This week I was trying to hone my pastry skills with two technical bakes: passion fruit cream puffs and Danish pastry cream envelopes. I also made a really, really simple and quick comforting chocolate dessert cake. In the podcast I give a (pretty comprehensive) guide to British baking terms and ingredients!
Choux Pastry Recipe
- 50g butter (salted or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
- 80ml whole milk (3.5% fat) AND 80ml water (OR 160ml 2% / semi-skimmed milk)
- 65g plain flour
- 2 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 120g in their shells)
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / 390 F / gas 6. Stick down a sheet of baking parchment on a large baking tray with a little butter to hold it down.
- Put the butter, milk, water (and salt, if needed) in a small pan. Heat together until steaming.
- Add the flour all in one go. Beat with a spatula or wooden spoon, keeping the pan on the heat, for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
- Take off from the heat and leave for 5 minutes. You could transfer to a bowl to make this slightly faster. Beat the eggs in a separate cup or small bowl. Beat them in gradually, using a wire whisk from halfway through. The texture should be a “resistant drop”, forming a triangle shape when you hold the spatula horizontal to the bowl before dropping after a couple of seconds.
- Spoon into a plastic piping bag, then snip the end off to a width of 1 cm / just under 1/2 an inch. (Alternatively, you could use a nozzle of the same size and a better-for-the-planet renewable piping bag.) In a pinch you can use a plastic ziplock / thick sandwich bag instead of a piping bag.
- Pipe about 10-12 circular puffs, leaving a few cm (a couple of inches) between each one so there is room for them to expand in the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down to 180C/ 160 fan / 350 F / gas 4 and bake for a further 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door, especially not in the first 20 minutes of baking. They need to be really crisp and golden brown- don’t be afraid to leave them in a couple of minutes longer if you’re unsure, as long as they aren’t on the edge of burning!
- Remove from the oven. Leave to cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack. As soon as you are able to do so without horribly burning yourself, slice them open carefully with a serrated (bread) knife about 2/3 of the way up. Place the tops next to the bottoms. The bottoms should be upright to allow steam to escape.
Creme Patissiere Recipe
Makes about double the quantity needed for pastries or puffs!
- 300ml whole (3.5%) milk
- The yolks of 3-4 large eggs (UK large or US extra large, or you can weigh the yolks – you want 60-80g yolk.) (To get a lovely yellow, you want really high quality eggs that have a rich orange yolk. In Britain, St Ewe’s eggs and Clarence Court Mabel Pearlman eggs are ideal.)
- 45g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated should work fine too)
- 3 tbsp / 25g cornflour
- 1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- Heat the milk until steaming. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar for 4-5 minutes until very light and creamy, then whisk in the cornflour. (You do need a stand mixer or electric beaters for this bit, unless you’re Popeye.) Scrape down the sides and around the bottom, especially if you’re using a stand mixer.
- Very gradually add the hot milk by pouring it down the side of the bowl while whisking slowly. You have to whisk constantly The easiest way to do this is with a stand mixer on low speed but you can absolutely do this by hand. (Don’t whisk on a high setting, as it will get unmanageably frothy.) Return to the sauce pan and put back on the heat, stirring constantly with a spatula. After a few minutes you will notice it suddenly starts to thicken – that’s the starch molecules bursting and it will make the cream very gelatinous, very quickly! Keep stirring until you have an even consistency (you may want to take it off the heat after it’s mostly thickened).
- Transfer to a small heatproof bowl, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool. When it’s at room temperature, pop into the fridge until you’re ready to use it. You can loosen it up by giving it a good stir. I’ve found this method very reliable, but if you do have any lumps, you can knock them out with a hand blender.
(Passion Fruit) Creme Chiboust Recipe
Creme chiboust is literally just pastry cream and whipped cream mixed together. Make a creme patissiere as above, and add about 250g whipped double / heavy cream (c. 48% fat) to this. In this instance I used slightly more – 300ml/ 290g. I found it fine to whisk it in gently, but recipes usually suggest folding it in after loosening up your creme pat by giving it a beat or whisk on its own. To make it passion fruit, cut about 6 wrinkly passion fruit in half and scrape out the filling into a sieve over a bowl. Leave to strain. Stir and press to strain more juice. Stir this in with the whipped cream. You can, of course, leave in or use some of the seeds, it’s just my preference that I’m not keen on them!
Danish Pastry Cream Envelopes
I made the danish pasty dough from Ruby Tandoh (link here). (I find that with my oven I need to bake at a lower temperature for the first 10 minutes.) I rolled out the dough, cut it into 12 squares, plopped a dessert spoon of creme patissiere in each and added a couple of raspberries on top before pinching two corners in to shape. (My shaping needs work!!!) Optionally, you could top with flaked almonds, change up the fruit, use jam, etc etc. I have plans to try making pastries with lemon curd, tinned apricots (which would make oranais aux abricots or abricotines) and many more variations.
Easy-Peasy Chocolate Studded Cakey Dessert
This is what I turn to when I need a comforting pudding fast. It’s based on something my Mum made when I was growing up.
- 3 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 180g in weight)
- 180g room-temp butter (and a pinch of salt if the butter is unsalted)
- 140g plain flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder or 140g self-raising flour (leave out the baking powder if you want it to be more fudgy!)
- 40g cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed but natural is probably fine)
- 180g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Around 200g broken up bits of chocolate- I like milk and white chocolate callets by Belcolade)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F / 160C fan / gas 4. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla and beat until just combined. Transfer to a small lined casserole dish. Bake for about 15 minutes until it passes the skewer test. Best served WARM!