The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 2 Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie

Finding the time to cook, bake and blog is difficult at the moment, as besides work I’ve also started rehearsals three times a week for a local musical which will be on in a few months. So things are busy at the moment, but it is a good busy and I’m so happy to be singing and rehearsing for a show again, after over a year off the stage.

I did however find time to give the Week 2 Great Australian Bake Off technical challenge a go. Lemon Meringue Pie is one of my favourites, but also one of the desserts I am often most disappointed in when I buy them at restaurants or bakeries as I usually find them too sweet with not enough of the tart lemon flavour, so I was interested to give this recipe a try.

I have to admit that in my rush, I didn’t read the recipe correctly and started making the curd filling in a completely different way to the suggested method. However, it still worked and the end result was a set curd filling. So the method here is what I did, not what was recommended in the original recipe (which you can find here). I also had to add extra lemon zest to increase the citrus flavour and even then the filling was a bit too sweet for me.

I managed to complete the dessert in less than 2 hours (which I think is the time the contestants had). If you have more time, I would suggest letting the pastry chill longer before baking in the oven, as I found it shrank back a lot with only a 5 minute resting time.

I’m looking forward to the next technical challenge – brandy snaps. I’ve always meant to give them a try but have just never gotten around to it.

Click here for the recipe

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Pastry making class week 5 – Mille Feuille with Rough puff pastry

 Mille Feuille

Of all the types of pastry we learnt during the 6 classes I attended, this is the one that I enrolled for and really wanted to do. I was supposed to attend a Mille Feuille class with Sarah at babyCakes last year, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to lack of interest. So I was thrilled when Sarah told me about the 6 week pastry class at TuartCollege, which included a class on Mille Feuille using rough puff pastry.

I’ve really enjoyed this 6 week course and have found my confidence with pastry has really grown. I can’t wait to give full blown puff pastry a try when I have time at home. But in the meantime, it’s great to now have this quicker rough puff pastry up my sleeve. It tastes great, with the flaky layers, rise and crispness you expect from puff pastry, but in a lot less time. Yum.

Next time I make it at home, I will take step by step photos of the folding and update the post. But for now at least, here is the recipe.

Click here for the recipe

Beetroot, pumpkin and caramelised onion tarte tartin

tarte tartin

Time for another meat free Monday recipe. I have never made a tarte tartin before, and instead of trying the normal sweet variety, I decided I wanted to make a beetroot and pumpkin one. I looked at a few different recipes, but couldn’t find what I wanted. So I made this one up as I went. I did cheat and used bought puff pastry. I’m not quite up to home made puff pastry, but I’m almost there. I made a great rough puff in class the other week (which I will post about next).

I was very happy with the end result flavour wise. The balsamic vinegar is a great match for the earthiness of the beetroot, and there is a nice savoury sweetness from the caramelised onions and roast butternut pumpkin. And of course the crisp puff pastry and ‘caramel’ (in this case reduced balsamic and brown sugar). Unfortunately I didn’t quite cook my pastry enough when I made this for the first time, however the next day when it was cooked for an extra ten minutes it was perfect, so I have adjusted this recipe to give the pastry that extra ten minutes.

CLick here for the recipe

Pastry making class weeks 3 & 4 – Rhubarb and raspberry lattice tart

Rhubarb berry lattice

Week 3 of the 6 week pastry making class I have been attending was all about chocolate pastry. We learnt how to make a chocolate pastry which was cooked and then filled with ganache. The pastry was the same recipe as the sweet pastry we learnt in week two, but with the addition of 40g cocoa in place of some of the flour.

I haven’t made these again since the class as it is just too much chocolate for me (I know, I’m strange). However the recipe for the sweet pastry (including the note on how to make it chocolate) is here and I have previously posted a recipe for chocolate ganache here.

Sorry about the photo
Sorry about the photo

Last week we made apple and berry lattice tarts which was something I was really looking forward to (I love anything with berries in it). This tart uses a very short pastry that is equal parts flour to butter. It can be used for either sweet or savoury baking and for this tart the filling and pastry are cooked at the same time. The basic filling recipe can be adapted with many different combinations of fruits, with our teacher Sarah Brigden (from babyCakes) recommending rhubarb and raspberry . I didn’t  really eat rhubarb growing up (my Dad doesn’t like it). However it is now one of my favourite fruits to use in desserts (along with citrus and berries) due to its tartness. So I had to give it a try.

