Tarts & more tarts

:: Apple tartlets ::Asparagus, Bak Kwa & gruyere tartlets

Nowadays, there will always be a ready supply of pate sucree dough in my refrigerator because depending on my schedule, I will bake some sorta tartlets for tea, breakfast, whatever.

Mom just came back from her overseas trip and I thought I should bake apple tartlets for her as she is a real fan of it and therefore a good person to turn to if you want honest feedback. I would love to make these for her but knowing that it is difficult to make puff pastry in this kind of heat, I aborted the idea. Knowing her palate, she prefers less sweet stuff and that would mean adjusting the amount of sugar in most recipes.

The first recipe that I wanted to test is from Caramelised Apple Tartlets from Meringue. It’s as simple as coating the apples in caramel syrup and topping each tartlet with french meringue after the tartlets are baked for 20 minutes. Thereafter, the tartlets are popped back into the oven for another 15 minutes so that the meringue is baked till light brown.


Since I didn’t have enough apples that day, the portion of the fruit in each tartlet was insufficient to satisfy my mom. Reduce the sugar a bit more, she said and it would be good. For me, I didn’t like how the meringue turned out and decided that I should try another recipe, this time being one from Beyond the Plate because I was mesmerised by the photos. Heh.


I was pleasantly pleased with this one, having reduced the portion of sugar from 100g to 60g and mom and Ken gave positive feedback. Since I still had a good amount of egg and whipping cream mixture left, I went on to bake the savoury asparagus, Bak Kwa (compliments of mom) and gruyere tartlets. I had my fill and was totally stoked. Oh, the many different tartlets one can bake.


Which will be next on the list, I wonder?

Apple Tartlets filling (adapted from Beyond the Plate)
To make four 4-inch tartlets
2 medium apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
60 grams granulated sugar plus a pinch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon corn starch
3 large eggs
200ml heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C and grease the pan to be used.

Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch and vanilla sugar or vanilla extract in a bowl, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the whipping cream and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow. Set aside.

Layer the apple slices in a fashion that suits your fancy until it reaches the top of the mold. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar and the cinnamon over the apples, then pour the egg/whipping cream mixture into the pan.

20131005-171342.jpg 20131005-171351.jpg

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. The tart is ready when its surface has caramelized and turns a golden brown. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. The tart is best eaten on the day it’s made.

For the asparagus, Bak Kwa and gruyere tartlets, all you need are stalks of asparagus, depending on how many tartlets you have and then the amount of Bak Kwa you want to put in each tartlet before topping the shell with gruyere cheese. Lastly pour the eggs and whipping cream mixture near to the brim of each tartlet before baking in the oven. I’ll do up a proper recipe the next time.



Caramelised apple filling (adapted from Meringue)
For four 4-inch tarlets
1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
4 – 5 apples, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp flour

2 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/3 cup caster sugar

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir until it is cimpletely melted and turns into a bubbly, thick caramel brown syrup. Don’t burn it. Add the apples and stir occasionally to coat the apples with the caramel syrup. Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.

Preheat oven to 200C.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and flour and sprinkle a thin layer over the bottom of each of the tartlet shell (this will keep them crisp). Fill the shells with caramelised apples, dividing them even between the 4 tartlet shells. Bake for 20 minutes. About 10 minutes before they are finished baking, begain making meringue. Remove from over after 20 minutes, leaving heat on, but lowering temperature to 190C.


In the bowl of an electric standmixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and increase speed to medium-high, beating until soft peaks form. Add sugar, about a tbsp at a time, and continue beating on high until meringue has stiff, glossy peaks.


Top the meringue in moulds all the way around the outer edge of each tartlet where the filling meets the crust. This is to form a seal at the edge so that the meringue doesn’t pull away from the crust when baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a ware rack before serving.

Sibling <3 and a Chocolate Tartlet Recipe


It’s amazing how kids can gel a family together.

Growing up, my siblings and I weren’t very close. Each of us is very different in character and we valued the space that we gave to one another. That also translates to little communication among us. However, that changed when we have kids.

