Miniature strawberry & mint éclairs

Quarter final week in the bake off tent…PATISSERIE WEEK!

Everything this week is posh and dainty and lots of them! Plenty to go wrong then! It was a great episode to watch but I thought those éclair towers were a little monstrous (can something be a little monstrous, eh oxymoron it is). That being said I settled for the opposite, some mini éclairs perfect for afternoon tea!

Strawberry and mint eclairs and cream puff

I’ve never made choux pastry before because the idea of cooking the mixture just doesn’t sit right with me. I’m always up for trying something new and from what I heard it is actually a fairly easy pastry! I had a little left over so decided to pipe a couple cream puffs along with the éclairs.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

The pastry was, as its’ reputation goes, pretty darn easy! It did need a bit of prepping to make sure everything was weighed out correctly before starting so that you could be quick on the transition stages. Not one to waste money on “proper” products I didn’t buy any piping bags but went for cutting the corner off a sandwich bag which did the job impeccably. Take that all you fancy pants. On that front I was a little worried about too sloppy dough to pipe but I got it perfect and they all stayed separated. They were cooked a little long so a bit more crisp than I was going for. The pastry itself gets a good 9 out of 10.

eclair pastry

I really could not be bothered with a cream pat as the sun was shining and I was itching to sit in it so instead whipped up some double cream with icing sugar and piped it into and on top of the éclairs popping on the last of the seasons strawberries and some freshly picked mint.

Star taster this week goes to…Sox. My precious cat who thought they looked so good he would lick the off the cream while the family wasn’t looking! Tut tut!

Until next week!

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Homemade traditional pork pies with jelly

Week seven in the Bake Off tent – VICTORIAN WEEK!

Well GBBO are you running out of categories or what! Who the heck wants to try to bake something Victorian!? That’s a rhetorical question, but if you need an answer, it’s no-one. I can’t say I’m excited by the challenge but I shall grip it by the horns and see how we get along. I’ll kick everything off with an apology for this being a late post but I was away for the weekend and Victorian baking (VICTORIAN WHY?!)  wasn’t high on the agenda. Never one to skip out a task I thought I would just sneak it into this week.

I loved pastry week and I love pie and I love meat…you know where this is going? It’s a game pie kind of feeling. There is only one hiccup with attempting a game pie, where to find the game! So I’ve used some artistic license and switched it up for a classic pork pie. They both are raised pies which use hot watercrust pastry, a meat jelly and errr meat so pretty much the same concept and I’m sure it was a Victorian favourite too!

Individual pork pie 1

I used this basic recipe from good old Jamie for the pastry and filling though swapped the thyme for parsley. I’m sure my parsley plant is killing off the thyme one. I also had to add in a couple more sausages to make enough filling for the three individual pies (muffin case) and one medium pie (six inch loose bottom tin). Oh and I’m lard kind of girl.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

I really need to get better at finishing reading a recipe before diving in only knowing half the steps. It was all lovely to start with and then WHAM do this this this and this before the pastry gets cold! Just as well I had the kitchen to myself as I had things on every surface including the floor!

Making the pastry itself was a surprising doddle. Getting the pastry rolled was a relieving doddle. Putting the pastry into the cases was an absolute shamble! I didn’t cookie cutters big enough for the muffin tins so ended up cutting vaguely large vague circles to squeeze in and then trimmed them up. Having nails also meant while trying the squish out all the air holes I kept making actual holes, which would lead to leakage! The larger tin was SO much easier. I rolled this out separately and felt more like making a flan. I did nick the bottom so had to do a little patch work on that. Because it was a watercrust pastry the cooler it got the harder to handle so it was quite tricky cutting out the lids and making sure that they bonded properly to the cups. The filling couldn’t be easier, my only note would be to make more than you think you need and have it ready before you even get started on the pastry.Inside a homemade pork pie

The Victorian pies are very ornate and I was hoping to make something quite beautiful alas ran out of time and sanity meaning the looks leave something to be desired. I see it as something to work towards in future pork pie endeavours.Creation of the pork pies

Because I am a worry wart I was terrified of taking the pies out too early, the pork could be uncooked, the pastry too soft and thus cause a collapse so many issues so I opted to over cook to be sure. Jamie also didn’t give any timings for the bigger pie so you need to know your oven pretty well. Everything cooked well and I love my pastry to have a bit of crunch so I decree all is well!

