Kouign-amann (pronounced queen ah-mon) is, IMHO, the “queen” of pastries. A cross between a croissant and a morning bun, this laminated little-piece-of-heaven-on-earth hails from Brittany, in northwest France. The main difference between kouign-amanns and croissants is a layer of sweet, crispy caramelized sugar on the outer edges of the pastry.
These mini pear pies remind me of apple dumplings, but with a twist! Instead of being wrapped in a sheet of pastry, poached pears are surrounded by a long thin spiral of rough puff, which makes the texture light and delicate. Serve them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and your guests will sing your praises!
This technical challenge uses Paul Hollywood’s recipe for six sweet and six savory pretzels. The savory pretzels are made with traditional pretzel dough sprinkled with coarse salt and sesame seeds before baking. The sweet variety has poppy seeds and orange zest mixed into the dough. After baking, it’s brushed with orange syrup and garnished with candied orange peel.
From the time custard was invented, this magical, golden concoction of eggs, milk and sugar has been intimately tied to pastry, as the name is derived from the French crouste (for "crust") and the Anglo-Norman crustarde, meaning "tart or pie with a crust." These custard tarts feature a simple, sweet short-crust pastry, with the addition of a small amount of ground almonds for a nutty flavor and added crunch. Done right, the custard should come out smooth and creamy, and the crust should be nicely browned (no soggy bottoms!).
While English muffins are fairly simple to make, they do take time. The key to a good flavor and lots of little holes inside is a long, slow rise. Unlike most yeast breads, English muffins are "baked" on the stove, usually on a hot griddle or cast iron frying pan. This makes them nice and toasty on each side, but still slightly squidgy in the middle.
This technical challenge proved difficult (See what I did there?) for many of the contestants on The Great British Baking Show. But it was the plaiting that had them tied up in knots. Outside of that, it’s a pretty basic dough, and if you understand the pattern, you should be able to create a decent loaf.
Rum babas, or baba aux rhum as the French call them (I always feel like I should roll my Rs when I say it), are of Polish descent but have been claimed by the French, as well as the Italians. Traditionally, the rum baba is made in the shape of an over-sized champagne cork. If it’s made in a circular mold with a hole in the middle it’s known as a savarin. (But who am I to correct Paul Hollywood, whose rum baba recipe calls for just this type of mold!)