Strawberry and black pepper sorbet

Strawberry and black pepper sorbet
Strawberry and black pepper sorbet

It was far too hot this weekend to spend time baking in the kitchen, but I couldn’t live without my sugar hit, so decided to make sorbet.

Not quite on the curriculum yet (I’m thinking fruits and ices are still a few months away) but perfect for this time of year.

Sorbets are traditionally fruit flavoured and comprise an acidic component (such as lemon or lime) to achieve a light and refreshing effect, hence why it’s often used as a palate cleanser.

To make a sorbet, you need to make a sugar syrup first made up from sugar, liquid glucose and some water.

This syrup is chilled and then fruit juice or puree and other flavours are mixed in.

I decided to go for strawberry and black pepper which is a slightly unusual combination but works really well.

170g caster sugar
30ml liquid glucose
200ml water
2 tbsp black peppercorns, ground
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1kg strawberries

Heat the caster sugar, liquid glucose and water in a pan and bring to the boil.

Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Add the ground pepper then leave to cool and infuse.

Slice the strawberries and blitz in a blender with the lemon juice until you have a smooth puree.

Combine the puree and the sugar syrup, then pour into a shallow container.

Place in the freezer for half an hour or until the sides and top begin to freeze, then blitz in a food processer. Refreeze for another hour, then repeat the process a couple of times more so that you are left with a smooth, creamy sorbet.

Garnish with mint leaves.

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Cherry and frangipane tarts

Cherry and frangipane tart
Cherry and frangipane tart

While not exactly a crème, frangipane is a tart filling that is used widely in patisserie.

It’s named after Marquis Muzio Frangipani, a man who invented almond perfume-scented gloves which became a fashion trend in Paris during the 16th century.

Apparently at the time pastry chefs tried to infuse their desserts with the popular scent and came up with almond custard cream!

The confusion lies in the recipe though, and nobody seems to agree.

Michel Suas uses the formula two parts almond cream (comprising butter, sugar, eggs, almond meals, flour and rum) and one part crème pâtissière.

Julia Child uses egg (whole and yolk), sugar, flour, milk, butter, vanilla extract and pulverised almonds or macaroons.

Michel Roux keeps it simple with sugar, ground almonds, butter, flour, eggs and rum.

So that’s confusing! After a search around for other recipes, I realised that Michel Roux’s seems to be the most common type used although I’m sure the Michel Suas version is probably the most traditional.

So, I’m going to try Michel Roux’s version for now and test out Michel Suas’ next time I have leftover crème pâtissière.

This tart uses jarred sour cherries, but you can use any type of fruit. Often the fruit is pre-cooked (think plums and pears) with spices for extra flavour. But that’s the joy of these cherries which are already steeped in their own syrup.

Cherry and frangipane tarts (filling courtesy of Michel Roux)

125g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
125g butter, softened
25g plain flour
2 large eggs
25ml rum (optional)

1 x portion pâte sucrée

36 jarred sour cherries

To make the frangipane, beat together the butter until pale and creamy. Sift in the ground almonds, icing sugar and flour. Mix well, then add the eggs one and a time. Add the rum and mix until all incorporated.

Blind bake six tart shells for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and bake for a further ten minutes.

Spoon in the frangipane and pop six cherries on top of each tart.

Bake for 30 minutes at 160 degrees until browned.

Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart (with pâte brisée)

Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart
Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart

More than three months into Project Pastry and I’ve realised I haven’t posted any savoury tart doughs.

The two classic shortcrust tart doughs (made with no or little sugar) are pâte brisée and pate á foncer.

According to Google translate (!), pâte brisée translates as “broken pastry” which is the perfect description for this rich, crumbly dough. It has a high ratio of butter to flour which gives it a crumbly texture and buttery flavour.

Pate á foncer is a bit sturdier and has a crisper texture so great to use if you aren’t serving the tart straight away.

They can generally be used interchangeably, and are sometimes the preferred crust for sweet tarts not needing an extra sugar hit (think apple pie).

I decided to make the most of the asparagus which is in great supply at the moment (3 bunches for $4) and matched it with smoked pancetta and goats cheese.

This was all combined with a basic egg/cream base to give a posh version of a quiche.

Pâte brisée courtesy of Michel Roux
250g (1 and ¾ cup) all-purpose flour
150g (2/3 cup) butter cut into small pieces and slightly softened
1 tsp salt
Pinch of superfine sugar
1 medium egg
1 tbsp cold milk

Heap the flour and make a well. Put in butter/salt/sugar/egg and mix together with fingertips.

Draw flour in and work dough until it has grainy texture.

Add milk.

Use palm of your hand, work the dough by pushing it away from your 4-5 times until smooth.

Roll into a bowl, wrap in plastic and chill until ready to use.

Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart
Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart

Asparagus, pancetta and goats cheese tart
1 quantity pâte brisée dough
200g goats cheese
100g smoked pancetta, cubed
30 asparagus spears
1 medium egg
2 egg yolks
1 cup cream

Blind bake the pâte brisée at 190 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.

Fry the pancetta until golden and crisp. Set aside.

Cook the asparagus spears in boiling water until just done. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking, then lay out on paper towel to dry. Trim the spears down to the width of the tart tray.

Whisk together the egg, egg yolks and cream. Crumble the goats cheese into the egg mix and season with pepper (you won’t need salt).

Sprinkle the pancetta across the base of the tart then pour over the egg, cream and cheese mix.

Place the asparagus spears on top of the mixture.

Cook at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until browned. Cool for 20 minutes until the mixture has set then serve.

Crème pâtissière

For the first time in over three months, I missed my weekly post! (I was at a wedding in the Barossa Valley so it was more eating and drinking than baking)

To make up for that, I’m going to finally talk about la crème de la crème – crème pâtissière.

This versatile crème, also known as pastry cream, is a thick custard made from milk, eggs, sugar and flour.

It is used to fill all kinds of delicious pastries such as tarts, choux buns, éclairs and of course the classic mille-feuille.

The best part is that it’s relatively easy to make. You just need to beat your egg and sugar together, before adding hot milk and whisking over a stove to thicken. Sound familiar?

Well, the big difference between crème pâtissière and crème Anglaise is the addition of flour or cornflour (to the sugar) and also butter that is sometimes added at the end.

The flour is added to help stabilise the custard and prevents it from curdling when cooked over a high heat.

You can also flavour crème pâtissière using lemon, chocolate, rum or coffee. I’ve gone classic to start, but look forward to experimenting with a few twists down the track.

Julia Child’s crème pâtissière

5 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon.

Beat in the flour.

Beating the egg yolk mixture, gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.

Pour into saucepan and set over moderately high heat. Stir with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom of pan. As sauce comes to the boil it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. When boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful custard does not scorch the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Top tip – only use stainless steel saucepans and wire whisks when making crème pâtissière.