Perhaps, it’s because we are living apart. Bro is in Shanghai and my sis is in Jogjakarta and the distance does make the hearts grow fonder. We want to be updated on one another’s progress and how the kids are doing. Thankfully, apps like WeChat helps to connect us virtually.

So, while each of us is unique in our own ways, we are ultimately a family who cares for one another.

These chocolate tarts seem to resemble us. While on the outside, we may be different – each with his or her own character and personality – we are similar on several notes, sharing bittersweet memories of growing up and the “never-give-up” spirit from mom.

20130925-213512.jpg 20130925-213533.jpg20130925-213548.jpg 20130925-213559.jpg

The tarts are simple to make and it’s important to choose the best and freshest ingredients (i.e. butter, chocolate, eggs) and allow them to shine! Once you have baked the tarts, all you have to do is to pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache (chocolate + heavy cream) onto the tarts. You can eat the tarts as they are or if you want a little variation, decorate the tarts with fruits (like strawberries or pears or top them with chocolate shavings or cocoa nibs. I think it’s all up to your creativity.


Chocolate Tart Recipe
Pate Sucree Shells*
150g bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped ( I used 72% Valhorna covertures)
1/3 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)

The chocolate ganache can yield about 5 3 1/2 inch tartlets.

*Pate Scree Tart Shell
(makes two 7-inch tart or ten 3 1/2 inch tartlets)
Adapted from Miette Cookbook

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour20130925-213628.jpg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
226g cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 whole block)
2 large egg yolks
4 to 8 tbsp heavy cream

1. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tbsp of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. I took about 5 tbsp. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you need. I used the pressing in method to press the dough into the tart pans. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 180C.

5. Fully pre-bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Every oven is different. For me, I tend to put to bake for a tad longer, sometimes up to 20 minutes. I will always look at the colour to determine if the tarts are baked to my liking.

6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling with the chocolate ganache.

7. While the shells cool, make the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it begins to boil remove from heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

8. With the tartlet shells now cool, pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache onto the tarts.


Have fun baking!

Fruit tartlets


In an attempt to make different bases for tartlets, I went on to try out Pate Sucree. Since coming back to tropical Singapore, I have stopped making pastry, sorta. Occasionally, if I bother, I would make chicken pies or pineapple tarts using pastry.

So, the interest to bake tartlets increases by leaps and bounds and the next one to be baked is fruit tartlet.

I have chosen to work on Pate Sucree as I need a rich and buttery pie dough and one that is firm enough to hold moisture so that the tart won’t get soggy even after it has been filled for a day.

This time round, I’m not too pleased with the end result of the shell as I thought I could have baked it a while longer. Perhaps the next bake! 😉

Pate Scree Tart Shell20130919-081041.jpg
(makes two 7-inch tart or ten 3 1/2 inch tartlets)
Adapted from Miette Cookbook

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
226g cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 whole block)
2 large egg yolks
4 to 8 tbsp heavy cream

1. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tbsp of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. I took about 5 tbsp. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you need. I used the pressing in method to press the dough into the tart pans. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork an dplace int he freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 180C.

5. Fully pre-bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling and proceeding with the recipe. Store fully baked shells, wrapped tightly in plastic, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* To store unbaked, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 2 months.

Creme patissiere
(Makes about 380g)20130919-081010.jpg

½ tsp vanilla extract
250ml milk
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ½ tbsp cornflour
1 ½ tbsp custard powder
14g unsalted butter

1. Add the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, cornflour and custard powder together with a whisk until smooth and creamy.

3. Pour half the boiled milk into the mixing bowl containing the egg mixture and whisk together. Now pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan where the remaining milk is.

4. Over low heat, whisk the mixture until it thickens and starts to bubble.

5. After about 5 minutes, the heat would have cooked the cornflour and custard powder and become thick and rich. Remove pan from the fire.

6. Add the butter and vanilla extract and whisk it in until melted to further enrich the creme and make it extra glossy.

7. Transfer the creme patissiere to a bowl and immediately place a sheet of clingwrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely before using.


