The Berkeley – glam sister to Claridge’s and The Connaught – regularly runs masterclasses with head pastry chef Mourad Khiat to share the secrets behind the hotel’s famous Prêt-à-Portea, fashion’s favourite afternoon tea. Following the success of the recipe book marking the tea’s tenth anniversary, these inviting sessions offer baking aficionados the chance to perfect their own Prêt-à-Portea skills.
Guests learn how to create a selection of Prêt-à-Portea classics, including treats inspired by designers such as Moschino, Jason Wu and Manolo Blahnik. And this month the classes take on a special royal wedding flavour with limited-edition bridal couture biscuits and regal handbags – see our exclusive preview here.
Prêt-à-Portea is served daily in the Collins Room (pictured above) from 1pm until 5.30pm and features a seasonal selection of catwalk-inspired bakes and biscuits. Prices from £52 per person; £62 including a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne. Masterclasses cost £225 per person including a two-hour baking class followed by Prêt-à-Portea with a glass of champagne. Visit the-berkeley.co.uk for availability and to book online or call 020 7107 8866 (for Prêt-à-Portea reservations) or 020 7201 1619 (for masterclasses).
Prêt-à-Portea bridal biscuits
MAKES 10-14 OF EACH
CHOCOLATE WEDDING DRESSES
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
10g cocoa powder
150g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
as above but replace the cocoa with the seeds from 1 vanilla pod and use 160g plain flour
1. For each flavour, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy using an electric hand whisk, 2-3 minutes (for larger quantities you could use a stand mixer). Add the egg and your chosen flavouring of cocoa or vanilla and beat for another minute. Quickly mix in the flour until combined into a dough – be sure not to over mix. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to rest for 1½ hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare your exclusive biscuit templates (go to you.co.uk to download) or have ready suitable cookie cutters (simple 6cm heart shapes or flowers work well). Once the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and knead it gently. Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to 5mm thick, about the thickness of a £1 coin. Tip: if you find the dough a bit sticky, try sandwiching it between sheets of baking parchment and rolling that instead. Transfer the rolled-out dough carefully to a baking sheet (your rolling pin should help here) and return it to the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line one or two baking sheets with baking parchment. Take the chilled dough out of the fridge and cut out the biscuits, using the templates and a small sharp knife or cookie cutters. You should get 10-14 of each, plus a few more by re-rolling the trimmings once.
4. Place the biscuit shapes on the lined baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Once cooled, apply a designer top coat of icing, using the picture for inspiration. Go to you.co.uk for icing quantities and method, and for more tips on how to ice to perfection, see the book (see below).
THE DESIGNER TOP COAT
Here’s enough icing for about 36 biscuits. First do the outlines. Whisk 1 large egg white into 220g icing sugar a little at a time to create a smooth paste. Fill a small piping bag no more than two-thirds full and cut the tip off to create a very small hole. Carefully pipe a fine line all the way around the edge of the cooled baked biscuits and leave to set before filling in.
To fill and finish, whisk 2 large egg whites into 220g icing sugar a little at a time to create a liquid a little runnier than the outline icing (hence the extra egg white). Fill another piping bag with the filling icing, cut a slightly larger hole in the tip and ‘flood’ the central part of the biscuit with icing until it reaches the outline. Leave it to dry completely, at least 1 hour, before piping any details (add a little colouring to some outline icing as required) or adding dabs of glitter if wished.
Red velvet crown cake
Makes 1 x 24CM SQUARE
125g plain flour
10g cocoa powder
5g bicarbonate of soda
55g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
150g caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tsp white wine vinegar
20 drops red liquid
1. This makes a basic cake that can be cut into mini rounds or bitesize pieces (iced with your favourite frosting, if wished). To try your hand at the ultimate Prêt-à-Portea crown pictured on page 54, refer to the full-on instructions in the book (see below).
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a shallow 24cm cake tin with baking parchment. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside. Put the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy using an electric hand whisk. Gradually add the egg, mix well, then add the flour and cocoa mixture. Still beating gently, add the buttermilk slowly, then the white wine vinegar and the food colouring. Mix well.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted at the centre comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes before slicing or decorating as desired.
Lemon drizzle handbag sponge
MAKES 1 SQUARE FOR SLICING INTO ABOUT 20 BITES
2 large eggs
90g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon
pinch of salt
40g whipping cream
75g plain flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder, sifted
25g melted butter, plus extra for the tin
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3. Select a 20cm square plain sandwich cake tin about 3cm deep (if using a loose-bottomed tin, line it fully with baking paper).
