Melba toast is completely dry, crisp, thinly sliced, toasted bread and most often served with soup or pâté. History has it that the name was given to the toast by the world’s most famous hotel manager César Ritz. Melba toast was created by his equally famous chef Auguste Escoffier for the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, around 1897. During a stay in London, the singer was taken ill and when she requested something light to eat Escoffier delivered Melba toast.
Melba toast is available commercially but is not difficult to make and a great way to use up excess sliced bread and you will find the results much better. It can be made up to a couple of days before you need it and stored it in an airtight container, then crisp it up for a short time in the oven.
Sliced white or brown bread as required
Preheat the grill to high and toast the bread lightly on both sides. Cut off the crusts, then holding the toast flat, slide the knife between the toasted edges to split the bread.
Place the toast cut side down onto a food preparation board and gently rub it over the board surface. This removes any loose crumbs and snags of dough which will burn when you toast the underside and produces a professional finish.
Place on a baking tray untoasted sides uppermost, then toast under a moderate grill until golden and the edges curl.
When required crisp for a short time in the oven at 170 °C / 325 °F / Gas 3 before serving.
When you are cooking with real vanilla pods using the seeds to flavour whipped cream or crème Anglais reserve the empty pods. If they have been used to infuse their flavour into milk, remove them and pat dry. The reserved pods can be placed in a plastic container or jar filled with caster sugar. Any remaining essential oils will infuse the caster sugar with a delicious vanilla flavour which can then be used in cakes or as a topping for freshly baked biscuits.
This a technique in baking where sugar and fat are blended together and mixed to a creamy consistency. During the process, small air cells are formed and then incorporated into the mix. The mix then becomes larger in volume and softer in texture. Creaming is affected by the fats involved, the temperature of the fat and the force involved. During the second stage, beaten eggs are carefully incorporated.
Top Tips for Creaming
If the butter or margarine is too cold it will be difficult to beat in enough air as the fat is not elastic enough. Using a mechanical food mixer, the friction can cause the temperature to rise to high and the fat will be too soft. The ideal temperature is around 21°C.
Sugar and butter should be creamed at a medium speed until soft and light. High-speed mixing tends to destroy or reduce the number of air cells that are formed and incorporated during the early stages of mixing.
During the second stage, beaten eggs should be added in several small batches. Adding the eggs too quickly will result in the mixture splitting or curdling. Adding a small portion of the flour at the start of the mix and when you add more egg will help to eliminate curdling in mixes with high liquid content.
Puff pastry can be used to make many different savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can also be made slightly larger and used as a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.
Feuilleté Pastry Tarts
Why not try your finished Feuillettes filled with roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms with brandy, thyme and nutmeg or a fabulous seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard or glazed poached peach halves and raspberries if you have a sweeter palate.
Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )
Preheat your oven to 400F / 200C / Gas Mark 6. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured work surface.
Cut into squares 4 by 4 inches for a large case 1 1/2 inch squared for smaller bite-size tarts.
Carefully cut two L – shaped into the pastry like the picture above. Make sure to you leave to small pieces of uncut pastry to hold the edges together.
Egg wash the pastry square the fold over the cut pastry strips.
Egg wash the tart case again including the sides of the pastry. Dock or prick the center of the case with the tines of a fork, this will prevent the center rising. Transfer to a non -stick baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to relax the pastry. This will help prevent the pastry from shrinking.
Place in your heated oven and bake for between 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your feuilette, until crisp and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool. You can make your cases ahead of you needing them and store in an airtight container.