Saturday, 27 February 2016

Courgette Loaf

I was going through the house, working out what I needed to use up before I went off for my training camp on Sunday (no baking for a will I cope?) I had some courgettes in the fridge, so I went though my recipe books, and found a courgette cake/loaf recipe in Mary Berry's Baking Bible. I had everything I needed (with a couple of minor substitutions to make up volumes), so whipped it up on a Thursday evening (while I was waiting for another brioche to prove).

The recipe is very simple, to the point of "throw it all in a bowl and stir", adn despite the vegetable content it's not good for you (sugar and oil aplenty) is, however, amazingly delicious. It also apparently freezes well, and as it makes 2 loaves I've frozen one, and will see what it tastes like when I get back. I've never really been a cake-freezing person before (they rarely last long enough!). I think this would be equally nice with carrot as well (or a mix, which I may try when I inflict this on work!)

Courgette Loaf - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line 2 2lb loaf tins


  • 3 eggs
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 350g grated courgette (I used a food processor, which is nice and quick)
  • 320g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 175g raisins or sultanas
  • 150g walnut pieces

1) Put the courgette, sugar, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate, cinnamon, sultanas and walnuts in a large bowl and mix
2) Put the sunflower oil and eggs in a large jug, and mix until well combined

3) Add the liquid to the bowl, and mix until everything is combined, and there is no dry mixture left

4) Split the mixture between the two loaf tins (I weighed them to get it even), and level them off (the mixture should be rather wet)

5) Place in the oven for an hour

6) Remove to a wire rack. You will need to be careful getting them out of the tins (a pallette knife to help release them, and use the lining paper to lift)

7) Once fully cool, to freeze wrap in a foil or a plastic bag, and place in the freezer...

Continue Reading...

Monday, 22 February 2016


I'd love to find a quick way to make brioche...this recipe is amazing, but it does take forever to make. I started it on the Friday night, and then did the second prove and bake on Saturday morning, but it took so long that I missed the decent weather, and got a soaking once I went out for my ride... On the plus side, I had fresh brioche to look forward to once I got home! This is much better than commercial brioche, which is normally way too sweet...with this the best thing you can do is toast it, and eat it by itself, as it's already really buttery...

I added orange zest, something I've not done could smell it, but the taste didn't really come through.

Brioche Recipe


  • 500g strong white flour
  • 7g salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 140ml warm, full fat milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 250g softened, unsalted butter

1) Add all the ingredients but the butter to a stand mixer with the dough hook attached

2) Mix until a dough is formed (it will be quite wet, with all the liquid and eggs)...this will take 4-5 minutes.

3) Add the butter bit at a time (I normally chop it into 8 bits), making sure that each bit is mixed in before adding the next.

4) Continue to mix until everything looks smooth and consistent

5) Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and place in the fridge overnight

6) Next morning, take the dough, and on a slightly floured surface gently knock the air out

7) Split the dough into 9 equal parts, and place in a 25cm springform tin

8) Cover, and leave to prove until the dough just rises above the top of the tin (this can take 2-3 hours...don't put it in too warm a place, or the butter will melt)

9) Heat the oven to 190'C when the prove is done

10) Bake for 30-40 minutes, and check that it's fully done with a skewer (it should come out clean). I tend to find that this can take longer than expected, and you might want to cover the top of the brioche with tin foil, to stop it burning.

11) Turn out onto a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.
Continue Reading...

Spinach and Feta Parcels / Fatayers

These are another recipe from Paul Hollywoods "Pies and Puds" book, which I'm getting good mileage out of. These are slightly unusual, in that they are a parcel that is wrapped in a bread dough, rather than a pastry. They were pretty quick to make as well...while the bread dough is proving, you can make the filling, and they bake very quickly. the end result was really delicious, these vanished in no time!

only change I'd make it to do slightly more dough, as when it was rolled to 5mm, you couldn't get 4 circles out of it (I ended up rolling it thinner, about 3mm). The baked dough is delicious (a bit like a crispy steamed bun), so you'll not be dissapointed to get more! I particularly liked how the recipe used frozen spinach, which was way easier to use than fresh (500g of fresh spinach is a massive volume...)

