Challenge No. 33 – Custard Slice

This challenge was suggested by one of my closest friends, Libby, who I met 8 years ago when we moved to Sheffield for our first year of University.  Our accommodation wasn’t ready in time and so myself, Libby and our 6 other flat mates where put into temporary halls for the first week.  We were placed in an old hospital wing of one of the halls due to be knocked down.  It was a horrible place and unbearable for poor Lib who has a fear of all things hospital related! After such a traumatic start to University and a wonderful first year of adventures, it’s not surprising that us girls are all still so close.  We regularly meet up and spend our time eating, drinking and talking endlessly.  Whenever possible, I try to make sure I show up at these get togethers with baked goods for all to enjoy.  However, Lib managed to suggest not only a dish I had never made but one I’d never even eaten.  The, as I have now discovered, truly delicious, custard slice.

I did a quick search online and found a recipe by Paul Hollywood straight away.  I always enjoy making Paul’s recipes and with GBBO back on our TV’s, I thought it was rather fitting to use this recipe.

To make these custard slices, you will need the following ingredients:-

  • For the rough puff pastry
    • 225g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 200g/7oz butter, chilled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
    • 140-160ml/5-5½fl oz water
  • For the crème pâtissière
    • 500ml/18fl oz milk
    • 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle and seeds scraped out
    • 100g/3½oz caster sugar
    • 4 free-range eggs, yolks only
    • 40g/1½oz cornflour
    • 40g/1½oz butter
  • For the icing
    • 200g/7oz icing sugar
    • 5 tsp water
    • 50g/2oz dark chocolate, melted

Edited - ingredients

As instructed by the recipe, I started by making the puff pastry.  I put the flour, salt and one third of the chilled butter into a large bowl.  Making sure my hands were cold, I started rubbing the mixture together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Practical tip: warm hands will begin to melt the butter and the mix will become too wet.  If, like me, your hands are prone to being warm, run them under a cold tap for a while and dry them thoroughly before you get started.  Repeat this cooling process periodically to make sure your hands don’t warm up too much.

Edited - butterEdited - breadcrumbsI added the remaining butter (which I kept in the fridge whilst I did the first bit) and gentle rubbed to bring together but being careful to leave some lumps.  I then added the water, only a little at a time.  The recipe says to add just enough until the pastry combines.  I actually only used 65ml of water.  I think this may have been because I rubbed too much of the second lot of butter into the mix so it didn’t need much more moisture.  I panicked a little but decided to carry on and see what happens.

  Edited - added butterEdited - rubbed together

I floured the worktop and tipped out the pastry.  I floured the top of the pastry, turned it over, floured it again along with the rolling pin and then set out rolling the pastry into a rectangle.  I then folded the bottom third up and then the top third down.  I wrapped the pastry in cling film and popped it in the fridge.  The recipe says to put it in the fridge for 10 minutes but because it was quite warm in the flat, I decided to let it chill for 15 minutes.

Edited - rectangle Edited - folded

Once the 15 minutes were up, I rolled the pastry into another rectangle, folded the bottom third up, top third down and popped it in the fridge for another 15 minutes.  I then repeated the step for one final turn before letting the pastry rest in the fridge.

Next up, I got started on the crème pâtiessière.  I put the milk in a pan over a low heat and added the vanilla pod and seeds. 

Edited - milk

Practical tip: the difference between scalding and boiling milk is very small.  If you have a heavy based pan, this is easier to control but you still need to be careful.  Make sure you keep the heat low and be patient.  Stir the milk occasionally and keep a close eye on it.  Reaching boiling point will happen all of a sudden and the milk will start to foam and bubble up.   

Edited - boiling milk

Whilst I was waiting for the milk to boil, I put the caster sugar and corn flour into a bowl and got my egg yolks ready.  As soon as the milk started boiling, I took it off the heat and added the egg yolks to the sugar/cornflour mixture, whisking it together with a balloon whisk.

Edited - caster:cornflour Edited - egg mixture

I then added a small ladle of the hot milk and whisked until combined.  I gradually added the remaining milk, being sure to whisk continuously as I did so.

