How To Turn High Fashion Into Delicious Pastries

Perhaps you’re a great baker who loves fashion or you’re a fashionista who enjoys baking, but can you combine the two interests into delicious, stylish pastries?

To many people, it’s a tall order. But to Mourad Khiat—Head Pastry Chef at The Berkeley in London—this is his bread and butter.

As the creator of the fashion-inspired Prêt-à-Portea in 2006, Khiat’s tasty interpretation of the hottest runway looks has become a must-see (and eat) for style aficionados from around the world.

Beautiful and delicious, his signature pieces include Ralph & Russo Pain de Gene dress cake with velvet lavender cremeux and Beriolette jelly, Manolo Blahnik cookies, plus chocolate and vanilla Battenberg cake inspired by Stella McCartney’s checkered summer pumps.

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Not surprisingly, the master chef attributes his exquisite work to tons of practice. (What isn’t, right?) But to get the ball rolling, here’s what he recommends.

Gather tools and equipment

To make these intricate cakes and cookies, you’ll need extra decorating tools in the kitchen. While the specifics depend entirely on the recipe, here are the essentials you should keep handy:

·     Rolling pin

·     Baking parchment

·     Baking sheet

·     Paper and plastic piping bags

·     Stand mixer or hand-held electric beaters

·     Kitchen thermometer

·     Cake pan (medium-sized)

·     Cookie cutter

·      Nozzle set

Choose lighter colors in more concentrated form

Defining a palette isn’t just critical in fashion, but also food. When it comes to the shade, Khiat generally stays away from very dark tones as “they’re not as attractive to the diner and can be messy when eaten.” Instead, he suggests colors that reflect the season, the event, or the people who are going to eat the treats.

As for the form, paste or gel food coloring works best if you don’t want the icing to be overly runny, according to The Berkeley’s Prêt-À-Portea: High-Fashion Cakes & Cookies.  “[T]hey are also easier to use with ready-made fondant icing,” noted Khiat in the book. “Use a toothpick to add a very small amount to the icing, then stir or knead it through until the color is even.”

Focus on the shape

Getting the right shape is essential to making fashion-inspired baked goods. Thankfully, especially for beginners, there are several ways to do it. For precision, you can get ideas and templates from specialist stores, or make a “sturdy, reusable” version by cutting shapes out from plastic. Khiat recommends the lids of margarine or ice cream tubs. If you want to let the colors and piping do more of the talking, go for more abstract designs.

Regardless, these treats are mini versions of your favorite garments and accessories; keep them bite-sized so you can easily pick them up and enjoy.

Balance design and taste

Strike a balance between design and taste if you don’t want “style over substance,” said Khiat. Generally, it’s best to stick to classic flavors when going for more complicated, precise looks. If your focus is more on taste, then keep the design simple—and highlight a specific feature or texture of a garment as opposed to “illustrating like for like.”

Find in-season ingredients

“Get to know the foodie calendar.” As someone who’s often inspired by the season—be it in flavors or colors, the Prêt-À-Portea expert believes this is vital to making delicious treats. For instance, in England, “berries are not at their best in January so [he]’d go down the apples and pears route, with a little spice. Whereas in the Summer, exotic fruits are sensational,” which is why he often uses passion fruit and guava.

Learn the essential techniques

“Your best tools are your hands” so inevitably, you’ll need to master some basic techniques. As noted in Prêt-À-Portea: High-Fashion Cakes & Cookies, they include:

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Creaming ingredients—Creaming involves mixing two ingredients, usually butter and sugar, until they form a light, pale, smooth mixture with no lumps. A wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease will do the job, but hand-held electric beaters or a stand mixer will make it much easier.

Folding ingredients—Folding is a way of combining two mixtures without over-mixing or knocking out too much air. Cut through the mixture using a metal spoon or a spatula and fold it over repeatedly in a figure-eight motion until it is just combined; avoid stirring.

Melting chocolate—When melting chocolate, take care not to let it get too hot, or it may “seize” and turn thick and grainy. Break it into small pieces, place it in a heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan of hot water that is just simmering, not boiling. Make sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Turn off the heat under the pan and let the chocolate sit until it has melted, stirring it occasionally.

Separating an egg—Break the egg carefully on the edge and pass the yolk from one half of the shell to the other until as much of the white as possible has dropped into the cup. It’s a fiddly job, but gets easier with practice. The most important thing is to make sure that none of the yolks ends up in the white.

