It’s the semi-final of The Great British Bake Off and Steven, Kate, Sophie and Stacey will face three patisserie challenges before three of them make it to next week’s coveted finale. But who will fall at the final hurdle? Whose pastry buns will be pitiful? And whose macarons will be maca-wrong?
By the sounds of things, it’s not an easy one to call as Paul admits, “this has been the hardest decision that I’ve been involved with in eight years.”
One of the pastries the bakers will be mastering is choux pastry. The light mixture made from butter, water, flour and eggs doesn’t use a raising agent, but instead relies on the moisture content in the mix to steam during cooking to puff up the pastry.
The pastry can be used to make some of our favourite French pastries including cream and chocolate filled éclairs, stacks of profiteroles, savoury cheesy gougères, and Bake-Off-famous Paris-Brest and St. Honoré cakes.
But how do you get your choux pastry to perfectly puff, yet remain light and not soggy? Our food team at Good Living have given us 10 top tips – and if the bakers follow them to the letter, getting to the final will be a choux-in.
1. Be well prepped before you start making your choux so your timings are right - preheating your oven is essential.
2. Follow your recipe – until you’ve mastered the basics, patisserie is not the time to experiment. Most traditional recipes are highly precise and have been passed down through generations.
3. When heating the water and butter don’t allow the mix to steam too much or you will reduce the liquid content in the recipe.
4. Make sure everything is the same temperature – if the eggs are fridge cold it will be more difficult and take longer to beat into the paste. If the paste is too hot, the eggs will cook before you can fully incorporate them. You can cool the mixture down quicker by spreading it over a plate before returning it to the pan.
5. The key to well risen, strong choux pastry is beating the raw mix vigorously while you gradually add the egg to create strong gluten strands that set in the oven.
6. Wet your finger with a little water and gently push down any peaks in the piped, raw pastry to prevent the tops from burning.
7. Sprinkle the baking tray with a little water to create extra steam that will help your buns rise in the oven.
8. The easiest way to branch out is to experiment with fillings. Instead of a heavy crème patissière, try whipping cream into soft peaks and stirring through crushed raspberries with a little vanilla. Or thin soft cheese with a splash of cream for simple cheesecake bites.
9. Fill your choux buns just before serving so they stay crisp.
10. If you’ll be serving your choux buns much later after baking, make sure you dry them out with a second bake. Fresh choux buns can sink due to their soft eggy centre so by piercing the bottom and drying out in the oven you reduce the chance of sinking and filling leakage.