Maître Choux Eclairs, South Kensington

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Maitre Choux eclairs

I am a huge pastry fan and crème pâtissière/ custard/ clotted cream/ any type of cream fan. So éclairs are a pretty satisfying combination for me. I recently started seeing press about beautifully colourful and delicately designed éclairs that were reinventing this classic and had to find out more. My brief research showed that there was a new éclair joint in South Kensington and the website alone made my heart rate increase! It is almost like a fashion website with the éclairs photographed at every angle to make sure that you are fully informed about the height, width, depth, external and interior decoration of these scrumptious desserts. Maître Choux is a small new pâtisserie created by top pastry chef Joakim Prat.

The following Saturday we headed down on an éclair mission. The shop is a beautifully designed small space with panelling and Lee Broom lights suspended like jewellery. The window alone makes everyone stop in their stride as there is a bounty of colours and flavours on display with deliciously delicate decorations on top. This makes the simple decision of which éclair to try take at least ten minutes. Of course, the most sensible thing to do would be to buy ten to get a broad sense of the pastries!

A group of us went so we all tried different ones: pistachio, coffee, chocolate, and yuzu and lemon. All delicious! We had coffee (Monmouth) which came with chouquettes – delicious balls of choux pastry coated with chunky pieces of sugar. Some éclairs out there are too dense in general with heavy dough and an over generous filling of thick cream. I think they should be a puff of extravagance! Crisp pastry soothed with silky cream. These were perfect and the flavours were superb.

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Maître Choux’s flavours vary from salted butter and caramel, dark multi-origin chocolate, Tahitian vanilla and pecan, to orange and saffron. Plus the flavours change so multiple trips are an absolute necessity. Every time I go to an exhibition in South Ken I will be sure to stop by to check on these deliciously indulgent éclairs. In fact, I’ll see if I even make it to any exhibitions!

Find Maître Choux at 15 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ES

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Rhubarb Upside-Down Pudding

Rhubarb upside-down cake recipe

When a recipe’s first instruction is to pour 100ml golden syrup into the bottom of a cake tin my sweet-tooth’s knee-jerk reaction is “Do it! Make it! Do it! Make it!”. Naturally I did and it was delicious!! This is a recipe by Lucas Hollweg from the Waitrose magazine, February 2014. I often pull out his recipes from the seasonal section and finally a year a few months later I have made this pudding. It is really easy and only requires 20 minutes’ preparation and 35 minutes in the oven: perfect for a laid-back Sunday afternoon. I have altered the ingredients slightly from the original recipe as I didn’t quite have everything so instead of light brown sugar I used dark brown (my favourite!) and instead of ground ginger I used allspice.

What you need:

A cake tin at around 20cm diameter

100g unsalted butter (and a little more for greasing the cake tin)

125g golden syrup

450g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into pieces 1cm long

Zest of 1 orange

100g dark brown sugar

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 free-range eggs

50g ground almonds

50g self-raising flour

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C, 170C (fan).

2. Grease the cake tin with butter.

3. Pour 100g golden syrup into the cake tin and place the rhubarb pieces on top, packed tightly together.

4. Scatter half the orange zest over it.

5. Beat the butter, sugar, remaining syrup, remaining zest, ground allspice and cinnamon together.

6. Beat one egg in at a time with 25g of ground almonds.

7. Fold the flour in, then spoon the mixture onto the rhubarb pieces and smooth it so it is evenly spread.

8. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. It is ready when a fork comes out of the batter clean.

9. Remove it from the oven and leave it to stand for 15 minutes. Carefully turn it onto a plate and eat it with cream, ice-cream or crème fraîche. It is also delicious and very moist on its own.

I think I may even have some for breakfast! (It is good to start the day with fruit.)

Rhubarb and orange zest for rhubarb upside-down cake recipe

The rhubarb and zest on a sticky bed of golden syrup

Rhubarb upside-down puddingrecipe

Devouring has started!

Walnut Shortbread with Chocolate Drizzles

Walnut shortbread

Walnut shortbread with chocolate drizzle recipe

Sometimes I have a deep strong urge to have biscuits. I don’t usually have packets in the flat so it inevitably leads to baking my own. Shortbread is one of my go-to recipes as it is easy and always delicious. You can alter the recipe too by adding bits like nuts, chocolate, seeds, and so on, as it is a good base. You can also use caster sugar or icing sugar to get a slightly crumblier texture with the former than the latter. However, this is if you aren’t staunchly conservative about how shortbread should be made, i.e. traditionally. I once made”disco ball shortbread” by adding silver sugar balls which was quite fun and silly (picture at the end) .

This recipe takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake so from urge to satisfaction can be as little as 30 minutes!

What you need:

75g walnut pieces

250g plain flour

175g unsalted butter, softened

85g icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C.

