A semi-finalist in the 2020 series of The Great British Bake Off, Hermine is one of the most talented bakers to have appeared on the show and has worked with us to give us a recipe perfect for summer!
Born and raised in Benin, West Africa, Hermine moved to London in 2001 to pursue her further education. The French influence in Benin has given her a passion for pâtisseries such as intricate mille-feuille, entremets and éclairs.
Creative and experimental, Hermine is fascinated by the ‘why’ of baking. Understanding why ingredients and flavours work together helped her through some of the most difficult challenges ever seen on Bake Off. She loves to explore her West African roots in her cooking, making delicious stews such as Gbomo Dessi, one-pot dishes like aromatic Thieboudienne and versatile Jollof Rice, and fluffy Puff-puff Doughnuts.
You can visit Hermine at @bakealongwithhermine to see more recipes and keep up to date with news on her baking book!
Can you tell us a little about how you got into baking and what you love so much about it?
Benin had a number of pâtisseries and boulangeries so I grew up eating French-style bakes. I always helped my mum to bake for family occasions, and at the age of eight I decided to try baking something for herself, so I asked my dad for money to buy the ingredients for a savarin cake. From that moment I was hooked!
When I moved to the UK 20 years ago, I really missed baguettes and croissants and the light sponges filled with French buttercream that I’d become accustomed to in Benin. These kinds of bakes were not widely available in London in those days and if I did manage to find them my student budget wouldn’t always allow me to enjoy them.
So, I decided to try to replicate them myself. At first, my baking was quite basic but the more I tried, the more I learned, and the more I wanted to experiment with my bakes. Before long I was making croissants, croquembouche and elaborate birthday cakes for friends and family. They kept telling me how great I was, but of course, I thought they were just being polite.
Soon I found myself applying for The Great British Bake Off… the rest, as they say, is history.
Tell us more about the recipe you have shared with us, what do you think makes it the perfect summer outdoor recipe?
Vibrant in both colour and flavour, the lemon tart is one of my favourite bakes. The crumbly sweet pastry case is filled with a tart lemony custard and topped with fruit and meringue. Rich but at the same time light, it’s the perfect dessert for a garden party and the citrusy flavour makes it a great palate cleanser after a lovely meal. I always come back for more slices!
This summer is all about alfresco dining, including at home, what would be your top tips for entertaining outdoors this season?
I come from a large family and my parents did lots of entertaining, so I’ve picked up plenty of tips from them.
You should always try to make your guests feel welcome and well looked after. That starts with the environment. Make your outdoor space warm and welcoming. If you’re entertaining in the evening think about the lighting – lanterns and candles, make for a great ambience.
Summer evenings are often a little chilly and a fire pit is a good way to create a cosy atmosphere. Sitting around the fire and chatting, with a nice glass of wine, is a lovely way to end an outdoor party.
If you’re doing a BBQ, think about where to place it in relation to your table as you don’t want your guests to be drenched in smoke!
If children will be present think about ways to entertain them. Plan some activities for them or games that everyone can join in.
When it comes to food, you’ll want loads of fresh salads and finger foods; grilled dishes are always a hit. Wrap your meal up with a nice fruity or citrusy dessert; remember they make great palate cleansers. Tarts are my go-to for summer desserts. They are light and can be made using seasonal fruits.
Choose something light to drink. For me, white or rosé wines or prosecco are a great choice. There are also some lovely cocktails to choose from – my favourites are piña colada and mojitos. Plus, fruit juices for children and others who want to avoid alcohol.
Cheers, and have a great party!
Lemon Meringue Tart
Vibrant in both colour and flavour, the lemon tart is one of my favourite bakes. The crumbly sweet pastry case is filled with a tart lemony custard and topped with fruit and meringue. Rich but at the same time light, it’s the perfect dessert for a garden party and the citrusy flavour makes it a great palate cleanser after a lovely meal. I always come back for more slices! I’ve included some colourful mini macarons for a touch of French chic but feel free to omit these if you prefer.