To make the jelly I stirred one packet of gelatine into 1 pint of hot chicken stock (according to the packet instructions). When the pies were out of the oven I poured the jelly mix into the hole. The jelly set perfectly which amazed me however unfortunately I did not fill the pies nearly enough so most of it looks to have been absorbed and only a little shows around the edges. I made some separate jelly which can be added to individual personal preference.

Star taster this week goes to ME! I don’t think anyone could love them as much as I did. Defiantly going to be making these again for picnics!

Sorry for such a long and rambling post but that’s it until next week!

P&P frangipane tart

Week Six in the bake off tent – PASTRY WEEK!

This might even beat bread week, unless you’re making a puff, that’s just silly. Pastry is so versatile and scrumptious! And I vouch pretty simple…famous last words as my tarts still in the oven while I start writing this. You can’t get closer to the challenge than making a frangipane tart like the contestants, no stretch of the imagination needed this week. Plus I need a good week after that dairy free ice cream fiasco in week five.

I’ve made shortcrust pastry before and it’s all round winner. You can’t go wrong with 3 ingredients and a 1:0.5 ratio! Mum impulse brought a food processer so I’ve excitedly given that a go – oh my gosh converted. So quick and easy, apart from the extended washing up bit but shhhh. I don’t normally sweeten my pastry as I find my fillings are sweet enough that a plain pastry works perfectly however being a frangipane I thought it better to follow some inspiration from the internet instead of thinking I know best.

So where does the P&P come from? Well frangipanes traditionally use stoned fruit, and I love fruit, all fruit, it would be unfair to have to pick one over the rest so… I’ve combined two! Peaches AND Plums. Yummy.

before and after

This week I’ve given my recipe as I started looking at quite a few for inspiration/technique but didn’t follow any of them and winged it a little so I have nowhere to link you to, and that would be unfair. Scroll right to the bottom to read all my secrets.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

I love pastry lalalalalalalala. I over did it on the blind bake which is infuriatingly frustrating as it was a silly thing to mess up, but catches the best of them out. The pastry was also different to what I am used to adding sugar and egg was definitely harder to handle in the rolling out stage and I had to redo it quite a few times, if I did it again I think I would make my basic shortcrust (below) as the extra sugar doesn’t add much and just makes life more complicated than need be.

Piece of pie

I would recommend everyone give it a try if they want, a tart breaks down into such easy steps and there is not the normal time pressure that comes along with lots of other baking. I burnt mine a little (a little a lot) and it still tasted fabulous so even if you get in a pickle it’s nothing to worry about.

It wouldn’t win any awards but I’m definitely going to get back into the tart making in what is left of this year. The tart got consumed at church lunch this week, and thus we have a special star taster this week Leah Frost!

Recipe (as promised)

Suggested weights in brackets for a 8/9inch flan tin.

Shortcrust Pastry Case – plain flour (200g) and half weight of fat/cold butter (100g) and a TBSP cold water. To fancy and sweeten it up add quarter caster sugar (50g), an egg yolk and a splosh of vanilla essence.
One. Cube and rub your butter into your flour or a quick pulse in a processer. You’ll get breadcrumb consistency. If you’re adding sugar do this next and finally stir in all the other ingredients. If your dough is not coming together and is too crumbly add a tsp of extra water at a time. Wrap the ball in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Two. Flour a surface and your rolling pin – if you don’t have a rolling pin – use a wine bottle! Take out the dough and roll it into a rough circle. It should be quite thin, about the thickness of a pound coin. Lift gently and place onto of your greased flan tin. Don’t worry about tiny holes these can be patched up while no one else is looking. Gently using your fingers or some excess dough press the dough into the side of the tin and trim and large overhanging pieces from the edge. Leave a little at the top as it will shrink while cooking. You can use these extra pieces to do your patching.
Three. The blind bake! Prick some holes in the bottom of your tart using a fork. Cut a large square of baking parchment and scrunch it up. Un-scrunch and lay onto of your pastry in the tin. Top with baking balls if you’re fancy or rice if you’re not. This helps weigh down the pastry and stops it from rising. Pop in the oven (180 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Take out and remove the non-edibles from your tin. I keep my baking rice in a jar to use again! Brush the pastry case with a beaten egg, this helps avoid the dreaded SOGGY BOTTOM and cook for a further 5 minutes. And that’s your pastry case!