Spinach and Feta Parcels Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 125ml water
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 5g instant yeast
  • 5g salt

1) Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, and knead until a smooth dough is formed (about 6-8 minutes)

2) Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to prove for an hour (it should have doubled in size)

3) While the dough is proving, make the filling

Filling Ingredients

  • 15ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 500g frozen spinach (whole leaf)
  • 125g feta cheese
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 10g chopped mint
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

1) Put the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat

2) Place the garlic in the pan and fry until the garlic is going brown

3) Remove the garlic and put it in a large bowl

4) Turn the heat up high, and add the (still frozen) spinach

5) Heat and stir the pinach until it's all melted, and all the water has evaporated (I also squeezed it out with the back of a spoon...the more moisture you can get out of the spinach the better)

6) Add the spinach to the bowl with the garlic in

7) Allow the spinach to cool completely (you can aid this by spreading it out, and standing the bowl in cold water)

8) Crumble in the feta, and add the pine nuts and chopped mint

9) Season to taste with salt and pepper.


1) Pre-heat oven to 220'C

2) Take the dough, and roll out on a slightly floured surface to 3-5mm (it needs to be big enough to cut out 4 x 18cm circles

3) Cut out 4 x 18cm circles (I used a cereal bowl as a template, which was just the right size)

4) Spoon one quarter of the spinach and cheese mixture into the middle of each circle, and form it into a rough triangle

5) using a pastry brush, dampen the outer edge of each circle

6) Bring the edges of each circle up to form a pyramid, and gently crimp the edges together with your finger

7) Place the parcels on a baking tray

8) Bake for 14-15 minutes, until golden brown
Continue Reading...

Friday, 19 February 2016

Beetroot Pie

This one has been on my "to do" list for a while, but I delayed it, as I needed to do some puréeing, and I lacked a food processor. That obviously means that I've recently bought one! I've been wondering what sort I needed, and fortunately last week on the program "What to Buy and Why" they just happened to go a segment on food processors. Their simple answer was "get a cheap one, unless you have very specific requirements". I don't, so yesterday I took ownership of a general purpose Kenwood Food Processor.

It was put to immediate use with this recipe, making the crumb for the shortcrust (incredibly easy!), and making the beetroot puree. There was a satisfying moment when I had the eggs and sugar being whisked in the stand mixer, and the beetroot and cream being puréed in teh food processor, and I could just sit there and take a photo!

The bake itself I'm pretty happy with, it's got a startling colour, a nice set, and the pastry is very short, and was very easy to work with. The flavour is...different. The muscavado sugar comes through, possibly needs a bit more ginger and cinnamon. I got the recipe from Paul Hollywoods book "Pies and Puds", but just used a plain shortcrust, as I thought the pie would be sweet enough by itself.

Beetroot Pie - Recipe 

Rich Shortcrust Recipe

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1tsp lemon juice (chilled)
  • 2tbsp ice cold water

1) Put the flour and butter into a food processor with the blade attachment

2) Blend until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs

3) In a jug, mix the beaten egg, lemon juice and water

4) Transfer the flour and butter to a cold bowl, and add the egg mixture, incorporating it gently with the fingertips of one hand.

5) Once a dough forms, kneed it until it just stops cracking, then form a flattened disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 20-30 minutes

6) Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

7) Take the chilled dough, and roll out on a lightly floured surface to line a 23cm tin (I have a silicone mat with template circles on, which is really handy for this!)

8) Line a 23cm baking tin with the pastry

9) Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork

10) Line the tin with (microwave safe) clingfilm, and fill with baking balls/dry rice

11) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (you can make the filling while this is happening)

12) Remove the clingfilm and baking balls, then bake for another 7-8 minutes (until the base of the pastry case just starts to brown)

Beetroot Filling Ingredients

  • 350g cooked beetroot (I used vacuum-packed stuff, it was about 1½ packs) with liquid drained off
  • 125ml double cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 dark muscavado sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground ginger
  • grated zest of 1 lemon

1) Put the beetroot and cream in a food processor with the blade attachment, and blend to a fine puree

2) Put the sugar and eggs in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat until pale and creamy

3) Add the beetroot puree to the sugar and eggs, and also add the ginger, cinnamon and lemon zest

4) Mix thoroughly


1) Once the pastry is blind-baked, turn the oven temperature down to 180'C

2) Trim the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife, to get a clean edge

3) Fill the pastry case with the beetroot mixture, making care not to spill any

4) Return to the oven for 30 minutes. It's done when the mixture is set, but the centre still have a bit of a wobble.

5) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely
Continue Reading...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Goosnargh Cakes

These were a very quick bake I did last night...possibly too quick, as I didn't really leave the dough to rest for very long (it was supposed to be an hour, but it was probably closer to 10 minutes), which led to the biscuits doming a bit during the bake.

The main reason I wanted to try these was was that they have caraway in them, something I'd used at the weekend for rye-bread, and secondly (apart from the sugar sprinkled on post-bake) they are fairly savoury. Caraway is a rather unique sort of hangs around your mouth. This is a very butter-heavy recipe, so it's good practice for your rubbing skills!

Goosnargh Cakes Recipe


  • 250g plain flour
  • 200g cold, unsalted butter (diced into 1cm cubes)
  • 15g caster sugar (+ more for sprinkling)
  • 1tsp caraway "seeds" (read the Wikipedia article linked above)
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

1) Place the flour in a bowl

2) Add the butter, and rub in until you reach the breadcrumb stage. You might need to chill the bowl for a bit halfway, if the mixture starts to get greasy

3) Mix in the sugar and caraway, and  form into a rough

4) Wrap in clingfilm, and chill for an hour

5) Pre-heat oven to 180'C

6) Cover 2 baking tray with baking parchment

7) Once chilled, roll out on a lightly floured surfae to 5mm thickness (I used my trusty batons!)

8) Using a 6.5-7cm pastry cutter, cut out 20-24 biscuits (I got 22 out of mine, could have got a couple more, but ran out of baking tray space)

9) Sprinkle the biscuits with caster sugar

10) Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the edges just start going brown

11) Remove from the oven, and literally sprinkle with icing sugar while still warm
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Mini Sausage Plaits

Earlier this month, I did a massive sausage plait, which was delicious, however, it was not exactly dainty and pretty. It was also not the most transportable thing in the world (so I ended up eating it myself, no real hardship!). For the work bake club, I decided to do them again, however adjust the recipe so that I ended up with mini-plaits instead.

First off, rather than full puff pastry, I did a rough puff this's far quicker, and the results are virtually identical. The method I use does all the layering in one go, and then is chilled for an hour, during which time I prepared the onion, mushroom and meat components (and having hand-chopped 300g of mushrooms, I really, really want a food processor!). Once that was all done, it was just down to assembly, which took a while as the plaits were quite fiddly. One thing I found is that using diagonal cuts on a small item means a lot of pastry ends up at one end, so if I were to do these again I'd probably do straight plaits, and fold the ends in first.

All that said, I'm really pleased with the end result...they look excellent (my non-subjective measure for this is how many Likes a Facebook photo gets...though that is basically showing off). The pastry came out very well, and the flavours are delicious (I think caramelised onion makes everything lush).

Mini-Sausage Plaits - Recipe

Rough Puff Pastry Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 100g strong white flour
  • 100g unsalted butter - chilled, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 100g lard - chilled, cut into 1cm cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80-120ml ice cold water

1) Place the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl

2) Add the butter and lard, making sure that each piece is individually coated in flour, so they don't clump and stick

3) Add the water slowly while mixing with your fingertips (as with all pastries, keep as much heat out of the mixture as possible), until you just have a dough with lumps of fats in it.

4) On a very well floured surface, form a long rectangle (about 30cm x 15cm) using a very well floured rolling pin (don't be stingy with the flour throughout the folding process, you want to make sure all the fat parts are always coated, or it's going to stick).

5) Fold into thirds, then turn 90' and repeat...form a long rectangle, then fold into thirds. Remember to keep everything well floured.

6) Do the roll, fold, turn process at least 6 times, ideally 8-10. You should find that you start to get more resistance to the rolling as you go. Once you're happy, roll to about 2cm thickness, cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge for an hour to rest. While it's resting, prepare the fillings

Filling Ingredients

  • 300g sausagemeat
  • 100g black pudding, chopped
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1tbsp chopped thyme
  • 2 red onions
  • 25g butter
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp soft brown sugar
  • 2tbsp sherry vinegar

1) Finely chop the mushrooms (or, get a food processor!)

