The secrets to making great patisserie at home
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.
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:
* 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.
* 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
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.