For the Eccles cakes
225g/8oz plain flour
pinch of salt
160g/5¾oz chilled unsalted butter, plus 25g/1oz soft unsalted butter
100g/4oz caster sugar
50g/2oz chopped candied peel
freshly grated nutmeg
milk and granulated sugar, to finish
For the Earl Grey tea creams
95g/3¾oz free-range egg yolks, from 5-6 large eggs
80g/3oz caster sugar
260ml/9½fl oz full-fat milk
260ml/9½fl oz double or whipping cream
7 Earl Grey tea bags
For the milk foam
600ml/1 pint whole milk
100ml/3½fl oz condensed milk
100ml/3½fl oz whipping cream
You will need a whipped cream dispenser (an iSi siphon) and two N2O cartridges.
1. First make the pastry for the Eccles cakes. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Dice half the chilled butter and rub into the flour using your hands, then add just enough cold water (4-5 tablespoons) to bring everything together into a soft dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring about 20cm/8in x 10cm/4in. Cut the remaining chilled butter into thin slices. Cover the middle third of the dough with one-third of the slices, then fold the unbuttered thirds of dough over the buttered third, first one and then the other, making a square. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. Repeat step 2 twice, turning the block of dough 90 degrees each time, and chilling between each rolling. Repeat two more times, but without any butter, then refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes.
4. Make the Earl Grey tea creams while the pastry is chilling. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Stand six shallow 150ml/¼ pint teacups or ramekins in a roasting tin.
5. Whisk the egg yolks and half the sugar in a large bowl. Put the milk, cream and tea bags in a heavy-based pan with the remaining sugar and bring just to the boil over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the liquid reaches the boil, strain it slowly through a fine sieve over the egg yolks and sugar. (Don't let the liquid boil or leave the bags to steep, or the creams will taste like stewed tea.) Whisk well until evenly combined, then strain the mixture slowly through the sieve into a large measuring jug. Skim to remove any foamy bubbles.
6. Pour the mixture slowly into the cups so that each one is two-thirds full. Skim off any more bubbles. Pour hot water into the roasting tin to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The creams should be only just set, with a slight wobble in the centre. Remove the cups from the water and leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
7. For the milk foam, boil the milk for the foam until reduced to 200ml/7fl oz. Pour into a bowl and leave until cold. Whisk the reduced milk with the condensed milk and cream, then pour into the siphon (see note above). Charge the siphon with two cartridges and release a little gas, then shake well. Keep the siphon in a bowl of iced water until ready to use.
8. Finish making the Eccles cakes about an hour or so before serving, as they are best served warm. Preheat the oven to 240C/465F/Gas 8 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
9. Cream together the 25g/1oz soft butter and the caster sugar in a bowl, then add the currants, candied peel and nutmeg. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until 4mm/¼in thick. Cut out twelve 7cm/2¾in discs. Spoon a little of the filling in the centre of each disc. Brush the edges with a little water, then pull the edges into the centre and pinch them together to seal. Turn the cakes over, place on the prepared tray and push down lightly with the palm of your hand to flatten a little. With a small sharp knife, make three short incisions in the top of each cake. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle liberally with granulated sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges have turned golden-brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes.
10. To serve, cover the top of each Earl Grey tea cream with milk foam, and place a warm Eccles cake on the saucer.
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