Choux Pastry

A common misconception in baking is that it is difficult to make profiteroles or éclairs. This stems from the use of choux pastry as the base of these delicious goodies. Choux is famously finickity and problematic to bake but this is just not true. As long as you follow the recipe, it should work every time!

Unlike most other baked goods, no specific raising agent is used in choux pastry, rather the high moisture content results in a lot of steam being created in the oven which inflates the pastry as it cooks. The reason the flour is added to boiling water when creating the paste is that it starts to cook and the bursting of the starch granules traps even more water which helps the paste to rise in the oven. This leads to a very light shell which is hollow inside and ready to be filled with all the yummy things that we love to eat – cream, chocolate, caramel.

Once cooked, choux buns are surprisingly sturdy and can be stacked up leading to desserts like the stunning croquembouche. These are giant towers of choux filled with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream and held together by melted sugar. They are adorned with webs of spun sugar, glazed almonds and edible flowers and are really something to behold. Much as they are fun to make, I would recommend becoming more familiar with baking choux before you attempt one!

Although associated with French cuisine, the man who allegedly invented choux pastry came from Florence. He worked for Catherine de Medici and left Florence with her when she travelled to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became King Henry II of France). Originally called pâte à Panterelli after its creator, the pastry had several incarnations before arriving at the pâte à Choux we know today. It is called this because of the resemblance of the cooked buns to cabbages (and choux is the French word for cabbage).

I am a massive fan of choux pastry. I first made it a seven or eight years ago and in 2011 (when I was fifteen) made my first croquembouche. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that I came out of that with only a minor burn from the melted sugar so if you do try this yourself, please be very, very careful. Having said that, I made one three years ago in a house where the power failed and I was assembling it by torch light as the sun set because I’m stubborn and don’t learn from my mistakes. Luckily I survived that one unscathed but hopefully when you try making choux pastry, it will be a little less eventful!

 

 

Choux Pastry

 

Ingredients:

100g strong white flour

75g butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).

 

Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment.

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Heat 150ml water in a pan with the butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling.

Once the mix comes to the boil, pour in the flour and beat the mixture over the heat until it starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pan – it will look very lumpy and curdled at the start but I promise it will come together.

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Once the paste starts to come away from the sides of the pan, continue to cook it – still beating it – for another minute.

Pour the mix into the flour bowl from earlier (so fewer things are made dirty) and leave the ball to cool for five or ten minutes. You can speed this up by spreading it up the sides of the bowl.

Although you can do the next stage by hand, its far faster to use an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time – it is fine if the flour mix is still a little warm at this point.

After you have added the eggs, you should have a smooth, glossy, sticky paste.

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Choux paste before the addition of eggs (top left) and after each of the eggs has been added

 

For profiteroles, pipe into circles an inch and a half across (or just dollop it onto the tray if you can’t be bothered with all the posh stuff. If any of the profiteroles have a tip on top from the piping bag, use a damp finger to flatten it out to prevent the tips from burning.

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For éclairs, pipe lines of paste four inches long onto the paper. Remember that they will expand a lot in the oven so space them out by an inch or so!

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For gougères, add some grated cheese to the mix and then treat as you would for profiteroles.

 

Sprinkle the tray with water (not the pastry) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the oven until this time as it will result in the choux deflating before it is finished cooking.

Check that the choux has puffed up, is golden and hard when you take them out of the oven. If not all the puffs are cooked, rotate the tray and give them another few minutes.

Once you remove the pastry from the oven, use a sharp knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each one and place them upside down to let the steam escape.

You can also place them hole side up in the oven for another minute to help dry them out (this is particularly useful when making a croquembouche as the choux buns have to be sturdy.)

 

Gougères are served plain or can be filled with mushroom duxelle (see my beef wellington recipe), or meats like beef, ham or pate.

 

For éclairs and profiteroles,

Filling:

400ml double cream

4 tbsp icing sugar

Vanilla (½ tsp vanilla paste or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

 

For the ganache:

200ml double cream

250g dark chocolate (chopped)

 

For the filling, whip up the double cream with the sugar and vanilla to just lest than stiff peaks.

Pipe a generous amount through the hole in the bottom of each profiterole/éclair until they feel heavier and start to bulge.

 

For the ganache, heat the rest of the cream until just before boiling and pour it over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted and combines to make a glossy ganache.