The rhubarb filling is wetter when it cooks than the apple filling, so it seems to take a bit longer to cook the pastry as a result. The end result though is delicious. The tart, tangy sweetness of the rhubarb and raspberry contrast the rich buttery pastry perfectly. I would definitely recommend giving this one a go. The pastry is a bit trickier to work with than the other sweet pastry we learnt in week 2, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a first attempt at pastry. But if you give it a little time to rest in the fridge, and return it to the fridge when it gets too warm, it is easier to work with.

I have found that with practicing at home outside of class, I am getting a lot better and quicker at handling pastry. Also, with all the classes I have attended over the last year, I have found that if I try and replicate the recipes fairly soon after attending the class, I remember the specific techniques and tricks a lot better.

Click here for the recipe

Pastry making class week 2 – Lemon tart (and apple rose tarts)

I have been looking forward to the Australian version of the Great British Bake Off ever since I heard it was being filmed. However I am starting to wonder if, when they advertised that it would air after Easter, they meant Easter 2014!

While waiting, I have been revisiting the original British version and discovering the blogs of some of the past contestants. One of the things I have wanted to try for some time are Mary-Anne’s (Season 2) apple rose tarts. I found Mary-Anne one of the most interesting contestants on The Great British Bake off, with her recipes utilising unique techniques based on a lot of research and historical recipes (and a collection of over 900 cookbooks, which puts my 200 to shame). I thought these tarts were beautiful so I decided to try the apple rose component today while I was making a batch of Lemon Tarts from my second pastry making course (with Sarah Brigden from babyCakes).

Lemon tart
Lemon tarts

I won’t repeat the instructions here, as they are already provided so well by Mary-Anne on her site Time To Cook – Online. As I just wanted to try the roses today, I made the sweet pastry that I learnt in class, and a crème patisserie recipe that I had previously learnt from Sarah (which I will post in a few weeks). I followed Mary-Anne’s instructions to make the apple roses (although without returning them to the oven to bake). Although they are a little fiddly, they are very effective and I’m sure they get a bit easier with practice. I quite liked the freshness of the apple after poaching them in the apple syrup and not baking them further.

As long as you chill the pastry well before rolling it, I think this pastry is quite easy to work with. I like adding some orange or lemon zest to the pastry for an extra citrus hit. The citrus filling is beautifully creamy and tangy and I certainly recommend giving these a try. And the apple rose tarts look beautiful and very effective, and are not too difficult to achieve. Next time I will give Mary-Anne’s apple custard filling a go as well and bake the apple roses.

apple roses

Click here for the recipe

Pastry making class week 1 – Quiche

quicheIf you have read my blog before you will know that I love going to baking classes run by Sarah Brigden from babyCakes. Classes I have  previously gone to include cupcakes, decorative chocolate, desserts and high tea. This year, Sarah is only running classes through Tuart College, with the classes being held at the Mirrabooka Hospitality Training Centre. Her second series of 6 week classes (one night a week) this year is on pastry making, something I really wanted to learn more of, and after enrolling in the class last year (and convincing my friend Kelly to come along with me), I was really looking forward to going to the first class. 

The Mirrabooka Hospitality Training Centre is located at Mirrabooka High School and was only recently constructed to provide students with the opportunity to complete certificates in hospitality while still at high school. The centre includes a café/restaurant, barrista/bar area, seminar/function space, commercial kitchen and ancillary support and storage facilities. It is the commercial kitchen where the after hours short courses take place, with 16 individual work stations, commercial equipment and a demonstration area at the front. It is a great place to be learning and cooking.

Our first class was on savoury pastry, making a quiche. I have made quiches before, both with and without pastry (you add a pastry mix to the quiche mix instead). I have used both shop bought pastry and made my own pasty in the past. I have to say that the pastry we made with Sarah was the best I have ever made for a quiche. The pastry had a lovely savoury flavour and crisp, crumbly texture. It was also quite easy to work with. As always, a big thank you to Sarah for allowing me to share her recipes on my blog.

I made the quiche again at home and the pastry worked just as well as in the class. The great thing about quiche is you can use whatever filling you want. It is a great way to use up ingredients from the fridge (ham, roasted veggies, small amounts of cheeses – the list is endless). I have included the recipe for a bacon and leek quiche here, however I also made some with mini roma tomatoes, asparagus and goats cheese.

Mini quiches made in class
Mini quiches made in class

Click here for the recipe