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Creative Eclairs

How to make eclairs

A few years ago, and a few months after I started this blog I also started to use Google Analytics.  There was a lot to learn, but I enjoyed seeing that my baking and blogging efforts were actually being viewed by people all around the world. It was really neat to see the number of people visiting my blog each day, as well as where they came from.  My inner geek was starting to emerge!
 
I’ll always remember when I first began to notice that people were visiting my blog after being directed to it from another blog.  Not only were people reading my blog, but they liked it enough to actually link to it!  One of the very first people to link to my blog was Ruth Clemens who writes the baking blog The Pink Whisk.  I started following Ruth’s blog after that, and it wasn’t long after that I realised that not only did Ruth write her blog The Pink Whisk, but she also appeared on my TV screen each week in the very first season of The Great British Bake Off.
 
 
Over the next few weeks I was captivated by Ruth’s creations on the Great British Bake Off, so it came as no surprise when she was crowned runner up in the very first season.  Ruth’s bakes were so different from all the other contestants, they were polished and extremely creative.  Ruth’s creativeness and her passion for baking, combined with her charming personality have allowed her to publish a string of successful baking books, the most recent  titled Creative Eclairs focuses exclusively on Eclairs, and choux pastry creations. 
 
 
 
I’ll always have a soft spot for Ruth, so I was thrilled when I received a preview copy of Creative Eclairs to review.  The book is wonderfully written, and includes loads of clear and detailed step by step photographs – something I don’t think enough recipe books include.  The real highlight of the book are the recipes themselves.  There are so many unique flavour combinations to choose from, you’ll be able to make a new one each week for at least 6 months!  Just have a look at the recipe index pages below.
 
 
I couldn’t wait to try my hand at making eclairs.  With so many different flavours to choose from it was too hard to choose just, so I opted for two instead – original vanilla creme patisserie and the mocha creme patisserie.  Both fillings were so easy to make, and tasted absolutely delicious.  I had to restrain myself to make sure I din’t eat the whole lot with a spoon!
 
How to make eclairs
I will admit that I didn’t have instant success with the choux pastry recipe though.  Ruth’s recipe calls for 4 eggs to be used in the choux pastry, but I found that my choux dough was far too runny once the 4th egg was added, even with chilling.  This resulted in flat eclairs that deflated once out of the oven.  Luckily I had the step by step photos from the book to refer to.  It was clear that piped dough in the photos was much thicker and stiffer than mine, so I tried again using only 3 eggs.  This resulted in a choux dough that was much closer in consistency to the dough pictured in the book.  I ran into a similar problem the first time I tried to make choux pastry  last year to use in my Religiuese.  I combined the instructions in Creative Eclairs together with my previous choux learnings, and I was thrilled with the way my eclairs turned out.  They were absolutely delicious, and I can’t wait to try a new flavour combination.  
 
How to make eclairs

Vanilla Eclairs

Recipe by Ruth Clemens from the book Creative Eclairs
Adaptations are shown in pink.
 

Vanilla Crème Patissière

 
Ingredients
 
600ml (20fl oz) Whole Milk 
Seeds scraped from 1 Vanilla Pod, 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste or 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract 
100g (31⁄2oz) caster (superfine) sugar 
4 large egg yolks 
50g (13/4oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
 
Directions:
 
1. In a large jug whisk together the egg yolks and caster (superfine) sugar until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the cornflour and whisk again until of an even consistency. Set to one side.
 
2. Place the milk and vanilla in a medium pan and heat gently until just below boiling point. Whilst whisking the egg mixture continuously, add the warmed vanilla- infused milk a little at a time until both mixtures have been fully worked together.
 
3. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and over a medium heat, whisking continuously, bring to the boil. Continue to cook the crème patissière for 2 minutes until thick and glossy.
 
4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Contact-cover the top of the crème patissière with cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent a skin from forming, and allow to cool. Refrigerate once cooled.
 