2. Mix the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice, salt and whipping cream in a mixing bowl using an electric hand whisk until well combined to create a thick liquid. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder slowly and add the melted butter until combined into a fairly runny mixture.
3. Brush the cake tin with melted butter and pour in the cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for
20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Turn out the sponge on to a wire rack to let it cool. Once cooled, cut into rectangular pieces about 3cm x 5cm.
4. Pop these into paper cases to serve, if wished. Or to transform the cake bites into handbags Prêt-à-Portea style, consult the icing inspo in the book (see below).
1. Combine a quantity of Philadelphia cream cheese with half its weight of Boursin cream cheese (the kind flavoured with garlic and herbs). Fold in dollops of beurre noisette (butter melted and heated until nutty and golden) and some finely chopped small capers.
2. Add a little Greek yoghurt to a give a spreadable consistency that isn’t too runny. Spread the bread with the buttery flavoured cheese and build the sandwiches, starting with a layer of finely sliced sorrel. Top with thinly sliced peeled cucumber, some seasoning and another scattering of sorrel – the thickness of the filling should be almost equal to the thickness of the bread. Close the sandwiches and press together lightly, then slice into fingers, discarding the crusts.
Roast chicken sandwiches
Combine good mayonnaise with some very finely chopped celery and spring onion. Season with a squeeze of lemon, dashes of soy sauce and a dab of wasabi, stirring together to ensure a nice spreadable consistency. Spread the bread with the flavoured mayo and build the sandwiches starting with a layer of finely sliced little gem lettuce. Top with thinly sliced roast chicken breast, some seasoning, an extra dollop of spread and another layer of lettuce – the thickness of the filling should be almost equal to the thickness of the bread. Close the sandwiches and press together lightly, then slice into fingers, discarding the crusts.
Coconut cherry shots
MAKES 15 X 50ML SHOTS
COCONUT MOUSSE LAYER
2 large egg yolks
20g caster sugar
2 leaves of gelatine
110ml whole milk
240ml whipping cream
215ml coconut cream
200g pitted fresh cherries
100ml sugar syrup (made using 50g sugar and 55ml water warmed until dissolved and discarding any excess)
100ml whipping cream
1. For the mousse, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 4-5 minutes, then drain.
2. Put the milk and 110ml of the whipping cream into a pan and bring to a simmer, taking care not to let it boil. Pour it on to the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring continuously. Pour it back into the pan and cook on a very low heat; don’t stop stirring. When the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon, that’s your cue to add the drained gelatine. Stir until it has dissolved.
3. Take the pan off the heat and pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the coconut cream and leave to cool by setting the bowl in a larger bowl or sink filled with iced water. Keep an eye on it and allow it to cool for 30 minutes to room temperature.
4. Whip the remaining 130ml whipping cream to soft peaks, then fold it into the cooled coconut mixture. Now it’s ready to transfer to a jug and pour into the 50ml shot glasses. Fill them three-quarters full and place in the fridge to set for two hours.
5. For the cherry layer, put the cherries and syrup in a pan, bring to the boil and cook gently for 7-10 minutes or until the cherries are soft. Pour into a bowl, set aside to cool, then whiz to a pink purée in a blender. Whip the 100ml cream to soft peaks, then fold in the cherry purée (the shade of pink achieved will depend on the colour of your cherries). When the coconut mousse has set fully, pour the cherry layer on top, filling to just below the rim.
6. To finish with the pink chocolate skirts and high-kicking tuiles as pictured, find full instructions in the book (see below).
Collins royale cocktail
Start by chilling a champagne flute in the fridge. In a separate mixing glass, muddle together 6 fresh raspberries into as smooth a paste as possible. Add 10ml Chambord and 15ml good-quality cider brandy (for example Somerset Twenty, somersetciderbrandy.com) and stir to combine. Strain this through a fine sieve into the chilled champagne flute and then slowly top up with chilled Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé champagne. Add your own choice of regal garnish to give the cocktail a personal royal touch.
BUY THE BOOK WITH 20 PER CENT OFF
Prêt-à-Portea: High Fashion Bakes and Biscuits, with recipes by The Berkeley’s head pastry chef Mourad Khiat, is published by Laurence King, price £12.95. To order a copy for £9.71 until 27 May, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15. Located in Belgravia, justa step away from Knightsbridge, The Berkeley is the ultimate urban retreat in the heart of London: the essence of contemporary chic, with stunning rooms and suites, two-Michelin-starred cuisine from Marcus Wareing, Prêt-à-Portea in the Collins Room, cocktails in the Blue Bar, and the health club and spa complete with rooftop pool. Visit the-berkeley.co.uk for more information and reservations.