Five-star restaurant dessert

August 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Orange pistachio cakes and delicious scones. Treats fit for a queen's tea! Pastry Chef Claire Clark, from the world famous French Laundry in Yountville, and author of "Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts," shares this delicious recipe.

Orange Pistachio Cakes
Makes 12

  • 2 small navel oranges
  • 125g/4.5 oz unsalted butter
  • 145g/5oz caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 60g/2.25 oz rice flour
  • 100 g/3.5 oz ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 45g/1.5oz semolina
  • 75g/2 ¾ oz shelled, peeled pistachio nuts

For the Orange Syrup:

  • 250ml/9 fl oz orange juice (from about 4-5 oranges)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 125g/4.5 oz caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur

To decorate:

  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserve
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2-3 strips of candied orange peel, sliced
  • 12 pistachio nuts

      Preheat the oven to 170 C/325F/ Gas Mark 3. Grease and flour 12 dariole molds or muffin tins.

      Peel the oranges and chop the flesh into a pulp, reserving any juice that comes out. Place the pulp and juice in a small pan, add a tablespoon of water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the fruit is soft and almost all the liquid has evaporated. Place in a blender of food processor and process until smooth, then leave to cool.

      Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten ground almonds and baking powder together then mix in the semolina. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the creamed batter a third at a time, taking care to be as gentle as possible.

      Add the processed oranges and the pistachio nuts and gently fold them through the mixture. Spoon the mix into the prepared mold and bake 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the molds for about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle, then gently remove them from the tins and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

      Meanwhile, wash and dry the molds and make the syrup. Place the orange and lemon juice in a small pan with the sugar, stir to dissolve the sugar, then place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and add the Cointreau.

      Place a tablespoon of the syrup in each clean dariole mold and drop the cakes back in. Spoon more syrup over the top of the cakes. They should be moist but not falling apart when you turn them out of the molds. Turn them out onto the small trays lined with baking parchment and let them cool slightly; they will be warm from the hot syrup.

      To finish the cakes, bring the apricot preserve to the boil with 2 tablespoons of water to make a glaze. Brush the hot preserve over the cakes so they are completely covered and look shiny. Finish with a little candied orange peel and pistachio nut. Serve warm or cold.

      Claire's Notes:

      • These cakes are very good with Vanilla ice Cream and a glass of chilled Cointreau.
      • Take care when soaking the cakes. If they do not feel soft enough when you turn them out of the mold, you can brush more syrup on tot hem with a small pastry brush.
      • Most supermarkets now stock fabulous strips or quarters of candied peel, which you can use for the decoration.
      • You can make these with passionfruit juice instead of orange.
      • If you are going to make the cakes in advance, freeze them without soaking them, defrost thoroughly and then soak and finish them. They will taste as if you just made them that day.

      Source: Indulge by Claire Clark

      Scones
      Makes 16

      • 440g/15 ¾ oz plain flour
      • 50g/1 ¾ oz baking powder
      • A pinch of salt
      • 80g/2 ¾ oz unsalted butter, diced
      • 40g/1 ½ oz sultanas
      • 150ml/ 5 fl oz double cream
      • 150ml/ 5 fl oz milk
      • 80g/2 ¾ oz caster sugar

      For the egg wash:

      • 1 egg
      • 1 egg yolk
      • A good pinch of salt

      Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Using just your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it is no longer visible. Add the sultanas.

      Mix the cream and milk together. Add them to the flour mixture and mix well. Once it starts to come together, turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until it forms a smooth, soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.

      Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 2.5cm/1 inch thick and cut into round with a 5cm/2 inch cutter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

      For the egg wash, beat all the ingredients together and pass through a fine sieve. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Do not overbake them or they will be dry.

      Claire's Notes:

      • Turn the scones over before placing them on the baking sheet, so that the top becomes the bottom. This makes them rise more evenly.
      • To check if the scones are cooked, pull one apart to see if the center is done.
      Source: Indulge by Claire Clark

      Buy the book on Amazon: Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts

      About Claire Clark
      Claire Clark has loved to bake since she was a child growing up in the suburbs of London. The kitchen, she says, was the hub of her home, where you would often find her and her brother helping their mother bake. Years later, Claire is an internationally acclaimed pastry chef and boasts a stellar resume - she learned her craft under legendary Swiss patissiers Ernest Bachmann and John Huber and now serves as pastry chef at The French Laundry in California.

      Claire began her professional cooking career as a grill chef at the age of seventeen. The overly masculine environment of the kitchen was quite a shock for the daughter of a country parson straight out of college; however, she was determined to succeed.

      Claire's remarkable career has run its course through such stellar British restaurants as The Ritz Hotel, The Intercontinental at Hyde Park Corner, and Sir Terence Conran's Bluebird Restaurant on Kings Road. She has also taught at Le Cordon Bleu, helped plan and set up the pastry department at The House of Commons, and headed the pastry kitchen at the Claridge's Hotel in London, where she became the only female recipient of the "Meilleur Ouvrier de la Grande-Bretagne" (MOGB) or Best Crafts Worker of Great Britain - the highest award to be given on the grounds of professional excellence.

      Claire helped open the Wolseley, a famous Piccadilly restaurant and considered one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine. Claire was later chosen as "Best Pastry Chef" for 2005 by the same publication.

      It was at the Wolseley that Claire first met Thomas Keller, restaurateur and author of the award-winning The French Laundry Cookbook. After sampling her desserts, he immediately invited her to join him at The French Laundry in Northern California, where her extraordinary pastry creations now complement his menus.

      Claire's desserts have paraded across the lawns of Buckingham Palace and appeared on the plates of the most discerning food critics, winning international acclaim from industry leaders. Indulge, her first book, is a compilation of her most treasured dessert recipes.

      She lives in Yountville, in the Napa Valley of Northern California.


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