5. When you are ready to use it, transfer the chilled crème patissière to a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until it is a smooth and even consistency.
 
 

Basic Choux Pastry

 
Ingredients:
 
75ml (2 1⁄2fl oz) Water 
55ml (2fl oz) Whole Milk 
55g (2oz) Butter 
5ml (1 tsp) Vegetable or Sunflower Oil 
1⁄4 tsp Salt 
1 tsp Sugar 
100g (3 1⁄2oz) Plain (All-Purpose) Flour 
4 Large Eggs *I used 3
Sunflower or vegetable oil spray
 
Directions:
 
1. Place the water, milk, butter, oil, salt and sugar in a medium pan. Heat over a medium heat stirring frequently until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil and add the flour.  With the pan still on the heat, beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball.
 
2. Turn the heat down to low and continue to mix over the heat for 3 minutes.This helps to reduce any excess moisture and changes the paste from a rough shaggy texture to a much smoother, glossy paste. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 2 minutes to cool slightly.
 
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the choux well after each addition until all the eggs have been incorporated. Continue to mix until the consistency returns to a smooth, glossy texture before adding the next egg.
 
When all the eggs have been incorporated, the choux pastry will be glossy with a thick, medium-firm texture.  Transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film (plastic wrap). Allow to cool fully then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This makes the choux pastry much easier to pipe neatly.
 
4.  Once chilled, transfer the choux pastry to a piping (pastry) bag fitted with an 18mm (3⁄4in) piping nozzle (tip). A serrated pen (French style) nozzle (tip) is ideal for éclairs as it creates ridges in the piped éclairs which allow the dough to expand evenly on baking, avoiding any cracking across the top. *I couldn’t find my serrated nozzle (only the Wilton 1M tip which is too deep) so instead I ran a fork lightly down the piped eclairs. This worked great.
 
5. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan) /180°C /350°F/ Gas Mark 4.  Pipe the choux pastry into éclairs or choux buns of the desired size using an even pressure to keep the width of each éclair the same.  Any peaks or misshapen ends can be smoothed with a dampened finger once piped.
 
6.  Spray the éclairs lightly with a vegetable or sunflower oil. This light coating prevents the crust from forming on the éclairs too early in the baking process, allows the choux pastry to expand evenly, and helps prevent the top of the finished éclair from cracking.  Bake for 40 – 50 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
 
 
To Assemble the Eclairs:
 
1. Pierce the base of the éclair once at each end using a small piping nozzle (tip) (for larger 15cm/6in éclairs, also pierce a hole in the middle of the base).
 
2. Add the filling to a piping (pastry) bag fitted with a filling tip – these are also known as Bismarck tips or cupcake filler nozzles (tips), such as Wilton 230.
 
3. Insert the filler nozzle (tip) into the pierced hole at one end and squeeze in the filling gently. Remove the tip and place it into the hole at the opposite end and fill again, just until you see a little movement of the filling at the hole in the opposite end.
 
4. Clean off any excess filling from the base of the éclair with your fingertip or by swiping it across the lip of a small jug.
 
5. Place the warmed liquid fondant (recipe below) in a shallow open bowl – big enough to fit the length of the éclair easily.  Dip the top of the éclair into the mixture. Then with one end leading and the rest following, moving in an arc to remove it from the bowl and allow the excess to drain from one end.  
 
If you’re adding any sprinkles on top like I did, make sure to sprinkle them on immediately after dipping your eclair into the fondant before.  If you wait too long, the glaze will set and the sprinkles won’t stick. Place each éclair onto a wire rack, glazed-side up to set.
 
 

Fondant Glaze

 
Ingredients:
 
300g (10 1⁄2oz) White Sugarpaste (Fondant / ready-to-roll icing) 
30ml (2 tbsp) water
*I added a tiny amount of pink colouring, and 2 squares of white chocolate which made the fondant glaze more opaque.
 
