|© Nick Loven|
I consider myself a confident baker, I really do. There's nothing I wouldn't attempt, and it's rare that something goes irrevocably, depressingly wrong. The last time it did was when I learnt to make naan bread 3 months ago and even then it didn't turn out horrendous, and since then I've learned to do it well, so all's good there.
Four years ago when The Great British Bake-Off started, I applied to be on the series and will admit I was hurt when I didn't get called back. But as the series have gone on, I've realised more that my current comfort zones are only really applicable around cakes and biscuits, and that just doesn't cut it in the GBBO world. And another thing, every week there's a challenge that the bakers have no advanced warning of, and they're given only the most basic of instructions to complete the bakes with. This series there was a good 70% of these technical challenges that I would have been lost on for one reason or another. This disturbs me.
In a bid to not only increase my handiness with all sorts of baking but to gain experience and knowledge with a lot more of these unknowns, I've bought Michel Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry, a bible in all things baking. It's a hefty 1000-page textbook with minimal food-porn-pictures, just lots and lots of words. The breads section alone covers 120 pages before it even gives you any formulas (base recipes), and the book jumps about in such a way that to gain anything out of the formulas, reading the pre-amble really is not optional. So over the next few weeks/months I'll be basing my recipes around the formulas and techniques found within my new best friend, and see how we get on.
With that, on to today's bake - pumpkin spice latte pie-ettes. Pie cups, if you will. Ohhhh yesss.
On this year's Big Canadian Adventrue, Nick and I fell in love with the pumpkin spice latte's available just about everywhere, and got to starting the day, pre-hike, with one of these. The pumpkins are also ripe and ready at the allotment so I thought this would be a nice tie-in for seasonal baking, although I'll admit that the pumpkins I eventually used were shop-bought. These are essentially mini pumpkin pies with the spices kicked up a notch and caffeinated, with a meringue topping, but (and I'll admit this straight away) these are fiddly and faffy, especially the way I did them. But they're so worth it. I mean, just look at how cute they are!
|© Nick Loven|
First, you'll need pumpkin puree, which in the UK is not that easy to get hold of, and quite expensive. There should be some in supermarkets now, look/ask for tinned/canned pumpkin. For a cheaper but more fiddly alternative, if you can get hold of pumpkins now you can make your own. If pumpkins are unavailable, butternut squash works too. I used 2 small/medium pumpkins, weighing a total of 2.6kg, and got about 500g/ml puree from them - plenty for lots of baking! De-seed and chop them up to roughly 10cm chunks and roast them (no oil/salt/anything) in the top of an oven at 180°C (350°F, Gas Mark 4) for 35 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 160°C (310°F, Gas mark 2-3) and move them to the centre of the oven for another hour, adding a little (~100ml, just under 1/2 cup) water to the tray. Once cooled, remove the skin and liquidise in a blender / with a stick blender / using a whisk, without the water in the bottom of the tray. The consistency should be like baby food, if it's much more liquid than that then simmer it in a pan until reduced, just bear in mind that when cooled it'll be thicker than when warm so be careful not to over-reduce it in the pan. Pour into sterilised jars (boiling water, dry in a cool oven) and seal. It'll keep for about a week in the fridge.
Lydia's Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie Cups, makes 8
Pastry (of the Pâte Sucrée variety) - this will actually make enough for ~30 cups I think, but is the minimum pastry quantity to make with a whole egg
7½ oz (200g, 1 1/3 cup) bread flour
3 oz (80g, just under ½cup ) confectioner's / icing sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
3 6/8 oz (100g, 1 stick) butter, chilled
1 1/8 oz (30g) ground almonds / almond flour
butter for greasing,
8 espresso cups - preferably flat-bottomed and straight up.
Greaseproof paper (baking parchment) and baking beans / any dried beans, for lining and blind baking the pastry cases.
