Religieuse-Nun Cream puffs

You know what sounds fun? Taking a perfectly relaxing hobby such as baking and giving yourself a time limit. I admit when I sit on my comfy couch with my puppy and sipping my coffee I find myself sometimes thinking “I could do that”. You would think I wouldn’t been so cocky given what happened with my attempt at the Swedish Princess cake but regardless I found myself on a lazy Sunday afternoon deciding to try my hand at Religieuse- nun shaped cream puffs from series 4 episode 7 of the Great British Bake Off.

First the recipe, just in case that is what you are looking for, then on to my thoughts.

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Choux Ingredients

  • 2 ¼  oz butter
  • 5 oz water
  • 2 ½ oz flour
  • 2 egg

Process

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F and line a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment.
  2. In a medium sized pot combine the water and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a ball of dough. Return to the heat and cook over low heat, constantly stirring.
  4. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, gradually add the eggs and beat well between each addition to form a smooth and shiney paste. (Note: Here is where my method differs from the way the bakers did it on the show. I don’t know how much information Mary’s recipe gave them but what I like to do is before adding the eggs I will toss my dough into my mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on low. If you come to the bowl at eye level you should see steam rising from the bowl, when the steam stops that is when you can add the eggs.)
  5. Scoop your mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip. I used Ateco #
  6. Holding your bag straight pipe rounds; this recipe has enough to pipe 8 large round and 8 smaller rounds. Dip your finger tip into some water and smooth over the top of each round.
  7. Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the temp down to 375 F and bake for another 10-15 Minutes.
  8. Remove the buns from the oven and with a skewer pierce each bun to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes to dry them out.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Pastry Cream Ingredients

  • 18 fl oz whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean pod (I replaced this with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract because vanilla beans are expensive)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 ½ oz sugar
  • ¾ oz cornstarch
  • 1 oz flour

Process

  1. Bring the milk gradually to a boil. (If you’re fancy and have a vanilla bean scrape the seeds and add them to the milk at this point.) Remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until pale. Add the cornstarch and flour ( I added my extract to this mixture)
  3. Pour a bit of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture back into the pot.
  4. Whisk over medium heat and cook for about a minute, it will thicken.
  5. Pour your pastry cream into a bowl (I like to pour it through a sieve to make sure that there aren’t any eggs bits) and cover with plastic wrap, touching the plastic wrap to the custard to prevent a skin from developing. Place in the fridge to chill.

Ganache Ingredients

  • 5 ounces heavy cream
  • 7 oz chocolate (broken into pieces)

Process

  1. Bring the cream to a boil in a small pan, remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and shiny.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Place in the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.
  3. For the chocolate ganache icing, bring the cream to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and shiny. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Transfer the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.

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Assembly

  1. Whisk 5 ounces of heavy cream until soft peaks form the whisk is removed.
  2. Spoon the cold pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a long thin tip. Fill the choux with pastry cream.
  3. Dip the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat the top half of the buns. Place the small buns on top of the larger buns. (this is where you’ll be glad you smoothed the top of your buns!)
  4. Pipe lines of cream around the middle of your Religieuse where the buns meet.

These are so precious they remind me of my tiny kitten Fiona (I suppose she’s not really a kitten anymore considering she three but she’s so tiny. She’s a tuxedo kitten so these tiny little puffs of pastry, cream and ganache remind me of her.)

So I had to do this challenge a bit differently than how I would normally make pate a choux because I realized I don’t know if contestants wash their dishes as they go about their challenge. As mentioned in the recipe I would normally use my mixer for cooling down the dough and incorporating the eggs but then my bowl would be dirty and I wouldn’t be able to whip of the whipped cream. I supposed I could always whisk the whip cream by hand but that would take longer and seeing as we were attempting to stay in a time constraint that didn’t seem advisable.