Edited - running crem pat

I returned the milk mixture to my pan and popped it back on a medium heat.  I stirred continuously with one hand whilst searching on the internet for a video to show me how thick the mixture should be.  Just as I found a third video (which I hoped would be more helpful), it happened…the mixture started to thicken!  Lumpy at first but I kept stirring, pausing only to assess whether it had reached boiling point again.  After less than a minute, I had a lovely thick, smooth custard.

The recipe then says to pass the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl.  I might need a new sieve or maybe this is normal but it took me a lot of hard work to do this!  Finally after a vigorous 20 minutes, during which I had to strip off a layer of clothing and tie my hair up, I had pushed near enough all the mixture through the sieve. 

Edited - creme pat

I then added the butter and mixed until it was melted.  I’d kept the butter in the fridge thinking the mixture would be very hot but after the 20 minutes it took me to sieve it, most of the heat was gone.  I therefore decided to chop the butter into small pieces to help it melt properly.  I let it cool for a further 5 minutes and then covered the crème pât before putting it in the fridge to chill.

I took the pastry out the fridge, divided it into two equal pieces and rolled each into a 20cm square.  I used the base of a 20cm tin to trim the pastry to size.

Edited - rolled pastry

I placed each square onto a tray lined with baking paper and popped it in the fridge for another 15 minutes whilst I tucked into our takeaway dinner which had arrived whilst I was fighting with the sieve!

Once chilled, I popped the pastry into a pre-heated oven on 220 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.  I had to use 2 trays which wouldn’t fit on one shelf together so after 5 minutes, I switched them over.  And then again after the next 7 minutes.  Once they were cooked, I left the pastry squares to cool on the trays.

Edited - cooked pastry

I lined a square tin with foil and then placed one of the cooled pastry squares into the bottom.  The recipe says to use a 23cm square tin but the pastry looked a bit lost so I took it out and transferred the foil to my loose base 20cm square tin before adding the pastry again.

Edited - layer 1

I spooned the crème pât onto the pastry and used an icing spatula to spread it out as evenly as possible.

Edited - layer 2

I added the second pastry square (which broke slightly!) and got started on the icing.

Edited - layer 3

I sifted the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually added the water.  I used a little more than the recipe suggested as the mixture felt too stiff to be able to spread on the delicate pastry.  If you do this, just be careful to add a small amount at a time, it’s amazing how quickly the icing can turn from being too thick to being too runny. 

Edited - icing

I let the icing to one side whilst I melted the chocolate.  To do this, I put the squares into a mug and popped it in the microwave for around 30 seconds, string part way through.  I then gave it a good mix until it was nice a smooth.  I took a disposable icing bag and put it into a glass without cutting the bottom.  I added the chocolate and left it to firm up slightly whilst I iced the top of the pastry.

After the chocolate had cooled slightly, I snipped off the corner of the icing bag to leave a very fine ‘nozzle’.  I then piped parallel lines onto the white icing.  I started off with 5 (not very evenly spaced) lines and then decided I could pipe some more in between each of them.  Once there was enough chocolate lines, I took a tooth pick and pulled parallel lines across the melted chocolate and icing in alternating directions to create the feathered effect.  I had never done this before and was impressed with how easy it was to make the decoration look so good!

Edited - feathered

I then put the finished custard slice back in the fridge to set over night.

The next day I used a sharp knife to cut it into small squares and boxed them up to take with me to Doncaster, where I was due to spend the day with 4 of the girls from University and one of their parents.  Unfortunately, Libby wasn’t at this get together and so didn’t get to try her suggested challenge.  However, everyone who got to try them said they were very delicious.

Edited - sliced up Edited - served up 2

I personally was really impressed with these.  This challenge pushed me to try new techniques in making puff pastry and crème pât, both of which turned out really well.  Plus, I discovered a new sweet treat favourite!  As I write this, I’ve just had one of the left over slices (well there weren’t any left over from Doncaster, but I sneakily kept a couple of squares at home for me and Dave) and they really are absolutely yummy!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 34 – sausage rolls.   

   

Challenge No. 32 – Leek and Gruyere Quiche

My friend Rachel suggested this challenge for Challenge 52.  I’ve already made two other of Rachel’s suggestions in Challenge No. 20 (Gammon) and Challenge No. 11 (Chocolate Ganache & Cherry Tart).  Rachel decided to challenge me to another pastry dish but this time a savoury leek and gruyere quiche. 

