Tag Archives: pastry

Choux and choux!

As we would say in French: “There are choux and choux”, as in : not two are necessarily the same, though they might be called the same…

I thought I knew all about choux, chouquettes, gougères and the lot…  I had even made my own overfilled éclairs a few Christmasses ago ( in my trusted Thermomix) and I have to admit I had felt quite pleased with myself. See below!

Hello Boys!

Boy I feel smug!

…That was before I met  “Maître Choux” in Harrington road, South Kensington, and a whole new level of Choux making appeared before me! Shaming my paltry efforts but titillating my taste buds so wildly that I can only forgive and not forget…

IMG_9969 IMG_9616 IMG_0255 “Maître Choux” is a brand new French pastry shop that has opened in the “French Quarter”, between a French Bookshop and a Saturday farmers market, in the most Parisian of London roads… And the mastery shines in a dazzling variety of “petits choux” and éclairs that can only have been dreamed up in a Palace of Dame Tartine or in some kind of foodie fantasy written up for Babette’s Feast! To try any flavour is to get hooked. My favourite is their lemon “petit chou” with a crispy craquelin covering a springy choux base and encasing a tangy  Greek yogurt and lemon filling.

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Me with Jérémie and Joackim at Maître Choux

Myself with Jérémie and Joakim at Maître Choux

“Maître Choux” concept is simple: Just choux, only choux and soon all of them choux! Chef Joakim is an “artiste pâtissier”, ex-Robuchon and The Greenhouse, and his precious little wonders are inspired by fashion, jewellery designers or or simply the London street. The flavours are bold but classic like an éclair in violet and blueberry presented in glorious purple livery or a choux filled with the finest Vanilla beans and topped with a smooth white disc. They use the very best ingredients in foundation flavours such are Vanilla, Pistachio or Salted caramel and hence their opening a few weeks ago was greeted by passer-bys who came to congratulate them, thank them and even bring gifts to celebrate! In an area spoilt with choice and home to some great food outlets, this says something about how different and innovative their offer looks and tastes like.

What do Jérémie and Joakim enjoy about being in London?

They love the creative energy of the city and reckon it is currently Europe’s food capital! So they are striving  to raise the standards for an equally artful and creative fine patisserie scene. No wonder they are busy!

Their little parcels of happiness, in their prettily dotted box,  do not come in cheap though, but believe me it is well worth the spend. Yet because this blog is about democratic cooking and baking, and especially affordable home cooking goodness, I have asked them for one of their best sellers recipe and here it is for you readers in all of its simplicity and perfection. I tried it last week in my kitchen (Thermomix at the ready) and served it to a posse of yummy mummy friends  and babies – verdict was unanimous and very appreciative ! Thank you all at Maître Choux for a very delicious (and affordable) treat.

JoackimTHIS IS THE RECIPE FOR THE LEMON ECLAIR – Kindly gifted by @chefjoakim:

We are listing all the ingredients in order of use during the recipes to give you a clearer view of the process from the start. In order to make things easier for yourself and minimize potential mistakes, weigh and prepare each ingredient in its own bowl before you begin.

Lemon Meringue Éclair

(20 pieces)

Choux Pastry

Before we start, please preheat your oven at 180 degrees, fan off, minimum humidity setting.

Ingredients list:

  • 200g whole milk
  • 300g water
  • 240g butter
  • 10g sugar
  • 8g salt
  • 375g Flour
  • 500g of eggs (approx. 10 eggs)

Bring to boil the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt and watch over the pan. AS SOON AS IT IS BOILING, add the flour and stir firmly with the spatula for one minute or so, until the mix doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan any more. When it does not stick to the sides of the pan any more it means it is ready.

Now take the pan off the heat and add the eggs little by little and one by one until the mix is smooth but not too runny. The hard part in making choux pastry for an untrained eye is in this step: if the mix is too thick it needs more eggs, however the eggs must be added slowly as if it becomes too runny then it will not raise in the oven.

Chef’s tip: Trace a deep line into the choux pastry with your spatula. If the line closes up slowly, then it’s ready!

Lemon Cream

Ingredients list:

  • 250g Lemon Juice (approx. 5 lemons)
  • 220g Sugar
  • Zest of 5 lemons
  • 270g Eggs
  • 300g Butter
  • 100g Greek Yogurt
  • 5g of soaked vegetable gelatin leaves

Before you start, soak the gelatin in cold water.

To make the lemon cream, bring to boil together the lemon juice the sugar and the lemon zests. Once it is boiling, add the eggs and cook for 3 minutes until boiling while mixing sharply with a whisk.