1. Break the fondant into small pieces and place in heatproof bowl with the water. *I added my colouring and white chocolate in this step.
 
2. Heat gently in the microwave in short bursts, or over a pan of steaming water, stirring frequently, until the fondant melts.
 
3. Mix with an electric mixer until the consistency is smooth and even and no lumps remain.The glaze will begin to set while it cools, so use while it is still warm. It can easily be reheated to pouring consistency if it cools too quickly for use.
How to make eclairs
To celebrate the launch of Creative Eclairs a special blog hop is currently taking place.  Why not check out some of the other blogs participating to see what they made? A full list of the blogs taking place can be found here.
 
Creative Eclairs is available for early purchase now through the Stitch Craft Create website now for  £13.84, and will be available through Amazon UK here when it’s officially released the 25th of April.
 
If you’re in the USA, Creative Eclairs is available now for $12.63 though Amazon.com here 

Laduree Religieuse Recipe

Shhh, I have a secret….. I fell in love in Paris.  But not with my husband.  I fell in love with pastries.  Perfect little pastries.  From the first time I set foot into a Laduree patisserie parlour I knew I was somewhere special.  I’d never seen so many gorgeous and unique pastries before, they were like little works of art.  But there was one that immediately stood out – a pretty double stacked pink cream puff lined with white ruffles leading up to a silver pearl at the top.  It was a thing of beauty.  Sadly I never did get to try one that trip because I blew my budget on a box of their signature macarons.  


When I got home from Paris I immediately took to Google and discovered that the pretty pink pastry I saw at Laduree was called a religieuse, and was named so because the pastry is said to look like a nuns habit (headpiece).  

To this day I’ve never fallen out of love with the religieuse, and have always wanted to try and make my own.  So in preparation for Valentines Day I decided to celebrate love by recreating the religieuse from Laduree.  And I kid you not, these were probably the most tastiest things I’ve ever made.  They were to die for, and just as good as the ones from Laduree (which I’ve had on subsequent trips to Laduree.)

Choux pastry provides the base for the religiuese, which also happens to be the same pastry that is used for profiteroles and eclaires so it’s a great recipe to have on hand.  This recipe comes from the Laduree Sucre recipe book, so it’s as authentic as it’ll get.  


This was the first time I’d made choux pastry before so I made sure to follow the recipe exactly as described in the book.  But to my dismay my choux buns didn’t puff up like they should have.  They looked more like English Yorkshire puddings than they did choux buns.  What had I done wrong?  The recipe was very easy to follow and choux pastry is simple to make so I tried again, making sure to follow the instructions very carefully.  The recipe states to bake the choux pastry for about 10 minutes until they have fully puffed up, and then open the oven door a crack to let the steam escape, and cook for another 20 minutes.  I carefully watched my second batch of choux pastry through the oven door and they looked great.  I could see them puffing up nicely, so at the 10 minute mark I opened the door a crack.  I immediately  watched my choux buns defate before my eyes.  How disappointing!  

One thing that stood out while I was piping my choux batter onto my baking sheets was that it seemed a lot thinner than I imagined it would be.  I decided to try the recipe one last time, but this time I used one less egg in order to make the batter slightly thicker.  I also increased the oven temperature and left the door closed the entire time.  Success! My choux buns came out perfectly.  

A few days later I got talking to my friend Sarah from the blog Maison Cupcake and she thought my failed choux pastry attempts may have been down to the fact that I was using a fan oven.  I can’t say for certain if it was the fan that was effecting my first two batches of choux pastry or if it was the consistency of the batter, so I’m going to include the original Laduree recipe as well as my adaptations in pink so you can decide on which one you want to try.  

These religieuse might look difficult to make, but they’re really not.  So go on, and try making them for your special Valentine!


Valentines Day Religiuese
The recipes below are from Laduree Sucre, and have been adapted to make the religiuese.  
Adaptations are shown in pink.