I had a quick search online for a recipe and most of the ones I found used cups as a measurement.  Those of you who have been following MyGastroAdventure from the beginning will have learned that I don’t like recipes in cups! However, I struggled to find a recipe I liked to look of, with the right ingredients, and the right types of measurements.  So in the end I settled for a conversion of this recipe for a bacon, leek and gruyere quiche.  Also quite a nice touch that the recipe bio makes reference to the inspiration for my blog, Julia & Julia 🙂

The recipe makes two quiches, however, Dave doesn’t like quiche so I thought it would be best to make just one and take it into work for my colleagues.  To make the quiche, you will need the following ingredients:-

  • Crust
    • 160g plain flour, plus more for dusting
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 140g unsalted butter, cubed
    • 1/2 large egg yolk*
    • 52ml ice water
  • Filling
    • 226g thickly sliced bacon, cut into squares
    • 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
    • Salt and pepper
    • 114g Gruyère cheese, grated
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 large egg yolks
    • 427ml double cream

*I know! I know! 1/2 an egg yolk is not easy but that’s what half the recipe meant.  All I did was put my yolk in a small jug and then used a teaspoon to take out approximately half.

Edited - ingredients

I started by putting my flour, salt and chilled butter into my food processor.  I blitzed it together until it resembled breadcrumbs.

Edited - butter and flour Edited - breadcrumbs

I then added the egg yolk and water and pulsed until the mixture started to come together.  It was then time to get my hands dirty.  I floured my worktop and tipped the dough out to work together with my hands. 

Edited - unworked dough

I kneaded it together until smooth, shaped it into a disk and then wrapped it in cling film to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.  I realised after 10 minutes that my fridge wasn’t particularly cold so I turned it down slightly and given that it was a hot evening, I decided to leave the pastry dough for a total of 30 minutes.

Edited - smooth ball

After the 30 minutes were up, I floured my worktop again, floured my rolling pin and started rolling the dough until it was slightly bigger than the base of my tin.

Edited - rolled out

I greased the tin with a little butter and carefully lifted the pastry in.  Now when I made the ganache tart, my research indicated that the tin should be greased.  However, when I finished with this bake, I thought the base was a bit soft and I wondered if this was because of the extra butter used to grease the tin (as well as a bit of overspill on the filling!).  I’ve done a bit more research and its indicated that when using a shortcrust, you don’t need to grease the tin as there is enough butter in the pastry itself.  Next time, I’ll give this a try and see what happens.

Anyway, with my pastry in the tin, I trimmed and neatened up the edges.  I then set about putting in my baking rice (I don’t have beads so just use rice which I keep in a separate bit of tupperware in my baking cupboard).  The recipe says to line the pastry with foil, however, I remember watching a Celebrity Great British Bake Off where one of the contestants used foil and it stuck to the pastry.  So to avoid a potential disaster, I stuck to what I knew and used baking paper.

Edited - lined tin Edited - trimmed Edited - rice

I then popped the tin into the oven on 190 degrees celsius for 30 minutes.  When the timer went off, I removed the rice and baking paper and popped the tin back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Whilst the pastry was finishing up in the oven, I got started on the filling.  I heated up my frying pan and then added the bacon slices to cook over a medium heat.  I kept string until they were cooked through.

Edited - bacon

Now this next bit, I deviated from the recipe slightly! It wasn’t on purpose, I just misread it.  The recipe said to “drain the bacon, leaving 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan”.  I read this to mean, drain off the fat, leaving the bacon and 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.  What it actually meant was to take the bacon out of of the pan.  Anyway, I’d added my leek and thyme to the bacon, seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it cook for around 5 minutes until softened.  Once it was cooked, I popped the leek and bacon mixture into a bowl to cool.

Edited - leek and bacon

When the pastry was cooked, I put the tin onto a baking tray and left everything to cool whilst I made mine and Dave’s dinner.

Edited - cooked pastry

After we were fed and watered, I carried on with the quiche.  I added the grated cheese to the leek and bacon, mixed it all together and then put it in the pastry case. It was very full!!! So I decided to pull out some of the leek slices, leaving the yummy bacon and cheese.  I’m not sure it really made any difference but I felt like I had at least done something 🙂

Edited - filling in

I then poured the cream into a jug, added the eggs and egg white before whisking with a balloon whisk.  I didn’t really know what I was doing here so I just whisked it until everything was well combined.  I transferred the mixture into a jug and carefully poured it over the quiche filling.

