Thursday 28 January 2016

Pecan Pie

I've decided that February will be a focus on pastry, so started with a fairly simple recipe, albeit one I've not done before. I adapted the recipe from one from Mary Berry's book Simple Cakes, in order to make smaller pies.

My gut feeling is that I end up over-baking my shortcrust/sweetcrust. It's always a bit dark, and not crumbly enough. I'll do some investigation into this over the month, and see if I can improve how it goes.


Pecan Pie

  • Preheat Oven to 200'C
  • Prepare 4 12cm flan tins

Sweetcrust Pastry Ingredients

  • 175g plain flour
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 75g chilled, diced butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp cold water

1) Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl

2) Rub in the butter until you get to the fine breadcrumb stage

3) Add in the egg yolk and water

4) Mix in with a pallette knife, then use your hands until a consistent dough is formed

5) Wrap in clingfilm, and chill for ½ an hour

Pecan Filling Ingredients

  • 25g softened butter
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml maple syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

1) Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together

2) Add in the eggs one at a time, and mix thoroughly

3) Add in the maple syrup and vanilla , and continue to mix until smooth and consistent

Preparing the Flan Cases


  • 1 egg white (beaten)

1) Split the chilled dough into 4 even parts

2) Roll each chunk of dough to a circle about 15cm in diameter (I have a silicone rolling mat with guides)

3) Line the 4 flan tins with the pastry. To get the pastry into the corners, I use a ball of pastry, and push it in.

4) Prick the bottom of the pastry cases with a fork

5) Put a piece of baking paper, weighed down with baking balls/rice into each flan tin

6) Put the flan tins into the oven for 10 minutes

7) Remove from the oven, and remove the baking paper and baking balls

8) Return to the oven for 5 minutes, to allow the base to dry out

9) Remove from the oven, and immediately spread a small amount of beaten egg white onto the pastry base using a pastry brush (this helps seal the pastry, and prevents soggy bottoms)

Assembling the Pies

  •  Reduce the oven temperature to 175'C


  • 100g pecan nuts

1) Cover each flan base with pecan nuts

2) Pour in the filling to cover the nuts, but make sure you don't overfill and go over the sides

3) Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set

4) Turn out onto a wire rack to cool

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Wednesday 27 January 2016

Scaling Recipes

A typical issue, you dig through recipe books looking for something to take your fancy, and when you find the recipe, it's for a tin size you don't have. You're left with 2 options...go and buy another tin (and I've found at some point you hit critical mass on storage), or you try and work out a way of scaling the recipe.

This happened to me last night...I was planning on what to bake tonight, and came across a Pecan Pie recipe, something I'd been meaning to give a go for a was for a 23cm tin, a size I don't (currently) have... My normal approach is to work out the area of the tin, and then apply ratios, but thinking about it, for flan tins specifically, it's a little more complex than that.

I have 4 flan tin sizes;

  • 12 x 10cm diameter tins, with a depth of 18mm
  • 4 x 12cm  diameter tins, with a depth of 23mm
  • 1 x 20cm diameter tin, with a depth of 33mm
  • 1 x 30cm diameter tin, with a depth of 34mm

If we just worked on area of the base of the tin (and I use Google to do the maths), you get ratios compared to a 23cm tin of;

  • 10cm tin - 0.20
  • 12cm tin - 0.28
  •  20cm tin - 0.75
  • (23cm tin) - 1.00
  • 30cm tin - 1.70

This sort of thing works for cakes, as the area is equal to the volume...however for flan tins, the surface area for pastry is not quite the same...the effective diameter of the circles of pastry you need to roll is the base area plus the sides (so, for a 12cm tin, the effective diameter is 12 + 2.3 + 2.3); using these larger diameters, for the pastry the ration are;

  • 10cm tin - 0.20
  • 12cm tin - 0.31
  • 20cm tin - 0.80
  • (23cm tin) - 1.00
  • 30cm tin - 1.56

So where does this leave me? Well, there is a decent chance I'll pop into Lakeland and get myself a 23cm tin, however another option is to make 3 x 12cm tarts, or slightly boost the pastry volumes and make 4 (there is always some cut-off anyway!). The biggest problem with scaling recipes is that there are some ingredients that you can't add 20% more to easily (the most obvious being eggs...the recipe I have uses 3 in the filling, and a yolk in the pastry)...I guess this is why we end up with so many tins!

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Tuesday 26 January 2016

Checking out a posh cake

Ok, I didn't make this one, but it was great to look closely at a professionally made cake and see what goes into it, then look elements of it for inspiration.

This was a birthday cake I ordered from the Hand and Flowers in's 2-Michelin starred pub, and everything looks and tastes amazing!


The top has a scattering of chopped strawberries, blueberries, pistachio nibs and bits of biscuit. I've always displayed strawberries "skin up", never considered showing them s the chopped side up.

Outer Icing

It's a coffee-chocolate, almost mousse-like can see in the photo the line where a palette knife has been used to level the sides. It's then been dusted with cocoa powder to give it a matt-finish. There are some blobs of white vanilla icing to hold on some of the decorations on top.

Inside things get a little funky, with plenty of layers. You can see that the outer-icing layer is really thick, so it's good that it's not too sweet.