Once it is cooked and still hot, add the gelatin and the butter, then use your hand blender until the mixture is soft

Once it is cold, add the Greek yogurt to the mix and stir with the spatula. It is now ready to use.

Lemon Meringue (optional)

  • 100g Egg White
  • 180g Sugar (divided in 3 portions of 60 g)
  • 10g Lemon Juice
  • Zest of 2 Lemons

Whisk the egg whites then add the sugar. Carry on whisking until the texture is thick then add the lemon juice and the lemon zests.

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Choux Pastry

 Before we start, please preheat your oven at 180 degrees, fan off, minimum humidity setting.

Ingredients list:

  • 200g whole milk
  • 300g water
  • 240g butter
  • 10g sugar
  • 8g salt
  • 375g Flour
  • 500g of eggs (approx. 10 eggs)

Personally, I halved the quantities and so the list looked like this:

Ingredients list B:

  • 100g whole milk
  • 150ml water
  • 120g butter
  • 5g sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 190g Flour
  • 6 medium eggs

Bring to boil the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt and watch over the pan. AS SOON AS IT IS BOILING, add the flour and stir firmly with the spatula for one minute or so, until the mix doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan any more. When it does not stick to the sides of the pan any more it means it is ready. Note : make sure the mix is not too runny or it will not raise but also not too dry or it will collapse soon after! This is where experience comes into… Dry it in the pan or add a bit of water until you get it right.

Now take the pan off the heat and add the eggs little by little and one by one until the mix is smooth but not too runny. The hard part in making choux pastry for an untrained eye is in this step: if the mix is too thick it needs more eggs, however the eggs must be added slowly as if it becomes too runny then it will not raise in the oven.

Chef’s tip: Trace a deep line into the choux pastry with your spatula. If the line closes up slowly, then it’s ready!

Transfer the choux pastry into your pastry bag and pipe into an éclair shape. Do not pipe them too close together as they need space to rise Then keep inside the oven at 180c for 35 minutes until golden.

Have a lovely sunny week!

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Coquetas de ma grand-mère – A family heritage

This recipe has a long story: It has been in the family’s luggage for over one and a half century… It most certainly originated in the small Spanish village of Altea, crossed the water to Oran in Algeria at the end of the 19th century, hopped to Casablanca for my grand-mother’s bridal journey, recrossed the Med back to the south of France in the 70s and finally came with me over the channel, as I now make it in London. This is a gem and I feel very altruistic giving it to the world! But then secrets in the kitchen are best shared with other cooks! That is how the best recipes live on…

It is really a small coca or empanada but stuffed with a “frita” consisting of fried sweet peppers, fried tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. It is made as a starter or as an nibble to enjoy over a glass of dry sherry.

Our picnic in Richmond park - dainty treats...

Our picnic in Richmond park – dainty treats…

IMG_9155Ingredients for the “frita”:

  •  Sweet red and green peppers, 2/3
  • Big tomatoes, 2/3
  • Garlic cloves, 2
  • anchovy fillets

Plunge the tomatoes into a bol of boiling water then remove them and peel them with a sharp knife. The blistered skin will come off easily.

Core and cut them up and squeeze some of the seeds out but do not worry if there are some left.

Clean the peppers and put them under the grill to blacken the skin. Once cooled, most of the skin will peel easily.

Fry the cubed tomatoes and the chopped garlic.  Add strips of peppers. Cook until soft and mushy. Then add some bits of anchovy into the cooled mix. This means no extra salt is needed!

Add a little black pepper. Reserve in the fridge until you need it. This filling can be done ahead of time and even frozen if necessary.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • Fine flour, 250g
  • Boiling water, 500ml
  • Salt, pinch
  • Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tsp

The trick for this dough is to throw the whole lot of the measured flour into the salted and boiling water in ONE go!  Add the sugar and olive oil. Turn speedily with a wooden spoon and turn the heat off when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan into a glossy ball. Let it to cool aside. Again, this dough can be made the day before or kept in the fridge for a few days. This amount will make a good baker dozen of coquetas.

When you are ready to assemble, spread the dough on a cool clean surface with a floured rolling pin. Keep it as thin as you can but not to breaking point. Keep it floured so it does not stick to the surface or the pin.

Cut up circles with a large scone cutter or a sharp knife around a small saucer. Place a small amount of filling in the middle and join the two sides like a Cornish pasty, pressing the edges down with a fork.

Prepare a thick bottom frying pan with a good glass of oil in it. When the oil sizzles around a pea of dough, lower each coquetas and fry until both sides are nice and brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm or at room temperature with the aforementioned glass of sherry! Some black olives are good with it too.

