CHICKEN SKIN BUTTER

That’s right! You heard me! CHICKEN SKIN BUTTER!!!!

Every now and again you create a recipe that is perfect in every way!

Well my Chicken Skin Butter is that recipe! With roasted, crispy, golden chicken skin, roasted garlic & fresh thyme, this butter is unbelievable! You have NEVER had anything like it! All the amazing flavours of roast chicken dinner! But now it’s spreadable!!

Smother that bad boy over your favourite crusty bread but just be prepare to finish the whole lot in one sitting!

What are you waiting for?

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— Al Brady

HOW TO MAKE BUTTER

I use butter in almost all my recipes in some way, shape or form! So I thought it would only be right to show you how easy it is to make it in your own home!

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Spend enough time in the kitchen and you’re bound to have over whipped cream at some point. But maybe what you didn’t know was that you were already on your way to making your very own batch of fresh butter.

You can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount I’ve used in our recipe below will make about 300g of top quality butter. Enough to keep you going for a week or so but if your planning on doing some serious baking you might need to double or triple the recipe.

Why would you want to undertake such a task as churning your own butter when you can just pop to the store? Well there are couple of reasons I can think of!

First, it is really quite fun to make your own butter and it is super easy, making it a great task to do with your kids. It is also immensely satisfying to magically transform cream into butter in your own kitchen. You not only do you become a master of a little forgotten skill, but you also end up with a product that is often far superior to that you can buy in the shops. Especially if you choose quality cream.

Lastly making homemade butter is a great way to use up any cream you have leftover from anything you have been cooking. No more letting that leftover 100ml of cream go off or to waste now you can churn it and keep it as delicious fresh butter!

So you butter be ready (sorry) because I am going to show you exactly what you need to do to become your own churning champ!

— Al Brady

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT GALETTE DES ROIS

The season of the galette des rois begins on Twelfth Night, the 6th of January, to mark the feast of the Epiphany, which is when the three kings turned up to give gifts to Baby Jesus (allegedly).

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Traditionally in France, this dessert is only served once a year, so every kid in France is waiting for the 6th of January to roll around! One of the most popular galette is filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. It is said to have been invented by a Florentine nobleman, the Marquis of Frangipani, several centuries ago.

In the past, the pastry would be cut into as many portions as there were guests, plus one. The last one, called the “part du pauvre” or poor man’s share, was for the first poor person who stopped by the house.

It is a fantastic dessert with a cool tradition to hide two little figurines in the almond cream. The ones who find them will become the King and Queen for the day and of course have all of their wishes realised. And who doesn’t want to be a King or Queen for a day!

I have mixed thing up a little by making a hazelnut frangipane cream and mixing that with a chocolate crème pâtissière. Giving this galette de rois a deeper, richer flavour that is fit for royalty!

So don your crowns! It’s time to take on pastry royalty and make our Hazelnut & Chocolate Galette Des Rois!

— Al Brady

PUFF PASTRY

Puff pastry is basically magic! IT starts off looking like a regular plain old pastry, that is until it goes into the oven. There it transforms into a tower of thousands of crispy, buttery shards of flaky pastry. It does all this without the aid of any help from raising agents such as yeast, bicarbonate of soda or baking powder.

So what is it that makes this pastry rise? Voodoo? Witchcraft? A Strong Belief?

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Actually as awesome as that would be the real secret is steam creating hundreds of paper thin layers of dough and butter in a process called lamination. That is where the real magic takes place, it’s all in the technique of creating those glorious layers.

By making a dough (détrempe) and rolling and folding with butter over and over again until all the layers are formed. These layers are often so thin they aren’t even visible but once baked, the butter melts and the water in those layers turns to steam; puffing up each thing layer of dough, eventually evaporating and leaving behind those crisp, buttery, flaky layers.

Making puff pastry might seem like quite a commitment, but don’t be intimidated by the amount of time you have to invest in it. Most of that time is actually resting the dough between rolls so it’s not as labour intensive as you might think. While you’re creating your layers it will demand your full attention but while it is resting in the fridge you’ll get a rest at the same time.

So even though the allure of shop-bought puff pastry may seem to much to resist when you need a quick pastry fix. Making your own puff pastry can be extremely satisfying and will always surpass any shop bought pastry, in term of it’s flakiness, butteriness and also in flavour.

My puff pastry recipe differs slightly by using salted butter giving a far more flavourful and satisfying pastry, and once you have completed all the rolls and folds you will have 6561 delicious buttery layers to work with. So grab your rolling pin and get ready to reach a kitchen milestone, making your very own puff pastry.

