When cold, fill the centres with pastry cream, dust with icing sugar and caramelise the sugar with a hot metal skewer.

Cheese and Potato Pies

Cheese and Potato Pies

Wotchers!

I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.

I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.

The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.

I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.

These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.

Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney

1 large egg, whisked

Individual foil pie dishes

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the potatoes into centimetre  cubes and put into a bowl.
  • Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
  • Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
  • Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
  • Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
  • Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
  • Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
  • Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Wotchers!

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get side-tracked a lot when browsing the internet, and the inspiration for this week’s recipe is the result of just such a wandering.

Apple and cheese is a classic combination, and together with some smoked ham is one of my favourite toasted sandwiches. But that’s another story. In Yorkshire, it is traditional for Wensleydale cheese to be served alongside slices of apple pie, and a saying dating back over 250 years tells us

‘An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.’

An alternative to serving cheese alongside, is to bake it into the pastry, where it rounds out the flavour of the apple deliciously, without being obvious.

The recipe today pushes this a little bit further by adding green chillies to the apple mixture, and is an adaptation of one served at Chile Pies and Ice Cream, in San Francisco.

Although I found several versions of the pie online, after baking it as per the original, I decided that it needed tinkering with (sorry Chile Pies and Ice Cream!) and the results are below. I was unable to find the roasted chillies specified in the original recipe (Confession: I didn’t even look), so I went with fresh chillies and de-seeded them, which I found gave a real freshness and just enough of a hint of heat without swamping everything. Adding the zest of the lemon as well as the juice really brings out the apple flavour and I’ve reduced the amount of spices, which I found too strong in the original. Even with almost double the original amount of cheese in the pastry, the flavour is not too much, so if you want to go really cheesy, maybe add some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, and as always, the dry mustard powder really rounds out the flavour. The walnuts in the crumble tended to burn very easily, so I swapped them for oats which I love for their nutty crunchiness.

Bramley Apples are fabulous for this recipe. For anyone who is unlucky enough not to be familiar with them, they are a specialist cooking apple grown in the UK. When cooked, they hold their shape until touched, whereupon the apple pieces dissolve into a froth of apple snow, literally melting in the mouth (if that is possible with hot food). If you’re unable to find any Bramley Apples, use a sharp dessert apple such as Braeburn, which will hold its shape and not release too much juice – which means you might want to reduce/omit the cornflour in the filling. Also, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan and cook a little longer.

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Pastry
50g lard
50g unsalted butter
80g strong, tasty cheddar
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
ice water to mix

Filling
35g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
30g cornflour
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
zest & juice of ½ a lemon
2 Bramley Apples
2 green chillis

Crumble
20g butter
20g lard
20g light Muscovado sugar
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
40g steel rolled oats

  • Cheese Pastry
    • Put the lard, butter and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Roughly chop the cheese and add to the mixture.
    • Pulse 3 or 4 times to break up the cheese.
    • Slowly add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip out the pastry and knead a few times until smooth.
    • Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
    • After 30 minutes, remove from the fridge and roll out to about 5mm.
    • Grease two 20cm loose-bottomed tart tins and line with the pastry. Alternatively, make individual tarts.
  • Filling
    • Mix the sugars, cornflour and spices in a bowl and set aside.
    • Grate in the lemon zest and stir.
    • Peel and de-seed the chillis and chop finely.
    • Peel, core and chop the apples into small slices.
    • Put the chopped apples into a bowl and toss in the lemon juice.
    • Scatter over the chillis.
    • Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the apples and chillis and stir gently to combine.
    • Divide the filling between the tarts.
  • Crumble
    • Put the butter, lard, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats.
    • Sprinkle over the apple fillings.
  • To Bake
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
    • Put the tart tins onto a baking sheet, preferably one with a raised edge, as there might be some overflowing of juices.
    • Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around 180 degrees and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. For individual tarts, begin baking the same way, but cook for just 10 minutes after turning the baking sheet.
    • Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm with pouring cream

Trimmings Tart

Trimmings Tart

Wotchers!

Right off the bat I’m going to admit that this is not an original recipe, but it IS one of my absolute favourite Christmas dishes. In fact, I like it so much, I make it even when it isn’t Christmas – it makes a fab meal all by itself, especially when served alongside some crunchy stuffing! My (English as opposed to Dutch) sister-in-law made it years ago and I managed to pry the recipe out of her clutches long enough to make a copy – The Precious! It’s from an old Prima magazine, and I’m sharing it today as a suggestion to making your Christmas that little bit easier and a whole lot tastier.