Lastly, just assemble using your favourite fruits!

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

What got me baking these tartlets?


One fine day, da man and I checked out a cafe and I thought I should try their famed passionfruit meringue tartlets. After one bite, I found myself unimpressed -the pastry was hard and for the price I paid, I could have a better experience than that. So, I decided to bake the tarts myself.

Commonly, the crusts of tarts are made from pate brisee, pate sucree and pate sablee. However, my kitchen is really warm and I decided to use the graham crackers crust from Miette whose recipes I love. For the lemon curd, I prefer the lighter version and opted for Dorie Greenspan’s. After topping it up with Italian Meringue and torching it, I was truly satisfied. You would have to allow the different parts of the tartlets time to bind the flavours together in order to get its true taste.

A lot of work, yes. But it’s all worth it.


For Graham Crackers Base
[Adapted from Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s Most Charming Pastry Shop]

100g all-purpose flour
20g wholemeal flour
¼ tsp salt
A scant (⅛ tsp) ground cinnamon
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55g light brown sugar
1 tbsp honey

1. Sift together both flours, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a standmixer (fitted with paddle attachment), combine the butter, brown sugar and honey and beat until fluffy.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, beating just until combined after each addition. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap/ clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling, or up to 2 days.

Preparation for blind-baking:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you IMG_6718need and pat gently into disks. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each dough disk into a round about 2mm thick and about 1 inch greater in diameter than the pan you are using. Drape the roller-out dough into the tart pan(s), gently pushing it into the bottom edges and against the pan sides to make a strong and straight shell. Trim the edges and against the pan sides. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to form up for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 C.

To fully blind-bake the shell, line the shells with parchment paper and weight with dried rice, dried beans or pie weights. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.


Lemon curd
[Source: Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table]

1 ¼ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
about ¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4-5 lemons)
112g unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (off-heat), whisk the sugar and the eggs together until blended. Whisk in the corn syrup and lemon juice and then drop in the chunks of butter.

2. Put the saucepan over medium heat and start whisking, taking care to work the whisk into the edges of the pan. If your whisk is too big to clean the edges of the pan, switch to a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula. Keep heating and whisking the mixture without stop. After about 6 to 8 minutes, you’ll notice the curd starting to thicken- it won’t be very thick, but the change is easily perceptible. When the curd is thickened, and most important, you see a bubble or two burble to the surface and then pop immediately, remove the pan from the heat.

3. Scrape the curd into a heatproof bowl or a canning jar or two. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal, and let the curd cool to room temperature (it will thicken slightly as it cools). Chill before serving. The curd will keep up to three weeks, refrigerated.

Italian meringue
[Makes about 4 cups]

1 ½ cups caster sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
¼ cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a small saucepan. Stir the sugar to dissolve and begin to heat it over medium-low. Have a heatproof measuring cup sitting nearby.

2. Put the egg whites and vanilla in a standmixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar syrup reaches 115C, immediately pour it into the measuring cup to prevent it from getting hotter. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the side of the bowl rather than the whisk. When all the syrup is added, turn the mixer to medium high and whisk until the icing becomes thick and holds a firm peak, about 10 minutes in total. Do not continue to beat or the icing will become too thick to spread and pipe.

Linking up with

Wordless Wednesday | Mixed berry tart for a {b}very busy day


Back at work in the morning.


Can’t resist this as I head back home to fetch Faith


A guest’s coming over so this is a real fast and easy dessert to make

Mixed berry tart
1 pack ready puff pastry, thawed if frozen
250g mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
Berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries – whichever you can get your hands on)
Confectioners’ sugar
Fresh mint leaves, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly oil a large baking sheet.

2. Place puff pastry onto the prepared baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.

IMG_4473 IMG_4476

3. Bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown (I took more than that). Flip the pastry over, then press down all over to flatten. Bake fore 5 more minutes, until the pastry is flaky, cooked through and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cook completely, about 1 hour.

4. Beat the mascarpone with the vanilla extra until smooth. Spread it evenly over the pastry.

5. Place the fruit in a bowl and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Toss gently and then spoon over the mascarpone cheese. Decorate with the mint.