2) Place the mushrooms in a dry pan on a medium low heat, and add the thyme

3) Heat and stir until the mixture loses all it's moisture (you'll find that water starts to come out of the mushrooms, and then boil away)...this can take 10-15 minutes, but don't do it too fast, or you'll burn the mushrooms

4) Place to one side to cool completely

5) Finely slice the onions

6) Put the butter and olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-low heat

7) Add the onions and sugar, stir, and cook for ~20 minutes, until the onions are nicely brown

8) Stir in the sherry vinegar, and place to one side to cool completely

9) Take the sausagemeat, and chop into 12 equal parts

10) Form a sausage about 6-7cm long, folding in the black pudding

11) Place on a plate, ready for assembly


  • Pre-heat oven to 190'C


  • Beaten egg
  • Sesame Seeds

1) Take the chilled pastry, and roll out to a rectangle ~36cm x 50cm on a well-floured surface. It should be about 3-4mm thick

2) Cut out 12 equal rectangles about 12cm x 16cm

3) Take each rectangle, and down the middle place (in order, on top of each other)
  • a teaspoon of the mushroom
  • a sausage
  • a teaspoon of the red onion

4) Cut into the pastry on each side, forming the strands to bring over the top.

5) Lightly bush the pastry with beaten egg

6) Fold the plaits over, to form a weave effect. Tuck the ends in under the strands
Note - this is a bit fiddly...make sure that after each plait, you wipe your working area, and dry it, or you end up with egg wash, which causes the pastry to stick

7) Place on a baking tray, and repeat with the others

8) Once they are all on the baking tray, wash the outsides with beaten egg, nad sprinkle with sesame seeds

9) Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
Continue Reading...

Monday, 15 February 2016


These jumped out at me from Mary Berry's Baking Bible as something I'd like to give a go, and I had planned a long ride to Portsmouth and back for the Sunday, so I made these as a "recovery snack" for my return.

The recipe looks pretty complex, however it can be broken down into 2 parts...a basic genoise sponge, and a very complex chocolate butter-cream. All the challenges I faced were with the icing...when I was mixing the syrup and the egg yolks, I had some syrup coll into a lump immediately, and when I mixed in the chocolate, some of it cooled against the bowl, forming flecks of solid all temperature-related issues. When I do these again, I'll almost certainly use a simpler icing recipe (a bit of investigation shows that similar results can be yielded using icing sugar and water in place of the egg yolks).

The end result is very pretty, and delicious.

Chocolatines - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C 
  • Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin

Sponge Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 65g self-raising flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • 40g melted, cooled butter

1) Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl, and whisk until pale and thickened (the indicator it's done is that you can lift the whisks out, and leave a trail across the top of the mixture). It will take a good 7-8 minutes at least to get to this point

 2) Sift the flours into the mixture, and gently fold in (I find it easier to do the flour in 2 halves, mixing in one, then the other half).

3) Pour the cooled butter around the outer edge of the mixture, and fold in again.

4) Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes

5) Once cooked, remove from the oven, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Creme au beurre chocolat recipe (Chocolate Buttercream)

Note - I think there are easier ways to make this. Also, I ran out, though I may have been too generous with the filling

Icing Ingredients

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 175g softened butter
  • 100g 40% cocoa solids chocolate (melted and cooled)

1) Put the sugar and water into a small pan, and gently heat until the sugar has fully dissolved

2) Bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes

3) Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl, and start whisking them while pouring on the sugar syrup in a thin stream

4) Whisk the mixture until fully cooled

5) In another bowl, beat the butter until fully creamed

6) Beat the egg yolk mixture into the butter

7) Beat the melted chocolate into the mixture


  • ~100g mixed, chopped nuts (I used hazelnut, almond and brazil nut)

1) Cut the cooled sponge in half horizontally, to get 2 equal tiers (use a bread knife)

2) Use a small amount of the icing to sandwich the 2 parts together again

3) Using the bread knife, but the sponge into 9 equal squares...if required, trim the edges to make them square

4) Using a table knife, or a small palette knife cover the sides in buttercream

5) Roll the exposed sides in the chopped nuts, to form a nut coating around the sides

6) Place the remaining buttercream in a piping bag with a small star nozzle

7) Decorate the tops of the cakes with small peaks

Continue Reading...