Creme Patissiere

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Bean *I used 1 Tbsp Vanilla Paste
1 2/3 Cups (400ml) Whole Milk
4 Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (80g) Castor Sugar
1/4 Cup (30g) Cornstarch
1 Tbsp (25g) Butter

*300ml double cream, whipped

Directions:

1.  Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Pour the milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla pod and seeds *or vanilla paste.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat, and cover immediately.  Allow to infuse for 15 minutes. 

2.  In a large bowl whisk the egg yolk and sugar until slightly pale.  Incorporate the cornstarch.  

3.  Remove the vanilla pod from the milk, and bring to a simmer.  Pour 1/3 of the milk over the egg yolk mixture (to temper the egg yolks) , and whisk together.  Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a whisk, until thickened.

4.  Remove the creme patisserie from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then incorporate the butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and set. 

5.  Although the creme patissiere was delicious, I found it a bit too rich and heavy.  I had some double cream in the fridge, so I decided to whip it up and fold it into my chilled creme patissiere just to lighten it up a bit.  I’m so glad I did because the mixture of the whipped cream and the creme patissiere was absolutely delicious!
  

Choux Pastry

Ingredients: 

1 Cup – 1/2 Tbsp (120g) Cake Flour  *I used plain all purpose flour
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (100ml) Whole Milk 
1/2 Cup – 1 Tbsp (100ml) Water 
1 Tbsp (10g) Caster Sugar 
1 pinch salt 
5 1/2 Tbsp (80g) Unsalted Butter 
4 Eggs *I used 3


Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)  *I baked mine at 200ºC.   Sift the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In a medium saucepan add the butter, milk and water and bring to a boil.   Remove from the heat, and dump the flour mixture into the liquid.  Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.  Set aside and allow to cool.

2.  Add in the eggs one at a time, stirring until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.  *Here I judged the consistency after adding each egg and decided to only use 3

3.  Transfer batter into a piping bag, and pipe into desired shape.  *To make the religiuese you will need to pipe an equal number of small and large circles on your baking sheet.

4.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes.  When they have started to puff up, open the door very slightly (about 1/8 inch) to allow the steam to escape. Continue to bake the choux pastry for a further 20 – 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar, until the choux buns are golden.  *I baked my choux pastry at 200ºC for 25 minutes, and did not open the door.

5.  Remove the golden choux pastry buns from the oven immediately and pierce them with a sharp knife or skewer to allow for the steam to escape.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Fondant Topping:

Ingredients:

3oz (80g) White Chocolate, melted
4oz (120g) White Pouring Fondant *I used the Silver Spoon powdered version that you mix with water
Drop of pink food colouring

Directions:

1.  In a small bowl (wide enough to dip your chox buns in) prepare the liquid fondant according to the directions on the package.  Pour the melted white chocolate into the liquid fondant mixture and stir until fully combined.  Add a tiny drop of pink food colouring, and stir until evenly blended.  


To Assemble:

In addition to the above recipes, you’ll also need:

* Silver dragees
* A small amount of buttercreme, or leftover creme patissiere

1.  To fill the choux buns, transfer the creme patissiere into a piping bag fitted with a medium plain tipped nozzle.  Insert the nozzle into the hole in the bottom of the choux bun that you made after they came out of the oven.  Gently squeeze the piping bag so that the creme patissiere fills the cavity of the choux bun.  Repeat until all choux buns are filled.  *Do not over fill

2.  Prepare the fondant topping according to the directions above.  Dip the top half of the smaller choux buns into the coloured fondant, gently tapping off any excess.  Add a silver dragee on top, and place the choux buns on a baking sheet or wire rack to allow the fondant to set.  These will become the tops of your religiuese.

3.  Dip the top halves of the larger choux buns into the coloured fondant, gently tapping off any excess.  Let them sit for a minute or two before gently placing the smaller choux bun on top.  Hold the top choux bun in place for a few moments to ensure it stays put.  Repeat until all of the religiuese are assembled.  

