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Patrick's Day Fare: Pastry chef Caitlin Lopes shares choux bun and lemon meringue recipes

Caitlin Lopes, pastry chef at the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast shares some delicious sweet treat recipes.

Caitlin Lopes

MOUTH-WATERING DESSERTS and lazy afternoon teas might be distant memories right now, as lockdown continues to deprive us of the little luxuries we treasured in normal times.

And with a family meal, date night or celebration with friends still out of reach, we are left to our own devices when it comes to homemade recipes. But we can make the best of it.

The Grand Central in Belfast, where I work, is renowned for its afternoon tea which customers often enjoy in the Observatory, the tallest cocktail bar in Ireland, 23 floors up. 

Pandemic restrictions have, of course, turned the hospitality world on its head, but the challenges are something we have to weather and hopefully, life will be sweet again soon.

At the moment, we’re only open to essential workers, meaning the dramatic reduction in footfall has transformed how the hotel operates. We’re so used to being busy seven days a week, so we’ve gone from 100 afternoon teas on a Saturday to having 20 people for dinner.

So if you’re attempting afternoon tea at home, here’s a couple of seasonal recipes for you to try this St Patrick’s Day:

St Patrick’s Day choux bun with green sable topping and a pistachio filling

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Ingredients

Brown sugar craquelin

75g butter (soft)
90g soft light brown sugar
85g plain flour
Green food colouring (or desired colour)

Choux

125ml milk
125ml water
125g butter
Pinch of salt
10g sugar
245g eggs (lightly beaten)
160g strong flour (sieved)

Pistachio diplomat

125ml whole milk
125ml double cream
1tsp vanilla bean paste
45g egg yolk
40g caster sugar
20g plain flour
10g cornflour
30g pistachio paste
1 leaf gelatine (soaked in ice cold water)
85g semi whipped double cream

Method – Brown Sugar Craquelin

Beat butter and sugar until smooth
Add flour and food colouring (add food colouring bit by bit until you get your desired colour)
Let rest for at 30 minutes
Lightly flour your bench and roll your craquelin until approx 2-3mm thick
Cut to desired size and keep in fridge until required

Method – Choux pastry

  • Heat oven on to 170◦C fan assisted
  • Place milk, water, butter, salt and sugar into a wide based pan and bring to a simmer
  • Add in sieved flour and keep mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon until your dough comes away from the sides of the pan to form one piece of dough
    Allow dough to cool for 5 to 7 minutes before gradually adding in your eggs bit by bit. When each bit of egg is added ensure that it has been fully mixed into your dough before adding any more. You should end up with a smooth glossy dough of thick dropping consistency
  • Pipe mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and top with craquelin (you want your craquelin to be a few centimetres bigger than your piped choux)
  • Bake at 170◦C for 15-20 minutes then lower your oven to 130ºC and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Method – Pistachio diplomat

  • Heat milk, cream, vanilla and pistachio paste to a simmer
  • Whisk egg yolks sugar and flours
  • Gradually pour cream mix over egg mix continuously whisking
  • Place back on the heat and keep whisking (do not leave it or it will scramble) until you can make a figure of 8
  • Whisk in gelatine
  • Set over ice
  • Once set smooth with a spatula
  • When smooth lightly fold in semi whipped cream and place in the fridge for approximately 20 minutes

Assembly

  • Finely slice of the top of your cooled choux bun and set to the side
  • Place your chilled whipped pistachio diplomat into a piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle
  • Pipe into the base of your choux bun until filled approximately 1 to 2cm over the top
  • Place the top of your choux bun onto the top of your piped diplomat
  • Pipe a small rosette of diplomat on top again and garnish with your chosen chocolate decoration if desired
  • Best eaten with some warm chocolate sauce and a big scoop of ice cream!

Lemon meringue tart

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Ingredients

Sweet pastry
250g plain flour (sieved)
100g butter cubed
80g icing sugar (sieved)
Small Pinch of salt
2 eggs

Lemon tart mix
6 lemons zest and juice (keep your zest and juice separate and ensure you don’t zest the white of the lemon as it will be bitter)
400ml double cream
275g caster sugar
5 eggs (medium-sized)

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Italian meringue
225ml egg whites
600g sugar
140ml cold water

Method – Sweet pastry

  • Preheat oven to 150◦C fan assisted
  • Crumb together flour butter icing sugar and salt (until it resembles fine bread crumbs)
  • Lightly beat eggs
  • Make a well in the centre and add eggs
  • Knead until you have a smooth dough (approx 5 minutes)
  • Rest for at least 1 hour before rolling to fit your tart base
  • When your tart base is rolled lightly prick the bottom with a fork (not too hard – you only want to pierce it not go the whole way to the base)
  • Blind bake (use clingfilm or baking parchment to place in the centre of your tart and fill with baking beans or rice) at 150◦c for 15-20 minutes until very lightly golden
  • Remove clingfilm/baking parchment and cook for a further 7-10 minutes (lightly golden and crispy)
  • Leave to cool
  • Tip – brush tart lightly with egg yolk when your blind baking is done, and put back in the oven for 2-3 minutes (120◦c fan assisted) to dry it out. This will help protect your base when you pour the lemon mix in.

Method – Lemon tart

Whisk eggs well
Add in the rest of the ingredients leaving out the zest. Keep whisking until well combined
Pass through a sieve and then add in your zest
Carefully pour your tart filling into your cooled base and cook at 120◦c
Check after 20 minutes (for a large tart ring), then every 2-3 minutes after that until you only have a slight wobble in the centre of the tart

Method – Italian Meringue

  • Place egg whites in your mixer with whisk attachment and put on a medium-high speed (you want these to be semi-stiff before adding your cooked sugar mix)
  • Mix water and sugar together in a pan until a paste is formed (ensure you don’t have any sugar residue on the sides of your pan)
  • Put on a medium to high heat and cook to 118◦c
  • Now slowly pour your sugar mix into your egg whites whilst still whisking (steady stream not too fast)
  • Keep whisking until cool
  • Finished product will be a glossy meringue with lovely peaks when piped
  • Place in a piping bag and finish decorating your cooled lemon tart (this can be spooned on too!)

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About the author:

Caitlin Lopes

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