Posts Tagged ‘pastry’

A currant work of tart

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
With an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, the summer season is a chef ’s dream. Today, most produce is available year round but, in truth, fruits and vegetables have quite a short season, meaning locally-grown produce is only available for about three weeks of the year.

So, it is extra special when your favourite fruits and veg are in season and can be bought locally. In August, for example, pick up Irish tomatoes and eat them washed, sliced and sprinkled with rock salt, a dash of olive oil and shredded basil leaves.

It is worth trying to shop and eat seasonally. If some foods aren’t in season, there are always plenty of other foods that are. At this time of year, berries such as whitecurrants, blackberries and redcurrants take centre stage. They are all so different in flavour but taste great mixed together, so they are ideal for tarts which can be prepared in advance for Sunday lunch.

I have provided the recipe for vanilla ice cream below, for which you will need to use an ice cream maker. Of course, a good quality vanilla ice cream can be used instead.

Black and whitecurrant tart with vanilla ice cream and redcurrant sauce

Ingredients, serves eight
For the short crust pastry
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
200g unsalted butter
5g sea salt
1 vanilla pod
1 zest of orange
100ml orange juice

1. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and egg yolks.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half, remove the seeds, chop them and add to the flour. Blanch the orange zest. This removes the acid from the orange peel but keeps its flavour. To do this, cover the zest with water, bring it to the boil, strain it and then add to the mix.

3. Mix in the bowl for a few seconds.

4. Cut the butter into small cubes, soften and add to the mixture. Mix for a minute and add the orange juice a little at a time. The pastry should bind together and come cleanly away from the bowl.

5. Remove, place into a clean bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

6. Remove the pastry. Butter the tart mould and dust it with flour. Dust the counter top with a bit of flour and roll out the pastry onto this surface. Cover the mould with the pastry and, with your hands, press the pastry into the tart tray.

7. Blind-cook the tart. This can be done by covering the pastry with parchment paper and adding dried marrowfat peas or rice onto it, to put pressure on the pastry to keep it flat while it cooks. Place it into a hot oven at 180C for five minutes.

8. Remove the paper and the rice or dried peas. Put the tart back in the oven for a further couple of minutes to finish cooking. It should be a very light brown colour.

For the pastry cream
250ml of milk
250ml of cream
A drop of still water
1 vanilla pod
125g of icing sugar
165g of plain white flour
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs

1. Put a drop of water into a stainless-steel pot. Add the milk and cream.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half and add the seeds to the eggs.

3. Add the pod shells to the liquid and bring to the boil.

4. Put the flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla seeds into a stainless steel bowl and mix well with a whisk until it is forms a smooth paste.

5. When the milk and cream has boiled, pour half of it into the flour and egg mixture. Mix well and pour back into the pot with the liquid.

6. Return to a low heat and stir constantly for about five minutes. Cover with a lid and place the pot over a larger pot filled with simmering water to cook for a further hour, mixing regularly.

7. Remove, place into a clean bowl and cover.

8. The secret to making pastry cream is not to rush it or take short cuts. The flour takes time to cook correctly. It keeps for a few days and can be used with all kinds of pastry filling.

For the vanilla ice cream
10 egg yolks
3 vanilla pods
500ml cream
500ml milk
10ml of still water
125g icing sugar

1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add to the cream with the pods.

2. Line a stainless steel pot with water. Mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.

3. Whisk the egg yolks. Add the sugar and whisk well. Pour half the milk and cream into the egg-and-sugar and mix well with a whisk.

4. Pour back into the liquid. Return to a hot hob and bring to 95C using a sugar thermometer. Cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. When the back of the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove the pot and place it into a sink of ice cold water. This cools the ice cream mix as quickly as possible.

5. When sufficiently cool, spin in an ice cream machine.

6. Remove and place in a sterilised container, then freeze until required.

To assemble the tart you will need
Pastry cream
Ice cream
Tablespoon of apricot jam
500ml vanilla ice cream
200g whitecurrants
300g blackcurrants
200g redcurrants
10g granulated sugar
8 sugared vanilla pods

1. Juice 100g of redcurrants. Add a little sugar and place into a pot on a low heat. Reduce by half, then pass through a fine sieve into a clean, cool container.

2. Glaze the remaining redcurrants by dipping them into egg white and cover with granulated sugar. Leave on a sugared tray over night at room temperature. The sugar glazing protects the berries so they will last for a few days.

3. Cover the pastry base with pastry cream and line the berries on top.

4. Heat the apricot jam and cover the berries with the apricot glaze.

5. Put the tart on the plate and line the plate with the sauce. Place the sugared berries beside the sauce and serve with a few scoops of balled ice cream.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Sweet pastry and tart lemon

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
When it comes to defining the seasons, sometimes we just have to ignore the weather and go with our tastebuds. It’s the summer time and summer means citrus.

Citrus fruits are light and refreshing at this time of year, and are great palate cleansers during or after a meal. This lemon tart is delicious served with fresh raspberries or with a homemade sweet sorbet.

When buying lemons it is best to opt for relatively soft ones, as these tend to contain more juice. Taste the lemon mixture as you making it and add more lemon juice if a more tangy taste is preferred.

