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.
Before we knew it, the contestants were called to the front for a brief interview session. It was game on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rest of the steps went by without a glitch, which was comforting.
So I guess you would want to see the end results?
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.
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.
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)
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!
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
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).