Brendan Bakes » Pastries Great British Bake Off Contestant Wed, 30 Oct 2013 12:44:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Choux Pastry Thu, 29 Aug 2013 08:36:46 +0000 brendan

choux3Often regarded as a challenge in the kitchen, by following a few basic rules you too can produce perfect choux pastry. Perfect for filling with crème patissière or other indulgences.


  • 125g water
  • 125g whole milk
  • 100g butter
  • 5g salt (1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 medium eggs – room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ Gas 6. Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a tight dough forms and pulls away from the side of the pan, 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. In a bowl, beat 4 1/2 eggs and add to the dough in four batches, stirring vigorously between additions until the eggs are completely incorporated and the pastry is smooth.  You can also use an electric stand mixer for this, which is less effort. The dough should be glossy and very slowly hang, stretch and fall from the spoon in thick ribbons. If necessary, beat in the remaining ½ egg.
  4. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2-inch mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them to allow for expansion. (If you haven’t got a piping bag and nozzle, use a medium-sized plastic sandwich bag that you can seal the top of. Cut off a corner about the size of a £1 coin and use that instead to pipe out the mounds).
  5. choux2Turn oven down to 180C once you have put the choux in the oven. Depending on size of choux e.g. profiteroles, bake for 15 minutes at 180C/gas 4. Turn off heat and leave to dry in the residual heat of the oven for 20 minutes or so. For Paris-Brest or éclairs, bake for 20 minutes and again, turn off oven and the residual heat will dry the shells to crispy. (Do not open oven door after 10 minutes or so to check progress, as the choux will not have set and will partly or fully collapse!)
  6. Try to leave filling the choux until an hour or two before you intend to serve them, as any filling will gradually reduce the crispness. Classical fillings are French Pastry Cream, or Chantilly Cream. You can also add a small amount of jam to the base of split choux before piping in the cream. They can also be dipped into melted chocolate, dark or white.
  7. To fill a profiterole or éclair, make a small hole in the base of the pastry, and use a piping bag with a nozzle that has a small opening to pipe in the filling. (For this step, you will need a piping bag and nozzle. But you can split the pastry and fill with a teaspoon instead).
  8. Recipe makes 35 small choux; 18 éclairs; 14 Paris –Brest approx. Can be stored – unfilled – for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
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Aubergine, Chestnut & Stilton Wellington Thu, 20 Dec 2012 10:03:05 +0000 brendan

This is a rather special vegetarian dish for Christmas. Some elements can be made in advance, even the day before, helping to reduce the work on Christmas Day itself. I am suggesting a Scandinavian pastry that is easier to work with than rough puff but if you prefer to use shop-bought, all-butter puff pastry that would work well too. You will need 2 x 320g ready rolled sheets, or 1 x 600g block cut in half.

8 generous servings.

Brendan's Aubergine, Chestnut & Stilton Wellington Brendan's Aubergine, Chestnut & Stilton Wellington

Ingredients List


  • 250g softened, unsalted butter
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g quark cheese
  • 1/8 tsp salt


  • 2 large courgettes
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 400g fresh spinach , ready washed
  • Small bunch of parsley – English or flat leaf, chopped
  • 6 sprigs of thyme – stripped
  • 8 sage leaves – chopped
  • 200g whole cooked chestnuts, (vacuum –packed chestnuts are now readily available)
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 200g stilton (use feta if you don’t like stilton)
  • 150g parmesan – coarsely grated
  • 250g ricotta
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pepper and a little salt
  • Sunflower oil + butter for frying, plus extra to grease baking tray



In a large bowl put soft butter and quark and mix well with a hand held mixer for 2 minutes, or use a stand mixer with paddle attachment.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together well. Transfer to butter/quark mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine to a dough.

Transfer to lightly floured surface and give it 5-6 kneads until smooth – do not over-knead. Cut in half, cover each half with Clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes.


Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. *Cut up the courgettes into small dice. Put in bowl and set aside. Next cut the aubergines into 2cm/1/2” dice. Put in bowl and set aside.

  • Slice the spring onions finely and put in small bowl.
  • Wilt the spinach in a saucepan, drain in sieve fully pressing out all liquid with a wooden spoon. Roughly chop and set aside.
  • Cut up chestnuts into quarters and set aside in a bowl.
  • Chop parsley and sage leaves fairly finely. Mix in the stripped thyme and set aside.
  • Grate the parmesan on the coarse part of the grater and set aside
  • Crumble the stilton (or feta) and set aside

all items asterisked can be prepared the day before and kept covered in Clingfilm in the fridge. (Not the aubergine as it will oxidise). The pastry can be made several days in advance and kept refrigerated.

