ORANGE BRULEE MILLE-FEUILLE

The vanilla slices topped with fondant icing of my childhood are a little too cloying now I’m an adult. I much prefer this, with lashings of buttery crème mousseline and the added crunch and darker sweetness of a caramelized sugar topping. The puff pastry for this mille-feuille is baked between two baking sheets so you get the beautiful, buttery flakes but without the added volume. 

INGREDIENTS - MAKES 6

  • 320g packet of ready-rolled puff pastry

FOR THE CREME MOUSSELINE FILLING

  • 1 quantity Crème Pâtissière (see recipe here), completely, cooled and set
  • 250g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled slightly
  • Zest of 1 large orange

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 100g Demerara sugar

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

  • 2 large baking sheets and 2 pieces of baking paper
  • Cook’s blowtorch
  • Disposable piping bag fitted with 8mm nozzle
  • Confectioner’s knife/sharp serrated knife 

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 6.

Place a piece of baking paper on one of the baking sheets and unroll the pastry on to it. Prick the pastry well all over, then cover with the second piece of baking paper, and the second baking sheet. If the baking sheets have shallow sides, have the first sheet upside down, then the second sheet the right way up on top. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown.

When the pastry is baked, cut it lengthways with a sharp knife into three equal strips and allow to cool. When cool, sprinkle the Demerara sugar generously over each strip, then, with the cook’s blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.

For the crème mousseline, put the crème pâtissière into a mixing bowl and beat it to slacken it. I do this in the freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment, but it could also be done in a mixing bowl with a handheld electric whisk. Once the crème pâtissière is loosened, beat in the zest, then slowly add the butter cube by cube, beating constantly on medium. It will take about 5 minutes to incorporate all the butter, and the mixture should be thick.

Fill the piping bag with the crème mousseline and pipe it into neat rows along the length of one pastry strip. Place another pastry strip gently on top, then pipe the remaining mousseline on to this. Gently place the third and final strip of caramelized pastry on to the mousseline, then place the whole thing in the fridge to chill for at least two hours. (I build this up on a baking sheet so that I don’t have to run a risk of breaking the whole thing in half, and I can easily pop it into the fridge.)

When the mille-feuille has chilled, the crème mousseline should have set quite firmly. With the sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut the whole thing in half crossways, then slice these two halves into three, to end with six neat mille-feuilles. If the mille-feuille was properly chilled, the mousseline should be firm enough to saw through without the cake collapsing in on itself, so long as you don’t put too much pressure on when cutting. 

LEMON BABAS

Aside from being a pet name for my partner, a baba is simply a small, yeasted cake soaked in syrup. The syrup is very often an alcohol laced one, and whilst that is just perfect in my eyes, I found limoncello a little too much here. 

(c) John Whaite 

Ingredients (makes 8)

For the Dough

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp salt 
  • 40g caster sugar 
  • Zest of 2 lemons 
  • 7g sachet fast action yeast 
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 2tbsp milk 
  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature 

For the Syrup

  • 200g caster sugar 
  • Juice of 3 lemons 
  • 150ml water 

For the Cream Filling 

  • 250g double cream 
  • 50g caster sugar 
  • Zest of 1 lemon 

Essential Equipment

  • 8 x small dariole moulds, greased and dusted with caster sugar. 
  • Piping bags 

Method

To make the dough toss together the flour, salt, sugar, zest and yeast in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. In a jug, beat the eggs and milk together, then add to the flour. Mix vigorously for a good 5 minutes, until a very thick and very elastic dough forms. Slowly add the butter chunk by chunk, beating very well after each addition. Once the butter is all added, continue beating for a further 5 minutes, or until the dough is very glossy and elastic - save your energy and use the mixer if you have one! 

Cover the bowl with cling and allow the dough to rise until about doubled in volume. Pile the dough into a piping bag and divide it between the prepared moulds. Allow the dough to rest for a further 25 minutes, or until risen a little more. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Once the babas have risen, place them on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 18-25 minutes, or until golden brown. They should 'mushroom' over the top of the moulds.