Dip the top of each profiterole or éclair into the ganache and place onto a tray to set.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy a nice comforting main, check out my recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne or for another chocolatey dessert, why not make yourself some melt in the middle chocolate fondants?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious stir fry recipe.

H

Beef Wellington

Despite popular belief, the Beef Wellington has no known association with the Duke of that name other than sharing a common name. In fact, the first appearance of the name was in the Los Angeles Times just over one hundred years ago when there was a recipe for “Fillet of beef, a la Wellington” however this wasn’t anything like the beef wellington we know and love today. The modern form seems to have only existed for around forty years, however it is very similar to other dishes such as Salmon en Croûte so it could have been around for longer.

Traditionally made with fillet steak, pate de foie gras, mushroom duxelle and puff pastry, the Beef Wellington is rich and filling. It is often wrapped in a crepe before the pastry is added as this prevents the juices turning the pastry soggy! I have found that making a good mushroom duxelle prevents this, so you don’t need to worry about making a fiddly crepe for my recipe below. If you sear the meat properly and make sure all the liquid is absorbed or evaporated off when you make the mushroom mix, there will be a good seal to prevent any juices from leaking out! Although I don’t do it myself, it is not uncommon for people to wrap the duxelle covered wellington in parma ham instead of a crepe.

No single part of Beef Wellington takes more than 10 minutes at most (excluding the cooking) however after each step, the ingredients must be cooled. This is an absolute must as if the beef or the mushroom is warm, the butter in the pastry will melt resulting in the pastry sliding straight off the meat in the oven!

In my recipe, I do not use foie gras or the crepe as I don’t have time to make them and I am trying to do all of this on a student budget. Personally I don’t feel like the flavour of the dish was inhibited by this however if you want to add them, the foie gras is spread over the meat before the duxelle, and then the crepe is wrapped around everything before the pastry is added!

 

Beef Wellington

Serves 2 or 4 (makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller half wellingtons)

Prep time: 20 minutes     Rest time: 1 hour           Cook time: 30 minutes

Price per portions – £3.10 if you make two or £1.55 if you make four

 

2 fillet steaks (about 340g meat)

One large packet of puff pastry (I use prerolled for this)

250g chestnut mushrooms

4 spring onions or one shallot

Butter (or oil) for frying

Salt and Pepper

1 egg – beaten

 

Optional:
Sprig of thyme (small)

60ml sherry, madeira or white wine

One small clove of garlic

 

 

First prepare the mushroom duxelle.

Finely chop the mushrooms and spring onions (or shallot).

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Melt the butter in a pan and once it starts bubbling, add the mushrooms and shallots.

Fry for a minute stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Add in 60ml water (or the wine) along with the salt and pepper (and the thyme and garlic if you are using it – normally I would never condone the use of only one clove or garlic however this is such a small recipe for duxelle that any more garlic would overpower everything!)

Keep stirring the mixture until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated – this should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the liquid has evaporated, you should be left with a paste which holds its shape when stirred. Remove this from the heat and let cool.

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While the duxelle is cooling, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter.

Add the beef and fry for 1-2 minutes on one side to sear the meat. Then sear the edges but not the other side. You want the pan to be very hot so you can caramelise the outside of the beef but not cook the inside.

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Once the beef is seared, remove it from the pan and let it cool for 10 minutes. Cut in half width wise and place the unseared sides together to get smaller but taller pieces of meat.

Once the beef and duxelle have cooled, it’s time to assemble the wellingtons!

Cut your pastry in half as you will be making two wellingtons. If you are using prerolled pastry, place it on a surface and roll it out a little bit more to add another inch or two so it will definitely cover the meat. Cut this piece in half again for the top and bottom pieces of pastry.

Spread a small amount of duxelle onto the lower piece leaving room around the edges and place one of the pieces of meat on top of it.

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Add more duxelle around the sides and on the top of the meat sealing it in to prevent the juices escaping and the pasty going soggy.

Top with the other half of the pastry using a small amount of beaten egg around the outside to seal the pastry together – try not to have any air bubbles.

Using a fork, press down around the edge of the wellington to make sure the pastry has sealed together.

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Repeat this with the remaining meat, pastry and duxelle and place the wellingtons in the fridge for at least half an hour – they can be left like this for several hours if you prepare in advance.

