Category Archives: Food science

Choux buns


Choux pastry – 14 small buns

Eclairs, choux buns, profiteroles and cheese puffs are made with choux pastry.
Choux pastry is not rolled like other pastries – it is a dough of flour, fat, eggs and water.

Ingredients
50g butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing
125ml water
75g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
For cheese puffs, mix 100g grated cheese to the dough, fill with low fat cream cheese.
For profiteroles use 150ml whipped double cream and dust with icing sugar.

choux buns

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7 and grease a baking tray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan with the water then bring to the boil.
  3. Add the flour quickly into the boiling water and beat the pastry mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and leaves the bottom of the pan. This takes about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Cool for 2-3 minutes then gradually beat in the eggs to make a smooth, shiny paste.
  5. Using a dessert spoon, put spoonfuls of the mixture on the baking tray.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas 4 and bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed up, golden brown and with a crisp bottom.
  7. When cooked, pierce holes in the top to let out the steam and bake for 2 minutes to dry out.
  8. Leave them upside down on a cooling rack to dry completely.

The science bit

When the eggs are beaten into the flour dough, they trap air which helps the pastry rise.
Beating the mixture stretches the gluten which helps form the structure.
When the mixture bakes, the liquid from eggs and water in the dough turns to steam and puffs up and raises the mixture leaving the centre hollow.
The egg protein denatures, coagulates and the gluten in the flour sets forming the structure.
Starch in the flour gelatinises as it cooks.
The hole is made in the choux buns to let the steam out and stop the buns from softening.
Coagulated egg also glazes the crust to give a golden colour.

 

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Victoria sandwich


Serves 8-10

Ingredients
200g soft butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder 3g
2 tbsp milk 30ml

Butter cream icing
200g icing sugar
100g butter
A little milk
100g strawberry jam
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line 2 x 20cm non-stick round sandwich tins with baking parchment, then lightly grease the parchment.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
  4. Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  5. Beat the eggs and add gently – if the mixture begins to curdle, add a little flour.
  6. Gently fold in the flour with a metal spoon in a ‘figure of 8’ to keep air in the mixture. Stir until there are no lumps.
  7. Share the mixture equally between the 2 tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is golden, risen and springs back to the touch. Test with a skewer – if it comes out cleanly, the cake is done. If any cake mix comes out on the skewer, cook a little longer and test again.
  8. Leave the cakes to cool then remove the cakes from the tins, and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Peel off the baking parchment and spread bottom cake with jam, butter cream or cream.
  10. Place the other cake on top. Sprinkle icing sugar on the top.

Butter cream icing

  1. Beat the sifted icing sugar and butter or margarine together. Add flavouring if you have chosen any.
  2. You can spread the butter cream on top of the cake, or pipe it through a star nozzle.

This cake is made by the creaming method – the all in one method is quicker!

All in one method
Put all the cake ingredients in the bowl at once and beat with electric whisks, a wooden spoon or a food processor. The butter or margarine must be soft so that the mixture mixes easily. Extra baking powder (1 tsp) is added to make up for the air that is not beaten in during the creaming method.
This method is quick and easy!

 

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Shortcrust pastry


Ingredients

200g plain flour
100g fat – choose butter, margarine, cooking fat, lard
Cold water to mix

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
  2. Rub 100g of fat into 200g plain flour and mix to a dough with cold water – about 2-4 tablespoons.
    Knead into a ball and wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  3. Roll out the pastry  and bake in the oven for 15-20  minutes.

The science bit

Plain flour is used for pastry as a higher gluten flour like bread flour makes a tough pastry.
When water is mixed with the flour the gluten develops so shortcrust pastry uses very little water to keep it crisp and make shorter pastry.
If you overwork the pastry dough the gluten develops making tough, hard pastry.
Fats and oils shorten a flour mixture to make it crisp and crumbly in texture.
The fat forms a protective coating around flour particles, stops flour absorbing more water and makes shorter pastry.
The gluten sets with heat and forms the crisp, short pastry.

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Soufflé omelette


Soufflé omelette with cheese, tomatoes and pepperoni – Serves 2

This omelette is puffed up with beaten egg whites to make it light and fluffy.

Ingredients
4 eggs
50g grated cheese
½ teaspoon mixed herbs or fresh parsley
1 tablespoon oil
4 cherry tomatoes
50g pepperoni or salami sausage, sliced

Method

  1. Separate the eggs into yolks and whites in 2 bowls.
  2. Put the cheese and herbs into the yolks, beat and season.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they are light and fluffy.
    Gently stir in the egg yolk mixture.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan and tip in the egg mix.
    Cook as the mixture sets then top with the tomatoes and slices of pepperoni.
  5. Place the pan under the grill – take care not to put the handle under the heat.
    Grill until the top is puffed up and golden.
  6. Serve the soufflé omelette straight away with a salad.