Rye Bread

I've only used rye flour once before, in a loaf called Pain de Savoie (which sounds posh, but is basically cheese and ham in a loaf). I know it's a low/no gluten flour, so it's best off mixed with normal flour to get some consistency. I also had some caraway seed sitting around, and apparently they go well together, so I threw some of them in as well.

I was aiming for a traditional granary loaf shape, with one small lump on top, and a larger main lump... I'd say my dough was too soft, and during the second prove it merged into a slightly less distinct shape (possibly less oil and/or water? I'll need to experiment). The flavour, however, was delicious, with the caraway providing a slightly aniseed-y hint and smell to the bread.

Rye Bread - Recipe

  • 320g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 180g Dark Rye Flour
  • 7g fast-action yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 30ml Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp caraway seed
  • 350ml warm water
  • milk (to wash)
  • Poppy seeds (to decorate)

1) Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook (with the salt and yeast on opposite sides, so they don't mix immediately)

2) Mix for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and consistent (it won't become as smooth as whole wheat flour dough)

3) Place in a large, oiled mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm, and leave to prove in a warm area for an hour

4) Knock the dough back, and split into 2 approximately 3/4's of the dough, and the other 1/4 of the dough

5) Form the large piece of dough into a flattened sphere, and place on a baking tray

6) Form the smaller piece of dough into a flattened sphere, and place on top of the larger piece

7) Poke your finger nearly all the way through both the bits of dough, right down the middle, to form the dimple (you do need to go really deep).

8) Return to the warm area to prove for another hour

9) Pre-heat the oven to 230'C

10) Using a pastry brush, lightly wash the loaf in milk

11) Sprinkle poppy seeds over the top

12) Put in the oven, and pour a cup of water into the bottom of the oven

13) After 10 minutes reduce the temperature to 200'C, and bake for another 20 minutes

14) Turn out onto a wire rack to cool
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mini Banoffee Pie

One of the great things about baking is that you get some awesome leftovers, and probably enough stuff in the store cupboard to make something delicious.

I had some of the sweetcrust pastry left over from the Lemon Meringue Pie I made yesterday, so after a quick check on what I had sitting around, I realised I could make a small banoffee pie. I used a 12cm flan tin, a banana sitting in the fruit bowl, and some of the condensed milk in a squeezy tube I normally use to make my cycling flapjack with. It didn't even take that long, with most of the time being baking the pastry case, then simply filling it up with goodies, and (probably) not waiting long enough before tucking in!

Mini Banoffee Pie Recipe

Pastry - see the Lemon Meringue Pie for ingredients and mixing 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

1) Roll the chilled pastry to a large enough diameter to line the bottom and sides of a 12cm flan tin with a slight overhang

2) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork

3) place a layer of clingfilm over the pastry, and fill with dry rice/baking balls

4) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes

5) Remove the clingfilm and baking balls, and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes (this is slightly longer than normal, however we are not baking the filling, so want to make sure the pastry is cooked and dry)
While the pastry is baking, you can make the filling

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 small banana - ripe
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 25g muscavado sugar
  • 200ml condensed milk
  • Double cream (to top)

1) Place the butter and sugar in a small non-non-stick pan

2) Place on a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted

3) Add the condensed milk to the pan, and heat for 5-8 minutes while stirring, until the mixture thickens and turns slightly golden in colour

4) Remove from the heat (be careful not to let it burn!)

5) Peel and chop the banana into thin slices


1) Trim the edges of the pastry to be level with the top of the flan tin, with a sharp knife

2) Place slices of banana in the flan case, as many as you can fit without piling them over the height of the pastry

3) Pour the liquid toffee over the bananas, filling the flan case, but being careful not to go over the sides

4) Use any spare banana slices to decorate the top

5) Once the toffee is cool, slightly whip the cream, and spoon/pipe over the top

Note - if you have any spare toffee (this will depend on how much banana you fit in the flan tin, and the depth of your flan tin) pour it onto a sheet of oiled greaseproof paper...once it cools you'll have a nice bit of confectionery to enjoy!
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie

This was all the fault of the The Chocolate Cafe in Henley...we stopped there after a ride in the Chilterns on Sunday, and I had a delicious Key Lime Meringue Pie. As it's pastry month, I decided that a sweetcrust pastry tart was called for.