  • Fry the courgette in 1tbs hot oil and a small knob of butter for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Fry the aubergine in 2tbs hot oil and a small knob of butter for 3 minutes. Lay on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil before adding to the courgette. Add to the courgette. In a small frying pan, fry the pine nuts in 2tsp of oil and a small knob of butter. Give nuts a 30 second start and then add in the sliced spring onions. Cook until soft and nuts are a light brown. Add these to aubergine/courgette mix. Add in the chopped cooked spinach, plus the mixed herbs, the quartered  chestnuts, and the grated parmesan. Mix thoroughly but gently as you don’t want to break the vegetables down.
  • Whisk the 2 egg yolks and ricotta together until combined. Add to vegetable mix and seasoning with salt and pepper, bearing in mind that the stilton or feta will add more salt.
  • The filling mixture is now ready. (The courgette and aubergine will be al dente but will continue to cook during the baking period, and it is important to have some texture to chew on rather than a vegetable mash!)

Preheat oven to 190C. Grease a 30cm x 40cm/12” x 16” baking tray.

Assembly and Cooking

  • Roll out half of the pastry to a rectangle of 20cm x 36cm/8” x 14” and to a £1 coin thickness. Transfer to greased prepared baking tray. Spoon and heap the mixture onto pastry rectangle but leave clear a 1 inch/2.5cm border all the way round. Spread the crumbled feta over the top of filling. Brush the clear border with egg wash that will form seal.
  • Now roll the other half of the pastry to a slightly larger rectangle than the previous one – say 22cm x 38cm – as it has to cover the mounded filling. Cover the filling and press both halves together. Trim and neaten edges leaving ¾” border. Scallop the border with the back of a knife. Brush the wellington all over with egg wash.
  • Using a small circular cutter, cut 2 holes in top of pastry to allow steam to escape. Cut out shapes from the pastry trimmings to form a pattern. Finally, brush these cut-outs with egg wash. (See photo as a guide).
  • Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 35 – 45 minutes. When cooked, leave rest for 10 minutes and transfer carefully to serving tray using 2 large palette knives or spatulas to support it.
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Spinach, Cheese & Walnut Strudel Wed, 03 Oct 2012 10:21:14 +0000 brendan

I have often made apple strudel which is always a popular and delicious dessert. For the Great British Bake Off, however, I decided to do something savoury instead. Trawling through recipe books I came across some interesting ideas in my well-thumbed copy of the classic ‘Greens Cookbook’ by Deborah Madison.

The filling I came up with altered and added to the ingredients in a recipe I found there. Three different cheeses may seem excessive but each has its own purpose: the goats cheese adds creaminess, the feta gives flavour and the ricotta helps to keep things a little lighter and is a good binding agent. Served with a salad full of flavoursome tomatoes this strudel would make a great vegetarian lunch for friends. It would also be excellent as part of a buffet.  If you don’t feel up to making your own pastry, try to find a good one in a Greek deli.

Brendan's Spinach, Cheese and Walnut Strudel Brendan's Spinach, Cheese and Walnut Strudel


Strudel pastry (or use shop bought – in which case you will probably need to make two shorter strudels):

  • 480g strong bread flour + extra for flouring pastry, dusting pin, to work with etc.
  • 6g salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbls sunflower oil or other flavourless oil
  • 1 tbls cider vinegar
  • 310 – 320ml lukewarm water


  • 400g Leeks – white part only – say 3 medium
  • 400g courgette – 2 large or 3 small/medium – 2cm diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 325g fresh spinach
  • 140g Ricotta cheese
  • 300g soft Goat’s cheese
  • 100g Feta cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh mint – small packet
  • Rosemary x 3 stems– de-stalked and chopped finely
  • Flat-leaved parsley – ½ a bunch– chopped roughly
  • 125g butter
  • 60 ml oil
  • 2 eggs – large – plus 1 for egg wash
  • 3 tbls cornflour
  • 100g walnuts – roasted and ground in a Magimix.
  • ½ small packet of ready-made breadcrumbs, or make fresh and toast in oven for 5 minutes till crispy.

Method - Strudel Pastry

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add egg, vinegar and oil to lukewarm water, whisk and add to flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together. The dough will be warm and somewhat sticky. Knead for 10 minutes, using extra flour as necessary. When it is shiny and elastic, put on an oiled plate, cover with a bowl or tinfoil and put in a warm place – 90ᵒ – 100ᵒF for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. You can prepare the filling while waiting (see below).

