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!

Strawberry Jam Recipe and Seal Spotting in Norfolk

Strawberry Jam recipe

Strawberry Jam recipe

I recently went to Norfolk for a weekend escape from London. It was so refreshing! Long walks on the beach, a boat trip to spot seals at Blakeney Point and homemade strawberry jam made for a very good weekend indeed! We stayed in Brancaster which you can drive to in about 2 and a half hours from London. It’s a little village with its own bay and a very good pub, The Ship, which serves local seafood. I made jam the day before for the first time to take on the trip. The reason for finally making jam was that I had bought two punnets of strawberries at Borough Market and they were, sadly, tasteless!

I had always thought that jam making would be a difficult affair with thermometers, pectin, sieves and muslin but it wasn’t! All I did was halve the strawberries and boil them with sugar and water until the mixture was fizzing and almost cascading down the outside of the pan. It was a little looser than bought jarred jam but none the less delicious!

I had been given a book called ‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood (Square Peg) which is full of recipes for jams, jellies and chutneys. It was first published in 1970 and it is full of beautiful little illustrations of the ingredients. It is organised alphabetically by ingredient. The start of the book has several pages explaining the general rules of making jams, jellies and chutneys but the actual recipes have the bare bones of instructions. For example it didn’t say whether to leave the strawberries whole or to cut them. So, I decided to halve them which seemed to be an on the fence compromise! I thought that this would also make them more manageable in the jam if they didn’t reduce much.

What you need:

900g strawberries
600g sugar
A touch of water

Lemon juice (from one lemon) is one of the ingredients but I didn’t have any and the jam was yummy without but do add some if you feel like it. The type of sugar wasn’t specified so I used caster.

What you need to do:

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, then halve them.

2. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed large pan with a splash of water.

3. Put the pan on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Let the sugar melt and form a syrup with the water.

4. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrup, add the strawberry halves and simmer.

5. Keep simmering. The mixture may boil and fizz which is fine! It did alarm me a little though!

6. When the strawberries have reduced and it is starting to look like a jam scoop a little out on a teaspoon a put it on a plate. If it is quite runny it needs to be cooked more. If it is quite dense and sticky it should be ready. You can tell for sure if it is ready by seeing if the surface of the jam wrinkles as it cools.

7. When it is ready let it cool a bit then pour it into a jar or tupperware.

Enjoy with some delicious bread!

Wells-next-the-Sea

Wells-next-the-Sea

Seals at Blakeney Point

Seal spotting at Blakeney Point.

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Seals enjoying the sun.

Cantering in the sea, Norfolk

Riding on the beach – how nice indeed!

Lightning struck tree, Wells

We found this twisted and torched tree in the wood next to the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea and wondered if it had been struck by lightning.

Norfolk Llamas

Llamas being taken for a walk!

Lets Preserve It

‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood full of jam, jelly and chutney recipes.

Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

      a recent trip to Berlin we were wandering around the trendy Mitte district and came across Princess Cheesecake. I could leave it at that; the name and the photos say it all!

We found it before we had had lunch so knew to save a lot of room as we would definitely be going back. It was simple and serene inside with a glass counter displaying the cheesecakes like jewellery. They all looked just as good as each other so which to get…? The passionfruit, the coconut, the Russian, the lemon? In the end we had the passionfruit, apple and Russian which has a crumbly texture. They were absolutely delicious, beautifully presented and showed the love and care that went into the recipe and making of each one. You can eat in and take a slice or a whole cheesecake away. There are so many types that there must be something to suit any taste. I loved the final touches on each cheesecake such as the chocolate petal shapes lightly placed at the end of each slice and the chocolate curls. The owner and pastry chef, Cornelia Suhr, has even written a book. Have a look at the website just to see the beautiful still life photograph, in 17th century Dutch style, of cheesecake ingredients amongst flowers, fruit and swathes of fabric and to hear Introduction and Allegro for Flute, Clarinet, Harp and String Quartet, 1905, by Maurice Ravel. It sets the scene for elegant decadence, with cheesecake!

You can find Princess Cheesecake at Tucholskystraße 37, D-10117 in the super cool and sehr fun Berlin!

Apple cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Chocolate cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Apple pie, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Lemon cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Passion fruit cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Russian cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Princess Cheesecake, Berlin