When I meet people, and I tell them I’m a pastry chef, more often that not, people’s reactions are always, always, “That’s so cool! That must be so much fun!” (then 99 per cent of the time they go on to ask me what my favourite thing to bake is, but that’s another story for another day).
And it is fun. Apart from the long hours, the super early starts and standing on my feet all day often without a break, being a pastry chef is fun.
There are many things that I love about my job. I love the fast pace. I love that I get to feed people, that I get to make people happy with food. I love seeing people’s reactions when they see something or taste something that I’ve baked. That part is always awesome. I love making things look pretty, and trying out different decorating techniques. But most of all, I love the creative side of my job, that I get to test out ideas and come up with new desserts.
I actually get excited when I’m coming up with a dessert in my head. Especially when it’s something I’m making for my family, because what can be better than feeding the people you love.
I made this gateau for my family over the summer break. They love this sort of frozen-custard dessert, and I spent days thinking about how I would best incorporate all their favourite flavours and make this texturally exciting and beautiful.
It was a success, with a buttery biscuit base that crunches and melts in your mouth and a smooth, silky, coffee and chocolate cremeaux filling. The hazelnut praline adds lots of crunch while the whipped cream takes the edge off the richness of all the chocolate.
So… What’s your favourite thing to bake?
- FOR THE GRAHAM BASE
- 190g graham crackers or digestive biscuits
- 25g caster (superfine) sugar
- 20g milk powder
- 3g sea salt
- 55g unsalted butter, melted
- 55g cream
- 2 tbsp Nutella
- FOR THE CHOCOLATE CRÉMEUX
- 465g cream
- 200g milk
- 135g caster (superfine) sugar
- 20g dutch cocoa powder
- 2g sea salt
- 135g egg yolks
- 1 tbsp instant coffee
- 250g dark chocolate, melted
- FOR THE TOPPING:
- 110g caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- ½ cup hazelnuts, roasted, blanched and chopped
- 300g heavy cream
- 2 tbsp icing (powdered) sugar
- Line a 9 inch pastry ring or springform tin with a strip of acetate and place on a flat tray lined with baking paper.
- To make the graham base, blitz the cookies in a food processor to make a fine crumb. Combine with the sugar, milk powder and salt in a medium bowl.
- Whisk the cream into the melted butter and add to the dry ingredients, mixing to combine. Stir in the Nutella.
- Press the graham crumb evenly into the base of the ring. Freeze.
- To make the chocolate cremeux, heat the cream and milk in a medium saucepan.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, cocoa and salt until combined and a little lighter.
- When the cream mixture is beginning to boil, pour it into the egg mixture in a slow and steady stream, while constantly whisking, until it is entirely combined.
- Return the crémeux to the pot and whisk in the coffee. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture reaches 82 C (180 F).
- Pour the cooked crémeux through a fine mesh strainer back into the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and use a stick blender to emulsify the mixture.
- Place a piece of cling wrap on the surface of the crémeux and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Once the crémeux is cool, pour it onto the graham base and level with a small offset spatula. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
- Meanwhile, make the hazelnut praline topping. Line a tray with baking paper and scatter the hazelnuts over in an even layer.
- Put the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and put over a medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts, begins to colour and turns to a deep amber.
- Turn off the heat and carefully pour the caramel over the hazelnuts. Set the praline aside to cool.
- Remove the cake from the freezer and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours before you want to eat it.
- When you're ready to serve, chop the praline and scatter it in an even layer over the cake, reserving just a little for the top.
- Whip the cream and icing sugar until just stiff. Use a St Honore nozzle (optional) to pipe around the top of the entire cake. Sprinkle the remaining praline in the centre of the cake and optionally, finish with a Ferrero Rocher.
- Keep refrigerated. Serves 12.
- Happy baking!