The idea of writing this blog started back in March when I found out that my application to The Great British Bake Off had been unsuccessful. The aim was to bake something from each episode and then blog about it. Never one to shy away from a big project, I threw myself into this quest with gusto. I have never needed an excuse to bake, often doing it for no reason other than because I dreamt up a new flavour combination and wanted to try it out. I also enjoy adapting recipes to suit my needs. I’m diabetic, so I always use less sugar than a recipe states and, through trial and error, I’ve discovered that I can use about a third of the sugar in most bakes without compromising the result. Maths is definitely not my strength so all my recipe books have the lower sugar measurements written in biro for future reference. My sweet tooth (thanks dad) which is I guess what made me diabetic in the first place, that and a genetic tendency towards the condition on both sides of my family, has become accustomed to less sweet flavours over the years but I would still choose a slice of cake over any other type of food. The addiction is real people!
Which brings me onto Week 6 – Pastry week. I chose to try making the Technical challenge, a French pastry called Puits d’Amour (translation – wells of love). These delicacies are controversial in France because many people think the meaning is rude. I’m assuming that they could refer to a certain part of the female anatomy, although I don’t really see the resemblance, and anyway, it doesn’t stop pastry lovers from devouring them in great quantities. I confess, I hadn’t heard of these before, despite numerous trips to France and its innumerable patisseries. The contestants, bless them, were for the most part in a world of pain during this challenge. The biggest problem being the time constraints imposed on them. Having attempted these very complex pastries I am amazed that anyone managed to finish them at all.
So basically you start by making rough puff pastry. This is relatively simple in itself but requires time and patience to achieve the all important flaky layers. The dough has to be rolled, folded and chilled several times to ensure even layers of cold butter throughout. The butter then melts during cooking and creates the “lamination” or crispy, light layers. This stage took me several hours. The pastry is then cut into discs, pricked with a fork and chilled again on baking sheets. Next you make a creme pat, basically a thick vanilla flavoured custard which can be piped, and chill it ready to use later. Then you make a choux pastry. This is a hot water pastry, the type that is used to make eclairs and profiteroles. I have made this before so I knew that you must have all your ingredients weighed out before you start as speed is crucial when mixing the flour into the water and butter mixture. You also need strong arms and plenty of stamina as the dough has to be vigorously beaten as you add the eggs. Hopefully you end up with a stiff, glossy mixture which you pipe in a circle onto your chilled pastry discs. The choux is then brushed with beaten eggs and sprinkled with sugar nibs. When baked in the oven, the choux rises up, like walls, and a little well appears in the centre. Once cooled completely, the “well” is filled with fruit compote and the creme pat is piped over the top. To finish, the tops are sprinkled with demerara sugar and blow-torched to created a brûlée effect.
I don’t have a blow torch so I put mine under a hot grill for a few moments, which gave a similar result. My testers (my husband, daughter and her friend) gave them the thumbs up. I was pleased that they didn’t have “soggy bottoms” and the sharp compote provided relief from all the sweetness. Overall it was a good result, however, they are so complicated that I am 100 percent certain that no one reading this blog would be tempted to try making them, which is why I have not included the recipe this time!
Until next week, thanks for reading. xx