Raymond Blanc’s award-winning pastry and patisserie chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and chief judge on Bake Off Creme de la Creme, Benoit Blin is the UK’s king of puddings. As a new series begins, we asked Blin to share his secrets for creating successful desserts for home chefs.
My Secret Weapon
If you want to work with pastry, you’ll need a good rolling pin, not one you’ve left to age in the back of a cupboard, and a flat baking tray, so anything you place on it cooks correctly. Make sure you’ve got some baking paper. Obviously you need a good whisk, a little brush, a little sieve, good scales and a measuring jug. The secret of pastry is it’s an exact science.
My Millionaire’s Shortbread
You need an extremely crumbly sablé [biscuit base], to the point that it’s breaking up just by looking at it, yet still keeping some texture. The recipe I like is called a Linzer sablé, which uses a cooked egg yolk to bring richness to the recipe. Top it with slightly salted toffee, not too soft or too firm, then a chocolate cream and a very thin 70 per cent cocoa chocolate layer on top.
Presenter Angus Deayton with chefs Benoit Blin and Cherish Finden (L-R)
My Foolproof Pudding
A jazzed-up, perfect crumble is my foolproof pudding. How can you mess up a crumble? I don’t use crushed biscuits or oats – I use butter, flour and caster sugar. The trick is to put a little bit of demerara sugar in to get a crunch to it. You need good quality butter as well. Once it’s mixed, break the crumble down in chunks and freeze it.
When it’s solid, crush it in the blender to get some little pearls of crumble. Put parchment paper on a tray and place a baking ring on the top. Fill the ring with crumble, 7–8mm thick, then bake for the perfect tart case. Whip some cream with 10 per cent sugar and some vanilla paste.
Pipe over the top of your crumble (when it’s cold, obviously), and cover it with lovely strawberries – we’re getting into the season – which you can coat with a little bit of a good-quality strawberry jam. And that’s it.
Meringues Made Easy
Meringues are lovely. The key is whisking your egg whites correctly – a third part egg white, Patisserie master Benoit Blin reveals his kitchen secrets a third caster sugar and a third sifted icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites to a firm peak, to which you add a dash of lemon to keep moist. Gradually add caster sugar to form firm peaks.
Then with a rubber spatula, fold in the icing sugar. Place it on a tray and shape it into a dome with a hollow in the centre (use a spoon). Bake it in an oven pre-set at 90°C–100°C, for 1–1½ hours, to cook gently. Now you have a base to fill with scoops of ice cream and fruit.
My Word Of Warning
Lemon juice. It has high acidity. Put a little lemon juice into an egg white before you whip it and you have the magic touch that allows the white to whisk quickly, but prevents it from splitting when it gets heat. But too much and you have nothing to show for it. Put lemon juice into milk and your milk will curdle. So warm up milk or mix it up with egg yolks first, or make sure the lemon juice gets added afterwards.
And My Own Favourite…
I’m from Normandy, so it has to be a tarte tatin. The apple should be soft but hold its shape. Use the wrong apple, and you’ve got a compote. Or the opposite: the apple is clearly never going to cook and when you slice it, it goes everywhere and falls apart. The Braeburn apple is fantastic because it strikes the perfect balance between sweetness, acidity, texture and visuals. Cox’s Orange Pippin is slightly sharper and tends to break down a bit.
Bake Off: Crème de la Crème is on Tuesdays at 8:00pm on BBC2