Le Cordon Bleu London share their essential tips, ideas and tools to help you prepare your best ever Christmas treats!There are some desserts that can be prepared months in advance, such as Christmas pudding, which is due to a combination of its ingredients’ lack of moisture (dried and candied fruits), and the preservative nature of the alcohol. Mince pies are another classic Christmas dessert that contains dried and candied fruits. You can make the mincemeat for your mince pies up to a week before you intend to eat them to allow the flavours to develop in intensity, and save yourself a lot of time on Christmas day! Your completed mince pies can be stored in an airtight container until they are ready to be eaten. Our chefs recommend serving them warm with cream or brandy. If you are making any dessert containing pastry, then this can be prepared in advance, as long as it is kept in the fridge before being baked. If you are making a dessert that contains meringue, such as a Pavlova or a Mont Blanc, then again you can start to prepare this in advance. As long as you keep your meringues in an airtight tin they will keep crisp instead of going soft. Desserts that contain cream cannot be made too far in advance as they may spoil. Our chefs recommend mixing rum or brandy with the cream for a festive kick! If you are making something like a Bûche de Noël that requires a sponge, you can make this up to a week before Christmas day and store it in the freezer, or a couple of days before and chilled until needed. If your Christmas dessert contains elements such as fruit compotes or chocolate ganache, these can also be made two days prior to their consumption. The compote should be kept chilled in the fridge and the ganache should be used for its purpose (such as filling a sponge or decorating a Bûche de Noël). Store in the fridge until Christmas Day. If you are making a custard based dessert such as a crème brûlée, a crema catalana or even a flan, then this can only be prepared and baked the night before Christmas, as they have a very short life-span. Just leave them in the fridge to chill, then caramelise on Christmas Day after your Christmas lunch has settled. For the perfect crème brûlée our Master Pâtissiers recommend cooking it in a bain-marie for a smooth tasting cream, and using demerara sugar on the top for a nice caramel flavour. It is essential that you prepare whipped cream on the day of serving so that it stays stabilised, and of course you must prepare your fruit just before eating so that it stays as fresh and as vibrant as possible. But luckily these small tasks do not take long so you will still have plenty of time to get on with more pressing things like cooking Christmas lunch or having another glass of sherry! Making Christmas cookies Rest your dough at different stages during the cookie-making process as it makes a big difference to the appearance of the final product! Rest the dough in the fridge after making it, and rest it again after rolling and cutting out your festive shapes. Chilling your cookie dough controls the spread as the fats in the mixture solidifies, which means that you avoid the risk of your cookies becoming a misshapen mess!
Making the perfect cakesThere are seven stages of baking and the basic components of a cake (sugar, butter, flour and eggs), play an important role in each stage of the baking process, and inevitably in how your cake will turn out. So here are some common issues that arise when baking and why they happen: Low rise Not enough air incorporated into the mixture during whisking, or eggs heated too quickly. Uneven shape The temperature of the oven was not regulated, or the oven rack was not level. Crust too dark Too much sugar used, or the temperature was too high. Cracked surface Too much flour, the wrong flour, overmixed batter, or again the temperature was too high. Dense and dry Too much sugar, eggs heated too quickly, or temperature too low.
3 of Le Cordon Bleu's best time-saving tools...
This simple stainless steel tool with fluted blades gives an even, professional crimped edge to your tarts.
Non-stick silicone baking mat
The Le Cordon Bleu baking mat is flexible and non-stick. Made of fibreglass and food grade silicone, it is perfect for cooking macaroons, pastries, tart bases and for sugar work.
Pastry brush 35mm
The flat pastry brush with natural bristles is ideal for evenly brushing on eggwash, glazing or greasing a pan for crêpes.
All of these products are available from the Le Cordon Bleu range at La Boutique.