My chocolate and Pastry Experiences

Scottish part time chocolatier in London enjoying all things Chocolate and Pastry

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New Chocolate Flavours

IMAG1577so I decided to try some new flavours, one based on Pierre Hermes Ispahan Macaronwhich is a Lychee and Rose Ganache Centre and was decorated like Frank Haasnoot’s World Chocolate Masters moulded chocolate recipe, black chocolate Cherry made with Cacao Barry Alunga Milk Chocolate (41%), a blueberry ganache with Valrhona Manjari (64%) and finally a coffee bean (it’s up there with the Lychee in terms of impressing flavours) made with Valrhona Manjari (64%)

3 chocs

So I made little stencils out of white fondant and then airbrushed white cocoa  butter into the mould. I was a little heavy handed with the airbrush. They may not have looked like they should have or how I wanted them to look but the flavour was stunning. I’ve decided that I don’t like the daisy flower so I’ll look for another flower.

RedBlueberryFor the Cherry design, I flicked red cocoa butter into a small round cylinder mould, most of it flicked back onto my dress… I think that the effect was ok though.

I then tried flicking white and blue cocoa butter rather than a solid blue for the blueberry ganache, which I will try next time.

Coffee Bean

The coffee bean was the simplest of them all, sometimes that’s all it takes, just it’s own flavour to speak for itself.  I had an Aztec mould that I hadn’t found a flavour for so it just seemed perfect for this.  I roasted whole and slightly crushed beans in a dry pan and then infused cream with the heated beans to maximise flavours.

I never thought that I could make chocolate taste like a coffee bean rather than a cup of coffee but I did it, and I was super please with the results.


I also made honeycomb in a 27°c kitchen and dipped in the Cacao Barry Extra Bitter 64%, for the first time ever I had fat bloom on the chocolate….I should’ve taken a picture, to be honest I was so mortified that I’d gotten it so wrong.  I think it was me opening the fridge door all the time and changing the temperature of the fridge. I’ve learned quite a few lessons from these chocolates:

1. don’t wear white dress when playing with chocolate and coloured cocoa butter

2. don’t be so heavy handed with the airbrush, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you keep spraying until you can!

3. try not to temper chocolate in hot kitchen, if it’s got to be done, don’t disturb the fridge when the chocolates are in it

4. honeycomb melts in heat

Recipes to follow 🙂


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Tarte Tatin with Puff Pastry (Pâte feuilletée)

I have decided to enter the Galvin Brothers Tarte Tatin competition that is held during their week long food festival.

I thought that this would be relatively easy, and I remembered a French friend showing me how to make one about 5 years ago. Even at the time I didn’t take much in as they were a chef by profession and just went too fast for me.

The first decision to make was whether to use shortcrust or puff pastry (Pâte brisée or Pâte feuilletée).  Legendery Patisier and MOF Pierre Hermes, michelin starred chefs Thomas Keller of New York’s French Laundry and Raymond Blanc from Le Manoir favour shortcrust (or broken) pastry whilst Le Cordon Bleu cookery school and Pastry chef Claire Clark MBE favour puff pastry. The Galvin brothers use shortcrust in their book “Galvin” but I have decided to use puff pastry

Having decided that Puff was the way to go, I set about making it.

wellpasteset up openedbutterfirst turnfirstturn

Having never made puff pastry since first year in school over 20 something years ago, I scoured all my recipe books and Youtube videos for help. I found the best videos demonstrating the method to be Richard Bertinet’s video and Raiza Costa.

I then used Le Cordon Bleu Patissiere and Baking Foundations book for the Tarte Tatin itself, also using the video (in french) of Meileur du Chef to ensure my stages were going as they should do. I would recommend peeling an extra 2 apples as I ran out and had to use a different variety, which doesn’t look as good when the tarte is turned out. There are lots of different varieties of apple to use, DON’T USE COOKING APPLES. I used Granny Smith in this with the inner circle being Cox’s, there is a huge difference in consistency after all the cooking, the Granny Smith really held their shape whilst the Cox’s where much more mushy.  Braeburn’s seem to be the advised, so next time I will use them, and I will make sure I use enough of them.

tart ingredientscaramelbubblessnugasabug

After being in the oven for about 30mins, I removed the Tarte and immediately smashed the crust on the oven shelf by accident, ordinarily this would be a bad thing but as I was turning it over I wasn’t so upset.