Linking up with

apple mosaic tart with salted caramel

Another treat for the CG. The steps are easy and especially so if you use store-bought pastry. I have given up hope of doing my own shortcrust or puff pastry because of the high humidity here. Instead of puff pastry, I used the former and I feel puff pastry will yield a better result in terms of the overall taste. Actually nothing beats making your own pastry. I. Dislike. Store-bought. Pastry. Did a rather similar one last year and I think I have improved in the presentation. No?

The recipe is found here with lovely pics too!
Have recorded the process:


Madoleine I have none but knife skills come in handy. Just make do.

Laying the pieces

With sugar and dotted with butter

Preparing the caramel

Apple Cinnamon Toaster Strudel

Another apple stuff. No, not related to Jobs. Taken from the kitchn. I find the filling a tad too sweet. The next time I try, I would decrease the amount of brown sugar. Was lazy too. Used store-bought puff pastry.

Pics taken at night (left) and daytime (natural light) using Lumix.

Taken using Canon EOS 400D.

Apple Cinnamon Toaster Strudels
Serves 8
Adapted from the kitchn 

For the crust
1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling
2 baking apples, peeled and cored
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt

For the filling, grate the apples on the large holes of a box grater. In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the grated apples and toss until coated. Add the brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon of (chilled) butter. Cool the filling to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto a well-floured work surface, continuing to flour the work surface as necessary throughout the rolling/trimming process. Roll out the pastry to form a very large, thin rectangle. Trim the edges of the dough to make a 10 x 14 inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut out 8 (3-1/2 x 5 inch) rectangles.

Transfer 4 of the rectangles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spoon a scant 2 tablespoons of the apple filling into the center of these. Spread the filling evenly across the pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch space clean around the perimeter. Brush the other 4 rectangles with the egg wash. Place an egg washed rectangle directly over a filled rectangle (egg wash touching the filling). Using your fingertips, firmly seal the edges on all sides (dip your fingers in a little flour if the dough is sticky). Use the tines of the fork to seal the shorter 2 ends of the rectangles. Prick each strudel all over with a fork, including the sealed edges. Repeat this step with the second sheet of puff pastry.

Egg wash the rectangles before baking them in the oven. Bake the strudels until puffed and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before eating. Serve warm.


Monday, we experienced the fruits of our labour. After 4 hours of rolling doughs – puff pastry & croissant – last Monday, the next step would be to shape and bake them!

The class was going too fast. No recipes, just following closely what Chef said. He, in his usual humorous nature, kept the atmosphere light by teasing us and commenting on our weird-shaped dough. Since he didn’t provide recipes, the keen participants would always ask (especially for puree and glaze), “Chef, how much do you put the rum…what did you put inside…?”

“I don’t use exact measurement. Just taste. You must learn how to taste!”

It’s ultra gratifying to see our shabby dough transformed into delicious pastries. I’m most impressed by the ‘peach’ that is made from brioche dough filled with pastry cream and cut peaches and then brushed with raspberry puree and glaze. I didn’t think that bread can be decorated like that. Creative!

So, all of us went home with at least 2 full boxes of pastries and a large bag of frozen doughs that are shaped. Time to give away these goodies!

Chef Delphin Gomes is really good in his craft and he shared his knowledge with us. But the downside is, we didn’t have the time to write our notes. These are some which I could capture.

On Croissant dough:
– Chef added 1/2 tablet of vitamin C (crushed) as a stabiliser and to promote longer self-life. It also prevents the dough from drying too fast in the freezer
– The butter block needs to be in perfect square when you laminate.
– Takes minimum 8 hours and require 3 turns and an hour of rest is needed after each turn.
– Too much rolling will be stressful to the dough. Having said that, once the dough is out from the fridge, work on it quickly to prevent the butter from melting.
– Place salt, yeast and sugar in different pockets of the flour. Don’t add all the liquid at once.
– Use medium speed.
– Never add salt in the beginning.

