I think it's that obsessive fixation that's had me religiously keep this blog up for 97 consecutive days and making it to post 100 (I've double-blogged on three occasions). If you've been following me on this journey, you will know that I've been fixated by certain books - notably Thomasina Miers' Easy Mexican Food and Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet. My latest fixation is Lorraine Pascale.
Why the new fixation? Well I got Home Cooking Made Easy for Christmas and it reminded me that I'd barely touched Baking Made Easy so now seemed like the ideal time to get on with it. I have given myself until today to do the unhealthy recipe thing and from tomorrow, I'll be blogging about my attempt to improve the quality of my diet and shift a pound or 14 as I get back towards being a better runner in time for the Bath Half.
'Croques' have fascinated me since I was a child and had to find one to tick off in my Usbourne Spotters Guide to France. While I was typing this, I just had to Google the availability of this little gem of a book. Sadly, they don't publish them for countries any more (or at least as far as I can see) which is an absolute travesty. Now how am I supposed to entertain my daughter when we go to France when she's older??
Anyway, back to Lorraine and her 'Croque'. Like any good recipe, it is open to adaptation. Pascale presents her 'Croques' by piling coffee-cream in the middle of the plate and just building the choux buns in a pyramid around this. Maybe that's why she classes it as easy?
|Pre-baked choux buns|
Anyhow, the choux recipe and the spun sugar instructions are pretty simple and very well detailed. 'Croques' are notoriously hard to construct if you're doing the full on pyramid version as there's a lot of hand-dipping of individual choux buns in hot caramel which I'm sure would lead to burnt fingers and more than a few expletives.
There is an alternative recipe on BBC Good Food where the tower is constructed using white chocolate as the 'glue' which might be something I'll try another day if I ever have the confidence to go for the full-on version. This one has Limoncello cream filled buns. Nom, nom, nom!!
My buns rose well but lost their puff when I took them out of the oven the first time. Despite having had the full cooking time, I think they probably could've done with a little longer. It may also be due to me having used spreadable butter because *shock horror* I'd run out of real butter so maybe the oil in the Lurpak had something to do with it.
|Baked choux buns|
I thought that the caramel would never ever get to the correct temperature. It took about twenty minutes in all from mixing the sugar and water to it turning the required honeycomb colour. Pascale doesn't offer thermometer temperatures, but I guessed I was after 'hard crack'. My Heston thermometer didn't want to know about this - I don't think I had enough syrup in the pan for it to work as it says the probe must be submurged by at least 2cm and not touching the bottom of the pan.
As for the recipe, I'm a bit disappointed with the picture in the book because I only got 14 and a half buns from my choux. Maybe I made mine a little too big? Pascale recommends circles 2cm x 3cm (that's a circle? I'm sure circles were perfectly round when I was at school). It's really hard to tell from the accompanying picture in the book just how big they are when they've puffed after cooking as there's nothing in the picture to give you any perspective so they could be miniscule or they could be the same size as mine.
Update @ 22:35 on New Year's Eve
Once it was the correct colour, I plunged it (as advised) into a saute pan of cold water to stop it cooking further and burning. I did the twiddly thing, took a few pics and then had the husband ask me where my pudding was (seven puffs each wasn't enough - until he started eating it!). That bit was pretty easy but then came the cleaning of the pan. Pascale fails to mention that you'll be left with solid caramel in the bottom of your pan once you're done. Nor does she tell you how to resolve this issue. Thankfully a quick Google mentioned adding water to the pan and gently warming it. The caramel cracked and came away in such huge amber-coloured chunks that I half expected to see Dickie Attenborough in my kitchen looking for pre-historic mosquitoes to turn into dinosaurs. I then snuck outside and poured the rest of the hot caramel into the outside drain rather than plugging up my kitchen sink!
Update @ 22:35 on New Year's Eve
|No Sir Dickie, there are no mosquitoes in this caramel|
All in all an entertaining day. I didn't like that the choux buns were quite so soft and small (it made them hard to fill, but maybe that's why Pascale doesn't fill hers). Personally I'd've liked them a little crispier, but my discerning (read fussy) husband really liked them. I think if I was going for a full on three-foot high construction, then bigger and a bit crispier would be necessary or you'd need an awful lot of buns to get that kind of height. I may try another choux recipe if I made it again. Will definitely find an occasion for a really big tower and really want to try the Limoncello cream idea.
Making the Choux
Making the Choux
|Mix, mix, mix|
|Second egg goes in|