The Layers

  • Chocolate cake
  • Vanilla Icing
  • Pistachio Cake
  • Vanilla Icing
  • Dark Chocolate Cake

Again, the vanilla icing is not over-sweet, and it's all very moist. The different colours work really well, really showing off the layers. The green of the pistachio layer is very striking.

I'd love to give something like this a go...I have some smaller cake tins, though I'm wondering if it would be easier to do swiss-roll layers, and then chop them to size.
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Cheese, Ham and Balsamic Onion Sodabread

It's been a manic weekend, with two birthdays in the house, lots of cycling, and a trip to Ikea!

I needed a savoury snack to take to the bike race on Saturday, so decided to do a sodabread I had on my "to do" list for a while, but I tweaked the ingredients list to make it cheaper. I love balsamic vinegar, so I was really looking forward to a strong kick from this from the onion.

In term of time, the slowest thing is cooking and cooling the onions... I actually did this recipe twice, the second time splitting the recipe into 2 smaller loaves, and found the quickest way of cooling the onions was to spread them out on a large plate. For the ham, I used a Waitrose pot of smoked ham...they do a number of these small, pre-chopped tubs of meats, and I find them great at adding flavour quickly to recipes (I'm a real fan of adding in chorizo, everyone likes it, and it adds a strong, smoky paprika flavour to anything). For the cheese, I used a strong cheddar, which again is a bit of a crowd-pleaser.

Cheese, Ham and Balsamic Onion Sodabread Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 175'C
  • Line a baking tray (or use a non-stick one)


  • Splash of Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ onions, finely sliced
  • 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 450g plain flour
  • 2tsp bicorbonate of soda
  • 1tsp of sea salt
  • 30g of unsalted butter (chilled)
  • 90g smoked ham
  • 200g strong cheddar cheese...gated or diced (I preferred diced)
  • 2tsbp chopped parsley
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • small amount of melted butter (to glaze)

 1) Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat

2) Add the sliced onion, stir, then reduce the heat and cover for 15 minutes

3) Add in the balsamic vinegar and sugar, increase the heat and cook while stirring for 5 minutes (until all the juices have been absorbed)

4) Turn the onions onto a plate, and spread out to let them cool

5) Sift the flour, bicarb and salt into a large mixing bowl.

6) Rub in the chilled butter until fully incorporated

7) Add in cheese, ham, parsley and cooled onions. You might want to keep some of the filling aside to decorate the top (I did for my first loaf, didn't for the's really personal preference)

8) Put 25ml of cold water into a mixing jug, and add the buttermilk, then mix

9) Add the buttermilk to the mixing bowl, and using a wooden spoon fold the mixture together.

10) You're looking to just have everything incorporated into a dough...I found it was best to get your hand in the bowl, and fold in any dry ingredients into the main dough ball.

11) Once you have a dough, you can either use as a single loaf, of split into 2 smaller loaves (~580g each). Form an oblong loaf and place on the baking tray

12) Score the top of the loaf into ~1 inch squares, and sprinkle with flour

13) If you've kept some filling to decorate, spread this over the top

14) Place in the oven for 30 minutes (if you are doing 2 smaller loaves, check after 25 minutes)

15) Turn out onto a wire rack

16) Liberally spread the outside of the loaves with melted butter

17) Allow to cool completely

18) I found this to be particularly nice either lightly toasted, or popped in the microwave for 10-2 seconds!

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Friday 22 January 2016

Creme Patissiere / Pastry Cream - Recipe Differences

When I was wiring up my notes on the Fraisier Cake yesterday, I noted that the crème pat had used full eggs. I'd previously made crème pat for a couple of recipes (Religieuse and Donauwelle), and in that the custard used just egg yolks.

This got me thinking, so I've put the 2 recipes side by side, and there are a fair number of differences, both in quantity and content. I've balanced the below so that the milk volume is the same (500ml in this case), and I've excluded the vanilla pod seeds.

IngredientEgg Yolk RecipeWhole Egg Recipe
Caster Sugar75g150g
Egg Yolks65
Egg Whites02
Plain Flour25g0g

That's quite a few differences, for what is supposed to be the same thing! The techniques for both is basically the same (heat milk with vanilla seeds), and then form the custard base by whisking the egg, sugar and flour together...Combine quickly, and then heat until it thickens. The "traditional" method uses just egg yolks, though this does have the downside of ending up with lots of egg whites (meringues, anyone?).

I've done some investigation, and the egg is the main thickening agent, with an "assist" from the cornflour/flour. I've always used cornflour as a thickening agent, and as the Whole Egg recipe was looking for a thick set, it makes sense there is a higher concentration in that.

The sugar difference is surprising...I sort of assume this is "to taste", and I'm personally not a big fan of over-sweet crème pat (I prefer the creamy texture rather than a sweet kick). The addition of butter is apparently to give it a richer texture...other options are to fold in double cream (this results in something called Creme Diplomat), or flavour (melting chocolate into the milk seems popular!)

I'm hoping to work on my pastry in February, so I'll work on getting a decent "standard" ratio together for my custard, based on what I've learnt about how it works as a recipe/chemical reaction!
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Thursday 21 January 2016

Fraisier Cake

The basis for this was Mary Berry's recipe, which was used as a technical challenge on GBBO. I did a couple of tweaks to make it more suitable to myself; I made 2 cakes, once in a 20cm diameter tin, and another in a 13cm diameter tin (after doing the maths, this involved increasing the amount of ingredients by 10%, and then putting about 30% of the ingredients in the smaller cake). Having 2 cakes allowed me to take one into work, and have the other at home.