On Brioche dough:
– The amount of sugar, eggs and butter can change which result in either a lean or rich dough (Sherry Yard’s baking book has a good explanation on it).
– Adding water can cause the dough to last longer if you want to place it in the freezer.
– After the eggs are beaten, test using ‘window-pane’ and then add butter, a few pieces at a time.
– When the dough is elastic, it’s done. It can be stretched and there’s shine.
– Rest for at least 8 hours in the fridge.
– As with croissant dough, it’s best to first shape the dough and then freeze it (up to a month).

On Puff pastry:
– A laminated dough without yeast.
– Takes 6 turns.
– Score with an X on the dough to rest the dough.

Alsatian Potato Pie

Summer is probably not the best time to make pastry dough because the butter melts so fast! Thank God for ready-made puff pastry dough at the supermarket! But it’s definitely more rewarding to make your own and you can be promised a more flavourful buttery dough. For now, I have to be contented with store-bought ones.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook. The pictures are just so attractive and since I have a sudden liking to savoury tarts and pies, I couldn’t wait till cooler temperature to start making them!

According to MS, the Alsatian Potatoe Pie is inspired by the robust cooking of Alsace, a region in northeastern France bordering Germany. This flaky pie contains a rich filling of potatoes, Gruyere cheese, leeks, and garlic-infused cream. Rather than adding the cream to the filling at the beginning, this recipe suggests pouring through the vents on top of the pie only after the pastry has turned golden brown and then baked 10 minutes more. This allows the crust to crisp properly and keeps the potatoes from soaking up all the cream before the pie has finished baking. Makes sense.

3 Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 cup heavy cream
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (would omit this in future; not too my liking)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, and washed well
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg yolk, for egg wash
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 box store-bought puff pastry, thawed
1 1/2 grated Gruyere cheese

1. Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Season water with salt; cook until just tender, 13 to 15 minutes. Drain, and let cool.

2. Bring 3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp cream, the garlic, and nutmeg to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook mixture until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leek; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley; season with salt and pepper.

4. Whisk egg yolk and remaining 1 tbsp cream in a small bowl. On a lightly floured surface, roll out and trim dough into two 13-by-6-inch rectangles. I didn’t roll out my dough and just used the default size (the pack comes with 2 pieces of pastry dough). Set one of them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with half the potatoes, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around and overlapping potatoes slightly. Top with half the leek mixture and half the cheese; season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering with remaining potatoes, leeks and cheese. Brush edges of dough with egg wash. Cover with remaining dough rectangle; gently press edges with a fork to seal. Cut 2-inch slits crosswise in centre of crust, 2 inches apart, to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash. Refrigerate pie until firm, about 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Pour cream mixture into pie vents using a small spoon. Bake 10 minutes more. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

More notes on puff pastry

In the recent puff pastry class, Chef told us that whatever leftover dough that we had (and if we wanted to keep it) should not be crushed into a ball but should be stacked in layers. With that, I brought home mine together with the almond filling that we made for the Pithivier.

Coincidentally, The Sunday Times featured the making of a chicken, mushroom and leek pie using the puff pastry for the layer on top and I decided to make a slightly different version of it, based on what I had in the fridge.

The steps are still similar – browning of chicken thighs (remember not to crowd them!) and then cooking of the bacon. I added Chinese sausages to it and while letting it simmer, tossed in broccoli and coriander. Having a good supply of home-made chicken stock at hand is always helpful for many dishes.

Lastly, I topped it up with the remnants of the puff pastry dough from the baking class and there you are, my own version of humble pie!

create avatar

More notes on puff pastry from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook:

Set aside plenty of time to prepare puff pastry; chilling the dough and letting it rest is very important and should not be rushed. The gluten needs time to relax after rolling or the dough will become tough and difficult to work with. Keeping the dough cold will ensure that the butter layers are even.

When rolling out puff pastry, make sure that your work surface is well dusted with flour. However, before making any turns in the dough, brush off any loose flour with a dry pastry brush. Excess flour can make for tough puff pastry.

