When I came back form my holidays I was informed that I have won a baking class with Ngaire of blog cook2koto. Ngaire has been a pastry chef for a few years and has been teaching in private collages. She grew tired of teaching students that didn’t give a damn about learning or showed no interest in the subject which lead her to the reason why she has started her blog. This November, she will be making her way to KOTO Hanoi to volunteer her time to teach kids how to make desserts for 3 months.
KOTO stands for Know One Teach One and it is an organisation run in Vietnam which provides disadvantaged and street children an opportunity to work in the hospitality industry, it also teaches them English and provides them with essential life skills. A way to fund for this trip, Ngaire is offering baking classes at $50/person which could be held at the comfort of your own home or hers. The classes are tailored made to suit what you want to learn. It’s a good way to get a group of friends together and learn how to bake.
What I wanted to learn was how to make different types of pastries. So I figured I’ll have Ngaire show me a few techniques and provides some tips on how to make perfect pastries. On the agenda was to learn how to make pate sucree, choux and puff pastry all in a period of about 3hours.
We started off with making the dough for the puff pastry which had to be chilled before I rolled it out and did my turns. Making puff pastry is a fairly time-consuming process but it is pretty simple. It involves laying chilled butter onto the dough, which is then folded and rolled a number of times (“turns”), creating a dough which contains layers of butter throughout. So when this pastry is being baked, the steam produced within each layer pushes the dough up creating a very flaky pastry.
We experimented with the use of butter and copha (vegetable shortening) to control the rate and amount the dough would rise. Copha has a higher melting point so steam is let off at a slower rate and puff pastries made with copha tend to rise higher. The only problem is that pastries made this way tends to have a bland flavour and waxy texture, so this was the reason why we combined the copha and butter together. But this proved to be a little difficult since the copha was still quite solid and chunky, so when I was doing my turns, there will be bits of copha trying to poke out. It is probably best to keep the copha sitting on the bench to soften overnight and to perhaps finely grate it.
Normally you’d do 6 turns for the puff pastry if you were to use it straight away but if you wanted to freeze it for later use then this is also possible. You’d only do 4 turns before placing it in the freezer. When it is time for you to use it, defrost the frozen puff pastry overnight and complete the last two folds before using for best results. So this is what I did, you’ll hear about how it works out in the near future.
Next up I made choux pastry all by hand – no mixers needed, but boy did I get a work out! It is essentially a roux (a cooked mixture of flour and butter) with eggs incorporated into it. These were to be used to of course make profiteroles and eclairs. For the eclairs, they were filled with some whipped cream and Ngaire whipped up a simple coffee glaze with freshly brewed coffee and icing sugar. For the profiteroles, we dipped them in a chocolate ganache and filled them with left over whipped cream or dulce de leche.
I love how you could simply glaze and fill these up these with whatever flavours you want
These were also quite easy to make, so croquembouche here I come.. Nah just kidding!
There are a few different types of pastries suitable for making tarts, all which have different stability properties and butter:sugar ratios. In terms of sweet pastries, there are two types; pate sucree and pate sablee. Pate sucree has a lower portion of butter compared to pate sablee, as a result, it is easier to handle and less fragile.
I’ve attempted making shortcrust pastries for tarts before but have yet to find a recipe that is easy to manage and one that doesn’t cause the pastry to shrink. Ngaire explains that the main reason for the shrinkage is due it being overworked. So make sure all your ingredients are well chilled and that you keep the amount you work the pastry to a minimum (that is, when you knead and roll out the dough).
We decided to make chocolate pate sucree tart shells and fill them up with salted caramel. A dead easy chocolate ganache was made by heating up cream in the microwave for a few minutes until some steam appears and equal amounts of finely chopped dark chocolate was added and mixed. Once the ganache has cooled and set, we topped the tarts with some edible gold leaf. I was impressed by how fantastic this tart looked and tasted and how dead set easy it was to make this pastry. The key thing to remember is to never overwork the dough.
Any left over dough we had was transformed into cookies which were brushed with some eggwhites and topped with crushed pistachios or cinnamon sugar.
Choux pastry (Pate a choux)
Makes about 2 dozen profiteroles and about 1 dozen 10cm eclairs
1 tsp sugar
125gm plain flour
- Preheat oven to 220C (425F) and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
- Boil water and butter with salt and sugar in a saucepan; remove from heat when mixture is at a boil.
- Mix in flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and the dough starts leaving the sides of the pan. Cool slightly for 1 minute.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next one (The dough should be shiny and smooth.
- Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
- Pipe pastry into 2-3cm balls for the profiteroles and 10cm logs for the eclairs, 2-3cm apart on baking sheets.
- Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping.
- Bake at 220C (425F) for 15mins.
- Decrease the temperature to 180C (350F) and bake for a further 20mins until golden.
- Remove from a rack and cool (You could pierce or cut open the pastries to release steam. Remove any uncooked dough or puffs otherwise they could sink as they cool.)
- Fill and decorate to taste.
Sweet crust pastry (Pate Sucree)
Makes 12 small (~10cm) tarts
(To make chocolate tart shells we added 25gms cocoa powder)
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs and mix well.
- Incorporate flour, salt and cocoa and quickly form the dough (Make sure you do not overwork the pastry otherwise it will shrink when baked – Half a dozen kneads should do).
- Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in fridge for 30-60mins.
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
- Roll dough out on a lightly floured clean surface to a thickness of about 3mm (Flour both sides of the dough and the rolling pin to avoid it sticking to the surfaces).
- Line tins and chill for 30mins
- Prick the base of each pastry case with a fork and line case with baking paper and fill with layer of ceramic pie weights, beans or rice (the latter two could be saved and reused)
- Bake blind for 15mins, remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5mins. Cool on wirerack.
- Fill tarts with whatever filling you want.