Three sweet treats for the ambitious baker to try. First up is an orange and thyme puff, then a pear, malt and butterscotch millefeuille, finishing with blackberry and lemon verbena crème brûlée custard tarts.
Equipment and preparation: you will need a free-standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, 12-hole muffin tin, baking beans and a silicone mat.
To make the pastry, combine the vinegar with 225ml/8fl oz water in a jug. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Add the vinegar water, reserving a few tablespoons. Mix until combined. Add a few more drops of the water if the dough looks a little dry. Shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Place the butter between two large sheets of baking parchment and use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into a 15cm/6in square. Place in the fridge to chill.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 30cm/12in circle. Place the butter in the centre and fold the pastry edges to fully encase the butter. Roll out to a 60x23cm/24x9in rectangle. Fold the bottom third up and the top down over this. You should have a square shape with three layers of pastry. Wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Place the square of dough in front of you as it was when you last folded it. Give it a quarter turn. Repeat the rolling out into a rectangle, folding and chilling. Repeat this twice more.
Weigh and divide the dough into three equal pieces. Wrap and refrigerate two pieces.
For the pear and malt millefeuille, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment.
Take one third of the pastry dough and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a square measuring 30x30cm/12x12in and 3mm/⅛in thick. Transfer the square of pastry to the prepared baking tray, with the aid of the rolling pin, and dust with icing sugar. Lay a piece of non-stick baking parchment over the top and then cover with another baking tray.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes and then remove the baking tray and parchment paper and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes, or until crisp and lightly golden-brown. Allow to cool, then cut the pastry into 36 equally-sized circles of pastry about 6cm/2½in diameter. Set aside.
For the fig and orange pastry puff slices, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment. Take another third of the dough from the fridge and roll out into a rectangle about 20x30cm/8x12in and 3mm thick. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Trim and cut into 12 rectangles approximately 9x4cm/3½x1½in.
For the crème brûlée custard tarts, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and butter a 12 hole muffin tin. Take the final third of the dough and roll it out into a long rectangle 12cm/6in wide. Roll it up tightly (like a Swiss roll) to make a cylinder 12cm/6in long. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Slice the pastry into 12 equally sized discs. Push the discs into the holes of the muffin tin and work the pastry up the sides to line the holes. Line them with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown. Brush with beaten egg and bake for a further two minutes to seal. Set aside.
For the crème pâtissière, line a deep-sided baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and whisk until combined. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just simmering. Whisk the warm milk into the yolk mixture and then return it all to the pan. Heat gently, whisking all the time, until thickened. Keep cooking for about five minutes after the crème pâtissière reaches simmering point. Divide the chopped white chocolate between two bowls. Pour half the hot crème pâtissière into each bowl and stir to melt the chocolate.
For the fig and orange pastry puff slices, add the thyme, orange zest, orange extract and whipped cream to one of the bowls of crème pâtissière. Squeeze the four sheets of gelatine to remove any excess water from the gelatine, then add to the bowl and mix until well combined. Pour into the lined baking tray, leaving some room at the top to pour on the orange jelly layer later. Place in the fridge to chill until set.
For the pear and malt millefeuille, add the malt extract to the second bowl of crème pâtissière and set aside to cool slightly before placing in the fridge to chill.
For the fig and orange pastry puff slices, make a jelly. Heat the orange juice in a saucepan until simmering, then turn off the heat. Squeeze any excess water from the two and a half sheets of gelatine and stir the gelatine into the orange juice until it is dissolved. Set aside to cool, then once cold but still liquid, pour it over the tray of orange-flavoured crème pâtissière. Return to the fridge to set.
For the streusel, combine all the ingredients in a bowl to form a soft dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1cm/½in thickness. Cut into 1cm/½in cubes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F/Gas 3½ and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the cubes of streusel on the lined tray approximately 1cm/½in apart to allow for spreading. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven, then set aside to cool completely. When cool the cubes of streusel will be used to decorate the top of the fig and orange pastry puff slices.
For the pear and malt millefeuille, in a dish mix the icing sugar and malt extract. Dredge the pear slices in the sugar and malt mixture. Heat a griddle pan and gently griddle the pear slices until they have caramelised lines. Place on a plate lined with parchment to cool.
For the butterscotch sauce, heat the butter, sugar, malt syrup, golden syrup and vanilla pod in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, add lemon juice to taste and fish out the vanilla pod. Stir in the double cream and transfer to a squeezy bottle or small jug (so that you can drizzle the sauce later).
For the lemon crème pâtissière, heat the milk in a small saucepan until just under simmering. Remove from the heat, add the dried lemon verbena, replace the lid and set aside to infuse.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and whisk until combined. Heat the lemon verbena-infused milk in a saucepan until just simmering. Mix in the lemon zest, juice and extract. Whisk the infused milk into the egg mix then return it all to the pan. Heat gently, whisking all the time, until thickened. Keep cooking for about five minutes after it reaches simmering point, then set aside to cool.
For the toppings, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
Heat the sugar in a pan to form a caramel. Carefully pour the hot caramel onto a silicone mat sat in a baking tray. Allow to cool completely, then break up the caramel into pieces. Place in a food processor and blend to a fine powder.
Place 12 tablespoons of the caramel powder into separate heaps on a silicone mat sat in a baking tray (leave enough space between each heap to allow for some spreading). Top each heap with a lemon verbena leaf and cover with more caramel powder, ensuring the leaf is completely covered.
Bake in the preheated oven for about five minutes until the caramel melts and forms 12 discs. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
When completely cool, remove the discs from the silicone mat and set aside ready to place on top of the finished custard tarts.
For the pear and malt millefeuille, fill a piping bag with the chilled malt-flavoured crème pâtissière. Cut the caramelised pears into 1cm/½in cubes.
Take 12 of the 36 pastry circles you prepared earlier and top with pear cubes. Pipe on blobs of the malt flavoured crème pâtissière then place another pastry circle on top and add another layer of pear cubes and malt-flavoured crème pâtissière. Place a final pastry circle on top and drizzle with the butterscotch sauce.
For the fig and orange pastry puff slices, cut the tray of chilled orange jelly and crème pâtissière into neat slices that exactly match the pastry rectangles you prepared earlier. Carefully place a slice on top of each pastry rectangle. Decorate the top of each slice with a few cubes of the streusel.
To assemble the crème brûlée custard tarts, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Place a blackberry in each of the pastry shells, then fill the tart shells with lemon crème pâtissière and bake for 10 minutes until just set. Top each tart with a disc of lemon verbena caramel and set aside to cool slightly before serving.
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