To keep puff pastry from sticking, lift the dough periodically while rolling it out. If you can see part of the butter package through the dough, flour that area heavily and continue rolling; the excess flour will act as a natural patch for the dough. Just be sure to brush off the excess before proceeding.

If you will not be using your puff pastry dough within a day, cut it into 1-pound pieces (preferably square). Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator; this will take about 4 hours (you can allow it to defrost overnight if you wish). Don’t leave puff pastry in the refrigerator for more than 1 day or it will lose its ability to puff properly in the oven.

Continue reading

CSCA AB Lesson 1 – Puff Pastry

This weekend had been rather eventful, with a tiring yet interesting Saturday. Well, the Advanced Baking course which I signed up with Cambridge School of Culinary Arts started on Saturday and it has been immensely enjoyable. That evening, we also hosted dinner for our friends which was a result of an accepted proposal submitted to Foodbuzz and which I received a stipend to carry out the dinner.

Anyway, back to Lesson 1 which was on Puff Pastry. Ok, it’s not something entirely foreign to me. After all, I have attempted quick puff pastry before when making apple turnovers but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to learn more and have the experience of baking in an industrial kitchen. More importantly, I hope to learn something useful from the Pastry chef herself.

So, the hubs accompanied me to the school and waited for me for a full 4 hours as I went through the first lesson (so touched!). There were about 9 of us in the class and the chef herself was a graduate from the school and teaches full-time now. And my, the knowledge she has! She rambled on and on and I was furiously penning down new insights. There were two master recipe that we ought to know for pastry – the classic puff pastry and the quick puff pastry. Since the classic puff pastry takes a long time (about 6 hours in total), we couldn’t possibly do that and the alternative was the quick puff pastry. I was a tad disappointed since I had experience with this method and was expecting to learn the classic one (which I also attempted before but with much less success) but we just had to make do since we had time constraint.

After the demonstration and explanation, we were to pair up and attempt one of the recipes listed in our notes. My partner, Mariela, and I chose Almond Pithivier because we had no idea what it is and decided to try it. I realised later that it is a classic French pastry.

One thing good about attending classes is that you have the experts to tell you if you are on the right or wrong track. Obviously I can learn baking on my own but I would not be able to know how much I can improve without an expert’s take on it. I realised that I have to roll the dough till it’s really thin and chef made me feel the difference between Mariela’s and my dough. Oh! Now I know! Puff pastry is hard work! So, please appreciate the effort behind making puff pastry the next time you buy it!

A few things that I have noted (my own notes and perhaps only I would understand):
–  Use puff pastry for huge rise. Otherwise use quick puff pastry since this is the easier way of making it.
– Flour absorbs moisture so keep it in a dry place.
– Gluten needs to rest so you need to place it in the fridge for it to rest.
– Butter needs to be cold and ice water is needed when making puff pastry since the moisture is needed.
– Puff pastry dough is ready when they can hold together without being sticky
– If dough is too sticky, don’t add flour to the rolling pin but to the dough, esp to the buttery side. Use brush to help too.
– Keep dough loose at all times.
– Roll in one direction esp for the first roll. Never roll both in a vertical and horizontal way.
– Keep the width consistent.
– Egg wash: don’t allow it to drip to the floor of the sheet pan as it will prevent your product to rise.

Next lesson: Meringue! I am looking forward already!

Recipe for Almond Pithivier

1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup amaretti (crushed cookies)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 oz. dark rum
1/2 tsp almond extract

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 tbsp milk or cream

In a bowl combine the almonds and crushed cookies. Beat the sugar and butter until light, add the almond mixture, eggs and run and beat until well combined. Freeze the mixture for 20 minutes.

Roll out the puff pastry 3/8′ thick, cut out even number of small circles using cake rings/cookie cutters. With the balls of your fingers, push and pat a disk of dough out onto its baking surface to make an even circle slightly larger than your cutting guide. With a docker or two forks, dock dough all over at 1/2 inch intervals – this prevents the bottom layer from rising too much. Place a round of chilled almond cream on this enlarged bottom layer of dough. Paint the circumference of bottom disc with egg yolk glaze. Place a remaining piece of dough evenly over the almond cream, pressing two layers together. Make a little hole in the top to allow air to escape. The dough may need to be chilled at this point, but if it is still firm, proceed to decorating, then chill before baking.

