I had dinner with my friend Belinda the other night where she invited her friend Cheryl along. During our road trip across America, Belinda told me about how Cheryl is a talented clairvoyant.
For example Cheryl looked at Belinda's daughter Ruby and said that this was Ruby's first time on earth - hence why she is so excitable and high maintenance. Cheryl then got an image of Belinda's other daughter Mia as a nun scrubbing floors who has had many past lives. It's a regular comment that Mia is mature beyond her years - she is after all the child that didn't trick or treat for lollies but asked for canned soup to take to the needy at Halloween.
We had just finished our mains when Belinda asked Cheryl to read me. Cheryl turned to me and regarded me with a short time before telling me some interesting things about my past lives.
Speaking softly and clearly she said that I loathed the cold (I do but she didn't know that) because in a past life I had lived somewhere where it was bitterly cold. I was very poor and that I saw a lot of injustice in this life and it made me very angry. Other occupations during previous lives were as a communicator, actress and I translated and wrote for people that couldn't read or write.
I got chills when Cheryl spoke because a lot of that relates to me now and my personality. I know a lot of people don't believe in past lives or clairvoyants - Mr NQN is a cynic about these things but I do. There are also some people that are frauds. I've met those, like the psychic that gave me the exact same reading as my friend when she went to see him three weeks later. But I felt like this was the real deal.
One thing that I neglected to ask Cheryl about was my past relationships. I'd love to know whether I was married and who I was married to. Were we as opposite as Mr NQN and I? Were we as happy? I'll save that for another dinner with her where she hopefully won't mind me quizzing her about my past lives' lovelife.
If you've looked around lately, I'm sure you will have noticed that love or at least Valentines Day is in the air. And because I love pastry and Mr NQN loves fruit, I thought that this dessert would be the perfect compromise. I know that making choux pastry can seem intimidating but this is one of the most straight forward pastries that you can make. I use a recipe from Adriano Zumbo which is why everything is measured in precise grams as only a patissier would do.
The rose custard, fresh raspberries and lychees are based on Pierre Herme's Ispahan dessert. It's a heavenly combination of flavours and textures. The delicate flaked almonds, crunchy pearl sugar nibs and pastry give the dessert a crisp shell. The filling is made up voluptuous rose custard, tangy fresh raspberries and sweet lychee. Heaven in a bite and heart shaped to boot. It ought to suitably annoy the romance apathetic ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, do you believe in past lives and clairvoyants? Have you ever come across one that has impressed you? And if you could ask one question of them about your future or past, what would it be?
Rose and Raspberry Paris-Brest
- Water 53g/1.87 fl ozs
- Milk 66g/2.33 fl ozs
- Sugar 3g/0.10 oz
- Salt 3g/0.10 oz
- Butter 50g/1.7 ozs
- Flour 65g/2.29 ozs
- 2 Eggs plus 1 egg beaten extra for glaze
Rose custard filling
- 3 teaspoons instant gelatine powder or 2 titanium strength gelatine leaves
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 eggs
- 150g/5ozs caster sugar
- 400ml/14.13 fl ozs cream
- 80g/2.8 ozs. plain all purpose flour
- rose flavouring
- 3 teaspoons icing or powdered sugar to sift
- 6 fresh lychees, peeled and seeded
- 125g fresh raspberries
- Rose petals to decorate
Step 1 - Make choux heart. Preheat the oven to 210C/410C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and trace a heart to use as a guide. Combine the butter with water, sugar, milk & salt in a large heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and using a wooden spoon quickly beat in the flour. Return to the heat and continue beating until the mixture comes together and leaves the side of the pan. Cook, beating over low heat for 1-2 minutes to cook flour. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.
Step 2 - Transfer to the bowl of a mixer. Beat the mixture to release any more heat. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well between each addition until both the eggs have been added and the mixture is thick and glossy. Beat for a few more minutes, or until thickened.
Step 3 - Spoon the choux mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. Pipe mixture onto tray using the heart as a guide. Pipe one heart on the line, then pipe another next to it inside the original heart. Then pipe another log of choux pastry on top of the two hearts in the centre as shown. Brush with the beaten egg glaze and decorate with flaked almonds and pearl sugar.
Step 4 - Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180C/350F and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. Once it is baked, prick small holes in the pastry with a skewer to release the steam and return to the oven to completely dry out for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.
Step 5 - Make the custard. First if using gelatine powder sprinkle it over the water and then heat in the microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds or over a double boiler until the liquid is no longer cloudy. If using gelatine leaves, soak in cold water for 5 minutes and then squeeze all of water out of them.
Step 6 - Then heat up the cream in a small saucepan and heat until almost boiling but do not boil. Meanwhile beat eggs in a bowl with sugar until pale and fluffy and then whisk in flour (you can do this in an electric mixer too). When cream is almost boiling, whisk in thick eggy mixture and a little rose flavouring and stir constantly until thickened. Cover the surface of the custard closely with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming and cool. I find that it speeds it up if you put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes or so once the initial heat has gone.
Step 7 - Assemble the Paris Brest. Cut the pastry in half horizontally and dust the top half generously with the icing or powdered sugar. Fill a piping bag with a basket tip (#48) with the cooled custard. You should be able to pipe custard and have the pattern hold in the custard (if it doesn't return it to the fridge to firm up in the piping bag laying it down horizontally so the custard doesn't ooze out).
Step 8 - Fill the base with the custard and then place the raspberries along the outside of the heart and the lychees in the back. Pipe patterns over every second raspberry and pipe the rest of the rose custard generously in the base filling any spaces with the custard. Place the top of the heart on the filled custard bottom half and serve. Decorate with rose petals.