Afternoon Tea | February 1, 2016 | Food
Let them eat cake:
Discover the secrets of the Pont St. restaurant Marie Antoinette afternoon tea
Sophie Michell is a woman who knows how to take tea in style. Perhaps unusually for a top-level chef, accustomed to the cut and thrust of the professional kitchen, she loves the ritual – and the candy-coloured extravagance – of afternoon tea.
So much so that she devised one of the most luxurious afternoon teas in the country for her London restaurant Pont St. – the Marie Antoinette tea. Sophie has recently moved on to new projects but we spoke to her earlier this year about the inspiration behind the UK’s most decadent tea.
Sophie explained, “Marie Antoinette was also famous for saying ’let them eat cake’ and she had such a decadent reputation that our afternoon tea is equally over the top – think absinthe choux buns, rose and lychee jellies and foie gras on brioche.”
As they do in France, Pont St. serves its afternoon tea with champagne – in this case Ruinart, one of the oldest houses in the country.
Sophie became the UK’s youngest female executive chef when she overhauled the menu at Belgraves Hotel in 2013, and helped relaunch its Pont St. restaurant.
She’s worked as a private chef for celebrities, including model Claudia Schiffer and actor Leonardo diCaprio. She was also part of the Channel 4 series Cook Yourself Thin and is author of five cook books.
Sophie has shared her recipe for orange blossom eclairs, explaining, ”Eclairs are really in fashion at the moment and I always have a chic little éclair or choux bun on my afternoon tea. This one is very pretty and fragrant with a touch of gold leaf and orange blossom.”
Eclair fan? Discover why choux is the new cupcake – and the best places to indulge.
Orange Blossom Eclairs
- 0il, for greasing
- 75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 50g butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 200ml double cream
- 50g icing sugar
- ½ tbsp orange blossom water
For the icing:
- 200g fondant icing sugar
- edible gold leaf, to decorate (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and lightly oil and flour a baking sheet. Pour 150ml water into a saucepan, add the butter and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium, then, stirring vigorously and continuously, add the flour in one quick burst. Continue stirring until a soft paste forms and the oil from the butter starts to come to the surface.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, then gradually beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and glossy and has a dropping consistency. Leave to cool.
- Spoon the paste into a large piping bag fitted with a 2cm plain nozzle and pipe 8cm lengths on the prepared baking sheet, leaving a space between each for the éclairs to double in size during baking. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until cooked through, golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the éclairs from the oven, pierce the bottoms with a skewer to release the steam and leave on a wire cooling rack until cold.
- Whip the cream and icing sugar together in a bowl, until stiff peaks form. Mix in the orange blossom water, then spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
- Pierce the base of each éclair with the piping nozzle and pipe the cream into the éclairs. Put in the fridge to chill.
- To make the icing, mix together the icing sugar and 3 teaspoons water in a bowl. Dip the top of the éclairs in the icing or spread the icing using a metal spatula. Leave to set, then sprinkle with edible gold leaf, if you like.
For more information on Pont St.’s Marie Antoinette afternoon tea, or to book, click here.
For more of Sophie’s recipes, visit her website.