Think Out of the Shell: The NutriPlus Pastry Competition Semi Final

First of all, I would like to apologize for the lack of updates on this space. I’ve been preoccupied with several commitments, one of which was the NutriPlus Pastry Competition. You see, several weeks ago, Veronica of Quay Po Cooks contacted me to submit a recipe for a pastry competition. Pastry? I can’t remember the exact words but it was something along the lines of “But I’m only a novice in pastry baking!”.

She sure didn’t give up though, for she messaged me again after I’ve blogged about the Lemon Tart for Frank’s birthday to submit that recipe. So I did. Without expecting much. But a week later I received a phone call from Chef Ryan (another multi-talented individual, you’ll find out why in the next post) congratulating me for getting through the semi-final. Whaaa….? The first thing that hit me was a pang of panic, as I realised I would have to bake in public!

Luckily for me, a mentor was assigned to each of us for a chance to fine-tune our recipes prior to the competition. It was a productive afternoon as I walked through the steps with Chef Gina Tan. Thanks so much, Gina, for the vote of confidence!

On the day before my semi final (there were 4 different days), we were all invited to the Think Out of the Shell Volume 2 Book Launch, where we sampled a variety of bakery goods contributed by the Chefs from the cookbook. Breads, Cakes, Tarts, Macarons, you name it. I also got to meet some of the other contestants who were present at the launch.

Sweet Temptations (Photos from Think Out of the Shell Facebook Page and my S2)

Before we knew it, the contestants were called to the front for a brief interview session. It was game on.

Aris Khoo, who competed with me for the first Semi-final being interrogated by the Emcee (Fan next to me makes the most delicious Chocolate Roulade with Raspberries)

Well, without further ado, that was a dizzying intro to what was to come. To be honest, I don’t think I slept much the night before due to nerves. When I arrived at AEON, One Utama mall, everything was in place with our little cooking stations. All very masterchef-y, and the big industrial oven at the corner looked really intimidating.

Monster of a thing!

Before long, the competition kicked off with much fussing about. We were also informed at the last minute that we were going to be LIVE on Asian Food Channel! So if you were watching the TV at that time (27th, 3.30-6.30pm), that was me indeed.

To be honest, I didn’t exactly have a good start and was about to walk into my first mistake, when Chef Bernard came over to save me from producing bitter tasting Candied Lemon Peel.

Chef Bernard giving me tips for Candied Lemon Peel, I looked so nervous (I was)!

Phew. That was close. So off I went to start on my pastry. Not much issue there except I wasn’t exactly confident about the dough’s consistency. Nevermind, we moved on.

Carefully trimming the pastry to be chilled for the second time

The next step actually went horribly wrong. I never had any problem making the lemon cream filling this way at home, but why oh why did it curdle just when I had to do it in public?! How embarassing! Fortunately, both Chef Bernard and Chef Frederick spotted where it could be improved and I decided to start over. And it worked! When I think of it now, I guess there’s a difference using Thickened cream (at home) and Whipping Cream (at the competition). Nevertheless, I learnt something new that day.

It worked!

The rest of the steps went by without a glitch, which was comforting.

Just poured the lemon cream filling into the tart and taking care not to spill it!

So I guess you would want to see the end results?

Tada! (Photo Credit to Winson Ng)

I love how the Lemon Peel has the transparent look, and I was pleased that these babies unmold easily. The custard had fully set after chilling in the freezer.

Breathing a sigh of relief yet? Not quite as the judges are yet to taste! (Photo Credit to Winson Ng)

Finally, the tarts were presented to the judges. Now I know how the Masterchef contestants feel when they stand before the judges at that very moment: Mostly dread. The moment of truth. Please don’t say anything nasty or I will cry etc.

Scary moment for me.

Well, they mostly liked the Lemon tarts for they were not overly sweet and the tartness was just right. However my pastry was a little thick, and they felt that it was too simple a dish to produce in 3 hours (Yes the mistake I made costed some delays). Chef Bernard also pointed out that there was no need for the mint leaves to garnish the finished product. (Later it was revealed that he hates Chefs who put things on the plate just for garnish, a good lesson for me which I took to heart for the final)

Thank you Shannon for the photo!

I was really surprised to be announced the winner of the day, considering my other two fellow bakers made quite impressive desserts too: A vanilla cake with strawberry jam and meringue as icing from Treedson and Pavlova with Strawberries and Cranberries from Aris. After the nerve wrecking semi-final, how will I do in the final? Stay tuned to find out!

Group pic: Aris, Chef Bernard, Veronica, Yours Truly, Chef Frederic Oger and Treedson

Meanwhile, check out the Think Out of the Shell Facebook page for more photos and videos!

This is my final recipe for the Lemon Tarts. (Makes 6)

Candied Lemon Peel:
1 lemon, slices thinly and cut the slices in halves.
1 cup caster sugar plus extra
1 cup water

On the stove top, heat the sugar and water until boiling point. Add lemon slices and boil in medium heat until transparent (no more than 3 minutes), drain and remove as much liquid as possible. Arrange on the baking paper, sprinkle a little more caster sugar, and bake in 100 degree oven for around 45 minutes until slightly caramelised.

