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The secrets to making great patisserie at home

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Raymond Blanc Raymond Blanc | 14:52 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

Most people are scared of patisserie or baking. There is no need to be, as revealed in tonight's episode of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets. The only difference from other types of cooking is that patisserie is an exact science and often requires precise amounts in order to obtain the best results each time. For example, the difference of 2-3g of yeast less in a dough will result in a heavier dough that will not rise as much.

Raymond Blanc

 

So the first secret is to invest in a good pair of electronic scales. Also invest in a probe, which will give you the internal temperature of the food: crème caramel cooked at 74C/165F will give you the perfect crème caramel experience, meltingly delicious. Also you'll find that a Victoria sponge requires a temperature of 86C/187F.

My mother has always taught me to respect food. So here are a few baking tips that do just that:

Pastry on a rolling pin

 

* When rolling pastry, place it between two sheets of cling film. The advantages are enormous. Your kitchen will remain clean, the pastry will not stick onto the warm kitchen table, and it will make the rolling so much easier. To line a tart, remove one layer of the cling film and place the pastry side down in the tart dish.

* Many recipes tell you that in order to pre-bake a tart you need to line it with greaseproof paper and beans, bake it blind, then remove the beans and paper and finish the cooking. Here is a much better way: the secret is to line your tart ring with dough, and let it rest in a refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The dough will lose its elasticity, crust lightly and can be baked directly from the fridge to the oven and will not retract while cooking.

* When baking delicate pastry, such as choux pastry, turn off the ventilated (fan) part of your oven and add 20 percent more cooking time. The force of the heat from a ventilated oven is likely to split open the choux pastry.

* When buying puff pastry avoid pastry made with margarine or hydrogenated vegetable fats, which contain unhealthy trans fats. For the ultimate glaze for puff pastry or short-crust pastry, combine one organic egg, one egg yolk and one teaspoon of single cream.

* The best investments you can make for baking and pastry-making are a wooden peel, a baking stone and various sized metal rings. The peel, covered with greaseproof paper, will allow bread and pastry to slide directly onto a pre-heated stone, giving you the perfect crust to pastry.

* When baking bread, add water into a hot tin in your oven; it will provide steam which will leaven the bread, and result in a beautiful crust and colour.

*By adding a tiny amount of sugar to fruit (20g/¾oz sugar for 200g/7oz fruit) when macerating, you will increase the flavour by about 30-40 percent in my opinion. As the sugar permeates the fruit it will soften and enhance. A little dash of lemon juice or herbs will also improve the flavour.

 

Raymond Blanc with his macaroon cake and cameraman Andy from Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets.

 

* Everyone must learn how to make a sabayon. You can create the lightest mousse, which can be used as a topping for seasonal fruits. The flavours you can use are endless. It is a great technique and will help extend your repertoire of desserts.
* You must try macaroons, they are so easy to make. The only difficulty is that you will need strength to stir the mix - that is where a man is helpful! By pre-heating the baking try, you will kick-start the cooking of the macaroons, giving extra rise and creating the ‘collarette’. This is a sign of a great macaroon.

* Pre-cook your crumble topping first to prevent the seam from the fruit making the crumble soggy and indigestible. It will be delightfully crunchy. (By the way, did you know that the French have, at last, discovered crumble? Across France - in homes, villages, brasseries and three-star Michelin restaurants alike - one will hear the noise of crumbling; it is marvellous!).

Finally a word on chocolate

Chocolate cake

 

It is common knowledge that chocolate containing 70 percent of cocoa solids is a better chocolate. Yes, it is, but beware – 70 percent of a bad cocoa will never give you a good experience, so choose your chocolate carefully and buy the better brands. Chocolate is not a prima donna. When melting chocolate I find that the burning point of chocolate is around 102C/216F and cocoa solids will start graining (cooking) at 95C/203F.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for chocolate tempering which you must all try. Melt two-thirds of your chopped chocolate up to 55C/131F. Immediately add the remaining third of chopped chocolate and stir until it reaches the temperature of 32C/90F. At this precise moment the miracle happens. At 32C/90F the cocoa butter within the chocolate will crystallise giving the chocolate a fine crackling texture and a beautiful shine. All sorts of moulded shapes can be achieved, such as my chocolate coffee cups (link opens as PDF).

Have you tried Raymond's kitchen secrets at home and do you have any useful tips for making your baking look professional?

Raymond Blanc is the presenter of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets. Get the recipes for tonight's episode on cakes and pastries.

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting post, thanks.

  • Comment number 2.

    Some hints and tips that I'll definitely keep a note of. Thank you.

  • Comment number 3.