— Al Brady

BAKED EGG CUSTARD TART

Baked Egg Custard Tart is a British classic which works perfectly as either a tea time treat or a decadent pudding to end a meal on a high and unfortunately is completely underrated.

Not to be confused with the sweet, crisp Portuguese Custard Tarts (pastel de nata) or the Créme Pâtissiére filled tarts favoured by the French. Baked Egg Custard Tart boasts a rich, crisp, melt-in-the-mouth pastry crust, filled with luxuriously smooth, creamy egg custard and finished with a generous sprinkling of nutmeg.

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Often called an Egg Custard Tart but you will also hear it called a Custard Tart, Custard Pie, or just plain old Egg Custard. Which ever way it’s said it all means the same thing, an amazing dessert!

Many a great Egg Custard Tart has been scuppered by soggy pastry! It’s vital, when dealing with a filling as liquid as this, to prepare your pastry meticulously. Blind bake that pastry to golden brown perfection and give yourself some extra protection by glazing that sucker with a little beaten egg to ensure that base is as crisp as the moment it came out the oven! Not sure how? Check out our Pâte Brisée recipe to see exactly what you need to do.

This is not a dessert that can be rushed, in either the cooking or consuming. You think you’ve waited long enough for this dessert, but why not prolong your suffering by allowing it to cool to room temperature once it’s made. For maximum eating pleasure, think Goldie Locks. This Baked Egg Custard Tart can’t be too hot or too cold, it has to be juuuuuust right!

Unfortunately our humble Baked Egg Custard Tart is on the decline very rarely gracing dessert menus or making appearances in pastry shop windows. So it is up to us to make sure this classic British tart doesn’t get lost in all the deconstructed cheesecakes, random creamy desserts in jars and edible soils. Do your part to keep Baked Egg Custard Tart where it belongs, on the throne as dessert royalty, by making one today! Like right now! GO!

— Al Brady

PÂTE BRISÉE

Pâte Brisée is a classic French pastry which is so versatile it is ideal for both sweet and savoury tarts, pies, and quiches. It is basically your new number-one-go-to-pastry for all your pastry case and pie crust needs.

Pâte Brisée is very similar to shortcrust pastry, with a 1/2 fat to flour ratio and the ability to be used for sweet and savoury recipes. Pâte Brisée differs with the fat being all butter (shortcrust is often a mixture of butter and lard) with the addition of egg yolk to enrich the pastry and help create that extra delicious, golden brown colour during cooking,

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Making any pastry, regardless of whether it’s Pâte Brisée, is a little like chemistry, you have to follow the recipe precisely, from start to finish, using exact measurements for consistent and successful results everytime. Due to the high fat content in Pâte Brisée I like to make it in a machine, to keep our hot hands away from the pastry and the butter as cold as possible. But if your a stickler for classic techniques, you’ll be please to hear that you can still make this pastry by hand, you are just going to have to be a little careful. Check out our Pâte Sucrée recipe to see how to successfully use this technique, step by step, and then come back and apply it to this recipe.

As with all pastries, there are a few rules you will want to follow to ensure perfect pastry success. Check out my “Ultimate Pastry Proficiency Guide” down below to make yourself a master!

Try it with any of your favourite fillings, like our Cherry Bakewell or Egg Custard Tart. Make a traditional apple pie, or if that doesn’t float your boat try, making a bacon and cheese packed quiche or a decadent pecan pie. What I’m trying to say is that Pâte Brisée is going to be your new favourite pastry, so you better get cracking and start making your first lot ASAP!

— Al Brady

CHOCOLATE SHORTCRUST PASTRY

Chocolate Pastry is so buttery and crispy, one bite crumbles into a thousand pieces and melts in the mouth, But despite its deep flavour and crumbly texture, chocolate pastry is far less common than you would think, often being over looked for its paler cousins, Pate Brisée and Pate Sucrée.

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Chocolate pastry is so often reserved for just chocolate fillings, but it can work with some much more. Perfect with caramel and nut fillings, it make an incredible crust to contrast a passion fruit tart, as a base of a cheesecake or to even encase some lovely poached pears and frangipane filling. Suffice it to say chocolate pastry shouldn’t be limited to just chocolate fillings, live a little and try some different fillings for a change.

For the best results and superior flavour from your chocolate pastry I would recommend using the highest quality cocoa powder you can. I use Valrohna 100%, but there are plenty of others that you can choose from.

The trick to this pastry, as with all pastry, is practice. Getting pastry right can be frustrating and you may need one or two attempts to get it just right. But trust me, if you follow this fool-proof method you’ll master chocolate pastry in no time and I’m sure you’ll agree it is well worth it!

