Feed the chefs #1 – Carrés au citron

You can ask any chef; staff meals are a luxury in the restaurant industry. Over the past ten years, I’ve come across almost anything.

The baguettes we’d be sent to buy at the wonderful Des gâteaux et du pain, sliced in half lengthways, and placed on the bench along with a container of Bordier butter, one of home-made strawberry jam, and one filled with fleur de sel. The barely-warm café au lait, drunk standing by the oven. The amazing canteen that had a soft-serve ice-cream machine, a salad bar and one for toasties too, oh and an espresso machine too! The delivery driver slash tarte tatin chef who’d make a pit-stop at the corner boulangerie during his rounds, and bring back warm pains aux raisins to the labo. The leftover chips from an order, eaten with saffron aioli at the end of a dinner service as the kitchen was getting scrubbed. The best poached eggs a breakfast chef placed in your fridge with a little note. The grenadine mister freeze I mass-produced in the summer months. And the watermelons we sliced and left around the kitchen in nine-pans, to be eaten whenever a rare quiet minute appeared.

One of my favourites were the “family” dinners we had every day at four pm when we opened John Salt with Ben Spalding.
I still remember vividly that my turn was on wednesdays. Vividly, because it was perhaps the worst day for it to happen: the usual putting-away of the morning veg and dairy deliveries, the weekly dry-store delivery, the morning deep-cleaning, the 10am kitchen meeting. This meant very little time to prep for service, let alone cook dinner for all of us.

If you’d ask me what I thought about staff meal at around three-thirty pm on a wednesday, you might have heard some French, and yet, four years on, it’s one of my fondest memories from my London years.

Some weeks, I’d make a simple salade niçoise. Or a large pissaladière. Maybe some cheddar toasted sandwiches. And a few crisp leaves dressed in an quick lemon vinaigrette. And, always something sweet: at times cookies, taken out from the oven a few minutes before the table was set; at times, burnt-orange marmalade loaf cakes or lemon squares.

And just like this, I thought I’d introduce a new feature: Feed the chefs. It’s something I’ve had in mind for a while; in fact, I have a draft from 2013 called Feed the chefs: Wholewheat flour and hazelnut cookies.
In this feature, you’ll find simple recipes that can be made at home or for a crowd.
For reference, a gastro is a 53×32.5cm metal tray, which is widely used in professional kitchens.

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Lemon squares

This recipe has been in my notebooks – under one form or another – for years. What started out as a curd made with only eggs, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and butter has evolved under the years into what I consider my perfect lemon bar.
I increased the butter dramatically. Added egg yolks to improve the texture. And reduced the amount of sugar, a little at a time. Sometimes, I like to add a dash of cream to the curd mixture as I find it takes the lemon squares to another level, on a par with my best lemon tart. However, if you’re out of cream, the lemon squares can also be made without!

It has a crisp tanginess and is wonderfully creamy, yet it still slices beautifully and holds well.

At times, I’ll make it with the most brittle shortbread, the one I talk about in Paris Pastry Club, but most days I’ll go for a flaky biscuit dough, with light brown sugar and demerara, which I think complements the lemon flavour in the best way possible.

Notes:

– You’ll notice that the “home” recipe below makes a larger quantity of dough than you’ll need; but unless you’re willing to break an egg, whisk it, and use 16g for a third of the recipe – not to mention leave out the amazing cinnamon crisp biscuits you could make with the leftover dough – then I’d suggest you make the large batch, use 275g of it for the lemon squares and roll the rest in between two sheets of baking paper to 4-5mm thick and then proceed as mentioned in this beautiful recipe from Trine Hahnemann.

– The shortbread base does not need to be blind-baked with weights (or pulses). I like to prick it with a fork to avoid large bubbles and bake it as it is for a flakier result.

– I always rub my zest into the sugar to extract as much essential oils as possible.

– Whenever I’m making custard or curd tarts, I like to cook my curd over a bain-marie until it reaches 70-75°C. This has two purposes: first, it makes the final baking much more even and quick – you won’t find a custard tart with puffed up edges and a runny centre in my house. Secondly, it makes the bubbles disappear, leaving you with lemon squares that can be served without their traditional dust of icing sugar.

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Lemon squares


Makes 25 small squares or 9 large ones


Makes one gastro (around 60 squares)



For the shortbread base

100 g light brown sugar
25 g demerara sugar
zest from 3 lemons
375 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
250 g cold butter, cubed
1 egg


For the shortbread base

100 g light brown sugar
25 g demerara sugar
zest from 3 lemons
375 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
250 g cold butter, cubed
1 egg



For the lemon curd

240 g caster sugar
zest from 2 lemons
150 g egg yolks (around 7-8)
110 g eggs (around 2 large)
180 g lemon juice (from approx 3-4 lemons)
120 g unsalted butter, cubed
40 g double cream (optional, read note above)


For the lemon curd

650 g caster sugar
zest from 6 lemons
420 g egg yolks
300 g eggs
500 g lemon juice
300 g unsalted butter, cubed
120 g UHT cream (optional, read note above)


Make the dough

Butter your baking tin (or gastro) and line the bottom with baking paper, leaving 3cm on each side to use as handles to take out the tart from its tin after baking.