Most recipes for Lemon Meringue use a biscuit base, however I swapped that out for a sweetcrust pastry. Other than that it was fairly simple, using a tin of condensed milk for the base of the lemon filling, and a simple baked meringue on top. I'm using Lakelands new style flan tins, and not sure I like them...the handles are useful for getting stuff in and out of the oven, but it makes trimming the pastry very hard (you can't do the old trick of using a rolling pin over the top and using the edge to cut the pastry for starters, and it's not easy to get a knife in and trim either...hence the slightly funny looking top of the crust). I did the clingfilm blind-baking again, still very happy with it!

Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Sweetcrust Pastry Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 40g icing sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 30-50ml iced water

1) Put the egg, half the water and the lemon juice in a jug and beat lightly

2) Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl

3) Rub the butter into the flour until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency

4) Add the egg mixture in with one hand, while mixing with the other to form a dough

5) Knead gently until the mixture is just smooth, and not cracking. You may need to add some more water, but be careful

6) Once the dough is formed flatten into a thick disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes

Filling Ingredients

  • 400ml Condensed Milk (1 tin normally)
  • 3 lemons (zest and juice)
  • 3 eggs (separated into whites and yolks)
  • ½tsp cream of tartar
  • 175g caster sugar

1) Pour the condensed milk into a mixing bowl, and add the yolks, zest and juice

2) Beat together to form a smooth mixture

3) Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk

4) Once the mixture begins to become solid (but not dry) start adding the sugar slowly, conntinuing to whisk

5) The meringue is done once the mixture has achieved soft, creamy peaks


  • Pre-heat the oven to 190'C

1) Take the pastry and roll out large enough to cover the base and sides of a 23cm flan tin (about 3mm thick)

2) Line the flan tin, allowing a small amount of pastry to overhang

3) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork, to allow air bubbles to escape

4) Line the pastry with clingfilm, and add in baking balls/dry rice to weigh it down

4) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes

5) Remove from the oven, take out the clingfilm and baking balls, then return to bake for another 5 minutes to dry out the base

6) Remove from the oven, and turn the temperature down to 170'C

7) Pour in the lemon and egg mixture into the pastry case

8) Spoon the meringue over the top, swirling it gently

9) Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the meringue has turned light brown

10) Remove to a wire rack, and trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife

11) Remove from the tin and cool.
Continue Reading...

Monday, 8 February 2016

Sausage Plait

I had meant to do this during the week, but had failed to read the recipes of the steps was "rest for at least 7 hours in the fridge" instead I did it Friday evening and Saturday. I was supposed to be racing, however the weather looked dire, and it's so early in the race schedule that I don't feel the need to risk my neck in gale-force winds.

I haven't done puff pastry for ages, so I spent a bit of time reading through the technique in Paul Hollywoods Pies and Puds book. I'm not entirely sure that the 7 hour rest is needed, and I might try and speed the recipe up next time. Other than that it was very instructive, and covered a couple of things I'd missed before (pinching the sides to seal the butter in). I did find the final pastry quite...chewy, though this might have been the edges, where I possibly left too much space after the butter...alternately, the core dough has no butter, so could be quite chewy for that reason. I'd strongly recommend the book, as it does a good step-by-step of how to do puff pastry, along with photos, and you get a good number of laminations off 3 fold and chill cycles.

The filling was fairly simple, apart from having to finely chop a punnet of mushrooms by hand (recipe assumed a food processor). Caramelised onions are possibly my new favourite ingredient, and I'm also a big fan of black pudding. I really liked the look of the plait, and it's quite simple to achieve as well. The final bake was lovely...lots of flavour. This recipe is also from the "Pies and Puds" book, and has an excellent photo-guide to walk you through the construction.

