Tour de France

Since realising that I’ve finally left institutionalised education and actually have no fixed path anymore I’ve decided to branch out with my cooking. I seem to have had writers block during all the post exam furore ( hence the lack of posts recently) so I’ve decided to try and set myself challenges. In order to master these recipes I’ve always struggled with I’m going to read lots of different versions of the recipe to try and pinpoint the problems and come up with the best result. First up is Patisserie. I’ve never really mastered some of the classic French recipes so with a week of nothing to do but put off unpacking my university stuff, I decided to do a mini tour of the highlights of French patisserie. First up is choux pastry. In homage to the upcoming final leg of the Tour de France in Paris, I’ve decided to make  Paris Brest. This pastry was first made to commemorate the Paris-Brest bicycle race in 1910, ironically it was popular with the riders as it gave them a lot of energy but I can’t image that it would fit in with the intense nutritional programs of today’s competitors. It’s meant to look like a bicycle wheel, as exhibit A shows.

Paris Brest 4

 

I’ve had problems with choux pastry before. My profiteroles looked incredibly promising in the oven but sank the moment they came out leaving a soggy flat circle…. So this time I studied a number of different recipes to try and get it right this time. As far as I can tell the 3 things to be careful are

1. Don’t slack beating the flour and water mix before adding the eggs as the pastry needs a good support for the outer shell.

2. Don’t try to add all the eggs at once, the eggs need to be properly beaten so that the pastry rises enough.

3. Don’t take the pastries out of the oven too soon, even if it is a little brown, the pastries will sink if brought out too early.

The Recipe

1. Start by melting 150ml water and 50g butter and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and beat in a pinch of salt and 75g flour into the mix so the dough is shiny and comes away from the pan. Return to the heat and beat for 2mins.

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2. Set aside to cool a little. When the mix is cool, add 2 eggs and a drop of vanilla essence, beating in 1 at a time. Beat well for 2-5mins until the mix is shiny and drops off the spoon.

3. Heat the oven to 200oC. Fill a piping bag with the mix and pipe circles onto a lined baking tray. (This is actually the hardest bit, try to make the thickness as equal as possible all the way round for a the prettiest finish) Brush the tops with egg yolk and then scatter over 50g flaked almonds. Bake in the oven for 10mins, then turn the heat down to 180oC and bake for a further 20mins until brown on top. As soon as they come out of the oven split the pastries in half lengthways. Leave to cool.

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4. For the filling, beat together 2 egg yolks and 40g sugar together until light and fluffy, then add 25g plain flour. Meanwhile heat 160ml whole milk in a pan with 1 tsp expresso powder and 1tsp vanilla extract. Pour the heated milk (not boiling) over the egg mix and whisk together. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat whisking constantly. When the mixture is thickened remove from the heat. Leave to cool (This is again where I went wrong – try to refrigerate this if possible as if you add the mixture too warm to the cream, the mix won’t be as thick in the pastries as it should be)

5. Beat 200ml cream to soft peaks. Fold in the patisserie cream and decant into a piping bag. Pipe between the pastry halves. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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As a side note I also had a go at making Kale chips (healthy crisps so I’m told). Simply remove the thick stalks of the kale leaves and tear into small pieces. Lay on a foil lined baking tray, sprinkle with salt and bake in the oven for 6-8mins at 200oC. It’s not quite the same as Walkers but they are pretty addictive.

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