Put a cloth onto work surface, say 4’ x 3’. Dust with flour generously, and especially so in the centre. When dough has rested place dough in centre of cloth and start to roll it out into a wide circle. When it is about 1cm thick, stop rolling. Remove any jewellery or watch so that hands and forearms are free of anything that might tear the pastry. Oil hands and forearms and put one arm, with hand facing downwards, under the pastry up to the centre and let the other arm join it. Then let pastry roll off your forearms as you move them in opposite directions.

Continue in this way while moving round the pastry to avoid concentrating on any one part. You can also place your forearm gently on pastry and pull parts of it away from you with the free hand, but slowly and gently. The important points is lots of small movements rather than over-stretching and tearing, and keep moving round the pastry so that you are stretching in different parts of it. The pastry should become paper thin and you should be able to see the outline of the pattern that might be on the cloth underneath through it. Cut the pastry to the required size with either a scissors or a pizza cutting wheel.

Then brush it all over with melted butter carefully so as not to tear the pastry. Sprinkle pounded walnuts and bread crumbs over it leaving a 1 ½ “border free all around. Now pile up the filling close to one long end nearest to you and press filling together to make it compact. The filling should be about 3” wide and domed. Using the cloth, bring the pastry end nearest to you up onto the filling. Brush off any excess flour as you go before continuing with another roll forward.

Continue until roll is complete. Have a greased baking tray ready to roll the strudel onto and ensure that the ‘underneath’ is on bottom of tray to make a good seal to avoid leakage. Tuck in both ends fully underneath to ensure that both ends are also sealed, but be careful not to make any tears. Brush with melted butter. Dust with remaining ground walnuts. Use scraps of pastry to create pattern if liked. In this case, am going to create a lattice design with a lattice-roller to provide contrast of surface textures.

Transfer to pre-heated oven and bake for 4 5 – 55 minutes on middle shelf. Allow it to go really brown but not burnt. Even if the top is very brown and over crisp, the inner layers will be fine.

The filling

Pre-heat oven to 180ᵒC

Slice leaks fairly finely and cook in some oil and butter until soft. Add the chopped garlic halfway through. Remove from pan into a bowl. Next fry the diced courgettes together but stop at al dente stage. Mix and cream the ricotta, the soft goat’s cheese, and the egg together, and add the cornflour. Whisk to mix thoroughly.

Cook the spinach in a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water for about 4 minutes. Drain thoroughly. When it is cool, turn the spinach onto at least 5 sheets of kitchen towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Also pat the top with some kitchen towel. Note that it is important throughout the vegetable preparation, to mop up as much moisture as possible due to the high moisture content in the vegetables. The creamed cheeses/egg/cornflour mix will bind the lot together beautifully, but don’t include more moisture than is necessary.

Now add the prepared herbs. When the mixture is cool, stir in the cheese/egg cornflour mixture. Transfer to a bowl until pastry is ready.

Notes: I used a lattice roller to make the covering lattice. You could do this by hand cutting strips with a pizza cutter, but it is tricky and time consuming, and it can be omitted altogether. Just glaze and sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts, or pulse them finely in a nut-grinder, but not to a paste.

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Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry Mon, 17 Sep 2012 06:18:14 +0000 brendan

This is a special dish, suitable for a celebration or family gathering. And it is excellent for Christmas Day lunch or dinner. Although there are a number of elements, none is particularly tricky. Just make sure to allow enough time and the making of this should prove a pleasure (3-4 hours in total). Some elements can be made in advance, even the day before. The recipe is quite traditional but I have added a twist with the ‘Scandinavian’ pastry. This is easier to work with than rough puff, it cuts beautifully and the light cheese flavour from the quark really complements the fish. The coulibiac is also delicious served cold the day after. You can also use flakey pastry or brioche pastry as an alternative.

Brendan's Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry Brendan's Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry Brendan's Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry


  • 250g softened, unsalted butter
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g quark cheese
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Pancakes to line pastry

  • 2 ½ oz plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4pt whole milk
  • 1/4pt water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp finely chopped dill

The Fish

  • About 1.5lbs/750-800g middle-cut salmon in one piece
  • 125g/4oz butter
  • ¼ cup sunflower oil
  • Salt & pepper

The Filling

  • 270g button mushrooms
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 180ml double cream
  • *15 saffron strands
  • 70g white rice
  • 180g butter
  • 4 shallots
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Small bunch of flat leaved parsley
  • 125g/4ozs plain flour
  • 63g/2 oz unsalted butter
  • 200g fresh spinach – pre-washed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Bouquet garni x 1



In a large bowl put soft butter and quark and mix well with a hand held mixer for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together, and transfer to butter/quark mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine together to form a dough. Transfer to lightly floured surface and give it 5-6 kneads until smooth. Cut in half and cover each with Clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes to firm up.