Sausage Plait Recipe

Puff Pastry Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g strong white flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 165g unsalted butter
  • Iced water (about 75ml)

 1) Mix the flours and salt in a bowl, and work in the water to form a kneadable dough

2) Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes, until smooth

3) Form into a rectangle, wrap in clingfilm, and place in the fridge overnight (I'm not entiurely sure this length of time is needed...I'll try with a more typical "30 minute" rest next time, and see what difference that makes)

4) Take the chilled butter, and beat into a rectangle ~20cm x ~12cm, then also wrap in clingfilm and chill.

5) Next day, roll the dough to a rectangle 12cm x 30cm

6) Place the butter on the dough so that it covers 2/3rds of the dough (with a slight gap at the edges)

7) Fold the un-covered dough up to cover half the butter

8) Fold the uncovered butter, and the dough underneath it, to go over this fold

9) Pinch the edges closed to seal the butter in

10) Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

11) After chilling, roll the dough into a long rectangle, then perform a "book fold" (both short edges to the middle, and then fold in half, to get 4 layers).

12) Wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 30 minutes in the frige

13) Repeat (11) and (12) 2 more times

Filling Ingredients

  • 300g Chestnut mushrooms
  • 2tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 large red onions
  • 1½tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 300g sausagemeat
  • 100g black pudding
  • Beaten egg, to glaze
  • Sesame seeds, to decorate 

1) For the mushrooms, chop finely (or food processor), and mix in the thyme leaves

2) Cook in a dry saucepan on a medium/low heat, stirring occasionally, until the water has left the mushrooms.

3) Put aside to cool

4) For the onions, slice finely

5) Put the oil and butter in a pan on a medium/low heat, add the onions and sugar, and cook for 20 minutes, until the onions start to go golden

6) Stir in the sherry vinegar, and put to one side to cool

7) For the sausagemeat, form into a long tube about 20cm long.

8) Chop the black pudding up into ~1cm cubes, and push into the sausagemeat (I did it down the middle, sealing the sausagemeat over the top).

Assembling the Plait

  • Preheat the oven to 200'C

1) Roll the pastry out 25cm x 30cm

2) Put the mushroom paste down the middle third of the pastry, leaving about 3cm at each end

3) Place the sausagemeat on top of the mushrooms

4) Spread the onions out on top of the sausagemeat

5) Do diagonal cuts down either side of the pastry, about 2cm apart

6) Lightly glaze the pastry with beaten egg

7) Alternately fold the pastry lengths over the sausagemeat, forming a plait effect. Tuck the ends under the plait

8) Glaze with beaten egg, and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top

9) Place on a baking tray, and put in the oven for 30 minutes

10) Cool on a wire rack, then eat (it's lovely hot or cold!)

Continue Reading...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Shrewsbury Biscuits

Last nights lesson was "read the recipe". I was going to be doing a sausage plait, however I'd failed to read the step "rest for 7 hours" I'll start that one on Friday night I think ,and finish it on Saturday.

Instead, I skimmed through some recipe books, and settled on some biscuits from Mary Berry's Baking Bible (yet another birthday/Christmas present). It was a fairly quick method (and I had all the ingredients to hand), and they came out well without any resting (I squeezed 29 biscuits out of the batch). It was also another chance to use the rolling batons (which really do make it very quick to roll out dough). I was really surprised at how much lemon flavour comes through from just the rind, I normally assume you have to get the juice in there...

Shrewsbury Biscuits - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 175-180'C


  • 100g softened butter
  • 75g caster sugar (+ some more for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 50g currants 
  • Splash of milk

1) Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, and beat until light and fluffy (you'll probably need to scrape the sides down with a spatula)

2) Add in the egg yolk, and beat well

3) Add in the flour and lemon zest, and mix well.

4) Swap out the mixing head for a dough hook

5) Add a splash of milk while the mixer is working, and allow a soft dough to form (I needed about 20ml of milk)

6) You'll probably need to fully form the dough by hand

7) On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 5mm thickness (I used rolling batons)

8) Use a 60mm cutter to cut out the biscuits, placing them on a baking tray spaced out.