Place the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, and mix to combine. Add the butter, and rub it in the flour mix until it resembles coarse oats. Add the egg and work the dough until just smooth.
If you’re making the smaller lemon squares in a 25x25cm tin, use only 275g of shortbread dough and keep the rest to make cinnamon biscuits as mentioned in this recipe.

Place the dough in your prepared tin and flatten using the palm of your hands. Prick with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days.

Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Bake the shortbread for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Once baked, set aside until needed and reduce the oven temperature to 120°C.
In the meantime, make the lemon curd.

Make the curd

Place the sugar and zests in a large bowl, and rub in between your fingers to extract the oils from the lemon zest.
Add the egg yolks, eggs, lemon juice and butter, and cook over a pan of simmering water until it just starts to thicken and the foamy bubbles disappear; it should be around 70-75°C.
If using, add the cream now and stir to combine.

Immediately, pass the curd onto the cooked shortbread base using a fine-mesh sieve. And bake for 15-20 minutes. The centre should still jiggle slightly.

Allow to cool down to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before gently lifting it from the tin and cutting it into squares.
To do this, fill your sink with hot water and dip your knife in it for a few seconds. Wipe the blade clean making sure the sharp edge isn’t facing your fingers, and slice the tart into 5x5cm squares (or 8x8cm if you’re a lemon lover), rinsing and wiping your knife in between each slice.

Serve with a dust of icing sugar or some blowtorched Italian meringue for a faux-lemon meringue tart.

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Kalkbruket

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We passed by this abandoned lime kiln on our way back from Åsen, and I had to stop the car. We parked by the small house across the road. We walked around the beautifully-decayed factory and right then, an almost-alternate reality opened in front of our eyes. It was breathtaking.

Perhaps you don’t know, but I’m fascinated with industrial buildings, especially those that have been deserted. The metal pipes and sheets. The wind through broken windows and the electric silence. The rawness, almost bare.

An art of some sort; a stillness that moves me and makes me reflect on what surrounds us.

What inspired you today?

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Pastry chef tips – Tour double

pastry chef tips double fold

Single fold? Double fold?

When it comes to laminated doughs, you find two types of tours (literally turns, although I tend to refer to them as folds in English): the tour simple – or single fold – and the tour double – otherwise known as double fold.

I’m planning on making a post describing both types, along with some notes; but today’s pastry chef tip is all about double folds.
On the diagram below – representing both single and double folds – you’ll find the classic double fold most books and online resources will use: the dough gets “sectioned” in quarters, both ends gets folded over the centre “spine”, and finally, to complete the double fold, the dough gets folded in half.

The tip

Today’s tip is the proof that something simple can have a tremendous impact; the beauty of pâtisserie really.

I might be wrong, but I like to think that this tip was given to me by Graham Hornigolda sensational pastry chef and even better human being who is very dear to my heart, yes, he’s the best – in our basement prep-kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental too many years ago. Thank you Graham!

When doing a double fold, slightly offset the centre “spine” to your right as shown on the diagram below:

Then proceed as normal:
1. Fold the right end toward the offset centre “spine”.
2. Fold the left end to meet the first fold.
3. Fold the dough in half to complete the tour double.

a better double fold

The reason behind it

The “spine”, as I like to call it, where both ends meet is traditionally at the centre of the rolled-out pâton. But when you fold the dough in half to complete the tour, the two ends separate slightly due to the physical action of folding, leaving a thin gap with only one layer of dough instead of two.

By offsetting the “spine”, you ensure that all parts of the dough get laminated, creating a dough with consistent and continuous lamination.

One of our readers, Martin, has a very interesting insight in the comments
Offset folding also helps by moving two of the less well laminated edges into the centre mass of the sheet. If you fold in the regular style, the poorer lamination is never adjusted and remains on the outer rim of the dough.

Notes and resources

-I like to trim the ends, again, to ensure a consistent lamination; but more on that later in another pastry chef tip!

– Always gently brush off excess flour before completing the folds.

– As I’ve mentioned it above, I’m also working on a more general article about lamination, but in the meantime, this post about cinnamon croissants contains many of my tips (and the most wonderful breakfast one could ever have).

– My absolute favourite printed ressource: Advanced Bread and Pastry, by Michael Suas.

– More laminated dough posts and recipes.

PS. Thank you all for your amazing feedback about newsletters and other stories. I’m so thankful to have such incredible readers. Lots and lots of love! X Fanny
And the Cakeology book giveaway is still open until the 14th of May. Click here for more info!
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