For these éclairs the choux pastry is filled with a crème pâtissière and coated with a simple white icing.
- Preparation time: 45 minutes
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- For the choux pastry
- 140 ml (5 fl oz) cold water
- 50 g (2 oz) butter, cut into small pieces
- 70 g (2½ oz) strong plain flour/all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp caster sugar/fine white flour
- 2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), well beaten
- For the crème pâtissière
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) full-fat milk/whole milk
- 50 g (2 oz) caster sugar/fine white sugar
- 2 egg yolks, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
- 20 g (¾ oz) cornflour/cornstarch
- 20 g (¾ oz) butter, cut into small pieces
- For the icing
- 225 g (8 oz) icing sugar
- 5 tsp boiling water
- Two nylon piping bags, one fitted with a plain 1 cm (½ inch) nozzle for piping the choux pastry and the other with a long thin nozzle for filling the éclairs.
- A large baking sheet
For the choux pastry
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
The ingredients need to be measured out first.
Put the water in a pan together with the butter and put to one side.
Next weigh out the flour and sieve onto a piece of parchment paper with the sugar. Set to one side. Using the parchment paper like a funnel will allow the flour to be tipped into the melted butter very quickly.
Now, place the pan of water and butter over a moderate heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the mixture comes to the boil. The pan needs to be removed from the heat as soon as the mixture boils to prevent too much evaporation of the water. Holding the paper like a funnel, immediately tip in the flour and sugar. Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon or use a hand held electric whisk. Keep beating until the mixture has become a smooth ball of paste that has left the sides of the pan clean.
Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition until the paste has become smooth and glossy.
Lightly grease a baking sheet and then sprinkle on a little cold water. This will create steam and will help the choux pastry rise.
Spoon the pastry into the piping bag and pipe eight, 7.5 cm (3 inch) lengths, onto the baking sheet.
Bake the éclairs on a high shelf for 10 minutes, then increase the temperature to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 and bake for a further 8–10 minutes until lightly golden.
Remove to a wire rack and gently make a small hole with a skewer in the side of each éclair to allow any steam to escape. This will prevent them from becoming soggy. Leave to cool completely.
For the crème pâtissière
Pour the milk into a pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
Put the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour/cornstarch in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour a little of the hot milk onto the mixture, whisking continuously to loosen the mixture a little. Then gradually pour in the remaining hot milk and whisk until smooth. Return to the pan and, over a low heat, cook the mixture, stirring continuously, until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and beat in the butter until it has melted. Leave to cool, covering the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming on the top. Refrigerate to chill.
Once chilled, spoon into the piping bag fitted with the long thin nozzle. Using the hole that was made with the skewer, carefully fill the éclairs with the crème pâtissière.
For the icing
Measure the boiling water into a small bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Beat well to mix. The icing should be stiff. More water or sifted icing sugar can be added to achieve the right consistency.
Cover the top of the éclairs with the icing and smooth with a palette knife.
Apple strudel is one of the most popular dishes in Austria, the oldest record being a handwritten recipe from 1696 housed in the Vienna City and State Library. However, it’s likely to have been adopted from other countries that made up the Habsburg Empire. Early recipes used a pastry made from unleavened dough and today it’s usual to use filo/phyllo pastry – a modern version. It is delicious served with ice cream, cream, or vanilla sauce.
- Preparation time: 35 minutes
- Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 1 kg (2 lb 2 oz) tart dessert apples (Granny Smith are good)
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 4 tbsp caster/superfine sugar
- 85 g (3 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped (⅔ cup)
- 4 tbsp sultanas
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 85 g (3 oz) ground almonds* (1 cup)
- 16 sheets filo/phyllo pastry**
- 55 g (2 oz) butter, melted (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
- icing/powdered sugar to dust
- *The almonds will absorb any excess juices which will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy.
- **Filo pastry dries out very quickly. Remove only the number of sheets required from the packet and keep these covered with clingfilm/plastic wrap until needed.
- You will also need a large baking sheet, oiled
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) gas 4.
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples into small pieces. Put them in a mixing bowl and toss together with the lemon juice.
Add the sugar, walnuts, sultanas, cinnamon, and almonds. Mix well and then set aside.
Now to make the four parcels.
Using four sheets of pastry, take one sheet and lay it on a clean tea towel. Brush lightly with the melted butter.
Place another sheet directly on top and brush this one lightly with butter. Repeat with the other two sheets.
Spread a quarter of the apple filling lengthways down the middle of the pastry, flattening it out, and leaving a 2.5 cm (1 inch) border on the shorter edges.
Brush a little butter along the long edge that is furthest away from you and both the shorter edges.