tarte tatinP1030438 I’m not convinced that my pastry was as it should be, having smashed the top I could see some flakey layers but not as many as I’d have expected. I think that the butter went a little warm whilst making the pastry. I’m also not sure whether I flipped this over too early as the caramel was quite runny still and looked very oily.
Pate feuilleté (Puff Pastry)

500 g (1 lb) Flour
10 g (¾ tsp) Salt
225 mL (2½ fl oz) Water
75 g (7 oz) Melted butter
200 g (7 oz) Butter
1 Egg for egg wash


  1. Sift the flour and salt onto a cold work surface. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and melted butter. Combine the ingredients using the fingertips.
  2. Using a pastry scraper, work the flour and butter mixture until loose crumbs form. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, being careful not to use too much or it will become sticky.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball. This is the détrempe. Cut an “X” on top to prevent shrinkage. Wrap dough in floured baking paper. Chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface. Flatten the détrempe and, leaving a mound in the centre, roll it out to form a cross. Place the butter in the centre of the cross.
  5. Fold over each section of dough, pulling it lightly to completely enclose the butter. This is the pâton. Lightly flour the work surface and the rolling pin, rolling it over the top of the dough to seal the edges.
  6. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Fold the bottom-third up towards the middle. Bring the top-third of the dough over the folded third and brush off any excess flour. The dough should be square, have three layers and the edges should align. This is the first “turn”. Give the square a quarter turn so that the exposed edge is on the right (as if the dough were a book). Gently press the edges to seal. Roll it out into a long rectangle and fold in thirds as previously described. This is the second “turn”. Mark the dough with a fingertip to indicate the number of turns. Chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Repeat, making a total of six “turns”. Chill for 30 minutes after each second turn.


Tarte Tatin
6 Apples
54g Butter
167g Caster Sugar
208g Puff Pastry
7.5″ Tarte Tatin Mould


  1. Preheat over to 170°c
  2. Peel and core the apples, rub with lemon to prevent them browning.
  3. Place Tarte Tatin mould over a medium heat and add butter. Once this has melted add the sugar and stir in well. Stirring regularly, cook the sugar until it begins to caramelise.  Once the sugar has turned a golden brown, begin to arrange the apples around the outer edge of the mould.  The apples should be tightly packed facing the same direction, add another circle inside in the opposite direction. Cook until the caramel darkens and bubbles and the apples begin to soften, approximately 20mins.
  4. Roll out puff pastry until it is slightly larger than the pan and about 1/8-in (3-mm) thick.  Remove the pan form the heat. Then roll the dough onto the rolling pin and quickly lay it over the apples. Working quickly ( the dough will begin to soften from the heat of the apples), tuck the edges of the dough inside the edges of the pan using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place the tarte in the oven and bake until the pastry is nicely browned and a knife can be easily inserted into the apple. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Place the serving dish over the pan and quickly flip the pan over then gently lift the mould.


The tart can be left to cool in the mould. To unmould, gently heat the caramel before unmoulding. The cooled tart can he brushed with apricot glaze if desired.


Playing with Cocoa Butter and Airbrushing

CompressorSo I’ve been using an airbrush during my Stage in Yauatcha which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve now bought my own, and I know I’m going to have lots of fun 🙂


metled butter
1st colourAfter polishing all the moulds to remove any residual oil or chocolate from the last time they were used and once the coloured cocoa butter was melted, strained and shiny powder added it was time to give the moulds their first layer of colour…I kept turning the airbrush rather than the mould to begin with so the cocoa butter would drip out of the gravity tank on top.

2nd reversedBy the time I did the 2nd layer I had gotten into the technique of turning the mould rather than the gun.




IMAG1429IMAG1428Once the mould had been sprayed it was time to rub off the excess colour so that when they were capped, there was no coloured cocoa butter going into the tank of chocolate.

I love the results of airbrushing cocoa butter, I can feel lots of chocolate days ahead 🙂



For a different effect I flicked cocoa butter into the moulds

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Hix Dessert Launch and Reflections

We all met in the Godiva Concession where we were delighted with Champagne Truffles and Creme Brulee TrufflesIMAG1378.

Following some chocolate we all went up to Hix and toasted the night with the fantastic Choctini,I81A9313 I really should’ve found out how to make it as it was simply divine and I could see myself making this at home.

I was joined by a few of my friends I81A9326to help celebrate the launch of my dessert onto the menu of Hix after winning the Godiva Chocolate Challenge 2014.

