I have been a wee bit quiet the past week or so because Nathan and I have been staying with some friends with Dublin while we search for a new place.  I have still been cooking though…and I have definitely still been eating (probably a bit too much)!  As I’ve mentioned before, our friend Phil is a pastry chef.  I went to work with him last week for a day and got to make financiers, a moist French cake made with ground almonds and browned butter, in a variety of flavours (pistachio, hazelnut and raspberry).  I also made apple squares with a frangipane filling (once again made with ground almonds).  Then Phil let me loose on a sachertorte (a rich chocolate Italian Viennese cake with an apricot filling and chocolate ganache coat).

This reads "Nathan smells"...I ran out of room to write lovely!

This reads “Nathan smells”…I ran out of room to write “lovely”!

Not only did I get to drool and enjoy the numerous pastries and cakes which surrounded me but I also got to marvel at the slick kitchen equipment that could make batches of hundreds and watch with awe as Phil and his co-worker skilfully produced croissants and cakes as I carefully absorbed the tips and critiques with which Phil instructed me.  My muscle ached from stirring, whisking and lifting but I went home happy!

A delicious moist hazelnut financier

A delicious moist hazelnut financier

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While staying with Phil and Andrea, I also got to make elairs from Phil’s ‘little black book’.  Instead of the usual list of girls’ phone numbers, Phil’s black book is filled with delicious recipes for every pastry and Italian cake imaginable.  Unfortunately I cannot share Phil’s recipe, but I can share some of his tips for making the perfect choux pastry.

Eclairs

1. The warmer the pastry when it goes in the oven, the better it rises, so try and get through the process as quickly as possible.

2. Most recipes call for you to melt butter and flour together, and bring it to the boil.  Try to get the mixture as hot as possible, until it begins to stick to the bottom. Then, pour in half the eggs first and whisk frantically quickly to cool the mixture so the eggs don’t scramble.  Afterwards, add the rest of the eggs.

3. Next, the pastry dough is mixed in a free standing mixer.  Now, it’s mixed for quite some time.  Phil told me not to stop the dough early.  The dough becomes shiny after a while and most people stop here but it’s okay to mix it a bit further.

4. Once the pastry is piped and in the oven, make sure it is cooked evenly and browned everywhere.  If your eclairs are pale when they leave the oven, and you fill them with cream, the pastry will become soggy if left for a little while.

Thanks Phil for these great tips.  I hope I got them right!

I am at camp this week cooking for around 25 people so expect lots of tales from my cooking escapades soon!

Jenna x

Brioche filled with pastry cream...it looked prettier until I knocked it over!

Brioche filled with pastry cream…it looked prettier until I knocked it over!

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