Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton, TV Programme

Mrs Beeton – Cheesecakes, Choux Pastry and Coffee Eclairs

Mrs Beeton's eclairs, featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.

In episode 6 of The Great British Bake off, to be shown on Tuesday 20th September 8pm on BBC 2, the contestants will be tested on their dessert making skills.  They will produce baked cheesecakes, a chocolate roulade and the showstopping  French wedding spectacle, croquembouche.   I  am beginning to ask myself why competitive cooking shows keep on insisting their contestants make a croquembouche? I have seen it created so many times now, on various UK and international shows,  that I probably could recreate the recipe off by heart.  I know that it is technically challenging, requiring patience and precision from the baker but come on TV researchers, there are showstopping wedding cakes from other cultures that would equally challenge and look spectacular.  What about a kransakaka/kransekake wedding cake from Iceland or even a royal iced wedding cake?  The royal iced wedding cake has fallen a bit out of fashion but it is such a shame.  The sheer skill, precision and talent required to produce this centrepiece is quite extraordinary.  I opted for the latter at my own wedding, the lines are clean and designs can be as simple or as extravagant as you want and I was lucky enough to find a great local baker who still specialised in this type of wedding cake.

My royal iced, heart-shaped, wedding cakes in a Wedgewood inspired design. Made by a professional baker.
Well, I digress, let us get back to cooking again with Mrs Beeton.  I set-out below her recipes for:
  • Choux paste (pastry);
  • Coffee eclairs;
  • Almond cheesecakes;
  • Apple cheesecakes.

Choux paste (pastry)

Ingredients – 4 ozs of fine flour, 4 ozs of butter, 2 ozs of sugar, 2 large or 3 small eggs, 1/2 pint of water, salt, vanilla-essence or other flavouring.

Method – ‘Put the water, butter, sugar, and a good pinch of salt into a stewpan, and when boiling add the flour, previously well dried and sieved, and stir and cook gently for at least 10 minutes.  Let it cool a little, then beat in the eggs one at a time, add a few drops of the flavouring ingredient, and use as required.’

Coffee eclairs

Ingredients –  1/2 pint of milk, 2 ozs of butter, 2 ozs of cornflour, 2 ozs of Vienna flour, 3 eggs, 1/2 a teaspoonful of vanilla essence, a pinch of salt, 1 oz of castor sugar, Moka custard for filling, coffee icing for covering.

Method – ‘Put the water, butter, sugar and salt into a stewpan, when boiling, stir in the cornflour and Vienna flour (previously mixed), work it with a wooden spoon over the fire, sufficiently long to produce a soft paste which will leave the side and bottom of the pan clean. Draw the stewpan from the fire, add the flavouring essence, and work the eggs in gradually (leaving out 1 white).  Beat the paste well for some minutes, then put it in a large forcing or savoy bag with a plain tube, and force out even-sized shapes, similar to finger biscuits, on to a lightly buttered baking-tin, about 1 inch apart from each other.  Bake to a nice fawn colour in a moderate oven.  When done, split the sides with a sharp knife, and fill each with 1 teaspoonful of Moka custard.  Have ready some coffee icing, and dip each eclair into it, so as to cover the surface and sides well and smoothly.  Place the eclairs on a wire tray to set, and dish up when required.’

Coffee icing for covering

Ingredients – 1 lb of icing sugar or fine castor sugar, 1 gill of cold water, 1 dessertspoonful of coffee essence.

Method – ‘Put the sugar and water into a stewpan, stir by the side of the fire until it reaches boiling point, and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes.  Pour the syrup into a basin, add the coffee essence, and stir until the icing becomes less transparent as it cools.  If used before it reaches this point it will have a dull appearance.’

Moka custard for filling eclairs

Ingredients –  1 gill of milk, 1 oz of loaf sugar, 1/2 an oz of cornflour, 1/2 an oz of fresh butter, 2 yolks of eggs, 1 teaspoonful of coffee essence, a few drops of vanilla essence.

Method – ‘Put the milk and sugar in a stewpan to boil.  Mix the cornflour with a little cold milk, pour the boiling milk on this, mix thoroughly, return to the stewpan, and let it boil for a few minutes; add the flavouring essences and butter, stir in the egg-yolks, continue to stir until the mixture binds, pour it in a basin, and let it cool.’

Almond cheesecakes

Ingredients – Short paste (click here for recipe from previous pasting), 4 ozs of ground almonds, 4 ozs of castor sugar, 3/4 of an oz of cornflour, 1/2 an oz of butter, 1 whole egg, 1 yolk of egg, raspberry or strawberry jam, nutmeg.

Method – ‘Beat the eggs, add them gradually to the cornflour, and stir until perfectly smooth.  Add the sugar, almonds, butter melted, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Line 9 or 10 patty pans with paste, spread about 1/2 a teaspoonful of jam on the bottom of each one, and fill with the mixture.  Bake from 20 to 25 minutes in a moderately hot oven.’

Apple cheesecakes

Ingredients – 1 1/2 lbs of apples, 3 ozs of sugar, 1 1/2 oz of butter, 3 eggs, 1 lemon,  short crust pastry, (click here for recipe from previous pasting).

Method – ‘Peel, core and slice the apples, place them in a stewpan with the sugar, and 1 tablespoonful of water, simmer gently until tender, and rub them through a hair sieve.  Return the apple-pulp to the stewpan, add the lemon-juice and rind finely grated, re-heat, stir in the yolks of 3 eggs and the white of one, and cook until the mixture thickens.  Have ready the patty-pans lined with paste and partially baked, fill with the apple preparation, cover lightly with stiffly whipped sweetened white of egg, bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes.  Makes sufficient for 12 mini-cheesecakes.’


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