I also made my own marzipan...since I learnt to make my own, I've never bought any. Home-made stuff is so much nicer, and it's better for you (comparatively!). Shop-bought marzipan is 75% sugar, and uses glucose syrup as the moisturiser...proper marzipan is 50/50 sugar and almond, and uses egg white. As this recipe has crème patisserie, you already have spare egg-white, so it's a no-brainer making your own marzipan as well. I skipped on the kirsch in the crème, as I'm not a fan of it.

Finally, I chocolate-dipped the strawberries on top... Mary's recipe warns against putting sliced strawberries on as decoration in case of colour-bleed, however I thought that if the cut sides of the strawberry were sealed in chocolate, then that removes the issue!

The end result was generally pretty good. If I were to do it again I'd possibly increase the sponge mixture a bit more, as it was a little on the thin side (this is either not enough mixture as it was split between the cakes, or I folded too much air out when I incorporated the flour and butter). I didn't quite have enough crème patisserie (I forgot to increase the volume by 10%), so the smaller cake has a layer of whipped double-cream.

In terms of the order you make stuff, you probably want to make the crème patisserie first, as it needs time to chill and set to a firm consistency. 

Fraisier Cake

Crème Patisserie Ingredients

  • 660ml Full-Fat Milk
  • Vanilla Pod
  • 4 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 110g cornflour
  • 165g unsalted butter (cubed, and at room temperature)

1) Put the milk in a large saucepan

2) Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk

3) Gently bring the milk to the boil, then take it off the heat

4) While the milk is heating, put the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl, and whisk until thoroughly mixed (I used an electric hand mixer, which is invaluable for this recipe)

5) Once the milk has boiled, pour it through a sieve into the egg mixture, and whisk thoroughly to combine

6) Pour everything back into a clean saucepan

7) Put on a medium heat, and stir/whisk constantly until it begins to thicken. You want this to be pretty thick (it's structural, and needs to hold its shape when piped)

8) Take off the heat and stir/whisk in the butter until it has melted and combined fully.

9) Pour the custard into a large ceramic oven tray, put a layer of clingfilm on top of the custard (this stops a skin forming), and place in the fridge to cool

  • Pre-heat the oven to  180'C
  • Grease, flour and line 2 loose-bottom cake tins (one 20cm, the other 13cm)

Genoise Sponge Ingredients

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 55g butter, melted, and then slightly cooled (still liquid)

1) Put the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a large heatproof bowl, and place in a bain-marie (I used a colander over a pan of simmering water)

2) Using an electric whisk, beat the mixture until it has at least doubled in volume, has gone light, and is stiff enough that when you lift the whisk out it leaves a trail on the surface.

3) Remove from the bain-marie, and gently fold in the flour in parts, being gentle, and keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.

4) Finally, gently fold in the melted butter

5) Pour the mixture into the 2 prepared tins (the split is 30% in the small one, and 70% in the large one...I do this by weighing the large heatproof bowl when empty, then weighing it when full to work out the weight of the this case the small mixture is ~150-160g)

6) Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cakes will take different times, so keep an eye on them. They are done when they are a golden brown, and are pulling away from the side slightly.

7) Once baked, remove from the oven, and allow the cakes to cool in the tin for a few minutes. Then, turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Lemon Syrup Ingredients

  • 75g caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 70ml water

1) Place all the ingredients in a small pan

2) Bring to the boil on the hob

3) Boil for 2 minutes

4) Leave to cool

Marzipan Ingredients

  • 200g Ground Almonds
  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • ~35-40g egg white
  • A few drops of almond essence

1) Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer bowl

2) Attach the dough hook

3) Run the mixer on a low speed, allowing all the ingredients to combine. Eventually, a firm paste will form (you may need to scrape down the sides)

4) Once the marzipan has formed, remove from the bowl and work into a ball.

5) Prepare a surface by sprinkling icing sugar on it

6) Roll out the marzipan to ½cm thickness (I have some 5mm batons I use).

7) Using the base of the cake tins, cut out a 20cm diameter circle and a 13cm diameter circle. Place these on baking parchment sprinkled with icing sugar (to stop them sticking), and place to one side

Assembling the cake

  •  ~600g of strawberries
  • 100g dark chocolate

1) Line the sides of the cake tins with acetate (I used A4 sheets from a stationary shop, chopped in half longways)

2) For each cake, chop the sponge in half horizontally using a sharp bread knife. You are aiming to end up with 2 thin discs of even thickness.

3) Put the bottom disc in the cake tin, with the cut side facing up

4) Using a pastry brush, generously coat the cake with the lemon syrup

5)  Prepare the strawberries by chopping off the leaf end, and then chopping them in half longways (so you get a roughly triangular cross-section)

6) Place these around the outside of the cake tin with the points up, and touching at the bottom.

