WEEK 5: Pastry Week!
Ok, so 5 weeks into my personal GBBO Showstopper Challenge and I’m already asking myself, ‘Erm Ang, why on earth are you doing this again?!’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m LOVING eating all the things I’m getting to make, but MY GOSH is it a lot of effort! (Especially with a day job!) I mean, by the time I’ve baked one showstopper, edited photos and written a blog post for it, it’s already the next episode and I’ve got to spend the next couple days planning the next bake for the weekend. It’s exhausting!
I definitely have a new found respect for the GBBO bakers and how stressful, time-consuming, and costly being on the show must be for them! Granted they’re not foolish like me in that they’re doing it every weekend (they will have a couple weeks between filming each ep!), and they most certainly won’t be taking photos and writing blog posts for each bake either… but still, they have 2 challenges to plan for!! Not to mention a technical bake to practice EVERYTHING for! I don’t envy them. If there was ever a part of me that considered applying for GBBO it would definitely be doubting itself now! Not helped, of course, by the most recent update from the tent… MARY BERRY IS LEAVING GBBO! *drops whisk*
This is not ok. Can the BBC do us all a favour and just hurry up and start their own rival baking show with Mel, Sue, and Bezza and all will be right again? And whilst we’re at it, why not get James Martin involved too? Just putting that out there. Saturday mornings just aren’t the same without him either. *tear*
Anyways, I digress. Back to my GBBO challenge!
This week saw the bakers completing various pastry challenges; breakfast danish pastries, a Bakewell tart technical, and finally a Showstopper of 48 ‘amuse-bouche’ (or appetisers) made using filo pastry. Sigh. For ages I’d put off trying to make filo pastry because it’s always looked so unnecessarily fiddly. Why take all that time and effort to roll out sheets of pastry when you can easily buy it ready-made? Am I right? Nevertheless, I did make it… and admittedly it wasn’t that bad. Completely pointless, but not that bad.
The challenge was to make 48 filo ‘amuse-bouche’ to the following criteria:
- 24 savoury, 24 sweet
- 4 hours
This week I settled on using seasonal, autumnal flavours of apples and cinnamon for my sweet amuse bouche, along with pecans… because winning combo.
Then for my savoury I decided to make an appetiser version of the Chinese takeaway classic (and one of my faves), Crispy Duck Pancakes. Crispy duck, cucumber, spring onion, topped with plum sauce all piled onto a filo tart case. Nom.
Here’s how it went…
To make the filo pastry I sifted the flour and salt into a large bowl.
I then poured in the water and mixed using the paddle attachment on my stand mixer to a thick, sticky paste.
I then poured the oil in a steady stream as I continued mixing. This then came together as a very tacky, yet soft dough.
I scooped the tacky dough out onto a surface dusted with cornflour and (with cornflour dusted hands!) formed a large circle.
I then cut the dough (with a cornflour dusted knife – noticing a pattern?) into twelve 50g balls. I placed these onto a cornflour dusted baking tray, covered with cling film and left to rest for 2 hours whilst I made the filling.
For the crispy duck, I pricked the duck legs all over with a fork. I then mixed the spices together and rubbed this all over the duck legs.
I then placed these on a rack in a roasting tray and cooked for 45mins at 160°C, before turning up the heat to 220°C for a further 25mins to crisp up the skin.
Once cooked I left these to rest for 10 minutes before shredding up the skin and meat with 2 forks and set aside (resisting all temptation to snack on this whilst making everything else!)
For the plum sauce I dumped the plums, five spice, sugar, soy sauce, and chilli powder into a saucepan. I brought this to the boil, then simmered for about 20 minutes till the plums became a glossy pulp.
I strained this through a sieve and set aside too (resisting all temptation to dip the shredded duck into to snack on whilst making everything else).
For the apple filling I peel, cored and diced 4 small apples.
I then placed the apples, sugar, cinnamon and a knob of butter into a saucepan. I cooked this on a medium heat until the apples had softened but still had a bit of a bite!
To this I stirred in the chopped pecans and again set aside.
Once the dough had rested I took each dough ball and rolled out to a large rectangle on a cornflour dusted surface to as thin as possible. To get the sheets even thinner, I did a combination of gently pulling the edges of the dough whilst on the board… but also dusted my hands with cornflour to pick up the filo sheet and stretch even more (using just the back of my hands to prevent tearing!).
My initial plan was to roll out each dough ball, then stack the filo sheets with cornflour in between to prevent sticking. About halfway through (6 sheets in) I decided to check on them… and realised they still stuck. Cue minor panic. I not-so-calmly but quickly decided I’d use the scraps I’d managed to salvage for the tart cases, and roll out the remaining dough balls to cut the strips for the apple triangles. Crisis somewhat averted.