4.  Fit a piping bag with a small star tipped nozzle, and fill with a small amount of buttercream or leftover creme patissiere. Starting with the bottom choux bun, pipe a line of buttercream that stretches to fondant covering of the top choux bun.

5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  *The religiuese will keep in the fridge for up to two days.



I’m also submitting my Valentine’s Religiuese to a blogger link ups / challenges this month:  Homemade by Fleur’s virtual tea for two Valentine’s Bake Off, as well as this month’s Tea Time Treats link challenge (Perfect Puddings) hosted by What Kate Baked , and finally the Calendar Cakes challenge hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cake.




French Hot Chocolate, Sweet Paris Book Review and a Giveaway


Phew!  After a whirlwind of Diamond Jubilee baking it was nice to get a bit of a break from baking and blogging by escaping to Italy for a few days.  Last week we travelled to Bologna for a short 3 day city break.  It was my first time in Italy and we (my husband, baby and I) had a fabulous time.  The sun was shining, the people were friendly and most importantly the food was amazing, especially the gelato!  

The gelato in Italy is the best ever.  They’ve got an amazing array of flavours, and I think the best one we tried was probably the ricotta and chocolate – who woulda thought!?  A daily gelato (or two!) was essential in helping to cool down in the hot Italian sun, so you can imagine our disappointment when we landed back on UK soil where the wind and rain was there to great us in full force.

The weather has been so rotten in the UK, I’m skeptical as to if summer will actually ever arrive.  The weather so far has been more suited to hot chocolate rather than gelato, and I’m pleased to say I have the perfect recipe!


A month or so ago I was sent a review copy of Sweet Paris by Michael Paul.  The instant I first opened Sweet Paris I knew it was going to go straight to the top of my “favourites” list.  Although I had a fantastic time in Italy, Paris still remains my favourite city to visit and I will definitely be taking my copy of Sweet Paris with me on my next visit there in August.

Sweet Paris isn’t your typical recipe book.  It’s filled with insider knowledge on the best places in Paris to find traditional French desserts and treats such as chocolate eclairs, macarons, strawberry tarts, brioche, creme brulee, salted butter caramel, and of course – hot chocolate.  A brief history of some of the major Parisian patisserie shops are included, as well as a history of many of the featured desserts.  There is a great selection of recipes that compliment the written content of the book as well, and I had a really hard time deciding on which one to make.  In the end I settled on the hot chocolate, and as well as a spur of the moment apple tarte tatin.


Sweet Paris is made up of seven chapters and also includes several pages of addresses so you can easily find your favourite pastry shop while your there.  The thing that really makes Sweet Paris stand out from the other books on my shelf is the photography.  The pages are filled with stunning images of Parisian pastries, pastry shops and every day images of Paris. I could stare at the photos all day long!


Some of the recipes that I’ve bookmarked to make in the future are:  

Classic French Chocolate Eclairs
Traditional Tart au Citron
Bittersweet Tarte au Chocolate
Homemade Blackcurrant Sorbet with Cassis
Classic Caramel au Beurre Sale 


I’d been looking for an authentic French hot chocolate recipe ever since I had my first encounter with it at the infamous Parisian tea salon Angelina.  The hot chocolate at Angelinia was so rich, thick and chocolately I couldn’t finish the whole thing.  Although it was delicious, it’s definitely not something I could drink on a regular basis.  The recipe for hot chocolate in Sweet Paris is just right – it’s still delicious and chocolately, but not overwhelming enough that you couldn’t finish the whole cup!



Old Fashioned French Hot Chocolate 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Pod 
600ml (20oz) Whole Milk
250ml (9oz) Single Cream
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Pinch of Sea Salt
150g (5 1/2oz) Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
100g (3 1/2oz) Milk Chocolate , finely chopped
300ml (10 1/2oz) Double Cream, whipped

Instructions: 

1.  Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  In a large saucepan, add the vanilla pod and seeds to the milk, cream, brown sugar and salt.  Warm over low heat and bring to a simmer, but don’t boil.