If you’re serving the tart with afternoon tea, try making your own tisane – a herbal tea which is a nice accompaniment to this zesty dessert. It’s made by placing either fresh lime leaves or fresh mint leaves in a teapot and adding boiling water.

Tarte au citron (lemon tart)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Sweet pastry:
250g (8oz) flour
4 egg yolks
Half teaspoon salt
100g (3 and half oz) sugar
125g (4oz) butter
Seeds from two vanilla pods

2 eggs
100g (3 and half oz sugar)
grated rind and juice of 1 and half lemons
125g (4oz) melted butter
60g (2oz) whole blanched
ground almonds
27-30cm/11-12 inch pie pan


Sweet pastry:
1. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and make a large well in it.

2. Put egg yolks, salt, sugar and vanilla into the well and mix with fingertips until sugar dissolves.

3. Pound the butter with rolling pin to soften, add it to the well and quickly work with other ingredients until partly mixed. Draw in flour, pulling dough into large crumbs using fingertips of both hands. Press the dough together – it should be soft but not sticky.

4. Work on small portions of the dough, pushing it away from you on the work surface, then gathering it up with a spatula, drawing it towards you and pushing away again. Continue this until the dough is smooth and pliable. Press it into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Lemon filling:
1. Make the sweet pastry and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Set the oven at moderately hot (190C/375F).

2. Roll out the dough, line the pie pan and chill until firm. Bake blind in a heated oven for 12-15 minutes or until set, but not brown. Take from the oven, remove paper and let the pie shell cool slightly. Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted. Stir in the rind and lemon juice, followed by the melted butter and ground almonds.

4. Set the pie shell in the pan on the hot baking sheet and pour the mixture into the shell. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and set. Serve at room temperature.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Passionate about pastry

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Making pastry is a great introduction to baking, particularly for children, as they love messing with flour and eggs. The first time I made pastry, I ended up covered from head to toe in flour. Now I manage to keep myself a little cleaner.

These are a few recipes for pastry and, although it is now possible to buy good ready-made pastry in supermarkets, it is always worthwhile to make your own.

Simpler styles of pastry are sugar pastry and short crust, which are quick and easy to make and involve following some simple instructions.

Puff pastry is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming type of pastry to make, but there is a great sense of satisfaction when it is prepared – and it beats the shop-bought variety hands down.

While most types of pastry are used for either savoury or sweet dishes, puff pastry can be used for both.

I like to make my own butter for this pastry, by whipping cream until all the fat binds together and the buttermilk is left behind.

Then I remove the creamy fat, which is now butter, wrap it in muslin cloth to squeeze out the excess butter milk, then shape into a cube and refrigerate.

The secret of making puff pastry is to trap the air inside the dough, by layering it. When the pastry is made, you can cut it into small pieces, wrap it in an airtight freezer bag and use it as required.

Puff pastry
500g strong white flour
400ml water at room temperature
15g sea salt
15ml lemon juice
10g white wine vinegar
50g softened butter (unsalted)
400g butter (unsalted)
2 pieces of parchment paper

1. Sieve the flour and place into a mixing bowl with the salt.

2. Add the lemon juice and softened butter, and mix for a minute or so. Add 330ml of water to the flour.

3. When the dough starts binding together, add the remainder of the water. The dough should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Place the dough on a cold slab and knead it for 30 seconds. Fold into a dome shape, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the other butter from the wrapping and shape it into a cube.
Place it in between parchment paper and roll the butter until it is half its size in height.

6. Make a knife cut at right angles in the pastry and then roll it out to form a square with the corners rolled thinly.
Place the butter diagonally in the centre of the dough and fold over each corner of the dough to meet in the centre. The fat is now enclosed in an envelope of pastry.

7. Roll out the dough to 10cm by 25cm,brush off the excess flour and fold into three. Refrigerate and repeat the same method five times, each time marking the dough with your fingers to indicate the number of rolls. The most important thing is that the layers should be even and properly insulated. Too few or too many will not give you a good puff pastry, as one will be more flaky and the other more dense.

8. When the pastry is made, butter a baking sheet and dust with flour. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut cookie shapes with your favourite cutters. Simply cook in a pre-heated oven at 195ºC for six minutes.

Apple tartlet with Midleton ice cream and Midleton sauce; serves four
4 Pink Lady apples or Cox’s Orange Pippins
100g Frangipane almond pastea
200g puff pastry
1 egg yolk for egg wash
50g granulated sugar
100g peach glaze

1. Roll out the puff pastry and make holes in it with a fork.

2. Cut the pastry with a 12cm cutter and fill the centre with almond paste. Wash and slice the apples thinly and place them in a fan shape around the edge of the pastry.

3. Egg wash the pastry and sprinkle with sugar. Cook in a hot oven at 180ºC for 12 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and cover with glaze.

Midleton sauce
200g sugar
200g unsalted butter
375ml cream
100ml 20-year-old Midleton whiskey
10ml still water

1. Melt the sugar and water in a pot and boil until golden brown.

2. Dice the butter and whisk it into the sugar. Then add the cream and the Midleton, bring to the boil and reduce until it has a coating consistency.