To my mind, one of the best things about the traditional Christmas turkey meal isn’t the bird itself, it’s all the trimmings that go with it: bacon rolls, chipolata sausages, stuffing, chestnuts, cranberries, etc. However, on probably the most stressful day of the year foodwise, you don’t really want to be juggling all these itty-bitty bits on top of everything else, so here’s a fabulous and delicious solution: Trimmings Tart. All the traditional Christmas trimmings gathered together in a kind of savoury Tarte Tatin, with a balsamic caramel glaze and topped with crumbly, buttery, walnut pastry.

Make it ahead of time and all it requires on the day is 20-25 minutes to cook the pastry and heat the filling – you could do that while the turkey was resting. Turn onto a plate to serve and cover any crumbly edges with rosemary sprigs – it’s what I did! When I turned the tart out this morning, I forgot to loosen the pastry from the edge of the pan (not that the original recipe tells you to do that!), and so it didn’t all come out smoothly. I’ve got to be honest, I actually toyed with the idea of dashing to the supermarket at 10am and buying more ingredients to make another one. But then I thought: No, hang on  – what it this was Christmas Day? No shops open to fall back on, so some improvisation would be in order. And let’s be honest here, it’s going to be on the table for all of five minutes before people are ripping into it like a monkey on a cupcake, so no need to agonise over presentation too much. The original serving suggestion does actually include sprigs of rosemary, admittedly not quite as many as I used, but I think they make it look very Christmas-wreathy.

The glaze is dark due to the balsamic vinegar, but I quite like that as it makes the red of the cranberries really pop. Feel free to use white balsamic if you can get it, or a mild wine vinegar to lighten things up. Use any mushrooms you like, but chestnut mushrooms won’t have lots of black juice oozing out, and will keep their texture. Fresh chestnuts are wonderful and give great texture to the forcemeat, but a little time-consuming to peel and cook. If you know you won’t be using them in anything else, you could buy them ready-prepared. Try and get good quality, lean bacon for the bacon rolls – otherwise there’s more faffing about trimming off the excess fat. Extra cranberries can be made into sauce with just a little sugar and water. Don’t roll your pastry too thin – there’s a hefty number of ingredients to support once the tart is turned out. This quantity makes just about a perfect amount of pastry for a 24cm tart.

Trimmings Tart

Walnut Pastry
225g plain flour
112g butter
60g walnuts
1 large egg yolk
water

Forcemeat
30g butter
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
85g lean smoked bacon
85g chestnut mushrooms
85g smooth liver pate
60g fresh breadcrumbs
1tbs fresh thyme
1tbs snipped fresh chives
85g cooked, peeled chestnuts

To finish
16 round shallots
30g butter
1tbs vegetable oil
3tbs light muscovado sugar
2tbs balsamic vinegar
4tbs water
16 rashers of rindless smoked bacon
16 chipolata sausages
A handful of fresh cranberries
rosemary to garnish

  • Put the flour, butter, walnuts and egg yolk into a food processor and blitz. Depending on the moisture in the flour and butter, the yolk might be enough to bind it together. If not, use 1-2 tbs cold water until it comes together in a ball.
  • Knead the dough smooth, then cover in plastic and chill in the fridge.
  • Peel the onion and garlic and chop them finely in a food processor.
  • Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onions and garlic until softened.
  • Chop the bacon in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
  • Chop the mushrooms in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes to release the moisture.
  • When the mixture seems dry, tip it into a mixing bowl
  • Add the breadcrumbs, pate, chopped chestnuts and herbs and mix thoroughly.
  • Make the mixture up into balls using a tablespoon or a small ice-cream scoop to measure.
  • Pour boiling water over the shallots and leave for 2 minutes. This makes them easier to peel.
  • Peel the shallots and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Dry.
  • Roll the bacon up and secure with cocktail sticks.
  • Grill the sausages and bacon rolls.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the shallots until golden. NB This should be the pan you will use to bake the tart, so make sure it has an oven-proof handle or one that can be removed. Alternatively, when the shallots are cooked, tip them and the glaze into a cake/tart tin.
  • Add the sugar, balsamic and water to make the glaze and cook for a further 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
  • Arrange the forcemeat balls, bacon rolls and sausages in the pan with the shallots.
  • Add the cranberries to fill any gaps.  Allow the filling to cool.

NB If you’re making the tart ahead of time, then stop here. Cover the filling with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until required.

To bake and serve:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the chilled pastry until just large enough to cover the filling.
  • Lay the pastry over the filling and tuck round the sides.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Set the cooked tart aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  • Run a knife round the edge of the pastry to make sure it isn’t stuck to the pan.
  • Place a plate over the pastry and carefully flip the pan over to turn out the tart.
  • Gently lift the pan off, checking that none of the filling has stuck. If it has, use a slice to ease it from the pan and place it neatly back into its place on the tart.
  • Cover up any pastry/filling disasters Garnish the tart with sprigs of rosemary.