2.  Remove the milk mixture from the heat, and then remove the vanilla pod.  Add in the milk and dark chocolates and stir gently until they’re melted and the mixture becomes smooth.  Using a hand whisk, whisk the hot chocolate mixture for a few minutes until it’s smooth and frothy.

3.  Return the hot chocolate to the stove and re-heat again to a gentle simmer (not boiling).  Pour into cups and serve with whipped cream on top.

I served my hot chocolate with whipped cream on the side, just like they do at Angelina in Paris.


I also made the Apple Tarte Tatin when I needed a last minute dessert idea.  It was the first time I’d made a tarte tatin and it was delicious and so simple, only requiring a few ingredients.  I took a few pictures of it using my iphone before we gobbled it up.  


I can’t wait to try more recipes from Sweet Paris, and also explore some of the many pastry shops and tea salons listed in the book.  As I mentioned before, I will definitely be bringing my copy with me when I go to Paris in August.


Now here’s some good news – it’s GIVEAWAY time!!! I’ve got an extra copy of Sweet Paris to give away to one of my lucky readers!  


To have a chance at winning, simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Paris pastry is.  It could be macarons, eclairs, brioche – you decide!  Additional entries will be given by doing the following:

  • Become a follower on Google+ (I just joined this week!)
  • Become a fan on Facebook
  • Become a follower on Google Friend Connect
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random.

Open to UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Monday June 25th.  Winner will be announced shortly after.  

*** Please note that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using random.org to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. ***


With thanks to Hardie Grant Publishing for my review copy of Sweet Paris. 

Queens Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies


When I was living in Canada I was always a little envious of our patriotic American neighbours.    To many outsiders their patriotic enthusiasm seemed overly excessive and brash, but as a Canadian kid I looked on in amazement.  They took any opportunity they could get to plaster their flag on anything and everything, and I often wondered why Canadians didn’t do the same. 

The patriotic differences really became apparent when July rolled around.  Canada celebrates their birthday with a national holiday on July 1st, while the US celebrates theirs on July 4th.  The Americans always seemed to have loads of festive activities going on like parades, barbecues, block parties and amazing firework shows, while Canadians seemed relatively unfazed by their national day.  Don’t get me wrong – Canadians definitely do celebrate Canada Day with a few fireworks and the odd picnic, and as Vancouver showed during the Olympics, Canadians are extremely proud of their country, but we don’t always shout about it from the rooftops like our southern neighbours do.  

Some of the patriotic things that always caught my eye were all the fun American themed desserts and products that seemed to pop up during the weeks approaching July 4th.  A large part of it I’m sure, was a result of savvy marketing, but the other part was down to sheer patriotism.  

I remember flipping through magazines (most of the magazines were American) and watching programmes like Live! and Martha Stewart and thinking how pretty the desserts and crafts that they were featuring looked in red, white and blue.  For some reason red and white (Canada’s colours) never seemed as much fun.  

With the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (marking the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth) in a few weeks, it appears that the whole of the UK has gone jubilee crazy.  And I couldn’t be more excited about it!  It’s such a nice feeling to see Union Jacks everywhere – on grocery packaging, home decor, magazines and loads and loads of CAKES! 

It’s so nice to see the whole country getting excited about their heritage and celebrating it with a little red, white and blue.  And I especially love it because it’s the perfect excuse for me to do some fun and festive baking – just like I always wished I could have done when I was younger!

I’ve come up with a few Jubilee themed desserts – one of them was this Jubilee Dome Cake with red and blue flowers and a golden crown that I posted last week.  


I’ve also made these little Jubilee hat cookies inspired by the Queen herself!  It’s no secret that the Queen is a fan of her hats – they even took bets here in England on what colour hat she would wear to Will and Kate’s wedding last year!  

I got the original idea for these cookies from the fabulous book Cookie Swap, and then borrowed a few tips from Bakerella who also made them a couple years ago for Easter.  

