In the Kitchen
Baker extraordinaire Julie Clark hopes to conquer our fear of making pastry at home, concerned that the technique is becoming a lost art.
Co-owner of Floriditas restaurant in Cuba St, the chef and baker is holding pastry-making classes during Visa Wellington on a Plate, which have sold out with waiting lists.
Clark will show 48 participants how to make sweet, short, choux and puff pastries, along with a range of baking techniques.
"Our grandmothers would have been good at baking pastry and it was something they learned as part of running a home," she says.
"A home was like a small business, but those skills have moved away and now we have women who are working and trying to run a streamlined version of feeding people and running a home."
Clark's bakery is located behind her popular restaurant and it's where her team of bakers make Floriditas cakes, slice and biscuits, which are sold at Moore Wilson's and in her restaurant, along with desserts and counter food.
All Floriditas baking products are made with free-range eggs, no preservatives, good-quality flour and seasonal fruit.
"If you follow a small version of our recipe, it's what you can make at home," she says. "One of the problems with bought pastry is that the list of chemicals in it is astounding. There are improvers and preservatives and colours. It's also cheaper to make your own, but people often feel scared to make it."
Clark grew up on a farm near Whanganui where she became cook of the household, freeing up her seamstress mother to make the family's clothes.
She studied at Auckland's Cordon Bleu cooking school in the 1980s, worked for Jo Seagar, and spent time cooking and travelling in London and Europe, before returning here with her husband, James Pedersen.
Her Wellington culinary career began with the launch of delicatessen Clarks Food Merchants in Roseneath, before the couple began to run the Wellington Library eatery, Clarks Cafe. When they took over Anise Cafe and eventually relaunched it as Floriditas, Clark remembers that the only foodie drawcards in Cuba St were Olive Cafe and Logan Brown.
"Within six months to a year of us arriving, it all started to change and the food district moved away from Allan and Blair streets to Cuba St. Now you can get almost anything, from a curry to tapas to fine dining."
JULIE CLARK'S CHOUX PASTRY
Choux pastry is light and crisp, used for both sweet and savoury foods. It has a high water content, which gives the the pastry its lift.
Makes 10 to 15 eclair shells or 15 to 20 cream-puff shells.
100g butter, diced
3 large eggs (4 small), at room temperature
Lightly grease a large baking tray and sprinkle with water.
Put the rack in the lower third of the oven and pre-heat to 220C. The oven needs to be at temperature when the choux goes in.
Sift and weigh the flour and place handy to the stove. Combine the water, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place it over a medium heat.
Stir until the butter is melted completely, then bring to a rapid boil. Once the melted butter and water mix comes to the boil, add all the flour at once and beat with a wooden spoon over the heat.
Beat until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pot. Once you have a ball, keep cooking and stirring until a film develops on the base of the pan. Time this for one minute.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer or mixing bowl. Allow the dough to cool for five minutes before adding the eggs.
Mix the eggs with a folk to break them up. Add the eggs bit by bit, beating until the dough is stiff enough to hold a peak (you may not need all the egg). Fit a large pastry bag with a decorating tip or use wet spoons for free form.
Bake the choux pastry in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 180C and cook for a further 20 minutes, or less if you have made the choux smaller.
Remove from the tray and make a hole with the point of a knife in the side or base of the pastry. This lets out the steam.
Cool completely on a cake rack then fill and top as you choose.
JULIE CLARK'S TOP PASTRY TIPS
1. Sift the flour before measuring. Sifting allows the liquid to incorporate more easily into the pastry.
2. Some recipes contain sugar, which adds flavour and makes the pastry brown more quickly.
3. Eggs need to be at room temperature.
4. Eggs need to be incorporated until the dough is stiff enough to hold a peak when the spoon is removed.
5. Salt in the recipe keeps the choux from cracking.
6. The oven needs to be at correct temperature before putting in the choux.
- © Fairfax NZ News