The Midnight Meringue

Midnight Meringue Pie

Wotchers!

Cor! It’s been a while since I made a post – apologies for that, but it’s been a bit hectic since the final of The Great British Bake Off aired.

Now I know this is still a Bake Off recipe, but I wanted to make it a blog post just to fill in some background on how I put the recipe together. I did actually go through the reasoning behind the recipe on camera, but obviously it never made it into the edit. To me, at least, it therefore seemed like I’d just given a pie a bit of a poncy name for no real reason. So for those interested, here is the background and how I put this dessert together. Feel free to skip down to the recipe.

Still here? Awesome! Ok, so the recipe request for the Week 5 Showstopper Challenger was for: A Unique Meringue Pie. The guidelines were very specific in two respects:

  1. It had to be something much more than a regular Lemon Meringue Pie, and
  2. It had to be big. Huge, even. At least 30cm diameter across the base.

Obviously the size was going to test our skill in baking such a large pie, and the filling stipulation was going to test our creativity. So all this got me pondering how I could do something that was original, unique and achievable within the time limit of 3 hours.

Now when I think of a meringue pie, I naturally think of lemon meringue pie – and it just reminds me of a bright, sunny day: the circle of yellow like the sun, the mounds of fluffy white meringue clouds. So I thought it would be fun to make something that was a contrast – involving dark and light, very Ying/Yang. Then I thought about it a bit more and decided it wasn’t going to work – Ying Yang Meringue? Please.

So I crossed over to the Dark Side (Luke I am your father) and The Midnight Meringue was born!

Dark chocolate pastry, rich mocha filling and a dark meringue made with…..well, it went through several revisions, including (as some of you might remember) right down to the wire on the day itself! Treacle meringue, molasses meringue, coffee meringue – but on the day, brown sugar meringue won out.

I also decided to ‘assemble’ rather than bake the meringue, reasoning that less could go wrong that way – I could concentrate on each component individually and not have to worry about something over-cooking. The final dish consisted of a cooked Italian meringue made with brown sugar, a thick and rich custard filling flavoured with coffee and dark chocolate and a blind baked chocolate pastry case.

The meringue was piped in a huge swirl and finished off with a few blasts of the blowtorch to toast the edges.

The meringue was a little softer than the standard meringue topping because of the brown sugar, but I still think it was the right choice and really made the pie stand out.

This recipe is for a single large pie, but you could just as easily bake mini pastry shells and create individually-sized pies for a special occasion – and would probably be less stressful than worrying about one big pie. The fact that at least 2 of the components can be made in advance just makes it that much easier.

The Midnight Meringue

Chocolate Pastry
300g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan.
  • Grease a deep, loose-bottomed, 30cm tart tin.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base and sides of your pie tin. Alternatively, press mixture together and roll out using a rolling pin. It’s quite crumbly, so this is rather tricky and best done between sheets of cling film. Depends how critical your guests are going to be 😉
  • Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking bead and bake blind, 200°C 180°C Fan, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove beans, cover edge of rim with foil to prevent burning and return to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack

The mocha filling
250g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
6 large egg yolks
225g caster sugar
65g cornflour
1 litre milk
2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

  • Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
  • In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornflour.
  • Add the coffee powder to the milk and heat, stirring until the coffee has dissolved.
  • Whisk hot milk mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
  • Return the custard to the pan and continue to heat, stirring, until it has thickened.
  • Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.
  • Check flavour. Depending on the strength of your chocolate, you may need to add more coffee powder.
  • Cover with cling film to stop a skin from forming and chill until required.

The brown sugar Italian meringue [1]
150g egg whites (5 large)
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon juice
45g granulated sugar
15g powdered egg white
150ml water
300g dark muscovado sugar

  • Put whites, salt and lemon juice in a mixer bowl.
  • Whip whites slowly until frothy, then fast until stiff peaks.
  • Gradually add granulated sugar and egg white powder (mixed together). Allow each spoonful to dissolve before adding the next.
  • Whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Heat sugar and water to 115°C
  • Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
  • With the beaters running, pour the sugar syrup into the whipped whites in a thin stream, then continue whisking until bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.

To assemble

  • Place the chocolate pastry case on the serving dish.
  • Whisk chilled custard filling and pour into the pastry case.
  • Spoon (or pipe) over the brown sugar meringue. Make sure there are no gaps between the meringue and the pastry shell, and that the filling is completely covered.
  • Use a blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve.