— Al Brady

HOW TO COOK THE CRISPIEST BACON

When I tell you how to get the crispiest bacon or pancetta, you are going to find it a little counter intuitive. But you are just going to have to trust me on this one. The best way to get your bacon super crispy and golden brown, is to boil it, or to be precise; blanch it.

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For those of you who think blanching is strictly limited to vegetables, let me explain the reason behind the madness. Now I am not saying that you can thrown some bacon into a pan of boiling water, drain it and expect it to become instantly crispy and golden brown. It is merely the first step towards the crispiest bacon or pancetta, you have ever had.

Blanching the meat first, draws out the impurities you may find in bacon and pancetta, that are likely to burn during frying. These impurities can range from blood in the meat, to salts and sugars left over from the curing process. By extracting these during the gentle simmering, you can cook your bacon at a much higher temperature, in order to crisp up the outside, without the risk of ending up with black bacon.

The blanching process also allows you to cut down on the cooking time of the bacon. The blanched meat is cooked through and the fat is rendered out. This allows the bacon to be cooked at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, to crisp it up, without the risk of under cooking it.

There are also other benefits to blanching your bacon first. The smoky, salty flavour is the best part of bacon when you’re eating it straight up, but when you’re cooking with it, sometimes the salt and smoke can overpower the other ingredients in the dish. Blanching bacon, is useful for when you want to use it in a recipe but don’t want it to be too strong. Blanched bacon is perfect for a subtle hint of bacon that doesn’t overpower a dish. Coq au vin or beef bourguignon are great example where blanched, then crisped, bacon would work really well.

For the neatest bacon lardons make sure to chill the bacon or pancetta down thoroughly before cutting this give the fat a chance to set solid. Allowing you to cut super straight and neat lardons for whatever recipe you might be cooking.

— Al Brady

WARM SPICED CARROT SALAD

Carrots can be obtained at any time of the year, but for a few months of the year (around early July to August) we start to see the new season carrots make an appearance.

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For these few, short, precious months in the summer, sweet, tender and aromatic new season carrots are in the shops. There is so much flavour packed into them that they need only to be steamed or gently boiled for a couple of minutes, to get the best out of them. Their delicate flavour can be complimented with a little butter and orange zest, or tarragon and thyme or something a little bit more pungent.

New season carrots not only marry well with simple, delicate flavours. They also have the ability to pair with much stronger flavours, without fading into the background, including turmeric, chilli, coriander, cumin and ginger to name a few.

Oh and they are also delicious simply eaten raw!

Their capability to pair well with almost anything, makes new season carrots a fantastic choice for a whole variety of dishes. But seeing as it’s summer time and I wanted to make something light and vibrant and most important of all, tasty. I thought a warm spiced carrot salad was the perfect balance of all these things.

Easy to prepare and plate up you could have this salad prepared and served in a little under 10 minutes. The carrots are lightly blanched for a minute, tossed with some rapeseed oil and spices, then toasted gently in a frying pan. Topped with sliced spring onion, chilli and freshly picked coriander, your first bite will explode with earthy subtle spices, a touch of sweetness from the carrots, then beautifully rounded off by a cooling yoghurt dressing.

ENOUGH TALK! Let’s make this Warm Spiced Carrot Salad immediately!

— Al Brady

SUGARED NUTS

Making sugared nuts is like watching a magical transformation in front of your very eyes. To be honest it is pretty damn cool! These nuts are always super impressive and can be either a perfect sweet snack or a crunchy addition to any dessert.

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The key to these delicious sugar crusted nuts is to bring the sugar syrup to a high enough concentration. A high concentration means a lot of sugar molecules are squeezed very close together.

In candy making, you can increase the concentration of sugar molecules by boiling the sugar syrup. The longer you boil, the more water evaporates and the higher the sugar concentration becomes. We cook the syrup to “Firmball” / “Hardball” stage 120/121ºC, which is approximately 92% sugar concentration.

To encourage the sugar crystal formation the temperature must be low enough so the molecules are moving slowly. Adding the nuts brings down the temperature of the syrup.

With very closely packed, slow-moving molecules, you can usually trigger the formation of sugar crystals by just stirring the mixture, causing the molecules to bang into each other. So once the nuts are added you need to start to stirring like your life depends on it, without stopping for the finest, crystalline sugary texture to your nuts.

Now this may sound a little complicated but if you follow my instructions and the video you’ll see that these sugared nuts are unbelievably easy to make at home.

— Al Brady