Whisking egg whites—It’s crucial that your bowl is scrupulously clean, since any grease will stop the whites from thickening. To make sure your bowl is clean enough, rub the inside with the cut edge of half a lemon.

Whisking: soft/medium/stiff peaks—These terms describe how stiff whisked egg whites or whipped cream should be. For soft peaks, the mixture should just about hold a peak when you remove the whisk, but the peak will sag. For medium peaks, it should be slightly stiffer, and only the very tip of the peak will sag. For stiff peaks, the peaks should hold their own weight, and point upwards. Take care and proceed with caution, as these stages can be reached quickly, and cream continues to thicken after you stop whisking.

Practice (a lot!)

Beyond tons of practice, remember to vary your routine. For instance, Khiat suggests different exercises for improving your icing technique.

“For beginners, there’s nothing better to practice on than a humble cupcake.” As you progress, you can go for fancier decorations on mousses, since “they’re more complex and require precision.” As for advanced folks, “go full-on celebration and try your hand at something like a wedding cake!” he said.

Now, are you ready to give this a try?

Here’s a recipe of Khiat’s favorite Dior ‘Bar Jacket’ cookie—available in The Berkeley through September 29 to celebrate V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition.

As you can see, it’s pretty complicated since it’s geared for mid- to advanced bakers. But according to the pastry chef, beginners can practice the cookie bake (through step seven) first.

Dior ‘Bar Jacket’ cookie

YIELD: 10 to 12 cookies

PREP TIME: 30 minutes, depending on experience

TOTAL TIME: 4 hours

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH

  70g  unsalted butter

  70g  caster sugar

       1  large egg

   10g  cocoa powder

150g sifted plain flour

ICING

(Outline)

 220g icing sugar

       1  large egg white

food coloring (optional)

(Filling)

220g icing sugar

       2  large egg whites

food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1.     Make the dough: Beat unsalted butter with caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and cocoa powder and beat for another minute. Quickly mix in the sifted plain flour, but stop beating as soon as it has combined, to avoid over-mixing it. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 1 ½ hours.

2.     Prepare your cookie template: draw the shape of your desired fashion item (in this case the jacket) onto a sheet of plastic and cut it out.

3.     Once the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and knead it gently. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm.

4.     If you find the dough a bit sticky, try sandwiching it between two sheets of baking parchment and rolling that instead. Transfer the rolled-out dough carefully to a baking sheet (your rolling pin should help here) and return it to the fridge for 30 minutes.

5.     Preheat the oven to 356F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

6.     Take the chilled dough out of the fridge and place the template you have made on top. Carefully cut around it with a small, sharp knife to create your collection of mini pieces.

7.     Place the cut cookie shapes on the prepared baking sheet and bake for just 8 minutes, until pale brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

8.     Make the icing: For the outline icing, whisk the one large egg white into icing sugar a little at a time to create a smooth paste the consistency of lip gloss. Add food coloring if you want to make your jacket a different color.

9.     For the filling icing, whisk two large egg whites into icing sugar a little at a time to create a runny liquid. Again, add coloring if you wish.

10. Fill a small piping bag no more than two-thirds full with the outline icing and cut the tip off to create a very small hole. Whatever shape you’re styling, it’s the same process.

11. First carefully pipe a line all the way around the edge of the cooled baked cookie to create the outline, along with any other necessary line details. Follow reference photographs of the garment to guide you on the details. Leave to set for a few minutes.

12. Once the outline has set, fill another piping bag with the filling icing. Cut a slightly larger hole in the tip this time and ‘flood’ the central part of the cookie with icing until it reaches the outline. You can pick up and gently tilt the cookie to help the icing spread, if necessary. Leave it to dry completely, at least 1 hour, before you start working on the details, again following the details of the design from reference photos.

Here’s Khiat’s icing tip from the book:

“Holding the piping bag with both hands can make it easier to control the line you’re icing. Hold the bag straight and vertical above the surface you’re piping, but not too close to it, and squeeze from the top, applying even pressure. Try to move it fairly quickly to get an even line. It’s a good idea to practice on a piece of parchment before committing to the cookie. Your piped outline will dry quickly. By the time you have piped an outline on ten cookies, the first should be ready for flooding.”

[“source=forbes”]