7) Put the crème patissiere in a piping bag with ~1cm nozzle, and pipe a disc on the exposed cake

8) Pipe into the gaps between each strawberry, so that the outer edge of the cake is full to the top of the strawberries

9) Fill the gap in the middle with strawberries, so that they form a rough level with the edge

10) Pipe another disc of crème patisserie over all the strawberries, and smooth with the back of a spoon

11) Place the second disc of sponge on top, with the cut side UP, and press down on all the edges

12) Using a pastry brush, generously coat the cake with the lemon syrup

13) Take the marzipan circle, and carefully place on top of the cake

14) Melt the dark chocolate in a bain-marie

15) Take ~6 strawberry halves, and dip them into the dark chocolate so that the cut side is covered

16) Place these onto a sheet of greaseproof paper to cool and solidify (I put this on a marble slab to speed up the cooling process)

17) Put the rest of the melted chocolate in a small piping bag with a small aperture cut

18) Once they are set, stick the chocolcate-covered strawberries on top of the cake with a small amount of piped chocolate

19) Do some chocolate swirls around the strawberries, and the top of the cake

20) Return the cake to the fridge to set fully.

21) When the time comes to serve, remove the cake from the tin carefully, transfer to a serving plate, and remove the acetate

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Sunday 17 January 2016

(yet more) Biscuits

...and I'm finally happy with how they look.

The key goal was to get them looking pretty, though I've also tweaked a few other things, to hopefully improve the texture etc etc. I was tempted to abandon the white chocolate ganache, as it was a swine to get set, however I didn't like the idea of letting it beat me. The other main change was the addition of semolina/durham wheat to the biscuit mix...this should give the biscuits a bit more crispness... I've only tried them fresh so far, but they were definitely crisper. The final change was decorative mainly, and that was a bit of demerara sugar sprinkled onto the cut-out halves, to break up the flat surface a bit. I also baked them for 2 minutes longer, again hoping for a slightly crisper biscuit.

I've re-done the recipe here, with the minor changes. So long as they pass muster with the flavour, I think this one can be put to bed.

Chocolate Orange Cream Biscuits

Ganache Ingredients

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 80g Double Cream
  • 5g unsalted butter
  • 20g orange juice
  • Zest from one orange

1) Place all the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl, and heat over a bain-marie, stirring regularly.

2) Once the chocolate has melted, and the mixture has become smooth, remove from the heat, and allow to cool

3) The mixture will be runny for a while....transfer to a piping bag, clip the open end, and place in the fridge until the mixture firms up (so it won't run when piped). This can take 3+ hours

Biscuit Ingredients

  • 100g butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 175g plain flour
  • 50g semolina
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt
  • demerara sugar (to decorate)

1) Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy

2) Beat the egg in, and mix thoroughly

3) Add in the sifted flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, and mix until a firm dough is formed

4) Wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for an hour.

5) pre-heat oven to 150'C

6) once chilled remove dough from the fridge, and roll to 5mm thickness (I used wooden batons) on a floured surface

7) Using a 60mm cutter, cut out 32 biscuits, and place on non-stick baking trays, evenly spaced

8) Using a small star cutter, remove the middle of half of the biscuits

9) Sprinkle a few crystals of demerara sugar on the star cut-out biscuits

10) Bake in the oven for 14 minutes

11) Remove from the oven, and leave on the trays for a couple of minutes

12) Transfer the biscuits to wire racks to cool completely

Assembling the Biscuits

1) Pair the biscuits up (one with a star hole, one without). Flip the non-holed ones upside down.

2) Pipe a small amount of the orange ganache onto the upside down biscuits (a blog about the size of a £2 coin)

3) Gently press the biscuit with a star cutout onto the ganache
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Saturday 16 January 2016

Chicken and Onion Luncheon Bread

This one came out a bit rustic, however does exactly what I  wanted! I'm heading off for a bike race in London today...we ride there and back, meaning that I'll be in the saddle for 5-6 hours today, and the temperature is supposed to top out at 3'C...definitely a day for wholesome food.

I made up a basic bread dough (though I think it's a bit too wet for shaping, hence the slightly shapeless results), and then after the first prove mixed in some cooked chicken and onion, mixed with some thyme, and a chunk of stilton. I formed this into 7 balls, and then arranged them on a baking tray in a flower formation...this would allow me to tear off a section once it was fully baked.

As I said, the dough is pretty soft, and while the bread itself is lovely, it doesn't hold it's shape fantastically well. I may reduce the water next time, and see if I can get a more defined structure to the loaf.

Chicken and Onion Luncheon Bread

Dough Recipe

  • 600g plain, strong flour
  • 15g salt
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 400ml warm water
  • 40ml olive oil
  • Milk (to wash)
  • poppy seeds (to decorate)

1) Place everything in a large stand mixer bowl, and using a dough hook mix, and then knead the dough for ~10 minutes, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

2) I like to manually knead the dough for a couple of minutes, just to make sure that I'm happy with the consistency.

3) Oil a large bowl (with some olive oil), and place the dough in, rolling it to make sure it's coated in oil. Put clingfilm over the bowl, and place it in a warm room for an hour to prove (I also make sure the bowl is warm before you start, otherwise you're just slowing everything down)

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 medium onion
  • 50g stilton
  • ½tsp thyme
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • sprinkle of plain flour

1) Chop the chicken into ~1cm cubes and fry in the olive oil

2) Chop the onion reasonably finely, and add into the frying pan once the chicken is cooked through.

3) Cook until the onion begins to brown

4) Add in the thyme, and remove from the heat. Sprinkle and stri in the flour (this absorbs any excess fat, and helps coat the chicken and onion)

5) Once cool, crumble up the stilton and mix in,

Back to the bread...