    M. Blanc said, about blind baking:
    "Here is a much better way: the secret is to line your tart ring with dough, and let it rest in a refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The dough will lose its elasticity, crust lightly and can be baked directly from the fridge to the oven and will not retract while cooking."

    Dear Team Blanc:

    Could I check my understanding of the above tip.

    "Dough" is referring to the pastry required by a recipe, not literally a breadlike "dough" recipe?

    Dough in fridge before cooking: is this procedure to remove the need for the beans, not the actual pre-cooking of the pastry case? If the pastry case is still pre-cooked, part of the purpose of the beans is to weigh down the pastry base - does refrigeration stop the base rising?

    Or is the purpose of refrigeration to avoid the need for pre-cooking the pastry case entirely?

    A bit of clarification here would be helpful so my thanks in advance.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks team, good programme, I love Raymond's enthusiasm and recipes. Some more, please :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Could you clarify something for me in Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets - he makes a lemon cake which I would like to bake however in the ingredients for the cake it states 3 lemons - zest only and in the TV programme it clearly states zest and lemon juice to be added to the batter - which is right?

    Many thanks

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi all - Melanie Jappy the Series Producer here.

    Thanks for all the comments folks.

    Nikki - for the lemon cake RB only uses the zest. It's really a very delicate flavour in this cake.

    Tatihou - dough refers to the raw pastry. You still need to bake the pastry case 'blind' ie without its filling. But the refrigeration removes the need to use baking beans. We tried it both ways and putting a chilled pastry case in the oven removes the need for all the faff of the beans and lining the case, removing them and then baking again to give a crust.

    Hope that clarifies. And I'll nag Adam to reply to any other replies! But he's a busy boy!

    m

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello.

    I also tried lemon cake, but i think it went wrong somewhere. The cake didn't rise so much and it is moist inside.
    Any idea what i did wrong?

    Thank

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks, Melanie, for the precise guidance re avoiding the need for blind baking. I will try it at the weekend. I do (sorry if this provokes gasps of horror) pop the pastry tart ring into the freezer for 30 minutes before baking - it stops "shrinkage" but then I still do the crumpled baking paper + beans thing. So I like the idea of doing away with that step. :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Marjan - the most common reason for a cake not rising and being moist in the middle is that your oven temperature was wrong. Too hot or too cold will prevent your cake rising. So check your oven temperature is correct. You might need to invest in an oven thermometer.

    Other reasons are over beating the batter which causes the flour's gluten to 'stretch' and not allow a rise.

    Another mistake I've made is using old baking powder. If like me you don't bake a lot, check the bottom of the tub. The last one I looked at was bought 4 years ago and was still only half finished!

    Do hope you'll have another go. Let me know how you get on.

    M

  • Comment number 10.

    Tatihou - putting it in the freezer will do the same thing as putting it in the fridge. When we were running short of time we used the blast chiller at Raymond's restaurant. Hope if works well for you. M

  • Comment number 11.

    Lovely blog, lovely programme! Thank you.

    "crème caramel cooked at 74C/165F will give you the perfect crème caramel experience"

    The recipe on the blog states to bake at 170°C/365F. Can you please clarify? Thank you in advance

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Bluedoyenne -

    Are you referring to something made on the programme? We didn't make creme caramel so a little confused...do you mean creme patisier?

    m

  • Comment number 13.

    Bonjour...ca va? I am still trying to perfect a macaroon recipe definitely will be experimenting this weekend with the chocolate macaroon recipe...can you leave out the chocolate and add other flavourings and colourings without changing the proportion of the remaining ingredients?

    Interestingly the you mentioned to cook the macaroons without a fan..the oven I use at home has settings to change the heat source to fan or the top or bottom...I would assume the bottom setting would be better. I am setting up up a cupcake shop/patisserie and tearooms with a view of making macaroons, however, the oven I am thinking of purchasing is a fan convection oven..will this not be suitable for baking macaroons?

    Many thanks

  • Comment number 14.

    First of all mea culpa Nikki - just watched the show transmit on BBC1 today and see that there was a mistake in the programme. I've just checked the final recipe in the book and it is zest only. Apologies.

    Carolecupcake - yes. The paste base and meringue quantity will make a plain macaroon. Leaving out the chocolate or replacing with food colouring will work. But I have to warn you, they are the most devilishly difficult things to make. Which is why they are so expensive to buy. I think you just need to experiment in your oven until it works for you. The fan in the oven we were using was quite powerful and tended to move things in the oven. That was why the lemon cake looked like a bit of ski slope! I'm going to ask RB what he recommends oven-wise and get back to you.

    Good luck with the tea shop! Where is it?

    M

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for the info I would appreciate advice on oven. You are right about macaroons being devilish I have tried 3 different recipes now.. the last one was the best so far..hopefuly RB's will top that.