2. Roast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes, remove and set aside.

3. Beat the softened butter  with a wooden spoon until it is really soft and smooth.

4. Add the icing sugar, dessert spoon at a time, and mix it in until it is blended well with the butter.

5. Add the half teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix that in well.

6. Add the flour and blend it with the buttery mixture, adding the nuts as you mix.

7. Take pieces of the dough, around the size of a ping pong ball, and flatten them into circles at about a centimetre thickness.

8. Place them on a greaseproof lined baking tray, not too close together, and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn the trays around half way through so the shortbreads bake evenly.

9. Once the shortbreads are lightly golden, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

10. Melt the chocolate over a gentle heat and drizzle it over the shortbreads and voila, they are ready to satisfy the urge!

Disco ball shortbread

Disco ball shortbread!

Raspberry Ripple Custard Tarts – from Dan Lepard’s “Short and Sweet”

Raspberry Ripple Custard Tarts recipe

I was given Dan Lepard’s “Short and Sweet” for my birthday a couple of years ago and I love it. It is full of baking techniques from making breads to tarts to éclairs. I have been making Dan Lepard’s recipes for years as he writes baking columns for papers and every recipe always sounds and looks scrumptious!

I made his Raspberry Ripple Tart recipe for dessert when friends came over for dinner. Instead of serving little ones I made one large one with a huge swirl of raspberry through the custard. I also made several small ones (pictured) for dessert the next day – always necessary!

The recipe is relatively simple and definitely a crowd-pleaser. The raspberry ripple is simply raspberries crushed with sugar so if you don’t have time to make the pastry you could buy shortcrust pastry and just make the custard. If you do have time though it is worth the effort.

This is a good dessert to make in advance as the pastry needs to be chilled and the custard needs to cool as well so it will need about an hour and a half to make overall.

Here’s how to make it:

For the shortcrust pastry (once made it will require 30 minutes to chill) –

250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

150g unsalted butter (cold)

2 egg yolks

15ml ice cold water

A pinch of salt

For the custard –

325ml milk

Half a vanilla pod, split lengthways

75g caster sugar

3 tablespoons plain flour

2 egg whites (reserved from the eggs used for the pastry)

300ml double cream

For the ripple –

150g raspberries

75g caster sugar

Method:

1. First, make the pastry by putting the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

2. Cut the butter into little pieces, put them in the bowl with the flour, sugar and salt and rub the butter into these ingredients until it has blended with them.

3. Stir the egg yolks with the water, pour this into the bowl with the flour mixture and combine it to form a soft and smooth paste.

4. Shape the dough into a block, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes before using it.

5. Heat the oven to 160C/ 180C fan.

6. Once the pastry has chilled, take it out of the fridge and roll it out thinly. Sprinkle some flour on the surface and rolling pin to avoid it sticking.

7. If you are making a large tart, line a greased tart tin with the pastry and, if you are making small tarts, cut circles of pastry and line each pocket of a greased muffin tray with the pastry.

8. Put a large piece of baking paper on the pastry (if you’re using one large tin) or muffin cases on the pastry (if you’re using a muffin tray), and fill them half-way with baking beans or dry rice.

9. Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes until dry and golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and then remove the greaseproof paper or muffin cases with the baking beans or rice.

10.  Whilst the pastry is cooling, you can make the custard. Start by heating the milk with the vanilla pod on a medium heat.

11. In a bowl whisk the sugar, flour and egg whites until smooth. Beat the hot milk into this mixture in the bowl, then pour it all back into the pan and heat until boiling whisking the whole time.

12. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the vanilla pod and cover the pan with a plate (to stop a skin forming). Leave until the custard is cold.

13. Whilst the custard is cooling crush the raspberries with the caster sugar.

14. When the custard is cold, whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold it gently through the custard.

15. Put the pastry case/s on a plate or cake stand and spoon the custard into the pastry case/s and swirl the raspberries through it.

16. Devour!

Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard

Beautiful cover. Beautiful book.

Raspberry Ripple Tarts recipe

If that isn’t a tempting dessert photo, I don’t know what is!

Last weekend I attempted my first coffee Paris-Brest (a recipe from “Short and Sweet”) which are small choux pastries cut in half with coffee custard in the centre and flaked almonds and caramel on top. The choux pastry puffed up a lot (as it does in general due to the water content) which meant that they turned out nothing like the photo in the book! I need to attempt these again but I can certainly say that coffee custard and choux pastry are sublime together!

Paris-Brest

Not so Paris-Brest!

Lily Vanilli on Columbia Road, London

 

I recently read about Lily Vanilli and her morbid cakes such as cemetery cupcakes with gingerbread biscuit gravestones sticking out of the icing, squeamish  glossy and dripping heart shaped cakes (I’m talking about the muscle here!), zombie cupcakes and so on. You get the picture. The shock factor though, isn’t the only talking point on her cakes. She has a bakery on Columbia Road which is much more savoury in tone yet sweet. The bakery is full of delicious cakes, tarts and muffins and some seriously good “stuff on toast” – toasted sourdough with roasted veg and cheese melted on top. I had a wonderful lunch there today and loved the fun, slightly frivolous, approach to the bakery. It is yummy and endearing, just like the name. Lily has a couple of cookbooks out: A Zombie Ate My Cupcake and Sweet Tooth. You can find the bakery open on Sundays in The Courtyard on Columbia Road.