4) Once the dough has doubled in size, place on a  work surface, knock back

5) Using your hands, shape it into a rectangle roughly 45cm long, and 25-30cm wide

6) Spread  the cold filling evenly over the rectangle

7) Roll the dough up from a long end, so you end up with a dough sausage about 40-45cm long

8) Seal all the edges, so the filling is inside

Chop the dough sausage into 7 evenly sized sections

9) Roll each section into a ball, and place on a baking tray in a flower formation (one in the middle, then 6 in a circle around it), so the balls are touching.\If you oil your hands slightly while you shape, the dough balls should also have an oil coating...this will help when you tear a section off)

10) Cover (I used a tupperware box), and prove in a warm room for another hour

11) Pre-heat the oven to 230'C

12) Once the bread has proved (again doubled in size) give the loaf a milk wash, and sprinkle on some poppy seeds

13) Place in the oven, and also pour half a jug of water into a tray in the bottom of the oven (this produces steam, allowing the loaf to expand, and a good crust to form)

14) After 10 minutes reduce the temperature to 200'C, and continue to bake for another 15-18 minutes

15) Remove from the oven, and place on a wire cooling rack. You can check the load is done by tapping the bottom, which should produce a hollow sound.

16) Tear off a chunk while it's still warm, and enjoy!
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Chocolate Orange Cream Biscuits

I wanted to give biscuits another go, using the sa0me basic template, but sorting out a few things. First up was my inability to roll the dough evenly... I ventured online, assuming that there was a knack to rolling, however it seems most people use batons either side of the dough, or rings on the rolling pin to keep even thickness. I happened to have some 5mm thick wooden batons lying round (as you do), so I made up a matching pair that would fit easily on my work surface.

I went for a slightly different recipe this time, the first batch was OK, but the biscuit dough was a little bland..the obvious answer is "make them chocolate!", so I substituted 25g of flour for cocoa instead. I also used butter rather than margarine...the end result was a firmer dough, less sticky than the previous attempt.

The rolling out went really well...using the batons was very simple, and I remembered to deploy the silicone mat this time as well (only got it for Christmas, so still getting used to it). I got 30 biscuits out of the mixture, and once again I took stars out of the middle of half of them (note to cutter is almost broken...I need to use a different shape, or buy a new one!).

For the filling, I wanted to go a white chococlate-based fruit flavoured ganache. I've never used white chocolate before, but was aware that it melted more readily than plain and dark chocolate...I reviewed a few recipe options, and then came up with a quantity that I thouht may work, though it was all a bit experimental. I think the main lesson is that the recipe will set, but it takes a looooong time, so probably should have made the ganache first (and thats how I'm going to order the recipe), and then chilled it in the it was it was far too runny when I used it, and came out of the sides of the biscuit sandwiches...that said, flavour was spot on.

Chocolate Orange Cream Biscuits

Ganache Ingredients

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 80g Double Cream
  • 5g unsalted butter
  • 20g orange juice
  • Zest from one orange

1) Place all the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl, and heat over a bain-marie, stirring regularly.

2) Once the chocolate has melted, and the mixture has become smooth, remove from the heat, and allow to cool

3) The mixture will be runny for a while....transfer to a piping bag, clip the open end, and place in the fridge until the mixture firms up (so it won't run when piped)

Biscuit Ingredients

  • 100g butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 225g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

1) Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy

2) Beat the egg in, and mix thoroughly

3) Add in the sifted flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, and mix until a firm dough is formed

4) Wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for an hour.

5) pre-heat oven to 150'C

6) once chilled remove dough from the fridge, and roll to 5mm thickness (I used wooden batons) on a floured surface

7) Using a 60mm cutter, cut out 30 biscuits, and place on non-stick baking trays, evenly spaced

8) Using a small star cutter, remove the middle of half of the biscuits

9) Bake in the oven for 12 minutes

10) Remove from the oven, and leave on the trays for a couple of minutes

11) Transfer the biscuits to wire racks to cool completely

Assembling the Biscuits

1) Pair the biscuits up (one with a star hole, one without). Flip the non-holed ones upside down.

2) Pipe a small amount of the orange ganache onto the upside down biscuits (a blog about the size of a £2 coin)

3) Gently press the biscuit with a star cutout onto the ganache
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Thursday 14 January 2016

Basic Biscuit Dough

I don't really make biscuits that often...partly as once I have made them, they tend to vanish pretty quickly, as I'm the sort of person who can eat an entire back in a few minutes!

I was a bit short on time last night, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice...I dug up a simple dough recipe and whipped up a batch, with the plan to use up some of the chocolate and cream I had lying around to make a ganache filling. I probably made a few mistakes along the way...I didn't rest the dough enough, and like a muppet didn't flour the surface (or, if I'd been more sensible, I'd have used my silicone mat), so the cut biscuits were a challenge to get off the surface, meaning some were not quite round. Finally, I'm not great at rolling even depth, so the thicknesses are a little random. The dough was very soft...this might have been as I used margarine, rather than butter.

I used a small star shape cutter on half of them, to get a hole, and then filled them with a 50/50 chocolate/cream ganache. The end results are very edible, but I'd like to make some improvements;
  • A slightly softer biscuit (possibly just making them a bit thicker)
  • Better flavour in the biscuit
  • Better shape and presentation 

Chocolate Star Biscuits

 Biscuit Dough

  • 100g butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g flour
  • ½tsp of vanilla extract
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

1) Cream the butter and sugar together until light, soft and fluffy

2) Beat the egg into the butter mixture

3) Sift and mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until a soft dough is formed.

