Views, history and recipes from a pastry chef living and working in London.

"The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music,
and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry." Antonin Carême (1783-1833)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Financier, Bagels and Pickles

Apologies for the large gap between posts. A combination of work and spending several days on pastry at the three Michelin Star restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray (what an experience) has meant I have been unable to get to my computer. We have a few things for you today so here goes.

Financiers are small French teacakes usually consisting of ground almonds, egg whites, icing sugar and burnt butter or beurre noisette. These gorgeous cakes are chewy on the outside and moist on the inside with the almonds and beurre noisette giving them a delicious nutty flavour.

The name Financier is said to have originated from the small, bar shaped moulds they are traditionally cooked in, and how these resemble gold bar. Another theory is that the name came from a French pastry chef called Lasne in the late 19th Century who owned a shop near La Bourse du Commerce, otherwise known as the French stock exchange. His idea was to create small cake for the “on the move” bankers that could be eaten without the use of a knife and fork and that didn’t include any fruit or jam that could potentially cause a mess.

I usually make large batches of financier mix, which can be kept in the fridge and brought to room temperature when needed. Both mixes below will keep for a week in the fridge. The financier mix can be piped into any mould and topped with any fruit, chocolate, jam or anything else. It’s a really diverse mix that can be used with anything.

My version involves injecting orange chocolate ganache into the centre of these just baked pastries, which means they have a molten chocolate center. We used to make these as a breakfast starter at a Michelin Hotel in Norfolk. They are super easy to make and can be knocked up as an evening snack or used as a petite four when entertaining.
Financier mix
110g ground almonds
60g icing sugar
25g plain flour
3 egg whites
25g golden syrup
150g butter
1 vanilla pod
Place butter in a pan and bring to boil. Whisk constantly until the butter takes on a nutty brown colour and smell. Remove from heat, whisk in golden syrup and sieve into a bowl. Place almonds in another bowl and mix in the flour, vanilla seeds and caster sugar. Add the egg whites and beat till smooth, then slowly add the burnt butter and golden syrup and beat till amalgamated.

Orange chocolate ganache
zest 1 orange
40g milk chocolate
25g dark chocolate
65ml double cream
25g golden syrup
1tbsp cointreau
10g butter

Bring the cream, orange zest and golden syrup to the boil, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk slowly until all the chocolate has melted. Whisk in the cointreau and finally the butter. Set aside, whisking regularly, till the mix has thickened slightly. Spoon into a piping bag and set aside.

Pipe the financier mix into buttered muffin tins approx ¾ full. Place in the oven at 180c for approx 10 minutes until cooked. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Once they are cool enough to touch, puncture the top with the piping bag and pipe as much chocolate ganache as possible into the centre of the financier. Dust with icing sugar and serve. DELICIOUS.

Blueberry bagels

Ok, so having a beautifull American girlfriend means that I'm constantly being introduced to new foodie things. One of these things, that I've never really been a fan of, is the humble bagel. Very popular in America it seems to have had less exposure over here and I had never really given it a huge amount of attention. This has recently changed, after eating a home made bagel that she had made we both floured up one Sunday afternoon and she taught me how to make bagels. DELICIOUS!

The origins of the bagel are still up for discussion but there are 2 main theories.

The first is said to have come from Vienna in the late part of the 1600's when a local Jewish baker baked a yeast based bread ring as a present for the King of Poland for protecting his countrymen from the invading Turks. It was fashioned into the shape of a stirrup to commemorate the king's favorite pastime.

Some argue that, contrary to common legend, the bagel was actually invented much earlier in Kraków, Poland. It was said to have evolved from a lean bread of wheat flour, designed for Lent, known as a bublik. Whatever its origins, the bagel became a staple of the Polish national diet by the end of the 17th century as there was a tradition among many observant Jewish families to make bagels on Saturday evenings at the conclusion of the Sabbath. Due to Jewish Sabbath restrictions, they were not permitted to cook during the period of the Sabbath and, compared with other types of bread, bagels could be baked very quickly as soon as it ended.

The Bagel was first brought to the United states by Eastern European Jewish immigrants where it was an immediate success in New York and New Jersey. The thriving business developing in New York City was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all the bagels by hand.

However it wasn't until the 1960's when Bagel Baker called Harry Lender pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels that the bagels popularity really took off and spread across the US.

Below is my girlfriends recipe for blueberry bagels (sorry it's in American). The main difference between these and any other yeast bread based product isthat they are blanched in boiling water before being baked. This gives them that signature chewy, heavy texture which is so good for toasting. They can get a bit fiddly and always seem to come out a weird shape but trust me they are worth the effort. Enjoy.

Homemade bagel recipe
4 cups white read flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsps instant yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm (not hot) water.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until you get a firm but smooth dough. Place on a clean floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls, place on floured surface, cover with a towel and rest for 10-20 minutes.

Take each ball and roll into a snake, join both ends and roll till you get a doughnut shaped even ring. Place on a floured tray and dot with blueberries. Allow to rest in a warm place until the doughnuts have doubled in size and feel spongy. This could take half an hour.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and once the bagels have risen, drop two at a time into the water. Boil a minute on each side then remove from the water and pat dry with a tea towel.

Once all your bagels have been boiled place in an oven at 180 c for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove, flip over and repeat.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. slice and serve toasted with cream cheese.

Killer Dillers

Ok so technically this is supposed to be a pastry blog. That’s kinda what I do, but I do have an interest in jams, preserves and pickles among other things.

On a recent trip to Brighton I stumbled upon a shop selling baby nobly cucumbers. Now, I LOVE dill pickles and having purchased a load I figured why not try and make a few batches for presents and post it to show you all how its done. It has to be the easiest thing to make in the world, and one of the most delicious.

I spent hours and hours researching how to make the best dill pickle. I sifted through alot of recipes and methods, there are thousands online, to try and come up with a good all rounder, and this is what i came up with. Its a combination of several recipes and seems to work REALLY well. You will need a 1.5litre kilner jar or several smaller jam jars as well as:

Dill Pickles
1kg baby pickling cucumbers (normal cucumbers sliced)
500ml water
500ml white wine vinegar
2 heaped desert spoons salt
6 heaped desert spoons sugar
2 heaped desert spoons mustard seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp white pepper corns
1 tsp red pepper corns
2 tsp coriander seeds
4 large cloves garlic
2 bunches dill
4 pimento all spice berries
First off you need to place the cucumbers in a large pot (or the kitchen sink) and cover them with cold water, lots of ice and lots of salt. This brine draws out some of the moisture from the cucumbers and makes them crunchy, otherwise your left with a soft pickle. Leave them in this solution for no less than 2 hours no more than 8.

Then you need to sterilise your jars and lids by placing them in a pan of boiling water and simmering them for 10 minutes or, like I do, filling them with boiling water from the kettle.

Once this is done take your rinsed cucumbers and pack them into your jars with the garlic and the dill, as tightly as you can. Next place the rest of the ingredients into a pan and place on the stove. Bring to the boil and pour over your cucumbers making sure they are covered. You can place the sealed container back into boiling water and simmer for a further 10 minutes, this will pasteurised the mix and add more shelf life to the product. This is optional and best if you plan to keep the pickles out of the fridge, i didn't bother.
So that's it, give them a few months and serve with cold meat, sliced on burgers or just as a snack. Mine have been going 2 weeks now and they smell amazing but you must resist temptation.