Just as lockdown 1 started there was a huge spike in people making baking-related google searches, with “banana bread” and “cheesecake” becoming almost as popular as “coronavirus” and “the end of civilisation as we know it”.
Now we’re well into the sequel of lockdown, which is somehow both more dangerous and more boring, people are once more turning to the oven for comfort. Sourdough is a perennial baking search term, but as many people already mastered that during the first round of quarantine, we thought we’d seek the advice of a master baker to help expand your culinary repertoire.
Sarah Frankland, Head Pastry Chef, Pennyhill Park, is in charge of everything sweet at the hotel, including its award-winning afternoon tea, and dessert at the brasserie restaurant. As well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the pastry section, she is responsible for the development of new menus and culinary innovations, as well as teaching guests at the cookery school in Winchester.
We asked her how she got into baking and to provide us with a fool-proof recipe for make-at-home macarons.
What’s your story?
Both my grandmothers and my mum were big bakers at home. I knew I wanted to make it my career when I went on a day course in London making Sacher Torte and chocolate bon bons, and found that I could be creative in baking and pastry, making things that would bring them joy.
What’s the thing most new bakers get wrong?
Not following the recipe – baking and pastry is science. The chemical reactions between all the ingredients are key to achieving a good bake. This is my biggest tip: follow the recipe and the method to the letter.
What equipment do you recommend?
The only equipment you need to make simple bakes is a mixing bowl, spatula and whisk. If you are a little more adventurous, I recommend a stand mixer, good baking trays and some silicone baking mats. The great thing is that supermarkets and online retailers are stocking items that were once only available through professional equipment stores.
How have you seen your profession change since things like Bake Off?
There’s really been a revival in baking – this year’s lockdown has done great things for people’s confidence in trying something new and it saw a lot of people taking up baking. The understanding and appreciation of the general public with regards to the role and skills of a pastry chef is really on the up.
One of the recipes I love teaching to guests is macarons at our cookery school. It is one of those recipes that’s simple, but if not followed properly it can go wrong, so newer bakers are afraid to try it. Here is the recipe for our Festive Cranberry and Ridgeview Sparkling Wine Macarons.
Macaron recipe – makes 24
Ground almond base
• 200g of ground almonds
• 200g of icing sugar
• 75g of egg white – approx. 2 – 2.5 eggs
• 75g of egg white
• 185g of caster sugar
• 55ml of water
• 15g of caster sugar
Ridgeview ganache recipe
• 100g of whipping cream
• 300g of white chocolate
• 50g of unsalted butter
• 60g Ridgeview Bloomsbury sparkling wine
Macarons cranberry filling recipe
• 200g frozen cranberries
• 50g caster sugar
• 50g certo apple pectin
• Silver shimmer powder
• Rice paper
• 2 x trays and non stick baking mats or siliconeised baking paper
• 1 x 10mm piping nozzle
• 3 x piping bag
• 1 x stand mixer or hand held whisk
• 1 x mixing bowl
• 1 x spatula
To make the macarons:
• Preheat the oven to 150°C
• Begin with the ground almond base. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl and mix together to form a smooth paste. Set aside while making the Italian meringue
• Place the egg whites in a clean bowl of a standing mixer and start whisking on a low speed.
• Meanwhile, place the 185g of the caster sugar and the water in a pan over a medium-high heat to create a syrup. Heat through until the syrup reaches ‘soft ball’ stage, or 118°C on a sugar thermometer
• As the thermometer reaches 105°C, add the final 15g of caster sugar to the whisking egg whites to help stabilise the meringue, increasing the speed of the mixer at the same time
• As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 118°C, reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg white mixture. Once all of the syrup has been added, increase the whisking speed again for 1 minute continue to whisk gently until the meringue has cooled to blood temperature – it should be thick and fluffy.
• Gently fold the Italian meringue into the almond base a third at a time, mixing gently with a spatula until each third is fully incorporated before adding the next.
• When the mixture is smooth and shiny, transfer to a piping bag with a plain 10mm nozzle and pipe 4.5cm rounds onto baking trays lined with non stick baking mats or silicone paper. (pic 11) bake in the pre heated oven for 17–18 minutes – the discs should be just starting to peel off the paper. Allow to cool completely before filling
To make the ganache filling,
• Place the cream in a pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, place the chocolate into a bowl.
• Remove the cream from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, leave for 30 seconds to start melting the chocolate then begin mixing with a spatula until a smooth ganache is formed.
• Add the softened butter a little at a time, finish by adding the Ridgeview and emulsify into the ganache with hand blender to ensure it is glossy and smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and allow to cool and semi set before using
To make the cranberry compote
• Place the cranberries and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil, whisking intermittently to break down the cranberries, once boiled add in the certo pectin and bring back to the boil. Whisk well and then place into a container to cool and set in the fridge. Once cooled blend into a smoother compote
• When ready to assemble, pipe circles of ganache around the outside of the macaron shell, fill the centre with the cranberry compote and then sandwich together.