TORONTO — If your whipped cream separates or your chiffon cake falls, Anna Olson will tell you why, along with how to fix it.
Her new television show, Bake with Anna Olson, is just like going to class. Its instructional format is peppered with plenty of tips and demonstrations. Each episode is like a series of building blocks, in which the celebrated pastry chef explains a fundamental skill and then augments it with more difficult concepts and recipes.
“It is based loosely on a baker’s apprenticeship, but within each episode. So you take that single concept of, say, a pie dough or a pastry cream or chocolate mousse. You start at the beginning and you learn the whys and hows behind it,” Olson explained, just ahead of the launch of the first two episodes on Food Network Canada.
“You can articulate so much on paper in a recipe, but through television I can talk you through it. You’re witnessing the recipe happen. It’s a great vehicle to just share and empower people to be better bakers.”
Olson, who has also hosted “Sugar,” “Fresh with Anna Olson” and co-hosted the kitchen design show “Kitchen Equipped,” developed all new recipes for this show. Still photography of the final dishes was done in her Niagara-area home. In the first episode, Olson makes a classic chocolate cake, then progresses to a decadent red velvet cake, a rich chocolate mousse cake, and chocolate-glazed petit fours.
There are 40 episodes, but Olson stressed that you don’t have to start at the beginning to build on a base of knowledge.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will drool over such creations as lemon meringue pie and classic fruit tart, but those with a savoury bent will also enjoy episodes encompassing bread baking.
Even within episodes there’s savoury and sweet.
When using up the dough trimmed from the edges of a pie, Olson shows viewers easy ways to create leaves for garnish and teaches how to braid strips of dough to decorate the edges of a pie.
“It’s how a real pastry kitchen operates. You don’t waste anything…. In a professional kitchen if you were to make pastry cream you make a big batch of it and you use some for this, some for something else but all in different forms, and you really get to know these techniques and build a comfort level with them,” said Olson.
As the series progresses, Olson will share tips and secrets used in professional kitchens.
As for the secret of perfect whipped cream that can be prepared ahead, Olson’s trick is to add 15 ml (1 tbsp) of skim milk powder per 250 ml (1 cup) of whipping cream at any point during the whipping process to stabilize it.
Another tip: “Icing sugar is a great fix. A little dusting of icing sugar can fix just about anything.”
Lemon Meringue Pie
250 ml plus 30 ml (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) cake and pastry flour
15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
45 ml (3 tbsp) cold water
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) lemon juice or white vinegar
1 egg white, lightly whisked
Lemon Curd Filling
250 ml (1 cup) sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) cornstarch
250 ml (1 cup) water
6 large egg yolks
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice
30 ml (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
4 large egg whites, room temperature
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cream of tartar
75 ml (1/3 cup) sugar
45 ml (3 tbsp) icing sugar, sifted
Sift flour, sugar and salt to combine in a bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut in butter until just small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture as a whole just begins to take on a pale yellow colour (indicating that the butter has been worked in sufficiently).
Stir water and lemon juice together and add this to dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape dough into a disc, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is in a circle that is just under 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Lightly dust a 23-cm (9-inch) pie plate with flour. Press dough into pie plate and trim away any excess dough; pinch edges to create a fluted pattern and chill for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 200 C (400 F). Line chilled pie shell with tin foil and fill foil with dried beans, raw rice or pie weights. Bake pie shell for 20 minutes, then carefully remove foil and weights and bake crust for 8 to 10 minutes more, until the centre of the pie shell is dry-looking and just starts to brown a little. Immediately after removing from the oven, brush hot crust with a little of the whisked egg white. This will create a barrier to keep the crust crispy once filled. Reduce oven temperature to 160 C (325 F).
Filling: In a medium saucepot, whisk sugar and cornstarch together, then whisk in cold water. Have the other ingredients measured and nearby. Bring sugar mixture up to a full simmer over medium-high heat, whisking as it cooks, until mixture is thick and glossy.
Pour about 250 ml (1 cup) of this thickened filling into egg yolks while whisking, then return this to pot and whisk just 1 minute more. Whisk in lemon juice and cook until filling just returns to a simmer. Remove pot from heat and whisk in butter, then immediately pour hot filling into cooled pie shell. Cover surface of the filling with plastic wrap to keep it hot. Immediately prepare meringue topping.
Whip egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy, then increase speed to high and gradually pour in granulated sugar and icing sugar and continue whipping just until whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.
Remove plastic wrap from hot lemon filling, then dollop half of the meringue directly onto filling (the filling will still be very soft, so work gently). Be sure to spread the meringue so that it completely covers the lemon filling and connects with the outside crust, then use a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl the meringue just a touch (this will secure it to the lemon curd). Dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and create spikes.
Bake pie for about 20 minutes in a 160 C (325 F) oven, until the meringue is nicely browned. Let meringue cool completely to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
Makes one 23-cm (9-inch) pie, 8 to 10 servings.
Source: Anna Olson and Food Network Canada.
Classic Lemon Cranberry Scones With Lemon Glaze
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
50 ml (1/4 cup) sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
15 ml (1 tbsp) finely grated lemon zest
125 ml (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
125 ml (1/2 cup) whipping cream
50 ml (1/4 cup) 2 per cent milk, plus extra for brushing
1 large egg
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
250 ml (1 cup) fresh or frozen cranberries
250 ml (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) lemon juice
Heat oven to 190 C (375 F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Into a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in lemon zest. Cut in butter until mixture is rough and crumbly but still small pieces of butter are visible.
In a separate bowl, whisk cream, milk, egg and vanilla together. Add this to the flour mixture and stir to just bring the dough together, turning out onto a work surface to complete bringing it together with your hands. Flatten out dough and press cranberries into dough, folding it over and flattening it out a few times to incorporate cranberries.
Shape dough into a disc about 25 cm (10 inches) across. Cut disc into 8 wedges and place them on prepared baking tray, leaving a few centimetres (inches) between them.
Brush scones with a little milk and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until scones are lightly browned on top. Let cool completely before glazing.
Glaze: Whisk icing sugar and lemon juice together and drizzle over scones using the whisk or a fork. Let glaze set for an hour before serving.
Makes 8 large scones.