Glaze the top with the egg wash, take care that it does not drip down the sides of the pastry. A classic Pithivier has a scalloped edge made with a knife all around the circumference. You may also press the tines of a fork all around the outside edge. The usual pattern for the top of a Pithivier is a sheet of swirling spokes, beginning at the steam vent, curving out to the edge. If you prefer, make a decorative pattern with the back of a fork over the Pithivier. Chill the Pithivier in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Bake the Pithivier on a parchment lined sheet pan in a 425F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F and bake 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Pastries Chronicles: Red Bean Pinwheels

These pastries are made using Danish Dough and sweetened red bean paste, both of which are leftovers from previous bake.

Makes 1 dozen
All purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 recipe Danish Dough
Sweetened red bean paste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Granulated sugar, for sprinking

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 17-by-13-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, trim the edges of the dough to form a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Then cut the dough into twelve 4-inch squares.

To form the pinwheels, use the pizza wheel to make diagonal cuts three-quarters of the way toward the centre, leaving a 1-inch square. Fold every other point toward the centre, pressing down to seal.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of red bean paste into the centre of each pinwheel. Place the pinwheels on the prepared baking sheets, six to a sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F, with racks in the middle rack. Brush the dough lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until evenly brown, 20to 25 minutes. Transfer pinwheels to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. These are best eaten the same day they are made.

Source: MS’ Baking Handbook

Pastries chronicles: Sticky Buns

With the other 1/2 of the Danish Dough still available, it is now for me to use it to make sticky buns. I saw the recipe from MS’ Baking Handbook and thought it would be interesting to bake these. All along, I thought sticky buns are made from Brioche but this recipe offers another way to baking them.

The result? It is really sticky but not in the way I like it. It has a crisp, sugary edge and a soft centre. However, I much prefer the ones that I ate at Flour Bakery in which Brioche is used and honey is added to make the goo (so it has soft edges). In this case, light corn syrup is added. Nonetheless, they taste like sticky buns all right and they stick to your teeth. I have to brush my teeth immediately after eating them. Not my cup of tea.

Anyway, the recipe calls for 6-cup jumbo muffin pans and unfortunately, I only have the standard muffin pan. So, I halve all the portions. Below is the recipe for 12 jumbo ones if you have those pans.

Continue reading

Pastries chronicles: Chocolate Danish Braid

The first item that I decided to bake with the Danish dough is Chocolate Danish braid in which the dough encases a chocolate streusel filling in a lattice-topped braid. It may look complicated but it isn’t since the more complex part lies with the dough. Once the dough is made and chilled, the following steps are easy. You need half of the Danish dough prepared earlier.

I have high hopes for this but I must be honest with you, the turnout is a sheer disappointment. Midway through the baking, when I opened the oven door to check, my heart dropped a few levels. I was mortified. My goodness! It looked terrible!

The filling has oozed out during baking (and that’s why you need a rimmed sheet pan) and the braid had expanded and broken away. Hell broke loose! Maybe I shouldn’t have used up all the filling and should have folded each strip all the way to the opposite side. Nevertheless, here’s how I did it.

500g Danish pastry

For the filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg white

1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Sliced (flaked) almonds

Prepare the Danish pastry and refrigerate to chill as directed. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the granulated sugar, flour, butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon and mix with your fingers until fine crumbs form. Stir in the egg white with a wooden spoon until blended.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle about 14 inches long, 9 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling down the centre third of the rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips 1 1/4 inch (3cm) wide down the outside of the pastry on both sides of the filling, cutting almost through to the filling. Cut off the first and last strip on both sides so that a flap is formed at the top and bottom.

Fold the flaps over onto the filling. Starting at the top, fold the strips over the filling alternately from each side at an angle. When you get to the end, tuck the overhang of the last few strips underneath the braid to form a seal. Using a wide metal spatula, carefully transfer the pastry to the prepared pan. Be careful as you transfer! The dough is soft by now. Place in a warm, draft-free spot, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the braid rise until doubled in size, 30-40min. As you can see from the above pictures, it’s very amateurish workmanship.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 425F.