Lemon Cream Filling:
5 eggs (6 if smaller eggs)
150g Caster Sugar
200ml Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, strained (equals to about 4 lemons)
100ml Freshly squeezed Orange Juice ,Strained
250ml Pouring cream

Shortcrust Pastry:
2 cups Plain flour
4 tablespoons Icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180g cold unsalted butter, chopped
3/4 egg, lightly beaten

To make pastry, mix flour, icing sugar and salt together then rub in the cubed butter until mixture resemble breadcrumbs. Add egg (add 1/2 first, and pour in more as needed) to draw the moisture and mix until the dough just comes together. Form pastry into a disc, enclose in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 4mm thick and use to line 6 x 12cm tart pans. Trim edge carefuly, then line with baking paper and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove beans and paper, and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 150c.

To make lemon filling, place eggs and sugar in a bowl and stir until just combined; try to avoid creating any air bubbles. Place cream in a small saucepan and bring almost to the boil, then stir in the egg mixture. Gently stir in orange and lemon juices. Using a fine sieve, strain lemon filling into a jug. Place tart shells on an oven tray and pour in filling.

Bake for 20 minutes and if you are not using an industrial oven, carefully rotate halfway through to ensure even cooking. To check, gently shake tart; it should be slightly wobbly in the centre. If undercooked, bake tart for a further 5-8 minutes.

Cool tart to room temperature, then garnish before serving. I put a candied peel on top, and thickened the leftover filling with potato starch then spooned some on the plate. I also used mint leaves (which is unnecessary anyway).

40 Comments Add yours

  1. theragingcook says:

    Beaaaaaaaaautiful! Ah, thanks Kel, now learnt something! Your new method for candy-ing lemon, oven, as opposed to the saucepan and stove which I’ve used for the last few months! 😀

    1. theragingcook says:

      Oops I meant “I’ve now learnt something”

      1. kellysiew says:

        I think both methods would yield pretty good results. Are you able to get it crispy with the stove method?

      2. theragingcook says:

        Yeah I can, but that’s only when I just cook the peel with castor sugar only. When I use water the peel doesn’t go crisp. But now that you brought it up and used it successfully in the comp, I’m thinking OVEN DEHYDRATES lol duh David! Haha

      3. kellysiew says:

        Hehehe so you got an oven yet?

  2. WendyinKK says:

    I wish I came on the first day and taste your lemon tarts!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hahahaha the next time I make lemon tarts would be long long time away…… Scared already. 😛

  3. missyblurkit says:

    Congras on your win again…well done! Will you be making your winning recipe soon? I’ll like to taste them:D

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you!! Not the lemon tarts but the final dish… why not? I don’t mind eating that again myself 😛

  4. suituapui says:

    Your lemon tart looks real pro… Definitely MasterChef-class! Congrats again.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! I owe it to the professionals who taught me how to present it nicely.

  5. Great post. I am very proud of you Sweetie!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hehehehe thank you! You were the luckiest judge having tried all 14 desserts and 2 savoury dishes! 😛

      1. Yes, I am!! It is a big price to pay. Now I got to start wearing all the big and loose “Aunty” blouses to hide my fats. No more tight fitting sexy ones. LOL!

  6. Baby Sumo says:

    Hi kelly, congrats for getting runner up. You did a great job. Your lemon tart looks very delicious and you are really photogenic – cant tell at all that you were nervous! 😛

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you dear… You should have joined! It would have been fun to bake with you too!

  7. chenellewen says:

    Congrats chef kelly! Do one for me pls! hehe

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! I’m nowhere near chef status hahaha

  8. Congrats! It looks pretty nerve-racking but it looks like you maintained composure and KILLED IT!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you, yeah I was really nervous the first day…. Not used to judges asking questions about my techniques etc…

  9. Congrats on the Win! I love lemon tarts.. gonna be trying out yr recipe soon…. I m looking forward to more competitions to come from you ya… cheers!!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! No more competition lol until I have more practise!

  10. Well done Kelly! I think you did really well in such a pressured situation and kept your calm and cool 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! I was nowhere near calm and cool though, just that those moments weren’t captured! Hehe

  11. Wahh! Bravo babe! So brave at One U too… haahhaah I wouldn’t have dared at all!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hahahah thanks!! I forgot to mention there were SOOOO many people watching! So scary!

  12. OMG OMG OMG 🙂 Congratulations Kelly!!! Sorry I haven’t been around to comment, but I have been following your Nutriplus journey on instagram and you did an amazing job ~ YOU WON!!! WOO HOO!! I don’t think I would ever have the courage to enter into a baking competition, so well done! xox

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hahaha I didn’t exactly win! 😛 But I love my prizes! Thanks babe! You would be awesome in baking competition, it’s YOUR thing!

      1. hahhaa i don’t think sooooooo I’m good at home when I can throw away my mistakes and not take photos of it 😛

  13. Yee Ling says:

    Congrats Kelly!! Although there were some hiccups at the beginning but you braved too it and you were in the final!!!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! Hope to read about your semi-final experience too!

  14. You’re a star!! Congratulations Kelly!!! The lemon tarts look super scrumptious ~ and you’re the rightful winner ~ very pleased for you , well done 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you for being my inspiration too! 😀

  15. bluredfrank says:

    The lemon tarts were winners from the start. The simplicity of the dish was the reason why you walked through. Woke my lazy tastebuds up. I could eat that stuff every day.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Won’t be making them for a while! Hehe

  16. Hi Kelly,
    Congratulations!! That was a very good experience. Talking about baking in front of Chefs and in public..well done Kelly!!
    Your lemon tarts are beautifully baked. I bet they taste great!
    mui..^^

    1. kellysiew says:

      Thank you! I’m very scared of lemon tarts now… Haha

  17. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always
    kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

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