Whilst the babas bake make the syrup. Put the sugar, lemon juice and water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for a minute, then remove from the heat. As soon as the babas come out of the oven, remove them from their moulds and drop into the syrup to soak for 10 minutes. 

Make the filling by whisking the cream, sugar and zest to soft peaks that just hold their shape. Load the filling into a piping bag. Once the babas are soaked and cool, slice each one down the centre, not quite cutting all the way through, and pipe swirls of cream into each. 

FREE-FORM PLUM TART

(c) Matt Russell

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 1/2 quantity Rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe here) or 300g shop-bought sweet shortcrust
  • 4 fresh plums, stones removed and cut into 5mm-thick slices
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

To glaze

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 20ml water

Essential equipment

  • Baking sheet lined with baking paper 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, trim to a circle about 23cm in diameter and place on the baking sheet. Arrange the plum slices on top of the pastry, leaving a good inch bare around the edges. Sprinkle with the sugar, then fold the pastry edge up and over the fruit – this isn’t a time for elegance or artistic flair, just get on with it!

Chill for at least 30 minutes, then bake for 3035 minutes, or until the pastry is fairly dark, and the plum slices are yielding but not totally broken down.

For the glaze, boil the jam and water together, then strain to remove any lumps.

Remove from the oven but leave on the hot baking sheet to ensure a completely crisp pastry bottom. Paint the plums immediately with the glaze. 

ARABIAN NIGHTS TART

(c) Matt Russell

Ingredients (serves 8/10)

  • 1 quantity Rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe here)
  • 1 quantity Crème Pâtissière (recipe here)
  • 1 egg white, beaten, to glaze

For the pistachio and orange frangipane

  • 100g unsalted pistachios
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 120g salted butter, cubed
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs

For the topping

  • 160g blueberries
  • 200g seedless white grapes, cut in half widthways
  • Seeds of 1 large pomegranate
  • 5 tbsp apricot jam
  • 23 tbsp water
  • Pistachios and almond flakes, to decorate

Essential equipment

  • 25cm/10-inch loose-bottomed tart or flan tin
  • Baking sheet
  • Disposable piping bag fitted with 10mm nozzle 

Method

Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick and use it to line the tin. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6 and place a baking sheet in there to heat up.

To make the frangipane, grind together the pistachios, almonds and flour in a food processor, then add the remaining ingredients and grind to a thick batter. Put into the piping bag and pipe into the base of the pastry case in concentric circles until the base is full, then bake in the oven, on the preheated baking sheet, for 3035 minutes, or until the frangipane is baked through and the pastry case is crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

When the tart is cool, spread the crème pâtissière on top of the frangipane and even out.

To finish the tart with its fruity top, starting on the outside of the tart make a circle out of blueberries – if you’re a perfectionist, try to select blueberries of roughly the same size. Then do a circle of white grape halves, then a thick circle of pomegranate seeds. Repeat until you have perfect concentric circles.

To finish, place the apricot jam into a small saucepan with the water and heat until it boils. Sieve into a bowl, then paint generously over the fruit top. Finish with a scattering of almond flakes and pistachios. 

ORANGE AND CARDAMOM OPERA CAKE

(c) Matt Russell

Ingredients (makes 8)

For the Biscuit Sponge

  • 4 eggs
  • 100g ground pistachios
  • 50g ground almonds, grind your own in a food processorif necessary
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 45g flour
  • 5 egg whites
  • 25g sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted

For the Ganache

  •  100ml milk
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 20g unsalted butter, softened 

For the Soaking Syrup

  • 60g sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised 
  • 100ml orange juice

For the Orange Buttercream

  • 75g unsalted butter, softened 
  • Zest from 1 large orange
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh orange juice

To decorate

  • 1 quantity Mirror Glaze (recipe here)

Essential Equipment 

  • 2 x 20x30cm/8x12-inch Swiss roll tins, greased and fully lined with baking paper
  • 20cm/8-inch square cake board (optional but handy)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Place the eggs, ground pistachios, ground almonds, icing sugar and flour into a mixing bowl and beat together until well combined and smooth. It is best to do this in a freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment, or at least using an electric handheld mixer. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then add the sugar in three incorporations, whisking well after each addition, until the sugar is dissolved. Scoop this meringue on top of the egg and nut mixture, and pour on the melted butter. Gently fold together until just incorporated, trying not to expel too much air. The mixture should be fairly runny.

Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and smooth the surfaces. Bake for 1215 minutes, or until lightly golden in colour and when pressed lightly the sponge springs back. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the tins, trying not to break any sponge.

As the sponges bake, make the ganache. Place the milk in a saucepan with the bruised cardamom pods and set over a high heat. When the mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and allow the cardamom to infuse into the milk for about 10 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods and reheat the milk on medium- high until bubbles just begin to form around the edges. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot milk over it. Allow the milk to heat the chocolate for about 30 seconds, then use a whisk to blend together to a smooth, glossy ganache. Whisk in the butter until it is well incorporated, then pour on to a large plate and set aside to cool.

To make the soaking syrup, place the sugar, water and bruised cardamom pods in a saucepan and set over a high heat. Bring to the boil, allow to boil for about 3 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly. Stir in the orange juice and allow to infuse.

To make the buttercream, place the butter and zest in a bowl and whisk until pale and smooth, then sift in the icing sugar and add the orange juice. Beat slowly at first until the butter and icing sugar come together, then whisk vigorously for at least 5 minutes – this is where you need a freestanding mixer with whisk attachment or at least a handheld electric whisk. The buttercream should become very pale and light.

To assemble, cut the two sponges into two pieces: you need from each a square of 20x20cm, and a piece of 10x20cm (so in total two 20cm squares and two 10x20cm rectangles). Place one of the 20x20cm squares on a board and soak it well with some of the syrup using a pastry brush. Then take the ganache and test if it is ready: you should be able to spread it into a mound, which should hold its shape. Spread two-thirds of the ganache on to this first layer – don’t worry if it oozes down the side as you will trim it anyway. Chill for 20 minutes.

Place the two rectangular pieces of sponge on the ganache and soak well with some syrup, then take the buttercream and gently spread that on to the sponges, again not worrying if some dribbles down the side. Chill for 20 more minutes.

Take the final square of sponge and soak it well with syrup then place soaked-side-down on to the buttercream. Spread the remaining ganache evenly over the top of the cake, and place in the fridge, or ideally the freezer, for a good 20 minutes.

Make the mirror glaze as described in the link above, or, if you made it earlier and it has set, place it in a microwave and heat on medium for 30-second bursts until glossy and runny again. Pour this over the chilled cake, ensuring the glaze sets evenly on top – it doesn’t need to dribble down the sides, but if it does, again don’t worry. Put back into the fridge for a good 20 minutes to set.

When the mirror glaze has set, take a very sharp knife, dip it in a large jug of boiling water, then dry quickly on a cloth. Slice a tiny amount from each edge – just 5mm if you can. This will create nice, defined layers. Then, repeating the knife-heating technique, cut the opera into 4 equal squares, and cut each square in half into equal slices. You will have 8 slices. Decorate with as much – or as little, if you have the self-restraint I clearly lack – as you like of gold leaf. 

MANGO AND COCONUT MOUSSE CAKE

Ingredients (serves 12)

For the orange jelly insert

(c) Matt Russell

  • gelatine leaves 
  • 200ml orange juice 
  • 10g caster sugar

For the sponge

  • large eggs
  • 125g caster sugar 
  • 125g flour

For the soaking syrup

  • 75g caster sugar 
  • 50ml water
  • 30ml coconut rum

For the mousse

  • gelatine leaves
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g water
  • 800g mango pulp from a can 
  • 400ml double cream
  • 50g desiccated coconut 