4) Form the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for an hour in the fridge

5) Pre-heat oven to 150'C

6) Once the dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface to ~½cm thickness

7) Using a 2" circular cutter, cut out ~36 biscuits (re-roll the left overs to get more biscuits)

8) Place the biscuits carefully on a non-stick baking tray (I needed 3 trays, with 12 on each)

9) Using a small star cutter, make a shaped hole in half the biscuits

10) Bake each tray for ~12 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they do not burn

11) remove from oven, and cool on wire racks

Ganache Recipe

  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g double cream

1) Place the  chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl, and place on a bain-marie (I used alarge saucepan full of water, with a colander on top), and heat while stirring.

2) Once the chocolate has melted, and the mixture has turned a glossy brown, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

3) Put the ganache into a small piping bag

Building the Biscuits

1) Once cool, turn the biscuits without star holes upside down on the rack

2) Pipe a small circle of ganache onto the upside down biscuits

3) Gently press a biscuit with a star-hole onto each ganache circle, taking care not to over-press

4) Leave for a couple of hours for the ganache to set

5) Eat!

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Tuesday 12 January 2016

More Bread, this time rolls...

I did another batch of bread last night, really just playing with different presentation styles. It was another walnut and stilton batch, this time simply adding the flavours into the dough after the second prove.

I had planned on making bread rolls, however they came out slightly larger than I was expecting. I was also trying to make "interesting shapes"by doing a sort of twisted plait, however the softness of the dough meant that they smoothed out a fair bit.

I think next time I'll split the batch into 12 or 16 (rather than 8), and maybe do cuts rather than plaits.

I've decided I really like the look of poppy seeds on bread, and these also had an egg wash before they were baked, to give a more golden colour to the crust.
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I had a lot of chocolate and cream in the house, so decided to give this flourless (and sort-of fatless) cake a go. It's a very different technique to anything I've made before, splitting the egg whites and yolks, then re-combining them. There is a lot of chocolate in this recipe! I used 70% dark chocolate, so there is a real hit of bitterness coming through!

The point where you combine the egg yolk mixture and the chocolate was probably the trickiest point...the resultant mixture was very stiff, and combining in the egg whites without losing too much air was a challenge...I ended up adding small amounts of egg white to slacken off the mixture, and only when it was loose enough folding in the rest. It's also a recipe where you have a lot on the go at once...I had the egg whites in the stand mixer, chocolate on the bain-marie, and I was whizzing the egg yolks and sugar with a hand mixer.

Sachertorte Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 170'C
  • Grease a 23cm cake tin, and layer the bottom with baking parchment

Torte Ingredients

  • 6 Eggs (5 separated into whites and yolks)
  • 265g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 215g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almond

1) Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks (I used a stand mixer)

2) Put the egg yolks, the whole egg, and the sugar in a bowl, and whisk until light and slightly stiff (when you bring the whisk out it should leave a trail of mixture)

3) Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie (I use a colander in a large saucepan)

4) Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, and then mix it, and the ground almond, into the egg yolk mixture.

5) You'll probably find that the egg yolk mixture is now very stiff. Using a metal spoon, mix in about 1 tablespoon of the egg whites to slacken it. You may need to add more, until the egg yolk mixture become more workable.

6) Fold in the rest of the egg white mixture, trying to keep as much air as possible the mix.

7) Once everything is combined, pour into the prepared cake tin, and gently level by tipping the tin around.

8) Bake for ~30 minutes, until the sides are just starting to pull away from the tin.

9) Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack (bottom up), covered in a tea towel, and allow to cool completely.

Icing Ingredients

  • ~3 tablespoons of apricot jam (forced through a sieve)
  • 150g chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g double cream

1) Gently heat the jam, and then glaze the entire cake. This helps the icing stick to the cake

2) Put the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl, and melt over a bain-marie. Stir occassionally until it's glossy and smooth

3) Allow it to cool a bit, and then pour it onto the cake.

4) Using a pallette knife, evenly coat the cake, including the sides. I moved the icing out in a circular motion until it naturally went down the sides, and then smoothed it out.

5) allow to cool completely, and for the icing to set.
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Sunday 10 January 2016

FTP Testing

After a hard day (well, a day...and a rainy one at that) in the kitchen baking, in the evening I headed to Buckley Performance Coaching for an FTP Ramp Test. This is a structured test you can do to identify your training zones... Ken uses a brand new bit of kit called a BSX Insight Monitor, which allows him to identify changes to your blood composition without actually stabbing you...thats a bonus that really appeals to me!

The test itself involves using a Wattbike, and holding a gradually increasing level of power for 3 minutes at a time...after a brief warm-up at 100 watts, I went through 12 steps, from 160 watts to 380 watts, and finished collapsing on the bike! That said, it's a far less brutal test than the alternative, which is a 20-minute sustained effort, as if you "guess" wrong on that, you tend to pop about two-thirds of the way through. Ken was on hand throughout the test, keeping an eye on everything, and in the later stages shouting encouragement...

