I’ve never been the one to go forth and set up a Go Fund Me page for walking 100,000 steps in a day, or to face death in the face and eat the worlds hottest chilli pepper (I think it is the Carolina Reaper – the name alone makes me want to cry with pain) all in the name of charity. I’m a wimp – yes, really I am … and throw in my ever growing health problems, I should really just walk around in a bubble. That would be fun though!
I do like to do my bit for charity, as more often than not we forget that there are people less fortunate than ourselves, or there are people suffering or just going through a bad time and just need a little support – whether it be financially or emotionally. Do I believe in karma? Not so much, but it’s a great idea right? Give a little to get a little?
As a baker, I am often approached to donate some of my bakes for an event. I have donated to many Macmillan Coffee Mornings, local school fetes and my work based charity events. I am a Civil Servant … going on 11 years now. Been a while but it’s such a great place to work. I am fortunate to work in an office where we regularly fundraise and donate to local charities as well as the more well know ones such as Red Nose Day, Children In Need, etc.
This time round we were raising money for Children In Need, by organising our Taste of Asia event. This event was a celebration of asian culture, the love of food and traditional customs. Colleagues brought in some amazing home cooked dishes. Sweet and savoury dishes were on offer … and not all the dishes were of asian origin either. It was just a great way for everyone to come together and share the love for food. The smell in my office was amazing, like seriously! There was so much to choose from, samosas, curries, dumplings, and foods that I didn’t even recognise or even heard of … as well as cakes and sweet treats! My taste senses were on overdrive!
The event started at 11am and I was right there at the beginning of the queue with my plate ready. It cost £2.50 per plate of food … but you could pile your plate high if you wanted. Not everyone did, it was quite a civilised affair. I was quite disappointed with the dessert section … I expected there to be more sweet desserts but unfortunately, the asian baking fairies were on strike that day. There were more shop bought cakes than anything else. I was disappointed. There was one other homemade dessert, it didn’t look too great, an apple cake of some sort. It was sitting in a former biscuit tin, decent sized squares of sugar dusted sponges. I bought a slice never the less … just for charity, it cost me £1.
I went back to my desk and set my lunch aside for later … 11am is way to early for lunch. I just got into work … it was a slow day for me. At lunch time, around 1pm … I couldn’t resist the hunger any longer and I went to heat up my plate of food. The food was on a paper plate, but the paper plate was now a little soggy … I hurried to the microwave in our little kitchenette to heat it up. I was paranoid that my food was going to seep through the paper plate and end up in a heap on the office floor. The cleaners would not be impressed. The food was lovely … a little spicy for me but tasted really good. The pakoras were divine and the vegetable samosa was delish, crispy with a soft and slightly spicy filling.
I almost forgot to tell you about my dessert … and do you know what! OMG! My apple cake was so delicious. It was unusual and not something I had had before. The vanilla sponge was baked on a crispy layer of pastry which in turn had a layer of soft tarte apple slices running through the sponge. The top of the sponge had more slices of apple baked through, poking through the top of the sponge. I loved the way the peaks of the baked sponge had browned a bit too much and were crispy … almost like a crunchy crumble top. It was dusted with icing sugar … everything tasted better with a dusting of icing sugar.
The day finished with a catwalk of traditional dress. Colleagues dressed up in beautiful sari’s, bright colours adorned with sequins and glitter. It was a great end to a successful event.
So what was my contribution to the event? Choux buns of course … very Asian I know(!) Well, in all fairness, I was going to bake a cake, but when I found out a few of my other colleagues were contributing cake, I didn’t want to out shine them with my brilliance *ahem* *cough*. But as I mentioned earlier, I needn’t had tried so hard … it’s not hard to compete with a shop bought cake. It wasn’t just the plain old traditional choux buns that I had to offer. Oh no! I also brought out the big guns this time round … the mother of all choux buns made an appearance at this event. My super duper and oh so divine … craquelin choux buns.
Want to know how I made them? Check this out ……
Firstly, I made the craquelin. This is simpler than it looks. It is similar to a crumble mix … in a large bowl I added 85g sugar, 100g butter and 100g flour.