For the apple triangles, I cut the (undamaged) filo sheets into 4cm thick strips.
I spooned the filling onto the top of a strip into a triangle shape, then brushed the strip with melted butter.
I folded the top piece down to form a triangle, then continued folding along the bottom edge to form the triangles.
I placed these onto a lined baking tray, brushed with melted butter and baked at 180°C for 10-15mins.
Now, as for the tart cases… Seeing as I had to use scraps of pastry, these were a
bit of a mess but they still held the filling and tasted decent. What I would have done was cut 5cm squares of pastry and layered 2-3 of these into each well of a mini muffin tray, brushed with butter in between. Nevertheless, I baked these for 10mins till golden and crisp.
Once the tart cases were cool I filled them with the crispy duck, some of the plum sauce, and some chopped cucumber and spring onions.
How long did it take? I started at 1pm and finished just after 5pm… so just over 5 hours (including the 1 hour washing up/taking photos time). I think leaving the dough to rest for 2 whole hours was longer than necessary though; I’d already made everything I needed for the fillings in that time and had about 30 minutes to spare where I was doing nothing. I could have shaved that 30mins off! Grr.
What worked? I was very chuffed at the fact that I managed to stretch the filo with little problems/tearing. Also, I loved the flavours… was majorly craving crispy duck and plum sauce!
What didn’t work? I should have used a helluva lot more cornflour to dust in between my filo sheets to prevent them sticking together and resulting in making ugly tart cases. Or ‘informal’ as Mary Berry would say.
Things to improve if I were to take this recipe to the tent? Cover everything in cornflour… just to be safe.
- For the filo pastry:
- 400g plain flour
- 1tbsp salt
- 300ml water at roughly 50°C
- 30ml olive oil
- cornflour, to dust
- melted butter, for baking
- For the roast duck filling:
- 2 duck legs
- 1 heaped tsp Chinese five spice
- 1tsp salt
- 1tsp ground black pepper
- ½tsp chilli powder
- chopped cucumber, to serve
- chopped spring onions, to serve
- For the plum sauce:
- 4 small plums, de-stoned and quartered
- 1tsp Chinese five spice
- 4tbsp light brown sugar
- 2tbsp soy sauce
- pinch of chilli powder
- For the apple & pecan filling:
- 4 small apples
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- ½tsp ground cinnamon
- knob of butter
- 100g pecans, roughly chopped
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.
- Add the water and stir together (or use a mixer with a paddle attachment) till it forms a thick sticky paste.
- Gradually pour in the oil as you mix to bring together to a soft, tacky dough.
- Tip out onto a lightly (corn)floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. (Or switch to a dough hook to knead.)
- Cut the dough and roll into 50g balls and place on a tray dusted with cornflour.
- Cover with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Once rested, take each ball and roll out to as thin as possible on a (corn)floured surface.
- To get the sheet even thinner, dust your hands in cornflour and carefully stretch out the dough to roughly 0.5mm thickness. You should be able to almost see through it!
- Stack your filo sheets with plenty of cornflour in between to prevent sticking. Cover with a damp tea towel to prevent drying out.
- Preheat oven to 160°C.
- Prick the skin of the duck legs with a fork.
- Mix the spices together then rub all over the duck legs.
- Place onto a rack inside a roasting tray.
- Roast for 45mins.
- Turn the heat up to 220°C and roast for a further 20mins till the skin is crisp and the duck is cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before shredding the crisp skin and meat off the bones with two forks. Set aside.
- Place the plums, five spice, sugar, soy sauce, and chilli powder into a saucepan.
- Bring to the boil, then simmer until the plums have softened to a pulp (approx. 20mins). Remove from the heat.
- Strain through a sieve and set aside.
- Peel and dice the apples then place into a saucepan, along with the sugar, cinnamon and the knob of butter.
- Cook on a medium heat until the apples have softened but still have a bit of a bite to them. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
- Stir in the roughly chopped pecans.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- For the apple triangles, cut strips of filo pastry of 4cm thickness. Spoon some of the apple filling at the top, then brush the pastry with melted butter. Fold the top corner down along one edge, then continue to roll down into a triangle shape.
- For the duck tart cases, cut 5cm squares of pastry. Brush a mini muffin tin with melted butter then layer 2-3 filo squares on top of each other. Brush lightly with melted butter.
- Bake these both for 10-15mins until the pastry is golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.
- Fill the tart cases with the duck, plum sauce and some chopped cucumber and spring onions.