Using the tea towel, lift the long edge nearest you over the filling and then continue rolling to form a sausage shape with the seam finishing up underneath. (The extra butter round the edges will seal the parcel.)
Carefully transfer it to the baking sheet.
Repeat with the remaining sheets of pastry until there are four parcels.
Bake for 40 minutes until golden. Cover the pastry during the last 10 minutes of cooking, if it is colouring too quickly.
Just before serving, dust the parcels with icing/powdered sugar using a small sieve. Then cut the parcels into thick slices (a pizza slice does this brilliantly). It can be served warm or cold.
The ginger snap is the biscuit to dunk in your tea or coffee. There are many different recipes for this humble biscuit which originally dates back to the early 1800s in England. This is one of my recipes for this great little biscuit.
Ginger Snap Biscuits
- Preparation time: About 15 minutes
- Cooking time: 12 minutes
- 55 g (2 oz) butter, cut into cubes (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
- 85 g (3 oz) golden syrup* (½ cup + 2 tbsp)
- 115 g (4 oz) self-raising flour/self-rising flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp caster sugar/white sugar
- *Golden syrup isn’t readily available in North America. There are some supermarkets that sell it in Canada. Otherwise I manage to get it in the small British stores that are around. The closest alternative would be runny honey. It is not quite as stiff as golden syrup but close and it does have some flavour too.
- 2 insulated baking sheets/insulated cookie sheets
- I first discovered these insulated cooking sheets when we first came to Canada and use them all the time now to cook biscuits and cookies. They produce a very even bake and I have no problem with the underside or edges crisping up before the centres are done. They aren’t as widely available in the U.K. but John Lewis and Amazon stock them.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Put the butter in a small pan and weigh in the golden syrup. Over a low heat, melt the butter stirring it into the golden syrup. When melted and well mixed in, remove from the heat and set aside.
Sift the flour, soda, ginger and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar then stir in the golden syrup mixture until well blended. Leave to firm up for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and, using floured hands, roll each into a ball. Space them apart on the baking sheets and flatten them a little.
Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Updated: March 28, 2017
Baked sponge puddings are similar to my steamed sponge puddings (click to view), but they take half the time to cook. The texture is that of a cake and so I tend to keep my steamed puddings for cold, winter days and use this basic recipe at other times. Again, there are a number of variations using the basic recipe, as shown below.
Basic Baked Sponge Puddings
- Preparation time: About 10 minutes
- Cooking time: 30–40 minutes
- 85 g (3 oz) butter (⅜ cup, or ¾ stick)
- 85 g (3 oz) caster sugar/superfine sugar (⅓ cup + 1½ tbsp)
- 1 egg, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), beaten
- 140 g (5 oz) self raising flour/self-rising flour, sifted (1 cup)
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- milk to mix
- To serve
- Egg custard (recipe below)
- 600 ml (1 pint) pie dish, greased
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Then fold in the flour with the vanilla essence.
Or use a food mixer.
Add enough milk until there is a dropping consistency (the mixture should drop freely from a spoon).
Spoon into the prepared dish and bake for 30–40 minutes until well risen and golden. The top should spring back when lightly touched.
Variations of the basic baked sponge pudding
Lemon Baked Sponge Pudding
Add the zest of a lemon to the creamed mixture and replace the milk with lemon juice.
Orange Baked Sponge Pudding
Add the zest of an orange to the creamed mixture and replace the milk with orange juice.
- Preparation and cooking time: About 10 minutes
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar/superfine sugar
- 300 ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups)
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
Put the eggs, sugar and 45 ml (3 tbsp) milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
Pour the remaining milk into a pan with the vanilla essence and bring slowly to the boil.
Gradually pour the milk onto the egg mixture stirring until smooth. Then strain and return to the pan. Stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil.
Updated: March 29, 2017
Quick Mediterranean chicken combines strips of chicken fillets with peppers and penne cooked in a herb flavoured soup. This is a really quick dish to prepare and cook. Great for those nights when time is short.
Quick Mediterranean Chicken
- Preparation time: about 15 minutes
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
- 1 yellow pepper, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 10 fl oz can tomato, basil and oregano soup (Campbells)
- 300 ml (10 fl oz) water
- salt and pepper
- 170 g (6 oz) penne, De Cecco is my favourite
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- Serve with sautéed courgettes/zucchini and broccoli florets.
- Large frying pan/skillet or sauté pan
Heat oil in the pan over a medium heat.
Add the chicken, pepper and garlic and stir fry for 5 minutes.
Stir in the soup and water. Season to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and peppers are soft.
Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Add the pasta to the pan and cook according to the directions on the packet. Drain. Stir the pasta through the chicken and peppers.
Sprinkle over the basil and serve with pasta, and sautéed courgettes/zucchini and broccoli florets.