A Belgian’s very British Viennese Whirls

Recently Quinteassential teamed up with their partners at the Northcote Cookery School to present an afternoon tea masterclass. The head tutor, chef Michael Vanheste showed how to bake Quinteassential’s Imperial Earl Grey into Viennese Whirls for a tea infused indulgence of whirl shaped, soft butter biscuits sandwiching a cream filling.

Viennese Whirls is a misnomer as it’s a purely British confection, and entirely unrelated with Austria except it’s rumoured to be inspired by Austrian pastries.

Unlike the confection, Michael’s surname is an actual hint of his background. Born and bred in Belgium, he was always surrounded by food when growing up. Not just Belgian food, but with his granny from Lancashire and his dad’s mum from northern France, he experience best of both British and European cooking.

michael vanheste, baking with tea, imperial earl grey viennese whirls
Chef Michael Vanheste (image: yorkmix.com)

Michael’s road to the culinary world started late at the aged 24 when he settled in the UK. Finding himself missing the food from home, he quit his boring office job and exchanged a desk for a stove by enrolling at Leeds City College for formal training. He also volunteered in some of Yorkshire’s finest kitchens, and learned lots in a short amount of time. Since graduation, Michael had worked and taught at Bettys in Harrogate, helped chef Nigel Howarth to set up the cookery school at Northcote, and presently is focusing his energy at Brockhole, Lake District.

Imperial Earl Grey
Although bergamot in Earl Grey, like lavender can be overpowering and push other delicate flavours to the back of the palette, Michael chose Imperial Earl Grey for the Viennese Whirls because the blend is just perfectly balanced, almost a natural sweetness enhanced by a soft citrus flavour that works so well in the recipe.

Tea pairing with Viennese Whirls
On pairing, Michael said, “Well it’s not a biscuit for dipping, the structure is too delicate! Having a great cup of tea is the best excuse to indulge in a biscuit but I’d probably shy away from stronger brews such as Lapsang Souchong.”

Baking tips with tea ingredients
There are several ways to incorporate teas into baking but Michael suggested infusing is the easiest way to include your favourite tea. He recommends, “If you’re making a tea loaf for example, always make the tea twice as strong as you would have in a cup and allow your carefully picked dried fruits to soak overnight! Strain and pat dry, then you’re good to go!”

More about Northcote: northcote.com
More about Brockhole at Lake District: brockhole.co.uk

VIENNESE WHIRLS (2 PARTS: BISCUIT & FILLING)


baking with tea, viennese whirls imperial earl grey, quinteassential
(image: Bethan Harris)

For the biscuits (serves 20):
100g unsalted butter, softened
40g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 and a half tbsp Quinteassential Imperial Earl Grey tea leaves
125g plain flour

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 160C (fan assisted). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2) Mix butter and icing sugar in bowl to cream (you can use a stand mixer if available). Beat egg yolks and gradually add into the creamed butter.
3) Grind tea leaves into fine powder with pestle and mortar. Add the tea ingredients and flour into creamed butter and mix until paste becomes piping consistency.
4) Use a piping bag with star shaped nozzle (for whirl pattern) and pipe small whirls onto baking parchment.
5) Bake biscuits in pre-heated oven for 6-8 minutes until light golden brown. Allow to cool down completely.

For the filling:
75g white chocolate
3 tbsp popping candy
100g double cream
15g caster sugar
1 tsp cold Quinteassential Imperial Earl Grey tea

Method:
1) Melt white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan filled with gently simmering water.
2) Spread it onto a silicone mat using a palette knife. Dip biscuits into melted chocolate, then into some popping candy.
3) Store the dipped biscuits onto a tray lined with non stick baking parchment in the fridge.
4) Whisk double cream in bowl with caster sugar and cold Earl Grey tea until it just holds in the balloon whisk.
5) Transfer to a piping bag and pipe small amount of cream onto base base of biscuit. Sandwich together with a second biscuit.
6) Store refrigerated until ready to serve.

Alisha McKenzie is a drama graduate in university and likes to think she is in the people business in real life as a business development executive. Away from work, her two cats keep her sane and on the straight path. Also cutting down on her consumption of coffee helps as she rediscovered the aromas and flavours of different teas.