Signature Bakes: Put spring sunshine on your plate
Great British Bake Off finalist Ian Cumming is putting sunshine on our plates this month - courtesy of a golden butter-crusted pithivier and lemon cupcakes topped with edible flowers
Chicken & Mushroom Pithivier
If you’re ever going to make puff pastry from scratch then now might be as good a time as any. Or maybe you’re juggling childcare and working from home, making it the worst possible time for such culinary fripperies - if so then of course you can just buy puff pastry. If you do take this easy option then do try and get hold of the all-butter versions - you’ll need about 800g. It costs a little bit more but you’ll really notice the difference in that joyous butteriness.
400g plain flour
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
140g cold water
230g unsalted butter
400g skinned & boned chicken thighs
30g unsalted butter
1 chopped small onion
250g sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
2tbsp fresh tarragon
20g plain flour
125g Vermouth or white wine
150g chicken stock
1tsp whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg yolk mixed with a tsp of cream or milk
Start by putting a pack of butter in the freezer about an hour before you intend to make the pastry.
Mix the plain flour with the salt in a mixing bowl. Dice the 80g of butter and rub it in with your fingertips until it disappears.
Sprinkle in the water and cut it through with a knife. Bring the dough together and knead it for a couple of minutes.
Roll the pastry out to a rectangle about 5 inches wide and about 14 inches high and put in a plastic bag on a baking tray in the fridge. Leave it here for at least 20 minutes.
Take the pastry out the fridge and the frozen butter out of the freezer. Lightly flour your work surface and lay the pastry with a narrow edge towards you. (The less flour you use the better - you’ll need a little but if you use too much the layers won’t stick together very well when you fold them over. When you do fold try and brush away as much flour as possible from the pastry.)
Try and imagine that the pastry is a letter that you are going to fold into thirds. Grate about half of the butter onto the two thirds closest to you leaving about 1cm around the edge with no butter on it. Then, take the top third with no butter on and fold it over the middle third, gently pressing it down. Then take that bit and fold it over the bottom third, gently pressing it down. All the butter should now be enclosed in pastry.
Rotate your pastry 90 degrees and roll it out so it is approximately 5 x 14 inches, once again with the short side towards you. Repeat the steps above with the remaining frozen butter.
Now turn it 90 degrees again and roll it out to approximately 5 x 14 inches again. Repeat this twice more. Your pastry is now done! Wrap it in a bag or clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge whilst you get on with preparing the filling.
Chop the chicken thighs into small bite-sized chunks. Melt 30g of butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and gently fry until soft. Add the chicken thighs and cook until you’re sure they’re no longer pink in the middle. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more before adding the garlic and tarragon and frying for a couple more minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and mix it around the pan.
Pour over the Vermouth/wine and reduce until it has almost disappeared. Add the chicken stock and mustard and once again reduce until the mixture has become quite thick again. It can’t be too liquid as it will make construction of our tart impossible. Leave it to cool bearing in mind it will become more solid as it cools.
Take your pastry out of the fridge and chop it almost in half - make one half marginally bigger than the other. Put the slightly bigger piece to one side whilst you roll out the smaller piece for the base. I use a 9 inch quick release cake tin as a guide. Remove the base and place the ring over the pastry. There will be excess pastry (don’t trim it yet) but you can use that for making cheese straws. Place the pastry on a piece of baking parchment.
Take the filling out of the fridge and carefully place it over the middle of your pastry. Shape it into a gentle mound using the cake tin as a guide, with the filling about 10mm inside the tin. Moisten the base with a wet pastry brush.
Put all this to one side whilst you roll out the other half of pastry. This half needs to be marginally bigger than the base. Once you are happy with the size gently place it over the base and smooth it roughly into shape.
Smooth the top piece of pastry into place. Take a really sharp pointed knife and cut out your pithivier - I once again use my 9in cake tin for this. You should aim for a rim about 20mm wide. Put the off-cuts to one side and use for cheese straws.
Slide your pithivier on its baking parchment onto a tray. You can use a flat tray or one with edges. It might be easier to put it on a tray with no edges, however some butter inevitably leaks out during the bake so you may want to use a tray with sides to stop that butter dripping into the oven.
In a small bowl or cup mix together the egg yolk with the cream or milk and use this to brush all over the top of the pithivier. Next use a skewer to make a small hole in the top of the tart. Take a very sharp knife (ideally a Stanley knife or scalpel) and, starting at the skewer hole, score curves across the pastry going only as far as the base rim. Once you have gone all the way around, place the tart in the fridge to chill ideally for about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Bake for about 35 minutes or until it is a deep gold colour.
Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes
Makes about 10
This is a very easy cupcake recipe but also a very delicious one that should bring a ray of spring sunshine into your kitchen. I’ve used violets and daisies to decorate mine for the photos but by the time you read this you may be able to use other flowers for yours. So many flowers are actually edible. Many barely taste of anything but some, like thyme and rosemary, pack a lovely punch. Please check up on what you intend to use, though, as not all flowers can be eaten and the internet is flooded with cakes decorated with beautiful, but poisonous, flowers!
2 large eggs
60g caster sugar
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
20g or 4tsp lemon juice
35g veg oil
100g self raising flour
75g double cream
60g lemon curd
75g icing sugar
1.5 tsp lemon juice
A few teaspoons of lemon curd
Note: As you’ll see in the ingredients above I have listed the liquid ingredients by weight rather than volume. Measuring small volumes like these can easily cause errors to creep in so it is always much more accurate to weigh liquids. As you may remember from school 1 gram of water is the same as 1ml. If you feel like it I can’t recommend making your own lemon curd highly enough - it’s citrusy zing will beat any shop bought version hands down!
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a cupcake tin with cases.
Separate the eggs, putting yolks in one mixing bowl and whites in another. Add the caster sugar, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, water and vegetable oil in with the egg yolks. Briefly whisk to combine.
Sieve in the self raising flour and briefly whisk.
Using a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
Split between the cupcake cases and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile beat together all the icing ingredients. It might take a couple of minutes to thicken.
Using a sharp knife, cut out a small hole from the top of each cupcake and fill it with about half a teaspoon of lemon curd.
Fill a piping bag or even just a sandwich bag with the (very soft) icing, cut the corner off and pipe a lovely swirl on top of each cake before decorating with edible flowers.
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