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C)

Remove the wellingtons from the fridge and lightly brush them with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake for half an hour turning at around 20 minutes for medium rare beef.

Let the wellingtons sit for 5-10 minutes before serving so the meat isn’t tough (cover them with some silver foil to prevent them getting too cold!)

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A little seepage around the edge doesn’t matter as long as you remove any liquid before leaving the wellington to rest!
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Serve with roasted vegetables and gravy for a hearty meal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below! If you fancy making something a little Christmassy for next week, check out my Gingerbread House recipe or for another yummy dinner, try my sticky salmon, it’s not to be missed!

Join me next week on Christmas Day for an incredibly festive Yule Log – it’s quick and easy and can be made up in no more than two hours so is perfect for a last minute dessert!

 

Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

Chocolate Tart

Hey guys,

As promised last week, I return with the most amazing chocolate tart you will ever make. It contains not one, not two but four types of chocolate and a hidden layer of caramel. To be honest, this tart should probably come with a myriad of health warnings and possibly an ambulance on speed dial but it is 100% worth it!

I love making caramel. It can be a little bit daunting the first time and you do need to be careful as the melted sugar is very hot however homemade caramel is just so superior to shop bought that in my opinion, it is very much worth a little extra time making the filling instead of buying it. WARNING – melted sugar will burn instantly. If you do get any on you, immediately stop what you are doing (the tart can wait –you can not) and hold the area under cold water for at least 5 minutes if not more. It will hurt but isn’t too serious.

You have a couple of options when it comes to melting sugar for caramels or decorations. The slower but more controlled method which I use if I need a specific temperature of sugar or don’t want a deep golden caramel involves melting the sugar with a small amount of water and then boiling the sugar syrup until it achieved the desired temperature. This is particularly useful for making a large batch of caramel for things like a croquembouche. The other method, the one used in this recipe, involved holding your nerve a bit and directly melting the sugar in a pan. I am unashamed to admit that it took me about 5 years to become confident enough in my culinary skills to attempt this method instead of the syrup one.

Caramel is produced when you drive water away from sugar by heating it. If making large amounts, you will quite often add glucose syrup or a small amount of vinegar as it helps invert the sugar preventing crystallisation which will ruin your dish. This is where the caramel will suddenly turn solid and brittle again and no amount of heating can save it. You just have to start again! To prevent crystallisation, you should never stir the boiling sugar syrup once the sugar has all dissolved in the water and if making it via the more direct approach, treat the sugar incredibly carefully as it is a real diva in the kitchen. Inverting sugar is not always necessary as you can buy Invert Sugar Syrup in some areas however you don’t need it for this recipe! It occurs as glucose and fructose are isomers (they have the same chemical composition, just in a different formation. Think of them as anagrams of each other). The colour of the caramel comes in part from the long chain carbohydrates contained (24, 36 and 80 carbon atoms long!) and also from by products produced when the sugar is heated.

This tart is particularly good at a dinner party. Wow your guests with a delicious homemade dessert which looks like you’ve just picked it up from a professional patisserie. Serving it with fresh fruit like strawberries can give it some semblance of health even though we all know it’s only for show! You can also use this recipe to make mini tartlets which is what I do if I have enough excess pastry

 

Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

Serves 12-15

Preparation:1 hour 10 minutes

Cooking:25 miutes

Resting:1-1½ hours

 

Pastry

160g plain flour

25g sugar

2tbsp cocoa

75g unsalted butter

1 Large egg yolk

½ tsp vanilla

 

Salted Caramel

225g caster sugar

100ml double cream

125g salted butter

 

Chocolate filling

300g dark chocolate

200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

500ml cream

50g unsalted butter

½ tsp vanilla

 

 

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, cocoa and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it appears as fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour and stir in the other dry ingredients.

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After going through the food processor, the mixture should look a little bit like sand!

Make a well in the centre and add the vanilla and the egg yolk.

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I don’t know what was different about them this time but the egg yolk was just so very, very orange

Mix until just combined, pour onto a worktop and knead until a homogenous dough is formed but do not overwork the dough!

Put the dough into the fridge to rest for an hour.

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Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (190oC).

Roll out the dough and line a 9 or 10 inch tart pan preferably, one that has a removable base – you may have to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften up.

Trim the excess dough leaving a little hanging off round the edge – this is so that if the dough shrinks, the excess dough will make sure the tart doesn’t lose height. Alternatively, you can trim all the excess dough off and then place the lined case in the freezer for another half hour to make it really firm which should prevent shrinking altogether.