Essential equipment

  • 12.5cm/5-inch cake tin, greased and lined with cling film
  • 30x20cm/12x8-inch Swiss roll tin, greased and lined with baking paper 
  • 2 x loose-bottomed 20cm/8-inch cake tins, greased and the bases lined with baking paper
  • 20cm/8-inch cake ring 
  • 20cm/8-inch cake board or cake stand 

Method

Make the jelly insert: place the gelatine leaves, one by one, in a jug of cold water and allow to soak for minutes. Heat the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then squeeze the excess moisture out of the gelatine leaves and dissolve them in the hot orange juice. Pour this into the prepared cake tin and allow to cool, before transferring to the freezer to set completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until very pale and fluffy. Using a handheld whisk, this will take about 10 minutes, or about 5in a freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment.

Sift the flour over the top of the whisked eggs and gently fold in using a spatula or large metal spoon. Pour at least two-fifths of this into the prepared Swiss roll tin, and divide the rest evenly between the cake tins. Bake all for 810 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when gently touched. Allow to cool completely.

Make the soaking syrup by bring the sugar and water to the boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the coconut rum.

When the cakes have cooled, peel the paper from them. Take the cake baked in the Swiss roll tin and slice it lengthways into strips about 5cm wide. Place the cake ring on the cake board, or directly on a cake stand, and place one of the two discs of cake in it. Dab on a little soaking syrup with a pastry brush.

Take one of the strips of cake and place it in the cake ring and against the side to create a wall. Put another strip next to it, and then, for the gap, slice off a piece from a third strip and pack that tightly between the other two, to create a continuous wall. Set to one side.

For the mousse, put the gelatine leaves, one by one, into a large bowl of cold water and allow to soak for minutes. Boil the sugar and water, add the mango pulp, allow it all to come to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Remove the gelatine leaves from the soaking water and squeeze off the excess moisture, before adding them to the hot mango syrup. Mix well until dissolved. Allow to cool to blood temperature, before whipping the cream to soft, floppy peaks. Once whipped, gently pour the mango purée on to the whipped cream and fold it all together into a pale yellowish mixture. Fill the lined cake ring one-third full with the mousse.

Unmould the jelly disc and place it on top of the second disc of cake. Trim the cake so it is the same size as the jelly disc, then place this on the mousse layer, sponge-side down.

Pile more mousse into the cake ring so there is more than enough to fill it, then take a palette knife and gently drag the edges of the knife along the cake ring to smooth the mousse top. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut heavily over the surface.

Chill in the fridge overnight. To remove the cake from the ring, gently warm the sides with your hands, holding them in warm water beforehand if they are particularly cold, then gently lift the ring up and off. 

CHOCO-BERRY FRAISIER

(c) Matt Russell

Ingredients (serves 8/10)

For the genoise sponge

  • 4 eggs
  • 130g golden caster sugar
  • 110g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the blackcurrant crème mousseline

  • 1 quantity Crème Pâtissière (recipe here), cooled and set
  • 2 tbsp crème de cassis liqueur
  • 175g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled slightly
  • 75g white chocolate, melted and cooled 

For the soaking syrup

  • 50g water
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp kirsch liqueur
  • 1⁄2 tsp lemon juice

For the berry filling

  • 400g strawberries (try to get smaller, even-sized ones)
  • 150g blackberries (get the biggest ones you can)

For the topping

  • 2 tbsp blackcurrant jam
  • 50g natural marzipan
  • 1 quantity freshly made Mirror Glaze (recipe here)
  • Gold leaf 

Equipment

  • 20cm/8-inch cake ring (available to buy here)
  • 6cm/2 --inch deep, ungreased, on a baking sheet lined with baking paper
  • 20cm/8-inch round cake card 
  • Disposable piping bag fittedwith 12mm plain nozzle 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Make the genoise sponge. This is best done in a freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment, but if you don’t have one then use a clean metal bowl and a handheld electric whisk. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl and whisk until they about triple in volume and reach the ribbon stage – when you lift the whisk out of the bowl and draw a figure 8, the ribbon should sit proud on the surface for a few seconds. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl, then gently sprinkle over the surface of the whisked eggs and sugar. With a flat spatula or large metal spoon, gently fold the flour into the eggs, ensuring that you scrape right to the bottom of the bowl too, but try not to deflate the mixture. When the flour is just about incorporated, pour the melted cooled butter down the side of the bowl and fold that in too. Gently pour this mixture into the cake ring and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven, turn the cake ring upside down on a cooling rack, and allow to cool.