6 oz (170g) pumpkin puree (see above)
4 3/8 oz (125g, 3/4 cup) light brown soft sugar or light brown muscovado sugar
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
2tsp espresso powder
4 3/8 oz (125g, ½ cup) evaporated milk
14g (1tbsp) butter, melted
Caramel, and Caramel Sauce
1 3/4 oz (50g, 1/4 cup) caster sugar
4 tbsp (60ml, 1/4 cup) evaporated milk
4 egg whites (~150g, 5 1/4 oz), at room temperature
5 1/4 oz (150g, 3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp caramel sauce (above)
candy or meat thermometer
To make the pastry cases, sift the flour with the sugar and baking powder. Add the butter and blend in using an electric whisk / standing mixer on slow, or cut in with a knife or pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs - this is known as mealy pastry (as opposed to flaky pastry in which the butter is less worked in, leaving larger chunks), and if the butter isn't worked in enough then a wet filling like used here will soak through and make the cases soggy.
Add the eggs and continue mixing until the dough begins to come together, then add the ground almonds and mix until the dough comes together. Bring it together to a ball and wrap in cling film (saran wrap) and refrigerate for 4 hours (according to Michel Suas. The minumum for pastry tends to be 30 minutes to 1 hour, but I've tried this pastry with less time in the fridge and it's just too soft to roll before 4 hours. Painful but true).
Roll the pastry to 1.5-2mm thick, cut out circles to fit the bottom of the cups, and strips approx 3-4cm / 1.5 inches thick and long enough to cover the circumference of the circle with just under 1cm overlap. As a simple rule, multiply the diameter by 3 and add a bit more, for espresso cups you'll be looking at somewhere in the region of 18-24cm. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes. All the refrigeration will help with lining of the cups and help to prevent the pastry from shrinking away from the cups and losing it's shape.
Grease the cups lightly with butter and place the pastry circles in the bottom of the cups, and line the sides with the strips. Press the overlaps together firmly to meld them together, and use your fingertip (no nails!) or something smooth-ended (I used a small rolling pin I have for rolled fondant work) to make sure the base pastry and side pastry are fully joined. Gently prick all over with a fork and line with baking parchment. Return to the fridge, place a baking sheet in the oven and pre-heat to 160°C (310°F, Gas mark 2-3).
|© Nick Loven|
For the filling, drop the oven temperature to 150°C (300°F, Gas Mark 2), keeping the baking tray inside. Break up the egg with a fork, stir in the pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt and espresso powder and stir until mixed. Mix in the evaporated milk and melted butter until smooth, being careful not to incorporate any air. Place the pastry caes back in the espresso cups and fill to about half a centimetre below the rims, Bake on the preheated tray for about 30-35 minutes, until the centres of the pies are only just set. Allow to cool, then they should come away from the cups easily.
To stick the handles to the cups, first prepare a large bowl of ice cold water. Make caramel by dissolving the sugar in 2tbsp water, then heating the sugar over a high heat in a heavy pan (not non-stick - that'll cause the sugar to crystallise). It's important not to stir or shake the sugar as this will cause it to crystallise. At most, turn the pan gently if one side is becoming more "done" than the other, but shaking will also cause crystallisation. Once bubbling calms down and the sugar takes on a caramelised appearance and smell, take the pan off the heat and place into the ice-cold water to stop the caramel cooking. Immediately dip the pastry handle tips in the caramel and attach them to the cups. Return the caramel to the hob to re-melt it, again, again avoiding stirring it. Once melted, stir in the evaporated milk a little at a time with a rubber spatula to create a caramel sauce. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.
To make the meringue topping, combine the sugar and egg whites in a stainless steel bowl that has been thoroughly cleaned (I use boiling water) to remove any traces of fat which will hinder the egg whites from expanding. Heat over a pan of boiling water while whisking by hand to avoid scrambling. When the eggs reach 71°C (160°F) or 49°C (120°F) if the eggs are pasteurised. Once they've reached temperature, whisk with an electric mixer / whisk, or continue whisking by hand, until you reach the stiff peak stage - peaks of meringue will stand on their own. Gently fold in the caramel sauce and espresso powder, and top the pumpkin cups either with dollops of meringue, or pipe it on. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top, collapse in an exhausted heap and when you come-to, devour with a steaming cup of coffee. Or tea. All good.
|© Nick Loven|