I loved making these cookies – they were so fun and easy to make, and I really think they’re just perfect to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Seriously – how cute would they  look alongside a nice cup of tea, or arranged together on a stand at your local street party.

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies

To make these cookies you’ll need a few things:


Sugar cookie dough – I use Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
A small amount of Royal Icing – Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
Double sided pastry cutters – I used these.  
Mini flower plunger cutters – I used these
White fondant – I used white Renshaw brand
Sugar paste / flower paste – I used Squires Kitchen Sugar Floral Paste
White nonpareils 

Instructions:

1.  Make your sugar cookie dough according to the recipe and instructions here.  Once your dough is chilled, roll it out to the appropriate thickness (about 4 or 5mm).  Using the scalloped edge of the 68mm (2 5/8″) round pastry cutter, cut out as many circles as you think you’d like hats.  These will be the base of your hats.  I think you could make at least 20 hats with the cookie dough recipe – probably more.  Next, use the 38mm (1 1/2″) plain edged round cutter to cut out twice the number of circles as you did with the scalloped cutter.  These will make up the top of your hats, and each hat top requires two smaller circles. Bake according to the instructions in my original recipe post, and then cool.

2.  While your cookies are baking you can start to make the little sugar paste flowers that will decorate the brim of the hats.  Take a small amount of the Sugar Floral Paste and tint it whatever colour you’d like – I used Wilton gel paste colours.  Roll the sugar paste out, and use the flower cutters to cut out various sizes of flowers. It’s easy – honest!  I used some royal icing to attach the white nonpareils to the inside of the flower, but if you don’t have any nonpareils, then a dab of royal icing will do just fine. Set the flowers aside to dry.

3.  Once your cookies are nice and cool you’ll need to start building your hats.  First you’ll need to roll our your fondant, and use the same sized scalloped edge pastry cutter you used for the base of the cookies to cut out the fondant circles that will sit on top.  Use the end of a paintbrush or chopstick to make small indents around the scalloped edge.  Put a little royal icing on the scalloped cookies and then place the matching fondant pieces on top making sure to line up the scalloped edges.

To make the second part of the hat you’ll need to glue two of the smaller circles together by adding a dab or two of royal icing on the top of one of the small circles.  Next, use another dollop of royal icing to fix the bottom of the smaller stacked circle to the scalloped fondant covered cookie base.  Using the small cookie cutter, cut out enough fondant circles to cover the tops of the smaller circle stacks.  


Next you’ll need to cut some fondant strips to wrap around the stack of small cookies – use a small ruler to make sure the fondant strip is the same width as the cookie stacks, and long enough to wrap around them.  Fix the strips around the cookies using royal icing.  Use your fingers to smooth out the fondant strips and blend them into the fondant tops.

Lastly, it’s time to add your sugar paste flowers – simply glue them on in whatever arrangement you like, and there you have it – little Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hats!


I’m sure it’s pretty safe to say that these hat cookies will likely end up inside your tummy – but I’d really like to know what’s happened to all of the Queen’s own hats?  Seriously – Buckingham Palace must have one gigantic room filled with 60 years worth of the Queen’s hats!


Because my hat cookies have flowers on them, I’m also sending them over to The Tea Time Treats monthly challenge hosted this month by Karen of the blog Lavender and Loveage, and other months by Kate of What Kate Baked.  This month’s theme is floral, so I think they’re a perfect fit!

Waitrose Christmas Dessert Reviews

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to review several Christmas desserts from Waitrose this year, two of which were created by UK celebrity chef Heston Blementhal.  For those of you living outside the UK, or are who are just not unfamiliar with Heston, he’s basically a real life Willy Wonka.  His creations are like little science experiments – many of which I find a little too out there, but his creations for Waitrose are suited more to the general public. 