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Obviously this wasn’t as difficult because I didn’t have cameras in my face, I actually already know how to make the separate components and I have nothing to lose if I run out of time; but I also don’t have the benefit of Mel and Sue cheering me on from the sidelines. What I will say is that at least the time limits are reasonable, or at least that one was–I might do a few more challenges to test this theory. I watched an episode of Nailed it on Netflix this weekend and the whole episode stressed me out. The work they were being asked to do seemed impossible given the amount of time they were given, especially when you consider that they sometimes have to still make the cake.

Overall, I finished with 20 minutes to spare so I’d say that this challenge was reasonable. Best part is that I got to eat ganache dipped cream puffs!

 

 

 

Swedish Princess Cake

I finally started watching “The Great British Bake Off” on Netflix, I’ll admit I heard of it before but didn’t have much interest in it because I don’t really tend to like baking competitions. I watch them and they just seem really fabricated but then again admittedly I know a few people who have been on them and know that there is a little bit of TV magic that comes into play. GBBO has an entirely different feel to it though. I put on the Christmas special one day while I was working on some cupcakes in my free time and found myself completely enamored. From what I understand there’s no prize money, the only prize is being named the best amateur baker and a stunning glass cake plate so these people aren’t baking for $10,000 they are baking for the LOVE of baking. The technical challenge is really exciting to me as well because it reminds me of being in pastry school, read the recipe, scale things out, read through the recipe again.

The show has really inspired me to get back into my kitchen and find my bliss in pastry. My mother’s birthday was this week so I decided to prepare a Swedish princess cake  (season 1 episode 6). Now I did not follow Mary Berry’s recipe for this one because I decided to do a smaller version as it was just family for my mom’s birthday dinner but I thought this would be something that would be elegant and special for my mom’s special day.

There are a few different steps to this cake, full disclosure I did not make my own marzipan, but you can whip most of this recipe up in no time. I believe that this doesn’t count as a traditional Swedish princess cake because I have made my own almond cake recipe but here we go. I know I hate really long blog posts when I’m just looking for a recipe so this is for a 6” Swedish Princess Cake:

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Almond Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • ⅛ cup almond meal
  • ½ Cup whole milk, room temp
  • 3 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoon butter

Prep: Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with pan coating and line the bottom of the pans with parchment.

Process:

  1. Combine milk, eggs, and extracts and stir together. Set aside.
  2. In your mixer combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter in small chunks, mixing at a slow speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.
  3. Add half of the milk mixture slowly and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down.
  4. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds more, try not to over mix.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between your prepared pans.
  6. Bake until the cake bounces back when tapped about 25 minutes.  
  7. While your cake bakes prepare your pastry cream!

 

Pastry cream:

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2 ½ yolks
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoon butter (cold, kept in the fridge until your ready to use and cut into small pieces)

Process:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over a medium-high heat.
  2. In a medium sized bowl combine the yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Add half of the scalded milk to the bowl containing the egg mixture. Whisk CONSTANTLY while adding the scalded milk or you’ll end up with sugary scrambled eggs which is not yummy.
  4. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan containing the remaining milk. Whisk over medium heat.
  5. Continue whisking constantly for about 2-4 minutes, until the mixture is thickened.
  6. Removed from the heat and whisk in the cold butter. Continue whisking until the butter has melted in.
  7. Transfer to another bowl and allow it cool completely. (I like the pour it through a sieve to be sure there are no egg-y bits)
  8. Cover and refrigerate for a couple hours before using. Be sure to cover with plastic film, have the film touching your pastry cream or it will develop a skin.

Whipped cream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Process

  1. In a chilled bowl, combine ingredients. Whip to stiff peaks.

Assembly

  1. Gather your components.
  2. Trim the tops of your cake and spread raspberry jam onto the middle layer.
  3. Put a portion, maybe a generous spoonful, of your pastry cream and fold into the whipped cream.
  4. Spread the remaining pastry cream on top of the raspberry jam.
  5. Stack the other cake layer on top sandwiching the pastry cream and raspberry jam.
  6. Frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream, spoon a hefty amount on top to cream a dome. (at this point I stuck my cake in the freezer)
  7. Roll out your marzipan, you’ll want to dust it with powdered sugar so that it doesn’t stick. Drape over your domed cake. Smooth it down the sides as you would with fondant. Cut off any excess at the bottom, enjoy as a snack.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar and add a marzipan rose if you’ve made one.

