Its name means “nun” in French, and this popular pastry is found in patisseries and boulangeries all over France. Made of pâte à choux and filled with pastry cream, two buns, like little cream puffs, are stacked on top of each other and decorated to look like nuns dressed in their habits.
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!).
Îles flottante, eggs in snow, floating islands … a rose by any other name … would still be a dessert consisting of poached meringues floating on a sea of crème anglaise, a vanilla-scented custard thin enough to pour (also called pouring custard).
Once you’ve had homemade angel food cake, you realize there really is no comparison with the kind that comes from a box. What sets angel food cake apart from other sponge cakes — and what makes it a suitable food for angels, apparently — is the fact that it contains no egg yolks and no fat. The only leavening in the cake comes from beating air into the egg whites until they form a meringue-like consistency. This creates a high-rising cake with a light, airy texture that would probably float on a cloud (making it easier for angels to eat it, no doubt)!
Fondant fancies are little cakes, often layered with jam or marzipan, covered with a thin coating of fondant and usually adorned with icing or sugar paste flowers or other intricate decorations. Watching The Great British Bake Off bakers making their fondant fancies was quite entertaining, until I had to do it myself. Trying to create 25 identically sized, uniformly coated miniature cakes can be extremely frustrating, not to mention messy!
The fraisier gets its name from the French word for strawberry, la fraise. Visually stunning, the fraisier is distinctive because of the layer of strawberry halves arranged so that the cut sides line the outside of the cake. The result is an elegant confectionary creation that would make an exquisite ending to a festive dinner party or a stunning addition to a dessert table at any large celebration.
It’s biscuit week in the Great White Tent, and Paul Hollywood’s technical challenge is a chocolate tea cake, whose only connection to biscuits is a thin, wafer-like cookie at the base of a meringue-filled chocolate dome, the whole effect of which seems more like a candy bar than a biscuit.
“A naughty treat that’s unbeatable when eaten warm and covered in sugar.” That’s the description for Paul Hollywood’s jam doughnuts on the BBC website. And it’s true.
For such a noble name, the queen of puddings is a rather humble combination of custard fortified with breadcrumbs, topped with a layer of jam and crowned with peaks of meringue (another theory on the origins of its name).
Hand-raised pies use a hot water crust pastry, which is made with boiling water and lard. As for the fillings, this recipe uses chicken, bacon and dried apricots seasoned with fresh thyme. They are hearty and sturdy, as long as you can get the pastry to cooperate.