The Mushrooms

Chop the mushrooms finely and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Heat butter in pan, add lemon juice, chopped shallots, and half the cream – 90ml – and cook over gentle heat until all liquid has evaporated. Season and allow to cool.

Prepare the rice

Cook the shallots in some butter over a gentle heat.  Add the rice and 110 ml water, the saffron, the bouquet garni, and some seasoning and cook on stove top until all liquid is absorbed – about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool.

Make the pancakes

Beat all ingredients together to make a thin batter. Use an oil spray to lightly oil pancake pan, and pour 1 small, ladleful of batter for each pancake. Make a batch of 8, cover and leave aside.

The eggs

Boil eggs for 7 minutes, run under cold water, peal and roughly chop. Leave aside.

The Spinach

Destalk the spinach leaves, and steam for a few minutes until wilted.  Drain and season and leave aside.

Assembly of the coulibiac

Firstly cook the salmon in a large frying pan for 4 minutes each side using the butter and oil. Transfer to large plate to allow to cool thoroughly.  No matter if salmon is still undercooked in centre. It will finish cooking during the bake.

Roll out one half of the pastry to a rectangle – 40cm x 30cm x 1cm approx, and transfer to greased tray.

Line it with some of the pancakes leaving ½ inch round the edges.

Put ½ of the mushroom mixture along the centre of pancakes, and place the salmon fillet on top in the centre.

Put a layer of spinach on top of salmon, then the hard-boiled eggs, followed by the rice.

Cover the filling with pancakes and cut off any overlaps with scissors, as necessary.  Cover with other pastry half and seal and crimp the edges. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Turn oven on to 180ᵒC while waiting.

Final stage

Brush coulibiac with egg wash. Make an opening in the centre of the loaf to allow steam to escape.  Either score the pastry with a small knife to give a pattern, or use cut-outs from the pastry trimmings.  Bake the coulibiac for 35 – to 45 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes on its tray and then transfer to serving tray carefully with 2 large palette knives or large fish slices and serve hot. It also tastes delicious the next day at room temperature.

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Tarte Tatin – Façon Parisienne Mon, 03 Sep 2012 06:45:13 +0000 brendan

This is a favourite recipe that has evolved over 15 years of making it. In the early attempts back then, I didn’t understand the importance of using acidic apples that hold their shape well, as some eating apples collapse into mush. I once phoned up ‘Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons’ to ask for advice and got some excellent guidance from the man himself, Raymond Blanc. To obtain the fusion of the apples and caramel, it is crucial to follow the recipe. The ginger adds a delicious twist.

Equipment needed

1 circular 28cm x 5 cm deep, tart tatin dish 28cm (11” x 2”), or similar sized heavy-cast, frying pan.
1 circular pizza plate or similar to cut out pastry circle of 31cm – 12”.

Ingredients – pastry

First make a quantity of rough-puff pastry. You will need 250g/8ozs to make a circle of 30cm – 2.5cm bigger than circumference of tarte tatin tin. You can also use a good quality, all butter shop-bought, puff pastry.

  • 250g strong flour
  • 250g unsalted butter – firm but not hard – diced
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 110ml +/- water


Firstly, make rough-puff pastry. Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Add diced butter and rub some the butter into flour mixture but coarsely. It is important to leave bits of butter showing. Add ¾ of cold water and mix to firm dough – adding the rest of the water as/if needed.  Transfer to small tray, cover with foil or film and put in fridge for 20 – 30 minutes.

Remove from fridge and knead lightly until it becomes smooth. Shape into a rectangle and roll out to about 45cm x 20cm – the classic guidelines are that it should be 2 ½ – 3 times longer than its width. Take 1/3rd of the end away from you to centre of rectangle and bring the lower 1/3rd end up and over to cover that. Give it 1/4 turn and roll out again to the same length and width. Fold as before and leave to rest in fridge for 20 minutes before using for recipe.

After 20 minutes, cut off 250g (8ozs) to make circle of 30 cm – use a pizza plate or similar. The pastry disc should be 2-3cms larger than the tarte pan as it needs to be tucked round the partly cooked apples later. Put circle on the dish you have used to cut it out and place in fridge until needed.

