Monthly Archives: February 2011

Fairtrade Fortnight and French Patisserie

Today (28 February) is the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight. I thought I’d share a recipe with you this week, combining two things I am passionate about – fairtrade and French patisserie. Fairtrade is all about giving farmers and workers in the developing world a better price, decent working conditions and a sustainable living. For more information, I recommend the Fairtrade Foundation’s website: and the next time you’re out shopping, look out for the ‘fairtrade’ symbol. This can be found on bananas, chocolate and coffee, amongst other favourites.

Whilst I love chocolate (and who doesn’t?!), I thought I’d use a recipe with coffee and who isn’t a fan of eclairs? So, instead of sharing my manic last week (or two, probably!), I’m giving you a recipe to try for yourself. I had home economics lessons in the 6th form and these were rare – probably one a term. We could make whatever we wanted, and I wanted to try choux pastry, so made profiteroles. That was my first attempt at making patisserie and I’ve been hooked since! This isn’t too difficult a recipe, but allow yourself lots of time. And unlike the picture above, make sure you have the right size of nozzle – the taste won’t be any different, but it will look a lot prettier!

For the choux pastry:

  • 90g butter
  • 135ml milk
  • 135ml water
  • 3/4 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 150g plain flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Put the butter, milk, water and sugar into a medium pan. Bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Take the pan from the heat and add the flour, all at once. Beat until the mixture forms a smooth, thick paste. Still beating, return the pan to the heat for 1 minute, but do not leave it any longer than this. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

When all of the eggs have been added, the choux pastry is ready to pipe. Preheat the oven to 220oC (non-fan). Choose a wide nozzle (1cm) and place into a piping bag. Add the pastry and pipe the shapes onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Lightly brush the shapes with the egg wash.

Bake in the hot oven for 4-5 minutes, then open the oven door about 2cm and continue to cook with the door ajar. Allow between 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your buns. When they are ready, take a piping tube and make three small holes in the bottom of each eclair and then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Coffee Crème Patisserie

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 20g plain flour, sifted
  • 250ml milk
  • 1tbsp instant coffee granules

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with about 20g of the sugar, until the mixture is thick. Add the flour and mix it in smoothly.

In a saucepan, bring the milk, the remaining sugar and the instant coffee to the boil. Pour about a third of the milk mixture on to the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you do so. Return this to the rest of the milk in the pan and stirring all of the time, bring to the boil over a gentle heat. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. To prevent the custard from forming a skin whilst cooling, either dot the surface with butter or dust it with icing sugar.

To assemble, put the cool crème patisserie in a piping bag, with a nozzle inserted. Take an éclair in your hand and then pipe the crème patisserie into each hole you have made. Repeat until each éclair is full. To finish, take some cooled instant coffee and add to sifted icing sugar. I’m sorry I’m vague about the amounts, but make enough to give you quite a thick icing. Pipe this over each éclair and enjoy!

Perfect patisserie? Mais non!

It’s been quite a week for me! I’ve made a very exciting announcement – from 1st April, Claire’s Handmade Cakes will be offering a range of desserts, to complement our bespoke cakes. The important thing about these desserts, is that many of them will be seasonal. That means that I won’t be making Fraisiers in December, or rhubarb tarts in October. Cooking in the seasons is very important to me, and I hope people understand why some desserts won’t be around all year.

Of course, some will! There will be the perennial lemon tart, eclairs, profiterols, macarons, pavlovas, creme brulees… So at the moment, I’m finalising recipes, packaging and even squeezing in a website redesign. It’s all go at Cake Towers!

This weekend I thought I’d have a go at macarons and eclairs. You may notice there is only one photo in this week’s blog. That, unfortunately is deliberate! I’ve made macarons twice before, it’s three times now. I have yet to perfect them. I will, however, I am determined like that! I suspect it might take me baking them every day for the next 2 months, but I can do that!

The coffee eclairs were much more successful! I first made choux pastry in a home economics class when I was 16. I could make whatever I wanted, so I had a go at profiterols. They were very tasty! I’ve made eclairs a few times since, so I figured I’d be safe with them.

Ingredients are very important, but so too is presentation. It turns out to make the perfect eclairs, a nozzle measuring 1cm wide is recommended. Regretably, I don’t have one of those (I don’t own every piece of kit going – yet!), so I went with a nozzle which was 1/2 cm wide. As you can see from the picture, they look nice, but they’re not pretty. The filling (coffee creme patisserie) was very tasty and once I get myself a new nozzle, I’ll be making them again and they will be pretty. They’ll be very pretty.

And as for this weekend? Creme brulees are calling me. I can’t wait!