The end results were pretty good, and a decent validation of my current fitness levels. My Threshold power is 323 watts, and recommended training zones pretty much in line with my current ones. This information will be fed into my training plan, and hopefully it can be used to get some more improvements in the months ahead (at some point I probably need to think about dropping a couple of kilos of weight as well, but I'll worry about that once winter is over...) I did a time-lapse of the entire process, which makes me look a little bit like Roadrunner!

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Saturday 9 January 2016

Bake Day - Filo Bakewell Tart

This is a variation of a Paul Hollywood recipe for bakewell tart... I made it just before Christmas, and really liked how the fresh raspberries worked, making it a much lighter and more delicate tart than traditional bakewell.

When I did Spanakopita earlier in the week, I'd bought some filo, in case my home-made stuff didn't work. I thought this would be a good way of using it up, so rather than make a traditional sweetcrust case for the bakewell, I instead used filo.

I put 6 layers of filo in a 20cm tin, giving each one a brush with melted butter...on top of that I spread a layer of raspberry jam, then placed some fresh raspberries, and finally put the frangipane in a piping bag to fill inbetween the raspberries, and fill the casing. Rather than use flaked almonds, I've used whole ones, to give a crunch. Finally, I trimmed the excess filo from the tin, and popped it in the oven. The end result looks pretty good, though it's a challenge getting it out of the tin!

Filo Bakewell Tart

  • Preheat the oven to 160'C
  • Grease 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin


Pastry case

  • 1 pack of filo pastry
  • ~50g melted butter


  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • Couple of drops of almond essence


  • ~20 fresh raspberries
  • 2-3 tablespoons of raspberry jam 
  • Whole almonds (to decorate)

1) make the frangipane first. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl, and mix until light and fluffy (I use a stand will need to scrape the sides down a couple of times)

2) Add the eggs one at a time, and mix in thoroughly

3) Add in the flour and ground almonds, as well as the essence, and beat in until the mixture is light and stiff.

4) Now make the flan case. Open the filo, and place a damp cloth over the sheets (this stops it drying out as you work)

5) Take a sheet, place it in the tin, shaping it to the sides

6) Using a pastry brush spread some melted butter on the filo in the tin

7) Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other filo sheets, putting each in at a different angle

8) Spread the jam over the bottom of the tart

9) Take the raspberries, and place them evenly over the tin

10) Put the frangipane in a piping bag, chop off the end, and pipe around the raspberries, building up the filling. Once the gaps are filled, pipe the rest of the frangipane over the tart evenly.

11) Smooth off the top using a pallette knife.

12) Press the whole almonds evenly over the top of the tart.

13) Using some scissors, trim the excess filo from the tart tin, allowing a small overhang.

14) "fluff" the filo overhang, so that when it bakes it spreads out a bit.

15) Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the frangipane has gone golden and risen slightly.

16) Cool on a wire race. Remove from the tart tin carefully (you may need to crack off some bits of filo.
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Bake Day - Coffee and Walnut Cake

Another classic, this was an excuse to give praline a go.

The cake itself was fairly simple, it's a pound cake mix (4 eggs), with walnuts added, along with some coffee added, and baked for 30 minutes at 200'C. The icing is a simple buttercream (again with coffee added). The praline was reasonably simple...50g of caster sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of water in a small pan, and then heated gently until the sugar melted, and then wait for it to turn a caramel brown....Once that happened, take it off the heat, stir in 50g of walnut pieces, and turn out onto a non-stick surface (lesson there, greaseproof paper does not work! Apparently I should have used oiled baking parchment, or a silicone mat).

I don't often do big cakes, as they are trickier to move around. To build the cake up, I put one cake on a plate, then put half the buttercream on and spread it out. From the praline, I took out 8 interesting looking bits, and the rest was put in a plastic bag and battered with a rolling pin, and then that was sprinkled over the icing. The second cake was put on top, and then I piped on the rest of the buttercream, and used the interesting bits of praline to decorate, The end cake is very nice, with a great balance of walnut and coffee, and the praline gives a good bit of texture.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line 2 20cm cake tins

Cake Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 225g butter/margarine (room temperature)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 75g walnut pieces
  • 1 tbsp of instant coffee, dissolved in 2tbsp of hot water

1) Put everything in a bowl and mix (I use a stand mixer, which makes this very easy) until the batter is smooth and consistent.

2) Spoon out half into each cake tin (Tip: If you know the weight of your mixing bowl, you can weigh everything, take off the weight of the bowl, and then work out what the weight of half your mixture is)

3) Bake for ~30 minutes in the oven.

4) Once baked, remove from the tins carefully and cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking, make the praline

Praline Ingredients

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g walnut pieces
  • 2 tbsp water

1) Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and place over a gentle heat.

2) Once the sugar has melted, turn the heat up a little, and allow the mixture to come to the boil

3) Keep boiling, until the mixture begins to turn brown (once it starts, it gets darker very quickly).

4) Once the sugar is nut-brown, take it off the heat, and stir in the walnuts

5) Pour the mixture out onto a non-stick surface to cool completely

6) Pick out 8 pretty-looking chunks, place the rest in a plastic bag, and smash with a  rolling pin

Buttercream ingredients

  • 75g soft butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1tsp coffee, dissolved in 1½tbsp of hot water
  • Splash of milk

1) Place the butter, sugar and coffee liquid in a bowl and mix until light and fluffy. You may need to add a splash of milk to soften it. If you've using a stand mixer occasionally stop, and scrape down the sides.

