Chefs from some of the greatest restaurants on earth are joined by gastronomes, celebrities and passionate foodies to share childhood food memories and the recipes that inspired them to experiment in the kitchen... a memory bank which reminds us home cooking can be fun, thrifty, save money and amaze your friends.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shelly Preston - Chocolatier - UK

Shelly Preston is a chocolatier, founder of Boutique Aromatique and 'one to watch' in the culinary world. A new kid on the block with a passion for top drawer aromatics, natural perfumery and all things flora; all of which inspire her chocolate work. Her experience with artisan perfumers and world class aromatherapists have inspired her use of aromatics and essential oils in cooking and she is already on call to a number of celebrities who impress their guests with her bespoke chocolate collections.

"When it comes to food I’ve always followed my nose and it usually leads me to something sweet. Nana Midge’s home baked lemon curd taflins and caraway seed cake were irresistible to me and to this day a mere whiff of toasty, aromatic caraway unlocks a potent and fond aroma-memory. However, chocolate in all its glory is my childhood given. It’s also a personal passion and now my livelihood so it goes without saying that my most treasured food memory involves the sweet and sacred stuff.

My memory is one of anticipation; anticipation of a fresh cream éclair from the village bakery. My Mum used to make the trip to the bakery exciting and it was clear that it was a treat and reward for being good and also, a delicious reminder from her to me that she was a nice Mum and that I should really behave myself more often! It’s therefore embedded in my psyche that I reach for patisserie as a way of rewarding myself. I think a lot of people do and as I’m a firm believer in ‘don’t deny’ food and that anything in moderation that comforts and satisfies the soul has its rightful place, then who’s to argue?

There’s a huge disparity between the village/high street bakeries these days. Modern, cosmopolitan bakeries bill ‘patisserie du jour’ macaroons as their star turn while the more provincial, commercial bakeries seem to have resorted to often the most sad array of bastardised cakes and novelty offerings filled with synthetic cream and E numbers. To me, the chocolate éclair should be treasured and seldom meddled with. I ask, what could be more perfect than a choux bun, bursting at the seams with whipped cream and slathered in chocolate…eaten at breakfast, lunch or tea?

My Mum always says, “you can eat as many chocolate éclairs as you like, they’re like eating fresh air”. A weird science I know because there’s nothing healthy about them at all but I’ve found myself saying the same thing over and over..if only to justify to myself that it’s ok to have another one (or two). I’m so crazy about éclairs that when I first learned to make them at pastry college I literally raised my hands to the gourmet gods and said ‘thank you’. I’m now able to make my own and re-live my ‘chocolate fresh air’ (I mean) chocolate éclair memory over and over and over again.

Thanks for the memory Mum."

Chocolate éclairs

Choux Paste Ingredients:
Butter x 125g
Water x 300ml
Strong White Flour x 150ml
Eggs x 4/5 (beaten)
Salt (tiny pinch)

Chocolate Topping & Filling Ingredients:
Dark Chocolate x 400g (chopped in to tiny pieces)
Whipping or Double Cream x 300ml

(I’m using pure melted chocolate for the topping and fresh cream for the filling rather than the traditional chocolate icing and pastry cream here because that’s how I’ve always eaten them and how I remember them best)


  • Heat the oven to 200 to 215°C.
  • Put the butter, water and salt in a heavy bottomed pan and gently bring to the boil.
  • As the butter melts, stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  • As soon as the mixture is boiling remove from the heat, fold in the sieved flour and beat.
  • Return to a moderate heat and beat vigorously and continuously until the mixture swells, resembles a smooth dough and leaves the sides of the pan completely.
  • Remove from the heat and place the mixture in a food mixer and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Gradually add the eggs and mix well (with a beater). You are looking for a shiny, dropping consistency to emerge.
  • Spoon the mixture in to a piping bag, no need for a nozzle, just chop the end off making a 1cm opening. Set aside.
  • Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Pipe your mixture in straight lines directly on to the parchment about 5” long, leaving enough space either side as they will double in size.
  • Bake for approx 30 minutes but keep an eye on them because you don’t want them to become ‘crispy’. You’re looking for a puffed up, golden bun.
  • Once you have removed the buns from the oven you may want to make a tiny slit in each one to let any trapped air escape. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • Now whip your cream until it’s well aerated, fluffy and pipeable. Only sweeten the cream if you must. Transfer to a piping bag, no need for a nozzle, with an opening of approx 5mm diameter. Set aside in the fridge.
  • Once the choux buns have cooled completely start melting the chocolate in a bain-marie. A few moments before all the pieces have melted, remove from the heat. The heat on the bottom of the bowl will melt the rest. Add in a few fresh pieces of chocolate and stir in. This method should give you a glossy finish. If you have a tempering machine to do this all the better.
  • Now dip your choux buns face down in to the melted chocolate so that you have one half coated, leaving the other side plain. Set aside (chocolate side up) for the chocolate to set.
  • Once the chocolate has set, make a hole approx 5mm in diameter at opposite ends i.e. the top and tale of the choux buns.
  • Pipe the whipped cream inside the bun from both ends. This allows the cream to meet in the middle for an all over fill. The weight of the bun will tell you once they’re full enough