Occasionally I buy a new book and inside I find something old. This happened recently when I trotted into my local Waterstones on the way to work (yes, it's a morning priority) hoping to spy the latest book from Justin Gellatly and the team at Bread Ahead - Bread School. There it was. On the shelf. Calling my name. I read it on the walk to work (apologies if I bumped into you). Sneaked a peek at my desk (sorry to my boss if you are reading this). Flicked through at lunchtime (which may have been extended). Lost myself in it on the train home (which for once seemed to fly past). So many wonderful, modern, classic, innovative recipes. Then, there it was. Page 166. 'French Baking', indeed. Swoon. Fanny's favourite, the Choux Swan.
They are so retro. So adorable. So effective. I think I love Choux Swans almost as much as Fanny did. People often associate them with the 1970s, but they've been around longer and feature in Fanny's cookbooks stretching right back. It makes me smile so much to see them in a new, hip, must-have book, I just have to try the recipe and see how they compare to Fanny's. I made Choux Swans over the summer at my Fanny Cradock demo at Foodies Festival with the lovely Restoration Cake. Of course, with Fanny's signature blue cream filling. The crowd seemed to love them, and I loved seeing pictures of the sweet little swans I made for the audience appearing across social media. Who doesn't love a Blue Choux Swan?
People can get a little scared of choux pastry, but you needn't be. Fanny has her rules to follow, as ever, which are a little different to the mainstream. So I mostly follow the Bread Ahead methods and throw in some Fanny for good measure. All choux starts with melting butter in a liquid. Here, it's milk and water. Fanny uses all sorts, including orange juice, for hers, depending on the occasion. The Bread Ahead guys use bread flour, so I do too. A little sugar, some salt. All gently mingling. Then boiling. Then flour added in and mixed. Then eggs beaten in one at a time. Fanny then leaves it cool, until it is stone cold. Other recipes don't. Fanny says it's the only way to ensure there is no 'nasty goo' inside the baked buns. I don't want goo. Stone cold it is.
Fanny loved piping. I love piping. The Bread Ahead Swan bodies are piped with a star nozzle. I rather like the idea. The Swan necks are piped through a small round nozzle. The necks bake for eight minutes, the bodies for twenty-two. Both emerge from the oven looking resplendently golden, but not so pretty. The tops are sliced off the bodies and cut in half to make wings. The cavity is filled with glorious piped custard or cream. Or both. Blue colouring is