9) Re-roll the trimmings to get more biscuits (I got 29 in total, with virtually no dough left)

10) Bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes

11) Lightly beat the egg white

12) Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush with the beaten egg white

13) Sprinkle caster sugar on the biscuits

14) Return to the oven for 5 minutes (if you have a hot side to your oven, take this opportunity to rotate the trays, to get a more even bake)

15) Remove from the oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Onion, Shallot and Chive Tart

I wasn't happy with the pastry for the Pecan Pie I did last week, so I've spent some time researching shortcrust pastry techniques. There is an excellent section at the front of Paul Hollywoods book "Pies and Puds", and I also came across this excellent blog post, which covers a lot of the theory and techniques behind shortcrust. I think for savoury pastries I'll be using a 50/50 mix of butter and lard, to try and improve the texture.

The end result is that I now really want to get a food processor, to help with the rubbing-in step, however we're doing a "No-Buy February", and I think that probably counts as buying something, so for now I'll work on my manual technique, and try to think my hands cold.

For the actual bake, I picked a recipe out of the "Pies and Puds" book, specifically an Onion, Shallot and Chive's basically a quiche without the cheese. My main goal was to do a good pastry tart case, and I did a few things differently;
  • I didn't trim the pastry until I had finished baking the filling
  • I used clingfilm instead of baking parchment during the blind-baking stage
  • I was very stingy with the water (possibly too stingy, it was very crumbly)

Using clingfilm was a bit of a nervous time... I first saw it done by James Martin in a TV program, and he said it was "oven-proof clingfilm". This, it turns out, doesn't exist (if you Google it you'll find millions of forum posts about other people not being able to find it), however it seems that any clingfilm that is OK for a microwave will probably do (and Waitrose Essential Clingfilm meets that requirement!). I'm really pleased with the results, and going forward I'll be using clingfilm for blind baking all the time, you do get a much sharper shape. You'll also see I use a mix of baking balls and dry rice for my weights, so I don't get any gaps.

Onion, Shallot and Chive Tart

Pastry Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60g unsalted butter (diced)
  • 60g lard (diced)
  • 2-3tbsp chilled water

1) Put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl

2) Add in the butter and lard

3) Rub in the fats using your fingertips until you have just small chunks that look like breadcrumbs

4) Add in a small amount of the water, and mix. Add in a little more at a time until the dough just starts to come together

5) Form a ball of the dough, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge

Onion Filling Ingredients

  • 2 large onions (or 3 meidum sized ones)
  • 8-10 banana shallots
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1tbsp sunflower oil

6) Finely chop the onions and shallots

7) Put the butter and sunflower oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat

8) Add the onions and shallots to the oil...cook for 20-30 minutes, while stirring occasionally

9) The onions are done when they start to turn a golden colour...turn out onto a plate and allow to cool

10) Turn the oven on, and heat to 190-200'C

11) Take the dough out of the fridge, and roll out to ~3mm thickness, and big enough to line a 23cm tart tin (I used batons again, and I have markings on a silicone mat to get to the right size)

12) Line the tart tin with the pastry, so you have a little excess hanging over the edges.

13) Prick the bottom with a fork all over, not quite going all the way through

14) Place a layer of clingfilm over the pastry, and fill with baking balls/dry rice

15) Bake for 13-14 minutes

16) remove from the oven, and remove the clingfilm/baking balls.

17) Return to the oven for another 5-6 minutes (until the base of the pastry is dry)

Egg Mixture Ingredients

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg Yolks
  • 1tbsp chopped chives (I used some dried ones)
  • 1½tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 200ml double cream

18) Put the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl and beat

19) Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven

20) using a pastry brush, wash the inside of the pastry with some of the egg (this seals the pastry, stopping soggy bottoms).

21) (optional) You can return the pastry to the oven for a minute of two to cook the egg, which gives a nice colour. I had a small crack in my pastry, so I used the egg wash to seal it and then baked it quickly to produce a waterproof fix

22) Reduce the oven temperature to 175-180'C

23) Add the cream, mustard and chives to the egg mix and beat well.

24) Take the cooled onions, and spread evenly across the pastry

24) Pour on the egg mixture. I filled the case about 2/3rds of the way up, and then completed filling it in the oven (to avoid spills)

25) Bake for about 30 minutes, until the centre is set

26) Remove to a wire tray, using a sharp knife, carefully trim the excess pastry

27) Allow to cool
Continue Reading...