Practial tip: don’t overfill the pastry case.  If the mixture spills over the edge, you’ll end up with a soggy bottom.

So, in light of the tip above, at this point, I kept repeating to myself “don’t overfill it! don’t overfill it!”  and what did I do? Yep, I overfilled it 😦  I actually only used half of the cream and egg mixture too!

Edited - oven ready

Anyway, I popped the (overfilled) quiche into the oven on 190 degrees celsius for 30 minutes to cook through.  I took the quiche out of the oven and popped it onto a cooking rack for 15 minutes. I then removed the ring, leaving the quiche on the base of the tin. I wasn’t sure whether I should remove the base as well but because the filling had spilled over, I thought it best to leave the quiche on a sturdy base.

Edited - ready

Once cooled enough, I popped the quiche in the fridge overnight before chopping it up to take to work the next day.

Edited - slice

Edited - served upEveryone said the quiche was very nice.  Despite my warnings of the notorious soggy bottom (Mary Berry would not have been happy), they all said it was good and that the bottom wasn’t that soggy.  One person even described it as crisp! I have to admit the base wasn’t as soggy as I thought it would be but there was clear room for improvement, in my mind at least.  Although, perhaps I am my own worst critic.

Despite the questionable base, I have to admit this quiche was yummy! I definitely want to make it again and see if I can perfect the base and filling ratios.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 33 – custard slices.

Challenge No. 27 – Knickerbocker Glory

This challenge was suggested by Dave, my better half.  We will be celebrating our 7 year anniversary this weekend and a common theme throughout our relationship has been Dave saying “what you’ve never tried/seen/heard this or that”.  Until Dave, I hadn’t tried hotdogs from a tin or corned beef, I hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club, ET, Jurassic Park (to name but a few films that escaped my childhood) and I’d never heard of the Smiths.  But for once, it was my turn to educate Dave; whilst he suggested this challenge, he’s never actually had a knickerbocker glory! This has now been corrected.

A knickerbocker glory was a common treat throughout my childhood and it instantly makes me think of my nan.  My brother and I used to go and stay with my nan every summer and she would always make us this yummy desert.  There was however a caveat, we could only have it if we pronounced it properly! We soon learned to say knickerbocker glory without stumbling 🙂

When I started looking for recipes to make this challenge, I realised they are all very different and really what I wanted to do was recreate my nan’s version.  I text my brother and mum to see if they could remember what was in it and after some input from them both, we decided on the following ingredients:-

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Fruit (fresh or tinned cocktail mix)
  • Strawberry sauce
  • Whipped cream
  • Hundreds and thousands

Edited - ingredients

I always remember my nan using tinned fruit cocktail, although I think she would use fresh fruit if she had some in.  I opted for the tinned fruit because this is what came to mind when I tried to remember my nan’s version 🙂

I also cheated a little and used shop bought ice cream but if you’re feeling adventures why not check out Challenge 19 to see how to make ice cream from scratch without an ice cream maker! Just leave out the rum and raisins, unless you want a more adult version of the knickerbocker glory.

Another important aspect of the knickerbocker glory is the serving dish.  I didn’t have anything suitable at home so popped out and bought some special glasses which reminded me of the ones my nan used to use.

Anyway, with all the elements ready, I started building my knickerbocker glory.  Firstly, I added a little bit of ice cream.

Edited - layer 1

Then I added some jelly.

Edited - layer 2

Next up I added some fruit (I drained off the liquid first).

Edited - layer 3

I then put in a little strawberry sauce.  I added more ice cream, jelly and fruit to fill to the top of the glass.

Finally, I added my whipped cream, topped it with some more sauce and then sprinkled over a handful of hundreds.

Edited - done2

Doesn’t it look pretty! 🙂

Now I know this didn’t take much skill but it does hold so many fond memories for me that it was nice to be able to share it with Dave.  He loved it by the way, although he managed to get in a right mess trying to eat it!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 28 – homemade pizza.  I hope to see you then.