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Make sure any excess pastry isn’t hanging down as this can cause the case to crack if it shrinks too much

Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork so it doesn’t crack, line it with foil and pour in baking beads (or rice/pasta/lentils if you don’t have them) – this prevents the case from bubbling up and keeps the base nice and flat.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beads and bake for another 10 minutes so the pastry case if fully cooked.

If you still have bits of pastry overhanging the tin, use a sharp knife to trim off the edges and neaten it up.

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To make the caramel, place a third of the sugar in a heavy based steel pan – non-stick pans encourage crystallisation which ruins caramel.

Heat the sugar on a medium heat and as it starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to gently move some of the unmelted sugar into the melted areas. Move the pan on the hob so no area gets too dark when melting. You don’t want to burn the sugar. Turn the pan onto a medium to low light for the rest of this.

Once about half of the sugar in the pan has melted, sprinkle on half the remaining sugar and gently stir the melted areas. The sugar may start to clump but don’t worry!

As more of the sugar melts, sprinkle on the remaining sugar and continue to agitate the melted areas in the pan to prevent burning and to bring the unmelted sugar into contact with the heat.

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The melting of the sugar (top left to bottom right)

Once the sugar has all melted, you should have a light caramel. If it is cloudy, that means not all the sugar has melted! Swirl the sugar in the pan a little to help stir it but at this point, do not use the spoon as it will make the sugar crystallise.

When the caramel is clear, continue heating slowly until it is a deep golden colour. Swirling it gently will help mixing it in the pan so it doesn’t burn.

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Getting ready to add the cream to the melted sugar

The moment the caramel is a rich golden brown, remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the double cream. BE CAREFUL – the cream will bubble and steam vigorously so make sure you are using a big pan so it doesn’t spit out of the pan. Stir the caramel to make sure it is all mixed. The area with the cream may be thicker than the melted sugar as it is cooled a little but it will remelt and everything will mix together nicely.

Let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes and then add in the butter chopped into cubes or slices.

Stir in the butter as it melts and once it has all melted and mixed together, pour it into the pastry case – you don’t need to wait for it to cool!

N.B – if you are unlucky, the caramel may split when you add the butter and you will end up with an oily layer on top. If this happens, let the caramel sit for a few minutes to separate out and then spoon off the oil that appears at the top.

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My caramel wasn’t quite as salty as I would normally like so I sprinkles some sea salt flakes over it once I had filled the pastry case.

 

Chop your chocolates and place in bowls – make sure the dark chocolate is in a large bowl as the others will be added at a later point!

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Add 30g of butter to the dark chocolate, 20g to the milk chocolate and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the white chocolate.

Heat the cream until it’ just about to boil and then add 275ml to the dark chocolate, 150ml to the milk chocolate and 75ml to the white.

Let the chocolate stand in the cream for 2 minutes and then stir each bowl until it is filled with a smooth chocolate ganache.

Take a little of the dark chocolate ganache and put it off to the side – this is for decorating later.

Pour the milk and white chocolate ganaches into the dark chocolate making sure not to scrape the bowl out as the leftovers in the bowls are used for decorating.

Use a skewer to mix the ganaches – BUT ONLY A LITTLE – you want the variation in ganaches inside the tart.

Pour the filling into the tart filling it but not quite to bursting!

Use the leftover dark, milk, and white chocolate ganaches to spoon blobs and lines over the top of the tart.

Use a skewer to swirl the chocolate filling to give a beautiful and professional finish – don’t catch the caramel layer when doing this!

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Mini chocolate tart with the leftovers
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The main event at any party!

Let the tart set in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight to fully harden up.

When serving, place your knife in a jug of hot water and then wipe it off on a tea towel before cutting. This helps make the cuts incredibly clean and prevents the filling sticking to the knife too much.

Serve with a little cream and a selection of berries.

 

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This is one of my favourite desserts and I hope it will be one of yours too! As an added bonus, this tart also freezes really well – assuming you have any left!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last recipe from my Baking series – the gooeyest chocolate brownies you can find or here if you fancy making a delicious dinner of homemade pizza!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with an exciting recipe for spiced turkey burgers. Fab for using up odds and ends and wonderful as a filling for other dishes too!

H