Midleton ice-cream
10 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
500ml cream
500ml milk
10ml of still water
80g icing sugar
100g raisins
85g Midleton sauce

1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add the seeds and pods to the cream.

2. Line the stainless steel pot with water, then mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and add the sugar. Whisk together well. Pour half the milk and cream liquid into the egg and sugar mix. Whisk well and pour back into the liquid. Return to the heat until the temperature reaches 95ºC on a sugar thermometer.

4. Cook for two to three minutes or until you see the first bubble appear. Remove from the oven and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. When the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove and place into a sink with ice-cold water. This cools the mix as quickly as possible.

5. When sufficiently cool, spin the mixture in an ice cream machine. When the mix is almost ready, add the raisins and pour in the Midleton sauce. Mix again.

6. Remove and place into a sterilised container, then store in a freezer until required.

Dried apple
2 Pink Lady apples
250ml syrup

1. Wash the apples and slice thinly. Dip in the syrup and place on parchment paper, then dry in a oven at 50ºC overnight.

To serve
Place the apple tartlet on the plate. Make a ball of the ice cream and sandwich between two dried apple slices, sauce the plate using the remainder of the Midleton sauce, then garnish with icing sugar and mint leaf.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Chocolate's hot secret

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Learning how to make pastry and bake can take a great deal of time, and even more patience. But when it’s done right, this is an area of cooking with which you can have terrific fun.

Commis chefs and apprentices usually start in the pastry section – for a number of reasons, the first of which is discipline. Since everything has to be measured correctly, they learn precision. Pastry also allows for creativity and, as presentation is key, artistic flair.

Since both baking and pastry rely heavily on the way ingredients interact, many consider it a science. So, in order to be a good pastry chef, it is not only important to know how to create dishes, but it’s also essential to understand the basics behind the way the ingredients function.

During my own training, I spent two years in a pastry shop in Canada. If I was going to be a head chef one day, I wanted to know exactly what I was talking about. By the time I got my first head chef position, the experience enabled me to work confidently in the pastry corner.

Unlike other areas of the kitchen, very little has changed in pastry-making since the 1800s, when Antonin Careme – one of the greatest pastry chefs of all time – is said to have elevated French pastry to an art form.

Chocolate is a key ingredient for the pastry chef. Imagine how impressed someone would be on St Valentine’s Day if you could give them chocolate you made yourself.

The secret of chocolate is to understand exactly what happens when it is heated. Taking short cuts rarely works, and usually leads to the chef spending too much time fixing the errors.

To make chocolate truffles, use quality chocolate, such as Valrhona, Opera, Calabeau or Green & Blacks. Bars of these brands are available in most quality supermarkets and delicatessens.

Ganache for chocolate truffles

1/2 litre of cream
250g of 70 per cent chocolate
200g of 62 per cent chocolate
100g salted butter
20g cocoa powder for rolling the ganache
(Optional: hazelnuts)

1.Heat the cream until it just comes to the boil

2. Roughly chop the chocolate and melt over a bain-marie (a pot of water on top of which another container can be added).

3. Add half of the melted chocolate to the cream, and mix. Add the remainder of the chocolate, and mix well.

4. Cut the butter into small pieces and fold it into the chocolate cream.

5. Place the chocolate into a dry, clean container, cover it with a lid, and allow it to rest until set in the refrigerator.

6. Remove and, with a small spoon, roll the ganache into small balls.

7. Sprinkle cocoa powder on the palms of your hands, and roll the balls. Be careful that the chocolate doesn’t melt.

8. Place the balls into the fridge for about 20 minutes to set. Now they are ready for dipping in couverture chocolate to finish them off.

Tempering chocolate
The process for preparing chocolate to coat truffles or to put in chocolate moulds is called ‘tempering’. Buy chocolate moulds from specialist food equipment shops, or via mail order. Tempering chocolate is very easy to do, but you have to be careful.

1. Use 1kg of chocolate, keeping back 100g for later use.

2. Chop 900g of chocolate into even pieces, and place in a stainless steel bowl.

3. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that no liquid or moisture comes into contact with the chocolate, so the water should be barely simmering.

4. Stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly and maintains an even temperature.

5. Bring the temperature of the chocolate up to 40°C. Use a thermometer for an accurate reading – make sure it doesn’t go above 43°C or the chocolate will be damaged.

6. Remove the chocolate as soon as it has reached 40°C.

7. Add the 100g of chocolate cut into four pieces to the rest, and melt it until the chocolate reaches 33°C, and then 29°C. Do not bring the chocolate below 29°C, as it will lose the shine you are looking for and you will have to repeat the process. Tempered chocolate should coat the back of a spoon and create a good shine.

8. Now the chocolate is ready to be used for covering the ganache balls for truffles, or poured into the moulds to make chocolates. Place the ganache balls on a cocktail stick and dip into the tempered chocolate. Then use a piece of air board or a potato to hold the cocktail sticks so that you get an even coating.

9. If you want to decorate the truffles, put some of the remaining chocolate into a small piping bag, and then style them to your heart’s content.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and the owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.