When I was a child, we had this in the sun filled lounge at the aperitif, just before lunch during the week ends and sometime mid week. In France, in many families, you will also get an aperitif before lunch, not just before dinner. As we grew up, we were even allowed the odd sip of wine with our coquets so for us this is was a festive and grown-up treat. Children tend not to like the bitter taste of green pepper but in coquetas it was enhanced by the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The pastry must be light and puffed up with a chewiness that I am still very fond of. This is not a quick family recipe but it has its place here despite that because of its archive quality ! Be aware that it will take the best part of a day to achieve… This is love’s labour…

Some recipes are heritage. I confess that I am excessively thrilled to be now making coquetas at home  and teaching my children how to do them. And even though they not as good as Manille’s, they are pretty close!

>Chocolate and pear tart

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Some days, even the healthiest yoga-crazed fitness addict craves pure, shameless indulgence and this pudding is for days like that: When nothing but a good book and a slice of really decadent tart will do ; days when virtue is for everybody else and lust gets the better of you.
Ingredients list:
Pralinoise chocolate 200g
Puff pastry 1 sheet ( my latest version above was done with homemade short pastry)
Pears 3 mature ones
Eggs 2
Butter 100g
Ground almond 100g
Caster sugar 100g
Pre-heat your oven to 220°C. In a big bowl, whisk the soft butter, ground almond and sugar until pale and fluffy. 
Add the beaten up eggs and whisk until smooth.
Unroll the pastry and lay into a  buttered pie dish. Prick the bottom with a fork to avoid unsightly bumps later.
Peel and core the pears. Cut them in quarters. Reserve.
Melt the chocolate in a small pan plunged within a bigger one full of water (bain-marie for the experts). This is the best way not to burn chocolate. But add a drop cold water if the mix gets too dry.
Pour the melted chocolate over the pastry base. Then pour the almond and eggs mix over and lay your pear slices on top. Sprinkle with a spoonful of crushed hazelnuts.
Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Shopping notes:
Pralinoise is a classic chocolate bar distributed by Cadbury France. It is chocolate with hazelnut paste. Mon Ecusette de Noireuil – as Andre Breton called his own daughter- could be quite addicted to it… 
If you can’t find it, replace by semi dark chocolate with a good spoonful of Nutella. This recipe was a special request from my lovely ex-au pair Kinga and so it jumps the queue. Tomorrow I will write about Cod and fish which was tonight’s subject…

Celebrating the Epiphany!

Prête à manger!

Prête à manger!

La Galette des Rois

Ingredients list:

  • 2 rolls of frozen puff pastry (all butter is best – check for no hydrogenated fat)
  • Brown sugar 125g
  • Almond powder 200g
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 50g Butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A little dark rum

The secret of easy pastry is to follow the measured quantities as if the result depended on it – it does!

Mix the sugar and almond power . Beat the eggs until light and creamy and add slowly to the mix. Add butter and flavours.

Roll out the pastry. Ideally, the pastry and your hands are cold. This is important when working with any pastry but with puff it is essential: the quicker you work the better for a raised and light result. I always work on marble which makes it easier to keep everything cold while rolling out the thinnest pastry.

Cut out a large circle and then a second one but slightly bigger. Lay the first circle on a floured oven tray. Put the filling in the centre and spread it to about a good inch from the sides. Do not forget to place two “fèves” in the mix. Lay the second circle over and fold the sides over it. Push the tip of a fork all around the edge to seal! Decorate with light knife marks and brush over with melted butter.

Put in the midle of a warm oven for 30mn (200°). Eat hot with a mug of cold cider.

The tradition of choosing a king (and Queen) of the feast seems to go as far back as the roman Saturnalia festivals. It was then incorporated to the christian’s traditions along with many pagan festivals and the date was chosen to herald the arrival of the Wise Men. In Provence, the original dry broad bean in the galette was replaced with a porcelain figurine representing the “santons” or the different characters of the Provencal Creche which features a wide array of forgotten trade such as “cantonnier” (road layer) or “rémouleur” (travelling knife sharpener).

When in France around Christmas, I try to hunt for my “fèves” in flea markets or “vide-grenier”, the local car-boot sales!

The children love finding them in their share and then choosing a Queen or King to reign with over the party. At that point, a couple of paper crowns will prove handy as I learnt last year when I had to bargain for my vintage fève back with a shocked 3 year old who was quite ready to forfeit her crown for a lovely painted baby Jesus in its straw! I still feel slightly guilty but I got it back!… Promising myself to use simple broad beans next time ’round. Still failing…