[1] This quantity makes enough meringue to cover a single large meringue pie. If you want an awe-inducing mountain of meringue like the picture (although I feel obliged to point out that the picture is actually of a mini, 8cm pie), you might want to make double the quantity. If so, then I would suggest making two batches, because a single batch fills a standard mixing bowl.


Apple Rose Tarts

Apple Rose Tarts

Wotchers!

As some of you may know, I made it into Series 2 of The Great British Bake Off. The show is currently being shown in the UK on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8.00pm. Each episode has a baking theme, and this week it was tarts. For the final round, we bakers had to present 24 miniature sweet tarts, of two differing types – so two batches of twelve. My butterscotch brulée tarts in pecan pastry didn’t get any airtime (*sob*) – but my apple rose ones did, and so I thought I’d post about them.

There’s three separate elements to these – the pastry, the filling and the decoration. The pastry is a crisp sweet shortcrust, and the filling, a delicious apple custard, is based on several 18th and 19th century recipes I found. The crowning glory though, are the apple roses – slices of apple poached in apple juice and sugar and then rolled into a beautiful rose. I’ve included a little diagram I put together to help show how the roses are created.

When my daughter saw these cooling on a rack, she exclaimed “Oooh! Apple posies!” – which I am REALLY tempted to use as a name because they’re so cute!

A name for the tarts, that is – not as a name for me. I couldn’t pull off cute in a  million years.

Anyhoo – on with the recipe!

Apple Rose Tarts

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
250 g plain flour
125 g butter, chilled and diced
75 g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, grated zest only
1 egg, beaten

  • Blitz the first 4 ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  • With the motor running, pour in the beaten egg IN STAGES. This is important. Add about a tablespoon at a time and give the flour time to absorb the liquid. The mixture will comes together when sufficient liquid has been added.
  • When the mixture has come together, tip it out of the processor and knead once or twice into a ball.
  • Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Decoration
8 red-skinned eating apples – as red as you can find – I used Pink Lady
1 litre apple juice
500g caster sugar

  • Stir the sugar and apple juice together in a large pan until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Cut apples in half vertically.
  • Remove core and cut into thin (semi-circle) slices.
  • Put the slices into the apple syrup and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until tender – You need the apples to be soft enough so that you can roll them, but not so soft as to fall apart. Depending on how thickly you sliced the apples, probably no more than 15 minutes. You’ll find that the colour from the skins leeches into the syrup, and turns the flesh of the apples a wonderful dusky pink.
  • Lift the apple slices from the syrup with a slotted spoon and allow to drain/cool in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, lay out the apple slices as follows.
  • AppleRoses
    • [1] Place 1 slice of apple on the left-hand end of your chopping board, flat side towards you.
    • [2] Lay the next slice so that it overlaps the first by half.
    • [3] Continue in this manner until there are 12 slices laid into a single strip
  • Lay out 12 strips, one for each tart. Cover with cling film until required.

Apple Custard Filling
3 Braeburn apples – or apple of your choice.
100g sugar
120ml extra thick double cream
1tbs lemon juice
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1-2 tbs cornflour

  • Mix the sugar, cream, egg, yolks, lemon zest & juice.
  • Peel, core and grate the apples finely over a sieve to drain off excess juice.
  • Stir into the egg/cream mixture.
  • Put the cornflour into a cup and add some of the apple custard mix to it. Stir until fully combined. Stir cornflour mix into the main mixture.

To Assemble

  • Heat oven to 200ºC, 180ºC Fan
  • Roll out the pastry thinly – about 3mm.
  • Line the holes of the cupcake tin with pastry by whatever method you prefer – I quite like the gently folded creases created by using a round cutter and parchment, but for a neater finish you could use the template method suggested here.
  • Spoon in filling, 1-2tbs per hole.
  • Roll up the apple slices, starting from the left hand side of the board. The overlaps will help keep everything together. Drop the resulting roses gently into each cup.
  • Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Turn pan 180 degrees, then cook for another 10 minutes, until pastry is cooked and browned.
  • While the tarts are cooking, simmer the apple/sugar mixture over a medium-high heat until thickened into a syrup.
  • Remove tarts from the oven, leave for five minutes and then remove from the tins. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  • Brush tarts with the apple syrup and sprinkle with a light dusting of icing sugar to serve.

NB Make apple custard tarts with any leftover filling and pastry – 10-15 minutes in the same temperature oven, or until filling is set. If making tarts larger than cupcake size, blind bake for 10 minutes to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom, then just 10 minutes with the filling!