I got my hands stuck in there to ensure all the ingredients were combined. I used my fingers to really get the butter mixed in with the sugar and flour.
I kept mixing all the ingredients together to form a soft ball of dough … almost like cookie dough.
The dough is then placed in-between two large sheets of parchment paper.
Using a large rolling pin, I rolled out the craquelin dough until it was about 2mm to 3mm thick then popped the rolled out dough into the freezer to harden. Whilst the craquelin was freezing, I got on with the choux buns.
For the choux buns – I started to heated 50g butter and 150ml of milk in a pan until just boiled …
I took the pan off the heat and quickly added 80g of plain flour with a tablespoon of sugar …
I stirred the pan vigorously with a spatula until all the ingredients were mixed together and well combined. I find that this can take a minute or two … it depends on how strong your arms are. It can take a vigourous beating.
My continuous beating rewarded me with a nice smooth and thick paste. The paste should not have any trace of flour. The paste now needs to be left to cool slightly. Adding eggs at this point with result in scrambled eggs.
The quickest way I found to cool down the paste is to place it in a large metal mixing bowl and spread the paste up the sides of the bowl. The thinner the layer the paste, the quicker it will cool down. You shouldn’t leave it like this for too long as the paste can dry out … just warm to the touch is sufficient.
I next added 4 large eggs. I always crack my eggs into a small bowl first before using them … but doing this first, you can see if there are any stray egg shells that have crept in.
I added the paddle attachment to my electric mixer and turned the speed to medium … scraping the bowl, I mixed the paste until it has come together. Next, I added the eggs one at a time. It will take a few moments for the eggs to mix in with the paste, but you need to have a bit of patience. I added all the other eggs and mix thoroughly after each addition.
Once the batter has smoothened out and is now glossy, I transferred the mixture to a piping bag.
I use these super strong blue piping bags. They can take a good squeeze without bursting. I popped a large round piping nozzle into the bag before filling it with the choux batter.
I lined a couple of large baking trays with some greaseproof paper, then piped the batter onto lined baking trays … allow sufficient amount of space between each one to allow for expansion when baking. These choux buns can expand to more than twice its size.
I pipe my choux buns about 1 inch in diameter, but of course you can pipe them to whatever size you prefer.
I wanted to make two different types of choux buns for this Taste of Asia event. Regular choux buns (aka profiteroles) and the craquelin choux buns. For the regular choux buns, I piped the batter on to baking parchment and baked in the oven at gas mark 6 for around 30 minutes until well risen, puffed and browned.
I love the way these choux buns look. All misshapen and irregular. Shop bought buns are always round and generic looking, but these ones are a little rustic, full of puffy character.
For the craquelin choux buns, I took out the frozen craquelin from the freezer and set it aside to allow it to defrost for a minute. I piped the choux batter onto the parchment paper as mentioned above. Then using a round cutter, I cut out rounds of craquelin that were the same width as the choux buns.
Here I used one of my piping nozzles to cut out the circles, this is only because it happens to be perfect size for these buns.
I popped each circle of craquelin on the top of each choux bun, then baked the buns in the oven at gas mark 6 for around 30 minutes until they are all puffed up and browned.
I allowed the buns to cool slightly for a minute before poking a hole in the side of each bun. This is to allow steam to escape … this is done to stop the buns from going soggy.
I made these choux buns the night before to allow them to cool overnight. First thing in the morning I began to fill them. Juggling this with trying to get my kids ready for school was no mean feat. Time ticking … I piped Chantilly cream into the profiteroles, then dipped the top of each bun in some melted dark chocolate. For the craquelin choux bun I filled them using creme patisserie … a posh type of French custard.
All ready for the party! Don’t they just look so cute and delicious … sitting there like little of balls of heaven. I had to get my darling husband to give me a lift into work. It would be a nightmare trying to get these on the bus with me. Can you imagine …?
What charity events did you do for Children in Need this year? I would love to hear all about it. Until next time …
Much love to you …
~ The Cake Lady xxx