Ingredients – caramel

  • 85g caster sugar (3 ozs)
  • 40g unsalted butter (1 ½ ozs)


Put caster sugar into tarte tatin tin (heavy frying pan) and cook over a medium heat until it caramelises – medium to dark amber colour, but not too dark or it will be bitter. Take off heat and add the butter and stir with a wooden spoon to amalgamate. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients – Tarte filling

  • 2.8kg (6 lbs) large Granny Smith’s or Braeburn apples – 14 apples. (If medium size will need 16-18, but large is better for height in its presentation).

Topping for apples:

  • 70 grams of unsalted butter, diced
  • ½  tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g fresh ginger, finely grated (use cheese grating side on grater)
  • 150g caster sugar


Put caster sugar, cinnamon, and ginger into a small bowl, and with a whisk, mix together.  Set aside while you prepare apples.

Peel and core the apples and cut 12 in half. Then cut 1 of the remaining apples in quarters, and the other in eighths – the quarters are for the centre and the eighths to fill in any small gaps. Cover with a tea towel while you make the caramel.

Place the 24 halves, scooped side to round side, standing upright around the mould. Put quarters in centre and fill in any gaps with the eights as required.  It is important that the apples are packed tightly or it will not hold its shape when turned out.  The apples will be higher than the tin and that’s ok.

Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon/ginger mix over the apples – push down into crevices – and dot apples with the 70g of butter.

Place in hot oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place the pastry circle over the hot apples, tucking the edge of the pastry inside the mould around the apples.

Cook for a further  30 – 35 minutes.

Remove from oven onto rack and let stand for 15 minutes before turning out onto serving dish.

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Savoury Danish Sat, 01 Sep 2012 09:10:03 +0000 brendan

I recently spent a lovely week touring Dorset. In Lyme Regis we chanced upon the splendid Town Mill Bakery where my eye fell immediately on their ‘Savoury Danish’. And they tasted as good as they looked! This is my interpretation. Be sure to drop by the Bakery if you happen to be in Lyme Regis yourself.

Enough to serve 6, but just increase quantities x 2, x 3, x 4 for larger numbers. Great for lunch or picnics, and when scaled up, for large gatherings.

Brendan's Danish Savoury Brendan's Danish Savoury Brendan's Danish Savoury

Ingredients – Pastry

  • 1 ¾ lbs flour
  • 15g fine salt
  • 38g fresh yeast or 15g ‘original’ dried yeast (don’t use fast action yeast)
  • 100ml olive oil
  • ½ litre lukewarm water


If using mixer, put all ingredients together in bowl and mix on medium- to high-speed for 4 minutes until dough is smooth. Place in lightly oiled bowl, cover with Clingfilm and allow to prove for 1 hour. (The bread mix is a type of Focaccia). While it is proving, prepare the filling.


Preheat oven to 180ᵒC

Ingredients – Filling

  • ½ butternut squash or similar – peeled and diced – about the size of a sugar cube
  • 2 red peppers – deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • Packet wild rocket
  • 250g packet of baby spinach
  • 100g walnuts, chopped, but not too finely
  • 200g feta cheese – crumbled
  • 1 jar of pre-prepared green pesto
  • Salt & pepper to taste


Put diced squash onto an oven tray. Sprinkle with a light olive oil. Mix with hands to coat and bake in hot oven for 12 minutes. The cubes should still be slightly firm and not mushy. Do the same with the sliced peppers and onions both of which can be mixed and on the same tray. Bake at the same time as the squash.  Set both trays aside to cool.

Degas dough and roll out to the rectangular size of your tray. I use a tray that measures 41cm x 30cm/16” x 12”. Lightly oil the tray.  When you have the desired rectangle, brush all of the pesto across the dough surface. Now sprinkle the cooled vegetables across the pesto surface, next sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the vegetables. Crumble the feta over the lot, and finally spread the rocket and spinach on top of filling.

Starting with the long side, roll up the dough and filling fairly tightly like a Swiss roll. End with the seam side underneath.  Divide the roll into 6 slices. Using a large palette knife or fish-slice, transfer each slice to the oiled tray and lay them next to each other. As the dough reproves, it will spread and join up with its neighbour.  The look is that of a large Chelsea bun.

Let stand for 30 minutes. Bake in pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove and immediately  brush with olive oil. Use a fish-slice to transfer onto plates. Serve with a mixed salad.

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