For the sweet pastry
180g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
45g ground almonds
1 large egg
300g bread flour plus 20g to roll out the dough
½ tsp of salt
1 tsp of vanilla paste (substitute with ½ vanilla pod or 1 tsp essence if preferred)
1 egg yolk plus 1 tbsp milk to egg wash the baked tart case (optional)
For the tart filling
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
190g lemon juice
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted room temperature butter
Zest of 2 lemons
25g corn flour
For the macaron lemon curd (optional)
1 whole medium egg
1 egg yolk
50g caster sugar
Juice of 1.5 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
For the mini macarons (optional)
75g icing sugar
75g sifted ground almond (sifting is optional but will give you smoother macarons)
25g egg white
Yellow food colouring (powder or gel ideally)
75g Italian meringue
For the Italian meringue
150g caster sugar
2 large egg whites
1 pinch cream of tartar
2 lemon slices
3 small strawberries
For the sweet pastry
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan /Gas mark 4/350F.
2. Cream the butter, salt and sugar then add the egg and mix until combined. Add the ground almond and vanilla and mix well. Finally add the flour until combined, taking care to not overmix the dough.
3. Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge until firm (about 30 minutes). Then roll out the dough to about 3mm thick and encase a 20cm tart ring. Line with parchment paper and fill with ceramic beans. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180C/gas mark 4/350F.
4. Remove the tart case from the oven. Let it cool for about 5 minutes then gently remove the ring. Egg wash the tart case and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This is optional but it will give the tart case a beautiful golden shine. Remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.
For the tart filling
5. In a saucepan on a medium heat, add the lemon juice, the zest and the caster sugar and bring to a simmer.
6. In a bowl, add the eggs, egg yolks and corn flour and mix till blended. Add the simmering lemon juice to the egg mixture in a steady and slow stream while continuously mixing.
7. Return the mixture to the saucepan and simmer on a medium heat. Keep stirring until it thickens.
8. Place the mixture in a bowl and cover with cling film (so it is in contact with the mixture). Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. Then remove from the fridge and add the soft butter and mix with a hand blinder until it emulsifies.
9. Fill the pastry case with the filling and level up using a palette knife. Cover the tart with cling film (so it is in contact with the tart). Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set or until ready to decorate.
For the macaron lemon curd
10. In a saucepan, on a medium heat, add the lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter and bring to a simmer.
11. In a bowl, whisk the egg and the egg yolk, then add in the simmering juice in a slow and steady stream while continuously whisking.
12. Return the mixture to the saucepan and simmer on a medium heat while continuously mixing until the mixture thickens. This will take about 10 minutes. Pour into a jar and set aside.
For the macaron shells
13. Preheat the oven at 150C/gas mark 2/300F
14. In a bowl, mix the ground almond and the icing sugar. Add in the egg white and a drop of yellow gel or a pinch of powdered food colouring and mix until it turns into a thick paste. Mix in 30g of Italian meringue to loosen the paste, then fold in an extra 45g of Italian meringue (see next section).
15. Pour the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round tip nozzle. Place a silicon mat or some parchment paper onto a baking tray. Pipe on as many 3cm dots as possible, leaving at lease 2 cm between each dot. When you’ve finished piping, tap the tray on the work surface a few times to release any air bubbles. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until the dots are dry to the touch.
16. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes at 150C/gas mark 2/300F, rotating the baking tray halfway through the bake. Remove the macarons from the oven and allow them to completely cool. Fill them with the lemon curd and place in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Italian meringue
17. Add the sugar to the water and bring to a syrupy consistency at 120C.
18. Whisk the egg white and the cream of tartar until it forms stiff peaks. Add in the syrup in a slow and steady stream, while continuously whisking until it forms stiff peaks with a glossy appearance.
19. Save 75g of the meringue for the macarons and place the remainder in a piping bag ideally fitted with a with a St Honoré nozzle, although you can also use a star or round nozzle.
Decorating the tart
20. Pipe the Italian meringue around the edges of the tart, then add the fruits to the centre. Arrange the mini macarons around the fruits and place the tart in the fridge until ready to serve.