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This is my first attempt at a Swedish Princess Cake, and can I just say…it was a complete and utter disaster. Don’t let the pretty photo fool you, this cake had me annoyed. As a former pastry cook I looked at the recipe and said, “Yeah I can handle that.” My whipped cream was melting all over the place, I rolled the marzipan too thin, my filling was coming out. I felt defeated. Then I told myself “it’s just cake” my sweet robot assured me that it was ok that I was getting frustrated. I took a deep breath and told myself I would just have to step away from tradition. So I scraped the whipped cream off and instead covered the cake in a swiss buttercream. True it’s not as light as whipped cream but it kept the pastry cream contained.

I had already covered the cake once in marzipan when I decided to redo everything so I had to peeled the marzipan off and wipe as much of the whipped cream as I possibly could. I thought it was ruined, but honestly after I wiped the cream off, I covered my hands in powdered sugar and worked in a bit of untouched marzipan and it came back. Sometimes things happen, it can happen to any baker, I had a minor flip out and then pulled myself back together and made the cake. It probably helped that I had scraps to snack on. All in all it was a challenge, I’ll need to attempt it again at some point.

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Writing this post I realized what I did wrong, I didn’t read the recipe well enough because I inverted one of the steps which is probably why I had such a gooey mess. Chalk it up to experience and remember to READ THE RECIPE! I probably shouldn’t even show you the picture because the pastry cream is so runny but as I said it can happen to any baker. It was still delicious.

Cookies and Cream Cake

As much as I love making cakes for my own home, I just adore making cakes for other people. Especially if it is someone I know, I put my time and care into each cake because I know that whoever is receiving the cake is celebrating something special (even if the special thing is just that they received a cake that day. Think about it, how amazing would your day be if someone just surprised you with a cake for no reason? This cake was fun because I love chocolate and I think there is nothing better than a drip of chocolate ganache down a cake.

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This was a cake that I made after I finished up my 30 days 30 cookies project. My mom asked me to make a cake for someone that helped us with all the paper work when we bought our home so even though I had been baking all week I was definitely going to be making something for him. I settled on cookies and cream because after all the Christmas flavors I had been working on I had been hankering for some chocolate. This cake is chocolate with oreo bits in a swiss buttercream topped with a dark chocolate ganache. Yum!

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I followed up with some cupcakes for good measure, especially because I was so used to having cookies daily, I needed to have something sweet in the house. Having fresh cupcakes in your home is easier than you think. I keep a bit of batter and buttercream in my fridge and bake off as needed.

 

Cream Cheese Buttercream

I know it looks like I dropped off the face of the earth for half a second there but I just got so caught up with the holidays. I did manage to post for the full 30 days on my Instagram, if you’re on insta look me up @pixiescakes for the rest of the cookies I posted. I’ve started posting cupcakes and cakes because who doesn’t love cake. I did a bit of an outline for 30 days of cupcakes but I don’t know if I can have that much cake in my house.

The weather outside has been gloomy lately, I wouldn’t say frightful, but I have been so warm and happy in my kitchen. I’m very excited about this recipe I’m going to share with you today for pipe-able cream cheese buttercream. If you work with cream cheese buttercream you probably know how hit or miss it can be. I’ve done Italian buttercream and just added cream cheese before but that gets soft quick. On to the recipe!

Ingredients

-1# cream cheese ( almost room temp but still a bit cold)

-1/2 cup butter (soft)

-2 ½ cup powdered sugar

-1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract

Process

  1. Cream the butter to soften it up, scrape down and add the cream cheese. Beat until just mixed.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until combined, scrape down and just finish mixing with your spatula.

Note: This cream cheese butter is more stable that other cream cheese buttercream recipes I’ve made before but I want to say that it is still cream cheese  it can go soft if you over mix it. I placed my cupcakes in the fridge after piping and that seems to give them a longer life…well longer until I ate all of them.