    The Cupcake bakery/patisserie/vintage teashop will be in West Sussex just put in planning application...don't want to tempt fate and confirm just yet!

    Thanks CC

  • Comment number 16.

    Oh dear! My daughter was desperate to make eclairs this afternoon following the programme, but they are a disaster and I wonder if the oven temperature at gas3 was too low? Other recipes call for a much higher temperature. Can you confirm? We'd love to try again! (the patisserie cream, however, was delicious!)

  • Comment number 17.

    Macaroons.....mmmm feedback on trial; good consistency of mixture, separated flavoured and coloured nicely , piped beautifully. Then I tried various shelves and settings on the oven...amazing the difference in end product. I think that a fan in my oven is essential for even cooking, without it the top shelf slightly browned without the inside cooked. The best result was heat from the bottom no fan, but that would mean cooking only one tray at a time in each oven and that is no good. Will keep experimenting I am determined to crack macaroons! ( luckily my son was home from uni for the weekend and ate pretty much all of the trials) A definite case of KNOW YOUR OVEN.
    Let me know RB's comments on recommended oven.
    Merci
    Carole Cupcakes

  • Comment number 18.

    KSW - sorry to hear about the eclair fiasco. The temperature for the eclairs in Raymond's book is Gas4/180 degrees. I see that on the website it is 170C. I'll get that changed. Sometimes, the recipes we were sent were changed after they were sent. Raymond and the team are constantly checking and refining in different ovens. Sincere apologies for a wasted batch of eclairs. I can see today isn't going to be spent doing a bit of proof reading. Sorry....

    Carole - kudos to you for your endeavours. It's one of the real frustrations for me as a programme maker that I know everyone's equipment is different. I hate it when people are put off because of an unsuccessful first attempt. A teaspoon of baking powder to one person is not a teaspoon to another...oven temps differ...humidity is different... Invest in an oven thermometer and accurate gramme scales and you'll definitely have more success.

    M

  • Comment number 19.

    Tried out the lemon drizzle cake and it turned out beautifully moist and golden brown. It was light and tangy and the citrus smell when I cut into it made me forget about the relentlessly dull uninspiring weather conditions here in Scotland and look forward to Spring. I used both zest and juice and felt that the consistency was fine. I also used lemon curd to glaze instead of the Apricot jam. Can you tell me what the addition of Rum brings to the cake as I did not taste it?

  • Comment number 20.

    I have to disagree with with RB on precooking crumble topping. In my opinion this dessert is meant to be cooked as a simple economical dessert using only the "rub in method". I do not want to be leaving crumble topping overnight to dry out and then to cook it seperately from the fruit. Not to have that sticky soggy undercoat would take the comfort and heart out of the pudding;that is what satisfied me as a child and still does. I may add some oats or nuts for added texture, i've even precooked little nuggets of shortbread mixture to give the topping added crunch, but the basic method remains the same. Sorry I'm no athiest when it comes to the crumble.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Lilian

    Delighted the lemon caked turned out do well. Regarding the rum, Raymond feels that is supports the lemon flavour but it isn't an essential ingredient.

    And as for the crumble recipe...Raymond doesn't like the claggy bit you get where the crumble sits on the fruit. Of course, that's the bit that most of us love.

    So while I can't possible say in public that agree with you can we just agree that this is a cultural issue? Le Crumble v. The Crumble ...let the battle begin!

    m

  • Comment number 22.

    I found this programme immensely inspiring, particularly with regard to the choux pastry and chocolate. After watching I had the confidence to try some of Raymond's piping techniques and made some lovely piped chocolate hearts. What I missed doing was tempering the chocolate so I am off to buy a thermometer. It was only on reading this article that I realised why my chocolate hearts faded in lustre so quickly.
    So thanks Raymond, a truly brilliant programme.

  • Comment number 23.

    And as for the crumble recipe...Raymond doesn't like the claggy bit you get where the crumble sits on the fruit. Of course, that's the bit that most of us love.


    Actually I'm with RB - can't stand anything in the stodgy/claggy style, I'll give his method a try

  • Comment number 24.

    I made the lemon cake today and noticed the voiceover lady mistake too! However, having made it, it comes across as very eggy rather than lemony so I've had to resort to using stab and drizzle with some lemon juice to boost the flavour before adding the glaze. I'm also not getting that brilliant yellow as it looks on tv - but then maybe that's my tv settings :(

  • Comment number 25.

    I think the colour comes purely from the egg yolks so maybe the eggs you are using a slightly paler. It is a very delicate lemon flavour. If you like it more citrusy you could add lemon juice and the zest to mixture. If you can, taste the raw batter and see what you like. (Beware the raw eggs of course). It's a fairly robust recipe so adding lemon juice to taste is very much up to you.

    M

 

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