Lightly brush the braid with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until golden brown and puffed, 15-20min longer. Check the braid during baking and if it turns brown early, cover loosely with aluminium foil. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the braid to the rack and let cool completely.

Pastries chronicles – Danish Pastry

Danish pastry is a yeasted dough similar to croissant dough, but enriched with eggs and sugar. Like the puff pastry and croissant, the technique of rolling and folding the dough so that it is interlaced with butter creates wonderfully flaky layers.

This is the master recipe for Danish pastry and will yield about 1kg of dough. It’s all right to make such a big portion as you can freeze the dough for up to 1 week. Meanwhile, you can plan what you want to bake from the dough!

For the Danish dough
2 packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 – 115F)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed

For the butter package
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, salt, cardamon, melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla and mix on medium speed until combined. Add the yeast mixture and then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix just until the dough clings together in a rough mass. If it is still very soft, add up to 1/4 cup flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Place on a half-sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 min. To spend the time, you can wash the dishes (a clean kitchen should be your pride and joy), sweep the floor, do jumping-jacks, read the recipes again to ensure you know the steps well and key in the recipe in the blog.

To make the butter package, use the heel of your hand (you can use the rolling pin too) and knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60F. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into an 8-by-7-inch rectangle. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable (60F).

To laminate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10-by-6-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then, with a folded side to your left, roll out the dough into a 12-by-20-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Return the dough to the work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding and chilling each time, for a total of 4 turns. I promise you that the shape of the dough improves with time. Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours or for up to overnight before shaping.

That’s about it. With the dough, let’s see what we can do next.

Pastries chronicles

Let’s start from this day forth! I’ll work on pastries for the whole of this week and the next. Beware though. Pastries have a high butter content and it’s only wise that you add in some exercise regime; you might pile on those pounds unknowingly. Doing housework will help perhaps?

I am having a few texts to help me understand the workings of Pastries. They are James Paterson’s Cooking, Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of baking, Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and E. Prueitt & C. Robertson’s Tartine.

In my maiden post on Pastries, I shared a little on the topic and the various kinds of pastries we can have. Broadly, they are puff pastry, Danish pastry, croissant dough, Choux and Filo.

Puff pastry, Danish pastry and croissant doughs are laminated, meaning that it is a tender dough that is repeatedly rolled and folded with a butter block until the butter is divided into scores of layers within the mass.

Flipping through the pages, I decided to do a map-mind on the goodies that we can have from pastries.

Ok. Let’s type them out clearly here:

Classic Puff pastry/ Quick Puff pastry
* Apple turnover
* Cheese straw
* Palmiers
* Strawberry/Chocolate Napoleans

Danish Pastry
* Apricot/Prune Pinwheels
* Chocolate Danish Braid
* Cheese Danish
* Apricot Bowties
* Chocolate-Pistachio Danish
* Sticky buns
* Sugar Buns

Choux Pastry
* Cream Puffs
* Eclairs
* Profiteroles with ice-cream & chocolate sauce
* Gougeres

Croissant dough
* Almond croissant
* Pain au chocolat
*Pain au Jambon
* Croisssant aux Amandes

This list is not exhaustive but I’m aiming to bake these in the following few weeks.

Pastries – Apple Turnovers

How do you stay entertained when snowed in? I think the answer is obvious. I bake.

Before coming here, the answer to the above would be sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate in hand and cuddling to a loved one. However, we do not have a fireplace in our studio apartment but a heater that faithfully gives out a loud grinding and hissing sound at 6.30am. It’s hardly romantic.

Today, at last, I laid my hands on Apple Turnover (using Quick Puff Pastry), something I have put aside for weeks. I wanted it to be easy but after reading up on pastries, decided that I should really understand the techniques before trying. So as not to bore you, this is what I’ve made. Read on if you want to know more about Pastries.

Continue reading