Make the blackcurrant crème mousseline following the method here, but instead of orange zest, beat in the crème de cassis liqueur, then slowly add the butter, then the white chocolate. Scrape into a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate.

Make the soaking syrup by heating together the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and stir in the kirsch and lemon juice.

Free the cake by scraping a knife around inside the cake ring and lifting it off. Slice the cake horizontally into two even slices, and set aside.

Clean the cake ring and place it on top of the cake card. Take the slice of cake that was the top and place this top side down into the cake ring. Soak it well with about half of the syrup, using a pastry brush to avoid completely drowning the cake. Take the most perfect strawberry and set it aside, then chop off the leafy ends of the rest, to create a flat bottom. Slice each strawberry in half down the length so that you can see the inside. Cut each blackberry in half this way too. Align the fruit against the sides of the tin: take a strawberry half and place it flat-bottom on to the layer of cake, cut middle pressed against the side. Place a blackberry half in the same way next to it, then alternate the fruits all the way around the circumference, gently squeezing them together so they stay in place (use the image on page 60 as a guide). Chop the remaining fruit roughly, and place it in a bowl.

Put the crème mousseline into the piping bag and pipe a spiral from the centre outwards on to the cake, ensuring you pipe in and amongst the berries at the edge – you won’t need all of the mousseline at this point. Pile the remaining chopped fruits into the centre of the mousseline spiral, then pipe the remaining mousseline over the everything. Smooth off with the back of a spoon. Take the second layer of cake, and place this cut-side down on to the mousseline, so that the original flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Press down ever so gently, then soak that in the remaining syrup.

Paint the blackcurrant jam on to the surface of the cake, then roll out the marzipan to a circle the size of the cake – I use a little dusting of cornflour to prevent the marzipan sticking. Place this gently on top of the jam, so that it sticks to the cake. Place into the fridge while you make the mirror glaze finish, as described in the link above.

Allow the glaze to cool for just a minute so that it is still pourable. Pour enough glaze over the cake to cover the surface of the marzipan, but don’t let it drip down the sides. Return the cake to the fridge and allow to cool for at least two hours.

When ready to serve, gently warm the cake ring by rubbing your hands around it – or carefully warm the cake ring with a cook’s blowtorch, being careful not to get it too hot – then delicately lift up off the cake. Press gold leaf on to the perfect strawberry you reserved earlier, place on top, and serve. To retain the neat edges, cut with a sharp knife dipped in hot water. 

BRUNCH FRUIT CHOUX RINGS

(c) Matt Russell

Ingredients (makes 4)

  • 1/2 quantity Choux Pastry (recipe here)
  • Icing sugar, to dust

For the filling

  • 1/2 quantity Crème Pâtissière (recipe here)
  • 200ml double cream, whipped to soft, floppy peaks
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • Fruit of choice

Essential equipment

  • Baking sheet lined with baking paper
  • 9cm/3--inch round cookie cutter
  • 2 piping bags, fitted with 10mm nozzles 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Draw around the cookie cutter on to the baking paper to make 4 circles. Put the choux pastry into one of the piping bags and pipe choux circles on to the templates. Pipe a second ring of choux on the inside of each ring, then pipe a third and final ring on top of the first two, on the seam line where they meet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Scoop the crème pâtissière into a bowl and whisk it vigorously to ‘knock it back’ (i.e. to beat out some of the air). Add the cream and honey and fold in. Put the filling into the second piping bag.

Slice each choux ring in half and pipe full of the crème pâtissière mixture. Top with the fruit of your choice and then replace the choux ring lid. Dust with icing sugar and serve.