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If you live in the UK, you may remember the infamous Christmas pudding he created last year exclusively for Waitrose.  It had an entire candied orange hidden inside, which infused the pudding with a delicious citrus flavour.  When you cut into the pudding you also got a cross section of candied orange as well.  Heston’s Candied Orange Christmas Pudding sold out within days, and immediately began springing up on eBay for hundreds of pounds.  The same has happened this year, although the average price seems to be between £15 – £30.

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This year Heston has created several new Christmas desserts including a Chocolate Popping Candy Tart, a Chocolate and Cherry Blackforest Buche, and Puff Pastry Mince Pies With Pine Sugar Dusting.  

I was fortunate enough to try out Heston’s Popping Candy Tart and his Pine Scented Mince Pies, as well as a Christmas Pudding Cheesecake by Waitrose’s own label.  


First up I tried the Waitrose Christmas Pudding Cheesecake.  I had wanted to try it ever since hearing about it at the Waitrose Christmas product launch way back in the summer.  Although it wasn’t available to sample on the day, I thought the concept was great.  The cheesecake comes in a neat dome shape, just like a real Christmas pudding.  It had a delicious graham cracker / digestive base, and the actual cheesecake bit was so light and fluffy in texture.  It was loosely studded with candied orange peel, raisins and pieces of Christmas pudding, but the flavour was not too strong or overwhelming, although the chocolate topping did taste a bit boozey.  My husband and I both really liked the cheesecake, partially because the Christmas pudding flavour was quite mild, making it a perfect alternative if you or your guests aren’t that fond of the traditional Christmas pudding.  The Waitrose Christmas Pudding Cheesecake sells for £6.99 and serves approximately 6 people.


Next I tried the popping candy tart which is described as “a tart that will literally dance on your tongue. First you will be seduced by the luxurious velvety dark chocolate that has been infused with an exotic passion fruit puree, a direct contrast to the crunchy hazelnut base.  As your mouth begins to water the real surprise element begins as the popping candy begins to crackle and tingle on your tongue.”


The description above is fairly accurate.  The chocolate is so rich and velvety smooth, with just a hint of passion fruit, making you want to savour every last bit in your mouth.  And that’s when the popping candy hits you! There’s just enough snap, crackle and pop to know it’s there, but not so much that it’s like you dumped an entire packet of the stuff into your mouth (like we all did when we were kids!).  I would definitely recommend Heston’s popping candy tart as a special Christmas treat.  I also think it would make an even better dessert option for New Years Eve, although I’m not sure if it will still be available in stores then, but it’s worth checking.  Personally, I think the only drawback to the popping candy tart would be the price.  Maybe it’s just me, but £16.99 for a 10 serving tart seems a little steep for a prepared supermarket dessert.  I guess it just depends on how much you like your friends and family :-) 


Lastly I tried Heston’s pine scented mince pies, which he describes as “delicious eaten warm from the oven, and then sprinkled with pine sugar for a Christmas tree aroma.”  Unlike a conventional mince pie, Heston’s version is incased in puff pastry rather than a normal tart shell.  The mince pies come with a generous sized packet of pine scented icing sugar that really does smell exactly like pine, so much so, that I initially found it a little off putting because it smelled like a household cleaner.  After dipping my finger into it and giving it a taste, I decided that I actually quite liked the pine sugar.  It had a nice subtle pine flavour, with a minty aftertaste.  I was really excited to give these mince pies a try, but in all honesty I found them a bit disappointing.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a huge puff pasty fan, but I found the pastry a bit bland – I think the pies would have been better in a traditional tart shell. There was too much puff pastry, and not enough filling inside, but I really did like the pine sugar. I think next year Heston could have a real winner if he kept the novelty of the pine sugar, but used a regular tart shell.  At £3.29 for 6, they’re definitely more expensive than the average mince pies, but they won’t break the bank either if you’re looking to try a little something different.



At first I sprinkled the pine sugar on quite sparingly, but don’t be afraid of it.  Next time I’d cover the tops in the sugar!

So what are YOU having for Christmas dessert?