Assembling the cake

1) Take one of the cakes, turn it upside down, and place on the serving plate

2) Take half the buttercream, and spread evenly over the top of this

3) Take the smashed praline, and sprinkle this over the top of the icing.

4) Place the second cake, and put on top of the first

5) Place the other half of the buttercream, put it in a piping bag with a fluted nozzle, and decorate the top of the cake

6) Place the 8 reserved bits of praline around the edge of the cake evenly.

7) Eat!

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Bake Day - Stilton, Walnut and Ham Bread Plait

I was a little disappointed with this...I used the core bread mix from last week, however the plan was this time to fill each plait with a different filling. I chose stilton cheese, walnut pieces, and some pulled ham, as it's a classic flavour combination. The flavours themselves worked well, however the loaves didn't quite come out how I hoped.

Once the dough had done it's first prove, I split it into 6 even chunks (I was making 2 loaves, each with 3 plaits), then rolled them out to about 20 inches in length. these were then flattened slightly, the filling was placed down the middle, and then I pinched them back together. The mistake I made here was that I needed to put far more filling in to get the look I was hoping for when you chopped through...also, the re-closed plaits were far more delicate than I had anticipated, and when I came to plaitting them, they were stretching and losing shape quite easily.

The end result of this was that the plait itself was uneven, with larger lumps at the end, and thin in the middle. once the bread had proved for a second time, and then baked (10 minutes at 230'C, and then 15 minutes at 200'C, with a jug of water poured into a tray in the bottom of the oven on the first part of the bake, the filling was a very small part of the overall loaf volume. That said, the bread and flavour was delicious.

I'll give filled breads another go, but next time I'll make the outer walls of each plait thinner, more filling, and I'll have a think on how to plait they delicate sausages of filling without stretching them.

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Thursday 7 January 2016


A nice, simple one last night...some shortbread fingers for a work meeting today (biscuits are the main reason people turn up...)

This was a slightly different recipe than I'd used before, with the addition of semolina, to give a slightly crisper texture. Other than that it's fairly simple, doesn't use any machines, and the end result was delicious!

Shortbread Fingers

Pre-heat the oven to 160'C
Lightly grease a 30cmx20cm traybake tin


225g of butter (at room temperature)
225g plain flour
100g semolina
100g caster sugar + some to sprinkle on afterwards

1. Put the flour in a large bowl, and rub in the butter until you have a consistent mix throughout

2. Add in the sugar and semolina, and continue to rub in until you have a smooth, crumbly mixture

3. Put this into the prepared traybake tin, and press into the corners, then flatten the top (I used the base of a pint glass).

4. Put in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. When it's just starting to turn a pale gold, it's done

5. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the top with caser sugar

6. Allow it to stand in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out onto a chopping board, and cut into fingers (I got about 24-28 out of this recipe)

7. Put the fingers onto a wire rack to cool completely

8. If they survive, store in an airtight container!

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Wednesday 6 January 2016

Spanakopita / Filo Pastry

Went for another go at filo last night, with a bit more success than last time. I used Paul Hollywoods Spanakopita recipe (a word I'm really not sure how to pronounce!)...he uses a pasta machine, but I went with a rolling pin instead. I didn't get any photos of the manufacture this time, which is a bit of a shame, but I'm going to keep working with filo until I'm a little more confident with it, so plenty of time.

The filo dough for this was noticeably a lot less wet than the Michel Roux recipe...I did the majority of the kneading in the stand mixer, then finished it off by hand. I rested it out of the fridge, as I didn't want it to go too stiff, so just wrapped it in clingfilm and put it aside for an hour.

The filling was fairly simple...basically reducing a huge volume of spinach down a lot, getting out all the water (I did the colander, then hand-wringed it to get more out, before putting it back in the pan...I'm pretty sure that the less moisture you put in the filo wrap, the better). Then it was a bit of nutmeg, zest of lemon, and (once the spinach had cooled) the feta cheese.

Rolling the filo was...fiddly, I suppose is the only word. I was rolling it to a length of about 65-70cm, and about 25cm deep. To try and reduce the amount of cornflour, I used a silicone pastry mat (this worked pretty well...the mat was a Christmas present, and it was handy having some good visual references to work to), and my dowling rolling pin I made at the weekend. I did 5 sheets, and it took forever, though I got a faster process as I went on. It was tricky getting the sheets to a regular size, I suspect partly due to slight irregularities in the rolling pin. I tried the rolling technique where you roll the pastry round the pin, and move your hands out, but didn't really get on with it. I ended up doing the majority of the work with the rolling pin, and then hand-stretching it the rest of the way...I got a couple of holes, but nothing major.

The other challenge was space! I had set up a sheet of baking parchment, dusted with cornflour, to build the filo layer up on, but I kept catching it with the end of the rolling time I'll have to clear a bigger area. Once the filo layers were done (not a quick job), actually forming the roll was pretty simple...just take the cold filling, hand-form it into a long strip on one edge of the filo stack, and then, using the baking parchment to lift and start, tightly roll it up, and then carefully lift it all, put it on the baking sheet in a spiral, glaze it (egg white and melted butter), sprinkle with sesame seeds and put it in the oven.

Having done the rolling pin method, I can see the appeal and benefit of a pasta machine to do the rolling...I might give this a go as an option next time...also, I'll take more photos.
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