The science bit

The egg protein denatures, coagulates and sets with the heat and this binds the ingredients together.
When the egg whites are whisked, the protein extends and surrounds and traps the air bubbles, creating a colloidal foam – a gas-in-liquid foam.
When the soufflé omelette is cooked, the air expands with heat and the egg proteins set and coagulate making a light, soft omelette.

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Crème caramel


Crème caramel – Serves 2
Caramel is used to make sweet dishes such as oranges in caramel and crème caramel which is a creamy custard cooked on top of a layer of caramel.
DO NOT TASTE THE CARAMEL AS IT IS SO HOT IT WILL BURN!

 

Ingredients
Caramel
50g sugar
2 tablespoons water
Custard
2 eggs
10g caster sugar – 2 teaspoons
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200ml whole milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2. Use 2 ramekin dishes or 2 oven proof tea cups to cook the custard.
  2. Make the caramel. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until the sugar turns dark brown.
  3. Pour the caramel into each of the ramekin dishes and leave to cool. Take care as it is very hot!
  4. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract with a whisk until smooth. Beat in the milk.
    Strain into a measuring jug then pour into each of the ramekins.
  5. Put the ramekins in a roasting tin which is half filled with boiling water. This is called a bain marie.
  6. Cook for 20-30 minutes in the oven until the custard is set.
  7. Cool before serving. Chill in the fridge if possible. Loosen the edges of the custard, cover with a plate and tip out onto the plate with the caramel topping.

The science bit

Sugar turns brown as it is made into caramel which adds a strong flavour to the recipe.
During heating, the protein in the eggs and milk sets, coagulates and forms a matrix through the mixture which makes the soft custard.

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Meringues


Mini meringues – Makes 8
You can pipe or spoon the meringue shapes.

Ingredients
2 large egg whites or ready to use egg white
110g caster sugar
Filling – whipped cream, cream cheese, mascarpone or fromage frais and a little sugar
Decorate with chopped strawberries and sprinkle on icing sugar.

 

Method

  1. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven 140°C/Gas 1.
  3. Crack the eggs to separate the whites from the yolks – or buy liquid egg white.
  4. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until the egg whites are fluffy.
  5. Slowly add the sugar. If you add the sugar too early it stops the egg proteins from extending to form the foam network. You need sugar to keep the foam stable when it cooks and becomes crisp.
  6. If you’ve beaten the egg whites too much, the foam breaks down, so whisk another egg white and stir into the mixture.
  7. Pile 8 heaped dessert spoons of the meringue onto the parchment paper or pipe as stars.
  8. Bake in the oven for time needed to crisp the meringue.
  9. You can whisk some whipping cream and make another foam to pile onto the meringue with fruit for decoration.

The science bit

The egg whites are beaten to form a foam.
The egg white protein, albumen, uncoils and forms a network trapping the air.
When the meringue cooks, the air expands and pushes up the protein which denatures, coagulates and sets, forming the crisp meringue.

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Lemon meringue


Lemon meringue – Serves 4
This lemon pudding is like lemon meringue pie with no pastry. It is lemon sauce with meringue topping. This means the recipe is more nutritious in my opinion – less fat!

Ingredients
1 very large lemon or 2 small lemons (180g weight)
150ml boiling water
15g cornflour
25g butter or margarine
40g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Meringue
2 egg whites
60g caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven 170°C/Gas 3.
  2. Blend the cornflour with a little cold water and add the lemon juice and rind. Stir in the boiling water and put in a saucepan with the butter and sugar. Stir until the sauce thickens and become clearer. Remove from heat, leave to cool.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until softly stiff and add the sugar carefully.
  4. Stir the egg yolks into the lemon sauce and pour into ramekins or an ovenproof dish.
  5. Spoon the meringue over the lemon filling and lift into peaks.
  6. Put the ramekins in a roasting tin with a little hot water to protect the lemon sauce during cooking.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the meringue is crisp and slightly golden. Serve hot or cold.

The science bit

There’s a lot of science going on in this dish.
The starch in the cornflour swells, absorbs the water and gelatinises. This makes a smooth, thickened, clear sauce.
The protein in the egg yolks, when heated in the oven, denatures, coagulates and forms a network through the sauce which makes it thicken a bit more.
The egg whites are beaten to form a foam. The egg white protein, albumen, uncoils and forms a network trapping the air.
When the meringue cooks, the air expands and pushes up the protein which denatures, coagulates and sets, forming the crisp meringue.
The cornflour and water mixture is thick for a short time, but breaks down with further heating and water is forced out. This process is known as retrogradation.
When cold, starch sets the mixture by a process of gelation.

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