      

Lavender Biscuits with Crunchy Caramel

The lavender in the garden is pretty much disappearing now as the weather cools but when it was abundant I plucked a little handful to make some subtle lavender butter biscuits drizzled with tooth-cracking caramel. I love the smell of lavender. My housemate recently returned from the South of France with a bundle of dried lavender for my chest of drawers. Every time I open a drawer I am delightfully surprised by the waft of its summery scent.

However, these perfumey smells aren’t popular with everyone when it comes to food. I once won a work baking competition with my rose and chocolate cake but then made it at another workplace charity bake sale (smugly thinking of all the compliments I would receive for it!) only to sell 4 slices (all to the same person as well!) which promptly bashed me down to earth and left my baking skills hiding behind a door, shoulders hunched, eyes blinking, thinking how they must improve themselves. I asked my desk mates why they hadn’t opted to buy a slice of my cake and the response was along the lines of “Rose in food?! Only in soap thanks!” There we go. It’s a little bit how I feel about some Earl Grey teas- I would rather dab them on my neck.

So, to the recipe. The biscuits are very easy and the caramel is straight forward but you do need to keep a hawk eye on it to make sure it doesn’t turn from glorious deep golden to burnt umber. You can see a few sprinkles of sugar left on my caramel in the photos as I was indeed a little nervous at letting the caramel burn so whipped it off the heat and poured it onto the biscuits.

What you need:

130g butter (soft, at room temperature)

80g sugar consisting of 50g brown and 30g caster

150g plain flour

40g caster sugar for the caramel

About 20 fresh lavender flowers

Baking paper

What you need to do:

1. Line a baking tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180C.

2. Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and blend together well with a fork.

3. Then blend the flour in.

4. Take 6 of the lavender flowers and break them up with your fingers over the mixture. Then use your fingers to work them in.

5. Take the ball of dough and break it into 2. Roll out a ball with a rolling pin, then cut it into rectangles  about 5cm by 4cm. Repeat with the other ball of dough, then place the rectangles on the baking tray.

6. Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Make sure they only turn lightly golden around the edges.

7. Remove the biscuits and allow to cool.

8. Now for the caramel. Pour the caster sugar evenly into a heavy bottomed pan. Place it on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Don’t stir the sugar, just leave it and watch it liquify. Once it turns a golden brown and is all or almost all liquid, take it off the heat.

9. Pour the caramel over the biscuits quickly as it will solidify in a flash. Then scatter the remaining lavender flowers over the top.

As the pictures show the hardened caramel will connect the biscuits together so it’s quite fun to keep them like that and snap them apart as you eat them.

Halloween Treats: Snake and Cake Skewers

Make a sticky wormy mess for Halloween with snakes peeping from sponge, a nest of liquorice lace and skewered with cubes of cake onto cocktail sticks. This treat takes 10 minutes to put together (once you’ve made the sponge of course!). I can’t remember actually doing Trick or Treat myself as a child and was a little horrified to hear thumps and bangs at my door this evening along with hands clawing at the letter slot and then voices screeching through “We know you’re in there!”, “Open up!” and “Come out!” I think not with a tone like that! I carefully slinked out later to cycle off to Tranky Doo practice and found the poor marmalade cat cowering behind the railings until he saw me, then shot in in an orange flash not unlike the orange unspun wool in the photos!

What you need:

Cocktail sticks

Gummy snakes/ spiders/ whatever you can get your paws on

Black food dye

A box of icing sugar

Liquorice lace

A square or rectangular sponge such as this recipe for cardamom cake (you can omit the cardamom) or just buy a sponge loaf cake (I feel ok saying this as this is the kind of thing Nigella might say!)

What you need to do:

1. Cut a rectangular slice from the cake, around 2cm deep,  then cut the rest of the cake into cubes.

2. If the black food colouring is the sticky almost gel like one, mix it with a touch of water, otherwise just put the food colouring in a bowl with the icing sugar. Mix until you reach a thick glossy consistency, adding more colouring and/ or water if necessary.

3. Dip the squares of cake into the icing and skewer between two gummy snakes/ spiders, or whatever you have, on a cocktail stick.

4. Place the rectangle of cake on a surface and tuck some snakes or spiders underneath so they are poking out as if emerging from the sponge. Pour the rest of the black icing over the rectangle of sponge.

5. Arrange nests of liquorice lace on top, then stick the cocktail stick skewers of cake and snakes into the sponge.

6. Alternatively use small bowls or espresso cups to make individual liquorice nests with the skewered cakes sticking out of them.

Enjoy!