Pastry case sm

Frangipane – Another easy weight list yay! Same amounts of ground almonds, butter and caster sugar (150g), third plain flour (50g) and 2 large eggs.
One. Cream the butter using an electric whisk- this avoids sugar going everywhere in step two!
Two. Cream the sugar into the butter until light and fluffy – using that electric whisk again
Three. Briefly whisk in the eggs
Four. Add al the remaining ingredients and combine – put down that whisk fool!

Toppings – Two peaches and one plum (or any stoned fruit you’re  fan of), a TBSP of apricot jam and a shot of Ameretto if you’re feeling cheeky!
One. The fruit …slice your fruit. I go with the avocado method of slicing around in half and twisting to separate the halves. Use a knife to pop out the stone.
Two. The apricot glaze. Take a nice dollop of apricot jam a heat it in a saucepan, now would be the time to add that splash of Amaretto and let it boil almost to a syrup.

Fruit

P&P Frangipane Tart
One. Spread the frangipane into your cool pastry case, as full as you can get.
Two. Lay your fruit slices out on top in a pretty pattern. The pretty bit’s essential.
Three. Pop into a preheated oven at 180C-190C and cook for 30-45 minutes until the frangipane has browned slightly and is slightly firm to touch.
Four. While still warm brush with the apricot glaze and allow to set and cool before serving.

Because the big tart was going to church I also made a plum tartlet for mum and dad to share:Plum tartlet mix

Vegan friendly lemon coconut ice cream

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Week five in the bake off tent – ALTERNATIVE INGREDIENTS WEEK

This week is rather topical! I don’t have any allergies and neither do any of my close friends so I have never encountered the complicated world of allergy free cooking let alone baking! But, as you know, I’m always up for a challenge and this week is no exception.

They covered a wealth of substitutes in the show this week, gluten-free, dairy free and sugar-free! Now in my opinion, if you are going to eat a cake, you may as well go ahead and eat a cake. I know there are diabetics who have to watch out for the sugar, but I count my lucky stars that I am not one of them! Gluten free food has become quite “cool” but I don’t see it as being particularly a healthier option, and does seem very tricky to get right! So that leaves me with dairy free…

lemon coconut vegan ice cream

Dairy free ice cream, not quite baking, but they did it as the main theme of the showstopper challenge so that is enough for me!  This is a challenge with a lot of no’s attached…no dairy…no ice cream maker/machine…no churn. I found a lot of recipes however my vigorous set of no’s cancel most of them out, ice cream machine? How middle class do you think I am blogsphere! Eventually I found a great directory put together on the pretty bee, which led me to these two rather different recipes here and here. I decided to try the more complicated because I was on a dangerous high from last week.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

Coconut concoctionsMaking this delicious gloop of coconut milk into ice cream? Pretty rubbish! It took double the time to do anything the recipe suggested. The condensed coconut milk got there in the end but I felt like I was losing this bake along battle from the start. The cream didn’t set in the fridge and thus didn’t whisk up to much and the overall result, though okay, doesn’t hold a spoon up to the real thing. I found mine to taste grainy and not smooth and indulgent like you want. It did set rock solid and that was a fear I had, had to leave it out for 30 minutes before I could get a spoon in there. It would work pretty well to sub into smoothies/milkshakes but not a big bowl to itself. Would I make it again…nope…but I might be tempted to try banana based nice cream from nuts about fruit on Instagram.

Star taster this week goes to my Mum who ate a whole bowl with excitement picking up on all the nice flavours and leaving all the dodgy textures out of the conversation. Thanks for the confidence boost mummy!

Until next week!