The Hix staff brought out lots of plates of the new dessert and I felt a little under the microscope, everyone was watching to see my reaction.  I was really pleased that Chef Martin hadn’t changed anything, and I was please with itIMAG1383 how it looked and tasted.  It was good to try the dessert after being made by the professionals. In fact I’m back again tonight to try the dessert with some other friends who weren’t there last night.

It was a shame that Mark Hix wasn’t there as I was looking forward to chatting with him again, but I did meet Ronnie Murray who is the Hix Group Head Chef and had I good chat with him who’s background is pastry.

This whole experience has been amazing. From seeing the competition details in the Stylist Magazine email Emerald Street, to researching seasonal ingredients that I could use,I81A8896 and could be used in Hix if I won (got to think positive), all the practicing that my friends got to try and comment on, the phone call from Victoria at Godiva to say that I was in the final – I was so giggly that I’m sure she thought I was a looper, the panic for that week; mentally going through every stage and writing down all the tools and ingredients so that I had everything that I needed, competing in the final and meeting the other contestants, meeting William Sitwell, Mark Hix, Juliet Northumb and Thierry Muret – I have so much more respect for the contestants on Masterchef now…my amazing trip to Brussels traveling on Euro-Star, the day in the kitchen of Hix, the launch and seeing my dessert on the menu IMAG1389…I still have a visit to the Innovation center in Brussels with Thierry to look forward to.

My chocolate adventures will continue…Click for the launch pics
Pictures courtesy of John Gough


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A Day at Hix

index I’m sitting on the usual train that I catch to go into the City every week day morning, but this is different, today I’m off to a professional kitchen for a day. HIX! I have been looking forward to this day since I won the Godiva Chocolate Challenge in March. Having designed a dessert that I thought matched the Hix ethos and celebrated all that is chocolate, I was on the penultimate part of my winning journey. (video of the day).

I81A8914I arrive at Hix Selfridges for the shop opening, there’s something lovely about walking around Selfridges when there are no customers in the store yet. I am greeted by Head Chef Martin Sweeney and given my whites to change into. It turns out Martin is also Scottish which makes me feels a little more at ease.

It suddenly dawns on me…I haven’t made this dessert since the start of March. I should know it inside out, the week of the Godiva competition I went to sleep going through all the stages of the dessert in my head making each stage virtually, but that was nearly 2 months ago. I start to panic “I can’t do this, I’m not prepared, I’m not a chef!” I think. Martin has a brilliant sense of timing and comes over with a coffee for me. “so, talk me through this then” he says. As I talk I remember. Chef smiles at me “well get to it then” he says and leaves me in the Pastry section with Pastry Chef Melissa.

There’s something about being in a Pastry section of a professional kitchen that makes you feel more organised. At least I like to think that’s what it was, it’s more likely to be because the chefs had already weighed out all my ingredients into nice neatly labelled containers. I start to make the Chocolate and Honey Cremeux and I feel like a chef, for today anyway I belong. With the dessert well under way I start to relax….

I81A9020My next panic is doing the quinelles. I learned to do this by watching youtube videos in slow motion. I kept a tub of whipped cream in my fridge to practice – every time I made a cup of coffee I’d pour hot water into a cup and heat my spoon and make a few quinelles then put them back in the cream, smooth it over till the next time.


I81A8943During every stage Chef Martin and Chef Melissa came over to see what I was doing, how I was doing it and offer tips on how I could do it better.


I81A9000Finally I was ready to start to plate up; my pears were nicely poached and caramelised in honey, my almonds toasted in honey and finished off with a touch of crushed fleur de sel, chocolate and honey cremeux had set up nicely, chocolate crumb had cooled and looked like chocolate crumble topping and the sorbet was perfect.

I81A9034After managing to plate up with no errors, it was all down to Chef trying and providing feedback. Chef Martin was very kind to me and had only positive comments…..then all the Hix Chefs came to try and loved it.

Once the dessert was finished I had lunch with the Godiva PR company and John the photographer. Fresh salmon that is cured and smoked on the premises with homemade soda bread, I learned that it’s taken Mark Hix 4 years to perfect the curing and smoking process to what’s used today and it’s been 4 years well spent as the salmon was amazing. There is something special about new season asparagus which I had with hollandaise sauce. I learned so much during that day, and it is certainly one I will not forget.

I81A9042Here’s a link to see all the pictures of my day, courtesy of John Gough